Posts Tagged ‘reviews’


Man Of Steel (2013)

June 21, 2013

Starring: Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams
Director: Zack Snyder (Watchmen trilogy, 300, Sucker Punchy)

Quick Thoughts: What a spectacle. That was my first thought leaving the theater after watching Man Of Steel, which was probably my most anticipated film this summer. Director Zack Snyder can handle action. We know that much and those looking for a Superman that finally kicks some real ass, you’ll get it here. There’s plenty of super fights, massive property destruction, and a finale that is almost overwhelmingly heavy on action. It was enough to make me want to go back and see it in IMAX 3D.

Man Of Steel almost feels like you’re watching two films. The first half of the movie feels much like producer Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins while the second half plays out, well, like a Zack Snyder film. Much like Begins the first half of Man Of Steel switches between scenes of Clark Kent dealing with his unnatural abilities as a child and discovering himself as an adult. Unlike Begins, where you become quite invested in Bruce Wayne’s story, Man Of Steel seems a bit slow and I was pretty eager to move along to the Superman stuff. Also, the sequence on Krypton, in particular, is overly long and a bit confusing. The second half of the film feels a lot like an alien invasion movie. I kept thinking of Independence Day during the second act.

It’s interesting that DC took such a realistic approach with Superman right after The Dark Knight trilogy finished. Certainly, Snyder’s Superman would fit comfortably into Nolan’s Batman universe. Nolan has stated that he is finished with Batman, however, and Man Of Steel is supposed to be the first step towards an eventual Justice League movie; one that will likely feature a rebooted Batman. It’s all quite a mess and as a massive fan of DC Comics, I have to say I’m concerned.

Regardless, even with my ridiculous expectations for Man Of Steel, I’m pretty satisfied with the finished product. Henry Cavill is perfect as Superman, General Zod and crew are formidable first opponents, the action is amazing, and Russell Crowe is great as Jor-El. David Goyer took some liberties with the Superman mythos–notably on how Lois Lane and Superman first meet and Superman’s morality–but I thought these were handled delicately and actually made sense for modern (and more realistic) versions of the characters. Lois Lane is an investigative journalist, after all, and it’s always been pretty unbelievable that no one can figure out that Superman and Clark Kent are one in the same. With all the pressure from the crazy success of The Avengers and Marvel’s ridiculously smart blueprint for creating their cinematic universe, I’m nervous about DC trying to match it by rushing into a Justice League movie, but even so, I’m looking forward to Man Of Steel 2

Replay Value: I’m anxious to see it again in IMAX 3D.
Sequel Potential: Release date already announced and this character will eventually show up in a Justice League movie.
Oscar Potential: Maybe some visual effects and sound recognition.
Nudity: None.
Grade: 7/10 (Must See)
RottenTomatoes Scores: Critics: 56% Audience: 82%
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10

Recommendation: The critics are way off on this one. 2006’s Superman Returns is a 75% and sucks. Man Of Steel blows it away and I think even the critics would agree with that. I’ll admit it didn’t meet my expectations, but this is still an above average superhero film and a great reintroduction of the Superman character.


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)


Entourage Season Six

August 20, 2010

I’ve been hearing some talk that Entourage has jumped the shark and I don’t really get it. It was never a great show to begin with. Entourage is the equivalent of the mindless, summer blockbuster, guilty pleasure at your local cinema. The story has never been riveting, the acting has never been great (outside of Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold), and no one is ever going to ever laud Entourage for its intricate writing. The allure of Entourage is similar to why people like reality T.V. shows. The only difference really is the characters in this show are mostly fictional. I say “mostly” because Entourage is loosely based on actor Mark Wahlberg’s own experiences as a movie star. With that said, as long as Entourage delivers ridiculously hot (and often naked) women, a healthy dose of humor, and a look at what it might be like to be famous, I don’t see how fans can be disappointed.

While maybe not as strong as previous seasons, season six delivers more of the same. It does attempt to get a little heavier than normal, however. Vince struggles briefly with loneliness, E continues his bitch ass ways with women and can’t seem to shake ex-girlfriend Sloan from his memory, Drama runs into trouble after a successful run on his show Five Towns, Turtle experiences problems with Jamie Lynn-Sigler for the first time, and Ari deals with an affair within his agency that could cause major problems. Whatever.

