Klown

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Klown is a tasteless, raunchy, sometimes touching and very funny Danish comedy.  This is basically a road trip movie with a river substituting for the road and a canoe being the mode of transportation. Casper and Frank’s plans for a canoe trip ostensibly for Casper to party are thrown into disarray when Frank decides to kidnap his girlfriend’s 12 year old nephew and take him on the trip to prove to her that  he is good parenting material.

Similar to Hangover the three meet numerous characters and get into comedic/raunchy situations along the way.  This even has a Hangover type ending (and the one place even I thought they crossed the line of bad taste for a movie).

This movie stars Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen and is based on the characters they created in their very popular Danish TV shows.

This movie is being distributed by the Alamo Drafthouse new distribution company so is playing in several Drafthouse theaters (and even ‘rolling road show’ as part of a canoe trip)  with a very entertaining pre-show.  It might be hard to find in cities outside of Austin however but look for DVD or streaming options.

Bottom line – if you don’t like tasteless (or subtitles) skip this. Otherwise it’s an entertaining comedy.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

The final entry in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is a good but not great finale. Set eight years after 2008’s The Dark Knight, this is a satisfying ending to the trilogy and ties up loose ends nicely. After the events at the end of The Dark Knight, The Batman has retired and Bruce Wayne has become a Howard Hughes-like recluse. However a new menace faces Gotham City and The Batman is lured out of retirement.

The new menace, Bane, is good but not nearly as entertaining as The Joker in the last movie. Bane has a contraption over his face to help him avoid pain. With it, my son thought he sounded like Winnie the Pooh, while I thought it made him sound more like Darth Vader. The two characters who I thought really stole the show were Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young, idealistic police officer and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle.  The Catwoman storyline was as interesting as the Batman one.

While they did tie up loose ends, I had forgotten most of the plot points about The League of Shadows and Liam Neeson’s character from the first film, Batman Begins.  Remembering that would have helped in following some of the plot. It was interesting how Nolan has weaved in some themes here about things like the Patriot Act and wealth inequality, but that should not wreck the movie for anyone, no matter where you stand on these issues.

The movie begins with a good action set piece aboard an airplane and there is some good action throughout.  There is also some that is just chaotic. The movie is long – 2 hours and 44 minutes – but went pretty quickly and was worth seeing.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I agree with Bill C, good but not great film. It’s great in some respects: special effects, acting (also agree, Anne Hathaway is tremendous, and some other smaller characters also excellent, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine as always, Gordon-Levitt, e.g.). And Bane’s voice did sound like Darth Vader. His character is evil incarnate combined with an MMA fighter’s sensibility (what, no need for guns when you’re jacked like that?). Now let me outline where I was bothered, and it wasn’t in minor ways (some of these may be considered spoilers, but I will try to minimize what I give away): 1) Gotham is clearly NY City in this film, and I have no stomach to watch my city get terrorized and bombed once again. The Muslim jihadists will love this aspect, and after the Colorado movie theatre real-life massacre as well as innumerable accounts of innocents being slaughtered, I have no desire to see this dramatized in fiction for our entertainment. I felt the same way about Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards which has the Nazi social elite being burned to death trapped in a movie theatre while the “good guys” enjoyed their triumph. And this film takes a NY Giants-like football stadium and shows off it’s fantastic special effects while bombs go off and the players get swallowed up, we are supposed to be enjoying this vicariously. This was enough to sour me on this film. 2) I do not buy into its portrayal of New Yorkers, or any Americans actually, being subjected to a madman dictator/terrorist so easily. I bet this is what Osama Bin Laden dreamed about, tearing down Wall Street and major infrastructure, unleashing the masses of lower class poor people, and seeing our society turned into chaos and the rich people being thrown out on the streets. Maybe when the Nazis marched into Poland, but not here. Whoever wrote this crap and thinks we will think it believable is just patronizing us by assuming the movie going public will believe this scenario. 3) Hold NYC hostage and have the federal government reduced to delivering relief packages? Come on, where’s the effort to communicate with the captive New Yorkers, to infiltrate the city? There’s no way you can isolate the city like this. And the fact that Bruce Wayne, Robin and Commissioner Gordon all are aware of exactly when the ticking clock will expire is not also known by our army? What is this, Gerald Ford again telling NY to “drop dead”? That’s enough of my blowing off steam, but you can tell I was seriously bothered by these aspects of this otherwise great film.

