Sunday, March 27, 2011

I'm moving on up!

To those that have enjoyed my reviews here at "You Had Me at 'Movie Blog'", I am moving on up to bigger and better things. You can find me at with the assistence of a couple friends. I will continue reviewing classic and recent films, as well as providing you with the most up-to-date and rediculous news and posting weekly podcasts of our top three favorite films in all categories. Hope to see you there, feel free to comment and subscribe-- stay classy nerds!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: Limitless (2011)

Based on the novel "The Dark Fields" by Alan Glynn and directed by Neil Burger, Limitless tells the story of Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), a dawdling writer who has yet to write a word of his "promising" novel. Upon crossing paths with an old friend and drug dealer, he is introduced to a pill that allows the user to use the eighty percent of their brain that usually remains dormant. Fascinated by this new drug's effects, Eddie returns for more only to discover that his dealer had been murdered. Startled, Morra searches the man's apartment in search of his stash and discovers that his friend's assassins looked over one compartment containing a large supply of the drug and drug money. Within a matter of days he had completed his book and publishers were lining up to assist him. In a matter of weeks he was advising the most financially gifted individual in America- Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro). Though life now seems flawless, there are both those who have previously known of this drug and those who have discovered this pill through the actions of Eddie, and they all are after it. This film is exceedingly original (which is rare these days) and effectively nerve-racking. From the moment the drug is induced, the viewers themselves seek more, gnawing their fingernails and edging the tips of their seats. Though containing a strong plot and high octane energy, the lead role could have been better cast. Sure, Bradley Cooper is strapping and has had a fairly diverse early career (Wedding Crashers, Midnight Meat Train), however, in a role where we have to believe in early scenes that he isn't talented or attractive (like most 90's Sandra Bullock films) he is strongly unconvincing- much like he doesn't convince us in later scenes that he has a "four digit" I.Q. Don't get me wrong, the film works regardless, with the always assuring performance of De Niro and stout direction of Neil Burger (The Illusionist). Additionally, the film serves as a very fine portrayal of addiction- how it affects the addict and those who love the addict-- I was impressed. Though the film would have benefitted from casting such a performer as Sam Rockwell for instance, Limitless is a non-stop anxious thrill-ride that won't let go until the credits roll, earning it a solid 3 out of 4 stars.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

In his directorial debut, screenwriter George Nolfi brings to the screen The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon as David Norris- a politician who's life will soon be altered indefinitely. Moments before one of the most crucial speeches of his life, David encounters the love of his life- Elise (Emily Blunt). Unsatisfied with the brief moment shared before their separation, Norris pursues his soul mate. Upon reacquainting with his paramour, Norris' world is disorientated as he discovers that their is a bureau of men that oversee, and at times alter, everyday human life. This bureau's need to interfere with and re-aline David's life is due to his intrusion of the big plan. David's fate with Elise is not only against the plan of whom the bureau refers to as "the chairman" (which would of course be known as God to us; and no, the part is not played by Morgan Freeman), but it will allegedly lead to the failure of both David and Elise to accomplish their own individual dreams. David- alone in his knowledge of this authority- must take matters into his own hands to defy the "plan" and live his life with the woman of his dreams. Having written such screenplays as Ocean's Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum (he must appreciate Damon), it is no surprise that The Adjustment Bureau is such a success, as it is the first opportunity for Nolfi to portray his own tale. Though to the naked eye the story seems original, anyone who has seen Alex Proyas' Dark City (1998) will find the Bureau a bit too familiar. However, the film has a convincing enough chemistry between Blunt and Damon and enough of a Nolfi accent to stand alone. The performances were exceptional across the board, from Damon and Blunt to Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), John Slattery (Mad Men), and Terrance Stamp (Superman). Additionally, there were many philosophically astonishing takes on religion and higher powers. Though containing a partially borrowed plot, The Adjustment Bureau is original enough, and is accompanied by fine filmmaking and remarkable performances- scoring it 31/2 stars in my book.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review: Drive Angry 3-D (2011)

