Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

I liked the usage of a guitar on the Once poster better.

I liked the usage of a guitar on the Once poster better.

Directed by: Malik Bendjelloul (his first film ever)

Written by: Bendejelloul as well

Starring: Documentaries don’t so much “star” people as they feature them

What it’s about: a documentary exploring the mystery behind an obscure American musician whose albums achieved great fame in South Africa

What I liked: This is a beautiful, powerful movie, featuring one of those amazing real-life stories that are nearly too good to be true.  Bendjelloul cobbled together some truly great footage of Sixto Rodriguez.  I want to say more about the film, but revealing almost anything about the plot can potentially spoil some truly delightful things that you would discover by watching the actual movie.  The soundtrack – comprised of Rodriguez’ music – is amazing, and appears to have much in common with the music I enjoy nowadays.  I haven’t seen any of the other movies that were nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar, but this was definitely a deserving winner.

What I disliked: There were several instances of confusing footage choices (maybe just to me?) interspersing with other footage, but whatever, doesn’t hurt the overall movie.  It also bothered me that it was a documentary of an event that seemingly took place 15 years ago or so, but the tense of the interview questions seems to be misrepresented.  It’s hard to explain.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Certainly, it is an engaging story, and a beautiful documentary and if it ends up with more people hearing the music of Sixto Rodriguez, everyone is the better for it.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Sixto Rodriguez in an old publicity photo.

Sixto Rodriguez in an old publicity photo.

Lincoln (2012)

Classic-looking poster, gorgeous, really.

Classic-looking poster, gorgeous, really.

Directed by: Steven Spielberg (kinda hard to pick his best movie, as he has numerous candidates.  However, none since Munich)

Written by: Tony Kushner wrote the screenplay, based on “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” written by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and many, many more.  Check the tags.

What it’s about: a biopic of Abraham Lincoln’s last four months alive

B-Movie Alternate Title: Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

What I liked: The movie hangs on Daniel Day-Lewis to portray a believable Abraham Lincoln, and of course he rocks it out of the park.  There are so many wonderful character actors throughout the movie in little parts, that half the movie I was mentally making notes to double-check IMDb.  It appeared to be lovingly made by Spielberg, with an attentive eye to details, but what do I know for sure?

What I disliked: Goddammit, there is a way to make an Oscar-friendly picture without pumping up the running time minutes.  Two and a half hours is about half an hour too many for this movie.  It lags, and while Day-Lewis is mesmerizing as Lincoln, the subject matter is fairly dry and honestly, it was a bit more tedious than Zero Dark Thirty was.  And we were all waiting for the assassination scene, and you don’t even put it onscreen?  BOoooooo.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Not really, it is pretty much one of those Oscar movies that exists to vie for Oscars and will rarely be brought up again.  It is long and informative and most people don’t want those things in their movies.

Rating: 3 / 5, and if it weren’t for Daniel Day-Lewis, it would have been 2 – 2.5.

Best Picture Nominations Rankings (so far): 1. Silver Linings Playbook 2. Django Unchained 3. Argo 4. Zero Dark Thirty 5. Lincoln

I would like to see Abraham Lincoln argue with Daniel Plainview or Bill the Butcher.

I would like to see Abraham Lincoln argue with Daniel Plainview or Bill the Butcher.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Directed by that brought you Three Kings.  DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND?

Directed by that brought you Three Kings. DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND?

Directed by: David O. Russell (I would have to go with Three Kings as his best movie, though he has directed many quality pictures)

Written by: David O. Russell, based on “The Silver Linings Playbook” by Matthew Quick

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, Shea Whigham, Julia Stiles, John Ortiz, Dash Mihok, and Brea Bee.

What it’s about: fresh out of a psychiatric institution, a guy tries to re-connect with his former life and finds new things

B-Movie Alternate Title: Shall We Dance 2

What I liked: If the entire movie was just Jennifer Lawrence doing.. whatever, I’d have been happy with the end result.  She is wonderful, talented, amazing and I will stop right there, because I could go on and on about how she is the greatest thing since Amy Adams to me and it would just get weird and awkward for all of us and hey let’s end this sentence sometime soon. Bradley Cooper was great, definitely deserved his Best Actor Oscar nom for his performance, same with Lawrence.  Whatever director David O. Russell did to make Robert De Niro an actor again, that shit should be bottled, because finally, he acted again.  Jacki Weaver was great too, all the Oscar nominations that went to the movie, totally deserving.  You might think that is weird to say for what is essentially a romantic comedy / drama, but it is great.  It truly is and I have to go back and say, wow, Jennifer Lawrence, holy fuck, she is just so good, so good in this role.  Also, holy shit, Chris Tucker can NOT be annoying!  Who knew?  And finally, the reaction to finishing “A Farewell to Arms” was pretty much exactly how I felt about it.  Fuck that book.