What’s missing, for me, from this season is Vincent Chase as a movie star. He apparently starred in a big hit based on the book The Great Gatsby directed by Martin Scorsese and has resurrected his career after a couple of flops… but we really don’t get to see anything about Gatsby. I don’t even think we ever saw Vince act a single scene. I still remember how cool I thought it was when the show created an entire sequence for Aquaman. Season six focuses on Vince’s actual film career the least of any season to date. We have Gatsby in the past and his next project as a race car driver in the future… in between, we have season six, which seems to focus on all the secondary characters. Granted, these characters are all vastly more interesting than Vince, but still, Vince as a movie star is still the force that drives the show and I want to see more of it.

Thankfully, the show is not a total loss like some might suggest it has become. While Vince may be between movies, that doesn’t stop plenty of hot chicks happily dropping their panties for him and we still get envy his ability to have any woman he wants. Drama and Lloyd are still hilarious and I think this was still a strong season for the Ari Gold character. Even if someone hated this season, they had to enjoy Ari’s scene in the finale with the paintball gun. C’mon now! Season six also has solid cameos from Tom Brady, Mark Wahlberg, and Matt Damon.

I’ve never cared for E’s character and he continues to be more of the same. His continued fascination with Sloan, while understandable, is obnoxious, even more so because he’s dating a perfectly good looking girl anyways. Just when you think E can’t sink to new lows, the season closes with him at his most ridiculous. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it’s brutal and doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The biggest disappointment in season six is Turtle’s transformation into a simp. His entire arc in season six focuses on his relationship with actress Jamie Lynn-Sigler of Sopranos fame. No thanks, we already have one E and we didn’t like it when you pulled this stunt with Vince and Mandy Moore.

Entourage might not be as good as it once was… but it’s not like we’re talking about Weeds here. This show is still plenty watchable and has lots of fun moments. So before you start saying things like Entourage has jumped the shark, remember, it wasn’t all that great to begin with.

Grade: C+
Viewings: 1.5
Replay Value: Decent amount, but I’m personally glad I never invested in the series on DVD.
Emmy Awards: After a string of 3 straight Emmy wins, Piven hasn’t been nominated the past two years and Entourage could only muster one nomination in 2010: for sound mixing. Ouch.
Nudity? Tons! Yay!


2010 Movie Reviews

July 6, 2010

Alice In Wonderland – Tim Burton takes the Lewis Carrol tale and makes it his own by filming it in 3D with live actors. The combination of Tim Burton, the story, and Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter sounded promising at first, but the end result was disappointing. Perhaps animated characters don’t translate well to real life actors because most of the acting in this film was driving me nuts. I really had a hard time not turning it off and moving on to other things. I’ll note that I didn’t watch the movie in theaters or in 3D, which may have considerably increased my enjoyment, but alas, I’ll never know. D

Hot Tub Time Machine – Skipped this in theaters and heard it was pretty funny, so I was looking forward to its DVD release. It wasn’t quite as funny as I thought it would be, but it was still plenty enjoyable with a number of solid gags and laughs. The story was a little corny, but that was to be expected given the film’s title. Overall, I liked it and it’s quite possible this movie will be a grower like a lot of the better comedies of the past couple years. B-

Iron Man 2 – A solid follow up to one of the most surprising movies of 2008. Not as good as the original, but still a lot of fun. It seemed like Mickey Rourke’s character wasn’t given nearly enough screen time and never really felt like a major threat to Tony Stark. Downey was great once again and Don Cheadle was a fine replacement for Terrance Howard. Funny, with good action, and War Machine was a welcome addition. Not a great sequel, but certainly not bad either. B

Kick-Ass – I was really anticipating this one and the results were mixed. It had a fun feeling to it, but the main character really didn’t move me at all and almost all the other characters were pretty hollow as well. Kick-Ass never felt like a superhero of any sort to me… just a nerdy kid in a bad costume. Hit-Girl is what made this movie borderline awesome despite all its flaws. Not only is the character well written and an utter bad ass, but the young girl that plays her displays a ton of acting talent. The movie has some good action and is funny at times, but the story wasn’t executed spectacularly and the casting was questionable. C+

