Friday, December 30, 2011

Melancholia (2011)

This is your brain on Melancholia.

     I'm not a fan of the films of Lars Von Trier. There. I said it. He is an amazingly talented artist with an absolute command of the visual language of cinema. I "get" it. I know that it's "cool" to like his films because of his use of symbolism, manipulation of the conventional narrative, and knack for conveying abstract emotions in an understandable way. I just can't get past his pacing. His films are so methodical and so well conceived that they feel three times as long as they actually are. It's like watching a top surgeon performing brain surgery. You see what he's doing, you understand it, you appreciate the complexity of his movements, you know that every motion will lead to something larger. It also takes goddamned forever. On top of this, you have the fact that every single one of Von Trier's films are excruciatingly dark and depressing. I simply don't enjoy witnessing the death of a human soul for what seems like six hours. With all of this said, and without contradicting a word of what you've just read, I honestly think Melancholia is among his better efforts and may even be his most widely accessible film to date.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Upcoming Sequel Alert!!! - Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Scared yet? Just wait. An iguana pops out in the end.
     With yet another sequel (Paranormal Activity 3) being released next week, I thought I would try something new. The week before a sequel is to be released I'll post a review of the previous installment in the series. Maybe this will help jog your memory or just bring you up to speed with a series you've missed a chapter of. This week the film is Paranormal Activity 2. This is a review I wrote right after seeing the film in the cinema. It's actually one of a group of reviews that inspired me to start up this site. Without further ado, Paranormal Activity 2:

     I like scary movies. Sure, they aren't always the most well-crafted films but they are often more than entertaining enough to get the job done. I thought the first Paranormal Activity was a classy and clever little film that earned it's big scares. It wasn't threatening to nab any major artistic awards, but it certainly hit more often than it missed. I went into Paranormal Activity 2 hoping to find more. More of what worked and less of what didn't. I can't say that I was completely disappointed, but I definitely was not impressed.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Drive (2011)

Yes, this picture is big. This is because it's one of the best movie posters ever made. This is a fact.

     Purely and simply, Drive is a love story to 70's and 80's Carsploitation action extravaganzas. It's a film that embraces the genre, warts and all, and packs it neatly into an art-house box. Nicholas Windig Refn's unique take on this type of film makes it play more like a slow-burning character study than a down and dirty crowd-pleaser. While this direction keeps Drive from being as easily accessible to mainstream audiences as the films it pays homage to, it still keeps the fast cars, gruff gangsters, helpless ingenues, cheesy synth-pop and all else needed to induce white-line fever. You just need to give the film time to seduce you. Drive is beautiful, violent, poetic, and brutal.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Friends With Benefits (2011)

     Smack in the middle of a summer without anything resembling a shortage of R-rated comedies, comes the meta chick-flick, Friends With Benefits. Since this genre has been all over the map, ranging everywhere from brilliant to hot garbage, one would be smart to be a little apprehensive going into this movie. Although just as formulaic and predictable as every romantic comedy, having the characters continually shout, "If this was a chick-flick (blank) would happen right now! Good thing we aren't in one of those lame movies! (WINK AT CAMERA)" while at the same time they are unabashedly doing (blank), makes it feel kind of fresh. This tactic saves the movie from collapsing in on itself and makes it an enjoyable rom-com, even if it is a little too self-aware.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

     Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the eighth movie, the second half of the seventh novel, in the series. Whew. With this final installment comes the end of one of the most financially successful franchises in the history of cinema. Since it is the second half of a story, one would reasonably assume this is where the "magic" hits the fan. That the whole film is the thrilling conclusion of the saga. In actuality, while it isn't a bad movie, it is lackluster and doesn't have nearly the same mystical thrill of any of the previous entries. In trying to be heavier and darker in tone it loses a good deal of it's fantastical qualities. (This review is Spoiler Heavy! Be warned)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Horrible Bosses (2011)

