Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Weekend DVD Outlook: Renter Beware!

"When's Winter going to finally be over", you ask. Well I'm no weatherman, but I do know that on any given cold, brisk January night there are few options better than sitting in and checking out some of the newest dvd releases. So before you rush blindly out the door to the movie store this weekend, pay close attention to my Winners and Losers of movie rentals.


The following are brief descriptions of some newer released movies you should check out if you're choosing a movie night:

1) 500 Days of Summer. This clever boy meets girl romance shows you the whole picture of a troubled romance by jumping around a course of 500 days. It's fun and simple.

2) District 9. A groundbreaking sci-fi film that successfully humanizes aliens. An intriguing concept.

3) The Hurt Locker. An intense war picture that focuses on the life of a bomb-detonating officer thrust into the war in Iraq.

4) Gamer. A fast-paced action movie that takes place in a time where convicts accept the role as characters of a mind controlled video gaming world. You can check out it's personal review in my archive section.


No matter what, stay away from these time and money wasting movies that could lure you in this weekend.

1) Halloween II. Typically you save the best for last (or in this case the best of the worst), however, I didn't want anyone to get suckered in to this horrible farce of a horror movie. Rob Zombie's tale comes up miles short of even average. So consider yourself warned.

2) Paranormal Activity. If you haven't seen this movie yet take my word for it, you aren't missing anything. It's an hour an a half of fake hype and build up that culminates to such a letdown of an ending. To add insult to injury, the actors sound like they have marbles in their mouths throughout the movie.

3) Surrogates. In the not-so-distant future, civilization successfully accepts surrogate robots, under human mind control, to function in everyday life. It's a strange concept that fails miserably on the big screen. After Live Free or Die Hard I wanted so bad for Bruce Willis to bounce back, but now it looks as though there's not much left in the tank.

4) I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Generally, I am never opposed to a raunchy comedy. However, this tasteless film really leaves you unamused and unconcerned about the fate's of the characters. I don't think I ever cared so little at the end of an hour and 45 minute comedy before.

If you need an opinion on any other movies, you know who to ask.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Film: Gamer

Starring: Gerard Butler (300), Michael C Hall (Dexter), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

U.S. Release: 2009

Director: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (both directed Crank)

Genre: Action

Runtime: 95 minutes

On my typical Tuesday Blockbuster Video Voyage, I'll first inspect what's new to DVD that week. Now I wouldn't call myself an Action fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I am, however, an objective movie viewer. So I bit my lip and proceeded to the nearest register with Gamer in hand. When I arrived at my humble abode, the movie went into my PS3 with lower than normal expectations, yet, it didn't disappoint.

Gamer takes place in the not too distant future (year unknown). All that we know about the time period is "Barbara Walters has been deceased for 9 years" (so your guess is as good as mine). In what the movie declares as present day, a bright young mind has revolutionized the gaming industry. By infiltrating the Nervous System, Ken Castle (Hall) has developed a way for people to control real life human convicts as though they were characters in a video game. Now this sounds pretty far fetched, but there's an interesting take on this strange scenario. All of these convicts are on Death Row and have an option to stay there or to enter Mr Castle's gaming world. Now, if a convict successfully wins 30 levels of the game (obviously with the help of their human "controller"), he or she will be set free from their sentence and placed back into the real world.

Throughout the film you will surely be entertained. Gerard Butler stars as Kable, the best character in Mr. Castle's game. Kable has successfully completed 28 levels and well on his way to being the first champion. Butler is a far superior actor than most you will find in a typical Action flick. This role is no different. Michael C Hall was also quite the surprise. I'm a big fan of his show Dexter, so I thought it'd be difficult envisioning him outside of that role. He didn't disappoint.

Now Gamer wasn't a great movie, but it kept my interest and had a nice flow. There were a few holes in the far fetched story line, and even some lackluster performances by other cast members. All in all though, it was entertaining and intriguing to say the least. So if you find yourself at Blockbuster on Tuesday (or any other day for that matter) with nothing else catching your eye. Give this hour and 30 minute action packed movie a try.

Watch Gamer if you enjoyed: The Matrix. This film is slightly more action-packed and slightly less innovative than The matrix, but there are multiple similarities in the two movies.

Stars: 2 out of 4

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dave's 2009 movie awards

Unfortunately, I'm going to require you to take my word for it, but I actually finished this post prior to Sunday night's airing of the Golden Globes. The reason it's so unfortunate is that a lot of my picks happened to be the same. Now I'm sure the talented crop of actors and actresses are much more excited for a Golden Globe win than a win on my blog, but nonetheless the Foreign Press and I happened to see eye to eye a lot.

As a disclaimer, let me point out a warning that there are a few notable films I haven't seen this year. However, I do have 70 films to reference from for my personal selections.

Notable Films I am yet to see released in 2009: A Single Man, Nine and Sherlock Holmes.

Now after my disclaimer, here are my 2009 award winners (and runner ups) for some personalized categories.

First, the Nominees for Best Comedy are:

* The Men Who Stare At Goats

* Zombieland

* Funny People

* The Hangover

* Adventureland

and the winner is ...

The Hangover. There was a lot of hype for this film and it exceeded ALL expectations. Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifana blah blah blah were hilarious. The Mike Tyson cameo was even an added bonus to the film.

Next, the nominees for Best Horror/Thriller are:

* The Orphan

* The House of the Devil

* Law Abiding Citizen

* Moon

* Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

and the winner is ...

Law Abiding Citizen. Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler were excellent in this intense picture that was partially filmed in Philadelphia. At first you empathize with Butler but as the film progresses so does the villain.

The Nominees for Best Supporting Actress are:

* Mo'Nique (Precious)

* Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)

* Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)

* Sigourney Weaver (Avatar)

* Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)

and the winner is ...

Mo'Nique (Precious). She played such a despicable villain, but she played it to a "T". I was blown away by her performance, and she may be the sole reason why EVERYONE must see this film.

The Nominees for Best Supporting Actor are:

* Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)

* Robert Downey Jr (The Soloist)

* Colin Farrell (Crazy Heart)

* John Malkovich (The Great Buck Howard)

* Alfred Molina (An Education)

and the winner is ...

Alfred Molina (An Education). This was a very unexpected performance in an unexpected film. Molina's character demonstrated the perfect combination of humor and drama in this Oscar worthy picture.

The Nominees for Best Actress in a Motion Picture are:

* Sandra Bullock (Blindside)

* Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)

* Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer)

* Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)

* Carey Mulligan (An Education)

and the winner is ...

Sandra Bullock (Blindside). I happen to be a big Sandra Bullock fan and this was easily one of the best performances of her career. She carried this "feel good" film.

The Nominees for Best Actor in a Motion Picture are:

* Ben Foster (The Messenger)

* Morgan Freeman (Invictus)

* George Clooney (Up in the Air)

* Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)

* Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

and the winner is ...

George Clooney (Up in the Air). This was a terrific role for Clooney, and he was nothing short of spectacular. Clooney, of late, has proved to be one of the best "character" actors in the business.

The Nominees for Best Director of a Motion Picture are:

* Lee Daniels (Precious)

* James Cameron (Avatar)

* Jason Reitmann (Up in the Air)

* The Coen Brothers (A Serious Man)

* Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer)

and the winner is ...

James Cameron (Avatar). It must have been a difficult task humanizing characters that use CGI but he pulled it off and created a masterpiece with Avatar. If you haven't yet, go see it in theatres (Yes Poppie, I'm referencing you!)

And finally, the Nominees for Best Motion Picture of 2009 are:

* Up in the Air

* Avatar

* District 9

* An Education

* Precious

and the winner is ...

Precious. This drama was an amazing motion picture that truly shocked me. It incorporated great acting, a great story, and great direction. Hence, it's my choice for best picture.

If there's anyone or any movie you feel I missed let me know (there's gotta be some Tarantino lovers out there who think I'm crazy)! I will update this blog as I see the above mentioned movies.

Crazy Heart

Film: Crazy Heart

Starring: Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight), Colin Farrell (In Bruges)

U.S. Release: 2009

Director: Scott Cooper

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 112 Minutes

After reading the Golden Globe nominations and seeing the preview for Crazy Heart, I had to check out Jeff Bridges' performance for myself. Bridges has had a brilliant career in Hollywood. He's starred in many of my all time favorites such as Arlington Road, Amateurs, and of course the brilliant Coen Brothers' film The Big Lebowski. Therefore, naturally I had high expectations for Scott Cooper's directorial debut, but all in all Crazy Heart fell short of spectacular.

The film revolves solely around the life of a once highly regarded Country music star, Bad Blake (Bridges). From the opening scene Cooper drives home the point that Blake is not only a "has been" in the music scene, but a crude alcoholic to say the least. Blake travels around the country in his just as old and just as beat up truck, performing at Saloon's and Bowling Alley's to keep his washed up career alive. While on the road he agrees to an interview with a young attractive writer named Jean Craddock (Gyllenhaal). Despite being a terrible interview, Blake has two things going for him. First, he's still a very talented musician. And Second, he's quite charming. So naturally Jean and Blake fall for one another. Jean, however, demands more than just charm from Blake, she desires his sobriety and loyalty. Although, this may be a little too much to handle for the 57 year old artist.

Undoubtedly, Bridges gives a wonderful performance. Cooper also deserves credit for creating such a lovable, yet flawed, lead character. The downfall in Crazy Heart centers around the timeline of the film. Cooper spends way too much time showing you the same scenes over and over again, and not enough time showing Blake's personal struggle to change his lifestyle. Colin Farrell also gave a noteworthy performance as Blake's younger, more famous protege who wants nothing more than to help revive his mentor's career.

This is a slow paced film (although I felt it didn't have to be) that is full of some great acting. The story is interesting and if you're a fan of Country music you'll enjoy the soundtrack. However, Crazy Heart is somewhat lacking in story and, as an overall film, very mediocre.

Watch Crazy Heart if you enjoyed: The Wrestler. Darren Aronofsky's 2008 hit is a one man show (starring Mickey Rourke) much like this movie.

Stars: 2 and a half out of 4

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Avatar: Cameron Delivers Again!

Film: Avatar

Starring: Sam Worthington (Terminator: Salvation), Sigourney Weaver (Alien), Joel Moore (Dodgeball)

U.S. Release: 2009

Director: James Cameron (Titanic, Terminator)

Genre: Action

Runtime: 162 Minutes

I realize as I write this that I'm a little behind on this one, and many of you have probably already seen and formed an opinion about James Cameron's action adventure Avatar. Well going into the film (almost a month after it's nationwide release), I knew all the back stories. The legendary Cameron had spent over a decade in Hollywood trying to get this movie made but such an expensive budget scared off all of the major studios. And after finally being able to cross all the t's and dot all the i's, Cameron would return to the screen with his first masterpiece since 1997's Titanic. I mean come on now, it's James Cameron! And if you aren't aware of how huge of a director he is just go watch season 2 and 3 of Entourage to catch up.

So I bought my pretzel bites and pink lemonade and walked up the ramp and into the IMAX 3-D theatre in King of Prussia. To be perfectly honest, I was a skeptic going in. It's a rare feat for a movie to withstand such a hyped release. Avatar was up against no easy task.

Avatar takes place in the future, 2154 to be exact. A human civilization has found a huge supply of a priceless rock on the mystic planet Pandora. The only problem is the planet is inhabited by an intelligent humanoid race known as the Na'vi. These Na'vi have their own culture and language and they aren't about to give up their majestic planet and its resources to the humans. A young paraplegic marine named Jake Sully (Worthington) is brought in by the humans to operate an AVATAR and infiltrate the Na'vi civilization. An AVATAR uses a human mind to operate a remote controlled body of the Na'vi race. As Jake begins to be welcomed in by the inhabitants and learn about their culture, he second guesses the purpose of his mission.

Avatar is an adventure to say the least. Cameron tells us the story of a magical planet and the interesting Na'vi which occupy it. Behind the amazing CGI effects and the aura of Pandora (excuse my rhyming), Avatar portrays a deeper meaning. He showed the inhumanity of our flawed species and did so quite effectively. But Cameron's masterpiece isn't just taking a shot at the greed prevalent in our society, he shows the compassion we as humans can feel. That right there is why Avatar is a must see film and why Cameron is one of the most "sure thing" directors alive.

About 20 minutes into the film I found myself questioning the validity of Sam Worthington as the lead role in Cameron's picture. However, as the film progresses, so does Worthington's character. The rest of the cast gave adequate performances, but nothing worthy of an Oscar. The true beauty of Avatar lies in the utopia of Pandora that Cameron was able to create and portray to the audience. You find yourself falling in love with the planet and the Na'vi people who call it home. I would easily recommend this movie to everyone as a film you need to at least see once. Kudos to Mr. Cameron on another fine feature.
Watch Avatar if you enjoyed: The original Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope). The Characters in Avatar aren't as memorable, but the film is revolutionary much like the George Lucas classic was in its time.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My First Review: Adoration

Film: Adoration

Starring: Scott Speedman (The Strangers), Devon Bostick (Saw IV), and Rachel Blanchard (Road Trip)

U.S. Release: 2009

Director: Atom Eyogan

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 101 minutes

Generally, there is a template to a movie review. Begin with describing the back story. Introduce the reader to the main characters, and while outlining the plot, draw comparison's to other films with similarities (good or bad). I'm throwing this template out the window. I'm going to tell you what I saw, how I felt about it, and why you should or shouldn't see this movie.

Simon (Devon Bostick) isn't your typical high school student. Sure he looks and acts like a normal teenager, but his life story is filled with many questions and even fewer answers. One day in French class, Simon takes on an assignment and writes a first person narrative about his deceased father and mother. Simon describes, in such pristine detail, the day his father placed a bomb in his pregnant mother's suitcase, prior to boarding an international flight to Bethlehem. Simon's French teacher, Sabine, also happens to be the Drama teacher as well. Sabine and Simon decide to present the class with Simon's story, as real life fact. The story is all too realistic and questions begin to arise. Was Simon's father, Sami, actually a terrorist?

Adoration attempts to evoke deep heartfelt emotion from the audience. The storyline jumps around quite frequently to flashbacks of different eras. At times, the underlying questions you develop as a viewer about Sami, seem to deter from the empathy you're suppose to be feeling for the other characters. The film, quite determined to be clever, outdid itself.

All in all, Adoration is a film not suitable for the masses. There are many people who enjoy so-called "Indie Films", and many of those critics will rave above the complexity and beauty of the movie. I, however, feel Adoration progressed slowly, unraveled strangely, and ended predictably. The acting and intrigue was good enough to get me through it, but all in all, it's a "case sensitive" film. Be warned.

Watch Adoration if you enjoyed: Lions For Lambs

Stars: 1 and a half stars out of 4

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top Ten Movies: 2009

The following were my top ten movies of 2009:

#10) The Hurt Locker

#9) Taken

#8) 500 Days of Summer

#7) Zombieland

#6) Avatar

#5) District 9

#4) Precious

#3) An Education

#2) The Hangover

#1) Up in the Air

Top Ten Movies: 2008

The following were my top movies of 2008:

#10) Role Models

#9) Hancock

#8) Changeling

#7) The Boy in the Striped Pajama's

#6) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

#5) Milk

#4) Forgetting Sarah Marshall

#3) Slumdog Millionaire

#2) Gran Torino

#1) The Dark Knight

Top Ten Movies: 2007

The following were my top ten movies of 2007:

#10) Reign Over Me

#9) Juno

#8) The Amateurs

#7) Bucket List

#6) Alpha Dog

#5) Superbad

#4) 3:10 to Yuma

#3) Charlie Wilson's War

#2) Gone Baby Gone

#1) No Country For Old Men

Top Ten Movies: 2006

The following were my top ten films of 2006:

#10) Little Miss Sunshine

#9) Running Scared

#8) V for Vendetta

#7) Unknown

#6) Borat

#5) Grandma's Boy

#4) The Prestige

#3) The Break Up

#2) Blood Diamond

#1) The Departed

Top Ten Movies: 2004

The following were my top ten films of 2004:

#10) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

#9) Eulogy

#8) Meet the Fockers

#7) Dodgeball

#6) Bourne Supremeacy

#5) The Village

#4) Anchorman

#3) Ray

#2) Along Came Polly

#1) Million Dollar Baby

Top Ten Movies: 2005

The following were my top ten films of 2005:

#10) Saw II

#9) Green Street Hooligans

#8) 11:14

#7) Batman Begins

#6) The Devil's Rejects

#5) Waiting

#4) Just Friends

#3) Wedding Crashers

#2) 40 year old virgin

#1) Cinderella Man

Top Ten Movies: 2003

The following were my top ten films of 2003:

#10) Love Actually

#9) Identity

#8) Bad Boys II

#7) Once Upon a Time in Mexico

#6) Old School

#5) Bad Santa

#4) Life of David Gale

#3) Finding Nemo

#2) Last Samurai

#1) Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Top Ten Movies: 2002

The following were my top ten films of 2002:

#10) Lilo & Stitch

#9) Bourne Identity

#8) Super Troopers

#7) Frailty

#6) Minority Report

#5) The Ring

#4) Road to Perdition

#3) Unfaithful

#2) Red Dragon

#1) Catch Me if You Can

Top Ten Movies: 2001

The following were my top ten movies of 2001:

#10) The Score

#9) The Bully

#8) Training Day

#7) A Beautiful Mind

#6) Joe Dirt

#5) Mulholland Dr

#4) From Hell

#3) Shrek

#2) Memento

#1) Blow

Top Ten Movies: 2000

The following were my top 10 films of 2000:

#10) Scary Movie

#9) The Beach

#8) Pay It Forward

#7) The Patriot

#6) Almost Famous

#5) Meet the Parents

#4) Road Trip

#3) Sexy Beast

#2) Perfect Storm

#1) Remember the Titans