Monday, September 27, 2010

LIGHTING ROUND - Catfish, Monsters, and MORE...

The Reel Rhino has been BUSY this weekend.  Along with parenting, husbanding and putting in two hours of "work" work, I managed to take in a great pair of theater films as well as a bunch of On-Demand titles.

Of course there was WINNEBAGO MAN on Friday (WINNEBAGO MAN Reel Rhino Review).  That would have been enough for me...but of course I had to push it a little harder.

Stay tuned to the bottom to see my review of CATFISH!  The secretive documentary that has the internet all a-twitter, and twitter all tweeted out!

Friday Night kicked off the ON-DEMAND weekend at the Reel Rhino house.  I started things off with an apparent spousal-unit friendly viewing of I'M STILL HERE: The Lost Years of Joaquin Phoenix.  While I found it to be engrossing (and sometimes gross) from start to finish, there were some coarse moments...very coarse! 

I loved every minute of it.  Tracie on the other hand, loved about 60 minutes of it, then feel asleep.  That was perhaps a blessing as the continued slew of drug use, degradation of women, and defecation....yes defecation, may have been too much for her.

I'M STILL HERE stars, of course, Joaquin Phoenix, and was written by he and Casey Affleck, who also directed.  In a nutshell, I loved this movie.  I cared about Joaquin as an actor.  He has always been consumed by his roles and he embodied whoever he was portraying for any given film. 

I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the level of passion and angst that was shown and was so demonstrative of Phoenix's train derailing.  For two years we have publicly seen the downfall of a once great actor.  From the infamous Letterman interview to some leaked clips of some horrendous rap efforts, it all seemed as though things were going badly.

Well I was both sad and happy to learn the film was in fact a semi-scripted effort that is now officially being called a hoax film.  I had not heard the hoax announcement until after I watched the film.  I was 100% sure that this film was authentic.  This is what makes me happy.  Joaquin has put together one of the greatest performances in the history of film.  Which brings me to what makes me sad.  I think calling this film a hoax is the out that Phoenix mentioned at the end, when he was curled up in tears in a bush in Central Park.  This was real and Phoenix was embarrassed.  What will always make this an ambiguous decision to make is that yes, Joaquin sailed off a cliff, with no seeming way back up river.  How will we ever know?  I hope that as Joaquin gets back in film and back on his feet, he will admit that what this film showed us was a terrible string of events in his life and while he does not relish in that time, he will at least have the courage to admit it was the truth.

Want to see how things were and get a taste of the film?  Check out this interview from Letterman during this period in his life.  He was on the show promoting TWO LOVERS, a film he did with the always lovely Gweneth Paltrow.  Here's the clip:

Watch this movie and see the pain in Joaquin's eyes moments after the interview ends.  This film caught a flash in the pan of a train wreck that we rarely have such a window to look through at the essence of the breakdown, rather than seeing snippets on TMZ.

It gets 4 of 5 horns from the Reel Rhino, if for no other reason, to celebrate something different and to see a film where what you believe is really up to you.  Also worth the price of the movie is a moving bit of dialogue offered by Edward James Olmos when he comes to visit the troubled Phoenix.  It is the water drop analogy that came to be played in several of the trailers.  Brilliant story, brilliant delivery.

Here is the second appearance on Letterman....the apology interview as it can be said.  I include this for the sake of showing both sides of the story:

I think even here we see some residual pain in Phoenix's eyes.  I hope he heals from the series of events and I know he is being considered for the role of J Edgar Hoover for an upcoming biopic.  I think he would be great and it would be the perfect Oscar-bait-esque film for his reintroduction to Hollywood.

Next up on Friday for the Reel Rhino, MONSTERS.  Slated for theatrical release on Oct. 28th, this is one of those see-it before it hits theaters releases on On-Demand.  MONSTERS was directed by Gareth Edwards, previously a visual effects specialist and a director of several Documentaries. 

Edwards's first "big-budget" debut was anything but.  I loved this movie primarily because of this piece of information: the reported budget for this film was $15,000.  $15,000!?! is this so.  This is a very solid piece of science fiction with a finished, polished product that looks more like a $15,000,000 effort.  Now it is being said that $15K is an underestimation, but even if it was $50K, it is still amazing.  I love seeing an indie film like this and it gives me hope that some day in the future, I can scrape together enough cash to do something similar.

Now it helped that Edwards is an effects wiz and it is rumored that he did all the visual effects by himself on his laptop.  Bravo, sir!

