Sunday, July 31, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. I guess by the book, this is just another ensemble rom-com, but who wrote that book anyway!

I ventured out this evening for a double-duty date wife and I were celebrating both our 6th anniversary and her 33rd birthday. She's not yet old enough that she can get mad at me for saying her age, but maybe the next few years we will still be celebrating her 33rd as well. We'll see what she thinks after reading this.

We had a great dinner at McCormick and Schmick's…a great bit of fine dining at really decent prices. Tracie, as it so happens, worked for Andrew McCormick, the younger McCormick in the namesake lineage to that restaurant empire. City Tavern was the bar and San Francisco was the city. That was, of course, before I rescued her and brought her to the great metropolitan area of Kansas City. Maybe that last part is debatable within the household, but hey, I think it’s pretty great here, minus the ridiculous heat.

This was the second year in a row we made dinner and movie of her birthday. Hey, I won't ever fight it, you know me. This is also the second year in a row we made our choice in flick a Julianne Moore film, with last year's being The Kids Are Alright. And even more suspect, this is the second year in a row that we caught a Julianne Moore film in which the major conflict is kicked into play when Julianne Moore's character is unfaithful to her partner.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. begins with an introduction to a long married couple, Steve Carell’s Cal and Moore's Emily. We learn through the film that they have been married for many years, in fact going back to age 15, this pair seemingly linked for life. Soulmate is a term thrown around quite loosely in this one…not since Buying the Cow has it been as such…which, by the way, is a much more fun film than you would ever guess…Ryan Reynolds resembling the Berg that made him so loveable on that old Two Guys a Girl and a Pizza Place…also a great series…but lest I digress.

In the early moments of the film, Emily declares that she wants a divorce and soon after, that she has been unfaithful with a co-worker.

Cal sets out at first to drink and sulk his misery in the open court of a local bar. When a local has grown tired of hearing cry into his vodka-cranberries, that local beckons him to his table and offers to help him reform himself to something resembling a desirable mate.

Said barfly is none other than Ryan Gosling's Jacob. Gosling is quite elusive as an actor. He is acclaimed in most everything that he appears, and according to my wife, he is also strikingly handsome. That's okay, I think Emma Stone is quite adorable my darn self. Ralph Garman and I can duke it out over her, if it comes down to it. (See also, SIR’s Hollywood Babble On)

Gosling makes it his mission to hip-ify Cal and he is quite successful in his mission.
The Cal tale is but one of three story arcs that intertwine. You have Cal and his post-divorce misery. You have Jacob and his man-whoring, a practice that comes to a screeching halt when he falls head over heels for one Emma Stone, playing a young lawyer come lately named Hannah. And finally, you have young Robbie (Jonah Bobo), the 13 year son to Cal and Emily. Young Robbie is in love you see, with the family babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton).
Oh how crazy and stupid love can be...hey, that would be a great name for a movie.

So the first hour of this flick was slower than I would have liked. That said, it was still enjoyable, but just slow. The last half was redemption for this slow burn. This was a romantic comedy, of the darker variety, but there were some fantastic laugh out loud moments in that back half of the film. One sequence in particular literally had us laughing to tears.

This particular sequence kicks off the third act and it was actually quite cliché, but that is what made it so wonderful. It wasn't a single cliché, in fact, it was about ten clichés in a matter of minutes. One alone would have been predictable, but this scene in particular was a series of so many predictable possibilities, it was truly and literally hilarious.

This film is darker than your average rom-com and if not for the stellar cast, it may have had too depressing of overtones. That cast also included Marisa Tomei, John Carroll Lynch, Josh Groban, and Kevin Bacon. Bacon plays David Lindhagen, the antagonist of sorts, who is the co-worker with who Emily shared her marital indiscretion. Bacon has played foil in Super, X-Men: First Class, and now this, and he has been lined up as the baddie in the big screen adaptation of the genre comic R.I.P.D.

We may hear the words David Lindhagen uttered on screen by Carell more than any other combination of words in the film. Carell is born into a man obsessed and really, he and his son embody some of the obsessive behaviors that are born of a broken heart. Hey, I let my lady get away from me once. Is it obsessive to burn 40 mix-CD's and mail them to her...that was her birthday in 2002. Fortunately for me, things turned around and in addition to celebrating this birthday, as I said, it was our anniversary as well.

