Friday, April 26, 2013

Mud Review: A modern take on Huckleberry Finn with amazing performances and a surprising amount of heart

Dir. Jeff Nichols
131 Minutes
Rated  PG-13

MUD.  Despite having a title that will put general audiences off, Mud is the third feature film from director Jeff Nichols, who continues his string of low budget, deliberately paced Southern dramas with this little number that got a lot of buzz coming out of the Cannes Film Festival.  The eternally hunky Matthew McConaughey is also continuing his lucky streak from films like Magic Mike, Killer Joe, and Bernie with another incredible performance that I believe tops all those previous films.  The plot follows these two boys, Ellis and Neckbone (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland), who find an odd man named Mud (McConaughey) hiding in the woods, living in a boat lodged up high in a tree.  They develop a curious relationship with Mud and become friends.  But bounty hunters are on the lookout for him because he killed a man - a man that beat his girl, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), while pregnant with a baby.  So as you can imagine the stakes are high, and what envelops is a deeply layered, exciting coming-of-age tale that deals with love, family, and loyalty in a superbly acted and directed movie.  So go see it!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Oblivion Review: Puts the sci-fi genre in a blender, but tastes bland

Dir. Joseph Kosinski
126 Minutes
Rated PG-13

I can't say that Joseph Kosinski's name is something that gives me hope going into a movie.  Having directed the over-hyped TRON: Legacy, I wasn't exactly jumping up and down to see him cover the sci-fi genre again.  However, the name that did jump out at me in the credits list was cinematographer Claudio Miranda, who just recently won the Academy Award for Life of Pi's beautiful camera work (and also came close with Benjamin Button in 2008).  Plus, I still like Tom Cruise, and Ghost Protocol proved that he can still pull off great action.  And there was a cool spaceship that looked like a sperm.  So I still booked it to the theater to catch this one.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines Review: A daring drama that deals with the dark side of parenthood

Dir. Derek Cianfrance
140 Minutes
Rated R

A few years ago I caught a little indie movie called Blue Valentine while it was briefly in theaters, and I was introduced to two wonderful actors who I'd seen and heard before, but then skyrocketed to the top of my radar: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.  In Derek Cianfrance's follow-up to Blue Valentine, he's reunited with Gosling and adds in Bradley Cooper and a bunch of other recognizable faces (to me at least) for another great "actors" movie.  This is one of those films where a major plot twist happens early on, so I'll stay away from spoilers, but the gist is that Gosling is a pro motorcycle rider, separated from his ex-girlfriend (Eva Mendes), who finds out he has a kid.  Although he has no money, he wants to provide for his son, so he teams up with a back-alley auto mechanic and decides to rob some banks.  The rest I will consider spoilers, but Bradley Cooper plays a cop hot on his trail.

The Lords of Salem Review: Rob Zombie tries to be Kubrick, doesn't pull it off

Dir. Rob Zombie
101 Minutes
Rated R

(Sorry if this review is too vague!)

Besides the Halloween movies, which were just alright, I've pretty much loved everything Rob Zombie has ever done, music or otherwise.  His first two movies, House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel The Devil's Rejects are in my mind two of the scariest horror movies of recent memory, and introduced this gang of terrifying, and somehow likable, degenerates to the genre.  All the main cast members of the 'Firefly' family were amazing in their roles and should go down as one of the scariest horror families ever put to screen (I'd even rank it up there with the Sawyer family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre).  So, I was pumped before seeing this.  It was Rob going back to doing original movies (no remakes or sequels or any of that bullshit).  I'd kept up with all the news about the film as it was coming out, then an awesome trailer came out, and I got even more psyched.  How could this go wrong?  Rob Zombie given unlimited creative control, going back to his roots?  Sign me up.  Well, it pains me to say this as someone who will probably be a Rob Zombie follower until the guy croaks, but this is one of the worst things he's ever put out.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Trance Review: Danny Boyle wants to hypnotize you

Dir. Danny Boyle
101 Minutes
Rated R

Danny Boyle first came onto my radar with his brilliant take on the zombie genre (or rather, "infected" genre) with 28 Days Later.  Ever since I've been sure to catch every movie he makes, and seeing his evolution has been remarkable (I'd say having the honor of directing the opening ceremony for the London Olympic Games is a true testament to how reliable he is).  So Trance is the latest film to follow Boyle's latest string of hits, including 127 Hours and the Academy Award-sweeping Slumdog Millionaire.  It follows an art auctioneer, Simon (James McAvoy), who teams up with some gangsters - led by a tough guy named Franck (Vincent Cassel) - to steal a painting.  The only problem is that after a blow to the head during the heist, Simon forgets where he hid the thing, and problems arise... After torturing Simon leads nowhere, Franck enlists the help of a hypnotherapist, Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), to extract the memory from Simon's head and what follows is a web of intrigue, double-crossing, and a lot of confusion.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Evil Dead Review: A brainless, bloody gorefest that will test your limits

Dir. Fede Alvarez
92 Minutes
Rated R

(I saw this movie Friday on opening day, but I had a lot of crap to do for school that got in the way of writing my review.  Sorry to all none of you who are upset.)

In high school, horror movies were my life.  Horror posters covered the walls of my room, I looked forward to opening the grisly pages of Fangoria magazine every month, and I was addicted to buying whatever obscure, limited/special/ultimate/uncut/unrated edition DVD on Amazon I could afford.  I remember fondly buying the 'Book of the Dead' edition of Evil Dead 2, and paying a stupid amount for the out-of-print 'Boomstick' edition of Army of Darkness.  Being a sick and twisted teenager I couldn't get enough over-the-top gore and the Evil Dead movies satiated my appetite for bloodshed.  They were campy, gory, weird, but good-natured and fun.  Bruce Campbell brought a great slapstick sensibility to his character Ash, and Sam Raimi elevated the standard "cabin in the woods" storyline into an inventive, crazy, and in its own way "groundbreaking" trilogy of films.  But given the huge cult following Evil Dead has amassed over the years, a remake was inevitable.  There are so few horror series even left to remake, but with Raimi and Campbell behind it as producers, I remained cautiously optimistic.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

RIP Roger Ebert

Just some quick parting words...

At this point, I've been reviewing movies for almost six years.  In that time I've gained a lot of knowledge, and plan to continue shoving useless movie trivia into my head for the years to come.  I've also tried to get better at writing about movies and learning about movie criticism as a platform of expression all its own.  Roger Ebert, probably one of the most famous movie critics of all time, was always a go-to source on this movie-watching "journey" of mine.  Even if I didn't agree with his opinion, he always had something interesting to say, while balancing the line between scholarly analysis and fun speculation (especially if he hated a movie).

I know this blog is barely a speck in the Internet stratosphere, but I'm proud of it, and it was people like Roger Ebert that helped inspire me along the way.  Whether it was catching his show at some obscure hour of the day or going through his volumes of written reviews, I always felt his passion and knowledge shine through.  You will be missed sir.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Breakers Review: The beach, bikinis, and organized crime

Dir. Harmony Korine
92 Minutes
Rated R

Known for such controversial films as Kids and Gummo, Harmony Korine is no stranger to examining the dark side of American youth.  Spring Breakers stars 'Disney Channel' princesses Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, along with Ashley Benson and Korine's real-life wife Rachel, as a group of college girls who want nothing more than to escape their lives and party for spring break.  In order to get the travel money, the girls rob a diner with spray painted squirt guns and speed off for some real fun.  During their escapades they run into a gold-toothed rapper/hustler named "Alien" (James Franco), and the rest is a slippery downward slope to see how far these girls will sink to "have fun."

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