MONSTERS was an enjoyable movie for so many reasons.  It is fun and a unique spin on the alien invasion tale we have heard so many times, but never like this.  The premise is that 6 years ago, a space probe crash landed in Mexico and strange things started happening.  Creatures start appearing and essentially take over a large portion of northern Mexico, which is labeled "THE INFECTED ZONE."  This infection is being handled by members of the US and Mexican armies and this comes off as more of a post-apocalyptic flick than a straight monster movie.  These creatures have a place in the food chain. Unfortunately, it is above that of humans, which is what gives us the fuel to the tension in the story.  At any moment, a creature may show up, and people will die.

We follow a man who is trying to get his bosses daughter home.  They quickly find themselves in a situation where taking the Mexican ferry to the US mainland isn't an option.  They have to pay top dollar to hire mercenaries to escort them through the infected zone.

Hijinks's ensue.  This is as much a complex relationship film as it is a creature feature.  To Edwards credit, perhaps based on the availability of time and funds, the monsters only have a modest amount of screen time.  This film is as much about the suspense as it is about the visceral scares.  Did he pull a page from Spielberg's JAWS playbook?  Perhaps he did, but regardless of how he came to that conclusion in his story telling, it works

The climax of this is excellent and seeing how they wrapped things up, had me returning to the opening of the film again to try and make sense of what I saw. That is not to say that this is a confusing movie, but things at the end of this film make you reconsider what you saw at the beginning.  I was just happy to be able to "play again" and pay closer attention to what seemed like unrelated details in the opening sequence.

I gave Monsters a 4.5 of 5 horns, mostly because of the unique voice telling this story and the shoestring budget that impressed me with how well they spent their money.  Check this out if you can...check out the trailer...I have it embedded at the bottom of the page.

Saturday night brought about another pair of flicks.  First up was CITY ISLAND.  A dramatic family piece with quite a bit of situational comedy.  The film stars Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Alan Arkin, and several other talented actors, including Garcia's real-life daughter, Dominik Garcia-Lorido.  Steven Strait has a great turn as Tony, a prisoner at the jail where Garcia works as a correctional officer.  He becomes a critical player in the scheme of events.  I enjoyed Strait as Warren Peace in the much-better-than-it-gets-credit-for SKY HIGH.

The family is presented to us as an every-family, but we quickly see that each of them has quirks, some more damaging to the family than others.  The through line is Garcia's desire to become an actor.  In an acting class taught by Alan Arkin, he is partnered with Emily Mortimer and engages in a troublesome relationship that takes an interesting turn by the end of the film. 

The daughter is hiding a secret, that she lost her scholarship and is paying for school as a stripper.  The son is obsessed with feeding meals to overweight women,  The mother is extremely self-conscious and she acts out as she feels that things in her marriage are not so good.  The patriarch in Garcia is a good man, who has a knack for keeping secrets, any one of which could be damaging to his place in the family.  It is each of their idiosyncratic traits that combines together for a fun movie, and a spectacular conclusion in which all loose ends come to a head.

City Island is located in the Bronx and it serves a great setting for this piece on the functional-dysfunctional family.  This was a slightly depressing film at times, that takes a redemptive turn near the end.  It is worth seeing and I gave it 4 of 5 Rhino horns.  Check it out if you can.  I think the accents made it more enjoyable, but even without them, I was engaged from start to finish.

Next on the agenda, THE EXPERIMENT, starring Forest Whitaker, Adrian Brody, and Clifton Collins Jr.  I had high hopes watching the preview for this, but oh how I was disappointed.  This film was very lacking in style and substance.  This could have been something great, but when things started to get interesting, this film stopped way short of delivering the goods.

The heart of the problem with this film was predictability.  Everything that happened, I expected to happen 5 minutes before it did. 

THE EXPERIMENT is loosely based on the Stanford Prison Experiment, which was conducted to see how people would react in a situation when they were put in positions of power in the guards or as the have-nots in the subservient prisoners.  They have to live this way for 14 days and they each earn $1000 per day for participating.  No violence allowed, or the experiment is over.

The premise is great, the delivery is not.  With these actors, I had much, much higher hopes.  I give this a 2.5 of 5 horns, mostly for the unacceptable amount of unrealized potential!  Remade in more capable hands, this may one day be something worth watching.  I should have been more critical of the fact that this was a direct-to-DVD release.  I have seen plenty of great direct-to-DVD releases with many great actors.  This just wasn't one of them.

Sunday gave me the crown jewel of the weekend.  I got to see CATFISH.  The tagline might be the most appropriate of all-time:  Don't Let Anyone Tell You What It Is.