Nightmare On Elm Street – I’m a big old school horror franchise fanatic and Freddy Krueger has long been a fascination of mine. Unlike Jason Vorhees or Michael Meyers, a Freddy reboot was something I was looking forward to and thought could be well done. This remake is a fair attempt at updating an old classic. I liked the news of Jackey Earl Haley taking on the role of Krueger and although several critics disagree with me, I liked him a lot in the role. He was scary in a way that Robert Englund arguably hasn’t been in over two decades. The story leaves something to be desired, but so do the majority of slasher film scripts. If this isn’t a step in the right direction for the franchise, I don’t know what is. B-

Toy Story 3 – Review coming soon…

Youth In Revolt – Michael Cera stars in his normal role of a geeky and awkward adolescent trying to figure out how to succeed with women. Only this time there’s a twist! Cera’s character creates an alter-ego in order to become a bad ass. Needless to say, it comes off cheesy and doesn’t really provide any laughs. Cera’s star is starting to dim and this movie was a snoozer. F


Put Zodiac On Your Netflix Queue

June 6, 2009

Today is the last day of this phase of my life. Tomorrow I start fresh again and I have set out several goals for myself in the upcoming months. I was doing pretty good on bettering myself from March to May, but I let a woman sidetrack me and lost focus and the past couple weeks I’ve really let myself go. That’s fine. I should have an even bigger sense of accomplishment in the upcoming weeks. As I said a while ago, I wanted to start gaining some serious weight and getting back into shape. I haven’t lifted in a few weeks and my appetite has been horrible ever since I got some weird food poisoning-like sickness a few weeks ago and spent the whole night throwing up. I started my weight-gaining journey at 144 pounds and I peaked at 160… if I had to guess, with the way things have been going recently, I’d say I’m back down around 152-153. I’ll find out tomorrow when I finally hit the gym again and I’ll post regular updates regarding my progress. I have a new workout routine typed up for lifting days and non-lifting days and I’m going to start focusing on my diet again. I’ve somehow got back to one meal a day and that is not cracking. Unfortunately, I’m also kind of broke, so I’m going to have to get creative with this shit.

I watched the film Zodiac last night and I have to say it’s one of the most underrated films of the past several years. It didn’t really receive a lot of awards attention and I don’t really hear a lot of people talk about it, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s my favorite film from 2007. There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men get all the publicity, but I don’t own either of those films. I saw No Country in theaters once and never again and I’ve rented Blood from Netflix twice and I’m yet to see the film in its entirety. While that is a travesty on my part, it does say something about how good Zodiac is. First of all, the story is really what’s interesting here. I find myself eager to read the novel after seeing the movie for a second time. It will be interesting to see how much of Graysmith’s story didn’t make the film and find out what was left out and what was changed or exaggerated. I’m not going to laud any of the performances… I can’t say anyone was too overlooked here, although this film marks Robert Downey Jr’s resurgence as an acclaimed actor more than Iron Man should. For those of you that have been sleeping on this film, this tale of a serial killer who toyed with the media and the police, but still got away with everything, comes highly recommended by me.


I Love You Man Is Hilarious

April 17, 2009


Yeah, I said it. I Love You, Man is greatness, possibly a comedy classic in the making. Time and repeat viewings will say whether or not that is true, but this was by far the most fun I’ve had watching a movie this year. Thank God for Judd Apatow and his buddies ushering in the era of the R-rated comedy. In general, ever since 40 Year Old Virgin was released in 2005, the quality of comedies has drastically increased over the past half decade. Though I thought some of the movies from this genre (i.e. Pineapple Express, Zack & Miri Make A Porno) were a bit overrated last year, I Love You, Man is a very solid step back in the right direction.

The film centers on Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd), a real estate salesman planning to marry the woman of his dreams, Zooey (Rashida Jones). After overhearing Zooey’s friends making fun of his lack of a social circle, Peter decides: “I need some fucking friends.” After a series of hilarious “man dates” with various guys, Peter finally comes across Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) at an open house he’s hosting and instantly finds Sydney’s honesty and blunt nature endearing. They become quick friends and it doesn’t take long for this new friendship to cause problems between Peter and Zooey.

The cast in this is really terrific. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel have both become legitimate comedy stars. Both Rudd and Segel have grown from supporting characters in the first couple of Judd Apatow films to being stars in their own movies. Both actors are phenomenal in this movie and Rudd really hams it up as Peter Klaven, doing an excellent job of showing how awkward it can be to try to meet new people and vibe with them. The way he blurts out random non-words (“Joben”) and repeatedly stumbles over his sentences show a complete lack of confidence in his surroundings and makes for good laughs throughout the whole film. Years ago, I wouldn’t have ever thought that Paul Rudd could be a regular leading man in a comedy, but I’m convinced of it now. Segel is another rising star, whose Sydney is played with confidence and an air of experience that doesn’t quite reach snobbery. Whether predicting if someone needs to fart or explaining the lubricant and condoms on his desk (“this is where I masturbate”), Sydney’s honesty and tendency for bluntness comes across as genuine.

