All posts by billc

Moonrise Kingdom

Bill C’s review – 3.5 out of 5

Moonrise Kingdom is the latest from quirky director Wes Anderson.  Some of Anderson’s previous films include Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaum’s and the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Moonrise Kingdom is set in summer 1965 in a small laid back New England town and is about two young teenagers, Suzy (a member of a dysfunctional family) and Sam (an orphan who is spending the summer at boy scout camp).  They run away together and the town and scout troop search for them as a hurricane approaches.

Anderson has his own unique style and as in all of his films this is filled with interesting characters. They include Bruce Willis as the town police officer, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s parents, Edward Norton as Sam’s troop leader, Tilda Swinton as ‘Social Services’ and Jason Schwartzman as the strange Uncle Ben.   But most of these characters take a back seat to the fine performances of  newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman playing Suzy and Sam.

While this has it’s funny moments (especially involving the scouts) I didn’t think this was as consistently funny as some of Anderson’s other movies.  However I found the young love story of two trouble kids sweet and touching.

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Besides the forgettable title (I had to look again at my ticket receipt just now to remember it) I loved this film, had a smile on my face throughout. Wes Anderson’s truly unique style makes this a fantasy, children’s story metaphor that combines some realistic characters (mainly the grown-ups: Bill Murray’s burnout, neglectful husband and father, Bruce Willis’ decent, lonely, sheriff, Frances McDormand’s cynical, lazy, housewife/mother who relies on a megaphone to call her kids up the stairs to dinner) with some snappy dialogue spouted from 12 year-olds, including the two amazing leads. This puts Juno to shame in fashioning beyond-their-years youngsters who seem to have their acts together and appreciate life’s adventures better than their elders. I guess you should bring your kids to this, don’t think their’s anything outwardly R rated, and the sexual undertones are fairly discrete (an affair where you don’t even see the adults kissing) or so chaste (first french kiss, skinny dipping with their clothes on…well they dry off in their underwear afterwards). The plot gets a little crazy towards the end but you will like the realistic ending. Keep an eye out for Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman in small but great roles. I don’t think I can describe this very well, you just have to see it.

 

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Headhunters

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I really enjoyed this Norewegian thriller.  Roger (Aksel Hennie) is one of the leading corporate headhunters.  Due to his exorbitant lifestyle he needs to moonlight as an art thief.  When he decides to rip off one of his clients after discovering he owns a major piece of art the real action begins. His client, Clas Greve is played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who plays Jamie Lancaster in Game of Thrones).  Both give good performances, as does Synnøve Macody Lund  who plays Roger’s wife.

This is a taut thriller with a lot of plot twists that will keep you fully engaged right to the end. In retrospect a couple of the plot twists and action were a little bit questionable or over the top and make for a good post movie discussion.

The subtitles seemed pretty quick at the beginning and I was having trouble keeping up but either they slowed them down or I started reading more quickly!

It might be hard to find this film near you (I saw it at the Violet Crown in Austin).  Butt if you get a chance to see it it is worthwhile.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Paramount Summer Classic Film Festival

This weekend is the beginning of the Summer Classic Film Festival in downtown Austin’s historic Paramount Theater. From late May through early September the Paramount showcases a diverse set of films with many different genres ting from the silent era to recent ‘New Classics’. This is a great opportunity to some old favorites or something you’ve never seen on the big screen. Many of the films are shown as part of double features and there are usually themes that last several days. Some of this year’s themes include Hitchcock week (The Birds, Rope, 39 Steps, The Man Who Knew Too Much, North By Northwest, Strangers on a Train), Comedy Classics (including Waiting for Gufman, Best in Show, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story and many others), Horror Week (including Nosferatu, Freaks, The Exorcist, etc.). Those are just a few examples. The full schedule is at this link.

Prices are reasonable and a book of 10 tickets is only $50. The opening weekend films are To Kill a Mockingbird, Pillow Talk, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Sting.

If you’re looking for something cool to do on one of those 100-degree afternoons, a double feature at the Paramount is a great choice!

The Dictator

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Sacha Baron Cohen is at it again with another politically incorrect, raunchy comedy. If you don’t like Cohen’s type of movie there is no reason to read any further – this movie is not for you.