This is a documentary and on IMDB, but it is also listed as a thriller.  I think thriller is a stretch for genre type, but would be more appropriately described as bad egg salad.  You get an upset stomach from the first few frames and you don't get to feeling better until you hit the light of the sun outside the theater.  I felt uncomfortable throughout.  Things start out weird and they get a whole lot weirder!

A thriller this is not, a well-told and unique story it is.

The star of the show is Nev and he is being filmed by his brother and friend.  Being filmmakers and seeing Nev began his foray into a very odd Internet relationship, they saw a great opportunity to film something wonderful, if not out of the worst parts of curiosity. 

Nev is befriended by an 8-year old girl who had sent him a water-color painting of a picture that he had published nationally (he is a photographer).  A friendship grows and Nev comes to be FACEBOOK friends with ABBY, the young girl who sends him paintings.  He speaks to her mother, and all throughout the very beginning, you may get a creepy pedo vibe, but it quickly becomes evident that Nev is a guy on the up and up.  As time moves forward, Nev gets to be friends with all of Abby's family on FACEBOOK, and this includes Megan, Abby's older sister.  He calls them his "Facebook Family" A long distance, phone and Internet only, relationship ensues between Nev and Meg.  This is where things get interesting.

The trailer shows the filmmakers and Nev head to Meg's house to meet here.  That is all I will say so that I spoil none of what follows for you.

This film gets a 5 of 5 for me for one reason: this movie disturbed me from start to finish like no film ever has.  My blood pressure was up throughout the entire picture and I had a profound sense of nervousness until I got back to my truck.  IT IS BIZARRE! But it is a beautiful bizarre! 

You must not find out how this ends and you must see this movie.  The filmmakers did a wonderful job of telling this story.  As long as this doesn't go the way of I'M STILL HERE and this is held up as a true documentary, then I would definitely see this getting an Oscar nod. 

There is a line in the trailer that indicates the film is not based on true events, but wait to see it and make your own call.  This was real, this was odd, and this made me feel alive at this movie from start to finish.

5 of 5 Reel Rhino Horns.  Great movie.  See it!

Whew...that was a hell of a weekend.  Thank goodness for On-Demand.  Thank goodness for a decent set of releases in the KC area for this weekend.  While AMC manages to pull a few winners here and there, the Fine Arts Group, the Tivoli, and the Screenland theaters continue to wow me with their dedication to bringing quality films to this area.

Thanks gang!

Reel Rhino

Saturday, September 25, 2010

WINNEBAGO MAN - Great F#?%!NG Movie

Well you know The Reel Rhino usually runs a nice, clean, family friendly show.  In honor of the star of WINNEBAGO MAN, Jack Rebney, the internet-proclaimed "Angriest Man Alive," I had to cut loose a little bit!

JACK REBNEY takes cursing to the next level.  He has a unique and resonating voice and to hear him unleash a torrent of rage is almost poetic.

I will be honest with you in that until I heard of this movie, I had not ever heard of THE WINNEBAGO MAN.  The YouTube clips are hilarious, yes they are...check it out for yourself if you haven't seen them - BEWARE - These are not safe for work!

This movie is directed by Ben Steinbauer and he plays an active role on-screen as well.  He is both our on-screen guide and narrator.  Some of narrated dialogue comes off as overly scripted, but by far, his end product far overshadows any  shortcomings.

This is a great movie.  With funny material at its core and a beating heart to go with it.  Things play out in three parts.  The first act is Steinbauer discussing his experiences enjoying the Winnebago Man footage.  He looks at how Rebney existed as a viral video, long, long before the term viral video even existed.  This guy became a sensation, without the internet.  He became a sensation from people dubbing VHS tapes and passing them among their friends.  If you wanted to share this footage, you actually had to do some work.  It wasn't until the advent of YouTube that Rebney's popularity really hit stride....and all the while, Rebney himself had no idea.  This first act is about Steinbauer's desire to get to the heart of this phenomenon....and maybe to meet the man behind the magic.

Steinbauer reaches out to the found footage and underground video community and he learns more about the legendary video clips.  Events take off after Steinbauer manages to track Rebney down and even set up a meeting with him.  This leads to act two...getting to know the man.

As for describing the structure of this film, I will stop there.  There really aren't spoilers, to say, for it is a documentary.  It is all based on real life and it is all dealing with clips that have been viewed millions of times over.  I went into this film knowing very little and it enhanced my enjoyment.

