All posts by billc

Rock of Ages

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

Rock of Ages is the movie adaptation of the semi-successful Broadway musical. Set in 1987, this is the story of the romance between a small town girl and a city boy as they try to achieve their musical dreams in Hollywood. It’s also the story of the fight to save rock and roll from the powerful old farts who try to ban this evil scourge. This is where the film started to lose me, as it takes place a couple of years after the making of Footloose – a movie set in the late 50s or early 60s about the fight to save rock and roll from the powerful old farts in power trying to ban this evil scourge. Weren’t we past that in 1987, especially in L.A.?

I have not seen the stage show but my guess is the dancing and energy are better live (although I assume they did not have the monkey – and he/she was excellent!). I’m not a dance man but I didn’t think the choreography was all that great. Some of the numbers just seemed weird to me – for example the one with Catherine Zeta-Jones in the church. But the music was good and helped to keep the movie moving.

Rock of Ages had a good cast, but most of the big names were in supporting roles and weren’t fully utilized. This included Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Bryan Cranston (speaking of which, I need to finish season 3 and 4 of Breaking Bad before season 5 starts!) and Tom Cruise. Cruise had the biggest supporting role as the aging Rock God, but it was a pretty one-dimensional role. I will give him credit for looking like a Rock God in his concert scenes. The two younger leads were OK but nothing great.

I didn’t have high expectations for this movie, but was curious about Cruise and his role. Bottom line – unless you’re really into musicals and or 80s music, you can probably skip this one.

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Prometheus

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Prometheus is Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to science fiction. His previous iconic sci fi movies were Aliens and Blade Runner. This film is an indirect prequel to Aliens and focuses on a space mission to find the civilization that planted life on earth and the ensuing struggles to survive.

This is a gorgeous movie to watch. The special effects are excellent and I thought the 3D was extremely effective. While most movies hit you over the head with things coming at you unexpectedly, this 3D usage was much more subtle, especially the great planetary 3D landscape.

I thought the second half of the movie, when the action picked up, became somewhat muddled. The plot could have been simplified and the movie tackled too many themes, including the beginning of life on earth, faith, and eternal life.

Michael Fassbender as the robot David and Charlize Theron as the company representative that financed the expedition were both excellent. Interestingly this was her second evil role in a row (see Bill I’s review of Snow White and the Huntsman). I also really liked Idris Elba as the ship’s captain.

Overall I’d say this was an ok sic-fi movie but it did not quite live up to my expectations.

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Safety Not Guaranteed

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This is the review I wrote back in March when I saw this at SXSW.  This opened in N.Y. last week and opens in Austin this week. It’s definitely worth seeing.

I really enjoyed this comedy. Excellent performances by Aubrey Plaza (similar to her Parks and Rec persona), Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson.  The plot focuses on 3 reporters following up on an ad looking for a person to join Mark Duplass’ to travel back in time.  But it’s really the characters interactions as they move forward with their lives and overcome some of their problems. The comedy is good and you develop a connection with the characters.  Definitely go see it when it comes out.  This had an excellent Q+A afterwards with the director and stars.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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