Posts Tagged ‘2011 movies’


Headhunters (2011)

May 10, 2015

Starring: Aksel Hennie, Synnove McCody Lund, Nikolaj Colste-Waldau
Director: Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

Bottom Line: My parents have been hassling me to watch Headhunters for months, bringing it up every time I see them and posting on my Facebook page, so I was going to have to raise hell if it wasn’t any good. They’ve been known to put some staunch praise on questionable films (see: August Rush) so it’s not like Headhunters was a lock to be awesome.

I am happy to report that it is – very awesome. It’s a 2011 film that hails from Norway and is directed by Morten Tyldum, whose The Imitation Game was recently nominated for Best Picture. Aksel Hennie, who looks like a Norwegian cross between Billy Crystal and Christopher Walken, stars as Roger, a short man that works as a headhunter – someone that recruits suitable candidates for open positions at various corporations – and steals valuable paintings in his spare time. I say he is short because the whole film seems to revolve around this insecurity. He states at the beginning of the film that he “overcompensates in other ways,” and uses the extra income he gets from stealing paintings to project a lavish lifestyle he otherwise could not afford. It all helps make him feel worthy of his trophy wife played by Lund. It’s a system that seems to work for Roger until he steals a highly valuable painting from Jamie Lannister (of Game Of Thrones), who quickly turns Roger’s world upside down by having an affair with his wife and trying to kill him.

From there, Headhunters quickly becomes a game of cat and mouse (and dog), with Roger on the run for his life. And it gets absurd – fantastically absurd. Part of the reason Headhunters works so well is because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s listed as a crime thriller, but comedy could easily be added to its genre specifications. As awful as the situation was at times, I couldn’t help but laugh at Roger’s elusive tactics. There’s a scene that involves an outhouse that makes the one in Schindler’s List seem tame by comparison.

Headhunters is smart, funny, and plenty entertaining. The acting is good in general, but Hennie is particularly amusing as Roger, although he probably wouldn’t make the best poker player. For someone with so many secrets, he wears his displeasure plainly on his face whenever he is unhappy about something – such as running into a law enforcement agent who is tracking art thieves. I’m not surprised that this film propelled Tyldum to Hollywood success. It’s an enjoyable ride and somewhere in this crazy movie there’s a message about being yourself, but it’s difficult to take away anything serious from such a fun film.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)


A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (2011)

January 19, 2012

Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Bibb, Nick Kroll, Tyler Labine
Director: Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck

Quick Thoughts: Thought this might be one of those under-the-radar solid comedies but A Good Old Fashioned Orgy is a real snooze fest. No seriously; I fell asleep no less than three times while I was watching it. As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, the worst kind of movie is the comedy that isn’t funny and this film’s humor is completely MIA. And the story is absurd. A group of 30-something losers decide to throw a Labor Day orgy when the house they’ve been partying in for years is being put up for sale. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? I always get Jason Sudeikis and Ed Helms (from The Office and The Hangover) confused and then I remember how to tell the difference: Ed Helms is actually funny. For real, I wanted to turn this movie off and send it back numerous times while watching it. The best you’re going to get out of this film is a few chuckles. Don’t waste your time watching it.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Ew.
Sequel Potential: Naw.
Oscar Potential: None.
Nudity: Quite a bit. Nothing good though.
Grade: 2.5/10 (Horrible/Skip It)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 35% Audience: 44%
IMDB Rating: 6/10
Recommendation: I couldn’t possibly recommend this to anyone. But my roommate said he liked it, so there’s an audience out there for it somewhere. I say stay away.


The Change-Up (2011)

December 19, 2011

Starring: Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Olivia Wilde, Leslie Mann
Director: David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers)

Quick Thoughts: The Change-Up is really just a rehash of things Freaky Friday, Trading Places, and, to some extent, Big have all already done more successfully. In the film, family man Jason Bateman and womanizing, weed smoking, and soft-core porn star Ryan Reynolds switch bodies after urinating in a magical fountain together and wishing they had the life of the other. After the film opened with Bateman’s character getting a mouthful of diarrhea while changing diapers, I was fully expecting to hate this movie, but wound up finding it moderately endearing and somewhat watchable. We’re not breaking new ground here and the level of comedy doesn’t make up for that, but the film isn’t the train wreck I was anticipating. The best aspect of the movie is being able to see Bateman play against type when his body is possessed by Reynolds’ foul-mouthed, free living persona. The film has some funny and charming moments, and while it’s nothing I’d really recommend, it’s not a total waste of time either.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Questionably worth one viewing.
Sequel Potential: Shouldn’t have any.
Nudity: Leslie Mann gets naked. Oliva Wilde does not. Bad beat.
Grade: 3.5/10 (Skip It/Netflix It)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 24% Audience: 52%
IMDB Rating: 6.4/10
Recommendation: A decent comedy that is a little better than expected, but probably still not worth your time.


Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest (2011)

December 19, 2011

Starring: A Tribe Called Quest and associates
Director: Michael Rapaport

Quick Thoughts: This documentary serves as an homage to the legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. Director Michael Rapaport spends the duration of the film telling the personal stories of the group and then tensions that broke them apart with the voice of a long time fan hoping to reunite one of his favorite rap ensembles. Whether or not you’re a fan of the musical genre should matter little; while this film is certainly a testament to Tribe’s accomplishments, it’s ultimately a story about friendship and how instant fame and success can hinder the relationships of people. Beats, Rhymes, & Life is the perfect hip-hop film, highlighting one of rap’s best all-time groups and rekindling my own love for their music, while telling a story of how two best friends can become silent enemies due to creative differences.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: A must own for any credible hip-hop fan worthy of multiple viewings.
Sequel Potential: N/A
Nudity: N/A
Grade: 8/10 (Excellent)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: None Audience: None
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10
Recommendation: One of my favorite films of the year and a no-brainer for hip-hop junkies.


Bad Teacher (2011)

October 27, 2011

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segal, Lucy Punch
Director: Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Orange County)

Quick Thoughts: Bad Teacher is a predictable, raunchy comedy that features a decent performance from Cameron Diaz and a miserable one from Justin Timberlake. JT is an underrated actor, but his character in this movie is tediously bizarre and makes you wonder why he decided to take the roll. The story is about a gold digger that works a day job as a teacher while she tries to secure a man that can take care of all her needs financially. She’s superficial, selfish, and completely uninterested in her profession. She smokes pot in the school parking lot, has no regard for her students, and plays movies in class. All day. Every day. The movie made me chuckle a few times, particularly when Diaz decides to screen the movie Scream for her class. After a series of films that center around teachers and school (like Stand & Deliver and Dangerous Minds), it’s pretty amusing that she thinks Scream fits the theme simply because Sidney and Co. are high school students and a principal gets murdered. Not to mention that film is rated a hard R. That said, the story is predictable and the character development is really shoddy. By the end of the film, you still don’t really believe this woman is a good person.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Nothing more than a one-time viewing for me.
Sequel Potential: Zero potential.
Nudity: Diaz’s character has her eyes set on breast implants, so we get some good looks at some doctored tig oles.
Grade: 4.5/10 (Netflix It/Worth A Watch)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 45% Audience: 39%
IMDB Rating: 5.8/10
Recommendation: A moderately funny film with a predictable plot. Not a big deal if you skip, but not a complete waste of time if you watch it.


A Few Movie Reviews

September 7, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve done some movie review updates and the list of movies I need to talk about has been stockpiling, so I’m just going to get it all out at once.

Hobo With A Shotgun (2011) – This movie is straight grimy. It has the production value of a B-movie and is as gruesome as anything I’ve seen in years. There’s not a lot of story here, but you could tell that much by watching a trailer. If you like ultra-violence and tons of gore, you will be pleased. 6/10 (Recommended)

Source Code (2011) – This film had enough solid word of mouth during its theatrical run that it has been my most highly anticipated DVD release for quite some time… and it did not disappoint. With the unique premise of being able to relive the last 8 minutes of someone’s life in order to extract crucial information (in this case, the identity of a serial terrorist to prevent a future attack), Source Code is immediately engaging and keeps a quick pace throughout its short run time. Jake Gyllenhaal is great as Colonel Stevens. I enjoyed his swagger in this film. One of the more enjoyable films I’ve seen in 2011 with enough replay value to make me want to buy it. 8/10 (Excellent)

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) – Matthew McConaughey stars as the title lawyer, a cocky defense attorney that finds himself representing a manipulative–and very guilty–client played by Ryan Phillipe. Surprising, thrilling, and entertaining, The Lincoln Lawyer is a solid court drama with McConaughey’s best performance since Frailty in 2001. 6.5/10 (Recommended/Must See)

