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THREE MOVIES: WTF
a la The Flixter

        This isn't really a review. Its more of a synopsis of my movie going endeavor during the past week. And its also to let whoever reads my rants know that I am still around and hitting my local multiplex. So I managed to see three movies last week on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I don't know what may have entered your dirty mind but that's what the WTF is.
        On Wednesday, I went to see The Five Year Engagement with Jason Siegel and Emily Blunt. They play a couple who get engaged but the road to the big day is a long one. He's happy working as a chef but she gets a dream job at the opposite side of the country. Which one of the two should compromise? Well, he does. They move and he's miserable in their new locale. So the relationship gets some ups and downs but I won't tell you if it ends on an up or down.
        So how does the latest entry into one of my favorite genres, the rom/com, fare? I thought it was good, though even I am starting to tire of the usual happenings that constitute the said genre. But it is entertaining and often hilarious - just not something that makes it a standout.
       When I went on Wednesday to see this, I picked up tickets for the next two nights. Thursday, I went to see The Pirates: Band of Misfits. This is the latest from those Aardman people who specialize in claymation. But this time its in 3D. Hugh Grant voices The Pirate Captain whose dream is to win the Pirate of the Year award. To do that he has to show the largest amount of loot. That's where the problem is. All he has is a rundown ship and a motley, but loyal, crew that always manages to attack the wrong kind of ship. Sometimes its a ghost ship (literally) while other times its a ship carrying lepers to a far off place. Along comes the villanious Queen Victoria who absolutely hates pirates and a not so honest Charles Darwin who has his own plans on using these chumps who have boarded his ship hoping for loot.
        Yes, I love cartoons but how was this claymation stuff? Absolutely wonderful. Loved it.
        Then on Friday I, like almost every other moviegoer in the country, went to see The Avengers. Yes, the theater was absolutely mobbed. Good thing that I had gotten my ticket on Wednesday. Anyway, this is the union that was foreshadowed by all the other Marvel movies. If you had stuck around after the credits of Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, you would have seen Samuel Jackson's Nick Fury, gathering the team of superheroes that are to be The Avengers. Well, finally they are all here. Plus there's Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. Robert Downey Jr. is the billionaire playboy Tony Stark whose alter ego is Iron Man. Their mission is to stop the alien Loki from taking over Earth. Something along those lines.
        But the point is to just sit back and enjoy the dazzle. And this time its in 3D. Director Joss Wheddon does an amazing job of creating what many may call the best comic book movie of all time. However, I am not going to be one of those. With all the amazing action and humor that is present on screen, the movies just isn't that satisfying. Maybe because of all the built up expectation, I was expecting too much. Good but just not that great. Can't wait for the next chapter in Christopher Nolan's Batman reboot..              
RATINGS:
FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT:
THREE STARS
THE PIRATES: BAND OF MISFITS:
FOUR STARS
THE AVENGERS:
THREE STARS

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21 Jump Street
a la The Flixter

        The year was 1991 and the show that made Johnny Depp a star and the show, upon which this movie is based, was ending. Not to mention that I, The Flixter, was unpacking after my permanent move to the U.S. But, anyway, Hollywood once again demonstrates its inability to turn out original material.
        The year is 2003 and Jonah Hill's Schmidt and Channing Tatum's Jenko are high-schoolers. Of course, Schmidt is the dorky one and Jenko is the cool jock. But six years later, they are both in the same league as police officers. There is a new synthetic drug making the rounds and their new assignment is to find the supplier. A hilarious Ice Cube is their captain and he informs the two about how this assignment is to be carried out. Since both are young looking, they are going to go undercover as high school students to find out where the drug is coming from. So its off to school where its nothing but dreadful memories, more for Schmidt and a little less for Jenko. And, of course, times have changed. It is now a hate crime to hit the little black kid who also happens to be gay and diversity is good. Were those things really different back then? The pretty teacher seems like a romantic possibility. But that sounds like enough of a set up for some comedy. Does it deliver?
        A big yes. The movie was absolutely hilarious. I laughed embarrassingly hard at many times. Both of the leads deliver great performances and there is even an unbilled cameo from one of today's biggest stars. Won't say who but if you read into details of what I have said so far, you might guess who. Loved it. And it was my first movie as a Godfather. Yes, I became a Godfather to the most gorgeously cute girl, Alexis Victoria Kokotowski. Love your great mood and may God bless you and keep you smiling..              
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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SAFE HOUSE
a la The Flixter

        Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is a rogue CIA agent who has been off the charts and on the run for 20 years. He finally gets captured in Cape Town, South Africa and put in a safe house. There he gets a CIA agent to watch over him as he gets interrogated and water-boarded --- so some important information that he may possess can be obtained. That agent is Ryan Reynold's Matt Weston who has been sitting around staring at four walls and waiting for something exciting to happen. And Frost brings the excitement that Weston has been craving. Oh yeah, Frost has managed to make enemies that want him dead while some want the information that he has...
        People come to kill him, and the two (Frost and Weston) manage to escape and go on the run together. Action stuff happens...Car chases, gun fights, and the inevitable bonding of two different people. What this movie added to my movie going experience was another rule that I probably won't follow:
        One: don't watch a gory horror movie on opening night. Why? Because there is a certain group of gore fans (you know exactly who I am talking about) who can't hold back from telling the onscreen victims what not to do. Two: if you really want to see it, just wait until the new Tyler Perry movie becomes available for home viewing. And now for a third rule: don't watch a new Denzel movie on opening night because regardless of whether he is the good guy or bad, this group won't be able to hold back from applauding each and every one of his violent outbursts. There. I couldn't hold it in any longer. Because enough is enough. Denzel's on screen persona can't hear your tips and if he could hear you, I am sure that he would appreciate your encouragement.
        Anyway, how was the movie? A little disappointing when the talent involved is considered... Yes, the action does get intense but where is it all going. The resolution just doesn't seem satisfying enough. Maybe it was the audience participation that diluted the overall excitement.              
RATING :  THREE STARS

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The Muppets
a la The Flixter

        We are in Smalltown, USA where Gary (Jason Siegel) lives with his brother, Walter. But Walter is a Muppet (don't ask) and Gary is a big fan of the Muppets. The two, along with Gary's fiancee Mary (Amy Adams) take a trip to Hollywood where they decide to make a pilgrimage to the Muppet Theater. What they find is equally shocking and saddening. The place is an abandoned wreck. Equally unnerving is the discovery that an evil billionaire (Chris Cooper) is planning on demolishing the place because there is oil below it. The only hope is to raise enough money to save the place. Time is limited and so are the options.
        The best solution is to get the old gang together to have a telethon that will raise the money. The problem is that everyone is all over the place. Miss Piggy is working for some fashion magazine and is in Paris. Kermit lives a solitary existence at his place somewhere. Gonzo is somewhere else. In other words, getting them all back isn't an easy task. A TV executive (Rashida Jones) is a big help since she will let them air the telethon. But everyone does get back and the telethon begins. And so do the laughs. But don't get me wrong. The laughs begin when the credits start rolling.
         I am a big fan of cartoons. But I will be honest and say that I have never been a follower of the Muppets. So this was my first deeply involving experience with them. Did I like it? No, I absolutely loved it. Laughed hard and had a great time. Jason Siegel is great and so is Amy Adams. But the real stars are Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the rest of Jim Henson's creations. And I almost forgot to mention that its not so simple to have a telethon and raise money when Cooper's greedy billionaire is on a mission to sabotage the event so the money cannot be raised.
        Loved it. And I won't go into details but I also managed to see George Clooney in The Descendents the following night. Loved that one too. If I were to go into a full review, I would give that one five stars as well. But The Muppets is the main attraction here. So here's my verdict on that. ?             
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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Killer Elite
a la The Flixter

        Danny (Jason Statham) decides to give up his life of bloodshed. But only after he accidentally kills a little kid during one of his jobs as a hitman for hire. So he finds a girl and decides to retire. They have a couple of kids and try to raise them without telling them how dad got all his wealth. And then their young son falls in love with some girl that the parents don't approve of... Wait a minute.......... What the hell am I talking about? That's not what happens.
        What actually happens is the same thing that happens in these types of movies. You know the ones where a guy tries to give up his violent ways but the past won't let him. So in this case, Danny's mentor, played by Robert Deniro with a Robinson Crusoe look, gets captured by some Arab sheik. The sheik wants Danny to go after and kill the guys who killed his son... Or maybe they killed a couple of his sons. I forget... Anyway, entering the picture at this point is Clive Owen's hitman whose job is to protect Danny's targets. So things are getting interesting....
        The movie claims to be based on true events. Its based on a book by some guy who claims that all this actually happened. Remember when I just said that things are getting interesting? Well, scratch that. Because they are not. This had to be the most boring action movie ever. There are explosions, fist fights, car chases, and everything else that make up the movies in this genre one of my favorite genres. But somehow they manage to do nothing here. I sat there anticipating some actiony stuff. The actiony stuff happened and all it managed to make me think was "sure, whatever." What I am trying to say in layman's terms is that this movie sucked. Statham and Owen disappoint but its Mr. Deniro's presence that hurt the most. Yes, the country is facing some tough economic times but why stoop so low, Bobby?             
RATING :  ONE STAR

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FRIGHT NIGHT
a la The Flixter

        Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) has a new neighbor. A handsome fellow, played by Colin Farrell, that Charlie's single mom (Toni Collette) can't stop drooling over. But then Charlie starts to get suspicious thanks to a nerdy friend (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). No, the dates that are brought home but are never seen leaving doesn't mean a psychotic killer in this case. Break out the crucifixes and garlic because this new neighbor is a vampire. After all, he won't step out at day time and won't set foot in your house unless he is invited in. The latter is an old rule that vampires follow that shows how well mannered they are despite being blood thirsty. Anyway, the quest begins to find a way to stop this fiend before mom or anyone else becomes a victim. That includes Charlie's girlfriend, a pretty girl that even Charlie sometimes can't believe is his girlfriend. So Charlie turns to a magician (David Tennant) whose stage act includes fighting the supernatural.
       This is a remake of an 80's horror movie that was a favorite of mine. That one was followed by at least one sequel. And that one had Roddy McDowall as the one mentoring the young vampire hunter. So how is the remake?
       Enjoyed it a lot. But I can't really compare it to the original because its been ages since I have seen it. So let me just judge it on its own. Yes, Farrell is creepy. Charming but loathsome since we know his true nature. And Yelchin is great as a young man whose adolescence is further hampered by these supernatural complications. A movie that is just as bloody as it is fun. Yes, that sounds a little sick but that's how I saw it. And, of course, it was in 3D like almost everything coming out these days.             
RATING :  FOUR STARS

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HORRIBLE BOSSES
a la The Flixter

        Talk about a title that pretty much explains the movie. How about Bad Bosses Who Deserve to Die? Really. Because that is what this movie is about. Nick(Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudekis) are three best friends. Every night, after work, they meet at their regular watering hole and unload their tales of woe from another terrible work day. Nick has been working hard so he can get the promotion he deserves. When the time comes, his boss (Kevin Spacey) gives the promotion to someone else that he sees as more deserving. Himself.
        Dale is a dental assistant who is constantly facing humiliation and sexual harassment from the dentist (a hateful Jennifer Anniston) that he assists. Kurt seems to have the dream job, working for an elderly boss (Donald Sutherland) who is also a father figure for him. Then the boss drops dead and his coked-up son(Colin Farrell) takes over. Every day, the friends relate how they can't take it anymore. Then the solution comes. Why not kill their bosses? And they are not about to kill their own boss since it would make them too obvious as suspects. Drawing inspiration from a movie that is also one of my all time favorites, each will kill another's boss. Yes, a little criss-cross like the one that drove Throw Momma From the Train (the inspirational flick). But first they pour all their savings into hiring a murderer (a hilarious Jamie Foxx), who takes all their money and then reveals that he is just a murder consultant. He won't do it but will just tell them how to do it. So they are on their own and out of the money they had invested in the Foxx character whose hilarious name can't be printed here.
       Of course, things don't go as planned and complications ensue. It may seem that my sarcastic beginning to the review indicated that I wasn't too crazy about this movie. Wrong!!! I loved this movie. It usually doesn't happen but it is the second time it has happened in recent memory. A movie that embarrassed me by making me laugh out loud. Just like with Bridesmaids, I laughed out lout many times. Besides Bridesmaids, this had to be the funniest movie since the first Hangover. Loved it. Jason Bateman and Jason Sudekis are great but its Charlie Day who stands out as the humiliated dental assistant. In case I didn't say it before, I absolutely loved it.             
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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AN INDEPENDENCE DAY DOUBLER
a la The Flixter

        Yes, my lazy ass is about to roll two reviews into one again. What can I say, Hollywood is getting greedy and just doesn't believe in releasing one movie per weekend. Anyway, here we go.
 
        Friday night, I chose not to go for the big movie opening. I went for the smaller one even though it had two big name Oscar winners, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is the protagonist of Larry Crowne. Larry has been a long time employee of a big department store. He is doing fine at his job as a salesman and been named employee of the month many times. Still he gets called into the office by the big bosses. No, this time he is not getting awarded. Instead he is fired because he never went to college. After some time sulking and coming to terms with his new status, Larry decides to go to college and get the education that he lacks. But first he gets rid of the huge gas guzzler that he had been driving and gets a more fuel efficient scooter.
      Then we meet his professor, a bitter and unhappy Julia Roberts who comes to class every day with the hope that not enough students have shown up and class can be cancelled. But Larry ends up being the dedicated student who shows up every day and puts a damper on her intentions. And, yes, all the other students end up being a motley crew who provide a lot of the comic aspects to this romantic comedy. Romantic comedy? Yes, that is what this is and the romance is the one that eventually develops between Larry and his professor.
      So what do you think? Did I like it? One of my favorite actors (Tom Hanks) in one of my guiltily favorite genres (the rom-com)? Yes, I absolutely loved it. Mr. Hanks shows, once again, why he won the Oscar twice. And Julia Roberts shows why she won hers. Yes, her character starts off as being just annoying with her bitterness towards the world. But she evolves into someone that you end up rooting for to become Larry's partner. Does she? Did I mention that this was a romantic comedy?
      Then on the fourth of July, I went to see Hollywood's version of the fireworks. A new one from director Michael Bay. The third installment in the franchise based on a toyline, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The movie starts off very promisingly : Man lands on the moon in 1969 - and it turns out that there is someone already there. Yes, a good start. That is where the movie should have ended. No, but it goes on for another two and a half hours.
     In modern day, we see the protagonist of the first two installments, Sam Wittwicky (Shia LaBeouf) facing unemployment alongside another hottie girlfriend who is not Megan Fox but comes from the same school of acting. One where looking hot is the sole lesson in the art. If that was what acting was about then we would have another Oscar contender. But I digress. So the noble Autobots get evicted from the planet Earth because of some reason or other, which means that the evil Decepticons can lay waste to the planet. Let me stop right here and make a confession.
      The confession being that I have no idea what this movie was about or what the point was. If the point was to just lay waste to downtown Chicago then I have to say, "Bravo, Mr. Bay, you did it." Because that is all the movie is. An endless barrage of noise, destruction, explosions, and the resulting headache. There were instances when many in the audience broke out in applause. Once again, I have no idea why. Maybe they hate their planet so much that watching it get blown apart was living vicariously. But here is what I found the most disappointing. Not one but three fine actors in its cast. John Malcovich, Frances McDormand, and John Turturro. Seriously guys, are things that bad in Hollywood?            
RATINGS:
LARRY CROWNE
:
FIVE STARS
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON:
NOTHING(won't even mention any stars in the rating)
:

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GREEN LANTERN
a la The Flixter

        Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a test pilot who is still haunted by the memory of seeing his father meet an unfortunate end while flying. Yes, Pop was also a pilot. And now Hal has taken after him and is hoping not to meet a similar fate. Instead he gets abducted while on a test flight. His abductors are the Lanterns, a bunch of aliens who are keeping order in the universe. Judging from the way the universe is, they are not too good at it.
       Anyway, now Hal can fly around and is given a ring that can materialize things at his behest. By the way, one of the amphibian aliens is voiced by Geoffrey Rush doing another crappy movie. Yes, since winning an Oscar for Shine, he seems to do a piece of crap for every decent turn. Oops, I think I just gave away my verdict. But let me talk about the movie a little more.
      So now Hal is the Green Lantern, doing small good deeds while on a mission to stop a giant outer-space gas cloud that has a head. Along comes scientist, Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), who touches some gooey alien stuff that makes his head big and intentions evil. And there's Hal's fellow flier Carol (Blake Lively) who is also Hal's romantic interest. I think I have covered everything. Now for the picking apart before I give my final verdict which I already telegraphed.
      The movie is pretty cheesy. From the dialogue to the special effects. A comic book adaptation that will remind you of the misfires in the genre. Movies like Daredevil or Batman and Robin. Not the greats like The Dark Knight or Batman Begins. Ryan Reynolds' head is basically the one starring here since he is special effects, most of the time, below the neck. The action is mostly annoying instead of enthralling. The movie was in 3D but I chose to watch it in 2D and avoid the annoyance of putting on those glasses. I highly doubt it but maybe the third D would have added a little more to the entertainment value. Like I said, highly unlikely. Very disappointed with director Martin Campbell who did a couple of good Bond movies. Heck, go rent another actioner he did way back titled No Escape. Beats watching this junk.
            
RATING :  ONE STAR

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X MEN: FIRST CLASS
a la The Flixter

        I hate to sound ungrateful but let me start off by saying that I am in hell. More on that later.
       The year is 1962 and we get to meet Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). The two friends have a common bond in their mutant power. But before we meet the two as young men, we see them as children facing some Nazi atrocities in a German concentration camp. Those horrors yield two very different young men. Charles wants to use his powers to help humanity while Erik is bent on destroying humanity so that mutants can rule. By the way, the bearer of violence in those camps is a Nazi doctor played by Kevin Bacon.
       So in 1962 Charles and Erik are both gathering fellow mutants so they can go about their respective agendas. Meanwhile, Bacon's Shaw is arranging a nuclear faceoff between the US and Russians. Sure seems to be a lot going on for a comic book based movie. But that is the beauty of this thing. A superhero movie with brains. Along come some more mutants that will eventually become Beast, Mystique, Angel etc. And we see how Charles Xavier becomes the wheelchair bound Professor X while Erik becomes the evil Magneto. The movie is absolute wall to wall action.
      Director Matthew Vaughn does an excellent job creating the best X Men movie since Bryan Singer's X2. And watch for a surprising and funny cameo (won't say who) from one of the originals.
      So what's this about me being in hell? Well besides movies, my other passion is music. Can always find music to turn to as something to relate to depending on whatever state I am going through. Gone are the days of denial that resulted from a romantic euphoria that made U2's All I Want is You into my song. What is most relatable these days is a song from Jesse Malin and The St. Marks Social. Maybe the entire song or maybe just one line. Dear God, life is hell. Why? Go read my confession. Yes, it is getting worse by the minute. But let me stop my bitching and go back to the movie at hand. Yes, I absolutely loved it. An absolutely kick ass action movie with enough mayhem to fill two movies.
            
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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BRIDESMAIDS
a la The Flixter

        So this macho looking guy (yours truly) walks up to the ticket counter to buy a ticket. "You are watching Priest?", the guy behind the counter asks. No, he is told. I chose this chick flick over the priest fighting vampires bloodfest in 3D. Good choice? Well, read on.
        Kristen Wiig is Annie. A thirty something who has just failed in her business venture as a baker. Yes, she is pretty much a loser, financially strapped, driving a hunk-a-junk car, and falling behind on her rent. And then some good news comes.... kinda'. Her best friend is getting married and has chosen her as her maid of honor. So the pressure is building since Annie has to dump her loser status and become more presentable for the big day. She joins the troupe of bridesmaids that includes some equally inept females. But there is one bridesmaid who is so perfect. She is pretty, she is rich, and she could overthrow Annie and become the maid of honor instead. Obviously, she is also given some bitchy traits that will make us root for Annie even more.  So the movie hurtles towards the big day with stopovers at some cheap restaurant (that results in some bathroom humor) and bars. Some misadventures result in Annie meeting a police officer who may end up saving her as he becomes a romantic interest. Anyway, this is what is going on.
       Judd Apatow is a producer so a lot of humor (pretty raunchy at times) has his influence on it. I am not too familiar with Wiig's work on Saturday Night Live. She also happens to have co-written this thing. So would I call this movie memorable? Well, I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. The movie is extremely funny. Although I did mention the bathroom humor which I am not too fond of, but that can be overlooked when there is so much other good stuff. And I did call this a chick flick. With all the raunchy and obscure humor, I don't think this could be classified as such. So, yes, I loved it.
      By the way, a couple of days later, I did go to see Priest in 3D. Won't give you a full review but will say that the movie could have been in 10D and would have still sucked.
            
