All posts by billc

12 O’Clock Boys

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

12 O’Clock Boys is an excellent documentary that follows Pug, an inner city kid from Baltimore, for three years.  Pug is 13 at the beginning of the film and his two goals in life are to be a 12 O’Clock Boy as soon as they let him and to be a veterinarian when he grows up.  12 O’Clock Boys ride dirt bikes and motorcycles through the streets of Baltimore in large groups while doing tricks on their bikes and evading the police.  The police, in theory, have a no-chase policy,  since chasing kids on their bikes could lead to more accidents, but even with that policy, there’s plenty of risk to those riding the bikes and to bystanders.

The movie includes plenty of great footage of the bikers doing their thing.  It’s amazing they don’t have even more accidents. You get great insight into the mindset of the bikers (ranging in age from teens to late 20s) and a view of what it’s like living in an urban environment without much hope for the future.

But most of all, this is a story about family.  In addition to Pug’s interactions with other kids and the 12 O’Clock Boys, there’s plenty of footage of Pug with his family.  His mother has not had the easiest of times and it’s interesting to see her try to keep Pug in line and to observe his relationship with his brother and sister.

Pug is a sharp kid. This movie gives good insight on what life is like for inner city youth, and by the end you have a good idea of which direction Pug’s life is going.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

12ob_still1_custom-56f5742506faac1d2b815faac7ade4f690786418-s6-c30

Best of 2013

We once again decided to list our best in various categories as well as our overall best.  Please add your comments with your views as that is half the fun.

 Bill I's PicksBill C's Picks
Best Overall1. 12 Years a Slave
2. American Hustle
3. Dallas Buyer's Club
4. Captain Phillips
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
6. The Spectacular Now
7. Mud
8. This is the End
9. The Way Way Back
10. Fruitvale Station
1. American Hustle
2. Mud
3. 12 Years A Slave
4. Fruitvale Station
5. Dallas Buyers Club
6. This is the End
7. Amour
8. The Way Way Back
9. The World's End
10. Saving Mr. Banka
11. A Band Called Death
12. Gravity
Best Film Based on Historical Events1. 12 Years a Slave
2. American Hustle
3. Dallas Buyer's Club
4. Captain Philips
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
6. Fruitvale Station
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Dallas Buyers Club
3. Captain Phillips
4. The Act of Killing
5. The Attack
6. War Witch
Best Unique Film1. This is the End
2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
3. Blue is the Warmest Color
4. In a World
5. Concussion
1. This is the End
2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
3. In a World
4. Elena
Best Crime Film1. American Hustle
2. The Wolf of Wall Street 
3. Ain't Them Bodies Saints
4. The Attack
1. American Hustle
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. The Angels Share
4. Graceland
Best Romantic Film1. The Spectacular Now
2. Drinking Buddies
3. Blue is the Warmest Color
1. Amour
2. The Spectacular Now
3. Drinking Buddies
4. Don Jon
5. The Bounceback
Best Comedies1. This is the End
2. The World's End
3. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
4. In a World
1. This is the End
2. The World's End
3. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
4. In a World
5. The Heat
Best Documentaries1. Blackfish
2. We Steal Secrects; Story of Wikileaks
3. Elena
4. Sound City
1. A Band Called Death
2. The Act of Killing
3. The Armstrong Lie
4. The Gatekeepers
5. Hawking
6. Elena
7. Linsanity
8. Getting Back to Abnormal
Best Foreign Language Film1. Wadjda (Saudi Arabia)
2. The Great Beauty (Italy)
3. The Attack (Israel)
1. Wadjda (Saudi Arabia)
2. Graceland (Philippines)
3. The Attack (Israel)
4 War Witch (Canada)
 Bill I's PicksBill C's Picks
Best Music Related Movies1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Twenty Feet from Stardom
3. Sound City
1. A Band Called Death
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
3. Muscle Shoals
4. Good Ol' Freda
5. Sound City
Best Actor (Not in Order)- Chiwejel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave
- Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
- Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, Mud)
- Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
- Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
- Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- Christian Bale (American Hustle)
- Ryan Gosling (The Place Beyond the Pines)
- Chiwejel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave
- Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
- Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
- Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
- Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Best Actress (not in Order) - Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
- Rooney Mara (Aint Them Bodies Saints)
- Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
- Amy Adama (American Hustle)
- Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
- Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies)
- Emanuelle Riva (Amour)
- Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
- Lake Bell (In a World)
- Judi Dench (Philomena)
- Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
- Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
- Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Best Supporting Actor (Not in Order)- Tye Sheridan (Mud)
- Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
- Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Will Forte (Nebraska)
- Barkadh Abdi (Captain Phillips)
- Keith Carradine (Aint Them Bodies Saints)
- Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
- Tye Sheridan (Mud)
- Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
- Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back)
- Jackson Nicoll (Bad Grandpa)
- Will Forte (Nebraska)
- Barkadh Abdi (Captain Phillips
- Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall street)
- Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Best Supporting Actress (Not in Order)- Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
- Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
- June Squibb (Nebraska)
- Shailene Woodley (Spectacular Now)
- Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
- Reese Witherspoon (Mud)
- Eva Mendes (The Place Beyond the Pines)
- Carey Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis)
- Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
- Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
- June Squibb (Nebraska)
- Shailene Woodley
- Julianne Moore (Don Jon)
- Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Worst Movie1. The Wait
2. Maladies
3. Thor, The Dark World
1. Computer Chess
2. The Lone Ranger
3. Maladies
4. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
5. The Internship
Worst Actor/Actress1. Christina Applegate (Anchorman 2)1. Jody Foster - Elysium
2. Steve Carrell - The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Lone Survivor

