American Gangster

January 11th, 2008


American Gangster is based on the true story of Frank Lucas's whirlwind success selling heroin in New York. In 1968 every news station reported that more and more people were beginning to experiment with this relatively new drug from Southeast Asia. It took just one man to put 2 and 2 together and take a quick trip to Vietnam before he was selling heroin that was twice as pure for half as much. And life was very good, but when life is too good people notice.

I enjoyed the calm and collected manner in which Frank Lucas carried himself at almost all times. It is hard not to respect what he was able to do, despite the lives he ruined. I thought Denzel Washington did a good job as Lucas for most of the movie. Unfortunately for me, and I am not generally a Denzel fan, towards the end he started to pick up the flagrant arrogance and short temper that won him an Oscar in Training Day.

I liked American Gangster, but I didn't love it. I don't like Denzel, but he was better than usual. I don't like Russell Crowe...and he wasn't any better than usual. Frank Lucas was an interesting man who tried to do things the right way, if there is a "right way" to grow your drug empire. I liked the movie because of the man it was about, not the execution. The movie was a little too long and focused on some strange things that were arguably unnecessary to the story. I feel like it could have been trimmed down and been a little better for it.

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January 10th, 2008
Inside ManDalton Russell: I'm no martyr. I did it for the money. But it's not worth much if you can't face yourself in the mirror. Respect is the ultimate currency. I was stealing from a man who traded his away for a few dollars. And then he tried to wash away his guilt. Drown it in a lifetime of good deeds and a sea of respectability. It almost worked, too. But inevitably, the further you run from your sins, the more exhausted you are when they catch up to you. And they do. Certain. It will not fail.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

January 9th, 2008


The dishonorable Judge Turpin lusts after another man's wife. To gain her undivided attention, the judge sends her husband, Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), away; a life sentence for a bogus charge. Fifteen years later a ship docks in London carrying a man once-named Barker. He now goes by Sweeney Todd and he has come back to exact his revenge and find his wife and daughter. He returns to the space he once occupied to resume his work as a barber and forms a most peculiar relationship with Mrs. Lovett, whose meat pie shop sits beneath Todd's barber chair.

The movie Sweeney Todd is based on Stephen Sondheim's musical which goes by the same name (and is in turn based on a 19th century legend of Sweeney Todd). Being that it is based on a musical, there is some conversation, but most intercourse is in song. For some, this will be the first hurdle to clear. But if you like musicals, the songs are fantastic and the signing was great. Johnny Depp really impressed me with his voice. And Ed Sanders, who plays Toby, was very very good.

Sweeney Todd would be hard pressed to earn a nickname such as the "Demon Barber of Fleet Street" without a little effort. His weapon of choice is the straight razor he uses in his barber practice. Get the men into his chair and slit their throats. This happens many times, and Director Tim Burton rivals most "B" horror flicks with the amount of blood in Sweeney Todd. This is the second, and final hurdle. If you can clear those two things, I hope you enjoy Sweeney Todd as much as I did.

As mentioned already, I thought Johnny Depp's singing was really worth seeing. I think I will be so bold as to call this his best performance to date. And consider that I am as much of a Depp fan as most.

I am not normally a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen, but I will admit that I loved his cameo in Sweeney Todd; it was very funny.

I was afraid that Tim Burton would take too much creative license and make it more like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but he did not. I loved the almost grainy feel to the film and the washed-out color, I thought it was perfect to capture the feeling of the movie.

Despite the heavy blood flow, I really enjoyed Sweeney Todd. I thought Johnny Depp was great in the lead and he had very good support from Helena Bonham Carter and Ed Sanders. This is one of the best movies I have seen this year.

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January 8th, 2008
WaitressJenna: Cal, are you happy? I mean, when you call yourself a happy man, do you really mean it?
Cal: You ask a serious question, I'll give you a serious answer: Happy enough. I don't expect much. I don't get much, I don't give much. I generally enjoy whatever comes along. That's my answer for you, summed up for your feminine consideration. I'm happy enough.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

January 7th, 2008


Dewey Cox was overshadowed by his brother's greatness. When both boys were very young, Nate was naturally gifted at everything he did and ambitious enough to really make a difference in this world. And then one day, during a relatively routine machete fight, Dewey chops Nate in half. When the doctor is unable to recombine the top of his body with the bottom, the boy dies. Dewey had made a promise to his brother to be great enough for them both, and that is exactly what he sets out to do when his dad kicks him out of the house. Dewey goes on to greatness as one of the leading rock musicians in history, while ever tormented by the loss of his brother.

Sound ridiculous? It was and I cannot even do it justice. But one thing that was great was how the movie would constantly reassure you that it was parody. Many times the dialog between two characters would explain and oversimplify the scene and suggest just how ridiculous it really was. It was pretty funny when this happened, but there were a few times when the movie tried to be serious and it didn't work. From a humor perspective, the highs were very high, but the lows were too low for me to say that I liked Walk Hard.

There was some of the most hilarious writing in Walk Hard, but the movie itself was pretty awful. Unfortunately, that seems to be the pattern to Judd Apatow's movies.

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January 4th, 2008
Beautiful GirlsPaul: Supermodels are beautiful girls, Will. A beautiful girl can make you dizzy, like you've been drinking Jack and Coke all morning. She can make you feel high full of the single greatest commodity known to man - promise. Promise of a better day. Promise of a greater hope. Promise of a new tomorrow. This particular aura can be found in the gait of a beautiful girl. In her smile, in her soul, the way she makes every rotten little thing about life seem like it's going to be okay. The supermodels, Willie? That's all they are. Bottled promise. Scenes from a brand new day. Hope dancing in stiletto heels.