The supporting cast is solid and funny as well, with a number of B-list celebrities taking on roles. Jaime Pressly and Jon Favreau are hilarious playing a dysfunctional couple that are friends with Peter and Zooey. Andy Samberg is pretty good as Peter’s gay brother and J.K. Simmons is great no matter what he does. Rashida Jones is absolutely adorable as Zooey in her first major film role. The gorgeous actress is quite talented and after proving her comedy chops on The Office and in this film, I wouldn’t be surprised if stardom awaits her. Sarah Burns stars as Zooey’s desperate friend Hailey and does such a good job of channeling Kristen Wiig that I actually thought it was the SNL star.

I Love You, Man is easily the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year. The actors were all great and funny and the pacing of the film was solid even through the inevitable conflict segments. I laughed throughout the whole film and really enjoyed all the performances. I can’t wait to see it again. It’s the first movie of 2009 that I’ve gone out of my way (*ahem* aside from writing on a blog, that is) to recommend to people. Go see it immediately!

Grade: 8 out of 10 (Must Own)


The Yankee Years by Joe Torre & Tom Verducci

March 1, 2009

Started: February 15th, 2009
Finished: March 1st, 2009

First off, let me state the fact that I’ve never reviewed a book in my life, but considering that I’m a writing major and have some professional writing experience under my belt, I don’t feel that I’m unqualified to express an educated opinion.

The Yankee Years first caught my attention because it was making headlines on ESPN due to stirring up some dirt in the Yankees organization. I don’t even remember what the headline was, but it probably had something to do with Alex Rodriguez, since that guy attracts controversy like he gets a bonus for it in his contract. I wasn’t particularly intrigued by the fact that Joe Torre had written a book about his time with the Yankees, but when I saw that Tom Verducci, a reputed baseball writer for Sports Illustrated, was the co-author I figured it was worth my time.

Make no mistake, this book is Verducci’s baby. Despite first billing and an authoring credit, Torre’s involvement is limited to extensive interviewing and vocal contributions, but has nothing to do with the writing as far as I was able to tell. Though this book wouldn’t have been possible without Torre’s involvement, I think his name on it is mostly a sales strategy. Verducci puts together a well-structured and chronological book with sharp prose that keeps the reader interested. Some of the writing does get repetitive at times and some of the quotes used don’t contribute much, but overall, I found the book to be a quick and interesting read.

I consider myself to be somewhat of a baseball fanatic, but The Yankee Years made me realize that I completely lose touch with the game come playoff time. I’m sure this is due to the fact that baseball, despite being a great sport, is kind of boring to watch and also because I don’t have a vested interest when the Mariners miss the playoffs or get knocked out. This has caused me to miss out on some incredible games. Think what you want to about the Yankees, but over the past 15 years or so, they’ve been involved in some of the best postseason series and games of all-time. If there weren’t box scores and footage to prove the results, you’d think that some of these accounts were fictitiously written for the movies. From Aaron Boone’s game-winning homerun in extra innings, to Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, to the Yankees coming back from a sub-.500 record as late as July to make the playoffs in 2007, there definitely was a story to be told here.

The thing that surprised me the most about the book is how it made me feel about the Yankees. Without a doubt, in my lifetime, the Yankees are my most hated team in any sport. I’ve always felt like they’ve been able to buy their way into the playoffs due to a ridiculous revenue stream and payroll flexibility, and with 12 straight postseason appearances, six league championships and four World Series Rings, that might be hard to argue. However, after reading this book, I feel like I may have been a bit ignorant. The most amazing thing happened as I was reading the first half of this book: I found myself liking the Yankees for the first time in my life. No, not the Yankees as we know them now, but the team that won four World Series titles in five years from 1996-2000. It’s easy to learn to hate a team that constantly wins, but I think a lot of my hatred was misguided. I’ve always despised the Yankees because of their huge payroll and ability to buy their roster rather than develop it, but those teams that won the championships were built of gritty, hard-nosed and reasonably priced veterans that had a will to win (Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, David Cone) and young, upcoming future superstars produced from the Yankees own farm system (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte). When Joe Torre was hired before the 1996 season, the Yankees had a modest (in comparison to now) payroll and their attendance was merely average compared to the rest of the league. It was due to this run of championships and success that the Yankees have become the colossal revenue-building monster that it is now. It wasn’t until the 2000s (after the Yankees last championship) that they seemingly started signing every big free agent that went on the market. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate the Yankees, but I think you have to respect what they accomplished in the late 90s. Those championships were earned, not bought, and they put together an incredible run that deserves all the accolades it receives.

