Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summer Movies 2011 - Critics roundtable

I collaborated with Ken Murray, the Boston Movie Examiner, and a few other critics to pick our favorites and disappointments of summer 2011.

A preview:

With Labor Day approaching, it marks the end of Hollywood’s Summer blockbusters. Myself and 4 writer friends discuss what we thought of Summer 2011. From Boston to New York to Detroit, ranging from age 17 to mid-30’s, Elizabeth Parker from Examiner Detroit & Yes/No Films, Mike Spring from DVDSnapshot, James Shotwell from Under the Gun Review and Johnathan Smith from Comicbookmovie.com & Earth’s Mightiest plus myself combine for the target audience for almost every film this summer, here’s our opinions.

Read more here at the Boston Examiner page.

"The Debt"

The trailer for The Debt made the film look interesting, if not a bit vague. However, the movie ended up being one of the best action films I have seen in quite a while, probably due to its spectacular cast.

It has been 30 years since Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren, "Arthur") returned from her mission to kill the Surgeon of Birkenau, who committed unspeakable acts on Jews during World War II. Her daughter (Romi Aboulafia, "Breaking and Entering") has written a book about it, and they and her ex-husband, Stephan (Tom Wilkinson, "The Green Hornet") are reunited at a party celebrating it. When something tragic happens to the third member of the mission, David (Ciarán Hinds, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), they must confront a secret that they have kept buried for the past 30 years, that may affect them now in the present-day.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"The Whistleblower"

The Whistleblower is about an American police officer who joins the peacekeeping program in Bosnia to make some quick cash in order to move to where her ex-husband has relocated with her daughter. The movie is based on a true story, and the issues presented within were and are very real.

Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz, "The Lovely Bones) is a police office in Nebraska, and her ex-husband is about to move away with their daughter, of whom he has custody. She applies for a transfer but her request is denied, and one of her coworkers tells her about a program in Bosnia where she can make $100,000 in only six months. Kathryn decides to enroll in the program, and at first glance it doesn't look much different than being a police officer is. However, when Kathryn discovers a rampant sex slave business and takes her findings to the United Nations, she is shocked to find that the UN is trying to cover it up.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Win "A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song" on DVD!

A Cinderella Story will be out on DVD on September 6th, and you can win a copy here first!

Lucy Hale from TV's "Pretty Little Liars" stars in the film (which originally aired on ABC Family).

See the rest of the contest details at my Examiner page! Good luck!

"Colombiana"

Colombiana is a satisfying action-packed thriller that will engage even its most disinterested audience member. The film never stops moving and continues its rapid-fire pace until the very end.

Cataleya (Zoe Saldana, "Avatar") is a young girl in Colombia when her family is murdered by the mafia-esque man that her father used to work for. She is able to escape to her uncle's home in the United States (Chicago), and he raises her and teaches her how to be an assassin herself, so that one day Cataleya will be able to find the man and his associates and get revenge. Fifteen years later, she is ready to find him, even though everything - including her grandma and uncle's lives - are at stake.

"Our Idiot Brother"

The trailer for Our Idiot Brother looked interesting, and Paul Rudd is usually a great actor. Unfortunately, the movie ended up being more of a dramedy (drama/comedy) than a comedy, which was sad because I was really in the mood to see a funny film.

Good-natured Ned (Paul Rudd, "Dinner for Schmucks") lives on a hippie farm of sorts with his girlfriend, Janet (Kathryn Hahn, "How Do You Know"), but is sent to jail when he sells some pot to a uniformed police officer (yes, really). When he gets out, Ned finds that Janet has a new boyfriend, so he is forced to move in with his mother, and later, when he gets sick of her, each of his three sisters. Ned is a big-hearted guy but tends to get people in trouble by telling the truth, and one by one, he makes a (negative) impact on each of his sisters' lives. He's family, though, so they can't turn him away ... but it's really, really hard for them to have him around.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"One Day"

I just read the novel One Day by David Nicholls this past week, and I have to say that after now having seen the movie, I feel a bit cheated. Some of the scenes and lines from the film were taken word for word from the book, and that was great, but the movie seemed to fly by at lightning-fast speed, while the book took the time to slow things down a bit. As always, however, it is interesting to see how a novel and its characters translate to the big screen.

Emma (Anne Hathaway, "Love and Other Drugs") and Dexter (Jim Sturgess, "21") have a one night fling of sorts the day they graduate from university in Scotland, and their relationship turns into a friendship. Through good times and bad, they are there for each other, and constantly present in each other's lives, even though for the most part it is not a romantic relationship. Little do they know when they first meet on that day in 1988 that they will go through so much with each other, and that their friendship will last for twenty years.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Conan the Barbarian"

I didn't know much about Conan before I saw it, except that it is based on the 1983 movie of the same name, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and takes place a long, long time ago. I also knew this version was rated "R" but I didn't know that it was going to be this bloody until after I viewed it.

For the past few years, Conan (Jason Momoa, TV's "Game of Thrones," in his adult form) has tried to find the man responsible for his father's death and the total destruction of his village, and now he has finally found him (Stephen Lang, "Avatar"), and is seeking revenge. This man, Khalar, is seeking a pureblood (Rachel Nichols, TV's "Criminal Minds") woman to sacrifice so that he can rule and that his long-dead wife can return from the underworld and join him. Khalar and his army invade the monastery where she is living, but she manages to escape before he finds her, and she and Conan eventually meet up. When Khalar kidnaps her, Conan must save her and prevent Khalar from becoming "all powerful."

"Fright Night"

I am definitely not a horror movie fan by any stretch, but I chose to see Fright Night because it looked like a combination of comedy and horror, and Colin Farrell was playing the vampire. Horror movie fans will probably like the movie, but it was a bit too gory for my taste.

Charley (Anton Yelchin, "The Beaver") lives in the suburbs of Las Vegas with his mom (Toni Collette, TV's "The United States of Tara"). He used to be a geek, and would hang out with his best friend, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, "Kick-Ass"), but recently he started dating one of the prettiest girls in school (Imogen Poots, "Jane Eyre") and has a new group of "popular" friends. Charley's dad left him and his mom when he was little, so when a new guy, Jerry (Colin Farrell, "Horrible Bosses") moves next door, Charley's mom ends up having a bit of a crush on him. Ed tries to warn Charley that something's not right with Jerry - he tells him he is a vampire - but Charley laughs this off, until he sees another neighbor, Doris (Emily Montague), go into Jerry's house one night and never come out. After he figures out Jerry is a vampire, he must save his friends and mother from him, which may prove to be harder than he originally thought.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"30 Minutes or Less"

There were about seven or eight screenings of 30 Minutes or Less in the Detroit area, and I chose the absolute last one to go to, since it was at the theater closest to me. I had heard mixed reviews about the film so I wasn't expecting too much from it; however, it ended up being pretty funny in a "summer fluff" type of way.

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network") is a pizza delivery boy who doesn't have many aspirations for his life. His best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari, TV's "Parks and Recreation") is a substitute teacher who just got promoted to full time, and Nick is secretly dating his twin sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria, TV's "Greek"). Nick hates his job and his boss is a jerk, and he gives him one last delivery to make right before his shift is over, to a shack on the outskirts of town. The men who are waiting there for him (Danny McBride, "Your Highness," and Nick Swardson, "Just Go With it") want more than just pizza, though: they knock Nick out, strap a bomb to his chest while he's asleep, and tell him that he must rob a bank to get them $100,000. McBride's character is a lazy guy whose dad (Fred Ward, "Armored"), won millions in the Michigan lottery, and he wants to kill him and get the rest of his money. Nick has about ten hours to rob the bank and get the guys the money, and he recruits Chet to help him; what happens next is a crazy, wild tale with a few awesome car chase scenes thrown in too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"The Help"

I could write a book about this movie, but alas, it's already been done - the move is based on the wildly popular novel of the same name, by Kathryn Stockett, which is a great book. I was worried that the movie version wouldn't stay true to the novel, but with the exception of a few small changes, it does, and it's one of the best adaptations I have seen recently.

Twenty-three-year-old Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone, "Easy A") has finished her degree at Ole Miss and gets herself a job writing for the Jackson Journal. Her friends Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard, "Eclipse"), Elizabeth (Ahna O'Reilly, "House Under Siege"), and Jolene (Anna Camp, "Bottleworld"), are all married with kids, but Eugenia is still single, so Hilly tries to set her up with someone. At the same time, Eugenia's mother (Allison Janney, "Away We Go") is battling cancer. Skeeter sees how "the help" is treated, and doesn't think it's right, but as a white woman in the South she is in the minority. She decides she wants to write a book from their point of view, and she enlists two maids to help her, Aibileen (Viola Davis, "Trust") and Minny (Octavia Spencer, "Flypaper"); the publisher in New York, however, says that she would need at least 10 or 12 more maids' perspectives before they can publish it. As Skeeter works on the novel, she starts to notice more and more how even her closest friends and family treat "the help," and she definitely does not like it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

There wasn't a screening here (or at least none that I knew of) for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I ended up getting to see it for free anyways, as I won tickets to the "Dinner and a Movie" at the Birmingham Palladium. I am very glad I did, as Rise of the Planet of the Apes might just be one of the best sci-fi movies of 2011 so far.

Will (James Franco, "Your Highness") works in a lab that's developing a cure for Alzheimers, which they are currently testing on apes. The work is personal to Will, as his father, Charles (John Lithgow, "Leap Year"), has Alzheimers, and is getting worse by the day. The cure seems to not only allow the apes to repair their own brain cells, but also makes them smarter, and soon Will can't resist: he gives his dad a dose of the cure. Soon, his dad is his old self again, and Will keeps on giving him the cure so that he will be able to stay lucid and his Alzheimers will not come back.

Before all this, the first ape that showed remarkable development with the cure went crazy once they tried to show her to their investors, and Will's boss, Mr. Jacobs (David Oyelowo, "The Help"), orders him to put down the ape as well as the other eleven they have. One of the scientists, however, finds out that the reason the ape went crazy is that she was trying to protect her newborn, which they find hidden in her cage-like cell. The scientist refuses to kill the ape, and so Will takes it home, and names it Caesar. Caesar is super smart just like his mom, because the cure has seeped into his genes, and both Will and his father enjoy playing with him and watching him grow up. When Caesar ends up attacking a neighbor who was berating Will's father over an incident, however, Animal Control makes Will put him into an ape "sanctuary," and it is there that he meets the other apes that will soon be his cohorts in his quest to break free.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"The Change-Up"

The tone of The Change-Up is introduced within the first five minutes of the film, when Jason Bateman's character is trying to change diapers on his twin babies at the same time, and unfortunately fails with his infant son; while un-diapered, the baby squirts poop and it ends up on Bateman's face and even, yes, in his mouth. I was prepared to hate this movie after that, but after the first third or so it does a complete 180 and turns into an almost-serious movie that actually wasn't awful, in sharp contrast to the crudeness in the first half.

Dave (Jason Bateman, "Horrible Bosses") and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds, "The Green Lantern") have been best friends since grade school but the two could not be more different. Dave is married to Jamie (Leslie Mann, "Funny People") and has three children, including newborn twins, and works as a lawyer; Mitch is a (mostly unemployed) actor who has sex with four or more different women in any given week. One night, after drinking a bit two much, Dave and Mitch go to relieve themselves in a fountain outside, and at the same time they each say the fateful words, "I wish I had your life." The next day, Dave wakes up in Mitch's body and vice versa, and they must learn to juggle and adapt to each other's lives, at least until they can find the fountain - which was dug up the next day by a construction crew - and return to their own bodies.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Win "Something Borrowed" on DVD!

Something Borrowed is out on DVD on August 16th, and you can win a copy for FREE!

Here is a synopsis of the movie:

Something Borrowed revolves around longtime friends Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Darcy (Kate Hudson), whose relationship gets complicated when Rachel has an affair with Darcy’s fiancée. As the wedding date nears, Rachel explores the meanings of friendship, true love and ethics.

Check out how to enter at my Examiner.com page!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pictures from the "AWOL" set in Ann Arbor

Filming near East and South University (Ulrich's)
Elyssa Pearlstein from A2-4U was able to snap some photos of the AWOL set in Ann Arbor today. AWOL stars Liam Hemsworth, Teresa Palmer, and Austin Stowell, and is being directed by Danny Mooney, a 2008 U of M alum. This week marks their last week of shooting, and they have been shooting mostly in the Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti areas. Teresa Palmer tweeted about this earlier today, when she said "Last week for me shooting AWOL. Thanks to all the wonderful people of Ann Arbor for making me feel at home here."

AWOL will be released in 2012, and you can find more info about it at its IMDb page.

"Hippie" set up at the corner of East and South University, near Ulrich's

Vintage car on South U