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Inside Man knows the right combination

29 Apr


What happens when director Spike Lee and producer Brian Grazer collaborate on a film? Actually, an entertaining bank heist film with a talented cast of veteran actors with pockets of Spike Lee’s signature style and commentary. Dalton Russel (Clive Owen) plans the perfect bank heist, but detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) is much smarter than he expected. Lee successfully negotiates all of the moving parts of the film in a way that makes audiences want to figure out who the inside man is in the robbery.  Everyone is a suspect and that is the beauty of the film, but there are times that the film takes unnecessary detours for a moment and the exit interviews with hostages do not do enough to satisfy an audience’s curiosity. Spike Lee’s Inside Man knows the right combination to making something more than a simple action film.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

28 Mar


It is ironic that Sidney Lumet’s final directing effort borrows from the phrase “May you be in heaven a full half-hour before the devil knows you’re dead” for its title because his contributions to film and television for the past sixty years have created some of the most memorable movies in contemporary Hollywood history. At 82 years young, Lumet directs one of his finest and important films in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

Two brothers rob their parent’s jewelry store.  Andy (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a businessman who’s also an embezzler and his brother Hank (Ethan Hawke), a deadbeat dad who owes his ex-wife child support. The brothers face serious consequences after the robbery doesn’t go as planned.

The story is edited in an episodic fashion that provide alternative perspectives for each character, as well as reveal more and more about these characters making such poor decisions. The actors are ferocious and Lumet’s fine craftsmanship makes this film unforgettable.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B+

A Single Man does not disappoint

14 Feb


Fashion designer Tom Ford’s adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel is a beautiful and breathtaking film that reveals the effects of grief.

Set in one day, George (Colin Firth), grieves over the loss of his longtime partner Jim (Matthew Goode). Unable to live another day without him, he plans to end this life. He reminisces about his life with Jim, and spends the day with various people including his friend Charlotte (Julianne Moore) and a student in his class Kenny (Nicholas Hoult). Depression and grief are two powerful emotions that can erase the feeling of hope for many people and Firth captures this condition with his magnificent performance.

Ford’s color palette is one of the noticeable triumphs from the director, not to mention his script and music selection. His storytelling is superb and he allows the actors to explore this difficult territory in way that few directors can without his cast going to far one way. A Single Man does not disappoint.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Ted is alive and well

31 Jan


At first, the idea to have an eight year old kid make a Christmas wish for his Teddy Bear to come alive is the dream of many children, but direct/writer Seth MacFarlane takes this idea and creates a mature comedy about a John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) thirty something guy that cannot get his life together because he spends too much time getting stoned with his talking and walking Teddy Bear (voice-Seth MacFarlane) while his girlfriend (Mila Kunis) is tired of her John going nowhere with his life. Most rational people are thinking this is not going to work, but MacFarlane must have made a Christmas wish because TED is a funny, laugh out loud film that entertains audiences and works on many different levels. Wahlberg and Kunis are great together and MacFarlane’s foul mouth Boston accent for TED is genius. There are some problems with the film’s third act, but most of it forgivable. Thankfully, TED is alive and well.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: C+

Beasts of the Southern Wild affects all five senses

12 Jan


At the beginning of the film, I found myself floating adrift with no idea where I was or why I was there. My conscience did not want to believe this beautiful and resourceful girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) was living in the Louisiana Bayou under such poverty-stricken conditions. The Beasts of the Southern Wild is easily the most thought provoking film of the year. At its core, it is about love and loss, but there are many layers to this story that an audience member can peel back and talk about forever. Director Benh Zeitlin does a masterful job creating this alternative world with an inexperienced cast and a set of creatures that divert audiences from brooding to long on the impending tragic sequence of events. Wallis performs beyond her years, while first time actor, Dwight Henry electrifies the screen as Hushpuppy’s unpredictable and unhealthy father. Beasts of the Southern Wild is an original film that affects all five senses.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Django Unchained is a saucy spaghetti western.

