21 Jump Street

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

This is a fun, witty movie, in large part due to the excellent acting, from the leads, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill (I never tire of watching him, check out Cyrus which most people have probabaly not seen), to the bit players like the Chemistry teacher who’s tongue tied in the presence of pretty boy Channing in her classroom. I might have laughed more if I hadn’t already seen some of the best parts in previews about ten times. So the 11th time is almost a yawner, but there are plenty of gems, such as the non-explosive car chase scenes, and the genuine chemistry between the guys, including genuine chemistry experiments by real (cool) nerds. Yes, the tables have turned in today’s high school where dumb bullying jocks no longer rule; true cool is now defined by eco-awareness and respect for studious, gay students. I guess some of today’s real-life students (see Rutgers’ recent bullying conviction) didn’t get the memo.

Oh, look for a surprise non-credited showing at the end of someone you will recognize, as well as the most blatant teaser for 21 Jump Street II coming next. Bring it on!

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5 (originally posted during SXSW) –  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.

IMDB – 21 Jump Street

Rotten Tomatoes – 21 Jump Street

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

SXSW – Reviews Part 1

Here are just a few thoughts on the festival and the movies I’ve seen so far.

The BabyMakers – 2.5 out of 5 – A raunchy, farcical comedy starring Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn.  It picks up in the 2nd half as the main male character decides to steal back previously donated sperm from a sperm bank when he learns that his sperm count is now too low.  The raunchiness reminded me of There’s Something About Mary (but not nearly as good).  This movie was ok but not very memoable..

Indie Game: the Movie – 3 out of 5 – A good documentary about the making of video games. This is not about the big corporate teams that make games but the individuals who have grown up playing video games and now have a dream of creating their own games that will have mass appeal. This is about rue geeks/nerds who get caught up in their dreams with different levels of success.  The focus are the authors of Braid, Super Meat Boy or Fez. Has anyone played any of these games?

Waiting for Lightning – 3.5 out of 5 – This was a very entertaining documentary about Danny Way and his attempt to skateboard down a huge ramp and jump over the Great Wall of China!  It jumps back and forth between preparations for his jump and telling his life story.  His story is interesting with lots of obstacles he had to overcome.  Lots of great footage of his daredevil jumps (including successes and fialures and  jumping on to a skateboard ramp from a helicopter!) and his dedication to his sport(s).  It’s a great story and good tension as the jump approaches and the building of the giant ramp completes.  I give this one 4 out of 5 and recommend it for everyone – you do not need to like or even care about skateboarding.

Safety Not Guaranteed – 4 out of 5 – 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.

Girl Walk // All Day – 4 out of 5 – This is an exuberant, fun and totally unique ‘dance music film’ set to the latest mash up album by Girl Talk in the streets of NYC.  The music is awesome. There’s not much of a plot.  It’s basically just 3 people (other professional dances sometimes join them) as they dance to Girl Talks’s latest album throughout the  bustling city.   Some people join in, some are oblivious and some enjoy watching. The energy never ebbs. Some of the locations included the subway, Yankee Stadium (during a game), Staten Island Ferry and many more.  I wonder if this will have copyright issues with all the music but hopefully they have those resolved.  Below is a picture of several in the audience dancing during the final credits!

I did not see the Joss Whedon produced Cabin In The Woods as I am not a big horror genre fan but I heard a lot of good things about it from people on lines.  So Keep your eyes out for it.

For those in Austin, I attended a movie last night at the new Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane.  It is the best drafthouse yet.  They didn’t put seats where the first 2-3 rows would normally be and each table is just for 2 seats so there’s no more need to climb past people or crawl under the table! Check it out.