Director Patrick Lussier's Drive Angry 3-D, starring Nicolas Cage and his hair, tells the implausible tale of a durable shell of a man that escapes from Hell to avenge the death of his daughter. Milton (Cage) has spent the preceeding years of existence viewing the struggles of his loved ones in a cell of the underworld. The most recent and devastating site he has witnessed is his daughter's conversion to the occult. The fuse that detonated Milton's escape from Hell was sparked by the devlish, devious leader of this cult (Billy Burke, Feast of Love, Fracture)- who murdered his daughter abd kidnapped his granddaughter. Alongside Milton on this high-octane hunt is a waitress (Amber Heard, Pineapple Express) who is providing wheels and good looks I suppose. Hot on Milton's trail of firey wreckage is Satan's right-hand man, The Accountant (William Fichtner, Armageddon, Black Hawk Down) and the local Sherrif's Department. Will Milton and his unrealistically attractive waitress have what it takes to save the child? As most are aware of the infamous Nic Cage's recent debt issue, many moviegoers are well prepared for garbage at showings of recent Cagesploitation films. Occasionally however, Cage and/or Cage's agent will have a short stroke of genius (i.e. Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant- Port of Call- New Orleans). Drive Angry is not one of those occasions. With such a synopsis and such a leading star, I was not expecting a breath-taking cinematic masterpiece, however I was prepared to turn my brain off and enjoy an exploited non-stop, action flick. The problem with Drive Angry is that it takes the "awesomely" out of awesomely bad. Films such as Machete and Black Dynomite succeed because they know their identity- they are over the top films that have no problem making fun of themselves. The only individuals making fun of Drive Angry, however, are the viewers and critics- and not in the good way. A few saving graces of the film were the money spent on special effects, the atmosphere of a Grindhouse Feature, David Morse (though could have used much more of him), and the always impressive- yet underrated- William Fichtner. Fichtner's charm and on-screen charisma redeemed many scenes from mediocrity. The final twenty minutes of the film were much more enjoyable than the preceeding hour and fourteen, however not enough to completely rescue this film from a state of dullness (which is a state that would seem hard to achieve for a film about a Hell escapee avenging his daughter's death). Drive Angry is a mildly enjoyable Redbox candidate, scoring 2 stars.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review: Unknown (2011)

Director Jaume Collet-Serra's Unknown stars the usually impressive Liam Neeson as Dr. Martin Harris, a man who awakens from a coma after a car accident on a business trip in Germany with his wife Liz (January Jones). Upon awakening Dr. Harris finds that no one knows who he is, including his colleagues and spouse. Another man seems to have taken the place of Martin, playing the role of Dr. Harris the businessman, and Martin the husband. Harris refuses to believe the allegations that he has lost his sanity, and begins to pursue the retrieval of his life- starting with questioning the driver of the car at the dawn of this disorientating predicament. This film was viewed out of stardom of quality released films, and unlike The Mechanic, I was not pleasantly surprised. Unknown is simply a mess of a film. Aside from the fuzzy, made-for-TV movie look, and the detestable sound effects, the film's plot was schizophrenic, uneven, and unpleasant. Additionally, January Jones is significantly overrated. Due to her role in such a series as AMC's Mad Men, viewers such as myself were under the impression that she had talent. After withstanding the punishment of viewing Unknown, I stand corrected. Jones was by far the most two-dimensional, card board cut-out character in the film, and that's saying a lot. For whatever reason, I failed to do my research prior to purchasing a ticket for the film, but if I had I would have realized that the director of the film- Jaume Collet-Serra- is responsible for such cinematic catastrophes as Orphan and the Paris Hilton 2005 remake of House of Wax. To give credit where credit is due, the ending of the film was far better than the preceding scenes- this is not saying much. The distance from Schindler's List to Unknown is a far drop, however, I'm going to refrain from deducting points from Neeson and assume he just needs to fire his agent. Unknown is disappointingly a rarely enjoyable mess of a film, earning it a whopping 1 star.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review: The Mechanic (2011)

Director Simon West's The Mechanic is a modern adaptation of the 1972 Michael Winner film of the same name, starring Charles Bronson. The film stars Jason Statham as hit man Arthur Bishop. Bishop has recently been ordered to kill his long time mentor- Harry Mckenna (Donald Sutherland). Being a faithful man to his business he carries out the hit. Living with this decision and having the attachment he shared with Harry, Bishop attends his memorial service, which is where he encounters Harry's son, Steve (Ben Foster). Steve, being the troubled young man he is, takes a liking to Bishop and his profession, pleading that he train him to know the things Arthur knows-- the skills taught to arthur by Harry. The Mechanic follows Arthur and his new apprentice Steve Mckenna as they bond and carry out hits, improving Steve's skills as they progress. Will Steve learn of Arthur's significance to his father's death, and if so, when? My expectations were low upon entering the cinema. This film was released in the midst of a storm of terrible, early in the year movies, and it is a remake of a film, that to my knowledge, needed no remake. The Mechanic exceeded my expectations tremendously. I was prepared for non-stop action, sub-par acting, and a two-dimensional plot, and I would have been fine with turning my brain off (Much like Machete or The Expendables). The action was indeed nearly continuous, however, the performances delivered by both Foster and Statham were exceptional-- Foster's being quite exceptional (as his often are). Additionally, it included a sharp, smart script that was at times compelling, and even a bit intentionally humorous. There were action sequences that were surely a bit over the top, but were saved by the solid chemistry this duo shares. The ending was quite satisfactory, though included one implausible maneuver performed by Statham- but what action film doesn't? The Mechanic was a pleasant surprise and is strongly recommended for action fans, earning it 3 stars.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reviews from the Vault: The Rock (1996)

This time of year being the time of opportunity for the Academy to dump all of its garbage that was denied release at the end of 2010, I have not felt the need to review films that you no doubt have already guessed suck. That being said I miss reviewing films, so I have decided to dig up the one golden nugget spawned by the infamous human explosion-- Michael Bay. Produced and Directed by Bay, The Rock stars Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, and the devilishly good looking Sean Connery. Feeling that America is in need of an awakening by a true "patriot", General Francis X. Hummel and his crew of soldiers commandeer Alcatraz (The "Rock") the intension of destroying San Francisco Bay and thousands of American citizens with the aid of biological weapons. Summoned to assist with the demise or apprehension of these anarchic warriors are Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Cage)- a biological warfare specialist, and John Patrick Mason (Connery)- the only individual to ever escape from Alcatraz. With a pregnant wife currently in San Francisco, Goodspeed wants nothing more than to get the job done and return home to his wife. Will this odd partnership have what it takes to save the day? Explosion! Gunshot! Slow motion! Explosion! Welcome to a Michael Bay film. However, The Rock differs from other Bay projects in that it doesn't take itself too seriously. There is nothing worse than laughing at an action scene that intends to simply rock your socks off. In this instance, the audience tends to share the same sense of humor as the director and cast of The Rock. Aside from the awesomely ridiculous thrills and effects, this film actually contains a few three-dimensional characters, top-notch acting, and Connery! Bay certainly has a fascination with the armed forces, but that is okay considering it adds authenticity to the films military mechanics. These days it takes grand diversity for a film to stand on its own (i.e. the good guy dies, the couple doesn't stay together), but sometimes it's okay to give the audience exactly what they want. I would not recommend buckling up for an oscar-winning drama, but I would recommend having a little fun- because that is what The Rock has to offer-- earning a strong 3 stars.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: 127 Hours (2010)

Danny Boyle's 127 Hours depicts the devastating six and a half days spent by Aron Ralston trapped between a rock and a hard place. In this true story of man vs. nature, outdoor enthusiast Aron Ralston (James Franco) departs to the mountains of Moab, Utah for a weekend of canyoneering alone. Initially, things are adventurous as he meets a couple of young ladies climbing nearby. After introducing them to the fun that can be had at his outdoor second home, he parts ways and continues his journey the way he likes it- alone. Here lies the problem, as he has plummeted into an inescapable position with his arm trapped beneath an anchored rock. As the hours turn into days without progress, and the milliliters of water become closer to nonexistent, Aron wishes more and more that he had informed someone of his weekend plans. Bringing us such films as Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, and 28 Days Later, director Danny Boyle has proven himself an effective storyteller- 127 Hours only reassures us of this ability. The film captures its audience with amazing photography, cinematography, casting, and music. The claustrophobia administered to the viewer by day three of Aron's struggle is eased with sporadic flashbacks, daydreams, and hallucinations strategically placed by Boyle. One-man shows such as this are either a disaster of a display or a masterpiece, and Franco delivers the latter with a convincing portrayal of desperation and hope. The first step into the sunlight in the final minutes of the film are as much a breath of fresh air for the audience as it is for the film's protagonist. It's moments like these in cinema that if done right, not only make up for the leading hour and twenty minutes of struggle, but depend on that conflict to make the grass greener on the other side. Thanks to a compelling survival story provided by Ralston, top-notch direction by Boyle, and a stand up performance by Franco, 127 Hours is a success- scoring 3 1/2 stars.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: I Love You Philip Morris (2010)

