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!

Just Friends (2005)

The less said about the fat suit, the better

Since it is the month of Christmas, I have started watching a bunch of my old Christmas movies, which is going to lead to me posting some of my old reviews.  If they haven’t changed that much.  While I won’t go the full 5 that I originally did with this movie – mostly due to numerous pop culture references that are very 2005 – I still love it.

This movie was a victim of utterly terrible marketing decisions. If you’ve seen the poster, then you’ve seen Ryan Reynolds in his fat suit and you’d probably assume that the movie was something like Shallow Hal. You’d be wrong, as Just Friends is actually a good movie, one that doesn’t pull punches and doesn’t offer up a horribly contradictory premise as Hal did. Sadly, the entire premise behind this movie happens all the time to nice guys in high school, nice guys like me. *sniff*

This movie would be absolutely nothing without the chemistry that the cast has with each other. After previously working together on Waiting…, Ryan Reynolds and Anna Faris pull together as a wonderfully complimentary comedic team with a movie that recognises their talents together and even exploits it. They both over-exaggerate their characters to an almost cartoonish level, but it seems believable because the rest of the movie is on that level. Faris adds another fantastic impersonation/caricature to her repertoire, and Reynolds plays a lovable dweeb that transforms into a womanizing, charismatic asshole, as well as losing the fat suit that’s barely in the movie.

In my opinion, Amy Smart is far better in her All-American girl next door roles, rather than her “look I can be dirty too” roles, and she proves me right with another loveable performance as the object of Chris’ (Reynolds) affections. This might also be the first movie where me wanting to punch out Chris Klein meant that he was actually good in his role. As well, there will never be enough said about the believably caustic relationship between Chris and Mike (Marquette). I’m not sure how funny Marquette would be away from the slap-happy Reynolds, but at least he’s got a girlish scream to fall back on. That has to be good for some sort of teen high school movie.

I could go on about the movie because it’s just so surprisingly good that it should have it’s virtues extolled as much as possible. Technically speaking, the movie looks alright, with the occasional big action scene or two actually making me laugh out loud. Despite the outlandishness of some of the events, the events that take place actually feel possible. This movie makes the ridiculous series of events that take place in Meet the Parents seem like a fairy tale. Maybe I’m just over-identifying with this movie because my 10 year high school reunion is coming up shortly (note: I went, and everybody had swelled), and I’m fantasizing daily that some hot girl that I was friends with in high school will see me in a new light (note: that did not happen). Either way, I loved this movie.

One final addition: though this movie takes place around the Holiday season, it’s mostly scene dressing and timing, not syruppy thick sentimentalities.

4 / 5

If you can't make fun of yourself, you're a terrible actor/actress

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

I promise you that I do still watch new movies and that I can still write new reviews, and that I don’t think everything is a 5-star movie.  Sometimes you just wanna watch something that you haven’t seen in years, and luckily I have a review already written that still applies.  And here it is:

This is going to be one of those reviews where the outcome is fairly obvious from the get-go. I’m a pretty big fan of the Coen brothers, as they always seem to make their movies because they love them, not just because they’re a hot property or shocking real life event. In fact, one of the tag lines behind Fargo was that it was Based on Actual Events, when in reality, it was just another one of those kooky Coen brothers ideas. Or an amalgamation of two previous crimes, whatever. Anyways, the Coens went so far as to say that they’d never read “The Odyssey” written centuries ago by Homer, when the whole movie is basically a modern retelling of that tale. Kind of like 10 Things I Hate About You, only with much less high school. And an Odyssey that they go on.

Besides the fact that O Brother is a gorgeous looking movie, it also boasts an engaging plot that pulls the viewer along. This wouldn’t be possible if the characters going on the journey were unlikable smart alecks. Thankfully, George Clooney infuses Everett with every bit of buffoonish charm that he’s been storing up since leaving “Roseanne” years and years ago. Clooney plays Everett as the leader of the trio of prison escapees, though I’d say it’s more by lack of smarts in both Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) and Pete (John Turturro) rather than Everett being a born leader.

Delmar is a wonderfully naive fellow, while Pete plays the part of the cynical one. Both are remarkably winning despite having to play second fiddle to Everett for most of the movie. They do get their moments to shine in the sun though, have no fear. The rest of the cast reads like a Coen brothers Hall of Fame: John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Charles Durning, etc. All of them know what they’re getting into with the Coens, and know exactly how to play their parts. Bah, this whole review is just going to be saying how much I love this movie, so we’ll skip to my only minor quibble.

What is the time frame for this film? At the beginning of the movie, Everett mentions that they have four days to retrieve the treasure before it’s under a lake. Yet, once the Soggy Bottom Boys single takes off, it’s in stores THE NEXT DAY!? Then other customers come in and ask for it, and so on. Yet by the end of the movie, Everett and the boys make their way just in time to the place where the treasure was supposed to be. Plus, the pacing of the movie, what with the occasional montages and such, would seem to indicate that the whole journey took two weeks or so.

That’s just something that bugs me in hindsight about the movie. While I’m watching it though, I’m loving every minute of it. From Pete’s womanly screams when they encounter the hot Sirens, to Delmar’s hilarious frog assumption. Mostly though, it’s all about enjoying Clooney while he’s up there, acting like an idiot, purely for the love of the Coen brothers movies, and to prove that he’s a far better actor than he’s ever been credited for. Although I guess he did win an Oscar that one year for Syriana. Anyways, everyone should watch this movie and love it.

5 / 5

J. Edgar (2011)

Sometimes I sit down to write these things and have no idea where to take them.  I know how I feel about the movie, at least in a ranking sense, but I don’t know really how to equate that to words.  Well, maybe fully formed interesting sentences would be a better descriptor.  Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar is a biopic of J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio), Director of the FBI and the man most instrumental in turning the FBI into a world class crime fighting organization.  As well as Big Brother.

The acting is fairly good to great all around, although there is a tendency by DiCaprio to sort of devolve into tics to either remind himself or the audience that HE IS J. EDGAR HOOVER.  However, the storyline of the movie plays out in a somewhat flashback format, allowing us to see the major players at various crossroads in their lives.  Hoover and his co-worker/possible life partner Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) are shown as bright young men, and then doddering old men, in various levels of plastic make-up.  It’s disconcerting at best, laughable at worst.

There are numerous name actors throughout the picture, and despite what IMDb says, I swear that’s Gerald McRaney as the judge in the Charles Lindbergh’s (Josh Lucas) baby kidnapping trial.  Stephen Root gives probably his most serious performance ever, and hell, I didn’t even know it was Naomi Watts as Hoover’s personal secretary, Helen Gandy, until I saw the cast list.  I don’t know whether that’s a compliment or a damning indictment of the make-up.

Ultimately, J. Edgar feels like it wants to be one of those prestigious biopics that garner numerous awards and accolades.  It rings a bit hollow, which is unusual for an Eastwood picture.  I liked it, and though I’ll probably never watch it again, it is a historically significant portrayal of a man that really did change the world, and should be watched by many.

4 / 5

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Look at that title.  The Men Who Stare at Goats.  What the hell do you expect when a movie is titled that?  There better be goddamned men staring at goats and some reason for it.  Thankfully, those men are there and there are plenty of reasons for it.  Much like most of George Clooney’s filmography, it’s a deeply quirky movie with great performances that tell an unconventional tale.  Clooney may be part of a small group of A-list actors that can continuously act in near-unmarketable movies and still maintain his star status.

Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is a reporter based in Ann Arbor, who goes on a journey of self-discovery after his wife (Rebecca Mader) divorces him.  Through an interview with a local “crazy person” (Stephen Root), he is exposed to a side of the military that involves psychic warfare, which in turn leads to Bob meeting Lyn Cassady (Clooney), a retired soldier from that very same military branch.  Through the adventures the two end up enduring, Bob ends up questioning all that he ever believes in.

This is not a very accessible movie for everyone, and I’m totally cool with that.  I’m also fine with sneering at those that don’t think it’s a good movie, as the performances are brilliant, most notably the very Dude-like Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey stealing scenes as only Spacey can do.  Nick Offerman is also in it!  I liked the movie, and Clooney’s complete acceptance of being able to act in a part that comes across as a dignified buffoon is a big plus.  I can’t think of anything else to say about the movie, mildly recommended for those that are open minded.

3.5 / 5

Surviving Christmas (2004)

Back in 2004, Ben Affleck’s star was starting to wane, and movies like Surviving Christmas are one of the most glaring reasons why.  It might have the world record for shortest time between theatrical release and home release, were it not for Steven Soderbergh’s weird experiments.  Released in theatres October 2004, it came out on DVD two months later after failing horribly at the box office.  It was directed by Shrek 4‘s Mike Mitchell (and looking at his filmography, it’s almost uniformly terrible except for a bunch of “Greg the Bunny” episodes, but I may be biased), and “written” by four people.  Written is in quotation marks because apparently, there was never a finalized script and most of the shit that’s onscreen is improvised.

Improvising with BFleck, James Gandolfini and Christina Applegate is a lot different than when Catherine O’Hara improvises with the Christopher Guest troop though.  Actually, Applegate is one of the more decent performers in the movie, apparently one of the only sane characters in the whole story.  Basically, the story goes like this: Drew Latham (BFleck) is a rich asshole who doesn’t enjoy spending time with his family or something, so on the advice of his ex-girlfriend’s (Jennifer Morrison) – who isn’t really his ex – therapist (Stephen Root), he goes back to his childhood home to burn a list of grievances he has with his family.  Then he pays the family that currently lives there (O’Hara, Gandolfini, Josh Zuckerman) to pretend to be his family to make him feel better for the holidays.  It’s pretty much insane, and not in an entertaining way.

Then other things happen!  I have no idea who would find this movie funny, unless you’re approaching it from a car crash perspective, then it’s probably hilarious.  I might enjoy watching it whilst getting hammered and commentating on it MST3K-style.  That’s a different audience though, and there are much better dysfunctional family Christmas movies than this one.  Seriously, The Ref might be my favourite Christmas movie of all time (I’m thinking about doing a list) and it is balls to the wall dysfunctional but with a point and heart and I don’t know where Surviving Christmas went wrong (everywhere), but do not subject yourself to it at Christmas or any other time of the year.

