Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Wrestler Review

Overall Grade: B

I initially wasn’t going to write a review for this film, but considering the popular demand for it, I decided to put some pen to paper (or in this case, some words to the web).

I would like to tell you that The Wrestler is an epic drama, chronicling the rise and fall a professional wrestler, but that really isn’t the intention of the film. The Wrestler is a modest film, following Randy “The Ram” for about a year of his life, giving us a portrait of a man at a crossroads.

Randy's wrestling career is winding down (as is his crippled body), and he is confronted with loneliness and an inability to get a decent job anywhere else. Complicating matters are two relationships that Randy pursues; one with his estranged daughter, and one with a local stripper played by Marisa Tomei (with a heart of gold). While his relationship with his daughter was a little bit of a dramatic dead end for me (as well as ridiculously sentimental in parts), his burgeoning relationship with Tomei does provide for some interesting insight.

Both characters are employed in professions of make believe and performance, nicely paralleled by spending significant time showing both characters dressing up, walking to the stage, and coming through the curtain to their “stage”. Even though Tomei’s profession isn’t exactly the most noble or constructive, she makes certain to draw the line between work and real life, where she supports a child and won’t date customers from the club. For “The Ram”, the line isn’t so obvious. The literal self-destruction of his profession spills over into his personal life leading him to certain actions that can only be deemed…self-destructive (like taking up a young fan’s offer to do lines of coke).

I liked the contrast between the two characters and without giving too much away; I enjoyed the natural and fitting conclusion for both of these characters. Standing in stark contrast to the manufactured and manipulated universe of Revolutionary Road, The Wrestler is an honest character study that feels free of editorial tinkering.

It may not be much of an engrossing film (indeed I felt a little at a distance), but there are several poignant moments of insight and drama (a legends of wrestling convention is especially good) that elevates what is essentially a pretty standard story. Great performances (including a credible wrestling job by Rourke) and some good behind the scenes looks into the world of independent wrestling also make this film worth a watch. It’s a good film and if I were to put its impact into wrestling terms, I wouldn’t call it a powerbomb or even a chokeslam, but I would definitely feel comfortable calling it a nice piledriver.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Revolutionary Road Review

Overall Grade: C+

Many will remember the romantic idealism of "I'll never let go" Jack and Rose from the "highest grossing film of all-time " Titanic, and its with that idealism and romanticism in hand that ones takes a dark turn down Revolutionary Road. Adapted from the acclaimed 1961 novel by Robert Yates, Revolutionary Road tells the story of a young married couple settling down in 1950's suburbia. Both Frank and April Wheeler have great dreams and ambitions in their lives, and how that exactly fits in with a job in the city, a two story house and two kids, is an issue for which we get to watch unravel.

And does it ever unravel! In fact, so much of the movie is comprised of the Wheelers marriage unraveling that it honestly forgets to remind us why these two really liked each other in the first place. If there is a surprising lack of joy in the Wheelers marriage (and I mean any joy, even in the littlest of things), it seems to stem from Revolutionary Road's director, Sam Mendes' inability to find anything about the 50's suburban culture, or life itself, that could bring joy and happiness to this couple. Herein lies my main issue with this film.

Revolutionary Road is one of the most hopeless films I have ever seen. Not only does the film claim that our characters are unable to find out how to reconcile their ambition to live life truly with the structures of marriage, home building, and child raising; but it goes on to imply that its really impossible for anyone to do it. The lasting messages of the film are so relentlessly cynical and pessimistic, that it not only fell flat, but the writers hand and bias becomes completely visible.

The self-centeredness of both our lead characters is not necessarily a bad thing, but the film's refusal to portray any unselfish and satisfied characters tilts the film more into propaganda than into dramatic fiction. How can a film about the search for identity, happiness, meaning, and true satisfaction with life fail to offer us any legitamite answers or paths to take? It could be useful as a tragedy or a caution tale, but that doesn't harmonize with the film's insistence that any path taken leads to tragedy. 

Having said that, the film isn't without its strengths. The acting here is extremely powerful, and Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio (this being his career best work) give two great performances. There is also a refreshing ability for self criticism present in Revolutionary Road that wasn't present in Mendes' previous films like Jarhead and especially American Beauty. Where Lester Burnham's quest for happiness is never really questioned critically by the film, the Wheelers' quest is given adequate criticism. The downside is that it isn't constructive criticism, just cynical criticism.