     On the surface, Horrible Bosses looks like a movie forged from the same wildly successful template as The Hangover. Upon deeper examination, however, you will still find that your first assumption was absolutely correct. Now the question is: "Why should I see it?". The simplest answer I can offer is that it's funny. Darkly funny. Not quite "Hahaha...Oh my god I'm a bad person" dark, but close enough to appease the demented while not alienating the more wholesome.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D (2011)

     Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the newest entry in Michael Bay's CGI robot battle franchise. But of course you already knew this...unless you've been under a rock for the past four years, in which case I'm glad to see you're well and back among the living. Anyway, the Transformers movies have each had their share of highs and lows, and I would never refer to them as "critical darlings", but they make fine mindless summer entertainment. T3 is two and a half hours of juvenile humor, fast cars, hot chicks, explosions, and disgruntled giant robots who vent their frustrations by causing the aforementioned explosions. It doesn't break the mold but it is clearly directed by a Michael Bay aware of (and affected by) the backlash against Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and therefore has a noticeably darker and heavier tone.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Green Lantern (2011)

You feelin' lucky, Hobbit? Take it.

     Since I'm not a professional film critic, I don't have the luxury of screening films before their national release. This also means that I have the option to read criticism for a film before I write about it. As this is one of the best ways to learn, I do take advantage of it every now and then. Most of the critics that I read on a regular basis I end up agreeing with the majority of the time. There are a few times every year, however, that a film comes out and bucks this trend. Green Lantern is one of these films.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Super 8 (2011)

     From the moment J.J. Abrams' Super 8 was announced there were no illusions as to what it was supposed to be. Super 8 was conceived and constructed to be a throwback to not just the summer blockbusters of the early 80's, but specifically to the early works of Steven Spielberg. On this level Super 8 is an overwhelming success. Abrams is clearly intimately familiar with these films, and loves them unabashedly. His film is the cinematic embodiment of nostalgia. The more time you spend with the film, however, the more you realize that nostalgia alone does not a good movie make. There is an eerie hollowness to Super 8 that keeps it from joining the ranks of the summer classics it so desperately wants to be.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

X-Men: First Class (2011)

     Going into X-Men: First Class I was afraid that I might already be coming down with a bad case of sequelitis. It's way too early in the "Summer of Sequels and Superheroes" to be suffering the effects already, but The Hangover 2 was carrying a particularly virulent strain of said disease. On top of that, the last two X-men movies could best be described as "the exact opposite of 'good'". So there I sat in the darkened theatre brainstorming awesome titles to use in my review (such as X-Men: Economy Class), when the film started to roll. Suddenly something weird happened. I found myself totally engrossed in a really good movie.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Hangover Part II (2011)

What is Zach doing? He's praying he's not really in this movie.
     I'm not bold enough to even try and bury the lead on this one. The Hangover Part II sucks. It is the worst movie I've seen so far this year, and there have been some real doozies. It is unfunny, unoriginal, and completely unworthy of your time and mine. It's like this: Yesterday, I got a bill from my student loan company. I had more fun paying that than I did watching The Hangover 2: Hungoverer.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

"Wait...did you say Vampire Mermaids?!"

     Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is one of my favorite summer blockbusters. I've loved that movie since the first time I saw it. Of the first two sequels it spawned, Dead Man's Chest was only a small step down but still immensely entertaining, while At World's End was overly confusing and slightly disappointing. Neither of these sequels were bad, but neither captured the magic of the first outing. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (henceforth referred to as POTC4) unfortunately continues this trend of diminishing returns.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bridesmaids (2011)

Seal Team Six

     Hard-edged, gross-out comedies used to rule the theatres. That is until film studios became obsessed with targeting a younger and younger audience. Movies like Animal House, Porky's, and Bachelor Party could never be made in this kiddie-friendly climate. R-rated comedies, until very recently, were considered a risk. Now, thanks in large part to the massive success of The Hangover, it is safe to say these raunchy romps are poised to come back in a big, bad way. Enter Bridesmaids. Don't be fooled by the title and the pretty pink dresses on the poster, guys. This is no fruity little chick flick. This movie earns it's "R" and redefines what female-driven comedies are capable of.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thor 3D (2011)


     The release of Thor this weekend officially kicks off the summer blockbuster season. Of all the titles that Marvel has released in recent years it is fair to say that Thor is one of the lesser known heroes. It also might be the hardest to translate into a cinematic form. In any other comic, the first movie would tell the hero's origin story. The story of Thor however, is totally different. Thor is a god. He doesn't gain his superpower, he is born with it. Trying to reshape Thor to fit more into this "origin story" mold that people are used to seeing causes the movie to feel hollow and unfulfilling, albeit beautifully designed.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fast Five (2011)

"You think you can steal MY movie!?"

     Fast Five is the fifth (sneaky isn't it?) installment in a film franchise that should have crashed and burned after the cheeseball second entry, appropriately titled: 2 Fast 2 Furious. At the least it should have been relegated to the darkest depths of straight-to-DVD hell. But the series survived, and actually started to grow a little. By the time the fifth movie in a series like this rolls out, they have to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas though, right? I mean, there is no way Fa5ter and Furiou5er could actually be a good movie. I have to say this assumption is dead wrong. Not only does Fast Five not suck, but it succeeds as a great action movie in it's own right.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Water For Elephants (2011)

     On the surface, Water For Elephants is a classically-made film. One part fantasy, one part adventure, and one part love story. It stars that young heartthrob kid from the Twilight movies (Robert Pattenson), that ingenue chick who won an Academy award for Best Actress, and that German guy who won Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of an evil Nazi in Inglourious Basterds. From the look of the trailer, it would seem none of them were really breaking type or hitting out of their wheelhouse. How the movie actually plays out, however, is something very different. Water For Elephants isn't a movie about following your heart or fighting against all odds to win the unending affections of your one true love. It is a movie about lust, sadness, and despair and the lengths to which a person will go fueled only by those base emotions.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Scre4m (2011)

     When the original Scream first hacked and slashed it's way onto the scene it was something new, fresh, and original. It was a horror movie poking fun at horror movies filled with a cast of characters totally familiar with all the tropes and traps of horror movies. It spawned a wave of self-referencial scary movies (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend) and changed how slasher films were constructed. That was 15 years ago. Kids who were still perplexed at the concept of walking and talking at the same time back then are now old enough to see Scream 4 in the theatre. Is the Scream franchise still bold enough to be relevant? The answer is a resounding, "Well, sort of".

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hanna (2011)

     Hanna is a movie that inhabits that limbo-like state between art cinema and commercial cinema. Plot-wise it is a very straightforward espionage thriller, much in the same vein as The Bourne Identity. The execution, however, is remarkably different and original. It's kind of like a sequel to Leon if Natalie Portman's character had actually trained to become an assassin and if that sequel was directed by a more narratively driven David Lynch. (Translation: Hanna is a teenager who kicks copious amounts of ass in a world that seems to be partially based in fantasy and partially based in reality.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Releases for 4/15

     After a barrage of new films each weekend since the beginning of March, this weekend sees only two wide releases. Rio seems poised to pick up the kiddie business from Hop, and the first Scream movie in 11 years is set to pick up the horror/comedy audience. It looks like a good weekend to plan for something else...but I'll let you know soon enough. Look for the Hanna review sometime tomorrow night.

     Anyone looking forward to the new Scream after so many years have passed?


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Source Code (2011)

      For me, one of the hallmarks of a great film is that you can get lost in it. You're not just entertained, forget you're broke, or distracted from the fact that your job sucks for two hours, but you forget you're even in a theatre watching a movie. It completely envelopes you for the duration of it's running time. You're actively involved in the narrative and feel like you have a stake in what happens. I hadn't seen a movie like this for quite a while...until I saw Source Code.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Insidious (2011)

     Insidious is the new horror film from Saw masterminds Leigh Whannell and James Wan. With that series they changed the face of modern American horror films, for better or worse. The "Torture Porn" movement those films ushered in is characterized by extreme graphic violence, copious amounts of blood and gore, and sociopathic human villains instead of fantastical or supernatural forces. The goal of this sub-genre is to shock and disgust rather than frighten. Insidious turns all of that on it's head. A throwback to the horror films of the 70's and 80's, Insidious is full of homages to the classic "haunted house" films of the era. Although it is ripe with genuine scares and laughs, Insidious ultimately succeeds in reminding the audience how much fun seeing a scary movie used to be instead of breathing new life into the genre.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New Releases for 4/8

     I'm currently working on reviews for both Insidious and Source Code, so tune in for those coming up shortly. (Unlike the review for Red Riding Hood, they actually will be posted.) Super isn't playing anywhere near here just yet...most independent and foreign films take a while to come around the area. So if  indie/foreign films are your thing don't get discouraged, I'm not ignoring them...they just might be a few weeks off.
     Now, about the new releases for the coming weekend. Even though there is a more-than-average amount of national releases, there is nothing really stand-out. Both Hannah and Your Highness look like they could be solidly entertaining, Arthur looks like it could actually be harmful to your intelligence, and the rest of the bunch are just fluff studios are dumping before the summer season kicks into gear.
     What do you think?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sucker Punch (2011)

     I'm a big fan of Zack Snyder. 300  was an excellent film and the effects still knock me out every time I watch it. I wasn't as crazy about The Watchmen, but that's because I really like the graphic novel. I think Snyder's version is the absolute best movie that could have been made out of that book, though. I'll even go so far as to say I loved his remake of  Dawn of the Dead. I know a lot of people hold the original in extremely high regard and I'll probably catch flak for digging it as much as I do. I needed to tell you all of this so you understand how hard it is for me to admit that Sucker Punch is a total mess. It's a beautiful mess, but a mess nonetheless.    

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Super New Poll Position!!

Instead of embedding the weekly poll in a post I'm just going to throw it up in the bar right on top of the normal posty place...but you can see that...yeah. The trailers for each film will be located over in the bar on the right-hand side...right under the Twitter and Facebook links (wink wink).
From now on the poll will be up every Sunday afternoon like clockwork.

This week you have a plethora of choices for great movies.
Choose wisely.


Monday, March 21, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

     Sometimes you're pretty sure you know what you're going to get before you walk into the theatre. From the trailers, The Lincoln Lawyer looks like a standard legal thriller with an oddly miscast Matthew McConaughey. I say oddly miscast because it didn't look at all like a movie about a surfer dude with a penchant for taking his shirt off, who inevitably gets the girl, loses her, then gets her again. What The Lincoln Lawyer (and McConaughey) proves is that you can't always judge a book by it's cover. Without a single surfing scene to be found, the film is smart, incredibly well-cast, and capably directed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Limitless (2011)

     Limitless is an ultra-stylistic thriller directed by Neil Burger. Don't feel bad that you don't recognize that name as there really was no reason to before this film. The only other movie he's made that has reached any kind of a mass audience is a somewhat forgettable flick about a magician called, The Illusionist. In many ways Limitless is also a film about magic, albeit in a completely different form. Burger manipulates the images, the story, and the audience with such style and flair he makes the film unstoppably entertaining, regardless of how flimsy the plot occasionally gets.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Release Poll For 3/18!

     I'm running a little behind on the review for Red Riding Hood. I should have that up within the next day or two, so keep on the lookout if you're interested in my take on that. (It was...colorful?)

Which New Releases are you curious about this weekend?

The Lincoln Lawyer
Win Win

Monday, March 14, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

     The feel of Battle: Los Angeles is exactly what it appears to be in the trailer: a mixture of Independence Day and Black Hawk Down. In every other aspect it is nothing like either of those films. It's far from an original concept, there are huge inconsistencies in both direction and structure, and most of the dialogue is clunky and expository at best. I guess you could say the film has it's flaws. With that said, what boggles my mind is that I not only don't hate the film, but I really like it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New Release Poll for 3/11/11

Here's the new poll. You don't have to sign up to use it, but if you like the site click the "follow" link to the left and sign in to keep up to date with I Am Cinephile. I've also posted links to trailers for each film below.

Which movie are you most interested in this coming weekend?

Battle: Los Angeles
Jane Eyre
Red Riding Hood
Mars Needs Moms

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rango (2011)

     It seems like recent animated films have been consistently of much higher quality than they used to be. They tell great stories, make the most of their huge budgets by turning out almost photo-real animation, and entertain people regardless of age. Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, and Despicable Me were all really good films. Not just good kid's movies, but real-deal good films. Rango is another movie that fits into that category.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

     Matt Damon has quickly become one of Hollywood's most prominent and consistently enjoyable actors. It doesn't seem to matter if he's a leading man (the Bourne trilogy) or if he's in a supporting role (True Grit), he just seems to have a knack for seeking out good movies. The Adjustmen Bureau is no exception.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New! Weekly Poll Added!

In order for me to get a better feeling for what movies I should put reviews up for I'll put up a poll every week.
Let me know what movies you're most looking forward to:

I know I don't have a huge audience yet...but I know I'm getting a good number of people stopping by the site. I know a lot of people don't want to leave comments or sign up for anything but the poll is totally anonymous and a way for you to have a say in the content on the site.

As always feel free to leave comments below and tell me why you want to see the movie you picked.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Drive Angry 3D (2011)

     You basically only need to know two things: '1.) Drive Angry is rated "R" by the MPAA for "strong brutal violence throughout, grisly images, graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language" 2.) The movie is about a man named Milton (Nicholas Cage) who breaks out of Hell to save a kidnapped family member. While this man is chasing down the kidnappers he is constantly being hunted by "The Accountant" (William Fichtner), whose sole purpose is to catch Milton and bring him back to, you know, Hell.' If you think these two things combined sound like a 50 gallon drum filled with bad-ass and lit on fire, then you really need to give Drive Angry a shot. It isn't a great movie but, then again, it isn't trying to be. What it is trying to be is fun, and it succeeds gloriously.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The King's Speech (2010)

     The King's Speech is a movie I was very much looking forward to seeing. I had already seen every other Best Picture nominee and this seemed poised to be held aloft with the rest of them. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are known for giving strong and confident performances. The biographical story sounded solid and interesting, and, having seen what Tom Hooper achieved with the John Adams miniseries, the film had a gifted "period" director. Knowing that The King's Speech had enough of the right ingredients to make a great film, it frustrates me that it was so incredibly mediocre.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Winter's Bone (2010)

     This weekend's releases look a little on the weak side so I figured I would go back and discuss another of my favorite movies from last year. Winter's Bone is essentially a film noir set deep in the Ozark Mountains. Like winter in the mountains, the film is cold and unrelenting. You won't have fun watching this movie and it won't make you feel good when it's over, but it tells a great story with well drawn and realistic characters. That isn't to say the film is completely humorless but it is good to be prepared for the dismal mood of Winters Bone.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

     Banksy is a notorious street artist from the United Kingdom. It isn't widely known who he is or even what he looks like but his work pops up on walls and buildings worldwide. Exit Through the Gift Shop is his first foray into the film world. The film is ostensibly a documentary about him and some of his fellow street artists originally conceived by a man named Thierry Guetta. What it actually is, in my opinion, is yet another work of subversive art by an elusive genius.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Fighter (2010)

     David O. Russel's The Fighter is an excellent movie and easily one of the best of 2010. It excels in spite of, and at the same time because of, the fact that it's told through conventional Hollywood narrative techniques. It is the story of how a man can overcome all obstacles if he has enough determination and heart. It never strays far from the “Rocky” formula, but threatens to beat that film at it's own game. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Rite (2011)

     This weekend I saw The Rite starring Anthony Hopkins. It's about a young priest (Colin O'Donoghue) who entered the seminary for the wrong reasons. If he drops out he owes the church bales of cash so he agrees to take a class on exorcism in Rome. Soon after he arrives he meets a weathered exorcist. Since this exorcist is played by Hopkins you can already start guessing how this story is going to unfold. (Hint: He isn't really known for playing lovable clowns.) What the title of the film should have been is The Wrong...get it? Anyway the movie was more forced, awkward, and disappointing than that joke.