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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FAST FIVE
a la The Flixter

         So all the gang from the original The Fast and the Furious is back. Paul Walker and Vin Diesel reunite after the latter is broken out of a prison bus. Yes, that is pretty awesome but its just the beginning. Everyone else (can't name them all but there's Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, and a few more) returns as well. Oh yes, there's also Diesel's sister, played by Jordanna Brewster, who is also Walker's romantic interest. But the entire gang is on the run now and they end up in Brazil.
         Pursuing them is a Federal Agent played by Dwayne Johnson. Now their goal is to rob a big drug lord who has hundreds of millions stored away. Getting to him is not so simple, since he pretty much owns everyone from politicians to law enforcement folks. When he gets the news that someone is after his money, he stores his gigantic safe, filled to the brim with money, in the most logically safe place. A police station under constant guard. Yes, things are looking interesting.
         I browse a lot of papers and magazines. Used to be a big reader (Brothers Karamazov in eleventh grade and not for a school assignment) but just can't do it anymore. Getting forgetful in my old age (won't say how many...). Anyway, somewhere I came across a little tidbit about how a surprise awaits after the end credits. I have a friend who never leaves after a movie ends. Always stuck around until the credits were done. He said that you never know what the film makers may have put at the end. Yes, going to the movies got a little annoying with him.
         The movie theater was absolutely packed. Talking to the people next to me, I mentioned the thing about the after movie surprise. Word spread on that side. When the movie ended everyone on the other side of the theater started leaving. The people on my side stayed and kept asking me if I was sure about what I had said. Yes, I replied. And then it came. Loose ends got tied up and the sixth movie in the series got set up. Everyone started applauding and thanked me.
         I didn't say anything about what I thought about the movie, did I? I thought that the first four movies were okay. But this one was absolutely awesome. Enough action, mayhem, and destruction for a few movies. The action is very well staged and kinetic. And I am not just talking about the car chases. I am talking about everything from the gun fights to the hand to hand face offs. And lets not forget that one of my favorite genres, the heist movie, is thrown in the mix. Absolutely loved it. One of the best action movies in a long time....    
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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WATER FOR ELEPHANTS
a la The Flixter

         A traveling circus is closing down. An old timer wanders the grounds and is taken to the manager's office for help. Looking at the posters on the manager's wall, he points to one and says that he was there. That particular poster is from a depression era traveling circus that met an unfortunate end. He was there, the manager inquires. Yes, is the response and the old man (Hal Holbrook) tells his tale. Jacob (Robert Pattison) is a veterinary student at Cornell. During his final exam, he is called to the office and its not good news. His parents have died in an accident. And things don't get better. It seems that his father took loans on the house to send his son to Cornell. The bank takes the house and the orphaned Jacob is now homeless as well. So what does Jacob do? He hops on board a train that turns out to be a traveling circus.
       He gets a job doing menial work like cleaning up the manure. The circus owner, August (Christopher Waltz), is trying to hold onto the circus in the troubled economic times. His wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), is one of the star attractions doing some bareback horse riding show. By the way, the horse is bare backed and not Marlena. Her horse gets injured and put to sleep. So August gets an elephant, the next logical substitute. So now Marlena does her show with the elephant, Rosie, who is not too cooperative. The lack of cooperation brings out August's sadistic side. But Jacob finds a way to get friendly with the elephant and even finds that the elephant responds to Polish. Okay, those are the basics.
       Now for the complications. August isn't such a nice guy. Either to his wife, his employees, or the animals. Jacob is the nice guy, getting friendly with the animal and others around him, especially Marlena. So, yes, a romance starts to develop. One can look at this as being a soap opera set during the Depression and at a circus. I looked at it as being a period romance with some great performances and a great story. Does that mean I liked it? I am a little embarrassed to say that I, the lover of action movies and cartoons, absolutely loved it. Yes, the performances are great. Even Pattison, that dude from the cheesy Twilight movies, is great. And Witherspoon proves why she won an Oscar along with Waltz, another recent Oscar winner. This is the type of movie that I would expect from director Tim Burton. But the one directing is Francis Lawrence, who also did I Am Legend. By the way, this is adapted from a novel by Sara Gruen that has sold a few more copies than a novel I wrote. Yes, I wrote a novel. Go buy it and maybe Pindi Calling will be coming to a theater near you soon. Anyway, I loved this movie.    
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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SCRE4M
a la The Flixter

         I have seen all kinds of way the title has been spelled. But this is a review for Scream 4. Or Scream Four. Or Scream IV.
         Anyway, some things have changed since the last go around. I can't believe its been over ten years since the third one. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the survivor of the last three bouts against Ghostface (whose name, I figure, inspired the rap outfit Ghostface Killah), has returned to her small town where the killings happened. But now she is an author on a book tour promoting her tale of survival. The klutzy Dewey (David Arquette), formerly a deputy, is now the Sherriff. And Courtney Cox's bitchy reporter has retired, not just from pursuing Sidney's stories of facing off against the killer but from the journalistic profession. And Sidney's return coincides with a new batch of killings. There's a new Ghostface around. That is another good thing about the Scream movies.  The killer is not some supernatural entity (Freddy Kruger, Jason etc.) that cannot be killed off. The killer is just an ordinary human who dons a mask and makes the guessing of his identity part of the escapades. So its not just the killings that are fun to watch (yes, that sounds bad) but its also the guessing. Not just guessing who the next victim will be but also who the killer may be...
       Oh yes, a little while ago I said "another good thing about the Scream movies."  Yes, that means there are other good things thus making me a fan. And I have been a fan since the first one when writer Kevin Williamson changed the game by scripting something that made us laugh along with scaring us, as all the conventions of the serial killer movies were mocked as they were followed in the film's brilliant structure. Who knew that I would use brilliant in describing a blood soaked movie about some nut going around killing people? But that's how it is. And I knew in the first five minutes of the movie that I was going to love it... And the rest of the movie didn't disappoint.
      I didn't describe the plot too much, did I? Well that is pretty much the plot. Sidney returns and stays with a niece. Killings return and Sidney is looked at as the one who is bringing the bad luck. Sherriff Dewey tries to bring the panic under control. Cox's former reporter thinks about removing the former part. This and that.
 
Blood flows.
We cringe.
We laugh.
We have a great time.
At least I did...    Thanks to
Williamson's great script under the great direction of Wes Craven..   
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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YOUR HIGHNESS
a la The Flixter

         Before I get into any details, let me just say that after watching this movie, I hoped that Natalie Portman was not going the Louis Gossett Jr. way. You might have caught onto my final verdict but I will give the details later. So its the Middle Ages and we have two very different kinds of royalty. Prince Fabious (James Franco) has just returned from the battlefield where he has done some heroic work. Besides bringing back the severed head of a foe, he also brings back some lighter news. He has brought back the virgin lass that he rescued from an evil wizard and is going to marry her. The king and kingdom are joyous upon seeing Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), the bride to be, but the brother, Thadeous (Danny McBride), is indifferent. He is a typical Middle Ages slacker type. In case you don't know those types, just think of a modern day slacker. Now substitute him to that period setting and you will get the picture. Yes, he is a slobby-mutt of a man. Smoking herbs and laying about doing nothing. So obviously, the parents are a lot more proud of Fabious than they are of Thadeous.
        The preparations begin for the big day and when it arrives, so does tragedy. The evil wizard, that the girl was rescued from, barges in and takes her back. Now a new mission of rescuing her gets underway. Obviously, Thadeous is not too crazy about being part of this mission but he has to go. So the two brothers, accompanied by some army guys and Thadeous' man servant, depart. But first they stop by to see another wizard. That side trip is a little gross out as the ancient Wiseman gives them some directions while proving that he is also a bit of a pervert. Anyway, from then on it proves to be a more difficult task as the princes' backup proves a little treacherous and all they are left with is the man servant. Good thing that they come across Natalie Portman's Isabel, a warrior on her own quest, who joins them and the journey goes on.
        By the way, this is a comedy. And a bit of a gross-out one. And one that isn't all that funny. All it managed to get out of me were a couple of smirks. And what was I talking about when I said that hopefully Ms. Portman won't go the Louis Gossett Jr. way? Well , after Mr. Gossett won an Oscar for An Officer and A Gentleman, he proceeded to make crap. Stuff like those Iron Eagle movies and similar junk. So, hopefully, down the road, I won't be talking about people going the Portman way. As in the junk she made after winning an Oscar. So far, this is a bad sign. No, it wasn't such a great movie. Actually it wasn't even a good one. Gross, immature, and pretty devoid of coaxing any laughter out of this viewer..   
RATING :  ONE STAR

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THE SOURCE CODE
a la The Flixter

         Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) was a helicopter pilot flying missions in Afghanistan. That's the last thing he remembers doing... Now he wakes up on a passenger train headed for Chicago and has no clue what he is doing there. His dazed outlook confuses the pretty passenger across from him. But Christina (Michelle Monaghan) is chatting with him like they have known each other for a long time. He is still trying to get his bearings when there's a huge explosion and a bomb rips through the train. And then he wakes up.
         No, it wasn't a dream and no, he isn't dead. A voice asks him if he was able to locate the bomb or the bomber. He has no clue what is going on. The voice, coming from Vera Farmiga's commanding officer who he sees on a screen before him, goes on to explain that he is part of a program called The Source Code. A bomb blew up the commuter train earlier that day. His mind has been transplanted into a passenger who was on board that train. Stevens' job is to find out where the bomb is and who is responsible, so further attacks that are going to follow can be prevented. The only catch is that he only has eight minutes. So back he goes since he didn't accomplish his mission the last time. And, bam, he finds himself sitting across from Christina once again. This time, he has some clue as to what she will say. But, once again, the bomb blows up the train. At least this time he was able to see which direction the explosion came from. But the mission is not fully completed. So back he goes again.
         This happens over and over. Each time he is able to find out some more. But each trip back also brings him closer to Christina and a personal mission of saving her starts to develop. The repetition may bring Groundhog Day to mind. That one is a personal favorite of mine and is one that is on my list of all time bests. So let's think of Bill Murray as an action hero and consider his personal development being one that can have some much wider ramifications. Yes, that would be The Source Code. Does that mean that I liked this one? Heck yeah. I loved it. Suspenseful, thrilling, and with an ending that could go either way. You could think of it as perfectly fitting or you could be turned off by it. I thought it was very appropriate, though it may not be a typical Hollywood one. Director Duncan Jones does a great job and definitely makes me want to check out his first feature, Moon.   
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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HOLLYWOOD NEEDS MONEY
a la The Flixter

       Really. Who could blame them? In these tough economic times, we are all trying to maintain our lifestyles. But a poverty stricken Hollywood is probably our idea of luxury. But what the heck am I blabbering about. This is supposed to be a movie review. Or something like that. Three movies of interest opened this past weekend. So here's a little bit about each one.
      Friday night I went to see Paul. Two British geeks, played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (who also wrote this) come to San Diego for Comic Con. They basically drool all over the sights and sounds that the place offers. Once done with that, they head in search of what Area 51 has to offer. And what it offers is something they didn't even expect when they literally run into Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), a big eyed alien who has managed to escape after sixty years there. So, of course, Paul hops into their RV and the quest begins to somehow get him back to his planet. Getting him someplace safe is hard enough. Getting him back to his planet seems impossible. Now the key word here is seems. You know that what "seems impossible" is what will make the movie. Now the couple of geeks have a greater goal. And, of course, zany antics ensue. Is the movie funny? Yes, at times it is hilarious. But too many times it is just plain stupid. Pegg and Frost are appropriately geeky and goofy. Seth Rogen does a fine job of voicing Paul. Just not a perfect comedy that would be expected from all the talents involved.
       I took Saturday and Sunday off and then headed back to the movies on Monday to see Bradley Cooper deal with writer's block in an unconventional way in Limitless. Cooper is living in a small apartment where he tries to avoid the landlady since he hasn't paid the rent. Mainly because he has no money, no job, and a novel that is not going anywhere. Then his girlfriend leaves him. Things are not looking good. But he runs into the brother of an ex who gives him something that may be helpful. NZT, according to him, is an FDA approved drug that allows users to access all of their brain. At first hesitant, Eddie (Cooper) eventually pops the pill and becomes a genius. He works for a Wall Street big shot (Robert Deniro), makes great stock picks, finishes his novel, and lures the girlfriend back. But there are side effects to the pill. For one, he has to keep taking it so a constant supply is necessary. And then there's the blackouts. He wakes up and can't remember what happened the night before. Basically, this can be looked at as an allegory for drug addiction. Cooper is fine in the type of role that won Cliff Robertson an Oscar for Charly. But Robertson had a harder role since he was portraying a mentally retarded man who becomes a genius. Cooper is a normal guy who becomes a little smarter. But the movie is entertaining enough. Suspenseful when it needs to be and intriguing all the while since we know that the pill popping can only last so long. What will happen when the supply runs out?
      Then on Tuesday, it was off to see Matthew McConoughey practice law from the back of a Lincoln Town Car in The Lincoln Lawyer. He cruises the streets of LA with his chauffer, picks up cases, uses his slick charm in the court, and wins most of the time. He has an ex-wife (Marisa Tomei) who works in the DA's office and is friends with a bail bondsman (John Leguizamo) who hooks him up with cases. The latest case involves a rich boy (Ryan Phillipe) from Beverly Hills who is charged with assault and battery. Allegedly, he got a little violent with a girl, leaving her all banged up. It turns out the female is a prostitute and there may be a link to a past case that the slick lawyer lost. William H. Macy is great as the investigator who works with the lawyer. And then there is a revelation followed by some twists and turns. McConoughey's Mick Haller finds out that his slickness can only take him so far. A surprise revelation comes early and the rest of the movie involves how Mick will get around to dealing with what he thought would be a simple case. Blame the hooker and get the rich boy out. Not so simple. I absolutely loved it. McConoghey is great and the rest of the cast is just as well. And that is that. Three movies that actually cost me nothing since I am a regular at the theater and they just give me a family member ticket. Not bad.    
RATINGS:
PAUL: TWO STARS
LIMITLESS: THREE STARS
THE LINCOLN LAWYER: FIVE STARS

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THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU
a la The Flixter

       David Norris (Matt Damon) is a Brooklyn congressman with his eyes set on a Senate seat and then greater things. Maybe even a Presidential run down the road... But then a female comes along and throws everything off. Elise (Emily Blunt) isn't some femme fatale. No, she is just a pretty woman whose down to earthiness is one of her many charms. The two meet on a train and sparks fly. Actually, I can't remember if it was a train or a bus. It wasn't a cab, though. But the point is that the two hit it off, starting with some charming banter and leading to some other activities. And that's when the Bureau of the title steps in. Four guys with coats and hats who tell David that he isn't supposed to be with Elise. In fact, the two were supposed to meet in the past but were kept apart. If they continue on into an eventual falling in love, things will get screwed up for, not just them, but everyone.
      The Bureau guys carry a bunch of notepads around that show everything as it is meant to happen. No, not pictures, but lines that show meetings and partings along with the final destinations and fates. Sound good? Yes, sounds like a very decent concept. And you know that the two who are being attempted to be stay apart won't let it be so. A concept from the mind of Phillip K Dick, whose work has led to some sci fi greats like Blade Runner and Minority Report. But all good things can't last forever. Which brings us to this hodgepodge of great ideas meeting some okay execution.
     Who are these four Bureau guys and how do they know this stuff? Maybe I am being a little too anal but some hint of an explanation would be nice. But its not all bad. The two leads have a very realistic chemistry and Blunt looks gorgeous. Do things get tied up in the end? Well, the loosening of events isn't entirely explained so the tying up is a stretch. Or maybe I have seen so much junk by now that I am becoming part of the general viewing public who want simplicity and can't handle some difficult ideas. I hope to God that it is not so..   
RATING :  TWO STARS

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UNKOWN
a la The Flixter

       Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson), a renowned biophysicist, arrives in Berlin for a conference where he is set to announce a breakthrough. He gets to the hotel and realizes that he has forgotten something at the airport. The wife (January Jones) is already out of the cab and the hotel's reception. So, instead of letting his wife know what has happened, he hops in the cab and heads back to the airport. And then there's an accident leaving him in a cab that is submerging in a river. The female cabbie, along with others, is able to get him out. The cabbie (Diane Kruger), once seeing her fare out of the water, flees since she is an illegal who doesn't want to get caught up in the questioning.
      Four days later, Dr. Harris awakens in the hospital without any identification or papers. He tells the people investigating the incident about who he is. Sure, prove it. Goes to the hotel, sees his wife with another man (Aidan Quinn), and confronts her to vouch for him. But she doesn't know him and the other man that she is with says he is Dr. Martin Harris. And he has proof. Not a good spot to be in for Liam. So he gets away from the authorities and tries to prove who he is on his own. Heck, it beats checking into a facility for some mental evaluation. Because this is an action/thriller and not something to watch while pondering the frailties of the human mind. He finds Gina (that female cabbie who was driving the cab that landed him in this situation) and she becomes the reluctant ally. I use that term a lot. "Reluctant ally." Because that is the only kind of allies that are left in Hollywood. And, yes, the two end up becoming a team.
       I am a huge Liam Neeson fan and think that he is one of the best actors around. His role as Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List showed his acting strength and made me a fan. Though it is true that some of his choices afterwards didn't really attract me too much. I am talking about doing the Star Wars prequels and even his last movie, Taken. But I am not giving up on the guy. Keep hoping for the greatness he showed in List, Michael Collins, and Les Miserable. And even when he dabbled with superhero fare like Dark Man or just popped in for a while in Batman Begins. What am I trying to say? That I was hoping for that greatness but was met with something that made his turn in Taken seem better. Yes, the movie has a great concept and fine execution. But its the ending that made me feel cheated. A "yeah right" ending with the rolling of the eyes..   
RATING :  TWO STARS

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THE MECHANIC
a la The Flixter

       So action star Jason Statham settles into a non-action role of a mechanic making a living fixing cars and trying to capture the heart of one of his beautiful customers. Yeah right. Who the heck would pay to see such a far fetched premise? Turns out that "mechanic" is actually a term for a hit man. And that is what Statham's Arthur Bishop is... hit man or assassin or whatever the hip term is for those types. He gets his orders from a boss (Tony Goldwyn) who tells him where the next job is via some internet postings. Bishop goes in, does his job, collects a huge chunk of money, and retires to his villa where his sensitive side emerges as he dabbles in some classical music. The yin to his yang or vice versa. But then orders come that stir things up in his simple life.
       He has to take out the elderly head of his organization. Donald Sutherland is the wheelchair-bound father figure who needs to be taken out because he may have compromised the organization. So Bishop does the job. And then at the funeral, he meets the grieving son and decides to mentor him in the art of killing. The son (Ben Foster) is unaware of Bishop's role in making him an orphan. The two bond, train, practice the kills, and relax with a little debauchery. And so things are going along fine but that would make a pretty boring movie despite the aforementioned activities. Things have to turn and twists need to make things not so monotonous. Yes, a greater enemy needs to be there to make loyalties questionable. And a few last minute twists are always helpful.
       And that is what happens to make this standard hit man movie rise above so many others like it. This is a remake of an old Charles Bronson movie where Jan Michael Vincent was the Foster character. And that makes me nostalgic. No, I have never seen that original. But whatever happened to Vincent? I was such a big fan of his show Airwolf. Anyway, let me get back to the movie that I am supposed to be reviewing. Yes, its a very decent action movie. But I was expecting a lot more action. A lot more stuff blowing up and things getting shot down. Yes, there is action but sometimes too far apart. Not on par with director Simon West's Con Air. Foster is fine but Statham is starting to get a little tiresome with his usual constipated and grimacing delivery. Liked it but can't say that I loved it .   
RATING :  THREE and a HALF STARS

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THE WAY BACK
a la The Flixter

       Before I started writing this, I turned to a dictionary to look up the exact meaning of "gulag." Guess what? It wasn't there. Maybe its because of the dictionary that I have... No, not a Webster's but an Oxford. Yes, its from back in the day.... a long explanation that I won't get into. Anyway, that is where we start.
      A Russian gulag, or prison camp, in the frozen wilderness of Siberia. We meet the prisoners who are going through a frigid hell either on factual or trumped-up charges. But there are too many prisoners so the focus is on a certain few. A few that will choose to escape their captivity. There's the Polish man charged with being a counter-revolutionary. There's the American who is just dripping of innocence. There's the thug who still hasn't given up his violent ways. But they are part of the group that manages to escape. And the escape seems like the easy part. The hard part is how they will manage to accomplish their goal of making way to someplace safe. The environment is brutal; absolutely brutal cold. And the poor guys don't even have decent clothing or footwear. So improvisation comes along, as the proper attire is cultivated from whatever is at hand. But a different hell awaits, as the cold is left behind. Then there is the scorching heat of the dessert as they try to survive without food or water. Once again, improvisations, sometimes sickening, are turned to.
     Anyway, before the movie begins, the screen tells us how in 1941, three men walked over the Himalayas and into India. Well that kind of gives away the fates of the escapees since its slightly more than three who escape. So you know that some are not going to make it. Which ones? Well, that could be a distractive venture since this isn't one of those disaster movies where the fates of the players are preordained by the formula that such movies follow. This is actually supposed to be based on a true story. But it does its job well. Director Peter Weir does a fine job of bringing the men's ordeal to the screen. And the players do great in their respective roles. Ed Harris brings dignity to his part as the American while Colin Ferrell is not too likable as the murderous thug. But Jim Sturgess is the most sympathetic one as the Polish man serving time after being betrayed by his own wife. Yes, the movie is great but gets to be a little too harsh. In other words, not too escapist for something involving an escape.   
RATING :  FOUR STARS

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A REVIEW TYPE THINGEE
a la The Flixter

       Is this a review? Kinda. Like the holiday reviews of the past, this is more of an essay on my movie going experience during the festivities. A big thing that became a factor this time was the tons of snow that got dumped on the Garden State. And I got sick of people making comments about global warming and how all this snow was proving to the contrary. I just kept trying to tell these people that global warming doesn't mean extreme heat, the polar ice caps melting, and us having to turn to Kevin Costner's Waterworld for guidance. Anyway, I should be talking movies. Right?
       First up was the Coen Brother's take on John Wayne's classic, True Grit. I will be honest and tell you that I have never seen it. I am guessing that its a classic since Mr. Wayne did win an Oscar for his role. Stepping in for the Duke is recent Oscar winner, Jeff Bridges. He is Rooster Cogburn, a marshal who is also a drunk on the side. He is hired by fourteen year old Mattie Ross to hunt the outlaw who killed her father. Accompanying them on this hunt is Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who wants that same outlaw, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), for different crimes. So the hunt begins through some hostile territory and the inevitable confrontation winds up the affair.
      You know what will happen. What matters are the events leading up to it. And those events are what makes this movie another classic in the vein of other classics by the Coen Brothers. But I do have to say that I think Fargo was hugely over rated. Here they deliver their usual and quirky dialogue. And the performances are great. Yes, Mr. Bridges proves why he won an Oscar. And Matt Damon is goofily inept as the pretty clueless Texas Ranger. Enjoyed it and loved it. The young Hailee Steinfeld is a true discovery as Mattie Ross.
    Then, being a fan of the beautiful Natalie Portman, I went pretty far away to see Black Swan. She wasn't the only reason to watch this dark film centered around a NYC ballerina pining to get the lead in a rendition of Swan Lake. There's also the director. I have been a big fan of Darren Aronofsky since he burst onto the scene with Pi. The title of that movie is the mathematical symbol for pi. I can't find it on my keyboard so I will just spell it out. Anyway, I will explain later why this is more about the experience and less about the movie.
     I decided to go to a farther theater because it wasn't playing at my usual one. I get to the box office and ask for one ticket. Twenty five dollars, I am told. WHAT?? Yes, turns out that it is one of those dine-in theaters. Ten bucks for the movie and fifteen dollars that goes towards food and drinks. I paid since I had come all this way. I enter the auditorium where its playing and am greeted by a server who hands me a menu. I can get fifteen dollars worth of stuff that is already paid for...  If I go over, I have to pay extra. It is a pretty extravagant menu, featuring all kinds of foods, desserts, and beverages. I decided not to get a beer since alcohol may interfere with the movie watching. I just got some popcorn and a chocolate brownie sundae. The food is brought and the movie begins.
     Ms. Portman plays Nina, an aspiring ballerina struggling to get the lead in Swan Lake. Mila Kunis is her competition and Barbara Hershey is her mother who was also a ballerina in her younger days. The movie is very dark and Ms. Portman gives a fine performance. However, the movie is a little boring and a lot doesn't make sense. I was waiting for the ending and hoping that all loose ends get tied up. And then it happened. The screen got scratchy and then went dark. All the people in the audience started expressing their outrage with loud and profane exclamations. The screen lit up after a few minutes and it was the coming attractions. Then it went dark again. Then it lit up and it was the coming attractions. Went dark for a third time, lit up, and it was the end credits. So I never saw the whole thing. The employees came in, apologized, and told us that we would coupons towards free tickets. I got the coupon and left. The guy who had been waiting on me was in the dumps since everybody was leaving angrily and not giving him or any other waiters their tips. I gave the guy five bucks since he had done his job. And that was that. Will I go back and see this movie again? I have no idea. Just know that I am not paying no twenty five bucks.........   
RATINGS :  TRUE GRIT : FIVE STARS
 
