Haywire

Bill C’s Review – 3 Stars

Haywire is an entertaining action B-movie starring former female martial arts competitor Gina Carano. There are several good fight sequences and a couple of good chase scenes. Gina isn’t the greatest actress but she is excellent in all of the action sequences.   The supporting cast is surprisingly strong with Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum and Ewan McGregor. The plot is convoluted and has plenty of holes but the action sequences with Gina make this movie worth seeing.

Haywire on IMDB

Haywire on Rotten Tomatoes

Bill I’s Review – 4 Stars

At the risk of alienating readers by using some sophisticated film review language, Haywire is freakin’ AWESOME. I loved it, had a smile on my face the whole movie. Let me start with the main character, a female Michael Bourne-like character (or alternatively, a Jennifer Garner Alias-like character, only much more ruthless) played by hard-body Gina Carano. When Ewan MacGregor has to warn somebody about to meet you with “You shouldn’t think of her as being a woman. That would be a mistake”. Or when Antonio Banderas simply says when you pop up in his house “Oh shit”. The action is non-stop, and as directed by Steven Soderbergh, strikingly original. When was the last chase scene you saw that wasn’t a cliche you’ve seen 1,000 times, including every night on the TV cop shows? Well, look for the literal chase scene, Gina chases the bad guy on foot through the streets and back alleys of Barcelona. It’s an incredible piece of filming. I won’t spoil the opening scene, but suffice it to say I thought back to the diner scene in Pulp Fiction. The tension is so naturally built up, sometimes by just a glance, or the cool music, then erupts in fight scenes that are more realistic than most of what passes in today’s films. What a great supporting cast, as Bill C says above. Banderas was unrecognizable to me with his beard until the end. I don’t like to see movies more than once, since I love not knowing what’s going to happen – that’s why I will close my eyes and stuff my ears sometimes when the incessant coming attractions are shown – but this is one movie I would enjoy seeing again soon. I expect Carano will be back, maybe as a female Terminator. Here she is in case you never heard of her, same as me:

The Artist

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

I finally got around to seeing the non-talkie The Artist, which has been touted by many as one of the best of 2011. I cannot rank it as one of my ten favorites for the year, especially since my eyelids kept trying to close on me. I guess it’s the best that could have been done without any dialogue, and the leading characters were certainly charismatic and expressive, especially Uggie the wonder dog (best supporting actor candidate?). If this had conventional dialogue, it would be evident how banal the story line is. I loved the last 5 minutes however, which was cleverly done, but in retrospect I’d rather spend my entertainment time watching some of the episodes of Treme I have saved on my dvr at home. Bill C., please pipe in with your review, I believe you liked it more than did I.

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This film did make my top 10 list, although I understand (and expected) Bill I to enjoy it less than I did. I viewed this homage to a bygone era of Hollywood movie-making as fresh and unique. I enjoyed the nods to Douglass Fairbanks, Chaplin (see A Dog’s Life if you get the chance), Rodgers and Astaire, A Star is Born, Singing in the Rain, and a bunch I’m sure I missed.

The performances (dog included) were all top-notch (they are all great smilers except for the dog) and, like Bill I, I really enjoyed the ending. There were a lot of nice little moments in the film as well. I agree with Bill I that the plot was very basic, especially compared to many of today’s movies, but for me that was consistent with some of the movies it was paying homage to and added to its charm.

Bottom line: I enjoyed this a lot, but if you’re looking for a plot-driven movie, this might not be the movie for you.

Photo added by Bill I.

The Artist – IMDB

The Artist – Rotten Tomatoes

 

Carnage

Bill C’s Review – 1.5 out of 5

Do not get Jodie Foster mad!!

Carnage is based on the hit Broadway play ‘God of Carnage’ and was directed by.Roman Polanski.  The comedy is centered on two couples civilly meeting to discuss the altercation between their two kids.  The discussion quickly escalates to World War III with ever changing allegiances among the four parents.

