Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Cynics List Of The Worst Movies Of 2009

2009 was not a very good year for movies, this list of the worst films could have very easily been filled out before the summer movies rolled through. But I was willing to give most of them a more than just a second look. I was barely to try to JUST come up with a list of the top ten very worst films of 2009.

10. Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen - Michael Bay's ode to noise and explosions. This sequel offered nothing to enhance the previous story. We got nothing worth cheering for except of course for Bumblebee.

09. The Unborn - What was supposed to be a horror movie turned out to be boring and dull, the special effects were as dumb as they get, even the big stars in this silly movie couldn't save it. This movie should be avoided at all costs.

08. Fame - Another remake of a classic film that shouldn't have been made. This movie showcases a lot of talent that seems unnecessary. Megan Mullally can sing but she doesn't do enough of it here. The young cast members are the only thing going for this film, its all glitz and no story.

07. Fired Up - A coming of age story at a cheer leading camp. What could have been funny and awkward was just stupid. American pie ripoffs should be a thing of the past. Its unfortunate that movies like this are made year after year.

06. Jennifer's Body - Megan Fox proves beyond any doubt that she is completely untalented. Thank God for CGI or Megan's career would have been over long before this stupid and dull movie was.

05. The Twilight Saga: New Moon - Why is it that so many teens love this boringly dull story of love between a male vampire and a human girl? I guess there's no accounting for taste. A bare chested Jacob can't even save this movie. You can go in sixty minutes after this movie starts and not feel like you missed anything.

04. All About Steve - Why a studio would think that a movie that makes fun of a handicap would make audiences laugh is beyond me. The fact that this dog attracted the likes of Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper didn't help. The studio that released this piece of filth should be boycotted.

03. White Out - Kate Beckinsale in the frozen tundra? No not Wisconsin, but it should have been. Maybe that would have made a better movie. The story of a Marshall in the Antarctica tracking a killer. Sounds good? No.

02. I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell - What was one of the stupidest stories brought to the silver screen in a long time. Movie goers are assaulted every year by vulgar and stupid movies, having one movie that is offensive and vulgar doesn't make it funny just stupid and unworthy of the time or money spent to watch it.

01. Crank: High Voltage - What can I say about this dog except that the most offensive scene is near the end where Jason Statham flips the audience off. It feels as if the director, writer and the star is saying this is what we thing of you, the fact that you spend up to eleven dollars to sit through this movie is bad enough but to be flipped off is just more than we deserve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Elementary, Sherlock Will Be Downey's Next Franchise Machine

Director Guy Ritchie has a style all his own, it has worked for him in several of his films. It is a style that many others have tried but have not been as fortunate with it. This filming style is like stop motion, it is done in almost all of his action or fight scenes. We get a slow look at what is about to happen, and we also get an informative narration telling us, then we see this same action in what looks like fast motion. Ritchie utilizes this format several times in his newest action comedy, "Sherlock Holmes"

The first thing that you will notice about this Sherlock Holmes is that the mood of the era seems to be recreated perfectly, the next is how perfect the balance between comedy, drama, and mystery seem to meld together. When the mysterious Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is finally apprehended by Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his partner Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) merry old England thinks that the latest murder spree is over and can breath easier. This illusion is short lived, and when the body of Lord Blackwood appears to have magically been rejuvenated, Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) once again calls upon the great mind of Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes is confronted by an old nemesis in Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). Adler has been a bane in his side for so long, that Holmes can't imagine what life would be like if she was caught. Holmes deals with her because he knows that deep down he wouldn't be happy without her nearby. When Holmes is hired by Adler, to find a missing person he at first acts as if he isn't interested. Everyone knows that Holmes and Adler will be hip deep in the London underground muck before the movie is over. It is enjoyable watching the two try to outfox the other.

Downey Jr. has shown he has the flair to create a character, he has made a name for himself with his other franchise character, Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies. With the addition of Jude Law, Guy Ritchie is sure to have a hit on his hands. The running time of Sherlock Holmes is just over two hours and at times the movie does lag, but this is a minor snag and doesn't take anything away from the story. The back and forth between Holmes and Watson is very funny, but when ever Holmes needs help, Watson is always there. The story arc about Black magic and the take over of British Parliament is kinda far fetched and at times seems stretched beyond comprehension. The game is afoot, when the man that Adler needs found is indeed found in the coffin that is supposed to hold Lord Blackwood. When body after body starts to turn up Holmes is sure that Lord Blackburn has inside help. The source of this help is closer to home than one would believe.

