Argo (2012)

Cookie-cutter poster design here.

Cookie-cutter poster design here.

Directed by: Ben Affleck (I enjoyed The Town, but I found Gone Baby Gone to be better)

Written by: The screenplay was written by Chris Terrio, based off of “The Master of Disguise” by Antonio J. Mendez and “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman (WHAT A NAME.  BEARman)

Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber and so many more.

What it’s about: based on true events that took place during the Iran Hostage Crisis, involving a CIA plan to use a fake movie shoot to rescue some hostages

B-Movie Alternate Title:

Movie Mash Up: Three KingsUnited 93 (minus all the horrific tragedy) + Munich

What I liked: I enjoyed about 90% of the movie (see below, but beware, slight vague spoiler).  Great acting, great “real life” story.  I don’t think Alan Arkin deserved a Supporting Actor nomination for his performance.  It was good, but not even on the level of his previous win for Little Miss Sunshine.  Bryan Cranston was great, Affleck was great but understated great, if that makes sense.  FINALLY, someone found a way to capture Clea DuVall in a way that didn’t make you feel weird for thinking she was attractive (unless I’m the only one?).  I liked the movie a lot in general, though I really can’t think of a time that I’ll re-watch it.

What I disliked: Almost the entire ending sequence.  I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, so SPOILER ALERT I guess.  The little things that kept taking time at the end kept piling up and I’m not sure if Affleck just wanted to push it as much as he could until the audience laughed in frustration or what.  I know there’s a lot of creative licence with “Based on a True Story” movies, but after that I had to do the research and it annoyed me so there.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, though it may move at too slow of a pace for some audiences.  I would preface my recommendation with that.

Rating: 4/ 5

Best Picture Nomination Rankings (so far): 1. Django Unchained 2. Argo

Ben Affleck IS Hart Bochner!

Ben Affleck IS Hart Bochner!

Total Recall (2012)

I actually think this is a decent-looking poster.

I actually think this is a decent-looking poster.

Directed by: Len Wiseman (as mentioned last week, the best thing he’s ever done is marry Kate Beckinsale, and I guess Live Free or Die Hard is his best movie)

Written by: Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, loosely based off a Philip K. Dick short story

Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy and Bokeem Woodbine.

What it’s about: a remake of the 1990 movie of the same title, a guy finds out that his memories aren’t really his or something, I don’t know, it is dumb

B-Movie Alternate Title: Total Recall: 2012

Movie Mash Up: The Bourne Identity + the original Total Recall I guess + a bit of Minority Report

What I liked: How much Wiseman likes to film his wife in her underpants.  Um, Farrell and Cranston were alright.  There were some great action set pieces and the movie looked – for the most part – quite slick.

What I disliked: Holy fucking lens flares.  I thought J.J. Abrams directed at least half this movie.  For the entire movie I was convinced I knew what the “twist” was going to be and then they didn’t even have the balls to use that twist which would have made more sense than the end result.  Maybe.  All I know is I stopped caring about halfway through.  I thought it was more dumb than cerebral.  There was no reason to remake Total Recall at all.  I barely remembered it to begin with, and now we’ve got Red Dawn 2012 and soon RoboCop: The Next Generation or something stupid.  FUCK OFF HOLLYWOOD.  There’s a reason my interest in watching new movies has dwindled considerably, because they are not new, they are just remakes, retreads, reboots or reimaginings.  Also, the fucking dubstep soundtrack/score.  Years from now people will hear it and remember that for a brief terrifying period in human history, we listened to actual noise for entertainment.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Not really.  I mean, there’s nothing significant about it at all.  Maybe if Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale had a spank-fight in their underwears during Farrell’s Rekall memory implant thing, I could endorse it.

Rating: 1 / 5

Rock of Ages (2012)

Directed by: Adam Shankman (I saw Bringing Down the House once)

Written by: Chris D’Arienzo, Allan Loeb and inexplicably Justin Theroux, based off of D’Arienzo’s musical of the same name

Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Malin Åkerman and Tom Cruise, with a number of cameo appearances as well.

What it’s about: a small town girl moves to Los Angeles to become a famous singer or some shit

B-Movie Alternate Title: ugh I can’t even sum up the creative juices to come up with one for this horrid piece of garbage.

Movie Mash Up: Empire RecordsFootlooseChicagoDetroit Rock City churned in a “Glee” blender

What I liked: Absolutely nothing.  Literally five minutes into it I Tweeted that it was already horrible.