Ultimately, its a well-acted drama that I thought was an enjoyable watch, if for the performances alone. Revolutionary Road's ubyeilding cynicism became to much to bear for me, and turned the film into a self-indulgent pity party by the end. Long gone from the selfless love on display in Titanic, this film marks a retreat into darkness and existential angst. Many will probably feel like this is a step forward into more adult and intellectual territory. I'll disagree. Much like the characters remark about their lives, this movie is ultimately empty and hopeless. If you want to take a trip down Revolutionary Road, then consider this review a "Caution: Dead End" sign.

P.S. How is Thomas Newman able to pass off the same basic musical cues in nearly every score he makes? 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Up to 93. Any Suggestions?

While I am still awaiting a few movies from 2008 to arrive in Tallahasse cinema's (Revolutionary Road, Frost/Nixon, and The Wrestler ), I'm using a "4 at a time" Netflix account to catch up on all the other 2008 titles that I had an interest in, but never got around to seeing. I've updated the sidebar with some more ratings, and I think that it offers a pretty darn comprehensive list of ratings for 2008.

Any suggestions for films you saw in 2008 that I haven't seen yet?

21 (B-): Its a overall enjoyable movie with a nice little ending. It isn't too deep, nor does it explore it's great premise to the fullest extent, but its a good night at the movies, pretty harmless stuff.

27 Dresses (C-): Katherine Heigl's amiable performance makes the film watchable, but the formulas and cliche's are inescapably boring.

American Teen (C): Although its entertaining to watch this documentary on a Senior Year in high school, this film does little to give insight into its four main subjects beyond the typical stereotypes.

Doomsday (B-): A throwback film to those 80s apocolyptic films like The Road Warrior, this is an uneven action film, but contains some great direction and a couple standout action sequences.

The Fist Foot Way (C-): Danni McBride's full length feature is an indulgent and vulgar comedy.

Gran Torino (B): A solid film from Clint Eastwood, but a small work.

Death Race (B-): Mindless action film that succeeds because it gets the racing scenes right.

The Ruins (C): An overrated horror film that gets a couple things right, but not much else.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona Mini-Review

Overall Grade: C+

Recently caught a showing of Woody Allen's 2008 endeavor Vicky Cristina Barcelona at the dollar theatre and thought I'd just share my thoughts on the film. I think it can be said of the film that it really is an interesting watch, filled with good performances, and some gorgeous shots (of the city and of our leads). Javier Bardem and Rebecca Hall do some great acting here, but I must admit that I don't really get the buzz about Penelope Cruz's performance. It's also sad to note that Scarlett Johanson nearly fades into the background of every scene she's in, perhaps hinting to his audience that like Bardem's character, Woody Allen is fine with moving on with different ladies.

The film does attempt to be a meditation and character study about love and what love really looks like (different perspectives are embodied by our different characters), but for all its sincerity it doesn't really say much. Its never boring, but the emphasis that Allen places on acting upon our lusts and desires sure makes it blend in to a million other films that I have seen on this subject. Not helping the film either is that it's advertised as a comedy, but there are very few laughs to be found at all. Since this is a mini-review I won't say much more but I'll leave you with a link to a review by Christianity Today's Jeffrey Overstreet that sums up my take on the film really well.

Jeffrey Overstreet's Vicky Cristina Barcelona review

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Reader Mini-Review

Overall Grade: C

The Reader is one of those movies that seems to have everything; excellent performances, superb craftmanship, an interesting premise, and high-minded themes. The only thing it doesn't have is my reccomendation. I found The Reader to be serval movies in one; a Penthouse seduction (with some explicit nudity, so be warned), a discussion of the morality of those "just followed orders", and ultimately a pyschobabble tale of paralysed emotions. Behind the high-minded ideals and veneer, The Reader doesn't have much heft to it, and I left the theatre wondering how one man's moral confusion about an affair he had one summer mattered at all in comparison to the poor decisions he made his life, let alone in comparison to the Holocaust (which is used for not much more than window dressing in this film). After 30 minutes of this film, I found myself sighing, and shifting in my seat. I offer you a link to a film review by another Kyle (Kyle Smith of the NY Daily Post), who disliked the film as well; he just sums it up better than I ever could, with a lot more humor and wit.

