Tag Archives: film

FILM REVIEW: The Words

There’s more than one way to make a boring movie poster.

From the two-man writer-director team of Brian Klugman and Lee Sterntha, The Words has Bradley Cooper returning to the role of the young, flawed, struggling writer he played so well in Limitless – a writer who is desperate to succeed and who will do anything to achieve his goal. In Limitless he of course turns to the powerful performance-enhancing drug that is the centerpiece of the film’s story, and in The Words, Cooper’s character, Rory Jansen, comes across an old, unpublished manuscript and passes it off as his own. The book goes on to achieve unanimous critical acclaim and massive commercial success and all is well and good until its true author seeks out Jansen and confronts him about his theft.

“Unanimous critical acclaim” sound a little far-fetched for a novel by a no-name writer? Well, keep in mind that Jansen is actually a character within a book written by Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid), an apparently well-known writer who starts The Words with a public reading of his latest work. Jansen’s book, by the way, is a story about a struggling writer set in post-WII France.

Yes, The Words is a three-tiered assault of writers writing about writers in an attempt to screw with your head and impress you with its detailed level of complexity.

Except the film isn’t all that complex, and the precise lack of detail is what makes the plot feel so cheap. For example, if we’re supposed to believe the Jansen is a struggling writer in the modern age, where is the modern technology and business practices that now drive the publishing industry? Cooper’s character has written books, and publishers like them. They just don’t know how to sell them. This once was a huge obstacle for aspiring novelists. That was before e-readers, the Amazon.com bookstore, and the ability to self-publish anything you write. Yes, we can assume that the story is set in the past and that Jansen doesn’t have that option, but there’s nothing that hints that The Words is a look back at simpler times, and it’s that lack of attention to detail that makes the film feel like a pseudo-cerebral half-baked potato at most points.

It’s not all bad though. Cooper does put on a great performance, and Jeremy Irons steals the show for the brief time he’s in the movie (he could likely net a Grammy by narrating the back of a Doritos bag if he wanted). The core plot of the film – Jansen’s moral struggle of knowing his success is all due to stolen work, coupled with the anguish of knowing that he could likely never match it’s quality with his own writing – is really an interesting story, but it gets lost among all that forced complexity and is ultimately overshadowed by Hammond’s far less interesting tale which involves Olivia Wilde playing a sexy book-loving femme fatale for no reason whatsoever.

It’s really a shame. Part of the film really does hit a kind of tragic beauty, but it’s only one tier of the three-pronged story and can’t hold the whole movie up on its own. Especially when Dennis Quaid is narrating it (waterboarding, eat your heart out).

It seems The Words wants you to leave the theater with the question “What is real? What is fiction? What is the difference?” echoing through your simplistic mind, but the only thing you’ll be asking yourself is why the you just spent two hours of your life watching it and if there’s anyway to get that time back.

Spoiler: there isn’t.

VERDICT:

2.5/5

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FILM REVIEW: Trouble with the Curve

I had the same thought everyone else did when I first saw the trailer for the Robert Lorenz-directed, Trouble with the Curve: “oh boy, Gran Torino with baseball”. And to some degree, that’s still true, but Curve brings the charm, laughs, and performance that Torino lacked with a stellar cast, great story, and tons of heart.

Eastwood’s character in Curve is noticeably similar to his role in Torino: an emotionally detached old man who pushes those closest to him away while battling the pangs of old age. Only this time instead of a war veteran, he’s a veteran baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves, Gus Lobel, and happens to be losing his sight. Gus’s daughter, Micky (Amy Adams) is an associate at a prominent law firm in Atlanta and although she sees her father often, the two don’t really connect as a family and it’s apparent from the beginning that the mending of this relationship is going to take center stage in the film.

Things get started quickly when Gus’s long-time friend and business partner Pete Klein (John Goodman) informs him that his job is in jeopardy. Computers have become a big part of the business and the ball club is considering getting rid of old-fashioned guys like Gus in favor of picking players strictly by statistics and numbers. The top prospect this year is Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill), a cocky, stocky jerk with a hell of a swing who plays for a North Carolina minor league team, and the scout assignment is Gus’s last shot to prove his usefulness to the Braves’ management. He couldn’t be less interested. Gus just loves baseball and loves what he does. If the Braves decide they’d rather trust a bunch of numbers on the confound interwebs, screw ’em.

But Klein is more concerned about Gus’s well-being. Without his work to keep him busy and happy, he worries that Gus’s health will deteriorate rapidly. He enlists Micky to go along with Gus on the assignment to keep an eye on him. She declines at first, worried that she’ll lose her chance at a partner position at her firm and not convinced that her father even wants her around, but eventually concedes after learning about his deteriorating sight.