                   BLACK SWAN : NO CLUE

 

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THE TOURIST
a la The Flixter

       I was going to start the review off by saying something that I have decided to say later since it would have telegraphed my final verdict. I want you to read through the rest of my ranting before you get to that verdict. So here it goes.
       Elise (Angelina Jolie) has a super rich boyfriend. The only problem is how he got the billions. Well, he stole it. And from some very wrong people - mobsters, to be exact. And you know how those types feel about losing their ill gotten gains. So the boyfriend sends a note to Elise instructing her to find somebody of his size and stature. She will tag along with this new guy and the mobsters will think that its the actual boyfriend. Nobody really knows what that boyfriend looks like because he may have changed his appearance via some plastic surgery. Elise thinks Frank would be the perfect match. Frank (Johnny Depp) is a widowed, American math professor traveling on the train that Elise boards. She sits next to him and a conversation begins that eventually leads to the two getting off the train together. So now the two become a couple of sorts as the train takes them from Paris to Venice. And now you know where the movie gets its title from.
      Yes, Frank's a tourist. Soon the two are being chased by the mobsters and Scotland Yard. A clueless Frank can't quite figure out why his sudden good luck has turned sour as he is dodging bullets and running across rooftops. And I couldn't quite figure out who was paying for their super luxurious hotel suite. And then there's the twist ending. A ridiculous twist that will make you feel more cheated than sated.
     Well what I was going to say in the beginning was that this is the perfect example of something that looks great but is not. Yes, the movie is beautiful to look at. From its beautiful stars to its beautiful scenery. And there is plenty of action. But director Florian Henckel von Donersmarck (you know I am copying that name from the credits and don't have it memorized) doesn't quite reach his Hitchcockian aspirations....   
RATING :  TWO STARS

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 THE NEXT THREE DAYS
a la The Flixter

       Let me start this off by saying that I just became an uncle. More on that later.
       Let me talk about this movie now. Lara (Elizabeth Banks) is having a hard time at work thanks to her boss. There is a loud verbal fight before the end of the day... and then the boss turns up dead. Murdered, to be exact... And all things point to Lara. She was seen leaving the scene of the crime. But most importantly, her finger prints are on the murder weapon, a fire extinguisher that was used to bludgeon the victim.
      She is arrested, put on trial, and shipped off to prison. And all the while, the only one who truly believes she is innocent is her husband John, played by Russell Crowe. He is a professor at the local community college. What's the poor guy to do? What makes it even harder is seeing his wife breaking down more and more every time he visits her. He will do something, he keeps telling her. But what can he do since all legal channels are exhausted? The only option left is to break her out of prison. And who better to consult than a con who has broken out of prison six or seven times. That guy, played by Liam Neeson, tells him everything he needs to do. And to do that, John has to change since the professor can't really do all that needs to be done. So he reaches into a darker side and becomes a desperate man who doesn't refrain from getting violent since he is now dealing with a part of society that he had never thought of meeting. Does he get her out? Is this a movie? You decide.
     I sat through this whole movie with questions lingering in my head. It was an okay movie. Too many loose ends. I would give it three stars. And then the last five minutes happen. Everything gets tied up. No loose ends any longer. No questions remain unanswered. Beautiful. And the movie goes from three stars to five. Is that amazing or what? Yes, I loved it. My only complaint was that one of my favorite actors, Liam Neeson, is only in it for a few minutes. Crowe and Banks both give great performances.
    Oh yes, what's with that uncle thing that I mentioned? Well, my best friend since high school just became the father of an amazingly beautiful baby girl. So congratulations Matt and Natalie. And welcome to life, Mackenzie Charlotte Kokotowski. God bless you.   
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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UNSTOPPABLE
a la The Flixter

       Small errors amplify into much bigger problems. Yes, its true in life but never more evident when Hollywood starts thinking up ways to rub it in our faces about how we are so prone to screwing up. Human error results in an unmanned train to leave a Pennsylvania train yard doing 10 mph. Time for the amplification. It starts accelerating. More amplification? Its cargo is a bunch of hazardous chemicals. Still want more? It destroys everything in its path and is headed for a highly populated area. That should be enough.
      Proves to be a tough first day for Will (Chris Pine), who has landed the job of working at the train yard thanks to some familial ties. There's the regulars at his job that make him feel unwelcome thanks to that fact. But priorities are set differently when there is a bigger mission at hand. Stop the train before it causes the eminent catastrophe that will result if its not stopped.
     Teaming up with Will is Denzel Washington's weathered Frank. He has been with the railroad for 28 years and has never faced such a challenge. The train could be derailed but there is still the problem of the chemicals spilling. Well, it could be done in an unpopulated area. But then there's the corporate honchos who don't want to see their investments destroyed. What to do?
     Well, that is what will make the movie, isn't it? You can't just have the train derailed or coming to a crash. There has to be something in between. And that is what makes the movie. What kind of a movie? An awesome, fast, action packed one. Director Tony Scott has teamed up with Denzel Washington quite a few times now. And this shows why. Because the two work great together here just as they have in their past collaborations. Chris Pine is also just as good. The team that is formed between him and Denzel is realistically evolved. A great and fun time.  
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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RED
a la The Flixter

        Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) likes a girl. But she is far from him, on the other end of the line in his many phone conversations with her. She (Mary Louise Parker) works at the Social Security office and can't figure out why Frank is not getting his checks... But Frank has been getting his checks but instead of cashing them, he destroys them. And that gives him a reason to call her, again and again. Eventually he finds the courage to ask her to meet him. Fate has other plans, though. Because just then his former life catches up to him.
       Of course, when it is a former life as a CIA man, things can get dangerous. He leaves to meet her as a squad of gunmen reduce his house to rubble. Turns out that he is RED, Retired Extremely Dangerous. And he is not the only one who is on this supposed hit list. There's a bad ass Helen Mirren. Yes, that Helen Mirren. The one who is Dame (or Lady) Helen Mirren. Yes, the Oscar winning actress who is more famous for her roles as dignified English ladies. But here she is wielding a machine gun. And there's another Oscar winner in the form of Morgan Freeman. Rounding out the REDs is John Malkovich, a nutso survivalist/conspiracy theorist who once took LSD, everyday, for eleven straight years as part of a psych experiment.
      So we have these four running around, with the poor Ms. Parker, trying to find out what exactly is going on. Yes, there is plenty of action. Gunfights, car chases, and stuff blowing up. And it all converges in the unraveling of the truth and an assassination plot. Who is getting assassinated? Well, I won't tell you everything. I could tell you and save you the trouble of having to sit through two hours of watching a bunch of old timers (sorry guys) kicking butt. Does it sound boring? Because it was a little boring. Don't get me wrong. The performances are fine and the plot is intriguing. Its just the coming together that is a little disappointing. One of those cases where a little too much is exactly that. Too much..  
RATING :  TWO STARS

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THE SOCIAL NETWORK
a la The Flixter

        I hate to sound self-important when I explain my love of movies. There's the conventional love of movies and then there's my love. At first, I thought it was a coincidence how I could attach something personal to almost every movie I saw. Then I started realizing that maybe, just maybe, I love movies because a lot of them make me look at my own life and how it is a little attached to what I am watching onscreen. No, I was never abducted by a psychopath and put in a trap where I had to sever a limb to escape with my life... And no I didn't fall in love with someone while on board a big boat, only to see them drown along with many others on board. Thank God. But then there's little things I can relate to. Things that can be little drops to others but are tremendous tidal waves to me. Anyway, I will get to how this movie relates to me in a little while. Hopefully, I haven't lost you already with my selfish musings.
        This movie is about Facebook and how the social networking site became such a huge juggernaut online. But that wouldn't interest me so much if there wasn't a human element involved. So we have the story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (an amazing Jesse Eisenberg) and how his creation impacted his own life along with the world around him, i.e. impacted it by making him a billionaire while in his twenties and making him find out how easy it is for friends to become enemies when money is involved. He creates Facebook while attending Harvard. It starts off as something limited to the school but spreads to other schools... and then nationally and eventually globally. The movie jumps around time as we are at his legal hearings and then his college days of invention. Those legal hearings result after Facebook has gained popularity and anyone who had a whiff of the thing when it was just an idea steps in to demand their share.
        If you are reading this online then odds are that you are also on Facebook. Yes, I am too but hardly use it because I started to hate it. Do I still hate it? Nah, just don't care for it too much. By the way, this is the part where I talk about how the movie is attached to some event in my life. So friends talked me into joining Facebook. I did but wasn't as addicted to them. And then I looked up a girl I knew who I didn't see on a daily basis. Yes, she was there. I sent her a message and she accepted me as a friend. We started communicating regularly and things looked alright. And then I got some computer virus and a lot of my contacts started getting stuff from that I would never send. So she emails me saying that she didn't think that the stuff I was sending was funny. What stuff? I had no idea what these people were getting from me. But I found out and tried explaining to her that I would never ever even think of sending that sort of stuff. It was too late, though. She had already blocked me. Yes, I am extremely lucky in many such aspects of life. I tried explaining but like I said, it was too late. Whether or not she believed me didn't matter because a ripple had been caused in what was my impression on her. And that is why I hate Facebook. So why did I love this movie? Because it is an absolutely brilliant piece of film making. From the great acting to the amazing dialogue. It kept me intrigued and even made me laugh out loud. What else can you ask for? I can't and I don't. Another great one from director David Fincher.  
RATING :  AS OF NOW, THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR...

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THE AMERICAN
a la The Flixter

        Jack (George Clooney) was an assassin/hit man. Who did he work for? What were his motivations? Well, we know as much about that stuff as we do about his last name. But now he has decided to put his violent past behind him. He chooses a nice little Italian town for this purpose. Nobody there knows his past and nobody questions him about it. He befriends an old priest (Paolo Bonacelli) as well as a local prostitute (Violante Placido). Of course, with the latter, he starts off as a client (what's a lonely, single fellow to do?) -- but things escalate... And the past can't be left too far behind. Especially since he is still making a rifle for some mystery woman named Mathilda (Thekla Reuten). Like I said, the past is not too far behind and he ends up bringing violence to his newfound home. That pretty much does it for the plot. Now for a little picking apart.
       I like Clooney though I have never seen a single episode of ER. Is that thing even still on? He has that mischievous sort of charm. Like he is offering you a seat but there just might be a whoopee cushion under it. And his first foray onto the big screen (The Peacemaker) was an awesome actioner. But this movie, honest to God, was boring as heck. I am surprised that I didn't doze off. Its the kind of bore-fest that you will hear a lot of critics raving about... Not me...
      How is Clooney's performance? Honestly, he goes through the entire film with the same expression on his face. A glum look, teetering on a smirk. And director Anton Corbijn isn't sure about what he is making. An art-house film or an action movie? But I have a suggestion for Hollywood. How about making a hitman getting away from his violent past movie that is exactly that? Yes, the guy actually gets away from it and enjoys a nice retirement swinging in a hammock. Why does the past always have to catch up to him? Does that sound like a boring movie? Well, this wasn't too exciting either. Want Clooney in something entertaining? Not that I am suggesting it but a long time ago he was in a little something called Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Or maybe it was their revenge. Anyway, you will get exactly what the title suggests.  
RATING :  TWO STARS

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PIRANHA 3D
a la The Flixter

        Lake Havasu is a sleepy little town in Arizona. That is until Spring Break hits and throngs of horny folks descend on this town and the population doubles or triples in a matter of days. The town's female sheriff is used to handling the wild partiers. But this time there is a little extra in the mix. A sleazy film maker is there to film one of those Girls Gone Wild type movies.  But just as the wildness is about to hit, an underwater tremor hits the lake... not just any underground tremor. This one unleashes a bunch of prehistoric piranhas. That's those nasty little fish that happen to be flesh eating. Miniature shark type creatures that have a mean appetite and equally mean attitude.
       The first victim is a lone fisherman who is happy to catch a little fish. And then the fish catch him. By the way, that fisherman is played by Richard Dreyfuss in what I thought was an unbilled cameo. But he gets top billing in the end credits. Anyway, you have the authorities in town trying to get a hold of the situation that they have been handed. Throngs of party-goers and throngs of nasty piranhas. Not a good combo.
      The always cool Ving Rhames is one of the lawmakers trying to assist Elisabeth Shue's sheriff. Jerry O'Connell is the film maker whose only concern is his sleazy art. Let me just say that you have probably never seen this much of the 2 B's in 3D. The 2 B's being boobs and blood. Yes, the movie is gory as hell. Remember that these are piranhas and not goldfish... and not just any piranha. We are talking ugly, nasty, prehistoric piranhas. Yes, I am a little sick for enjoying the misery of those poor Spring Breakers. Director Alexandre Aja does a fine job. In my opinion, he creates a better 3D experience than James Cameron's Avatar. By the way, here's a little bit of info from my vault of cinema knowledge. This is a remake of an older movie which was followed by a sequel. In the sequel, the piranha could fly. And guess who directed that one? Yes, James Cameron.  
RATING :  FOUR STARS

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THE EXPENDABLES
a la The Flixter

        Here's a movie that almost didn't happen. Someone (don't know who since they didn't leave a number) had rear-ended my parked car and the thing was in the shop for repairs. Good thing Chich (remember him? the big Bruce Willis fan) works there. So I was constantly harassing him (sorry) to get it done before my Friday night movie-going ritual. Thank God he came through and I was able to go see this reunion of 80's action icons. And when I say reunion, I mean reunion.
       Everybody's here. Okay, there's no Seagal or Van Damme but the rest are here. Even Schwarzenegger took some time off from his gubernatorial job to make a cameo for a few minutes. Yes, the radio commercial keep giving him top billing but the guy is in this for just a few minutes. And those few minutes when he is there with Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone provide the movie's biggest laughs. Yes, Willis is in it for a couple of minutes longer but its Stallone's movie which he also directs. Oh yes, what is this movie about?
      Stallone is part of a band of mercenaries that includes (are you ready) Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, and Jet Li. Their mission is to infiltrate a small Central American country and take out its dictator. So actiony stuff happens and everything in sight gets blown up. Of course they succeed. But my question is if it was worth it? The mission, I mean. Like I said, everything gets blown up. So the dictator gets taken out but after all the mayhem, there isn't much left of the small nation. But that is not the point. The point is to see if these old timers can still deliver.
      Yes, Stallone still has it. But what is it? The snarling and barely comprehensible delivery of dialogue. And the bad ass attitude that made him an action icon back in the day. Yes, Rambo at 60 (I am guessing his age) [*editors note: Stallone is 64 years old] is still someone you don't want to mess with. There's action but the movie is also funny as the players don't forget their shortcomings. There's Stallone's age and Li's small size. Also present are Mickey Rourke as an ally and Eric Roberts as a CIA man on the wrong side.
     So how was it? Pretty cool. An old fashioned action movie that will stay in your mind from the time you get out of your seat but be gone by the time you get settled in your car (which, hopefully, someone hasn't hit while you were watching the movie). 
RATING :  FOUR STARS

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The Other Guys
a la The Flixter

        And now we get a spoof of those cop movies where the two partners just can't stand each other but learn that they can't do without the other. Here the mismatched duo is played by Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Both want to be heroes but both have different ways of approaching it. Wahlberg wants to do it the cop way. Go out, find some action, and enter with guns blazing. Ferrell wants to do it from behind the desk, i.e. find some violations with building codes and summon the offenders. But the PD is in awe of its stars, played in brief cameos by Samuel Jackson and Dwayne Johnson who get all the action. So much so that it ends up killing them.
      That leads to a hilarious funeral where a fist fight breaks out and proceeds in complete silence to show respect for the occasion. But it gives Ferrell and Wahlberg a chance to shine. In accordance with the current financial scandals, their big case involves a corrupt bank and its heads. But, honestly, that is about all I can say about that. Can't recall the details, I just know about the hilarity that ensues.
      Will Ferrell does his usual goofball stuff while Wahlberg is the serous one. But even in that seriousness, he manages to be funny. Like when he goes to Ferrell's house for dinner and can't believe that the goofy geek is married to a hottie like Eva Mendes. And also around is Michael Keaton as the police captain. I can't even remember the last time I saw him in a movie. What I couldn't understand was how everyone I talked to about the movie said that they couldn't stand Will Ferrell. I won't say that I am a huge fan but I think the guy's got the goods.
      So how was this movie? Hilarious. Yes, there are some stupid parts but, overall, it was well worth the money..
RATING :  FOUR STARS

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SALT
a la The Flixter

        Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) has been through a lot. Has she? Well, I am not too sure but being captured by North Koreans and getting tortured counts as a lot in my book. Two years after that ordeal, she is married and settled down. But she does work for the CIA, and that can always complicate things... and then a Russian defector shows up. He is willing to name some names. Names of people that are actually moles in the Agency. First name happens to be Evelyn Salt.
       Not good. At least for Salt. Of course, she does what is always the best thing to do in such situations. Proving your innocence by making a run for it and breaking as many laws as are necessary to do so. So she bolts. By the way, the defector also reveals that Salt's mission is to kill a visiting Russian diplomat. Only her boss, played by Liev Schreiber, stands by her. Or does he? Could there be some ulterior motives? This being an espionage/spy type movie, I will let you guess. Anyway, that is the gist of the happenings.
       Now for the verdicts. Yes, Jolie delivers a pretty intense and athletic performance. Haven't seen an actress do this much running since Run Lola Run. And yes, there is plenty of action. Salt even pulls a MacGyver by using whatever is at hand to make weapons. Yet the movie still manages to be boring. Sometimes, a motion picture needs to use a little less motion. A good movie that just turns out to be okay.
RATING :  TWO STARS

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DESPICABLE ME
a la The Flixter

        Poor Gru (Steve Carell). He was once the world's meanest villain. Now he is desperately trying to regain that spot. But how can he pull off something fiendish enough to put him back on top? An idea comes to his mind when someone starts stealing monuments, like the pyramids, from around the globe. So he has to top those thefts. How? He is going to steal the moon. How? There is an incredible shrinking ray that is going to do the job. He will fly to the moon, shrink the moon, and bring it back. The only problem is that the ray is in the possession of another villain.
      Vector (Jason Segel) has his own plans for the ray and Gru is not going to ruin those plans. The problem is getting to that ray since Vector has a pretty fortified lair. Meanwhile, three adorable girls are waiting, at an orphanage, for someone to adopt them. And their lives collide with Gru. Gru's master plan is to adopt those girls and have them get into Vector's lair as girl scouts selling cookies... Just that those cookies will actually be robots controlled by Gru and his minions. But you know that those girls will bring out the soft side of the "evil" Gru. Yes, that happens and Gru ends up becoming so attached to those girls that he has to think about rescheduling stealing the moon since that day also happens to be the day that the girl's are having their ballet.
     Does this whole premise sound ridiculous? Maybe. But you have to remember that this is a cartoon (or animated motion picture). So there are no restraints. Anyway, this thing was absolutely hilarious. Yes, I laughed out loud and had an absolutely great time. Steve Carell does a great job with his Russian accented Gru. And everyone else involved is equally brilliant. Yes, even evil super villains can have a soft spot. Loved it...
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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THE KARATE KID
a la The Flixter

        The good news is that Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) doesn't have to see his mom lose her job in these tough economic times. The bad news is that his mom (Taraji P. Henson) gets a job transfer instead. And its a job transfer to the other side of the world - Beijing to be exact. So mom and son make the move and start to settle into their new surroundings. But its not easy, especially for Dre. Hey, I would be upset too if I had to watch one of my favorite shows, Spongebob Squarepants, in Chinese.
        Anyway, a lot has changed but one thing that stays the same is the presence of bullies. And the bullying has been upgraded since these bullies know martial arts... Kung Fu, to be exact. After a few brutal beatings, Dre gets the attention of the apartment buildings super, a solitary Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). After a little coaxing, Mr. Han starts teaching Kung Fu. Even though, at first his instructing he frustrates Dre whose training basically consists of hanging up his jacket. Instead of the original's "wax on, wax off," there's "hang up jacket, take off jacket, drop jacket on floor, pick up jacket." But like Mr. Han say's, "everything is Kung Fu."
        Eventually the real training begins and Dre even gets enrolled in a kung fu tournament where he is destined to confront the head bully. There's even a young girl that catches Dre's eye and becomes a friend who, despite her father's objection, will be at the tournament to see the battles. Yes, the movie is called Karate Kid but so far, all I have mentioned is Kung Fu. Should the movie have been titled The Kung Fu Kid? I don't feel there's a need since the themes of the original movie are what make this movie. Yes, I know some people who were being really anal about the movie's title (yeah, you Leo). But its the content that mattered to me.
         Yes, I am a huge Jackie Chan fan and I wouldn't have given a damn either way. But its not just Chan who delivers. Its more about Jaden Smith, who truly delivers on the promise he showed alongside his father, Will Smith, in The Pursuit of Happyness. I even took my mom to see this movie since she has also become a Jackie Chan fan thanks to my dedication to the star. And she also thinks that Jaden is so adorable. Anyway, the movie was absolutely great. Is there any doubt about what the outcome of the tournament is going to be? No. Does it matter when you are having such a great time getting there? No. Yes, this was an absolutely great time. Thank God, since I needed that to wash away the sourness that was left from the previous night's movie going experience. A certain atrocity titled The A Team which I don't feel like reviewing in detail. Just that it made me hugely disappointed with one of my favorite thespians, Liam Neeson. But I apologize. This review is for The Karate Kid. Loved it. Yes, it may be a little long at two and a half hours, but its two and a half hours that will fly by watching this charmer. Great job Mr. Chan and Mr. Smith.
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME
a la The Flixter