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Breaking Bad

Bill C’s Review

I know – this isn’t a movie, it’s a TV show. I wanted to write about it anyway. For the last couple of months I’ve been watching seasons 1-4. I’m halfway through season 4 and season 5 begins this Sunday.

Breaking Bad is phenomenal television for those who like crime/drama and don’t mind a little language/violence. Breaking Bad is the story of Walter White, aka Heisenberg, an underachieving chemist who is teaching high school chemistry. After being diagnosed with cancer, Walter decides to cook meth to pay his upcoming medical bills and to leave a nest egg for his family when he is gone. Walter is the Julia Child of meth cooks. The show follows the metamorphosis of Walter as he goes from mild-mannered teacher/family man to ruthless/evil member of the drug trade. While his professed goal is to take care of his family, his life spirals out of control, his family life deteriorates, and his life is put at risk.  Despite his transformation to evil somehow you still root for him!

The show is sometimes funny, often dark, and always surprising. I love the pre-opening credit sequence which can be a teaser for something later in the episode or later in the season, or a commercial for one of the character’s businesses, or a music video about Heisenberg. Always tremendously original and, even if you can guess what is coming, you’ll always be surprised by how they do it. The show also does a great job of showing the backstories of some of the other characters in various episodes.

The cast is great. Bryan Cranston is awesome as Walter (previously from Malcolm in the Middle) and has won several Emmys. Aaron Paul plays Jesse, his former student and partner in crime, Jesse. Dean Norris is Walter’s brother-in-law and member of the Drug Enforcement Agency who also is hunting for Walter’s alter ego Heisenberg. Comic Bob Odenkirk is perfect as the sleazy lawyer. Giancarlo Esposito is also great in his understated performance as the drug kingpin. It’s amazing what he does with just his eyes…he is pure evil. It’s hard to believe that in 1982 he had a recurring role on Sesame Street! Other cast members are equally talented.

This is a show you should watch from the beginning of season 1 as you need to see the transformation of the characters to truly appreciate it.  .

 IMDB

Knuckleball

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

A film about a baseball pitch? What’s next, Sky Hook about Kareem? Crossover Dribble about Iverson? There’s already been Slapshot…Actually, this is a superb documentary about that small fraternity of otherwise ordinary athletes who have mastered that freak pitch that moves in unanticipated directions and makes big sluggers look foolish as they swing at empty space. The two pitchers that are focused on, Tim Wakefield (long-time Red Sox ace) and R.A. Dickey (current Mets star), are interesting people with good back stories and of course happy endings (in Tim’s case he retired last year, and in R.A.’s case, he pitched in this year’s All-Star game). We see insights from famous old-timer practictioners such as Phil Neikro, Charlie Hough and Wilbur Wood, who act as mentors passing on their wisdom. At the screeing I attended last night, Tim Wakefield attended and answered questions from the audience. He’s a classy gentleman, and I am now a big admirer of him. He’s most proud of receiving Baseball’s Roberto Clemente award for his off the field contributors to charities and his communities. And R.A. Dickey also seems to be an admirable character, with his wife that he met in 7th grade (he was also in 7th grade, so he’s no cradle robber!). I don’t know if non-baseball fans will find this as captivating as the rest of us though.

IMDB

Savages

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

Reminiscent of the movie Traffic, this is a tale of surfer dude/drug kingpins having their Laguna paradise bubble burst by a dose of Mexico cartel reality. Shades of Tarantino when you see the great Travolta as a corrupt, scheming, sleazy DEA agent, and the wonderful Salma Hayek as the ruthless, but motherly, cartel leader. Blake Lively is excellent as the muse and key to the menage a trois with the surfer/dealers, who are  very believable and fun to watch. Benecio del Toro is Salma’s captain gone wild, and kills the role; he should get a best supporting actor nomination. Some brutal scenes of violence but it moves fast and holds your interest. Nothing groundbreaking here, but a good summer action movie.

