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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, June 28, 2011

Movie Review - Machete

Machete (2010)
Starring Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan, Daryl Sabara, and Robert DeNiro
Directed by Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez

Having never seen the Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez flick Grindhouse which apparently contained a fake trailer that spawned Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez' Machete, there weren't really any expectations going into this movie.  In the end, the story probably just should have been content with the kooky fake trailer and left it at that because this homage to the B-movies of the 1970s overstays its welcome by about 45 minutes of its hour-and-forty-five-minute runtime.  

The broad story is ridiculously simple.  The titular character, an illegal Mexican immigrant (played by Danny Trejo), is hired by a shady guy (Lost's Jeff Fahey) to assassinate a Texas senator (Robert DeNiro) who happens to pride himself on his creatively unjust methods on keeping illegal immigrants out of the country.  Little does Machete know that he's simply being set up in order to make the senator (who is experiencing a sharp downtown in the polls) become more sympathetic to the voting public.  Somewhere along the line, Machete discovers this double-crossing and eventually meets up with a sexy US immigration officer (Jessica Alba) with whom he teams up with to defeat his enemies.

What works here is the violence...and there's certainly plenty of it.  Excessive to the extreme, it's in these moments of massive bloodletting where the humor and fun lie.  Taking no prisoners, Machete is a man who'll chop off peoples' heads without pausing for a second, and there's something grotesquely fun about watching ludicrous decapitations and profusely spewing blood.  It's when the film decides to bog itself down with dialog and attempts to present a "pro-illegal immigrant" stance where the film falls apart.  Yes, yes, I'm a republican, but I didn't hate this film for taking the other side of the issue.  I disliked the movie for taking that stance in a silly, unsubstantial way.  I'm certainly not turning to a film like Machete for political advice, but even the final showdown between the Mexicans and the Americans just felt disappointing and unsatisfying after such a lengthy, talky build-up.  (There was actually substantial talk about this issue when the film was released and I think most of the Republican bloggers were giving more weight to the issue than it was worth.  In the end, the movie presents the whole thing in a tongue in cheek way...although it certainly does paint a caricaturish image of Republican senators.)

The film initially starts out visually grainy, looking like a film that's been run through the projector one too many times.  It's rather unfortunate that Machete abandons that look after the first scene because it would have been a little more optically appealing.  That older look screamed "B-movie" and it would've made the horrible acting by the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Alba seem more like it was horrible for a reason as opposed to the fact that the two women just can't act.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie Review - Romeo + Juliet

Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Sorvino, Brian Dennehy, and Paul Rudd
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Despite your feelings towards the film, no one can deny that director Baz Luhrmann has crafted a unique, modern take on William Shakespeare's classic tale of the two lovers Romeo and Juliet.  As their families fight each other, the two young amours become enamored of one another and refuse to deny their love up until their dying days (oops...did I spoil the tale for someone?).

I remember going to the movie theater to see this when I was sixteen and thinking that it was pretty darn cool.  At this point in time, Luhrmann wasn't known at all and his crazed, schizophrenic visual style was oddly compelling and unlike anything I had ever seen before.  Placing the Bard's "old school" dialog in a completely contemporary setting was riveting to me.

Cut to fifteen years later and I'm not so sure that I'm as much of a fan.  Don't get me wrong, Luhrmann has certainly crafted a distinct take on the material, but there are (several) moments where there is just too much going on visually.  Because of the bombardment of images, the words sometimes get lost in translation and the story becomes a secondary afterthought to the film's appearance.  A decade-and-a-half after the film's release, rather than being riveted I found myself laughing at an early scene involving a showdown between members of the Montague and Capulet families simply because of the way Luhrmann utilizes his camera.  The "wild west showdown" atmosphere he creates just didn't set well with me.

The aforementioned scene is one of several that just had me clamoring for a more straightforward (or at least less crazed) take on the material.  Maybe I'm just becoming a fuddy duddy in my old age, but the film as a whole was a bit of a disappointment.

Luhrmann does manage to get a decent performance out of Leonardo DiCaprio, but Claire Danes' Juliet felt a bit wooden to me at times (although, if I'm being honest, I'm not sure the character of Juliet is all that interesting of a person to begin with).  Most of the other supporting roles didn't really strike my fancy either this time around.

All that said, I can't deny that this is a different spin on the classic tale, but it's one that I don't need to revisit any time soon.  As I was watching it (and not loving it), I wondered to myself what my take on Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge would be so many years later.  Seeing as how that film has the same visual style of Romeo + Juliet, I can't help but think it will have faded from my initial praises as well.  Might be time to take another look at that one...

The RyMickey Rating:  C

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Movie Review - Scream 2

Scream 2 (1997)
Starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Liev Schreiber, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jerry O'Connell, Elise Neal, Timothy Olyphant, Laurie Metcalf, Omar Epps, and Jada Pinkett Smith
Directed by Wes Craven
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

I always thought that Scream was a solid horror film and, watching it years later, that fortunately still held true upon a recent revisit.  In that review, I mentioned that I didn't remember the next two films in the series with any fondness and I wondered if there was a reason for that.

Well, I'm pleasantly surprised to say that Scream 2 is also a pretty decent horror flick.  Yes, it's essentially the first film rehashed (but that's the point of the story in that a copycat killer is still enacting hell on Sidney Prescott's [Neve Campbell] life after she moved on to college), but it's a solid thriller.  Granted, there aren't as many nifty death scenes, but what keeps the flick afloat is the very game cast.  The return of Courtney Cox's Gale Weathers, David Arquette's Dewey Riley, and Jamie Kennedy's Randy all jump right back into things, expanding upon their characters and actually proving to be more enjoyable in some cases than in the first film.  The addition of Elise Neal as Sidney's best friend, Jerry O'Connell as Sid's boyfriend, and Laurie Metcalf as a podunk local newspaper reporter fascinated by the well-known Gale Weathers are all nice new faces.

Granted, the big reveal at the end is silly and the series loses some of its charm since it somewhat abandons the "poking fun at other horror films" premise, but it was still an enjoyable two hours, so I'll take that.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

Movie Review - Without a Trace

Without a Trace (1983)
Starring Kate Nelligan, Judd Hirsch, Danny Corkill, and Stockard Channing 
Directed by Stanley R. Jaffe
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Well, this is a Lifetime movie-of-the-week flick if I've ever seen one.  Granted, there wasn't Lifetime in 1983, but Without a Trace could have easily been right at home on either ABC or CBS in one of their Sunday night movie showcases.  While I don't quite get how this deserved a theatrical release, it's certainly a solid film focusing on a mother's (Kate Nelligan) anguish after her six year-old son (Danny Corkill) vanishes one day on his walk to school.  With the help of a New York City police detective (Judd Hirsch), the mom never gives up hope that her son will return home to her safe and sound despite the fact that those around her (including her best friend played by Stockard Channing) tell her that she needs to move on with her life after over three months of unsubstantiated leads.

The flick is certainly helped by two very good performances in Kate Nelligan and Judd Hirsch.  Nelligan is front and center for nearly the whole flick and the film is a nice study of a grieving mother who refuses to give up hope when others around her have already done so.  The film also nicely gives a few fine moments to Hirsch whose detective grows increasingly disappointed with himself for being unable to find the missing child.

In the end, the film is good, but it's generic.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but you simply need to know what you're getting before you watch it.  It's got all the makings of a solid television film that received a theatrical release because of two decent performances.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

Friday, June 24, 2011

Movie Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, and Ian McShane
Directed by Rob Marshall

After the absolutely dismal third chapter in the Pirates series, At World's End, it wasn't going to take much to make the fourth film better.  Fortunately, On Stranger Tides leaves the dankness and crazed mysticism aside (for the most part) and after an incredibly shaky opening hour during which at one point I turned to my brother and said "this is godawful and painful," the film actually becomes pretty entertaining and fulfills its mission of being a decent action-comedy.

As is the case with all of these Pirates films, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) manages to input himself into some scheme to gain access/control/possession of some mystical object -- in this case the Fountain of Youth -- and partakes in some double-crossing to get what he wants.  In this fourth film, the writers thankfully cast aside the dead weight of Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann and Orlando Bloom's Will Turner and place the focus solely on Jack Sparrow and his relationship with former partner-in-crime/"lover" Angelica (played gamely by Penelope Cruz).  Whereas in the past, I felt too much Jack Sparrow might wear thin, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that this may have been my favorite movie for Johnny Depp as Sparrow.  I genuinely liked his wordplay with Cruz's Angelica and found the duo quite appealing, bringing a sexy vibe to the flick that we haven't seen in the previous films.

While Depp and Cruz certainly helped elevate the film, for some reason, the writers felt the need to input some inane romance into the mix between two newly introduced characters -- "man of the cloth" Philip (Sam Claflin) and mermaid Serena (Astrid Berges-Frisby).  This forced love story by these one-note actors was so bland (particularly when placed against the witty lovey-dovey bickering between Depp and Cruz), it made Knightley and Bloom seem like amazing thespians.

Of course, without the mermaids in the mix, we wouldn't have been treated to what might possibly be the most exciting action sequence yet in a Pirates film.  The introduction of the mermaids about an hour into the movie kicked this movie into high gear and it never really stopped its momentum.  Prior to that, On Stranger Tides seemed like a lesser retread of the first Pirates flick, even going so far as to seemingly re-create the very first action sequence in that first movie when Sparrow fights Will Turner in his shop/warehouse, climbing up to the rafters amidst seemingly endless swordplay.  Honestly, this flick was kind of unbearable in the first hour simply because I couldn't help but feel like every single thing reeked of a "been there, done that" sensation.

In the end, it's kind of a shame that nearly half of the film doesn't work (and doesn't work so badly) because the half that does work is actually some of the best the Pirates series has to offer.  Yes, there are certainly problems that the writers will have to work out in the upcoming movies (for starters, there's no need to continue telling us about the love story between the religious man and the mermaid), but there's an excellent base to build off with the amusing connection between Depp and Cruz and I've got to say that despite the rating below, I'm actually looking forward to the next flick.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

Movie Review - Super 8

Super 8 (2011)
Starring Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Riley Griffiths, and Ryan Lee
Directed by J.J. Abrams

Somehow or another -- whether it be by the cinematographic framing or the simple fact that the film was set in the 80s (well 1979, so the cusp of the 80s) -- director-writer J.J. Abrams does succeed in creating the Steven Spielberg-esque tone that he was certainly going for with his new science-fiction film Super 8.   Surprisingly, however, this flick about an alien on Earth is no E.T.  I'm not sure why I was expecting some nice "ET, phone home" type moments, but that certainly didn't happen here...and it was a rather pleasant treat that the film took on more of a homage to horror classics in addition to being somewhat of loving tribute to the "tone" that Spielberg set in his quintessential early and mid-career classics.  However, in the end, Super 8 never really marries its horror/adventure side with its heart side (a staple of Spielberg's oeuvre) and because of that lack of cohesion, it's a film that finds itself a tad disappointing when all is said and done.

Certainly, Abrams got great work out of his group of young actors.  Young Joel Courtney (in his first ever acting gig) and Elle Fanning have a nice go at the puppy love that is going on amongst their characters Joe and Alice.  The two are both excellent with Fanning once again proving that she's a force to watch (of course, I already knew that seeing as how I placed her in my Top Five younger actors last year).  As the duo and their group of friends (all great, by the way, including Riley Griffiths in his first role) film a horror movie utilizing their super 8 camera, the scenes involving these young'uns make up the Spielberg-ian heart.  Unfortunately, the film aims at trying to create a coming of age tale, but drops that by the wayside in favor of the invasion of an alien.

That invasion of the alien is also successful (much like the youth-centric "heart" side of the film) for a time, but never quite succeeds in the end.  The backstory of this alien that has, in fact, been on Earth for a few decades is actually quite interesting and should have been successful in setting up a great ending.  However, Abrams, who I usually like, is sometimes prone to great set-ups with lackluster conclusions and the ending of Super 8 feels like such a letdown.  It's not that the alien isn't cool-looking, it's just that the meeting of the two worlds -- the kids and the alien -- is so ludicrous and just plain silly.  Where Spielberg successfully marries both worlds (most of the time), Abrams can't manage to do the same.

Still, despite the major problems that Super 8's story has, it's a film that admirable in what it's attempting. It is absolutely successful in its goal of being an homage to films of my youth.  It's filled with great performances from a cast of (mostly) young unknowns.  It's a film that looks great and creates a cool lore for an alien invasion.  All of which make it all the more unfortunate that Abrams can't bring everything together in the end.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Movie Review - The Edge

The Edge (1997)
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Harold Perrineau, Elle MacPherson, and Bart the Bear
Directed by Lee Tamahori
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Nowadays, it seems like Anthony Hopkins will do anything for a paycheck (a la DeNiro), but he usually still manages to elevate some of those projects probably simply because a British accent will make anything seem more highbrow than it usually is.  When The Edge was made back in 1997, Hopkins hadn't quite started down that path, however, but this could very well be considered his first venture into the action film genre.  

Unlike typical action films, though (and this is probably due to the script by well-known playwright and newly-turned-Republican David Mamet), this film gains its suspense from the age-old concept of Man vs. Nature.  When Hopkins' rich billionaire mogul Charles Morse gets stranded in the Alaskan wilderness with photographer Robert Green (Alec Baldwin) and his co-worker Stephen (Harold Perrineau of Lost fame), it turns into a "Survival of the Fittest" type showdown, with the three men needing to fight off both the mindgames they throw at one another and the physicality of the huge bear (played by Bart the Bear who gets first billing in the credits) that is hunting them down.

Surprisingly, for a film written by the well-known wordsmith Mamet, it's the action sequences between the men and the bear that work the best.  Director Lee Tamahori creates some true genuine suspense between the men and their beastly attacker.  It's when the men try to one up each other with their words where things begin to get a little bland.  Tamahori and Mamet can't quite find an adequate balance between these two worlds and it causes the film to limp along to its drawn-out conclusion.

That said, the film looks lovely and Hopkins and Baldwin are both quite good, but part of me wanted their back-and-forth repartee to be more biting than it was ever given the chance to be.  The Edge is a decent film, but one that doesn't pack the punch its promising premise could have allowed it to have.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

Monday, June 20, 2011

Movie Review - Skyline

Skyline (2010)
Starring Eric Balfour, Donald Faison, David Zayas, and Scottie Thompson
Directed by Colin and Greg Strause

It is honestly shocking that a movie like Skyline got a theatrical release.  With the exception of some adequate action sequences and decent special effects, this alien invasion flick has nothing going for it.  Horrible acting, some of the absolute worst dialog and silly "character background" you'll ever see, and foolish gimmicky direction.

But despite all that, I can't say I was bored for the entirety of the film's ninety minutes and it's mainly because whenever the Los Angeles-invading aliens were on the screen, I was entertained by both their appearance and their attack methods.  Of course, the film mainly focuses on some of the most unappealing and one-note characters ever to populate a wide release film.  When you're hoping for the humans to lose the intergalactic battle, you know you're in trouble.

Unfortunately, Skyline doesn't fall into the "so bad, it's good" category like crappy SyFy Channel flicks mainly because there is a modicum of good in the action sequences that pepper the film.  It's unfortunate that anytime someone opens their mouth to speak, they spout idiotic blabber (and it certainly doesn't help that these actors are not exactly ready for the big screen).  And since the humans are onscreen a whole heckuva lot more than the aliens, it doesn't bode well for the overall success of the flick.

While there's certainly worse out there, I'm genuinely surprised that this made it to the big screen.

The RyMickey Rating:  D

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Movie Review - Gnomeo and Juliet

Gnomeo and Juliet (2011)
Featuring the voice talent of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, and Patrick Stewart 
Directed by Kelly Asbury

Romeo and Juliet is a story that has been told many times, and while it may never have been told through the eyes of stone garden gnomes, it certainly wasn't begging to be depicted in that capacity.  Gnomeo and Juliet is a film that simply doesn't work from a story perspective and it's pretty obvious why this flick which was formerly under the "Disney" banner went out under the company's "Touchstone" banner.  The animation folks at Disney knew it just didn't succeed.  [Of course, Disney released Mars Needs Moms under the Disney banner and that was an utter failure at the box office, so maybe they need to re-evaluate things in general.]

Saying that Gnomeo and Juliet doesn't work as a story isn't a knock against the source material.  At its core, the tale of star-crossed lovers pulled apart by their feuding families is successful.  However, taking this very adult story and trying to shoehorn it into a cutesy plot about garden gnomes for kids just doesn't fit.  When you take the family infighting of the Montagues and Capulets and simply turn things into Red Gnomes thinking they have a better garden than the Blue Gnomes, this becomes an animated film that may work fine for kids, but doesn't translate well in the least to adults.

The voice acting is lukewarm at best.  Although everyone was serviceable, James McAvoy and Emily Blunt didn't bring anything exciting or invigorating to the two title characters.  They were simply "Generic British Voices" thrust into the film.

The animation is fairly poor.  While a movie like Toy Story amazingly gave plasticized items a heart and soul, Gnomeo and Juliet doesn't even come close to creating life behind the stony eyes of its characters.  Sure, there were some cute moments, but nothing was really great to look at from a visual level.

When the best part of your film is trying to pick out what Elton John song variation is playing on the film's score ("Oooh, is that a bit of 'The Bitch Is Back?'"  "Hey, isn't that "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word?'"), you know your film's in trouble.  For some reason, Gnomeo and Juliet was a fairly successful venture in theaters, but it's quite a disappointment for anyone over the age of twelve.

The RyMickey Rating:  D

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Movie Review - Megamind

Megamind (2010)
Featuring the voice talent of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, David Cross, and Brad Pitt
Directed by Tom McGrath

Megamind starts out so promisingly as it sets up a longstanding battle between two rivals -- the nefarious though bumbling villain Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) and the perfect but cocky hero Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt).  Since childhood, the supervillain and superhero have been trying to one up the other with Metro Man always coming out the victor.  This twenty-minute set-up showcasing this rivalry was full of humor, charm and great promise.  However, after the scene has been set, things begin to fall apart.  Megamind proves to be successful at one of his devious plans and things begin to head downhill from there.

It's not that Megamind is a bad film, it's just that it doesn't really go anywhere after its first act.  It tries to humanize its villain, but the character of Megamind is simply much more fun as an inept bad guy than as a reformed good guy.  His attempts to woo tv reporter Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey) take up much too much time in the already short film and unfortunately don't advance the story in a positive way.

With the exception of the plot, on all other fronts, Megamind is quite good.  The animation is crisp and appealing to the eye.  The voice talent is all quite good.  I was expecting over-(voice)acting on Will Ferrell's part, but it worked for the character.  Tina Fey was also droll and witty despite the fact that her character's storyline didn't really work for me.

Overall, Megamind is a moderate disappointment if only because the first act showed such promise and evoked laughter which the final two-thirds were sorely lacking.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Movie Review - The Tourist

The Tourist (2010)
Starring Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, and Paul Bettany
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

While watching The Tourist, I kept thinking that it was very reminiscent of 1950s/60s romantic thrillers like the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn-starrer Charade.  That flick took place overseas in Paris, whereas this flick calls Venice, Italy, its home.  That earlier flick was sumptuous and rich-looking, as is The Tourist.  Charade had two big name stars, as does this one.  Unfortunately, Johnny Depp is no Cary Grant and Angelina Jolie is no Audrey Hepburn...and together the two superstars lack any ounce of chemistry which is fundamentally vital to making this suspensor work.  It certainly doesn't help either of the two actors that the director (whose incredibly long name is listed above) never found a nice rhythm for the flick and the plodding nature bogged down the rather silly plot.

I could have lived with the silly plot, however, if there were any sparks onscreen between the two leads.  However, Jolie and Depp shockingly lack any ounce of charisma in their scenes together.  When Jolie's Elise first meets Depp's American tourist Frank on a train heading to Venice, I was expecting a moment where their eyes meet and a sparkle glimmers.  Instead, the duo is simply bland.

Elise is a woman on the run who meets Frank when her criminal boyfriend, Alexander, whom she hasn't seen in many months asks her to board the aforementioned train and find a man to "pretend" to be him.  This will create a decoy for both the British cops and the British gangster who are both following Elise to get to Alexander, allowing him time to get things settled before he sees her again.  Seeing as how Jolie's Elise is essentially seducing Depp's Frank into following her around the city of Venice, there was very little sensuality exhibited from the sex symbol.  And Depp (who I guess could be deemed a sex symbol as well) doesn't reciprocate any sensuality either.  The two simply don't work together and, to be quite honest, that is quite surprising.

While Depp and Jolie certainly shoulder a good chunk of the blame for the film not working, the director (helming his first American film) is also at fault for not getting good performances out of his two leads.  Add to that the fact that von Donnersmarck doesn't seem to have a keen sense as to how to correctly pace a film or a notion of how to create any semblance of excitement in action sequences and you've got a thriller that lacks thrills.  That this film was nominated for Best Comedy/Musical at the last Golden Globes shows how much of a sham those awards really are -- The Tourist is neither a comedy or musical nor is it any good.

The RyMickey Rating:  D

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Movie Review - The Switch

The Switch (2010)
Starring Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Thomas Robinson, Patrick Wilson, Juliette Lewis, and Jeff Goldblum
Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck

If I were to tell you that the synopsis of a movie was that a woman decides to artificially inseminate herself only to have the sperm from the supposed dreamboat donor be replaced by her pessimistic male best friend, you'd assume that the film was a wacky comedy perhaps in the vein of a Farrelly Brothers flick.  Oddly enough, The Switch has that exact premise, and, while it has its humorous moments, it's surprisingly touching and sweet -- something I wasn't expecting in the slightest.

Worried about the aging process, Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) is determined to have a child before it's too late.  Not finding the man of her dreams on the dating circuit, Kassie eventually meets the married and handsome Roland (Patrick Wilson), a nice guy college professor who agrees to donate his sperm to Kassie since he and his wife have hit hard financial times.  This whole process greatly upsets Kassie's best friend Wally (Jason Bateman) who has always harbored a crush for Kassie.  Nevertheless, Kassie throws a party at which Roland will leave his donation, followed by Kassie hopefully impregnating herself.  A drunk Wally comes across Roland's sperm in the bathroom and accidentally drops the "deposit" down the sink.  Not wanting to ruin Kassie's night, in an intoxicated haze, Wally decides to replace Roland's sperm with his own.  Needless to say, Kassie gets pregnant (by what she believes to be Roland's sperm) and moves out of New York City to be closer to her parents in the Midwest.

Reading the above, I can absolutely understand why no one would want to watch The Switch.  It just sounds stupidly godawful.  However, about thirty minutes in, the movie jumps ahead in time by seven years and finds Kassie returning to NYC with her six year-old son Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), and it is at this point that the movie turns over a new leaf.  It becomes a rather heartfelt film about Wally trying to become a better man so that he can be a better example for his best friend's son (for, you see, at this point, even Wally can't remember what he did that fateful night).  Wally sees a lot of himself in Sebastian and despite his best efforts, Wally grows to love the kid.

I realize that now I'm just making the movie out to sound all mushy and sentimental -- and it is -- but, in the end, it's a much better film than its first act makes it out to be.  Bateman is actually quite good once he moves past his character's first act bitterness and Aniston is perfectly acceptable (although she could do this role in her sleep).  That said, part of the reason the film succeeds so well in its final hour is because of young Thomas Robinson who plays Sebastian as a perfectly believable neurotic miniature doppelganger of Bateman's Wally.  Once his character makes an appearance, the movie's tone changes into something that works really well, settling into a tale that's strong on the heart that its first act is decidedly lacking.

So when you look at the poster above, look less at the disgusted look Jason Bateman is giving at Patrick Wilson's Cup O' Sperm and instead look at the byline that tells you that this film is brought to you by the people behind Juno and Little Miss Sunshine.  In the end, it's more like those two flicks than any of the ads would have led you to believe.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The 2010 RyMickey Awards - Best Picture

And we have reached the end.  The final RyMickey Award category for 2010.  Overall, it was a solid year for movies that had me liking but not loving a lot of what I saw.  With very few exceptions, there weren't many films that grabbed me.  I longed for a little more of an emotional connection, or, at the very least, a very strong feeling.  Still, 2010 was a solid year for cinema.

Best Pictures of 2010

Honorable Mentions
The Kids Are All Right -- B+
The Greatest -- B+
Kick-Ass -- B+
How to Train Your Dragon -- B+
(Dreamworks shows they can finally step up their game.)
Enter the Void -- B+
(Likely the most divisive film on this list, I can't even imagine many people being able to sit through this, let along liking it.)
Red -- B+
(Pure fun.)
Inception -- B+
(Didn't hold up as well upon a second viewing, but still appreciated for its uniqueness.)
Buried -- B+
(Killer ending.)


20. Shutter Island -- B+
An old school, big budget 1940s pulp film made in 2010. Some great performances, a clever story, and, surprisingly, the film works better than the book from which it was adapted.

The remaining 19 flicks can be found after the jump.
(Click "Read More" below to advance.)

The 2010 RyMickey Awards - Best Actor

The penultimate category...finally...this was kind of a chore this year.  I didn't keep track of various options nearly as well as in 2009...Anyway, some good choices here.  All eight choices are quite good and could have possibly taken the top spots in previous years.

Best Actor


#8 - Aaron Johnson - Nowhere Boy
"Aaron Johnson is pretty great as Lennon, showcasing both emotional vulnerability and the necessary rock star swagger needed to be an aspiring teen idol."

#7 - Ryan Reynolds - Buried
"Ryan Reynolds is responsible for the flick connecting on an emotional level with the audience.  As Paul Conroy, an American working as a contracted truck driver in Iraq, his character is just a normal guy trying to earn money to keep his family together...which makes it all the more upsetting to see an everyman wake up after an Iraqi ambush in a darkened coffin underground."

#6 - Jeff Bridges - True Grit
"Had Jeff Bridges not won Best Actor at the Oscars last year for Crazy Heart, I'd have to imagine his nomination this year for True Grit would have made him a strong contender in the race rather than just an also-ran.  I, for one, thought he was pretty fantastic in this flick.  The grumbly, mumbly voice he brings to the part of bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn is one of those character choices that an actor makes that may have worried film execs initially, but proves to be a nifty defining characteristic that becomes instantly memorable."

And the Top Five...

#5 - Joaquin Phoenix - I'm Still Here
When the truth was exposed that this wasn't a documentary, how can you not give credit to Joaquin Phoenix for believably crafting a completely different persona?  This mellow, seemingly quiet guy turned into an aspiring, coked-up, sex-crazed rapper and did it all rather effortlessly.

#4 - Ryan Gosling - Blue Valentine
Ryan Gosling brings a sly swagger to Blue Valentine that helps to create some amazing chemistry between his co-star Michelle Williams and himself.  Running the gamut from hopeless romantic to complacent (and, to a certain extent, boring) companion, Gosling proves that even former Mickey Mouse Club members are worthy of awards.

#3 - James Franco - 127 Hours
If I'm being honest, I think James Franco may have dropped down a spot in these rankings due to his terrible Oscar-hosting gig.  I realize that's maybe not fair, but these are my awards and there are no rules to follow.  That being said, Franco gives a helluva performance here, absolutely holding the audience's attention for close to 70 minutes as he takes center stage.

#2 - Aaron Eckhart - Rabbit Hole
Seeing a man cry onscreen is sometimes hard to watch.  I guess it's because as guys we're programmed to never wear our emotions on our sleeves, so when we see some guy lose it, it can be difficult to witness. What Aaron Eckhart's character goes through here is brutal and gut-wrenching...and while it can make you uncomfortable, you're well aware that you're watching something special.

#1 - Colin Firth - The King's Speech
You know, I hate to toe the Academy line seeing as how Mr. Firth's top-place berth makes me three for four in siding with the Oscars when it comes to my Acting awards, but sometimes you've got to admit that the Oscars just get things right.  And this year, for the most part, that was the case.  In a somewhat opposite way of the #2 actor above, Firth tries to hide his true emotions as best he can, but his feelings are always just below the surface, trying to sneak out.  A rather brilliant performance in a film that I wasn't expecting to enjoy nearly as much as I did.