What I disliked: EVERYTHING.  It is a terrible movie, not just because it’s a musical (I am not prejudiced against musicals) but because it is one of the worst-written, cheesily-acted movies that has come out in a long time.  I was embarrassed for actors like Giamatti and Bryan Cranston being in this film.  I have no idea what the target demographic for this film was, because everyone that enjoyed Cruise’s extended cameo performance in Tropic Thunder were not going to be interested in seeing him as an aging rock god.  It might have been extremely faithful to the source material but I don’t give a damn because sometimes musicals are impossible to adapt to the screen without seeming terrible.  Like Phantom of the Opera in 2004, it was a painful exercise in futility.  Movies like this make me wish I could get black-out drunk and forget I ever saw it.  Horrible.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Did you read what I just wrote?  No one deserves the pain of sitting through this.  Terrible, atrocious movie with crap performances and lines that would embarrass a 5-year-old to have to deliver.

Rating: 0 / 5

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

I wrote this awhile back for another site, but here it is now with a few notes and improvements.

Just when you think that the world can’t become worse than the capitalistic cesspool of consumerism it’s become, that’s when it happens. When you finally don’t know where to turn, what to do, the world still finds a way to surprise you, to give you that tiny ray of yes, sunshine. When you think you’ve finally reached your breaking point, that you’re just going to break down into anguished sobs, you get glassy-eyed by the simplistic beauty of a wonderful movie. Am I being a tad bit overdramatic in the impact that Little Miss Sunshine had on me? Perhaps, but working retail at this time of year (or being currently unemployed) will have you clutching at any piece of wonderful.

Little Miss Sunshine was probably the best reviewed movie of 2006, and there’s absolutely nothing I can think of to say that hasn’t been written already. It’s a wonderfully touching exploration of a family that on the surface seems deeply dysfunctional but at the heart is just like yours and mine. I’d love nothing more than to sit down with my family and watch this movie, but they’d hate it because they have terrible taste in movies.

Written by Michael Arndt and directed by the husband and wife team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Sunshine starts by introducing the cast in a fairly unflinchingly open and honest fashion. Olive (Abigail Breslin) is a precocious little butterball of a child, Richard (Greg Kinnear) is a failing self-help seminar creator, Sheryl (Toni Collette) is Richard’s harried wife, Dwayne (Paul Dano) seems to be nothing more than a sulking emo kid, Grandpa (Alan Arkin) is a heroin sniffing loudmouth, and Frank (Steve Carell)… well Frank’s in the hospital because he just failed at killing himself. This family takes to the road in an effort to get Olive to the Little Miss Sunshine Pagent in Redondo Beach, California.

As is usually expected of a road trip movie, the scenery and filming of the movie is gorgeous, capturing desert vistas and shockingly blue skies under (over?) concrete freeways in such a fashion that you don’t want to turn your eyes away for a second. The score is wonderful, building throughout the introductions of all the characters and hitting all the right notes at all the right times. Then there’s the cast. Wow. If this were a Disney movie, you’d probably have been driven mad by the desire to punch Olive in the face, but thankfully Dayton and Faris reign in the cute and let Breslin just be real. Kinnear plays a convincing asshole and still brings you around to feel for his character later on. Alan Arkin, Toni Collette and Paul Dano all deliver wonderful performances, but for the most part it’s the Steve Carell and Abigail Breslin Show. Carell is so understated in his performance that if it weren’t for little nuances of his that I picked up on while watching “The Office”, I’d say there’s no way that man could ever play an ass like Michael Scott.

The acting is tremendous but not overblown, the storyline engaging and fun, and the entire cast deserve award nominations for their work here (it was nominated for four Oscars, winning two). Not to mention the great choices the directors made while making the movie and the execution of the whole thing. It’s a touching movie, one that made me feel something again at a time where I am feeling super bleak about my future.

5 / 5

John Carter (2012)

Sometimes I go into watching movies knowing little to nothing about them.  I knew that for years, this project had been around and it was originally titled John Carter of Mars and then it was inexplicably changed to something boring that unless you had the knowledge of the previous title, could have been anything.  I’d never read the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories, so I really had no idea what the movie was about, other than it maybe it used to have something to do with Mars, but not anymore.  Also, a guy named John Carter, pretty sure he was going to be central to the story, after all they left his name in the title.