        Here's another one that caused flashbacks. Flashbacks to a time when Sir Ben Kingsley was an Oscar winning thespian and seemed like he had earned that "Sir" in his name... And flashbacks to a time when Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer could be relied on to deliver movies that were shallower than a rain puddle in the desert but delivered some noisy escapist fun that was worthy of the money you had just spent at the ticket counter... And flashbacks to a time when Mike Newell would direct some low budget charmer like Four Weddings and a Funeral... But, most of all, flashbacks to a time when Hollywood wasn't so desperate that it would turn to a video game for inspiration. I think that what I have just said has probably foreshadowed my verdict on this catastrophe. But here's a few more details.
       Jake Gyllenhaal is the grown up orphan who was taken in by the Persian king in a spontaneous and unexplainable act. Buff and grown up, he joins the king's forces as they raid some ancient city. The hottie princess (Gemma Arterton) of that city had a precious dagger stolen from her. That dagger can control time. Ben Kingsley is the bad guy who actually killed the Persian king. So the chase is on, as Gyllenhaal's Dastan teams up with Princess Tamina and chases after the dagger while flirting with the princess. To add some current relevance to the plot line, the reason behind the city being raided is a rumor of them manufacturing some weapons that may result in mass destruction. Yes, some ancient WMDs. Yeah, something like that. Like I said, its based on a video game. And it pretty much sucks. After all that I said in the beginning, what did you expect me to say........
RATING :  ZERO STARS

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Iron Man 2
a la The Flixter

        I have a confession to make. Even though my head is full of trivial (you may say) knowledge of the cinema, I forget a lot of stuff regarding what I may have recently seen. Like the names of the actors or what the character names may be... So I always keep a paper from the opening day handy. Just something to turn to in case I draw a blank. Don't get me wrong. It doesn't mean that a movie I am forgetting wasn't good. I will remember that I enjoyed it. I just won't remember the specifics. So what would a review look like without the references? Well read on and find out because I am going into this one blind.
       Billionaire (or is it multi millionaire?) Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has come forth to reveal that he is indeed Iron Man. He is the man in the suit who has been fighting crime. Of course, the US Army wants a piece of the secrets behind the suit. So maybe getting this celebrity status wasn't such a good idea, since a Russian with a vengeance can come to get Stark when he is not in his superhero element. That Russian would be Mickey Rourke's Ivan something or other. Hey, I told you that I am not going to look up names and stuff. Just what remains from the experience.  So Ivan has his own agenda complete with some lightning whips that he has generated thanks to his late father's knowledge in that department. By the way, he also holds Stark responsible for his father's demise. So that sets up the action part of the movie.
    Gwyneth Paltrow is back as Stark's loyal assistant along with a new cohort in the form of Scarlett Johansen. She also happens to be a pretty bad ass fighter who becomes an Iron Man ally in the fight. So those are the details that are with me from five nights ago. Now for the judgment.
     The movie was absolutely awesome. You will get more than enough bang for your buck. There is action spectacle galore as the battle goes on and not much is left in its entirety. And one of Stark's competitors in the arms manufacturing industry steps in to put his support behind Ivan. Don Cheadle is there as another Iron Man ally as well as Samuel Jackson. I think you get the picture. Lots of great actors and lots of great action. The summer movie season has kicked off...
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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Kick-Ass
a la The Flixter

        Here is another typical high school loser. Aaron Johnson's geek isn't just a loser. He is invisible to a female crush and manages to get mugged outside the school environment where he is constantly bullied. But enough is enough. So along comes a solution that is quite atypical. He orders himself a scuba suit online, throws it on, and becomes Kick-Ass, a crime fighting superhero without the superpowers. His first outing as Kick-Ass finds him facing off against some would be muggers. Well, let's just say that he doesn't kick much ass. But his freshman outing does get the interest of a nearby crowd, many of whom catch the heroically intended actions on their phones.   The baddies, questioning the sanity of this crazily dressed and similarly acting arrival, leave the would be victim and a hero is born.
       The videos are posted online and notoriety is attained as the news media also starts to find ways of unmasking this hero. If anything, the freshman antics are an inspiration. An inspiration for other wannabe superheroes. And this brings Big Daddy and Hit Girl into the picture. Those would be the father-daughter team of Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz. Just like Kick-Ass, those two also lack any superpowers. But what they do have is an impressive arsenal that even includes a bazooka. Hit Girl may be eleven or twelve years old, but what she does have is a kick butt attitude, a proficiently profane vocabulary, and an expertise with the weaponry that her dad provides.
      Well, if ordinary beings can act as superheroes then why can't there be ordinary folk with the opposite intentions? Which brings along Red Mist, the not so good alter ego of Christopher Mintz-Plasse. He is the son of a mobster who can't wait to start helping out his father. Until then, he decides to go after Kick-Ass and find out his true identity. And that pretty much sets up the grounds for a movie whose ridiculous sounding premise is reflected by its similarly ridiculous title.
     Well, sometimes it helps to go against what your mature instincts may suggest. Because if I hadn't done so, I would have missed the best time I have had at the movies in a long time. Yes, the movie was an absolute ball. Loved everything about it. From the very appropriate cast down to the over the top staging. Yes, everything is pretty over the top. Meaning that it is very gory, very profane, and very funny. Because I doubt that you will ever get to see kids acting this way again. At least not for a while. Loved it. .
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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The Bounty Hunter
a la The Flixter

        And here's a movie that made me think of my seating choice at the movies. I always like to sit in the back where there's only the wall behind me and not other movie goers who keep hitting the back of my seat. But let me talk about the movie first.
      Jennifer Anniston plays Daily News reporter Nicole Hurley who is so close to revealing a case of police corruption. And then there's a minor traffic accident which results in a warrant for her arrest. The bounty hunter who gets her case and is ordered to bring her in happens to be her ex-husband. Milo (Gerard Butler) grabs the chance to bring in his bitter ex. And the chase is on since she is dedicated to finishing her story. They fight, they bicker, and she tries to tell him about how big the story is... He doesn't care. He is holding on to her so he can get paid on the delivery he is bent on making.
     There are plenty of instances that would have resulted in spousal abuse charges if the two were still married. And the people who are trying to stop her from getting to the truth, step in and Milo begins to see the seriousness of the situation his ex has gotten herself into. In case you didn't know, this is supposed to be a romantic comedy. So you know that when all is happening, the couple are also bound to fall back in love. Did I just say that it is supposed to be a romantic comedy? Yes, meaning that it is supposed to convey the merging of those two genres. Well, it doesn't.
     There isn't much chemistry between the two leads to fulfill the romantic end. And the comedy end brings up the choice of seating I brought up earlier. I didn't laugh once. But I could hear some people up front laughing heartily on quite a few occasions. Could it be that I was sitting too far back? --- That, maybe, those people up front were able to see something that I couldn't see from back where I was sitting? Of course not. But it shows how crappy the movie is when your mind can even hint at such an idiotic suggestion.
RATING :  ZERO STARS

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BROOKLYN'S FINEST
a la The Flixter

        Okay, I know that this one is a little delayed but I figure that I should write something to let you people know that I am still around...
        This was a movie that I wasn't planning on watching. I went to see Alice in Wonderland. I got in line and just as my turn was about to come, the sign up above said that it was sold out. I had to see something, so I stumbled up to the counter and got a ticket for this one. It wasn't in 3D but something had to do... Oh yeah, I should be telling you about the movie and not my petty travails.
       So the movie follows three cops in a tough NYC precinct over a week or so. Sal Procida (Ethan Hawke) is trying to survive on a meager cop's salary. His house is starting to be a little too small for his family. The insulation is making his wife's health worse and then they get the news that they are expecting twins. They already have kids so Sal, trying to overcome his financial restraints, starts stealing money from the evidence lockers... Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere) is doing nothing. He has a week left until retirement and doesn't want to risk anything. So he basically drives new recruits around, shows them the stops, and looks away when he sees a crime in progress. Clarence Butler (Don Cheadle) is undercover and trying to get close to a drug kingpin (Wesley Snipes) so he can finally get the promotion to a detective. These are the three stories woven together under the direction of Antoine Fuqua. This genre seems to be his area of expertise since he did direct Denzel Washington to an Oscar with Training Day. And on this familiar turf he does pretty well.
       All the actors deliver some fine performances, with Ethan Hawke standing out as the cop forced to take some desperate actions that are bound to doom him. And you know that Gere's cop isn't going to go through the entire movie just laying back and awaiting retirement. Meanwhile, Cheadle delivers another strong turn as the one who may have gone further undercover than he was expecting. But the movie is a downer. Meaning that it is not a happy movie. How could it be happy given the three stories that are on screen?...    And its more depressing given that I had gone to the movies for a happy time in Wonderland.
RATING :  THREE STARS

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SHUTTER ISLAND
a la The Flixter

        US Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) arrives at the mental institution of the title, along with his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo). The year is 1954 and it seems that someone has managed to escape from the institution. It seems impossible since the island is surround by frigid waters while the institution is surrounded by barbed wire and numerous armed guards... and getting through to those barbed wire and armed guards is a whole other story.
       The Chief Psychiatrist, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) is very proud of his facility. There is no way what happened could have happened. But it did happen so the investigation begins. However, Daniels knows that everything that is revealed to the two investigators isn't really everything. There are lies and not everybody is really cooperating as much as they seem to be. And then there are his own personal demons. Some involving his days with the Army during WW II. Those times bring about some flashbacks of the days liberating some concentration camps and the horrors faced over there. Plus there are the memories of his murdered wife whose psycho killer may also be an inhabitant of the institution... And there is a huge hurricane approaching the island.
       Sounds like a pretty intense package. And that it is. DiCaprio delivers a very good performance. Its just when the movie ended and the screen in front of me said, "Directed by Martin Scorsese," that I was caught off guard. Because the ending that had just happened seemed like it was from M Night Shyamalan. At least the type of endings that Mr. Shyamalan has started turning out since he can't match the whopper that put him on the map. Yes, its an ending that makes you go over what you have seen again and again. But its not an ending that should be coming from one of the best American filmmakers around. Fine, the movie is creepy and atmospheric. But what's with that ending, Marty?
RATING :  THREE STARS

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FROM PARIS WITH LOVE
a la The Flixter

        James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) wants his job to provide a little more action. And being an assistant at the American Embassy in Paris isn't quite doing it. So what would be the next logical step up? He is paired with a nutso CIA operative to track down some cocaine dealers/arms dealers. That crazy agency man would be Charlie Wax, a bad-ass John Travolta sporting a shaved head and some very bad attitude, complete with a proficiently profane communication style. Yes, that shaved head and appearance let us know that he is bad-ass even before he has opened his mouth. So how do the two get along?
       Pretty much like any other mismatched duo we have seen since Hollywood stumbled onto that format of pairings. Yes, they will argue and bicker endlessly but eventually come to the realization about how they cannot do without the other. So the race begins to track down the bad guys, as well as help Reese make amends with his disgruntled girlfriend, and find out where a traitor may be in their inner circle, and do it all within the movie's running time of eighty something minutes. Sounds like a fast escapist flick. Yes, there is quite enough action for that brief running time. There are gunfights, hand to hand combat, car chases, and a few explosions. But not much is good when you want to escape from what is supposed to be escapist to begin with.
       Did I mention that the movie is only eighty something minutes long? Yes, but when those eighty something minutes are occupied by banal characters and trite dialogue, it seems a lot longer. Which is how it seemed. Travolta is pretty annoying with his bad boy schtick and Meyers is annoying with his nice boy becoming bad routine.
      Hated it...
RATING :  A Half Star

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THE BOOK OF ELI
a la The Flixter

        The world is in ruins. Yes, again. But that's the way Hollywood likes it and I am not going to complain as long as it is staying onscreen. Anyway, this time the post-apocalyptic landscape has resulted from a religious war that has resulted in religion being destroyed and all the religious books a thing of the past. In comes Eli (Denzel Washington) making his way across the ruined landscape and heading west with a bag that contains a Bible which he is constantly turning to and won't let anyone lay their hands on. Yes, that book which is not supposed to be around any longer and whose possession will supposedly bring great power to its bearer.
      Fighting off marauders with his martial arts skill and a samurai sword, Eli ends up in a town of ruins being ruled by the always awesome Gary Oldman's Carnegie. Once he realizes what's in Eli's bag, he wants it because it is what is needed to control the masses. But, of course, Eli's not giving it up. He finds an ally in Mila Kunis' Solara who joins him in his journey west once they get away from Carnegie and his goons. And now the movie becomes a race against those guys and the action intensifies.
     Yes, this is a pretty kick ass action movie. There are some great fights and a stark landscape that is depressingly desolate. The Hughes Brothers (Albert and Allen) have directed a great action movie. Oh yeah, there's that twist at the end. Is it a good one? Honestly, I am not sure because I have just been thinking back since watching the movie to see if actually makes sense. Like the twist at the end of The Sixth Sense, it will either astound you or annoy the heck out of you. You may feel cheated and the entertainment value of what preceded that revelation may be lessened. Watch it and decide. I still haven't made up my mind. But I have to give the movie credit for delivering some great action, a depressingly bleak aura, and another great performance from Washington.
RATING :  Three and a half Stars

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SHERLOCK HOLMES
a la The Flixter

        Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is the satanic serial killer who finds himself on the gallows. Just before he is hanged and has his neck broken, he warns that his work is not done. He will carry on his tasks from beyond the grave. There will be three more deaths. The plank moves and a comatose Blackwood hangs before a crowd that is mulling over the words that he has just spoken. Master detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson(Jude Law), get to work, investigating what is actually going on. Is the supernatural really involved or is there something more sinister going on?
        Yes, there are villainous characters besides the now deceased Blackwood. Good thing Holmes is a buff and tough fighter besides his mental intellect. Almost like an Edwardian Van Damme. Also tagging along is Rachel McAdams as the third do-gooder who has some street smarts and physical abilities besides her frail appearance. So how does it all work out under the direction of Mr. Madonna aka Guy Ritchie?
       The guy has been diverse. Diverse in the sense that he has directed some crap along with some classics. Swept Away would be the bad one meaning that maybe, just maybe, he is not too good at directing his Mrs. But Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is the classic, though you might need subtitles to understand those thick British accents. This one is not on par with that but still fun enough, thanks in large part to Downey's interpretation of Holmes, which some true fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective might disagree with. But like I said, its fun enough and the ending leaves it open for the return of Holmes and Watson as there are rumors of a certain Professor Moriarty who, if you know something about Doyle's works, was Holme's arch nemesis.
RATING :  FOUR STARS

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AVATAR
a la The Flixter

        This review is a little delayed. Why? There's a bunch of reasons. I feel like crap, the weather sucks, and it doesn't really matter.
        Why doesn't it matter? Pretty much because there is no stopping director James Cameron's mega behemoth. If you are into this sort of stuff then you will be in line to see it. If you are not into this kind of stuff, you will just want to see what over three hundred million dollars will produce. Like I said, a mega behemoth. So here's a few more details.
        The year is 2154. Sam Worthington's paraplegic Marine, Jake is assigned to a moon called Pandora where attempts are being made to gain the trust of the native Na'vi people. Did I just call them people? Yeah, but they are not "people" people. They are your typical alien types... They also happen to be nine foot tall. So how is a paraplegic going to do the job? That's where the super high-tech tanning bed comes into play. Jake just lies in that thing while his mind controls his Na'vi counterpart. So his counterpart is on Pandora dealing with the Na'vi. Of course, complications ensue when he starts to side with the Na'vi and even develops some romantic feelings towards a female Na'vi named Neyetri. Loyalty begins to shift since Jake knows that all his people are interested in is what lies beneath the Na'vi habitat. That would be some precious thing which fetches millions of dollars. Basically, the humans are greedy and treacherous while the Na'vi are the innocents being exploited. Something like that.
      But the point is the $300 million eye candy. Yes, there is plenty of that. From the amazing looking Pandora to the awesome action. But Cameron has the vision and not the verbal skills. That means the dialogue is cheesy and the emotional material is manipulative. Yes, I thought the best part of Titanic was when the ship was sinking. No, I am not the morbid type but everything that had led up to that spectacle was super cheesy, even though the set details and designs were great. My only problem was when the people talked in that movie. Like I said, super cheesy and unrealistic. Which is the same issue here. A good movie that could have been a great one, if it wasn't for the director's verbal shortfalls and the need to manipulate emotions. He may think of himself as king of the world but there are some arenas that he has yet to conquer.
PS: Almost forgot to mention that its all in some pretty spectacular 3D. So you will feel like you just spent three hours in another world.
RATING :  THREE STARS

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THE BLIND SIDE
a la The Flixter

        The Touhys are a pretty well off couple. Rich is more like it. The husband, Sean (Tim McGraw) owns several fast food restaurants. The wife, Leigh Anne(Sandra Bullock) has a decorating business. She goes to country clubs with her equally rich friends while their son and daughter attend Memphis' finest prep schools. And then one rainy night, they find Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron). The boy is walking along the road and the compassionate couple pick him up. When they learn that the boy has nowhere to go, they bring him to their home. He becomes part of the family and the son even starts introducing the large black male as his "big" brother.
       His education is not too savvy and he starts going to the same prep school that the couple's kids were attending. Tutoring starts to work as he gets his grades to be decent enough to join the school's football team. To make a long story short, he becomes a star football player. Since the movie is based on a real NFL star, you know that there is a happy ending. I am very forthright when I say that the only time I watch football is during the Super Bowl. And even then its just for the commercials. No, I don't care about sports.
      So how did I like this movie that is so closely related to the game?
      I absolutely loved it. Because its not about the game. Its about someone getting a second chance thanks to the actions of another. Touching and moving would definitely be a way to describe this. My only fear was that I may end up crying during the film. But I didn't. Because, if anything, this movie is a celebration of humanity and what man can actually do, for himself and others. Bullock probably delivers her finest performance since she hopped into the driver' seat of a runaway bus in Speed. No, actually that wasn't it. What I meant to say was that it is her best performance since Crash. And McGraw is just as good as the husband who goes along with his wife's charitable act. Plus Quinton Aaron is great as the quiet giant who is trying to come to grips with his fortune and do what it demands. Loved it.
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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2012
a la The Flixter

        A government scientist (Chiwetel Ejiofor) tries to warn the President (Danny Glover) about impending doom... a catastrophe of global proportions that will likely wipeout humanity. Some things having to do with the planetary alignment are going to cause all kinds of hazards on the planet. Giant tidal waves. Check. Solar flares. Check. Flooding of Biblical proportions. Check. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and a lot of other bad stuff. Check. So preparations go underway before you know what hits the fan. And there isn't much time before it does. In comes divorced dad Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) who is trying to dodge some rippling highways to protect his kids along with the ex-wife and her new husband. Yes, he is able to dodge all the hazards. His goal is to try to get his people onto one of those planes that the government has dedicated to harboring the wealthiest, brightest, and the best. Does he succeed?
       Well, if he hadn't then this two hours and forty five minute movie would have trimmed the two hours off. So, basically, we see the earth getting obliterated in the most spectacular of fashions. Buildings topple, bridges collapse, and people perish, though not so explicitly since this is a PG 13 movie. Is that entertaining? Regrettably, it is pretty cool to watch all the destruction at first. The key words being "at first". But how much can you ogle the destruction when the running time is close to three hours? Yes, it does become about humanity's resilience after all the booms and bangs. But most of us movie goers went for the fireworks. And, yes, there are plenty.
       Director Roland Emmerich is very obsessed with the world ending. Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and now this. The guy's gotta lighten up a bit. By the way, the year 2012 is the apparent expiration date on our planet according to those wise and prophetic Mayans. All I have to say is that if they were so wise, they would have seen the end of their civilization coming and done something about it instead of going into predicting more calamities.
RATING :  TWO STARS

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The Box
a la The Flixter

        James Mardsen and Cameron Diaz are a financially strapped couple in 1976 America. Things are tough and then there is a knock on the door. In comes a top hat and trench coat wearing Frank Langella. Adding to his mysterious demeanor is a badly wounded face that has some parts missing. He puts a box down on the kitchen table with a glass domed thingee inside. Inside the dome is a single button. He gives the couple a key that opens the dome. If they press the button, they will receive a million dollars cash. But someone, that they don't know, will die somewhere. He leaves and the couple is left staring at the box before them.
       The first question is if the surreal experience they just had is for real. The dome with the button is physically before them, so it must have been real. Is the guy's offer for real?... Only way to find out is to push that button. But what if its the truth? Pushing the button will take a life. Key is that it will be someone they don't know. But a life is a life. So they put the thing back in the box and return it to the guy when he comes back. Nah, just kidding. What kind of movie would that be? Not the kind coming from Richard Kelly, the guy behind Donnie Darko, the equally dark cult favorite which I have never seen despite many recommendations from people. So they push the button and the guy comes back to get the box back and give them the million dollars. And then things, instead of getting better, get worse for the financially happy but otherwise guilt ridden and miserable couple.
      But who was this guy? They start investigating and some strange revelations surface. Plus there is the thought of who will get the button box after them. It will probably go to someone they don't know and who knows what that could mean. Sounds interesting. But is actually not. I was very disappointed by this adaptation of a Richard Matheson short story. Boring and confusing is more like it. Makes me question if that Donnie Darko cult was worth becoming part of... Although I should give Kelly credit for giving a lot of attention to the details of the period. But I didn't go to see this movie for that... And Diaz, Mardsen, ad Langella are fine in their respective roles. But I didn't go for that either. I went to get entertained. And, frankly, Langella was more entertaining as Skeletor in that He Man movie, Masters of the Universe.
     In short, me no like. Plus there is the problem with these kinds of movies that have such an intriguing concept. Will the payoff and explanation make it worth it? No, not here.
RATING :  ONE STAR

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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY
a la The Flixter

      Katie (Katie Featherson) and Micah (Micah Sloat) are a twenty something couple who have just moved into their own place in San Diego, California. Micah describes their relationship in a most appropriate fashion when he tells people that they are "engaged to be engaged." But their new place isn't so dreamy. Never more evident than when there are those eerie bumps in the night. Alarms are raised in the young couple when nothing is found to be responsible for those noises. But there is stuff that has been knocked out of its place or a window that was left shut but is now open. It just may be that the new place is haunted.
     A paranormal investigator is brought in but he leaves quick and tells the couple to do the same. But they can't do that, can they? How many horror movies would we have if the people involved acted sensibly? Exactly. But what Micah has done is put up cameras all over the place to capture the haunting as it happens. And that is what makes up this movie. Found footage from those cameras. Welcome to another variation on The Blair Witch Project. I never saw that one so I can't really tell you how it compares to that one. If its on par with that one then I am glad that I never saw it. Because this one is boring as heck.
     Yes, there are some revelations involving Katie's run-ins with the supernatural since an early age. But I was there for the scares. About the only thing that startled me was when someone in the theater let out a scream at what was just a curtain flying onscreen or something terrifying along those lines. Yes, the theater was packed by many who had come in expecting the most terrifying incarnation of scares since God knows when. When I talked to a few I met outside the theater afterwards, they seemed just as disappointed. But it was too late. The theater and the film makers already had our non-refundable dollars.
RATING :  ONE STAR