 

John Carter

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I had minimal expectations of this movie; it was a compromise decision because my wife didn’t want to see anything “serious” last night, and I had been hearing Howard Stern anticipating John Carter, so I figured it might be amusing. Wow, I really enjoyed it! This is what Cowboys and Aliens could have been, or the last Star Wars, or Thor…just a thrill ride, good story, fun action, and fresh looking fight scenes (look for the “throw ’em in with the lions in the roman arena” scene). Even inter-species romance. Don’t take it seriously, especially when the hero starts bouncing up and down and doing stunts that realisitically only Tom Cruise should be able to do. The 3D version is what I saw, and it kept moving, never getting bogged down (although I did use the Run Pee app on my Android phone during one of the only couple of  minute segments it said I wouldn’t miss much). Sure, there are anomalies, like why would Martians who can create flying machines, and inter-planetary transporters use pistols and swords to fight with. In fact, I couldn’t tell if they had invented electricity yet, since they were using actual torches to see in the dark. And if you were John Carter, the human hunk who finds a hot Martian chick enticing, wouldn’t you wonder if her reproductive mechanics worked in a way that was compatable to your pieces? I did. But if you check out this femme fatale Martian, played by Lynn Collins, pictured below, you can see how his logic might be blinded in favor of lust. Finally, in this election year, check out the intransience of the Martian citizens (the green variety), when they cheer wildly for one leader, then just as quickly switch allegiances to another. Too reminiscent of Hitler youth for me, or Tim Tebow fans in today’s world. One more thought: one of my favorite authors is co-writer for this screenplay, Michael Chabon. He’s an incredibly talented, inventive author, who has shown he can create alternative worlds, check out The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Gentlemen of the Road. Enjoy!

 

Project X

Bill I’s Review – 1.5 out of 5

Where do I start? First, I am not the target demographic for this experience; I’m probably a factor of 3 times older than that! Why did I even go? Because I love fun, stupid movies that have nutty scenes such as The Hangover, Superbad, Bruno, and American Pie, as long as they are witty. Early Spoiler Alert…Project X is not witty. Ferris Bueller it’s not, although it certainly has some of its key elements. Although Project X brought to mind some wild college parties I attended back in the day, watching this film was more like watching a film of those parties, instead of actually participating in one. (actually I never even heard of a party as wild as in Project X, but memory enhances). Not so exciting if you’re not there, drinking, laughing, going stupid wild. It did keep me in my seat and had me smiling at various points, and its lead actors are OK, but more of the level of Triple AAA minor league versions of Johah Hill, Michael Cera, and Seann William Scott. I remember when I first watched Animal House, and like everyone rooted for Belushi and his frat buddies…for Project X I most identified with the middle aged-neighbor who asked for the party to shut down, too noisy since he needed to go to sleep to get up for work in the morning, or he’d call the police. I’ve fought this battle in my own house plenty of times. Most of you might want to spend your time reminiscing instead of going to this movie, unless you are under 17 and fantasizing about someday going to a party like this. By they way, the music is real good. And I guarantee, the idea of flying dog with balloons came from Howard Stern’s show, innovative as usual.

SXSW

Next week is SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin so everyone should be prepared for a lot of entries! SXSW pretty much takes over downtown Austin for 10 days of music (conference + shows), interactive (conference) and film (conference and film festival).  They have even added a comedy component the last couple of years that has been growing significantly. I take the week off and check out a lot of movies and music, some comedy, and try to get some sleep.

The film festival lasts for the entire 10 days of SXSW. The films run the gamut of Hollywood fare, narratives, documentaries, shorts, etc. There are well over 100 films playing at 11 venues. Many are world, U.S. or regional premieres and often the lead actors, directors and producers are in attendance and do Q+A sessions after the films. Since there’s a music festival going on at the same time, there are several music-oriented films that have associated music-oriented events. For example. last year I went to a documentary on the Foo Fighters and everyone waiting on line for the movie was given tickets to an unannounced Foo Fighters concert at a nearby venue after the show. It was a good movie followed by a great concert afterwards!  I’m looking forward to seeing two music documentaries this year: Marley (a bio of Bob Marley) and Shut Up and Play the Hits (about the final shows performed by LCD SoundSystem).  I anticipate James Murphy from LCD SoundSystem will be at the screening.

SXSW is very accessible and I am able to get into most of the movies that I want. Most have 3 or 4 screenings during the 10 days (although the later screenings have fewer actors/directors/producers in attendance).   $80 film passes are available that get you in all screenings not filled up by badge holders.

