Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Killers (2010)

Killers (2010)
Rated PG-13
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Tom Selleck, Catherine O’Hara
Directed by: Robert Luketic
Tag line: Marriage... give it your best shot.
Running time: 100 Minutes

Quick summary: A spy meets and falls in love with a woman while on a mission in France. Shortly afterwards, he gets out of the spy game to settle down. Three years later, assassins begin to hunt him down and try and kill him.

So in the span of a few months, there were like three movies released that all looked like the exact same thing. Killers, Knight & Day, and The Bounty Hunter. All three movies feature a man and a woman, one of them a professional spy or something, and a woman who has no idea who he is. I’ll be honest; none of them looked all that interesting to me. But I figured I would give at least one of them a shot. So I picked Killers because I don’t really care about Gerard Butler and I don’t really trust Tom Cruise anymore. Ashton Kutcher doesn’t bother me, and neither does Katherine Heigl. So that’s a plus. And anytime you get Tom Selleck involved, it can’t be all that bad, just look at 3 Men and a Baby.

So I watched half of it in the morning before I went to work. And it wasn’t that bad. I was actually looking forward to finishing it up when I got home. So I did. And it was alright. It was kind of funny, a little romantic comedy thrown in to attract the ladies to the movie, but some action for the dudes. Fight scenes, gun battles, stunts all good stuff to balance out the babies and love and romance. I can get behind a movie like this as a date night movie. It’s not a great movie, but it’s kind of fun and funny. It beats going to see a sad movie.

I wasn’t sure about Ashton Kutcher as a spy/action guy. He’s always been more of a goofy-friend type to me. But he was pretty good with it. I don’t think he’s ready to go full-time action hero, but he can handle some actiony roles from time to time. Of course, he did win a Worst Actor Razzie for this movie. So that tells you how much I know. Though I don’t know how anyone could think that he was a worse actor than any of the kids in the Twilight movies. Katherine Heigl was ok. She seems to play very similar characters in all of her movies, which isn’t great, but she’s good at it, so that’s cool.

I haven’t seen the other two Action/Rom-coms that I mentioned above, and I don’t really care to, but if they show up on the Netflix Instant Queue, I might add them to watch some time. But I don’t know if I’ll go out of my way to see them. I saw this one, that should be enough.

If you’re looking for a Rom-com with some action to watch on a date night, you could probably do far worse than this. Plus it’s got Tom Selleck, with moustache!

Verdict: Not a better movie than Avatar, but far easier to watch.

Here’s the trailer:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Blood Diamond (2007)

Blood Diamond (2007)
Rated R
Tagline: It Will Cost You Everything
Running time: 143 Minutes

Blood Diamond is a 2006 drama directed by Edward Zwick, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou and Arnold Vosloo. Blood Diamond tells the story of Danny Archer, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, a Rhodesian diamond smuggler on the hunt for large diamonds to sell to Jewelers in London and get himself out of Africa for good. Djimon Hounsou is Solomon Vandy, a local fisherman in war-torn Sierra Leone who finds a rare, large diamond while mining for the rebel forces and hopes to use it to free his family. Jennifer Connelly stars as Maddy Bowen, a journalist looking for a story to expose the truth behind conflict diamonds.

