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A Love Affair – The Great Gatsby

Posted on 21 May 2013 by Valkyrie

Gatsby - BlinkinblogsI have a unique fondness for the story ‘The Great Gatsby’. Whether that be in book or movie form, I am sold on its greatness – hook, line, and sinker. Due to many reasons, I believe. Here are those reasons…

I have an older sister. When I was a preteen, she was in High School. She had the arduous task of reading this novel, authored by the famous, F. Scott Fitzgerald. She did not want to read that day, as she had a headache. Me, being ever so eager to help out, and also the fact that I loved to read into escapism and magnificent stories, offered to read it to her as she lay down and closed her eyes to try and rid her headache. It was a Saturday and we were visiting my Grandparents. We found ourselves in their formal living room (to which nobody ever spent time in, even though it was the best room in the house due to the cross breezes from the windows and the natural lighting emanating through the white sheers). She was on the floor with a washcloth over her eyes as I sat on the large sofa, Indian style – to be exact. As I opened the book to read aloud, and flipped through the pages one after another… something delightful happened. I was there, with Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan, Jay Gatsby and all the other multi-dimensional personalities.

It was that very day that I was introduced to classic novels and how magnificent they are in their own rite. It was also on that day that I clung to the 1920’s fashion and felt as though I really was invited in partaking of all those bedazzled parties that Gatsby threw, in hopes to get Daisy’s attention and affections. To this day, I still style my wardrobe to have a certain influence of those great rip roaring flapping days. Beads, hats, headbands, swinging dresses, exaggerated flawless makeup. Mass femininity is the attraction here. And let’s not fail to mention the men’s style either. Two words – polished and dapper. That day, I managed to read the whole book to my sister – in one sitting. Three hours of bliss.

I then became the one in High School to whom took American Novel for my accredited English class. The delight I felt when the teacher was passing out the book with the blue cover… The Great Gatsby! I felt ecstatic knowing I got to partake of this world again from the 1920’s and yes, even admitting – could easily coast through, as I had already read the assignment. But yet again, something happened inside of me. I opened the book, flipped the pages, and found myself lost in the story for the second time. What made it even richer, was the fact of coming to class the following days after our reading assigned homework, and having open discussions as to what all these juicy nuggets of words meant. To hear my English Professor talk about the characters in great detail and bringing to light the symbolism of so many things was grandiose beyond belief. Oh, the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg! Once again I was entranced and yes, aced all the assignments and tests regarding the book.

Fast forward many more years. The story fervently stayed in my memory banks and brought itself to my attention again at a store that sold movies in big crates for $5.00 or less. I usually never partake in this kind of ‘digging for gold’ shopping, as it bores me. However, as I was pushing my cart past these obnoxious bins, I saw it… out of the corner of my left eye, The Great Gatsby – starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, circa 1974. Without even realizing what my hand was doing, it had already reached down and put the movie in my cart. The Great Gatsby in movie form for only $5.00. It was a sure purchase. And yes of course, watched it that night. I must admit, Robert Redford did a bang up job playing the role of Gatsby and donning that beautiful pink suit. I was swept away for 2+ hours once again, in Gatsby bliss.

Many more years pass since watching the 1974 Redford version of the classic. I was at the movie theater to watch something (I can’t even remember), and the previews of other movies began to start. Lo and behold, at that very moment, I recognize something in the preview that was playing in front of me. The style, the era, the characters… No! Could it be?! Could this really be what I think it is?! I was taking in every second of that preview and at the end of it, ‘The Great Gatsby – starring Leonardo DiCaprio’ is splayed across the big screen. I was fervently eager to catch the opening date. It was one year away! The release date was 365 days away! I had to see it, but also knew I needed to put that thought on the back burner, try to be patient, and wait.

So I did. I waited and watched other movies between those 365 days, much to which I don’t even remember… as I have a horrid memory for movie retention. During that time, I decided to once again read the book and familiarize myself with the story and drama of it all. Reading it as an adult was so much richer. I had a better appreciation for the characters and their own personal struggles. Then the time came… The countdown started. One month away before the release date of May 10, 2013. Then three weeks. Then two weeks. Then one week – 7 days to go!

During that last week I was so excited, I could barely even focus on menial tasks at hand… which is saying something, due to the fact that I never get that excited about anything. I was like a kid waiting to go to Disneyland for the very first time. I almost started embarrassing myself with my hype and uncontained over zealousness. Opening night was upon me and I even went to the theater hours earlier just to ensure that it would not be sold out. “Two tickets for The Great Gatsby in 3D at 7:00pm, please.” Best sentence I spoke that day.

The hours pressed slowly by. I was anxiously awaiting that moment where I got to sit my tush down in that theater seat and watch the epic movie that I have been clinging to since a preteen. I entered the theater, gave the young man my movie ticket, who then claims the theater is to my right. I go, and the anticipation builds so much so, I begin to feel butterflies in my tummy. What is wrong with me?! I finally sit down and the lights go dim. The previews begin and I don’t know if I can physically handle sitting through 5-6 movie previews. But I breathe – in and out, finding my core to settle and focus.

The moment is now here – 3D glasses on, water bottle in cup holder, no snacks so I am not distracted, and my date to my left. Life is good. Life is in order. Everything is perfect for the next 2 hours and 22 minutes of the 3D journey into the known world of – The Great Gatsby.

The film was epic, beautiful, and enticing. The grandeur was almost paralyzing to the senses. The styles were out of this world. That green light… oh, that green light that showed itself nightly at the edge of Daisy’s dock to Jay Gatsby – to me symbolizes jealousy… the fact that Gatsby could not handle the thought of Daisy ever loving another. The yearning he felt, the desire, the desperateness – all became his own demise. Tragic really. The whole story is quite tragic in so many ways it is hard to count. What amazes me is how two people – Tom and Daisy Buchanan, left so much death and destruction in their careless wake, and really, not even giving a damn.

To finally be able to sit in that theater after so much buildup – which was self-created, and have these epic scenes play out for me, was such a good release. As the movie ended and the credits were rolling up the screen, it also felt like this great anticipated ride had ended for me, it was a full circle moment. It was brilliant on so many levels. My affair with The Great Gatsby felt complete. There was a sense of nirvana and satisfaction as I left the theater that night. Passion – to me, this film encapsulates passion to a connection that I have had for this story that manifested itself years ago.

Nick Carraway says something to Jay Gatsby at the near end of the story that I will never forget. Here is the excerpt from the book regarding that verbal exchange – I will end with that, as nothing else needs to be further written, the story speaks for itself…

“They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

 

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The Mutha Effing Return (Cue the Jay Z!) Wha, What! REEL RHINO!

Posted on 29 July 2012 by Reel Rhino

Blinkin has come, gone, and is back with a fury…and so am I….you want movie news….you got movie news.

But seriously,  I have been really, really busy and I have succumb to the curse that befalls most folks that write for any reason, be it professionally or casually…no time.

Yeah, that’s right, I’ve been pretty busy living.

I do live to write…in 5th grade I won the regional writing award for poetry…I even remember the first few lines:

A look to the future,
A glance to the past,
From cavemen to dinosaurs,
Astronauts to cats.

Yes, that was the AMAZING first stanza that won me a $50 savings bond and also the chance to read said poem at the Millcreek Township school board meeting.  In fifth grade, that was on par with national publicity.

So I really do love to write and I would love to write on a more professional level (maybe someday), but for now, this is my venue.

That is the upside…this is a no pressure venue and I can write once a month, or once a day, and its all good.  Just know that if I had my way, it would be more often than less.  I love you guys, I do!  Yeah, it’s getting misty in here!

So, seen any good movies lately?

Here’s a short and partial list of what I have seen since I last wrote:

Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Men In Black III: Real-D 3-D
The Chernobyl Diaries
The Sound of My Voice
Snow White and the Huntsman
Bernie
Prometheus: The 3-D IMAX Experience
Madagascar 3-D
Snow White and the Huntsman
Rock of Ages
The Avengers 3-D
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3-D
The Amazing Spiderman: The 3-D IMAX Experience
Ted
Safety Not Guaranteed
Moonrise Kingdom
Singin’ In The Rain
Savages
Your Sister’s Sister
Ice Age: Continental Drift
The Dark Knight Rises: The IMAX Experience
The Watch
Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story

Yeah, I’ve seen a bunch!  In fact my count for the year as of this moment: 194 movies, theater and home viewing included!  If you remember back in January, I made the statement that I would make a run at 365 in 365….well as of today, the 29th of July — 211 days into the year…I’m still in this thing!!  I was well ahead of schedule until around the end of April.  I will be back!  I will make 365!

As for what I have seen, I wanted to give you a list of must-sees from my list above…


Your Sister’s Sister
 – 4.5 Horns – An indie flick starring Rosemarie Dewitt, Emily Blunt, and Mark Duplass — DUPLASS IS A GENIUS actor (and director) – see also Safety Not Guaranteed, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, and THE LEAGUE!

Safety Not Guaranteed – 4 Horns – Awesome indie comedy drama that made it to the mainstream theaters for two weeks…starring Duplass and AUBREY PLAZA…everyone loves April from Parks and Rec, and she is channels in Plaza’s performance here as well!  This flick is an indie dramedy that by the end, becomes an indie dramedy SCIFI flick!

Rock of Ages – 4.5 Horns – 80’s Rock Musical that defied by uncertain expectations to be absolutely effing AWESOME!
The Sound of My Voice – 4.5 Horns – Creepy indie drama…the second larger release after Another Earlth, from Brit Marling…she has writing chops and in the lead role of Maggie, the leader of the cult at the center of this film, this indie drama is also indie sci-fi, that delivers a twist that is well worth the price of admission!
Jeff, Who Lives at Home – 4.5 Horns – I was a quivering mess by the end of this MARK DUPLASS directed flick…yes it was co-directed with his brother Jay, but this is the third entry for Duplass in my must-see list.  Mark Duplass is phenomenal in general, and he and his bro deliver here in a well told, tightly woven story that seems to be all over the place while managing never to lose you!  And holy S, RAE DOWN CHONG is in this thing!  Where has she been!

Prometheus – 4.5 Horns – Sir Ridley Scott demands to be seen.  His touch is golden and his flicks rock, consistently!

The Amazing Spider-Man – 4 Horns – A story I didn’t know needed to be told, actually was told quite well. I think for his delivery, Andrew Garfield is a superior Spidey, but Spider-Man 2 remains my favorite of the Spider-Man flicks!

The Dark Knight Rises – 4.5 Horns – Just a phenomenol end to Nolan’s run!  This flick was awesome!  Much more story-centric than the previous two, it will be my #2 in the series, but only a close second to The Dark Knight.  Ledger and Eckhart delivered in a way that may never be matched again in comic book fare, but Tom Hardy did a damn fine job as well.  Bravo to everyone involved in this flick.

I was dissappointed by: Ted, The Watch, and Savages.  That is all I will say about the negative…

Well…its good to see you all…check out some of the flicks I mention above…you will not be disappointed!!

Until later, take care!  And blinkinites, its good to be back.
Reel Rhino

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Safe, The Raven, and Comic-Con: The Documentary

Posted on 30 April 2012 by Reel Rhino

This weekend brought four wide releases, the most we have seen in some time!  It is the LAST WEEKEND before official beginning of the SUMMER MOVIE SEASON. Yes, the arrival of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will usher in the popcorn eatin’, ray gun blastin’, all-in-all good time at the movie season.  For this weekend, we have The Five-Year Engagement, The Pirates: Band of Misfits, Safe, and The Raven.
Safe, for those keeping track, is the latest Jason Statham flick.  You know, The Transporter 8: Safe
Yes, you read that right, I mean, come on, we have:
The Transporter
The Transporter 2
The Transporter 3
The Transporter 4: Crank
The Transporter 5: Crank 2
The Transporter 6: The Mechanic
The Transporter 7: Killer Elite
And now, this.  I have to say, jokes aside, Jason Statham has found a niche that absolutely works for him.  Other than being let down a bit by Killer Elite, I think that I did in fact like all of those movies.  Statham has both charm and he can fight his ass off!
I wasn’t feeling Safe today, and I also wanted to fulfill a request for a Raven review, which is what I did see.
The Raven
The Raven is a story bearing the title of an Edgar Allen Poe poem, named as such as the lead character in the film is Poe himself, played by John Cusack.  A killer is loose in mid-19th century Baltimore, MD, and his murders are modeled Poe’s tales, with Poe being one of the earliest American horror writers.
The story is wholly enjoyable, but for everything it does right, there is still something missing that keeps this fantastic concept from elevating to a fantastic film.
Alice Eve is astonishingly beautiful, and she plays Poe’s betrothed, Emily Hamilton, and Brendan Gleeson plays her father Captain Hamilton.  An adequate amount of time is put into building the foundation of their romance and her fathers disdain for it, to make their relationship more than just a plot point.
The lead police detective, Det. Fields, was played by Luke Evans.  He is exceptionally British in his filmography, and once I IMDB’ed him, I recognized him immediately.  But until last night, I actually thought he was Matthew Morrison, aka Mr. Schuester from Glee.  Yep, take a look at the trailer again and tell me you don’t see it!
I don’t know what this flick was missing, but there was something palpable lacking in the overall package!  I hate to say this, but the actual sound of this film was exceptionally weak.  Normally, during the Oscar Pool, I think that for sound editing and sound design, how do they pick and then judge a winner.  While I cannot tell you what is worthy of the big prize, I guess I can tell you for certain when something does not.
Overall, I liked the story, but didn’t love this movie.  The flick has a little bit of gore in a few scenes, but for a rated R flick, I thought it pulled it’s punches a bit.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some scenes that would have been quite at home in the next installment of Saw, but overall, the bloodshed occurred mostly off camera.
I give The Raven 3 of 5 Horns and leave the ball in your court as to whether you even see it at the theater, or wait to catch it at home.
Safe
So I made the Transporter joke up above and when I started writing, at which time I hadn’t yet seen Safe.  But as the weekend wore on and I was kept from my computer, I decided not to split the post.
I have a very soft spot in my movie going palate for Jason Statham.  I find him exceptionally likable and I will never forget the impact that the original Transport film had on me.  I mean before that, his pairings with Guy Ritchie left some memorable dramatic impressions, but his early action fare was less than great in John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars and the Jet Li headlining The One.  Now The One was bad, and we would later learn that Statham and Li on their own could be great, but when paired up ala The One, and later in War, their combined efforts were remarkable stinkers.
The short story is, I like Statham and the longer tale is that I liked this movie.  It has a decent supporting cast with only a few named players, including Chris Sarandon and James Hong.
The story is that this mysterious man, Luke Wright, wins a UFC fight that everyone expected him to lose, putting him at the wrong end of the Buddy List of most of the New York City criminal underworld.  Some retribution is dished upon him, and after suffering a fair amount of personal tragedy and hardship, he decides to make a stand, and help a young Chinese girl named Mei (Catherine Chan), who he sees running away from some Russian mobsters in the subway.  He intervenes, and the two of them go on the run together.
I was rather vague in this description because there is a fair amount of exposition laying out this tale and I was pleasantly surprised the filmmaking used to tell this back story and also how much I enjoyed the actual meat and potatoes of this back story.
Bottom line is this, you have Statham and this girl on the run, which is what you likely took away from the trailer as the crux of the flick.  That part of the story doesn’t kick in until about 30 minutes in, and then when it does, it is a pretty awesome and sometimes standard Statham ass-kicking ride.
I give this movie 4 of 5 Horns and for what is partly some of the same old same old, Jason Statham manages to continue to pick projects that are different enough to keep us coming back for more!
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this documentary.  At the end of the day, it was way more entertaining than informative.  In fact other than learning a little more about the 5 or 6 folks that were featured in Morgan Spurlock’s Comic Con doc, there wasn’t a great deal of substance to this flick.
This film was made starring many legends of Comic Con and while I, a man in the know, found it exceptionally entertaining, I also thought that it was quite closed off to the “non-geek” crowd.  Comic Con is really something to see and whether as a fan or for pure people watching pleasure, there really is something for everyone there.  This film presents everything really assuming that the viewer will know and understand the backstory on the Con.  I mean there is some bare bones info, but there is a great deal going on that the non-initiated will be in the dark.
I was entertained and I think on the face of it, most anyone would be entertained, but Spurlock could have done a great deal more to both inform as well as entertain.  I would like to see more of a Discovery Channel style doc on Comic Con and perhaps the special features will come through.  I say 4 of 5 Horns, but again, that’s as a man in the know.
Until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

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Rhino and Catfish Review The Stooges and The Raid

Posted on 18 April 2012 by Reel Rhino

Usually, I would subjugate the Catfish to the second review, keeping top billing as the Blog is my namesake.  But this guy has been riding my ass all day….I’m checking the site….I’m checking the site!  CATFISH, you get the first run review today, my friend!!  Without further delay, the Catfish reviews…

THE THREE STOOGES
The Three Stooges movie trailer was enough to get my eight year old daughter and five year old son to quickly commit, but my ten year old daughter held fast in her refusal. I not only had a nostalgic desire to see the film, but I had just acquired two scapegoats to deflect blame in the event the movie was atrocious. There are undoubtedly fringe benefits for having common interests with your five and eight year old kids.

Let’s just cut to the chase. The Three Stooges were never known as a mature ensemble trying to convey subtle dry humor. They perfected the art of slapstick, which as entertainment is timeless (but I guess that is debatable…just ask my wife).

The question now becomes: what is the expectation level of such a remake. If your pretentiousness only allows you to see Oscar nominated films then I wouldn’t recommend this one. By the way, that was not why my ten year old daughter refused to go. She just thought it didn’t look good. You know “good” like iCarly, Jessie, and Good Luck Charlie. If, instead, you want to be entertained by idiots being idiotic then have at it. I really wanted to see how well the Stooges were portrayed and I was amazed at what a good job they all did (Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, and Will Sasso). Sasso gets extra kudos for his spot on depiction of Curly. That is not to take away from the other two who were great as well, as the integrity of the characters remained intact. We the traditionalists take pleasure in that.

I tried to stay tuned in to my kids during this movie. My five year old son was cracking up. I didn’t see much reaction from my eight year old daughter even though she claims to have liked the movie. I was doing my share of laughing too. Granted, it’s a limited sample size, but I came to a definitive conclusion based on our individual experiences. This type of humor is right in a five year old boy’s wheelhouse and will appeal to adult men of any age who have the maturity level and sense of humor of a five year old.