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's I Love You Philip Morris is an adaptation of the miraculous real life story of Steven Russell. Steven is allegedly your average individual. He goes to work every morning at the Police department, comes home to his wife, eats dinner, makes love, and (*record scratch*) has sex with men. Following a near-death experience in a car accident, Steven decides to live a lie no more- he decides to come out to the world about his life-long secret and start the life that was always intended for him. Not long after leaving his wife and finding a new lover named Jimmy, Steven comes to the realization that being homosexual is very expensive and the easiest way to support his spending habits is by conning his way through life. This eventually leads Steven through the gates of prison. A diamond in the rough- prison acquaints Steven with the true love of his life- Philip Morris. From the moment they lock eyes Steven is determined to treat Philip like a queen. Whether a sports car or designer clothing, Steven graces Philip with whatever he desires. Deceiving his way into corporate jobs and embezzling massive amounts of dough, Steven is not only lying his was into wealth, but through his relationship as well. Will Steven be able to set aside his addiction and compulsive dishonesty for the one he loves, or is he destined to spend the remainder of his days in a distressing six by eight foot cell? I Love You Philip Morris is much like Birdcage intertwined with Catch Me If You Can. If the passion the two leading characters share is not enough to fuel the audience through the film's 102 minute running time, the aberrance of Steven Russell is. Once again in comparison to Catch Me If You Can, the audience will not only be entirely attached to the film's protagonist, but they will surely ponder whether Russell is stealing with aspirations for those he loves, or simply due to an uncontrollable addiction. Either way the journey is hilarious and thrilling. Philip Morris is filled with absurdity (entertaining, though sometimes a bit too absurd) and hilarity, but there is nothing more magnificent about the film than its casting. Ewan McGregor is spot on as an innocent homosexual that is being dragged through the wreckage of his partner, and Jim Carrey displays his best performance by far since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I Love You Philip Morris is an exceptional depiction of an incredible individual, earning it 3 stars.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Catfish (2010)

Much like the trailer claims, documentary filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's Catfish isn't based upon real characters or inspired by true events, it is simply true. In 2007, filmmakers Henry and Ariel noticed an online romance story evolving in the life of Ariel's brother Nev, and decided to document it on camera. Having only met on Facebook, Nev was eager to acquaint this charming young gal in person-- eager until he began to suspect that she was not being entirely honest. Claiming to have an art gallery- that upon investigation- Nev discovers doesn't exist, taking credit for songs allegedly performed in her own home- leading Nev to discover their existence on Youtube by professional musicians- leads Nev into a state of suspicion. Intrigued and confused, Nev and his brother's crew set out to surprise this deceiving online swinger. What is waiting for them can only be revealed by viewing this on-camera adventure. Catfish is a fine example of real stories being stranger than fiction. Anyone can make up a fictitious plot, but to see bizarre events unfold in a real individual's life is much more capturing. After viewing Catfish, one may reflect and assert that the thrill of the hunt was more exciting than what was waiting behind door number three. The excitement of the unknown may not meet up with the realism that awaits these young gentlemen- but it will certainly not disappoint. The first 45 minutes of the film are intense enough to dampen your pants, whereas the final 45 minutes are emotional and real enough to leave you petrified for hours. As the poster suggests: "Don't let anyone tell you what it is". Catfish is an astonishing display of low-budget filmmaking- earning it a very solid 4 stars.