The first thing to note about this film is the accent DiCaprio uses. At first, it can be a bit off putting, it just doesn’t sound right, kind of like a forced Jamaican accent with a hint of Easter European. But DiCaprio commits to the accent and the mannerisms of a man from Southern Africa, and the accent stops seeming out of place. DiCaprio does a good job, as he usually does, and seems to thrive in the role of the good/bad guy, as he did in 2002’s Catch Me If You Can, 2008’s The Departed and 2010’s Inception. The roles where he portrays a good guy doing bad things or a bad guy doing good things. The talent it takes to commit to an accent is astounding, especially when it’s not a more traditional (English, Irish, Boston, New York, etc) accent. After the initial shock of the accent wears off, it’s another strong DiCaprio performance, certainly worth of the Oscar nomination he received for it.
Djimon Hounsou was deserving of his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, though both Mark Wahlberg in The Departed and Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine (who won the Oscar) were also deserving and their performances were as strong, if not stronger. His performance was very powerful as a father fighting desperately to save his family from the war-torn village they were from. Jennifer Connelly, a slightly less attractive Demi Moore, does a pretty good job as Maddy, a love interest for Archer and the journalist looking to expose the conflict diamond trade. Arnold Vosloo rounds out the main cast, and as is per usual, he does a good job as a villain. Has Vosloo ever portrayed a good guy in a movie? He is almost exclusively a vaguely European bad guy (see: 24) looking to double cross the protagonist. There may be a reason he keeps getting those roles, as he is perfectly suited for it.
The story is very well written, and based on true events. Anytime a movie is based on real events it lends credence to the movie and adds to it, at least if it’s a well made movie, and Blood Diamond is a very well made movie, deserving each of the Oscar nominations it received.
Blood Diamond does run perilously close to being too political and preachy of a movie. Movies that educate or enlighten are a welcome sight, even in major Hollywood productions, but they need to entertain as well. And luckily for Blood Diamond, it does just that; the cast and story are both quite good and make for a compelling and gripping film.
The result: Better than Avatar
The Trailer:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Run Fatboy Run (2007)


Run Fatboy Run (2007)
Rated PG-13
Starring: Simon Pegg, Hank Azaria, Thandie Newton
Directed by: David Schwimmer (Yeah, that David Schwimmer)
Tag line: Love. Commitment. Responsibility. There's nothing he can't run away from.
Running Time: 100 Minutes

Quick summary: Five years after leaving his pregnant fiancé at the altar, Dennis decides to run a marathon to win her back.

Simon Pegg is really funny. He’s very good a portraying losers. But not losers that you hate. He plays lovable losers. You want him to succeed but just feel so bad when he makes the inevitable boneheaded mistake. But in the end, he redeems himself. It’s pretty much the same in all of his movies, but he is really good at it, so it doesn’t bother me. 

Run, Fatboy, Run was a decently funny movie. It wasn’t the funniest of Pegg’s movies, I’d have to say that it’s Shaun of the Dead, but it wasn’t unfunny. It was a little bit more cutesy and romantic than the others, but not so much that it was awful.

The main cast, Pegg, Hank Azaria and Thandie Newton, were pretty good. Both Pegg and Azaria are very funny dudes, and played both of their roles well. I don’t know much about Thandie Newton, but she did a good enough job. The rest of the cast did a good job as well. No glaring problems or terrible performances.

It as interesting to me that David Schwimmer (of Friends fame) directed the movie. I had been wondering what he was up to since friends. I have seen each of the other cast members in movies or TV shows since it ended, but he’s the only one who kind of disappeared. More power to him.

After watching the movie, I saw that it was written by Simon Pegg and Michael Ian Black. This actually made me a little sad. I thought it should have been funnier because both of those two fellas are really funny. Oh well.

If you’re looking to watch a Simon Pegg movie, but haven’t seen any, I’d steer you towards Shaun of the Dead or Paul, but if you want to see a decently funny movie, give Run, Fatboy, Run a shot.

Result: Better than Avatar.

Here’s the trailer:

Layer Cake (2004)

Layer Cake (2004)
Rated R
Starring: Daniel Craig, Michael Gambon, Colm Meaney, Sienna Miller, Tom Hardy
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Running time: 105 Minutes

Quick summary: A successful cocaine dealer, planning to retire early, is given a task by his boss, to find a missing socialite with a drug problem. Further complicating his task is $2 million worth of top notch Ecstasy tablets.

A gangster film in the vein of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch (all three films are produced by the same people), Layer Cake is a much more serious and less comedic take on the underground British drug world. While the movies aren’t very similar aside from the genre, they still feel very much alike. Layer Cake looks and feels like it could have been a Guy Ritchie film, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Layer Cake follows the familiar drug empire storyline that has been done before (Weeds, Breaking Bad, Scarface, and Blow). A drug dealer has some success, and quickly gets more involved and deeper into the drug empire, ultimately getting in over their heads. They must then figure out a way out of the mess they’ve made before it ends up killing them. It’s not the most original idea for a movie, but the way that the story is presented is what sets Layer Cake apart.