Movie of the Month - January, 2008

December 20th, 2007


Stardust"Scheming princes, wicked witches, flying pirates, celestial love, a pure-hearted hero, all in a magical land. What more do you want?" raves Today's Gene Shalit for Stardust, an epic adventure starring Claire Danes with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro.

In hopes of wooing a beautiful girl (Sienna Miller), Tristan (Charlie Cox) promises to bring her a falling star. But he's in for the adventure of his life when he discovers the star is actually a celestial beauty named Yvaine (Danes).

When an old witch Lamia (Pfeiffer) attempts to steal Yvaine's youth, Tristan must protect her at all costs. This magical fairytale like no other will make you laugh out loud and believe in love again.

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Wild Hogs

December 12th, 2007


Wild HogsTim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy start in Wild Hogs, the hysterically funny comedy about four weekend-warrior friends who decide to rev up their ho-hum suburban lives with a cross-country motorcycle adventure. They don their leathers, fire up their hogs and throw caution and their cell phones to the wind as they hit the open highway. But a lot can happen on the road to nowhere, including a run-in with the bad-to-the-bone Del Fuegos, a real biker gang who don't take kindly to the wannabes. Filled with hilarious misadventures, screwball situations and madcap mayhem, this laugh-out-loud comedy is a movie your whole family will go hog wild over.

Wild Hogs is about four middle-aged men who live in Ohio. During the week each does his nine-to-five thing, but every weekend they armor up in denim and leather, cruise around town on their motorcycles and then have a few beers. When mid-life crisis tickled one man's nose, it was not long before it spread through the group and a motorcycle road trip ensued. What better way for them to regain the spontanaety and autonomy of their glory days? I'm not sure this plot really needed conflict, but on their way west they came across a more traditional biker gang, who did not take kindly to these four midwestern suburbanites considering themselves peers.

When the movie was first advertised I could not believe the cast (John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy). I had no issues with getting such an ensemble together, I was more taken back by the fact that these men (primarily Travolta) would make a movie like this. The more I thought about it, and certainly now that I have seen the movie, I believe that this was more about making a fun movie and working together than it was about setting box office records. I would have loved to be a fly on the camera while these men worked together; I hope it was as much fun for them as I imagine it to have been.

I gave Wild Hogs "the old college try" since I had heard some surprisingly encouraging remarks. I talked to a few people who were very pleased with the movie. I addressed my concerns with them about how cheesy it looked and I was told not to worry. In the end, Wild Hogs was very cheesy. But it was fun enough for what it was. If you can relate with the characters I am sure there is more substance to the movie than I was able to enjoy.

Have you ever been told that, "You will love Office Space even more if you have ever worked in an office setting?" Well, you will appreciate Wild Hogs much more if your own mid-life crisis is knocking, or has knocked at your door. Since (thankfully) mine has not, once the "conflict" settled into the story my interest waned.

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December 11th, 2007
Blades of GloryChazz: I hope you’ve brought your silver polish, MacElroy, 'cause that was gold.
Jimmy: That was disgusting.
Chazz: THAT, young man, is how babies are made.

The Golden Compass

December 5th, 2007


Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is a stubborn girl who wants to be included in the adventures of her uncle, the Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig). For one particularly important mission Lord Asriel heads to "The North," and again Lyra is left behind. Her savior comes in the form of a woman, the Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman), who says she is about to travel to the North and could use an assistant. For safety on her voyage with Mrs. Coulter, Lyra is given a strange instrument and told to keep it a secret. The instrument is an Alethiometer and if you can read it, it always shows you the truth. With the help of the Alethiometer and some new friends she meets along the way, Lyra must find and save kidnapped children and then find her uncle.

The movie is based on the world created by Philip Pullman in the His Dark Materials series, a three-book set with The Golden Compass being the first. While I have not read the books, I will assume that much of the movie was as it was in the books. For example, I will credit Pullman with the dæmons -- in this parallel world a person's soul travels alongside the body, in animal form, rather than inside it. This was a wildly imaginative element to the story and one of those "Why didn't I come up with that?" ideas.

I really like Daniel Craig, but he is not in the movie very long. You get the impression that he might get more on-screen time later in the story, but Lyra is our star. As Lyra, Dakota Blue Richards was everything she needed to be, when she need to be. She was stubborn, sassy, strong, and lots of other things that don't start with the letter S.

I don't like Nicole Kidman. In almost every role she is sneaky, rude, cold and nasty. And that is exactly how she was in The Golden Compass, and I loved it. Mrs. Coulter is each and every one of those things.

The animation for the movie was very well done. There were many parts of the movie where the animators could have made it look less animated, but they didn't. I think it added to the fantasy element of the story to keep it this way.

The story moves pretty quickly. There is a lot of information packed into just one movie. Normally I would gripe about the lack of depth given to certain parts of the plot, but I am making an exception for The Golden Compass under the assumption that things will be explained in the next two installments of the series.

It was PG-13 and the only reason I could see was for animated violence. Many people died, but there was little or no blood.

You can call this a children's movie if you want, but I think it is time we re-evaluated that category. You will like this movie if you like fun fantasy/adventure stories. I loved it.

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