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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,...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The 2010 RyMickey Awards - Best Actress

I gotta be honest...slim pickings for me in this category this year.  Oscar winner Natalie Portman will not make an appearance on this list.  I just couldn't get into her Black Swan performance...it'll be real interesting to see what I think of it should I watch the film a few years down the line.

Best Actress

#6 - Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right

And the Top 5...

#5 - Julianne Moore - The Kids Are All Right
Despite dramatic scenes to be sure, Julianne Moore actually gets to use her comedic chops quite a bit which is a welcome addition to the flick.

#4 - Patricia Clarkson - Cairo Time
A subtle and absolutely lovely performance from Ms. Clarkson in a subtle and absolutely lovely film.  Clarkson is given a tricky role here -- a woman who loves her husband, but is finding that they're losing that unique connection they used to have.  To me, I feel that her character is never really looking for the arms of another man nor did I ever feel that her character would make the "leap" into the arms of an affair, but she plays a character that is always thinking of it as a possibility in the back recesses of her mind.

#3 - Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
Rather subdued considering the trauma her character goes through, Nicole Kidman plays the grief-stricken mother who internalizes her pain.  One of Kidman's best roles in a while.

#2 - Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine
Michelle Williams essentially gets to play two different roles here and excels at both.  One is that of a giddy young college girl who sweetly and innocently falls in love with a guy, and the other is that of a frustrated woman who longs to be loved, but finds herself in a disintegrating relationship.  For the most part, Williams has her character keep her emotions bottled up which is sometimes more painful to watch than outwardly displaying them onscreen.

#1 - Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
A star-making performance from young Hailee Steinfeld who holds her own against big name actors like Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.  She manages to effortlessly spout the Coen Brothers dialog and, considering she's in nearly every single scene in the movie, manages to keep us rapt and interested in her character's storyline.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The 2010 RyMickey Awards - Best Supporting Actor

And onto the Best Supporting Actors...all strong performances here...

Best Supporting Actor


#7 - Michael Shannon - The Runaways
 "Michael Shannon also is quite good as The Runaways' manager, Kim Fowley, who knew that in order to be successful, he needed to turn the band into the bad girls that every guy wanted to screw."
#6 - Michael Sheen - Unthinkable
If this movie had been released to theaters rather than direct-to-dvd, this performance would've ranked higher.  But, since it wasn't, I couldn't quite justify a top five placement.  Anyway, here's what I had to say about it in my review:
"Part of the reason things felt "real" and tense was because of a rather brilliant performance from Michael Sheen.  Maniacal is probably the best word to describe his character.  There's an evil just underneath the surface of Yusuf that's even more frightening because his motives are realistic in today's society.  Sheen has to run the gamut of emotions from demonic to tortured to stoic and he handles them all rather brilliantly."

And the Top 5...

#5 - Michael Sheen - Tron: Legacy
Yes, Michael Sheen absolutely hams it up as a nightclub owner in what is essentially a bit part in the flick, but his over-the-top schtick injected the film with some much needed humor and was really rather brilliant in its absurdity.

#4 - Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
I hate what the screenwriter did to Mark Ruffalo's cool, hip sperm donor dad at the end of The Kids Are All Right, but that's no fault of Ruffalo who manages to steal all his scenes up against the quite good heavy-hitters of Julianne Moore and Annette Bening.

#3 - Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
Undoubtedly, the best part of David Fincher's much-lauded pic, Andrew Garfield is the character whom we in the audience relate with most.  His character goes on a visible and palpable emotional arc ending with a stellar confrontation scene (that you may have noticed turn up in another RyMickey Award category).

#2 - Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech
Rush's snarky yet sympathetic portrayal of King George VI's speech therapist/psychologist isn't exactly groundbreaking, but he takes what could have been a stereotypical, bland role and elevates it, creating a presence onscreen that holds his own with the rest of the cast.

#1 - Christian Bale - The Fighter
Dickie Eklund is a character that could easily could have been played as a down-and-dirty drug addict, but Christian Bale injects his character with a surprising amount of heart.  Add to that, a physical appearance that displays Bale's love for his craft and you've got a RyMickey Award-winning (and Oscar-winning) performance.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The 2010 RyMickey Awards - Best Supporting Actress

2010's Supporting Actresses didn't quite match the caliber of last year's rather winning Top 5 (and Top 10, for that matter), but there still were some very good performances here.  [Note: You may notice the rather conspicuous absence of True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld who was nominated in this category for the Oscars.  Rest assured, she'll be showing up later.]  Numbers three to six below are really interchangeable, but my top two are kind of set.

Best Supporting Actress

Also in the running...
#10 - Amanda Peet - Please Give
#9 - Rebecca Hall - The Town


#8 - Kristin Scott Thomas- Nowhere Boy
"Kristin Scott Thomas takes what could have been a stereotypical curmudgeonly role and turns it into something rather endearing."
#7 - Anika Noni Rose - For Colored Girls
"Kudos to Anika Noni Rose whose character goes through quite a change with shocking believability.  She's also helped by the fact that the scene that "transforms" her is also one of the few moments in which Tyler Perry shows a vague hint that he knows how to utilize a camera to tell a story."
#6 - Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom
"Jacki Weaver displays an exuberance coupled with an underlying sheer nastiness underneath the pleasant façade."

And the Top Five...

#5 - Mila Kunis - Black Swan
Yes, Kunis is playing a sexy stereotype, but she embraces the role and plays it with much gusto.  Natalie Portman shines the most in her scenes with Kunis and that's moreso a credit to the supporting actress than the undeserved Oscar winner.