Hey, have you ever seen Army of Darkness, but wished that instead of the far-gone past and undead enemies, Ash was on Mars with some humanoid Martians and some uh, regular looking Martians?  Well good news everyone, Disney made that movie!  It’s called John Carter and it’s a fairly bland but ultimately inoffensive unintentional (?) take on the Army of Darkness story.  Or not.  Whatever, that’s what it struck me as, except Taylor Kitsch is in no way, shape or form a decent replacement for Bruce Campbell.

There are several things that I liked about John Carter, but none of them are really worthy enough for me to highly recommend seeing the movie to anyone else.  I always enjoy seeing Lynn Collins in movies, though for most of Carter I kept thinking she was really Olivia Munn.  Mark Strong did his usual job as the heavy of the film, and yeah, it’s pretty much a cookie-cutter-summer-blockbuster that wasn’t.  Also, not released in the Summer.  Kitsch kept reminding me of a younger, blander Timothy Olyphant, in fact this whole movie was an exercise in disconcerting me about little things.  You might like it though, I’m sure my parents did.

3 / 5

Drive (2011)

UNFH.  If I’d have seen this during my 2011 #movieaday self-challenge, it would probably have ranked at #2 for my Top Five of 2011 section, right behind Warrior.  The two movies have a bit in common, as Warrior starred Tom Hardy who was fucking amazing in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson and well, Refn directed this flick as well.  I have the Wiki page for Drive open in another tab (and I’ll probably end up researching Nathan Fillion’s “Drive” TV series as well, because that is how Wiki Progression works), and I’m looking forward to reading all about it.  I’m already giving the movie a 5, I mean duh, so no SPOILER ALERT about that.  But I’m trying to finish this write-up to see if I can remember what movie it most reminds me of without outside influences.

The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is an exceptionally talented uh.. driver.  He goes unnamed throughout the movie, and don’t worry about that because who cares.  The lead characters in Once were never named and that was a fucking great movie too.  He moonlights as a getaway driver, has a part-time job as a mechanic for Shannon (Bryan Cranston), and also as a stunt driver for the movies.  There isn’t a lot of exposition in this movie, things happen and they get dealt with.  Driver meets Irene (Carey Mulligan) in an elevator in their apartment building, and a series of events culminates in so much badassery that I do not want to spoil things.  Also, a love story.

I’m going to get around to purchasing this movie someday to re-watch it because it is so very good.  From the cinematography to the straight-out-of-Vice-City-soundtrack-that-is-actually-modern-music to the fact that Christina Hendricks is basically a blip in the movie, and Ron Perlman looks like a white Luis Guzmán and Albert Brooks has no eyebrows for some reason (he hasn’t answered my Tweet about that).  Also, I may be back in love with Carey Mulligan, after the hipster twaddle of Never Let Me Go last year diminished my intense passion for her.  Holy hell, my write-up is getting so lame, and for such an awesome movie, that is unacceptable.

5 / 5

Contagion (2011)

After watching Contagion, I am terrified of ever coming into contact with another human being again.  You can all stay the hell away from me forever for all I care… except for the ladies.  No, not really, but it could definitely have that effect on passionate germaphobes, lending credence to their most paranoid of destructive thoughts.  It is a realistic and frightening tale of the world we live in now, and how if something like this happened, well we’re doomed.  I’m not talking The Stand level of human deaths, but religious zealots would have a field day with it nevertheless.

Basically, we can blame Gwyneth Paltrow’s character and her slutty ways for everything.  The film starts at Day 2, and the virus is already in motion.  Her character comes back from a trip to Hong Kong and dies within two days of coming home to her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon).  Then their son dies.  THEN THE WORLD DIES.  No, not really, that would be a really short movie.  There are serious, high tech investigations begun, unearthing all of her activities attempting to pinpoint where the virus began and where it went from there.  There are many smart scientist types, government employees, “real people”, a conspiracy theorist type, and a somewhat reserved media presence.  They all help tell this story of what would most likely happen if an outbreak such as this one ever took place in our modern world.

I realise I’ve been somewhat comically dismissive of the movie, but it’s actually quite well-made.  There’s an amazing level of dread and detail to the goings on that take place, and pretty much everyone is in this movie.  I swear George Clooney had an uncredited cameo as a corpse in a bodybag.  He HAS TO be in the movie somewhere.  I’d like to be all big box office dismissive guy about a disaster flick, but honestly, I enjoyed it and found it to be believable and yes, terrifying.

