Red Hook Summer

Bill I’s Review – 2 out of 5

Do the Right Thing is an iconic movie to me, and Spike Lee has made several other excellent films such as Malcolm X, 25th Hour, Clockers and Inside Man. Red Hook Summer is like going back in time to when he was a beginner. She’s Gotta Have It was a fun, in your face piece of film making and in several ways Red Hook Summer reminds me of this, but with less fun and much less fresh, but mostly with the amatuerish aspects. For example, having characters making speeches, either to each other or to themselves/God/the camera. Red Hood Summer has two “actors” playing 12-13 year-old’s, a boy and a girl, bonding during a hot summer in Brooklyn, and they don’t act as much as shout their lines, probably right after memorizing them. Neither was believable to me as a young teenager in their situations. Speaking of which, why would a normal, seemingly well off young mother send her only son from their comfortable middle class neighborhood up to live with her estranged father living in the projects, with all the violence and drug dealing that comes with that? It doesn’t make any sense, and no reason is given, especially when the kid pleas with his mom to come home. The father is the main reason I enjoyed watching this film, and is portrayed by Clarke Peters (also excellent in HBO’s Treme) in an extraordinary performance. The Red Hook mileu is the other interesting character, but the plot is boring until it’s not, at which point its cringe-worthy manipulation ticked me off. Spike plays your emotions to the max, instead of organically letting the plot evolve. I couldn’t wait for this movie to end, and when it did I looked around to commiserate with my fellow film goers, except the other two people in the theatre had already left. I suggest you skip this film unless you are a Spike Lee afficianado, and don’t mind sitting through a mediocre movie. Hey, Woody Allen fans do that all the time.

10 Years

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

A ten year high school reunion, reminiscent of The Big Chill, and populated by some terrific actors, most of whom are much better looking then your typical high school reunion attendees. Channing Tatum, his real-life wife Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Kata Mara, for example. The story is ho-hum until the end, when a very cool musical moment strikes gold, just watch Kata Mara.

Otherwise, pleasant and fun to watch, drags a little in the middle, without much of anything too emotional happening.

End of Watch

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

It starts out as a cop buddy movie, like we’ve seen hundreds of times on film and on tv, but there’s a realism here that differentiates End of Watch, infused by the ultra realism, by the hand held camera (a technique that was irritating to me at times) and especially by the fine acting of Jake Gyllenhall and Michael Pena, as the aforementioned buddy cops. They have developed a closeness after years as partners that’s like a married couple, a comedy duo insulting each other non-stop and at the end, the core of an extended family that encompasses each other’s wives and families. The plot is not about much more than the day-to-day routine and unpredictable violence and risk they encounter and face head-on like soldiers on the front, reminding me of patrolling Taliban infested villages not knowing when a civilian is your deadly enemy or a victim that needs to be rescued. The tension builds into a climax and then an anti-climax that I both liked and wondered about, from a film making perspective, which I won’t explain here to avoid giving a spoiler. Overall, a terrific film, but not for the faint hearted. And Jake proves he’s one of our greatest actors, which I have believed since he starred in Brothers.

 Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I thought this was a pretty good movie that with a few changes could have been a very good movie. This easily could have been a film adaptation of a Joseph Wambaugh novel–it has all the same elements–although it wasn’t (check out The Choirboys if you want to read one of Wambaugh’s best). A large part of the movie is just everyday police life. End of Watch initially focuses on two partners and daily police life, showing how they deal with other members of the precinct, how they bond with each other, and how they often spend more time and, at times, are more dependent on their partner than their significant other.  Much of their day is spent just cruising in their patrol car but that is punctuated by times of great personal danger or witnessing some truly horrific acts. This movie does a good job of showing that dichotamy and how they deal with it. At the end of this part of the movie you really care about these guys. The last part of the movie deals with the ramifications of of them having unwittingly ticked off the drug cartel.

The partners are played by Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal. They both give terrific nuanced performances showing the ups and downs of their personal and professional lives.

I did have three quibbles with the film:

1) In an early scene, the cops are in a car chase. When they stop the car, the bad guys get out and start shooting. Instead of shooting back from behind their cruiser, the partners jump out from their car and charge at the bad guys with guns a-blazing. No way! But I will say that most other parts of the movie seemed realistic.

2) Bill mentioned the hand held camera. If it had just been Jake Gyllenhaal using a camera, I probably would have been ok with it. But one of the bad guys was doing this too, and not just filming them hanging out, but also planning their crimes. Too much.

3) Bill also mentioned a part at the end. I won’t go into detail either but I thought the director manipulated the move audience unnecessarily.