The movie has its moments but the acting (especially by Jodie Foster) seems overdone.  When she gets mad the veins in her neck are bulging, her eyes are popping and I was expecting to see steam coming out of her ears at any moment.  Whether laughing or crying, more subtle acting would have been better

None of the characters were likable and while I guess the point was about how childish the parents were. They all just seemed incredibly dysfunctional and mean spirited  and therefore I didn’t enjoy the movie.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

 

Best of 2011

Below are our list of the top movies of 2011. Believe it or not there were more that we could have included. Let us know your thoughts.

 Bill I’s Top Movies:

Very difficult this year for me to rank the top, so I list them as a group:
– The Descendants – Slow paced but genuine, Clooney and his teenage daughter are excellent. Hawaii scenery biggest star
– The Debt – Gripping thriller, set in two time periods. Jessica Chastain is a revelation, especially after The Help
– Margin Call – What are Wall St. moneymakers like behind the scenes? It’s not pretty
– Hugo – Magical fantasy as seen from kid’s eyes
– Moneyball – Straightforward tale of the book, solid
– Super 8 – Tremendous start with opening locomotive crash, carried by most realistic child actors, Great
– 50/50 – Excellent, perfect mix of real, funny and tuching. Who would have thought, a cancer comedy
– Crazy, Stupid, Love – Ryan Gosling steals this, helping make this one of the best movies of the year
– Bridesmaids – Fresh stuff, Apatow’s partner moves to female buddy romcom, but not rolling on the floor funny
– Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol – Incredible feats by Tom on world’s tallest building; great chase in automated parking garage
Bill I’s Best of the rest:
– The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo – Excellent, true to the book, Rooney Mara with an Oscar worthy performance
– Young Adult – Tour-de-force by Charlize, great character study
– X-Men: First Class – Best X-Men, cool back-story of their origins, fun and suspenseful, great acting
– The Bang Bang Club – Life-like portrayal of photo-journalists risking their lives in the most violent spots around the world,
– The Help – Decent story, well acted, but another white hero to rescue the poor blacks
– My Week with Marilyn – Michelle becomes Marilyn, definite Oscar worthy performance, based on real events
– Friends with Benefits – Mila Kunis carries this with a charismatic, genuine performance. Justin struggles to keep up
– 30 Minutes or Less – Just fun, outrageous scenes, kooky characters
– The Ides of March – Nothing new here, but kept my attention
– The Change-Up – Funnier than the what the critics say, plenty of laugh out loud moments
– Water for Elephants – Christoph Waitz confirms he can play one scary dude. Faithful representation of the book
– Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Too much razzle dazzle, Sherlock as James Bond of 1891
– The Union – Cool behind the scenes look of Elton resurrecting Leon from obscurity to make great music again
– Our Idiot Brother – Touching, good character driven
– The Sitter – Not bad, not crazy funny, pretty stupid, but amusing throughout. Excellent child actors, girl is amazing
– Midnight in Paris – Woody places his typical mid-life schlub into nostalgic Paris, wanne be magic, but falls short
– Bad Teacher – Over the top, good fun
– Horrible Bosses – Wacky caper, kept my interest, terrific Colin Farrel
– No Strings Attached – Done better later by Friends with Benefits

 Bill C’s Top Movies:

I also wimped out and did not order my top 10.
– 50/50 – a comedy about cancer. Funny but has serious moments too. Seth Rogen was good.
– The Artist – Unique and fresh silent black-and-white movie. Great performances including the dog. While I liked it a lot, some may find it slow.
– Attack the Block – British horror/comedy.about aliens attacking and the gang on the block does not appreciate it.
– Cave of Forgotten Dreams in 3D – Excellent documentary about 20,000-year-old paintings found in a cave in France. Ties for award of best use of 3D. Gets award for best movie co-produced by someone I know (Amy Briamonte)!
– The Debt – Really good action movie about Israelis seeking justice and the ramifications of their actions
– Hugo 3D – Very good movie that pays homage to early silent movies. Ties for best 3D movie. Not your typical Martin Scorses movie!
– Margin Call – Taut drama about the financial crisis and greed on Wall Street
– Midnight in Paris – Entertaining Woody Allen movie. Owen Wilson is excellent.
– Sienna – Great documentary about F1 race car driver Sienna.
– Super 8 – This is the second movie on my list having to do with Aliens (See: Attack The Block). Hard to believe. This gets my award for best movie edited by someone I know (Maryann Brandon).

Bill Cs Best of the Rest:
– Being Elmo – An entertaining documentary about Kevin Clash, the puppeteer for Elmo of Sesame Street
– Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop – Entertaining documentary following Conan as he prepares and during his concert tour after being dumped by NBC. A must for Conan fans but enjoyable for everyone. I saw this at SXSW and am surprised I haven’t seen this in general release yet
– The Descendants – Good family drama
– The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – I enjoyed David Finchers version. I would have liked to see the original and this back to back to compare performances and plot decisions by directors.
– The Help – Good performances in adaptation of book on race relations in the 60s
– IP Man 2 – Sequel to Ip Man! A Martial Arts film loosely based on the person that trained Bruce Lee
– Moneyball – The dynamic duo of Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in a movie about baseball!  You don’t really need to like baseball to enjoy this movie though.

Man on A Mission

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Man on A Mission: Richard Garriott’s Road to The Stars is a documentary about Richard Garriott’s visit to the international space station as one of the first space tourists.  He paid the Russians $30 million to take him up on a Soyuz rocket.  I saw a special screening that included a Q+A with the director and producer.  It’s an entertaining movie that gives good insight on Richard’s preparation and his visit to the space station.   Richard also left his camera on to get some interesting footage during the re-entry and landing. In addition to Richard the movie features several interesting characters (including his retired astronaut father).

This movie opens in N.Y. next week and in Austin the following week.  Richard will be at the Austin premiere (he lives in Austin).

This is a must see for anyone with $30 million considering a space trip and recommended for others just interested in the space program from afar.

As tis has not opened in New York Bill I. has not had a chance to review this one.

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Bill C’s review – 3 Stars

Ghost Protocol is the 4th in the series of Mission Impossible movies and is very entertaining.  The action is non-stop and they have gone out of their way to out-do the action in previous movies.  The movie really flies by and is fun to watch.  Tom Cruise deserves kudos for really hanging on the outside of the tallest building in the world (with cables that were later erased using CGI).  As a fan of the old TV series I think they rely a little too much on action and could use more brilliant plans to fool the enemies, but that is a small quibble.

***** Spoiler Alert ******

As in all of these types of movies you need to be ready to forget about reality and just enjoy the action.  So I happily did that as Tom dangled off the building, had a high speed chase in a blinding sand storm (which miraculously ended just as the chase did), dropped multiple stories in a car, etc., BUT who could believe the ending: Tom Cruise watching his wife, who he pretended to kill and had to abandon prior to this movie, while she is hanging out with some new guy.  When she sees him, she is happy to smile at him from a distance and then just goes on with her new life.  Wouldn’t she either be totally disgusted to see him (after all he put her through in the last movie and prior to the start of this one) or if she loved him (and since he is Tom Cruise), wouldn’t she want to ditch the very heavy un-Tom Cruise like guy and reminisce about old times???  You can only suspend belief so much!

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 Stars

First, I must say that I missed the fantastic editing job of MI III, done by our old friend, Maryann Brandon, teamed with one of my favorite directors, JJ Abrams, the same team who brought us Super 8,  the last Star Trek and of course the Alias TV Series. I agree the action in Ghost Protocol is the main attraction, and knowing Tom supposedly did his own stunts including jumping outside the world’s tallest building made it more thrilling. Jeremy Renner as his new sidekick is excellent, and Paula Patton as the kick-ass martial arts colleague made me forget about all these other supposed super beauty action heroes (Megan Fox pales in comparison, Angelina Jolie-Pitt is old news). The fact that Tom doesn’t make a play for her, and as Bill C. alludes to in his spoiler above, still pines for his wife (ex-wife? witness protection wife?), in fact lets Paula walk off with another dude after he clearly could do his best James Bond and have his way, is really what made me not believe the ending similar to Bill. Finally, I must mention the most inventive chase/fight scene I’ve seen in years, held in a super automated futuristic parking garage – where are these in Manhattan! Here’s Paula: