All posts by billc

Nebraska

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This is the first review from movies I saw at last week’s Austin film festival. I’ll write a few more reviews in the next few days.

Nebraska is the latest movie from Alexander Payne, the director of Sideways and The Descendants. Bruce Dern gives an exceptional performance as Woody, an aging alcoholic trying to get to Nebraska to claim his $1 million marketing sweepstakes prize (which, of course, is not real). His son David (Will Forte) offers to take him, and a road trip ensues. Woody and David have had a rocky past, and the road trip gives them an opportunity to work through some of their issues. A stop in Woody’s old home town also gives David a chance to gain more insight into his father (and mother) and the relationship they had with some of their relatives and others from the town.

The film has a good mix of humor and drama. While you don’t get to understand all that made Woody the way he is/was, you do end up pretty sympathetic to all the characters. In addition to Dern’s great performance, Forte was also surprisingly good in a non-comedic role.  June Squibb was as Woody’s wife stole just about every scene she was in.

I liked this a lot and definitely recommend it. Nebraska opens in a couple of weeks.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

nebraska-movie1

Gravity

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Gravity is a visually stunning movie with great special effects.  The movie very effectively used 3D and I’d definitely recommend to see it this way.

Anyone who has seen the trailer knows the basic plot: George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are involved in an accident during a space walk and are struggling to survive.  The director effectively switches the viewpoint of the action – sometimes being third person and sometimes being Clooney or Bullock including the view from inside their masks.  Bullock has the bigger role and gives a very effective performance.

I won’t give away what happens.  The plot isn’t as strong (or complicated) as the special effects  but the tension is strong throughout and this is definitely worth seeing.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Gravity-Image-2

In a World…

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

For all those looking for a good feminist movie, In a World… is the top choice this weekend. For others that are looking for a good romantic comedy, this is also a very good choice.

Lake Bell writes, directs and stars in her directorial debut. Lake, who majored in speech and drama in college in London, plays a vocal coach trying to break into the male-dominated voice-over business for movies and commercials. The business is dominated by a few men, including her father played by Fred Malamed who discourages her at every opportunity. Bell and Malamed do some great voice-over work and Bell does some very funny voice bits while coaching others. The title is from the signature line of ‘The voice of God’, Don Lafontaine who was the voice-over king until his death in 2008. Bell ends up competing for voice-over work that will resurrect the ‘In a World ‘ intro. The voice-over scenes include a very funny fake trailer of a Hunger Games-type movie.

Besides her career aspirations, the movie intertwines three couples (those of Lake Bell, her father, and her sister) working through their various issues. In addition to good performances by Bell and Malamed, there is good supporting work from Rob Corddry, Alexander Holden, Demetri Martin, and Ken Marino (as another voice-over star).

I was at a screening with Lake Bell in attendance, and she was as down-to-earth as her character in the movie. This film is definitely worth seeing.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

images

The Act of Killing

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

In 1965 Indonesia was overthrown by the military and death squads killed over a million communists, native Chinese and intellectuals with the knowledge/approval of the military.  None of these people have ever been brought to justice and are still treated as heroes and with respect in Indonesia.

The Act of Killing is a fascinating and disturbing documentary focusing on some of these murderers.  They have no remorse and this film puts a human face on these people who have performed inhuman acts.  They recreate some of these acts for the film because they think it is necessary to resent their side for history.   At the end of the recreations you see the impact of these acts of horror on the people acting in the scenes even if, for the most part, the original perpetrators still don’t.

Some of this movie is tough to watch.  other parts are actually funny (as when one person decides to run for elected office).  Before the film stated there was a short intro by the director.  He said he didn’t really expect people to enjoy the film but hoped they would find it interesting and thought provoking.  This film isn’t for everyone but it is definitely achieves the directors goals.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

104668_gal

The Spectacular Now

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

The other repeating theme (besides robots) from this summer’s movies is coming-of-age stories. This film is about Sutter (Miles Teller), a high school senior. Sutter is enjoying life to the fullest, but is a budding alcoholic who doesn’t worry/plan for his future and has issues due to no father at home.

After he and his girlfriend break up, Sutter meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley) when he wakes up hung-over on some random front lawn. He lives by the spur of the moment and for the spectacular now, while she is more laid back and future-thinking. They help each other grow, but of course also have issues. I thought they both gave very good performances. This also has good supporting performances by Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Sutter’s parents.

The Spectacular Now was written by the same folks who wrote (500) Days of Summer, another movie  I really liked. They did not go for the easy, predictable resolution at the end. This film is definitely worth seeing.

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

This reminded me of one of my favorite movies of last year, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This film focuses on a charismatic, charming, savvy beyond his years, high school outsized personality (that’s Sutter played by a spectacular Miles Teller), comparable to Ezra Miller’s Patrick character in Perks, who develops a close bond with a seemingly naive, nerdish outcast (Aimee, by also spectacular Shailene Woodley, incredibly likeable and natural), comparable to Logan Lerman’s Charlie in Perks, and they are both transformed. The theme is a love for life, a realization that you can live your life as your true self and find people who love you as you are. You can have people in your life who disappoint you or even hate you and rise above it. You can be hit with what appears to be horrible experiences in high school and not only survive, but move on to an exciting future. This film, same as Perks, has an inspiring life affirming message that is appropriate for kids of all ages. I would especially encourage teenagers to enjoy this film.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

images

Elysium

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I had high expectations for Elysium after watching coming attractions for this movie all summer. It has Matt Damon, who has been great in action movies with the Bourne series, and is directed by Neil Blomkamp who made the highly entertaining District 9. This movie was ok, but did not live up to my expectations.

The 1% have now left earth to live in a utopia orbiting earth with machines that can cure any medical problem, while the downtrodden 99% struggle to live on a polluted, decimated earth. Elysium is protected by ‘Homeland Security’ run by Jodie Foster. I usually like Jodie Foster. While she successfully comes across as evil, she has a really weird accent and overall I didn’t like her performance at all.

Matt Damon’s character has had a tough life and is trying to get his life together. But due to circumstances beyond his control, he needs to join up with the resistance to try to reach Elysium and save the 99%. Damon, as usual is good. I also liked many of the action scenes. The first half was better than the second half, and I didn’t really like the ending.  SPOILER ALERT ON  This also had one of my pet peeves on movies with computers being key parts of the plot: when computer screens have random numbers and characters scrolling on and off the screen faster than any human being can read them, it is not possible for the person who has never been exposed to that program to figure out what the program does, how it does it, and to immediately provide his desired input to the program in seconds to save mankind. SPOILER ALERT OFF

This movie joins my growing list of this summer’s films that have robots! This movie is ok…but if you haven’t seen it, stay home and watch District 9 instead.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Elysium

2 Guns

Bill C’s Review – 3  out of 5

I didn’t have high expectations for this one but I was pleasantly surprised. The plot is ridiculous as is much of the action. This is a buddy-cop movie and what makes it entertaining are the performances. Denzel Washington is good in anything he does and the pairing with Mark Wahlberg works well. Their banter pretty much makes the movie. Bill Paxton is also good as the ove-the-top dirty CIA agent and Paula Patton as Washington’s love interest.

If you don’t like violence (especially against chickens), you might want to avoid this. It’s not the best movie of the summer, but you could do worse.

Bill I’s Review – 3  out of 5

Lot of fun, and yes, nutty unbelievable plot, but the repartee between Markie and Denzel is perfect, and the action never stops. The bad guys (mostly our government agents) are super bad, lots of bullets flying, point blank killing and things blowing up, but it somehow seems fresh, Tarantino-like, including the quips in the midst of the violence. I love watching Paula Patton but she seemed the least believable character. I had heard her real-life husband (Robin Thicke of recent Blurred Lines fame) describe how it was Paula’s idea to do the love scene with Denzel fully topless, and I have to say that was a good call. Perfect summer movie, no thinking needed.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

images

Pacific Rim

Bill C’s Review – 2.75 out of 5

This is another one of those movies where it doesn’t really matter what  I thought.  If you like movies like the Transformers movies or Japanese B movies from the 50s or 60s like Godzilla or action movies in general  you’ll probably like this.  If you don’t stay home or go see something else.

This is directed by Guillermo Del Toro and the movie is well made.   The special effects and action are high quality but depending on your point of view with these movies will either be great or totally ridiculous.   The same can be said for the plot and dialogue.  Some of the dialogue can also be thought of as superfluous as some of the characters mind melded for the battles.

The movie definitely moves right along (either because you’re totally into it or you’re noticing all the reasons you don’t like it).  If you like this type of movie definitely check it out.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

PACIFIC RIM

 

The Kings of Summer

Bill C’s Review 3.5 out of 5

The Kings of Summer is is another likable coming of age story.  This one is much quirkier than  The Way, Way Back.

The film focuses on three teenagers who run away from home one summer and build a home in the forest.  Two are best friends, one with a father who doesn’t know how to relate to his son after the death of his wife and the other whose parents are totally overbearing.  The third boy is just a strange hanger on.

The first half of the movie focuses on the three running away and building a place in the woods and settling in which makes for some good laughs.  In the second half conflicts ensue, lives are at risk, friendships + family ties are re-established.

The quirkiness, humor and upbeat/heart warming  ending make this an enjoyable movie.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

images