Despite these things, I still thought the movie was definitely worth watching.


Rotten Tomatoes


Favorite Actors

Bill I’s Note:

For a change from movie reviews, how about listing your favorite actors? My favorite male actors in no particular sequence:

Philip Seymour Hofman, Gary Oldman, Ciaran Hinds, Bill Nighy, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeremy Renner, Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington, Benecio Del Toro, Mark Wahlberg, Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamotti, Harvey Keitel, Sacha Baron Cohen, Robert Downey Jr., Jonah Hill, Kenneth Branagh

My favorite female actors:

Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Anne Hathaway, Rachel Weisz, Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Michelle Williams, Bryce Dallas Howard

I’m sure I left out some, and realize it’s obvious there are terrific actors not on this list such as Meryl Streep and Dustin Hofman, but I was going from who I have seen in the recent year or two and loved.

Please post your favorites in the comments below…

Bill C’s List

I like this idea for a topic and for the most part I like Bill’s list with a few exceptions.  Instead of putting my entire list I’ll just list some additions and any I’d leave out.  I know I’m forgetting some. I also tried to keep to the last couple of years. and these are not in any order

Actors: Matthew McConaughy, Marc Duplass, Seth Rogen, Michael Fassbender, Edward Norton,  Steve Buscemi, Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Jeff Bridges,  Josh Brolin.  Mark Wahlberg and Ciraran Hines wouldn’t make my list.

Actresses: Emma Stone, Frances MocDormand, Greta Gerwig, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdam, Amy Adams. I don’t think Bryce Dallas Howard would make my list

The Master

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

This ain’t no Boogie Nights! Paul Thomas Anderson, who wrote and directed The Master, is one of the most innovative, thought provoking film makers, but he also can make your skin creep, your mind wonder, and your head to scratch (?), but he won’t make you yawn. I don’t normally do this, but this quote from Leonard Maltin’s review says it better than I can: “The Master provides a challenging, alternately rewarding and frustrating experience unlike any other I’ve encountered this year. I’m sorry I couldn’t fully embrace it, but in the long run I’d rather watch Paul Thomas Anderson aim for the fences and miss than slog through sheer mediocrity.”

Start with the story: it’s not Scientology but you can imagine it certainly may have been inspired by Scientology, focusing on a compelling, charismatic author (Philip Seymour Hofman, whom I would go see if all he did was eat breakfast), self-styled scientist, who creates a movement (here called “The Cause”) which attracts followers through some supposed fact-based beliefs about time travel, past lives, attaining the perfection that once was our nature, all gained through “processing”, which is a combination Freudian confrontational therapy combined with almost hypnosis, to first remember, then re-imagine past events that must be confronted (sample question during this processing: “Did you ever sleep with anyone in your family”…asked 5 times in a row to see if the answer changes). The plot beyond this is centered around a drifter/loser/oversexed weirdo played by Jauquin Phoenix (who will rival Hofman for an Acadamy Award here, just a unique, unforgetable character he’s created), and his relationship as an acolyte/enforcer/son with The Master (Hofman). There are sexual undercurrents between them, although Hofman is clearly closely monitored by his powerful wife (Amy Adams, who’s perfect).

The visuals are incredible, as I expect in a PT Anderson film, but the music was too creepy for me, although I guess it accomplished its objective to set the mood in many scenes. Overall, while I was transfixed by the characters, the acting, the events, and visuals, I wasn’t emotionally involved, it’s not tremendous fun to watch and there was no real build up to any sort of climax. So it’s not a “great” movie, but certainly a great piece of film making that deserves to be seen.

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I saw The Master at the Alamo Drafthouse early this afternoon and they lost my food order. It finally came with 20 minutes left in the movie at which point I said I didn’t want it any longer. If this had been a lesser movie, I would have been totally ticked off but this movie was so engrossing I just shrugged it off and had a big dinner.

Bill’s review does a good job of summarizing what’s going on in the movie but what made this movie so mesmerizing were the performances by Hoffman and Phoenix. Just the stuff Phoenix did with his body and facial expressions was amazing. Hoffman was equally great…he can even sing!


Rotten Tomatoes


Bill I’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

Pleasant film, plenty to smile about but nothing histerical, certainly not better than The Hangover, which some critic claimed. Kirsten Dunst plays the Type A leader of the 4 “B’s” ten years after their high school high point; now they are mostly disappointed, wandering aimlessly except for the character played by Rebel Wilson, a pudgy one they used to pick on (called her pig face), now engaged to Mr. Wonderful, leaving the rest speachless and jealous and half heartedly celebrating with a bachelorette party that goes wrong. Shenanigans result, leading up to the main even the next day. Will she, won’t she, is the suspense, and while the predictable conclusion arrives, it’s enjoyable to see some of the plot lines, most notably for me the unique Lizzy Caplan character, and of course, the wonderful Isla Fisher, who can make any role memorable, even though in this case it’s a dumb blonde type. Kirsten is actually interersting to watch as she plays against type cast, a very unpleasant, unhappy beeatch. The guys are mostly fill-in, foils for the gals.

