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Letterboxd Reviews

So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Movie Review - Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny, & Girly

Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny, & Girly (1970)
(AKA Girly)
Starring Ursula Howells, Pat Heywood, Howard Trevor, Vanessa Howard, and Michael Bryant
Directed by Freddie Francis
***Currently streaming on Netflix***

I came across the trailer for this on some movie website and thought that it looked like one of those ridiculously silly B-movies that might be fun to watch.  See for yourself in the trailer below:

The tone of the movie is pretty much pegged in the trailer.  It's not so much a horror film, as it is a black comedy.  And while I wasn't laughing out loud, I certainly appreciated its absurd humor.  [Oops...this is British...so I guess I appreciated its "humour."]

The flick focuses on the four characters in the title who lure unsuspecting drunkards to their austere British mansion only to force them to play silly games that ultimately bring about their deaths.  However, when one of these playmates proves to be sexually appealing to all three of the ladies in the house, their libidos get the better of them causing the possible destruction of their murderous ways.

Like I said, the film's absurd, but oddly intriguing.  Of course, there's the ridiculous huge plot hole of the fact that there's not a single thing keeping these drunkards from leaving this insane family's house -- they all stick around for no apparent reason until it's too late -- but there are moments where you can kind of overlook this.

Shockingly, there are some decent performances here.  All four of the title characters along with the man known simply as "New Friend" who causes the chaos amongst the ladies are much better than the material needs them to be.  Yes, they're all acting as if they're hopped up on happy pills, but they all elevate the film beyond your standard low-rent fare.

Director Freddie Francis has undeniably crafted a B-movie.  However, it's evident that he cared about the silly material.  Everything from set design to the musical score to the acting is much better than what you may expect.  There's even a clever moment here that, without a doubt, Stanley Kubrick blatantly copied for The Shining.  Francis definitely could've gone the slasher route, but there's nearly no blood on display here nor any violence...but the film doesn't lose anything without the vicious crimes being on display.  In fact, the lack of the violence adds to the odd child-like quality that is on display throughout the film.

This film isn't necessarily good, and it's not "so bad, it's good," but I spent an enjoyable 100 minutes with it.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Movie Review - Wall Street

Wall Street (1987)
Starring Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas, Daryl Hannah, and Martin Sheen
Directed by Oliver Stone
***Currently streaming on Netflix***

If I'm being completely honest, the only reason I watched Wall Street is because the trailer for its sequel looks moderately interesting.  I've never seen another Oliver Stone movie other than World Trade Center.  I know next to nothing about stocks (beyond what I'm told to invest in by my father).  There's no reason this movie should appeal to me.

Big surprise...I was bored out of my mind watching this.  I didn't give a damn about anything going on.  Talking about losses and dividends and insider trading and a bull and bear market...Why don't you throw something at me that I'd care about?

Throwing aside the yawn-inducing plot (which focuses on a young up-and-coming stock broker [Charlie Sheen] helping out multi-millionaire investor Gordon Gecko [Michael Douglas]), the film is simply poorly directed and structured.  Co-writer and director Oliver Stone crafts a shockingly bland-looking film.  There's not a shot here that looks rich or pretty...everything looks "film school"...not the work of an Academy Award-winning director.

Add to that one of the worst performances I've seen on film from Charlie Sheen as the young and impressionable Bud Fox, the young broker who gets played and screwed over by the sleazy Gordon Gecko.  We're talking soap opera level acting here.  That kind where there's a raised or furrowed eyebrow followed by some insipid music cue.  Any moment where Sheen is required to raise his voice in anger, it comes across as laughably bad.  Standing next to Michael Douglas and his own father, Martin Sheen (who plays his father here), one has to wonder if there really wasn't a better actor around in 1987 to take on this role.

Unfortunately, Michael Douglas's performance -- playing a character who is so well known for his quote "Greed is good" -- isn't nearly spectacular enough to raise the level of this film beyond awful.  
So now the question is will I have any desire to see the upcoming sequel to a film I've considered one of the worst I've seen this year?  The appeal of Carey Mulligan may be enough, but I'm not looking forward to it in the slightest anymore.

The RyMickey Rating:  D

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Movie Review - Piranha 3D

Piranha 3D (2010)
Starring Elisabeth Shue, Jerry O'Connell, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, and Richard Dreyfuss
Directed by Alexandre Aja

I don't quite know where to go with this one.  Let's just start by saying that Piranha is not a good movie.  Nor does it have any intentions of being one.  It knows full well that it's awful.  The question then becomes does it reach the level of "so bad, it's good" which is the goal it sets out to achieve.

The answer is "it depends."

The problem with a movie like Piranha is that it isn't good or worth your time unless you're able to watch it with a group of people who can talk back to the screen.  Sitting and watching this flick in a theater with folks who are "forced" to be quiet is going to seriously dampen your fun...and it's going to make you realize that the movie doesn't quite hit the heinously hilarious levels it hoped it would.

When a pack of prehistoric-era killer piranhas is unleashed due to a seismic event (triggered -- no joke -- by a beer bottle falling into a lake), the town of Lake Victoria is in for some trouble.  Of course, it's Spring Break and tons of college hotties who are perfectly fine with dancing topless are ready for a dip in the town's lake.  There's really no point in explaining any more plot...killer piranhas attack senseless and obnoxious college students.  You don't need to know anything else.

We're treated to a who's who of has-been actors -- Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, and Christopher Lloyd -- who are all surprisingly decent.  Thankfully, the director realized that watching a movie riddled with horrible actors like the obnoxious Jerry O'Connell would have been painful to sit through, so he actually cast a few decent people to counter the awful ones.

On one hand, it's nice that director Alexandre Aja recognized he was going for pure camp.  There's a scene towards the beginning where two buxom ladies strip down to nothing but flippers and swim through the surprisingly clean waters of Lake Victoria while proceeding to hump one another.  This scene goes on for at least two minutes and it's all set to a classical opera aria.  Alone, the nude ladies would have been just nude ladies, but set to classical music, it becomes a somewhat hilarious scene.  Aja at least has an eye for the corny and it certainly is necessary in a film like this.

The 3D -- which was a conversion and not shot in the format -- was disappointing.  It created a dark tone at times where it became nearly impossible to see what was going on.  In the end, the corniness would've been perfectly acceptable in 2D.

Even after writing this review, I'm still not quite sure where to go with the rating here.  I enjoyed myself, but I'm well aware that this movie sucks.  If I watched it alone at home, I would think it was one of the worst movies I'd seen this year.  In the setting in which I watched it, however -- with a group of seven talking back to the screen -- it was an enjoyable diversion.

In the end, just know what you're getting into with this and maybe you'll come out of it with some moderate enjoyment.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Movie Review - The Greatest

The Greatest (2010)
Starring Carey Mulligan, Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Johnny Simmons, Zoë Kravitz, Aaron Johnson, and Michael Shannon
Directed by Shana Feste

Calling your movie The Greatest is really just asking for trouble.  The reviewers could just pounce all over your flick and trash it.  Fortunately, first-time writer-director Shana Feste has crafted a rather beautiful film here that, while it has its minor faults, is full of some great performances including another star-making turn from Carey Mulligan.

The Greatest begins with young high school couple Rose (Mulligan) and Bennett (Kick-Ass's Aaron Johnson) in a state of undress.  They'd only been dating each other for mere weeks, but they'd been pining after each other secretly for four years of high school.  After they sleep with each other for the first time consummating that unrequited love, Bennett drives Rose home and just as he begins to tell her he loves her, their car is involved in a horrific collision.  Bennett dies at the scene.

Some time passes and Rose shows up on the doorstep of Bennett's parents, Allen (Brosnan) and Grace Brewster (Sarandon).  She reveals that she is pregnant with Bennett's child and needs assistance with her pregnancy.  The Brewster household, however, has not quite come to terms with Bennett's death with each family member, including the Brewsters' other son, Ryan (Johnny Simmons), dealing with the tragedy in various ways.  The introduction of Rose into the Brewsters' lives causes each of them to examine their own grief in ways that couldn't possibly imagine.

Sounds like fun, right?  It's not a bed of roses and, at times, the script just seems too convenient.  Everything comes together much too cleanly and quickly in the end.  There's a character that befriends the Brewsters' son Ryan whose storyline comes to an awkward conclusion.  Michael Shannon's role as the driver who hits Bennett's car is quite awkward.

All these faults, however, are overshadowed by some amazing performances that elevate this film to a level infinitely better than it deserves to be.  First and foremost, Carey Mulligan is a star.  She just shines onscreen.  There's not a false note in her performance and I think her role here is better than her Oscar-nominated turn in An Education.

Susan Sarandon is also quite good here.  As a mother who simply longs to have her baby back, she resents Rose for entering their lives.  She wants no pity from the outside world, but, at the same time, she cannot let go of her dead son in the slightest. 

Pierce Brosnan's Allen, on the other hand, refuses to talk about his son.  Brosnan really surprised me here.  He creates a rigid, emotionless persona in Allen, but this only causes the inevitable break-down to be that much more effective.  Similarly, young Johnny Simmons was gripping as the son who masks his pain in drugs.  There's something about men crying onscreen that can ring incredibly false, but both of these actors (one who's been around quite a while and one who is just starting out) really raise the bar.   

I recognize that this film isn't perfect.  It's perhaps a tad too trite and absolutely comes together much too cleanly in the end, but this tale of grief, pain, and, ultimately, forgiveness and love is something I highly recommend.

The RyMickey Rating:  B+

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Movie Review - The Page Turner

The Page Turner (La Tourneuse de Pages) (2007)
Starring Catherine Frot and Déborah François
Directed by Denis Dercourt
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

A young girl has spent her first ten years trying to become a great pianist.  When she goes to audition in an attempt to get into an elite Conservatory, she is distracted by the female headmaster of the school and, ultimately, fails to gain entry to the academy.  

Ten years pass and the young girl has grown into a somewhat bitter twenty-year old.  Mélanie has not touched the piano in over a decade, but she has not forgotten the pain that the headmaster's flippant attitude caused her.  Mélanie soon is hired by the headmaster's husband to watch after their son while his wife, Ariane, practices for an important concert.  Needless to say, Mélanie's infiltration of this household is carefully planned and she hopes to create a bit of turmoil much like Ariane caused her a decade ago.

Knowing this is a revenge-centered film, I was expecting something a bit more along the lines of Fatal Attraction.  However, this  French flick is very quiet and subdued, but surprisingly tense.  I kept waiting for Mélanie to make her mark on Ariane and her family, but she simply waits and bides her time, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce...and when she does, it's in a simple yet effective manner.

My major qualm with the taut 79-minute film is with the actress who portrays Mélanie.  Déborah François is rather bland...I fully understand that she wasn't supposed to be a psycho and was simply supposed to be a girl who has lived with an unrealized and squashed dream for a decade, but François plays Mélanie as such a wet blanket that it boggles my mind that Ariane and her family would want her around in the first place.  While that's a fault of the script (which also brings in an odd and unnecessary Sapphic undercurrent), François doesn't do anything to make her character any more interesting to watch.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

Movie Review - The Art of the Steal

The Art of the Steal (2010)
Directed by Don Argott
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

I'm not an art guy, by any means.  Not that I can't appreciate the pointillism of Seurat or the intriguing colors of a Matisse, but I'm certainly not one to delve into the deep and hidden meanings of a still-life painting of fruit.

I mainly watched the documentary The Art of the Steal because it had a Philadelphia connection and am always somewhat intrigued by films where I can go "I've been there and seen that."  Little did I know that I'd be treated to an incredibly informative and entertaining film that detailed the cultural importance of an art collection that I had no idea was right in my backyard and the governmental bigwigs that essentially spat on a man's grave in order to try and increase tourism in the city of Philadelphia.

