Wednesday, April 11, 2012

50/50 and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

BTW, I don't know what is up with my paragraghs in these posts, but I cannot get a space in between them and so this looks really bad. I cannot figure it out, sorry for the confusion...
I am on a movie tear here of late! My Netflix cue is on fire and it feels really good to be getting in some quality movies that I have been wanting to see. This past weekend I picked up a couple of flicks, the first one was The Debt. Now not really going to spend any time writing about this one as I was sort of ambivalent toward it. Good idea of a story and some good actors, but I don't know, in the end, just was not feeling it. Can't really place my finger on it, but definitely glad I waited to see this one at home rather than in the theatre.
This leads me to the second film I saw this past weekend, 50/50, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. Gordon-Levitt plays Adam who is a pretty regular guy who shortly into the film is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The plot then focuses on how Adam attempts to deal with this devastating news and how it affects his relationships with his best friend, a sort-of girlfriend, a mother who is a little over-bearing and a father who suffers from Alzheimer's. How Adam handles each of these relationships and how everyone else reacts to the cancer is what keeps this movie moving forward. Add into the mix a young, female doctor who is trying to help Adam cope with his feelings and you have a really good movie, that is equal parts comedy and equal parts emotional drama.
I really liked this film and I will tell you why - I was expecting more of a regular film about someone dealing with cancer, but what I got was a film that really showed how relationships work and how what it comes down to in the end is the how we truly feel towards others. Probably did not make a whole bunch of sense what I just wrote there, but I really liked the dynamic of the relationship between Adam and his best friend played by Seth Rogen and Adam and his Mom played by Anjelica Houston. I think you might be surprised with what takes place.
Lastly, just like I talked about Tom Hardy in my last post, I am going to make a pitch for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and how he is one of the better actors out there right now. A clear signal to me as to who is really good is who Christopher Nolan (who is amazing) taps to play characters in his movies and Gordon-Levitt was not only in Inception, but he is also in the upcoming Batman film which comes out this summer. Any surprise as well that Tom Hardy is in both those movies? But getting back to Gordon-Levitt, he is really awesome in just about everything he has done lately and who would have thought this would be what we would get from him when he first appeared on TV years ago as the son on that show Third Rock from the Sun. I am a big fan of 500 Days of Summer and G-L is also going to be in the new Lincoln film which is directed by Steven Spielberg and comes out later this year. One last film that I have yet to see that he was in that got great reviews for his acting was Brick....I need to see that one. And do some searching for Gordon-Levitt on YouTube, he is a pretty good guitar player and has some cool stuff out there. Once again, become a fan of this kid, he is worth following...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Warrior and Tom Hardy

All right so it was a pretty regular night for me on Tuesday, but I was super excited as I was finally going to get the chance to see the movie Warrior. I have been wanting to see this movie for a long time, but just never got around to getting it to the top of my Netflix cue. Finally it arrived this week and I figured I would watch a little bit of the movie before I went to bed and try and finish it later in the week. I started the film around 10 PM thinking I would watch a quick half hour before I went to bed. Next thing I know it is 12:15 AM and I am just finishing one of the better movies I have seen in the past year.
I feel like that as much as this movie got some really good reviews last year, for whatever reason, not a lot of people saw this film. I think a lot of people see the MMA fighting that is in the movie and think that that is all they are going to get. And if that is the case, and you have not seen this one, stop what you are doing, get it on your list and see this movie. Not only is this an awesome story, but the acting and the actors do an amazing job. Nick Nolte was nominated for an Academy Award and from a sports perspective, this has to be one of the better sports films in the last ten to fifteen years.
I won't get too much into the story, but basically two brothers each have their own reasons for entering a winner take all MMA competition. The brothers, played by Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy are estranged and along with their own relationship, they are both dealing with their father (played by Nolte) and how to accept back into their lives their dad who was an alcoholic, abusive man to both them and their mother while they were growing up. Edgerton, who in real life is Australian, does a terrific job playing the older brother and he is definitely someone to keep your eye on as I have a feeling he is going to be in a lot more films coming up here real soon. A lot of people know him from Animal Kingdom which was a highly-acclaimed film in 2010 and he does not disappoint in this role and movie either.
Lastly, I am going to talk about Tom Hardy and the star that this guy is. And be prepared to hear a lot about Hardy this summer as he is starring as the villain in the newest installment of the Batman movies. Most people will recognize him from his role in Inception and others that know him well know him for his portrayal of Charles Bronson in Bronson. I really do think he is going to blow up this summer and I think he is going to be one of the biggest stars in the years to come. He is an extremely physical actor and when he is on the screen, he just commands a presence and the people around him. It is hard to not be impressed by him and you cannot help but feel for him in Warrior as you can tell he has gone through so much in his life. The pinnacle scene in this film which takes place in a hotel room with Nolte and Hardy is beyond emotional and the acting is exceptional between both actors. Just keep an eye out for Tom Hardy moving forward, he is one of the better actors out there and is going to be around for a long time. I cannot really say enough about good things about him...

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Iron Giant, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Hunger Games and Goon

All right, some new movies to talk about that I have seen recently. Definitely some good stuff out there right now and one movie from a while back that I have been hearing about and so thought I would check it out....

First movie up is The Iron Giant which came out way back in 1999 and if you are not familiar with this film, it is a cartoon. Directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Toy Story, Ratatouille and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), this is not the type of animation that I think we have all become accustomed to seeing - it is old school. But the cool thing about it is that the movie totally works and it actually makes you want to see more animation like it. With voices by Jennifer Anniston and Harry Connick Jr. amongst others, the story centers around a young boy and his new iron machine friend who has come from outer space. The relationship they develop and the friendship that these two have is what makes you care during this movie and the ending is one you might not expect. You definitely develop an affection for the iron giant as he has a human side which I think we all knew would be there. Highly recommend this film and very kid-friendly for those of you with little ones out there.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a film starring Emily Blunt and Ewen McGregor and the salmon fishing that brings them together. It is a little more complicated than that, but if you have seen the previews, you get a pretty good gist of what is going to take place and probably how the two main characters are going to feel about each other at the end. While the story is good and while I am a huge fan of Emily Blunt, there were a few things I would have changed within the story and what takes place. A couple of things I would not change is the Amr Waked who plays Shiekh Muhammed from Yemen as he is a great character and one that I think everyone would want to become friends with. And probably the biggest surprise of the whole film was Kristin Scott Thomas whose character reports to the Prime Minister. She is hysterical and she has one line that had the whole theatre laughing out loud as it was very unexpected. Finally for those of you who are big fly fishing fans, unfortunately you do not get much in this film and so if you are expecting a remake of A River Runs Through It, sadly you are going to be disappointed. All in all, a good film, but one that you can wait for on Netflix.

Now onto The Hunger Games which is probably the most talked about and anticipated film of this spring. Most of you know the story as just about everyone and their sister has read at least one of the books in the trilogy series. I, myself, finished the book about a week ago and so have had this one on the radar for a little bit. And I was looking forward to it because I have only read the first book and so still don't really know what is going to take place in the second and third books. The film which takes place in the future stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. Some of you know Jennifer from Winter's Bone which she was awesome in and received an Academy Award nomination a couple of years ago (highly recommend that film if you have not seen it by the way). Getting back to the film at hand, I was pretty impressed by the visuals throughout the movie as the director and producers did a good job of representing the Capitol and how it is described in the book. The citizens are way over the top and it is almost laughable how they live and the lifestyles they have. If you have not read this book, this probably is not making much sense, but in the end, the story is really about Katniss and her trying to fight her way through The Hunger Games - which is pretty much a battle royale fight to the death between 24 teenagers. Make sense? Yeah, if you haven't read the book, probably not! In the end, a good film and one that I would recommend seeing even if you haven't read the book. You will probably be shocked with what takes place and the whole premise of the actual Hunger Games. And everyone who read the book? I am going to assume that you have already seen the flick....

Lastly, yesterday I saw the movie Goon. Most of you have probably not seen or even heard of this movie, but I definitely recommend this one. It is the story of Sean William Scott, whom most of you know as Stiffler, and his unlikely rise from security guard at a bar to enforcer on a minor league hockey team. I had read some reviews on this film and knew it was going to be pretty good, but it was extremely funny and a very entertaining film. This one is not for kids for sure as the language is pretty out of control, but for us adults, there are some hilarious exchanges between the characters. Jay Baruchel wrote the script and I am for sure a fan of him and his work. Most of you would recognize Jay from The Sorcerer's Apprentice, She's Out of my League, Tropic Thunder and the voice of the kid in How to Train your Dragon. Basically I like everything he is in and so figured his writing would be something I would dig as well. I was again pleasantly pleased and Jay is even in the film playing Scott's best friend and host of a hockey show on local cable access TV. As with most sports stories, there is a love story aspect to this film and it is done very well. But in the end, this is a hockey movie and Scott's character Doug Glatt has to prove that he belongs, not only as a fighter, but as a player on the team. And of course, he has to prove that he can take out the other best fighter there is....Liev Schreiber who plays Ross "The Boss" Rhea, the baddest dude in all of hockey. So we all know what is coming....a showdown between the Doug "The Thug" Glatt and The Boss, to see who is the best fighter in the land. See this movie, you will like it.....and become a fan of Jay Baruchel, you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Separation and Undefeated...

Spring is here in Chicago, the clocks are an hour ahead and the last two days have seen awesome weather. Amazing what a couple of days like this can do to the city as everyone is out and about, people are seeing the end to winter and the upcoming days of sun and shorts.

I was all over this weekend and in my walking around and being outside, I checked out two movies that won awards at the Oscars a few weeks ago. I saw A Separation and Undefeated, two very good films that people should see when they get a chance.

First off, I saw A Separation late Saturday morning at The Music Box theatre. Always interesting seeing movies there as the theatre is very small and the screen is a lot smaller than what you are normally used to in theatre viewing. But for this movie, it worked out totally fine as there was a tiny crowd and the film did not suffer any from being seen on a smaller level. I really liked this film and the story that takes place in present day Iran. Focusing on a couple of different topics within the Iranian culture, the film was a really good look into how religion, marriage and faith affect two different families. The dialogue was very real and it was one of those movies that made you feel as if you were not really watching a movie. You could see how the actors reacted to each situation and you could really see how what was happening was affecting them on a very emotional level. Subtitles again with this film, but there is a reason it won the Best Foreign Film at the Oscars and so check this one out, you will not be disappointed.

The second film I saw this weekend was Undefeated. This movie won the Oscar for Best Documentary and follows the Manassas High School football team of North Memphis and their quest to win their first ever playoff game in the history of the school. North Memphis is an extremely impoverished area and a lot of the players on the team do not have father figures in their lives and so football and their coach is one of the only things they have going for them. As with all documentaries, the directors decided to focus on a few story lines and so we learn a lot about the coach and three of his players as they play their season. I will not give anything away as documentaries are all about what is going to happen at the end, but I will say that there were two scenes in this film that were two of the more emotional scenes I have ever seen on film. The gravity of what happens and what is said tears at your heart and I think everyone else will feel the same way. See this movie and learn a whole lot about character and how you build it amongst a group of young men. It was a great movie.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Movies to see...

I recently caught a movie recommended to me by the crew over at Filmspotting and the one that won their Golden Brick this year....The Arbor. Definitely something different from anything I have seen and it was a very interesting way to film a documentary. For sure check it out if you get the chance as there are actors in the documentary who are mouthing the words from interviews of the real people the story is based on. The movie is about Andrea Dunbar who rose to fame when she wrote a play when she was a teenager growing up in England. She became pretty famous, but also had some serious issues and the story revolves around the three children she had and what happened to them after she passed. One of the cooler movies you will see and so make sure you watch it on Netflix streaming if you have it....
Other movies that I have recently seen include If a Tree Falls which is the story of the Earth Liberation Front and some of the crimes they committed over a stretch of years in the Pacific Northwest. It follows one member in particular and his arrest and subsequent trial in which he was labeled a terrorist and facing over 300 years in prison for his acts of arson. While I don't agree with what he did, labelling him a terrorist is a little harsh as no one was ever harmed in the fires and they took special care to make sure they never hurt any person...they were only trying to destroy property. Once again, I don't agree with what they were doing, but a terrorist he was not. Definitely check this film out as it was up for Best Documentary in this year's Oscars, but it lost to Undefeated, another movie I need to see.
And speaking of the Oscars, I made it a goal of mine to see all the Shorts that were nominated this year. The Landmark Century Cinema shows all the Shorts (Animated and Live Action) in the weeks leading up to the Oscars and because they are shorts, you can see them all at once. I went on consecutive Sundays and checked out all the selections and was certainly impressed with the Live Action Shorts. The Animated ones left a little bit to be desired, but all in all, a very good experience. Props to The Shore which won the Oscar and the film was set in and filmed in Northern Ireland where my cousin Mark and his wife Leona and their family live. Always loving and rooting for Northern Ireland. And if you get the chance, check out Tuba Atlantic, you will not be disappointed if you like machine guns and and an old man who has a dream to play a tuba that can be heard from Norway to New Jersey. You will have to see it to believe it ;).
Lastly, I checked out Act of Valor, the movie that stars real life NAVY Seals. Very impressive to say the least the lives these men lead and it was cool to see some real life people acting out scenes that have for sure taken place around the world. I have the utmost respect for NAVY Seals and the the way in which these men do their job and the humility they show is truly a lesson to learn. We are lucky to have people like this helping us and watching over us all the time. The action sequences are really pretty unreal and go see this movie to learn a little more about how awesome some people really, truly are.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Good movies, even better actor...

With the holidays here, I am on a pretty big movie kick and thought I would give my thoughts on an actor that has been in a bunch of movies I have seen here lately. Last night I watched the movie Hunger and earlier over the break I caught the movie Shame. Yep, Michael Fassbender is who I am talking about and if any of you listen to the Filmspotting podcasts, this name will be familiar as he is probably Adam Kempenaar’s favorite actor of the moment right now. Some of the more popular movies he has been in here recently were Inglorious Bastards, A Dangerous Method and X-Men: First Class where he played a young Magneto. He is still relatively unknown right now, but that is changing as he surely has become a talked about actor who many consider to be one of the better ones out there right now. Born in Germany, but raised in Ireland, Fassbender can play characters from a variety of European backgrounds and it can be tough to really get a feel for where he might actually be from by just looking at him. In Hunger he plays a Northern Ireland prisoner who begins a hunger strike to protest the English government. For the role he dropped about 40 lbs from the beginning of the filming and at the end of the movie he is at 135 lbs. The dramatic weight loss that takes place over the time of the film is tough to watch and so it must have been even harder for him to go through what he did. And while the weight loss is certainly something that everyone can see, I think the most memorable aspect of the film is a scene between Fassbender and a priest that takes place in a visiting room. The whole scene is one single shot, with the camera not moving, just dialogue for 17 and a half minutes between the two actors. It is unreal and you find yourself wondering how they possibly shot this…and if they had to attempt it more than once. There is no room for even one mistake when a single shot is at play and the practice to get it right must have been extremely laborious. While it is normal for actors in plays to talk for great lengths, it is just not something we see in film. Truly one of the more mesmerizing scenes I have ever seen, right up there with the one shot soccer scene from The Secret in the Their Eyes (still the best film I have seen in a really long time).

Going to another extreme is the character that Fassbender plays in Shame. The movie gives us the portrait of a man who literally is controlled by sex and his need for sexual satisfaction. This role put Fasssbender back together with Steve McQueen who directed him in Hunger and the two just work really well together. Fassbender has a pretty stark existence in Shame, with his life pretty much revolving around going to work and then doing whatever he has to do to satisfy himself sexually. His life gets knocked out of his normal routine when his sister unexpectedly comes to stay with him and he does not really know what to do with his life now that she is around. There are a lot of undertones that the two of them have had a tough past together, but nothing really is said and so everything is left up to interpretation. Needless to say, they have a very contentious relationship that reaches a scene at the end that I did not see coming.

There has been lots of praise for Fassbender for his role in Shame and I will say, it is very well deserved. He does a terrific job of playing a character who has almost no emotion, just the sense of what he needs to do to get to his next “fix.” Right now he is up for a Golden Globe and typically that leads to an Oscar nomination and so we will see soon enough how things end up for him this year. In the end, Michael Fassbender is a great actor who only has brighter days ahead as he gets more and more notoriety for the roles he plays. Keep an eye on him, although some of you might have already had your eyes on him from before.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo review

Wow!! Been a while since I have updated the blog and so thought, what better way than with a review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now for those of you who have not read the books and are going to see the movie, maybe lay off this review as I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Okay, now we are ready to go….

So I have read all three books in the Stieg Larsson trilogy and loved them. While the first one took a little bit of time to get into, it did not disappoint as it introduced us to one of the most interesting characters to come along in a long while….Lisbeth Salander. The second book was addicting as Stieg brought us further into Lisbeth’s life and giving us a whole lot of back story. The third book wrapped everything up for the most part, although there are stories out there that Mr. Larsson had written more books for the series, but due to his unfortunate passing, we might never get to see what actually took place.

And of course when a trilogy is complete and when it is hugely popular, movies are made and the three books were made into films a few years ago with an entirely Swedish cast (as that is where the books take place). Fast forward to now and David Fincher (Seven, The Social Network, Fight Club) is at controls of the “Hollywood” versions of the stories. Now I did go see all three Swedish films and liked them all very much, they were very well done. Subtitles for sure for those of you out there who stay away from those types of movies, but highly entertaining and they did an amazing job of bringing Lisbeth to life on the big screen. For those of us who read the books, we all had a pretty good vision of how we thought Lisbeth would look and act and to finally see her on screen was pretty dramatic. Noomi Rapace was the actress who played Lisbeth and she did an awesome job in what had to be one of the hardest parts to pull off in recent movie history.

But I am here to talk about the new version of the movie and I saw it late last night on opening night. I am a big fan of David Fincher and so was intrigued as to how he would pull the story together and how he would give us his glimpse of the world Stieg Larsson created. And I will admit, after having slept on it for the night, while I enjoyed the movie a whole bunch, I think I am going to have to go with the Swedish version as being a little bit better. Now to be fair, I think pretty much everyone who has seen both movies is going to eventually compare the two ladies playing Lisbeth, as she is pretty much the focal point. That being the case, I am going to say that I think that whole aspect of the movies is a wash. While I loved Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth, I was equally pleased with how well Rooney Mara did in this huge role. Most people don’t know who Mara is, she has a very short filmography, and many were shocked when she won the role. Most moviegoers know her as the girl who dumped Mark Zuckerberg at the beginning of The Social Network and that is about all anyone has seen her in. And I think there were a lot of skeptics out there who were not sure she could deliver in what was one of the most sought after roles of the last decade. I am on the bandwagon though! She did an amazing job and she was great in what is an extremely demanding role. For those who know the story and know about Lisbeth, playing her would not be an easy task as there is a whole lot that happens in the story that would command just some amazing acting. Rooney Mara pulls it off and I think it is one of the better performances I have seen in a long time. You really can sense what is going on within her through her eyes and her expressions…and that is not an easy thing to do. She looks the part as she had all the earrings and tattoos and I found myself always gravitating toward her when she was on screen, even when she was in the presence of the more accomplished actors that are also in the movie. Lisbeth is a loner and you certainly got that feeling in the way she was portrayed by Mara and it cannot be understated how tough it must have been to film some of the scenes. She does an awesome job though and I am definitely a fan of Mara and look forward to how she moves the Lisbeth character forward.

Taking it all back to the story and my overall feel for everything, I did like the movie, but the ending seemed just a bit rushed. Good performances by Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard and Daniel Craig, but none of them really stood out. I am a big Daniel Craig fan and actually think he does a whole lot better job playing Bond than he does Blomkvist. And for those who are fans of the AMC show “The Killing,” you will be happy to know that Holmgren is in this movie as a part of Millennium and so surely he will be around for the other two films.

I did like this movie, don’t get me wrong. There is a very climactic scene that takes place toward the end of the book and when it happened in the movie, there was about twenty minutes left. From there they seemed to close up and finish the rest of the movie extremely fast. There was a lot that took place in the last twenty minutes (from the book standpoint) and it seemed that they could have developed that aspect of the story just a little better. If I had not read the book, I know I might have been just a little confused. Either way, go see this movie. It is highly entertaining, it has a great soundtrack (Trent Reznor again) and if anything, become a fan of Rooney Mara, she does not disappoint.

Thanks for reading, sure I will be back again soon…