I will share with my feelings on the film and more specifically, Rebney.  At the outset, seeing the clips made me laugh.  Hell, they are funny and if you don't think so, yikes!  It is funny to hear a grown man, with such a distinctive voice, get utterly frustrated and to let his curse-flag fly.  But as the film progresses, you start to feel things moving more towards tragedy than comedy.

In the movie, Steinbauer interviews a variety of people, but it is his talk with the hosts of a found footage show that are the most revealing.  When Steinbaier asked them if they have ever tried to track Rebney down, they both answer with a resounding, NO!  They go on to explain, it's funny to anonymously laugh at strangers, but the minute you get to know that stranger as a person, the hilarity turns to tragedy. 

So true, if you think about the clips and photos that get circulated via probably received some today.  We don't know these people and we can laugh at them.  If you got a picture of your brother or sister sent to you, passed-out drunk, with a bucket over their wouldn't be'd be pissed. 

Steinbauer's approach manages to humanize Jack Rebney.  There are a few unsettling moments in this film, but I think that ultimately this film could be called a flattering portrayal of Jack Rebney.  This is a very compelling and endearing portrait of a sometimes angry man, whom by the end of the movie, you actually care for.

As someone in the film put it, (paraphrased)
~ he is really a sweet guy, kinda like my angry grandfather. ~

The man Jack Rebney reminds me of how I felt for Clint Eastwood's character, Walt Kowalski, in Gran Torino.  Yes, Walt was capable of being a miserable old cuss...but at the end of the day, you couldn't help yourself for rooting for him.

The Reel Rhino gives this a solid 5 of 5 horns and says get out there and see this at all costs. 

I had to opt to NOT go and see CATFISH, which was playing in Kansas City at one theater, for just one day.  Catfish previews have been playing in front of some big name movies, so I am sure it will eventually get a wide- or semi-wide run.  I will see it then, but I'll have to keep working to avoid any talk on it.  From what I have heard, the colder you go into CATFISH, the better.

I just watched I'M STILL HERE, which is currently available on TIME-WARNER On-Demand.  I will try and write on it soon.  I loved it.  I know that up until recently, controversy existed as to the authenticity of this film as a documentary. 

I will say simply, even now with director Casey Affleck admitting publicly that this film is in fact, a piece of performance art or some type of mockumentary, there is a part of me that thinks he is lying.  If this was solely acted, Joaquin gave the performance of his life.  If it is in fact a hoax, I think that Casey will be competing with big brother Ben for an Oscar nod and that Phoenix should be the shoe-in favorite for Best Actor.  But that this "hoax" was intended to mock the press, to mock celebrity, I think that these seemingly great semi-scripted performances will be tainted come awards season by how much people were duped.  And by the way, I think Phoenix is good, but not that good.  I think calling this performance art became Joaquin Phoenix's only way to save face...he walked the plank and he needed some way back.  I enjoy his fictional work, but this was too visceral to be a set-up...there was real pain, real frustration, real passion, and real hate in his eyes.  When he hurt, you could see he was hurt for real. 

For now, Reel Rhino out.
Catch you later....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Another breaking update...THEATER NEWS for Sept. 24th

A quick note from the Reel Rhinoceros.  That is my full and formal name, in case you were wondering...

At the AMC Town Center 20....119th and Nall...

TODAY ONLY, they are carrying CATFISH.

This movie has had a lot of hype and it is described as a Hitchcockian-esque thriller.  It is playing there today only with show times of 2:35pm, 4:55pm, 7:10pm, and 9:40pm.

Also, THE VIRGINITY HIT is playing there as well.  A much less critically acclaimed flick about the documenting of the loss of the V-card.  I mention it only because I think it is here and at the 119th and Strang Line AMC Studio 30 theater that this is playing.  I will further mention that the super-critically acclaimed Aussie flick, ANIMAL KINGDOM, is also playing at Studio 30.

All of this is FYI only....I hope everyone gets to one of these short-run features.  It's great when things get a wide-release but when you see something on a short-run, you just feel super-duper special!!!

Till later...
The Reel Rhino

Screenland Crossroads - GREAT FRIDAY NIGHT LINEUP!

Hey Reel-Rhinoites, if you have the time, the SCREENLAND CROSSROADS will be the place to be tonight (Friday Sept. 24th).

Located in the urban-centric Kansas City Crossroads District at 1656 Washington, the Screenland is a single-screen theater and they have a spectacular FRIDAY NIGHT line-up. 

