Tuesday, April 30, 2013

From The Collection: Iron Man

In anticipation of Iron Man 3 I decided to watch the first one again and it still holds its own. 

Seems so long ago when Marvel started releasing their own movies and began their Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Back in 2008 I am not sure people knew how big it was going to be.   
There was a lot of uncertainty when it first came out. Iron Man was a lesser known comic book hero and had been in development hell for a long time.  There were points when Nicolas Cage and Tom Cruise were going to play Iron Man. Before Jon Favreau took the reins as director several other directors were asked and fell through including Quentin Tarantino and Joss Whedon.  Well obviously it did better business than anyone could hope and we now wait for Iron Man 3 to kick off Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Here is a brief recap of the movie for those unfamiliar with it.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a rich playboy who runs the weapons manufacturing company Stark Industries.  After being kidnapped by terrorists using his own weapons he is forced to find a way to escape. His solution is to build a suit of iron.  After his escape he has a change of heart and reevaluates what matters in his life.  He shuts down weapons manufacturing at his company angering the other shareholders and devotes his time to perfecting his suit.  When others learn of his suit they try to duplicate it and he is forced to do battle. 

I have to admit I am not a comic book reader and I had no idea who Iron Man was before seeing the movie.  But the casting of Robert Downey Jr. is what makes this movie work.  Downey was born to play this role.  They needed someone that could play a lovable asshole who eventually turns into a hero and Downey plays it perfectly.  In the beginning he is an arrogant prick and at the end his is an arrogant hero the whole time playing by his own rules and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.  The final battle is cool but not spectacular but by then we have seen Tony’s full character arc and that is the more important thing.  Watching this I thought whoever wrote the lines was pretty good.  The dialogue and the wisecracks that Tony makes are funny and perfect.  But reading a little bit more I guess most of those lines were improvised by Robert Downey Jr. proving again that without him this movie could have been really really bad. 

I have to give credit to the other stars in this movie too.  There are lots of Oscar nominated actors in this movie.  When I first heard that Gwyneth Paltrow was going to be in it I had my doubts, but she plays Tony’s assistant Pepper Potts perfectly.  You really feel they have this repartee down to an art.  Terrence Howard plays Rhodey Stark’s friend in the military.  While his part in this movie is not very big he plays it well.  And then there is Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane.  For some reason I can’t see Jeff Bridges as anything but The Dude from The Big Lebowski so that might be a personal problem but as Stark’s business rival he does an ok job.  He just doesn’t play a good villain to me. 

Overall: 5/5
For only having parts of the script done when they began shooting I have to say Jon Favreau did a good job keeping everything working. The movie was great fun. It did everything it was supposed to do. It introduced us to a new superhero while giving fans of the comic book little details that the rest of us wouldn’t get.  I am not sure if it was pure luck or pure genius on Marvels part but whichever they managed a pretty impressive launch of their Cinematic Universe. 


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Most Anticipated Summer Movies

Summer is a big season for Hollywood. All the studios roll out their biggest guns in hopes to win the movie goer's cash. Some of them succeed and, some crash and burn (John Carter, i'm looking at you).
Don't forget to let us know what your most anticipated movies are in our poll at Milwaukee Movie Talk

Here is Chris' top 5 summer films he is looking forward to.

1. Man Of Steel

2. Star Trek Into Darkness

3. Iron Man 3

4. World War Z

5. This Is The End

Pretty mainstream list, if I do say so myself. Of course, this summer has a ton of great films both A list and indie and Steve has his list of the top indie movies he is looking forward to.

I decided to do something a little different and wanted to highlight some smaller movies coming out this summer. So, here are my most anticipated indie films.

1. Only God Forgives

2. Much Ado About Nothing

3. The East

4. The Way Way Back

5. V/H/S 2 and Your Next - ok so I have 6 movies instead of 5 but couldn't decide between the two horror movies.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

From the Collection: Drop Dead Gorgeous

1999 was a good year for movies but one of the movies that tends to get overlooked is Drop Dead Gorgeous.  This was also at the height of my obsession with Kirsten Dunst.

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a mockumentary about a beauty pageant in Minnesota .  The “documentary” film crew chronicles the tryouts and spotlights the girls vying for the crown.  The two front runners are Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst) and Becky Leeman (Denise Richards).  Amber is the talented underdog while Becky is the daughter of the richest family in the city.  Becky is also the daughter of Gladys (Kirstie Alley) who is a former winner and in charge of running the show.  As the show gets closer freak “accidents” keep happening and people begin to die.  It becomes clear that the show is rigged in favor of Becky but can good girl Amber rise out of the trailer park and follow her dream to be a beauty queen?

While the premise of the movie sounds stupid it somehow works.  It is the perfect blend of satire and dark comedy.  I have seen it described as a mix of This is Spinal Tap and Fargo and that seems like a good description.  The characters are all over the top stereotypes but they are played by a perfect cast.  Like I said this movie came out at the height of my Kirsten Dunst obsession and this is one of my favorite movies she has done.  She perfectly captures the naiveté and optimism of Amber.   She is surrounded with a hilarious supporting cast that includes Kirstie Alley at her best, also Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney, Brittany Murphy, and Amy Adams in her first feature film all giving great performances. 

The movie was written Lona Williams who grew up in Minnesota and was beauty pageant contestant a number of times.  So it is easy to imagine a lot of these characters are versions of people she knew.  Williams also worked on shows like Rosanne, The Drew Carey Show, and The Simpsons so she knows how to write good comedy.  The movie has some of the best one liners and sight gags.  One of my favorites is when Amber’s mother starts hitting her with a beer can that has fused into her hand after an explosion. 

What is so good about this movie is that it gets more ridiculous as the movie goes on.  In the beginning you think yea this can happen but then things just get crazier and crazier.  Eventually you have an exploding swan and beauty contestants throwing up (was it sabotage by Wisconsin?).  There is a message in the movie about people’s obsession with looks and materialism but like all great satires it is just beneath the surface of hilarity.  So if you want to sit around and think about what it is trying to say you can do that or you can just sit back and enjoy the crazy which is how I prefer to view this movie. 

My only problem with the movie is why did the pharmacist have to be the pervert?

To sum it up I am going to use one of my favorite quotes from the movie. “Beautiful as a whore’s ass”


Monday, April 22, 2013

New Home Movie Releases 4/23/2013

Lots of new movies coming out on Blu-Ray today.
Jurassic Park 3D and Gangster Squad lead the way along with other movies from the beginning of the year.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

From the Collection: The Last of the Mohicans 1992

I have to admit this was the first time I have seen The Last of the Mohicans.  Someone at work had loaned me the Blu-Ray and told me I had to watch it.  So after having it for a few weeks I finally got around to watching it.

The Last of the Mohicans is based on the book by James Fenimore Cooper.  It is a love story set during the French and Indian War.   The Mohican tribe has been almost completely wiped out and only three survive. The father Chingachgook, his son Uncas, and his adoptive son a white man Hawkeye (Daniel Day Lewis).  While tracking a war party they save an English Major and two women Cora (Madeleine Stowe) and Alice who are the daughters of Colonel  Munro.  When they get to Fort William Henry where their father is in command they find it under siege by the French.  They manage to sneak in and reunite the daughters with their father, but the fort is about to fall and Magua a member of the Huron tribe is out for revenge on Col. Munro and vows to kill him and his daughters.  During their travels Hawkeye and Cora have developed feelings for each other and he will protect her at all costs.

Despite what the trailers and tag lines say this movie is a love story.  It is set during a war and there are some cool battle scenes especially at the end but it is about the love of Hawkeye and Cora.  And while there is a lot to like about this movie the love story is what doesn't work for me.  I never really believed they fell in  love.  The whole thing seemed rushed.  Now there is another love story between Uncas and Alice and that story takes a back seat but it seems more interesting and real.  For some reason Daniel Day Lewis and Madeleine Stowe just didn't click.  In reading a little more about the movie I guess Michael Mann had wanted to make a 3 hour movie but was forced to cut it down to 2 by the studios.  I would be interested in knowing if part of the extra hour was more development of the relationship.

Now that we got that negative out of the way lets talk about the positives.  I absolutely loved the score.  The music perfectly captured the tone and essence of the movie.  Also, Mann's direction and shots.  The scenes all look good and captures the feel of a mystical world.

Back to the negative.  While Mann's shots looked good some of the action scenes just didn't work for me.  Especially some of the ones towards the beginning.  Maybe this has to do with a post Braveheart viewing of this movie.  It could be that Braveheart has just led me to expect all movies to have bloody battle scenes.  But this movie came out a few years prior to Braveheart and having seen other Michael Mann movies it seems that he has a different way of directing action sequences that just doesn't work for me.

Lets talk about Daniel Day Lewis for a minute.  The first actor to win 3 Best Acting Academy Awards and this was his first movie after his win for My Left Foot.  And known for going to extreme lengths to get into character he lived for months out in the wilderness learning to fish and hunt.  Unfortunately this is not his best performance.

3 out of 5.
Lots I liked and lots I didn't like.  Not one of Day Lewis' finest performances but the movies does look good and has a great score


Django Unchained Steve's Review

Let me start off by saying that Django Unchained is the first movie I ever read the script before seeing the movie.  I wasn't sure how that would effect the movie watching experience.  I was afraid it would spoil certain parts.  But nothing could prepare me for what Tarantino had in store.  

Django (pronunced jango the D is silent) played by Jamie Foxx is a slave who is bought by a bounty hunter Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz).  Dr. Schultz needs Django to identify the Brittle Brothers since Schultz does not know what they look like.  The two set out on an adventure and soon become friends and a bounty hunting team.  After Schultz gives him his freedom Django wants to find his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  With the help of Schultz he finds out who bought Broomhilda and together devise a plan to get her back.   The plan brings them to face to face with powerful slave owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) in a big con game. 

In typical Tarantino fashion the movie is violent, funny, and has great dialogue.  This is unlike any western you have ever seen. It combines a lot of the western elements we all know mixes them with the visual style of Tarantino.  The violence is sometimes over the top and stylized fun.  There are a few gruesome scenes that are meant to portray the evils of slavery and they are not stylized but shown in a cringe worthy style. Unlike other Tarantino movies this movie does not have the time shifts and is a very linear movie and this is probably the first Tarantino film that has a little love story in it. Also while his music selection in movies is usually spot on I felt it didn't work here. This might be a personal pet peeve but I do have issues with modern songs in movies that take place in the past.

 There is one scene that felt out of place. the scenes with Jonah Hill are silly and meant for comedy but just doesn't fit with the tone of the rest of the movie (there is another scene with Tarantino playing an Australian which is odd and works only slightly better).

The acting was all top notch.  Christoph Waltz who won Best Supporting Actor for Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds gives another great performance and I would argue better then his one in Inglourious Basterds.  Jamie Foxx's performance is one of his best and Oscar talk is already buzzing for Leonardo DiCaprio. I have to say the one performance that I was not totally impressed with was Samuel L. Jackson's.  The interaction between is character and DiCaprio's character is a complex one but  Jackson is such a presence it is hard o see him as anyone's slave.  

As far as reading the script before seeing the movie it was interesting.  First off it doesn't matter what was in the script Tarantino has such a unique direction that it is still amazing even if you know what is going to happen.  Some of the biggest differences are with the back story of Django and Broomhilda.  In the script there is more to their story and it would have been nice to see that.  The one scene that I mentioned earlier that felt out of place in the movie also felt out of place in the script.  I would have liked to see that one taken out and more of the Broomhilda story.  

Overall: 4.5/5 Great movie.  Tarantino delivers a masterpiece of revenge with a side of  love story. I only had a few small issues with it but one of Tarantino's best and one of the best movies of the year.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

From the Collection: The Goonies

If you were young in the 80’s then you probably have watched The Goonies.  It is a classic movie about kids going on an adventure, and as a kid I always wanted to go on an adventure like that.   I wanted to see if it still held the same magic on me as an adult.  I have seen parts of the movie on TV over the years but have not sat down to watch the whole thing in a long time.  So I popped the DVD in and relived my childhood.

For those not familiar with the story I will give a quick recap. 
The Goonies is a group of kids Mikey, Mouth, Data, and Chunk living in Astoria, Oregon.  This is their last weekend in town because their houses are being torn down to build a country club. While looking through stuff in Mikey’s attic they come across a treasure map. Mikey remembers an old story his dad once told him about a pirate One Eyed Willy.  The story said that his treasure was supposedly hidden somewhere in town.  They decide to follow the map to see if they can find the treasure and save their houses.  The end up being joined by Mikey's older brother Brand and his two friends Stef and Andy.  They also run across a criminal family the Fratelli's.  They end up navigating a maze of caves and booby traps while trying to stay one step ahead of the Fratelli’s. 

I have to say the movie still holds up.  Maybe it is just because it is such a part of my childhood but I think it is more than that.  The movie is just really well done.  I think it starts with the screenplay by Chris Columbus and Richard Donner’s direction. 

The first thing they do perfectly is introduce us to the characters.  I have been wanting to write a screenplay and I started studying the beginnings of movies. The beginning of this movie is a lesson on how to introduce a cast of characters with very little dialogue.  As the Fratelli’s are being chased through town by the cops we get to see each character in their element.  We learn that the Fratelli's bumbling criminals, Chunk is a klutz, Data is a crazy inventor, Andy is the cheerleader, and Stef is the tomboy (although I have never figured out what she is doing with her head in the barrel of water).   After the credits we meet the leader Mikey and his brother Brand and when everyone comes over to his house we learn a little bit more about each character. 

Now maybe I am giving Columbus too much credit here since the characters play into stereotypes and we don’t really need any big introduction just some reinforcing of what we already assume.  Does it matter that the klutz is fat or the brainiac is Asian?  For me the story works the way it is.  Everyone in the audience can easily identify with one of the characters or knows someone like that.  It automatically gets you invested in the story.  Every character is allowed to shine at one point or another and they even develop a little love story.  

The movie was also perfectly cast.  Each actor did an amazing job.  It is one of those movies where it feels like the parts were written specifically for those actors.  You really feel like you know them and you care for them.  Some of them even went on to have good careers. Two of them went on to star in a movie that would eventually win Best Picture. Sean Astin was in  Lord of the Rings and Josh Brolin was in No Country for Old Men.  Joe Pantoliano was in two other of my favorite movies Memento and The Matrix.  Corey Feldman  seemed to star in every movie in the 80’s, and Martha Plimpton is now the star of the sitcom Raising Hope.  

The story and plot are very formulaic but once their adventure begins it is a lot of fun.    There are so many memorable scenes and funny stuff that I still find myself laughing at.  Especially the scene when the Fratelli’s are interviewing Chunk.  The wishing well scene is the most emotional and the heart of the movie. It is beautifully shot and Mikey's speech is still inspiring.  And how can you not love the water slide scene.  I always thought they should build a slide like that at a water park.  

You pretty much know how the movie will end. It is a kids movie after all and the kids are going to save the day.  But even for the simplicity of the plot and stereotypical characters the movie works. You feel like you go on the adventure with them and are always rooting for them.  

Overall: This is still one of my favorite movies and this viewing proved to me that it holds up over time.  It is a must see for everyone who had a sense of adventure as a child.

Here is the trailer.


Here is the opening scene. It is dubbed in Spanish but it is the only one I could find on YouTube and as I pointed out there very little dialogue and it is not real important. 


Friday, April 5, 2013

Movie Review - Evil Dead (2013)

When I first heard about this remake, I was very vocal against it. The story sounded silly, the casting choices, even worse. An unknown, unproven director surely didn't have the chops to take on Evil Dead, right? I'm happy to say, I was wrong. Director Fede Alexander does an admirable job retelling the classic tale of young people stranded at the cabin in the woods. The film starts off with a bit of a prologue. A young girl is alone in the woods and pursued by some men. She is then taken back to a cabin for some kind of ritual. The scene tries to bring some kind of backstory for what happens next and, does a decent job doing so. Things pick up again when Mia (Jane Levy) and her friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and, her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) arrive at the cabin. One thing of note, if you take the first letter of each name, it will spell DEMON. Kind of creepy.
Mia is a drug addict with a rough past. Her brother David left her and her sick mother at a young age. This is a character dynamic that is set up early in the film and plays a role throughout. Mia is angry and David feels guilty. The friends don't really get much character development. We only know that they are "friends."
Of course, they find the book of the dead and guess what?, one of them reads the book. This time, the book was nice enough to have warnings like, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK! One of them reads is anyway. That's when the fun begins. Mia is the first one attacked and, starts to change. Everyone just thinks it's the withdraw symptoms. Of course, when she turns into a demon, they change their minds and lock her in the cellar. I had heard before I saw this that Mia was the "Ash" character in this version. Ash is of course played by Bruce Campbell in the original. This was confusing to me when she was taken out so early in the film. Just watch and you'll get it towards the end. David was more like Ash in many ways, right down to the same shirt. David and Mia were like hybrids of Ash. It worked well, trust me.
The film is gory, that's for sure. The use of CGI was minimal. This was a horror film like the old days. Real fake blood and, real prosthetics. There were plenty of trademark Sam Raimi themes here too. Keep an eye out for the Olds Cutlass, a Raimi trademark. Many of the scenes were ripped right out of the original, in a good way. The chaining of the cellar trapdoor, the demon pounding to get out, all right out of the original.
Evil Dead was a refreshing film for an old school horror fan. It's nice to be able to see a horror film that's not chopped up to fit a PG-13 rating or post converted into horrible 3D (Texas Chainsaw, I'm looking at you). It was scary and had a moody atmosphere. Character development was minimal but, passable. Fede Alexander has a bright future in genre film making if he can keep this up. Raimi made a good choice to pick him to tackle this film. According to rumors, a sequel is already in the works, along with a sequel to Army Of Darkness, if both do well enough at the box office, another sequel may happen that sees both films combine into one. With Campbell joining the fray. On that note, stay after the credits for a groovy scene that lends credit to these rumors. In closing, Evil Dead 2013 looked, smelled and tasted like Evil Dead so, fear not fans, it turned out pretty good.

4 out of 5 necronomicons

New Movies Opening 4/5/13

A pretty quiet weekend.  Only two movies getting wide releases.  One of them is 20 years old and the other is a remake of a movie that is 32 years old. 

First up is the remake of Evil Dead.  A remake of the classic Sam Raimi movie from 1981.  The movie is about a group of kids who head to a cabin and make a bunch of bad decisions and unleashes an evil spirit.  Directed by newcomer Fede Alvarez with a cast of unknowns the only thing the movie has going for it is its name and the endorsement of Sam Raimi and star of the original Evil Dead Bruce Campbell.  The movie did get some positive buzz after it showed at SXSW film festival.  With the promise of lots of gore and violence with no special effects the movie has horror fans very excited. 


Next up is the 3D release of Jurassic Park.  Originally released in 1993 the movie was groundbreaking for its use of computer effects.  One of Steven Spielberg’s most loved film about a crazy scientist who genetically creates dinosaurs as a theme park attraction.  Of course things go horribly wrong and people start dying.   It will be interesting to see how this does as Jurassic Park has a big following but are people getting tired of older movies getting 3D conversions? 

A limited release opening locally is Ginger and Rosa.  About two girls who grow up best friends in London during the 60’s.  As the Cuban missile crisis heats up their friendship is put to the test.  The movie is opening at the Landmark Downer.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

New Home Movie Releases 4/2/13

Not much new coming out this week. The biggest thing coming out is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A 10 disc Blu Ray set that includes every movie from phase 1 of Marvels movie plan.