Kyle Smith's The Reader Review

Friday, January 9, 2009

Updated 2008 Movie Sidebar

Just a quick post to let anyone who cares know. I was holding out thinking I would do a review for each one of these, but time has just gotten past me. I've updated the 2008 Movie Grade Sidebar to reflect every movie I've seen in 2008 so far, the total number now sits at 82. So for those of you who wondering what my grade for Mamma Mia! was, well now you know. I put about 15 or so new grades up there, and by the end of January it should top out around 90-95 films. After those films are finished, my 2008 Leaman Awards will be posted not too shortly after. Sorry its taken so long, but afterall, I am just a "Part-time" Critic.

p.s. I figured it was overdue, so I added a blogroll along with a blog followers gadget. I guess I should get over-time for all this

Encounters at the End of the World Review

Overall Grade: B+

Encounters at the End of the World is a documentary that plays in some ways like a travelogue, but boasts all the power of a drama. Werner Herzog, director of films like Rescue Dawn and Grizzly Man, brings along a film crew for his trip to Antarctica, and the footage is compiled into this documentary. On a cursory view, one would think that Herzog is just filming the several encounters he had in Antarctica with the different scientists, mechanics, engineers, and philosophers that find themselves at the south most part of the world. However, Herzog quickly puts that thought to bed when he reveals he told the American Science Foundation that the purpose of the trip wasn’t to “film fuzzy penguins”, but to try and answer questions about nature that have plagued him.

Questions like why do men put on masks (referencing the lone ranger), saddle horses and ride off after evil? Why do some versions of ants keep certain worms as slaves in order to steal the sugar they produce? Why don’t the relatively smart chimpanzees mount horses and ride off? Ultimately, Herzog seemingly asks, “Why do humans consistently try to fight, dominate, and control nature?” To a small extent, he’s the Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldbum of Jurassic Park) of Antartica.

What eventually plays out in the documentary is Herzog’s meditation on the humility of man before nature and the inevitability of our destruction as a species while nature continues to go on (giving new meaning to the title of the film). Herzog demonstrates this idea by visiting the mathematical south pole, which is only visited by walking through hundreds of feet of ice tunnel. At the pole there are some human produced oddities, like a large frozen fish, and a shrine with popcorn lacing and a couple flower petals. Surely its odd, but Herzog wonders aloud, “When we (humans) have gone and past, and others come and find this place, what will they think we were doing here?”

Herzog sees the activities at the South Pole as a microcosm of man attempting to defeat nature. Whether he’s talking about machismo attempts to claim some achievement (as he seems to view Shackleton’s expedition to the pole), simple safety precautions (people are required to put white buckets on their head and find a lost partner to simulate a “whiteout”), or scientific endeavors (divers blast and saw through ice in order to make diving holes), the specter of man’s inability to fully control nature lurks behind.

In the most memorable scene in the documentary, Herzog asks a penguin specialist if he’s ever seen a penguin go insane and just act contrary to everything thats in their nature. The specialist then told Herzog that every now and then a penguin will just wander off from the group, neither going to the groups nesting area or the feeding area. They will find a lonesome penguin heading toward the barren mountains, but first having to cross miles and miles of ice, leading to certain death. There is footage of such a trip by a penguin and Herzog in his best narration (that seems to relate to such similair decisions by men) simply asks, “Why?”

Encounters at the End of the World is an excellent documentary and has stuck with me for some time since I’ve watched. I am ultimately not as cynical about man's interaction with nature as Herzog is, but for the span of an hour and a half, it’s quite an experience to view the world through Herzog’s eyes. I suppose its healthy to be reminded of man's smallness in the grand scheme of things, for isn't it written somewhere that "the dust returns from the ground it came from..."? I just like to always remind myself of the second part of that quote, "...and the spirit returns to God who gave it".

P.S. the quote is Ecclesiastes 12:7

Thursday, January 8, 2009

2009 Preview Part 2

Welcome back to Part II of my 2009 Film Year Preview. If you missed Part I, you can find it HERE. This part will consist of all the films that don't exactly fit into the highly anticipated or most anticpated categories. The categories basically speak for themselves, and I think create a pretty comprehensive preview of what I expect from the year on hand. Of course, until trailers and more info. come out most of these films are hyped primarily on the the summaries and the crews attached to them, so take it for what it's worth. Feel free to comment and add any films that you think I may have missed.