This is perhaps my favorite theater in the city, thanks to the wide variety of great events they bring to town.  (Bruce Campbell screened The Man With The Screaming Brain here...that was enough to win me over!)  They also have a large banquet room that has several museum quality exhibits that are a tribute to Kansas City and our region's involvement in the film industry.

Tonight's screenings are just a sampling of their unique line of programming.  I recommend visiting the link below to learn more about this great theater and some of their other locations around town.  The Screenland Crown Center is a multi-screen theater and they too bring some very independent features and have very unique programming.  The Screenland Armour is located in North Kansas was converted from an old Opry House theater and it is very ornate with a vintage art deco movie house feel.

BUT TO TONIGHT....I wish I could stay for all three of these, but at least I will be there to kick it off...

5:00pm: WINNEBEGO MAN - The 5 o'clock show is the only Friday night showing at the SCREENLAND and they are the only theater in town playing this hard to find documentary.  I am excited to see this and will have more to say on this later...

7:00pm: GREAT DIRECTORS - From IMDB: Great Directors, directed by Angela Ismailos, features conversations with ten of the world's greatest living directors: Bernardo Bertolucci, David Lynch, Liliana Cavani, Stephen Frears, Agnes Varda, Ken Loach, Todd Haynes, Catherine Breillat, Richard Linklater and John Sayles. The film documents Ismailos' voyage of discovering the creative personalities behind the camera.  This is the only place to catch this in KC...another great documentary that speaks directly to the wannabe filmmaker in me.

9:30pm: Screenland Roast: THE BREAKFAST CLUB - A proper roast from the Counter-Clockwise Comedy group from Kansas City.  They will give much love to this JOHN HUGHES (R.I.P.) classic in the form of rips and zingers.  I have heard great things about these roasts!  Don't you forget about them....this will be worth checking out!!  They will be there on Saturday night too, in case you can't make it tonight.  If you have NETFLIX WATCH INSTANTLY I also recommend checking out the unofficial John Hughes documentary: DON'T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME - lots of great interviews and a wonderful tribute to a great writer and filmmaker.

Find out more about the screenland at:

Talk to you soon....
Reel Rhino

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Devil and Easy A: Double Decker Movie Day

TIMECHECK: 1200 - Depart the workplace for a 5 hour decompression session...

First stop, Quiktrip. Objective: Sustenance (aka Club Sandwich) - Don't you judge me...their sandwiches are much better than you would ever suspect!

TIMECHECK: 1230 - Arrive at Merriam Cinemark for my first movie of the day. 

DEVIL - Film #1 in The Night Chronicles ~ a new series "From the mind of M Night Shyamalan"  Yes, I got sick of seeing the trailer over and over and over.  And for M Night, after The Happening and The Last Airbender, I was fearing the worst.  But this is me and I am a huge M Night fan.  I was enthralled by him out of the gate with Sixth Sense (who wasn't!) and while many said he was on the decline after Unbreakable, I think he was hitting his stride, and Lady in the Water back from 2006 stands as my favorite M Night effort.

For my more recent feelings on M Night and the debauchery that was The Last Airbender...see also Reel Rhino - Will M Night Ever Get the Magic Back

Let me say that as a story teller, in my mind, the only misstep my favorite Pennsylvanian filmmaker has made was with The Happening.  He wrote it, he directed it, he made his bed and he had to lay in it.  His product was poor, but he believed in it and to that end, and I never thought that The Happening would lead to his unbecoming.  As for the THE LAST AIRBENDER...he didn't write it, but he owned it.  It was everything he wanted it to be and it failed.  Hopefully, M Night has learned his lesson...see also... 

So M Night was running on a two film flop streak and when the trailer for Devil was playing (excessively I might add) people were groaning when they saw that line in bold:

"From the Mind of M Night Shyamalan"

I'll tell you a secret....when I saw that line, I actually got excited.  A thriller that was written by, but not directed by, M Night.  I had high hopes...I saw this as a grand chance for a rebranding and reemerging of a master storyteller and one who brings an immense passion to the art of making movies.


No, this was not The Sixth Sense and it was not Unbreakable...but it was really something fun!

DEVIL is directed by John Erick Dowdle and the story by credit goes to Shyamalan with the screenplay credited to Brian Nelson.  The cast is filled with a spread of relative unknowns.  Bokeem Woodbine and Matt Craven are the only ones that jumped off the screen as recognizable faces and Craven is always a welcome addition to any cast for any movie I am watching.  Also, for you fans of Broken Lizard, you may also recognize the Snozzberry guy from Super Troopers, who runs an excellent turn at playing a creepy dude!