The ease that Holmes solves the case will baffle some viewers, his wit is world renowned, but this is so Hollywood cliche like it must be a cliche. Everything is wrapped up neat and tidy, Holmes spots little clues throughout the film that leads him to solve a big mystery. The fact that the movie shamelessly leads itself to a sequel is not that big a deal anymore. Most Hollywood movies try to leave an ending that can easily be explained away in a sequel. This movie may go a long way to help resurrect a career that was at one time about as low as it could go, now that same man commands millions of dollars and can pick and choose his roles, like A DeNiro once did. There are few stars of this caliber left in Hollywood.

I give Sherlock Holmes a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0, this is a perfect movie to send the family off to see early Christmas morning while the food is being prepared. Get the teens out of the house, it's this or the chipmunks mom and dad, and sending your teen kids to see one of the free worlds most read detective will be the wiser choice. Of course Rachel McAdams lights up the screen when ever she is on it and that's a huge help. A leading lady that bogs down almost every scene she is in, is death to any movie.

Sherlock Holmes is rated PG-13 for Thematic material Including Violence, Disturbing Images and A Scene Of Suggestive Material
Running time is 2 hrs. 09 mins.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar Will Be Cameron's Next Masterpiece

Sci-fi fans can rejoice, James Cameron has unveiled his long anticipated blockbuster. A decade in the making, a CGI spectacular that will insure success all over this globe. "Avatar" should surpass Titanic in domestic gross. The movie will be a success because of the legacy of Cameron himself, this project has so much going for it, that it will have at least one thing for everyone that watches it. The running time is a little extreme at just over hours thirty minutes, but the first ninety minutes moves at a pace that will captivate everyone as we are introduced to Pandora, a world of luscious foliage and violent creatures. What most sci-fi lovers desire are fantasy and exploration and Avatar delivers.

The movie is set in the year 2154 and stars Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), as an ex-marine, bound to a wheel chair. He is recruited to fulfil his brothers slot in a major project on the planet Pandora, He agrees because he believes in the motto "once a marine, always a marine". The project involves Jake taking over an Avatar to try to find a way to get the people of Pandora, called the Na'vi, to relocate peacefully. The Na'vi race are a blue skinned species that are very tall, with long tails that they use to communicate with other creatures. The Na'vi people live in a small village that just happens to be over a huge deposit of a valuable mineral called unobtainium. The reason why the relationship between the Na'vi and the humans has become so hostile, that they even need Marines on site is never explained. The controllers go into a chamber and then can take over the body of an avatar. Jake using his avatar Goes into the forest, where he is chased by a wild beast and left behind. He is saved later that night by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) who reluctantly takes him back to her village, where he is not really a welcome sight to her people.

Of course Jake is told that the company bottom line means more to the investors than any bad press, Jake is also told he will have enough time to convince the Na'vi to peacefully relocate, but the company wants the mineral more then they care about the Na'vi. Several of the scientist on Pandora try to convince the Na'vi to move as well, Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) even tried to teach the Na'vi English. The Marine unit is lead by Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) who is gung ho for the "shock and awe" part of the negotiations to begin. Each day as Jake gets closer to being accepted into the village the man running the show, Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is growing inpatient for results.

When the second half of the movie kicks in, the movie turns from a compelling story to just another war picture, it becomes an alien Apocalypse Now, reminiscent of a Vietnam era movie and even brings to mind Dances with Wolves, where the lone man who reunites the clans to defeat the evil empire. When the epic battle takes place, and from the start we knew it would, the marines attack in fly ships and on the ground. The Na'vi join Jake as he tries to push back the marines, Jake is also joined by Marine helicopter pilot Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez) as the final battle takes place. When the inevitable battle between Jake and Colonel Quaritch takes place, Jake faces Quaritch in full battle gear that brings to mind the loader in the Aliens movie.

The ending won't come as much of a surprise to anyone, Cameron gives us the classic Hollywood ending setting up what may become the next big franchise. Cameron gives us a bit of everything, the CGI brings us into the Na'vi village and showcases a brilliant use of color and special effects. The plants appear to come to life in the 3D format, and this movie is being shown in several formats, I can't recommend enough seeing this film in one of the 3D formats. There is the standard format and an even better HD 3D format. The IMAX screen has it's own special 3D that has to be seen to be believed. The standard 3D format brings the images to life, the HD3D format brings them into your lap while the IMAX format takes you into Pandora and sets you free to explore.