4 / 5

Batman: Year One (2011)

Here is another in the DC Comics Animation Universe, which has contributed some great and some not-so-great straight-to-DVD animated features based on their comics.  I think the last Batman animated movie was the very uneven Batman: Gotham Knights, which had numerous characters telling their own tales of interactions with The Dark Knight.  It featured differing animation styles for each story and the effect was unique, but also jarring.  Thankfully, Batman: Year One goes with telling one tale, and it’s an almost perfect adaptation of the Frank Miller storyline depicting Batman’s first year on the job.

The animation style is just straight up gorgeous, dark, full of deep shadows and it is on a level higher than most of these animated movies that get shuttled out into movieplexes each week.  This is one movie that I will eventually purchase because I could see myself enjoying it over and over again.  It’s not just a Batman tale though, as even though it tells the origin of how Bruce Wayne / Batman (Ben McKenzie) came to be, it’s also the first year that Jim Gordon (Bryan Cranston) is in Gotham.  Also, Selina Kyle (Eliza Dushku) ditches prostitution and becomes Catwoman.  There’s a lot going on in this movie, and it is nearly seamless storytelling.  Joel Schmuacher could learn something from this movie.

It took me awhile to realise that yes, it was Walter White, Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad” as Jim Gordon and that is as perfect casting of Gordon as Gary Oldman is in the Christopher Nolan Batman movies.  Dushku is also perfect as Catwoman, and there are almost uniformly excellent vocal casting decisions throughout the movie.  My only quibble is that Ben McKenzie – Ryan from “The O.C.” – is Bruce Wayne / Batman.  I understand that yes, it is Batman’s first year on the job, etc. but McKenzie just doesn’t embody the menace of The Bat.

Other than that little detail, it’s flawless and if you’re a Batman fan, check it out.

4.5 / 5

Larry Crowne (2011)

Ten minutes into this movie, I thought I had made a grievous error, in once again failing to research the subject matter of a movie.  When I saw Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) getting fired for being successful at his job but not having the post-secondary education to be promoted, I thought much the way I did when I watched The Company Men: this is hitting a little too close to home.  Thankfully, the story became a bit more ridiculous after that and I could divorce it from further similarities to my life.

Hanks directed and co-wrote the movie with My Big Fat Greek Wedding‘s Nia Vardalos, and presumably was able to attract many recognisable actor faces to the film just due to those two people being involved.  Julia Roberts co-stars as Mercedes Tainot, one of Crowne’s teachers at the community college (sadly not Greendale Community College) and yeah, you can figure out where it inevitably ends up going from there.

It’s not a bad movie at all, just kind of a bland movie.  There are numerous better movies that deal with the unemployment / life-changing issue better, however in much more sobering tones (such as the previously mentioned Company Men) or depressingly drunken tones (Everything Must Go).  There’s no real noteworthy performances or anything, it’s just a Hanks-Roberts vehicle that may inadvertently offend some people due to their life situations.

3 / 5

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Sometimes I watch movies knowing nothing about them other than the fact that they exist.  This is one of them, and so it was with disbelief that I watched the cast list at the beginning and saw that both Matthew McConaughey AND Josh Lucas were in it.  Finally, I would have definitive proof against my own theory that they are in fact the same person.  Yes I know, they don’t look very much alike or sound exactly the same or anything, but I had never seen them together in the same room and they are so similar that it was disconcerting to me.

The joke was on me though, since every scene they were in together (and there weren’t that many, Lucas shows up about halfway through the movie or later) seemed orchestrated to not provide concrete evidence that they were different people.  It was like someone made a movie with them both in it but then set up scenes so it was like the original Parent Trap where the characters were on opposite sides of the screen and you could almost see a seam down the middle of the screen.  It made me think that most of the $40 million dollar budget was used for effects to continue to carry on the illusion that these were, in fact, two different people.  They never really physically interacted when both of their faces were onscreen at the same time, either!  I know, you don’t care about my lunatic theories, but I remain unconvinced.

The movie?  Oh yeah, it was surprisingly decent in my estimation.  Again, I knew nothing about it going in, and had thought for a minute that it might be a genre picture about Abraham Lincoln after he passed the bar and the alternate American history that would create.  McConaughey is a dashing leading man, even though at times his character definitely seemed greasy.  Loads of name actors in this too, most of them just doing some good character acting.  It’s almost a crime that “Breaking Bad” actor Bryan Cranston was in the movie for about five minutes, but again, that’s the part.

Ryan Phillipe used my genuine dislike of him to great advantage, pulling off his role of being the accused criminal quite well.  Everyone else I’ve tagged for this movie had decent bit parts, some bigger than other, but this film – aside from McConaughey – is essentially an ensemble courtroom thriller.  Well-made too.

4 / 5