With that said, the last half of the book made me hate the Yankees even more than I did before. Not only has revenue sharing and an increased ability by other teams to exploit inefficiencies cut into the Yankees advantage, but the Yankees front office hasn’t been able to make intelligent decisions (especially regarding starting pitching) and has wasted a staggering amount of money on the free agent market. The list of failures is vast: Carl Pavano, Javier Vasquez, Jaret Wright, Jeff Weaver and Randy Johnson are just the beginning. On top of that, it took the Yankees 11 years (from Andy Pettitte in 1996 to Joba Chamberlain in 2007) to develop a quality starting pitcher out of their own minor league system. The book describes all these misguided decisions in detail and explores how the Yankees bought a team of superstars that lacked the will to win that the late 90s Yankees possessed. Also, these superstars didn’t mesh as a team and there were often clashes of personality in the dugout and on the field.

After reading this book, I realized that the Yankee championships were legitimate and hard-earned, Joe Torre is a remarkable manager (he got them to 12 straight postseasons, including six years when the team was clearly in decline despite an increasing payroll), and that my current hatred of the team is valid. Alex Rodriguez is still a piece of shit and may arguably be the most unlikable player in all of sports. This book didn’t help his image any; his own manager thought of him as a self-centered, whiny, attention-whore.

Without a doubt, this is an absolute must read for any fan of baseball.


Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot

February 10, 2009

I came across Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot looking over a list of someone’s top 25 films of 2008. This film caught my eye because it was directed by Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA from The Beastie Boys) and it focused on a group of the best high school players in the nation in 2006 preparing to play in the inaugural “Elite 24” game at famed Rucker Park in Harlem. It wasn’t a hard sell for me… a documentary directed by a Beastie Boy following the story of the most talented senior class of my lifetime? Uhm, “move to top of queue” please.

While there were plenty of talented players to choose from, Yauch decides to center his film around Michael Beasley (#2 in 2007 draft), Kyle Singler (2007 ACC Rookie Of The Year), Brandon Jennings (#1 ranked senior last year, now playing overseas), Donte Green (#28 pick in 2007 draft), Kevin Love (#5 pick in 2007 draft), Tyreke Evans (top 5 recruit this year, now playing PG for Memphis), Jerryd Bayless (#11 pick in 2007 draft) and Lance Stephenson (top 15 senior this year).

Considering that Beasley, Green, Love, and Bayless were college superstars last year, some of these players already had a ridiculous amount of exposure before this film was released, so I was familiar with all of the players already. Regardless, it’s interesting to see these guys still in high school and on the brink of stardom. You can see why Beasley dominated at Kansas State last year; the guy is a Man-Child at 17 and can be seen scoring at will against his superstar peers in the big game. You also get a glimpse at his personality that may not be apparent in other media coverage. Beasley is the court jester, literally; his mouth is jabbering away the entire time he’s playing (“You ugly as shit, Donte”), he always seems to be planning a prank, and the man just seems annoying as hell. I wouldn’t want him as a roommate, that’s for sure.

Kevin Love is also fun to watch in this film. Not only do you get a great high school highlight reel that includes a game-winning shot at the buzzer and a backboard shattering dunk, but we also get to see a still baby-faced Love and can appreciate how much he has matured as a man and as a player from the time this film was shot to now. It’s quite the transformation.

Basically, I was thoroughly entertained by this documentary, both as a fan of film and a fan of college basketball. I wouldn’t even be mad if Yauch could make this an annual series detailing the year’s best high school players… the only problem is, I’d like to see the film before everyone in the world has seen the guy succeed at the college level already. I think this is a good documentary, in general, but a must see for any fan of college basketball and last year’s draft class.

