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Rush is exhilarating from start to finish

3 Oct

RUSH-2013-film

Director Ron Howard is back in the driver seat with both hands on the steering will his adrenaline fueled film, Rush. Based on the true story of the Formula 1 racing rivalry between English playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian professional Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). The film reveals their contrasting personalities and styles, as well as their obsession for becoming world champions.

Howard teams up with writer Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) who is becoming a master at creating dynamic relationships between opposing character rivals. It truly is the driving force that gets everything going.

Howard put together the perfect vehicle this time. A thrilling score by Hans Zimmers and expert camerawork by Anthony Dod Mantle. Equally important is Hemsworth’s acting. He is maturing into something much more than eye candy and muscles. However, Bruhl’s steals the checker flag and finishes off with a signature performance. Rush is full of life, color, risk and it is exhilarating from start to finish.

WORD COUNT: 159

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Requiem for a Dream is a hard truth

24 Sep

REQUIEM-FOR-A-DREAM

Requiem for a Dream consumes your mind, body and soul like a drug and holds onto to you after the final credits are over. Your skin feels like something is crawling on you, but nothing is there. It is one of the most powerful films ever. Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Hubert Selby’s novel follows the lives of four different people, Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), her son Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). The film explores the direct and indirect effects drugs have on each of them and reveals their blossoming hopes turn into a state of moral and physical helplessness.

Editor Jay Rabinowitz perfects Aronofsky’s hip-hop editing technique. The drug scenes are ground-breaking and the downward spirals of each character is a gut wrenching experience that stays with you forever. Everyone in the cast gives powerful performances, especially Burstyn and Leto whose addictions are scary reminders of the hard truth.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Batman Begins an amazing franchise of films

28 Aug

BATMAN-BEGINS

Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the Batman character has replaced most audiences’ perception of the caped crusader. Thank goodness because I am tired of campy television references and Tim Burton’s expressionist take on the masked vigilante. Nolan’s first installment provides the origin of Batman and Bruce Wayne’s reluctant journey back to Gotham City. Christian Bale is ideal for the part and the film’s antagonists Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow) and Liam Neeson (Henri Ducard) are equally up to the task. The Scarecrow scares audiences with his ghoulish demeanor while Ducard’s cold-blooded crusade are formidable tactics that keep the film from falling into a one-note action flick. Batman is known for his utility belt and Batmobile. Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) provides the eye-catching vehicles and gadgets that raise the level of action to new heights for a comic-book film. Nolan creates a realistic superhero with human flaws and weaknesses that audiences can’t get enough of. Batman Begins an amazing franchise of films.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: A-

Into the Wild captures the spirit

16 Aug

INTO-THE-WILD

Sean Penn waited nearly a decade to make the  film about a driven young man’s desire to abandon his comfortable, civilized world and embark on an adventure that would lead him to the Alaskan wilderness. Into the Wild is based on Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction novel about the inspiring, but tragic story of Christopher McCandless. Penn assembles a thought-provoking film filled with refreshing messages about life, passion, and the pursuit of happiness.

The film intermingled a narrative that can become tedious and the 148 minute run time should have been addressed, but there is no denying Emile Hirsch’s hauntingly powerful performance as Christopher. It keeps the film engaging and on a personal level. His journey of self-realization is unforgettable and his decisions become a topic of debate concerning liberation and destruction. Love it or hate it, the film captures the life and death of young man trying to live life on his terms.

WORD COUNT: 151

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-

The Truman Show is the master template for popular entertainment today

1 Aug

THE-TRUMAN-SHOW

The Truman Show is easily one of the most original ideas to emerge from Hollywood in the late 1990s. At the time, reality TV and manufactured amateur celebrities were in its infancy stages. Fifteen years later, the film’s subject material remains relevant because of the public’s obsession with watching this form of entertainment. Society has not degenerated to the level of The Truman Show’s unethical decision to buy the rights of a newborn child to unknowingly serve as the central character in a fake world of scripted characters and controlled events 24 hours a day. It is the perfect combination of soap opera melodrama, reality, and movie magic that will become the master template for popular entertainment today.

Writer Andrew Niccol’s brilliant multi-layered script is funny, dramatic, dark, and intelligent. Ed Harris (Christof) portrayal of a producer/director’s “ends justifies the means” position is powerful while Jim Carrey finally finds a role that allows him to demonstrate his range as an artist.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A

This Is The End

12 Jun

This-Is-the-End

Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg have created a comedy/horror that is over the top hilarity from beginning to end. The film features James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson trapped in Franco’s house after Los Angeles experiences a series of devastating events. In the end, the group must face the true meaning of friendship when things become dire.

While the story isn’t the greatest, it works because all of the actors and star cameos look like they are having the time of their lives playing fictional versions of themselves. Rogen and Goldberg do a fine job at mixing in the horror with the comedy, and while not every joke lands, they will still have you laughing until it hurts. There a couple slow moments which justifies the A minus rating, but This Is The End is the funniest movie of the year.

WORD COUNT: 151

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

(500) Days of Summer

17 Apr

500-days-of-summer

Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber create an original romantic comedy that is not a love story, but a story about love. The familiar tale of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, and girl breaks up with boy for no reason and boy loses it. The indie hit (500) Days of Summer employs a nonlinear approach to capture those moments we want to remember and the others we cannot forget. The film jumps from Day 108 to Day 7 seamlessly because it doesn’t need to show us everyday; just the important ones. Director Marc Webb has a knack for the letting the story unfold while watching the relationship soar only to unravel at the same time.

The levity generated from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel’s performances is a match made in heaven. Their chemistry together makes them one of the iconic couples of the 21st century. I would love to see a 500 Days of Autumn.

WORD COUNT: 156

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A

Jurassic Park

11 Apr

JURASSIC-PARK

Once again, Steven Spielberg changed the cinematic experience by bringing  old and  young audiences together to witness the ground-breaking special effects created to bring Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park dinosaurs to life. I remember the original King Kong fighting and killing a T-Rex. At the time, it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen, and in 1993 many young people share that same feeling when they saw their generation’s T-Rex.   John Hammond (Attenborough), creates a theme park on a remote island that feature living dinosaurs spawned from prehistoric DNA. Before opening the attraction, he invites a paleontologist (Neil), paleobotanist (Dern), a mathematician/theorist (Goldblum) and his two grandchildren to visit the park. During their visit, the security system fails and the dinosaurs are free.

Though the story lacks developed characters and the absurdity of the security system is far-fetched, no one can deny the impact that it had on revolutionizing CGI technology. Jurassic Park is adventure and suspense at its finest.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-

Black Swan is perfect

1 Apr

BLACK-SWAN

Director Darren Aronofsky exploration into the world of ballet has more going on than rival dancers vying for the lead role in Swan Lake. This psychological thriller introduces us to Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballerina given the opportunity to play the dual role of the Swan Queen. She is ideal for the White Swan, but struggles with the sensuality and emotion needed to become the Black Swan. She is confronted with the possibility of losing the role to Lily (Mila Kunis), an uninhibited ballerina that fits nicely in the darker role. Nina’s is willing to do anything to become the principal dancer, but her pursuit for perfection begins to take its toll.

Aronofsky’s ability to tell stories about single-minded characters’ is unmatched. Their desires and obsessions lead to moments of ecstasy, but their passions lead to their demise. Nina is no different and Portman’s portrayal in the Black Swan is perfect. She was deserving of her Best Actress Academy Award.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A+

The Sessions is a love poem for living life

24 Mar

THE-SESSIONS

The Sessions was one of the best film of 2012. I am still smarting from Helen Hunt not winning best supporting actress honors and John Hawkes brave performance being ignored all together. Writer/Director Ben Lewis adapts Mark O’Brien autobiographical account of hiring a sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity because of paralysis contracted from polio when he was a child.

Sensing he might be nearing death, Mark O’Brien (Hawkes), seeks consultation and receives permission from Priest Brendan (William H. Macy) to contract Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Hunt). This powerful film is more than a person experiencing a physical act. It is a journey that ends up being surprisingly funny, and inspiring because it deals with sex on a mature level and reveals the moments of manhood that most people do not appreciate at the time. Audiences can be critical of Macy’s character, but this film is about O’Brien and his love poem for living life than dogma.

WORD COUNT: 156

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-