The trailer, for as many damn times as they showed it, did a great job of giving the set-up of the film.  Five people trapped in an elevator in a high rise building in Philadelphia.  One of them....drum roll the Devil.  The plot is simple and straightforward and we are fortunate enough to a have a "crazy religious guy" who as a character, serves as both our narrator and as the guy that shares his unbelievable explanation for why things are happening, which nobody believes, but eventually is realized to be true.
I think the acting is a bit choppy and there were some edits that could have been a bit smoother, but overall this film succeeds in what M Night hoped to accomplish.  The tone is ominous and there are several story elements that are interwoven nicely including the "trademark" twist (Yeah! The M Night TWIST is BACK!).

This movie, although not directed by Shyamalan, would fall somewhere in the range of Signs or The Village for his fare.  REEL RHINO says 4 out of 5 horns and also I offer a warm welcome to M Night Shyamalan for returning to something like his old form. 

A very interesting aspect of this film is the running time.  80 MINUTES!  That usually qualifies for my "this is too short to be called a movie" speech.  In fact any time I can calculate how much it costs me per minute because of how short a movie is, I usually complain.  This story benefits from the short RT and outside of losing some of the buying power for this movie, I think it works here.

I am looking forward to THE NIGHT CHRONICLES 2 and 3...especially #3!!  This will be the unofficial sequel to UNBREAKABLE....from the mouth of M Night himself!

TIMECHECK: 2:17pm - Depart Cinemark Merriam, head North for the greener pastures of the Northland. 

EASY A starts at 3:30pm, so in the interim, I stop by HvVee, have a piece of pizza, and grab some movie snacks. 

I hit the library and borrow a book on Antique cameras.  I also hit up to buy my tix for the flick.  Life is good.

TIMECHECK: 3:30pm - Arrive at AMC Barrywoods.  I run into my old friend Mark, who is working the front desk.  He's lost 65 lbs and looks great.  If you read this Mark, great job and keep it up!

EASY A - This was a very fun movie that had me hooked from the first time I saw the trailer.  Who doesn't want to see any movie that rocks out POKER FACE in the trailer.  I will also admit here a slight crush on Emma Stone.  She is 22 years old folks, it isn't that wrong.  The whole case in this is phenomenal and the story is plain old fun!

Written by Burt V. Royal and directed by Will Gluck, this star studded cast, includes....wait for it....wait for it....Amanda Bynes's "return from retirement."  Everyone can breath easy, I know. 

Easy A is told concurrent to the high school English class's reading of The Scarlet Letter.  Oh that adulterous HESTER!!!  For our modern tale...a lie is told, a rumor is started, and reputation begins to proceed our lead, Olive Pendergast, where ever she goes.  The movie is like a lighter-Junoesque exercise in "youth-talk" today.  Judging from the crowd reaction, many of today's teens thought it was spot on!

Olive spends most of the movie digging herself a hole, offering her "services" to those in need.  A sex act not really consummated, but instead only the stories to tell.  This is a movie about rumors.  Rumors that can make a high school existence more bearable, but also the rumors that like poison, can spoil the well and ruin things forever.  This story is much more a comedy than a drama.  You will laugh a great deal more that you think about the growth of these characters or really be concerns for them.  But, you do care for them, nonetheless.  You see these characters as gross-exaggerations of what they would be in the real world.  This is easy to forgive, though, because it is in fact a movie and it is so much fun.

I enjoyed this film thoroughly and if there was a way to put a cash wager on Emma Stone, I would do it.  She is an up-and-comer and is not to be missed. (For essential Emma, see also Superbad, see also Zombieland, see also The House Bunny.)

Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson play smaller roles as Olive's parents, and to some extent, they steal the show.  Granted, their earthy parenting choices and "we love everyone" attitude are very cliche, but they actually pull it off.  Each of their scenes felt more like a skits or a running gag through an SNL, but it made me laugh each time and their on-screen prowess made it work.

EASY A gets a 4 of 5 horns and earns a place in my fun flick category of the year.  It tonally reminded me of Fired Up, also a fun movie and in my opinion, very underrated.  Also, SEX DRIVE was remotely similar in feel and texture of the film, except I think Sex Drive was an R, and this is a PG-13, to appeal to the greater masses.

I will be seeing THE TOWN on Sunday.  I may sub in WINNEBEGO MAN  on a whim, as it is playing at the Screenland only this weekend.

TIMECHECK: 5:30pm - I arrive home and Jackson becomes the prime time show to watch.  What a GREAT KID!!!