From the get-go, I was feeling this flick out as a 3 horn go, but as that second half unfolded, it became entrenched as a very solid 4 of 5 horn effort. Great work to co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and a really fun story written by Dan Fogelman.

Thanks for a fun night gang and Happy Birthday/Happy Anniverasry deah.

Reel Rhino

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Week with Winnie

My two weeks as a lone soldier have come and gone. In 14 days I was able to take in 13 movies…not too shabby!

That did include a second viewing of Harry Potter, this time in IMAX. Let me say, it was worth it. The Harry Potter saga was drawn to a worthy conclusion and it was absolutely spectacular on the H-U-G-E screen. The battle at Hogwarts was good the first time and it was great the second go around, with a more leisurely watching to take in all the nuance.

My 13 flicks also included two versions of Captain America: The First Avenger…on Friday night with The Kid and his lovely bride (who, by the way, needs a worthy nickname! “The Bride” perhaps?). we saw Cap in vivid 2-D and I was compelled to check it out again in 3-D. I for one am a 3-D apologist. Yes, I know it dulls the brightness a tinge, but the added depth of field control gives so much texture to the film.

I hope that 3-D is here to stay!

Perhaps the most interesting of the films I saw was Winnie the Pooh.

I don’t know if it was the nostalgia of seeing ol’ Pooh on the big screen or if it was the wholly competent animation and effective storytelling, but this movie just got me.

What a great soundtrack/score throughout with some wonderful and surprising tunes from Zooey Deschanel! The original songs in general were great and the voice cast was spot on for the Pooh-crew, exactly as I remember them. Jim Cummings voiced Tigger and Pooh, and while he wasn’t the Pooh from back in my day, this guy has quite the resume. The only recognizable voice among them is Craig Ferguson as Owl.

Usually, plot is of no consequence in a film of this nature. This is a well told story that is both touching and funny. For starters, Eeyore has lost his tail and all of the gang sets out to find him a replacement. While they are all out looking, Pooh head’s over to Christopher Robin’s and discovers a note: “Back Soon, CR.”

When Pooh brings the note to Owls, he sets the group in a panic…the “BACK-SON” has abducted CR! Chaos ensues...

The movie is short, as a young children’s feature should be, at 63 minutes. Fear not, though, for your hard earned movie dollar. There is a great short before the feature, “The Ballad of Nessie,” an animated film telling the origin story for the Loch Ness Monster. Now in and of itself it was cute, but narrated by Billy Connolly, it was sublime.

Take a trip down memory lane…check out the Pooh and crew! 5 of 5 Horns

Cowboys and Aliens and Crazy, Stupid, Love are both in my sights for this weekend. Any thoughts on either?

Have a great movie going weekend! Perhaps I’ll post more later…

Reel Rhino

Friday, July 22, 2011

Reel Rhino Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA; Review of BUCK

I stand here tonight for three reasons:

1) To share with you my take on an amazing documentary that I had the chance to see this week, and,

2) To introduce you to Billy Gator and Catfish, two guests making their first appearances on the Reel Rhino site.

3) To tell you to go to the bottom of the page and check out the trailers for Myth of the American Sleepover and Another Earth…both opening in limited release this weekend and both worth your movie dollars.

As for my guests, Billy Gator is weighing-in with his two cents on BUCK, the documentary I referenced in point #1. Catfish is currently the object of my utmost jealousy…he is here is give us his take on CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. Yep, he caught the KC Star Wednesday night sneak preview. Catfish, you rascal, you had the chance to take Reel Rhino, but nooooooo…you had to take your wife! Thanks for nothin’, punk! Kidding of course, at least you were gracious enough to give me some content.

BUCK – 5 of 5 Horns
A short, but very sweet, documentary by Cindy Meehl, introduces us to Buck Brannaman. Who, you may ask, is Buck Brannaman? He is the real life Horse Whisperer and every minute of this film is compelling.

In 1998, Robert Redford called on Buck as a technical advisor on his film, The Horse Whisperer. Redford, who appears throughout the current doc at hand, talks endearingly on the effect Buck had on the ultimate tone of his film. Buck became more of an inspiration, than an advisor.