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Lone Survivor is based on the true story of a failed SEAL operation to capture or kill a Taliban leader in Afghanistan in 2005.

This is a very patriotic movie showing incredibly courageous men on a mission where things went wrong.  Probably two-thirds of the movie is devoted to the mission and the battle. This is one of the more realistic war battles filmed—not quite up there with Saving Private Ryan, but pretty good.  Even though the outcome is clear from the beginning, there is tension throughout.  The battle is grittily filmed up and down the tree-lined mountain terrain.

This film has a first-rate cast led by Mark Wahlberg and including  Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch and Ben Foster.  They did spend some time  developing the characters, but could have done a bit more in that area.

If you like realistic war movies, this is a movie you should see.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Lone_Survivor_06

Out of the Furnace

Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5

Out of the Furnace is a mediocre film (at best) with a really good cast. Any movie with Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe and Forest Whitaker should be better than this. Bale, Harrelson and Affleck were excellent and probably got this up to a mediocre rating.

The film centers around two brothers, played by Bale and Affleck. They live in a dying steel mill town and their lives are spiraling out of control. After Affleck’s character disappears,  Bale decides to take matters into his own hands and seek revenge.

This film clearly had high aspirations. I think director Scott Cooper was emulating The Godfather and going heavy on the symbolism during one sequence when he kept cutting between a deer hunting sequence and a pivotal scene for two characters. This also had a heavy Deer Hunter-feel as a story about a couple of lost souls.  But this film didn’t live up to those aspirations. I thought the movie was slow and didn’t think the plot was very good.  While most of the plot was straight-forward, the last frame of the movie (as pointed out by one of our readers) was really confusing and lacked clarity. There are many movies where ambiguous endings work, but this was not one of them.

Bottom line is if you haven’t seen this movie yet, skip it. There are a ton of other movies just opening that look a lot better.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

out-of-the-furnace-harrelson-bale-0782013-101738

Philomena

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Philomena is based on the true story of Philomena Lee (played by Judi Dench). As a Catholic in Ireland in the 1950’s, she was forced to give up her son for adoption, promise never to search for him, AND work for the church for no pay for four years. Helping her on her search is Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a former reporter and government spokesman who has recent been forced from office in a political scandal.

