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World War Z adapts to the zombie genre

31 Jul


World War Z wastes no time. The exposition is about five minutes, and then all hell breaks loose as Gerry (Brad Pitt) and his family find themselves in middle of mass hysteria and death as the infected run wild through the city. Gerry is a former UN investigator that is forced into tracking the origin of the virus with a small team. Most good zombie films have been attached to some social/cultural/political metaphors to describe the contemporary condition. There are hints of all of these ingredients in the film, but rabid consumption and depression from lack of stimulus resonated the most with me. I am not a zombie fan and I have not read Max Brooks’ novel, but I will pick up the book and I look forward to the seeing a sequel. It is a serious story that equals 28 Days Later, but like its predecessor finding a suitable ending that will satisfy everyone is its biggest shortcoming.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: C+

Day of the Falcon

13 Jun


Director Jean-Jacques Annaud has made some of the most interesting adaptations to date, but his interpretation of Hans Ruesch’s novel,  South of the Heart: A Novel of Modern Arabia slips through his fingers like a person trying to hold a handful of sand. The story itself is entertaining, but its 2 hour and 5 minute run time is exhausting like the book’s original title  and the new title doesn’t make sense when everything plays out. My biggest complaints is the poor acting, unimaginative cinematography and the use of non-Arabian actors in the lead roles. I could not resist thinking of John Wayne playing Genghis Khan when I saw Antonio Banderas as Emir Nesib, Mark Strong as Sultan Amar and Freida Pinto as Princess Leyla (even though she is the most gorgeous woman on the planet). Wayne’s performance still bothers me to this day and I confident that Banderas’ role will do the same.


Chuck’s Grade: D

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Porcelain Unicorn (short film) breaks your heart

18 May


Writer/director Keegan Wilcox wins the hearts and appreciation of audiences with his three minute short film about a young Hitler youth faced with a life and death decision when he finds a young Jewish girl hiding inside the walls of an abandoned house. The subject material has been explored on many levels, but Wilcox finds a way to explore the options and introduce a long-lasting gift of kindness that can shape a young person’s life. Porcelain Unicorn is unique because the script was limited to six lines as required by the Philips Parallel Lines ‘Tell It Your Way’ international competition in 2010. Even though, there were restrictions, the film tells a complete story that has an impact across generations.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: N/A

The Hurt Locker have audiences sweating

5 Jan


The Hurt Locker reveals the stressful environment soldiers are experiencing as they attempt to execute their duty in the line of fire. In this film, it is three soldiers assigned to the bomb disposal unit. Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) recklessly leads JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) into harms way more than once, which creates some internal problems among the team. Screenwriter Mark Boal attempts to show audiences that some parts of the war can become addictive like a drug, and that it can have a negative effect on those involved. This production is much different than most war films because the impact does not come from trying to blow things up, but rather from trying to stop the explosives from detonating. Director Kathryn Bigelow heightens the intensity by using hand-held cameras while Renner and Mackie give outstanding performances. Audiences end up sweating as much as the bomb disposal unit cutting wires.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A-

Black Hawk Down remembered for its courage and sacrifice

21 Dec


Screenwriter Ken Nolan adaptation of Mark Bowden’s book, Black Hawk Down is one of the most popular war films among American audiences. Director Ridley Scott puts together an engaging account of the Battle of Mogadishu, where nineteen American soldiers were killed, seventy more injured, and over a thousand Somalis dead. As with most Hollywood films inspired by true events there are many liberties taken to make an entertaining film. Black Hawk Down is no different, but the ultra realistic battle scenes and Scott’s signature action sequences give the film an air of authenticity that audiences can appreciate. As far as war films go, I am not a big fan, but I liked this movie because Scott elected to feature the 75th Rangers and Delta force units as a whole, instead of focusing solely on one or two characters. This ensemble cast is charismatic and a formidable group that will be remembered for its courage and sacrifice, instead of cheesy one-liners.