What I disliked: Nothing, I thought it was altogether excellent.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: I would try, though being part of the rom-com/dramedy genre makes it a slight hard sell.  “BUT JENNIFER LAWRENCE come on!” would be my follow up.

Rating: 5 / 5

Best Picture Nominations Rankings (so far): 1. Silver Linings Playbook 2. Django Unchained 3. Argo



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!

Django Unchained (2012)

Gorgeous poster, though probably not in the category of previous Tarantino films.  Argue about that.

Gorgeous poster, though probably not in the category of previous Tarantino films. Argue about that.

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino (we could argue over what his “best” movie is, but the safe bet will most likely always be Pulp Fiction)

Written by: Tarantino

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Remar, Kerry Washington, Laura Cayouette, Walton Goggins and Samuel L. Jackson.  Also, check the tags for many actors that basically filmed cameo roles.

What it’s about: in 1858, a former slave becomes a bounty hunter and searches for his wife

B-Movie Alternate Title: It’s a pretty B-Movie title already

Movie Mash Up: Inglourious BasterdsTombstone + probably hundreds of blaxpoitation movies that Tarantino has watched

What I liked: I have to admit, Jamie Foxx ruled in this movie, and I hate having to say that.  Tarantino wrote such a great character in Django, and knew exactly how he wanted the character to appear and succeeded on all levels.  I would argue that Christoph Waltz deserves to be nominated in the Best Actor category, rather than the Supporting Actor category for his performance in this movie, but whatever.  It is a fun movie, dealing with some super serious themes, and it may be Tarantino’s funniest movie yet.  Argue some more about that too, if you want.  The movie looks gorgeous, and flows fairly well (see below), so well that at points it doesn’t exactly feel like a near three hour-long movie.  DiCaprio was amazing in it as well, particularly the scene in which he actually accidentally cuts open his own hand, bleeding profusely all over himself, and continues acting.  Don’t know how Kerry Washington felt about having his blood smeared all over her face, though.

What I disliked: The running time of nearly three hours is fairly daunting, Tarantino movie or not.  You could make arguments about trimming the fat and lessening the homages to whatever obscure movie Tarantino was referring to with whatever camera angle or sound cue, but you don’t have the same movie then.  I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable movie fan, but I probably don’t know half of the references Tarantino is making, even in regards to certain actors and actresses he ends up casting for whatever reason.  There were some scenes throughout that I thought were misplaced or came from some wacky sitcom script (the Jonah Hill cameo scene springs to mind), and while they weren’t terrible, they did put me off a little.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: While it is pretty great, the exceedingly long running time and excessive (but totally in context) usage of the word “nigger”, probably means it isn’t for everyone.  Tarantino fans will eagerly lap it up, though.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

I am surprised this .gif hasn't been Hasslehoff'd.

I am surprised this .gif hasn’t been Hasslehoff’d.

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

I’m a big fan of alternate posters

Completely by accident, I found out that this movie was being re-released in 3D in theatres today!

Directed by: Pete Docter (I like this movie, but Up is definitely his best film so far), and co-directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3and David Silverman (director of The Simpsons Movie)

Written by: Andrew Stanton and Daniel Gerson, based off a story by Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon and Ralph Eggleston

Starring: the vocal talents of John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Bonnie Hunt, Bob Peterson, Frank Oz, Laraine Newman and John Ratzenberger.

What it’s about: an animated tale of two worlds where monsters need to scare human children for an energy source

B-Movie Alternate Title: The Monsters in Your Closet

What I liked: It’s a Pixar movie, so I’m already pre-disposed to liking it.  Big fan of the creativity involved in making up all the various monsters, and in creating that alternate world that is similar to ours, but monster-centric.  John Goodman did a great job with his performance, as did the late James Coburn.  Oh and Steve Buscemi was perfectly cast as well.