Buck’s involvement in The Horse Whisperer is only a fraction of this film, and the majority looks at Buck’s life on the road, holding training sessions for those interested in becoming “horsemen,” or as we know them, cowboys and cowgirls.

The film looks at Buck’s early years, which were clearly formative on his philosophies on life. He spent his early years as a trick roper in a show overseen by his father and performed with his brother.

Buck is a master at a technique known as “natural horsemanship,” and to see him in action is nothing short of breathtaking. Buck is funny, sweet, and when necessary, firm, in his demeanor and teaching methods. He always sets out to teach folks about their lives with their horses…he normally ends up teaching them about themselves.

See this movie…it is short and every minute leaves a mark. Buck is touching, sweet, entertaining, and for a layperson like me in a field like cowboying, educational.

Buck’s lessons are as much about learning about yourself, as they are about learning your horse. This is a must see and I give it a 5 horn, Reel Rhino salute.

I am not a horseman, not by a long shot…but given the chance, I will go see Buck in action. This film is 100% an example of the power of film.
So the real question is: What did Billy Gator have to say? This is BG’s first appearance on the Reel Rhino site, but as I recently came to learn, he is very much a fellow filmic traveler. I don’t have his official count, but I believe he is approaching 100 movies for this year alone…pretty impressive!! As for his take on BUCK – 4 out of 5 Gator Tails:

A gentle documentary about a gentle man who knows a thing or two about horses (and humans). Buck Brannaman is full of universal truths and homespun wisdom. I didn't want the film to end. TLC or the Discovery Channel should hire the director, Cindy Meehl, to keep following him around, as I would definitely spend an hour a week watching Buck practice his art of "horse whispering".

And now for his moment in the sun, I give you CATFISH. Presented here, formatted to fit your screen, with limited commercial interruptions. Catfish, you better not let me down!

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER – 4 of 5 Horns (so says the Catfish)
I recently discovered the wonderful world of the pre-release movie screening lottery, so to speak. It only took me 40 years to find this unburied treasure, but at least I didn’t go to my grave without experiencing early arrivals, long lines, rabid fans, and uncomfortable heat (and odors) given off by all the bodies stuffed in narrow lines hoping for a seat in the theater (first come first serve as overbooking ensures a full house…right) just for a free sneak peak at a major motion picture.

Now each time I see a chance to win advanced screening passes I enter my name, cross my fingers, and pray much like I did when I unsuccessfully tried to win the full size Pac Man video game from MTV, circa 1983. I’m pretty sure it was rigged because I even put my own money in the church donation basket (ah, the naivety of a 12 year old). To date, I’m batting .500 with screening passes with my only true disappointment being a Thor swing and a miss.

I was on vacation and had since accepted that I whiffed on another chance to see a movie I had been looking forward to when the e-mail arrived with the magic message that I had been selected to attend the advanced screening of Captain America: The First Avenger. Superheroes have a special place in my heart. I loved reading comic books when I was a kid. I looked forward to our trips to Wal-Mart so I could pick out a fresh new comic book that can only be described as my childhood eye candy. Comic books were an integral part of my childhood, which I can equate with happiness and contentment (all that changes when we grow up; that’s why most of us men never want to grow up and therefore never do).

Movie night, July 20th, finally arrived. The line at the theater was long even though my wife and I showed up an hour early. I did hope and trust there would be room for us. We did indeed get seats, and I wasn’t about to move because seats were more valuable than gold to this crowd. Both of us were stuffed from our four course meal that we ate just prior to arriving at the theater. I was satisfied on two counts. First, my wife was quite pleased with her dinner (the cliché holds true: happy wife, happy life). Secondly, having full bellies meant she wouldn’t be asking for overpriced garbage food at the concession stand, which would require me to leave my coveted seat. We were seated for about five minutes when my wife expressed her growing itch for popcorn and a Diet Coke. I suppose you know that I (not she) ended up waiting in line and purchasing popcorn and a Diet Coke (happy wife, happy life).

After all the hoopla in the theatre ended and my wife’s request fulfilled, I was ready for this baby to start. A bonus in this whole affair was the fact the screening was in 3D. As the initial Paramount credit screen flashed I knew something was awry. I rhetorically asked my wife if the theater knew this was supposed to be 3D. The movie began and the green and pink muddled picture elicited a head shake from me and my wife’s inquisitions as to why she couldn’t see anything. The yells from the theater grew to a near chant of “fix the movie”. The best line I heard was, “So this is the free version?” Like clockwork I began questioning why God hated me so much. Thankfully on this night He granted me mercy. They fixed the movie within a few minutes and we were off and running.