As the name implies, there are several different layers (re: storylines) that are all going on at the same time, somewhat interwoven to form the story. While it can get a little distracting at times, there are some subplots that don’t seem to fully tie in to the overall story, or weren’t expanded enough to seem important, but it doesn’t take away from the movie. The cast does a really good job with it as well, which helps overcome any shortcomings.

Daniel Craig is really good as XXXX. That’s not his name, as his character’s name is never given, that’s just how he is credited on IMDB. His narration at the beginning is so good, it pulls you in easily. It’s safe to say that this movie helped his career take off, not long after this, he was cast as James Bond in the Quantum of Solace. It’s remarkable how much he has grown in 7 years, he looks so scrawny in Layer Cake compared to either of the Bond films. Michael Gambon is excellent as Eddie Temple, the construction tycoon/kingpin. Tom Hardy and Sienna Miller have smaller parts, which is a shame, as both could have had larger roles and been even better, but were good in the parts they played.

For a directorial debut, Matthew Vaughn did a really good job and he’s only gotten better since. Kick-Ass and X-Men were both excellent movies. It probably hasn’t hurt Vaughn that he spent a lot of time around Guy Ritchie, producing both Lock, Stock and Snatch, he no doubt learned some things from those experiences.

Layer Cake is a really good Crime/Thriller/Drama with a really good cast, made by a talented director. It’s almost as good as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but just below those two. It’s definitely worth a look.

Verdict: Better than Avatar

The Trailer:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Top Ten: #1 - Clerks (1994)

Here it is, the final movie in My Top Ten. My Number One favorite movie. 

Clerks (1994)
Rated R
Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonhauer, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Tag line: Just because they serve you doesn’t mean they like you.
Running time: 92 Minutes

Quick summary: On his day off, Dante, a 20-something convenience store clerk, is called in to work. Together with his foul-mouthed cohort Randal, a clerk at the neighboring video store, they pick on customers, play hockey on the roof and try and figure out their lives.
I can still remember the first time I watched Clerks. I was maybe 13 or 14 years old. My brother had it on VHS, and I took his copy and watched it one night. I laughed for hours. While I may have been too young to fully understand it at the time, I still loved it. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I began working in a video rental store that I truly grew to appreciate Clerks.
Before watching Clerks, movies weren’t that important to me. I liked movies before, but they were always a somewhat foreign concept to me. Movies were these huge, expensive projects that took months and months to complete, and the finished product was a crisp, bright movie. Clerks was the first movie that showed me that movies don’t have to be that way to be good.
As with most kids, I wanted to be the action hero, movie star. After watching Clerks, I no longer wanted to be the star; I wanted to be the director. It was the first movie that made me want to make movies. For several years after that, that was all that I wanted to do. I still have dreams and aspirations of one day doing it, but as of now, I haven’t really been able to get there, but to be honest, I haven’t really tried very hard either.
But Clerks was inspiring to me, it changed the way I look at movies from that point forward. I no longer just liked movies, I loved them. It’s why I jumped at the chance to work in a video store. What better way for a new found cinephile to spend his evenings than talking about movies non-stop? I hated working retail, but loved what I was doing. It didn’t hurt that I got free rentals, every night.
For a period of time, as a teenager, Kevin Smith was my role model; I wanted to be just like him. I gathered all of the information I could about him. I even considered enrolling in film school, but after learning that he dropped out and was still able to achieve his goal, decided I didn’t need it either. When I graduated High School, I was going to become a director, I was convinced. Then I went to college, and life got in the way. I wouldn’t say I gave up on that dream, but rather, found other things that I would rather do at the time. Every so often, I’ll sit down and write what may eventually become my first movie, but for the time being, I am having a lot of fun just watching movies.
People may think that its weird that a movie like Clerks is such a seminal point in my life, that such a vulgar, irreverent movie could be that important, but to me, it’s more than just a movie. To me, it’s a symbol of what I can achieve, inspiration that I, as a teenager, so desperately needed. Plus, it’s a damn funny movie.
Clerks is available on Netflix instant for those of you interested.
Here is the trailer: