January 22, 2010

Armored, armed and ready to disappoint

Title: Armored
Year: 2009
Run Time: 88 minutes
Genre: Action, Crime
Cast: Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, Amaury Nolasco, Milo Ventimiglia, Skeet Ulrich, Columbus Short
Director: Nimród Antal
Ty Hackett (Columbus Short) has recently returned from Iraq, buried his parents and has inherited the responsibility of taking care of his younger brother and two mortgages. He’s taken up a job at an armored car company where he’s working with his dad’s longtime friend Mike (Matt Dillon), Quinn (Jean Reno), Baines (Laurence Fishburne), Palmer (Amaury Nolasco) and Dobbs (Skeet Ulrich).
Together they plan to abscond with $42 million during a delivery and stash it at their hideout. Ty is initially opposed to the idea but comes on board after mounting pressure from the bank and Children’s Welfare, put his situation into perspective. During the heist, things start to go wrong when a homeless man and a cop, Jake (Milo Ventimiglia), suddenly show up at their hideout . Ty starts reconsidering his position and standoff ensues between him and the rest of the gang.
“It was either that or sacrifice one of their brothers.”- Quinn
I’ll get right into it, I didn’t like this movie.
It started with the fact that they refused to screen this movie to critics, which led you to think they weren’t exactly sure of how well it would fair. The directing is poor on this project and it fails to capture your imagination at all. The opening scene is unimaginative, slow and loses your interest. But where Nimród Antal (Kontroll, Vacancy) really fails, is the screenplay. I know he didn’t write it, but he should have done something about it (maybe he did and thats why it’s so shoddy). It’s an action movie with a lot of emphasis on the characters, but the characters seem so plastic. The dialogue sounds so written and not very natural. It seems as though they are saying what you expect them to say in a movie but not what someone would actually say. And though for the most part the acting was ok (not great), the characters and their actions are mostly illogical.
What works:
Laurence Fishburne does his best with his role and it makes you wonder how good the first draft was to make him sign up for this film.
What doesn’t work:
The script, the dialogue, the character conception. They were all just poorly written.
The sound mixing. While it’s supposed to set the mood for the scenes, it’s comes across as overbearing and annoying.
It doesn’t have the flair of heist movie. With heist movies, you want the crooks to get away with it.
Ty (not Short) is simply not likable. You resent he’s indecisiveness. You hate him for trying to ruin the job for everyone. You really really want him to fail. You fail to understand his logic and you have to question, ‘How does he really think this will end?’
(Spoiler Alert!) There is this redemption angle they tried at the end that doesn’t make any sense.
Who will enjoy this movie:
Die hard heist movie fans, but then again so am I and I hated this movie.
The guys who downloaded this movie when it ‘accidentally’ leaked online by Sony (yeah right!).
Must see? No. Must Have? No.
My Score: 4.5 out of 10

Up in the Air, beautiful acting, beautiful directing, beautiful cinematography

Title: Up in the Air
Year: 2009
Run Time: 109 mins
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman.
Director: Jason Reitman
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a ‘transition specialist’. A term used to describe the fact that company’s hire him to fire their employees. He travels around downsizing for companies all year long, practically lives from his suitcase and has basically shut his family out of his life. His side career is based on this fact, motivational speaking about living your life without baggage. He also has an ego stroking ambition to clock 10 million frequent flyer miles, a feat achieved by only 6 other people. While visiting Dallas, he meets Alex (Vera Farmiga), a lady who we never quite understand what she does except for the fact that she travels about just as much as Bingham. They soon start off a tricky romantic relationship, due to their work schedules. Ryan’s boss, Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman) has hired Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), a fresh-out-of-collage zealous 23 year old and Natalie has come up with a revolutionary technique for firing employees over the internet. This essentially puts Ryan out of a job and interferes with his plan of hitting 10 million miles and Ryan tells Craig that this idea won’t work and challenges Natalie’s experience. Craig has Natalie tag along with Ryan to ‘learn the ropes’ and see whether her idea will work when implemented.
“I don’t know how you can live with yourself but I’m sure you’ll find a way while the rest of us are suffering .”
By now you must have heard all the praise about this movie and let me say it is deserved. I have personally been to see this film three times now and I can say the praise is worth it. This movie hits all the right notes in terms of themes, character conception & portrayal and directing.
Clooney puts the forward the performance of a lifetime and looks headed for an Oscar win. He plays his role so well and brings forth so much depth and flair. He manages to illicit so many emotions with his character, that you aren’t sure whether you envy, despise, admire or pity him.
Reitman (Thank you for smoking, Juno) does some brilliant storytelling. This adaption, which he co-wrote has a very authentic and unexaggerated feel. The premise is great and grips your imagination from the word go. I like the way he doesn’t use the actor’s sex appeal to grab your attention but lets you fall for their characters. He actually uses real terminated employees in the interview you see. Ryan and Alex’s romance does not feel outrageous and something out of a chic flick He does use some brilliantly taken aerial shots. And Bingham’s living-from-a-suitcase life is partly based on Reitman’s own life. His whole methodology when checking in to airports, hotels, which car hire company to use and so on is all Reitman.
What works:
George Clooney! I can’t say this enough. He seems so genuine and charming, it doesn’t seem like his playing a character, he seems like George being George.
Anna Kendrick. She really does bring Natalie to life with the naivety, the ambition and black & white view on life. When she does break down you do genuinely feel sorry for her.
Jason Bateman is quite good in this serious role and give forth a dignified performance as guy the you’d expect to hate but somehow you don’t.
Zach Galifianakis & J. K. Simmons have good cameos as terminated employees.
It’s touches on very relevant social themes.
What doesn’t work:
So I know it sounds perfect but I have to do this.
From a critical stand point, it’s brilliant. But this isn’t the same with the generally audience.
I mentioned I’ve watched this movie thrice, each time in groups of four. And none of my nine colleagues were wowed like I was. It simply isn’t resonating with people who just looking to be entertained. I don’t know why. And this is a problem for the film because the general audience will mark this film success and not the handful of critics.
A few mentioned that the big plot twist was predictable. I was so gripped I didn’t see it coming until a minute before it.
Who will enjoy this movie:
The critcs. The wannabe crictics. The filmophiles.
The ladies. The guys who are trying to impress the ladies with their taste in movies.
Must see? Yes. You have to. Must Have? Yes.
My Score: 9.3 out of 10

Couple’s Retreat - Big names but no big laughs

Title: Couple’s Retreat
Year: 2009
Run Time: 113 minutes
Genre: Comedy
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Faizon Love, Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis, Jean Reno
Director: Peter Billingsley
This is the story of four couples, each facing different hurdles in their lives. Dave (Vince Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman) are going through an indifferent spell in their marriage while they renovate their house and while Dave trys to market a video game. Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) are trying desperately to conceive and the stress has pushed their marriage to the brink of divorce. Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristen Davis), who were high school sweethearts, are now trapped in a loveless marriage held only together out of concern for their teenage daughter. And finally there’s Shane (Faizon Love), a recent divorcee, facing the single life once more and dating a 20 year old girl, Trudy. Jason suggests that they all take a trip to Eden Island, a majestic island resort, for some R & R and split the cost of a group package. When they get to the island, they learn that there is a catch to their all-inclusive half-priced package, mandatory couple’s therapy conducted by M. Marcel (Jean Reno). They undertake the therapy which actually drives the couples apart and they have to make tough choices on the future of their relationships.
“Holy S***! This looks like a screensaver.”
This is director Peter Billingsley (you know him as the kid from ‘Christmas Carol 1983′) first directorial debut and it’s a big miss. The story was written by Favreau and Vaughn and though it wasn’t well done still had the potential to be a good film. So where did it go wrong?
Well, I can’t quite put my finger on one thing but several did stick out. Maybe it was the fact that this movie felt like a bunch of celebrities on a $60 million vacation. Maybe it was the poor post-production. Maybe it was the fact that you felt like you were watching one really long commercial. Maybe it’s the way you feel like so much talent has been wasted.
Or maybe it was the simply fact that the storytelling sucked. Yes! That’s it. This movie has no direction whatsoever. One minute Vince Vaughn is allowed to rant like a maniac about Richard Simmons, the next they bring in characters who do nothing for the plot. You could almost see the rewrites being done to give Vaughn time veer off and b**** about something. In fact when watching this you have to wonder why Favreau (who directed Zaraha and Iron man) didn’t step in and take the directorial helm.
What works:
Well I have to admit some of the crude, sexual innuendo jokes did get me to giggle.
Jason Bateman has had a good year. His illogical character Jason is well played.
Kristin Davies. She’s goes all Samantha in this role.
The shots of the island are ok.
What doesn’t work:
The post-prod. You get this feeling that you’re watching a sitcom. And the transitions are just shoddy.
The movie is a huge marketing gimmick. The brand placement is just too blatant. It’s all Guitar Hero, Bloomingdale’s, Guitar Hero, Budlight, Guitar Hero…
The corny, cliché climax.
The naked shot Faizon Love. Sorry that was just to much.
Who will enjoy this movie:
I don’t know. Anyone with a functioning pair of eyes will see the flaws in this movie, no pun intended.
I’d say it’s a bit a of chic flick, but even ladies would be hard pressed to enjoy this movie.
Must see? No. Must Have? No.
My Score: 3 out of 10
“It would mean a lot to me if you’d just take your pants off, alright Dave?”- Jason

Whip It, a dreamy, lovely tale

Title: Whip It
Year: 2009
Run Time: 111 minutes
Genre: Comedy, Teen drama
Cast: Ellen Page, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore, Juliette Lewis, Jimmy Fallon, Alia Shawkat, Landon Pigg
Director: Drew Barrymore
Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page), is a small town girl with a control freak mum (Marcia Gay Harden). Her mum believes that she has a future in beauty pageants and is on a quest to make her a Miss America, despite Bliss having no interest in the pageants. Bliss and her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat), go to Austin to watch roller derby and she’s immediately hooked and returns to try out for one of the teams, The Hurl Scouts. She makes the team and competes in the roller derby league and somehow has to keep this from her strict mother. Along the way she finds love in a young rocker, Oliver (Landon Pigg) and a new family among her teammates.
“Let’s go apeshit.”
This was a refreshing view after what had been a disappointing few weeks in movies for me. Drew Barrymore makes her directorial debut in this charming coming of age indie and she does deliver. She clearly a has a keen eye for talent and creative shots (you’ll enjoy the skating scenes) and the lead performer is just great. The plot isn’t exactly a predictable one with one or two good twists and it does have quite a feel good atmosphere. It does tackle some good themes and the humour comes in good doses, not too forced if you know what I mean. The dialogue feels very natural and is well written. I also liked the teen romance, found it sweet (take notes ‘Twilight’ franchise). Though not the best movie I’ve seen, for a first timer, you’ve done good Drew.
What works:
Ellen Page! She is simply amazing! It’s really a shame she won’t get many nominations for this role but she does carry the day. She brings Bliss to life in a sweet and charming way. If you need any reason to see this movie, then it should be for her performance.
Drew Barrymore’s directing. (hold on, it could be just beginners luck)
Marcia Gay Harden plays her role brilliantly. Her emotional reactions to Bliss’ behaviour seemed very natural.
Daniel Stern and Kristen Wiig.
Jimmy Fallon. Though he has a small role, his lines are quite funny.
Probably the next best sex scene after The Messengers.
The soundtrack is really cool.
What doesn’t work:
Drew Barrymore’s acting. I just didn’t buy the whole i’ll-kick-your-ass act. She should just have stayed behind the lens.
Razor (Andrew Wilson) and Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis) feel a bit trying-to-hard and unnatural.
Who will enjoy this movie:
Anyone looking for a feel good movie
Must see? Yes. Must Have? Not really. Rent it then decide if you need a copy for home.
My Score: 8.5 out of 10
“Well put some skates on and be your own hero.”