#4 - Anne-Marie Duff - Nowhere Boy
A new face to me, but Anne-Marie Duff was simply wonderful in Nowhere Boy.  As an adult who longs to relive her childhood days, beneath the twinkle in her eye is a painful sorrow that she is being forced to grow up and abandon her past.

#3 - Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech
Ms. Bonham Carter is simply lovely here.  Sure, the role isn't nearly as developed as her two male counterparts, but she imbues her character with both wry British humor and genuine care for her husband, the King.

#2 - Amy Adams - The Fighter
Initially, I thought Amy Adams was going to take this prize (and in my initial review of the film, I said as much), but looking back on the film she misses the top spot by just a smidgen.  That said, this is a character unlike we've seen from Adams, complete with a gruff, gritty exterior.  

#1 - Melissa Leo - The Fighter
This role so easily could have slipped into caricature, but Melissa Leo somehow manages to make her thick-accented sassy broad absolutely work.  This was a part that was ripe for overacting, but it's to Leo's credit that she reels it in and creates a perfectly believable New England mom.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The 2010 RyMickey Awards - Best Scene

This could be my favorite category of the bunch and it's also the most difficult for me to choose.  You see, oftentimes, really bad movies can have really great scenes -- scenes that make you wonder what the heck they're doing in this dreck and why couldn't the creative teams have elevated the film to the level of this great scene.  Other times, movies are full of great moments, but lack that special element -- that je ne sais quoi -- to truly connect with the viewer.

Regardless, these are the top fifteen scenes from the over one hundred movies I saw released in 2010.

***Be warned that there are a couple of spoilers, but I'll try and point those out before I start discussing.***

Best Scenes of 2010

#15 - Catfish - The Truth Uncovered
Anyone who saw the documentary Catfish knew that things were too good to be true when filmmaker Nev Schulman met the seemingly lovely aspiring singer-songwriter Abby over Facebook.  The moment when Nev discovers that Abby has been lying to him after watching some YouTube videos is surprisingly heartbreaking and sets the tone for the second half of the film.

#14 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part IAnimated Three Brothers Sequence
A dreadfully dull movie is brightened in the final thirty minutes by a strikingly animated sequence detailing how three brothers react differently when confronted with the personification of Death.

#13 - Enter the Void - Death in the Bathroom
Seeing as how the death of the main character in Enter the Void occurs in the first ten minutes of the film, I'm not considering this a spoiler, but I can't say that it wasn't surprising.  Uniquely directed, this film is an odd one, filled with things I loved and things I hated, but I still think about it every now and then which is a testament to it.

#12 - 127 Hours - Rescue
The picture above isn't quite the moment when I nearly had a tear fall down my face, but it's close.  Once Aron Ralston frees himself from his entrapment after 127 hours, he wanders around Utah's canyons searching for rescue.  When he sees some fellow hikers for the first time, for some reason or another, I was simply touched.  I knew he was going to be rescued, but seeing it happen just hit me on a visceral level.

#11 - Opening scene of The American
Genuinely exciting and unexpected.  The rest of the film took on a much slower pace, but this film's initial moments had me on the edge of my seat.

#10 - Never Let Me Go - Guttural Scream
The movie itself is full of shots of lovely vistas, but the (only) moment that hit me was when Andrew Garfield lets out an absolutely gut-wrenching scream after hearing some bad news towards the film's end.  In that one moment, I felt what I had been wanting to feel during the whole movie -- a purpose to be watching the lives of this film's characters onscreen.  Prior to this, I was oddly detached.

#9 - Buried - Final Moments
Buried takes place entirely in a coffin.  No respite from the claustrophobia for the viewer.  The film's final five minutes elevate that feeling of tension to a level not felt in most movies.  I was genuinely on the edge of my seat.

#8 - The Ghost Writer - Papers Flying
Once again, a completely unexpected moment displayed in a truly visually appealing manner.  Don't want to spoil when or why this happens, though, but those who've seen the movie likely know why it gets placement here.

#7 - Inception - Spinning Room
Probably the most visually appealing scene choice on the list.  It's really kind of ingenious.

#6 - Blue Valentine - First Date Dance
By the time this flashback occurs to the main characters' first date, you already know that things are troubled for the married couple.  Seeing how goshdarn cute their first date was brings a smile to your face...only to utterly and completely depress you when you think about how their lives are not this blissful anymore.

See the Top Five scenes by clicking "Read More" below...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Movie Review - Ghost Story

Ghost Story (1981)
Starring Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., John Houseman, Craig Wasson, and Alice Krige
Directed by John Irvin
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Who wouldn't want to watch an R-rated horror movie starring Fred Astaire?  I saw this while perusing new additions to Netflix's instant stream and I immediately added it to my list for the sheer absurdity of it to me.  In the final film of actors Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., the trio, along with fellow veteran actor John Houseman, make up the Chowder Club, an exclusive four-member group who have gotten together over the years to tell each other eerie ghost stories.  However, a criminal moment from their past over fifty years ago is rearing its ugly head in the form of a scary ghost (Alice Krige) and said apparition is affecting both them and their children.

I don't know what I was expecting from this.  I mean, it's a horror movie starring song-and-dance man Fred Astaire.  Was I thinking it would be good?  In the end, it's an okay horror flick that goes more for "eeriness" than sheer spooks...and that's not a bad thing except that it lingers a bit too long and the ending doesn't end up being completely satisfying.  The biggest issue is that about halfway through the movie, the tone shifts from a straight narrative to that of an "anthology" of horror stories that relate to the four main elderly actors.  I don't particularly have a problem with the shorter stories (and, in fact, they were actually quite good), but it's a tonal shift that the director didn't quite nail.  Overall, the acting from both the elderly cast and the younger folks is perfectly fine, but the reason you've never heard of this movie before is simply because it's just average.