“Want to like, but have my doubts that I will”

The Green Zone: Paul Greengrass (United 93) and Matt Damon re-unite for a Iraq war thriller. Everything about sounds great, except that its an Iraq war thriller, and we know the track record for those.

Angels & Demons: Ron Howard and Tom Hanks re-team for a prequel to The Davinci Code. Wasn’t to big on The DaVinci Code, but it’s hard not to be interested in Howard and Hanks.

State of Play: The trailer is lackluster, but this Washington-based journalism thriller has quite the pedigree to it, Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind), Rachel McAdams (The Notebook), Helen Mirren (The Queen), and director Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland).

Funny People: One of two Judd Apatow directed comedies releasing this year and it just might be the first I’ll like. The setup sounds great, a standup comedian (Adam Sandler) finds out he is dying and wants to another struggling comedian under his wing; but my history with Apatow is not great. Check out the cast list, this will be a big film.

Crossing Over: Wayne Kramer’s fist film since the underrated Running Scared with Paul Walker. It’s a film about the U.S. Mexican border and it stars Sean Penn and Harrison Ford. Great actors, but will it be a balanced film? I have no desire to watch the sequel to Babel.

Star Trek: It looks like its going to be a big hit, but something doesn’t sit right with me on it. Will it be Starship Troopers with a brighter color palette, will the battles be people sitting on the bridge getting thrown around? Just too many questions to get my expectations up high.

The Year One: Harold Ramis (director of Groundhog Day) directs this comedy about the first year of existence. Its basically a spoof of the early Christian accounts of creation, and the idea sounds really funny, but it could be too disingenuous for my taste.

Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince: I was disappointed in Order of the Phoenix, but the series has enough good will going for it that I’m going to finish it out.

Watchmen: Zack Snyder (300) brings us one of the more hyped films of the year. The early trailers have me interested, but I didn’t like 300 very much at all, so I’m cautiously optimistic here.

G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra: Everything about this film from Stephen Sommers says its going to be terrible. However, Sommers has made two decently fun films, The Mummy and Van Helsing, so I hold out hope.

Men Who Stare At Goats: Another Iraq film, but this is more of a drama starring George Clooney and supporting cast of A-listers. Will a decent Iraq drama finally be made in 2009?

Knowing: Looks like one of those films that Nicholas Cage does just to get work, but its written and directed by Andrew Niccol. How can the man who wrote Gattaca, Lord of War and The Truman Show go wrong?

“Guilty Pleasures”

Pink Panther 2: I must admit that there were some funny moments to Steve Martin’s pretty ridiculous first film. I’ll see the second one, and the presence of John Cleese in the sequel can only make it better.

Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li: I’m sure that this film will be all sorts of bad, but there is no way that I couldn’t go out and see this film when it has two things going for it; martial arts fights, and Street Fighter childhood nostalgia.

Transformers 2: The first one was a decent blockbuster (Michael Bay begin connected to exactly the type of films he needs to make), and the guilty pleasure for me here is in just watching an effects extravaganza and Bay’s military fetish

Saw VI: The movies are not good “movies”, but I’m sucked into the Saw universe and I must see the storyline to an end.

Sci-Fi Movie: With David Zucker’s presence on this film, I am hoping for something closer to Scary Movie 3 or 4, but I’m afraid I’ll get something more like An American Carol or Date Movie.

“Curious, Keeping an Eye On”

Whatever Works: Patricia Clarkson stars in Woody Allen’s follow-up to Vicki Christina Barcelona
Land of the Lost: Brad Silberling (Lemony Snicket) directs this television remake with Will Ferrell and Danni McBride. I like all involved, but I’ve just been burnt by Ferrell and McBride too much.
The Brothers Bloom: A comic heist film featuring the great talents of Rachel Weisz and Mark Ruffalo.
The Taking of Pelham 123: John Travolta and Denzel Washington directed by Tony Scott in a NYC hostage film. Could be good.
Shorts: Robert Rodriguez’ next family film, a genre he normally does well in.
Astro Boy: A November animation release that looks to have promise, but I’m waiting for a full trailer.
My Life in Ruins: Nia Vardalos in her first serious follow-up to My Big Fat Greek Wedding
The Maiden Heist: Morgan Freeman and Christopher Walken in a heist film.
Taking Woodstock: Ang Lee proves yet again his versatility in tackling a comedy about Woodstock.
The Informant: Matt Damon stars in Steven Soderbergh’s Insider’esque informant thriller.
The Boat that Rocked: Richard Curtis, director of Love Actually, directs my favorite actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), in this 60’s comedy about a British radio station.
Drag Me to Hell: Sam Raimi’s first film after his Spider-Man trilogy, and his return to the horror-comedy genre.
Hail Ceasar, A Serious Man: Two comedies by the Coen brothers (Fargo, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski) scheduled to come out in 09’. Don’t know enough about either to get excited.
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus: Heath Ledger’s final acting role and Terry Gilliam’s (Twelve Monkeys) latest film.
Up in the Air: Comedy with George Clooney
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past: Mark Waters (Mean Girls, Freaky Friday) directs Jennifer Garner in this comedy. Waters is a director that I enjoy following.
The Fighter: Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, The Fountain) directs another fight film, this time its boxing, starring Mark “Say Hi to Your mom For Me” Whalberg.
Getting Out: Sydney Lumet’s first film since Before the Devil Knows Your Dead
1906: Brad Bird’s (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) first ever live action film.

Unsure of their release in 09’, but still interested”

Ong Bak 2: The much troubled, much buzzed about Tony Jaa (The Protector, Ong Bak) project. Will be released in Asia this year, but in America? We can only wish.
The Shinjuku Incident: Jackie Chan’s next film, but its American release is not pinned down yet.
Alfonso Cuaron Project: Cuaron’s first project since Children of Men is a Mexican film, which means its American release is still unsure.
Red Cliff: John Woo’s epic Chinese period piece is already on DVD nearly everywhere else in the world, but will it come out in 09’ in America?

Hope you made it through ok!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Doubt Review

Overall Grade: A-

It is no secret to those that know me that Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman are my favorite working actors today. Many of you have heard the rumors, and yes it is true that I have a mini-shrine (not in a blasphemy manner) dedicated to both the actors in my room (thank you Julie for that). So when I heard that they were both going to star in the same movie, I immediately took notice. When I heard that the film was about a possible pedophile priest (Hoffman) and a self-righteous nun (Streep), my expectations dramatically declined. I thought to myself, “Should I really expect an even-handed treated of religion and the church from left-wing Hollywood?” So it was with great reservations that I approached Doubt.

As it turns out, Doubt is one of the more even handed and thoughtful movies I have seen all year. The writer/director John Patrick Shanley (who also wrote the original broadway play of Doubt), eschews broad generalization and consistently surprised me with balanced characterizations. For those unaware, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Father O’Flynn, a priest, who is eventually suspected of molesting one of his students. Meryl Streep plays Sister Aloysius, principal of St. Nicholas School. The film chronicles Streeps investigation and discussion (more like interrogation) into the possible molestation.

Here it would be easy to demonize either the priest or the nun, making Streep on a self-righteous witch hunt or Hoffman a unrighteous homosexual masquerading as a man of god. Instead, Shanley uses this tendency to generalize as an opportunity for a discussion. Instead of allowing us to just sneer at Streep’s conservatism, her views are turned into the basis for an argument of several issues, one being justice vs. mercy. For although the progressives (Amy Adams and Hoffman) are arguing for more mercy and friendliness in the classroom, the film is willing to allow Streeps discipline a fair hearing.

In one particular moment, Sister James (played well by Amy Adams) bursts out against Streep saying something along the lines of, “You run this place like a prison and treat the students like they are inmates”. In any other movie, the scene would have ended quickly thereafter, our underdog getting a verbal throwdown in and our audience getting a chance to release our frustration with Streep and her self-righteousness. However, Doubt lets the scene play out a little longer, giving Streep a chance to bring some levity to the conversation, asking Adams bluntly, “Do you really think the students are treated as inmates?” To which Adams must reply, “No, they actually seem quite happy, but it wouldn’t hurt to be more friendly.” In this way, Shanley cuts through easy victories over straw men and allows the viewer to truly engage in a discussion of the two views.