Robot & Frank

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

What kind of movie is this?  It’s a comedy, a drama, some sci fi and a buddy movie (between Frank Langella and his robot) all rolled into one.  Frank Langella gives a very good performance as an aging jewel thief with health/cognitive issues (the robot also gives a good performance!).  His kids don’t have enough time to give him the care he needs so his son gives him a robot that is programmed to take care of him and maximize his health.

Frank and the robot bond and if the best way to keep Frank and his mind engaged is for the robot to help him with a couple of robberies as long as it fits in with the prime  directive so be it.  The movie is quirky, entertaining, funny and in the end quite touching..


Rotten Tomatoes


Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I had no expectations going into this film, and loved being immersed in the time period (1930), the place (rural Virginia), and mileu (band of brothers running a profitable bootlegging business during prohibition). Into this “lawless” county, the wettest in the country supposedly, where the local sheriff and his boys buy the hootch along with everyone else, steps an over the top villain as new law in town, a sadistic dandy played by Guy Pearce, here:

I was thinking of the recent spate of villians, including Michael Shannon in Hit and Run and Bane in Dark Knight Rises (played I realized by Tom Hardy, who here plays the lead brother – I guess a good guy… sort of, at least you root for him), that Pearce out does them all. There’s plenty of blood spilled, guns shot, and even some young courting (Shia LaBeouf as the younger, and wannabe gangster brother out to prove himself, spies the innocent daughter of local Amish-like preacher, Mia Wasikowka, here

Mia Wasikowska Picture

The plot is pretty simple: brothers want to keep selling hooch, Pearce wants to shut them down and ideally kill them, and lots of bad things happen, seemingly without much forethought. The brothers wait around to get attacked, then they fight back brutally. The wonderful Jessica Chastain supplies the female perspective, as a hardened but somehow vulnerable city girl from Chicago looking for a quiet place to live, and becomes the brothers’ bartender/manager/girlfriend in waiting. Jessica, seen here

can convey her thoughts and emotions without saying anything like almost no other actor I know, and look great while doing it. She inhabits a character, usually 180 degrees different from her prior role, that just amazes me. If you want to escape the current 2012 US, and enter another world for a couple of hours, that seems realistic and historical (movie is based on real life brothers, written by one of their gransons), then check this out.

Hit and Run

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

I saw this back-to-back (Katie style for those who know my daughter) with Premium Rush and it doesn’t quite measure up to that film, both of which are based on bad guys chasing “good” guys. The reason behind the pursuit in this film is somewhat contrived (former partner in crime, played with glee by Bradley Cooper – or is it Paul Rudd?

Bradley Cooper Hit and Run

– who wants revenge and money owed), and the urgency is forced (Dax Shepherd must deliver his girlfriend, Kristen Bell, to LA for a job interview by a certain time). The surprising highpoint is any scene that Tom Arnold is in. I never realized what a good comic actor he is. Overall, a fun movie if you have nothing better to do, but see Premium Rush first.


Premium Rush

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I was pleasantly surprised that a film that tracks pretty much in real time a bike messenger through New York City would keep my interest, but it did so and was a lot of fun. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays the three time winner of the bike messenger of the year, as a reckless, aggressive, no-brake, one gear rider who cuts in and out of traffic to deliver whatever mail package has been given to him. He’s got a rocky relationship with another rider, the beautiful Dania Ramiriz, (see below)

Dania Ramirez Picture

who I remember as Turtle’s assistant turned girlfriend on Entourage. They are both terrific and believable as riders. Michael Shannon is perfect as the bad guy, continuing his typecasting from HBO’s  Boardwalk Empire. Shannon gives the film urgency and logic for the pursuit, as Gordon-Levitt and his pals swerve in midtown traffic. One of the coolest aspects is when he comes to a packed intersection, and the camera freeze frames while you see him working out visually which path will leave him untouched and not have to stop, reminding me of an NFL running back looking for daylight through the tacklers. I don’t see how this movie could have been better. From now I will look at those wrong-way bike riders a little more symathetically, for sure I won’t mess with them. I highly recommend this for all ages (well, over the age of 12 I guess).