Trollhunter (2010) – A Norwegian documentary/hoax in the vein of The Blair Witch Project focusing on Norway’s little known troll problem. A group of film students start investigating a bear hunter they soon learn has his targets set on much bigger game. Unlike Blair Witch, Trollhunter doesn’t leave anything to the imagination… the suspense level isn’t quite the same, but I must admit, the trolls are visually impressive creatures. For what looks and feels like a low budget fauxumentary, no expense was spared on this film’s monsters. They look great. And real. Are they? 6/10 (Recommended)

I Am Number Four (2011) – Yawn. I’m a little offended by how many people have told me they wish I could be more like James Frey. Between the controversy surrounding the authenticity of his A Million Little Pieces and this uninteresting Superman rip-off written under a pseudonym, I can think of plenty of writers I’d rather to aspire to be like. Obviously I wasn’t a big fan of the story here, but the film adaptation only makes things worse. Alex Pettyfer might have potential as a leading man, but let’s not start his career with a franchise like this. Dianna Agron, great on the Fox TV show “Glee”, is incredibly disappointing here, playing her character like a piece of stale bread and making me wonder if Quinn Fabray is the extent of her acting skills. The whole film has the feel of an MTV movie or an overblown (and bad) “Smallville” episode. Fuck I Am Number Four and fuck James Frey. 2.5/10 (Horrible/Skip It)

Blue Valentine (2010) – A bleak, depressing, and honest look at the evolution of modern courtship and marriage. Blue Valentine focuses on a young couple, Cindy and Dean, interweaving its story between the blissful days of their “honeymoon stage” and years later when they merely try to co-exist with each other. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are both fantastic in the lead roles, with Williams’ performance being particularly fascinating since it comes fresh on the heels of the death of her own husband, Heath Ledger. Whatever it’s goal, the film is a stark reminder that love doesn’t always have a happy ending and many young people jump into a legal connection without much thought. Not exactly a fun film, but definitely a necessary one. 7/10 (Must See)


Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (2011)

July 11, 2011

Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro
Director: Michael Bay (Transformers, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, Bad Boys, The Rock)

Quick Thoughts: It’s no surprise what you’re getting with a Michael Bay movie: explosions, big action sequences, hot women, and a weak script. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is more of the same. If you liked the first two movies–and I found them enjoyable–you’ll like this one too. The absence of Megan Fox stings a bit (and is weakly explained), but Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is pretty hot herself. The acting in these movies has always been suspect and the story isn’t any more interesting than it has been in the past. I can barely remember it now. The first landing on the moon also brings about the discovery of the first Transformer robot, a machine that is later resurrected in present time and wreaks havoc on Earth. Okay…

Obviously the action sequences in this movie are superb and the finale is pretty damn climactic. But there’s really no need for a Transformers movie (or any Michael Bay film for that matter) to be pushing 3 hours in length. Just like the second installment, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon suffers from some pretty miserable pacing and a third of the film could have easily been left on the cutting room floor without sacrificing what adds up to a rather weak plot anyways.

One shouldn’t be disappointed with this movie, however. Michael Bay isn’t going to suddenly become a stellar director, so there’s no reason for big expectations. Not quite as good as the original, but not as forgettable as the second movie, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon runs way too long, but is certainly worth seeing on the big screen, although the 3D aspect doesn’t add much to the experience.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Any movie I struggle through the first time doesn’t get much replay value from me.
Sequel Potential: The franchise is a cash cow… why stop now?
Nudity: N/A
Grade: 5.5/10 (Worth Watching/Recommended)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 36% Audience: 90%
IMDB Rating:6.7/10
Recommendation: The Transformers movies are ones you have to see in a movie theater, and as long as you don’t go with unreasonable expectations, you should be satisfied with this installment.


Horrible Bosses (2011)

July 11, 2011

Starring: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell
Director: Seth Gordon (The King Of Kong)

Quick Thoughts: A solid, but underwhelming comedy, Horrible Bosses asks the question: how far would you go to get rid of your asshole boss? While the premise makes sense for Jason Bateman’s and Jason Sudeikis’ characters–Kevin Spacey is the epitome of the jerk boss and Colin Farrell is a drug-addled psychopath–I doubt any straight male would have much of a problem with Charlie Day’s situation. Jennifer Aniston has never looked better and she plays the dentist to Day’s hygienist, where she spends most of the work day trying to get him to have sex wit her. Sounds terrible! Sure, Day is engaged to be married, but the only thing we know about his fiance is that she isn’t half as good looking as Jennifer Aniston is in this movie. It’s a hard situation to sympathize with. Plus, what would you rather have on your record? Murder or adultery with an incredible looking woman? Tough choice. Risk going to jail for a long time or HAVE SEX?