Albert C. Barnes became rich in the early 1900s by creating medicine for treating children born to a mother with venereal diseases.  With his profits from this antibiotic, he traveled overseas and became enthralled with modern artists of the time like Matisse and Picasso.  He soon amassed a massive amount of art, bringing it all together in Merion, PA, four miles outside of his birthplace of Philadelphia.  Barnes had a distaste for the art world and made that well known.  Placing his collection in Merion was like a big middle finger to the art elite.  He refused to allow the public to view his collection except for one day a week, instead creating a school for burgeoning artists to study the 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 60 Matisses, and 44 Picassos (just to name a few).  This didn't sit well with Philadelphia bigwigs, to say the least.

When Barnes died in a car crash in 1951, his will explicitly stated that his art was never to be loaned out or sold and the art should be kept in Merion.  Barnes hated the white-washed walls of the art world, with feet of spacing between pieces.  His collection had Matisses next Picasoos next to tribal African art.  He wanted the pieces to "speak to each other" in a way no other art exhibition could.

Unfortunately, through a series of misguided Barnes Foundation presidents, the Foundation lost most of its funding.  The City of Philadelphia saw this as a great opportunity to purchase this collection valued at $35-40 BILLION at a steal at around $150 million.  Would they succeed or would Barnes' wishes be honored?

The Art of Steal is undoubtedly one-sided, but the arguments presented here don't seem refutable.  No doubt, even though Albert Barnes didn't want to associate himself with the snooty art world, his refusal to show his private collection of artistic masterpieces was inherently snooty in and of itself.  That being said, it was absolutely his prerogative to do with this art what he wanted.  The City of Philadelphia (including Governor Ed Rendell, interviewed here, who is never one to pass up anything that will put his face on a screen [look no further than Eagles PostGame Live on Comcast Sportsnet for proof of that]) definitely pulled off some hefty manipulations in order to try and get the Barnes art collection into their possession.

The documentary plays like a real movie -- there are twists, turns, surprises, and a great storyline throughout.  Interviewees are passionate on both sides of the argument, all believing that their side is undoubtedly the "correct" one.  The film itself looks incredibly well done, is beautifully edited, and contains a fantastic musical score (utilizing some great Philip Glass numbers).  

I can't recommend The Art of the Steal highly enough.  It's a first-class documentary that made me utterly intrigued about something in which I really had no interest.  I kinda wanna head out to an art museum now.

The RyMickey Rating:  A-

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Movie Review - Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass (2010)
Starring Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Moretz, Mark Strong, and Nicolas Cage
Directed by Matthew Vaughn

I'm not really a fan of superhero comic book movies.  For the most part, I could take them or leave them...they do nothing for me, but I don't actively oppose the genre either.  Going in a slightly different direction from your typical superhero flick, Kick-Ass details the lives of four ordinary folks who desire to don corny lycra costumes and help their fellow men and women out of trouble.

We first meet Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a geeky high school kid who happens to enjoy comic books.  He wonders why there aren't real-life superheroes who, while they wouldn't hold superpowers, could assist those in need and strike fear into criminals.  He decides to test the waters and become a modern-day superhero named Kick-Ass, whose only superpower is, well, kicking ass (and he hasn't exactly become an expert at that yet).

After gaining some notoriety via a self-created website, Dave decides to assist a girl he has a crush on.  The gal is being followed by a drug addict/dealer and when Dave as Kick-Ass goes to the slums to meet him, he runs into some trouble.  Fortunately, he is assisted by two fellow "superheroes," Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz).  The dad and daughter team manage to kill everyone in the drug dealer's den, saving Kick-Ass in the process.

Unfortunately, the drug dealer worked for the evil crime boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong) who decides to go after these do-gooding vigilantes.  His son Chris (a shockingly un-annoying Christopher Mintz-Plasse) takes on the personality of superhero Red Mist in order to befriend Kick-Ass in hopes of leading his father to the lair of Big Daddy and Hit Girl.

Kick-Ass is a surprisingly effective film.  Director and co-writer Michael Vaughn takes a humorous, tongue-in-cheek look at superhero flicks and does so in a violent manner.  Much talk was made of the violence (specifically the fact that young Chloe Moretz does most of the killing), but the off-the-wall tone of the film presents things in such a cartoonish way that it never feels excessive.  Vaughn (who hasn't directed a whole lot of flicks) certainly has an eye for crafting enjoyable action comedy.  He keeps comic book sensibilities ever-present, but they never felt overpowering which I enjoyed greatly.

Certainly adding to the appeal of the film is the acting of Aaron Johnson as Kick-Ass and Mark Strong as the ominous crime boss.  While Nic Cage and Chloe Moretz seemed to ham it up a little more than necessary, I still thought the characters they played were an interesting creation and the backstory that explains their birth as superheroes was particularly well-crafted.

Kick-Ass is the film that Watchmen wanted to be.  I'd watch Kick-Ass again in a heartbeat...Watchmen hasn't fared well as time as gone on.

The RyMickey Rating:  B+

Friday, August 06, 2010

Movie Review - Inception

Inception (2010)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Marion Cotillard
Directed by Christopher Nolan

There are major spoilers ahead here...This isn't so much a review as a discussion of my thoughts a day after watching the film...If you haven't seen the film yet and don't want some key plot points to be ruined, don't read any further.

In the end, some magnificent "parts" of Christopher Nolan's newest film, Inception, don't quite add up to a fantastic "whole."  Now, fair warning -- I'm going to be overly critical here.  A creative film like this wants me to question it...so I'm going to do so.  But, as you'll notice by my rating at the end, I enjoyed myself thoroughly while watching it.  I simply wish it was something I could have loved.

This movie is about Leonardo Dicaprio's character Cobb.  It's about his need to be forgiven for what he considers to be the "crime" of causing his wife's (Marion Cotillard) death.  Being absolved of this sin will allow him to not only return to his children, but also to return to a more peaceful existence with himself.  If this is the main point (which, to me, there can be no argument that it isn't), why does it fall to the wayside for so much of this film's 150 minutes?

The final hour-long act of the film -- the dream within a dream within a dream within a dream where the key players are attempting to complete the inception in Fischer's (Cillian Murphy) mind -- hardly focuses on Cobb's emotional part of the story at all.  Not until we reach the "limbo" stage does Cobb really come into play.  Granted, this whole segment of the film was really amazing -- I truly enjoyed all of the levels within the dreams and that hotel scene is just a gigantic WOW -- but it's really just a huge McGuffin (sort of).  I can't help but think something could have been trimmed here or there (or something even added, if necessary) to bring the focus back to Cobb.  Yes, there were the occasional images of his children, but a larger emphasis on Cobb would have been much more powerful in terms of character development.

Speaking of character development, where was it?  Beyond Cobb, there's nothing.  I guess that could be because "this is all a dream" (an idea which I'll touch upon in a bit) and in dreams, character development is nonexistent, but that seems like a cop-out.  So, if the film's not a dream, that makes it real -- well, "real" in terms of the fact that we're watching a film.  And if this is a film, I'd like to know something about these people I'm watching.  Unfortunately, I know nothing beyond the fact that the girl from Juno is the Architect, the guy from (500) Days of Summer is Cobb's right-hand man, and the guy from Bronson (yes, I know you've never heard of it, but you should watch it anyway) is like some fancy X-Man that can change his form.  Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy are all very good, but they're not really given anything to do beyond what their job requires.  It's like a much more intelligent Oceans 11 film in that sense.

So is the whole thing a dream?  Is the reason that I don't know anything beyond the outer surface of these characters because I'm watching Cobb's dream?  I can't buy that (even if in the director commentary Christopher Nolan tells me that is the case).  For starters, if this is all a dream, how the heck is the story so linear?  Yes, I may have some dreams that follow a general storyline, but for the most part, the restraints are gone when one dreams and logic bears no importance.  Yes, I may be dreaming about work and it may seem perfectly straightforward, but I could change my thoughts within seconds and be some place completely different.  That never really happens here.  Yes, I'm sure there are things that point to this being a dream, but if that's the case, I'd be utterly disappointed simply because things are much to logical here for that to be the case.