What I disliked: This is probably my least favourite non-Cars Pixar movie.  It is hard to identify exactly why that is.  For some reason, the story just doesn’t resonate with me as much as most other Pixar movies do.  It isn’t quotable, and I am not a big fan of Billy Crystal.  Maybe that’s why it rates low with me: so much Billy Crystal.  It just doesn’t feel as polished of a work as most other Pixar movies do.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, it is a decent Pixar movie and a heartwarming tale for kids and adults alike.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Sully signals for the GTS

Sully signals for the GTS

Finding Nemo (2003)

Ha ha, "Sea" it in theatres.  That is wonderful.

Ha ha, “Sea” it in theatres. That is wonderful.

Directed by: Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (Stanton directed the amazing WALL•E and Unkrich co-directed a couple other Pixar flicks, and solo directed Toy Story 3)

Written by: Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds based on a story by Stanton

Starring: the vocal talents of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, John Ratzenberger, Willem Dafoe, Allison Janney, Brad Garrett, Stephen Root, Austin Pendleton, Vicki Lewis, Elizabeth Perkins, Barry Humphries and Eric Bana.

What it’s about: the animated tale of a clownfish looking for his lost son, Nemo

B-Movie Alternate Title: LOST in the Ocean!

Movie Mash Up: Taken – all the violence + Toy Story or alternatively just The Pixar Formula

What I liked: I loved everything about this movie.  All of the vocal performances were top notch, the writing great, the visuals absolutely stunning (especially on Blu-Ray), and the story heartwarming.  Another in a long line of Pixar movies that get me all misty-eyed.  It’s a wild adventure that is grounded by it simply being about a father looking for his son.  I like that the fish – hell all the sea life – weren’t anthropomorphized like the terrible imitators, like A Shark Tale.  These are real fish (I mean, no, they aren’t real fish) acting like they should, not living in apartments and taking elevators for NO GOOD REASON.

What I disliked: There are some minor quibbles I have with some of the lines in the script, but nothing enough to dull my overwhelming enjoyment of the movie.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Yes.  I will never be a parent, so I can only imagine that this is how real parents would act if one of their children had gotten themselves lost.  It would also be fun for the kids.

Rating: 5 / 5

AUGH Kill it with fire!

AUGH Kill it with fire!

The Matrix (1999)

Weird that the poster is more purple-tinted than green

Directed by: The Wachowski Brothers.. now Siblings (Speed Racer wasn’t as bad as it was unnecessary)

Written by: The very same Wachowskis (I loved the hell out of V for Vendetta)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano, Gloria Foster, Marcus Chong, Julian Arahanga, Matt Doran, and Belinda McClory.

What it’s about: oh man, is it so old that people on the Internet don’t know what The Matrix is about?  Well, a man discovers that the life he thought he was living is based on a technological lie

B-Movie Alternate Title: A World Ruled by Machines

Movie Mash Up: Dark CityThe 13th FloorTRON

What I liked: The movie is a stunning technological marvel, even a decade later.  Highly influential, in both negative and positive ways.  It is a pretty interesting story, though I hate that it dulls the impact of TRON.  The action is great, and the entire movie looks gorgeous, especially on Blu-Ray.

What I disliked: Ehn, the acting isn’t stellar or anything.  Also, there are aspects of the movie that just seem hokey nowadays.  Sure, you can blame other movies for paying homage to The Matrix so much that viewing the original film has dulled any impact it once had.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure!  It has been a highly influential movie for the past decade (for better or worse) and everyone should see it at some point.  Just leave it at that.  Don’t watch the sequels that do not exist.  THE SEQUELS THAT DO NOT EXIST.

Rating: 4 / 5

At least it isn't one of those goddamn Magic Eye things.

At least it isn’t one of those goddamn Magic Eye things.

Brave (2012)

Directed by: Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (Chapman directed The Prince of Egypt which I have never seen, and Andrews the Pixar short One Man Band)

Written by: Andrews, Chapman, Steve Purcell and Irene Mecchi

Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson and John Ratzenberger, all voice credits for this animated film.

What it’s about: a young tomboyish Scottish princess rebels against her mother’s wishes to submit to an arranged marriage

B-Movie Alternate Title: I Turned My Mother Into a Bear

Movie Mash Up: Brother Bear + any number of Disney Princess movies + Robin Hood (the animated Disney version)

What I liked: Well it’s a non-Cars Pixar movie, so that is one thing I greatly appreciated.  The animation looks gorgeous, as usual.  The character design is wonderful, and the voice acting great for the appearances of the characters, leading me to believe that I will never truly find love unless it is with a fiery red-haired Scottish lass.  I KEEP SEARCHING.  Parts of the movie hit the Pixar mark for making my eyes tear up a little, but nothing to the extent of Up or WALL•E.