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ZOMBIELAND
a la The Flixter

      What happened? I have no idea. How it happened? No clue. But here's what's going on. There are zombies running all over the place and doing what they have been doing in zombie movies ever since they originated. Killing people, eating people, and getting more humans to join their ranks. We meet Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a human surviving with a set of self-concocted rules. And then he meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), another human surviving in a more simple fashion composed of killing the zombies with whatever is at his disposal, in case his ammo is not around. They join forces. Not because they start to get along but because of a simple belief in the safety in numbers theory. And they start making their way to a place safer than the Texas they are eyeing to abandon.
     In come a couple of female survivors. Two sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who are more set on conning the male duo out of transportation than they are in joining them to survive. So now you have the threatening undead and conniving living. How does that sound for a horror movie?
     Well, I am sorry to tell you that this is not a horror movie. Its a comedy and has to be the funniest thing I have seen since The Hangover. Yes, its an absolutely great time like that one except that there is a lot more gore thanks to the involvement of the undead. Loved it. A great job by all involved. Plus there is a cameo from one of my favorite comic actors. Won't ruin it by mentioning who it is. Just go see it and find out for yourself.
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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THE INVENTION OF LYING
a la The Flixter

      Mark (Ricky Gervais) lives in some kind of alternate universe... That seems to be the only fitting description for his environment. Its a place where everybody tells the truth. Whatever is on a person's mind, gets blurted out without any thought about the consequences. And Mark, falling behind on his rent payment, becomes a messiah of sorts when he utters something that is not true.
      Falling behind on his rent, facing eviction, and with only three hundred dollars in his bank account, he tells the bank teller that he has eight hundred in his account. And, of course, he is handed the said amount because he has to be telling the truth. So he stumbles upon a Pandora's Box of possibilities that can come from a little fibbing. The girl he desires, Jennifer Garner's Anna, can be his even though she has told him to his face that he is fat, unattractive, and no genetic candidate for bearing any offspring. Plus he can give hope to the many disillusioned people who are walking about. When he tells them about a greater force, controlling the universe, that promises many great things in the afterlife, they follow him around eagerly, anticipating more revelations that only he is capable of receiving. Because, after all, he has to be telling the truth.
       So the movie becomes an allegory and the comedy dips into seriousness. Yes, I had a great time. Meaning that I pretty much loved it... but not all the way, though. Because it does get annoying at times when all these people are just walking around blabbering about what's on their mind-everything down to the most petty details. Which is far from telling untruths. 
      So the movie is more about an alternate reality where people can't keep anything to themselves than about one where they can't lie. But a pretty good time with cameos from Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, and quite a few others.
RATING :  FOUR STARS

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SURROGATES
a la The Flixter

      Its the near future. That's all I will say, since I can't really recall when the movie is exactly set. Anyway, in this future, humans have it pretty good. They just stay home, hooked up to their computery-things and guide their robotic alter egos to go around doing the banal stuff we know as living a life. Sounds good since they can do all kinds of stuff without fear.
      And then one of these surrogates is killed. Doesn't seem like a big deal since its just a robot that can be replaced. The only problem is that the human it was attached to also dies sitting in his chair. In come Detectives Greer (Bruce Willis) and Peters (Radha Mitchell) to investigate. But the two investigators we see are surrogates as well. The real people behind the duo are lounging around in their chairs at home. How to tell the difference? Well, the Willis character has an almost-goofy hairdo as a surrogate and is completely hair free in his true persona. So, of course, the investigations reveals a conspiracy that involves the corporation handling the surrogacy programs and people who are against the whole scenario, which they deem as an abomination of humanity. The first group involves the corporation's founding member, played by James Cromwell, while the second group is being led by Ving Rhames' Prophet.
     Yes, it definitely sounds like an intriguing sci-fi concept that dips into human conditions as well. But don't be fooled... It gets pretty tedious after a while. Yes, there are some cool action scenes but that doesn't stop the movie from being boring. There is some stuff involving Willis' character's strained marriage and a personal incident that has scarred the poor guy. But, trust me, you won't really care.
     Hey Chich, I am pretty disappointed in your man Bruce Willis.
RATING :  ONE STAR

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9
a la The Flixter

       Hollywood is not too optimistic about humanity's future. Which is why, once again, we find ourselves in a desolate wasteland which once was our home planet.  And, once again, it is man who is responsible. It turns out that we invented some mechanical monstrosities that turned against us. Most of the earth is destroyed and all that is left are nine automatons.
       9 awakens, finds a friend, finds a voice (Elijah Wood), and looses the friend to a mechanical beast. The quest for finding others leads him to a community of more like him, with numerical titles, who are under the supervision of an elder who refuses to let them leave the walls of their small community. That is how that elder (voice of Christopher Plummer) sees a way of keeping their sanctuary whole. But 9 convinces another to leave with him to go in search of the one that had saved him and given him a voice.
       They leave, danger is encountered, and another is found. This time its a female voiced by Jennifer Connelly. The job becomes to convince that elder to join them and fight to reclaim Earth from the roaming monstrosities. You can guess where this is headed. The battle is just as inevitable as the victors.
       The movie (animated and not a cartoon) is amazing to look at but boring to sit through. Thank God, it was only eighty something minutes. More would have been just that... More.   It is dark, depressing, dreary, and pretty boring. I expected some more escapism since Tim Burton is the producer. Well, I didn't get it.
RATING :  TWO STARS

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INGLORIOUS BASTERDS
a la The Flixter

       Okay, there's a lot going on in this two and a half hour WWII pic, from writer/director Quentin Tarantino. Since the director loves to do films that don't adhere to a straight forward timeline, here is what is happening... not necessarily in the correct order. Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent) owns a small cinema in Paris and manages to catch the eye of a young German soldier. This guy is smitten with the beauty and unaware that she is Jewish. After a few too many brush-offs, he figures that a sure way to get close to her would be if he convinces his superiors to hold the premiere of their latest film about the greatness of the Nazis at her theater. The theater is chosen and a star studded audience, including Hitler himself, is set to attend.
       In the beginning of the movie we see a Nazi General question a French farmer about possibly harboring some Jews. The truth is revealed, the Jews in hiding are massacred, and only one young girl manages to escape. Yes, that girl is Shoshanna. Meanwhile, American soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant Aldo Raine(Brad Pitt) are on a mission to kill Nazis in a fashion as brutal as necessary to remind their target of the atrocities they have committed. Actually Raine commands his soldiers to deliver so many Nazi scalps a piece... Everything is set to converge at that movie theater where Shoshanna is planning her own revenge at the premiere as Raine and his troops are planning to get some Nazis at the said gathering. So there is much bloody violence (did I mention scalps?) as things get more and more tense.
      How does it all play out? Brilliantly, I have to say. Tarantino has an absolute ball with all the goings on. But let me say that the movie isn't all about blood and violence. There are moments of quiet that just amplify the tension. And there are instances that make even the loathsome Nazis produce a sympathetic figure in the form of that smitten soldier. And, of course, there's Tarantino's trademark dialogue. Plus scenes that are actually hilarious. In a movie with such heavy subject matter, who could expect hilarity. Loved it.
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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GI JOE: RISE OF COBRA
a la The Flixter

       Once again, Hollywood turns to a bunch of toys for inspiration. After Transformers, who can blame them? Dennis Quaid plays General Hawk who is going around recruiting people to join his elite military squad of the title. Their mission: bring down the ominously named and corrupt arms dealer, Destro, which is a "y" short of its mission. Among the recruits are young hotshots, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, and Marlon Wayans. The training is abrupt since the mission is at hand. Seems that Destro may be in cahoots with the emerging villainous organization, Cobra, headed by the Cobra Commander and a bunch of skilled villains.
       The performances are outstanding. Nah, just kidding. They are your typical heroes and villains. Dennis Quaid is looking a bit constipated as Hawk. Tatum is the questionable candidate who must prove his worthiness. Does he? You guess. To describe the movie as being action-packed would be an understatement. It has to be one of the loudest movie-going experiences in my memory. It has an explosive beginning and the booms don't let up.... which made me categorize it as the silence of noise. Yes, so many decibels attacking the eardrums that the consistency makes it seems like silence. Which is why I actually dozed off. Yes, I did something that I have never even done during the slowest of movies. I took a quick nap, woke up, and realized that I had missed nothing...and I was a big fan of the cartoon show. This one was horrible though. Same complaint as Transformers. All action and eye candy. Nothing else. .
RATING :  SOMEWHERE BETWEEN ZERO AND ONE STARS

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FUNNY PEOPLE
a la The Flixter

       George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a super successful stand-up comedian. Well, doing stand-up isn't the only reason for his riches which include a huge and luxurious mansion. He also branched out into movies, making some hit movies. But he lives a single life and bad news is just around the corner when he is diagnosed with cancer. He takes Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) as an assistant and confides in him about his predicament... Ira is also a stand up comedian. But he is the struggling kind, desperately trying to land a gig while holding a job. So when George takes him as an assistant, it helps out both. George can use some help while Ira can learns some things about succeeding in comedy.
      Meanwhile, George reconnects with the love of his life, Laura, played by director Judd Apatow's wife Leslie Mann, who is happily married to an Aussie tough guy (Eric Bana). He, by the way, is away a lot, which makes this reconnection more convenient. So is this latest from Apatow, a comedy destined for a tragic out come? All I will say is that its a Hollywood movie starring a fan favorite. You think it over.
      What I will say is that the movie has some hilarious parts, quiet a few of them at the expense of George's doctor, a thick accented Austrian type. Yes, the movie made me laugh out, loudly and embarrassingly, a few times. But those few times don't seem to count too much when you are talking about a movie that is two and a half hours long. Overall, though, the movie is a decent trip with both Sandler and Rogen delivering some decent performances. Sandler, in particular, seems to be trying to distance himself from the goofy roles that made him famous. Good but not on par with what is, in my opinion, his best dramatic movie, Punch Drunk Love. That was a movie that I loved, which I can't say for this one. Not a bad movie. But one that tries to fit into two genres and can't quiet fit into either one too comfortably.
RATING :  THREE STARS

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Orphan
a la The Flixter

       John (Peter Sarsgaard) and Kate (Vera Farmiga) aren't exactly such a perfect couple. She is a recovering alcoholic and he has been guilty of some adulterous behavior in the past. But they are a well to do couple, living a quiet existence in a luxurious house with their son and daughter. All seems fine but they decide to adopt another child and head to a local orphanage.  They both decide to bring Esther (Isabelle Fuhhrman), a very mature 9 year old, back home. She seems perfect. Quiet, mature, intelligent, and with a gift for piano. But you know walking in where this is headed.
        Yes, Esther, with a fondness for dressing drab and being constantly dour in mood, has a sinisterness that goes beyond her outward appearance. As soon as she enters her new life, things start happening. No, not good things. At school, she is made fun of for her appearance and wardrobe. At home, her adoptive siblings aren't too kind... actually, just the brother. He's a jerk while the sister, a hearing impaired innocent, eyes her suspiciously. So accidents start happening to those who mocked her at school and a few deaths occur in her whereabouts.
        Like the film's tagline states, there's something wrong with Esther. What exactly? That's what the new mom and dad try to find out, as they try to trace her origins. Things don't look so good. Gory deaths accompany some fake scares along with genuine ones. When I say genuine scares, I don't mean stuff that will really scare you. I mean stuff that doesn't end up being wind blowing or tree branches scraping the window. And it all comes down to the final revelation. Is it a whopper of a revelation? I have to admit that it did catch me off guard. And that is a huge compliment considering the fact that horror movies seem to have done it all. This one is unique, if not a little too far-fetched.
       I liked it. When I told someone who had no intention of watching this movie, they laughed their ass off and called it ridiculous. But, like I said, I was okay with it. Over all, the movie isn't too bad. Tense and creepy with some decent turns from its cast. Would I watch it again? I doubt it.
RATING :  THREE STARS

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Br—Ćno
a la The Flixter

       The man behind Borat is back and hoping that people being duped into believing his new persona won't recognize him. Sacha Baron Cohen is passing himself off as the ostentatiously gay Austrian super model of the title. The comedy comes from the way he deals with people who believe his charade and he brings famous people into his dramatics. Such as American Idol hostess Paula Abdul who sits down with him believing that he really is who he says he is. Then there are his attempts to make himself more appealing to the American people. He will do whatever it takes. Start a charity? Sure. Adopt an African orphan? Why not. The former is a charity that will raise money for Darfur. The later is a small boy that he gives a traditional African name, OJ. Yes, the antics outrage the audience at the talkshow where he is announcing his charitable nature. The audience doesn't know the truth. We do. Are we outraged? No. We are just laughing at the antics and the reactions that they generate. Actually, I wasn't laughing. I must have smirked a few times. Is that a bad sign? Definitely, since Borat was one of the most hilarious movies in my recent memories. This one is just so stereotypical in the kind of reactions that it generates. The religious ones that want to convert him and the prejudiced ones who want to ostracize him.
      Yes, there are some good parts that shine a light on society. Like the people who want to sign over their kids at whatever cost as long as it brings them some fame. The movie had me amazed. Amazed at how it managed to get an R rating. Yes, it is that outrageous, and sometimes a little too gross. But it did not make me laugh like Borat did. Like I just said, only a few smirks. Hopefully, the next charade from Cohen will be closer to his last effort.
RATING :  TWO STARS

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PUBLIC ENEMIES
a la The Flixter

       It is safe to say that Johnny Depp may be one of the finest and most versatile actors around. Come on, who else can go from playing the lead in a movie series inspired by a Disney theme park ride (Pirates of the Caribbean) to a movie about Depression era bank robbers? Well, I don't want to think right now, but that is where he finds himself. Depp is John Dillinger, a bank robber who's mission is to just clean out the vaults of these symbols of excess... as he sees them. He just wants the bank's money. First, there's a nicely staged prison breakout in Indiana. Then its off to robbing banks which puts him on top of J. Edgar Hoover's most wanted list. But robbing banks isn't the only thing on this young outlaw's mind.
      He is also busy hitting the nightclubs and spending his ill-gotten riches. That is how he manages to find a love interest in the form of a hat check girl. Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) enters his life wearing a very inexpensive dress. As soon as they hit it off, Dillinger flowers her with gifts that had been way beyond her means. The romance between the two is realistic and makes you long for something that will change the inevitable. Christain Bale is FBI agent Melvin Purvis, who is bent on bringing Dillinger in. So that is about it. Dillinger robbing banks, romancing Billie, and dodging Purvis.
      The 1930s setting is detailed and beautifully rendered. Director Michael Mann does a fine job of staging the robberies and gunfights. But somehow the movie still manages to be a little boring. Maybe it was the very late showing that I went to that made me a little sleepy. Or maybe it was the stretched out periods of actionlessness. Anyway, if you want to check out some of Depp's finer outings, go rent What's Eating Gilbert Grape or Benny and Joon which, in my opinion, truly show his acting abilities. Good movie and fine acting, just a little boring.
RATING :  THREE STARS

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TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
a la The Flixter

       My cousins, big fans of that Michael Bay guy, went to see this one for the midnight show on Tuesday. I could have gone but I had an early appointment the next day to get my monthly shot. And its not just because the place where I go is about an hour away. I also had to get up early and get cleaned up so I could look presentable to the prettiest doctor the Garden State has ever seen. If that sounds like I have a crush on her, you are sooooooo wrong. Anyway, I ended up going on Thursday night.
      So it was me and my three legs in the heap of fan boys there to see a bunch of robots fight it out in the middle of a few humans. By the way, my third leg is a cane, or Forearm Crutch that I am forced to use now after a few too many falls (check out Confession Time for details). So dump any perverted thoughts you had about my third leg. Well it was my FAC and I, there on last Thursday night. Though I have noticed that if I call my crutch by the abbreviation of my own design, a lot of people take it as me mispronouncing a profanity.
     Was I there for the robots or that hottie Megan Fox? A little bit of both, I guess. If my talk in this review is making me sound like some horny young guy, let me correct you. I am 31 and don't consider myself young. Anyway, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has to leave his beloved Mikaela (Megan Fox) and head off to college. Plus he leaves his Autobot guardian, Bumblebee, at home. But things are not going to be that simple. The evil Decepticons are still after that Allspark thingee which is going to help them destroy the Sun and Earth. So the noble Optimus Prime, leader of the valiant Autobots, re-enters the picture. The evil Megatron is after Sam because he has some symbols imprinted in his brain that will lead them to what they seek.
     How does that sound for a plot? Well, its more of an excuse for director Michael Bay to unleash all sorts of mayhem on his home planet. Does the movie deliver? If you are looking for action then there is enough for a couple of movies. But to my jaded old ass, it got to be too much. That happened right around the point when I stopped giving a damn about the fate of either party involved. Yes, at a running time of two and a half hours, it just seemed like all there was on screen was eye candy, either in the form of special effects or Megan Fox. And all that eye candy made me feel like a diabetic eating Sugar Daddies. So, no, I didn't like it. The first one was decent and maybe because Steven Spielberg was present as a producer. But his name is not attached here except for his studio, Dreamworks, being behind this FX atrocity.
RATING :  ONE STAR

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YEAR ONE
a la The Flixter

       I don't know if the title truly applies to the setting of this pre-historic comedy. I mean, it could be year two or three. Who knows? But let's talk about the movie.
      Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera) are two cavemen who are banished from their village. Well, if they are living in a village, then they are not really cavemen. So let's just say that they are two prehistoric guys who are booted from their village. So they embark on a journey to not only survive and prove that the world isn't flat, but to also start their own village that according to Zed, as he departs the old place, will be ten times better. But things are not that easy because its not just the wild life that proves to be threatening. Its their basic ignorance of what is out there. But they do happen to run into some historic (or Biblical) figures:
      They see Cain killing Abel. They meet Adam as he questions his son about the missing sibling. They meet Abraham as he is about to sacrifice his son. They learn the whereabouts of Sodom and Gomorrah. The ill reputation of those sister cities makes them head their way. Did I mention that while these things happen, we have already witnessed Zed tasting some poop that he has come across and an upside down Oh pee over his face? And there is some humor involving flatulence as well. But that doesn't matter as long as its making you laugh.
       I think I sat through this entire movie without ever cracking a smile. Oh wait. I think I did smile once but I have really forgotten what that was about. Maybe it was the end credits starting. Yes, the one in the title could also describe the amount of funny bits in this movie. What disappointed me the most was that this movie was directed by Harold Ramis, who, in my opinion, directed one of the funniest movies of all time. Yes, one of my favorites, Groundhog Day. He even makes a cameo in this embarrassment. I am so disappointed in you, Mr. Ramis. Maybe The Hangover has elevated my standards for comedy really high. Or maybe this movie just stunk really bad.
RATING :  ZERO STARS

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The Hangover
a la The Flixter

        It starts off with a phone call. A call made to a bride-to-be, who is about to have the to-be removed in less than 24 hours. The call is from one of the groom's friends, three of whom headed out to Vegas with the groom, for a wild bachelor party... Well, the call isn't such good news. It turns out that the groom, Doug(Justin Bartha) can't be located. Yes, the three friends woke up in a trashed hotel room that does contain a chicken (don't ask) and a tiger (really don't ask) but no Doug. As pieces are started to put together we find that the bride to be, wasn't too crazy about Doug heading out to Vegas with three friends that she considers immature and trouble. I guess she was right since a hangover isn't the only thing that their night of partying yields. There's also a wrecked Mercedes Benz, a ticked off bunch of Asian gangsters, and a not too happy Mike Tyson. Yes, that Mike Tyson.
        As the pieces continue to come together, we start to see what actually took place... Oh, I almost forgot to mention one other thing that they find the morning after. A baby in the closet. Yes, a live human baby in the closet. It sure sounds interesting. I mean, the kind of work that went into producing such results. Is it?
       I have to say that I absolutely loved this movie. Its the kind of thing that director Judd Apatow has become famous for. A raunchy and mature comedy with just the right amount of immaturity. But the auteur here is Todd Phillips, whose Old School was just okay in my opinion. This is by far, one of the best times I have had at the movies in a while. The cast is great. Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, and Zach Galifianakias bring their own brand of individuality to the diverse trio of friends. Galifiakias has to be the scene stealer as the man-child of the group who may be the team's only chance at some financial salvation thanks to his Rain-Man like qualities. Oh yeah, did I mention that one of the four also wakes up to find that he got married the night before? But in the midst of all these shenanigans, let's not forget that the hunt for the missing groom to be is also going on. Loved it...
RATING :  FIVE STARS

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Drag Me To Hell
a la The Flixter

        As an LA loan officer, things seem to be looking promising for Christine Brown Alison Lohman). She has a charming boyfriend in the form of Dr. Clay Dalton (Justin Long) and she may just have impressed her bosses enough to be considered for the next promotion over an over ambitious co-worker... And then Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) comes to her desk looking for an extension on her home loan. The old gypsy has already been granted extensions and doesn't seem to be able to catch up on her delinquent payments. What to do?
       Christine could be a good human and grant the old lady an extension. Or she could deny the extension, impress her bosses, and get that promotion. She gives the old lady the extension. The old lady is happy, gives Christine her blessings, and Christine lives a happy life after marrying her beau. Just kidding. What the heck kind of movie would that be? Not the kind with Evil Dead maestro Sam Raimi at its helm. So Christine denies the extension and the old lady, feeling disgraced and humiliated, places the curse of the Lamia on Christine.
       Yes, the curse works wonders as Christine life turns to hell as things start going from bad to worse. And there's the promise of eternal damnation in Hell itself after a few days. Seemingly losing her mind to everyone around, including her boyfriend, she tries desperately to reverse the curse. Even seeking the aid of a seer (Dileep Rao) whose eventual diagnosis is that Christine is pretty screwed if she doesn't take certain steps... And she does take those steps, but are they successful?
Raimi's return to his horror roots. But what had be disconcerting was the film's inhibiting PG-13 rating. Couldn't expect any mayhem of the Evil Dead caliber. But there is the constant state of dread throughout the movie and a state of panic as Christine rushes for a reversal before its too late. However, there are a few too many fake scares. The ending is a beauty, though...
RATING :  FOUR STARS

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Angels & Demons
a la The Flixter