Plus, it seems obvious to me that at the end of the film Cobb's spinning top is beginning to wobble.  When a top begins to slow down, the change in aural tone that it begins to make is blatant -- and it does that during the final scene (plus, it starts to wobble).  Yes, one could certainly make the statement that the top was never Cobb's token, but instead was Mal's, so it was never his "way back"to reality.  While that's certainly true, I always felt that the top was his connection to her and since she was so connected to the top, he, in turn, can be taken out of the dreamscape by the top as well.

Okay...enough rambling.  Let's get to a tiny bit of general thoughts here.  Inception was a treat to watch, without a doubt.  The more I sit and think about it, the more I appreciate it.  It's not a perfect film, but it's a more than admirable effort (I still say that its biggest fault is that first point I make above in that the emotional connection for Cobb's character is pushed to the sidelines for too long in the final act).  Nolan (a director and writer who I appreciate, but don't find myself fawning over) once again proves that he's a smart guy with an eye for some special set pieces.  The rotating hotel scene which was shown in the previews really blew me away.  Even though I knew it was coming, I was amazed while watching it.

Additionally, kudos to Nolan for making what could have been a convoluted mess of a film perfectly coherent.  Before going into this, I heard so much about how you "really have to pay attention," but I found the film to be easily comprehensible.  Little asides that in some movies may have made the viewer feel stupid (or made the viewer feel that the filmmaker thought they were stupid) proved to be quite natural and justified in their existence.  (This was actually a very impressive aspect of the film...and the whole point of Ellen Page's character.  Her Architect was "us," the audience, and since she was an intelligent character, whenever she asked for an explanation or elucidated on a certain topic, it was never done in a manner that talked down to the viewer.)

Still, the problem with the lack of character development is that Nolan doesn't allow any of his actors to shine.  None of the actors are problematic or detrimental to the film in any way, but they're not allowed to really add anything to the final product either.  Leo and Ellen and Marion and Joseph and Tom are all fine, but never given much to work with.

Yes, yes, this "review" was perhaps overly negative, but I enjoyed Inception and the more I think about it and the more I discuss it with others, the more I appreciate the film.  Do I wish it was a little better?  Absolutely.  A little trimming of the Fischer dream storyline could've done wonders to the film as a whole.  A bit more character development for anyone beyond Cobb would've been wonderful.

Still, Inception is no nightmare...it's just not the fantastical dream of a film that others say it is.

The RyMickey Rating:  B+

Movie Review - The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson
Directed by Lisa Cholodenko

The tv commercials are pitching The Kids Are All Right as an "uproarious comedy."  While the flick certainly has its humorous moments, its roots are in family drama and, after a somewhat shaky opening fifteen minutes, the film is able to balance both quite well.

The story's pretty simple -- Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a lesbian couple who have been together for two decades.  They each had a child conceived by artificial insemination using the same sperm donor.  Their daughter, Joni (Mia Wasikowska), has just turned eighteen and she is convinced by her brother, Laser (Josh Hutcherson), to find out information about their donor dad.  Joni and Laser meet up with Paul (Mark Ruffalo) and a whole new dynamic is introduced to the family, affecting each member in a different way.

I'm not a huge Julianne Moore fan, but her "earth mom" hipster Jules is winning.  Bringing a comedic edge to her work that she hasn't done well since her turn in The Big Lebowski, Moore is light, breezy, and utterly charming.  Annette Bening's Nic is certainly the uptight one, masking any pain in a nice glass of Chardonnay.  The chemistry between Moore and Bening starts off a tiny bit rocky (which is more the fault of the screenplay), but they won me over soon after the movie began.  And I haven't even mentioned Mark Ruffalo yet whose Paul is a little bit aloof, but totally cool -- the dad any kid would love to call their own.  It's completely obvious why Joni and Laser instantly take a liking to him and Ruffalo nearly steals the show.

However, the film's not perfect and the problem is with the writing.  First, as I've mentioned before, the film starts out with a tone that didn't win me over in the slightest.  We get shots of Laser doing drugs, Joni being pressured to have sex, and Nic and Jules making love with male gay porn blaring on the television set.  It all seems a little spastic in the initial ten minutes.  Fortunately, things start to come down to earth soon after and once the main storyline of Laser and Joni meeting their dad surfaces, all is well from then on out.

