All posts by billc

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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