First, I would not spend extra money to watch it in 3D. There simply was very little in the movie that was enhanced by 3D technology. I was concerned if Captain America could be translated from comics to the big screen and not come off as absolutely ridiculous. Well, they did a great job with this movie. I do, however, find it ironic that Captain America, who was created during wartime as an iconic patriotic hero who inspired national pride, was finally brought to the big screen in 2011 while we’re at the height of political correctness. This is the same 2011 where the title of this very movie had to be modified for overseas release to “The First Avenger”, dropping “Captain America” from the title. No more preaching.

Captain America was entertaining. The casting was excellent (men who admire beautiful women will not be let down by Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter…smoking hot). Tommy Lee Jones nearly stole the show with his performance. The well placed humor worked amazingly well. Stan Lee’s obligatory cameo was spot on with his one liner straight out of Roadhouse. They even poked fun at the comic book-esque Captain America costume. He got a bit of a makeover to make his character a bit more believable.

The movie was very much story driven as opposed to mindless action. It was about hope, honor, integrity, heart, loyalty, persistence, perseverance, love, patriotism, leadership, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. Bringing you back to WWII and watching the story unfold reminds us of the historical significance of that wartime era. I’m not even going to mention that taboo concept of American exceptionalism. Watch this movie and ask yourself if Steve Rogers resides in you. Don’t be like one moviegoer who said it was the stupidest effing movie she’d ever seen. For the love of God, let yourself be inspired.

When this movie ended my wife said this was her favorite superhero movie of the season. She said, “The message was so good” (happy wife, happy life). I hit a gold mine. Dinner was good, movie was good, and that always bodes well for me at home.

4 out of 5 Fish Whiskers


(Reel Rhino note…first off, great review Catfish. Secondly, there are only three countries dropping the title Captain America…Russia, Ukraine, and South Korea. No surprise there, and I do give Marvel studios credit, from a business perspective. Their goal is to sell tickets. Giving countries the option, will help them put more foreign butts in the seats. Also, China only shows 20 non-Chinese films a year…Cap didn’t make the cut, and I don’t think we can hold that against them. It is regardless in China, anyone will likely be able to pick up the bootleg on the streets for a few bucks, in a few days.)

I’ll be back soon with my own two cents on the film, and perhaps Friends with Benefits as well, aka NO STRINGS ATTACHED 2. And I am thinking double feature Sunday: Conan O’Brian Can’t Stop and Trollhunter, if I’m lucky.

Until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Reel Rhino Weekend Movie Update

So I have been jammed up with not as much time to post as I would is a taste of what I have been into...

Transformers: Dark of the Moon - 4 Horns
Ironclad - 4 Horns
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II: 4.5 Horns
The Zookeeper - 3 Horns
Cave of Forgotten Dreams - 4 Horns
Tree of Life - 4 Horns

Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Saw this again in IMAX and as great as the AMC ETX sounded, the digital 3-D IMAX looked much better.  My rating of 4 of 5 Horns stands.

Ironclad - This hidden gem played in only a handful of theaters compared to other summer releases.  Paul Giamatti plays the tyrannical King John and we meet him as he is signing the Magna Carta...that would be 1215 folks, thank you Ms. Spafford, social studies coming though big time here!  As the movie tells you in an intro voice over, we know that the Magna Carta was signed, but its what happened after that is rarely discussed.   John, allied with a foreign power, rode the English countryside with the intention of taking revenge on each of the barons who forced his hand signing the Magna Carta.  With the support of the church, if not for the Siege at Rochester Castle, the subject of the film, he may have succeeded.  During the battle, the soon to be ex-communicated Archbishop travels to France to seek the support of the French.  The question is: will he return soon enough?  If you want to know the answer, you have two options: 1) grab a history book or 2) see this movie.  The film is worth watching, so I vote for option 2. A 4 of 5 Horn rating on this medieval battle film.  PS: Lots of digital blood and bone crushing action.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II - I have read so much on this movie so far, I feel belaboring the issue will do good for no one.  It's a great movie, consistent with the production values and story that we have come to appreciate.  J.K. Rowling's rich continue to grow as HP7.2 has become the all time biggest weekend open ($168.5 million) after becoming the all time biggest midnight release ($92.1 million).  It's nice to be a part of history.  Personally, I liked Part I a hair better than Part II, but it is still a great filmic end to the saga of Harry Potter.  4.5 of 5 Horns.  PS: I was pretty excited to catch Part I on the big screen as a part of the famed opening night double feature.  For a few pictures of the festivities, check out my previous post on the affair.