The film is full of moments like those, and added all together they compose a wonderful film. Streep and Hoffman (you should play a drinking game with how many times their name appears in this review) give performances full of passion, power, and small characterizations. Their work here is as good as anything they have done before. Even though it may seem like fawning, I recommend that you pay particular attention to the scenes between Hoffman and Streep. The way they use the space in the room and the objects in the room to convey their current emotion and status during the discussion. Their expressions, and the control of their eye movements in particular are really quite astounding. I don’t want to give much more away about the film, because I think that half the enjoyment of the film is not knowing what issues they cover until its brought up (at least it was for me). Viola Davis, in a small but especially powerful turn, adds an unexpected and great head scratcher of an issue just near the end of the film.

Doubt is not a epic drama, but it is a superbly acted story that requires the viewer to engage with its messages. Much has been said about Milk and its ability to politically inspire, but I would throw Doubt’s message out there as the most helpful to politics of our time. For sure there are things we can be certain of, but why not find unity in being open and honest about the doubts we do have, and things we are less than certain about? Although it seems paradoxical, a world in which we acknowledge our doubts and uncertainties might just be a world closer and unified.

Friday, January 2, 2009

2009 Preview Part 1

With the 2008 year in film now falling behind us (even though I'm still waiting on certain 08' films to come to Tallahassee), I thought it would be fun to take a look at what the 2009 year of cinema holds for us. Even though it seems ridiculous to try and sum up a "year in film", I think its fun to categorize and analyze nonetheless. I found 2008 to be a generally disappointing year for me, but as I look forward to 2009, I can't help but get excited about a number of films.

I'll try and parcel out my expectations for the 2009 film year (based on the information that we currently have, keep in mind that it always changes) into two parts for easier consumption. In this first part, I'll give you my Top Ten most anticpated films of 2009 as well as my second tier of greatly anticipated films. In the second part, I'll talk about the films I want to like but have that nagging suspicion that I won't like it. Along with that, I'll go over the guilty pleasures I'm looking forward to as well as the other films I'm curious enough to keep my eye on. So without further ado, here are my top ten most hotly anticipated films of 2009.

10. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
- Directed by Gavin Hood
- Opens May 1st
- After The Dark Knight the standard for superhero films has reached ridiculous heights. Fortunately, I don't have very high expecations for this as a "film", but I do look forward to seeing some great high octane action sequences. The trailer leaves me netural, but I'm willing to get excited for the opener to this year's summer blockbuster season.

9. Inglorious Basterds
- Directed by Quentin Tarantino
- Opens Aug. 21
- I'm hoping that this WWII Action film is more Kill Bill or Resevoir Dogs than it is Deathproof. No matter though, anytime Quentin comes out with a film, its an event. The fact that he has cast Mike Myers in a role has also peaked my interest.

8. Where the Wild Things Are
- Directed by Spike Jonze
- Opens Oct. 16
- It was a troubled production, but I can't wait to see what creativity Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adapation) brings to this adaptation.

- Directed by Pete Doctor and Bob Peterson
- Opens May 29
- Pixar's Summer 2009 entry comes from the director and writer of Monster's Inc. I haven't really enjoyed a Pixar film since 2004's The Incredibles, and I hope that this is a return to form here. I hope that this May release hearkens back to the last time Pixar released a movie in May, Finding Nemo.

6. Terminator Salvation
- Directed by McG
- Opens May 22
- Early production materials really make this film look like its going to take the Terminator franchise into a whole new direction. Terminator 3:Rise of the Machines left us the with judgment day and it looks like Terminator Salvation is really going full throttle with the aftermath. I actually have high expectations for the McG the director, and hope that he brings the talent he showed on the horribly underrated Charlies Angels: Full Throttle (yes, I'm being serious) to this new franchise.

- Directed by Martin Scorsese
- Opens Oct. 2
- If the director alone doesn't get you excited then did you know that this is his first feature film since he won the oscar for The Departed (Shine a Light doesn't count)? Did you know that the screenplay is based on a novel written by Dennis Lehane, the writer of Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River? Excited yet? Well, did you know that Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer, Max Von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, and Jackie Earle Haley are all this film? If that isn't enough for you, then I suggest you give up on cinema.

