Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
In theaters, PG-13 for language, 133 minutes
In Fall 2001, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the Oakland A's General Manager and former player who never reached his full potential. He's faced with his 3 biggest stars leaving for bigger markets and more importantly, bigger paychecks. After he meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), they find a way for their small salary team to compete with the wealthy. This is mostly by evaluating players different than everyone else - placing a higher value on on-base percentage rather than a "name" player. Initial skepticism and failure eventually makes way for success and validation . . .
Pitt is excellent in the movie star role - he's in every scene and carries it all effortlessly. Hill is the best he's ever been, especially in the trading deadline scene when he's on the phone. As A's manager Art Howe, Philip Seymour Hoffman is borderline unrecognizable as the crabby, condescending roadblock in their way. The uncredited Spike Jonze is at his wacky best in a short scene. The writing by none other than Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List, the upcoming The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) is great as expected. The highly detailed (and nerdy) statistics are explained well and the banter between Pitt and Hill is superb. But you've already seen all of the best lines in the trailer.The main problem is the generic made-for-TV directing by Bennett Miller. There's maybe one shot (Beane's truck hurrying onto an exit ramp) that breaks the mold. While Miller does nicely allow several scenes to play out with pauses and breaks, there's hardly a "cinematic" shot in the whole thing. And this is despite the considerable talents of cinematographer Wally Pfister (The Dark Knight, Inception). The editing is frequently distracting, with unimportant shots sporadically spliced in for no effective reason. And the whole thing is 10 minutes too long. Even worse, the baseball player close-ups look like outtakes from Jerry Maguire. Then, Miller bungles the ending by using a song (sung by Beane's 12 year old daughter) that's horrifically similar to Juno's "Anyone Else But You". It's contrived for an emotional payoff that eluded Beane in real life. But the real Beane is a true hero - choosing family and loyalty over money. And ultimately winning the war while losing all the battles that mattered most. B+
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Carlos (Criterion) - #
Good Neighbors - #
The Hour - #
Jeff Dunham: Controlled Chaos - #
Transformers: Dark of the Moon - #
Click below for this week's TV and Blu-ray releases
Army Wives: 5th Season
CSI: 11th Season
CSI: Miami - 9th Season
CSI: NY - 7th Season
How I Met Your Mother: Season 6
Hung: 2nd Season - #
King of Queens: 9 Season Set
Kojak: Season 2
Law & Order: SVU - 12th Year
Married With Children: Complete Series
The Middle: 2nd Season
New Tricks: Season 5
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 & 3
Phantom Carriage (Criterion)
# - also on Blu-ray
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
The 20th anniversary of Nevermind's release was 2 days ago. It started an excellent musical mini-revolution that lasted 5-6 years. All the Nevermind tracks are essential, so this one is arbitrarily singled out. Only "Territorial Pissings" is even close to a throwaway, but it shows them at their most raw and powerful.
Drive's disappointing box office numbers probably reflect an audience that expected more car chases and less character development. Maybe the marketing led them astray. The "Drive" in the title isn't really about his job, but what motivates him internally. It's really about his connection to 2 people and how this changes his modus operandi. Audience members should be challenged to examine their own inner drive. Anyway, the meaningless box numbers after the jump.
1. Lion King (in 3D): 22 mil / -27% / 62 mil
2. Moneyball: 20.6 mil / NEW
3. Dolphin Tale: 20.3 mil / NEW
4. Abduction: 11.2 mil / NEW
5. Killer Elite: 9.5 mil / NEW
6. Contagion: 8.6 mil / -41% / 57 mil
7. Drive: 5.8 mil / -49% / 21 mil
8. The Help: 4.4 mil / -32% / 154 mil
9. Straw Dogs: 2.1 mil / -59% / 8.9 mil
10. I Don't Know How She Does It: 2 mil / -53% / 8 mil
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Lawyer's original review with plot points is here. There are small spoilers below.
Valhalla Rising was highly stylized but too grimy and gritty to connect to the characters. The violence was overdone from the opening scene. Of course, I'll never know what director Nicolas Winding Refn did between that medieval debacle and this modern masterpiece. He apparently watched the first and second seasons of TV's Miami Vice. And he probably watched Blue Velvet, Manhunter, and Thief several times too. All films are derivative and have to start somewhere. Refn emulates some of my favorite directors while finding an amazing balance and patience that allows the characters to breathe and develop . . .
Refn's use of color is reminiscent of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. His tight frame composition informs on characters motivations, desires, and connections. Refn's slow camera movements are hypnotic (particularly the shots of the LA buildings). It's always fascinating to see how foreign directors see America and Refn clearly loves Los Angeles. The fusion of music and images is evocative of none other than Michael Mann and as assured as Martin Scorsese. Light bulbs that change intensity are downright Lynchian as is the way Gosling retreats into the bathroom after his shotgun kill.The emotional depth of Carey Mulligan is perfectly balanced by Gosling's flat affect. Some beautiful compositions have Mulligan bathed in red and orange lights while Gosling is supported by cooler colors - blue, green, silver, and white (see below, but there's a better one in the film). A late terrific touch has an Exit sign above Gosling's head as he makes some final decisions. And this is one of dozens. I needed a pause button to keep up with the genius. The editing is consistently intriguing, flashing forward and back just enough to keep it interesting. The tension is brilliantly built with ticking clocks and Gosling's reaction shots.The violence is severe and shocking, but (like Bound's severed finger) the film wouldn't be as intense without it. Some minor flaws include Albert Brooks's shaved eyebrows, Ron Perlman's attempts at profanity, and Gosling walking around in public with blood stains on his jacket. For a guy that plays it safe, this seems way out of character. But the rest of it is pure cinema, probably too artsy for some, but right up my intellectual alley. A massive jump in style and substance for Refn. A
Friday, September 23, 2011
On DVD and Blu-ray
Rated R for language
Mike (Paul Giamatti) is a small town New Jersey lawyer whose practice is struggling to stay afloat. For some extra money, he agrees to take care of Leo (Burt Young), one of his wealthy clients, who has Alzheimer's but wants to stay at his own house. When Leo's grandson Kyle shows up to see him, Mike has to make further adjustments. Mike also coaches wrestling at the high school and finds extra inspiration when Kyle turns out to be an excellent wrestler. . .
If it sounds like every American indie film you've seen the past 10 years, it is. But the performances by Giamatti and Amy Ryan (the wife) give it depth while the sacrifices (and compromises) Mike makes for his family makes it relatable in these down times. The inspiring score helps as does the comedic relief from friends/coaches Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor.The film gains momentum as it progresses and while the ending is never really in doubt, how it gets there is so nicely restrained and understated, that it still sneaks up on you. The deft touch is provided by writer-director Tom McCarthy, whose previous 2 films (The Visitor, The Station Agent) were too contrived and preachy to be completely successful. His subtle, complicated touch here allows it to build into a sum greater than its parts. B+
The Wire alumnus: None other than Mr. McCarthy, who played an ethically challenged newsman in season 5. And I can't help but think of the similarities.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
In a Better World
A doctor alternates working between an African refugee camp and his hometown in Denmark. He has marital problems and his sons are having trouble at school. But it really doesn't compare to the horrifying lives the Africans have. Which is the whole point director Susanne Bier bluntly brings home. Bier made the same point more subtly in After the Wedding, which was much less manipulative about white guilt and how the affluent create problems for themselves to solve. But, the acting and emotions ring true and it never hurts to have a reminder of how good we still have it. This won last February's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. B-
Liam Neeson and his wife (January Jones) arrive in Berlin for a medical conference. When he discovers his briefcase is missing, he takes a cab back to the airport (without her). The cab gets into a wreck and he slips into a coma for 4 days. When he wakes up, no one recognizes him - and he may not even exist. Neeson is in full Taken mode here, but it's not nearly as sharp, invigorating, or honorable. Taken played it straight while films like this will obviously have lots of twists. The best scenes belong to Bruno Ganz (Downfall) who plays a former Stasi agent that's become an investigator. His comments about modern generations forgetting about their past could have spun off into another movie, which would have been more interesting than what we got. C+
Just Go With It
Adam Sandler plays a plastic surgeon who finally wants to settle down (with Brooklyn Decker) after years of falsely wearing a wedding ring to pick up women. After she finds the ring, he has to fake a marriage (and impending divorce) with his assistant (Jennifer Aniston), who has 2 kids from a previous marriage. Lies begat more lies until everyone learns the elusive life lesson that it's better (and easier) to tell the truth. The simplicity of the message matches the obviousness of the humor - and the predictability of the conclusion. What exactly is the elegant Nicole Kidman doing in this? And why is Sandler so physically abusive to the kids? At least I laughed at the sheep getting the Heimlich maneuver. So there's that. C
Two nerdy Brits (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost) are traveling across the American Southwest when they discover Paul, an escaped alien (voiced by Seth Rogen). They then try to protect him from the pursuing FBI agents. The script (by Frost and Pegg) seems to only exist in an attempt to discredit Christianity. A fundamentalist Christian (Kristen Wiig) loses her faith immediately when Paul feeds her brain all sorts of information through his hand. She quickly becomes a foul-mouthed slut and is happier for it, of course. The script certainly doesn't exist to provide any laughs. We can safely say the success of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz belongs entirely to former Pegg-collaborator and director Edgar Wright, who succeeded without him with Scott Pilgrim. Director Greg Mottola has done good (Superbad) and great (Adventureland, Arrested Development) work, but the heavy Lucas-Spielberg references and ridiculous plot leaves him stranded. The sole bright spot is Jason Bateman, who deadpans every one of his agent's acerbic lines beautifully. D+
Take Me Home Tonight
A recent MIT grad (Topher Grace) returns home and regresses to living with his parents and working at the mall. His twin sister (Anna Faris) is about to marry her shallow boyfriend (Chris Pratt) and his schmuck best friend (Dan Fogler) just lost his job. But his unrequited love of high school is back in town and the group heads to a party for one crazy night that will change everything. The message of "you can't win if you don't take a shot" is fine, but the writing lets the hard-working actors down. There are no memorable lines or moments and the whole thing feels like a retread from every coming-of-age movie (or TV show) ever. The movie is set in 1988 for apparently no other reason than to have an expensive soundtrack of 80s pop songs. They should have spent more money on a rewrite. C-
Bridesmaids - #
The Kennedys - #
The River Murders
Set Up - #
Spooky Buddies - #
Body of Proof - 1st Season
Castle: 3rd Season
Hawaii Five-O: 1st Season - #
The Mentalist: 3rd Season
Mike & Molly: 1st Season - #
Modern Family: 2nd Season - #
Raising Hope: 1st Season
Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases
Breakfast at Tiffany's - *
Dumbo - *
Le Beau Serge (Criterion)
Les Cousins (Criterion)
The Others - *
# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
In theaters. Rated R, 100 minutes. Trailer.
A film that evokes Taxi Driver, Scarface and Lost in Translation all at the same time? I really didn't know what to expect when I walked into director Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive which stars Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. Gosling is the unnamed and very introverted "Driver" who is a movie stunt drive by day and a heist driver by night. After falling for a neighbor, he involves himself in a complicated situation that challenges his tightly controlled existence. Click below for more on DRIVE:
The film is as understated as any Michael Bay film is loud. Refn's elegant and velvety direction and visuals provide a counterbalance to the grime and grit of the locations and characters in the film. Gosling's Driver is very economical with his words, and his burgeoning relationship with Mulligan's character is one of the most emotional I've experienced in years despite only a few scenes and dozens of words. I was shocked this was playing in a normal theater and not an arthouse - it feels like an arthouse movie the whole time and the audience didn't appear to enjoy it much. I loved the moodiness of the film and the excellent music, not the least of which is A Real Hero by College.
Much has been made about the violence in the film - it is as graphic as any Scorsese film and brings Scarface to mind in one scene in particular. Some have viewed it as a major flaw - I disagree and feel that informs Gosling's character. He hardly speaks but clearly is a volcano of emotions and anger that I think the explicit nature of the violence is just right for the film and Gosling's character.
My favorite scene in the film is the Welcome Home scene during Standard's speech - Mulligan's nonverbal acting is amazing and it nearly brought me to tears.
1. Lion King (in 3D): 29.3 mil / NEW
2. Contagion: 14.5 mil / -35% / 44 mil
3. Drive: 11 mil / NEW
4. The Help: 6.4 mil / -28% / 147 mil
5. Straw Dogs: 5 mil / NEW
6. I Don't Know How She Does It: 4.5 mil / NEW
7. The Debt: 2.9 mil / -38% / 27 mil
8. Warrior: 2.8 mil / -47% / 9.9 mil
9. Rise of Planet of Apes: 2.6 mil / -33% / 172 mil
10. Colombiana: 2.3 mil / -42% / 33 mil
Friday, September 16, 2011
Rated PG-13, In theatres, 140 minutes
Miracle’s Gavin O’Connor directs this film about two estranged brothers and their dad destined to meet in the finals of a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) tournament without tricks or subtleties, but it’s the stronger film for it. Like Miracle, if you saw the trailer, you know the story, but you don’t know that O’Connor, who also co-wrote, is using the set-up to explore the emasculation of men by the financial crisis and what it means to be a man in 21st Century America. Along the way we get a stellar performance out of Nick Nolte as a recovering alcoholic father as well as perfectly shot fight scenes that neither exaggerate nor downplay the brutality of MMA.
The basics: Nick Nolte plays Paddy Conlon, wrestling trainer, three years sober, and apparently an abusive father and husband. His youngest son Tommy (Tom Hardy, Inception), a wrestling prodigy, left in his early teens with his mother. Mom died, and Tommy is finally returning home after a stint in Iraq. Older son Brendon (Joel Edgerton, Animal Kingdom), stuck around to be with his girlfriend, now wife, Tess (Jennifer Morrison). After some years in the UFC, he’s settled in to teaching, but his youngest daughter got sick and he’s caught between hospital bills and a house that’s lost half its value in the crash. He takes to fighting to pay some bills, his school gets wind of it, and now he’s suspended without pay. Brendon returns to serious fighting against his wife’s wishes to stave off foreclosure. Meanwhile, Tommy, who is RIPPED btw, gets back into fighting to keep a promise made to a dying comrade to take care of his wife and kid. Tommy comes back to have dad train him, but he can’t come close to forgiving his father for the past. In fact, both sons heap so scorn and abuse on their father until your heart breaks a bit for him even though you know he probably has it coming.
The bonus: O’Connor approaches his material like nothing so much as a Greek tragedy. The GreekProxy-Connection: keep-alive
understood what anyone with Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits already knows: Sometimes you’ve got to fight to be a man. He plays with the two main male archetypes: warrior and the father/husband protector. Both his protagonists feel like they’ve failed in those roles and are looking for redemption in the most male of all pursuits: hand-to-hand combat. Into this crucible O’Connor dumps the pain of brothers separated and a father’s attempt to make up for that which cannot be replaced. Unlike last year’s otherwise superior The Fighter, Warrior never forgets exactly which story it’s telling—the reunification of the brothers and father. The other subplots are perfectly handled to drive the primary narrative and are balanced to propel not take away from it. Whereas The Fighter never has that one emotionally climactic payoff you expect from a sports movie, Warrior knocks it out of the park. All the leads and supporting cast are good, and Nolte is exceptional, potentially lining himself up for a Best Supporting nomination come award season.
O’Connor here produces, for my money, a better sports film than Miracle, no small feat. His last film, the ambitious but flawed Pride and Glory, signaled he was interested in more than straight studio pics, and he comes through here admirably. Like a poor man’s Michael Mann, he is interested in the world of men and the struggles to be masculine in our current context. There is a scene between the brothers on a beach as they address the issues dividing them that, if it had been better, might have propelled this to a full A from me. O’Connor is still wrestling with the medium, but he’s got things to say, and he’s smart enough to appeal to the average dude while he’s saying them.
Much better than I expected going in. A-
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
By Janet Reitman, 2011. 464 pages.
Scientology has always fascinated me, but I've never been able to understand what it is exactly. This book does a good job of laying out the facts without a bias. Even so, I found myself laughing out loud at several passages, especially Scientology found L. Ron Hubbard and his fleet of ships and commodore outfits. The "religion's" ridiculous language and happy talk is all just a a scam for a cult that feeds cash to its bizarre leader, the ruthless David Miscavige. Worth a read - you should know about Scientology and be aware of their tactics. Their response to this book pretty much showcases exactly what they are. Here is a great video from Southpark that is 100% accurate on its telling of the Scientology creation story.
Posted by Lawyer at 9:41 PM
On DVD and Blu-ray
PG-13, 114 minutes
Through an interspace portal, the arrogant Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and friends start a war with some ice creatures (Frost Giants) which upsets his father (Anthony Hopkins), the king who then banishes his son to Earth (through another portal). There, Thor meet some scientists (Including Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard, and Kat Dennings) who are trying to understand the portal. During his brief stay on Earth, Thor will learn humility and altruism which makes him worthy in his father's eyes . . .
The unusual choice of Kenneth Branagh to direct turned out to be wise since he has enough Shakespearean history to keep the dramatic, political scenes afloat while family members try to out-scheme each other. Branagh's smart sense of humor frequently shines through, too. The action scenes (something new for Branagh) actually make sense but are hardly groundbreaking. The experienced, talented cast are good enough to make the audience believe all the nonsense (they sell it well, so it's easier to buy).
What keeps this in the mid-tier range of comic book movies is the choice of style-over-substance with respect to the title character. The camera loves Hemsworth, but he just isn't interesting enough to draw you in (like Robert Downey, Jr. in the original Iron Man, for instance). The film also doesn't have anything else on its mind other than a young man maturing and gaining his father's acceptance. B-
The Wire alumnus: Idris Elba (as a loyal gatekeeper for Thor) - quite the drop-off from the iconic Stringer Bell.
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop - #
Hesher - #
The Hills Have Eyes - #
Incendies - #
The Last House on the Left - #
Meek's Cutoff - #
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena - #
The Tempest - #
Thor - #
True Legend - #
Click below for this week's Blu-ray and TV releases
The Big Bang Theory: 4th Season
Blue Bloods: 1st Season
Camelot: 1st Season
Glee: 2nd Season
Grey's Anatomy: 7th Season
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: 6th Season
Love Wedding Marriage
Outsourced: Complete Series
Private Practice: 4th Season
Rescue Me: 6th Season
Sanctuary: 3rd Season
Supernatural: 6th Season
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Citizen Kane - *
The Count of Monte Cristo
Don't Say a Word
Manhunter - *
My Life as a Dog (Criterion) - *
O Brother, Where Art Thou? - *
Star Wars: Complete Saga
Star Wars: Original Trilogy - *
Star Wars: Prequel Trilogy
3 Women (Criterion) - *
Trainspotting - *
# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
On DVD (2011). Rated R, 111 minutes. Trailer.
Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett star in this Joe Wright (Atonement, The Soloist) directed film. Bana and Ronan are on the run from Blanchett's CIA character after a government program went wrong. The film has several spellbinding chase sequences with interesting and cool visuals paired with excellent music. After their cover is blown, Ronan has to try and meet up with Bana and experiences a coming of age beyond her caretakers control. The film doesn't really explain itself, but it explores several interesting themes and was a blast to watch. I can't wait to see it again.
Monday, September 12, 2011
In theaters. Rated R, 105 minutes. Trailer.
Contagion is a taut and wonky film about a modern-day deadly virus that causes a near collapse of civilization. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring a ridiculous cast (Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow), the film presents a chillingly realistic 2 weeks in the life of a virus and the attempt to contain it. The film is intelligent, interesting, and ambiguous. Click below for more on the best film so far this year:
Soderbergh uses his considerable skill to weave together the governmental response at the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a subplot in China involving the World Health Organization (WHO), a crazy blogger and Matt Damon's family and survival. We are challenged to think about what we would do in each of their shoes and reminded that all the things that normalize society can go away very quickly when survival is not assured. I enjoyed the pulsating score and loved the intense but not scary tone that Soderbergh struck. Definitely worth your time - might rise to an A- on a second viewing. Here's an article from the NYTimes on the plausibility of the film from one of its technical advisors. Here's a great article discussing the history of 'disease cinema'.
1. Contagion: 22.4 mil / NEW
2. The Help: 8.9 mil / -39% / 137 mil
3. Warrior: 5.2 mil / NEW
4. The Debt: 4.7 mil / -52% / 22 mil
5. Colombiana: 3.9 mil / -47%
6. Rise of Planet of Apes: 3.9 mil / -51% / 168 mil
7. Shark Night 3D: 3.4 mil / -59% / 15 mil
8; Apollo 18: 2.9 mil / -67% / 15 mil
9. Our Idiot Brother: 2.7 mil / -51% / 21 mil
10. Spy Kids 4: 2.5 mil / -48% / 34 mil
11. Crazy Stupid Love: 2.3 mil / -31% / 79 mil
12. Don't Be Afraid of Dark: 2.2 mil / -58% / 21 mil
Sunday, September 11, 2011
9/11 was unlike any other day ever. No one could watch Pearl Harbor or a presidential assassination on live TV. We watched the Challenger explode as it happened, but that was an accident. John Hinckley's attack was caught by cameras, but all the shooting victims survived. There have been many more people killed in a single day, many times in fact. 230,000 people died because of the 2004 tsunami. 316,000 people died because of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. But that was Mother Nature doing her random thing. 9/11 changed everything for many reasons, not least of which is the altered NYC skyline.There have been hundreds of movies which showed the iconic Towers, often featuring them. Every time one of those old movies shows up on cable, an immediate reminder of the horrors that occurred 10 years ago comes to mind. Even the crappiest of 70s, 80s, and 90s NYC movies suddenly has gravitas. 12/7/41 isn't on the forefront of your mind unless you're watching From Here to Eternity. 11/22/63 doesn't come to mind unless you're watching In the Line of Fire or JFK. You rarely see Dealey Plaza or the USS Arizona memorial in a movie, if ever.
No doubt, future generations will definitely not be as affected by watching Wall Street or Working Girl. My oldest son (born well after 9/11) just asked about the Towers last week which stunned me. The day (the day) is slowly entering into history. Yet it feels like it was just yesterday. And it does, every time I watch Fight Club or Being John Malkovich or Dressed to Kill or Ghostbusters or Taxi Driver or Mean Streets . . .
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Everything Must Go - #
Hanna - #
Last Night - #
X-Men: First Class - #
Click below for this week's TV and Blu-ray releases
Community: 2nd Season
Criminal Minds: 6th Season
Fringe: 3rd Season - #
The Good Wife: 2nd Season
The Office: Season 7 - #
Parks & Recreation: Season 3 - *
Two and a Half Men: 8th Season
The Caine Mutiny - *
Children of the Corn
Dressed to Kill - *
40 Days and 40 Nights
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
The Hills Have Eyes
Straw Dogs - *
United 93 - *
# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved
Sunday, September 4, 2011
1. The Help: 14.2 mil / -2% / 119 mil
2. The Debt: 9.7 mil / NEW / 11.6 mil
3. Apollo 18: 8.7 mil / NEW
4. Shark Night 3D: 8.6 mil / NEW
5. Rise of Planet of Apes: 7.8 mil / -12% / 160 mil
6. Colombiana: 7.4 mil / -29% / 22 mil
7. Our Idiot Brother: 5.2 mil / -26% / 15 mil
8. Don't Be Afraid of Dark: 4.9 mil / -42% / 16 mil
9. Spy Kids 4: 4.6 mil / -23% / 29 mil
10. Smurfs: 4 mil / -16% / 132 mil
11. Crazy Stupid Love: 3.2 mil / +4% / 74 mil
12. Harry Potter 8: 2.4 mil / -5% / 375 mil
13. Cowboys & Aliens: 1.8 mil / -24% / 96 mil
14. Captain America: 1.8 mil / -20% / 172 mil
15. 30 Minutes or Less: 1.7 mil / -37% / 35 mil
Friday, September 2, 2011
On DVD and Blu-ray
Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a down-on-his-luck struggling writer whose girlfriend dumps him. When he runs into his ex-wife's brother on the street, he decides to take a mysterious pill (called NZT) because, as he puts it, "how could things get any worse?" After 5-10 minutes, the drug stimulates his brain and allows him to become smarter by increasing neuronal connections. He uses this cognitive catapult to become a Wall Street investor and make millions of dollars. This draws the attention of investing guru Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) who then employs him to negotiate a merger . . .
For a movie about stimulant drugs with 2 shots of severed hands and the protagonist licking blood off the floor, it's surprising this got a PG-13 rating. The directorial touches include ramping up the color saturation when someone takes NZT, using lots of blue tints when the characters are "normal", and moving very quickly through the NYC streets to show a manic episode. Cooper is charismatic enough but doesn't have quite enough range to pull off all that is asked of him (genius, bum, martial arts expert, lothario, etc). Much better is Mr. De Niro, who's better here than he's been in over a decade (1997 being his last landmark year - Jackie Brown, Wag the Dog, Copland). In fact this speech is the best scene in the film:
The film loses its way when Eddie's once and future girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) becomes an action hero for a solitary scene. The abrupt ending and abundant loose ends (for starters, who killed the blonde?) corrupt an otherwise interesting discussion about success, greed, and addiction. B
The Wire alumnus: Brian A. Wilson, typecast as a detective.
David Cronenberg's History of Violence is one of my favorite recent movies. His new one is a look at the legendary interaction between Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung, and stars a who's who of current priest favs including Viggo Mortenson, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassell, and Michael Fassbender. Watch the trailer here. And here is the rest of it.Continue reading this post
On DVD and Blu-ray
Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an Afghanistan War veteran trapped in a capsule who is forced by Air Force personnel (including Vera Farmiga and Jeremy Wright) via audiovisual equipment to enter another man's memories of the last 8 minutes of his life aboard a train which then blows up at the end of each sequence. Colter then gets debriefed and redirected to find the source of the bomb (in an attempt to prevent another terrorist attack). It's Groundhog Day meets The Matrix meets Heaven Can Wait . . .
It's actually fairly predictable (since no Muslim has been a movie bad guy in over 10 years) and the usual post 9/11 bad guys (education, the military, white guys) are indeed the bad guys here. Gyllenhaal is pretty good (especially during a phone call to his father - the best scene in the film), but Wright and Farmiga are just cashing paychecks. As the love interest, Michelle Monaghan shows some humor and energy which plays off of Gyllenhaal well. Director Duncan Jones (Moon) keeps the pace fast and the special effects are integrated well into the story. But the whole thing is nearly undone by a nonsensical coda which feels tacked on by a feel-good studio committee. At least Duncan, Gyllenhaal, and writer Ben Ripley hit the message (enjoying the miracle of life as well as your family and friends) right on the mark. B