The RyMickey Rating:  C

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Movie Review - Thor

Thor (in 3D) (2011)
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, and Anthony Hopkins
Directed by Kenneth Branagh

No one will ever mistake Thor for being a cinematic masterpiece, but in the realm of summer action movies (and in their subset "comic book movies"), it's a solid flick that is decently written, capably directed, and (for the most part) adequately paced.

Somewhere in the cosmos is the land of Asgard, ruled over by Odin (Anthony Hopkins).  Long ago, Odin waged a successful war against the Frost Giants of Jotunheim who desired to take over the Nine Realms (one of which is Earth).  Cut to a thousand years later and Odin is ready to pass on his crown to his son Thor (Chris Hemsworth), but the ceremony is interrupted by an invasion of the Frost Giants which sends war-hungry Thor into a vengeful state.  Odin, desiring to keep the long-standing peace between Asgard and Jotunheim banishes Thor to Earth where he meets scientist/astrologer Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and finds himself in the midst of a fish out of water storyline.  Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Odin's other son, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who has always been jealous of Thor, is finding himself next in line for the throne now that his father has slipped into what is essentially a (magical) coma.  Let's just say Loki may not be keen on allowing Thor to return to his homeland.

Believe me, the whole thing is as silly as can be -- sillier and lighter weight than the premises behind any Iron Man, Spiderman, or X-Men "origin" (read: first) movie.  Still, somehow this thing works and I think a large part of that is due to the tone set by director Kenneth Branagh.  He knows that what is unfolding is altogether ridiculous, but he never sets this movie up with a winking tone.  This will sound kind of silly, but Branagh culls some Shakespearean undertones from the script -- brother vs. brother, son vs. father, etc. -- and successfully gives them gravitas when they really had no right to have any.  He plays it for all its seriousness, while allowing a few moments of needed humor when necessary.  Normally, I'm all for tongue in cheek flicks, but I don't know if that would've worked here especially because Thor is part of the overarching storyline setting up an Avengers movie sometime in the upcoming years (and contains cameos from some folks who will be part of that story as well).

Branagh also manages to get some above average performances from his actors.  Not being familiar with the source material one bit, I'll be honest and say I expected Thor to be more of a "Me Tarzan, you Jane" kind of macho figure.  However, Chris Hemsworth's Thor isn't like that a bit.  In fact, Hemsworth is absolutely believable as both action figure and romantic love interest for Natalie Portman's equally likable Jane.  Portman is eons better than moviegoers are used to seeing onscreen in a part like this that amounts to hardly anything but is standard in any kind of comic book movie.  While she doesn't play a damsel in distress, she's pretty much there simply to gawk and stare with mouth agape at the wonders of the superhero she's feasting her eyes upon.  Still, Portman manages to really hold her own here despite the irrelevant role and she manages to be completely enjoyable every time she is onscreen.

Kudos also to Tom Hiddleston as Thor's devious younger brother who Branagh allows to chew the scenery a bit...which I found altogether necessary for a role like his.  It was also nice to allow Hiddleston to take on the "chewing the scenery" role as opposed to Anthony Hopkins who tries to do that in every single movie he's in anymore (heck, he won his Oscar for doing that same thing).  Here, Hopkins is rather subdued and that's a good thing.

Overall, I was impressed by Thor.  It's certainly not perfect and the middle felt a little draggy (although I do commend Branagh for keeping the flick under two hours which is altogether uncommon for movies like this nowadays), but it's a pleasant start to the summer season.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The RyMickey Awards 2010 - Best Ensemble

Best Ensemble 2010
10. Please Give
(Catherine Keener, Rebecca Hall, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Sarah Steele, and Ann Morgan Guilbert)
9. Animal Kingdom
(James Frecheville, Jacki Weaver, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Luke Ford, Sullivan Stapleton, and Ben Mendelsohn)
8. True Grit
(Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper)
7. The King's Speech
(Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, and Guy Pearce)
Note:  Would have been number one, but it felt like the first three people listed above were really the only people that mattered.  Don't get me wrong, they were great and will appear in later lists for sure, but as an "ensemble" it doesn't quite fit the bill.
6. The Town
(Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite, and Chris Cooper)

5. The Kids Are All Right
(Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson, Yaya DaCosta, and Joaquín Garrido)
Nice solid performances all around (even if the script lacked a little purpose for some of the cast [ie. Mia Wasikowska's character]).  You'll see a few of these names pop up later.

4. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
(Michael Cera, Alison Pill, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Evans, Mae Whitman, Brandon Routh, and Jason Schwartzman)
For sure, the youngest overall cast on this list.  I genuinely cannot believe that Michael Cera is winning any type of award from me, but it is what it is.  Wry, witty, and the whole cast was game for the humor.

3. Nowhere Boy
(Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Threlfall, Anne-Marie Duff, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster)
Considering that I hadn't seen some of these actors in much else, this was a pleasant surprise.  Aaron Johnson pulls off a nice John Lennon, and Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff are terrific emotional centers to the rest of the cast.

2. The Fighter
(Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee, and Mickey O'Keefe)
Top notch.  Not much else to say.  It misses the number one slot simply because my number one choice is a more well-rounded (read: larger) ensemble.