The film recounts her time working for the nuns and when they took her son, and fifty years later deciding once again to search for him despite the nuns’ denial of any knowledge of what happened to him.

The performances by Dench and Coogan are excellent. Besides their search, what makes the movie interesting is the interaction between the two characters. Despite the horrific things the church has done to her, Philomena still has her faith and is much more forgiving. Sixsmith take a much harsher view of their actions.

This is a well-written movie; Coogan co-wrote the script. I expected this to be a real tearjerker, but due to her faith, the humor in the script, and the bonding between the two main characters, this had a much different feel than I expected.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

PHILOMENA

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This is a very rude and crude Candid Camera-type movie. It stars Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame along with the amazing 8-year-old, Jackson Nicoll. Probably the only thing more amazing than the great job he does is that his parents let him do it.

While some parts went over the line—even for me—for the most part I found this film very funny. This movie is very Borat-like.  If you liked Borat, there’s a good chance you’ll like this. If you didn’t like Borat or didn’t go because it offended your sensibilities, stay far, far away. I was trying to decide which movie was ruder and cruder. I was leaning towards Bad Grandpa, but then I remembered the nude wrestling scene in Borat….

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Agree with Bill’s review, I loved it. Very funny throughout, the kid is incredible, and I wondered while I was watching, but at the end during closing credits I was convinced that the “real people” who are pranked were not actors, and didn’t know what was coming. Very Borat-like, but with a touching story grounded in reality of a boy who needs his grandpa.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Article on the kid

Film_Review-Bad_Grandpa-0531c

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

This review is not intended for those who are really into this series as all of those people have undoubtedly seen this already (probably twice). I had not seen the first movie, but I watched it on Netflix (what dedication!) once the sequel got such good reviews. I even looked up “dystopia” in the dictionary since everything I heard or read talked about the story set in a dystopian society (and they are right—an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives).

I was glad that I went back and watched the first movie to have a good context for this one. Overall I liked Catching Fire and thought it was better than the first. The movie is almost 2.5 hours long but it did fly by. The characters are interesting and the acting, good, with a surprisingly good cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and more. For the most part, the action was good although I found some of it hard to follow. I did have a couple of quibbles about the ending. It reminded me a little of The Empire Strikes Back--I didn’t think it had a real ending. It just sort of found a good point to stop, so the next film would have a good place to start. I have been told this is how the book ends too. I also didn’t like that they had to explain at the end what happened in the battle towards the end (since there’s no way to have figured it out just by watching), and what happened to some of the characters since they didn’t show that in the movie, but wanted you to know for the next movie.

Despite the quibbles with the last 15-20 minutes overall I enjoyed this.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I was not as diligent as Bill so I have not seen the first movie, thinking this one should be able to stand on its own. I think it does, but also am sure that I would have appreciated it more if I was familiar with the prior episode and the characters. I agree with everything Bill says in his review, including the excellent acting, the movie moving fast, and the abrupt ending, almost like it’s going to a long commercial. Very imaginative scenarios to go with a very depressing futuristic life under a powerful Donald Sutherland as “President”. The way the government thugs march in and torture and kill citizens without a second thought, much less a trial, reminds me of Syria and other hot spots in our current world. How powerless the citizenry must feel, which is the essence of this story. There’s enough humor to keep me from getting miserable watching, and some situations that stretch logic (OK, count how many arrows Katniss starts out with in her quiver, then count the number she ends up shooting, or firing, or whatever you do with arrows.). I’d be interested in reading comments of anyone who’s a fan of this series.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

catching-fire1

Hanksgiving

The Master Pancake Comedy troupe on Austin usually screens a movie while talking over  and making fun of the film (like Mystery Science Theater 300 used to do). Most of their shows are at the Alamo Drafthouse (a great place to see a movie), although occasionally they perform at the Paramount Theatre. This summer Master Pancake also did a free show at the Long Center’s lawn. They are very funny and raunchy. I go to see them every chance I get.