I give Avatar a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0, what ever format you choose to witness this grand masterpiece, you wont be disappointed. The special effects in any of the formats will blow you away, the fact that Cameron took over a decade to get his dream onto the silver screen shows his desire for his craft. Avatar is an exceptionally well crafted movie. The revolutionary 3D graphics will be long talked about. The running time may have a few people asking was it really all necessary? My short answer is Hell Yes.

Avatar is rated PG-13 for Intense Epic Battle Sequences and Warfare, Sensuality, Language and some Smoking
Running time is 2 hrs. 43 mins.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Disney's Newest Princess, Comes With Song, Dance And A Frog.

Animation has come along way in the course of the last several years, we have gotten stop motion animation that looks so good it is almost not animation anymore. Over the years Walt Disney Studios have given us many animated cartoons that we have come to treasure, Snow White is one of my all time favorites, the little known Fox and the Hound is still my favorite. Now comes "The Princess And The Frog" the classic telling of what true love can accomplish. Disney gives this story a little shake and stirs in a helping of evil and we get what is essentially a great cartoon.

This story centers on a young woman named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) who is working two jobs to fulfill her fathers dream of owning a restaurant. Working as a waitress she runs into a long time friend Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) and her father, 'Big Daddy' La Bouff (John Goodman) who has just been named King of the Mardi Gras (hint hint). Charlotte has found out that Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) is visiting New Orleans and wants Tiana to cater dinner for him. Thinking this would help her reach her goal that much quicker she agrees.

Prince Naveen is transformed into a frog by a conniving voodoo magician, Dr. Facilier (Keith David) and sees Tiana in a beautiful gown, asks her to help him become a Prince again by kissing him. At first Tiana is frightened but reluctantly kisses the frog. Here Disney turns from the classic Frog Prince story to tell their own. When Tiana kisses the frog she herself is transformed into a toad. Hearing of an old blind lady, Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis) who lives in a boat in a tree, the pair set off to find her. Mama Odie has magical powers and they think she will help them.

The story builds on friendship and trust, the pair meet a trumpet playing alligator, Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) who helps them on their journey, they are also aided by a Cajun firefly, Ray (Jim Cummings) offers to help the pair as well. The four set out to find Mama Odie and when they get there, they find her to be less of a help then they anticipated, or so they thought. The friendship amongst the four is what saves the day, each one is able to do just a little more than the other, but combined they save the day. Prince Naveen must be kissed by a Princess in order to turn back into a human, and thinking that Charlotte's daddy was named King that she is the perfect one to kiss him.

The story takes on a little bit of sadness throughout the story, it is set in the golden age of Jazz and Tiana's father goes off to war, he doesn't come back. Tiana holds onto his dream because of her love for him. She is able to pull it off and in the end everyone gets what is coming to them. Classic Disney fair. This is a very well crafted cartoon, one the whole family will enjoy it has comedy, song and dance. I know, I know what Disney cartoon doesn't? The Princess and the Frog will take it's place with the other classic Disney cartoons. Disney also deserves some credit for making their first African American Princess. Tiana should be welcomed by every little girl and yes every little boy in America.

I give The Princess And The Frog a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0. it is such a pleasure to see that Disney has gone back to their original animation format. The hand drawn animation is still amongst the best of it's kind. CGI and Stop Motion are both great but nothing beats the talent and desire it takes to craft a story by hand. Animation fans stand up and cheer for Tiana and run out and see this fantastic motion picture.

The Princess And The Frog is rated G
Running time is 1 hr. 35 mins.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Coming Up On Your Blindside Is One Very Good Movie

Hollywood has told the sports hero story so many times that they seem to be run of the mill cliche stories now. Every so often one comes along that will actually get you to smile and cheer. This year it is "The Blind Side" the story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American youngster from a broken home, taken in by a well-to-do white family who help him fulfill his potential. At the same time Michael slowly becomes a part of the family.

Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) the leader of the Tuohy household spots Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) walking in the cold rain one night she stops him and discovers he has no where to sleep, she offers him a room in her stately home and in just a short time Michael is living in his own room under the Tuohy roof. Leigh Anne's husband Sean (Tim McGraw) is at first skeptical of taking Michael in but soon learns that he is just a gentle giant. The Tuohy kids S.J. (Jae Head) and Collins (Lily Collins) both come to accept and love Michael.

Michael's grades are so poor that at first the school board thinks they have made a mistake but letting him enroll in their program, but with the help of a tutor, Miss Sue (Kathy Bates) his grades improve enough so that he can go out for football, a sport that he is built for. On the field Michael is at first a tentative player until Leigh Anne tells him he must protect his teammates like he would his family, and in an instant he goes from inept to unstoppable. When Michael gets so good and college recruiters start calling on him the NCAA thinks the Tuohys led him to their college Ole Miss.

There is a even balance of drama and humor in this film, it is dramatic but doesn't get heavy the laughs feel genuine and are perfect for the moment. The drama comes when we as the audience get a look into Michael's childhood, we learn he has been removed from his mother's home because she is on drugs, we learn that Michael lives in a dangerous project on the "other side" of town, and we learn that Michael really has a knack for protective instincts. The movie does have its little quirks as well, the Tuohy family is too perfect, they never fight or argue. Blind Side also glosses over several racial and class stereotypes, the movie bashes Democrats, as well as some Southerners, a scene where Leigh Anne tells her friends they should be ashamed of them selves because of several statements that Michael was Leigh Anne's newest project. Her "Project project" as it were.

I give The Blind Side a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0, this is a very good movie to take your family to see, even if your not a sports fan and a college football fan in particular. That's not to say the movie has a few faults, the one biggest is the fact that once Michael gets into the private school, Steve Hamilton, the boy whose family Michael was staying with when he started attending Briarwood is gone from the movie, and Bullock's Southern accent slips in a few scenes. If that is all this cynic can pick out then you should believe that this movie is going to be around for awhile and I can't recommend it enough. In a time of family dramas and Oscar contenders the Blind Side scores a touchdown.

The Blind side is rated PG-13 for One Scene Involving Violence, Drug and Sexual Referneces
Running time is 2 hrs. 06 mins.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Up In The Air Is By Far Clooney's Best

The classic Hollywood Road movie that we have all fallen in love with takes on a new direction with Jason Reitman's new film "Up In The Air," based on the novel by Walter Kirn we see the everyday man forced to deal with what every one secretly fears being terminated from his job and having no prospects to look forward to.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a corporate downsizing expert who is hired by employers to afraid to fire their own employees, Bingham comes in to help ease the transition of long-term employees from a daily work environment to the unemployment line. Bingham takes his job very seriously and he loves the 290 days he spends away from home each year, the only problem with this is the 75 days he is forced to spend at home in his empty apartment in Omaha Nebraska. Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) is a young upstart in the company who has come up with an idea to save the company money and her idea is to fire people over the internet, Bingham is shocked that his boss Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman) loves the idea of no longer sending his guys out on the road.

Ryan has issues with his family, he tries to avoid them at all costs, this is impossible since his younger sister, Julie (Melanie Lynskey) is getting married to Jim Miller (Danny McBride), his older sister, Kara (Amy Morton) has asked him to take a cardboard cutout of Julie and Jim around with him taking pictures of it at some of the more well known tourist sites. He agrees reluctantly, and goes out to fire people, Ryan has met a very nice older woman that he thinks can be someone special in his life, Alex (Vera Farmiga) is also a weary traveler and they click because they both have ideas of greatness when it comes to their collection of travel cards, and hotel keys. On the road with Natalie, trying to teach her that it takes a human to fire someone and not a picture of one on the internet in front of them, Natalie is confronted with the heartache that comes along with this endeavor. Being on the road takes it toll on both Ryan and Natalie, Alex is a staple in Ryan's life until the inevitable confrontation of ideals. Several shots were taken of real people interviewed and fired, their reactions are some of the best scenes in the movie.

Clooney plays confident and successful well but here he is allowed to also branch out and express the pent-up frustration that comes with an isolated loneliness, he has a passion for a job that seems horrible yet, he treats it with respect, he feels it is a job that should be taken seriously. The evolution Ryan undertakes is really pretty amazing and credit goes to where it is due, to both Reitman, and Clooney for pulling it off with grace and laughter. The thing that really stands out in this movie is that it doesn't get the standard happy Hollywood cliche ending, everything doesn't turn out ok in the end and life seldom does, Kendrick's plays the naïve Natalie to masterfully. She was at the top of her class, and able to get a job in her field wherever her heart desired, yet settled for this firm specializing in firing people, but her eyes are opened to the intimacy and fragility with which a person's mental state can be affected by mere words, and she becomes a better person for it.

I give Up In The Air a 4 and on my avoidance scale a 0, this movie will open in limited run and should be searched out it is well worth the time it will take you to find where this gem is playing. Up In The Air is hilariously funny almost every second of the way, but yet it is still unafraid to dig into the dark moments of life and treat them with the respect and relevancy they deserve. George Clooney is my front runner for a Best Actor Oscar, Reitman should also be a strong contender for a Best Director nod, Up In The Air is on the short list of Best Picture of the year as well. It is a sad thing that 2009 has had very few pictures so far that can be called Best Picture of the year, but if any one can contend with Precious it is Up In The Air.

Up In The Air is rated R for Language and Some Sexual Content
Running time is 1 hr. 49 mins.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

War Brings Tragedy Home For These Brothers

War movies are a Hollywood favorite, they entertain as well as being informative, sometimes they make a political statement that is so obscured it is almost unseen and sometimes they make one so loud it echos long after walking out of the screening. Director Jim Sheridan brings his new story to the screen, he has a unique way of telling a story that makes you care deeply for his characters and when they cry it impacts you deep in your core. With "Brothers" he tells the story of The Cahill Family, and what happens when tragedy strikes in their midst. Brothers is a remake of the Danish film Brødre, where one brother went off on a peace keeping mission and the other stayed behind and became a better person to support his brothers wife. In Brothers things are a little more defined and trouble is soon knocking at their door.

Capt. Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) is happily married to Grace (Natalie Portman) they have two daughters, the older precocious Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and the younger Maggie (Taylor Geare), the family appears perfect but they, like most families have some troubles as well, dad, Hank (Sam Shepard) drinks, and is more stubborn than loving, Sam's brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) is getting out of jail, as Sam has reenlisted to go to Afghanistan for another tour. Trouble starts when the family is together for the first time and Hank makes it clear to everyone that he respects Sam but cares less for Tommy.

During his tour, Sam's helicopter takes enemy fire, Sam and Private Joe Willis (Patrick Flueger) survive, but back home, the marines have sent a messenger and a Chaplain (Kevin Wiggins) to tell Grace that Sam is dead. Tommy steps up and decides that he will change his stripes and protect and help Sam's family. he helps to redecorate her kitchen and slowly Grace sees Tommy for the caring person he is. Things do get decidedly hairy one night when Tommy kisses Grace, things could have gone further but they are stopped before crossing the line.

Not to give anything away, the movie makes it obvious from the start that the two marines survive, it is what comes after the two men are sold to the Taliban, the torture the two men face is extreme, it is mainly off screen but we do see the consequences of it. When Sam is forced to do something that he believed himself incapable of his world is forever shattered, when he is rescued and told he is going home he responds that he wants to speak to his wife. having some problems that Sam thinks he can deal with himself, he goes home and things slowly get out of hand, when he confronts Tommy and asks if he slept with Grace, he doesn't believe Tommy when he tells him they didn't sleep together, things go from bad to worse when Isabelle gets upset at Maggie's birthday party and tells Sam that mom would rather sleep with Uncle Tommy, and that she has been doing it every day.

The Oscar buzz is sure to surround this film, it is the best work I have seen by both Maguire and Gyllenhaal, Portman does a fine job with the limited script she is given. The film itself is not an anti war film although it could have been, the previews make it appear to be a family drama and that is exactly what it is. The family at the core of the story isn't perfect ,they struggle with the day to day like everyone else and they are barely making it. The film is more about the family and their emotions not the war itself, little scene time is actually given to the war and it pays off in a big way. I found myself fully immersed into their struggles to cope, on a daily basis. When Sam is thought to be dead, grace has to deal with these struggles alone and when Tommy steps up she begins to see him for more than the loser she had up till now believed him to be.

I give Brothers a 4 and on my avoidance scale a 0, the torture scenes may keep a few light hearted people away, they are not graphic but some viewers may wince at a few scenes, this movie comes around at a time when thirty thousand more men and women are being called to duty, and the story may resonate with several families. If you or a loved one has a son or daughter in the service take them to see this heart warming family drama, I can not say any thing bad about this film Sam Shepard plays the mean drunk to perfection and when he comes around and accepts Tommy for what he is, it isn't cheap and all mushy like Hollywood likes. We do get the happy ending and we know in these situations the ending isn't always happy, here though it works, just because of its simplicity and charm.

Brothers is rated R for Language and Some Disturbing Content
Running time is 1 hr. 50 mins.