Movie of the Month - April, 2008

March 18th, 2008

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

The King of Kong: A Fistful of QuartersIn this hilarious, critically-acclaimed arcade showdown, an unprecedented rivarly rocks the electronic world to its core! Join novice gamer Steve Wiebe on his quest to destroy the top score of gaming legend Billy Mitchell, the uncontested champion of the Donkey Kong world for over 20 years -- and find out which of them can truly claim the title King of Kong!

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March 17th, 2008
The Green MilePaul Edgecomb: They usually call death row the Last Mile, but we called ours the Green Mile, because the floor was the color of faded limes. We had the electric chair then. Old Sparky, we called it. I've lived a lot of years, Ellie, but 1935 takes the prize. That was the year I had the worst urinary infection of my life. That was also the year of John Coffey and the two dead girls.

Gone Baby Gone

March 13th, 2008

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0452623/

Gone Baby GoneCritics are calling Ben Affleck's directorial debut "mesmerizing." (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) When two young private detectives (Casey Affleck, Good Will Hunting, and Michelle Monaghan, Mission: Impossible III) are hired to take a closer look into the mysterious disappearance of a little girl, they soon unravel a multitude of twists and turns where nothing is what it seems. Ultimately they must risk everything -- their relationship, their sanity, and even their lives -- in the search to find her. Casey Affleck and Morgan Freeman are electrifying, and Amy Ryan (Capote) delivers "a vibrant, knockout performance" (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times) in this edge-of-your-seat crime drama. Gone Baby Gone "will have you talking long after it's over." (Christy Lemire, The Associated Press)

When a young girl is taken from her home in broad daylight, a young private detective is her only defense against the child-kidnapping statistics. To get her alive, she must be found almost immediately and the clock has already been ticking. The detective, an unlikely toughguy, is getting little help from the police and no help at all from the girl's mother. He will have to face many physical and moral conflicts if he hopes to find her.

This movie was very good, but I liked it for the story and not the acting. Casey Affleck was very unbelievable as the hard-nosed private detective who pushed the limits to get the answers he wanted. Michelle Monaghan was in the movie just so there was a pretty girl on screen occasionally. The back of the DVD acclaims Morgan Freeman's performance, but it only does so to mention he's in the movie so you'll have another reason to want to see it. His part is minor and he is good as always, but it is too small of a part to base your decision on. But there was some good acting among all this.

Amy Ryan was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role as the missing child's uncooperative mother. She was great, and her performance is worth seeing if you like to catch up on the Oscar nods.

Maybe my fanboy bias will come through a little here, but I can't help it; I am a big Ed Harris fan. He shares a lot of scenes with Casey, which helped neutralize how ridiculous the young Affleck was at times. He does good work, but Amy Ryan is still your star.

The story is almost classic pulp in the way it had some over-the-top dialogue and a quickened pace. It moves along very fluidly and I never had that "check my watch and see how much is left" itch.

Another thing I should mention - and I wish I had links to support this - is Ben Affleck's directorial debut. I have heard/read many reviews of this movie that say that Ben has shown on which side of the camera he belongs (my apologies for not being able to give credit to the originator of that comment). I'm afraid that is more of a jab at his much maligned career on-screen rather than praise for his successful first-attempt at directing, however. But for whatever little it's worth, I thought he added to the feel of the movie, especially with the shots of the Boston neighborhoods that reminded me of what Spike Lee did for New York in Clockers (and pretty much every other movie he's made).

Gone Baby Gone was a great story and one that leaves watchers tangled up in the same moral dilemmas the characters faced. I enjoyed the puzzles the plot created and how they were put together. Some performances weren't the best, but Amy Ryan was very deserving of the Oscar nomination she received for this part and maybe you should see it just to judge for yourself if she should have won, if nothing else.

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March 12th, 2008
The SaintEmma Russell: Who are you?
Simon: Nobody has a clue. Least of all me.

Sunshine

March 4th, 2008

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0448134/

SunshineYou've never seen anything like Sunshine, the stunningly original sci-fi action-adventure from groundbreaking director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later).

It is the year 2057, the sun is dying and mankind faces extinction. Earth's last hope rests with a courageous crew of eight men and women on a mission to ignite the fading star with a massive nuclear weapon. Deep into their voyage, out of radio contact with Earth, their mission begins to unravel and they find themselves fighting not only for their lives, but for the future of us all. With twists and turns you won' see coming, this pulse-pounding journey to the sun is a nonstop thrill ride.

