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Project X is a waste of time

3 Jul


Project X has become the most recent target of my criticism because this vulgar, mean-spirited, disgusting and not very funny film fails on so many levels that I warn everyone to save their 90 minutes and watch something else, even a Pauly Shore movie is better. I am still perplexed to how Michael Bacall of 21 Jump Street and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World could write such a poor script.

Three high school seniors with no reputation throw a birthday party for Thomas (Thomas Mann) with the hopes of making a name for themselves. Costa (Oliver Cooper) begins to advertise their party through social networking sites and quickly the party and the film begins to spiral out of control. This “found footage” flick lacks credibility and by the time the flame thrower appears I want to pass out.

One good thing, Project X did want me to throw a party to show these three stooges how it is done.


Adam’s Grade: D

Chuck’s Grade: N/A


2 Jul


Silence can be unsettling for some people, but Gus Van Sant uses the technique to unnerve audiences with the second film in his “Death Trilogy” series. Elephant is an original work based on actual events stemming from the 1999 Columbine High School Massacre. The film opens a short time before a pair of average teenage students open fire on their classmates. Van Sant strips away the sensationalism and stylized approach to death on-screen to force audiences to experience the ultra-realistic moments of taking a life and the emotionless demeanor of the killers.  He uses long takes, POV camera work, and natural lighting to capture this cast of new and non-professional actors in a way very few directors would have the guts to venture. Van Sant aesthetic choices may infuriate some people because it is an upsetting film without real closure, but these kinds of tragedies do exist and it is the artists responsibility to try to make sense of the senseless.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: B

Shaun of the Dead kills you with laughs

25 Jun


Shaun of the Dead is the first entry of the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy created by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, with the other films being Hot Fuzz and the upcoming The World’s End. Shaun (Pegg) is an Everyman character that is trying to get his life back on track when flesh-hungry zombies start to rise in numbers around modern-day London. He must spring into action and come to the rescue by holding up in what he believes is the safest place during a zombie invasion… a pub.

Shaun of the Dead works as a parody of the classic zombie films because they do it out of love for the genre. They provide enough blood for die-hard Zombie fans (pun intended) and enough humor for those that want to enjoy a comedy. The writing is crisp, hilarious, and very English as they keep the pace brisk, even with slow moving hands out stretched Zombies.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: B

Young Frankenstein is a much different monster

20 Jun


Rarely can parodies transfer meaning from one generation to the next, but director Mel Brooks with the help of comedic actor Gene Wilder create one of the funniest films of all time. The 1974 film, Young Frankenstein balances satire with originality to transform the 1931 Universal classic horror film into a much different monster that makes audience laugh until hurts.

Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson (Wilder) inherits his grandfather’s castle begins conducting experiments with the help of his lab assistants Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr). The next thing you know, Dr. Frankenstein is screaming, “It’s alive!” and the creature (Peter Boyle) with the abnormal brain escapes.

Brooks and Wilder understand how to bring a good story back from the dead. Their attention to detail and their passion for the project separates them from the long list of ordinary comedic artists. Brook’s characters become part of pop culture and the film remains relevant to audiences forty years later.


Adam’s Grade: A+

Chuck’s Grade: A

Toy Story 2 is kept near and dear

10 Jun


Toy Story 2 is one of those rare films where the sequel is equal to or better than the original. Pixar develops the Woody (Tom Hanks) character into Gary Cooper like hero that resonates with young and old audiences. They also expand Buzz Lightyear’s role (Tim Allen) turn him into a larger than life hero.  Toy Story 2 is more than a visual exploration of computer animation. It is a film that entertains a set of serious ideas rooted in the importance of loyalty and friendship. The second installment brings back all of the original characters, as well as some new ones that will expand upon the film’s humor in a way that balances its sharp wit with physical humor. Audiences are treated to Pixar’s toy box and leave feeling good about those special toys that everyone kept near and dear as a child.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai honors its director

9 Jun


Writer/director Jim Jarmusch puts together his most mainstream film to date when he explores the idea of a man living by a code.  Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is a film about an African-American hit man named Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) contracted by the mafia to assassinate special targets that cannot be traced back to the mobsters. He lives by a code modeled after Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai, a strict lifestyle that promoted an honorable, but humble life dedicated to carrying out his chosen master’s orders. Jarmusch inserts passages from the book throughout the movie that helps frame the story and its ideas. Whitaker embodies this role and convinces audiences of this character’s unusual choices. He makes it difficult to see anyone else playing this part, which demonstrates the singular commitment of the code. Whitaker is a modern day samurai/actor that really serves his director with great honor.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Chasing Mavericks rides a positive wave

26 May


Rarely does a Hollywood “Based on a True Story” movie get it right, but the film about surf legends Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) and Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) rides the perfect wave into people’s hearts. It does not matter if you have never surfed or have never heard of them. Chasing Mavericks is more than your average surfer movie. It is a story filled with meaningful relationships that support a young man’s quest to achieve the improbable. Moriarity looks to Hesson as a father figure and dedicates himself to a strict regimen that most kids his age would give up after the first day. His passion for surfing and his love for his mother (Elisabeth Shue), his best friend (Devin Crittenden) and the girl of his dreams (Leven Rambin) make the perfect script for audiences to get behind. The surfing is amazing, but Butler’s performance serves as the pillar holding this film up as one the best of 2012.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Silver Linings Playbook scores

24 May


After a brief stint in a mental institution, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) moves back in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) to reconcile with his wife. Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who has her own issues, but agrees to deliver a message to his estranged wife if he agrees to her conditions. As their friendship grows, it seems that a silver lining starts to grow in each other’s lives.

Writer/Director David O. Russell captures all of the right emotions, and although the story seems overwhelming at the beginning, it shifts once we are introduced to Lawrence’s character. The acting is sensational. Lawrence deservedly won the Oscar while Cooper would have won if it wasn’t for Daniel Day-Lewis. Also, De Niro gives his best performance in over a decade. Silver Linings Playbook sounds like a film that shouldn’t work, and yet it does to perfection because of its brilliant writing, acting and portrayal of mental illness.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Kill Me Again and again and again

23 May


I first saw Kill Me Again on VHS in the early nineties and thought it was an entertaining thriller with a modern film noir twist. Unfortunately, the movie was not called Live on Forever because it was found in the $1.99 DVD pile with other forgotten titles from 1980s featuring notable actors. Watching it again twenty-three years later gives me an opportunity to re-evaluate the film from a different perspective. I still think the story is good, but its execution is clunky at best. Val Kilmer’s acting is above par and his then wife Joanne Whalley-Kilmer is a serviceable femme fatale, but Michael Madsen’s limited range has become comical over the years to the point I cringe every time he takes a moment to wince his eyes and speak. Besides Madsen’s one note performance and Kilmer’s button down shirt tucked into his jeans the film still has some value. It’s worth at least $1.99.


Chuck’s Grade Twenty-Three Years Ago: B

Chuck’s Grade in 2013: C

Adam’s Grade Twenty-Three Years Ago: NBY (Not Born Yet)

Adam’s Grade in 2013: D

Kingdom of Heaven does not deliver salvation

17 May

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 9.11.53 PM

Ridley Scott tries strikes to strike gold a second time with a sword and sandal epic, but Kingdom of Heaven does not deliver the same salvation with Orlando Bloom starring as the defender of Jerusalem as did Russell Crowe did in Gladiator. Bloom’s inability to match the statures of Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons is only one of many shortcomings. However, it is one of the better films to capture the actual scale of the city, as well as balancing the beauty and ugliness involved in the politics of the Crusades. Especially, with the amazing performance from (Edward Norton) as the King of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, Hollywood keeps creeping back into the script and takes us away from the Promised Land.


Chuck’s Grade: B-

Adam’s Grade: C