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Recent DVD Release: World War Z

Published September 24, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring:  Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken, Matthew Fox, David Morse.

Rated- PG-13.  Action/Horror.  Running Time:  1 hour 56 minutes.

Ross has been excited to see this movie since we saw previews in theatres several months ago.  I was mostly intrigued by the idea of fast zombies.  We had read in Entertainment Weekly that World War Z was Pitt’s pet project; a labor of love that he single handedly propelled to a speedy finish.  And it could not have come at a more appropriate time.  The World has been zombie crazy over the last few years, following a heated love affair with vampires and a short lived tryst with witches.  Zombies are so hot right now.  With AMC’s break out hit, The Walking Dead, and the big screen success of releases ranging from the comical Zombieland (2009) to the romantic Warm Bodies (2013), we are mesmerized by these flesh eating beings.  And World War Z has been the biggest commercial success raking in over $200 million!  I enjoyed the movie very much, but was frustrated by several scenes of sheer stupidity.

This movie is a one man show.  Brad Pitt (one man) and millions (billions?) of zombies.  All you have to do is look at the cast, nary a household name.  Brad wouldn’t be denied making World War Z and apparently didn’t want to share the screen with any other stars.  His UN envoy character Gerry Lane, chases around the globe looking for the cause of the zombie pandemic, and he has to move fast because these undead can motor!  Plus the virus changes you within ten seconds of getting bitten.  Maria mentioned that I really wanted to see this movie, and as usually happens to me under that circumstance, I was disappointed.  I didn’t hate it and I’m hoping the sequel is better, but it fell short for me.

The film was action-packed, suspenseful and thrilling.  But, honestly, I kept expecting something more.  Perhaps this is a classic example of too much hype.  We probably would have been better off going to see this one in the theatre before our minds could be saturated by the praise and snubs of others.  But here are a few things that chafed my ass.  At one point, they come up with this horrible plan to enter a medical wing overrun with the undead.  I’m no zombie expert, but per usual, these rotting corpses are drawn to noise.  No one thought, “Hey, let’s distract these bastards with some loud music or explosions elsewhere.”  I most certainly did.  Come to think of it, ALL of my qualms deal with noise.  In an earlier scene, Brad’s wife is phoning him and, of course, the phone ringing attracts the zombies.  Seriously?  She knows he’s going into a dangerous situation with zombies and she chooses to be the needy wife NOW!?  Lastly, there is one other scene that annoyed me.  We’re meant to believe that a community of people have been smart enough to build a wall over the past thousand years and just so happen to finish it right as the zombie invasion commences.  But not smart enough to keep their volume down?  Bit of a stretch.  That all being said, it had great potential.  Great storyline, a nice little twist and it entertained me.

Asking for the plot and characters to show common sense is paramount to enjoying a movie in my opinion, even when what you’re watching is total fantasy.  That’s why horror movies piss me off as a whole, people are always just begging to die.  Referencing the wall built around the city that Maria mentioned; beyond holding an incredibly loud shindig that worked the zombies into a lather, the choppers on patrol at the perimeter somehow missed a giant, growing, ladder/wall of the ravenous beasties.  Okay.  The special effects are pretty cool and there’s very little gratuitous gore, which I liked.  I also thought it was clever to have the command center with survivors out to sea on aircraft carriers and other large vessels.  One of my favorite character actors of all time, David Morse (Green Mile, Twelve Monkeys, Hearts in Atlantis, to name a few) had a small but important part here, and my hope is we see much more of him in the sequel(s).  I didn’t read the book World War Z by Max Brooks, and neither did Brad Pitt apparently.  Brooks said after seeing it, “I wanted to hate it because it was so different from my book….I never had a “Gerry Lane wouldn’t say that” moment, because I didn’t invent Gerry Lane.  So I was just watching someone else’s zombie movie, which was fun.”  I guess if Max can enjoy it, I should cut Brad some slack.  This is definitely his baby and his vision, let’s see where he takes us.