- Directed by Prachya Pinkaew
- Opens Feb. 6th
- I know that most of you are probably going saying, "Huh?" Let me explain. If you are a martial arts fan, then there is no more exciting country putting out martial arts film today than Thailand. Thanks to Tony Jaa and Prachya Pinkaew (both worked on Ong Bak and The Protector), as well as numerous others, Thailand is currently putting out some of the craziest and freshest fight films avaliable. Just watch the trailer for the film (LINK IS HERE), and tell me that it doesn't get you excited to watch some crazy martial arts action? No? Well, it does for me anyways.

- Directed by Michael Mann
- Opens July 1st
- A 1930s gangster film directed by Michael Mann (Heat, The Insider) and starring Christian Bale and Johnny Depp. The only thing that could make it better is if it was released during the summer...oh wait...it is. Can you imagine? Going into a dark theatre on a hot summer afternoon to watch this?

- Directed by Peter Jackson
- Opens Dec. 11th
- When the director of your favorite film of all-time (Return of the King) puts out a new film, you take notice. When its a pet project that has been in the works for over a decade, you take an even closer look. I don't quite know the storyline or the details, but I don't mind.

- Directed by James Cameron
- Opens Dec. 18th
- Cameron's first feature film since Titanic, and its no simple comedy or romance. Avatar is advertised as the future of film. Several years in development, if Cameron accomplishes what he has claimed, Avatar will present the cutting edge of computer enhanced effects as well as the cutting edge of 3-d presentation. Did I mention that when Cameron makes a sci-fi film they automatically enter in as classics? With titles like Aliens, Terminator, The Abyss, and Terminator 2, whats to think this film will be a disappointment?

Most Anticipated Films: Second Tier (In Alphabetical Order)
A Christmas Carol : Jim Carey and Robert Zemeckis team for this remake
Coraline: from the maker of Corpse Bride
Duplicity: Looks like a fun spy game from Julia Roberts and Clive Owen
Edge of Darkness: Mel Gibson's first leading role in years
The Fantastic Mr. Fox: Wes Anderson presents an animated feature
Gentlemen Broncos : from the writer/director of Napoleon Dynamite
I Love You, Man : based soley on the hilarious trailer you can watch HERE
Julia and Julia : Meryl Streep plays British chef Julia Childs
Monsters vs. Aliens: 3-D animated feature releasing in March
The Princess and the Frog: Disney's great return to handdrawn animation, releases on Christmas
The Road: from the director of The Proposition and the writer of No Country for Old Men
Sherlock Holmes: Action oriented and featuring Robert Downey Jr. has raised my interest
Surrogates: Bruce Willis in Sci-Fi action directed by Jonathan Mostow, Yes!
Taken : Liam Neeson in an action role written by Luc Besson
The Three Stooges : Farrelly Brothers finally doing a dream project

Stay Tuned For Part II, Coming Soon!

Valkyrie Mini-Review

Overall Grade: B

I think by now most people have written off Tom Cruise as a joke and approach his films with much skepticism. Although off the screen he is fair game, I’ve always thought when he finds the right characters, Tom Cruise can be one of the most commanding on screen presences Hollywood has given the world. Although he doesn’t exactly “command” Valkyrie, Cruise and the director Bryan Singer (redeeming himself from a weak Superman Returns) both do excellent jobs in creating a nice solid WWII thriller.

Sure, I felt that the movie could have been better; more detail about the plan itself, fuller realizations of the characters and their goals. However, the film works and works well without them. Although the outcome is known to anyone with a passing knowledge of history, there are some truly genuine moments of suspense to be found. One lady I sat next to really thought that Hitler had bitten the dust, what more could you ask for?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Mini-Review

Overall Grade: C+

Great performances, cinematography, set design, costume design, and music do not unfortunately make for a great movie. A good first act, which gave me great hope for the rest of the film, is eventually squandered under the weight of a ponderous and inconsequential second and third act. Benjamin Button does have something to say, but not as much as its two and a half hour would suggest.

At least similar films had something to go along with its gimmick: Forrest Gump had optimism, Big Fish had whimsy, and Benjamin Button has…well…ramblings. For me, the film was a big disappointment and eventually became pretty hard to watch as my interest waned. The tagline for the film is, “Life isn’t measured in minutes, its measured in moments”. Unfortunately for us, they should have measured the minutes more and gave us a few less moments.