Jack the Giant Slayer

27 Feb

Jack the Giant Slayer

Grade: A

Release: March 1, 2013

Rated: PG-13

Run time: 114 minutes

Director: Bryan Singer

Starring: Nicholas Hoult
Eleanor Tomlinson
Stanley Tucci
Ewan McGregor
Ian McShane
Bill Nighy

I have to admit, I was a bit trepidatious about this movie. I love Jack the Giant Killer stories. They are some of my favorite myths. Part of me was really looking forward to seeing Jack the Giant Slayer and part of me was dreading it. I’ve seen some of Hollywood’s recent attempts to bring Fairy Tales to the big screen. What if it was awful?

As you probably guessed when you saw the grade I gave this film, Jack the Giant Slayer was a success. The story was fairly straightforward, but well done. All the basic elements were there – A boy named Jack, magic beans, giants… The writers gave all the elements their own twist, but stayed true to the genre.

The cast was well chosen most with a long list of credits to their name. Eleanor Tomlinson (Princess Isabelle) was the least experienced, but you could not tell from her performance and Nicholas Hoult (Jack) is going to be a name to watch for over the next few years. I loved him as R in Warm Bodies and I’m looking now forward to seeing where his career takes him.

Special effects, costumes, score… So far, this is my favorite movie of the year. I’m sure it will have some competition as the year goes on, but I suspect it will still be on my top 10 list come Christmas time.

Not Fade Away

21 Jan

Not Fade Away

Grade: D

Release: ??

Rated: R

Run time: 112 minutes

Director: David Chase

Starring:
John Magaro
Jack Houston
Will Brill
Dominique McElligott

This movie contains a great retrospective on how the sound of the 60’s came about and wonderful soundtrack. That’s what earned it a D. Plot and characters were both aimless and wandering. There is a story, but it takes too much work to hunt it down.

No Fade Away does attempt to show the generational rift, but does so in a way that manages to alienate the audience from both generations. Apparently what the writer remembers most for the 60’s (aside form the music) was that people used the word “fuck” a lot and spent most of their time smoking cigarettes and other substances.

This film was apparently released in France last June, but I’m still uncertain when it is scheduled to be released here in the U.S. If I were you I wouldn’t worry about it too much. If you like 60’s music, you are better off saving the money you would have spent on a movie ticket and using it to buy the soundtrack.

Promised Land

2 Jan

Promised Land

Grade: C+

Release: 1-04-2013

Rated: R

Run time: 130 minutes

Director: Gus Van Sant

Starring:
Matt Damon
Frances McDormand
Rosemarie DeWitt
John Krasinski
Hal Holbrook


Promised Land is definitely a message movie, but I’m not sure exactly what the message was supposed to be. I think it was supposed to be about putting down roots and taking care of things, the writer went to some effort to make sure that message showed up more than once, but it really didn’t feel like that was the heart of the movie.

Matt Damon plays an salesman for a gas company that wants to open up the area for fracking. Rather than just demonize fracking, the film makes an effort to show how it can effect the people of an impoverished small town, for both good and ill. The film does a great job of keeping a balance of opinion thought most of the story, I wish it had of done even half as good of a job explaining what fracking actually is.

The movie does capture the look and feel of a small farming town which are, unfortunately, slowly disappearing off the map. Perhaps save our heritage is part of the theme but, in the end, I think the movie is mostly about big companies against the individual. It isn’t wither or not what the companies are offering is good, it might be just what you need, it is about how it is marketed.

Overall it is an Okay, slice of life movie with some great performances by Matt Damon and the ever talented Frances McDormand.

Warm Bodies

31 Dec

Warm Bodies

Grade: A

Release: 02-01-2013

Rated: PG-13

Run time: 97 minutes

Director: Jonathan Levine

Starring: Nicholas Hoult
Teresa Palmer
John Malkovich
Rob Corddy
Angaleigh Tipton

 

I know zombies are popular right now, but truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan. The only reason I went to see Warm Bodies was because it was a slow week and I didn’t have any other screening passes. At least it looked like a comedy.

It was a comedy – a romantic comedy – about a zombie who falls in love with a girl. This could have gone wrong in so many ways that I can’t begin to count them all. The entire premise just screams “campy B-grade flick”, but it isn’t. It was actually one of the better written movies of the season and definitely the best zombie movie I’ve seen.

The movie is funny, touching and has just enough action to keep my adrenaline junky heart going. It is based on Isaac Marion’s book by the same name. I actually liked it enough that I am considering buying my first Zombie book… I am at least going to read the short prequel, Boarded Windows, Marion has on line. It’s a Christmas story.

Not only was the writing good, so was the acting, the sets, the make up and, as if that wasn’t enough, R (the zombie) was an audiophile and provided the movie with an amazing soundtrack. Yeah, if you had ask me last week if I would every be gushing about a zombie movie, I would have rolled my eyes at you and walked a way, but here I am. Warm Bodies will be hitting the theaters in February, so now you have something to look forward to for Valentines day.

Jack Reacher

21 Dec

Jack Reacher

Grade: B

Release: 12-21-2012

Rated: R

Run time: 130 minutes

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Starring:
Tom Cruise
Rosemund Pike
Richared Jenkins
David Oyelowo
Werner Herzog

 

This movie wasn’t quite what I expected. I thought it would mostly be an action flick.

There was some action – people fought, people ran, guns were fired – but, mostly, it was a crime thriller. Actually it was a fairly decent crime thriller, not entirely unpredictable, but they did mix it up some.

If you are in the mood for a crime movie, this isn’t a bad choice. It also seemed like a movie that won’t lose much if you choose to see it at home on DVD later.

On the Road

20 Dec

On the Road

Grade: B-

Release: 12-21-2012

Rated: R

Run time: 124 minutes

Director: Walter Salles

Starring: Garrett Hedlund
Sam Riley
Kristen Stewart
Kristen Dunst
Tom Sturridge

I’ll start with a confession – I never read the book. I was probably the only person in the theater who hadn’t and everyone had an opinion about On the Road before the first frame even hit the screen. One thing that was clear, love it or hate it, the book has made an impact on a lot of people. I’m not sure the film will do the same.

I thought the film was well done. The director (Salles – Motorcycle Diaries) really captured the look and feel of the era. The detail, the cinematography, the acting (Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund were excellent as Sal and Dean), the costumes – were all spot on. From what I understand Jose Rivera very accurately captured the feel of Jack Kerouac’s novel.

To me, the film was a bit long. I’m not sure where I would have cut it, but I was ready for it to end about 20 minutes before it did. I’m also not sure how the film is going to resonate with today’s youth. I do think those who loved Kerouac’s novel will enjoy the movie and in some ways, that is the most you can ask for from a film.

Since the settings and time period were, to me, one of the best parts of this film, I am looking forward to the documentary about Kerouac and the story behind On the Road that Salles worked on prior to and during the making of this movie.  It is supposed to be out next year.

Parental Guidance

18 Dec

Parental Guidance

Grade: B

Release: 12-25-2012

Rated: PG

Run time: 104 minutes

Director: Andy Fickman

Starring: Billy Chrystal
Bette Midler
Marisa Tormei
Tom Everett Scott

I showed up for this film at 10am on a Saturday… after about 5 hours sleep. That was the most sleep I had had in days. In other words – I was tired, cranky and NOT in the mood to be there. The film had a slow warm up – although, admittedly, it may just have been me – but 30 minutes in, I was laughing.

There isn’t any special wow moment I remember, no explosions or amazing special effects. This film is just a good solid comedy. It is well written and has a solid cast of actors. Most of the humor is laugh at life type, but there is bits included for all tastes – at touch of wit, a dash of slapstick, a side of sarcasm and even a bit of potty humor (not usually my taste, but this one managed to catch me in a half wince, half laugh, omgosh I can’t believe I laughed at that moment.)

I’m not ready to run out and buy the DVD the minute it hits the stores, but I did leave the theater in a better mood than I went in and if some one were to drag me to see this movie again when it hits the theaters this Christmas, I wouldn’t be screaming. That’s good for a B – which coincidently stands for Bette, who did find a reason to sing among the chaos.