TIMECHECK: 6:30pm - Tracie, Jackson, and I head to RIVERFEST in Riverside, MO.  It was fun, but too short for us as the little guy was getting sleepy.

TIMECHECK: 11:30pm - Watched THE JONESES tonight along with the back half of KISS KISS BANG BANG...oh how I love the movies!!!

The Reel Rhino signing off...G'nite! I'll see you after The Town.  Go out there and see something...anything!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Well it seems that the end of a short lived era is over.  This is yet unconfirmed officially, but it seems as though the latest addition to the Kansas City movie scene has lost it's battle with mediocrity.  I don't mean that their location, services, or set-up were mediocre, but their selection was lackluster to say the least.

The SMG picked up the scraps of AMC Theaters as each were bound by a proximity competition clause.  I would have to imagine that the deeper pockets and longer lineage of AMC is what helped push AMC over the edge in the end.

AMC Barrywoods at the corner of I-29 and Barry Rd. passed on such films as Scott Pilgrim, The Last Airbender, and Killers, all of which were financially questionable and while I loved Scott Pilgrim, I would have to say it was the result of some kind of business savvy.

Yes, SMG Zona Rosa did carry such features as Eat, Pray, Love, Machete, and Takers, all of which have recently seen some financial success, but even though AMC Barry did not carry these either, many moviegoers opted to head downtown to the AMC Mainstreet which houses the coveted Cinema Suite theaters.  Even if a trip downtown wasn't on the menu, these moviegoers could also head East a bit and check things out at Dickinson theaters, located a short drive across 152 Highway into the heart of North, Northeast Kansas City.

Perhaps the biggest loss will be to that of the Horror Remix that SMG carried monthly, but I suppose we will survive.  I truly hope that this isn't indicative of Kansas City's ability to sustain the Arts, especially with so much potential on our horizon with the Performing Arts center and what I hope will be the continued proliferation of the Fine Arts Group of theaters and the Screenland Theaters spread around town.

Personally, I enjoyed having another option for my movie going, but that is me.  I will enjoy the expanded selection at AMC Barry, but I hate to see the fall of any theater, because you know those behind SMG only had the desire to create an enjoyable movie going environment for its patrons.

I say with sincerity, Rest in Peace, Studio Movie Grill Zona Rosa.

And to this not being "official," Studio Movie Grill has taken the Zona Rosa off of their locations on their official web page.  If I am wrong about any of this, I will retract, but the Reel Rhino is rarely wrong when it comes to the movies. 

I wouldn't be surprised if they let this just slip under the carpet.  I'm sure it was pretty expensive, but I'm sure they will survive.

Long live the moviegoer...long live the cinema experience.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Time Travel

I'm going to go back in time and keep myself from posting this...

Well, not really, but I love time travel movies so very much.  I remembered seeing the original Time Machine movie as a young boy based on Wells novel.  I loved the concept of it and of course, as an impressionable young boy at the age of 9, I was introduced to Back to the Future.

Certainly some are darker than others, and I stumbled across this trailer on and I felt compelled to share...enjoy!!

The film is called Repeaters and is slated for a 2011 release. It has elements of Groundhog Day, with a much, much different feel. Let me know what you think below and I promise this is one I will be catching. It looks like an indie, I just hope it gets a wide release.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Reel Rhino Review: THE AMERICAN

I had the opportunity after two consecutive 50+ hour weeks, to slip out from work early for a little movie time.  I was originally going to see Machete, which I will next week on a scheduled MAN DATE with a few co-workers, but with that on the horizon, I caught THE AMERICAN instead. 

THE AMERICAN is the story of an aged assassin who is unsure as to how or if he wants to finish out his career.  It is the story of a man seeking love but sowing the fruits of leading a life of crime and murder.  As this assassin is our protagonist, we sympathize with him, regardless of what he has done or what he will do. 

THE AMERICAN stars one of the most recognizable Americans in GEORGE CLOONEY and he is the only recognizable face in the film.  In fact, if you were to insert an Italian lead, you would have a moderately enjoyable Italian production as Italy is also the primary setting through the film.  But that Clooney as the lone American is markedly an outsider in this land and this is much in part to what gives this film its stiff line of suspense.

Yes, this is a suspenseful, Hitchcock-esque thriller and it delivers in every way.  Much of the suspense is drawn from Clooney's Jack, who is extremely paranoid.  His paranoia is justified to the viewer from the first moments of the film.  That we see early on that he has every right to be paranoid and this justification keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the film. 