Chuck’ grade: B

Adam’s grade: B

Red Dawn inspires a remake

24 Nov

Wolverines!!!  This was the battle cry of every action movie adolescent during the mid 198os.  Actually, I still hear some older adolescents in their mid 30s and early 40s still saying it to each. I first saw Red Dawn on a summer weekend in Fort Ticonderoga, New York. I left that theater ready to defend my campsite if need be.  At the time, this cold war film featuring  a group of popular young actors sacrificing everything to defend its country was a fun action flick that turned the impossible into the probable for an hour and half.  Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell led their high school classmates in a guerrilla war resistance against Russian troops that had occupied their hometown.  In retrospect, the film encapsulates the cultural consciousness of the time period. Today, it is a cheesy action flick with some cool scenes and nostalgic actors that do a great job preserving America’s liberty and inspiring a remake.


Chuck’ Grade: In 1984; A+  In 2012; B

Adam’s Grade: B-

Schindler’s List

16 Nov

Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, Schindler’s List is one of the greatest films of all time. For me, it sets the bar for elite filmmaking. His accomplishments on the screen as well as behind them separate this production from all other films. Each component of the film is irreplaceable.

Based on a true story about Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) and his factory workers. At the start of the war, he is a German businessman that only cares about sex and money, but once he meets SS officer Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), a sadistic psychopath that finds pleasure terrorizing and murdering Jews, his perspective and actions change towards saving as many Jewish people as he can. I remember watching Fiennes’ chilling performance and feeling embarrassed to be a human being.

After each viewing I sit and watch patiently until the final credit rolls past the top of the screen because of the amount of gratitude I have for everyone involved.


Adam’s Grade: A+

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Jarhead stages a counter-attack

12 Nov

Early on, Jarhead can be compared to Full Metal Jacket, but then the film switches gears and slows down to become a psychological study of a group of soldiers belonging to a sniper unit.

Based on a true story, Andrew Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a marine training for the Gulf War. His unit’s Staff Sergeant Sykes (Jamie Foxx) are given orders to hunt down and kill their enemy, but by the time the soldiers enter the kill zone the war is over.

Director Sam Mendes puts together an alternative perspective to the classic war movie. His cinematography is always in top form and the performances he gets have several rich layers. My only criticism is the inconsistent pacing and anti-climatic feeling everyone is left with, but I am sure Mendes intended to do this because he wanted to reveal the loneliness of deployment after a period of aggressive, relentless training. Jarhead stages a counter-attack rather than a full fledged assault.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Braveheart inspires

3 Nov

Mel Gibson has become a controversial figure over the past few years, but you cannot ignore his body of work as an actor and a director. In 1995, Gibson was at the height of his career when he directs, produces, and stars in his epic tale of William Wallace, a Scottish patriot who fought for his country’s freedom against English tyranny.  Although the historical accuracy of Braveheart is marginal at best, the film is a great adventure story that captured the imaginations of audiences (except the British) with a perfect blend of action, romance, and humor.

The film’s production value has not diminished a bit over the years. The large-scale battles are well choreographed and remind older generations of great films, such as Spartacus and The Battle of Waterloo. Gibson’s charismatic speeches heightens the film’s heroism and his climatic final words inspires people from all walks of life  to look in the mirror and be grateful for their FREEDOM.


Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A


23 Aug

In 2007, filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger were assigned to go to the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan nicknamed “the deadliest place on earth” for Vanity Fair. During their year visit they chronicled a U.S. Platoon from their deployment to their group’s return home. The main goal of the troop’s deployment is to gain complete control of Korengal Valley and to earn the trust with the locals. This documentary works for me because of its not an overtly political film, instead the film displays is the weekly negotiations that they have with the locals, the construction of their base and the firefights that they face daily. The name ‘Restrepo’ comes from PFC Juan Sebastian Restrepo, a platoon medic killed earlier in the campaign.

This documentary will make audiences display every emotion because of its raw and powerful intensity. It’s a character study of each soldier involved and is a tribute to those who fight for us each and everyday.


Adam’s Grade: B+
Chuck’s Grade: N/A