The second (and final) issue is that the characters of Joni and Laser just weren't quite fleshed out enough for my liking.  They're each given a minor "problem" to deal with -- Joni and her aforementioned virginity and Laser dealing with a bully of a friend -- but both these issues seemed superfluous and tacked on.  Laser's issue is a little bit more developed and understandable -- his lack of a male role model forces him to want to seek out his bio-dad -- but it never seems fully realized.  Still, I will say that Mia Wasikowska (who I thought was stiff and boring as the title character in the heinous Alice in Wonderland remake) and Josh Hutcherson were both very good here.

The Kids Are All Right is a very good dramedy.  Yes, it has a few faults, but they're really just minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things.  There's a good story here and there's some wonderful acting that make this one well worth watching.

The RyMickey Rating:  B+

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Finally got around to seeing Inception yesterday.  The review is forthcoming...I want it to stew a little bit longer...All I'll say right now is that I wasn't blown away...

Movie Review - Suspiria

Suspiria (1977)
Directed by Dario Argento

I've heard quite a bit about this horror film from the 1970s -- mostly from websites like Ain't It Cool News profusely praising the thing.

I didn't get it at all.

Suspiria -- the tale of an American ballerina who travels to a German ballet school only to learn that it's run by a coven of witches -- is not the least bit frightening.  It's not the least bit eerie.  It's not the least bit good.

The only saving grace -- which is apparently a staple of horror director Dario Argento's films -- is that the film has some interesting shots.  Colors and sets are oddly utilized and it's something that I can moderately appreciate.  

However, the rest of the film is a mess.  It honestly was something that could have shown up on any Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode and be poked fun at without any problems at all.  In fact, talking back to the tv was the only way that my brother and I made it through this thing.

The RyMickey Rating:  D-

Movie Review - The Bounty Hunter

The Bounty Hunter (2010)
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler, and Jason Sudeikis
Directed by Andy Tennant

There's a minute-long scene at the very beginning of The Bounty Hunter that had my hopes raised for the flick right from the start.  We see Milo (Gerard Butler) driving down a highway with a smirk on his face when suddenly smoke begins to billow out of the car's trunk.  He pulls over, opens the trunk, and out pops Nikki (Jennifer Aniston) with one of those emergency highway light sticks.  She starts to run, he chases after her, and the screen pauses.  Up pops some arrows pointing to the characters, cleverly explaining what's going on, telling us that these two folks were previously married and Milo, a bounty hunter, has picked up Nikki, a news reporter, who skipped a court date because she was hot on the trail of a story.  All this was actually rather amusing...

...Then the title card popped up and it all went downhill from there.  I don't think I laughed once during this flick's overly long 110 minutes.  Aniston (who I could watch for hours on end) and Butler (who is certainly engaging in these "comedic" roles) do the best they can with what they're given, but they aren't given much.  I was hoping that at the very least this movie wouldn't go down the stereotypical route that these two exes would end up together in the end, but, lo and behold, the final shot finds our two lovebirds making out.

There's nothing to recommend in this one.  Not a thing.

The RyMickey Rating:  D-

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Movie Review - The Oxford Murders

The Oxford Murders (2010)
Starring Elijah Wood and William Hurt
Directed by Álex de la Iglesia

There's a reason this film has been sitting on the shelf for over two years now.  Finally getting a US release in a very few select theaters this upcoming Friday, The Oxford Murders is a ridiculous philosophy lesson wrapped up in a insanely dull murder mystery.

The flick is based off a book by a guy who is both a mathematician and a murder mystery writer and this movie is ridiculously heavy-handed when it comes to mathematical theorems.  Seriously, at least a third of the film is filled with discussions about pi, Fermat's Last Theorem, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and Pythagorus.  In case you were wondering, feeling like you're sitting in a physics class while watching a film isn't a good thing and The Oxford Murders is proof of that.  In its attempt to create a serial killer who leaves clues based on mathematical prinicples, the film just falls completely flat.

