Archive for December, 2009

17 Again Review

December 30, 2009 Leave a comment
17 Again

I’ve seen 17 Again before a few times in the past. I had thought I had outgrown this movie. I guess I was wrong. Granted, it wasn’t the best movie ever, but it was still pretty funny and entertaining.

My rating 3.0 Stars

When I was a teenager, I was different from everyone else my age. Hell, I still am, but I learned to live with everyone else’s shortcomings. So what is so different about me compared to others? For one, I was very shy so I hardly ever talked to anyone. I had friends, but they were mostly at school. I never saw them outside of school, partly because we didn’t live very close, but mostly because I preferred to be alone. I’ve always had an over active imagination. Being with people prevented me from exercising that imagination. Instead I was forced to talk to them which to this day I am still not very good at. (However, I am getting better, I think!) I prefer to have imaginary conversations in my head similar to those in movies. I realize that may not be the most healthy activity, but that is just the way I am. In the future I plan to use that quirky quality in me to write some dialog for the screen plays I intent on writing, but for now I’ll just do my best to suppress it so that it won’t interfere with me listening to the next person that talks to me. The next time you talk to me and I have a blank stare on my face, it’s probably because I failed to repress that “feature”.

So not only am I different, I realize I am also pretty strange. It’s all good. I am happy and that is all that matters. However, I am not all that strange and different. Just like everyone else I share certain qualities with others. Like when you listen to an old song and suddenly you are reminded of the first time you heard it, what you were doing, the mood you were in and so on. Or when you notice a familiar scent you haven’t smelled in a long time or when you watch a new movie that has similar content to movies of your past. That’s exactly what happened to me when I saw 17 Again with Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, and Mathew Perry. I didn’t particularly love the movie, but I didn’t hate it either. What it did do for me was take me back to the time when my favorite movies were Like Father Like Son (1987), Vice Versa (1988), and Mr. Destiny (1990). Granted, none of these movies are greats, but what the hell did I know? I was only a young and stupid teen. Bad movies or not, I still loved those movies and I watched them over and over again. I even played them in my head when I wasn’t watching and even created my own version of them in my own mind. Now, these movies aren’t exactly the same, but they all have something in common. They all have to do with getting a second chance to make things right. That is something that has always been of interest to me as a child living in the inner cities of Cleveland, OH.

The movie 17 Again is about a high school student who is also a talented basketball player. He is presented with a choice. Either continue his basketball career or support his pregnant girlfriend. (I don’t understand why he couldn’t have done both, but that’s not the point!) Of course he chooses his girlfriend and the story leaps forward about 15 years. The young boy is now an adult with two kids that hate him and a failing marriage. He is unhappy simply because he is constantly wondering what his life would have been like if he had chosen his basketball career instead of starting a family early. He thinks about this so much that is just makes him miserable. However, through some sort of magic he gets the chance to become seventeen again and do things all over—hence the name of the movie. He doesn’t go back to his own time though, he stays put in the present. He enrolls in high school and tries to adjust to his new surroundings. He thinks he’s got it all figured out until he comes across his own children lives at school. He sees that his son is constantly picked on and his daughter is pretty much a slut. He decides to once again abandon his dreams, however, this time his intentions are to make things right by his children.

I know, it’s a silly, sappy and bathetic story, but I don’t care, I enjoyed it. There were some funny moments and some nice, fun characters and I got to see Chandler…I mean Matthew Perry again on the screen. Of course, that is just me and my opinion. Will I think others might like this movie? Perhaps not, but if you were a fan of the movies that I just mentioned above maybe you should give this one a shot. If you hated those movies, you’re not going to like this one, you can go ahead and skip it, you won’t really miss much. However, I think that deep down inside all us, we all wonder if we had the chance to do it all over again, would we? If you could, would you do anything differently? Personally, even thought I had a pretty crappy childhood, I wouldn’t change a thing. That crappy childhood made me into the person I am today.


Bart Got a Room Review

December 23, 2009 Leave a comment
Bart Got a Room

Bart Got a Room is not necessarily a teen comedy. It’s more of a comedy for adults with teens. Although is based on a tired old prom theme, the movie is very funny and fresh.

My rating 3.5 Stars

Ah the prom, the very romantic night designed for young horny boys and girls to lose their virginity. It is the only time that is sociably acceptable for young teens to have sex. Did I miss something? Did I go to an un-hip high school, because I don’t recall this ever being true! Of course it is not, it is only in movies that prom teen sex is ever acceptable. In real life the prom is just a boring old dance that nobody ever goes to. I didn’t go to mine and it wasn’t because I didn’t have a date. In fact someone did ask me to the stupid dance and I almost did go, but when reality kicked in and I discovered that the tux place wouldn’t take rubber checks, I backed out. However, I never regretted not going. I didn’t want to go in the first place. It just isn’t a place for me; it is just a dumb dance!

There have been a number of prom movies and they are all basically the same. The only thing that is different about them is the music. Even the outfits are the same, for Pete’s sake! You find a date, you rent a tux and a limo, you get your Uncle Bob to buy you some booze (if you’re from the south you might even bring a shot gun or two,) you spike the punch bowl, you dance to a couple of songs, you get crowned king and queen of the prom, you get a bucket of blood poured all over you, then you set the school on fire…wait wrong genre. My point is that if you’ve seen one prom movie, you’ve seen them all. This is why I had no intentions of going to mine in the first place so I wasn’t broken up when I couldn’t go.

Bart Got a Room is about—you guessed it, the prom! It has all of the elements of any ol’ prom movie that I just mentioned except for one small detail. It wasn’t bad! I know that this movie is supposed to be a teen comedy, but I don’t agree with that. I think this is a prom movie for adults, if there ever was one. There is more adult content, and I don’t mean sex, I am talking about themes that adults can relate to more than teens. The movie’s focus is on Danny Stein, the high school student who is trying to work up the nerve to ask out a hot cheerleader to the dance, but he is also trying to deal with his parents divorce and the fact that they are both dating other people.

We get to know Danny’s parents very well Ernie Stein and Beth Stein played by William H. Macy and Cheryl Hines. Both actors were brilliant in these roles. They play a couple who have grown tired of each other for whatever reason. They have been divorced for some time now, enough time has passed that they are both dating other people. Beth may have loved Ernie at some point but now she just thinks he’s a cheap, irresponsible and untrustworthy person. She’s afraid that she’s going to get stuck paying for all of her son’s expenses for the prom. She must have her reasons, because Danny thinks so also.

Ernie is a very interesting character. He is extremely open-minded when it comes to talks about sex with his son who shudders at the thought. Ernie just wants his son to have a good time at the prom, he is realistic, maybe a little too much, while Danny’s mother is a bit more reserved.

There is another relationship worth mentioning about the film. Danny has been good friends with a young girl for years. Her name is Camille, she may not be the most attractive girl in the world, but she’s cute and she is terribly in love with Danny. Camille asks Danny to the prom in case he’s not taking anyone else. However, when Danny looks at her, he sees a friend, not a girl and he doesn’t feel right taking her to the prom. He is conflicted and feels terrible when he keeps trying to find the perfect date when in fact he had already passed on the perfect date.

Bart Got a Room is a decent film. It is not your run-of-the-mill prom movie. It is different and it feels different. This isn’t a film for teens; it is a film for adults with teens. I do not mean that it is inappropriate for them, I just thought the plot would be more appreciated by those parents who are getting ready to shell out the thousands of dollars for a one night dance. I also thought that this movie really lets the talent of both William H. Macy and Cheryl Hines shine through. They were both fantastic in these roles.

Categories: 2009 Movie Reviews

Adventureland Review

December 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Adventureland is very beautiful love story for twentysomethings. It is very well written and flawlessly acted. Plus the music is awesome!

My rating 4.5 Stars

I remember my first summer job like it was yesterday. I was 15 and not very confident, so I wasn’t very good when I first started, but eventually I could sell hair products to a bald man. I was good enough to come in second place in a contest within our group. Of course I wasn’t happy that I didn’t win it, but I did make enough money to buy myself a really cool typewriter.

I was a door to door candy salesperson in Los Angeles, CA. There was a group of us that would get picked up from all over the city and we were dropped off at the corners of really nice neighborhoods in LA like: Pasadena, El Monte, even as far as Orange County. We were given a certain time to run through all of the houses in the block and then we were picked up and dropped off at another block.

We all had a speech we were supposed to use when we knocked on doors. We also had a script of retorts for those people who didn’t want to buy any candy. I remember I wrote and memorized my own sales pitch and I memorized all possible retorts. I would sell something about 85-90% of the time. I was pretty good.

That was a fun summer. I still remember my friends and rivals. I never had another summer job after that, but at least I got to experience it at least once. Watching Adventureland reminded me a lot of that time, especially because it was based around the same year. However, instead of kids of 15, they were in their 20’s and instead of selling candy, they worked in an amusement park. It’s all the same really. It’s a summer job. You meet new friends, you have a fun time or a miserable time, either way you’ll never forget the experience and it always makes a great story.

From the makers of Superbad comes a lighthearted love and coming of age story. When James Brennan’s father loses his job, he finds himself having to find a summer job so that he could save some money for the next school year. After applying in many different places, the only job in the area was the local amusement park, Adventureland.

James wanted to run the rides, but instead the manager thought he was best suited for the games department where he had put on a show. On his first day he was trained by coworker. James learns the basics of the games; he was amazed and somewhat appalled that all of the games were rigged. It is almost impossible to get the top prize, the Big Ass Panda. In fact the amusement park frowns upon anyone winning one of the Big Ass Pandas and anyone who loses one of them is pretty much fired. Of course in his very first week, James is scammed by a “contestant”, but James did see him cheating so not wanting to lose his job the first week he argues with the person. Em Lewin played by Kristen Stewart notices the argument and also sees that the man had a knife in his back pocket, she intervenes and gives the man the Big Ass Panda to avoid any trouble. She assures James that everything will be okay, all he has to say is that he was held at knife point and they would understand. James is very impressed with Em for “saving” him and they quickly become friends and soon after they start dating.

The movie isn’t Superbad, it’s not even close. I was expecting something hysterical like its predecessor, and I was a little disappointed, but the story and the acting are quite beautiful. I have really been impressed with Kristen Stewart lately. Her performance in this movie and The Cake Eater were extraordinary. It just might be worth watching The Twighlight saga, which I swore I would never do. Never say never, right?

I really enjoyed this film’s story. I also enjoyed the music, which I thought it set a nice feel of the eighties in my mind. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same about the look of the film. There was something odd about it that didn’t look 80’s to me, so I wasn’t sold completely. If it hadn’t been for the music, this could have been set recently and no one would’ve been able to tell the difference. However, it wasn’t bad enough for it to ruin the experience and in spite of it, I still enjoyed it very much. And even thought it wasn’t based on a door to door sales job, it still made me think of those earlier times in my life when all I wanted was a cool typewriter.

March Was Amazing

December 19, 2009 Leave a comment

If you haven’t noticed, I finally finished the month of March. Good grief, that took forever! There were a lot of movies released in March. The good news is that there were a good percentage of them that I really enjoyed. The bad news is that I found the first movie I freaking hated. God, I hated Miss March. That was such trash. I was so pissed off that I had to watch that. If I had known that it was going to be that bad I would’ve put it in my do-not-watch list. I am going to hope and plea that they don’t get any worse. I am not sure if I can take worse.

Miss March was one of those movies that normally I would’ve have turned off, eject it from the unit and sent it right back without even thinking about it. However, since I have to write a review about it, I didn’t feel right doing that. I must sit through the whole thing to be able to fairly judge it. Because you never know, what if for some miracle it picks up? Of course it didn’t, but it could have and that’s my point. I have to watch the whole thing, no matter how bad.

In middle of the summer, just before I started my project, Liz—my wife—rented Brides Wars. I tried to watch it, but I couldn’t. It was the equivalent to putting my hand over a lit match to see how long I can hold it there before I couldn’t take any more. Before my project, I would give movies about 20 minutes to impress me. That’s all they get. If a movie can’t get my attention in 20 minutes, I walk away. If however, I watch more than 20 minutes, I feel committed to the darn thing and I have to finish it no matter what. I left Brides Wars in about 15 minutes into it. I couldn’t do it. It was horrible! When it came time to make my watch list and I saw that Bride Wars was in fact a 2009 movie. I debated with myself weather to try to watch it again or just give it a bad review nonetheless and so my do-not-watch list was born. :)

However, most of the movies were really good. Some of my favorites for the year have come from March. Sin Nombre was phenomenal, 12 was incredible, Sunshine Cleaning was outstanding, Phoebe in Wonderland was amazing, The Cake Eaters was a delight and Watchmen was pure genius. I could watch any of those movies over and over again and I have. I’ve seen each at least twice. I love watching movies, but it is such a treat when something different comes around like a well made and well acted movie.

Categories: Random Thoughts

Sherman’s Way Review

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment
Sherman's Way

Sherman’s Way is like an Odd Couple movie for the younger generation. It is funny and entertaining and the pranks are just hysterical.

My rating 3.5 Stars

This movie was not well liked by the critics or even some viewers for that matter; I am not sure why. I liked this movie very much. I thought it was a pretty funny and a decent story. The acting wasn’t the best, but I’ve seen worse acting get higher praise. Maybe it is just me, maybe I was just tired, I don’t know, but I enjoyed this movie a lot more than most.

Sherman’s Way is about an annoying young student from Yale who is studying to be a lawyer. He doesn’t really know why he wants to be a lawyer all he knows is that it’s a good living and he’ll make a lot of money doing it. Money is very important to him. He was raised by a very well off and powerful mother who is constantly featured on the cover of business magazines. Sherman is an only child; if he is ever in trouble all he has to do is call Mommy and she will bail him out of anything. He is also extremely conceited, elitist, pompous, and anal retentive. He buys things just to say that he has them, he looks at art just to say that he has seen it and not because he likes or appreciates those things. That is Sherman Black. He is just not a lovable character. He is one of those characters you want to smack in the face.

The movie starts out with Sherman and his current—soon to be ex-girlfriend—having a discussion about the upcoming summer. She wants him to do something spontaneous, leave the boring job that Mommy set up for him using her powers and go to California with her and spend a romantic summer together. Sherman of course reluctantly turns her down, breaking her heart. He just can’t bring himself to go against his mother. However, Sherman later decides to go for broke in spite of his mother’s wishes. He quits his internship and goes to California to surprise his girlfriend. He’s tired of being told that he depends on his mother too much. He wants to prove to people that he can make it on his own; his life is about to start.

When he gets to California he discovers that his relationship with his girlfriend has ended and Sherman is left angry and wanting to go back home. To get back to the airport he decides to be impulsive again to prove to his now ex-girlfriend that he is spontaneous, and so he hitchhikes. That’s when he meets Palmer. Sherman and Palmer are polar opposites. Sherman is the type of guy that plans everything to the tee while Palmer just lives on the edge. Palmer is a simple man. He believes that you make the best with what you have. He doesn’t have any responsibilities and doesn’t want any. Earlier in his life he had been an Olympic athlete, but after several unsuccessful tries he gave it up. He gets by in life by bringing up his Olympic past in hopes to get a quick gig when he needs money or a favor. He has no goal in life other than to live for the day.

The two characters are hilarious together. I love how they both interact with each other, both getting under each other’s skins. There’s one scene where they are both at a diner and Sherman offers to pay to show his gratitude towards Palmer for driving him to the airport. However, when he discovers that he lost his wallet he decides to give in and call his mother to ask for her help, which for the first time in his life, he doesn’t get. When he comes back, Palmer had worked out a plan to leave the diner without having to pay. Sherman at first didn’t want to do it, but what else could they do, he had no money. Palmer leaves first. He pretends to go to the restroom and exits out the back door. Then after waiting a few minutes Sherman gets up, but he is spotted by the waitress who chases him out the door. Sherman runs towards and dives into the car; they take off. Sherman was mortified! He couldn’t believe that Palmer had just made him skip out on the bill. However, Palmer suddenly confesses that he in fact paid the bill in full and that he was just having a little fun with him. The waitress had been chasing them because they forgot their change. There are many scenes like this throughout the movie, however they mixed it up a bit so they weren’t using the same jokes over and over.

I must say, I loved this combination of pompous and slack-ass put together. I found the movie to be very funny as both tried to teach the other to be less of a prude or more responsible. In the end they balanced each other out very nicely. They both learned a lot from each other and the experience they shared made them better people. The movie isn’t perfect, not even close, but it is funny and well worth a chance.

Categories: 2009 Movie Reviews

Gomorrah Review

December 16, 2009 1 comment

Gomorrah is an intense and horrific look at the mafia-like organization known as the Camorra. It is an outstanding movie that deserves a place next to mob movies like The Godfather, Goodfellas, and Scarface.

My rating 5.0 Stars

In this country we are all too familiar with our mob movies and shows. Who can forget Luca Brasi who sleeps with the fishes, Tony Montana and his little friend, Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, or Anthony Soprano in The Sopranos? All of these characters bring vivid images of the horrific life that it is to be part of the mob. While some of these movies glorify the life style and others condemn it, one thing is certain, there is no shortage of mob movies in Hollywood. So do we need another? Why not, mob movies aren’t only entertaining they can also be educational too. How? Because there must be hundreds of different types of criminal organizations in the world, we have only seen a small sample of them, including of course one of the most famous, the Mafia. Through films, at least the good ones, we can be educated about these organizations and what they are really about. Most come off as legitimate business, when in fact they are not.