Instead of his fictional character roaming around in the real world, Cohen plays a dictator looking for love and trying to preserve his dictatorship in a totally fictional story.  Of course, everyone/everything is fair game to be mocked including our political system, race relations, dictators around the world, etc. This is not nearly as good as Borat but a little better than Bruno (which I thought was sort of mean-spirited).

This movie had a lot of very funny moments but also had a lot of misses. If you’re a Cohen fan, the hits will outnumber the misses and will make for an enjoyable night at the movies.

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

I decided to count the “hits” to analyze exactly how much fun this movie is, and for me I had 63 LOL moments! That’s more than I could hope for, expecting maybe 12 times when I had to do more than smile but make laughing, guffawing and other shout-outs type sounds. Yes, many were spurred from one-liners, low brow scenes, skits that were crammed into the story plot (e.g. tourist helicopter scene), but so what, isn’t that what made Woody Allen famous? Proud to note my fellow high school alum, David Mandel, is one of the writers (he was key writer on Seinfeld – remember “Man Hands”?, and now on Curb Your Enthusiasm). Keep the laughs coming!!!

IMDB

Rotten  Tomatoes

The Avengers

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

It’s summer!  It’s only Cinco de Mayo but with the release of the first blockbuster it must be summer! (And it is in the mid-90s in Austin already.) The Avengers is a good start to the summer blockbuster season.

The Avengers brings together many of the characters in recent Marvel comic book-based movies: Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, and a couple of additional ones. All of these superheroes come together under the direction of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to save the world from Thor’s brother and his army. I didn’t see the Thor movie so I didn’t know the whole backstory…but is that important? Of course not! I won’t wreck the ending for everyone but suffice it to say that, based on the number of sold out showings this weekend, there will be a sequel!

Joss Whedon did a great job of directing this excellent cast:  Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlet Johansson, Jackson and others. There is good character development for a superhero movie and lots of action as well as light moments and humor. I thought this was the rare movie where the 3D was worthwhile. If you like this genre, you should definitely see The Avengers.

One of the key themes of the movie is teamwork. I would recommend that Carmelo Anthony see this movie before the Knicks lose game 4 vs. Miami on Sunday. Carmelo could definitely learn a valuable lesson here, but unfortunately he probably does not read this blog. Luckily, the San Antonio Spurs do not need to see this movie.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Unlike Bill C., I did not see the 3D version, so maybe that’s why I rated it a little lower. I enjoyed it, agreeing with Bill’s points above. I’ll touch on a few additional points. First, the villain, Thor’s brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, was perfect, really bad person, scary motivation (Hitler-like), and off balance enough that we can relate to real-life bad guys home grown on Earth. The only reason you would want to see the Thor movie (really bad) to understand this film is the throwaway reference to Natalie Portman’s character.

One review I read resonated with me here: this is best as a comedy with lots of one-liners delivered masterfully, by superb veteran actors. Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., ScarJo, Sam Jackson and Jeremy Renner. The script is preposterous, but the action and characters kept me interested. My major disappointment is the over-reliance on the destruction of NY City, although the superheroes thoughtfully tried to limit the damage to Grand Central Station and a 3 block radius. Notice the lack of a US President calling the shots, instead it’s The Council, who reminded me of when President Gerald Ford was paraphrased by the NY Daily News back in the day as saying “Drop Dead New York”.

Some side notes: I was pleased to see Cobie Smulders in the movies for the first time, since I love her on TV’s How I Met Your Mother. Too bad she has such a minor role, looking good while taking orders from Sam and doing some shooting. Scarlett Johansson shows promise as a female James Bond in a future movie. Gwyneth Paltrow, almost forgotten by the movie’s end since she’s mainly in the begining, is naturally beautiful as Stark’s (aka Iron Man) assistant/lover/homemaker, and for some reason walks around barefoot. In response to Bill’s sports analogy above, I would liken the following athletes to the Avengers: Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace as The Hulk, Derek Jeter as Iron Man (credit radio sports talk host Robin Lunberg), Pat Tillman (NFL safety turned military volunteer and victim) as Captain America, Jerry Reese (NY Giant GM) as Nick Fury (again from Lunberg), and Mariano Rivera as marksmen Hawkeye.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