For a comedy, it’s odd that Kevin Spacey’s very serious, very jerkish boss gets most of the screen time. Colin Farrell is mostly funny in his role, but is underused and Aniston takes a back seat as well. Who knows why Jamie Foxx was in this movie. Other than having the novelty of being named “Motherfucker” Jones, Foxx’s role is basically pointless and mostly unfunny. Charlie Day is definitely the film’s saving grace. Stepping up to the big leagues after numerous seasons on the hilarious FX comedy “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia“, Day is by far the most consistently funny actor in Horrible Bosses and should have a solid comedic future on the big screen.

Horrible Bosses isn’t a disaster, but it’s not going to find a place amongst the great R-rated comedies of the past few years. It’s only modestly funny and the plot gets too ridiculous at times, plus it’s a shame that it’s two best characters, Aniston’s dentist and Farrell’s coked out lunatic, are criminally underused.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Possibly worth another watch.
Sequel Potential: I would guess not.
Nudity: C’mon Jen… you’ve never looked sexier… just take it…one…step…further.
Grade: 5.5/10 (Worth Watching/Recommended)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 73% Audience: 80%
IMDB Rating: 7.7/10
Recommendation: Horrible Bosses isn’t a waste of time–I did find it enjoyable–but it’s more of a DVD rental than something you have to rush out and see in theaters.


X-Men: First Class (2011)

June 13, 2011

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, January Jones
Director: Matthew Vaughan (Kick Ass)

Quick Thoughts: X-Men: First Class breathes fresh air into the X-Men franchise. The original series of films was mostly acclaimed with the possible exception of Brett Ratner’s messy X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006, giving this film some pretty high standards to live up and it easily blew those expectations away. Matthew Vaughan’s First Class manages to stand on its own while simultaneously giving enough nods to its predecessors that it works as both the start of a new franchise and a prequel to those earlier movies.

First Class takes a look into the lives of our favorite mutant heroes before they became established forces of good and evil. Set in the 1960s and amidst the Cuban Missile Crisis, the film focuses largely on Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Fassbender), and how they developed into the alter-egos we now know them as: Professor X and Magneto. Xavier is a young academic brought in by the government due to his excessive knowledge of the mutation gene and to help them against a potential new threat: a band of possible mutants, led by Sebastian Shaw (Bacon). Lehnsherr is after the same man, but for different reasons; Lehnsherr was a prisoner of war and his mother was murdered by Shaw and the Nazi regime. Upon meeting and realizing they have the same mutual enemy, Xavier and Lehnsherr team up, with backing from the United States government, to form the first class of X-Men, utilizing Xavier’s telepathic abilities to recruit other mutants across the world.

When I first heard about the concept behind X-Men: First Class, it seemed like a good idea, but the last X-Men movie was so underwhelming that my interest in the franchise was pretty moot. Fortunately, this movie is absolutely fantastic. From the story, to the casting, to the action sequences, all the way down to the music, this movie blew me away. I was on the edge of my seat and entertained throughout its entirety. The pacing was great and the character arcs of Xavier and Magneto are so well developed that the film exceeds its status as a pure action flick and dives into the territory of great film-making.

Though James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender aren’t complete unknowns, neither of them are stars. However, the casting in both cases is simply genius. McAvoy is charming, funny, and entertaining as Charles Xavier, turning a character I’ve always found mostly boring into someone compelling. While McAvoy is great, Fassbender as the future Magneto is the star of this film. Fueled by vengeance, Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr goes through the full development, reasonably transforming from a conflicted, anti-hero into the next big supervillain. The chemistry between the two actors is notable and its easy to see why, years later, Professor X and Magneto can sit down for a friendly game of chess despite their conflicting–and often deadly–differences. Magneto really is a fascinating character. One of the few villains in the superhero universe whose motives aren’t completely corrupt and self-fulfilling. While Xavier plays the eternal and sometimes naive optimist, Magneto arguably fights for the rights of his people. He’s almost like a violent Martin Luther King, Jr. This film really does a fantastic job of giving a believable identity to that character. Jennifer Lawrence is also great as Mystique.

At this point, you have to credit director Matthew Vaughan for knowing how to make a good action movie. Last year’s Kick-Ass was just the warm-up and this movie exceeds all sorts of expectations. It’s easily the best entry into the X-Men franchise and surpasses Bridesmaids as the most entertaining movie of 2011 to date.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’m looking forward to seeing it again and will definitely buy the DVD.
Sequel Potential: This film works not only as a prequel to the previous X-Men movies, but also as the first installment in a new series altogether. I’m looking forward to seeing this portion of the story continue.
Nudity: None… but damn, Jen Lawrence, January Jones, Rose Byrne, and Zoe Kravitz all look fantastic.
Grade: 9/10 (Potential Classic)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 87% Audience: 88%
IMDB Rating: 8.2/10
Recommendation: A great action movie and character drama, X-Men: First Class is not only the best film of 2011 so far, it’s also the best in its franchise.


Bridesmaids (2011)

June 6, 2011

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne
Director: Paul Feig (“The Office”, “Arrested Development”)

Quick Thoughts: It’s a shame people are mistaking Bridesmaids for a chick flick. Sure, the film has mostly female characters and the plot centers around a wedding, but this is a movie that continues the recent trend of really strong R-rated comedies, following in the footsteps of Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and I Love You, Man. And perhaps it’s the best of the bunch.

Kristen Wiig displays an acting range I didn’t think she was capable of. Between her small film roles and her current run on “Saturday Night Live,” I was a fan of her work, but she seemed to be a one-trick pony, often playing her characters with a holier-than-thou attitude coupled with a mixture of craziness and ditz. She didn’t seem to have much depth past that, but as Annie, an overwhelmed and self-destructive Maid-Of-Honor in Bridesmaids she gives a genuinely touching and hilarious performance. Wiig really hits all the marks in this movie, as her character suffers through the pressure of trying to organize her best friend’s wedding while her own life crumbles around her. The rivalry between Annie and the bride’s new, extremely wealthy and resourceful friend Helen (Rose Byrne) creates most of the film’s tension and also a lot of its laughs, as Helen’s success often challenges Annie’s self-esteem, providing lots of awkward moments for Wiig to display her patented one-upmanship. A lot of comedies add some sort of contrived conflict that its characters must overcome just because they’re supposed to, but in Bridesmaids Annie truly bottoms out and Wiig really goes through quite the range of emotions. It’s an impressive performance. One that will surely get the Golden Globes’ attention. Wiig has been a slowly rising talent the past half decade or so, but this is a breakout film for her and legitimate stardom may actually be in her future.

Wiig is supported in Bridesmaids by a pretty funny female cast. Fellow “SNL” alum Maya Rudolph and Elle Kemper of “The Office” aren’t given a whole lot to work with, but have some funny moments. Rose Byrne as Helen is a suitable antagonist: she’s gorgeous, rich, and mostly ignorant of her pretentious and snobbish behavior, giving her such a sense of naivety that you almost feel bad for her when she discovers that she’s the film’s villain. Wendi McLendon-Covey (“Reno 911”) is hilarious in a small role as one of the bridesmaids, providing most of her humor by constantly ragging harshly on her children and her retched life as a mother.

Obviously, this is Wiig’s movie, but if she’s Batman, then Melissa McCarthy is a worthy Robin. She plays Megan, the bride’s sister and a member of the bridal party. McCarthy has found some success on the CBS show “Mike & Molly” this year, a series that plays largely on the plus size bodies of its two main characters. As Molly on that show, McCarthy’s performance is pretty subdued, but she’s let loose in Bridesmaids and she’s much funnier than I expected. Megan teeters on the edge of sheer silliness but McCarthy manages to bring some heart to the role and makes a character that easily could have been annoying very enjoyable. She’s consistently hilarious throughout the film.

Bridesmaids is everything you want out of a quality comedy. Strong, funny performances from the important actresses and a pretty incredible script from Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo. It’s a shame that The Hangover Part II is cruising past $200 million in domestic revenue while this film has roughly half that gross in twice as many weeks of release because Bridesmaids is not only a far superior film, it’s also much, much funnier.

Viewings: 1
Replay Value: A must own comedy with tons of replay value.
Sequel Potential: These characters would be worth seeing again, but it’s usually a mistake to make sequels to this kind of film since continuing the story will usually be forced and unbelievable. However, the film has performed well enough to warrant a sequel, economically speaking.
Oscar Potential: Through the first quarter of the year, Wiig has given 2011’s best performance I’ve seen, but comedies are mostly ignored come Oscar time. The script might have a shot at a nomination though.
Nudity: The movie opens with a pretty gratuitous sex scene, but no nudity.
Grade: 8/10 (Excellent)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 88% Audience: 88%
IMDB Rating: 7.7/10
Recommendation: At the time of publishing this, Bridesmaids is easily the best movie I’ve seen this year. A very charming and funny comedy with breakout performances from Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy.