Tag Archives: Brian Sostak

TAKE TWO: 30 Minutes or Less

19 Aug

30 Minutes or Less

Rated: R

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Chris’ Take: Ruben Fleischer was the talk of the action-comedy town back in 2009, with his smash hit zombie comedy (or zomcom for short) Zombieland. The script was snappy, the action superb and it was enjoyable from start to finish. His latest comedy attempt, reuniting him with star Jesse Eisenberg, shows only a minute amount of the genius that he displayed.

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a pizza delivery boy who spends his off time getting stoned and dating the sister of his best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari). When Nick receives a pizza order that takes him out to an abandoned warehouse, he soon finds himself kidnapped by two redneck criminals, Dwayne and Travis (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), who strap a bomb to him and tell him that he has 10 hours to rob a bank or he’ll blow up.

The film starts out fast enough, introducing us to two somewhat likeable idiots as protagonists and Danny McBride channeling his inner Kenny Powers, but we really didn’t get to know the Chet and Nick as well as I would hope. There is about one scene where they are together and we establish that they are “friends”, but immediately there is discord and you don’t feel like you know them enough yet to care. It seemed that Fleischer spent more time establishing who the criminals were, almost to the point of making them sympathetic, that I felt that the film was going to be more of a dark comedy about Dwayne and Travis trying to kill Dwayne’s Dad.

From there, we immediately moved into the second act of the film, which moved rather quickly as well. Chet and Nick try to figure out how to rob a bank and put together a terrible plan, which was sure to bring hilarity, and it did. However, the second act was far too short and a scene which could’ve easily been stretched out, or at least made more comically intense was squandered. Maybe it had something to do with budget, maybe it had something to do with the writers not knowing where to go with a potential hostage situation, but I just felt like it was wasted.

Or maybe the writers were...

Then, the third act was upon us and stayed for what seemed like forever. At this point, I cared very little about any of the characters involved since Nick and Chet could’ve easily found a way around the previous situations, so they are kind of too dumb to be concerned about. Dwayne and Travis were the funnier pair, but you knew things couldn’t end well for them so it was a waste to root for them too. Michael Pena makes an appearance as a hitman, and was probably the funniest character introduced to the plot, but he kind of brought the laughs a little too late and I was just hoping this would be over as quickly as it started, but it dragged out.

He a pimp!

I really felt that a good portion of the time allotted to the conclusion of the plot could’ve been given to the beginning, establishing the friendship between Chet and Nick, or in the middle, lengthening out the ridiculous bank robbing scheme they developed.

When all was said and done (I won’t be specific because I don’t want to spoil it for you if you still want to see it), the actions of the “protagonists” had me pondering whether they were the better people. I guess they didn’t really want to kill anyone, but they definitely weren’t on any moral high ground, which isn’t exactly necessary to establish in a dark comedy, but 30 Minutes or Less didn’t conform to that genre.

With all the talent involved with the project, I expected more, and while I think it was admirable that they tried to limit their time to 83 minutes, I don’t think it was paced well at all. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Ruben Fleischer is a bad director, he’s proven before that he has talent, it just seemed like he was getting lazy this time around. Maybe if he added some zombies this would’ve been right up his alley.

OVERALL: C

Pac’s Take: I couldn’t agree more.

OVERALL: C

Weekend Film Recommendation: I Love You Phillip Morris

19 Aug
I know I’ve talked about this film from time to time on this blog, but it is a new arrival to Netflix and if you haven’t seen it yet, now is the time.  I Love You Phillip Morris is the story of Steven Russell, a happily married man and a member of his local police.  When an accident forces him to reevaluate his life, Steven becomes openly homosexual and decides to live his life without regard for other peoples’ opinion and, more importantly, the law.  Once his extravagant lifestyle of conning and fraud catches up with him, he lands in prison where he meets Phillip Morris.  After falling in love with Phillip, he devotes himself to freeing Phillip from jail and pulling off a series of ridiculous and impossible cons so they can live the perfect life together.

I Love You Phillip Morris marked the return of Jim Carrey to the style of R rated humor that hadn’t been seen since Me, Myself, and Irene (though not as hammy), a refreshing change of pace from the comedies he chose for the nine years in between. 

This is exactly how we felt too Mr. Carrey

The story is excellently written and well paced, and really keeps the watcher engaged in the two characters and their relationship throughout the movie.  The subject matter is a little grotesque at times, but the aforementioned delivery of Jim Carrey throughout really softens the shock.  There is a lot of social commentary within the movie (did I mention it takes place in Texas), but it is not so in your face that it feels like sermon rather than an entertaining comedy.  The performance of Ewan McGregor as the titular Phillip Morris is worth noting as well.  While he plays more of the straight man in this comedy (no pun intended), it really works to humanize the two individual’s relationship and solidify the chemistry of the two leads.

Click here to add I Love You Phillip Morris to your Netflix queue.

Quick Take: Ridley Scott to Revisit Blade Runner

18 Aug

My favorite director, Ridley Scott, seems to be rebooting his resume by revisiting his previous films – starting at the beginning (never mind The Duellists).  Ridley’s next film, Prometheus, was originally a prequel to one of my favorite films Alien, and once he’s finished with that he’ll apparently be revisiting Blade Runner.  It is unknown whether the film will be a remake, reboot, prequel, sequel, or whatever else Hollywood is asking for these days, and it is also unknown whether Harrison Ford will be involved.

Let's hope not

Check out the link below for more information.

http://www.deadline.com/2011/08/ridley-scott-ready-to-direct-new-version-of-seminal-sci-fi-film-blade-runner/

 

TAKE TWO: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

10 Aug

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rated: PG-13

Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Tom Felton, John Lithgow

Director: Rupert Wyatt

Chris’ Take: I was hesitant to see this film, and I almost went and saw The Change Up instead. When I saw the trailer earlier this year it looked like a quick cash grab, grasping at straws to find a familiar brand to the average moviegoer. I thought that it was a weak idea because there didn’t seem to be many people excited about it and I thought it was going to fall flat on its face.

Plus, I was still recovering from this.

I came out of this film realizing that I severely underestimated this film.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes remakes the previous prequel to Plant of the Apes and simultaneously reboots it. Will Rodman (James Franco) is testing a new Alzheimer cure on chimpanzees and has a successful test subject, but when the chimp goes on a rampage while he is trying to get funding for human testing, he is forced to abandon the project and put down all the chimps. However, his successfully tested chimp had a baby which Will saves and takes home when he sees that it maintains the residual effects of his Alzheimer’s cure. As the chimp, that Will and his father name Caesar (Andy Serkis), grows, they notice that his intelligence is far beyond that of a human counterpart. When Will’s company, Gen-Sys, discovers the chimp they force him to run riskier tests on other chimps which turns out to have dire consequences for mankind.

The film starts out on very familiar science fiction territory. You have the failed science experiment, the cocky scientist, the money grubbing boss, and the protagonist makes the decision to bring testing just a bit too close to home. I kind of sighed at these elements, thinking that this film would bring nothing new to the table, but it quickly took some turns after that.

Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Caesar can take a lot of the credit for that. His CGI work, just as he did with Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, took on a life and character of its own. Halfway through the film, James Franco really became a non-factor and Caesar really carried the story. In most cases, it would be hard to build a story around a silent and computer-generated character, but the viewer really begins to feel attached to him and sympathizes with his plight to some degree. Also, in doing this, the writer puts himself in a tough spot, reconciling the viewer’s growing fondness of Caesar, the tragedy of that awaits mankind, and the bond that Caesar and Will have that divides them, but they handled it in a dramatic and satisfying fashion. It’s kind of hard to describe the way this played out without bringing in too many spoilers, so all I can say is that you have to see it in order to appreciate it.

I know I just destroyed half of San Francisco, but let's hug it out.

There was little artistry in the film outside of the writing and the characters. The camera work was decent for a summer blockbuster and I was very happy to see that they didn’t resort to 3D, although it seems that could’ve fallen prey to that fad easily. To me, the most impressive aspect was the effective use of CGI and making the realistic looking apes blend well with environment around them. Rarely did I feel aware that I was watching computer generated characters.

One of the challenges I saw for the film was how they would make it seem believable. I mean come on, how do apes take over the world? They obviously explain it in the first Planet of the Apes, but it would still be hard to convincingly watch that develop. I could see them running rampant in a city, in this case San Francisco, and wreaking some havoc, but you would think a large military force would immediately come wipe them out. I thought that the writers and director handled this well, addressing those questions with tact and bringing a new concept to the apes’ destruction and how the world came to be ruled by them. Some might disagree, but I was very impressed with how it was handled. Again, it is hard to describe without spoilers.

Suffice to say, I  thoroughly enjoyed this film. It was not the deepest film, nor some amazing feat of cinema, but it impressed me more than just about any blockbuster to come out this summer. It contained some of the spirit of the originals, bringing with it the comfortability of something familiar, while mixing in a fresh take that gave it its own pleasantly unique flavor.

OVERALL: A

Pac’s Take:  I recently heard the original Planet of the Apes described as a overacheiving B-Movie, an analysis that poignantly describes the film.  It’s a wonder how this overacheiving B-Movie has been able to captivate pop culture for so long that it has evolved into multiple sequels, remakes, and reboots.  Planet of the Apes has had such a cultural impact in american cinema since its release that you’d be hard pressed to find a person (even one who hasn’t seen the films) who didn’t know the film’s general premise – or couldn’t recognize the famous beach scene.  All that being said, it was hard to have high expectations for a film that was seemingly trying to capitalize on a 43 year old franchise that hasn’t produced a hit film in about… 43 years.

Oh, &@!#. There goes the planet.

Perhaps it was the surprise of the unexpected, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a pleasure to behold from start to finish.  As expected with any summer blockbuster, especially those that are constrained by the parameters of an already established franchise, the film has some initial stumbles.  Chris adequately described those as the tropes of a science fiction film above.  However, it doesn’t take long for the film to go beyond these tropes into to the real heart of the film – the relationship between Caesar and Will (James Franco), as well as Will’s father (John Lithgow).  Make no mistake the star of this film is Caesar, played by Andy Serkis.  I emphasize the “played by Andy Serkis” part because it seems like a great challenge to humanize the Caesar character without going too over-the-top to where the film reaches the B movie status of its predecessors (not to say the effects team(s) don’t deserve credit for this as well).  One of the things I found most endearing and most engaging about this film is that I felt for the plight of Caesar despite knowing he was probably going to be the catalyst of the fate of the human race.  This, coupled with the relationship between Caesar and Will, crafted a conflicted emotion in my mind as the film unfolded.

We should have seen this coming

There were plot holes in the film, but none that bothered during the viewing, and none that diluted the quality of the film for me in retrospect.  This is a summer blockbuster and science fiction film, plot holes and a certain suspension of disbelief are to be expected.  In terms of what I was expecting to know coming out of the theater, the film covered all of its bases; making it, as far as prequels go, one of the tightest screenplays I’ve seen in a while.  For a film that I didn’t really desire to see in the first place, it didn’t really leave much to be desired upon its completion.  I can’t say that it is the best film of the year so far, and I don’t think I can call it the best summer movie either, but I do think that Rise of the Planet of the Apes will end up on my top 10 list for 2011 at the end of the year.

OVERALL: A/A-

New to Blu Ray DVD the Last Few Weeks (July 12, July 15, July 19, July 26)

26 Jul

Released July 12, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

Rated: R

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei and Ryan Phillippe

Director: Brad Furman

Synopsis from IMDB: A sleazy defense attorney has a crisis of conscience when he represents a wealthy client who has a foolproof plan to beat the system.

Trailer:

Pac’s Take: Typically I’ll dismiss any movie where Matthew McConaughey recieves top billing, but the critical success of this film has peaked my interests enough to warrant it a rental (not to mention the ageless beauty that is Marisa Tomei).

Insidious

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Ty Simpkins

Director: James Wan

Synopsis from IMDB: A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.

Trailer:

Pac’s Take: I’m a sucker for a good horror movie, and I hear despite Insidious’s PG-13 rating, it is so far the years best and scariest.  My growing interest in Patrick Wilson also gives this film a boost, and despite The Lincoln Lawyer being the most acclaimed of this week’s releases, I vote Insidious as this week’s rental recommendation.

July 15, 2011

Rango

Rated: PG

Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher and Timothy Olyphant

Director: Gore Verbinski

Synopsis from IMDB: Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff.

Trailer:

Pac’s Take: I have to be in the right mood for an animated film, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about Rango.  That being said, I’ll probably add this to my Netflix queue, though I’m sure it will be there for a while.

Arthur

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren and Jennifer Garner

Director: Jason Winer

Synopsis from IMDB: A drunken playboy stands to lose a wealthy inheritance when he falls for a woman his family doesn’t like.

Trailer:

Pac’s Take: I’m just not sure about this film.  While the original was a great comedy, I find this to be an unecessary remake with a few actors I don’t particularly care for.  Still, the marketing did a good job making this film appear to be genuine and well-scripted.  Helen Mirren is also a plus.  I’ll probably give this one a try in the near future.

July 19, 2011:

Limitless

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Anna Friel and Abbie Cornish

Director:  Neil Burger

Synopsis from IMDB: A writer discovers a top-secret drug which bestows him with super human abilities.

Trailer:

Pac’s Take: I seem to recall being interested in this movie when it was released in theaters but can’t recall what prevented me from seeing it.  Still, now that it is on home video I’ll definitely give it a look.

Take Me Home Tonight

Rated: R

Starring: Topher Grace, Anna Faris and Dan Fogler

Director: Michael Dowse

Synopsis from IMDB: Follow an aimless college grad who pursues his dream girl at a wild Labor Day weekend party. He, his twin sister and their best friend struggle with their burgeoning adulthood over the course of the night.

Trailer:

Pac’s Take: A cast full of names that haven’t fully lived up to their potential, Take Me Home Tonight seems to be yet another disappointment for Topher Grace, Anna Farris, and Dan Fogler.  While the reception seems to echo that sentiment, I’ve seen enough glimpses of goodness from each of these actors to at least give this movie a shot.

July 26, 2011

The Source Code

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga

 Director: Duncan Jones

Synopsis from IMDB: An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.

Trailer:

Pac’s Take: I’ve heard nothing but good things about this film and am disappointed I wasn’t able to catch it during its theatrical run.  Still, my reward is saving a few bucks and enjoying it in the comfort of my own home.  This will be near the top of my Netflix queue.

Trust

Rated: R

Starring: Clive Owen, Catherine Keener and Liana Liberato

 Director: David Schwimmer

Synopsis from IMDB: A teenage girl is targeted by an online sexual predator.

Trailer:

Pac’s Take: I remember seeing this trailer when Chris posted it for an opening this week.  I really like the cast for this film and look forward to watching it.  As and aside, I was pretty shocked to write David Schwimmer in as the film’s director.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Brandon Routh, Anita Briem and Sam Huntington

Director: Kevin Munroe

Synopsis from IMDB:

The adventures of supernatural private eye, Dylan Dog, who seeks out the monsters of the Louisiana bayou in his signature red shirt, black jacket, and blue jeans.

Trailer:

Pac’s Take: I passed on Dylan Dog in theaters solely because of its poor critical reception.  I’ve really been rooting for Brandon Routh after his disappointing departure following Superman Returns and look forward to seeing this on DVD/Blu Ray.  Hopefully I enjoy the film more than others clearly have.

TAKE TWO: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

26 Jul

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes

Director: David Yates

Chris’ Take: Well, it’s been a long 10 years and if it hadn’t been for my brother I probably wouldn’t ever have watched more than the first film. We had a family tradition of seeing a movie on Thanksgiving Day and it was usually a family oriented movie, so in 2001 my parents dragged my brother and I, who were both about college age, to see the very kiddie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. My younger sisters loved it and my brother and I were groaning, knowing that there were more mature films that we could’ve gone to. The next year, my brother being more benevolent than I was, took my sisters to the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I scoffed and went and watched one of the worst movies I have ever paid money to see in the theaters, Star Trek: Nemesis. My brother came and told me that the second film was “awesome” and definitely worth seeing. Against my instincts that told me my brother was playing a prank, I went and saw it later and was thoroughly impressed. I was not expecting the level of excitement or wonder that the film brought. I was hooked, and on Saturday, when I finally saw the last film I felt like I really was saying goodbye to people I had gotten to know really well over 10 years. Even if at times I thought they were hokey, cheesy, or just plain dumb, I had watched these characters grow and the final installment of the franchise was nothing short of impressive.

We find  Harry, Hermione and Ron right where we left them at the end of Part I. They are getting ready to stage an attempt to steal a Hocrux out of Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault in Gringott’s. Severus Snape has turned Hogwart’s into what looks like a program for the wizarding Hitler youth, and Voldemort is flaunting the power of his new found elder wand. Harry comes to grips with the fact that he must confront the dark wizard face-to-face in order for the wizarding war to end.

As some of you might remember from my review of the first part, I thought the pacing was rather slow. However, in retrospect it was the perfect set up for the fast-paced action of Part 2. Almost all the exposition and necessary character development occurred in Part I and built a rock solid foundation for two and a half hours of non-stop excitement. The viewer was able to just sit back and become completely engulfed in the wizardry and epic that ended the series.

Unless, of course, the viewer had never seen any of the previous films or read any of the books. In which case, they probably were completely engulfed in sleep...or confusion.

The care for the characters is really what made the action seem that much more intense. That was my gripe with Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I cared about none of the characters Michael Bay presented. It didn’t matter how eye-popping (or eye gouging) the action scenes were. The suspense really gets created through characters that you love being placed in danger. If not, it just becomes a mildly sick hope that they die. 

David Yates’ talents were under question for closing out the series, since many people claimed that the fifth and sixth Harry Potter films were arguably the weakest. I think after he proved that he could direct on an epic scale in this conclusion, he put any and all criticism to rest. Sure, he had a screenplay that was based on a fantastic book and he had an endless list of talented actors lined up at this beck and call, but taking all those elements and reigning them into a cohesive directorial piece that captures the wizarding fantasy world and doesn’t disappoint fans and critics is quite a challenge. He received high accolades from me for being able to pull it off.

The cinematography in the first part was stellar, there really was a tremendous depth to each shot, and this film was very similar in that regard. A fantasy world should not be shot close unless there is a specifically claustrophobic scene and Yates seemed aware of that. In each shot you weren’t just get a close up on the actors participating in the action or a simple line of dialogue, you could clearly see the world around them, and made it almost a character of its own.

It seems redundant for me to keep bringing up the fact that the lead actors in the series are really what made it what the series have the clout that it did. Say that someone who had the acting talents akin to Jake Lloyd, the cute but talent deprived Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, had gotten the role of Harry. The credibility of the series would’ve tanked, no matter how well the story was developed around him. Radcliffe, Watson and Grint were incredibly talented child (now adult) actors. Plus, they were surrounded by some seriously gifted people in supporting roles. While Ralph Fiennes would not have been at the top of my list of actors to play Voldemort back when his character first started playing prominently in the series, I can’t see anyone pulling it off like he did and really making his character three-dimensional.

And I don't just mean in the technical IMAX 3D sense.

The series will always be something that is easily watched again and again. Some might start making the argument that this should be nominated for Best Picture, but I am still not convinced that these films contain the caliber and depth that I think warrant that. These films more deserve to be filed under a “favorite films” list as opposed to “best films” list. They were certainly all quality films, except for the first one, and I could easily make an argument that this was the best in the series.

OVERALL: A

Pac’s Take:  My journey through the Harry Potter  series also came to fruition through reluctance.  My younger brother was really into the books and encouraged me to start watching the movies as he collected them on DVD.  While the films entertained me during some of the more boring nights of my summers home from college, I was never that invested in the series.  Then, when I finally got around to seeing movies three through five I became a fan.  It is no coincidence that this was the same time in the series that one of my favorite actors, Gary Oldman, played a pivotal role as Sirius Black.  Once Oldman’s involvement ended my interest wavered again, but by this time I was too invested in the series not to see it through.

Though Gary Oldman's star power does have it limits

 Like Chris, I was not satisfied with the pacing of part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but I do have to agree that it was necessary for the success of this film.  Part two picks up right where part one left off, as if they were one movie seamlessly making a scene change.  However, as a single movie they cannot work because the pace and tone of the second movie severely contrasts the first.  This was the Harry Potter movie I came to see, two and a half hours of action. 

Since Chris compared this film to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I’ll play devil’s advocate for a moment.  I think David Yates could have learned something from the last hour of Michael Bay’s film.

Product placement?

 SPOILER ALERT:  While I certainly was much more invested in the wizards of the Harry Potter universe much more than I was Sam Witwicky and the Target car of the Autobots, at least during Transformers I felt like they were challenged.  For what was supposed to be an epic battle to end all battles, all the fights were too brief and lacking of suspense.  There’s nothing David Yates (director) and Steve Cloves (screenwriter) can do about J.K. Rowling’s inability to kill major players (though she didn’t seem to have a problem doing this before), but they could have at least made it seem like they were threatened.  While the final battle between Harry and Voldemort is evident of this, the prime example would be the death of Bellatrix Lestrange.  Considering how prominent and menacing she was throughout the final chapters of this series, she met her demise far to easily. (END SPOILER ALERT)

Regardless of this films flaws it still was a major success both financially and as a piece of entertainment/art.  I do find it possible that the Academy will reward the creators’ and players’ work for this series (just as they did with Lord of the Rings), though I don’t think it is necessarily justified.  It’s hard to rank Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two amongst the other films, but I do consider it to be top-tier. 

It may have ranked as the best if they would have not wasted five minutes of my life with the pointless epilogue.

Overall: A-

Quick Take: Prometheus to be shot in 3D, and everything else Ridley Scott makes. Ever.

22 Jul

The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Man of Steel, Bond 23, World War Z, Django Unchained.  These are just a few of the films that I’m looking forward to in 2012, what appears to be an uprecedented year for my bank account in terms of movie ticket purchases.  However, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is, without a doubt, my most anticipated film of 2012. 

Yesterday, Comic-Con got its first look clips from Prometheus, and while I’m still waiting for those clips to hit the internet, we did get a little bit of information about the film.  Scott told Comic-Con attendees (in a video conference) that Prometheus was shot entirely in 3D, and that he liked it so much he’ll never shoot another scene again in 2D.  I am no defender of 3D but in Scott I trust, so I’m expecting Prometheus to look incredible.  One concern I do have is the use of light, or lack there of, to create tone.  Evident by the recent rants about the projector lenses, 3D works best with high contrast and bright lighting; not something we should be expecting from a Ridley Scott sci-fi picture.  But if Ridley Scott can get so excited about the 3D of Prometheus to proclaim he’ll never work without it again, I can’t help but get excited.

http://www.slashfilm.com/ridley-scott-work-3d/