Amen, brother. Now you know who I am!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy this mindless humor as an innocent boy anymore, but it didn’t make it any less entertaining. I realized I was watching through the eyes of what has become a neurotic, worrisome man who isn’t what he once was (**ReelRhino note: he ain’t kiddin’!). Every time I saw a chainsaw or sledgehammer taken to Curly’s head I was worried the moviemakers were going to be sued by some idiot kids who would try to mimic what they saw on the screen (funny, not worried about the idiot kids; worried about the lawsuit). In my head I found myself working out my fatherly post-movie speech on the subject of reality. Like an answer to a prayer, immediately after the movie ended two studly dudes faux posing as the Farrelly Brothers gave a safety disclaimer. Let me clarify. The answer to the prayer was the disclaimer itself, not the studly guys. They explained how the props were rubber and how it is never a good idea to poke anyone in the eye. Disaster averted; no obligatory lecture needed. Thanks, Farrelly Brothers, for cleaning up the loose ends even if it was most likely done at the insistence of your attorneys.

If you understand what you’re getting into then I think you can enjoy the stooges for what they were and always will be…no more, no less. Just don’t ask the question, “Where’s Shemp?”

3 out of 5 Whiskers ~~~  Catfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thanks Catfish, although you didn’t touch on it, my real question is how does this fit in with the up and down career of The Farrelly Brothers.  They have fallen from their 90’s pedestal, but I think they still have the touch, but it is very hit and miss!

I gave HALL PASS a 3 out of 5 Horn rating last year, and on a second viewing, I actually enjoyed it a great deal more, even perhaps as high as a 4 of 5!

THE RAID: REDEMPTION
This movie was off the hizzy fo shizzy.  That is one of the highest compliments I can pay a flick.  This film was written and directed by Gareth Edwards and it was shot for a ridiculously reasonable $1.1 million in Indonesia.  This film looks like a $30 or $40 million Hollywood flick, rather than the low budget indie that it is!

The story is simple: a police SWA T team is sent into a high rise building owned and run from top to bottom by the big crime boss in the Jakarta slums.  Things go fairly smoothly, until they don’t and that’s when things get re-donk.

This movie is about 70-30…70% crazy balls-to-the-wall action scenes consisting of some gun fights, but  more prominently, hand-to-hand martial arts combat. These fights are crazy and there are some kill moves reminiscent of Mortal Kombat, but done in the real world.  The speed and choreography is brilliant and again, Edwards is unreal in his shot selection and it all comes together in a tightly woven sequence of battles and fights, with sparse dramatic scenes interwoven, that for the type of movie are quite acceptable.

This is a film that has been extremely hyped from a critical perspective.  It is subtitled, which will turn some off, and most likely they can wait until it is re-released in the US after being remade here (which is unnecessary!).

I had a great time watching this movie and I fully recommend seeing it in the theater, rather than waiting for the home viewing, and even more so watching it on a mobile device or a computer.

4.5 of 5 Horns for The Raid: Redemption….go ahead and take a try, it’s an otherwise weak weekend ahead.

Until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

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Weekend Reviews: Cabin in the Woods and Lockout

Posted on 16 April 2012 by Reel Rhino

So the results are in…The Hunger Games have taken the weekend…again, banging out $21.5 million!!!  This is the first flick to roll four weeks in a row since Avatar did it in January of 2010.  The movie sits at 22nd all-time on the domestic box-office already and it is only four weeks in!

The Stooges, as the most family friendly flick (it was rated PG) of the bunch, came in at second at $17.1 million, with the R-rated The Cabin in the Woods jamming a solid $14.8 million, but besting the Stooges per screen average opening on less screens overall. Number 4 was Titanic 3-D and Number 5 was American Reunion. The second flick I review today, Lockout (see below), came in at a paltry ninth place, bringing in only $6.25 million but playing on over a thousand less screens than the stooges.  So the PG-13 crowd that should have been seeing Lockout, apparently was watching, or re-watching Hunger Games.

I did also see The Raid: Redemption, which I am saving for a mid-week post, but let me say quickly, it is re-donk-a-donk.

Also, the week ahead looks bleak…the three wide-openings for April 20th….Chimpanzee, The Lucky One (Ugh), and Think Like a Man.  I have little interest in any of those, so it looks like I will be searching the art houses for next week!

For now, on to business…

The Cabin in the Woods
So…Biff wants to be a buff! (what’s that line from?  anyone know?)

I fancy myself a bit of a horror buff, reaching back about as far as Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, loving the classic era of modern horror (1970’s) and most of the first installments of the era of sequeled/franchise horror (Nightmare, Friday, Halloween, etc.).  Perhaps my favorite genre is the splatter film, gore film, or “Splatstick.” Most notable on my list of favorites here is Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which is vastly superior to Zach Snyder’s 2004 remake, and also Romero’s lesser seen Day of the Dead.

The “cabin in the woods” genre is almost a subset of horror in and of itself…it kind of goes hand in hand with the summer camp sleepaway horror flicks, except that with the lone cabin, ala Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, you are on an island, so to speak, as far as being utterly alone.

So we have your standard cabin in the woods flick here…insomuch that the damn title is even, “Cabin in the Woods!”  Well, that’s actually just a bit of tongue-in-cheek marketing at play, because this flick is anything but standard.

Cabin in the Woods is much more of a comedy than it is a horror flick and while there were a few hearty jump scares that got my blood pumping, this is a flick that is wholly self aware and is played much more for laughs, than for pure horror scares.

At the outset of the flick, you meet a pair of scientists in Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins.  They are talking about some kind of operation that is going on around the world, and how it has come down to the Japanese and the Americans to come through.  Out of the gate, you realize, this is a horror flick with a twist, and at no point during the movie, does the film try to keep you from realizing that things are absolutely not what they seem.

That is the beauty of this movie, it is telegraphing its differences from your standards run of the mill horror flick, but you still have NO IDEA what the end game is, and that keeps you 100% invested in seeing this story unfold!

The story…a genius effort from Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, with Goddard also directing.  Goddard has been on Team Whedon since the good ol’ Buffy and Angel days, being involved as a writer on the prior and a writer and story editor on the latter.  Cabin in the Woods is exactly what it sounds like…a story about a cabin in the woods.  My only surprise was that we started off with only five kids headed out to the wilderness, which seemed like a little light on victims, but in the end, it all came together and it all made sense.

The five kids include quite a spread of folks, most notably including Chris Hemsworth as Curt.  Yes, Thor himself is one of the primaries in this thing, and this was filmed long before he hit the mainstream as Kirk’s papa in the 2009 Star Trek reboot and certainly before he became the God of Thunder and started his path towards the Avengers.  The other four are much lesser known actors, but things may changes as this flick is bound to launch them into somewhat of a cult status as the hapless victims in a new evolution in horror.

Let me not spoil a thing about this story, other than to say that you have never seen anything like this and while you learn early on that a team of scientists is following the plight of our young victims, you really have to wait until the very end to learn why.  Also, there comes a moment at the end of this flick when this thing just blows off the rails into super crazy, and when it does, you will either love it, or like the older couple in my theater, perhaps stand up and exit the theater.  I think most of you will love it, but it gets crazy, fast, as this flick heads toward its resolution.

4.5 of 5 Horns for this fantastic reinvention of a played out subgenre of the horror scene.  Kudos Mr. Goddard, Kudos Mr. Whedon….now Joss, you best not let us down with The Avengers…I have faith in you…you gave us Firefly, they took it away, but you continue to thrive, and I will consume every bit of what you serve!

LOCKOUT
Just as Cabin knows what it is, so does Lockout: a silly, action-packed sci-fi comedy.  I almost wanted to add thriller in there, but I think there is a marked lack of drama, and while there are some thrills in the action, it isn’t really a thriller.

In fact, given the startling rate at which Guy Pierce’s Snow spews one-liners, this is almost a full fledged comedy.  Produced by Luc Besson, a genius who among other things, brought us The Fifth Element, which also had a fair amount of comedy, but didn’t seem to try nearly as hard.  If most of his jokes didn’t stick, I would have walked away from this with a completely different view, but for trying so, so hard, this script was actually pretty damn funny!

If it isn’t the funny, it may be the pain old fashion fun.  This movie would perhaps be the B-movie stuff of late night SyFy if not for Guy Pierce’s absolute affability.  He is just plain lovable as our anti-hero, mixing one part John McClain (badass reluctant hero), one part Snake Pliskin (concepts), and one part Michael Weston (Burn Notice — looks…Damn if Pierce isn’t the spitting image of Jeffrey Donovan in this!).

This is nothing to write home about.  It is a fun movie and it takes you on a fun ride.  In the not so distant future, there is a low-orbit space station, known as MS-One or Maximum Security-One.  A prison, with hundreds of beds, being used a test facility where prisoners are kept in stasis during the course of their prison terms, eliminating the troubles with your average run of the mill prisons.

The president’s daughter, Emily Warnock, played by Maggie Grace, is off on a humanitarian mission to interview some of the prisoners, to see if the rumors about stasis dementia are true and if the concept of MS-One is actually a sound one or just good for show.

Of course, her visit goes badly, the prisoners overpower her protectors, and ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a good old fashion hostage situation.

Now we have something in the vein of Escape from Los Angeles, the vastly inferior, 1996 Carpenter sequel to Escape from New York, in which Snake Pliskin is sent to LA to retrieve the president’s daughter, who has run off to cause some mischief.  The concept is similar, except that Emily Warnock hasn’t chosen to be in peril, but the story did in fact demand it.

Snow is a disgraced CIA operative, who has been accused of treason, and who stands to be sent to MS-One for a sentence for his own crimes, before he learns of the rescue request that is being made of him.  He basically tells them to piss up a rope, until he finds out that his confidential informant, who happens to have a piece of information that proves his innocence, is already an inmate there.

Of course he accepts the mission and nearly 30 minutes in, things really start to get moving.  I make a note of this because the flick is not excessively long, and for taking a few extra minutes getting snow to the space station, it really keeps the pacing of the rescue itself moving along nicely.

Lennie James has a great supporting role, as does the ever smarmy Peter Stormare.  The main badees are played by Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgan as Alex and the psychopath Hydell.  Hydell is excessively over-the-top in a deliciously evil kind of way.

Look…this is not the best action flick you will ever see, but it is interesting, enjoyable, and out and out fun, for my movie dollar.  I give it 3.5 of 5 Horns and say critics be damned, it was a fun time in the theater.

Until later….take care!
Reel Rhino

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A Couple of Flicks: American Reunion, Wrath of the Titans, Mirror Mirror, Titanic, Casa De Mi Padre

Posted on 09 April 2012 by Reel Rhino

I have seen a couple of flicks over the last few weeks and I just haven’t had a lot of computer time to share my thoughts.  Well folks, I give you a few minutes of my evening to get some (very) brief thoughts down on these flicks.

American Reunion – 2 of 5 Horns
I am a huge fan of American Pie, and a moderately decent fan of American Pie 2 and American Wedding.  The original trilogy had both heart and loads of laughs.  This film leans way to heavily on the old reliable jokes, and to bring this series back after 9 years and a solid end to a TRILOGY, well, I expected a much stronger effort.  Eugene Levy is great, and there are glimpses of hilarity in all of the original cast.  The only problem is that the glimpses of hilarity were quickly clouded by replaying so many of the SAME JOKES from the originals.  In a post Judd Apatow, Todd Phillips, Bridesmaids, Hangover world, from those who reinvented the teen gross out comedy at the end of the 90’s, I expected much, much more.  This was a lame duck from a crew that historically has delivered.  Weak folks, very weak.

Wrath of the Titans – 2.5 of 5 Horns
This is a movie with very little story.  I mean there is a story there…a very basic hero’s journey, but it has absolutely no substance!  The 3-D was not terrible, but there was just so little to grab onto here.

Mirror, Mirror – 4 of 5 Horns
This is a movie full of fun and whimsy!  Tarsem Singh is shaping up to be one of my favorite directors and his flick, The Immortals, puts to shame the Titans flick mentioned above…don’t believe me, check it out!  Mirror, Mirror is the first of the two SNOW WHITE flicks we are getting this blockbuster season.  The other one is a bit more serious, and this effort is a family friendly and really fun outing at the theater.  Lily Collins is stellar in the role that actually inspired her to take up acting.  Julia Roberts chews up the scenery in her turn as the wicked Queen, and Armie Hammer is stellar, just stellar as the Prince.  The seven dwarves are both eccentric and reinvented in a unique and enjoyable presentation.  This was a fun movie that was a welcomed flick in a so far lackluster film year.

Casa De Mi Padre – 4 of 5 Horns
Will Ferrell as the protagonist in a Spanish language film.  One part comedy, one part drama, one part western, one part GRINDHOUSE genius.  Look, I’m not even going to make a shot at describing this flick.  The comedic sensibilities are similar to the tongue-in-cheek-ed-ness of Anchorman, and while I thought it was wholly ridiculous, I also thought is was very creative and exceptionally cool

Titanic 3-D – 5 of 5 Horns
Just a great movie…an all-time classic!  This is how films are meant to look in 3-D.  James Cameron should be in charge of all up-conversions, from here on out.  Line ’em up…all of Michael Bay’s early work, The Matrix trilogy, all of the blockbuster wet dream flicks, give them to Cameron and let him handle the 3-D-ization, please!

Sorry It’s been so long, I’ll try to write again sooner…till then, take care!

Reel Rhino

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Who’s Hungry? The Reel Rhino HUNGER GAMES Review

Posted on 24 March 2012 by Reel Rhino

So until today, I have resisted this Hunger Games thing.  Everybody has been raving about the books….you’ve got to read them, they say!  I have resisted fearing that we had on our hands, the likes of the second coming of the Twilight Saga.  I was wrong.

I was tempted to get into the books before this came out, but I resisted for one main reason.  I didn’t wanted to spoil a decent movie, with a much better book.  From what I have been hearing from fans of the book, the movie does justice to the written version, so perhaps my fears were overwrought with memories of The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons, both FANTASTIC Dan Brown books, both TERRIBLE Ron Howard movies. Would I have liked those movies more if I hadn’t read the books?  Who knows, but I wasn’t going to chance it.

So I got up early on this fine Friday, to check out the 9:45 AM IMAX show at my home theater of AMC Barrywoods.  I expected a larger crowd, but there were only about 100 in the huge auditorium.  It was 9:45, though, maybe too early for some movie goers….for me, it was a great opportunity to AVOID THE CROWD.  I am sure the evening showings were an absolute mess!

The story is simple, a civil uprising in the world of PAN-AM was quelled in the past by the government.  The world consists of 12 districts and as penance for their uprising, each year each district would offer up one young man and young woman as tribute to the Hunger Games.  Their names were drawn from a bowl and depending on things you received from the government through the year, your name may be in there more than one time, increasing the odds of your selection.  Of the 24 competitors selected for the competition, THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE! (Sorry, that’s highlander!)  But still it’s true, there can be only one winner, in a fight to the death battle arena style competition, in which the arena is this futuristic gaming cage consisting of forests, mountains, fields, and rivers.  Lots of places to hide, plan an ambush, or cry for mommy, if that’s your cup of tea.

This is a sci-fi, fantasy, action, adventure, love-story, but also methinks, it falls into the realm of post-apocalyptic (of sorts) and me likely likely!!

We focus our attention on District 12, where young Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) struggles to survive with her mother and her sister, hunting for whatever she can find them to eat.  We meet her early on and we can tell she is quite proficient as a survivor.  She has a close friend in Gale (apparent man-candy to most young ladies in Liam Hemsworth), who dreams of their families running away together, away from the oppression of the PAN-AM government and their wicked Hunger Games.

The day of The Reaping (the selection of the tributes) is upon their District,.and the fancy-schmancy Effie Trinket (an almost unreconizable Elizabeth Banks) is their to lead the ceremonies as the District’s liaison to the games.  Katniss has a younger sister, Primrose, who is in shambles because this his her first year with her name in the bowl.  Of course, the odds are stacked way against her being selected because the older you are and the more in debt you are to the government, the more times your name is in that bowl.  As fate would have it (and for the sake of good storytelling!), of course young Prim is selected.  With that event, District 12 is then presented with its first ever volunteer for tribute in Katniss stepping in to take the place of her much younger sister.

Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the son of the town baker, is selected as the male tribute.  The two are given fleeting moments to say goodbye to their families, and then they are off to a two week stretch of pagentry, celebrity, training, and then the ultimate fight to the death.

On their travels via a high speed futuristic floating (magnets?) train to the capitol city, they meet their “mentor,” a former Hunger Games champ, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson).  On the train, the are regaled with lavish food and hospitality.  Haymitch is not so eager to begin their training, as he is quite jaded by all this, but he quickly comes around to their cause.  Once they arrive in Capitol City, they are each given a handler to make them presentable.  Katniss has the good fortune of hooking up with Lenny Kravitz himself, who turns out to be a master of style and panache.

The supporting cast of adults, Kravitz and Harrelson included, are all matched to their characters perfectly.  From Stanley Tucci’s jovial host of the Hunger Games talk show, attended by thousands, to the game designer, Seneca Crane (Wes Bently), who has by far the beard of the year in any movie to date.  The enigmatic Donald Sutherland is perfect as the soft spoken, man of little words but harsh glances, President of Pan Am.

After the selection of the Tributes is complete, they are presented to the audience of thousands who have gathered for the Games.  In this process, they have the opportunity to impress folks and possibly garner sponsors that may send then needed items that may aid them during the Games.

There is a training session, some get to know our characters time, and by the midway point in the film, much to my happiness, the games begin.

This is a PG-13 film that features a competition of battling to the death.  This is mostly a bloodless battle film, but the skill in overall presentation makes you the viewer, forget how mild the violence is, compared to what it could be, ala say, The Running Man.

The game site is a beautiful landscape, that is controlled precisely by a computer control room, meaning the game designer can affect the outcome, insomuch that he tries to goad the Tributes into combat when there are lulls in the competition.

This film reminded me of sorts of Firefly, the cult classic Whedon series, in that there is a seamless combination of high-tech sci-fi concepts intermingled with old world, outworld type of Macgyver tech, designed on the fly so that the competitors can survive.

This is an out an out adventure film.  Jennifer Lawrence is a very strong lead and Josh Hutcherson holds his own surprisingly well.  I was quite surprised at the lack of screen time for Liam Hemsworth, but from my understanding, he becomes more prominently involved in the subsequent entries in this violently popular trilogy.

I learned from a co-worker today that Jennifer Lawrence and Director Gary Ross, in an interview on NPR, revealed that each day brought an hour hike in and out of the very rural set that was used for the Games grounds.  That is really something…piggyback rides anyone?  Sherpas?  Hopefully they had some kind of a hookup!

The screenplay was written by the novelist, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray, and the Director.  I think having Collins on board is what has helped keep everyone so happy, but for my money, they knocked this story out of the park!  There were some very touching moments and I thought the selection process was especially heartfelt, as even though we had only met our characters for a few moments before we learn that Katniss will be the D12 warrior, her loyalty to her family and friends is absolutely palpable.  The story is well told from start to finish and I am very much looking forward to the sequel!

The big question is, now that I know for sure that I will read the first book, will I be able to keep from reading Catching Fire and Mockingjay in the interim?

The critics seem to love this film, the audiences seem to love this film, the fans of this book seem to love this film and you know what, I loved this film.  I enjoyed it from start to finish and I certainly was glad to have caught it on the IMAX screen, as it is limited in that regard, playing only one week on the super-duper big screen.  I wonder if the theaters will be happy that Hunger Games gets bumped by Wrath of the Titans next week?  Hunger Games set the midnight record for a non-sequel opening, I think it will be tough for the Titans to knock off Katniss next week!  THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!!

4.5 of 5 HORNS for this fine flick!

As a final and interesting aside, another friend at work today brought up the similarities between this and Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.  I remember reading that back in 8th grade and being disturbed (a little) but also in absolutely loving it!  You can read it, if you haven’t, here:

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery

It’s a quick read and it is worth it.  I really used to love short stories in English and Lit classes!  The Most Dangerous Game, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, and so many more!  Such great tales, told in so few words!

I hope you all have a great weekend!!

Until later, take care!

Reel Rhino

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John Carter, Thin Ice, 21 Jump Street, Friends With Kids

Posted on 22 March 2012 by Reel Rhino

I continue to face challenges with my health, but I have many people in my world who give me strength and for that I am thankful!  I live out loud and although I will likely eventually share everything via the Reel Rhino, for now, just know that I’m not super duper, but I persist.

For you, the loyal reader, my time away from work has yielded a higher theater going volume.  This did have the huge benefit as I noted last post of getting me to see A Thousand Words, the Eddie Murphy gem, that will go overlooked by most, likely forever.  Critics have hated on it, but if you look at the general masses response, they have been much more positive.  I mention it here again for the last time, check this flick out, you will be pleasantly surprised.

This week brought about the 70th Anniversary theatrical re-release of Casablanca.  This is truly one of the greatest films of all time and holds up and I believe it will hold up forever.  Adventure, romance, intrigue, and laughs….there is something special to the movies of the bygone era.  I kick myself for not reaching into the “oldies” for so long, it was only the mid-2000’s before I took up the mantle of trying to watch anything older than 1980.  Sad, but in the time since, I have done what I can to make up for my errant ways.  If you have never seen Casablanca, check it out soon…no matter your taste in film, it is a great watch.  It always gets how great the wit and zing of the jokes were from that era.  Casablanca is a gem of the cinema.

Friends With Kids (3.5 of 5 Horns) was a decent romantic dramady that seemed to meander about a little too haphazardly.  I respect the indie nature of it, especially from writer/director/star Jennifer Westfedlt, but that being said, why were there so many marquee stars in this thing and why were they all so damn underused?  This was a 3.5 that I could have easily given a 3, that easily should have been a 4 or better!

21 Jump Street (4 of 5 Horns) was everything that the critics have raved about, and more.  Every joke hit and the story was cohesive from start to finish.  I am a big fan of Jonah Hill and much less one for Channing Tatum.  He was wholly acceptable here, even for my tastes.  I really liked this flick, but I didn’t go gaga for it. Again…all of the jokes play out well, so I have no complaints and feel comfortable giving it a good ol’ 4 of 5 Horns.

John Carter: The IMAX Experience (4 of 5 Horns) was much like 21 Jump Street for me…I really liked it, but I didn’t absolutely love it.  A very rich story with very high production values in all its glorious IMAX splendor, the 3-D on that huge screen was truly something to behold.  I went in not knowing much of the story of John Carter, and while this made the viewing much more enjoyable, the sheer number of characters and complexity of things made following the tale a challenge at times.  I think Taylor Kitsch has chops and even though this film will be viewed as a box office failure, hopefully his performance will help him garner some star power for some more memorable supporting roles in the future.  He kind of reminds me of Ben Foster in that way, not really ready for prime time, but still a damn fine actor.  Of course the “not Andy Garcia” but shows up in everything actor, Mark Strong, is featured as one of the prime baddies, and he plays the role perfectly. That guy is seemingly everywhere!  Go see John Carter, but for being a few minutes too long, it’s a pretty good movie.

Thin Ice (4 of 5 Horns) is a movie that you probably haven’t ever heard of.  I hadn’t, until the day it showed up in the AMC movie listings the day before the film opened last week.  The movie is fairly short, but was a bit draggy at the beginning.  I can best describe it as Fargo-esque, with this film set in the insurance biz, rather than in that of used cars.  Greg Kinnear is excellent and Billy Crudup is nothing short of genius in his role.  Alan Arkin is so dynamic as an actor and as the shut-in old man, with his dog Petey, he plays the role to perfection.  Kinnear is a smarmy insurance salesman and he finds an easy mark in Arkin’s old man, who isn’t really sure he needs insurance, but buys a policy because his TV stops works…yeah, he missed the point, which was the point of the gag, of course.  When it comes to be that the old man happens to have a piece of property of great significant value, Kinnear sees it as an opportunity for a low risk heist.  Things go terribly awry and there is a series of big twists that wrap things up.  The story is tight and enjoyable and I have no idea why this was such a weal release.  Maybe it will pick up speed as an On-Demand flick or on DVD, but if you want an entertaining day at the theater, check it out…

Or A Thousand Words, that is!  Lest I digress!

Until later, “Here’s lookin’ at you kid!”
Reel Rhino
PS…A happy Hunger Games weekend to all…keep in mind, it is only in the IMAX theaters for one week!

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Desperate Plea: Give A THOUSAND WORDS a Chance

Posted on 15 March 2012 by Reel Rhino

The past few weeks have been tough.  I have been experiencing some medical issues that have really kept me from the keyboard.  I can’t even apologize for my absence, because it truly has been that rough a go.

The upside is that with everything going on, I have been able to see some flicks…some posts I open by saying I am going to be short, and write all night.  This time, I am going to be short, really.

Wanderlust: 4 of 5 Horns — A really funny movie that is both a great statement on what is important in life while also being quite hilarious.  Plus, this is movie that gave us Justifer Anitheroux…. 🙂  Tony, that one’s for you.  Justin Theroux was spectacular as the guru.  Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston had great chemistry and Rudd was in great form, with some great outtakes included during the credits.  And the supporting cast was phenomenal, Alan Alda included.  Check this out for a fun, R-rated run through the theater.

Silent House: 3 of 5 Horns — This movie had me at hello.  A film shot to emulate a single take from start to finish, and it worked.  It worked great.  Elizabeth Olsen continued channeling the talent she exuded in Martha Marcy May Marlene and for my money, she is by far my favorite Olsen, my childhood love of Full House excluded.  I really thought as a home invasion film, things were working very nicely.  It was set up perfectly and it could have finished just as solid.  But the train came off the rails a bit, and without spoiling it, I can just tell you that this film will not take you where you think it will.  I will say that a girl in my theater started crying at one point she was so afraid, there were a variety of scream out loud moments, and that there were many groans heard from throughout the theater when the film made its reveal.

The Lorax: 4.5 of 5 Horns — Yes, it is a movie with a message, but what is wrong with that, I ask?  This movie is well made with great 3-D and animation.  The story runs perfectly from beginning to end and it is appropriate for all ages.  It has cleared $129 million in 12 days domestically, which ain’t too shabby.  The story is sweet and true and timely, and for a Dr. Suess adaptation, I think it may be the best of them yet.

A Thousand Words: 4 of 5 Horns — This film sits at the hallowed spot of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Yes, you read that correctly….0%.  This is a shining example of when we as film goers have to look past the critical bullshit and think about what really makes a good movie.

Eddie Murphy has a stigma that he will likely carry with him for the rest of his life.  He has Sherman Klump and Norbit to thank for that.  Meet Dave and Pluto Nash didn’t help.  But he also has James “Thunder” Early and most of what he did before 1990 as proof that he has true talent and is a stupendously funny man.  And for the record, I can watch Pluto Nash anytime day or night and be a happy man…check it out again and give it another chance.

Well A Thousand Words is a high-concept film, that much is certain.  A fast-talking literary agent (Murphy) tries to woo a spiritual guru as a client, and in the process, the universe sets its sights on him.  He becomes spiritually linked to a tree, and when he speaks, a leaf falls from the tree.  The characters guess at the endgame that when all the leaves drop off, the tree will die, and so will Murphy’s Jack McCall.

Forget that Murphy is actually funny from start to finish in this film.  Forget that the talented Clark Duke is also hilarious from start to finish with loads of screen time as MCCall’s assistant Aaron.  Cliff Curtis is great as the guru Sinja and Kerry Washington is both gorgeous and accurate in her portrayal of a frustrated wife.

Why is this film hated by the critics?  It is at 60% “liked” by the users on Rotten Tomatoes and while not great, it is at 4.7 on IMDB.

This film tells the story of a man who takes everything for granted and has the only tool he thinks he has in this world taken from him, his power of slick speech.

He has to overcome problems with his family, his mother, his job, and most importantly, himself.

Things get silly at times, as he is relegated to charades to communicate to keep that tree leafy.  Most entertaining are his interactions with 30 Rocks Jack Brayer as a Starbucks employee.

Eddie Murphy silliness is a good thing in small doses, and for the length of this film, it is a manageable amount here.  Don’t forgo this film because of the critics, give it a chance.

I feel that as a character, we grow with Jack McCall and I like the journey on which we are taken.

Yes, I have some weighty things happening in my life right now, so maybe it touched me a little deeper than your average joe, but this is no 0% film.

Please…give this movie a chance.  You will not regret it!  Go in with an open mind…stay the course!

(I hope.)

Until later, take care gang…
Reel Rhino

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Goon, Gone, and Project X

Posted on 06 March 2012 by Reel Rhino

A few quick flicks…I found it interesting that as my week went on, it was swapping an O for an E that got me from Goon to Gone…

GOON
Yes, Seann William Scott has two n’s in his name AND he has seemingly forsaken Kevin Smith.  Yes, he passed on Smith’s Hit Somebody in lieu of doing this hockey flick instead.  While I think that Smith’s effort will in fact be genius, perhaps more in the dramedy genre, Goon holds its own as a solid hockey comedy.

This movie was certainly accentuated by the fact that I caught it at home on Time Warner On-Demand, viewing it with The Kid in the Helmet and Papa Schmer.  Now, Papa was far less entertained than The Kid, but having at least one cohort who got some great belly laughs at all the right moments helped out a great deal in this viewing.

Goon follows Doug Glatt (Scott), a loser who is depressed because he seemingly has nothing in his life that makes him standout.  Doug is down in the dumps and his friend Ryan (Jay Baruchel) takes him to see their local hockey team play.  It is something of medieval times as the games are more about the fights than the hockey. When Ryan gets a little too mouthy with one of the players going at it, the player hops the wall and heads up into the stands.  Doug quickly finds a talent…in beating the hell out of that player.  He is quickly recruited by the team, and takes on the hallowed mantle of “Goon.”

Add in a little Alison Pill as a love interest and Liev Schrieber as Ross Rhea, the resident Goon who is currently serving a suspension for breaking the only rule of hockey fights…you never fight with your stick.

Written by Baruchel and Evan Goldberg, the ying to Seth Rogen’s writing yang, the dialogue is crude at times, but biting and funny.

Papa withstanding, we laughed…a lot.

I don’t know if Goon will get a theatrical release, but check it out when you get a chance.  If you can, watch it with friends.  It is readily worthy of a 3.5 of 5 Horn high stick salute!  It’s short enough to get in and get out before it wears out its welcome.  Also, Alison Pill is quite stellar.  She was the red-haired drummer from Sex Bomb-Omb in Scott Pilgrim, she was Zelda Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris, and she was Anne Kronenberg in Milk….she is a beautiful chameleon!  Also, on a downer note, Eugene Levy is here, but its only a down note because his character is quite the straight man to his normal jokey dad role.

GONE
This film is not nearly as bad as they say it is.  Amanda Seyfried is quite convincing as the empowered damsel in distress.  Jennifer Carpenter has something of a cameo and for a few moments, she manages to channel Deb Morgan from Dexter, but otherwise she is just a character.

Seyfried is Jill, one year out from narrowly escaping from a serial killer, or so she says, but no one believes her.  Around the one year anniversary, she comes home from the night shift at an all-night diner, and her sister Molly is Gone.  She was studying for an exam, and has seemingly vanished without a trace.  Dash in a history of alcoholism and drug abuse, and Molly’s disappearance is potentially just a bender, so the coppers just don’t buy it.

What follows is an enjoyable detective-flick where the former victim Jill is the detective, weaving tales to the people who may have clues to where her sister is, with her prime theory that her former kidnapper mistakenly took her sister in her place, to finish the job from when she escaped.

Given that the police don’t believe there is a serial killer in the first place, they are a little less than helpful in her search for her sister.

The ending is a little fast in its delivery and while things are resolved to an acceptable level, the speed with which it delivers, almost makes you feel unrequited.  I forgive the ending for the enjoyable ride this film takes you on.  It’s not a super movie, its just a solid thriller.

If you’ve read the bad reviews, look past them and consider giving this a chance.  3.5 of 5 Horns for Gone.

PROJECT X
Check out the trailer for this, and you have seen all you need to see about whether or not you will like it.  It is geared towards the 15 to 25 year old range, but for the likes of old men like me, there is a draw.

You see, this movie exactly depicts how I recall through drunken eyes, some of the greatest nights of my college life.

It is produced by Todd Phillips and it is presented to some extent as a found footage film, but they really don’t work hard to keep up the facade that it clearly is a studio film.

I will say as this thing rounds home, I sat with my jaw dropped for the last 10 minutes of this rager.

4 of 5 Horns for stupid drunken fun from a life long past.  Granted this film is set in the high school realm, it gets a little ridiculous to consider that a residential neighborhood could contain this kind of madness.  It was much more clearly the type of debauchery that made the stuff of dreams along Route 1 in College Park, MD. Go Terps, baby, Go Terps!

That’s all for now…until later, here’s looking towards some brighter days filled with loads of worthy flicks!
Reel Rhino

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Post Oscars Refraction: A Smattering of Films

Posted on 28 February 2012 by Reel Rhino

I have been watching movies, I promise!  I actually survived a medical scare last week and spent a few days laid up in bed.  I used my time in bed and my recovery soon after to catch up on much of what I haven’t seen from recent months.

I will say that Time Warner On-Demand has a great selection of “see-it while its in theaters” kind of flicks and for that, I am grateful!

For your money today, I offer smattering of mini-reviews, some longer than others…my time at the keyboard has been less than I would like, as of late, but a boy’s gotta eat, and the “real” job pays the bills!

I have been writing this post for the better part of 2 weeks.  The really really short reviews are the product of me being too tired to care, generating the desire to just post this darn thing!  So for you, in a post Oscars 2012 world, I offer you this film buffet:

ACT OF VALOR: 4.5 of 5 Horns
THE ARTIST: 5 of 5 Horns
THE WOMAN IN BLACK: 3.5 of 5 Horns
THIS MEANS WAR: 3 of 5 Horns
SAFE HOUSE: 4 of 5 Horns
THE INNKEEPERS: 4 of 5 Horns
PERFECT SENSE: 4 of 5 Horns
THE IRON LADY: 3.5 of 5 Horns
GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGANCE: 3.5 of 5 Horns
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND: 4 of 5 Horns

Act of Valor
This film was culled from footage of real-life Navy Seals in action.  It took the weekend overwhelming viewers, while underwhelming critics.  This is a movie that truly is critic-proof though, as you don’t go for the acting…seeing this movie is something of an act of patriotism.  It was moving, had mind-blowing action, and while it was light in the acting talent, it just didn’t matter.

There were moments when the big-guns kicked in at just the right moment, in what seemed like last minute heroics, but was actually perfectly orchestrated battle plans.  I loved this movie and it made me relish the respect I have for my Brother, a Marine, whose courage has and always will inspire me to do the best I can in my life.  I revere those who risk everything so we can have anything, and this film, while not a traditional Hollywood blockbuster, does proper tribute to all those who serve, but especially those who fight battles that we really have a hard time comprehending.

4.5 of 5 Horns

The Artist
Simply amazing.  5 of 5 horns any day and it is everything they say it is.  This is a film to behold and one to applaud for the sake of pure creative genius!

The Woman in Black
Mundane horror fare.  3.5 of 5 Horns for an acceptable, but otherwise run of the mill horror film.  Harry Potter, we expect better from you.  OBLIVIATE! There…that’s better….but…now…who am I again?

This Means War
Better than I expected, but still not as good as it could of been.  It was missing something special that certainly could have elevated it from what it is to what it could have been!  The film is carried by the affability of Pine and Hardy, it was as The Kid in the Helmet said, impossible to watch and not see Hardy as Bane in the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises.  3 of 5 Horns  — Here’s looking forward to TDKR and Star Trek 2!

Safe House
Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds.  ‘Nuf Said.  4 of 5 Horns for this exciting, fun action ride that features an old hand doing what he does best and really the new kid in action-adventure fare, testing the waters.  Really, Reynolds has only supported the action films in which he has starred (Smokin’ Aces and X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and I think that Green Hornet is not representative of his potential in the genre.  Reynolds  has only scratched the action surface and he will likely shift from Rom-Com fare to more gritty stuff, or at least we can hope (or at least I do!).  As a side note, I would have loved to have seen this flick directed by Tony Scott…that guy can direct!

The Innkeepers
This is the second semi-mainstream offering from Ti West (not counting Cabin Fever 2).  His first semi-wide theater release was House of the Devil, which was stunning and so beautifully vintage in tone and artistic design.  He has an eye for shots that captivate and he clearly films on a serious budget.  This is the story of two clerks working the final weekend at a very old Inn, hell bent on uncovering the mystery surrounding the supposed hauntings at the place.  It is so crisp in its presentation, it looks like it was shot on a prosumer HD camcorder, but it adds to the look and feel of the film in such an effective way.  If Devil was dark (and it was), Innkeepers was light (in the sense that the lights were almost always on).  That lightness made the trips into the basement so much more effective.  Check this out for another effort for a talented up and comer in the horror genre!  A solid 4 of 5 Horns for The Innkeepers.

Perfect Sense
The wold is headed for chaos as an apocalyptic-inducing disease is slowly robbing people of their senses.  Ewan McGregor and Eva Green are splendid…yes, I said splendid, in this part-love story, part-end-of-the-world genre blend the likes of which is both unique and well-played.  KIMBALIANO saw this last year at Sundance, and here’s what she had to say then…

My other love of the fest so far has been PERFECT SENSE. Not because I have an obsessive crush on Ewan McGregor (which I do) or that he’s a little bit naked in the film (which, ladies, he is) but because this is an amazing, emotional movie. It’s the story of a couple (played by Ewan and Eva Green) who fall in love while a strange pandemic breaks out around the world. It starts with an overwhelming moment of loss and grief, then an unexplainable loss of smell. Eventually the entire world is effected. As this strange illness unfolds the human reaction, both on a global level and in the intimate details of the couple’s relationship, are presented. The not-knowing in this movie will make you uncomfortable, but the story is too compelling not to watch. It hasn’t been picked up yet, but I really hope it does. As with most Sundance movies, these two don’t exactly wrap themselves up in a pretty bow at the end, but that’s what I find most enjoyable about them.

Yes, it was picked up and I had the chance to see this on Time Warner On-Demand…for my taste, a solid 4 of 5 Horn movie with curiosity fueling the viewing more than enjoyment.  But there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

The Double
I watched this on Netflix Watch Instantly and remarkably, I didn’t hate it.  At best, I found that it kept a quarter of my attention, with the other three-quarters fulled with lament as after clicking a link, my Facebook account “upgraded” to timeline…lament, oh lament.

The film has a pair of stars in (Chris)Topher Grace and Richard Gere.  I added the Chris because you and I know that it’s actually there.  Richard Gere’s performance was reminiscent of his part in the 1997 remake of The Jackal (originally Day of the Jackal).

This film held this part of my attention, but for a thriller, it wasn’t really that thrilling.  There is a huge reveal about 20 minutes in that I full expected to be a twist or a red herring, but I was sadly disappointed.

The film basically revolves around a manhunt for a Russian gun for hire turned serial murderer, of sorts.  Grace has his moments, but also some doozy bits of acting at times.

Whereas the plot unravels early, some of the dialogue is exposition heavy…including Topher talking to himself, speaking outloud his theories on the case, because that’s what normal people do all the time.

All in all, I gave this a 3 of 5 Horn rating.  See it if you’re bored, but otherwise pick a classic you’ve never seen, lean back, relax and enjoy a better film.

The Iron Lady
This as a film did not wow me; Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher did wow me.  She is one of the finest actors of our generation and this film is worth watching for her performance alone.  I gave this film a 3.5 as a watchable all-around story of a still-living, breathing legend of politics.  It is a pretty standard biopic running three ages of Margaret Thatcher at the same time, with Streep handling the active-politics years as well as the retired, confused old woman who when she goes to the store for some milk, isn’t even recognized.

Let me also say that the make-up in this phenomenal and it is one of the three films nominated for the make-up award from The Academy.  It’ll be a touch and go race, but it may be Glenn Close’s Albert Nobbs that takes the award.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence 3-D
This ain’t your mother’s Ghost Rider.  Unfortunately, it ain’t exact;y the great flick I thought it would be, either.  It is, by far, around 100% better than the original. Neveldine/Taylor are an extremely talented pair of directors and cinematographers.  This film was bumped up a whole point in my book for the stark deviation in tone and production methods from the first one.  The original was a green screen nightmare and this offering is more visceral, something resembling the reality that could be in a world with the Rider.

Nicolas Cage, you either love him or hate him…there is little middle ground.  Fortunately for me, I am on the love him side, so in addition to the great direction, Cage’s hammy delivery suits this film perfectly.

The son of the devil was born to a mortal woman and his coming of age is upon the world.  The boy is on the run with his mother and pursued first by the devil’s minions, second by a mysterious boozy priest, played enjoyably by Idris Elba.  Elba enlists the help of The Rider, convincing him with the promise that if he is successful, his order of priests can lift the curse that has him roaming the night harvesting souls for the devil.

All in all, I give this a 3.5 of 5 horn rating….This is not a $14 movie, and that’s what I paid…it was also playing in ETX 3-D, which I believe would have been $16….

Things are getting crazy expensive at AMC and while I love AMC with specific affection for my Barrywoods crew, I can’t go without saying pointing it out.   Cinemark in Merriam is $4 bucks for all shows before 6pm, $6 for all shows after.  Their 3-D mark-up is $2.75….meaning that worst case scenario for any 3-D show is a matinee viewing for a 3-D flick is $8.75.

I did the IMAX viewing of Journey 2 (see below) and it was a CRAZY $16.00 for the film.  At least they had the decency to play a Warner Brothers Looney Tunes short before the film.  $16.00 for 94 minutes…that’s $1 per $6 minutes of film, give or take.  Yikes.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – The 3-D IMAX Experience
I hate those who judge films like this before giving it any chance at all.  This a fun, family film that makes it mark as a fine (albeit cheesy at times) adventure.  Like the first film, it was built for 3-D and enhanced by its release in IMAX.  I think watching this at home would greatly reduce one’s enjoyment, but with the likes of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Sir Michael Caine, and Luis Guzman, there was no shortage of talent in the acting department.  Yeah, you heard me say it, I think The Rock can act.  See also: The Rundown for one of my favorite action films of recent years.  I enjoyed him in Fast 5 and really think he can accentuate the action element of any movie.  It is, what it is, though.  Either you will like it, or you will endure it.  Luckily for me, I liked it…but I am easy to please!  4 of 5 Horns

Yes, I’ll be headed back to the theater soon…sorry for the sporadic postings, but times have been crazy around here, and I hope it slows down soon so I can get back to writing!!!

Until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

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3rd Annual Reel Rhino OSCAR POOL – Come Get Some!

Posted on 21 February 2012 by Reel Rhino

3rd Annual REEL RHINO Oscar Pool – JOIN IN THE FUN!!!

Folks, last year was a BEAR tracking in Excel all of the submissions to the Oscar pool.  Well track no more Reel Rhino, for I have found a trusted and reliable website that runs it for FREE!
Much like the Fantasy leagues have their sites in ESPN, YAHOO, and CBS SPORTSLINE, we now have…
This is a website that specializes in entertainment games and it was our good fortune that they have an OSCAR POOL!
NO COST, NO OBLIGATION, LOTS OF FUN!!
The password for my group is….. rhino …yeah, surprising, I know!
Here is the link:

REEL RHINO OSCAR POOL (password: rhino)

I will be posting and reposting this until the Academy Awards start on Sunday.  Also, I am employing the sites recommended scoring system which takes into account a heavier weighting of the more popular categories to try to keep the shots in the dark from skewing the results.
WINNER GETS TO PICK ANY MOVIE FOR ME TO REVIEW — last year’s champ had me write-up on Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never…what will you choose…oh, yeah….nothing, since I WILL BE VICTORIOUS!!!
Again, the password is rhino and the site is…
JOIN IN THE FUN….can you take down last year’s champion, KRISTIN (See her late 90’s promo head shot to see just who you are up against)!?!?!
Take care and good luck…
Reel Rhino

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The Kid in the Helmet Gets Old With Jay and Silent Bob

Posted on 17 February 2012 by Reel Rhino

I promise you…I’ve not gotten lazy, just busy.  I must turn to THE KID IN THE HELMET, my trusted compatriot to pick up some slack for me.  I have seen Safe House (4 of 5 Horns) and I felt compelled to go and see the 3-D Phantom Men-ASS…yes, you can infer from that terrible joke, that I find the Episode I calamity, my least favorite of the George Lucas’s saga…

Ugh…

I leave you in the safe capable hands of The Kid in the Helmet…take it away, Kid:

————————————

Hello Reel Rhino reader, The Kid in the Helmet here once again.

So, a couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a Fathom event at AMC Barrywoods. For those who don’t know, Fathom puts live events on the big screen around the country. This was something I never thought I would do as the only Fathom events I have ever seen advertised prior were for the ballet, the opera, and some sort of Glenn Beck thing. Nothing I would spend money on. But for those of you who have read my contributions to Rhino’s blog before you know I am a big Kevin Smith fan. So when I heard he would be doing a Fathom event featuring a live recording of one of his many podcasts, “Jay and Silent Bob Get Old,” (http://smodcast.com/channels/jay-silent-bob-get-old/), it was like they had decided to do this show for me alone, and I felt like a very special boy, indeed.

(Reel Rhino note…I added that last line.  The Kid is by far in the top 7 to 12 Kevin Smith fans…in the world.)

My dad (Papa Schmer) tagged along with me and we arrived an hour early to ensure a good seat. This turned out to not be necessary as there were only about 10-15 people in the theater…but when it’s streamed all across the country, the crowd adds up, I suppose. Things started off a little rough with some technical difficulties…they were late getting the show running by about 5-10 minutes and then there was another 5-10 minutes of sound but no picture. But it eventually got squared away, and for a 20 minute run of technical issues, AMC was kind enough to give us a pass for a free movie, so all’s well that ends well.

Jay and Silent Bob Get Old was as funny as always. It began with a conversation around Kevin’s dog Skully who was slowly passing away…doesn’t sound like a funny topic I know, so I guess I’ll just say you’d have to hear it to realize that much like Kevin can do with even the most morose of topics, he spins it just right.  Check it out if so inclined. The rest of the show mostly revolved around Kevin telling a story about trying to keep his large pet tortoise from…how shall I put this…making unwanted coitus with his smaller pet tortoise. Funny stuff, so give it a listen.

After the podcast Kevin and Jay came back out and did a Q&A taking questions from the audience in the theater as well as the audience all over the country via Twitter. The big news from the Q&A was that Jay and Silent Bob will be returning to the big screen.

(Reel Rhino note….WHA, WHA, WHA….WHAT! ~ nice!)

Recently Jay came to Kevin and told him he was bored and looking from something to work on. Kevin tossed him a script he had written for an animated Jay and Silent Bob movie. Jay went off on his own and got it financed and produced. It is called “Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie.” It will premier this year at the Toronto International Film Festival and then Kevin will take it on the road similar to last year’s Red State road show. While it is mostly animated it will also feature a live action portion for which Kevin any Jay will don the costumes once again. For more details on this and many other Smith related things check out this exclusive interview with the man himself:

http://www.craveonline.com/film/interviews/182497-exclusive-kevin-smith-the-jay-and-silent-bob-animated-movie.

Overall I would rate the Fathom event experience 4.5 out of 5 Helmets. It loses a half a helmet due to the technical difficulties. Kevin will be doing another one of these soon with another podcast, Hollywood Babble-On, his weekly Hollywood Poop  Chute with Ralph Garmin, made famous for his Silent Bob-esque role as the speechless Caleb in Smith’s Red State.  No, actually, he is quite a well renowned voice actor and notable DJ on KROQ in Los Angeles.   He is funny and great with impersonations….only the penitent man will pass…penitent man, penitent man….(Harrison Ford).  So look for that soon and check it out.

The cost was only $15 bucks…pretty cheap for a fun and different movie going experience.  Hell, I heard the Reel Rhino once paid $17 to see The Jonas Brothers 72 minute concert movie….sucker.  I got a 3 hour show…now that’s buying power!

Thanks Kid! You are always a welcome addition to the site…also good at picking up my slack!  I promise to return soon with some reviews, pithy comments on life, and all around goodness.

Take care…

Reel Rhino

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Chronicle and The Big Year on VOD

Posted on 04 February 2012 by Reel Rhino

CHRONICLE: 3 of 5 Horns
I went to see Chronicle with the highest of hopes.  Having such high expectations is a bit dangerous for me, and I feel in this instance, like so many times before, I was let down.

I didn’t hate this movie…I liked it, but didn’t love it.

What I did like a great deal is the means by which this found footage film managed to get coverage to avoid being a single camera vantage without breaking from the theme of the cinematographic method.  Camera one is brought to pass as one of the main guys (Dane DeHaan’s Andrew) decides, with an abusive alcoholic father and a mother dying before his eyes, that he is going to document everything in his day to day life.

In a nutshell, three friends (Andrew, Alex Russell’s Matt, and Michael B. Jordan’s Steve) venture away from a barn rave to discover a hole in the earth, leading down to some kind of supernatural crystal thingee (yeah, that’s my word, not theirs).  With Andrew’s camera in tow, they catch the thing on film, but not before “some kind of interference” sets the world shaking and the screen cuts to black.

When the picture picks up, the guys are in one of their yards, taking turns realizing the beginnings of their newly acquired gift.  Things start out small, but pretty quickly they realize that with each passing moment, they are getting stronger.

One of my issues is that for 83 minutes, this film felt long.  Those passing moments come quickly once they get their powers, but it took a bit longer than I would have liked to get to those good bits.

Generally speaking, their powers are your standard superman stuff, plus telekinesis.  I reference Superman as a point of procedure, because this film really feels like a procedural on the woes of superhero puberty.  In fact I told some of the AMC staffers that if at the end of this movie, we would have learned that this was a loose prequel to some existing character or characters, it would have blown me away.  I don’t think this is really a spoiler, but it is not that at all.

Once the film picks up steam and moves past the awkward trial and error stages of what these guys are actually capable of, it really culminates nicely.  As I mentioned, the found footage element was accentuated by the use of any and all cameras in the area of the action.  Shots cut to cell phone video, flip cams, and surveillance footage as well to give a great perspective to the action without breaking the method of presentation.

There is some nice coming of age material as Andrew is very much the recluse of this group and he finds ways to use his powers in interesting ways to gain some attention.

Things ultimately spiral out of control, but I will leave that for your viewing experience.

I feel like this is a short review, but at 83 minutes, if I type much more, this write-up will possibly exceed the length of the screenplay.  Speaking of, this flick has story by and screenplay credits for Max Landis.  If that name sounds familiar, its because he is son to John Landis, horror genius.  In fact Max’s main filmography is small-time horror, TV, with the Good Time Gang already lined-up as his next major feature.  I guess we can forgive both he and his father for the atrocity that was Blues Brothers 2000…or not.  But he shows creativity, and while I didn’t love this film, I thought it was a unique spin on the found powers genre.  It was something between Sky High, a not terrible Kurt Russell/Michael Angarano flick from a few year ago crossed with the early goings of Spiderman in Raimi’s original.

The other half of the story by credit went to director Josh Trank.  Trank is an up and comer and I look forward to more from him in the future.  Previously, he directed the FX series The Kill Point (which I liked) and served as the editor on Patton Oswalt’s Big Fan.  This is a respectible first major feature and given the skill to which he conducted The Kill Point, I look forward to a real live action flick from him, rather than the found footage fare.

A 3 of 5 horn score from The Reel Rhino.  Catfish hollers at me all the time…you;ve never seen a movie you don’t like, he complains.  Chronicle is sitting pretty on Rotten Tomatoes at 85% from the critics and 82% from the users.  I didn’t hate this movie, but I certainly am not with the masses on this.

THE BIG YEAR: 4 of 5 Horns
I am re-posting my review on this from late in 2011, since this was just released to On-Demand.  I loved this flick in the theater and I think too few people are going to give it a chance.  It is a sweet, fun movie, loaded with stars….my review:

Don’t listen to the critics…well, if you consider me a critic, listen to me, but ignore the naysayers!

The Big Year succeeds as a sweet, funny film, that is much better than it’s Tomatometer score would let on (39%).

How about this cast…

A subdued Steve Martin, a sweet Jack Black, a standard Owen Wilson, Rashida Jones, Dianne Wiest, Brian Dennehy, Rosamund Pike, Anjelica Huston, Joel McHale, Kevin Pollack, JoBeth Williams, and Anthony Anderson.

Wow!  The cast alone should have your interest peaked…I went in not having seen the trailer, only having heard through the scuttle that the film was about bird watching, or birding.

It is in fact based on an actual contest, called appropriately, The Big Year, in which birders try and see how many different species of bird they can see or hear within a calender year.

Barry Bostick (Wilson) is the reigning birding hero, holding the world record and being the pimp daddy of the birding community.  He is as vain as they come and he is fearful of his record being broken.  Among those set to challenge him, is Stu Priessler (Martin), a recently retired high-powered CEO, who has dreamed for years of setting off on his own big year.  Brad Harris (Black) is a dreamer.  A computer debugger by day, he is mostly broke, and like Stu, is in it for the love.
These three actors have given great performances in the past, and while I think they are good but not great hear, they play off one and other perfectly, and it synergistically combines to something much better than most people are giving this film credit for.

Being a stranger to the birding world, I was happy to learn so many aspects of this sport, albeit it a dramatized, comedic version of this world.

In addition to being a comedy and a drama, there are elements of thrills thrown into the mix, seen in the mystery as to whether a person is actually engaged in a Big Year, a fact that is typically kept secret, for fear that other birders will set to derail them in their quest.

This is a fun story and for what I recall, a family friendly one.  Minus a few S-bombs and a scantily towel wrapped Rosamund Pike in one scene, this is a pretty clean film.  It is rated PG, which is rare for any mainstream film these days.  The comedy is effective and it is clean.

Give The Big Year a chance.  It has heart and this cast superbly comes together to make something of a Christopher Guest effort, without the tongue-in-cheekedness than comes with his mockumentary filmmaking.  David Frankel is a competent director and his previous efforts include Marley and Me and The Devil Wears Prada.  In my opinion, he has created a very accessible film, written for the screen by Howard Franklin based on the book by Mark Obmascik.

4 of 5 Horns for this very sweet and enjoyable film.

Until later folks, have fun this weekend…see something good!

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The Grey, Haywire, The Divide, Shame, Contraband

Posted on 01 February 2012 by Reel Rhino

Yeah, I’ve been slacking.  Sorry…

Kimbaliano has been hobnobbing with the glitterati in Sundance and I am sure she is working up quite a wrap up post.  For now, I thought I would touch base on my last few flicks…and yes, I love the dot, dot, dot…I’m working on that as well…(dammit!)

I was on the road for a bit and I’ll get to those at the tail end of this post.  Stay tuned, because included in my week of viewing pleasure was the Washington, D.C. premiere for the new Michael Biehn flick, The Divide.

The Grey
Liam Neeson continues to impress for a man approaching 60 in mere months.  Not that 60 isn’t the new 50, but he’s rocking it as a bad mamma-jamma and he’s relentless in the role of the ass kicker (Geico Gekko: Did I just say Bad Mamma Jamma?).  Is The Grey the pinnacle in his trilogy that began with Taken, continued with Unknown, and is rounded up nicely here.

The Grey follows a group of oil drillers in Alaska, whose plane back to civilization goes down.  Neeson, hired on the drill site to keep the workers safe from wolves in the area, is faced with the very same problem for the small band of survivors.

This film is rocking solid at 77%/75% critics and user ratings and I am still hearing more bad than good on this flick.

I loved it and I thought the wolves were completely palatable.  Forget what you’ve heard and give this flick a chance.  The Joe Carnahan and Liam Neeson team worked well for The A-Team (deal with it) and it worked well here as well!

Stay until after the credits for a short, but meaningful scene.

4.5 of 5 Horns

Haywire
This is yet another Steven Soderbergh film that is exactly like a Steven Soderbergh film.

I like Soderbergh, so I liked this film.

Gina Carano stars as Mallory, which is a great name for a badass heroine who can fight like a tigress!  She is great in the fight scenes.

The rest of the cast, almost everyone of them known by BIG name, are completely competent.  The direction as well, competent.

So why didn’t I go gaga for this film?  It was very much a thinker…most of the fights were featured in the trailer, which I hate.  The trademark heavy score was ever present with the sound on the dialogue subdued and no batman like sound effects in the fight scenes.

I think that was the problem that most have had with this flick.  It sits at 44% for the user score on RT and the critics are praising it highly at 81%.  That is not exceptionally surprising for Soderbergh, as he is generally loved by critics and perhaps misunderstood by the masses.

At the end of the day, this is a short, fun movie that helped me realize perhaps I could have caught it home and been just as happy.  3.5 of 5 Horns.

Contraband
If you didn’t hear it, Mark Wahlberg recently made the statement that had be been on one of the 9/11 flights, he’d have fought the highjackers and saved everyone.

Jackass.

He should concentrate on elevating his acting game, moreso.

This film, much like Haywire was a fully palatable film, good enough to pass some time, but really nothing that blew me away.

Wahlberg plays a reformed smuggler who is pulled back in the game for that oh so tired “One Last Job!” when his wife’s brother is in on a job gone wrong.

Mayhem ensues and lots of blood is shed.

What I commend this film for, was its boldness as a solid R-rated flick.  The F-bombs were well placed and I like movies that are reminiscent of the 80’s action fare.  I think Wahlberg is decent enough and Giovanni Ribisi is just plain dirty (a good thing) as his foil.  Ben Foster is also decent and we need to get this guy in more movies!  Kate Beckinsale is just plain (but looking good while being so mundane) as Wahlberg’s damsel in distress, a role in a world with Underworld’s Selene, she just doesn’t play it well anymore.

At the end of the day, yet another passing grade: 3.5 of 5 Horns.

Shame
This is some flick.

It is a very small story about a man (Michael Fassbender) with a sex addiction whose life is upended when his sister (Carey Mulligan) pops into his life and moves in with him following a failed relationship.

I don’t even want to begin to describe this film, except to say it is a) captivating and b) very graphic (and quite bizarre).

Be prepared (or be excited)…you will see more of Fassbender’s penis than we saw of the giant blue penis in Watchman.

My description above sums up the plot and the story unfolds as we learn the extent of Brandon’s (Fassbender) problem and how it is exacerbated by Sissy’s arrival. Yes, she is his sister, but her name is also Sissy.

If you can take the heavy sexual content with some serious penis shots (probably the only time I will ever write those words!), the see this movie!  While Fassbender was nominated for the Golden Globe, he narrowly missed the Oscar nod, I am sure.

I saw this at the E Street Theater in Washington, D.C., a great venue if you are ever in that neck of the woods.

4 of 5 Horns for this full-frontal, NC-17 outing.

The Divide
This was my second flick at the E Street Theater, a midnight outing featuring the new movie from the director of Hitman.  Yep, that’s how it was billed.  What’s his name?  Who the hell knows!! (Xavier Gens if you’re following along.)

I will tell you that the more notable face in the flick was Michael Biehn…you know, Kyle Reece, Seal Team Commander (The Rock), Coffey (The Abyss), Hicks (Aliens), and so on and so on.  When his name showed up on the screen, the crowd went wild.

The film co-stars Milo Ventimiglia, Lauren German, Courtney B. Vance, and Rosanna Arquette.  Michael Eklund also stars and while you might not recognize the name, anytime you thought you were watching Ethan Hawke, but couldn’t find it on his IMDB page, it was probably this guy.

The rough in on the story is this…

We are introduced briefly to some of the cast and shortly after the end of opening credits, bombs start dropping.  More specifically, nukes.

Yikes.

Everyone starts going bonkers and a group of tenants in the apartment complex we are introduced to, start heading down to the basement.  A group of them make it to the huge steel door that lo and behold is being slammed in their face by the Super, Biehn’s Mickey.

Conditions are quite deplorable and panic sets in as the meager supplies Mickey has begin to run short.  Add in the fact that these people have no idea what is going on outside of the walls of their bunker.  Luckily, it is in fact a bunker…equip with a shower, a hole into an underground septic run, and enough space that when the story called for it, whoever was pissed could go off and sulk.

Now it gets crazy.

This film is deep-end, bat shit crazy and this film is polarizing to the tune of about 90/10.  I figure something in the neighborhood of 90% of the people who see this movie, will hate it.

There is a bizarre sci-fi futuristic element of this that I won’t spoil, but I will say that these elements intrigued me at first, and ultimately left me wondering what the hell I was actually watching.  A super cool aspect of this film could have led to something great, instead I just left scratching my head.

Minor spoilers to the depravity of this film follows:

Dismemberments.

Heavy sound effect laden defecation.

And a woman is raped repeatedly.  To Death.

Yikes.

At the end of the day, I really liked this film.  More so, I really enjoyed the sum total of my viewing experience.  It was greatly accentuated by the full house who were hootin’ and hollerin’ at all the right moments.  I do think that most were disturbed, but in the way that is great for this kind of depravity.  This film is destined for cult movie status at best, and I predict it will get a VOD release and that its theater run may be limited to shows like the one I caught.

Throw in the emergency rations cans of “beans,” well jelly beans, that the studio had sent for the screening, and this was about a perfect midnight movie in our nation’s capitol.

4 of 5 Horns for this demented, depraved, and genreificly enjoyable flick.  Yes, I was in the 10%, but heed my warning…you may hate this film.

The other option for the midnight movie option was The African Queen.  The theater was pretty jammed for both flicks and it gave me hope that folks outside of my home locale of KC are into movies…if only we could generate some excitement like this, KC would be a better place for film.

For now, that is all…until later, take care!

Reel Rhino

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A Roving SUNDANCE reporter and…wait for it…Dark Knight Rises Prologue

Posted on 24 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

I am just returning from a great week in DC, I must say I am most envious of my favorite Indie Girl, Kimbaliano, who is currently rubbing elbows with film glitterati in Park City.  There has been a great deal of buzz about this year’s Sundance Film Festival and I am excited to get a report here and there from our girl on the streets.  Stay tuned to the back half of this post for her first update…

In the course of my DC run, I had a chance to make it to three movies, two new in Shame and The Divide, and one repeat in M:I 4, at the Smithsonian Institute National History Museum IMAX theater.

I will post soon on Shame and The Divide, but I want to focus now on my third viewing of Mission: Impossible 4…

Yes, folks, this viewing was in a real IMAX theater (eat your heart out Aziz Ansari) and it had been so long since I’ve been to a full screen IMAX…I had forgotten how absolutely grand they are.  Yes, it is very evident the slight graininess that screams (gloriously) film, but that massive screen is more than enough to give the desired viewing experience.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my fellow filmgoers, Mike and Robert…fellow travelers who were as excited as I for what played before the feature…

I have commented at length on my enjoyment on my enjoyment of the M:I 4, but this was my first run at…oh, I am excited just writing about it…The Dark Knight Rises prologue.  By God is it glorious!!

It is the most appropriate introduction to the new nemesis of the Bat that we could ever hope for.  And folks, Bane is going to be spectacular.  If you haven’t seen the prologue, make it a priority now.  You will not regret it…it is worth the trip, wherever you have to go to see it.   I was truly flabbergasted at how intense and exciting it was.  Gritty and compelling, Christopher Nolan continues to amaze me with his talent and ceativity.

I will be there at the midnight screening for this, I promise.

Reel Rhino yields the floor to KIMBALIANO, who is back in the house for her favorite time of the year!

SUNDANCE!

Yep, my friend gets to live the good life for a week…a life which I envy and plan to emulate sometime in the future.  She works as a volunteer by day, taking in flicks by night.  And thank the good Lord she has great attention to detail, and once again, is willing to share her experiences!

Thank you KIMBALIANO…truly, thank you!

(reposted from an e-mail she sent me Sunday evening)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sundance is going great!  I got here Friday night, and my volunteer shifts don’t start until Wednesday, so I’m packing the movies in now.  4 yesterday, 3 today – my movie going muscles are already sore 🙂

My favorite so far has been MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, a small, intimate story from the perspective of the wife of a man serving 5-10 years in prison.  Really well acted, and beautifully shot.

I’ve seen a couple docs – one called THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES – focusing on the family who runs the Wingate Timeshare Empire (most recently having built the PH Towers on the strip in Las Vegas). What started as a story of excess, and the building of their new house (inspired by the actual Versailles which, once built, would be the largest house in America), became a story of the markets crashing and the collapse of their fortune.  It was really promising and totally fascinating, but I’m not sure the film makers knew how to focus the heavy story that unfolded in front of them.  Overall it was a bit of a mess and lacked a point of view, but there’s no denying it provided an interesting view into a life very few people lead.

Big Boys Gone Bananas, another doc, about an amazing David and Goliath story of a small Swedish film maker who directed a film (Bananas!*) about Dole’s use of pesticides in Nicaraguan banana orchards, and Dole’s all out assault on the film and it’s film makers.  It is a really interesting story, if only 10-15 minutes too long.

The most memorable movie so far was Tim and Eric’s billion dollar movie.  Now, apparently these guys have a bit of a cult following on the Internet, and there were a TON of cameos – Will Forte, Zack Galifianakis, Jeff Goldblum, etc.   We actually left before the movie was over.  I’m all for random, quirky, edgy humor, but I just didn’t find this movie funny at all.  It was just odd…and gross…and not great.  We actually held out longer than about 20 other folks who left before us.  Perhaps if you like their Internet show, this is for you, but it was not for me.

Snow has kept us stuck in Salt Lake (and sadly the film makers stuck in Park City) so the star sightings and Q and A’s have been minimal.  It’s supposed to clear up, and we’re hoping to get to Park City tomorrow.  I’ll keep you updated :).

THANKS KIMBALIANO!!

Until later…take care!
Reel Rhino

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Reel Rhino’s Top 15 Films of 2011

Posted on 16 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

So here it is folks…I know you all have been waiting with baited breath.  Feel free to exhale for the wait is over.

I have be honored to be a part of the Blinkin Blogs team, and I thank the site management for allowing me to continue to post.  I relish my relationship with movies and I appreciate the opportunity to share my experiences with you!

This list, as with much in life, comes with a disclaimer.  My top 15 list is based on the movies that I saw this year.  I am an 80/20 dude, you should know that from the get go.  80% of the films I see are mainstream releases, the other 20% are comprised of indies and documentaries.  Also, I rank my top flicks based on what I see in a calender year.  For example, I have not yet seen WE BOUGHT A ZOO.  Not to say that this would for sure make my list, but because I haven’t seen it, I didn’t even consider it.

Okay, okay…enough rules.  Get to business already!

Fine…you want it, you got it!!

REEL RHINO TOP 15 of 2011
15. Attack the Block – 4.5 of 5 Horns
Joe Cornish has created a unique film, which may have been the most fun you didn’t have in the theater this year.  Yep, you probably missed this one, but you need to give it a chance.  Cornish is from the Edgar Wright camp and this is a British inner-city spin on the alien invasion tale.  This film exists solidly on its own merit and the rag tag group of dudes are part Goonies, part Ghostbusters with a whole load of British swagger and cheeky humor.  The special effects were creative and a bit campy, which gave great ambiance to this film.  Bravo Mr. Cornish, Bravo.

14. Hanna – 4.5 of 5 Horns
Joe Wright created a wholly enjoyable and unique twist on the CIA/spy thriller.  Gritty from the word go and the fantastic score by The Chemical Brothers added ambiance to this film that did nothing but make it even more great.  Saoirse Ronan is spectacular as the titular Hanna and Erik Banna and Cate Blanchett are in their prime.  Banna’s Erik is a bad-ass and he seems to have passed all of his tricks on successfully to the younger Hanna.  This film is very much a chase film from start to finish, and Wright manages the action like an old pro, when this is in fact his first dip into the action pool.  Hanna is not a perfect movie, but it is cool as can be.  It was released through an American studio but it Wright’s touches give it a very palatable European sensibility. The tone shifts from dark to light to dark and so on, keeping you on your toes not knowing who is lurking around the next corner.

13. Rango – 4.5 of 5 Horns
This kid’s flick ain’t really for kids, folks.  It is a fantastic film that is rich in characters.  It is not to be missed and while there are enough interesting visuals to keep the kids semi-happy, the adults will really see the humor and the depth that this film has to offer.  Johnny Depp himself has become somewhat a cliche of wild character films, but he does Rango true justice and yes, even though we rarely get to see Depp in any kind of subdued role, his wild eyed range adds to Rango in the best possible ways.  In most animated films, it is hard to look past the voices to see the characters.  In this film, these characters live and breathe on their own.  I challenge you to pinpoint any of the talent behind the voices, outside of Depp and a very obvious Timothy Olyphant-astic.  This film is a pure animated spaghetti western disguised as Nickelodeon fodder.  You will have a great time watching this movie.

12. Everything Must Go – 4.5 of 5 Horns
The story of a man on the edge of disaster…well actually, his life is a disaster.  He is fired from his job, his wife has left him, and he’s an alcoholic.  Oh yeah…his wife’s swan song…she moves everything he owns onto their lawn before she leaves the house and changes the locks.  What really made this film shine for me was Will Ferrell.  His performance was a tour de force in my book and he give a performance that proves he is more than sports spoofs and occasionally funny goofball comedies.  His sidekick, a young boy named Kenny is played by Christopher Jordan Wallace who is non-other than the son of the Notorious B.I.G.  The young Wallace has a deadpan delivery but he is exceptional in this role, only his second ever, having previously played the child version of his pops in the 2008 biopic, Notorious.  This film was somewhat depressing with an exceptional sense of catharsis head towards the finish.  The film actually inspired me to get my own business together and clear out years of hoarding stuff…a few garage sales later, and I feel I now have a lot of wheat, and a lot less chaff.

11. Red State – 5 of 5 Horns
Asked and answered counselor…see also my three posts about this film on my other site (http://www.reelrhino.com) – The third post is exceptionally entertaining IMO, as I was engaged on Twitter by none other than Fred Phelps himself:

Red State (POST 1)
Red State (POST 2)
Red State (POST 3)

10. Super 8 – 5 of 5 Horns
J.J. Abrams has existed as one of my favorite folks in the entertainment industry for some time now. He solidified that opinion with the wonderful reboot of the Star Trek series. I’d like to say J.J. is a wunderkind director, but he’s been in the biz for over 20 years. In the 1980’s Abrams helped Steven Spielberg repair home movies he had made as a kid. That’s a pretty good break for a young wannabe filmmaker and this was just the first of Abrams/Spielberg interactions that would ultimately lead to this project. While Abrams calls Spielberg the Grandfather of Super 8; Spielberg maintains that Abrams could have travelled this road on his own. Super 8 is something of a Goonies meets E.T. alien adventure film, that is surrounded by all the mystery that both directors love. For further reading, please see also, Abrams TED talk on the mystery of the box. Well Super 8 is loaded with mystery. For starters, the mystery of who the hell are these kid actors? If they were to remake the Goonies, I would vote these folks in. Elle Fanning is charming and a chip off the old family block. I was also happy to see Noah Emmerich and Ron Eldard back in the blockbuster feature game. Super 8 is pure adventure from start to finish. See this movie.

9. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – 4.5 of 5 Horns
Impressive is just about the perfect word used to describe this film…this extremely impressive first live action effort from PIXAR wunderkind Brad Bird.  He made his bones in the action genre with The Incredibles, but the question was, could he do it without the support of the great animators and collaborative effort that makes every Pixar film shine so bright.  The answer is yes.  And to our old friend Tommy Boy (Cruise, that is), I give you a hearty round of applause, for reascending to the ranks of proper action star.  I think that it was as important to have the Bad Robot (JJ Abrams) team on-board as producer of this flick, as evidenced by JJ’s recent successes (see also: Super 8).  The IMF team assembled here play off each other well, in a comedic sense, as well as running missions like well oiled heists, making the impossible possible.  Jeremy Renner is the here and now, folks…he’s the real deal.  Ethan Hunt is very similar to John McLane as a seemingly indestructible hero…it sometimes gets ridiculous, but somehow it works.  Ethan Hunt is truly the Energizer Bunny of movie heroes.  These action sequences really pop and watching this film gave me one of my favorite film going experiences of 2011.  And, oh yeah, what a joy to see some good old fashion US/Russia hostility captured sublimely on the big screen.  I’m all for world peace but the hints of Cold War conflict in this film gave me a sense of nostalgia ala Red Dawn and Hunt for Red October style of tension.

8. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – 4.5 of 5 Horns
When this project was announced, I shuddered.  Literally.  I was sick that we felt obligated to further demonstrate our ethnocentric way of being in the world of film, by taking a perfectly good foreign film and remaking it in the “American Way.”  My fear were mostly assuaged when I heard the picture would be handled by David Fincher, who along with Christopher Nolan, is one of my favorite working directors of the day.  Fincher lives in a dark world on film, and who better to translate the dark world of Stieg Larsson to the big screens her in the states.  He succeeded on every level and he managed to translate the cute American girl -type in Rooney Mara into a very impressive Lizbeth Salander.  Yes, Mara is something of a scream-queen, having appeared in a variety of horror/thriller flicks in the past, but she is this cute little thing, who becomes something else entirely.  Out of the gate, I feared the worst…David Fincher delivered the best product we could have hoped to get.  $83 million domestically and so far only $29 million in the foreign box office, which is quite lower than expected and likely hasn’t yet overcome the budget and P&A for this film.  I hope it gets greenlit for the two follow-ups as Fincher has a very solid grasp on this world.

7. Moneyball – 5 of 5 Horns
This is not a baseball movie, nor really even a sports movie at all.  Written in part by Aaron Sorkin, one my favorite writers, this film is a character driven, dialogue driven film.  Everything about the film is cleaver and not in a pretentious way.  Brad Pitt is true acting talent and he hits way more than he misses.  Jonah Hill is excellent in this film and I think his performance is something just short of perfection, potentially even an Oscar nomination waiting in the wings for him, as well as Pitt.  The world of profession baseball is interesting enough on its own, but when you throw in the drama that this film offers, you get a movie that is fun to watch from start to finish.  I was exceptionally impressed with the young Kerris Dorsey, who played Billy Beane’s daughter, Casey.  She is cute and has a unique voice that really compelled you further to feel for Billy in the various dilemma’s that he faces through this film.  Young Kerris sings a song to Billy in the course of the movie and when Billy listens to it, pensively looking out his window, it really his a great emotional chord.

