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OLD BOY (2013) has some new tricks

1 Jan


Spike Lee’s desire to re-interpret the critically acclaimed 2003 South Korean film, Old Boy for domestic audiences was a bold move because of the amount of criticism he would receive from audiences familiar with the original. I was eager to see how he would negotiate certain scenes and particular parts of the story that have made Old Boy a memorable, but uncomfortable film to watch. Technically, everything is in the movie, but done in a way that is more like a jazz musician riffing on a familiar melody than a replay of an old song. Some things worked really well, while others things did not. This version had more of back story, which made it easier for American audiences to understand, but it was too much because those moments of discomfort did not have the same impact. However, I enjoyed this movie and the choice to cast Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen as the principal characters was a strong choice.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Prisoners won’t let you go

2 Oct

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.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Zodiac is an elusive subject to capture

25 Sep


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.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B

The Prestige is an underrated film

14 Sep


Christopher Nolan has been known to trick and challenge his audiences to think, but he explores new ground in the underrated film, The Prestige. Two magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) have turned a friendly competition into a bitter rivalry that consumes each of them with obsession and jealousy. Both actors give convincing performances. Their preparation for the roles of magicians are obvious and not lost on the audience.

Magicians are not supposed to reveal their secrets and Nolan continues to amaze audiences with his ability to direct or should I say misdirect the obvious from the mind and eye. Wally Pfister’s camera work and use of dark-lighting sets the tone for Nolan and his brother Jonathan to adapt a story that is full of mystery from start to finish. Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The Prestige has all three parts and has audiences leaving the theater asking, “How did he do that?”


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: B

Sinister just isn’t evil enough

5 Aug


Last week, my buddy told me that he felt that Sinister was scarier and better than The Conjuring. Intrigued I decided to watch it at night with all of the lights off to get the full effect.

Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) and his family move into a house where a horrific crime happened. He hopes it will help him write a new book that will turn his career around. He finds some 8mm home movies and uses it as his source material, but he ends up finding some frightening facts about the films.

Sinister had potential. I was hooked from the beginning and thought for a moment that my friend may be right, but then I found myself losing interest during the second and third acts to the point I was rolling my eyes at the absurd ending. I appreciate Hawke’s effort, but the twists do not work and Sinister just isn’t evil enough.


Adam’s Grade: C

Chuck’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+

Memento is a memorable revenge story

6 Feb

Picture 39

Christopher Nolan assembles a psychological thriller that is unlike most films. Based on a short story by his brother Jonathan, Momento uses non-linear editing style along with two timelines, one in black-and-white and the other in color. The black-and-white scenes are in chronological order while the color sequences are in reverse. At first, it is confusing, but once the structural device is understood, the film reveals its unique story of revenge.

Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), is looking for his wife’s killer, but he has anterograde amnesia, which doesn’t let him store new memories. He has developed a system of recollection using hand-written notes, tattoos, and Polaroid photos. Audiences are drawn to Leonard’s character because he is heroic and tragic at the same time. Nolan puts the viewer into Leonard’s shoes and you cannot help but feel his frustration. The cast gives everything they got to produce one of the most “memorable” films of all time.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A

Oldboy is not your ordinary revenge story

1 Feb


Oldboy is the second installment, and most well-known in director Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy. It is considered one of the best films ever made, and has spawned an American remake to come out later this year.

Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-Sik) is imprisoned for 15 years in a room without knowing his captor’s motives, and then is abruptly released. He tries to find why he was imprisoned and exact vengeance on those responsible.

Chan-Wook’s direction is flawless. The pacing creates the right amount of suspense and intrigue. The silences are filled with subtext and the action sequences are some of the most memorable scenes in Asian cinema. There are moments that audiences must avert their eyes, but not for long because Choi Min-Sik’s unnerving will and the story’s plot twists make this film one of the most talked about movies in history. Every detail is perfect, even down to the infamous room’s wallpaper. Oldboy is not your ordinary revenge story.


Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Eyes Wide Shut is a forgotten dream

24 Jan


Unfortunately, Stanley Kubrick died before his film Eyes Wide Shut was released. At the time, Warner Brothers feared the NC-17 rating because of the sexual content was too explicit for popular audiences. Set in New York City, Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and Alice (Nicole Kidman) are experiencing marital problems. Bill unable to handle his wife’s “confession” meets an old friend that helps infiltrates him into a masked orgy party hosted by an affluent secret society. Bill is discovered, but allowed to leave unpunished at the request of a beautiful women he had befriended. A day later the woman is found dead and Bill believes the two events are connected.

Kubrick’s deliberate style brings audiences into this mysterious world slowly like a hypnotist holding a watch. Before audiences realize it; they are mesmerized by his skillful direction, but his open-ended story leaves many people unsatisfied. Like hypnosis, the subjects are awaken to bewilderment and the film is a forgotten dream.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B-


22 Jan


Chinatown was director Roman Polanski’s last film made in the U.S. before returning/fleeing to Europe. This film is a neo-noir classic written by Robert Towne and is one of the best movies ever made.  Towne’s clever writing captures the voice of a Los Angeles detective story filled with betrayal, greed, and murder. Polanski direction guides Jack Nicholson (Jake Gittes) and Faye Dunaway (Mrs. Mulwray) through a masterful drama filled with suspense and surprise. The two leading actors have an intoxicating chemistry together that creates a sense of danger every time they share the screen, but one of the most memorable scenes (besides the ending) is when Polanski makes an appearance as the unforgettable Man with a Knife. The combination of stylish direction, adept performances, powerful writing, and a mesmerizing soundtrack places Chinatown at the top of my list of great all-time films.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A+