Score: 6.5 out of 10 (Recommended/Must See)


Benjamin Button: Forest Gump 2?

February 3, 2009

I want to start by saying that I don’t hate Benjamin Button even though it’s probably going to sound that way. It’s important to know that I went into this film expecting greatness for a variety of reasons: 13 Oscar nominations, Brad Pitt, the concept of a man aging backwards having all sorts of unique possibilities, and finally, director David Fincher is very accomplished (Zodiac, Fight Club, Se7en). I guess anything less than spectacular was going to be a disappointment for me.

The biggest problem I had throughout Benjamin Button is that I kept drawing comparisons to Forrest Gump and thinking about how much better that film executed everything. We have all sorts of familiar elements: our protagonists overcomes physical defects (mentally handicapped vs. aging backwards, Forest breaking out of his braces vs. Benjamin getting out of his wheelchair), we have extended periods of time spent at sea, we have a love interest that flutters in and out of a story that extends over decades, we have mother figures that perish, we have cooky side characters, and we have a long ass running time.

Forrest Gump was just a much, MUCH better film and I couldn’t ignore the fact that I kept thinking about it while watching Benjamin Button. Forrest Gump came out 15 years ago and I still remember Jenny, Bubba, and Lt. Dan as if that film came out yesterday; I can’t remember the name of the love interest or the sea captain in Benjamin Button and I saw that movie a week ago… and I think that’s really at the root of why this movie disappointed me. Outside of Benjamin, I just didn’t care about any of the other characters; and that’s a big problem, especially since the love story is at the emotional center of this movie. I only discovered this past week that Eric Roth, who wrote the screenplay, also wrote Forrest Gump. That gave me a good chuckle when I found that out.

The pacing of the film was also problematic since it has a really long running time. I couldn’t help but look at my cell phone and think that it was moving backwards because the movie was so slow. I think with a shorter run time and a focus on actually developing the characters, would have made Benjamin Button a more pleasurable experience.

I don’t want to give the impression that the film is a total disaster, it does several things well. Brad Pitt gives a very good performance as the main character, though I’m not convinced it’s his best work ever. Also, the cinematography, art direction, make-up, and costumes are all award worthy.

So yes, Benjamin Button is a respectable, if not good, film. The Forrest Gump similarities and poor pacing ruined the experience for me, but I can imagine that plenty of people will still thoroughly enjoy it. I’m just saddened by the fact that David Fincher is receiving all this recognition for this movie, when he’s made plenty of much better films in the past and I definitely don’t think it’s 2008’s critical darling. It’s quite possible that I’m being overly harsh on this movie because of all the hype surrounding, but I can’t deny the fact that I left the theater disappointed.

Score: 6 out of 10 (Recommended)


Slumdog Millionaire Review

February 2, 2009

This movie is definitely worth of all the hype you’ve been hearing about it. I first got wind of Slumdog Millionaire via some random website’s list of the 25 best films of 2008. I was shocked to see it ranked #2, especially since, at the time, I had yet to hear of the film. The premise sounded promising enough: a young man goes on the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and makes it to the final question only to find himself arrested for cheating and having to explain himself through flashbacks on how he happened to know the precise answers.

The high ranking on that list and the story had me interested enough to propel it to the top of my must see list. I entered the theater with a mixture of excitement and apprehension (how seriously can I take a website that lists Iron Man as the absolute best film of 2008?). I left the theater thinking that it was a good film, but feeling slightly disappointed that I wasn’t blown away. However, over the past month, the more I’ve thought about the film, the more I’ve realized how great everything about it was. In all honesty, I thought the story had the potential to be really hokey, but it didn’t come across very corny at all; some moments are downright chilling. The cinematography is astounding and Danny Boyle is a near lock to win the Best Director Oscar later this month. Also, anyone that fails to mention the effort that was put into the sound and music of this picture is making a mistake. I’m sure once you’ve seen this film a couple of times, you’ll be singing “Jai Ho” unintentionally over the days that follow. Finally, the cast of unknowns did a remarkable acting job and it looks like Dev Patel might be on his way to stardom, as his casting in M. Night Shamylan’s The Last Airbender, due out in 2010, might indicate.

I think when all is said and done, Slumdog Millionaire is taking down the Best Picture Oscar and will be remembered as the best film that came out in 2008.

Score: 8.5 out of 10 (Must Own/Potentially Classic)