Thankfully between all that plot set-up we do get a chance to appreciate the characters as well. Goodman and Adams are great in their supporting roles, Justin Timberlake brings the laughs and the romance as a scout for the Boston Red Sox named Flannigan (just so you know he’s from Boston), but none even come close to stealing Eastwood’s ample supply of thunder.

Watching him growl, mutter, and insult his way through Curve is the best part of it, keeping the audience laughing whether they’re supposed to or not. Sometimes its as subtle as nonchalantly grabbing a beer out of the fridge for a 9AM pizza breakfast, sometimes it’s at the expense of a would-be touching moment – whoever thought letting Eastwood sing melancholy to a gravestone without a hint of humor is out of their mind. There are also plenty of great one-liners to rival the classic “Get off my lawn!” (“Someone give me the goddamn check!”), and each one of them sounds like it came straight off the top of Eastwood’s head, unscripted as his infamous RNC “speech”.

The story is sometimes slow, sometimes predictable, but always touching and peppered throughout with humor brewed from great chemistry between the core cast, and if you like baseball, there’s that too.

The film does have a bit of a problem shifting gears when it comes to tone. The main antagonists hit a bit too close to “cartoon villainy” in a few scenes. There’s a complicated, dark backstory involving Gus, his daughter, and a horse that is revealed little by little, but never is anything but ridiculous. And then there’s the aforementioned gravestone scene, but these moments are few and far between and don’t detract much from the overall quality of the movie.

Trouble with the Curve is better than the sappy dramedy it sounds like on paper, and a successful directorial debut for Lorenz. With a great cast, it manages to tell a heartwarming story about love, family, and America’s greatest pastime without ever feeling cheesy or contrived. The laughs outweigh the cries, and although towards the end the plausibility of certain events seems to head close to “no effing way that would happen” status, it also manages to stay grounded most of the time and truly is an enjoyable film. If you’re a fan of Eastwood, his costars, or baseball, you’ll probably love it. If you don’t like any of those things, Curve won’t make you a fan and, well, what do you like exactly?

VERDICT:

3.5/5

Trouble with the Curve hits theaters September 21st.

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“HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS” INT’L TRAILER

I scoffed at the ludicrousness of this movie when I first heard about it, but this trailer is too good to not share with everyone I know.

It admittedly is coming on the (hopefully) tail end of the fairy tale craze, and looks very familiar to anyone who’s seen Van Helsing, but that doesn’t make the concept of the grown-up duo rampaging across the German countryside with steampunk shotguns and crossbows any less exciting.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is coming to you from the writer-director of Dead Snow, stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, and is being produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrel.

That’s one hell of an odd team-up and is something I will likely throw down dollars to see when it hits theaters next January in all three dimensions.

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Michael Clarke Duncan has died

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Michael Clarke Duncan has died at the age of 54.

Known best for his Oscar-nominated performance in 1999’s The Green Mile, Duncan starred in many films, TV shows, and video games after abandoning his profession as a bodyguard, often for celebrities, in his 30s.

His IMDB page lists him lending body and voice to over 90 productions including Armageddon, Sin City, Daredevil, Planet of the Apes, and The Whole Nine Yards.

Duncan died in an LA hospital where he was admitted after suffering a heart attack in July.

Needless to say, this is extremely sad news.

Duncan was a fantastic actor in drama, comedy, animation…you name it. He’ll be sorely missed.

Sources:

LA Times

NY Daily News

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“Daredevil” film rights returned to Marvel, comic book nerds everywhere rejoice.

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For those who don’t know, Marvel sold the film rights many of its hottest properties in the late 90s to avoid bankruptcy. Sony bought Spider-Man and Ghost Rider, Fox bought X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Daredevil among others.

You may remember the Mark Steven Johnson – directed Daredevil film from 2003, notorious for its abysmal PG-13 theatrical cut, slightly redeemed by its R-rated director’s cut. I say slightly because putting Ben Affleck in spandex will probably never make an entirely watchable film.

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Well, looks aren’t everything. Especially when you’re blind.

Still, Daredevil did a few things right: Collin Farrel was a decent, albeit corny Bullseye, and Michael Clarke Duncan was a fantastic choice for the crime lord Kingpin. The action was good, it had a good story at its core, and it kept Daredevil as the gritty, no mercy badass he’s famous for being (at least the director’s cut did anyway).

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Great role, or greatest role?

It performed well enough to merit a spin-off film, Elektra, rated as one of the worst superhero movies of all time, but a sequel never came.

Once the reboot craze hit Hollywood, Fox planned on starting anew using Frank Miller’s classic take on the character as a new launchpad. However, they needed to make the movie by October 10th, 2012 in order to retain the film rights.

In case you haven’t noticed, there hasn’t been a second Daredevil film, and Fox isn’t confident in their ability to slap one together in a month’s time, meaning order has been restored and Marvel Studios now has a new shiny toy to play with.

This could mean a few different things: we’ll no doubt see another Daredevil movie in the not-too-distant future, but probably not until 2015 or later when Marvel’s production slate has cleared up a bit. As it stands right now, Iron Man 3 is set for a 2013 release, followups to Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger are due out in 2014, Avengers 2 is planned for a 2015 release, and between all that sequel business the studio plans to release two new franchises, Guardians of the Galaxy and the Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man. Besides all the official news, there are also rumors of a Hawkeye / Black Widow movie and a Black Panther film in the works, a character that will almost certainly appear in one of the aforementioned films.

Where does “the man without fear” fit in here?

Most likely a cameo in Avengers 2 and his own film shortly after.

The other option would be the live-action TV series Joss Whedon was recently attached to. No details have been released about it yet, but Daredevil could be a possible fit for the medium. If you’re not familiar with the character, he’s a blind lawyer by day, crime-fighting vigilante with super-senses by night. Picture Law and Order with more leather and kung-fu – TV gold. That’s a very exciting prospect, especially with Whedon at the wheel. If you’ve never watched Angel, this is kinda what Joss is all about.

Whatever they decide to do, the best part about the deal for now is that it opens up some more doors to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, the giant crossover concept that’s currently making them a ridiculous amount of money and which every other studio with a high-concept film franchise is almost surely trying to replicate.

For me at least, all the crossovers and shared continuity is what makes Marvel’s films so exciting and getting a great, prominent character like Daredevil thrown into the mix is excellent news.

Now if we can just get Fox to return their other Marvel properties…

It’s unlikely that they’ll give up X-Men, as it’s one of their biggest cash cows and even with trainwrecks like The Last Stand and First Class under the banner, but the clock’s counting down on their Fantastic Four rights.

Fingers crossed.

Now, who could possibly make a better Daredevil than Ben Affleck?

Source:

/Film

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NETFLIX REVIEW: Chasing Amy (1997)

Netflix reviews are just what they sound like: short reviews of old movies and shows that happen to be on Netflix.

Want to know where the gems are with out wading through Netflix’s endless sea of garbage? Tired of having programs recommended to you that seemingly have nothing to do with your interests? Are you frustrated with the idiotic and often unintelligible user reviews on Netflix.com?

I am here for you, friend. Read on.

I’ve only ever seen two Kevin Smith films: Mallrats (which he claims is his worst picture) and Zack and Miri Make a PornoChasing Amy is the spiritual sequel to the former within the infamous “View Askewniverse” and what many consider to be Smith’s best work.

It’s a story you’ve heard before: boy likes girl, girl doesn’t like boy, he becomes solely devoted to wooing her at all costs – except this time the girl is a lesbian, and both the girl and the boy are indie comic book producers.

The story starts with Holden (Ben Affleck) and his best friend and cohort, Banky (Jason Lee) showcasing their comic book series “Bluntman and Chronic” at a small comic convention in NYC. Holden is introduced to fellow comic creator, Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) and falls for her almost immediately.

On their second “date” the shocker comes: Alyssa’s only into girls. Holden is dismayed, but determined. At least they can still be friends right?

He quickly finds out it’s not going to be that easy and must somehow control his feelings for Alyssa while continuing to work on his comic book, which a certain TV studio is trying to make an animated series out of.

Chasing Amy is classic Smith (literally; this movie is fifteen years old now): raunchy, vulgar, nerdy, and yes, hilarious. While it doesn’t make the grand statement about love, sex, and friendship that it seems to intend to, there’s plenty of humor perfectly balanced with just the right amount of drama, all seasoned by plenty of mid-90s pop-culture references. Perhaps the most charming aspect of it is Smith’s ability to challenge audience expectations just when things seem to get a bit too predictable. Or maybe it’s watching a story set in late-20th century subcultures challenge the rapidly evolving societal standards of that fine decade.

Gay and lesbian culture may not be the taboo it once was, and maybe Kevin Smith isn’t the indie sweetheart he used to be, but the film still never fails to shock at one turn, charm at the next, and keep you laughing in between.

If Mallrats is about the confusing period of post-high school love, lust, and growth, Chasing Amy is the crisis that comes when you realize everything you ever knew about love is bullshit. And it’s damn funny.

VERDICT:

3.5/5 – Add to queue!

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25-Minute “Amazing Spider-Man” Preview Supercut

Someone was kind enough (and had free time enough) to cut together the 25 minutes or so of footage Sony has released for “The Amazing Spider-Man” into a pretty coherent story.

If you’re not a fan of spoilers, avoid this obviously, but I don’t believe you can really have too many spoilers in what is essentially a remake (teen angst, origin story and all).

Enjoy!

The Amazing Spider-Man in 25 Minutes from sleepyskunk on Vimeo.

 

EDIT: The video in this post (published not ten minutes ago) has disappeared from the whole internet. It’s likely that Sony pulled it for obvious reasons. Oh well.

Amazing Spider-Man hits theaters July 3rd.

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