Saturday, March 17, 2012

21 Jump Street

Title: 21 Jump Street
Directed by: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube
Genres: Comedy, Action/Adventure, Adaptation
Running Time: 1 hour. 35 minutes
Release Date: March 16th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R

Review: For the last few weeks, every commercial break seems to have included a '21 Jump Street' trailer. And they been hilarious. But still, the trailer-bombing made me suspect '21 Jump Street' might suck. You know the type type of movie that looks hilarious in the trailers, but when you watch the film, you realize every single scene worth watching was already used in the trailer. The rest of the film is shit. Yeah, those suck.

However, '21 Jump Street' is NOT one of those films. '21 Jump Street' really is hilarious! I haven't laughed out loud this much in the movie theater for ages. In fact, every single person in the audience were laughing hysterically. There was no way to avoid it. The plot line is pretty weak, granted, but it is really the performances of the cast, and the bromance chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum that makes '21 Jump Street' so hilarious.

Personally, I can't wait to own this baby on Blueray.

Grade: 8.5

Friday, February 10, 2012

Safe House

Title: Safe House
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepherd, Vera Farmiga
Genres: Thriller, Action/Adventure
Running Time: 1 hour. 55 minutes
Release Date: February 10th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R

Review: 'Safe House' is rapid paced and action packed, almost to the point of too much. The majority of the film is gun fights, fist fights, car chases, or a combination thereof. I do wish they would have spent less time fighting, and more time exploring these characters. The small portion of the close-to-2-hour film spent on character development laid the groundwork for some fairly strong characters, especially considering the caliber of the cast. It is easy to see the potential of how great this film could have been, and while it does not quite reach that potential, it is still a really good film.

Denzel Washington puts in a solid performance, and Ryan Reynolds is actually, surprisingly, a pretty good in the action genre, something that I found somewhat unexpected, considering his usual fare of rom-coms opposite the likes of Sandra Bullock.

'Safe House' is definitely worth seeing, if you like action thrillers.
Grade: 7.5

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Big Miracle

Title: Big Miracle
Directed by: Ken Kwapis
Starring: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Dermot Mulroney, Kristen Bell, Tim Blake Nelson, Vinessa Shaw
Genres: Adaptation, Drama, Family
Running Time: 1 hour. 47 minutes
Release Date: February 3rd, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG

Review: 'Big Miracle' is a family film, based on the true story of a small town news reporter and a Greenpeace volunteer who join forces with some unlikely allies to save a family of gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in Alaska. It has a great story, a great cast (Hello, Kristen Bell, Drew Barrymore, and John Krasinski!), and some really funny moments. It's not called 'Big Miracle' for nothing.

All things considered, 'Big Miracle' is a heartwarming family film, suitable for kids and adults alike. And while it does occasionally tug at the heart strings, and might even well up an eye or two here and there, it is not a sad story overall. I will admit to having shed a couple of tears, but I'm pretty soft-hearted, particularly when it pertains to animals, and I still left the theater uplifted. I would recommend seeing 'Big Miracle', and if you don't in the theaters, definitely see it on DVD.

P.s. Do not walk out as soon as the credits start rolling, or you will miss the side-by-side comparison of the real deal versus the film, which was quite entertaining.
Grade: 7.5

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Title: Chronicle
Directed by: Joshua Trank
Starring: Dane Dehaan, Michael B. Jordan, Ashley Hinshaw, Michael Kelly
Genres: Science Fiction/Fantasy, Thriller, Drama
Running Time: 1 hour. 24 minutes
Release Date: February 3rd, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Review: I saw 'Chronicle' yesterday. It tells the story of 3 teenage boys who develop unique abilities after being exposed to some mystery item. What follows is their exploration of their new power while documenting everything with their video camera. Having the story told Blairewitch Project-style really suited the story, but depending if you like that style of film or not, it might be a deal breaker.

The backdrop of the story is the pre-power teenage lives of these boys. High school, popularity, bullying, parental abuse, parental alcoholism, and a very sick mom. You can clearly see how each of their backgrounds really influenced how they handle their new power. The reaction of the boys was actually one of the strongest parts of the film. They are irresponsible, childish, careless and full of hybris. The troubled kid, well portrayed by Dane DeHaan, drives the film, and his reactions were particular realistic and believable. DeHaan kind of reminded me of a young DiCaprio.

Personally, I found 'Chronicle' extremely depressing.

The target audience of this flick is of course teenage kids, as it should be. I find it unlikely anyone else would actually like this film. I recommend passing on this one, unless you are in fact part of that target market.
Grade: 6

Monday, January 23, 2012


Title: Haywire
Directed by: Steven Soderberg
Starring: Gina Carano, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender
Genres: Action/Adventure, Thriller
Running Time: 1 hour. 33 minutes
Release Date: January 20th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R

Review: I thought 'Haywire' might be an interesting action flick, given that the female lead is played by Gina Carano, a retired MMA fighter (and x-gladiator). Add a cast of Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, among others, and directorial by Steven Soderberg and you might have yourself a good film.

Unfortunately, not.
Honestly, I almost walked out, and that is not something that happens every day.

'Haywire' is a strange collection of Gina Carano running over rooftops to the sound of [nothing but] odd plinky-plonky music, a few driving scenes, a number of overly choreographed, and rather ridiculous looking fight scenes, and a whole lot of surprisingly terrible acting. 'Haywire' contains about ten lines of dialogue in the entire film. The overall experience is that of watching a really crappy movie on mute, while listening to horrid 60s elevator music.

Skip this one, it's a waste of it's hour 33, and you could do something better with your time.
Grade: 5

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Title: Contraband
Directed by: Baltasar Kormàkur
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, Lukas Haas, Caleb Landry Jones
Genres: Action/Adventure, Crime, Remake, Thriller
Running Time: 1 hour. 50 minutes
Release Date: January 13th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R

Review: Walking into the theater, I had low expectations for 'Contraband'. It appeared to be the typical generic crime flick, with a so-so cast. And at the beginning of the movie, I found it to be very much in line with those expectations. The start was slow, and nothing beyond the ordinary, dime-a-dozen action flick. But as the story continued, I found my self sucked in, at the edge of my seat even. By the time the credits rolled, I found myself positively surprised by this film.

So what sets 'Contraband' apart from it's mass of generic siblings? Instead of the usual action-centric mix of intricate fight scenes and explosive car chases, 'Contraband' tries to be a bit more subtle. While it does have some fight scenes, as well as a car chase or two, the focus is not to dazzle teenage boys with cool angles coving expensive cars exploding. Instead, this is the type of sneak-up-on-you thriller, with an ending that will have you holding your breath. All in all, an above average crime flick, with a so-so cast doing a better than so-so job.

Grade: 7

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Title: Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Elodie Yung
Genres: Adaptation, Drama, Thriller
Running Time: 2 hours. 40 minutes
Release Date: December 21st, 2011
MPAA Rating: R

Review: I loved the books, as well as the original Swedish movie adaptation (read my review here), so it was with some trepidation that I watched the Hollywood-ized adaptation.

And Fincher's version of 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' is good. The script has been altered quite a bit, some for the better, and some for the worse. I did really enjoy the fact that they still filmed it in Sweden (which happens to be my home country), but that may be my own bias, since several people I went with specifically mentioned this as one thing they didn't like.

Personally, my biggest gripe with the remake is Lisbeth herself. In the Swedish version, this character is brought to life in one of the most authentic performance I've seen in a while. Noomi Rapace climbed into this fictional character, and basically lived as Lisbeth Salander for 3 years, while filming the trilogy. She IS Lisbeth.

Here, we get to see the Hollywood version of Lisbeth, and it is a stark contrast. While they look very similar, this Lisbeth is more surface, less substance. Instead of showing us who she is, she tells us. Instead of the quiet threat of Rapace's Lisbeth, we here have a Lisbeth who screams in people's faces to show her aggression. At the same time, the fragile vulnerability of Rapace's Lisbeth is absent in Mara's Lisbeth, and the space left behind is stuffed with stereotypical clichés. While the Swedish Lisbeth would never care if Michael sees someone else, the Hollywood Lisbeth is miffed and jealous, something that doesn't quite gel with this emotionally detached character. Furthermore, I wish the dragon would have been left alone. I much preferred it when it ripped it's way out of Lisbeth's entire body, instead of the small dragon on her shoulder we see here. The change is quite telling.

That is not to say that Mara's version is weak. Far from it. If hers was the only portrayal of this character, it would be a very strong performance. However, as it is, the original portrayal was better. I do hope, as the remake trilogy continues, that Mara brings some more substance to her version of Lisbeth.

The strength of the American version, much to my surprise, is Daniel Craig. His performance as Mikael Blomqvist is excellent. It's one of, if not the, best performance of his career. I find myself looking forward to where he will take this role in the following two films. Well done, Mr. Craig.

The Swedish films are raw, with a typically Swedish starkness, and every scene brings the story forward. The Hollywood version is more jagged, at some moments very much so. Some bits of the story have been scrambled for "movie making reasons", so fans of the book series will be surprised here and there. While it may be unfair to judge a remake film against its predecessor, so is the life of a remake. All in all, though, this version is a good film, and definitely worth a watch.
Grade: 7.5

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Title: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Steven Fry, Jared Harris, Kelly Reilly, Rachel McAdams, Eddie Marsan
Genres: Adaptation, Action/Adventure, Sequel
Running Time: 2 hours. 9 minutes
Release Date: December 16th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Review: 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' has a lot of things going for it. It is funny, at times hilarious, the directorial style of Guy Ritchie suits the story and add interest, Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect Holmes, and the charming rapport between the characters, established in the first film, continues seamlessly in the sequel. The result is a highly entertaining film, with plenty of loose ends that sets up another sequel.

I do wish the story line would have been a bit stronger. Here, we're thrust into an already on-going case, where Holmes is already heavily involved in a "game of brains" with the villain. I would have much rather been along for the entire ride, and seen Holmes start this case from the beginning. It would have made for a stronger story, and a better film. It's a shame, because the potential to be an '8 or above' flick is obviously there, so I do feel a little cheated.

And now, I can't help to wonder about Adler. Is she, or isn't she? What do you think?
Grade: 7

Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Title: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Directed by: Brad Bird
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Josh Holloway, Anil Kapoor
Genres: Action/Adventure, Adaptation, Sequel, Thriller
Running Time: 2 hours. 12 minutes
Release Date: December 16th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Review: If you enjoyed the previous 'Mission Impossible' movies, you will like "MI4". The flavor is clearly that of another installment in the popular series, but a few things have been shaken up. This time, Tom's team are on their own, without an agency with resources to help them. Of course this bring a whole new set of problems, with continuously failing electronics, tools, computers, etc. which adds a lot of humor to the film.

However, it seems it is not only the equipment that is failing. The team, supposedly highly trained agents, the best of the best, are falling on their face over and over. Throughout the film I'm sitting there in my seat, wondering why the hell Agent Hunt (Tom Cruise) wouldn't be able to catch a middle-aged Swede (played by Michael Nyqvist which some might recognize from the Swedish 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' films), who plays a physics professor with a pot belly & no special training. Over and over again, this professor beats the shit out of Agent Hunt. I find that odd.

Of course, this is a movie, and things happen in movies that wouldn't happen in reality. That goes with the territory. Reality is one of those things one has to temporarily let go of in order to absorb the reality the movie is selling, it's an essential part of appreciating the typical Hollywood action flick. If we start comparing our reality to the one they are selling us in films like this, the enjoyment falls away. However, I am not fact checking this agains our reality, just against the one that has been portrayed in the MI movie series. I do not think that the fact that Agent Hunt can't beat an old man gelled very well with the history of this character, or the reality created in the films.

Besides that, take into account that this is the fourth sequel of the series, something that doesn't happen everyday, it isn't a bad flick, and it's sure to delight fans of the series.
Grade: 6

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Sitter

Title: The Sitter
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jonah Hill, Max Records, Ari Graynor, J.B. Smoove, Sam Rockwell
Genres: Comedy
Running Time: 1 hour. 21 minutes
Release Date: December 9th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R

Review: I can always be convinced to see a Jonah Hill flick, and 'The Sitter' was no exception. Although it is definitely not a 'Superbad' or 'Pineapple Express', it is a funny comedy. It has some absolutely thigh-slappingly hilarious moments, some that fall way short of funny, and some that are so awkward it's almost painful to watch. All in all, it's not a bad way to spend an hour twenty minutes, if you're looking for some light entertaining.
Grade: 6.5