1. The Social Network
(Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones, Rooney Mara, Denise Grayson, and John Getz)
From the younger members of the cast to the older, every scene was filled with great acting.  Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, and Brenda Song are relative newcomers to the movie scene who all made great cinematic first (or close to first time) impressions to me in this film.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Movie Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Bill Nighy, and Chow-Yun Fat
Directed by Gore Verbinski

And just like that, any goodwill the Pirates of the Caribbean series earned with the second film, Dead Man's Chest, is tossed aside thanks to the third film, At World's End.  All the fun and adventure that was present in the former is bogged down by darkness and dreariness in the latter.  Even if we were to put aside the storyline that is rife with innumerable and incomprehensible double crossings, At World's End doesn't even look good, awash in muted grays and blacks, monotone in its drabness -- there's nothing even visually appealing to latch onto.

At World's End picks up soon where Dead Man's Chest left off, continuing many of the same storylines revolving around pirates Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), and Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and their attempts to stave off the onslaughts of both the "evil" British Navy and man-fish hybrid Davy Jones (Bill Nighy).   Honestly, I can't even begin to detail what's actually happening in this flick.  Characters backstab others nearly every ten minutes, allegiances change at the drop of a hat, and no action occurs until the film's final forty minutes battle (after a never-ending talky two hours prior to that) during which it's near impossible to tell what's going on because every single person and every single ship looks exactly the same -- muddied and dank-looking.

Much moreso than in the past movies, mysticism and magic play a big role and it's not for the better.  By the end, the screenwriters abandoned any sense of cohesive story.  I'd even go so far as to say they threw up the middle finger to the viewers by abandoning all logic and essentially saying "screw you" to loyal fans.  In an attempt to feel very epic in scope and story, they just made a very uninteresting and unappealing conclusion to what was expected to be the final chapter of a trilogy.  Here's opening the fourth flick can revive a bit of adventure, excitement, and humor of the second flick.

The RyMickey Rating:  D

Movie Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgård, and Jack Davenport
Directed by Gore Verbinski

I realize this isn't necessarily popular opinion, but I think the second flick of the Pirates saga -- Dead Man's Chest -- is actually a fairly solid effort and better than the first film.  While Chest lacks the absurd humor and overall charm of Black Pearl, it more than makes up for that in its solid action scenes and more cohesive story.

Rather surprisingly, I couldn't help but think Johnny Depp's kooky Jack Sparrow got pushed a bit to the wayside in this one with Orlando Bloom taking on more of a leading role with his character of Will Turner finding himself fighting to free his father (Stellan Skarsgård) from a life of indentured servitude at the hands (or, more fittingly, claws) of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), a half-man, half-tentacled sea creature.  That said, Sparrow certainly plays a key role in a film that pits nearly all of its main characters -- Jack, Will and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), and Davy Jones -- against one another in a quest to gain their respective freedoms (of which I'm not going to discuss seeing as how nearly everyone in the world other than me had seen this flick given that it's the fourth highest grossing film of all time).

For someone that didn't particularly like when the first film placed its focus on Will and Elizabeth, I greatly appreciated that Dead Man's Chest gave everyone a solid storyline instead of just Jack Sparrow.  If you're going to have three main characters, it's best to give all three something to do and this flick does that a lot better than Black Pearl. It also helps this film immensely that the action sequences are a bit better staged and we don't need the background set-up that is always present in the first movies of any series.  Granted, I can't help but think that director Gore Verbinski could have edited things down a bit (I didn't really need to see three Kraken attacks...two would have sufficed), but overall, this is a solid action film that fares a bit better than its predecessor.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

Monday, May 16, 2011

Movie Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Starring Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport, and Jonathan Pryce
Directed by Gore Verbinski

There's nothing wrong per se with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, but I can't help but feel that it lacks the fun and excitement of my favorite action-adventure films (like the Indiana Jones series or Romancing the Stone).  Sure, Johnny Depp created quite an iconic character in his Oscar-nominated constantly nonsensical Jack Sparrow.  His character and performance is certainly fun to watch, but the film feels interminably long at moments.  There's no need for this affair to go on for 135 minutes (which makes me wonder how the heck I'm going to make it through installments two and three which are even longer...yes, I've never seen them).

Unfortunately, it just feels like there's not a cohesive storyline throughout.  Sure, there's the overarching tale about Sparrow attempting to seek revenge against Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), a pirate who several years ago mutinously abandoned Sparrow on a deserted island taking Sparrow's ship and crew under his control. That alone would have been enough (and would have proven to be successful), but throwing in the wooden and dull star-crossed lovers Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) just bog down the proceedings.  I just couldn't get myself to care about either of these two young lovebirds and that's what hurts the film when compared to the mystical, magical, adventurous storyline revolving around Sparrow and Barbossa.

In the end, I'm probably sounding a bit harsher than I'd like.  The film is certainly amusing and a solid summer action picture.  It's just that with a little more trimming, it could have been a real classic.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

Movie Review - The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer (1991)
Starring Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino, and Terry O'Quinn
Directed by Joe Johnston

I really liked this movie as an eleven year-old kid.  I had a t-shirt, a 3D comic book, and bought cds simply because they contained orchestral pieces of the score.  I was a big fan, and I'm happy to say that this is still a quality movie twenty years later.

The year is 1938.  The city is Los Angeles.  We join stunt pilot Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) and his good friend and mechanic Peevy Peabody (Alan Arkin) as they discover a rocket pack that was left at their airfield after a mobster abandoned it there following a chase from FBI agents.  Cilff is thoroughly intrigued by the new invention and tests it out to great success.  However, this wouldn't be an adventure movie if it didn't contain some intrigue and that intrigue comes from Hollywood celebrity Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) who had hired mobster Eddie Valentine (Paul Sorvino) to bring him the rocket pack and Sinclair is none too happy that Valentine's men have let the pack fall into someone else's hands.  Of course, this being the 1930s, a dame is going to get in the way of things, causing some trouble for both Cliff and the mobsters.  In this flick, the dame role goes to Jennifer Connelly as aspiring actress Jenny Blake who, angered by her boyfriend Cliff, turns to the arms of the suave and debonair (and unknowingly seedy) Neville Sinclair.