26 Dec


Honestly, it is difficult to determine whether Quentin Tarantino is making a bold artistic statement with his latest film, Django Unchained, or simply trying to see what he can get away with in Hollywood. This film takes place during America’s most shameful time period and there are moments when Tarantino addresses the gravity of the situation with great importance, but then there are other times you wonder what he is thinking. For the most part, the film is a success because Tarantino accomplishes everything he set out do, but I would not consider this film his best work by a longshot. Although, Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz have a great chemistry together and Leonardo DiCaprio rises to the occasion as an egotistical and diabolical slave owner, Tarantino’s “so-called” style gets in the way of the film when it comes to the ultra-violence because it really becomes distracting, and in my opinion hurts the film from meeting its full potential.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B+

Pump Up The Volume finds its listeners

18 Dec


Pump Up The Volume is a dark comedy about a teenager that starts a pirate radio station from his bedroom.  Mark Hunter aka Hard Harry (Christian Slater) anonymously broadcasts his show over the air to a couple of bored teenagers that find his channel, but as time goes by his programs become more controversial and the show begins to go “viral.” Adults become upset when they realize they are losing “control” of their kids and demand the mysterious dee-jay to be pulled from the air.

Director Allan Moyle reveals the frustrations teenagers experience when they try to express their voice in an adult dominated world that prefers to press the mute button. This film is not as dark, nor as successful as Heathers, but it resonates with young people. It found its footing in the VHS/DVD world and continues to entertain with its sharp wit, intelligent humor, and amazing soundtrack. Pump Up The Volume finds its listeners.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers takes a while to build

15 Dec


The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is almost as good as the first film, but for much different reasons. Director Peter Jackson honors each of the three storylines and its characters adventures, while at the same time introducing new characters. Jackson makes some tweaks to the book, which I think for the most part work, especially changing up Faramir’s character, but he also is confronted with some pacing problems with the King Theoden of Rohan and Treebeard of Fangorn forest. Both sequences seem to drag along after awhile.

The film’s main strength is the ground breaking special effects associated with Gollum and the climatic battle scene at Helm’s Deep. The execution of the CGI and the motion capture suit brings the film to another level of creativity, while the film’s ending keeps audiences at the edge of their seats.

The Two Towers takes a while to build, but in the end it sees the light.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Lost in Translation finds something

6 Dec


Sophia’s Coppola’s film, Lost in Translation captures the displacement of two American strangers trying to maneuver their way past the culture shock of not being comfortable and in control. An aging actor, Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and a beautiful young woman Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) find themselves connected by their moments of loneliness, dissatisfaction, and insomnia.  Coppola successfully introduces these two random people to each other at a Tokyo Hotel  where their unlikely connection will lead them to become a pair of cultural tourists that visit some of the more stereotypical parts of Japanese nightlife.

Murray’s subtle humor and Johansson’s subtle sex appeal combine to create the right amount of tension that lead audiences to experience an interesting, but temporary relationship. I was enthralled with both actors because they knew where the characters were and where they were going, even though we had no idea what was going to happen. Lost in Translation finds itself at the top of my list.


Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Killing Them Softly turns up the volume

4 Dec


I want to start by simply saying that I liked this film, but I know many people are going to hate this movie for a variety of reasons. Brad Pitt is a hitman hired to kill who is responsible for someone robbing a mob sanctioned card game. Killing Them Softly is not your ordinary gangster film. Director Andrew Dominik takes the genre and turns it on its head with a series of aesthetic choices that I thought were bold and original. Especially, the stylistic depictions of violence and drug use.

Dominic elects to include tracks from the Bush vs. Obama election throughout the movie to emphasize and identify America’s weakened condition. I did not mind the messages being communicated but their insertions were Brechtian in nature, which made it difficult to stay connected. I assume the director was trying to alienate his audiences on purpose, but I think the film would have been stronger with the volume turned down.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A