You can’t go wrong with a movie from the Claymation experts from Aardman Studios.  These are the same guys who produced the Wallace and Gromit films and Chicken Run. Claymation has now been replaced by CGI, but this movie still has the same look and feel as the earlier films. The Pirates! is set in the 1800s, and the hapless Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) is once again trying to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award. Things look bleak until the pirates board Charles Darwin’s boat. As typical for an Aardman animated film, there’s plenty of ridiculous mayhem, characters. trivia, and background activity to keep all ages entertained. While I didn’t think The Pirates! was quite as good as the Wallace and Gromit shorts (the shorts are all hilarious) or movie, this latest film is entertaining for both kids and adults.

Note: I saw the 3D version and didn’t think it added much.

  IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Damsels In Distress

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Damsels In Distress is reminiscent of movies like Clueless, Heathers, and Mean Girls in that they all focus on female cliques in school  but that is where any similarities end. This is a quirky, silly comedy about a group of girls at a fictional northeastern college. Led by Violet (Greta Gerwig), the girls try to improve life on campus and rid it of depression. The comedy comes from the quirky and absurd dialogue and the fact that the girls seem to be leftovers from another era (maybe the 50s or 60s). Their solution to depression is dancing (Tap and the-hoped for new dance craze ‘ Sambola’) and good-smelling soap. But the girls run into issues with the men on campus and Violet needs to deal with her own issues. Like the movie, the performances are a little on the quirky side as well, but the leads, Greta, Carrie Maclemore, Megalyn Echikunwoke and Analeigh Tipton are all entertaining.

This film is written and directed by Whit Stillman, his first movie since 1998’s The Last Days of Disco, and he makes a decent return to directing. This movie could have been about 10 minutes shorter and seemed a little rough around the edges, but overall I enjoyed it and am ready to dance the Sambola!  If you like weird/quirky, consider seeing this. Otherwise, you should pass.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Still of Megalyn Echikunwoke, Greta Gerwig and Carrie MacLemore in Damsels in Distress

The Cabin In The Woods

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

The Cabin in the Woods was the opening night film at this year’s SXSW film festival.  I didn’t see it then, but everyone I spoke to had great things to say and recently the film has gotten really good reviews. So, while I’m not a real horror fan, I thought I’d check this one out.  And I think that’s the problem–I’m not a real horror film fan. This is a horror film that’s also a loving deconstruction of the genre. You know…those movies where a bunch of teenagers go up to a cabin for the weekend and start getting picked off one by one. If you love the genre, you’ll love this movie. You’ll recognize all the stereotypical characters and you’ll get all the clever references. And you’ll enjoy how producer Joss Whedon (writer)  and Drew Goddard (writer/director) play with the genre. But for me, this movie was ok but nothing special.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

SXSW Reviews – Part 3

SXSW ended yesterday.  Once the music started I fell behind (and went to a few less movies) but here are hilights from the last five days.  The movies I liked best were all documentaries…

Charles Bradley: Soul of America – 3 out of 5 – Charles Bradley was living in the projects in Brooklyn, looking after his mother and doing a James Brown cover act when he finally got his big break and released his first album at the age of 62.  This documentary covers the time leading up to the release of his album and his first tour.  The tour includes a stop at the Bardavon Theater in Poughkeepsie where he lived for several years in the 70s.   We saw him at ACLfest last year and he is good (and as the documentary shows, a truly nice guy).

Shut Up & Play the Hits – 3.5 out of 5LCD Soundsystem was a great dance-punk band that was led by James Murphy.  This is a great concert film of their last performance held last year at Madison Square Garden.  The concert footage is great and it’s juxtaposed with an interview of James Murphy and footage of him before and after the last show. My only complaints is they didn’t include any interviews with other members of the band or delve into how the band evolved.

Marley – 4 out of 5 – this is the definitive documentary about the great reggae singer Bob Marley who died at age 36 from cancer.  It shows how he grew as an artist starting in the early 60s and gives great insight on Marley’s personal life.  This also has great music and concert footage.