There's certainly an Indiana Jones vibe going on in The Rocketeer simply because they're both comic booky, 1930s-serial-esque adventure tales.  While Spielberg's series certainly travels the globe, The Rocketeer stays firmly planted in Hollywood, however the story certainly takes on a worldly tone in ways that I won't spoil here.   Director Joe Johnston (who also directed such classics from my childhood as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Jumanji) does a nice job here of creating the kind of flick that any eleven year-old boy (or any old man remembering his childhood days) would love to watch.  The film doesn't contain a bad performance as everyone from the main cast to the supporting does a really solid job.

In other words, it was very nice to see that this flick showed that I had some taste in movies as a young kid.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Movie Review - Exam

Exam (2010)
Directed by Stuart Hazeldine
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Set at some point in the near future in which some new disease is creating some issues amongst the general public, a group of eight candidates for a job enter a small room, sit down at desks, and are each given a piece of paper.  A man known only as the Invigilator (yes, it's a real word...those crazy British) enters the room and states that the group has eighty minutes to give one answer to one question.  If anyone in the group tries to communicate with either the Invigilator or the guard positioned in the room, that person will be disqualified.  If anyone spoils their paper either intentionally or accidentally, that person will be disqualified.  Leaving the room will also result in a disqualification.  With that, the Invigilator leaves the four men and four women in the room.  The group looks at their papers and soon realizes that there is nothing written on them.  What is the question?  And what is the answer?

Exam could have been filled with obnoxious philosophical mumbo jumbo, but it never really went down that path and because of that I quite enjoyed it.  While it goes on a tad too long and the end is a bit of a letdown, the film was much better than I ever could have expected.  Told essentially in real time and set in one room for the entirety of the film's 95-minute runtime, director and writer Stuart Hazeldine created a very interesting psychological experiment.  Each character has their own believable personality and each actor (none of whom I've ever seen before and most of whom have only acted on British television) brings an interesting take to the proceedings.

I can totally see how some would find this incredibly boring, but to me it was a smart "thriller" that was a rather unexpected surprise.  It's not a perfect film -- one of my big qualms is that I think it does slip into a bit of pretension by the film's end -- but it's a clever independent film that may be worth checking out on Netflix Instant Watch.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Movie Review - The Funhouse

The Funhouse (1981)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

I haven't quenched my recently unearthed horror movie thirst in quite a while, so I figured I might as well give The Funhouse a go.  I mean, it was directed by Tobe Hooper and, if I'm being completely honest, his Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the few movies that have genuinely unsettled me.  This flick was kind of a chore to sit through, however.

Filled with a cast of 80s unknowns all of whom stayed unknown likely because their acting abilities leave much to be desired, a quartet -- two guys and two gals -- on a double date head to a local traveling carnival for some fun.  While there, they get the genius idea of hiding out in the funhouse overnight just for kicks.  In the middle of the night, they witness a murder and the killer (and his carny family) is certainly not going to let them get away.

There are one or two jump moments, but nothing happened in this movie until about 45 minutes in and by that point, I was already halfway checked out.  There's a silly, stupid subplot involving the younger brother of one of the girls trapped in the funhouse.  It's pointless and there only to pad the running time.  Add in a ridiculously ludicrous killer, his wacko father, and a very disappointing and unexciting conclusion and it's certainly not worth anyone's time.

The RyMickey Rating:  D-

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Movie Review - The Stand

The Stand (1994)
Starring Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, and Bill Fagerbakke (the tall guy from the 90s tv series Coach)
Directed by Mick Garris
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

On my list of things to watch for a couple years now, this six-hour four-part miniseries that aired on ABC in 1994 is apparently a rather faithful version of Stephen King's epic, lengthy novel The Stand.  While I've never read the book, King himself performed the adaptation to the small screen and is said to be happy with the final product, so I can only assume that it's a rather legit interpretation of the novel.

Unfortunately, I would have loved to have seen this six hour presentation created by the likes of HBO or even AMC, because as it stands now, the film is just too sanitized for its own good.  Watching the movie, I longed for the macabre undertone present in King's novels, but it just wasn't on display here.  This is a movie about the complete and utter destruction of mankind by a plague.  Hundreds of millions of people have died and for some reason the tension just isn't there.  For the survivors immune to the disease, they have broken up into two factions -- one headed by the saintly Grandmother Abagail (Ruby Dee) and the other led by the devil incarnate Randall Flagg (Jamey Sheridan).  Needless to say, as is the case in many of King's novels, it's a fight to the death between good and evil and, to King's credit, good doesn't always win.  [Admittedly, I'm a big fan of the fact that King is completely unafraid to kill off his characters and in The Stand, that's certainly the case.]

While I enjoyed the story and surprisingly didn't feel like it was too drawn out considering its length, the film is hampered by the fact that with the exception of a few actors (including Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe, and Bill Fagerbakke), the acting is atrocious.  There's a reason Molly Ringwald didn't make it out of the 80s.  And Laura San Giacomo (probably best known for playing the lead in the sitcom Just Shoot Me) is painful and rather embarrassing to watch.