Clooney is at his finest here and he brings great moments of pause and suspicious curious glances that successfully build tension.  Add in the aura of sepia toned small town Italy and you have a perfectly presented film. 

This movie is brilliantly shot.  There is always a building corner or window curtains blocking your perspective so you are as unsure as Jack as to what may be lurking. 

The rest of the cast hails from overseas, it would appear, and Clooney as the only American is seemingly from where the title is drawn.  To that end, there are a variety of very lovely foreign actresses in this film, including Irina Bjorklund (Sweden) as Ingrid, Thekla Reuten (The Netherlands) as Mathilda, Violante Placido (Rome, Italy) as Clara.  The women of this film play a crucial role throughout and all three are featured in both a very sexy and sometimes very nude presentation.  Lots of sex scenes ahead...leave the kiddies at home.  Also, for the ladies, a Clooney upper butt shot along with many Jack Lalane-esque push-ups and pull-ups.

Not having looked into it, I would be willing to say that Mathilda is a direct tribute to the Natalie Portman character from Leon aka The Professional, in name at least, being that there are similar themes running through each film.

I think that other than Jack, my favorite character was Father Benedetto, played to perfection by Italian actor, Paolo Bonacelli.  He is a priest who although has comes to terms with his life, has a history.  He sees the tortured soul of Jack and relates and he reaches out to him in Clooney's early moments as a foreigner in this foreign land.  Jack has a mixed reaction to the father, of both cynicism and thanks for the friendship he extends. 

The final role of note is Pavel, the gray haired, gravelly voiced handler to Clooney's Jack.  His voice is haunting and his presence is intermittent as he is much like Jack's agent, providing him with opportunities for employment.

I enjoyed this film to a great extent and I recommend it highly. 

Subsequent to my original post, I had a discussion about this film with a trusted film friend, with whom I often see eye to eye.  We saw things differently here and I don't say that to point out either of our shortcomings as film goers, as we are both self-admittedly, very easily entertained.  Instead, I say as I always do, I love the discussions that movies stir up.  Dan, aka Papa, shared with me that he saw the plot as unfolding WAY too slowly.  I can see his perspective, but I rebutted this in my perspective that the narrative chosen by the filmmaker is attributed to the slow burn tense thrills in this film.  I think that this was completely intentional by the filmmakers.

What I couldn't argue with Papa was our discussion about a specific plot line in the flick that really had no resolution.  While this particular plot point dangled in an awkward manner, there is actually a great amount that we DON'T KNOW about this Clooney's character and his story that is unfolding, even by the end of the film.  What we are seeing is very much a story fragment.  We are dropped into this in the middle of his life and we know very little.  When the story ends, we are without much of the information we need to figure out who is good and who is bad...but the key is that we sympathize with Clooney.

In any film, a picture is painted for who we should care, who we should hate, and to some extent, what we should feel.  Film is very much propaganda used by artists to get you to see things a certain way, namely, theirs.  Every filmmaker has a vision for how a film will be interpreted.  An apt comparison are the actual propaganda films used by both the Germans and the Americans during World War II.  There is no question what these films tried to accomplish and from a current perspective, there is no doubt as to which were morally correct and which were corrupt.  Am I making a point, or just babbling...perhaps a bit of both...but the upside is, I have no doubt that it will be a very short while before Papa and Rhino see eye to eye once again. 

Back to THE AMERICAN...I saw this in the AMC ETX and my thoughts on this matter are no secret (The Reel Rhino on ETX).  I will say that without comparison, there were some well recorded moments in this film when the sound presentation was vital, as an element of the mystery of the unknown.  I enjoyed these moments and the ETX presented them excellently, but this one check mark in the plus column is not yet enough to win me over.  I'll take IMAX Digital every day of the week.

THE REEL RHINO gives THE AMERICAN 4.5 horns of 5.  Go see this in the theater...the tension and suspense are played superbly on the big screen.  Although, alone in your living room on a dark stormy night would also be a great way to watch this.

You can sleep easy, knowing Clooney has done it again.  Much credit to director Anton Corbijn and screenwriter Rowen Joffe for crafting this well told thriller.  The American is based on the novel, "A Very Private Gentleman," by Martin Booth, and well-renowned British novelist and it has been converted nicely to film form.

Get out there on this long weekend and catch something....INCEPTION and SCOTT PILGRIM are my favorites of 2010 so far...avoid The Last Exorcism and see this or take in the wonderous joys of Robert Rodiguez's MACHETE!  (SEE THE TRAILER BELOW) I'll catch you up on my thoughts on it next week!!!

Enjoy and take care!!