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Prisoners won’t let you go

2 Oct

PRISONERS-FILM
The award season is quickly approaching and Prisoners sets the tone for early considerations. The Dover family (Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello) and Birch Family (Terrence Howard, Viola Davis) are facing every parent’s worst nightmare. Their daughters are missing, and as minutes turn to hours, panic and desperation engulf their emotions. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) searches for the girls, but his only lead is released due to lack of evidence. Keller Dover takes matters into his own hands.

Prisoners is a thriller that takes audiences through a gamut of emotions and doubt. Working with the gifted Roger Deakins, Director Denis Villeneuve creates a nightmare environment that sends shivers down audiences’ spines. The subject matter has a become a popular topic in horror/thriller films, but Prisoners attempts to do something much different. The cast is unbelievable with Jackman and Gyllenhaal leading the way. Even at a running time of 153 minutes, Prisoners holds you tight and will not let you go.

WORD COUNT: 158

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Zodiac is an elusive subject to capture

25 Sep

ZODIAC-FILM

Director David Fincher makes an attempt to capture the most elusive and mysterious figure in law enforcement history. He is no stranger to serial killers, but his interpretation of Zodiac by Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) gives audiences a front row seat to Graysmith’s obsession with the infamous case that terrorized Northern California and frustrated investigators for decades.

Fincher’s visual style and attention to detail are impeccable. He takes his time with the characters and attempts to replicate these events as accurately as possible from Graysmith’s perspective, but it does lead to a slow pace and a long run time. The cast is formidable, however, Gyllenhaal’s performance isn’t nearly as strong  as Mark Ruffalo as Detective Dave Toschi and Robert Downey Jr. as Paul Avery.  It is difficult to satisfy audiences with such an ending, but Fincher remains true to the story and keeps “Hollywood” out of it as much as possible.

WORD COUNT: 151

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B

The Dark Knight Rises, but only so high

30 Aug

THE-DARK-KNIGHT-RISES
Everything comes to an end in Christopher Nolan’s ambitious conclusion to his Batman Trilogy. Set eight years after The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a guilt-ridden recluse content with his tarnished reputation. A powerful, new villain, Bane (Tom Hardy) has a complex plan to destroy Gotham.

The Dark Knight Rises is a good film, but not a great film. Nolan tries to do too much with Bane. A “revolution” of convicts running around didn’t work well in the first film and it doesn’t work in this one either. Anne Hathaway as Catwoman was brilliantly played, but she became one of Nolan’s unnecessary moving parts, although she contribute in the end; she serves as Batman’s deus ex machina rather than something she can stick her claws in.  The expectations were unreasonably high for the third film, but it cannot be used as an excuse for some basic story problems. The Dark Knight Rises, but only so high.

WORD COUNT: 159

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade for IMAX: B+
Chuck’s Grade for Standard Screen: B-

The World’s End goes down like a good beer

26 Aug

AT-WORLDS-END

Fans of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz will enjoy the hilarious and heartfelt, The World’s End. It concludes the Cornetto Trilogy, which refers to the color and flavor of ice cream in the film. Obviously, very important stuff and I will have to get a triple scoop with each flavor because Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s third installment ends the trilogy on a high note.

Twenty years after a failed attempt of a pub crawl called the ‘Golden Mile’ – 12 pubs, 12 pints, Gary King (Pegg) drags his childhood friends along to complete the hedonistic task. Not even aliens will deter them from this great achievement.

I was impressed with the film’s ability to mix genres and still spend the time developing each of these characters. Unfortunately, I did feel overwhelmed at times with the story’s sci-fi/action sequences and ending, but with repeated viewings I am sure I will grow to appreciate it like a good beer.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Fruitvale Station is worth a visit

26 Jul

FRUITVALE-STATION

Director Ryan Coogler makes his feature length debut with a heartbreaking film about the story of a young man trying to turn his life around, but derailed from happening because of the tragic events that unfolded on New Year’s Day in 2009. Most people familiar with the incident have seen the YouTube videos of officer John Mehserle shooting Oscar at Fruitvale Station.