6. My Week With Marilyn – 4.5 of 5 Horns
This is film is excellent…the acting, direction, writing, the overall look..everything. Michelle Williams was haunting in her portrayal as the Blond Bombshell  In her first moment on screen, I saw Michelle Williams in a Marilyn Monroe costume  By the end, all I saw was Marilyn Monroe.  The beautiful thing about this film is that it is a true story, written by Colin Clark, an ambitious young man with dreams of a career in film.  His family was privileged and he had been promised a job on the set of Sir Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branaugh) next picture. When he showed up for a job, it was his persistence that finally paid off.  He comes to meet and know Ms. Monroe and something of a complicated relationship ensues.  How I liked this film reminded me much of the way that I liked An Education from 2009.  This is a great story and the film as a whole was executed perfectly.

5. The Help – 5 of 5 Horns
I absolutely loved this film.  It hit my top five of the year the moment I exited the theater.  This is really one of the few times that I unequivocally put a film into the mandatory viewing category. The power of film is the ability to learn from the mistakes of our past. Such an opportunity exists here, providing biting insight to the hardships faced by African Americans in the racially divided south during a truly hateful time in World history.  Mistakes…such an understatement for the topic at hand. This movie demonstrates, albeit it watered down a bit for the masses, the brutality and hate of the era. But really, the brutality demonstrated here is not so much about muscle, as it was the complete demoralization of a group of people.  As we celebrate the recent passing of the law allowing same sex marriages in the State of New York, it brings to mind that while we have made great strides for the equality of all people in America, we still have some tough roads to travel.  I hope The Help rocks the Awards season, not because it matters, but because it will help give even more publicity to a film that everyone should see.

4. Win Win – 5 of 5 Horns
Win Win is an indie drama built around the spine of a sports film, loaded with comedic wit. I have never been a huge fan of Greco-Roman wrestling…never wrestled, rarely watched it in the rare instance it made it to the TV. Of course there was Vision Quest in the 1980’s, but otherwise, when it came to wrestling, I was always more of a WWF guy. As far as the wrestling goes in this film, you will want more. The film is 100% a success as a comedic drama…but only built around the spine of a sports film, it doesn’t give you that “hoisted on the shoulders and carried through town” ending so many sports films deliver.  The hunger that you have for a stronger ending to the wrestling story will be satiated by the resolution of the drama.  Thomas McCarthy is an amazing filmmaker (see also: The Visitor, The Station Agent)…you may know him as better as Dr. Bob from Meet the Parents.  Yep, that guy.  This movie was amazing and Paul Giamatti shines (per normal).  A great supporting cast included Amy Ryan and Bobby Cannavale. This is the first movie for Alex Shaffer, who is Kyle, really a co-starring role to Giamatti’s Mike.  The filmmakers wanted a fresh face for this film and boy did they get it.  Shaffer has a dry, deadpan delivery that absolutely just works.  Also, he’s a former championship high school wrestler.  He probably still would be, except for a broken L-5 vertebrae.  When asked in an interview if he will be able to keep wrestling, he said no, but probably will anyway.  His minimalistic approach works with double success as when he does get excited about things in the movie, it has that much more impact.

3. The Adjustment Bureau – 5 of 5 Horns
The Adjustment Bureau was made with the highest of production values and the city of New York is a palpable character in this film.  Matt Damon is stellar (as always) and Emily Blunt is clearly established as one of Hollywood’s finest young actresses.  Don’t agree with me?  Watch this movie.  Yes, it is high concept and it is full of rich characters with roots in the oldest of human literature.  It is based on the short story “Adjustment Team” by a legend in Science Fiction, Phillip K. Dick.  I have heard complaints that this is more a romance than a sci-fi, but I disagree.  There is such thing as a romantic sci-fi.  The sci-fi is overt.  The romance is overt.  The message has been decried by some as corny, but I loved it.  Hence it sitting comfortably here…in the top 3.

2. Hugo – 5 of 5 Horns
This is a movie lovers film.  Not just because Scorsese was helming, but because when it gets moving, it actually becomes centered around a true classic period in cinema and the earliest of days in film as a form of entertainment.  This all is built around this young boy, Hugo Cabret…a watchmaker’s son, orphaned and sent to live with his Uncle, a drunk who seems to have found a purpose keeping the clocks at the train station running on time.  But in the opening moments of the film, you learn that the Uncle has absconded and it is in fact Hugo, the orphan, running things at the station.  Young Hugo has refined the art of the steal, lifting occasionally, toys from the station toymaker, Ben Kingsley, playing Papa Georges, grandfather in name to a young lady, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), who befriends Hugo and wants to share an adventure with him.

The adventure that unfolds is epic and the direction the story takes is wonderful.  I doubted Martin Scorsese could deliver from the trailers I saw for this.  I assumed it was some dream vanity project and it would amount to nothing short of an epic failure.  I was dead wrong.  This is rated PG and unfortunately it opened in week 2 of Twilight and against The Muppets and Arthur Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend.  It barely held its own in the box office and has made only $53 million domestically and $16 million in the foreign market.  This is a true shame.  Please give this movie a chance…see it as soon as possibly and if it happens to be playing right now in 3-D in a theater near you, go.  Go now.  You are a genius, Mr. Scorsese.

1. Warrior – 5 of 5 Horns
I gave this film a proper write-up after I saw it.  You can read that here:

Reel Rhino Review: WARRIOR – It’s That Effing Good

This may not be the best movie of the year, but it certainly was my favorite.  This was the best time I’ve had in the theater since The Dark Knight, and probably in my all-time favorite 5 trips to the theater.  This was due in part to the impassioned crowd that I watched it with.  Their excitement was my excitement, and we shared an experience, to that I have no doubt.

This film made only $13.6 million domestically…boo.  Doing the quick math, this means using an average ticket price of $10, only about 1.36 million people saw this movie.  Compare that to you “average” $100 million dollar box office blockbuster…not an uncommon feat to reach these days…$100 mil = approximately 10 million butts in seats.  Far too few people saw this movie!  To the film’s defense, the largest volume of screens it played on at any time was 1883 screens, but all factors aside, with $30 million in the production budget, it’s easy to think that this movie (so far) has lost money.

This film will make up some ground over time, and while it saddens me that it performed so poorly, I have a sense of joy that I was able to see it on the big screen.

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton give heartfelt performances as estranged brothers, and Nick Nolte is as good as ever as their recovered alcoholic father.  This is a drama first and foremost..if these guys didn’t bring their A-game acting chops, this film would have failed….well I mean more than it actually did!

Let me leave you with this:

IMDB: 8.3/10 with 47,120 votes
Rotten Tomatoes: 82% fresh with 165 critic reviews counted
Rotten Tomatoes: 93% fresh with 29,421 user votes counted
Metacritic: 71 of 100 rated score based on 31 critic reviews

I loved this movie…and so did most people who actually saw it!  Please give it a chance and go in with an open mind.  This movie touched me in the same way that Rocky did the first time I saw it…and let me be clear, I am talking about the Oscar winning film, Rocky…not the watered down sequels that were fun to watch but a little light on palpable drama.  Warrior is that good, I promise!!

It was a fun year and I’m glad to have shared it with you!!  I’ll see you through 2012 for more adventures at the movies!  In the next week or so, I plan on doing a “what to watch in 2012” post…baited breath, folks, I know you’ll be waiting!

Until later,
Reel Rhino

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Beauty and the Beast

Posted on 14 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

My junior year in high school I found myself lucky enough to have me a steady.  She was an interesting gal…some of my cronies came to refer to us as Beauty and the Beast.  They enjoyed using that name for us quite much, and it stuck until the end of the year when we broke up.

In this little equation, they considered me the Beauty.

Ugh.

I didn’t see Beauty and the Beast when it was released in 1991.  Hell I was 15 years old and this “mushy” cartoon romance was the last place I would have wanted to be.

Smash cut to 21 years later…The Reel Rhino is in the house and there is no movie I won’t watch.  I lost a bet last year and endured and ultimately loved the film many view as an atrocity…Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.

I’ll defend that film until I’m blue in the face, just as I’ll defend my 15-year old self.  At 15, I had no business wanting to go to this movie.  In my current era, lifted of my filmic prejudices, I will see anything.  As I remember it, I’m certain my 12 year-old sister loved it…in fact, I am quite certain that in my box of childhood toys, you would find several of the Beauty and the Beast McDonald’s Happy Meal toys.

I have enjoyed many films on the notion “I have to see it.”  I have an obligation to broaden my horizons as wide as possible, for the sake of this thing I like to consider psuedo-reporting.  An obligation to uncover the truth about great movies. and some not-so-great as well.

I do find that more often than not, I enjoy whatever it is that I go to see.  I am no film snob and accusations have been made that I like too many movies.  What is the harm in that, I say?  At least I get the most bang for my movie buck!

Beauty and the Beast
Disney hand drawn animation is a beautiful thing to behold.  This film is no different and I am wholly in favor of their decision to re-release some of their more recent classics with the skilled hands of their 3-D animators at work.

Based on the French fairytale, circa 1740, known classically La Belle et la Bete, this story is a classic one of a figurative princess, not seeking but destined to find her Prince Charming.  There is a classic broad jawed villain, Gaston, that if I didn’t know better was drawn in the likeness of Bruce Campbell…truly a spitting image! There is a bumbling sidekick to the villain, a sorceress, a number of moments of heroism, and some classic Disney musical numbers.

This is classic Disney animation at its finest and a film very worth revisiting, or in my case, giving a chance if you have missed it all these years.

My friend Belinda shared with me this this is one of her favorite movies.  She said one of the reasons was that Belle wasn’t your typical damsel in distress and that after Ariel, The Little Mermaid, Belle heralded the new era of the growing strength of the female protagonist.  I couldn’t agree more.

Belle is introduced to us on her way through her small village, headed to the bookseller to return a book that she had borrowed, and to get a new one.  She dances through town reading her new book, and singing the day away.

The rest of town can’t understand why she isn’t head over heels for Gaston, the strapping hero of the town, a nefarious chap with seemingly one thing on his mind…Belle.

Belle wants nothing to do with his plans of domesticating her and in the opening quarter of the film, denies his proposal of marriage and embarrasses him in front of the whole village to boot.

Her father, an eccentric inventor, seen as crazy by the other villagers, sets off to enter one of his inventions into a competition.  He gets lost along the way and finds himself seeking refuge at the castle of the Beast.

The castle is enchanted and most of the furnishings are alive and talking and singing, trying to make the most of their meek existence, living as otherwise inanimate objects subject to the rule of the Beast, a rather agitated fellow who had a spell cast on him, making him into the beast he is, when he denied shelter to a traveler as a boy, because she was so hideous.  He is destined to suffer the same fate, until he can learn what love is, and also convince another to love him regardless of his looks.

Belle’s father is taken prisoner by Beast and Belle, in searching for her missing father, finds the Beast’s castle, and offers herself in exchange for his freedom.  The Beast accepts these terms.

From here, it’s a standard I hate you, no I love you kind of story, but presented magically the way that Disney does best.  Through the movie, the path to confrontation is laid clear as Gaston, a hero to the town by their superficial standards, will not be denied his prize, simply the objectified concept that he has attached to Belle.

I was wholly impressed by the voice talents of Paige O’Hara as Belle and Robby Benson as Beast.  This was the end of the era of using true voice talent as the 1990’s saw a shift toward star power and recognition in presenting the voices of the animated features of today.  The voices of Angela Lansbury and Jerry Orbach are there as well, but as fitting support of the powerful voices of the leads.  David Odgen Stiers has the voice of an angel and is pitch-perfect as the narrator.

As a funny aside, I received a little criticism on Facebook for not knowing who Robby Benson is…he looks a bit like Fabio and while he has a great run of bit roles and directing gigs across a huge span of time in Hollywood, he really hasn’t done anything in this era that makes him a face (or name) that I think most would instantly recognize!

At the end of the day, of course you should see this film.  It is a classic, it is critically lauded, and it is a really good time.

If you go to see it, please tell me if I’m crazy, but there were some extremely bosomy side characters wearing fairly low cut garb…a little risque, I thought, for Disney fare.  Maybe it was to give all the Dads who were roped into seeing it something to gawk at….ewwww, cartoon porn.

4 of 5 Horns for this 3-D reissue of Beauty and the Beast.  A great digital remastering and very enjoyable depth in the 3-D component of the film.  I thought the crude character sketches featured in the credits running at the end were quite well done.

Oh yeah, the new Disney classic Tangled gets the classic Disney short film treatment to beef up the bang for your buck.  It’s a cute story of the wedding day of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, in which things don’t go exactly as they are planned.  With Beauty and the Beast coming in at a paltry 88 minutes, the short helps beef up the running time but made it tougher for the smaller tykes who had lost some interest by the end of the main feature.

Until later…(the top 15 is coming soon, I promise!)
Reel Rhino

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Some Words on Film: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and We Bought a Zoo

Posted on 13 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

In the interim between the honorable mention picks and my top 15, let me take a break for a couple of reviews.

This weekend has a couple of interesting movies on the horizon, but really nothing that grabs my full attention.  Contraband, the Mark Wahlberg flick, is sitting at 59% on RT and some of the Top Critics have some decent things to say about it.  I figured it was a throwaway January release, but maybe not.

The Iron Lady, starring Ms. Meryl Steep is getting great critical reviews for her performance, but sits at a paltry 56% fresh.  Yes, I am sure she will build onto her ridiculous tally already of 16 Academy nominations.  But for my taste, love, I think I will pass.  Margret Thatcher was quite a gal, but I think I’ll run a twofer on this and The Queen some night on home video.

Aching for a little nostalgia?  Revisit 1991’s Beauty and the Beast…brought to you in remastered 3-D.  I like the concept of the production of Beauty and the Beast, because it was one of the last movies that starred relative unknown (to the public) voice actors in the two lead roles.  From there it was all Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Albert Brooks, Owen Wilson, and Ray Romano.  Who the heck are Paige O’Hara and Robby Benson…head to the theater and take a listen…it’s impressive what voice actors can do and they are really being pushed to the side by star power.

So with yet another semi-lame weekend ahead, I thought I would post a couple of brief reviews for flicks I haven’t yet touched on…

WE BOUGHT A ZOO
From Rotten Tomatoes (from the official movie site): “This holiday season, acclaimed filmmaker Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) directs an amazing and true story about a single dad who decides his family needs a fresh start, so he and his two children move to the most unlikely of places: a zoo. With the help of an eclectic staff, and with many misadventures along the way, the family works to return the dilapidated zoo to its former wonder and glory.”

Well personally, I haven’t seen it…and I was tempted to avoid it all together until I read above about the “misadventures!”  You know I am a sucker for mis-adventures!!  Picking up my slack, I give you the return of “The Artist” with her take on We Bought a Zoo:

Matt Damon is quite charming in this film.  For those of you familiar with his work in Good Will Hunting and the Bourne Trilogy you will see here how he has evolved as an actor.  Damon has always been razor sharp, but there’s a sublime awkwardness to his Benjamin Mee that is so disarming and real, not dissimilar to the “everyman” widowed father he portrayed earlier this year in Soderbergh’s Contagion.  As a journalist, Benjamin Mee made his living from knowing the right words to say.  He found himself in unfamiliar territory with words, when as a widower, he struggled to find the right words to reach his son, Dylan (Colin Ford).

Buying a house with a zoo in its backyard begins as an adventure into a new life that becomes a journey toward self-discovery and healing.  While Scarlett Johansson is an adequate love interest for Damon and Maggie Elizabeth Jones (Rosie Mee, Ben’s daughter) is about as adorable as they come, it’s Thomas Hayden Church (Duncan Mee) and Colin Ford that really steal the show with their comedic and dramatic portrayals of Benjamin’s brother and son.

This story is one of the “feel good movies” of last year aided by a fantastic soundtrack featuring many songs from jonsi of Siger Ros.  Cameron Crowe is a true genius to make the soundtrack become another character in his movies. Take “Say Anything” (Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes) and “Almost Famous” (Elton John’s Tiny Dancer) to name a few?  Gabriel’s single from Say Anything re-entered the US Top 40 three years after its release, due solely to that iconic scene with John Cusack, boombox raised high above his head.  If we’re lucky, we just might see a live performance of “Gathering Stories” (jonsi) on Oscar night if the buzz for best song is true…it’s already picked up the Satellite Award from the International Press Academy and the Awards season is very young.   I guess we’ll know Jan. 24 when the nominations come out.

As for the film, The Artist gives it 4 Paint Brushes and not having seen it myself, I feel confident that I can recommend it for some good family fun that also hits some very tender beats while remaining a wholly uplifting film.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
From IMDB: “In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6’s echelons.”

This film has received high praise (85% on RT, 7.6 on IMDB, 85 on Metacritic).

There’s my review…a bunch of other people liked, so you should too.

No, I haven’t grown that shallow in my old age, but I will keep my remarks brief.  My take: I liked it.  I was blown away the way I expected and at times I thought that for a complex spy thriller, it may have been just a pinch too complex.

But what a cast and what a performance by Gary Oldman!  It’s no lie…he will be a front runner for the Oscar and his supporting cast is stellar as well.  He shares some screen time for the first of at least two times this year, with The Dark Knight Rises featuring each later this year.  TTSS is an enjoyable movie…but I think I will like DKR a tad bit more, or at least that’s what I’m expecting.

Also featured are William Hurt, Toby Jones, Ciarian Hinds, Colin Firth, and Marc Strong.  Strong used to be what I considered the poor man’s Andy Garcia…the tables have turned.  Strong is a chameleon that can take any role and devour it.

Truly, this movie is carried by the performances and the filmmaking.  With a lesser cast and lesser filmmakers, this wouldn’t have been nearly the film it was….no duh, Rhino!  I’m just saying, I think that this film has a lot going for it when when the story was resolved, I stood in awe of the film but not the story.

If you haven’t also seen one of director Tomas Alfredson’s earlier pictures, Let the Right One In, the Swedish vampire flick, do it.  Please steer clear of Let Me In, the Americanized re-make, and stick with Sweden.

See Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy… I recommend it wholeheartedly and give it a 4 of 5 Horn rating.  I have very narrow reservations, but it’s 9 to 1 in favor of the good.

I don’t know what the film of the weekend will be…I just found out Gone with the Wind is playing this weekend at a local theater.  I’d like to see it on the big screen, but I don’t have 4 hours to carve out of my Saturday…eh, maybe some other time.  I think I may have to go see Beauty and the Beast, as I missed it on the big screen the first time around.  I will get behind pretty much anything Disney does…although I am curious as to how John Carter will be.  With Lassiter at the helm, some of my troubled thoughts are assuaged, but still…

Until later, take care…
Reel Rhino

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The Best of Film in 2011 – Honorable Mentions

Posted on 10 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

There is so much that I love about the movies.  While I regret putting together the “worst of” list, it seems to be a necessary evil of this critique racket.  I’m very happy to wash the stink of the bad off of me and get into the great…the things I loved this past year, and of that there were plenty.

Kevin Murphy’s book: A Year at the Movies: One Man’s Filmgoing Odyssey is one of my favorites.  If you haven’t read it, let alone heard of it, I recommend picking it up for a fun read.  In 2001, he went to one movie a day, at the theater or in some kind of public exhibition, every day that year; then he chronicled his adventures with the book as the result.  Ten years later, it’s kind of fun to read his writings on all the movies from that year being talked about in the present-tense.  Murphy, for those who don’t know, is one of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 team, best known perhaps as Tom Servo.  He is also an excellent writer, which besides making me insanely jealous for being paid to go to the movies for a full year, also made reading the book “a delight.”  Yep, I said delight….that’s what people say when talking about books.  What is really great about his book is that he didn’t just write about the movies he saw…he wrote about the experience.

In 2012, I plan to honor the path that Murphy blazed before me…

Kind of.  I think that as a man with a day job (that isn’t being paid to go to the movie), a husband, and as a father; to try and get to a movie a day at the theater would be a near impossibility.  To do so would likely wind me up on unemployment and discussing options with a divorce attorney.

But in this glorious day of technology, I have Netflix Watch Instantly available at my utter disposal……on my Android phone, on my iPad, and of course at home streaming through my BluRay player at home.  I even have an older iPod touch that allows me to drift off to movies in the waning moments of my day.  Last night, it was Keanu and Sandy in Speed…you see to fall asleep to a movie, it can only be something that falls into the guilty pleasure category…otherwise it may be too interesting and preclude the body’s desire for slumber.

Let me say here and now…I plan on making a run at 365 in 2012.  At least one movie a day, at home or abroad.  I will be reporting my results ongoing here on the site, but also in real time on MISO, one of my new favorite social media sites…one built for movie/tv addicts like myself..

So far in 2012, I have seen 19 movies in 10 days, counting the theater and my home views.  Yes, I agree that it sounds a bit crazy, but that’s how I roll.

2011: The Year in Review
So, crazy man, what were your stats for 2011?  Well I’ll tell you….

167 movies at home, 130 at the theater.  The theater flicks accounted for 13,993 minutes of filmgoing, which is just short of 10 days.  The home tally was 17516 minutes or 12.15 days.  Did someone say insane…I don’t disagree.

2011 brought a long time goal of mine to fruition.  My 1000th flick at the theater…a long time coming, but I am a locomotive running down the track.  While I hit that goal on June 18th, 2011, since that day, I have been to an additional 81 films since that day.  I do believe that it will be a fair bit short a distance to 2000 than it was to a grand (35 years).

So with all that cinema, what did I love about 2011?  I’m glad you asked…let’s start with my honorable mentions….

HONORABLE MENTIONS IN 2011
I’m going to get this out of the way…my first honorable mention….

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – Deal with it.  It was an interesting movie about a very talented young man.  The movie is 70% documentary, 30% concert film, and yes, we can all take or leave much of the teeny-pop fodder tunes.  I don’t necessarily like the music (okay, it is kind of catchy)…but he is an intriguing artist and this film showcases well his roots and the phenomenon that is Bieber Fever.  And no, I didn’t catch it.  But damn I respect the kid.  I’d being doing you a disservice if I denied liking this film.  I promise it is more interesting than you could ever imagine…be brave…give it a try.

Buck – A great movie about a great man.  I have little to no interest in horses, cowboying, or being a horseman.  This movie compels all to be interested.  Buck Brannaman was the horse expert used on Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer.  He became an integral part of the film because he is truly a horse whisperer and this film features both his talents and more intriguingly, the nature of his character.

Immortals – I fell in love with the filmmaking of Tarsem Singh with his film debut, The Fall, which is a one of a kind movie experience.  I was excited to see what he would do tackling the world of the Gods.  He succeeded in creating a visual spectacle with a very palatable story.  Well done, sir, well done.  I am looking forward to Mirror, Mirror, his whimsical take on the Sleeping Beauty mythology, due out this Spring.

Winnie the Pooh – Hands down, the best all-ages animated flick of the year.  The length was perfect (63 mins) for even the youngest of kids.  The animation was perfect and the movie touched both young and old, striking that nostalgic nerve for the parents and making a slew of new fans alike, out of all the youngsters.

The Way – An immensely personal film to the Sheen/Estevez family, fortunately nobody told Charlie, which is why this film managed to keep such an utter sense of beauty and reverence.  The story of El Camino de Santiago, a traditionally Christian pilgrimage, but over time has become a broadly spiritual one that draws people of all different faiths and backgrounds.  The story is not heavy handed religious, but instead a pained journey taken by a father who is trying to connect with a son that was taken from him when he perished on his first leg of the Camino, killed in a freak accident.  The film is moving and made with a very skilled hand, which, no disrespect intended, is surprising as it was helmed by Emilio Estevez.  Martin Sheen shines in this and I will not be surprised if he makes the shortlist for best actor awards, this awards season.

The Way Back – Amazing cast, amzaing movie.  This film tells the tale of a group of prisoners from a Russian gulag and their subsequent four-thousand mile WALK to freedom, including a trek through the Gobi Desert and as well as a short jaunt across the Himalayas.  Jim Sturgess, Ed Haris, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan, and Mark Strong are the meat and potatoes of the cast, and everyone shines.  Harris’s physical transformation is particularly amazing and this being a 2010 release, was actually nominated for several awards, losing best make (an atrocity in my opinion) to Alice in Wonderland.  This movie is compelling and is worth your time for a great drama that is both exciting and extremely well made (directed by the great Peter Weir).

The Adventures of Tintin – Well made (Spielberg and Peter Jackson, of course its well-made!), beautifully animated with stunning 3-D, and in my opinion, a very well told story.  I underlined that, because I seem to be in the minority in that opinion.  This is an intensely fun movie and I loved it.  Deal with that America.  It may not have been on this list if not for the lineage of the makers, that great John Williams score, and the fact that I felt at times that I was watching the adventures of a new Indiana Jones like character who has a great sense for adventure.  Its better than you’ve read.  Give it a try.

Arthur Christmas – An insanely British film, with the witty humor to match.  When I saw this film, the kids in the theater loved it and the parents were rolling in the aisles at the jokes that were a bit edgy.  This film should become an epic entry into the holiday film genre.  It crashed and burned by other kid-friendly holiday movie standards, making only $46 million domestically.  This movie was touching, hilarious, witty, and very well-animated.  I think this movie will become more endeared with time…please take my word, it is a fun watch and you won’t be disappointed.  The techno-savvy perspective of the magic of Santa was both creative and visually stunning and for my money, the first fifteen minutes of this movie made it worth my hard earned dollars alone.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Part 1 cracked my top 10 of 2010.  I enjoyed this film immensely, but I thought it was just a little less than the first entry in the pair.  This pinnacle film had so much to do, I thought it was near perfect, but it didn’t draw me in the same as the first, which had the benefit of ending in a cliff-hanger, automatically generating a little more excitement if only in anticipation drool.  Bravo to the HP crew…this was a great series from start to finish, and although this film didn’t crack my top films of the year, I included here out of reverence for an unbelievable run of films.  This series is a great achievement in film…I mean come on, old Harry and company took down James Bond for the highest grossing series of all time.  Brilliant. Simply Brilliant.

Coming soon…the Reel Rhino top 15 films of 2011.  Yep…15 films.  I love movies that much that I can’t contain myself to 10…come on…I’m the big guy…I do everything larger than life!

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Film Stinkers – The Bottom 10 of ’11

Posted on 05 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

I hate this list with a passion.  Not the movies on the list, but making the list.  I truly believe that for every movie that is made, there are hundreds of people that care about it so deeply, that its failure is not only upsetting, but also heartbreaking (to them, that is).  Some of these films aren’t financial failures, though, but fall more into the category of sellouts, which is almost as bad, some might say its worse.  For some of the sellouts and sequels that make the ‘worst of’ list, its not the disappointment those that made the movie I pity, but the fact that they have sold their soul for a paycheck in lieu of their place in Hollywood as artists.

2011 brought America its worst year at the box-office in 16 years.  That’s not to say that I haven’t done my part, making it to 130 flicks in the theater this year.  Given the awful box office season, it goes without saying that some of those movies would be bad…but others would out and out suck.

But this is purely my opinion…disagree?  Let me know.  But know this…I do the bottom 10 before my top lists, because I hate name-calling and blame throwing, and I want to get it out of the way.  For the sake of sharing my tastes, likes, and dislikes with you the Reel Rhino reading public, I may not like posting the BOTTOM 10, but I feel like its my duty…

To business:
_______________________________

10. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark – 2 of 5 Horns
This film was written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, but not directed.  His name was atop of every ad for this and one would have hoped that under his tuteledge, that director Troy Nixey could have delivered gold.  Not so much.  Inspired from a TV movie del Toro saw as a boy, his patented creature effects were here, but their ineffectiveness made them more comedic than frightening.  There were a handful of decent visuals, but all in all, this is a flop in my book.  Pan’s Labyrinth was 100 times more effective as a visual thriller/horror feature.  The title is apt…you won’t be afraid of the dark.

9. Red Riding Hood – 2 of 5 Horns
What was most upsetting, was the promise that the concept of this film showed.  It looked dark and foreboding in the trailers, but in its delivery, not so much.  I would have thought someone would have realized the acting by the B-players came off as excessively wooden and some of the cliche film making techniques would relegate this film to a campiness that is way too short of the fun that usually accompanies camp.  In the end, this Catherine Hardwicke added too much of what she gave us in the first Twilight, and the result was garbage,  In 2012, Hansel and Gretel should give us something along the lines of the darker spin on a fairy tale that this movie could have been.

8. 30 Minutes or Less – 2 of 5 Horns
This seemed like a funny premise, it had a good cast, and it had a pretty great trailer. Ultimately this movie is a waste of potential, both of cast and premise. Given the talent, including the sophomore effort from Zombieland helmer Ruben Fleischer, I think we all expected more.  There are certainly some funny lines throughout, but you of course saw them all in the trailer, and there were zero “piss-yourself-funny” scenes, which given the stellar set of ingredients, I expected nothing less.  There were also some serious issues of tone…there are some psychotically violent moments that were supposed to be funny, but come off as awkward, out of place, and, at times, downright uncomfortable. There are a lot of things wrong with this movie but perhaps the worst thing is that at 83 minutes running time, it felt like it dragged…a lot.  Maybe that was the problem…they left all the funny on the cutting room floor!  Better luck next time gang, and I mean that sincerely, since the talent pool in this film runs pretty deep, \they will all be back strong.

7. Final Destination 5 3-D – 1.5 of 5 Horns
FADE IN: One of the cast has a vision of a disaster, this time, it’s a bridge collapse.  He quickly realizes that his vision is about to come true.

CUT TO: He warns everyone, a few people survive the ridiculously vicious disaster.

MONTAGE: They start dying, one by one.

ENTER FRAME RIGHT: Tony Todd is seen here or there, perhaps at some times, offering insight to the plight of the survivors.

ACT II: The dwindling survivors hatch a scheme to further cheat death.

ACT III: A twist ending gives death the upper hand.

ROLL CREDITS

You just saw this movie…other than the gymnast’s death, which was both gruesome and ridiculous, this film was a stinker in 2-D or 3-D.  David Koechner could not help salvage this, and maybe Tony Todd can quit this series any get on with bringing us Candyman 4…or 5…or whichever they are on in that similarly terrible set of sequels.  How about a Candyman/Final D mash-up?  It couldn’t be any worse than this…

6. Shark Night 3-D – 1 of 5 Horns
This could of been something decent, even though it was a blatant Piranha 3-D knock off.  If…and this is a big if….if this movie would have admitted what it was, a blatant copycat and cash grab at genre fun, its self-awareness could have been used to its advantage.  Who cares what it’s copying, when you get “camp” done right, it just works.  There was nothing right about this movie, starting with the fact it was a near bloodless, no-F-bomb, boob-less, PG-13.  There is a shark night rap after the credits that was mildly amusing, but so many people were sprinting for the door, few got the chance to see it.  This thing was a steamer.

5. Dream House – 1 of 5 Horns
A movie directed by Jim Sheridan, starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Naomi Watts, has a great sounding line-up, but absolutely fails in its mechanics and delivery.  This movie failed on every level for me and it really got me thinking about the nature of films in general.  I see a Shutter Island like premise on the face of this, and while the combo is way short of Marty and Leo, I am sure that Dream House started with fairly lofty aspirations.   Even Director Jim Sheridan wanted his name removed from the final cut of this film.  I can forgive a filmmaker for making trash, when they can admit they have dropped a bomb.  But when will these studio heads learn that the art is best left to be crafted by the artists.  That’s an argument that will rage for eons to come.  I would love to see Mystery Science Theater 3000 take a crack at this so bad it is effing awful movie.

4. Scream 4 – 1.5 of 5 Horns
The faces are new, the story is not.  Other than adding Twitter, Facebook, streaming video, and non-stop texting by all of the younglings, this is the same old story, rehashed. I was bored by this movie…really bored.  One of my chief complaints is that while there were red herrings a plenty, there was barely a single time that someone dropped into PERCEIVED PERIL (i.e. cue the creepy music), that they weren’t engaged and/or killed by Ghostface.  How can you build suspense if you don’t juke right at least once, but actually drive left for the hoop?  The original title of my Scream 4 review…Yawn 4.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – 2.5 of 5 Horns
Yes, I am aware that a 2.5 Horn rating should perhaps not have made this list, but remember above where I talked about making movies with no soul….this is an example. Actually, this is THE EXAMPLE.  This was pure cash grab…no sense of peril, no sense of excitement.  The only thing that makes it watchable is the HUGE BUDGET, which equals great effects, makeup, costumes, and production values.

2. A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas – 2 of 5 Horns
A sub-par entry into the H&K series, there are a few decent gags, but otherwise, this film falls completely flat.  This flick is saved from my top spot solely by the presence of Neil Patrick Harris, as everything this guy touches, seems to turn to gold.  This film is clearly a must miss….nuff said. If they think about going for a fourth, they better get their game back, for the first was pretty damn funny, and the second was funny….this one was just plain bad.

1. Your Highness – 1.5 of 5 Horns
For my review of Your Highness, I quoted his highness, Sir Roger Ebert’s, in his review: Your Highness” is a juvenile excrescence that feels like the work of 11-year old boys in love with dungeons, dragons, warrior women, pot, boobs, and four-letter words. One of the heroes even wears the penis of a Minotaur on a string around his neck. I hate it when that happens.

This movie blew goats, almost literally!  I think that the talent involved with this film is high, but were they, unfortunately, when they made it.  If this gang shifted gears away from telling jokes that only 10% of their audience (read: those high themselves when watching), they might get something going.  Maybe Pineapple Express was lightning in a bottle for David Gordon Green.  His follow up to this stinker, The Sitter was A LITTLE better, but not much.  Jonah Hill breathed a little soul into his character, soul that Danny McBride failed to find here.  The Sitter was better, but only a little.  I guess in comparison to this atrocity, Green couldn’t have done much worse.  Please avoid this film at all costs.

So there you have it folks.  I’m going to go shower, to wash the stink from my body.  I’ll be back soon with some of the year’s highpoints….until later, take care…
Reel Rhino

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Happy New Year (For Movies!)

Posted on 01 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

Happy New Year’s, Reel Rhino fans!

I am pleased to see we have all made it to 2012, which according to the Mayans (and to Roland Emmerich) this may be it for us, so thank God we will at least be getting 2012 releases of The Avengers and of course the final flick in the Twi-Hard series…we can all die happy, men and women alike!

I spent the last few days of the old year, nursing my big left toe, to which I had some holes drilled in the joint to try and stimulate some scar tissue to sub in for cartilage that I have long since compressed due to a combination of super human size and super flat feet. I also had a bone spur shaved off that was beginning to resemble a 6th toe.

To help cushion the blow of the time off my feet, I ended up running a huge marathon of 70’s disaster flicks (ala Netflix Watch Instantly), the grandfather films to the likes of the Emmerich and Michael Bay offerings of the 90’s and 2000’s. If nothing else, they brought back a lot of great memories of Sunday afternoon movies with my Dad, watching them on TV (when the Steelers weren’t playing, that is).

The full line-up I caught (so far) includes the following:

Airport
Airport 1975
Airport ’77
Earthquake
The Towering Inferno
Disaster of the Coastliner

This was quite a run and it is shocking to see how compelling these films are even after so long and having been made with creativity as the primary special effect! Earthquake literally leveled LA and they did so in a convincing manner with the use of some beautiful matte paintings as back drops.

A side note on George Kennedy…that guy was the pimp of pimps in these flicks. He was a legit star in the 70’s and he added great flavor to these movies, swinging into the straight man comedy role well in the Police Squad/Naked Gun flicks in the 80’s.

Believe it or not, I have also had the chance to see some theater flicks as well. I’m like the mailman, baby, nothing will keep me from delivering the goods!

I saw War Horse two days ago, but given that I gave you my friend’s review previously, I won’t get into it too much, other than to say that I liked it, but didn’t love it. I thought the build up was too long and scattered, but even so, the pay off was decent enough. There was a superb 30 minute stretch towards the end that send me headed for my Kleenex more than once, delivering several moments in what could be argued were heavy-handed dramatic moments. Spielberg makes beautiful movies…there is no argument there. Sadly, I saw it at a terribly projected film theater (Dickinson Northglen) and the projection of the film killed some the enjoyment of Spielberg’s epic scenes. I liked it enough to give it a 3.5 Horn rating and I will look forward to seeing it in HD when it is released, to see if that helps at all with my enjoyment. Sir Steven lives in an epic world, but I think a 30 minute shorter flick would have enhanced War Horse by giving it a cleaner run through without some of the fluff.

The Adventures of Tintin – Since we are talking Spielberg, I might as well get into this as well. I loved Tintin. It was a movie not without its flaws, but on the whole, I was amazed at the visual spectacle and was taken in quickly by the great story. The major flaw for me was that within moments of the movie’s opening, the main thick of the story is afoot. Whereas I thought War Horse was a bit heavy on the character building in the beginning, I thought Tintin was a little light. I am unfamiliar with the mythology of Tintin and other than learning quickly that he is a reporter and seeing on his walls the framed headline pages of some of his previous adventures, I knew nothing about him or this series. I would have liked a little more background introduction to this world before things got moving, but I quickly forgave that as the story was riveting and the visuals were some of the best ever. I am looking forward to more of this series from Spielberg and Peter Jackson. That is a partnership made in heaven! This film came off, of sorts, as an animated Indiana Jones, complete with John Williams score…I love Indy and I loved how great these scenes were constructed, both in terms of general visual appeal, but also in terms of the sense of adventure. The movie was fun, funny, and exciting and I had a great time at the theater. A 4.5 Horn score for Tintin…it was fun and regardless of some of the harsh writing critics, I think it is a film to behold.

The Darkest Hour – I was looking forward to this flick, perhaps most of all of the holiday releases. It seemed as though the studio was hoping for a hit, as well, scheduling a Christmas day release throwing this movie like chum into the shark infested water. The Darkest Hour has been poorly reviewed and poorly performed against a huge battery of more appropriate films for the season. BUT…it was a fun science-fiction release and I believe it is being unfairly raked over the coals. This movie has a few impressive young stars, including one of my favorites, Emile Hirsch. See also: Into the Wild, Speed Race. He has charisma and he has talent; as do Rachael Taylor, Max Minghella, and Olivia Thirby. Director Chris Gorak has an amazing resume as an art director and I believe that produce Timur Bekmambetov is a creative force just waiting for a HUGE breakout hit. All of these factors together should have yielded a more commercial friendly film, but it just wasn’t the time. I do believe that this flick will have a huge positive reception overseas and that with time, it will be successful. Successful enough to spawn a sequel, I do not know. But the film is fun to watch and very high-sci-tech in concept. In my opinion, this is how decent of a film the atrocity of Skyline should have been, and perhaps the post-apocalyptic fare is just not the thing at the moment. I am also even more forgiving because there were a handful of moments that gave me a Ghostbusters-vibe, minus the lighthearted tone…and a Ghostbusters-vibe ain’t never a bad thing 🙂 Give this film a try and I do not believe you will leave disappointed. It is the perfect length (just under 90 minutes) to be entertaining and not overstay its welcome. A 4 Horn salute to this not-so-holiday, holiday release.

I have not had the chance to see We Bought A Zoo and it may not be in the cards for some time, as I have committed this film to my next “date night.” With scheduling conflicts afoot (no pun intended), it could be a few weeks before we get to Cameron Crowe’s family friendly offering.

I will share that I am now addicted to MISO which can be found at http://gomiso.com a very cool social networking site for watching TV and movies…check it out if you like and feel free to follow me there as well.

With no new releases this week, and only some indies scheduled for this coming Friday, I do hope that my next few posts will pertain to The Reel Rhino YEAR IN REVIEW. I will give you my movie going stats for 2011 and chip my bit to the pile of year-end specials covering my top 15 films of 2011 and my bottom 10 stinker list as well.

Until later, take care…
Reel Rhino

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Take II)

Posted on 24 December 2011 by Reel Rhino

I loved the Millenium Trilogy, as it was delivered in its original Swedish version.  Sweden being the country to which author Stieg Larsson called home until his death in 2004.  Talk about missing out on the party, in 2008, Lasson was the second best selling author in the World, currently having sold over 53 million copies Worldwide, since this series was first published.
Larrson is an amazing storyteller and when I saw a picture of him, I was shocked as to how much he looked like another storyteller, who also recently passed (in 2009), in John Hughes, the master of teen angst and easily understandable of real people, real problems, real emotions.  I only bring it up to fuel speculation that they were in fact the same person????  You decide:
At the very least, they had the same hairdresser, photographer, and optometrist, that much cannot be denied.
The books, I am told, are fantastic and there is no way that any film could fully represent Larsson’s vision, given the length and breadth of detail, to which he wrote. The Swedish trilogy of films, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; Played With Fire; and Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, all captivated movie goers, those who were willing to endure the subtitles, as these were Swedish spoken language films, populated with (mostly) Swedish actors.
Americans are ethnocentric….terribly.  Yep, I yanked that word straight out of my eighth grade civics course…it means that we believe that we are the most important culture in the world and whatever doesn’t fit our paradigm of entertaining, must be conformed to properly entertain us, the way that we like to be entertained.
To that, I say hell no!
I loved the SWEDISH version of all three of these films and they could have entirely stood as the filmic entries in this series.
I think Noomi Rapace was a force and she carried these films, shouldering a burden that was happily split with Michael Nyqvist, the original Mikael Blomkvist.  These two and the rest of the cast, crew, writers, and directors, crafted together 428 minutes of pure thriller/drama/mystery bliss.
So there you have it, I loved the original…BUT…
I have a director “crush” on David Fincher.  I can’t help but be forgiving for this unnecessary Americanized remake, because it was helmed by Fincher.  The original trilogy never NEEDED to be remade; but we are better as film goers for having the David Fincher version in our lives.
THE GIRLWITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011)
FROM IMDB: “Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.”
Noomi Rapace was spectacular and it isn’t fair to compare Rooney Mara’s Lizbeth Salander to Rapace.  But for the amazing presence that Rapace provided, Mara’s Salander held her own in comparison.  For being a New York born gal, playing a troubled Swedish computer hacker, she does a damn fine job.
Fincher directs DARK like a champ and this film is no different.  Danial Craig as Blomkvist is a fitting tribute to the original, as are Christopher Plummer as Henrik, the patriarch of the Vanger family and Stellan Skargard, his affiable brother, Martin.
Robin Wright rounds out the cast of familiar faces, playing Erika Berger,co-editor of Millenium magazine and part-time lover of our hero, Blomkvist. She is an American, through-and-through, but she pulls off her accent without notice.
From there, this film is populated by actors who will be mostly unknown to American audiences.  You see, this is also the point of my surprise… I hadn’t followed the Americanization of this film very closely, but given the remake so closely followed the original Swedish film, I assumed that there would be significant changes, perhaps even a change in venue to an upscale neighborhood somewhere stateside.  No such changes were enacted and in truth, this version is nearly a shot for shot remake of the original.  I haven’t looked, but I wouldn’t be surprised that many of the original actors are in this version as well. I need to look and see how many of the same sets were used. Visually speaking, there was little to distinguish the original from this current version.
Fincher is so talented, though, this film is 100% as enjoyable as the original.  Definitely see this movie. Don’t watch the original unless you want to have the American version COMPLETELY spoiled for you.  Put it on your 2012 to-do, to check out the original, for it is worth seeing how well non-Hollywood pictures can be made, minus the BIG budgets and major hoopla.
These books are a trilogy and one must figure, that in the next few years, Fincher will move forward with making this his own namesake film trilogy. But if you can’t wait, you are in luck.  As a consumer of popular media, I recommend whole-hearted either the books or the original films,to see how this story plays out.
I have seen all of the originals and knowing how it wrapped up didn’t change my enjoyment in the least.  The biggest diverging plot points came in the end, but it really wasn’t a significant change, at least worth noting.
See this movie.  It is dark, graphic, and just very well made, as dark and graphic are two facets of film that Fincher does ridiculously well.
4.5 of 5 HORNS for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
I hope to get out and see We Bought a Zoo, The Adventures of Tintin, and most of all, I can’t wait to see The Darkest Hour.  I very much hope this is a well made bit of science fiction fun .  If nothing else, it looks fairly original and quite unique.
Until later, take care…and just in case we don’t speak again for a few days…Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, etc…and God Bless Us Every One…thanks Tiny Tim…no, no…Thank You Chuck Norris.
Reel Rhino

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MI4, Young Adult, War Horse, Sherlock Holmes…That’s a Good Week

Posted on 21 December 2011 by Reel Rhino

I am the victim of my own good fortune.  While I encountered a rather dry first few weeks of December, the last few days have been rich in movie going.  Three movies in three days.  I am short on time prepping for the holidays, so I am going to limit my words on Young Adult and Sherlock Holmes: Book of Shadows, and go a little heavier on Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

The Reel Rhino is always looking for red hot leads…I have the good fortune of being friends with a fellow who had the good fortune of nabbing some free preview tickets to WAR HORSE, the latest epic from his majesty, Steven Spielberg.  I am 100% a fan of Spielberg and in my book, even when he’s off, he’s on.

Now my friend, in all his goodness, has yielded to his better half to be the latest guest contributor to the Reel Rhino family.    Ladies and gents, I give you….The Artist (forgive me Mrs. K, but that’s the best I could do…correct me if you have a better choice of pen name.)

War Horse
FROM IMDB: “Young Albert enlists to service in WWI after his beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the cavalry. Albert’s hopeful journey takes him out of England and across Europe as the war rages on.”

I would like to see the statistics on how many books such as War Horse have enjoyed the privilege of being popular fiction, a broadway play, and now a major motion picture.  Now there’s no guarantee that the Spielberg’s adaptation of Morpurgo’s book will be a hit with the public, but this movie is already generating some Oscar buzz.  I’ll say this right off, this movie is not in the same category as Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, but it is worth a look.  Earlier this month, I won FREE passes to see War Horse before the general public from www.paperbackswap.com If you don’t know about this website, I have to give a shout out to them for fully embracing the power of the internet while simultaneously providing a way for people to enjoy books “in the flesh”, so to speak. It’s better than a library and cheaper than a book store, but I digress…

War Horse is a beautifully shot picture with that epic feel that has become classic Spielberg.  I might even rank it with E.T., because it’s the non-human that steals the show.  I don’t think it has the freshness and originality of E.T. but it’s heart and soul are in the right place.  In fact, I dare you to leave the movie theatre with a dry eye.  My favorite scene from this movie was when Joey (the horse) gets into situation that for just one moment, inspires action action in the soldiers that transcends sides of battle and demonstrates the humanity that regardless of reason, exists in all men and women that fight for God and country.  The scenes that feature Joey on the field of battle are both astoundingly heart wrenching and surprisingly and appropriately gut busting funny.

Thank you, Mr. Spielberg, for capturing all the emotions of these moment and giving texture and dimension to a fictional story that for a moment feels real and that’s real good stuff.

Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol: The IMAX Experience
How long has it been since you’ve seen that many colons in a single title?  Impressive, I know.

But impressive is just about the perfect word used to describe this film, this extremely impressive first live action effort from PIXAR wunderkind Brad Bird.  He made his bones in the action genre with The Incredibles, but the question was, could he do it without the support of the great animators and collaborative effort that makes every Pixar film shine so bright.

The answer is yes.

FROM IMDB: “The IMF is shut down when it’s implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization’s name.”

I’m over being over Tom Cruise.  Yes, he has a history of being a bit bizarre.  No, I don’t understand Scientology.  But hey, people forgive celebrities who behave far more badly, and I for one, am done.  Tom, I give you a hearty round of applause, for reascending to the ranks of proper action star.

I think that it was as important to have the Bad Robot (JJ Abrams) team on-board as producer of this flick, as evidenced by JJ’s recent successes, this film falling safely in line with his level of quality.

The rest of Hunt’s team, played by Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, and the man of the hour, Jeremy Renner.  They play off each other well, in a comedic sense, as well as running missions like well oiled heists, making the impossible possible.

That is a part of the allure of the film…much like John McLane is seemingly the indestructible hero, Ethan Hunt closely follows suit.  There are some sequences in this movie that would have killed most people, but Hunt is the Energizer Bunny of movie heroes of late.

The action sequences really pop and to be honest, since Warrior in September, this was the most fun I’ve had in the theater.  And what a joy to see some good old fashion US/Russia hostility captured sublimely on the big screen.

I am all for world peace, but in the movies, if it bleeds, it leads.  Nicely done folks.

4.5 of 5 Horns

Young Adult
FROM IMDB: “Soon after her divorce, a fiction writer returns to her home in small-town Minnesota, looking to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now married with kids.”

Jason Reitman is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors.  I will admit, I am favorable to him in part because I owe his father a great deal for creating my favorite movie of all time… Ghostbusters, that is.

The younger Reitman has mastered in short order the ability to convey massive amounts of emotion in sharing the misery of regular people.  Most notably, I am thinking of Juno, Up In The Air, and now in Young Adult, starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, and Elizabeth Reaser.

I went into this flick a little weary.  I loved Juno, and so did the Academy, as it won the best original screenplay Oscar for then first time screenwriter, Diablo Cody.  Ms. Cody came back firing, but sadly she missed the mark badly with Jennifer’s Body.  Maybe it was her push for the silly teen lingo that worked so well in Juno, or maybe it was the trainwreck that is Megan Fox; whatever the problem, Jennifer’s Body was God awful.

The trendy speech was left in the dust, and Cody strikes again here, with a real winner.  But this is a starkly dark film.  Where Juno was dark in its way, it was still bearable even at its roughest moments.  Young Adult raises the bar of depravity to new levels, and while it is evident in the trailer, this film really isn’t even a dark comedy, but a tragedy.

Theron’s Mavis Gary, pining over the high school and college sweetheart of days past, he, Patrick Wilson, here as Buddy Slade, now married with a new baby in his life.

This film is entirely a dissection of the deconstruction of a mentally ill person.  Sad, tragic, a train rumbling consistently from start to finish, until it finally leaves the tracks.

Pattom Oswalt is a tour de force in this film, and if he is not nominated for an Oscar, I will be surprised.  His character’s story is unreal and how he develops as the plot unfolds is masterful.  His comedic delivery is in stark contrast with his tragic past, but he makes it work, 100%.

I give Young Adult a very sold 4 of 5 Horns.  Check it out, if you dare.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
FROM IMDB: “Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.”

A word briefly on this latest Sherlock Holmes adventure.  I am nearing the end of my evening and I will keep this short and sweet…

First, a big shout out to my buddy Matt.  We had a man-date to give closure to a deal struck months ago, that involved a Ghostbusters movie poster, and a movie night, my treat.  Matt, you da man!!

Second, I really enjoyed this movie.  I didn’t walk out of the theater blown away, but I enjoyed (most) every minute of this film.  I say most every minute because my only complaint with this effort, is the same as it was with the first…it was just a hair too long.  These stories are so complex, that the 2 hour + running time gives you so much to follow and try and track, never knowing what elements of a set or the story are going to come back around later.  That said, I still really liked it!

I thoroughly enjoy Jared Harris, the face to Holmes Dr. Moriarty.  He is a formidable villain, and certainly does not let us down.

The highlight by far, though was a marriage proposal, via special presentation, after the show.  This guy put together a series of movie clips that told their story…on an average Monday night, which also happens to be their Movie Date Night, he made arrangements with the man, Ponce, AMC Barrywoods GM extraordinaire, to make this night a little extra special.  She said yes.  Congratulations to the happy couple.

The holidays are upon us, and I can’t say when I’ll post again.  I will try to hit a few flicks and post when I can.  You can rest assured, I will be coming strong on or around the new year with my best and worst lists, of 2011.

Until later, take care.
Reel Rhino

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A Much Better Week Ahead…Oh Yeah, I Saw The Sitter

Posted on 15 December 2011 by Reel Rhino

I think that the Holiday release season sits only second to the Summer Blockbuster Season.  It has something to do with extreme weather, I think  Granted, here in KC, we hit the low 60’s this Wednesday with a Spring like wind, but the snow and the cold are certainly on the way.

First, old business.

THE SITTER: 3 of 5 Horns
Through the first half of this flick, I was thinking 1.5 to 2ish, at best, but somehow this flick pulled it together and rounded home towards a decent finish.

David Gordon Green’s last effort was an absolute atrocity…Your Highness…a stoner comedy that left even the stoners running for the popcorn stand.

I stand by his directorial portfolio as a man with great promise, but efforts like this are tipping the teeter the other way.

The Sitter has a number of decent laughs…most of them directly tied to the antics of the youngsters said Babysitter is looking after.  The rest of the decent laughs come directly from Jonah Hill, who has a masterful comedic delivery, regardless of the material.

If you haven’t seen the sitter yet, wait for the DVD or catch it On-Demand.  There’s a bunch of popcorn-eating goodness headed for the big screen this weekend…

Yep, that’s all I have for you on The Sitter.

This weekend shows some promise for the Big Picture Houses…

I will not mention that Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is being released this weekend…whoops, I guess I mentioned it.  But that aside, there is plenty of decent fare hitting the screen to keep that trainwreck from taking home the weekend title.

This weekend is the warm up week…some big flicks hitting, some in limited release, some flooding the market.

Take for example, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.  Admittedly, I was not blown away by the first in this series.  Everyone involved with the film, made it wholly entertaining, but I thought the plot was a little lacking.  I am worried that Guy Ritchie’s early indie appeal is ever-tainted by Madonna’s stink of commercialism. Here’s hoping he can overcome.  God knows I would watch Robert Downey Jr. read a phone book…he is damn charismatic!

This weekend also brings us a studio first…a release of a tent-pole release, in limited form, coming out on IMAX screens only.  Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is coming to an IMAX near you, but that is it.  If you want to catch MI:4 on what some call a reasonably sized screen, you will have to wait a week.  In my opinion, it’s a brilliant release plan.  This will most definitely siphon a few extra bucks out of those eager Tom Cruise fans who want to catch a glimpse of their hero ASAP.  Yes, that Tom Cruise fan base is dwindling, but throw in a dash of Jeremy Renner, and game-on man….game-on.  Have you heard of his flick coming out this March?  Hansel and Gretel?  In concept, it looks re-donk-u-lous.  MI:4 is sitting at a strong 91% fresh and at an early but promising 8.1 on IMDB.  Even Ebert lent a hand, offering 3 and 1/2 stars to this late series entry. I think it is going to be a very dangerous holiday movie season, dangerous indeed.

You know what else might hook up MI:4 for the big win….3 words: Dark. Knight. Rises.  Yep, the DKR prologue, those six glorious minutes of film, will be playing before Tommy Cruise and Co. take the screen.  Another means for packing the house, as IMAX screens have felt the impact of such ridiculously high prices.

And finally, Young Adult.  The re teaming of the oh-so-successful team of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody.  Maybe this is what Cody needed to jump back into the realm of respectable.  Perhaps, Ms. Cody, we can forgive you for the mess that was Jennifer’s Body.  That catastrophe could have been half horror, half Megan Fox sex tape, and I would have the same level of interest.  That was crapola.  That said, Young Adult has received some rave reviews and RT has it at 80% fresh. Although Young Adult is not being cut as a new release.  It played in 8 theaters last week, so this counts as an expansion, and a meager one at best, playing in 1000 theaters as of Friday.

These past few weeks have been exceptionally weak at the cinema, and it has shown on the overall box office numbers.  I think this weekend will see people flooding theaters, but as to who will take the weekend, your guess is as good as mine.  Will the IMAX upcharge be enough to push Tom Cruise back into the top spot.  Will the commercial Holmes be the ticket with the return of Noomi Rapace, the girl with Downey Jr. and Jude Law?  I doubt that 1000 screens for Young Adult will be enough as it is also an R-rated flick, but it sure will help muddy the waters.  And lest I forget Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, members of the Chipmonk trio that continue to plague my existence.

The answers to all this and more…in just 5 days.

A good weekend to all, and to all a good night.
Reel Rhino

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