SXSW music starts on Tuesday and runs through Saturday. More than 2000 bands of all genres play at more than 90 venues day and night. Many bands give multiple shows. Part of the fun is to try to find an up-and-coming act playing in some small venue before they really break out. The most anticipated show this year (and toughest ticket to come by) will be Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in an as-yet unannounced relatively small venue (probably 1500-2500 people). Tickets will be given out by lottery so I have my fingers crossed. The latest rumor I’ve heard is that Jay-Z and Eminem will also be putting on shows but we’ll see…

For the music, in addition to badges there are wrist bands available that will get you into most shows.  You can also volunteer to work for a few days and then get a wrist band for compensation. A lot of college kids do that and it  is what my son does.  The other option for music is to buy nothing and just do free or non official SXSW shows.  There are free shows at Auditorium Shores that include the Shins, Counting Crows and the Cult as well as others.  There are also many non-SXSW venues doing shows as well as official venues having free shows during the day.

I don’t really do much at SXSW interactive. For those interested here’s a link with info.  I think one of the keynote speakers is the head of Pinterest, the latest hot social networking phenomenon.

Last year was the the first year I went to one of the comedy events featuring John Oliver and several other comedians. This year I look forward to attending a live taping of my favorite podcast, WTF with Marc Maron.

I’ll try to keep everyone updated!

Thin Ice

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Thin Ice was very entertaining with lots of good plot twists and turns. Greg Kinnear plays an insurance agent living in frigid Wisconsin with financial and other problems. When he meets Alan Arkin’s character, he sees an opportunity to take advantage of Arkin and resolve his own problems. Things don’t go according to plan and that’s when the numerous plot twists start kicking in. You may anticipate some of them but you wouldn’t expect all of them.

Greg Kinnear is good as the unscrupulous insurance salesman but I enjoyed Alan Arkin’s performance more. Billy Crudup also provided some comic relief.

With a wintery setting in Wisconsin and some similar plot lines, this film is reminiscent of Fargo. Although not as good as Fargo, Thin Ice is definitely worth seeing.

IMDB – Thin Ice

Rotten Tomatoes – Thin Ice

Our Picks for the Oscars

Below are the nominees we’d pick to win based on what we’ve seen. These are not our guess for which nominees will actually win. Unfortunately, due to our day jobs we have not been able to see as many of the nominees as we would have liked to but we’ll try to do better in the coming year!

Best Picture
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
“Hugo”
“Midnight in Paris”
“The Help”
“Moneyball”
“War Horse”
“The Tree of Life”

Bill C. – I’ve see all but “War Horse” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”  I enjoyed all the ones I saw, although “The Tree of Life” could have been a little more focused.  I’m going to go with “The Artist.” “Hugo” would be my back-up choice.

Bill I.  – Very tough to pick the best, as my top 3 are very close. I’ll go with The Descendants.

Best Actor
Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

Bill C. – I have seen all of these performances except for Demian Bichir.  For me it comes down to George Clooney and Jean Dujardin.  Gary Oldman was good but it was a pretty subdued performance without him showing a range of emotion. Brad Pitt was good too but but he didn’t show the range of the other two.  And my winner is…George Clooney.  Clooney gets the win because his was more of a real emotional performance while Dujardin was a caricature of a silent movie actor. While Dujardin was terrific, I’ll go with the real emotional performance by Clooney.

Bill I. – I will also pick George, especially liked his sprinting in his sandals. I thought Ryan Gosling should have been nominated for Crazy, Stupid Love, he was compelling to watch.

Best Actress
Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”

Bill C. – I haven’t seen Glenn Close or Meryl Streep (although I didn’t really like Streep in the preview).  I’m surprised Tilda Swinton didn’t get nominated.  I’ll go with Viola Davis.

Bill I. –  Another tough call, although I hoped Jessica Chastain should have been nominated for The Debt, especially combined with her work in The Help and Tree of Life (which I only heard about). I’ll go with Rooney Mara, who blew me away portraying the Lisbeth Salander character, whom everyone who read the book I’m sure had expecatations in mind.

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Bill C – I only saw Kenneth Branagh and Jonah Hill so I’m going to pass here.  From what I’ve heard, I think it will come down to Nick Nolte (a Bill I. top movie) and Christopher Plummer.

Bill I. – Branagh is the best nominee I saw. However, best of the year was Christoph Waitz who portrayed the charmingly evil (typecast!) Circus Master in Water for Elephants. What a scary dude!

Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

Bill C. – I didn’t see Janet McTeer. Jessica Chastain had a great year; they need a ‘Best Year’ category for her (with Michael Fassbender getting it on the men’s side)!  I thought Berenice Bejo was good too, but I’m eliminating her for the same reason I eliminated Dujardin. Octavia Spencer is my winner. Just a great performance.

Bill I. – I’ll go with Octavia, but what about Bryce Dallas Howard, who was perfect in The Help?

Best Director
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”

Bill C. – I’m going with Martin Scorsese in a very un-Scorsese like movie. His love of movies is on display every frame of this movie. Terence Malick made a beautiful movie but again he just went overboard for me. All of these guys are deserving.

Bill I. – I pick Marty as well, who gave us a visual, magical tour-de-force in Hugo.

Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
JC Chandor, “Margin Call”
Asghar Farhadi, “A Separation”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, “Bridesmaids”

Bill C. – I’m surprised a silent movie is nominated for Best Original Screenplay!  I haven’t seen “A Separation.”  I’d like to see Woody Allen win again.

Bill I. – I would like to see Woody lose. For a winner, I’ll go with Margin Call, with a great story, characters and dialogue.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
“Bullhead” (Belgium)
“Footnote” (Israel)
“In Darkness” (Poland)
“Monsieur Lazhar” (Canada)
“A Separation” (Iran)

Bill C – I have only seen “A Separation”, which is excellent.  I have also heard good things about “Bullhead” has gotten great buzz from FantasticFest in Austin and is being distributed by Drafthouse Films (the folks in Austin who run my favorite theater – The Alamo Drafthouse) so everyone should go see it!

Original Score
“The Adventures of Tintin,” John Williams
“The Artist,” Ludovic Bource
“Hugo,” Howard Shore
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” Alberto Iglesias
“War Horse,” John Williams

Bill I. – I don’t know about score, but the opening of Dragon Tatoo was astounding, Trent Reznor killing Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. It reminded me of the best Bond movie openings, or even my favorite opening of all time, Boogie Nights’ use of Kool & The Gang’s Jungle Boogie.

Best Documentary Feature
“Hell and Back Again”
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”
“Pina”
“Undefeated”

Bill C – I haven’t seen any of these but am really surprised that “Senna” was not nominated.

Best Animated Short Film
“Dimanche/Sunday”
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
“La Luna”
“A Morning Stroll”
“Wild Life”

Bill C – We recently saw a compilation with all of these and they are all excellent. The best were “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” and “La Luna.”  “Books” is an homage to reading and was incredibly well done. “La Luna” is a whimsical look at the Moon by Pixar.  I’m going with “Books”. Click here to see “Books”!

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash, “The Descendants”
John Logan, “Hugo”
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, “The Ides of March”
Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, “Moneyball”
Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughn, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Best Animated Feature
“A Cat In Paris”
“Chico & Rita”
“Kung Fu Panda 2”
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”

Best Original Song
“Man or Muppet,” The Muppets; Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio,” Rio; Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Best Achievement in Art Direction
“The Artist”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Hugo”
“Midnight in Paris”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Cinematography
“The Artist”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Costume Design
“Anonymous”
“The Artist”
“Hugo”
“Jane Eyre”
“W.E.”

Best Documentary Short Subject
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement?”
“God Is the Bigger Elvis”
“Incident in New Baghdad”
“Saving Face”
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”

Best Achievement in Film Editing
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Moneyball”

Best Achievement in Makeup
“Albert Nobbs”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“The Iron Lady”

 

Best Live Action Short Film
“Pentecost”
“Raju”
“The Shore”
“Time Freak”
“Tuba Atlantic”

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
“Drive”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Moneyball”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Hugo”
“Real Steel”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

A Separation

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

A Separation is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and deservedly so. It is set (and made) in Iran and deals with a family splitting up because the wife wants to leave Iran for a better life while the husband refuses so he can continue to care for his father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Tough choices, both moral and otherwise, are faced as the couple separates and needs to deal with their new circumstances. Part of what makes this such a good movie is you are able to sympathize with all the characters. Forces beyond their control take them in conflicting directions and some of their decisions have disastrous effects..

Excellent performances all around, including the couple, the daughter and the woman who comes to help care for the father after the couple separates.

This movie is also interesting because of the insight we get about daily life, the judicial system and religion in Iran.

This film is highly recommended.

IMDB – A Separation

Rotten Tomatoes – A Separation