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Short Term 12 should not be overlooked this summer

6 Sep

SHORT-TERM-12

Filmmaker Destin Cretton draws from his personal experiences from working at a foster care facility to create a thoughtful and powerful film, Short Term 12. The plot revolves around a group home for troubled teens where a supervising staff member, Grace (Brie Larson) attempts to negotiate and navigate her way through her personal and professional problems.

Cretton artfully presents a difficult subject and backs it up with authentic dialogue that resonate for a long time after the end credits. The acting is wonderful across the board with Larson and Gallagher Jr. leading the way with award worthy performances. Their characters are flawed which makes for a much more interesting film. Cretton’s script is sound and the documentary-like shot direction adds to the story’s authenticity. Short Term 12 balances hope and despair in a way most independent films cannot. It is a valuable gem that should not be overlooked this summer.

WORD COUNT: 149

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Kick-Ass 2 gets its ass kicked

19 Aug

KICK-ASS-2

The original Kick-Ass surprised audience with its funny story, gratuitous violence, and vulgar language from a cute cast of kids. Three years later, the kids are not as cute and the violence is cartoonish, and the language seems appropriate for your typical high school teenager.

Dave aka Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) joins forces with a group of costumed vigilantes led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), while Mindy aka Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) attempts to live a normal life. Elsewhere, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), seeks revenge against Kick-Ass.

The film mainly lacks a good story. The script tries to set up emotional moment after another and fails miserably. However, the action is entertaining and like the first film, Hit-Girl steals every scene she is in. Kick-Ass 2 gets its ass kicked by the original because it cannot defeat the expectations of its fans and ends up like most sequels, which is not much.

WORD COUNT: 152

Adam’s Grade: C+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

The Spectacular Now shook me

15 Aug

the-spectacular-now

Eight months into 2013 and The Spectacular Now is the best film I have seen so far. It features a young cast that brings Tim Tharpe’s novel to life. The film follows Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a high school senior that refuses to live beyond the moment. He has no plans and his interests have led him to a life of hard partying, but after being dumped by his girlfriend he wakes up to something much more.

The film exceeded my expectations because of the performances by Teller and Shailene Woodley. Their chemistry and charisma are charming and pulls you in. This is not your normal coming of age film. Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber defy the formula and create an unpredictable story that goes to all the right places. I believe it is the most authentic picture of adolescence since John Hughes. The Spectacular Now shook me and took me back to a place I had forgotten about

WORD COUNT: 159

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

The Way, Way Back

22 Jul

THE WAY WAY BACK

The Way, Way back is a coming of age film written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. It is your typical Sundance Film Festival featuring a talented cast and a story of a socially awkward character finding his way through the “normal” world of irrational people, until he gets to a place that makes sense for everyone, including the audience. It is a good story but at the same time a “safe movie” that gives some great insight on self-identification and understanding the way of the world.

Maybe I am out of touch, but Duncan’s awkwardness seemed unrealistic to me, although it helped create an interesting character. It wasn’t believable. For me, Owen (Sam Rockwell) was the reason to watch this film. His performance knocks it out of the Water Wizz water park while Trent (Steve Carrell) and Pam (Toni Collette) are a great team and provide the necessary obstacles for Duncan to avoid.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Chronicle is a pleasant surprise

5 Jul

CHRONICLE-FILM

The title comes from the lead character’s (Andrew) pursuit of documenting his life with an HD camera. Everyday he is faced with bullies at school and at home, until me makes an unexpected discovery. Chronicle is another “found footage” film that could have been boring, but thanks to some fine performances by a young cast (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan and Michael Kelly) the film successfully entices audiences to care about the protagonist’s incredible story. Coupled with some fine CGI wizardry the approach helps keep the film from becoming contrived and predictable mess. Instead, it is a unique and surprising piece of science fiction. It certainly has its moments where the script begins to fail, but the characters new-found special abilities awaken audiences’ imaginations and keeps them memorized as to see where these powers will lead them.

WORD COUNT: 139

Adam’s Grade: B-

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Project X is a waste of time

3 Jul

PROJECT-X

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.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: D

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Elephant

2 Jul

Elephant-film

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.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: B

The Desk (short film) takes us back to a good place

1 Jun

th-desk-short-film

One of the most memorable images of high school is the desk. It is the place where students spend most of their time reading, writing, learning, and day-dreaming. Director Albert Gonzalez uses this idea to create a seven minute short film about a new student trying to cope with their insecurities and loneliness. Peter (Spencer Jefferies) wants to meet new friends but lacks the confidence. He writes what he might say to a pretty girl sitting girl next to him on his desk, “Hi. My name is Peter.” When he returns the next day there is a response. Intrigued he begins to communicate with this unknown girl named Julie, until he realizes her responses begin to materialize instantaneously. The production is simple, but the story is engaging and the mystery surrounding the desk is fun. Most of us try to erase our high school years from our mind, but Gonzalez successfully takes a back to good place.

WORD COUNT: 157

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

21 and Over is a good time with friends

28 Feb

21-and-0ver

Writers Scott Moore and Jon Lucas (The Hangover) deliver another comedy structurally similar to The Hangover but use a much different set of jokes to achieve a raunchy, offensive, and over the top comedy that will make audiences laugh.

Straight-A student Jeff Chang’s (Justin Chon) two best friends (Skylar Astin and Miles Teller) take him out for his 21st birthday on the night before an important medical school interview. After bar hopping and large consumptions of alcohol, Jeff Chang passes out and Miles and Casey must bring him home in time for his interview. Now the real fun begins.

The film does fall into cliché territory with its predictable plot, but the three actors are extremely funny and have a great chemistry with one another. The main gags are well-timed and each character is dealing with something in their lives which gives the movie some depth. 21 and Over is a good time with friends.

WORD COUNT: 154

Adam’s Grade: B-

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World scores a lot of points

8 Feb

Scott-pilgrim-vs-the-world

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a unique film that will surprise most audiences because it is unlike most films. Director Edgar Wright brings this graphic novel series to life, literally with straight-faced humor and some old school video game graphics to capture the comic book’s fun and imaginative story line.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), is a 22 year-old slacker, who falls in love with Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). After spending the night with her, he discovers he must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends if he wants to continue dating her.

The first time I watched the film I enjoyed all the bells and whistles, but the second time I viewed it I discovered all the different layers operating beneath the surface. The dialogue is brilliant and it really captures the voice of many young people today trying to figure out relationships and love. Scott Pilgrim scores a lot points in this film.

WORD COUNT: 153

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grad: A