 

Maria’s Rating: 3 out of 5 Gummy Bears.

Ross’ Rating: 2.5 Gummies.

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Recent DVD Release: Star Trek Into Darkness

Published September 16, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Rated: PG-13.  Science Fiction/Action/Adventure.  Running Time: 2 hours 2 minutes.

 

While I’m not a Trekkie in the strictest sense, (i.e. I’ve never been to Comic-Con or a Trek convention), I am most definitely the next closest thing.  I’ve seen all the movies, every episode of the original and all of its spin-offs.  I saw 2009’s Star Trek and enjoyed it, but for some reason it didn’t stick so well in my brain pan.  The only explanation I can come up with is I must’ve been hammered when I watched.  So the other night Maria and I cued it up from the on demand list in anticipation of the DVD release of Into Darkness.  I thought it was awesome!  And subsequently thoroughly enjoyed STID.  I know some purists out there have had problems with J.J. Abrams vision, but don’t count me as one of them.  Yes, the original Kahn (Ricardo Montelban) was one of the most memorable and best Trek villains ever, but Cumberbatch’s version is his own and fit the movie to a tee.  What I really love about these new versions are the character portrayals of all our favorites.  Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are perfect as the reluctant, opposites attract, lifelong friends Kirk and Spock.  While both resemble, and to some extent, mimic the originals Shatner and Nimoy, they also bring their own slight variations with them, making the characters fresh and vibrant.  Karl Urban spews a few too many “Dammit Jim, I’m a Doctor not a ……” euphemisms, but he too has captured the essence of Bones’ old country doctor stuck on a starship.  Scotty (Pegg), Sulu (Cho), Chekov (Yelchin) and Uhura (Saldana) round out the crew of the Enterprise and the chemistry is easily as good as the original, maybe better.  Seeing Spock and Uhura as a couple, not just oozing a bit of sexual tension, is also a hoot.  I honestly think this series can appeal to Trek diehards as well as bring a whole new generation on board.

I had seen the 2009 Trek and miraculously had also forgotten it entirely, just as Ross had.  I think I watched it on a date and probably wasn’t really invested.  This time around I had Ross filling me in on the inside jokes, the correlating plotlines and character attributes.  This made both movies a Hell of a lot more enjoyable for a trek-tard like myself.  And I realized that I am marrying a nerd.  A closet nerd, but a nerd nonetheless.  And a giant sweetheart.  He was excessively patient with all my questions and extremely helpful.  Even pausing several times to explain how the plot of Into Darkness mimicked an old favorite episode of his.  I really liked both of these movies, which was a pleasant surprise.  And I believe I know what I find so charming about each of these films.  The characters are fantastic.  Spock’s emotionless and precisely analytical assessments are a welcome contrast to the rest of the crew.  He is, by far, my favorite.  It is a pleasure to watch his and Uhura’s relationship unfold on screen.  One of my favorite scenes from STID is when Uhura is alone with Captain Kirk on the ship’s elevator.  Kirk asks, “Are you guys fighting?”  Uhura’s silence is enough of an answer for him and the next thing he says is, “What’s that like!?”  These types of moments make both movies.  The only problem is that I don’t want any of the crew to perish and they always seem to find themselves in the worst life and death situations.

Fret not honey, that’s what the red shirt crew members are for, they do all the dying.  Star Trek Into Darkness is a roller coaster ride from start to finish.  This crew of NCC-1701 (“No bloody A, B or C” as the late James Doohan once uttered as the old Scotty) is progressing just fine, thank you.  Spock maybe a little more in touch with his human side.  Chekov is a bit smarter this time around and more versatile.  Uhura brings an attitude that Nichelle Nichols version didn’t possess.  The Enterprise herself is sleeker, and with the progress of technology, even the beaming process is tighter.  All improvements if you ask me.  One thing for sure though, Kirk still gets a lot of pussy, and he has no problem if the women are green or have tails.  Prefers it actually.  That dude would screw a wood pile on the chance there was a snake in it!  You gotta love him.  I just couldn’t be happier with these movies, and I hope it’s not another four years before they make another one.  For fans of the entire series, keep an eye out for a complete role reversal during a crucial point, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”  Make no mistake, STID is not a remake of Wrath of Khan.  If you keep that in mind you’ll enjoy it so much more.  One final note to the creators, please keep those Leonard Nimoy cameos coming.  I adore that ancient “pointy eared, green blooded hobgoblin”!  Thanks Bones, you quote machine.