It’s like getting a present from your crazy aunt who still thinks you’re into Transformers or Hot Wheels or that you like cars as anything more than a mode of transportation.  It’s the thought that counts, sure, but if the thought is crazy, do you really want someone thinking about it?

1 / 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

Red State (2011)

I just watched Red State and I’m trying to muddle through exactly how I feel about the film, and I’m finding myself conflicted by how I feel about Kevin Smith.  Maybe conflicted isn’t the right word.  Maybe disappointed is.  I think he may actually be regressing as a filmmaker, or just has lost touch or something.  Perhaps there’s such a thing as TOO MUCH social media interactivity.  I don’t know, I don’t want to be a “hater” or whatever.  Chasing Amy is still one of my all time favourite movies, and my growing discontent with Smith has been bubbling since, I dunno, probably Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back.  I had to unfollow him on Twitter because dude, just stop, yes you’re verbose, you love semantics, etc. just shut up.  Hell, I want to cut this short because it could just turn into bullet points of “I am disappoint”.  Dude was one of my favourite writers and directors, he made me interested in learning more about film and kinda made me think anyone could do it.  And he keeps doing it.

I don’t want to see another View Askewniverse movie.  I want to see Kevin Smith succeed, despite his own excess of personality.  I don’t need to see Jay or Silent Bob doing the same thing over and over again until they’re both pushing 50.  I want to see Smith grow as a filmmaker, I really do.  Cop Out was a slightly charming mess (still trying to figure out how I came to own it), but Red State, man, I was turned off of seeing it by Smith’s screening commentary on Twitter (sample paraphrased Tweet: “Oh I’m not spoiling anything but cats in the audience just reacted huge to that reveal about 56 minutes in”).  Yeah, Kevin, it is “nasty-ass”.  Congratulations, you had me worried you were treading into Hostel territory, thinking you had finally just given up or something and wanted to combine your love of porn with torture.

It is a grim fucking movie.  I’m trying to find something positive to say about it, but… it’s a complete departure from your typical Kevin Smith movie.  However, thanks to Kevin Smith talking incessantly about it, pretty much most of the intrigue about the movie is ruined for those that pay attention to Kevin Smith, and for the mainstream audience, it’s not that accessible either because as we’ve all learned, the mainstream audience isn’t interested in Kevin Smith movies.  Visually, it’s nothing that has ever been seen in one of his movies, and there are some good performances in it, just in regrettable roles.

I post these write-ups on the Internet, and I’m kinda terrified that this one is actually going to be noticed.  Feel free to attack my writing and such, I just don’t put a lot into these write-ups usually, and this one got away from me a bit.

2 / 5

The Conspirator (2011)

I’m not a big history buff, so when I watch a movie about interesting events that took place in the past, this leads me to researching historical figures on Wikipedia for hours.  Since American history is more important and therefore more interesting than Canadian history (/sarcasm), I tend to know more about their events than my own country’s historical past.  We’re so bland.  Anyways, Robert Redford directed this about the trial that took place after the assassination of President Lincoln and the kangaroo court that eventually strung up Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) as a co-conspirator in the murder.  The Co-Conspirator isn’t as easy to market I guess.

It’s a weighty, conspiracy (shocking!) , law and historical picture.  Redford tends to have a methodical approach to pacing, and depending on the tale, it usually serves him well.  This one was alright.  Look at the tags below for the major cast players, and some of the names might surprise you.  Nobody is terrible, and the movie is decent enough.  I’ll single out James McAvoy for completely losing his accent and carrying the film on his shoulders.  I don’t really have much to say about it I guess.  It’s decent, but not everyone’s going to be interested in it.

3.5 / 5

Everything Must Go (2011)

Movies like this are good for assuring me that I have not fallen into full-blown alcoholism.  Hurrah!  However, the only reason I don’t have beer in my place now is because I’m broke.  I don’t get the shakes at night, but my insomnia is terrible without the drink.  Anyways, there’s this movie I watched, and Will Ferrell is the star, but it’s not a “Will Ferrell Movie” much like Reign Over Me wasn’t an “Adam Sandler Movie”.  There’s distinction there, and it usually factors in the amount of nonsensical yelling there is.

Fantastic movie, will see again some point.  It’s somewhat heartwarming, but it’s a rough journey to get there.  Ferrell’s wife just left him, and left all his shit on their lawn, oh also, happily, on the same day he lost his job.  And he’s supposed to be a recovering alcoholic but it didn’t stick.  Awesome performances from the entire cast, particularly the young Christopher Jordan Wallace, who – in a “studio” film – would normally be a nauseatingly cute child.

If you go into it expecting to see Ron Burgundy, you’ll probably be disappointed.  Ferrell is a bit of Frank the Tank in it, but not to the party hard point.  Highly recommended.

4.5 / 5