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Red Eye keeps you awake

18 Jul


Actor Cillian Murphy’s physical appearance and soft voice allows him to portray a unique villain in director Wes Craven’s thriller, Red Eye. Craven understands most people are scared of flying to begin with and many are uncomfortable with strangers sitting next to them.  He combines these two anxieties and forces Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) to experience this claustrophobic nightmare when she sits next Jackson Rippner (Murphy) on a flight to Miami. At first, Craven fans are anticipating a standard horror film with something supernatural and terrifying about to happen at any moment, but audiences quickly realize they are in store for a much different flight. It is a compact thriller with a singleness of purpose that may let some people down because of high expectations and a formulaic ending, but with a running time of 85 minutes it kept my interest on McAdams and Murphy from take off to landing.


Adam’s Grade: B-

Chuck’s Grade: B-

Chronicle is a pleasant surprise

5 Jul


The title comes from the lead character’s (Andrew) pursuit of documenting his life with an HD camera. Everyday he is faced with bullies at school and at home, until me makes an unexpected discovery. Chronicle is another “found footage” film that could have been boring, but thanks to some fine performances by a young cast (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan and Michael Kelly) the film successfully entices audiences to care about the protagonist’s incredible story. Coupled with some fine CGI wizardry the approach helps keep the film from becoming contrived and predictable mess. Instead, it is a unique and surprising piece of science fiction. It certainly has its moments where the script begins to fail, but the characters new-found special abilities awaken audiences’ imaginations and keeps them memorized as to see where these powers will lead them.


Adam’s Grade: B-

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Any Given Sunday is a winner

3 Feb


In 1999, American Football was transitioning from the run the ball up the middle offenses to a more wide open passing game that featured speed on the outside and brutal hits across the middle, which made for great entertainment for popular audiences. Oliver Stone’s film, Any Given Sunday opens the locker room door to reveal a cast of football players and coaches that will go to any lengths to win the game of football. Like most of his films, Stone wants to communicate the social, cultural, and political underpinnings governing his characters’ choices. For the most part, he is successful because of the film’s cast and production value are top-notch, but at times it can be heavy handed. The camera work captures the speed and impact of the game while football fans are able to see some of the game’s legends (Lawrence Taylor) act alongside some veteran talent (Al Pacino, James Woods, and Dennis Quaid). Any Given Sunday is a winner.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: B-

The King’s Speech is nothing audiences haven’t seen or heard before

3 Dec


The King’s Speech is one of the most overrated films ever to win Best Picture. I was in shock that Black Swan or Inception did not walk away with the golden statue, but for some reason Hollywood is infatuated with the privilege class overcoming life’s obstacles because kings and queens are just more “important” subject material.  I recognize Colin Firth, Geoffery Rush, and Helen Bonham Carter gave outstanding performances, but the film as a whole does not deserve the industry’s highest accolade.

Like I said, the performances are wonderful and Firth is especially memorable as King George VI, but the film is unoriginal in its approach and its account of history was changed to create a more interesting story about the monarch coping with a speech impediment. In the end, The King’s Speech is nothing audiences haven’t seen or heard before.


Adam’s Grade: B-

Chuck’s Grade: B

Red Dawn inspires a remake

24 Nov

Wolverines!!!  This was the battle cry of every action movie adolescent during the mid 198os.  Actually, I still hear some older adolescents in their mid 30s and early 40s still saying it to each. I first saw Red Dawn on a summer weekend in Fort Ticonderoga, New York. I left that theater ready to defend my campsite if need be.  At the time, this cold war film featuring  a group of popular young actors sacrificing everything to defend its country was a fun action flick that turned the impossible into the probable for an hour and half.  Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell led their high school classmates in a guerrilla war resistance against Russian troops that had occupied their hometown.  In retrospect, the film encapsulates the cultural consciousness of the time period. Today, it is a cheesy action flick with some cool scenes and nostalgic actors that do a great job preserving America’s liberty and inspiring a remake.


Chuck’ Grade: In 1984; A+  In 2012; B

Adam’s Grade: B-

Gangs of New York cannot “preserve the order of things”

17 Nov

Martin Scorsese’s film, The Gangs of New York brings audiences back to 1860s when turmoil and change were happening on all fronts in America. A war was being fought in the South while immigrants from all nationalities were landing in New York City with dreams of hope and freedom. It is a beautifully shot movie that reveals the violent animosity between “native” Americans wanting to keep their city from falling in the hands of “non-native” immigrants, particularly the Irish Catholics.

Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns to Five Points to seek revenge for his father’s death many years earlier at the hands of Bill “The Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). The two leads, along with Brendan Gleeson give amazing performances that save this film from its obvious shortcomings. Mainly, the miscasting of Camereon Diaz and the film’s unexpected change in the story’s scope. Bill Cutting is my favorite all-time villain, but Day-Lewis cannot save the “film” from becoming just another “movie.”


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: B-

The Runaways gives a solid “performance”

15 Nov

Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning found time between their Twilight franchise shooting schedules to make this small film about the 1970s all girl Rock/Punk band, The Runaways.  The film focuses on the relationship between the iconic Joan Jett (Stewart) and the band’s singer, Cherie Currie. Although, the film documents the band’s rise in popularity, the writer and director, Floria Sigismondi is more interested in capturing a “coming of age” story about a young girl (Currie) having her dreams come true only to lose them through a series of destructive decisions that will ultimately lead to the band breaking up.

Sigismondi does a great job capturing the Los Angeles music scene through the film’s music, costumes, and unique characters, such as record producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), who brings comic relief to the movie, but at the same time shows the darker side of the music business. The Runaways gives a solid “performance” but it is not on my daily “playlist.”


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: B-

SAW but no one saw this coming

22 Oct

SAW is one of those rare indie horror films that found its way to mainstream audiences and stuck. This film not only created a multi-million dollar franchise from a paltry budget and brief shooting schedule, it opened the gates to a once unacceptable horror style that features sadistic and masochistic torture as its principal method of killing. A serial killer named Jigsaw decides to teach his victims about the value of life and the meaning of death by forcing them to take diabolical “tests” with one answer being bad and the other being even worse. The film gains momentum from these timed “trials” that usually have the victims inflicting pain on themselves in some horrific manner.

These films are too much for me, but I can appreciate something when it is done well, and SAW is done very well. Director James Wan delivers a great horror film that has to be considered one of genre’s all time bests.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: B-

9 is more than just a number

14 Oct

The number 9 is not your ordinary animated film of cute characters and a simple story. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of Frankenstein-like doll characters trying to survive in a world that seems to have loss all sense of humanity.  The characters look like something you would find if Tim Burton and Trent Reznor were hanging out for a spell.  Each number signifies the order, in which they were created with 9 (Elijah Wood) being the final creation.  The numbers all have different characteristics and talents that make it easy for an audience to discern. It reminded me of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory in action.

Director and co-writer Shane Acker’s rag doll character was first introduced in 2005 with his eleven minute short film. Four years later, Burton and Timur Bekmambetov help Acker bring these characters to life with an all star cast, Wood, Martin Landau, Christopher Plummer, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover and Jennifer Connelly. 9 is much more than a number.


Chuck’s Grade: A-

Adam’s Grade: B-

The Girl Next Door is the perfect neighbor

26 Sep

I first saw this movie on one of the late night cable channels. It was an unassuming film that had a young actor I recognized, but couldn’t remember his name. Like most late night flicks, I was committed to watching the film out of boredom, but then Elisha Cuthbert appears and the story begins to unfold. The film was much better than your average soph0moric teenage get laid high school movie because it teases audiences with its “naughty” scenes and keeps the story on track with its “nice” episodes.   Although, parts of the film reminded me of Risky Business, I thought it was one of the better teen movies I had seen. Emile Hirsch and Cuthbert have great chemistry together and  Hirsch’s sidekicks, Chris Marquette (Eli) and Paul Dano (Klitz)  provide the comic relief.  The film’s “climax” has a clever ending that keeps the movie a lot of fun. The Girl Next Door is the perfect neighbor.


Chuck’s grade: B+

Adam” grade: B-