It’s easy to become desensitized to our ever changing technology, but this is one time where I truly appreciated the quality of special effects and improvements.  The beaming was better, while keeping the integrity of the original vision.  It seemed as though the creators were conscientious about paying homage to the old series, while giving the film an original spin.  There is a trick to this delicate balance when you revisit something like Star Trek.  Impressively, J.J. Abrams and the Bad Robot crew have done this successfully…twice.  I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I was actually moved to tears during one scene.  But then again, I am a sucker for a hardcore ‘bromance’.  Perhaps I have become emotionally invested in Kirk and Spock’s friendship because I, myself, am in the female equivalent; a ‘homance’.  Please reference link for verification: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=homance.  Both of these Star Trek films have entertained me, hooked me and transformed me into a bona fide fan.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

Ross’ Rating:  4.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating:  4 Gummies.

Recent DVD Release: Olympus Has Fallen

Published August 18, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring:  Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, Rick Yune, Ashley Judd, Cole Hauser, Robert Forster, Finley Jacobsen.

Rated: R.  Action/Thriller.  Running Time: 2 hours.

In recent years an annoying phenomenon has appeared in Hollywood, the release of movies with nearly identical subject matter, right on top of each other.  There was Deep Impact and Armageddon.  Red Planet and Mission to Mars.  The Girl and Hitchcock.  Now we have White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen.  We haven’t seen the former yet but we just rented the latter out of our beloved Redbox.  A far-fetched, action packed, predictable hostage story that I realized half way through, was just Die Hard set in the White House.  Gerard Butler is John McClane, Rick Yune is Hans Gruber.  The White House is Nakatomi Plaza, Robert Forster is the inept FBI agent that sends in the troops against our hero’s advice.  Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett team up to form a composite of the sympathetic Sgt. Al Powell, and Aaron Eckhart plays the President but is really just Bonnie Bedelia as Mrs. McClane.  There’s a failed helicopter assault/rescue, and plenty of wise-cracking one-liners from Butler, as he McClanes through the scores of North Korean bad guys.  I loved this movie, in 1988, the first time I saw it.  Now?  Not so much.

Recently, Ross has been offering up insightful synopses of our entertainment.  He first pegged my new series crush, Ray Donovan (Showtime), as “Soprano’s West”.  And when he fixed Olympus Has Fallen as a Die Hard rehash, I knew he nailed it again.  Although, if it wasn’t for Butler’s McClanesque one-liners I would have found nearly no amusement in this flick.  Sure there are some action packed artillery scenes and tons of dramatic explosions, but it definitely didn’t add up to Die Hard standards.  It lacked Die Hard’s effortless charm.  To sum up Olympus Has Fallen in one word: forgettable.  I found myself missing the days of Butler donning a red loin cloth & ball kicking some Persian dude bellowing, “THIS IS SPARTA”.  I like to remember him at his best.  As for the other mish mash of famous faces, I saw people who I also like to remember as their past characters.  Aaron Eckhart; Harvey Dent a.k.a. Two-Face.  Ashley Judd; Dr. Kate McTiernan (Kiss The Girls)…I’d have to include Olympus co-star Morgan Freeman with this film.  He is the only man allowed to play Alex Cross.  That last line is directed at you, Tyler Perry.  Please stick to what you know – dressing up as old black ladies.

Gerard Butler is a likeable dude, and man’s man.  He disposes of the henchmen well in this movie and has some pretty cool moves.  That being said, I’ve always found him lacking as a movie star.  I did enjoy 300 and Chasing Mavericks was okay, but he is just stiff.  He doesn’t have “It”.  You can’t really define “It”, you just know it when you see it.  Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Humphrey Bogart, Jack Nicholson, De Niro, Pacino, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cary Grant.  You get the point.  They’re trying to make Butler a star.  They’re trying with Ryan Reynolds too, but you can’t make champagne out of lemons.  The other actors in Olympus Has Fallen don’t do much here either.  For crying out loud, Morgan Freeman just played the President not long ago in the aforementioned Deep Impact, now he’s the acting President.  Ashley Judd and Cole Hauser stop by for a cup of coffee.  Aaron Eckhart is tied up most of the movie, probably wishing he could escape entirely.  Rick Yune is okay as the head bad guy, but really he’s pretty much the evil nephew from Karate Kid 2.  And his female sidekick is a carbon copy of the Asian bad girl who gets her ass kicked by John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard.  Hell, that fourth installment of Bruce Willis’ series was ten times better than OHF.  And come to think of it, they fake blew up the White House in that one too.  Instead of renting or ordering Olympus Has Fallen, take the time to revisit any Die Hard movie, the guy in those films is a bona fide movie star.  “Yippee ki yay, Motherfucker!”  

Butler’s McClane tribute was a lame, “Let’s play a game of fuck off, you go first.”  I’m not saying I won’t use the line, it just didn’t suit Gerry.  Anyhow, OHF was a mediocre movie with a potentially decent plot that failed to execute its ideas.  There were some glimpses into clever writing, such as the relationship between Butler and the President’s son, which proves to be an asset as the boy seeks refuge during the attack.  It just seemed like something we’ve already seen, good guy is offered redemption, saves the day, blah blah blah.  In order for a story of this nature to translate, it has to find its niche.  Olympus didn’t have a niche, it just carved out a tiny little spot next to the Die Hard series.  Sorry Mike Banning (Butler’s character in OHF), but John McClane kicks your ass.

 

Ross’ Rating:  1.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating:  2.25 Gummies.

TV Talk: Banshee

Published March 19, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Antony Starr, Ivana Milicivec, Ulrich Thomsen, Frankie Faison, Hoon Lee, Matt Servitto, Demetrius Grosse, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Ryann Shane, Rus Blackwell, Anthony Ruivivar, Lili Simmons, Ben Cross.

Airs Friday at 10PM on Cinemax.  Action/Crime/Drama.

Banshee is a nonstop collision course of endless plot twists and unmitigated action.  There is never a dull moment.  No episode could be considered disappointing.  It’s the first series on Cinemax that we’ve seriously followed.  Banshee came across my radar when I first spotted an advertisement boasting the same producers of my beloved True Blood, including a nod from the renowned Alan Ball.  You can already imagine what the sex scenes must be like – mixing the likes of Skin-a-max and True Blood production.  We’ve recently embraced our titles as nitpickers and that is a true representation of us.  However, we allow quite a bit of artistic freedom with Banshee.  Although we are quick to point out the unusual amount of crime in this fictional town and the unlikely circumstances surrounding the core of the unconventional plotline.  Banshee embraces its ridiculous nature.  The show features some restless Amish, greedy gangsters, career criminals and simple townies.  A compilation of interesting characters whose lives are intertwined in this small Pennsylvania town.

More happens in Banshee, PA than in NYC!  The premise of the show is very cool.  An ex-con (Starr) fresh out of jail, goes in search of his girlfriend who helped him steal $10 million worth of diamonds, and is in hiding.  He finds out where she is from an old accomplice, Job (Lee), who is a gay, computer genius, quasi-ninja Asian dude.  Starr arrives in Banshee and goes to the local bar to have a drink and some food, and strikes up a conversation with the owner/bartender Sugar Bates (Faison).  In classic Banshee fashion the shit immediately hits the fan.  Two local thugs walk in looking for protection money from Sugar, and unfortunately for them, the other patron at the bar is the freshly hired Sheriff Lucas Hood.  A vicious fight ensues and Sugar and Starr are left alive.  They bury the dead, and through sheer luck, Hood’s cell phone rings and Starr is able to assume his identity.

The plot is refreshingly original and wickedly entertaining.  There are plenty of sub-plots featuring the supporting cast of characters, but not so many that it leaves your head spinning.  Banshee is an action fan’s dream come true and a gritty guilty pleasure.  I can’t wait to see what kind of twists and surprises they’ll have in store for viewers in 2014.

Season 1 just wrapped and like Maria said, we can’t wait to see what’s next.  We’ve pretty much put our nitpicking on hold for Banshee, as Maria said earlier.  Maybe it’s a bit unfair, but all the hard to believe things in The Following that have us on the verge of dumping that show, don’t seem to matter in Banshee.  The Sheriff has a knock down, drag out fight in public with an MMA champion and wins, and we don’t care.  He collars the local, formerly Amish, crime boss of the town Kai Proctor (Thomsen) for murder.  Gets T-boned by some other bad guys on the way to jail and ends up fighting free with Proctors help – then lets everybody go; and we cheer.  Banshee has regular Amish, gangster Amish, an Amish whore who bangs Lucas, Russian mobsters, an ex-champion boxer, clueless FBI agents, Native American casino owners, biker gangs, a police force not afraid to be vigilantes and so much more.  Every episode is a shotgun blast in your ear, a giant line of coke, and a dip into the ocean in January with the Polar Bear Club all rolled into one.  It’s not for everyone, but if you like non-stop, somewhat mindless action, with characters that you love and hate, Banshee is great fun.  See if you can find this first season and give it a shot, I’m guessing you’ll be back for more.

 

Movie Review: Django Unchained

Published January 11, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring:  Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington.

Rated: R.  Action/Drama/Western.  Running Time: 2 hours 45 minutes.

Hi all, we’re back.  Hope everyone had a great holiday and rang in the New Year with gusto.  We certainly did.  Let’s get back in the swing.  For a guy who has only directed 8 movies, Quentin Tarantino has an amazing body of work.  Maria is a HUGE fan of his, she especiallly likes the Kill Bill’s.  I’m a fan, but not of her caliber.  I recognize his genius, appreciate his love of movies, admire his rise from video store clerk and his unique style is obviously unmistakeable.  Django Unchained is his best movie since Pulp Fiction in my humble opinion.  The story of a slave, Django (Foxx) who is sold and separated from his wife Broomhilda (Washington) as punishment for their attempt to run away.  Django meets and joins a bounty hunter named Dr. King Shultz (portrayed by the always fantastic Waltz, a Tarantino favorite from Inglorious Basterds).  Shultz needs Django’s help to identify three fugitives, but along the way he also mentors him, and ultimately the two become real friends.  They formulate a plan together to rescue Broomhilda.  If you go expecting to see Tarantino’s trademark blood and guts, you certainly will not be disappointed.  The film is not for the squeamish, but the story is so good, and the bad guys are soooo bad that it just doesn’t seem that gory.

It’s one of Tarantino’s signature tricks – he creates such heinous human beings that no one minds watching them die horrible deaths.  He is also masterful at building suspense by focusing on minor details.  Perhaps this is why his movies are notorious for having long running times.  He focuses on certain shots which have no pertinence to the story, such as the scene from Django when Waltz is pouring two draft beers at a saloon for himself and his new acquaintance.  But these types of scenes are what define Tarantino’s style as a director and make his movies so enjoyable.  I believe his style has matured over the years.  As I recall his earlier films such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, they seem so different and yet very much the same.  His movies always scream his name as you watch them, but the more recent films have evolved into more than that.  More than his signature bloody violence and titillating twisted tales. This is especially true of Django and his latest film prior to that, Inglorious Basterds.  Recently it seems Tarantino has adopted a fearless approach to historical storytelling.  I’ve heard Basterds referred to as a “Jewish Fairytale”, which I found rather comical.  If that’s so, than Django is definitely the quintessential “Black Fairytale”.  He tells the story with such attractive characters and dynamic dialogue laced with glimpses of humor.  Just the right amount of humor to be thought of as acceptable pertaining to the very serious subjects he’s discussing.  As you can tell, he is one of my favorite directors, but I don’t have much to say about his personality in real life.  His movies are great, but listening to the man speak in an interview makes me wonder where he stores all his creative genius.  In his defense, I’ve never sat down and had coffee with the dude, so I don’t really know him at all.  However, I will say that his movies seem to get better and better.  Django may be my new favorite, but I can’t give it Kill Bill’s coveted number one spot just yet.

Wow, that is one eloquently written paragraph!  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see who the brains of this operation is.  Django Unchained is 2 hours and 45 minutes long and I didn’t notice.  I’d have to think that is a pretty good endorsement of the movie in itself.  Maybe the best acted film I’ve seen from top to bottom also.   The chemistry between Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz is fabulous, and DiCaprio’s deliciously evil turn as the merciless plantation and slave owner Candie, alone is worth the price of admission.  Samuel L. Jackson’s Stephen, had to be difficult to play as he is one kiss ass, Uncle Tom son of a bitch.  Samuel L. bravely dove right into the character and it’s hard to imagine anyone else pulling it off.  One final note, without really spoiling anything, Tarantino has a bit of fun with us with the actor James Remar.  Remar is a longtime favorite of mine .  He played one of the best bad guys of all time, Ganz, in 1982’s 48 Hours, and currently can be seen portraying Dexter’s father on the Showtime hit.  When I saw his name in the opening credits, I was psyched, but then he dies in the very first scene.  I know he’s not the biggest name out there, but I was thinking he’d get more screen time than that.  Well Quentin took care of me, because James comes back to life as a different character later in the movie.  Thanks Mr. Tarantino for saving James Remar and for the terrifically entertaining Django Unchained!

I thoroughly enjoyed this film.  I would go out on a limb and say that Tarantino has never disappointed me.  He has shocked me, disturbed me and even rendered me speechless…but I’ve never gone to the theatre and walked out saying, “What the Hell was that?”  He consistently delivers an entertaining and stimulating piece of cinema.  He is also constantly pushing the envelope and fearlessly trying new things no one else has the courage to do.  For instance, the extremely candid nude scene featured in Django.  There has been tons of nudity in recent cinema, but none as brave as that of Django.  This scene features several camera angles through very precarious positions…I’ll let your imagination run wild with that one.  However, if you’re reading this I would imagine you’d be persuaded to give Django Unchained a shot.  Honestly, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in quite a while.  And not a bad soundtrack either, which is another expectation of Tarantino fans.  Keep up the good work Q…still digging your style.

Ross’ Rating: 4.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 5 Gummies.

Movie Review: Seven Psychopaths

Published October 22, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring:  Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson.

Rated R.  Comedy/Crime/Drama.  Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes.

I’ve tried to pick my favorite psychopath, but it proves quite a task with casting like this.  Just take a peek at the rundown of actors involved in this film listed above.  Walken is always a selling point for me, personally.  Add to that Tom Waits, two beautiful women that you’ll no doubt recognize on screen – if not by their names (Abbie Cornish & Olga Kurylenko) and a special guest appearance by two of my favorite Boardwalk Empire characters, Michael Pitt (the late Jimmy Darmody) and Michael Stuhlbarg (Arnold Rothstein).  Not that casting is a definitive slam dunk in any film, but it helps generate a certain feel for the production at hand.  The vibe you should probably gather from this present selection of characters is a violent one…lots of blood and guts.  Not gore necessarily, but spatter.  Seven Psychopaths had a similar feel to the 2008 critically acclaimed “In Bruges” – and with good reason.  The very same man, Martin McDonagh, wrote and directed both films.  He most certainly has a style, as I had the inkling before we conducted further research.  I would describe McDonagh’s style as intensely dark and brutally humorous.  Nonetheless, even if you don’t like the style of Seven Psychopaths, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be bored.  The confluence of characters in this film is a trainwreck and you won’t be able to avert your eyes, even if you hope to.

Maria and I have had a run of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” lately.  First, the same night we watched the movie, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, we caught Louis C.K.’s stand-up act where he talks of his ‘man crush’ on Ewan McGregor.  Now just days after watching the quirky, but entertaining, In Bruges, we went and saw Seven Psychopaths.  Written and directed by the same man McDonagh, as noted by Maria above.  She was indeed all over the similarities between the two movie’s styles, as she pointed it out to me minutes in.  McDonagh loves to put serial killers, murderers and other odd characters in unexpected settings.  And though he certainly doesn’t mind shedding some blood – dialogue and character development are his real strengths.  In Seven Psychopaths, he tells us the story of alcoholic writer Marty (Farrell, who he cast in In Bruges as well), who has a name for a movie and little else.  His good friend, the oddball, struggling actor Billy (played by the always fantastic Rockwell: Green Mile, Cowboys and Aliens et al), has some wonderful suggestions for Marty’s movie and would love to be involved in the writing of the screenplay.  In the meantime Billy and his friend Hans (the legend, Walken) steal people’s dogs to make ends meet, waiting until they put up a reward, then cashing in on the return.  Unfortunately for them, they steal the dog of true criminal psychopath, Charlie (Harrelson), who loves his dog more than any human being.  As you may guess, it’s at this point that the Shih Tzu really hits the fan.

Fantastic pun sweetheart.  One of my favorite things about this plot is that it kind of follows the evolution of Marty’s screenplay.  McDonagh cleverly intertwines the development of the screenplay with the unfolding story that his viewers watch on screen.  We don’t want to give anything away, as there are some interesting twists and turns.  However, suffice it to say that this plot line is engaging, groundbreaking and drastically original.  Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges are similar in style, but the themes and colorful storylines are brilliantly diverse.  The longer removed from viewing the movie, the more impressed I was with its composition.  It certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to give credit where credit’s due.  Seven Psychopaths is refreshing and a pleasure to watch.  Especially in the present movie business where recycling and reinventing old ideas is the new trend.

I agree with you on several points.  Martin McDonagh’s writing is a breath of fresh air of originality, in a predominantly unoriginal time for movies.  Also, we have to be careful what we divulge about the plot, it would be easy to say too much.  And, the more I think about Seven Psychopaths, the more I like it.  I would add that I think it’s the kind of movie that should be seen again, perhaps when it comes out on DVD.  The things you know the second time around will give you clarity from the opening scenes through the end.  Not exact comparisons for sure, but The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense could be examples of the point I’m trying to make.   Time will tell if Seven Psychopaths can be mentioned in the same breath as those two classics.  But the exquisite acting by the four lead actors, coupled with superb writing, give it the feel to me of a movie that will get even better with age.  

Calling all psychopaths…

Ross’ Rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.

 

 

 

 

Movie Review: Looper

Published October 6, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring:  Joseph Gordon -Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segun, Pierce Gagnon, Jeff Daniels, Qing Xu.

Rated R.  Action/Science Fiction.  Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes.

Joseph.  Gordon.  Levitt.  Seriously!  I don’t know if you’ve seen any previews, but honestly I did not recognize him.  I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I am usually right on with putting names to faces in the film industry.  Of course, there’s always that one pesky actor that shows up after major plastic surgery or being on hiatus for several years, but Gordon-Levitt’s face is one that I easily recognize.  I’ve seen it countless times in the past few years in Inception and the lesser known 500 Days of Summer.  But he looks so different in this role.  Ross and I were both speechless at his epic Bruce Willis impersonation.  He must have studied Willis’ work incessantly.  He had his mannerisms, facial features, his coy looks and wry smile down to a science.  In the first twenty minutes Ross turned to me and said, “This kid should win the freaking Oscar for this performance!”

Honestly, Maria wanted to go see this movie much more than I did.  The little I knew about Looper from the trailers, Bruce Willis time traveling and running into another version of himself; made me think, Twelve Monkeys.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Twelve Monkeys, this movie just felt like it might be “been there, done that.”  No way.  Maria told you about JGL’s performance, it was sick!  We’re sitting there trying to figure out what he’s done to himself to look so different.  Is he just getting older and changing?   Is he working out?  Then it hits me, he has Bruce Willis’ exact nose.  I don’t know if it was prosthetic or CG, but beyond the nose, the kid is supposed to be a younger version of Bruce Willis.  He turned into Bruce Willis!  It really is unbelievable.  I was a huge “3rd Rock from the Sun” fan, but I never thought Gordon-Levitt would go anywhere.  Wrong again.  I’m batting a thousand here so far.  Anyway, the movie.  JGL is a looper.  Time travel is invented in the future, but only gangsters have control of it.  When they want someone dead they transport them back in time 30 years where loopers exterminate them upon arrival.  When the gangsters want to “close the loop”, they send the looper’s older self back for him to kill himself.  (Are you keeping up? I know some others that weren’t.  We’ll get to that in a bit.)  The body is strapped with gold and the looper has his severance pay and thirty years to enjoy it.  I don’t think I’m spoiling too much here telling you that Bruce gets away from Joseph and the game is most certainly on.

Needless to say, it was a total mind fuck.  One of those you take with you from the theatre and end up discussing hours later in bed or at a bar.  This innovative science fiction film had my head spinning for hours, which I enjoy occasionally.  I like a film that makes my mind work a little harder.  Looper is the best grown up film I’ve seen in the theatre for years.  The plot was original, engaging and brave.  I thoroughly enjoyed the whole film, and although the ending didn’t sit well at first – it has slowly grown on me.  Of course, you’ll have to go see the film for yourself to see what happens.  Hopefully, if you go to view it, the people in the theatre will have some common courtesy and not babble throughout the first hour.  These two old broads a few rows back from us would not shut up.  I realize the plot was a little difficult to understand, but these women were so rude.  I almost applauded when they finally got up and left in the middle of the movie.

I’m guessing they thought Looper was the latest Woody Allen movie, or a Meryl Streep vehicle.  They were totally bewildered, their “months away from the nursing home” brains jangling wildly in their skulls.  They were screaming at each other like 8 year olds.  “But Mildred this movie got such good reviews.”  “I don’t know what the hell is going on.”  Yelling, I’m sure because neither of them could hear a fucking thing.  I was seconds from screaming myself, “would you just shut the fuck up!”, when mercifully they left.  Fortunately they were the only bad part of our Looper experience.  Beyond the aforementioned brilliant performance of JGL and Bruce Willis’ usual professional turn, my favorite character in the movie was the little boy Cid played by Pierce Gagnon.   I don’t know how old he is in real life, his bio says he can play 5-8 year olds, but this kid is pure genius.  I don’t know where they’re finding these kids these days.  A couple of months ago we saw and reviewed The Odd Life of Timothy Green, and that boy CJ Adams was also very impressive.  Pierce Gagnon steals every scene he’s in, and I’m curious to see if we see more of him in the future.  If you like Sci-Fi, by all means go see Looper, but bring your thinking cap with you.  If you’re old and can’t hear, I think they’re having a Mel Torme tribute at the Kravis Center next month.  Wait for that.

I’m laughing to myself right now because Ross went on a similar rant as soon as we left the theatre, but he was right – these women were dreadful.  I understand that it was a hard plot to grasp, but at least give everyone else a chance to view it in peace.  Watching Bruce Willis sit across from a guy doing a perfect impersonation of him was worth the price of admission.  Looper is the type of movie made for theatre viewing, I just hope that if you do go to see it everyone’s quiet and courteous.

Ross’ Rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4.5 Gummies.