What I disliked: The plot twist which I somewhat SPOILERishly revealed in the B-Movie Alternate Title.  There’s a point where the story goes a little bit off the rails and smacks of Disney, but thankfully it mostly recovered by the end.  The title of the film makes me think that at some point the story was far more epic and grand than what the end result was.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Yes, though it isn’t really in the pantheon of GREAT Pixar movies.  It’s good, near great, but unlike most Pixar movies I don’t immediately want to watch it again and again.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Good Will Hunting (1997)

An old review of mine that still rings true, hence my old style of writing a review.

It’s hard to believe that a decade (note: now it has been 15 years) has passed since the release of Good Will Hunting. When you look at the careers of the actors involved in the film, and what they’ve gone on to since the movie, well it certainly makes the film out to be quite an interesting time capsule. This is the movie that skyrocketed Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s names into Hollywood, as well as providing a vehicle to honour the slightly psychotic and mostly annoying career of Robin Williams with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Casey Affleck also got the rub from the movie, and Cole Hauser to a somewhat smaller extent. He’s almost verging on That Guy territory. Speaking of That Guy, I would suggest that no one’s career benefited more than Scott William Winters, since he’s been in numerous projects since Hunting, probably because most casting directors probably just smack their foreheads and exclaim “OH, you’re That Guy from Good Will Hunting!” But enough about the present, let’s talk about this old movie.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon co-wrote the movie – earning themselves a Best Original Screenplay Oscar – and it was directed by sort of maverick film director Gus Van Sant. You wouldn’t know that Van Sant was a director historically known for quirky or potentially controversial films by watching Good Will Hunting (or Hunting’s bastard step-child Finding Forrester which did nothing but spur on the creation of YTMND) since the subject matter is easily accessible for every audience. So easily accessible that this is another movie that the MPAA screwed over by giving an R-rating because of “strong language, including some sex-related dialogue”. Those fucking prudes. This is a movie about Southies from Boston and the movies have taught me that Southies all have filthy mouths and that is a normal and accepted thing and it feels real.

Okay, so for those of you that don’t know the story, Will Hunting (Damon) is an intellectually gifted youngster, flitting around from job to job, doing work that is far beneath him, carousing with his friends Chuckie (Ben Affleck), Morgan (Casey Affleck) and Billy (Hauser), and getting himself into legal trouble. Hunting was severely abused as a child and bounced from foster home to foster home and since then has built up an emotional wall when it comes to letting people get close to him. Soon Hunting’s life goes from shit to enormous potential, all thanks to solving a math problem written on a blackboard by an MIT Proffessor, Gerald Lambeau (Skarsgård) and beating the shit out of some guy in a neighborhood fight. Lambeau speaks with the judge in charge of Hunting’s case, and offers to take Hunting under his care as long as he gets therapy. Lambeau resorts to Sean Maguire (Williams) – an old school-time friend and Southie – to give Will Hunting the counselling he so badly needs before he destroys his own life.

I know that it doesn’t sound like anything better than a TV Movie of the Week, but the individual parts put so much into the movie that it rises above the level of your average tear-jerker piece of fluff film. Damon was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his performance, and it was a well-deserved nomination. Unfortunately he was up against his future Departed co-star Jack Nicholson, who won for his role in As Good As It Gets. As previously mentioned, Robin Williams picked up a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his wonderfully layered performance. All in all, the movie was nominated for nine Oscars, including a Best Picture nod and a Best Supporting Actress nom for Minnie Driver. There’s a lot to love about the movie, from the performances to the score to the realistic dialogue, it’s got it all.

Well, the only thing I think that Good Will Hunting is missing to push it up to perfect status is the style of directing. I’m not saying that Van Sant did a terrible job or anything, just that it seemed like he phoned it in a bit. He did coax career-making performances out of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, but their future work would show that they nearly always bring their A-games. I don’t want it to seem like I’m punishing Hunting for being an easily accessible film, but I expected a bit more of a challenging style from Van Sant. Still, Good Will Hunting is a tremendously enjoyable film that should be watched by everyone.

4 / 5