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Overall I agree with  Bill’s review and assessment of the performances.  In addition to the good performances there were some good plot twists and it kept you guessing to the very end.  I was disappointed with the ending as Oliver Stone manipulated the audience down the stretch and the final ending seemed to be a bit of a cop out.

For those looking for additional drug related movies in addition to Traffic (Benicio Del Toro was in that one too!) and Breaking Bad (TV) here’s a list of some guys top 10 drug related movies.

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To Rome With Love

Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5

I have been a long-time Woody Allen fan, going back to his early, early days where he just went for laughs with such movies as Bananas, Take the Money and Run and Play It Again Sam and with more seriously themed classics such as Annie Hall (one of my all time favorites) and Manhattan. But the last 20 years or so have been hit-or-miss (with a lot more misses). Unfortunately, following last year’s hit, Midnight in Paris, his latest movie is one of the misses.

To Rome With Love follows four unrelated stories all set in Rome. The movie keeps switching between the four vignettes and, while I hoped at some point they would be tied together, they never were. The stories were also not related in time. One took place in just a single day, but the others were longer, which made the back-and-forth editing seem strange.

The movie had some some funny moments (my favorites involved the opera singer) but the laughs were not sustained. Like most of Woody’s recent movies, this had a strong cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Greta Gerwig, Allison Pill, Judy Davis, Penelope Cruz, Woody Allen, Ellen Page (miscast I believe) and numerous Italian actors/actresses including Roberto Benigni. I enjoyed the performances by Penelope Cruz and Roberto Benigni but no one else really stood out. This was Woody Allen’s first performance on screen in several years and, while I’ve enjoyed his past performances, I think he should think twice before casting himself again. He played the father of Allison Pill’s character but would probably more appropriately have played her grandfather.

This is one Woody Allen movie that I would skip.

Bill I’s Review – 2 out of 5

7 cent fudgsicles, Raquel Welch, my ability to leap high on the basketball court, and Woody Allen movies. What do these all have in common? Right, they were all much better back in the day…way back in the day, just like Bill says above. I thought this movie was rediculous in terms of plot and believability. It worked for me in only a couple of aspects: as a paen to Rome (just like the book Eat, Pray, Love did for me, makes me want to go there walk around and eat the great food) and as an excuse to take in the beautiful Penelope Cruz doing what she does best. Other than that Woody has clearly exhausted his obsession with infidelity; only three of the four plot lines have infidelity as a plot device. Hey we know, Woody…”the heart wants what the heart wants”…its played out in every one of your movies now. Try something different. OK, he has a middle-aged Italian mortician who attains fame singing opera in the shower. That’s a funny idea, but how many minutes do we need to see him scrubbing away while he hits the high notes?

There are excellent actors here, all doing their best with this foolishness. But when is the last time you felt embarrased for Alec Baldwin? I did here, watching him play an all-knowing adult advising the young Jesse Eisenberg not to fall in love with his girlfriend’s best friend. Alex points out the obvious, time and time again, and most of it he’s supposed to be invisible to everyone but Jesse. Funny? I don’t think so and neither will you. Woody, maybe you should make like some of your favorite old-time Knicks and just retire.

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The Amazing Spider-Man

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

While there was no real need to reboot the Spiderman franchise so quickly, this is a good, but not great retelling of the origin of Spiderman. The story is not exactly the same as the n the Tobey McGuire 2002 version and focuses more on the mystery over the disappearance of Peter Parker’s parents and his coming to realize the responsibility to use his powers for good. It’s fun to see him learn how to control his powers. For some reason in this version, Peter Parker is a high school genius and invents his string power instead of it being a natural byproduct of his gaining other powers. I didn’t think his super villain was the greatest but he got the job done.

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spiderman and Emma Stone as his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, were good. Spidey has had different girlfriends over the years, so no use in retreading the same girlfriend character (Mary Jane Watson) from the earlier movies.  Since Garfield/Stone are an item off-screen, the couple had good chemistry on screen as well.

The special effects were good. I didn’t see this in 3D but could see how they could use this to good effect with him swinging back and forth all over the place.

This movie isn’t a must-see, but if you like the genre it is worth watching.

Note 1: Stay through the closing credits.

Note 2: The picture below has nothing to do with the movie. These people had their wedding reception at the Alamo Drafthouse and they were posing for pictures by the Moonrise Kingdom setup while I was getting ready to go into Spiderman.  I asked our waitress if they actually watched a movie as part of the reception. They did: The Princess Bride!

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Your Sister’s Sister

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Marc Duplass plays Jack, still reeling from his brother’s death a year earlier. Emily Blunt plays Iris, Jack’s best friend and Jack’s brothers ex-girlfriend. She offers Jack the use of her father’s vacation house to help him reflect and recover. Upon arriving, Jack finds that Iris’ sister is unexpectedly there. Iris also unexpectedly comes the next day and the three spend the next few days working through various issues. Your Sister’s Sister has a good mix of humor, drama, and romance. This is an honest movie about people with real issues/imperfections that you can root for.

The three main cast members were all great – Emily Blunt (as usual), Marc Duplass (also as usual)  and Rosemarie DeWitt.

If you’re looking for something other than a superhero (Spiderman), teddy bear (Ted) or male strippers (Magic Mike) this week, this film is an excellent choice. If I get the time, I’ll see those also :).

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

This is a very good movie, one reason being because of its naturalness (much of the dialogue is improvised), another being its offbeat sense of humor, and thirdly its unpredictability. Holding my rapt attention was the fantastic three main actors (the budget must have been minimal given that almost everyone else is an extra with almost no speaking parts, and the limited sets…this could easily be turned into a play), who are very believable and charismatic. Jason Segal can take lessons from Mark Duplass. This makes Five Year Engagement (also with Emily Blunt in a very similar role) look like a student film. It’s also very funny as well as touching. I can’t remember another film where the relationship between two sisters was as genuine and interesting as it is here. Finally, it’s a chick film in disguise, so guys will like it just as well.

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Ted

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

Very funny as well as fun, although not as many hilarious moments as I had hoped for. The memorable fight scene between Ted (aka the teddy bear) and his childhood buddy Mark Wahlberg is uniquely done, kept me laughing and incredulous. Kind of made me wonder towards the end of the film when Ted is unable to defend himself against a couple of minor goons, where did his fighting instincts go. Mila Kunis is wonderful as always, although in a thankless role of not even straight man/woman, but the exasperated girlfriend who’s too often the odd man/person out in this buddy film. It’s a romantic comedy at heart, however, which follows the hollywood script of boy meets girl, etc. To make this a great movie, they should have employed some of Sasha Baron Cohen’s go for broke sensibility, or at least borrowed his best writers.

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I can think of a lot of words to describe this movie: rude, crude, funny, politically incorrect, and nostalgic. Ted has a lot of very funny moments but, as Bill says, not as many hilarious moments as I expected. And of course it’s stupid. Not just because it’s a movie for adults (this is not for kids) about a living teddy bear, but because of things like Bill points out with Ted’s ability to protect himself. They also couldn’t keep the weather straight. In one scene Ted is getting soaked in a rain storm. In the next scene just fifteen minutes later, they’re at an outdoor concert and the weather is beautiful. In a later scene there’s a thunder storm and another fifteen minutes later, Mila Kunis is gazing in a Boston sky that has not seen so many stars since the invention of the light bulb!

I was surprised by all the cameos in this movie: Norah Jones (she must really have wanted publicity for her new album), Tom Skerritt, Ryan Reynolds,  Johnny Carson (in a very funny Forrest Gump-like appearance) and Sam J Jones of Flash Gordon fame. There are a lot of funny references to old movies, TV shows and commercials and I loved the pictures of Ted and John in movie scenes in the opening credits.

As far as performances go, I thought Ted was awesome. He can sing, dance, fight (sometimes), showed great range and did his own stunts!  Mila was wasted.  I learned that Mark Wahlberg can talk very fast and that Sam Jones still can’t act.

This movie would be best seen at a theater like the Alamo Drafthouse, with a bucket of beer to let you focus on the funny moments and forget the stupid ones. Unfortunately I saw this at a regular theater. Otherwise I might have rated this a little higher.

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Ted