This weekend and next, they are doing something a little bit different. Instead of mocking a single movie, they have a great time with compiled scenes from Tom Hanks movies. This is a great show whether you love or hate Hanks…and, as they like to point out, nobody hates Tom Hanks. The Hanks catalog runs the gamut from his early comedies, his Oscar-winning performances, romantic comedies , etc.

Master Pancake show usually sell out several days in advance, so get your tickets.early.

Tom Hanks Career

tom-hanks-fix

The Armstrong Lie

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Documentarian Alex Gibney started out to make a film about Lance Armstrong’s return to cycling in 2009. As often happens for good documentaries, film makers need to be at the right place at the right time. In this case, as Gibney was finishing his original film, the final exposure of Armstrong as a cheat and liar evolved, and it was back to the drawing board for Gibney.

He did additional interviews with some of the people that Armstrong destroyed over the years as well as with Armstrong (including as recently as this year). While no new major revelations are made, this is an interesting portrait that sheds some additional insight in what shaped Armstrong, including his early days as a triathlete, his battle with cancer, and the incredible pressure to cheat in cycling in the 90s and stay one step ahead of the testing. This film also uses good archival footage of old Tour de France races as well as Armstrong’s winning years and his comeback in 2009/2010.

I’ve been a big fan of Armstrong since his first Tour win and he has been a well-known presence in Austin with the Livestrong Foundation and the annual charity rides (that I still participate in). Austin is probably the only place that still has something named after him: The Lance Armstrong Bikeway. After watching the recent interviews with Armstrong, it is sad to see he is still rationalizing his behavior and doesn’t really own up to his past mistakes.

For those who have found the Armstrong saga interesting, this is an informative addition.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

The_Armstrong_Lie_-_Main_2-w933h549cz

Inside Llewyn Davis

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Inside Llewyn Davis is the new Coen Brothers movie about a folk singer struggling for success in a one week period in 1961.  I liked this a lot but I do not think it quite makes the top echelon of Coen Brothers many diverse films.

This is a really good, sad character study as success eludes Davis on both a personal and professional basis often times due to self inflicted actions.  Oscar Isaac stars as Davis.  I had never even heard of him before and he totally dominates the movie.  I think he was probably in every scene and he did a great job performing the  music as well as acting.

The music definitely evoked the music of the era and much of the music was played in it’s entirety which was a pleasant surprise.  T-Bone Burnett, who wrote the music for Crazy Heart and many Coen Brothers movies wrote the music with Isaac.

While overall this is a sad movie the Coen’s do inject a fair amount of humor including a great song about JFK  and the space program sung by Isaac, Justin Timberlake (showing he could have been a successful folk singer) and Adam Driver (from Girls).

Definitely check this one out.

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

The main character, Llewyn Davis, is based on Dave Van Ronk, a genuine folk singer that I have never listened to. I thought his singing (Oscar Davis in a tremendous performance) in this film is excellent, and was shocked when he gets told at one desperate point that it’s not a money making sound, but it must be true because Van Ronk was never a big seller as far as I know. There’s a cool scene towards the end where you see Bob Dylan (an actor playing him of course) on stage with his unique voice at the Gaslight club, who proved there’s money and fame to be made if you were good, and unique, enough. Or maybe a big dose of luck and timing. To base a movie on such a sad character who is also fairly despicable at times and still make it compelling is an amazing feat. But it’s a great character, who is multi-dimensional, with the overriding theme of the life of an artist. An artist who is so focused, and self-centered, on his craft that it blinds him to what he needs to do to be successful. The life of a self-destructive artist. The visuals are great as usual in a Coen brothers film, although nothing that brings us out of reality. Throughout it’s an understated film, with some unexpected funny/shocking scenes, and not much that is predictable.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

the-title-character-of-inside-llewyn-davis-mdash-and-the-cat-thats-not-actually-his