The fate of the universe rests on the shoulders of a small crew of surprisingly young and good looking scientists. They must deliver their payload - a giant nuclear weapon - directly to the center of the sun. Theirs is the second such mission and there is neither time nor resources available to send a third; without the success of their mission, the fading sun will die. They try to make their way to the sun without burning up to drop off the bomb, but things start to go wrong.

This story was pretty creative. I liked it from the major premise down to the details of the ship that was taking them to the sun. It had been a long time since I had seen a sci-fi thriller like this, and I think it is safe to admit that it is a genre of film I enjoy. The only concern I would have is originality.

While I feel there was a lot of originality in Sunshine, this movie was eerily similar to Event Horizon. I think they are different enough to enjoy separately, but alike enough that you won't be able to watch them back-to-back.

I thought the makers did a great job casting this film. They took some names and faces which are just beyond the reach of mainstream. Desipite any possible similarities to other sci-fi movies that take place in a futuristic outer space, I liked Sunshine.

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February 27th, 2008
FractureWilly Beachum: I'm not going to play any games with you.
Ted Crawford: I'm afraid you have to old sport.

Movie of the Month - March, 2008

February 19th, 2008

The Dancer Upstairs

The Dancer UpstairsThis taut political thriller set in Latin America marks John Malkovich's explosive directorial debut. Academy Award nominee Javier Bardem (Best Actor, 2000 - Before Night Falls) stars as legit policeman Agustin Rejas, who faces the greatest challenge of his career - to catch the leader of a terrorist movement threatening to collapse his government, while being stopped at every turn by his own corrupt supervisors. As the fight becomes more ferocious, Rejas' search brings him ever closer to the guerilla leader. But when, amidst the chaos, he falls in love with his daughter's ballet teacher (Laura Morante), Rejas must choose between his heart, his country, and his own well-being.

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February 11th, 2008
HackersDade Murphy: I don't play well with others.

Rocket Science

February 8th, 2008

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0477078/

Rocket ScienceFrom the award-winning director of Spellbound comes the story of Hal Hefner, a misfit teenager with a doomed crush, a beat-up suitcase and the whole world resting on the tip of his tongue...

Rocket Science follows the life of fifteen-year-old Hal, an awkward kid with a stutter who wants to rise from obscurity and become an unlikely hero of his high school. Hal sees his chance when Ginny Ryerson -- the ambitious, fast-stalking star of the debate team -- convinces him that he's got the raw talent to succeed at public speaking. Falling madly in love and discovering new confidence, Hal sets out on an improbable journey through the pitfalls and perils of the New Jersey suburbs. Deadpan comic and achingly real, Rocket Science is "a metaphor for the insecurity and confusion felt by every sensitive soul trapped inside the bubble of adolescence." (The New York Times)

Hal Hafner has an unfortunate speech impediment; he can never seem to find the words he's looking for. His home life is not one to be admired. He trudges through each day being noticed by as few people as possible, but one day he found out that he could not escape Ginny. She is the star of the debate team and she tries to recruit Hal so his "hidden talent" can come out. Her words inspire him...almost as much as her looks. He devotes his free time to learning her craft and winning her affection.

When I saw this was a movie about a kid trying to find himself amongst his problems by joining the debate team, I was terrified it was Thumbsucker all over again. While the movies, on a broad scale, seem to encompass many of the same issues, they are very different movies. (And for what it is worth, I liked Rocket Science a good deal more than I did Thumbsucker.)

The story itself was decent, but I was impressed more with the details. Each character was great; there was not a single one I would have left out. Reece Thompson was great as Hal. I think I was impressed most with how he was able to make the part so complex. But all secondary and tertiary characters from Hal's brother, to his mom's new boyfriend, to the little 12-year-old pervert who lives across the street from Ginny added to the experience.

I loved how the movie glorified debate. I love how the movie glorified New Jersey. And I love how the movie glorified the sweet revenge of giving someone the finger.

Rocket Science had a few scenes that were weird enough to notice, but not to keep me from enjoying this movie or recommending it to others. I thought the writing was well done and more mature than the movie's high-school setting might suggest. Rocket Science had some of the genuine character that seems to only hover around smaller movies and draws me away from Hollywood more each year. It is that character that leaves me with such a good feeling after this movie, even though it wasn't a great movie. But it was a good movie with memorable elements.

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February 4th, 2008
RatatouilleGusteau: Food always comes to those who love to cook.