The Zookeeper - So I get accused of being easily amused often enough I recognize it as a blessing and a curse.  The blessing: as a guy who likes pretty much everything I see, I can honestly say I rarely feel cheated of my hard earned movie cash.  The curse: when I tell someone I liked a movie, they take it with a greater grain of salt than when heading movie advice for other more critical critics.  The Zookeeper is a family friendly film that was completely passable as summer fun.  I am preferential to Kevin James as a leading man and if Reel Rhino had been blogging in the era of Paul Blart, I would have told you how much I enjoyed that film as well.  We are too expectant of Hangover-like gross-out laughs, when done right, are excellent.  But Eff-Bombs and dick jokes should not be mandatory for enjoyment of a comedy.  I enjoyed this film and feel comfortable giving it a 3 of 5 Horn rating.  It is meant to be silly and it is, which is why I call this film a success.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams - With every major release in the bucket (minus Winnie the Pooh), I had to venture to the art house I forgot my wallet and had to barter my way in $2 cheaper than the actual ticket price.  Thanks to that sympathetic ticket taker!!  Werner Herzog was given access to the Chauvet caves in Southern France, capturing on film the oldest known paintings in human history, dating back around 32000 years.  The footage bobbles back and forth between footage of the actual caves and standard talking heads, but the time spent in the cave is breathtaking.  Herzog filmed this in 3-D, but sadly I missed the far too brief run at the big house, and catching this at the art house meant seeing it projected digitally, but in flat ol' 2-D.  If this ever makes a return to the big screen in 3-D, I will be seeing it, and you should too.  A well-told narrative of the caves discovery and subsequent study, Herzog has created a very enjoyable film that is appropriate for all ages.  I am sure that this film will become standard viewing in high school World History classes and it is deservedly so.  See this film if you can.  4 of 5 Horns

The Tree of Life - Terrence Malick's fifth directorial feature in 38 years and every film he delivers is a gem.  This film is no different, but it is definitely not for everyone.  It is long at 2 hrs 19 minutes and unless you are into it, that is an eternity.  Especially when there is actually a 20 minute sequence in the film that depicts all of eternity...or at least from the creation of earth up through the existence of dinosaurs on earth.  It was about 4 minutes into this sequence that my theater had its first walkout.  But beyond the existential, this film tells the tale of a family in Texas in the 1950's.  Brad Pitt is the patriarch and he is raising his three boys with a stern demeanor.  We spend most of the film with the boys themselves, in particular Jack, the middle brother.  We witness the bond of these brothers but also the effect of living in a strict Christian household in Texas in the 50's.  Jack is a normal boy, who at the heart of the conflict of the film, seems troubled.  I think his behaviors are no different than most boys go through in their youth, taken to extremes.  This film won the coveted Palm d'Ore at Cannes this year, but that doesn't mean it's for you.  It touches heavily on spirituality and the nature of God in the lives of the devout.  How can God let bad things happen to good people?  It is quite a film, but please heed this piece of advice.  If you are feeling adventurous and sick of the same old brave...go see this film.  It is unlike any movie you have ever seen.  4 of 5 Horns

I'm going to try and catch a couple more flicks this week, so I'll report back when I can.  Only a few more days and we continue on with the Avengers saga with Captain America (see trailer below).  If you recall, I was not competely taken with Thor, so I hope that The First Avenger can spin up my excitement level and hold me over until next summer.  I am pretty stoked and as I sit hear and type, my background distraction is none other than Iron Man.  Tony Stark inspires my muse...okay, that's just weird.

