Archive | Chuck’s Grade: A- RSS feed for this section

Into the Wild captures the spirit

16 Aug


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.


Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-

Table 7 (short film) is made to order

13 Jul


Writer/Director Marko Slavnic and co-director Andrew McDonald take the tension created from argument between two lovers in a Chinese restaurant and transform it into a mysterious conversation that keeps viewers guessing to the very end. I am not going to reveal anything because this is a must watch short that challenges your archetypes. One moment it is a domestic drama, and then the next moment is it espionage. Who are these people having this disagreement? Why are they important? What is going to happen to them? All of these questions will flood your mind as you watch these short film unfold and reveal itself. A conversation needs someone to talk and another to listen, but Slavnic and McDonald take this idea to another level. Needless to say, I feel very fortunate to know the truth.


Chuck’s Grade: A-

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Memorize (short film) the story and not the cast

6 Jul


Eric Ramberg and Jimmy Eriksson came up with a great concept for a sci-fi action short. In 2027, everyone is implanted with a memory chip that records everything a person’s sees and does. A special unit of police called the Special Surveillance Unit (SSU) regulate the system and catch criminals by reading the chips. The film opens in the middle of a chase between a SSU officer and a suspect. He moves from one suspect to the next by immobilizing them and reading their memories. There is a bunch of gunfire and video-game like violence which is cool, but the cast lacks presence and charisma. Obviously, the film was on a limited budget and some of the shots could be more stylized, but Ramberg and Eriksson did a lot more with less compared to seasoned directors with a larger budgets. Memorize the story and not the cast because I believe it will become a full-length feature in the near future.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A


20 May


Kate Beckinsale single-handedly brings style and sexy back to a vampire genre that had become as cold and lifeless as its character. Selene (Beckinsale) is a Death Dealer assigned to hunt down Lycans, (werewolves) the mortal enemies of the Vampire clans that live in secret amongst humans. Screenwriter Danny McBride and director Len Wiseman new and interesting interpretations of these Gothic characters create a new hybrid-breed of fans because they mix horror, mystery, and science fiction together, but it is Beckinsale’s timeless beauty and killer instincts that attract audiences to this blood feud. The Lycans believe they can defeat the vampires with the blood of Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). Underworld’s story matches its style, but I must admit I was very disappointed with the film’s much-anticipated climax.


Chuck’s Grade: A-

Adam’s Grade: C+

Jurassic Park

11 Apr


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.


Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-

Silent Beats (short film) taps into something great

30 Mar


In 2001, director Jon Chu’s taps into something great with a five-minute short film that takes on racism and people’s stereotypical assumptions about one another.  Silent Beats is a low-budget (400 dollars) black and white student film that mostly takes place in an Asian owned convenience store. The main character is a young African-American boy that enters the store to pick up a couple of things. The Asian store owner and an elderly Caucasian women profile him while the young man, also has his own set of preconceived notions about these two adult characters. The subtext is powerful and throughout the film the sound of a tap dancer is heard. This auditory effect is the backbone of the film and the creative force that lifts the performances to another level. Silent Beats is only the prelude to Chu’s affinity for dance oriented projects that I have come to appreciate for his ability to capture the passion of contemporary dance on film.


Chuck’s Grade: A-

Adam’s Grade: A-

The Sessions is a love poem for living life

24 Mar


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.


Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-

Sin City is a nice place to visit

22 Mar


Robert Rodriguez realizes Frank Miller’s dark and violent world of Sin City with a visually exciting film that truly captures the graphic novel’s aesthetic strengths. The combination of modern cinema technology and film noir storytelling successfully entertains audiences, even though at times the violence can be excessive for those unfamiliar with Miller and Rodriguez’s tastes.

The script integrates three storylines from the novel. First, “The Hard Goodbye”, where Marv (Mickey Rourke), muscular outcast looking for the person responsible for killing his true love Goldie. Second, “The Big Fat Kill”, where Dwight (Clive Owen), a man who takes the law into his own hands against the city’s corrupt law enforcement. Lastly, “That Yellow Bastard”, where Officer Hartigan (Bruce Willis), a cop who risks his life to protect Nancy (Jessica Alba) from a pedophile (Nick Stahl). All three stories are engaging and the actors green screen performances are top-notch.

Sin City is nice to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.


Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-

Side Effects is just what the doctor ordered

7 Feb


This is reportedly Steven Soderbergh’s last feature film, but I hope he changes his mind because Side Effects is a complex psychological thriller that satisfies audiences with a great story filled with plot twists and suspense.

Emily (Rooney Mara), is suffering from depression and anxiety. Her husband Martin (Channing Tatum), was recently released from prison after being caught for insider trading. After a suicide attempt, Emily begins seeing Dr. Banks (Jude Law), a psychiatrist who prescribes her a new antidepressant called Ablixa with the help of Emily’s former psychiatrist Dr. Seibert (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Ablixa begins giving Emily some side effects that cause erratic behavior.

Writer Scott Z. Burns, creates a Hitchcock-like thriller that grabs hold of audiences from the beginning to the end. Mara is the perfect actress for this role while Tatum and Law continue to deliver solid performances, which are amplified by Soderbergh’s visual style. Side Effects is just what the doctor ordered.


Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-

A Fish Called Wanda is a killer funny comedy

4 Feb


A Fish Called Wanda is a screwball comedy with its share of memorable lines and goofy characters that rewards audiences with an hour a half of gut-busting humor. It was written by Monty Python alum John Cleese and director Charles Critchon whose collaboration creates a clever comedy about a group of inept jewel thieves that find themselves going to any lengths to find the stash a diamonds. There hasn’t been a heist film this funny since Peter Seller donned the overcoat and hat as Inspector Jacques Clouseau in The Pink Panther (1963).

Jamie Lee Curtis (Wanda) stars in the title’s leading role, but Kevin Kline (Otto) steals the spotlight and the film with a hilarious performance as Wanda’s boyfriend who is an Anglophobe that fancies himself as an intellectual.  Throw in a thief,  Ken (Michael Palin) who is an animal lover with a bad stutter and you get a Ki-Ki-Ki-Killer funny comedy.


Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-