I haven't seen Elijah Wood in much of anything lately and maybe it's because the blue in his eyes was freakishly bright.  Honestly, though, it was better to look at the eyes because then I could stop focusing on his incredibly wooden acting.  Granted, he wasn't given much to work with, but he certainly doesn't bring anything to the table.  

Just avoid.

The RyMickey Rating:  D-

Book Review - Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go (2005)
by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go is a science fiction novel in the loosest sense of the word.  There's not a hint of apocalyptic tones, nor does it take place in a future overrun by new technologies.  It actually takes place in Britain from the late 1960s-1990s and it's really a world similar to what we live in today.

The only real difference revolves around the young students at Hailsham, a private school that keeps its students far away from the outside world.  The students, including our narrator, Kathy, and her friends Ruth and Tommy, are told right from the start of their schooling that they are "special" and will hold an important place in society as they grow older.  While they live a seemingly happy existence, as they head into their teen years and early twenties, they begin to realize their true purpose in life which leads to some students longing for a little something more.

It's quite difficult to describe this book without inherently spoiling it...even though the school's secret is nearly blatantly told to us about a third of the way through.  The author never attempts to "hide" the secret, it just unfurls naturally in time as Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grow older.  And it's not even that spoiling it would ruin it, but I simply feel it would be better to experience this book on one's own knowing as little as possible.

And it's not like there are shocking revelations here -- in fact, the book is utterly mundane in the way that it's told.  Ishiguro chooses to have Kathy narrate the story in such an easy-going manner that oftentimes, it feels like it reads like a children's book (or like this blog, perhaps).  It's this inherent simplicity, however, that makes Kathy's story -- and the sad story of all Hailsham students -- all that much more poignant.

Side Note: This will soon be an upcoming movie starring Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley which looks quite good.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Movie Review - The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli (2010)
Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and Mila Kunis
Directed by The Hughes Brothers

You don't get too many big budget Hollywood films about religion these days...and The Book of Eli is ALL about faith.  It may try and cover it up with gruesome killings, but in the end, it's all about religion and how it has the power to both inspire and corrupt.

We're several decades in the future and the Earth is in some type of an apocalyptic state.  There are hints of a great war, but it's also obvious that the environment (with a sun so bright you've got to wear shades to avoid blindness) has changed as well.  Eli (Denzel Washington) is a walker - a lone man who after hearing about a better land in the west longs to travel there.  With his faith in guide and his bible -- the only bible left on the planet -- he sets off on his journey.  

Along the way, Eli meets Carnegie (a scenery chewing Gary Oldman) who runs a small "Old West-type" town.  Carnegie's only goal is to find a bible -- for he feels that having this book will allow him to gain as many followers as possible to go about performing his will.  He's not a nice guy, and good man Eli knows this and must do whatever he can to keep the Bible out of Carnegie's possession.

The story's moderately successful, but it goes on for much too long.  About thirty minutes in, I couldn't believe that there was still ninety minutes to go.  It doesn't help that Oldman and Mila Kunis who plays (for all intents and purposes) his stepdaughter don't fare too well acting-wise here.  Oldman's Carnegie is nothing but a Old West villain stereotype and Kunis just isn't a very good actress (here's hoping Darren Aronofsky can bring something good out of her in his next flick).

Some people are fans of the 300-esque nearly constant green screen backdrops, but they annoy the hell out of me and the Hughes Brothers employ them quite a bit here.  While it's not incessant, it's unnecessary.  If I wanted a comic book feel, I'd read comic books.  Some of the fight scenes they shot were choreographed quite nicely, but they never once felt the least bit believable.  Maybe they weren't going for "real," but despite looking neat, they came off as silly.

Still, this isn't a bad film, it's just an average one.  Denzel is certainly good and a re-watch of his performance would probably lead to even more nuances that I didn't notice the first time around -- that's a hint at the moderately interesting "twist" to the film.  But on the other hand, the film's twist makes certain elements seem even more ridiculous and unbelievable then they already appeared.  

The RyMickey Rating:  C