Posts Tagged ‘movie review’

Play Ball!: Moneyball Movie Review

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

You do not have to be a fan of baseball in order to enjoy Moneyball (although it probably helps because by the end it runs a little long).  Brad Pitt is in his element and gives a great performance as the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s general manager, Billy Beane.  (Brad Pitt may get nominated.)  He wants to turn around their luck so he starts working by the theoretical approach of baseball using just numbers (which is controversial).  Eventually the team’s luck does start to turn around but it may still not be enough as the players are not that strong.  The saddest part to me, personally, was the end.  I guess it can be taken different ways, as in some things are more important than money (in this case it is Billy’s daughter).  It seemed, though, as if Billy is afraid of success as he turns down a huge offer from the Red Sox, right before they won the World Series.  After all, he has a disappointing past with baseball himself (he did not succeed as a professional baseball player and gave up a full scholarship to Stanford; Stanford seems to be used a lot recently in films).  Jonah Hill also gives a fine performance as the eager young college graduate, Peter, who works with Billy.  The movie is good overall.  The only problem is that it is not too different from inspirational sports movies we have seen already.  It is more subtle than Friday Night Lights but it is also not an interesting biographical take like The Social Network.  Aaron Sorkin co-wrote Moneyball.  Sorkin is a brilliant screenwriter with quick moving, smart dialogue (the likes of The West Wing and The Social Network).  Moneyball’s dialogue is not bad but not as snappy as it could have been.  The movie may have benefitted from being edited down a bit.  I think I had high expectations as it had gotten such amazing reviews and I came out a little underwhelmed.

Just Drive

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Drive had me with its opening scene.  A man with cold eyes looks in his rearview mirror waiting to drive two robbers away from the scene of a crime.  They run into trouble as the police chase them and the driver jumps out into a parking garage and disappears into the crowd.  Ryan Gosling gives an incredibly strong performance (his star seems to be rising as he gives consistently powerful, poignant performances: see Half Nelson and Lars and the Real Girl).  In Drive, Gosling transforms himself into a man who is a stunt car driver by day and a crook by night (he drives the getaway car for criminals).  His nameless, almost anonymous character, is a sociopath with no aversion to violence.  He is an antihero, yet you still root for him as he fights for the only things he has probably ever loved, a young woman and her son.  In this movie the lines are blurred, as they always are in real life, between what is right and wrong and who is good and who is not.  I am starting my countdown and beginning my list of predictions for Oscar nominations beginning with 50/50 and Drive.  Hopefully, there will be a nod for cinematography (great art direction here) as well as for Ryan Gosling.  Albert Brooks will also get a Supporting Actor nod I predict as he is blood-chillingly good as the suave gangster (almost as scary as Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds).  The music is also wonderful and memorable, a welcome blend of indie and electro-rock.  In fact, the soundtrack is on the Top 10 list on iTunes.  Watch out particularly for the haunting “Nightfall” by Kavinsky and Lovefoxxx (Kavinsky – Nightcall (feat. Lovefoxxx), “A Real Hero” by College featuring Electric Youth, and Cliff Martinez’s “Hammer.”


Contagion: A Cold Disappointment

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

There was great hype surrounding Contagion with it stellar cast, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, and Jennifer Ehle.  Unfortunately, the trailer for the movie proved to be much better than the movie itself.  The trailer also proved to be misleading as Contagion felt more like a documentary than a suspense movie.

The film is about the worldwide spread of a disease that is like the bird flu.  Maybe the science was close enough to the truth and something like that could actually happen in real life but Contagion still seemed long and a waste for its talented actors.  The biggest problem may be that we do not care about any of the people in the film.  We are not allowed to get close to them as the movie jumps from one incomplete story to the next.  It could have benefitted from a Steven Spielberg-esque hero.  Matt Damon comes close, but close enough.  Gwyneth Paltrow has no role and Marion Cotillard and Kate Winslet are sadly wasted as well.

The only memorable thing about the movie is a factoid that we touch our faces 3,000 times a day, which is the most frightening part in the movie itself.  Overall, Contagion comes off cold and sanitized.



50/50 Movie Review: 100% See-Worthy

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Too rarely do recent movies exhibit a certain humanness or sensitivity.  50/50 has both.  Focusing on the relationships and event the mundane occurrences in everyday life rather than delving into all the medical complications like a documentary, 50/50 walks a fine line between being light and funny and still captures the ultimate sadness and gravity of its subject matter, cancer.  We see the main character, Adam, go through diagnosis, chemotherapy, counseling, and a life or death procedure.  We root for this young man not only because he has cancer, but maybe also because we realize how fragile the difference is between being here one day and gone the next.  When he says, “I haven’t even been to Canada or told a girl I love her,” I laughed and cried.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is phenomenal (in my opinion, Oscar-worthy) as he portrays this 27-year old man with cancer and all of his ups and downs, denial, anger, fear and strength.  In Adam’s breakdown in a car, Gordon-Levitt captures all of these feelings with one line, “I’m tired of being sick.”  What grounds the movie is not everything miraculously changes because he has cancer.  His girlfriend cheats on him, his father still has Alzheimer’s, he lives in the same place before and after.  The experience adds to and perhaps shapes a part of his character, but it does change his character.  50/50 does such a fine job capturing the realness of the downs of something so dire as cancer as it also relays the humor and silliness of the everyday ups (talking to girls, getting a new dog, finding a new friendship).  The not so everyday and the everyday live in the same realm after all.  Anna Kendrick, as the nervous new therapist, Seth Rogen, as the soft long-time friend, and Angelica Huston, as the ever-worrying mom, also add great performances to an all-around good movie.


Where have all the good films gone?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Where have all the good movies gone?  The Netflix queue should not be a cause of anxiety and fear after all.  The former lament is probably usually taken pretty lightly, however, with films, like literature, we can see places we may never see, learn about things we are not familiar with, and meet people we would have otherwise never known or considered.  I have been watching a lot of old movies (I have been addicted actually) lately.  Thank goodness for TCM (Turner Classic Movies) because otherwise it is really hard to find classic films.  Blockbuster is bankrupt and Netflix does not have the greatest selection.  There is everything from the piercing Jezebel, to the hilarious Arsenic and Old Lace, to the terrifying Psycho and the frightening in a much different way The Ox-Bow Incident, to the heartbreaking The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, to the thoughtful Wild Strawberries.  What do we have on this side of the coin?  The only movies recently that may even be considered for awards are Woody Allen’s redemptive, whimsical Midnight in Paris, the quiet, humanistic Win Win (with Paul Giamatti), and the fantastic finish of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (a long shot for the Oscars perhaps but one never knows-why hello Lord of the Rings finale).  On a quick side note, it is frustrating also how small indie films only go to select theaters or big cities, as if the general public would not appreciate a smart, poignant film over another blase hit-you-over-the-head action film.  I am personally tired of the gross-out horror films, campy superhero comic book movies, and the worn-out, forgettable rom coms.  With most films now basically not even earning a 50% on the quick movie review go-to site, Rotten Tomatoes, it is not even worth the trek to the movie theater.  Many movies that we may see in previews do not make it to the big screen and instead just go straight to DVD anyway.  The problem is, though, that going to the movies is an escape.  With everything going on in the world, just taking a break to go to the movies is underrated.  Plus, unless you are one of the rare people in the world that has a home theater, everyday annoyances and distractions make DVD watching at home a bore.  Another problem is that I guess you could say that a good movie nowadays is as rare as a good character role for an actress.  By “good” I mean seldom is there an independent, strong, or even conniving role for women.  There were more of those in the 30s, 40s, and even 50s almost unbelievably!  We are supposedly close to equality between men and women but many of the actresses today are stuck  playing either the girlfriend or the mother.  I digress.  Maybe it is the economy (even affecting those millionaire producers-gasp!) but hopefully films will once again become well-made, thought-inducing, and satisfying.

2011 Summer Blockbusters

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

With all of the summer blockbusters, or lack thereof, out it can be hard to navigate and decide which ones are worth the ten dollars (sometimes even more with 3D, and they all seem to be in 3D).  There is nothing worse than coming out of the movie theater disappointed, with a headache, or even worse, frustrated due to the lack of fluidity and feasibility in the plot.  Leave that last feeling at the door and just enjoy yourself when seeing Cowboys and Aliens and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  First up, Cowboys and Aliens is a fun, albeit strange, ride.  There is some good fun with the Clint Eastwood-esque gun-wrangling, bar-clobbering cowboys but throw in a bunch of random, funny-looking aliens and you have got an interesting blockbuster (I was going to say “movie” but decided against it).  All in all, Harrison Ford is at his best again and Daniel Craig is not too shabby to look at.  There are plenty of seat-jumping parts as well.  The best part possibly?  When the cowboys are about to have a throw down and all of a sudden in fly the alien ships!  Next up, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  When I saw the previews for this film at the start of the summer I said to myself with a snort, “I am not seeing that.”  My bias stemmed from flashbacks to the cheesy Mark Wahlberg remake and I had only heard of the original with Charlton Heston.  I thought, “Eh, what the hay,” and took a chance.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I found myself actually rooting for the apes sometimes (I am sorry, but they do not turn to violence until pushed and *spoiler alert*: humans actually bring the virus that wipes out mankind and leads to ape rule on themselves).  Caesar, leader of the apes, is more sympathetic than many of the people in the film.  There are even some obvious questions brought to light about how far invention should go and how finding compassion and kindness for those who are different than us can be difficult at times.  Standouts in the film?  James Franco does a solid job in a role that generally seems to fit him-vulnerable protagonist.  Tom Felton also does a wickedly good job as a spoiled, mean son of an animal shelter’s owner.  One last thing, the CGI effects really are amazing.

“MacGruber” Review

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Being at Stanford has a lot of perks, from access to leading researchers in all disciplines to the nurturing effect of a brilliant student body. Tonight, I got to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity that makes it clear to me why so many teenagers clamor to be accepted to Stanford: an advance screening of Will Forte’s new movie, MacGruber, put on by FLiCKS and Universal. Trust me when I say this: this is not a date movie.