Granted, as I mentioned above, it doesn't help the actors that they're forced to perform such a "safe" and "sanitized" version of King's work.  Although King adapted the novel himself, I'm sure that had he his druthers, he would have gone all out with the dark undertones that I'm guessing were quite evident in his book.  I have to imagine that the character of Randall Flagg in the novel is imposing and frightening at times, but in the film, with his mullet and jeans jacket, he just inspires laughs.

For all these qualms, however, I'm happy I can check this one off of my list of things to watch.  I don't feel like I wasted my time (despite the rating below), but it would've been a much better movie had this been done on a cable network as opposed to a broadcast one.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The RyMickey Awards 2010 - Best Director

2009's RyMickey Award for Best Director went to the Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker.  Does this year's Oscar winner Tom Hooper take my top spot?

Best Director

#10 -- David O. Russell - The Fighter
#9 -- Ethan Coen and Joel Coen - True Grit
#8 -- Edgar Wright - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
#7 -- Christopher Nolan - Inception
#6 -- Derek Cianfrance - Blue Valentine

And the Top Five...

#5 -- Gaspar Noé - Enter the Void
Normally, I'd call a director out for letting his film go on for way too long and not utilizing his or her editor to their fullest potential.  However, Noé was just so ingenious in his odd stagings of scenes, that I can't help but be intrigued by the whole affair.

#4 -- Matt Reeves - Let Me In
An eerie undertone throughout, Reeves created a very adult horror movie that is character-driven rather than drenched in blood (which is why it ultimately and undeservedly tanked at the box office).

#3 -- David Fincher - The Social Network
Fincher is always a director that I tend to like and this flick is no exception.  As I said in my review, the film is rather cold, but Fincher uses it in a way to mirror the main character's seemingly emotionless front he puts on when he's with others.

#2 -- Danny Boyle - 127 Hours
One guy...alone...for nearly 80 minutes.  And I wasn't bored.  Boyle used clever camera angles and didn't overuse his stylized quick cuts that he's so prone to flaunt.

#1 -- Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
And for the second straight year, the Oscar winner takes the prize.  I realize Hooper's win was actually greatly criticized, but what Hooper did with this film was kind of amazing.  This movie had no right to be entertaining.  It's a period piece about a king who stutters.  I'm yawning just having to type that.  However, Hooper culled some great performances out of his actors and made the film visually appealing without ever feeling the least bit stuffy.  So, kudos to you, Mr. Hooper.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The RyMickey Awards 2010 - Best Screenplays

Trying to wrap this thing up...2010 just wasn't invigorating for me cinematically and I'm pushing myself to get through these awards.  But I started them, so I want to finish them up.

Best Original Screenplay

Chris Sparling - Buried
Joel Edgerton and Matthew Dabner - The Square

#5 -- Christopher Nolan - Inception
Even though I may not be head over heels for this one and even though it didn't quite sustain itself on a second viewing, the sheer originality of this one alone allows it placement on this chart.

#4 -- David Michôd - Animal Kingdom
Twisted family drama at its finest.  Filled with a couple clever twists that aren't the least bit contrived, this was a nice sleeper surprise.

#3 -- Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson - The Fighter
Even though it isn't the least bit groundbreaking in any way, this flick manages to be much better than your typical "overcoming the odds" sports flick thanks to the nice balance between in-the-ring action and crazy family shenanigans.

#2 -- Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, and Joey Curtis - Blue Valentine
The heartbreaking choice on this list.  A love story that depicts both the good and bad sides of romance with two great lead characters whom the screenwriters squarely keep front and center.  I eagerly look forward to seeing this one again.

#1 -- David Seidler - The King's Speech
Not in my wildest dreams did I expect this film to be even remotely entertaining, but David Seidler took this period drama and added punches of comedy and true emotion.  A solid historical piece that deserved the Academy Award it received.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Peter Craig, Ben Affleck, and Aaron Stoddard - The Town

#5 -- Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich - Toy Story 3
A fitting (hopeful) end to a classy trilogy.  It went on a tad long, but the Pixar folks wear their hearts on their sleeves and it's screenplays like this that elevate their work above that of their competitors.

#4 -- Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
This movie shouldn't have appealed to me at all, but I found it cleverly grown-up (and not in a raunchy way) especially considering that it deals in the realm of video games.

#3 -- Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network
The screenplay that everyone raved about is very good and actually got better upon a second viewing.  Clever dialogue and the ability to make scenes with lawyers interesting helps this one place high on the list.

#2 -- Matt Reeves - Let Me In
A thinking person's horror movie, this is a sold piece of work that focuses more on friendship than scares.  Reeves added a couple of interesting changes to his remake of the original Swedish film and they were all for the better.

#1 -- Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy - 127 Hours
Watching one person onscreen for an extended piece of time can be a tad monotonous (see Cast Away as an example).  However, this flick was never boring.  In fact, I was rather fascinated by the ingenious way the screenwriters kept things fresh via the main character's hallucinations and dreams.  Plus, any movie that makes me get choked up is a positive.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

REP 2010-11 Season Round-Up

And here is a very lengthy post that will be seemingly relevant to only a very few...

Perhaps rather selfishly (seeing as how my "reviews" of the University of Delaware's Resident Ensemble Players productions are some of my heaviest hit, most-searched-for blog posts), I figured that I'd post a wrap-up of the REP's pretty great 2010-11 season.  While it wasn't without a letdown or two (I still don't understand Harold Pinter's The Homecoming even a little bit), overall this is a fantastic theater troupe that I can't help but "promote" as much as this little blog with its whopping dozens of hits per day will allow.

Apparently, according to an article I read about the troupe, the University of Delaware sits outside the boundaries of the Philadelphia-based Barrymore Awards for theater.  So, instead, I'll hand out my own "awards" which should be seen as a hearty thank you to both the onstage and backstage members of the REP and the students of the Professional Theater Training Program (PTTP) for a wonderful season.

It also should be noted that this blog in general is simply a way of keeping track of the goings-on of the entertainment aspects in my life...so this post is really more of a journal entry than anything else, but if it gives anyone associated with the REP a slight chuckle, so be it.  Don't look at it so much as a competition, but an absolute respectful take of one theatergoer's favorite moments of a wonderful and engaging ten-play season.  I don't know how the upcoming season works, but if it means the departure of all or any of the REP members, rest assured they will be thoroughly missed by myself and my fellow season ticket holders.

Total Number of Nominations
(# of Nominations include "Honorable Mentions")
(Click on titles for a link to original review)
Our Town -- 2

Links to other 2010-11 REP productions

Best Costume Design
Bronze Medal -- Martha Hally - O Beautiful
Silver Medal -- Martha Hally - A Midsummer Night's Dream 
Gold Medal -- Laura Crow - The Good Doctor
A really close call seeing as how Ms. Hally's work for A Midsummer Night's Dream was rather exquisite in its imaginative uniqueness and her designs for O Beautiful allowed her to display both modern and historic threads, but Laura Crow's sumptuous costumes for the rather large ensemble of The Good Doctor added elegance and transported the audience right into the era of the play.

Best Scenic Design
Honorable Mention: Takeshi Kata - O Beautiful
Bronze Medal -- Stefanie Hansen - Private Lives
Silver Medal -- Junghyun Georgia Lee - The Glass Menagerie
Gold Medal -- Takeshi Kata -- A Midsummer Night's Dream
Without a doubt, coupled with the outstanding costumes presented by the REP, this company doesn't skimp when it comes to the visuals the audience sees onstage.  Presented in the smaller Studio Theater, Private Lives presented two very different sets filled with great details.  Junghyun Georgia Lee's set for The Glass Menagerie was stunning in its simplicity.  But Takeshi Kata's rotating moon and freaky forest of A Midsummer Night's Dream were so one-of-a-kind that it had to take the top prize.  When that moon spun around...pretty darn cool.

Best Ensemble
Honorable Mentions:  Way to Heaven
Bronze Medal:  The Glass Menagerie 
(Michael Gotch, Erik Mathew, Carine Montbertrand, Kathleen Pirkl Tague)
Silver Medal:  The Good Doctor  
(Drew Brhel, Deena Burke, Ben Charles, Caroline Crocker, Donte Fitzgerald, Andrew Goldwasser, Erik Mathew, Carine Montbertrand, Kathleen Pirkl Tague, Steve Tague)
Gold Medal:  Private Lives 
(Deena Burke, Michael Gotch, Carine Montbertrand, Andy Nagraj, Meaghan Sullivan)
The cast of Private Lives portrayed comedy at its very finest with each one having their moment to shine.    While that's surely a credit to the playwright, in lesser hands, the comedy would have fallen flat.  The quintet of actors provided a thoroughly enjoyable night at the theater.

Best Direction
Honorable Mention:  Matthew Earnest - Way to Heaven
Bronze Medal:  Warner Shook - Private Lives
Silver Medal:  Sanford Robbins - A Midsummer Night's Dream 
Gold Medal:  John Langs - The Glass Menagerie
Although Sandy Robbins certainly elevated the REP to another level with his production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, I still vividly remember the exquisite final moments of The Glass Menagerie with much fondness.  The Inception-like demolishment of the set was breathtaking and for that vision alone, John Langs takes this award.

Best Supporting Actress
Honorable Mentions:
Elizabeth Heflin (REP) as "Lady Bracknell" - The Importance of Being Earnest
Jasmine Bracey (PTTP) as "Hippolyta/Titania" - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Bronze Medal:  Carine Montbertrand (REP) as Various Characters - The Good Doctor
Silver Medal:  Carine Montbertrand (REP) as "Miss Prism" - The Importance of Being Earnest
Gold Medal:  Meaghan Sullivan (PTTP) as "Sibyl Chase" - Private Lives
I don't know what it says that nearly all of my top five supporting actress performances are comedic...I guess I just like funny ladies (now if only I could find one for myself...).  Ms. Heflin was scene-stealing in Earnest.  Ms. Bracey was a strong, powerful, and commanding magical fairy in Midsummer.  Carine Montbertrand was the comedic genius that is Carine Montbertrand.  She always excels on the REP stage, but her hilarious turn in The Good Doctor and her take on Miss Prism in Earnest had me wishing she was on the stage for the entirety of each of those plays.

But the "winner" is PTTP member Meaghan Sullivan in Private Lives whose take on Sibyl Chase felt like a loving homage to comedic actresses of the 1930s and 40s.  I'm a sucker for a good comedic crier and Ms. Sullivan is one heckuva comedic crier.

Best Supporting Actor
Honorable Mentions:
Mic Matarrese (REP) as "Reverend Chasuble" - The Importance of Being Earnest
Drew Brehl (Guest Actor) as Various Characters - The Good Doctor
Bronze Medal: Matthew Simpson (PTTP) as "Red Cross Representative" - Way to Heaven
Silver Medal: Eric Mathew (PTTP) as Various Characters - The Good Doctor
Gold Medal: Ben Charles (PTTP) as "Philostrate/Puck" - A Midsummer Night's Dream
It's rather nice that the medals here get doled out to three PTTP members.  Kudos to Matthew Simpson for the difficult role he had in Way to Heaven.  Tackling a nearly thirty-minute monologue, having to do so at the very beginning of the play, and making the audience feel riveted was an unenviable task, but he surely succeeded.  Eric Mathew was rather genius as the smooth-talking lothario in The Good Doctor, taking a short scene and making it incredibly memorable.

Just eking out a win is Ben Charles as Puck (and also the smaller role of Philostrate) in A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Showcasing his acrobatic talent (or, at the very least, his bravery in performing some high-flying aerial moves), Mr. Charles was completely engaging and brought quite a bit of humor to Shakespeare's words.

Best Actress
Honorable Mentions:
Sara J. Griffin (PTTP) as "Emily" - Our Town
Sara J. Griffin (PTTP) as "Alice Fletcher" - O Beautiful
Bronze Medal: Kathleen Pirkl Tague (REP) as "Amanda Wingfield" - The Glass Menagerie
Silver Medal: Carine Montbertrand (REP) as "Amanda Prynne" - Private Lives
Gold Medal: Elizabeth Heflin (REP) as "Linda Ryan" - O Beautiful
If I'm being completely honest, I felt that this season of the REP left the ladies a tiny bit by the wayside.  The plays felt a tad more male-centric this year in terms of "leading" roles.  Still, there were five great performances that either moved me, made me laugh, or managed to do both.

Kudos to PTTP member Sara J. Griffin for her lovely and charming take on teenage Emily in Our Town and a somewhat more emotionally confused teen in the premiere presentation of O Beautiful.  Ms. Tague, who excelled in last year's Death of a Salesman, was a different kind of mom in The Glass Menagerie, but just as powerful.  And although Ms. Montbertrand has certainly proven she can be the dramatic heavy of a piece, she was a comedienne of the finest caliber in Private Lives.

However, the top "prize" goes to Elizabeth Heflin in Theresa Rebeck's O Beautiful.  SPOILER ALERT:  There's something gut-wrenching about watching a parent go through the loss of a child.  I recently had a relative who lost her child and Ms. Heflin hit the emotions on the nose and made me feel the same "uncomfortableness" that I felt in real life.  However, even before the tragedy hits, Heflin's portrayal of Linda seemed genuine and true to life.

Best Actor
Honorable Mentions:
Michael Gotch (REP) as "Elyot Chase" - Private Lives
Michael Gotch (REP) as "Tom Wingfield - The Glass Menagerie
Bronze Medal:  Ben Charles (PTTP) as "George" - Our Town
Silver Medal:  Mic Matarrese (REP) as "Commandant" - Way to Heaven
Gold Medal:  Stephen Pelinski (REP) as "Bottom"- A Midsummer Night's Dream
Michael Gotch is always great to watch and his roles in Private Lives and The Glass Menagerie showed two different sides of his acting spectrum.  Ben Charles makes a second appearance in these "awards" with his role of George in Our Town.  The innocence that he brought to the role was what won me over.  Mic Matarrese was rather frightening as the eerily charismatic Nazi Commandant in Way to Heaven.  It was very nice to see Mr. Matarrese be able to showcase his talent with a meaty role to sink his teeth into.

Stephen Pelinski, however, took the role of Bottom in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and showed me a completely different take on the character than I ever could have expected.  He made Shakespeare's words come alive and seem surprisingly relevant, creating comedy where I thought there would be none.  Based off my previous exposure to the play, I was absolutely dreading his character's big role in the Pyramus and Thisbe finale, so I never could have guessed that Mr. Pelinski would have created some gut-busting laugh-out-loud moments.

Favorite Moment/Scene
Honorable Mentions: "The Showdown of the Ex-Lovers -- Pillow Scene" in Private Lives; 
Red Cross Representative Monologue in Way to Heaven
Bronze Medal: "Pyramus and Thisbe" in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Silver Medal: "Surgery" in The Good Doctor
Gold Medal: Final Moment of The Glass Menagerie
Both the Bronze and Silver medalists are here because of their gut-busting belly laughs.  But the final moment of The Glass Menagerie when the set began to tear apart...I'm still feeling wowed by it.  It floored me and was my absolute favorite moment of a REP production this season.  It's an image that has stuck with me even several months later and I think ultimately that's what you really want to happen when you go see live theater. 

Best Overall Production

Honorable Mention:  Private Lives
Bronze Medal:  Way to Heaven
Silver Medal:  The Glass Menagerie
Gold Medal:  A Midsummer Night's Dream
Overall, it was a great season for the REP.  Our Town and The Good Doctor could have easily been swapped out with any of the four plays listed above, but this is way the chips fell for me.  It was actually a really tough decision determining whether Private Lives or Way to Heaven took the Bronze seeing as how both plays were really great and couldn't be more different from one another.  In the end (and quite possibly because Way to Heaven is fresher in my mind), playwright Juan Mayorga's gripping take on the Holocaust, the rather ingenious slow unfolding of the events that took place at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and the simple haunting set just barely took the prize over the great comedy on display in Private Lives.

I've said it before, but thanks to John Langs' direction, The Glass Menagerie was a special treat.  Langs elevated the words thanks to the way he decided to stage Tennessee Williams' work.

However, A Midsummer Night's Dream was simply too fanciful to deny it the top spot.  To make Shakespeare relevant, entertaining, and completely engaging is a credit to director Sanford Robbins and the entire cast of the production.  To not be bored for a minute shocked me immensely.  With the costumes, set design, and wonderful acting, I can't help but think that this production would rival anything you'd see up in New York City.

Total Number of "Gold Medal Wins"
A Midsummer Night's Dream - 4
The Glass Menagerie - 2
Private Lives - 2
The Good Doctor - 1
O Beautiful - 1

Once again, thanks to the REP for a great season.  Those in the area should definitely check out the troupe in seasons to come.