Under African Skies – 4 out of 5  Paul Simon’s Graceland is one of my favorite albums.  This documentary follows Paul as he returns to South Africa 25 years after making the album for an anniversary concert with his original collaborators.

The album was made while South Africa was ruled by an apartheid regime and a U.N. cultural boycott was in place.  This movie does a great job exploring the political ramifications and backlash that Simon encountered after the album was released for ignoring the boycott.  The movie also does a great job examining the collaborative process between Simon and the South African artists as they created the music and Simon’s creative process as he created the album. There is great archival and recent footage of the concerts and the music is great!  

America’s Parking Lot – 3 out of 5 – A very entertaining  documentary about a group of Dallas Cowboy fans/tailgaters.  The film focuses on the passion/obsession of a group of  fans who have tailgated together for many years.  They show up hours before game time and live and die with the Cowboys.

The film covers the last couple of years playing at the old stadium before moving to their new stadium a few years ago.   As the move to the new stadium nears the focus of the movie shifts to the economics of billion dollar stadiums and the impacts to the average fan.  At the new stadium fans have to pay tens of thousands of dollars just to have the right to buy the tickets.  Not only are many of the tailgaters forced to give up their tickets but the ones remaining  no longer park together further breaking up the group.   Even though I hate the Cowboys the film makes you feel for these fans.  

I plan to have my wife see this movie to show her how lucky she is that I’m such a relatively laid back fan!

 

SXSW Reviews – Part 2

Here are some of the hilights from days 3 + 4

Brooklyn Castle – 3.5 out of 5 – This was a very entertaining documentary about a lower income, inner city middle school in Brooklyn that has been the most winning chess team in the country for years. The movie shows the impact the team has on these kids lives and the impact of budget cuts on the team beginning with the recession a few years ago.  Not only are the kids incredibly good chess players but they are great kids that you quickly connect with. The teachers are awesome – incredibly dedicated to their students and have a real impact on their lives.  The movie is funny, touching and uplifting.

The Raid: Redemption – 4 out of 5 – This is a great action/martial arts movie!  A SWAT team attempts to move in and clear out a building controlled by a drug lord. The drug lord is prepared and pretty soon into the movie it’s down to just a few remaining cops.  There are several great action scenes and the plot is really good.  This was a packed theater (1200 people) and there were several collective crowd groans, cheers and applause during some of the action.  This is a foreign film with subtitles and very violent.  If you like this type of movie don’t miss this one when it is released in the next couple of weeks!

Beware of Mr. Baker – 3.5 out of 5 – A good documentary about Ginger Baker, the onetime drummer for Cream and Blind Faith.  An incredibly tumultuous life with a long history of drug abuse and careening from one problem to another.  Due to his many arrests he was not able to get a visa to come to the U.S. for this world premiere. Fascinating movie.

21 Jump Street – 4 out of 5 –  Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star in this comedy.    The movie-makers take the title and premise but little else from the old TV show that helped launch Johnny Depp’s career.   This movie has lots of hilarious/farcical moments and no potential source of laughs is off limits.  Hill and Tatum  make a great comedic duo and it’s fun to see their high school persona’s flip as they return.  This has a great cast including Rob Riggle, Ice Cube (very good) and others.    There was a great Q+A after movie. Jonah Hill was hilarious and it seemed like all involved had a great time making this movie and it shows on the screen. This opens next week and except for those who don’t like rude/crude is highly recommended. This is the type of movie that is best when seen in a crowded theater so I recommend seeing this early in it’s release.

 The Do Deca Pentathalon – 3 out of 5 – A comedy directed by the Duplass brothers. They actually filmed this before their first big studio film Cyrus but didn’t get to finish the editing until recently.  The movie is about two brothers who in their teens had a 25 event competition to determine the best brother that ended in controversy and acrimony.  The events include things like holding your breath under water, sports, etc.  Many years later they decide to re-stage the event to determine once and for all the best brother.  It has funny and touching moments and I enjoyed it. It also had a good Q+A afterwards (I assumed this was an autobiographical film but it was friends growing up that had the competition, not them)

For those who missed my first batch of reviews here is the link: SXSW Reviews – Part 1