Until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter in 5...4...3...2...1

I am at the double header of HP7 and there is a pretty electric atmosphere.  AMC is running a tight ship and things seem to be running pretty smoothly for the cluster that is afoot!  I have heard the early word from AMC staffers: this movie rocks!
I came and saw the movie Ironclad yesterday and the floor manager told me that people had already been asking about where they could wait in line.  This lady knows!  Wow, she was really excited for this.
Deathly Hallows Part I is first up and it did crack my top 10 last year, so I am in for a double treat!  Some of my work colleagues made the long trek up to my hood, but they are holding down the east wing in Theater 2 and I am resting comfortably in front of a guy already snoring (REALLY!?!) in the west wing's Theater 21.  Hi gang...I hope you liked it!
This just in: 4300 tixs sold for the midnight show at AMC!  What's 4300*10 at the low end (2-D) and *16 at the high end!  That's a lot of cheese!  200 tixs for the 3am already!

I'll check in again later, if I can.  Wands at the ready!

Reel Rhino with Matt aka Harry Potter
Since my initial post failed, I figured I would add: 
  • 400 3am tixs sold as of midnight.
  • At 7:00pm, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II became the #1 midnight release of all time.
  • Reel Rhino says: 4.5 of 5 Horns...see it!!!!

Post Update #2 since I am currently entrenched in the post-flick parking lot cluster.
The crowd waiting for the 3:00am was shockingly large and as mentioned, the parking lot is a zoo.  It is a party atmosphere and much of the hold up is because people are just not leaving.

I very much enjoyed Part II, but, I put it at just behind Part I.  With the year so young, I'll be surprised if this entry cracks my top 10 of 2011.  This was a fitting and very well-made end to this series and the crowd was thoroughly entertained.  This film continued with the high production values and high entertainment value of all of the previous films.  It was fun growing up with these kids.  While I will probably write more on this later, let me say that if you can, see this movie:
  • This weekend in a crowded theater with many HP fans.
  • On the largest, loudest, 3-D screen you can find.
  • Only after watching every film in the series will enhance your experience.

Traffic is clearing...I'm outta here...
Night night!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

2011 Part 1: The Best Of (So Far)

(REEL RHINO NOTE: There is far too little feedback on these posts…do one of two things for me PLEASE…in the comments section, post your top 3 films of 2011 OR post your #1 favorite movie of the year so far. Thanks!!)

So I got called into work yesterday, keeping me from two things:

1) Enjoying a nice family Saturday evening .
2) Seeing a movie.

Since I didn’t get to anything yesterday, Larry Crown stands as the last flick I have reviewed…that is unacceptable Rhino!

I do plan on seeing Horrible Bosses today and The Zookeeper at some point. Yes, Zookeeper has been getting raked over the coals, but I am a sucker for Kevin James in anything and since I am quite easy to entertain, I think I will like it. Paul Blart: Mall Cop is an exceptionally fun and family friendly movie. Not that I intentionally shoot for family friendly, but I think that they pulled off a great movie without getting remotely dirty, and that is something to be applauded.

Given that we are at the halfway point through the year, I have decided to offer my humble vision of the best of 2011 (so far). I will give you my top 5 and some honorable mentions and I will drop in some of my original reviews from the site. I give you:

2011: The Cinema World According to Reel Rhino
So this list is basically just my five and four and a half horn reviews. I hope this might help guide your rentals as these find their way to On-Demand and home video options, and for two of them, at least, a chance to see them in the theater when they are released later this year.  The "briefs" are excerpts from the reviews for each of these films...enjoy and LET ME KNOW YOUR TOP PICKS SO FAR!

“I absolutely loved this movie! It was made with the highest of production values and the city of New York is a palpable character in this film. Matt Damon is stellar (as always) and Emily Blunt is clearly established as one of Hollywood's finest young actresses. Don't agree with me? Go see this movie. Yes, it is high concept and it is full of rich characters with roots in the oldest of human literature. It is based on the short story "Adjustment Team" by a legend in Science Fiction, Phillip K. Dick. I have heard complaints that this is more a romance than a sci-fi, but I disagree. There is such thing as a romantic sci-fi…it is this film.”

“Win Win is an indie drama built around the spine of a sports film, loaded with comedic wit. I have never been a huge fan of Greco-Roman wrestling. Of course there was Vision Quest in the 1980's, but otherwise, when it came to wrestling, I was always more of a WWF guy. As far as the wrestling goes in this film, you will want more. The hunger that you have for a stronger ending to the wrestling story will be satiated by the resolution of the drama.”

“I’d like to say J.J. is a wunderkind director, but he’s been in the biz for over 20 years. In the 1980’s Abrams helped Steven Spielberg repair home movies he had made as a kid. That’s a pretty good break for a young wannabe filmmaker and this was just the first of Abrams/Spielberg interactions that would ultimately lead to this project. While Abrams calls Spielberg the Grandfather of Super 8; Spielberg maintains that Abrams could have travelled this road on his own. Super 8 is something of a Goonies meets E.T. alien adventure film, that is surrounded by all the mystery that both directors love.  Well Super 8 is loaded with mystery. For starters, the mystery of who the hell are these kid actors? If they were to remake the Goonies, I would vote these folks in. Elle Fanning is charming and a chip off the old family block and she is the only recognizable face in that crowd of younglings. Super 8 is pure adventure from start to finish.

Will Ferrell shines in an uncharacteristic dramatic role.  “This film is darker than I would have expected. There is less comedy and more drama than I would have expected. Folks, this is a great film. I would call it feel good, but only for the catharsis that you experience alongside Nick as he fights off his demons. Through Nick, we learn about life from his sequence of tragedy of errors, but never really to the point that we pity him, but instead mostly where we actually will root for him to succeed.”

“Hanna is not a perfect movie, but it is cool as can be. It may have released through an American studio, but with Wright at the helm and with the exotic locales, this flick has European sensibilities and I mean that as the greatest of compliment. The tone is darker and the overall look is more gritty than say SALT, by comparison, another spy thriller that I felt came off as very commercial. I will say that this film was greatly fueled by the COMPELLING original score from The Chemical Brothers. Yes, the Block Rockin' Beats, Chemical Brothers. It is just enough retro with lots of rockin' to fuel this jet forward in a big way. Single-handed, this score upped Hanna a full notch in my book.”
The Way Back (4.5 of 5 Horns) – A group of prisoners from a Siberian gulag escape and walk 4000 miles to freedom, travelling all the way to India, completely on foot….compelling AND TRUE. Peter Wier is one of the all-time great directors and the cast includes Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan, and another great Colin Farrell role…see also, In Bruges. Seriously, see In Bruges ASAP…a truly great film with a wonderful performance b y Farrell…Oscar nominated as well for In Bruges.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (5 of 5 Horns) – Maybe it was just Bieber-Fever, but I was enthralled by the life story of this young man. While it is filled with a variety of catchy tween-pop tunes, this movie is more documentary than musical and it delivers a wholly enjoyable tale.  We (myself included) get so down on the likes of Bieber, N'Sync, BSB, NKOTB, Miley Cyrus, etc., that we can often lose sight of the forest for the know, I never could figure that idiom out, but I do love saying it!

Cedar Rapids (4.5 of 5 Horns) – Ed Helms can carry a film, but having John C. Reilly, Sigourney Weaver, and Anne Heche along for the ride doesn’t hurt. This film is funny and sweet, but wholly an adult comedy.

Barney’s Version (4.5 of 5 Horns) – A well-made film weaving a well-told story. Paul Giamatti shines as the titular Barney and the air of mystery wrapped in something of a love story is both touching and edge-of-your-seat mysterious.

Battle: Los Angeles (4.5 of 5 Horns) – Vivid, action-packed, and for fleeting moments, touching. This movie would have been a fine summer blockbuster release. Aaron Eckhart is always entertaining.

Rango (4.5 of 5 Horns) – The anti-animation-animation, this movie is a spaghetti western for adults, presented as a kids film with Nickelodeon Studios release and all. An extremely unique film that was the vision of Wolfgang Peterson, a director who has brought you more films than you might imagine: Air Force One, Troy, Outbreak, Enemy Mine, and The Neverending Story, for a few highlights. Rango is bizarre, but a super-duper awesome bizarre.

These two films are yet to receive a wide theatrical release, but when they do, run…don’t walk, to the nearest theater and see them.

Red State (5 of 5 Horns) – Kevin Smith delivers in this thriller that is wholly mislabeled as a horror film. Yes, some of the characters are horrific, but this satirical look at the cult of the Westboro Baptist Church is both entertaining and well made. John Goodman and Michael Parks embody the term, Tour de Force. Coming to a theater near you, October 2011.

Attack The Block (4.5 of 5 Horns) – Joe Wright has created a unique film that fits snugly in the canon of Edgar Wright-like flicks (Wright is a producer on this), while existing on its own merit with a cast that resembles a cadre of hard core British Goonies. This played as a /Filmcast sponsored preview in cities across the US, and it will hopefully get a Fall 2011 release.

Also, there have been a number of movies I haven’t seen this year, that would be good to take in for the widespread critical acclaim they have garnered: (1) Meek’s Cutoff and (2) Tree of Life.

That’s all for now, folks…till later, take care!

Reel Rhino

Monday, July 4, 2011

Larry Crowne: A Reel Rhino Review

I caught a little grief for my Transformers review...but I stand strong as a uber-TF-fan and I ask for no forgiveness. I say there is nothing wrong with a film that plays to the teenager-tweenager in us, and while Transformers has some aspects that is geared towards mature, adult viewers, it was mainly is a fan-fricken-tastic nostalgic trip into the days of my youth. There is nothing wrong with that. Nothing. I will never ask for forgiveness for my indulgences and I stand by that my maturity as a filmgoer is beyond reproach.

So there. Nah nah nah nah nah neeeee nah.

Speaking of maturity as a filmgoer, how about that Larry Crowne. Tom Hanks...Julia Roberts...nothing screams adult audience, like Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts!!!

Larry Crowne is the second feature directorial effort from Tom Hanks. I think this movie very much falls into the category of a vanity project...Tom Hanks made this funny, all-around enjoyable film, just because he could. He co-wrote the flick with Nia Vardalos, who he formerly paired with in producing Vardalos's breakout hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I find Tom Hanks to be one of the all-time most watchable actors and this effort is no different, you see, as Hanks is both director and star of Larry Crowne.

And what is wrong with all of this? Absolutely nothing! I'll take all the Tom Hanks I can get.

Membership has its privileges as along for the ride here is Julia Roberts, who plays Mercy, ne Mercedes Tainot, the troubled Professor who leads the speech class that Larry enrolls in as he embarks on his new role as college freshman.

The message at the outset of the film is bleak: Larry, a Navy man, is laid off for not having a college degree preventing him from advancing through the ranks at the retail outlet where he is quite clearly the most proud and most knowledgeable employee in their ranks. Twenty years in the Navy...around the world in the school of hard knocks should count for something, but not so as otherwise we wouldn't have a flick.

Early on we have cameos from Dale Dye and Rob Riggles. Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji P. Henson have supporting roles as do Wilder Valderrama, Pam Grier, Bryan Cranston, a great part for George Takai, and a breakout performance by Larry's new college buddy, Talia, as played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Heck, even Vardalas has a cameo (in voice only), her hubby Ian Gomez, and Hanks' wife Rita Wilson show up. I bet this film was a blast to shoot!

Once Larry loses his job, we learn quickly that he is a divorcee, and with no job and no job prospects, he is in loads of trouble with his mortgage. Fortunately, he doesn't rally up some old Navy buddies and start robbing banks...that's an entirely different film altogether...maybe for Larry Crowne 2: The Revenge.

Larry doesn't fold...he enrolls in school and takes positive steps towards improving his future. The tone of the film is lighthearted and the message is positive. There is but one carefully placed F-bomb kept this flick well within the confines of a PG-13 rating, which is good because it is wholly enjoyable for just about any moviegoer.
At 99 minutes, this movies exists for just long enough to be a great time, then...cue credits.

The movie would be much more mundane with a lesser cast, but fortunately Hanks has plenty of friends in high places and fortunately also, we end up with the film that was delivered.

Crowne's adventure through a semester of college is steeped in many more ups than downs. The romance angle is subtle and the various bits through the movie play out as a well-written sequence of events that present a complete and enjoyable film.

With another cast, I may have given Larry Crowne a 3.5, but it was just such an enjoyable time in the theater, I couldn't help but bump up to a 4 of 5 Horn rating.

Check this flick won't be upset is you do. I promise, this is the anti-blockbuster summer flick loaded with a blockbuster cast. And it is further proof that I can refine my palate to more adult content, even if it is a load of fun.

Happy 4th of July to all those those in other parts of the world...Happy Monday.

Until later...take care!

Reel Rhino