The movie Gomorrah is an Italian movie that deals with one of these criminal organizations. It’s called the Camorra and it is one of the oldest in the history of criminal organizations. They have been in existence for centuries and are still going strong today controlling most of Naples, Italy and financing itself through drug trafficking, extortion, racketeering, prostitution, counterfeiting, illegal waste management, and dozens of other illegal activities.

The movie follows five separate individuals who are either involved, about to be involved or affected by the Camorra in some way or another and it tells their stories very well. Through those five characters, the movie touches on several subjects about the Camorra crime organization. It starts out by showing you how they deal with traitors, it shows you how they recruit, it shows you how they do business, it shows you how it treats their members and employees, it shows you how they deal with their competitors, and it shows you how they deal with rivals. Of course it is all illegal, brutal, violent, and in cold blood.

Gomorrah, is a terribly bloody movie. There isn’t a lot of violence in the movie, however, when there is, they go a step above and beyond to make the carnage look as real and as gruesome as possible. Was all that graphic carnage really necessary? I think the director is trying to show us just how ruthless these people are or how cold they can be. For example, imagine a friend approaching you while you are relaxing, you have nothing to worry about—you trust him. He looks happy to see you. You sit down with him, you have a drink, you laugh, and have a good time. Suddenly he pulls out a gun and shoots you point blank just under your neck; he never drops his smile. Ambushes like these are all over the film and some took me completely by surprise. Throughout most of the movie I kept expecting someone to jump out and whack somebody.

I would go as far as to say this movie is what The Sopranos should have been. It is my humble opinion that this is by far one of the best mob movies I have ever seen. It had incredible acting, flawless direction, stunning cinematography and an outstanding screen play. I know we have seen a lot of mob movies in the past. Some are really good, others are just okay, Gomorrah is outstanding and one that you should see. If you love mob movies, you should not miss out on this one.

Categories: 2009 Movie Reviews

The Education of Charlie Banks Review

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment
The Education of Charlie Banks

The Education of Charlie Banks isn’t a bad movie. A little slow at times, but a good effort by Durst, great story and good solid performances.

My rating 3.5 Stars

A young Charlie Banks both admires and fears the local bully named Mick. Mick, played by Jason Ritter is a social deviant. He does what he wants, when he wants and beats up anyone that gets in his way. Charlie, played by Jesse Eisenberg is friends with Danny, played by Chris Marquette. Danny is friends with Mick. Charlie doesn’t really know Mick he just knows about him and the things that he has done and the people that he has beat up and so on.

Flash-forward to high school and Mick hasn’t changed much, in fact he is worse. During a party Mick beats two guys almost to death. Charlie, who had finally officially met Mick previously that evening, witnesses the beating and decides that enough is enough; he goes to the police and reports the incident. With his statement, they could put Mick away for good for attempted murder so that he would never hurt anyone else again. However, Charlie fears that if Mick ever finds out that he was the one that ratted him out that Mick would probably kill him. So Charlie recants and takes back his statement.

Again the story flashes-forward, this time they are in college. Enough time has gone by that Charlie has almost forgotten about Mick. Charlie is a smart kid, he and Danny are roommates and they are interested in two things, books and girls. Both Danny and Charlie are intellectuals and they are constantly having academic discussions to stimulate their brains.

Everything seemed to be going well for Charlie, until one day Mick comes back to his life again. Danny and Mick are still friends. Mick had gotten into some trouble; however Danny kept the details from Charlie. While Mick crashed in their little room Charlie lived in constant fear thinking that perhaps he had come back to take revenge or something. However, Mick seemed as though he had changed and they included Mick in their college social group, hung-out and even studied with them. Mick ended up liking the college life he eventually audited some classes and even participated. Mick really did change, but there was one small problem. Mick started dating and sleeping with the one girl Charlie was trying to hook-up with. This made Charlie’s life miserable.

The Education of Charlie Banks isn’t a bad movie. I should mention that this is the first feature length movie that Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst directed and he did a pretty decent job. The movie is not going to win any major awards. However, it wasn’t a bad flick. It was entertaining and I really like the performance of Jason Ritter as Mick. His character shows how he tries to change, but in the end fails miserably. Mick never really changes, but he does learn something and he takes away an important lesson. What lesson was that, you’ll have to see the movie. I know the movie is called The Education of Charlie Banks, but it should’ve been called The Education of Mick.

However, the movie isn’t perfect. There are some slow moments. There was way too much music that just seemed out of place and did not add much to the scenes. There were some scenes that could have easily been taken out and not affected the plot line. Not a bad film, but not anything to write home about.

Categories: 2009 Movie Reviews
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