Coogler’s film with the same title casts Michael B. Jordan as Oscar and Octavia Spencer as his mother. Both powerful performances that help Coogler win the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.  It is a film with a purpose, but at times I think Coogler mishandles the story with foreshadowing, as well as his one-sided depiction of the victim. Fruitvale Station is an important piece of work from a young director attempting to connect, communicate, and understand the repressive state apparatuses and ideological conditions challenging young people today. It is a worth a visit.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Before Midnight

16 Jul

before-midnight-film

Before Midnight is the third installment in the unexpected but still wonderfully touching Before Trilogy. Just like in the first two films, writer/director Richard Linklater brings us back into the evolving love story that follows Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) vacationing in Greece, nine years since we last saw them in Before Sunset. The film explores a familiar territory for those dealing with teenagers and the dreaded mid-life crisis.

Linklater has a command of his script and guides his actors through the emotional landscape of unconditional love and loss. His approach reminds me of some of the best French cinema with long takes that allow scenes to play out in real-time. Hawke and Delpy performances add to the heighten sense of realism that is a welcomed change from domestic films obsessed with getting from scene to the next.

WORD COUNT: 141

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Life of Pi

6 Jun

LIFE-OF-PI-FILM

Ang Lee has done something most directors are incapable of doing. He took one of the popular and beloved books and turned it into an amazing film. The film, Life of Pi does the original source justice. Lee, similar to the story, makes the impossible believable with the use of adept computer effects that create the most life like beasts ever seen on the big screen while at the same time making sure the story stays at the forefront of the drama. He is simply the most diverse directer working today. Every project is another challenge he conquers. Lee is a tiger among young men and his film, Life of Pi makes everyone a believer in his Oscar award winning talent. If you are not, then you will be by the end of the film.

WORD COUNT: 135

Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: B+

Star Trek Into Darkness

21 May

star-trek

In 2009, J.J. Abrams’s vision of Star Trek revolutionized the sci-fi franchise for an audience much larger than its “Trekkies” faithful. His second attempt does not disappoint either group. Star Trek Into Darkness is filled with thrilling action driven by a story that goes warp speed to the point that spectators cannot help smile as the force of the film pushes heads back to take in the universe of amazing visuals.

Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is faced with a formidable enemy named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a terrorist within Starfleet who’s especially good as a villain. Kirk and the Enterprise crew must embark on a manhunt and be prepared to go where no man has gone before. The story is not completely original, but it is a blockbuster summer hit that will leave audiences wanting to beam up to Scottie and give him a high-five for taking them for one hell of a ride through the final frontier once again.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Iron Man (2008) is more American than Captain America himself

5 May

Iron_Man_1

The first installment of the Iron Man trilogy is the best of the Marvel Comic movies.  Director John Favreau uses the most successful ingredients of a Hollywood big budget action film and allows Robert Downey Jr.’s talent to command the attention.  Favreau does most of the exposition before the opening credit are over, which allows him to start the film off on a high note and never look back with a brisk pace that mixes humor, action, and romance together seamlessly. Downey Jr. portrayal of Tony Stark has audiences loving him by the time he mentions the Playboy twins and his note-worthy character flaws are not made into a life-threatening crisis like so many other films in this genre. His fun first, and serious second demeanor in his personal and professional life creates an identity that makes him more American than Captain America himself. Stark Industries and Marvel Cinematic Movies have a promising future with this stylish suit of armor.

WORD COUNT: 160

Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: B+

28 Days Later

15 Apr

28-days-later

Director Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later is an original zombie thriller that brings a human element to an apocalyptic-like situation. A group of animal activists release monkeys infected with a highly contagious virus that causes the host to lose all control. Quickly, the virus spreads across Great Britain and twenty-eight days later almost everyone is infected or dead. In 2002, Boyle’s interpretation of the infected humans changes the genre on its head and sprints its way into the horror fans’ imagination. The methodical slow-walking zombies of the past are virtually “dead” compared to Boyle’s ultra-aggressive zombies. 28 Days Later has spawned a number of imitations over the years, but nothing has matched the realistic approach Boyle gets from using hand-held cameras to invite audiences into the character’s environment as one of the final survivors. Cillian Murphy (Jim) high cheek bones and ice blue eyes are perfect fit and Boyle’s independent and international perspective creates a lean, mean film about human survival.

WORD COUNT: 158

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B