        Author Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code has probably sold about a bazillion copies, one of which I bought but never finished. Angels and Demons is a predecessor to that one. That means that it came before Da Vinci. But Hollywood does things its own way. So the film version makes it a sequel of sorts since it is set after the events of Da Vinci.
        Tom Hanks returns as Robert LangdonChurch wasn't so happy with. So he is surprised when the Church seeks his help. Four high ranking cardinals have been kidnapped and the kidnappers threaten to kill one an hour. After those three are eliminated, Vatican City is going to be blown up with a bomb made of anti matter. Time is very limited and Langdon's welcoming party doesn't seem to be too eager to help. Mainly, the two highest ranking people, the eldest Cardinal (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and the head of Vatican Security (Stellan Skarsgard) are the two most reluctant ones. But Langdon finds an ally in the young Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) and a pretty scientist (Ayelet Zurer). The latter is actually the one who is responsible for creating that anti matter which is now being used as threat.
        Langdon's research into the matter reveals an ancient cult known as The Illuminati, which may have resurfaced after being forced underground.
       Yes, there is suspense and there is drama. But at a running time of two hours and twenty minutes, the action gets so spread out that there seems to be a constant state of actionlessness. Yes, it gets boring and unlike Da Vinci, there really isn't that whopper of a revelation at the end. I am a huge Tom Hanks fan and believe that he is the finest actor around these days. Unfortunately, this one could be held against my declaration. Don't get me wrong. He is still in fine form. Its just the entirety of the cinematic experience that isn't so fine. A little boring and not so involving...
RATING :  TWO STARS

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STAR TREK
a la The Flixter

        I must have been in high school when Star Trek: Deep Space Nine started on TV. I had never followed anything Trek and figured that it would be a good start for me, i.e. to dedicate myself to something besides cartoons. To become a fan of something with live actors performing and not just their voices being heard. However, after a few episodes, I lost interest.... just didn't care. I was meant for cartoons and things rooted in humans. Even when I read Sci-Fi, I preferred either the scary types, the action-oriented ones, or the ones that took human conditions to a scientific extreme and not the ones that just put forward an imaginative new landscape. So Star Trek or Star Wars were just not my type of thing. So why did I go see this new take on Gene Roddenberry's vision on opening night with a theater packed by mostly fans? Well, there wasn't much else playing.
JJ Abrams does a pretty good job of involving an uncaring audience member like myself. This one goes back to the beginning as a youngg James T. Kirk grows up with dreams of joining the Starfleet and maybe becoming captain. Chris Pine does a fine job as the grown up Kirk who is fighting against odds to become the captain of the Enterprise. He is overlooked, someone else is picked, and he isn't even allowed to board the spaceship. But he persists, boards, and climbs into the Captain's chair when circumstances leave the space vacant and in need of someone who knows what they are doing. And his actions prove that his true dedication has yielded the kind of expertise that is needed. So he does become Captain Kirk.
      Along the way, he has formed a friendship with a young Vulcan named Spock who becomes a key ally and friend. Zachary Quinto does an equally impressive job as the latter. But the evolution of these two spacemen isn't the only thing. There are bad guys to fight and a galactic peace to be gained. That peace is mainly threatened by Eric Bana's Nero. Seems like a lot going on but the movie's two and a half hour running time is plenty to accommodate all the happenings. Yes, there is plenty of action and plenty of drama. Even some romantic entanglements to further up the human factor in the midst of all the special effects. Pretty good and entertaining. Didn't make me a Trekkie, but I enjoyed it while it lasted..
RATING :  FOUR STARS

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STATE OF PLAY
a la The Flixter

        Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is a sloppy journalist for the Washington Globe. Actually, that doesn't sound right... No, he is not sloppy in his journalistic duties and he is actually pretty devoted to his occupation as a crusader. Its just his existence that is sloppy. His apartment is a mess and his car is like a dumpster on wheels. His personal life is equally in shambles. He has an ex-wife (Robin Wright Penn) and no current romantic possibilities. His Editor at the paper (Helen Mirren) is trying to ward off going under and expects him to churn out something worthwhile. Then a big break comes in the form of an old college roommate.
       Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) is a US Senator with his eyes set on the presidency. Collins gets caught up in a sex scandal that comes out when one of his female aides turns up dead. Was it an accident or murder? Collins turns to Cal for help and Cal is eager to help since the task has a double reward. He can do a story and help out a friend.
      Investigation into the matter reveals the dead girl's connection to a military corporation that Collins was investigating and is tied to Homeland Security. Meanwhile, Cal finds an ally in Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), the fellow reporter at the Globe who does mainly gossip duties but finds some common ground with Cal and his investigation of an initially gossip-page story. So that is the plot.
     You have Oscar winners Crowe, Mirren, and Affleck teamed for something that seems destined for a classic. But remember that Affleck never won for acting. He is still decent though and brings some flawed decency to his character who is sympathetic at times. Crowe is in fine form, as well as Mirren. McAdams also holds her own in the midst of these thespians. But good acting doesn't always make an entertaining movie, which is my top priority... then comes the talent.
    So this movie was a little boring despite all the convoluted  plot elements and fine acting. Good, yes, but not great by my standards. I mean, it has to keep you entertained so you don't lose interest in what's going on. And, unfortunately, I found myself doing that a few times and then picking up when things got interesting again. Like I said, good but not great..
RATING :  THREE STARS

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OBSERVE AND REPORT
a la The Flixter

        Seth Rogen is a mall cop. But don't think of this as another Paul Blart-type family friendly, mall cop movie. This one is dark and nasty. Just look at the big case that presents itself to this mall cop. A case involving a degenerate going around the mall parking lot and flashing his privates at unsuspecting females. There is outrage and alarm as the incidents get a lot of coverage on the airwaves. The flasher remains at large while Rogen and his equally inept crew are pushed harder to catch the pervert. But he has his own problems. He lives with his mother who is a hopeless drunk. He is in love with the girl at the cosmetics counter... That ditzy blonde, played by Anna Farris, doesn't pay him any attention. That is until she becomes a victim of the flasher and Rogen makes it his personal mission to catch the guy who did this to his dream girl.
       But his mission to get the guy gets overshadowed by some real cops who are brought in. Ray Liotta is the detective in charge and the two immediately start hating each other. Things are funny, sad, and pretty hilarious at times. But the movie has a darkness to it that becomes more dominant as things get pretty bloodily violent. Rogen's character is almost pitiable for his inability to achieve any of the things that he wants, whether its his dream girl or the hope of seeing himself being taken seriously as the law in the mall, which could be seen as his town.
        Yes, the movie is pretty funny but can't qualify as a feel good chuckler because of all the dysfunction being thrown at us along with the laughs..
RATING :  THREE STARS

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Adventureland
a la The Flixter

        Its the summer of 1987 and James (Jesse Eisenberg), having graduated college, has plans to go backpacking across Europe before starting grad school. But dad gets demoted at his job and mom delivers the news that they can't pay for the trip or school. What level will poor James stoop to? Well, there's a little amusement park nearby and a summer job there can raise some funds. So that is where he begins work, rather unenthusiastically, manning the games where people will dish out a whole lot of money just to win a stupid stuffed bunny rabbit. And this step makes it his defining summer as friendships are formed, pot and alcohol are consumed in large amounts, and lessons are learned. 
     The maintenance guy, played by Ryan ReynoldsKristen Wiig and Bill Hader) make sure that James doesn't allow anyone to win the huge pink rabbit as well as provide the comic relief with their goofy antics. And Kristen Stewart is Emily, or Em, the pretty co-worker who will teach the hardest lessons about the heart..
     The romance is dominant over the comedy and the result is a little more mixed than expected. What may disappoint are the expectations raised by the film's marketing. Its been touted as the new one from Superbad's Greg Mottola. That one was hilarious. So I did go in expecting a romantic comedy but ended up watching a romance where the coming of age makes the romance more bittersweet than comic. But don't get me wrong. I didn't hate this movie. The performances are great and Stewart actually delivers a great one as the siren who gives James a harder time than the one he faced entering the park. Jesse Eisenberg is also fine as the geek with his eyes set on a prize that is just as hard to get, as the prizes that people come to him with the hopes of winning. The movie captured the mood of the era pretty well and made me wonder why I used to like Falco's Rock Me Amadeus. Good, but a little too slow in stretches...
RATING :  THREE and a Half STARS

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I LOVE YOU, MAN
a la The Flixter

        Peter (Paul Rudd) is getting married soon. Everything is perfect. He and his girlfriend are deeply in love and have been together for close to a decade. He's got a nice job and, being a nice guy, has everybody liking him. But there's also a small problem that, with the wedding day approaching, becomes bigger. He has plenty of friends but none of them are guys. He doesn't go out with his male co-workers for "after hour partying" because he'd rather be home to his girl. So no male friends means an absence of a best man. He can't have that, can he? So the search begins for a male friend who will end up being the best man.
      Turning to the Internet doesn't do any good. But he's a real estate agent and at one of the open houses he meets Sydney (Jason Segel), a free-wheeling party animal who just might fit the open slot. Phone numbers are exchanged and the two start to hang out as a friendship starts to evolve. But, like I said, Sydney is a free spirit and the two very different personalities collide just as much as they bond.
      This is the kind of raunchy comedy that we have come to expect from Judd Apatow. But this one is from director John Hamburg and he delivers raunchy laughs just as well. Sure it gets predictable as Peter and Sydney bond, fight, get along, and eventually reach that eventual happy ending.
     But predictability doesn't matter if the journey distracts you from the inevitable. How was the journey here? Pretty good. Paul Rudd is good but Jason Segel is the better one as he projects the same slobby charm that he did in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. A fun, though predictable, ride. But be prepared for some potty humor, as well...
RATING :  THREE STARS

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THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT
a la The Flixter

        There's not much to this movie so I will just give you the basics and then my verdict.
        Tony Goldwyn is a doctor who goes on vacation to an old house with his wife and daughter. The daughter brings a friend along. They get to the house, get set up, and the daughter and friend go off for some exploration of their new whereabouts. The two girls run into this boy at a convenience store who tells them he can hook them up with some pot. The go to a motel room, smoke up, and are rudely interrupted by the boy's clan which includes a father and uncle who have escaped from police custody. By the way, that escape happens in the beginning.
       Anyway the girls get away, are chased, and finally caught in the woods. The friend is killed and the daughter raped. She manages to get back to the parents while the broken down perpetrators of the aforementioned atrocities are seeking some aid. Guess where they end up? Yes, the house of the title which also happens to be the doc's residence. Doc and the wife give these broken down folk some shelter, find out the truth, and get violent. Yes, they make these people pay for what they did to their daughter. A simple bullet in the head won't do.
      There's going to be torture and, when the end comes, its not going to be a pleasant demise. That's it. That is the gist of what the movie is about. Its a remake of an old film from Wes Craven. I never saw the original. The plot just never seemed like it would offer too many surprises. You know where it is headed. So why did I go see the remake? Because there was nothing else of interest. Was I disappointed? Not really. If I went in expecting greatness, then I would be disappointed. But I didn't go in expecting much and as a result was absolutely satisfied. Does that make sense? Think about it and then read on.
      Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter aren't bad as the parents who turn vicious when they see their daughter hurt. The offenders are suitably loathsome except for the son, who would be the one to blame for unintentionally putting the girls in harm's way. Not a terrible movie. Just not that good, either...
RATING :  TWO STARS

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WATCHMEN
a la The Flixter

         Welcome to an alternate 1985. The United States won the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon has served five consecutive terms as president... And there are a bunch of freaks with superpowers roaming NYC and battling it out amongst themselves and any other threats that may emerge.
        The narrator is Rorscach (Jackie Earle Haley) a vigilante filled with hate for what the world has become. And there are other super powered freaks like Dr. Manhattan and the Silk Specter. The US and Russia are on the brink of nuclear war and things are, to put it simply, just plain bleak.
       The movie has a running time of close to three hours. It gives you a lot to think about... In the middle of all that is going on, I thought about No Line on the Horizon, the new cd from my favorite band U2. I thought about how I was a little disappointed. Sure, there are a few great songs, but the album as a whole cannot compete with greatness of Achtung Baby which, in my opinion, is the greatest thing that the band has put out. Most will say that The Joshua Tree is their masterpiece but I have to go with Achtung Baby... Then I realized that I had just paid ten bucks to watch this movie and my attention should be towards that. But, honestly, for an adaptation of an Alan Moore graphic novel, the movie is pretty dull despite all the action that is going on. The theater was absolutely packed and being there reminded me of a lesson that I should have learned from Twilight. The lesson being that opening nights for such fare are for the fan base that has dedicated itself to the print version of what is about to unfold onscreen.
      A newbie like me should wait for the fan frenzy to calm down. But like I was saying, the movie was boring to me. How boring? Well, halfway through the movie, I had to take my lighter out. To smoke? No. I actually forgot the title of the movie I was watching. I took out my stub, and then the lighter, to see what it was that I was watching. But let me stop being just harsh about the movie. I have to say that director Zach Snyder does a pretty amazing job of bringing Moore's work to the screen. The movie does look amazing and some of the action scenes are pretty elaborately brutal. But, still the movie manages to be boring. Snyder did a lot better with 300. So go rent that instead of spending ten bucks here.
RATING :  TWO STARS

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Friday the 13th
a la The Flixter

         Since Jason Voorhees, the hockey mask wearing and unstoppable killing machine with a vast array of sharp objects to dismember and maim, has already died numerous times, gone to hell, and faced off against that other horror movie icon, Freddy Krueger (referring to Freddy vs. Jason), the filmmakers are starting to feel that they may be pushing it by constantly bringing him back. So they have decided to go back to the original that started it all and remake it. Why not? The setting is Camp Crystal Lake in our very own Garden State. Jason was a kid who happened to drown while under the supervision of some negligent camp counselors. Now his spirit is back in the form of a giant, masked fiend who will kill all who step on his turf and give in to their hormonal urges. That means that all those horny youngsters making out while camping out are not going to last too long. That is pretty much the premise. On to the killings.
       Yes, we get to see Jason go from a maniac with a bag over his head to being a maniac with a hockey mask. It is evolution in its crudest form. The entire cast is a bunch of young newcomers. They are camping, loving, and meeting their maker in the most painful of ways. Getting hacked by axes, being set ablaze in a sleeping bag hanging over flames, or even getting impaled on tree branches and deer antlers, whichever happens to be handy. Of course, they are trying to kill the nut while trying to survive but you know how that is going to go. Jason wins and they don't. Makes me think of that adage about what came first, the chicken or the egg. Or in this case, what came first, Jason's immortality or the countless sequels?
      Do the filmmakers keep resurrecting him because the demand shows a need for a sequel? I guess so. Maybe they kill him in the end of every movie while figuring that it won't make any money and they can just end it. But money is made and Mr. Voorhees is brought back. I mentioned that other horror movie icon, Freddy Krueger, earlier. I have to say that I was never too crazy about the Nightmare movies. But the Friday's I enjoyed. The same goes here. It was cruel, it was nasty, and it was fun. Is Jason coming back? Probably since they didn't even bother killing him in this one. I guess now they will start remaking the sequels. Who knows....
RATING :  THREE STARS

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TAKEN
a la The Flixter

         Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) used to work for the CIA.  Wait a minute...actually, let me be honest here. Its been almost a week since I saw this movie, so the memory is a little foggy. I am not sure if he used to work for the CIA. But he was in the espionage industry and worked as a spy. Now he is retired and works odd jobs. Like helping out a friend whose outfit is providing security to some young songstress on her tour. Mills has an ex-wife (Famke Jenssen) who is now married to some rich guy and doesn't appreciate Mills moving to LA. He says that its so he can be closer to his teenaged daughter. Then the daughter needs Pop to sign a permission slip that will allow her to go to Paris with a friend. Mills is reluctant but does it to gain some approval in the daughter's eyes. Because, like I said, the step-dad is a rich guy who overshadows Mills' birthday present by giving the girl a pony.
         Anyway, the girl and her friend go to Paris where they end up getting kidnapped on arrival. The kidnappers are a bunch of Albanian sex traffickers. Mills is mad and flies over to track down these people and get his daughter back. The former spy reignites his dormant skills and becomes a bad-ass again. Action stuff happens along with some cool car chases. Then the movie ends with that required happy ending. And all this happens in ninety minutes. That is it.
        The movie is a very condensed piece of cinema. Did I like it? I think so. I am a big fan of Mr. Neeson. He is a great actor. An actor who should be above fare like this. This is just too mundane. Nothing against his fine Irish accent but how can he pass himself off as a French individual when I doubt that he could pass himself off as an American? But did I like it? Kind of. It was hardly perfect but did have enough escapism in that hour and a half when the lights were out. Once the lights came on, questions popped up in my head but I just chose to come home and go to sleep. Will think over them some other day...
RATING :  THREE STARS

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A VERY DIFFERENT COUPLE
a la The Flixter

         I don't think this qualifies as being categorized as a review. Its more like an essay about my attempts at enjoying two movies over the course of a week. First up was the gore-fest, My Bloody Valentine 3D. I would not expect much depth from such a movie, even though it was in 3D... But the whole reason I went out of my way to see it was because it was in 3D... I have to say that this had to be a rare incident because I can't recall another bloody horror movie that was offered in this format. Like I was saying, I went out of my way.
       The first time I went, on opening night, it was sold out. Some other day, I figured... When that day came, I got a ticket and paid the two extra dollars for the glasses. I could have saved myself that money if I had gone through my mess at home and found the same type of eye ware I got when I saw Beowulf at the same theater and in the same format. Anyway, let me talk about the movie. I can't give you names of the players because I can't really remember them. It takes place in a small mining community called Harmony. Tom Atkins returns many years after a horrible mining accident and gruesome murders that may be connected to one of the sole survivors of that accident. His old girlfriend is married to the town sheriff, so there's that unease. And his return coincides with a new wave of killings by someone wielding a pickaxe. That synchronicity makes him the prime suspect. Is he or isn't he? Who really cares. I just went to see the gore in 3D. And that I got.
     Yes, it is pretty cool to see sharp object flying at you and the need to wipe your face of that blood that just splashed at you. But, beyond that, is there anything that will last? Anything that will give you nightmares or disturb your routine life? No. There isn't anything of that sort. Is it something that will scare you in 2D? Well the third D didn't scare me so I doubt that one less would do anything.
     Anyway, moving on to the next movie. It is hyped as the re-pairing of that Titanic couple, Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio. Yes, that couple who fell for each other before that big boat hit an oversized ice cube. The movie was Revolutionary Road. It takes place in the 1950s and deals with a married couple made up of the aforementioned actors. They are a happily married couple minus the happiness... So they are just a married couple then.
    She is an actress and he works as some salesman type person. They live in this nice neighborhood and on the street of the title. But they are miserable. They don't talk much, have two kids, and sometimes can't stand each other. But there is that love that once was and keeps trying to come up again. I should just cut the crap about trying to explain the plot because it was a very slow and boring movie. The type of movie that keeps making you think of things that you didn't want to think about. Things that are not happening on the screen but in your life. So when I say that the movie is depressing, its not just because the happenings on screen are depressing. Its because all the stuff I got to think about was depressing. But I will say that both Winslet and Dicaprio deliver very good performances. Too bad they were not good in an entertaining movie. By the way, its directed by Sam Mendes who brought another type of dysfunction to the big screen in the form of the Oscar winning American Beauty.
RATINGS :
MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D : ONE STAR
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD : TWO STARS

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GRAN TORINO
a la The Flixter

      Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is a grizzled old man. And grizzled is not the only word that fits the old timer. He is also bitter, racist, and never too far from losing his temper. What makes him even more bitter are the changes he has seen in his Detroit neighborhood. Changes in the form of all different types of people moving into the once white neighborhoods. So it is definitely bad timing when he finds a family of Hmongs moving into the house next door, right after he has returned from his wife's funeral, an occasion that has only further infuriated him because of the indifference shown by his kids and grandkids.
     A Korean War veteran, Walt, doesn't like his new neighbors. The neighbor's son, Thao (Bee Vang), is rescued from a Hispanic gang by a Hmong gang led by Thao's cousin. That gang, in return, wants Thao to join... Its when they get violent and bring their demands to Thao's door that Walt steps forward and intervenes with a gun. The new neighbors can't thank him enough, even though Walt wants no part of their endless offerings. By the way, Walt's most prized possession is his Gran Torino, the antique car that he loves more than his kids.
     As part of the gang's demands, Thao had attempted to steal that car. The family's way of an apology is to have Thao work for Walt. There is bonding and an unlikely friendship is formed. Walt actually starts liking his neighbors and ends up being a guardian of sorts for their threatened existence. Is that enough about the plot? I hope so. Now for the criticism.
   Well, there is none. The movie is an absolute pleasure. Clint Eastwood works wonders as both director and star. He actually lends a lot of humor to his bitter character because you just can't help but laugh at the seething hatred in that bitter old timer. The entire cast is wonderful. God bless Mr. Eastwood for still turning out these amazing movies while being nearly eighty years old..
RATING : FIVE STARS

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A DOUBLE WHAMMY
a la The Flixter

      Many movies opened over the Christmas holiday week. Like the title suggests, I was able to catch two of them. So here it goes...
      First up was Valkyrie, the WW II thriller starring Tom Cruise as Col. Claus von Stauffenberg. He is part of Hitler's army and has seen much of the horror that has been committed by his Fuhrer. So the guy is pretty much disillusioned by the goals that he is supposed to achieve... He joins an underground movement that consists of some similarly disillusioned people in the upper ranks of the Nazi regime. Their solution is to kill Hitler.
     The assassination is planned down to the smallest details, including what will be the aftermath of a country left without a leader. The plot is to have von Stauffenburg smuggle some explosives into the compound where Hitler is and blow him up. Sounds almost simple. But there is that thing in the beginning of the movie that states how the film is based on true events. If you know anything about history, then you at least know that Hitler was not assassinated. So you are watching a movie about a bunch of people on a mission that you know will fail. Where's the thrill when you know exactly where it is headed? That is what is good about the movie - keeping the viewer in suspense over the inevitable. Because, believe it or not, the movie gets pretty tense as you start rooting for the guys even when you know that they are pretty screwed.
     The performances are solid as Tom Cruise gives a very convincing performance as the Nazi who decided to do something that, hit or miss, would pretty much doom him and his loved ones. Did I say that the movie is pretty tense? Yes, but that is in the second half when the goal seems to be within reach. The bad part is the first half when things are a little slow, as the folks are in the planning stages. So the movie could be half and half but its the second half that is dominant. A decent effort from director Bryan Singer.
    The next day I set out to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a movie that I was having second thoughts about watching even before I entered the theater. A three hour movie about a guy who ages backwards? Why not, I figured.
    Benjamin is born elderly. His mother dies during childbirth and his father, upon laying eyes on his newborn, decides to leave him on the steps of an old folks home. When the lady sees this abandoned package, she takes him in as one of God's creatures. Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) raise the child (??) as her own and Benjamin fits right in with the other senior inhabitants. That is where he meets Daisy, a young girl who is visiting her grandmother. A friendship is formed but the two cannot be together since he is an old man and she is a young girl. But Benjamin does not grow older... he grows younger. He leaves the place when he is able to and sets out on a journey of self discovery that finds him becoming a sailor. And here's the beauty of this movie. He is getting younger and Daisy is getting older. You know that a time will come when the two will be the same age. But how will he find his true love?
    Well, that is what this movie is all about. The journey. Touching, sad, and hilarious, the movie which can be viewed as a fantasy, is essentially a love story. By the way, under all that makeup is Brad Pitt as BenjaminCate Blanchett is great as the grown up Daisy, a ballerina who can't seem to handle the young Benjamin in the midst of other romantic possibilities that result from her ballet ambitions.  Director David Fincher does an absolutely amazing job in bringing a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald to the big screen. Absolutely loved it. I knew this was a great movie when, after its three hour running time, I knew that I could just keep sitting there and watch it all over again.
RATINGS
VALKYRIE: FOUR STARS
CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON:
THE ABSOLUTELY BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR.

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YES MAN
a la The Flixter

      Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) is a "no" man. The no's that he usually gives to applicants at the bank where he works as a loan officer, have seeped into his regular life outside the bank... He says no to everything. Whether its someone selling stuff on the sidewalk or a friend inviting him out for something fun. The friends want him to get out of the rut he's been, in since a romantic breakup that put him in this "no" rut. After all, its been a couple of years since it happened. Then Carl actually listens to someone and goes to a seminar where a motivational speaker convinces him that he will say yes to everything in life.
     Terence Stamp's motivational guru casts one heck of a spell over Carl, since he walks out of that auditorium bent on saying "yes" to everything. Sometimes it is incredibly stupid. For example, he gives a homeless guy a ride into some dark woods, ends up getting robbed, running out of gas, and with a dead phone battery since the homeless guy had been busy yapping on the phone. But maybe it was a good choice since he meets Zooey Deschanel at the gas station where he goes to get some gas. She gives him a ride back to his car on her scooter and things start to look promising as some chemistry is formed between the two.
     Back at his job, he starts approving loans for everybody and anybody. He goes out and parties with his friends. And he goes to the club where the band playing, is fronted by the girl who gave him a ride on her scooter. He pretty much says yes to everything that comes his way. And then there are the consequences of all the frivolous yes's. That is pretty much the gist of the movie.
     The previews looked hilarious. The movie wasn't. Yes, there are moments but just not enough. Is it a return to form for Carrey? Well, there is an abundant display of the comic abilities that made him famous. But it is another case where the yawns suck up the humor. Yes, I found this one a little boring, as well. The good part is the chemistry between Carrey and Deschanel. That is what makes the romance in this ultimately romantic comedy realistic. Beyond that there isn't too much to recommend it. Watch the preview. Its a lot funnier than the whole...
RATING : TWO STARS

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THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
a la The Flixter

      Astrobiologist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is rushed away by some Army-type people. She leaves her stepson (Jaden Smith, son of Will), and goes with these people to a place where she finds a whole bunch of her nerdy types collected in an army bunker and being briefed about a startling new development in the skies. It seems that there is a huge object, shaped like a globe, approaching our planet.
      Panic mode is on high as the object keeps getting closer. Then it lands in Central Park and out comes a gooey humanoid type thing. Of course, the first reaction is to shoot at it since there are many guns handy. Then the thing is taken to a hospital where, once the goo is removed, the alien turns out to be Keanu Reeves. Before you can say "dude!!!", an alliance is formed between Benson and Klaatu (Keanu's alien being), and the two escape from the hospital. In the verbal exchanges that follow, it is revealed that Klaatu has come to Earth to warn us about our polluting ways.
      Actually, he is not really here to warn us. His people have been watching the human race and deemed it pretty hopeless... so out goes the warning bit. No, the Earth is very precious. The only problem is the beings that inhabit it. Therefore, he will exterminate the humans and let Earth be Earth. And its Benson's job to convince this guy that the humans are actually pretty decent folks and should be allowed to go on. Will this hottie be able to convince Klaatu to change his intent? Take a guess. Now for the breakdown.
     This is a remake of the 1951 movie of the same name. In that one, Klaatu was here to warn the humans about nuclear weapons. In the update, its the environment. If it sounds boring, then maybe its because it is... The only excitement is in the form of Klaatu's robot defender Gort, a huge thing that blows up a lot of stuff that may be threatening to his charge. Reeves is actually tailor made for this role of an alien that doesn't emote at all and delivers his lines without much feeling. Ms. Connelly is beautiful and that's about it. The highlight has to be an argument between Klaatu and Benson's mentor, played by John Cleese (I'm a huge fan of Monty Python). Beyond that, the movie is boring.
RATING : ONE STAR

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Punisher - War Zone
a la The Flixter

      Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) is pissed. There he was, with his wife and kid, having a good time in a park when the wife and kid got eliminated in a mob-related hit. No, they were not involved with the mob. They just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Now Castle roams the streets as The Punisher, a vigilante who goes around killing any wrong doers and bent on getting the mobster who is directly responsible for killing the wife and kid.
      Billy Russoti (Dominic West) is eventually punished but his punishment does not end up being death. Instead, Castle manages to throw him in this shredder type thing where he gets his face shredded. But that won't keep him down. Once able to rise, he goes around his usual business under a new name. Jigsaw is what his facial deformation leads him to name himself. And from then on, the movie becomes one nastily, bloody mess as people are butchered and the Punisher goes about his usual with a new challenge in the form of Jigsaw. That's it.
      Really, that is all the movie is about. Blood, bullets, and death in pretty much all its forms. Ray Stevenson goes through the entire movie with the same constipated look and Jigsaw is annoyingly hateful. What does that mean? That means that you don't just hate him because he is evil. You hate him because he is just so damn annoying. The movie is literally a bloody mess. Absolutely awful and without any single redeeming quality. Out of the three attempts at bringing Marvel Comics' hero to the big screen, this is hands down the worst. And, believe it or not, the best one, in my opinion, was the one that starred Dolph Lundgren as the titular hero. Go figure..
RATING : ZERO STARS

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TRANSPORTER 3
a la The Flixter

      This movie caused flashbacks. Flashbacks into a past where I saw some pretty crappy movies. Cheesy action films where the hero would find himself surrounded by a group of murderous thugs... But they were very well mannered thugs. They would know not to gang up on the lone hero. Instead they would politely stand on the side where they would wait for the good guy to dispense of the one bad guy who had stepped up against him. Once that brave one had the crap beaten out of him and was lying on the ground, the next baddie would step up to take his turn at getting some whoop-ass from the brave good one. So on and so forth until nobody but the hero was left.  Does this give you an idea about the kind of movie we are dealing with? Anyway, I should get into the plot a little.
     Frank Martin (Jason Statham) delivers packages, which sometimes include people, for other people. He knows that his clients are not the best of folks, but he doesn't question their motives. He just wants to be paid. Beyond that he has no interest in where the deliveries are conceived. His latest delivery consists of a whinny Ukrainian girl (Natalya Rudakova). He is supposed to deliver her across Europe so a group of industrialists can pollute. Turns out that the girl's father is some big shot who is supposed to be signing some papers that will bar those industrialists from doing so. The object of the kidnapping is to stop Pop from doing so. Of course, complications ensue as Frank strays from his rules and actually starts to get closer to this female. By the way, I almost forgot to mentions that both he and the girl are strapped with an explosive that will go off if they get 75 feet away from the car. Sounds like enough of a plot that should deliver plenty of action and thrills.
     Well, it doesn't. Sure there is plenty of action, including car chases, gun fights, and hand to hand combat. But none of it is thrilling... Boring is more like it. There are few comic elements but all they managed to get out me was a smirk. I seriously think that the film makers behind this franchise should stop trying to create another Bond type series. Because, from the looks of this one, they would fail miserably.
RATING : ONE STAR

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TWILIGHT
a la The Flixter

     Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) movies from Phoenix, Arizona to Washington State to live with her father. So the poor girl has to adjust from being in a sunny state to being in a place where the rain is like the sunshine that she is used to... At school, she tries to connect with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) but he just seems cold and uninterested. But then he saves her life from an out of control vehicle and thus begins a friendship that will lead to a romance.
     Just one problem though... There's a reason why Cullen and his siblings seem to be so cold, pale, and brooding. They are cold, pale, and brooding because they are a family of vampires. But they are not bad vampires that feast on the humans around them. They hunt animals and use their blood for nourishment. So is there any hope for longevity in this romance? Well, Edward is a gentleman who shows Bella some great times through his powers. He gives her a piggyback ride to the top of a very tall tree. But the good times can't last too long since this is a horror/romance. We have seen enough of the latter and it is time for some horror. That comes in the form of some "bad" vampires who are responsible for some of the human casualties popping up around town.
     So now we have the good vampires trying to keep the bad ones off of their home turf. And where does the movie end up by trying to be a horror/romance? Nowhere interesting, in my opinion. But then, it wasn't such a good move on my part, to go see a movie that was pretty ostentatiously aimed at a female audience that has followed Stephanie Meyer's
RATING : TWO STARS

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QUANTUM OF SOLACE
a la The Flixter

    James Bond (Daniel Craig) picks up where he left off in Casino Royale. From all the twenty something Bond movies that have graced the screen for the past few decades, you would never get the impression that Bond was sensitive romantic type. But Casino Royale has rebooted Ian Fleming's womanizing super spy. That movie saw our hero lose the love of his life, Vespa. And in this one Bond doesn't give a damn about anything. He just wants to get her killers. M (Judi Dench) is desperately trying to calm down her number one agent. But she is failing miserably as Bond goes from one place to another leaving destruction behind.
    The movie kicks off with an amazing foot chase that will have the audience just as breathless as the hero who runs across rooftops and busy streets. That is just the beginning. The action goes from Sienna to Haiti. Bond is bent. His superiors are trying to reel him in but to no avail. There are shootouts in bars, bazaars, and even an opera house. There's a French villain with ties to the CIA and there's a Russian with some interests in Bolivia. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that BondVespa's death and whatever lies in the path will be demolished. In fact, Bond is so busy chasing and gunning that his infamous intro, "The name is Bond. James Bond", doesn't come in until the end of the movie. And there is no Q, so there are no cool super-weapons. Its just the basics... and a whole load of action.
     In my review for Casino Royale, I mentioned how I wasn't too crazy about Craig being the new Bond. But that one made me realize that he was a pretty good choice. And this one makes me realize that he is actually a great choice. The movie, at two hours, is not as long as the usual Bondactioner that leaves an opening for more possibilities of our hero's return.
RATING : FOUR STARS

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ROLE MODELS
a la The Flixter

        Danny (Paul Rudd) is a human being drenched in misery. He hates everything. He hates his job. He hates his co workers. He hates people. He hates himself. He just hates everything.
        His job is to go around to high schools and tell kids to stay off of drugs. Instead they should go for the drink he is pitching. An energy drink that is pretty much like Red Bull, except that this one has a minotaur for a slogan. Along for these rallies is his friend, WheelerSeann William Scott), who dresses up in a minotaur costume and is the direct opposite of Danny - he is full of life and loves everything. Then the two get into a traffic mishap and face ten days in jail... Or they have a different option. Becoming mentors to a couple of socially disabled kids. Of course they go for the second choice. Danny gets to be the charge of Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) a true geek who is fixated with a medieval role playing game. Wheeler gets a foul mouthed black kid (Bobb'e J. Thompson).
        So the two become reluctant mentors to these two kids and things go as is expected. They hate each other; they can't get along; they bond, and eventually become best pals with a friendship going past the forced mentoring.
      Now for the verdict. The movie is absolutely hilarious. Rudd's character is full of self loathing and misery. His transformation is predictable but involving. Scott's Wheeler is just such a party animal. How he manages to bond with his charge while holding on to what he is, makes for a worthwhile trip. As for the kids, Mintz-Passe is pretty much the same geeky person he was as Superbad's McLovin. But Thompson is the foul mouthed wonder that steals the movie. His obsession with the female anatomy is worth the price of admission.  I laughed, I didn't cry, and I had a great time. Raunchy, sure. But funny as hell.                
RATING : FIVE STARS

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ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO
a la The Flixter

           Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are roommates facing some hard times. Bills are piling up and money is nowhere to be seen. The electricity gets cut off and the water goes the same route. What to do? The idea comes to them when they attend their high school reunion. One of their former classmates (Justin Long) is making very good money. How? Well, he is a big movie star. What kind of movies? Gay pornos. So Zack and Miri decide to go the same way. No, not making a gay porno but a straight one. They will be the writer and director behind Star Whores.
       The casting call goes out and a few more losers enter the picture. But the complications ensue when the two decide to be in front of the camera as well. The two have been roommates but their relationship is strictly platonic. Will the two finally get together because of some simulations in front of the camera? Take a guess... because this is pretty much a romantic comedy.
       Did I mention that this is the latest offering from Kevin Smith, the man behind such classics as Clerks, Mall Rats, and Chasing Amy? Well, this is where I run into a problem. Many in my generation consider those aforementioned titles to be classics. I don't. I think Mr. Smith has been over-rated. He may have the ideas but I just don't go along with his methods of execution. The dialogue in these movies is my biggest problem. I just don't think that the verbal exchanges between his characters are realistic. That is not the only problem I had with this one. My other problem was the bathroom humor which is plentiful. We are dealing here with the world of porn and some scenes get a little too gross since the players involved don't end up being the most attractive bunch. Nice idea with a predictable rom-com outcome. Just a little too explicitly gross at times.                
RATING : TWO STARS

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SAW V
a la The Flixter

           Halloween is almost here. Which only means that another Saw film is here. If that sounds like I am against those torture-porn opuses, it is incorrect. Because, call me a sicko, but I have liked those films ever since the first one that established the title since that was the only one where a "saw" was a key plot point.
          Anyway, Jigsaw is back. It doesn't matter if he was a terminally ill old man who may have died in the last entry. What matters is that the last entry made money, indicating a following and a need for Hollywood to churn out more of the same. Oh well.
          The movie starts off with a grisly and more explicit homage to Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum. Some guy who managed to escape his life sentence for murder thanks to a legal loophole, finds himself strapped to a table with a huge pendulum swinging above. The pendulum gets lower with each swing and has a sharp blade attached to it. The only way out, according to the tape that plays with a masked Jigsaw, is to put his hands in a thing next to his table and have them be crushed. That will stop the pendulum. Does he do it? Yes. Does the pendulum stop? Not really, since the blade comes down and the guy gets split in two. Welcome to Jigsaw's way of dispensing justice.  The police, meanwhile, announce an end to Jig's reign since he was found dead. But you know that somebody's going to take over...
           Five people find themselves locked in a room. The tape tells them their sins and what they can do to get out alive. Reach the key on the other side of the room or face decapitation. What happens? Take a guess. Blood flows and heads roll. The movie is just a series of such goings on. Then it ends and you are left wondering if you got what you came for. Did it scare you? If the sight of a dying old man calling the shots over your fate scares you then you will be terrified. If the sight of blood makes you nauseous then you will be puking in the aisles. If you are looking for some subtlety, then you will be yawning.
          I was disappointed but I deserved it. What was I expecting? Something that would make me lose sleep? The only sleep I lost was due to the late showing I went to... If there is a Saw VI, will I go see it? Probably. With the hope that they have put some life back into the series. Will my hope be fulfilled? Probably not. But that is how I am. Always hoping for something that is not likely...       
RATING : ONE STAR

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NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST
a la The Flixter

           Its been a while since Tris dumped Nick. But he feels that she is the one for him... and he will get her back. The appropriately cast Michael Cera is Nick and his solution for getting Tris back is to keep sending her mix tapes with music that he feels will draw her back. Maybe it could, if she bothered to listen to his labors of love. Instead, she just throws them out. Nick also happens to be the only straight member of a band made up with a few fellow high-schoolers. He drives an equally geeky car... an old yellow Yugo that doesn't always cooperate with an already desperate geek.
           What brings him and Norah (Kat Dennings) together is a crazy night in NYC as they both try to see their favorite band. There's a lot of partying and Norah's best friend over does it a bit. The drunk Caroline is misplaced and a new quest is born to find her before catching the band they were planning on seeing. There are mishaps, coincidences, and misunderstandings as the night brings the two together. Is it meant to be? Are the two going to find something more in common besides their love of music? Is this another romantic comedy that is not relying on being unpredictable? Well, the answer to the last question should help you with the other two. But that is the way romantic comedies are whether they are aimed at teens or adults.
           I have said at other times that its the journey to the inevitable that makes these types of movies worthwhile.  How is it here? Not so much fun. Actually a little boring when the same calamities fall on our players over and over. The drunk and lost Caroline is annoying whenever she graces the screen. Cera is draining the helpless but likable geek bit. The only charming one is Dennings but even she starts to get overshadowed by her co-stars. I, being a big music buff, thought that I would really love this movie, a rom-com-centered around music. But, unfortunately, I just ended up thinking it was okay.       
RATING : TWO STARS

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Ghost Town
a la The Flixter

           I have never seen The Office. Therefore, I had no idea who this Ricky Gervais guy was when I sat down to see this movie. He is supposed to be the originator of that show and here he plays Dr. Bertram Pincus, the most anti social dentist that you probably have ever  seen. Good thing his job doesn't involve too much communicating with other humans. He just sits them in their chair, silences them with whatever dental procedures are necessary, and goes about his business.
          He acts likewise with his colleagues. The misanthropy makes him indifferent to whatever may be going on in their lives including an utter disregard for a party being thrown for a co-worker's newborn. But then he has to go for a surgical procedure himself. The anesthesia is inappropriate and he dies... for only seven minutes, though. He is brought back and goes about his usual business. The only difference now is that he can see and hear dead people. No, not menacing dead folk. Just some people who have some business left in the world. And once they realize that he can see and hear them, they won't let him be. They want his help.
         First, there's Greg Kinnear who wants Pincus to stop his widow (played by Tea Leoni) from getting re-married. There's the old lady who wants her daughter to know where she left something before she died...and on and on. The point is that Dr. Pincus is not happy with the new role being enforced on him. Is he going to help these people and change his ways or is he going to keep on being the lonely schlub that he had become? Take a guess. Your estimations may rank this as another predictable fable from Hollywood but its the execution that sets it apart.
       I loved this movie. Director David Koepp does an excellent job behind the camera. He may be better known as a scribe behind big blockbusters like the Spiderman movies but he is just as gifted behind the camera as he is with a pen. After all, The Trigger Effect was a directorial debut that showed his skill behind the camera. Here he is helped by an excellent cast highlighted by the sweetly loathsome Gervais. And Kinnear is again distancing himself further and further from his roots at E's Talk Soup. Like I just said: Loved it. .       
RATING : FIVE STARS

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TRAITOR
a la The Flixter

             Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) is a former US Special Operations officer. Now he is the number one suspect for the FBI agents investigating terrorist bombings. Horn has two things going against him. For one, he is a devout Muslim; second, he seems to turn up around these bombings. But FBI agent, Ray Clayton (Guy Pearce) sees a complexity in Horn's character that even he has a hard time fathoming.
            Horn is imprisoned in Yemen where he forms an alliance with some other terrorists who want to show the evil US what they can do. After a prison break, they start working on the plan that will shake America to its core. Fifty buses, filled with passengers, will simultaneously blow up in different parts of the country. The plot is complex and a lot of organization is needed for it to go through. The terrorists have connections in some high places and agent Clayton is bent on foiling a plot that even he is not fully aware of.... He just knows that something is in the works.
          The movie is groundbreaking in the sense that it is the first movie that I can think of with a Muslim protagonist. Taut, complex, and thoroughly intriguing would be just a few words to describe it. Cheadle gives an excellent performance as a man who may be questioning his intentions. But we never really know what his intentions may be. The twist at the end is truly explosive. I loved it. Sad, exciting, action packed, and suspenseful...       
RATING : FIVE STARS

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TROPIC THUNDER
a la The Flixter

       Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) needs to rejuvenate his career. All he has done are six sequels to his Scorcher hit... the guy needs something new. Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) is a comedic actor who has been playing the members of the same family in The Fatties. (Plus he is a big fan of cocaine.)  Kirk Lazarus(Robert Downey Jr.) is a five time Oscar winner who has just got done playing a gay monk in some arty movie. What brings them together is Tropic Thunder, a war epic that is based on the memoirs of a very grizzled Vietnam vet, Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte).
       Shooting on some studio lot won't satisfy studio exec. Les Grossman (Tom Cruise), so they are all off to the real Vietnam to shoot this war epic. What these actors don't realize is that all their actions there are going to be video-taped by some hidden cameras. Further complications arise when they land in the middle of a drug war being led by a very nasty 12 year old and their film director steps on a land mine pretty soon after their arrival. I almost forgot to mention that Downey's Lazarus has had his skin surgically darkened to play the platoon's African member and talks and acts like he really is black. I think that is enough about the set up.
      The movie is absolutely hilarious. And it treads the line with some pretty gory war violence, some comic and some not so much. Ben Stiller does a fine job both acting and directing. But its Downey who steals the movie. A hilarious movie that sheds some comic light on something that really isn't funny...
      
RATING : FIVE STARS

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THE DARK KNIGHT
a la The Flixter

          I will be upfront and honest enough to admit that I never saw Batman & Robin, the much maligned Batman movie that tried to bring George Clooney to the big screen as the caped-crusader. After Batman Forever, I went straight to Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan's awesome resurrection of a superhero that seemed fated for a demise. That movie put Christain Bale in the shoes of billionaire Bruce Wayne and his vigilante alter ego, Batman. It was just such an awesome movie. And now the folks who rejuvenated the Bat franchise return with The Dark Knight.
         Everything is pretty much the same. Batman has his high tech weapons and transportations. There's even a Batcycle, a motorcycle that he uses when he ventures out to fight crime. Now there's a new threat facing Gotham in the form of late Heath Ledger's Joker. The guy is a genuine nut, not refraining from torturing his victims and demonstrating how he actually ended up with that wide grin. Banks are robbed, money is burned, and Gotham falls under the spell of The Joker as this master of mayhem casts his web over the entire city. Then there's Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent, who is actually a sympathetic villain whose forced facial deformation leads him to a life of crime.
        Wayne has his usual allies. Michael Caine is there as the loyal butler Alfred, serving his master and cloaking the alternate life. Morgan Freeman is there to supply the weapons and transport. Maggie Gyllenhal is an ex providing some tension for Bruce. The awesome Gary Oldman is pretty unrecognizable as the police commissioner.
       There is just so much cool stuff going on in this nearly three hour movie, but the time flies by when you are having so much fun. I loved it. Director Christopher Nolan keeps the goods coming. The late Heath Ledger is great in his final cinematic role but I hope that his untimely death won't overshadow the greatness of this film.
       .
RATING : FIVE STARS

_________________________________

 

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY
a la The Flixter

    Hellboy. To quickly recap what's going on, Hellboy (Ron Perlman), aka HB, is a demonic-hell creature that was meant to destroy the Earth. Instead, he sided with the humans and chose to fight evil. He has been kept undercover by a secret government agency that has tried to harness his types. Keeping him company, is his girlfriend, Liz (Selma Blair), a co-freak who has a tendency to literally burst into flames and destroy her surroundings. But HB doesn't like being kept a secret. In the outside world, tabloids keep speculating on his sightings. He gets a chance to show the world his true self and do some heroic deeds, but finds the outside world as being antagonistic towards what it sees as a red freak. Meanwhile, the Underworld's Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) emerges, bent on destroying our world. So HB, along with fellow good freaks, Abe, Kraus, and Liz, sets out to save mankind.
          Director Guillermo del Toro does a pretty amazing job of bringing forth this old fashioned good vs. evil battle. Visually, the movie is astounding and ranks with Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy... and that was my main problem with it. A little too much eye candy. I appreciated Jackson's Rings trilogy for all the visual spectacle but I just can't get too involved with the fantasy realm. It was the same case here. The visuals are great and the action spectacular. But a little too detached from reality. Yes, I like comic book adaptations and can't wait for the Dark Knight. But this one is more for people who swoon over the likes of the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies.

       Good but just not a totally involving experience. At least for me....
RATING : FOUR STARS

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HANCOCK
a la The Flixter

          So far, having super powers put the recipient of such gifts in one of the two available categories. Either you use them for good and become a superhero or you turn to the dark side and become a super villain. Along comes Hancock (Will Smith), adding a footnote to the super hero. The guy's intentions are good but he's got other problems. Personal issues like anger management and alcoholism. So even when he does a good deed, the repercussions overshadow the good. Getting a bunch of bank robbers who are getting away with a few thousand results in damages that are hundreds of times greater.
          Basically, people don't like him. They want him to leave their LA and go fight crime in some other metropolis. Then he saves the life of public relations expert Ray (Jason Bateman). Ray feels the need to pay back his savior by making him more appealing to the society that shuns him. The first step is a drastic one. Hancock is to surrender to the authorities and serve some time for his misdeeds. Maybe when he's incarcerated, society will begin to realize what they are missing. He surrenders and is eventually called for some assistance. Meanwhile, Ray and his wife (Charlize Theron) try to teach him some better manners and curb his alcohol intake.
         The movie has a promising premise that fails to deliver since the comic bits end up being forced and the action parts just act as filler. Plus there is no real villain that the hero has to face off against. The ending gets sappy as some twists that were foreshadowed a long time ago come into play. Sorry to say it but this fourth of July, Will Smith didn't quite deliver what we have come to expect from him...
RATING : ONE STAR

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THE INCREDIBLE HULK
a la The Flixter

          When we meet Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), he is hiding out in Brazil. Its part hiding and part therapy. He is looking for ways to harness his anger, you see getting angry is not good for him or anybody else in close proximity.  In case you don't already know this, Banner was exposed to some gamma radiation. So now when he gets angry, he gets really angry. He is transformed into a huge, green behemoth that tends to destroy everything, including the reason for the anger, in its path. Of course, the US Army tracks him down and attempts to capture him in his tranquility. And, of course, that makes him very angry. The transformation occurs, destruction ensues, and Banner decides to come back to the US.
         Once again, there is a dual purpose for his return. He wants to track down his ex-girlfriend, played by Liv Tyler, and get to back to where his nightmare originally started. It doesn't help that his ex is now seeing someone else and happens to be the daughter of the Army general who is bent on capturing Banner. And the always awesome Tim Roth enters the picture as one of the general's soldiers who wants to fight the Hulk on an even playing field. He wants the same exposure that turned Banner into the Hulk. He gets it and ends up becoming an even larger foe known as the Abomination. When the two face off, nothing much is left standing.
         The movie is absolutely eye-popping explosive. Of course, I loved it.  What sets is apart from the previous movie adaptation of the Marvel comics super hero is the amount of action. The last take on the green one was directed by the artsy Ang Lee and seen as being too slow paced. That can't be said this time. Director Louis Leterrier keeps this one moving from one action set piece to another. I liked Lee's version as well but what makes this one work even better for me is the casting of Edward Norton as Banner. I have said before that the guy hasn't made a bad movie yet and this one is no exception. Awesome flick.
RATING : FIVE STARS

YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN
a la The Flixter

          Zohan (Adam Sandler) is a buff and tough Israeli commando fighting Palestinians in his homeland though his archenemy, The Phantom (John Turturro), keeps escaping him. But The Phantom provides Zohan with what he wants, as Zohan is able to fake his death at the hands of that terrorist and escape from the life he has begun to despise.
        What comes next, is exactly what the commando has been dreaming off... Coming to NYC and becoming a hair stylist. Two dogs, that he shares a crate with, on the flight to the US, provide him with a new name for his alter-ego. Scrappy Coco is recognized by a man, running an electronics shop going by the name of Going Out of Business, and Scrappy is helped in getting a job at a struggling hair salon. Two problems: the shop is run by a Palestinian and the job is to clean up the hair falling on the floor. But Zohan is dedicated and starts moving up the ranks as he is recognized by a Palestinian cab driver (Rob Schneider) who alerts The Phantom.
       Things start looking better as Scrappy gets to cut hair and do sexual favors for the old ladies. The later brings enormous popularity to the once struggling hair salon as now there are lines forming around the block to get the services from this new kind of barber. The Phantom reenters the picture and his quest to eliminate Zohan continues.
      When I saw the previews for this movie, there were a few moments of hilarity. Too bad that can't be said of the entire movie. The movie is actually so laugh free that it manages to suck up those moments that seemed so funny in the coming attractions. Definitely one of Sandler's worst movies with an ending that you can see coming a mile away since you know that the movie won't want to offend either the Jews or Muslims. So you know that the two opposing parties will manage to find a common and greater enemy. And lots of gross out stuff since, like I mentioned before, Zohan's clients are old ladies and they are not just there for the hair cuts. Terrible movie...
RATING : ONE STAR

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IRON MAN
a la The Flixter

      Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is billionaire playboy who goes around in his own private jet that staffs some lovely, pole-dancing stewardesses. How he has achieved this luxurious lifestyle is a whole other story. His success has resulted from manufacturing weapons, so he is a very successful arms dealer, arming anybody who pays the price. That point is hammered in when he is captured on one of his global expeditions and tortured by men whom he had helped arm. They put him through all sorts of hell and lock him up with the orders to build them some weapons that they can put to use. Everywhere he looks, he sees weapons with the stamp of Stark Industries.
     He builds a weapon. But its not one that his captors are anticipating. What he builds is a giant, armored suit, equipped with weaponry, which he uses to escape from his captivity and return to the US... And when he returns, he is a new man. To the disgust of his company's shareholders, most notably Obediah Stone( a mean looking Jeff Bridges with a shaved head) he announces that his company will no longer be making weapons.
     Stark sets about to making a niftier version of the suit that helped him escape from the dark caves where he was held. After many alterations and tests, a red and gold suit is born and Iron Man hits the skies, fighting evil but not before he has paid a visit to the captors that brought about his epiphany. And that, folks, is the latest comic book adaptation that brings us closer to what is happening in the fantasy land of good vs. evil without having to flip any pages.
    An absolutely spectacular movie with a great cast that also includes the talented Terence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow. Downey does a great job as the hard-partying Stark who realizes a need to change his old ways. I had a great time but can't compare it to the original Spider Man or its equally impressive sequel. This one gets a little disjointed towards its ending as the filmmakers rely a little too much on FX to wind up the tale. But it is still a great time.
RATING : FOUR STARS

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STREET KINGS
a la The Flixter

      Every year, Keanu Reeves makes a movie that takes him further away from those Bill and Ted movies. He's a grown man now and more serious fare is his new thing. Since The Matrix trilogy has been wrapped up and Speed ran out of gas a while ago, this is his latest serious effort. Here he plays Officer Ludlow of the LAPD, a straight cop whose heroics are bringing his captain (Forest Whitaker) closer to becoming Chief. He rescues two kidnapped girls and lands on the front pages. Good for him and the entire police department. But things aren't quite right as he finds out when trying to track down the killers of his partner, who dies in a blood splattered shootout. Its that killing that sets up his naive cop on a journey that will uncover corruption at all levels in his unit.
     Nobody is who they appear to be. Its a nasty and corrupt world. After all this is coming from James Ellroy whose LA Confidential was overshadowed by a big ship and lost as Best Picture in 1997, even though it was far superior. The director here is David Ayer who wrote the screenplay for Training Day, another great movie. So how could a movie with such talent behind it go wrong? Watch it and see. Or just take my word for it.
     The movie introduces, but doesn't delve into, issues like alcoholism and racism. Our hero wakes up and starts drinking before he heads out the door. The Captain is black but there is the constant underlying racism present within the rest of the players. How can you take a movie seriously when it has Cedric the Entertainer trying for a serious role but ending up as comic relief?
RATING : TWO STARS

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21
a la The Flixter

      Man, its been a long time since I was the age that is the title of this movie. Oh well, this is my first review as a thirty year old. Yes, it was by birthday last week.  But I am really digressing; the title of the movie has nothing to do with age - its all about black jack.
    Kevin Spacey is a math professor at MIT who has a plan to beat the house by gathering a group of math geniuses and taking them to Las Vegas for some extra curricular activity. Jim Sturgess plays one of the students that joins Spacey's group of card counters. Initially it is with reluctance. He just wants to go to medical school but is short of the money needed. How is he going to come up with three hundred thousand dollars? That's where the black jack club becomes appealing.
    They hit Vegas, score big, and the initial reasons for being there seem foolish. Why limit yourself to three hundred thousand when there is so much more to be taken? But the casinos frown upon card counting. That is where Laurence Fishburne's pit manager comes in. He sees the goings-on from the surveillance cameras and turns the whole money making charade into something dangerous. This injects a little violence into the situation as loyalties starting getting questionable. And personalities become questionable as it gets hazy regarding who the real bad guy is, Spacey or Fishburne.
 
    But both guys do a great job, as Spacey proves once again that he is just meant to play loathsome characters.  A fun romp, inspired by a true story, that is disappointing in the sense that it didn't really teach me to count cards like I was hoping it would. Oh, well...
RATING : FOUR STARS

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Drillbit Taylor
a la The Flixter

      Another movie that revisits those most horrible of times, High School. Yes, everyone is here. The bullies, the geeks, the parents who don't understand, and those administrative people who let the bullied ones fend for themselves.
Drillbit Taylor ((Owen Wilson) who will do the job for that measly amount. Why? Because he is just as desperate. What the three boys don't know is that he is actually a homeless bum who has his eyes set on the bigger prize... the stuff that they have in their homes.
     So Drillbit starts his bodyguard duties and ends up faking it as a substitute teacher in the school. Somehow, nobody finds out that the new guy is the same person they see taking his showers at the local beach... Or that he lives in the woods and was often begging for change at the busy intersections. But who cares. Let's just go with it. He even manages to have a fling with one of the female teachers. Oh yeah, what about the bullied trio? Well, they start liking Drillbit beyond his employee status, as he teaches them some self-defense moves to practice when he is not around... and that is a lot of times. The boys get frustrated, start questioning the origins of their bodyguard, and eventually start digging into his background. But by this time, Drillbit is actually starting to like them and thinking seriously about the role he is playing.
    That is enough about the plot. Now we get to how the movie turns out.
    An absolute charmer. A great time. Funny, sad, and touching. Owen Wilson, who I have referred to as a male bimbo at other times, does his usual stuff. And it works great here. The three boys (the fat one, the skinny one, and the clueless geek) are great, as well. When the bully pays, you feel just as victorious as the three of them do. I, thank God, was never a bully or bullied in high school. But I, somehow, can still relate.
RATING : FIVE STARS

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THE EYE
a la The Flixter

      Sydney (Jessica Alba) is a blind concert violinist who gets her sight restored through a corneal transplant. Yes, I just set up the movie's promising concept a little abruptly. But that's the point. Because that is how quickly the movie jump starts with not much background or insight going into the how's or why's.
     Anyway, once the transplant is done, recovery is tough since there is a lot of visual interference that doesn't involve the young lady looking at the whole new world around her. There are ghost-type thingees lurking around. There is the constant annoyance of people asking her for things she has no clue about. There's the kid in her hallway asking her if she has seen his report card. Then there's these shadowy specters taking the souls of the recently departed. And images of being trapped in a burning building... So Sydney approaches her doctor (Alessandro Nivola) to find out whose eyes she has. The doc can't reveal that sort of information but eventually changes his mind. Why? Did I mention that the patient happens to be Jessica Alba? That is enough reason to rethink one's initial refusal. But getting back to the movie's plot. I think I already covered the gist of it.
    Is it scary, since it is a remake of a Hong Kong horror film? No. Unless boredom scares you. What I did like about it, besides the presence of Ms. Alba, was the idea of literally seeing through someone else's eyes. Could you get yourself around what those eyes had seen? An intriguing idea that could have been more thoroughly involved in the execution of the film.
RATING : ONE STAR

________________________________

CLOVERFIELD
a la The Flixter

      A going away party is being thrown for one of the guys in a group of twenty-something's (maybe thirty something's). He has landed a job in Tokyo and will be leaving his friends and family in NYC. One friend is taping the whole affair and getting people's feelings about the departure and how they feel about the guy. Of course, everybody thinks he is a great guy and they will miss him very much. Then the thing gets a little soap operatic as things are brought up about who slept with whom. And then there's a loud explosion outside. TV reports are blaming a capsized tanker in New York Harbor. Then there's the unearthly roar and people pour into the streets to see what is going on. Buildings are burning, some are crashing, and around that time the, head of the Statue of Liberty comes crashing down the street. The guy, who was taping the party, is now taping the mayhem and chaos on the streets. The origin of that unearthly roar is the reason behind all the chaos. So we see everything through that camera's lens as people panic, scream, and run for cover from some huge Godzilla-type monster attacking the city.
   The guy with the camera continues taping so the world will know how it all happened. The army comes in and tries to kill this beast whose origins are never really brought up or explained. It just happened. I didn't think that the guy taping the stuff was going to last long since he is running and trying to survive while lugging a camera. An interesting concept that has its limitations from the conception. I mean, what fun is a monster movie when you barely get to see the monster? All you get is the images of the destruction left behind. Plus the characters aren't really sympathetic except for one who has to tell his parents about his brother dying. That is about the only scene that adds a little emotion to the affair and makes you sympathize with his predicament.
An okay movie.....
RATING : TWO STARS

_________________________________

THE BUCKET LIST
a la The Flixter

      What would you do if you knew that you only had a limited amount of time left to live? What is it that you would try to accomplish or achieve before you kicked the bucket? Yes, that is what the bucket in the title refers to. A list of things that you want to do before you kick the bucket. It is a concept that billionaire Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) is not familiar with. Stricken with cancer and forced to share a room, (since it was his idea to cut back on expenses by putting two in each room of his hospital), Edward learns of this concept from his room mate. Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) is also on his way out and has to put up with the whinny Cole. They start to get along and that is when Cole finds out about the list, which Carter is so earnestly working on. Carter doesn't have the finances available to accomplish some of the things on the list but Cole has the money. The two get together, leave the hospital, and embark on their quest to do what they don't have long to do.
     See something majestic, go skydiving, and race vintage sports cars are a few of the superficial things that are there.... But Carter wants to do other things as well. More meaningful things like make a difference in someone's life. Yes, that last one means that things will get a little sappy. Thank God, the affair is in the hands of two of the best actors around and they do a fine job of delivering two great performances that are more endearing than the seemingly morbid subject matter. The only lingering question after the movie is which one of the two greats does better. Honestly, I have no idea. And like life, sometimes things are better when they are not etched so certainly. I loved it...
RATING : FIVE STARS

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CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR
a la The Flixter

      Tonight is New Year's Eve... 2008 is only a few hours away. What better way to spend it than to write about a great movie I saw towards the end of 2007. Yes, I have gotten old and grizzled and am not out partying with my friends like I used to... Anyway, here it goes...
     Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) was a Texas Congressman who managed to get elected and re-elected despite his hard-partying ways. His staff is made up of young females, catering to his every whim and resembling a bunch of swimsuit models rather than a bunch of office workers. Along comes Joann Herring (Julia Roberts), a rich socialite who talks Charlie into taking a trip to Afghanistan. He does it because, like I said, she is a rich socialite meaning a lot of money for Wilson's vaults... And the trip transforms him when he sees the dirt-poor Afghans fighting off the Soviet invaders with whatever means necessary. They have small guns while the Soviets have their gunship helicopters and tanks. So Charlie, now a different man after seeing the horrors, gets to work in getting the Afghans the aid that they need.
     Along to steal many scenes and provide some comic relief is Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a CIA agent who is initially there to investigate Wilson's unorthodox ways and later becoming the Congressman's ally in achieving his newfound goal.
    That about does it for the plot. What have I always said when reviewing a movie with Tom Hanks? That he is probably the best actor out there, so I don't think I have to say that again. He, of course, is great and rules the movie. But Hoffman is also very good and gives Hanks a good match as to who the better actor is. The only one that is slightly lower on the acting radar is Julia Roberts. She is good but the two guys have her beat.
    Overall, I loved this movie, though...
RATING : FIVE STARS

__________________________

NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS
a la The Flixter

      The first National Treasure was a history lesson in disguise. But it was decent entertainment as our treasure hunting hero, Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) went on a hunt to find a treasure buried by the forefathers. Now its about honor when someone suggests that his great-great-grandfather was one of the conspirator's involved in the assassination of President Lincoln. Well, Gates won't have it that way and watch his family's honor be dragged in the mud. So he, along with dad (Jon Voight), an estranged ex (Diane Kruger), and a comic-relief/sidekick (Justin Bartha) are off to prove Ed Harris' bad guy wrong in implicating the Gates family in that deed. Even mom (Helen Mirren), who left dad, is pulled back in to help.
     They, of course, have to go all over the US and even wind up in Paris and London, where they have to break into the Queen's room to retrieve a piece of evidence. As you can tell from what you have read so far, there is a lot of talented thespians involved. There is more than just one Oscar winner here. But as this movie so blatantly proves, that doesn't amount to squat (trying not to use another "s" word that also ends with a "t"). So the hunt to disprove the accusation turns into a hunt for a mythical lost city of gold.
     Along the way, Gates is forced to kidnap the President (Bruce Greenwood) and get into a secret part of the Library of Congress to gain access to the Book of Secrets, mentioned in the title. Guess what that book contains? Yup, secrets. Everything from presidential assassinations and government involvement in everyday life to the existence of Area 51.
    The movie is fun in the sense that its fun to watch such a talented bunch trying to bring some dignity to the banal fodder at their disposal. Otherwise, its just a hard way of killing two hours and ten minutes.
RATING : TWO STARS

__________________________

I AM LEGEND
a la The Flixter

      In the year 2012, Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the last human being roaming the streets of a deserted and abandoned NYC. He does have his German Shepherd accompanying him around town. They hunt the wild animals roaming the streets. He goes into his usual stops and talks to the mannequins he has set up around those stores. He talks to the mannequins behind the counter, picks out what he needs, and tells them to put it on his tab. Then night falls and he and his dog go into their apartment to hide out for the night.
     There are the noises seeping in that tell why he is in this particular situation. The city, and maybe the entire globe, was hit by a virus that killed everyone. Actually, it didn't kill them but turned them into roaming zombies/vampires. So there is the quest for survival along with dragging home those he manages to kill. In his lab he is conducting tests to determine if there is a cure. After all, for some reason, he has been immune to this virus. Now he is trying to find out why and if it is possible to find a cure. So the daytime is dedicated to speeding around the desolate streets, hunting, and hitting golf balls off the deck of the aircraft carrier in Hudson Bay. And then there are the constant memories of his wife and child who were killed while there was an attempt being made to evacuate the city. Plus he sends out a message everyday to any other survivors that may be out there... and thus Will Smith's one man show goes on.
     The entire movie relies on him going around all alone and try to undo the damage that, according to him, man's deeds brought upon itself. How does he do? Well, he comes across as an excellent actor, a long way from his Fresh Prince of Bel Air roots. But if you have seen Pursuit of Happyness, you know the guy can act. Besides his forceful performance, the movie is worth checking out for the amazing sets consisting of a desolate and eerily quiet NYC. The monsters, though, are the only drawback. Are they zombies or are they vampires? I was never too sure. What happens if the last man surviving falls? I have no idea. But the point is not to ponder over the what ifs. The point is to go along for a ride through a hellish future where being alone can be just as nightmarish as knowing that somebody else is there.
RATING : FOUR STARS
The Flixter's Rating System
FIVE STARS: If I had the money, I would take everyone I know to see it.
FOUR STARS: If I had the money, I would take only people I really like to see it.
THREE STARS: If I had the money, I would save it by just telling others to go see it.
TWO STARS: If I had the money, I would just tell others to save theirs and rent it.
ONE STAR: If I had the money, I would have more if I had not seen this piece of crap.
ZERO STARS: If I had the money, I'd save it, & I would tell the people I hate to go see it.

Read Some Past Movie Reviews by the Flixter:

Flixter Archive 1

Flixter Archive 2

Flixter Archive 3

Flixter Archive 4

Flixter Archive 5

New Jersey movie reviews by the NJ's own " Flixter"..............

About The Flixter

TO GET THE PEOPLE ACQUAINTED WITH WHERE THE FLIXTER IS COMING FROM, HERE'S A
GLIMPSE INTO HIS TASTE IN MUSIC AND MOVIES (JUST A GLIMPSE):
 
MOVIES:
Most Over-rated movie:
TITANIC: Good frame but cheesy interior with awful dialogue and laughable sappiness.

Most Under-rated movie:
STRANGE DAYS: From the same mind that would later make Titanic. Excellent look at the end of a millenium with a great cast which includes Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett.

MUSIC:
Best Band:
U2.(I don't need to explain that)

Best Band that you probably haven't heard of:
REMY ZERO.(a lot like U2, but lesser known)

Like I said, just a glimpse. To let you know what I have been watching and listening to when I write. Movie-wise there can be an endless list of what I think has been awful.  Music-wise, I can't say the same because my music might not be yours and yours might not be mine.......
THANX.
email: The Flixter@metrojersey.com

New Jersey movie reviews by the NJ's own " Flixter"..............

 

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