Monday, February 28, 2011

Worst Movies

If the opposite of an Oscar is the Razzie, then the opposite of the Movie Quack would be the beavtrash awards. So why not put together a list starting with the categories made famous by the Razzies, and then lets see how everyone measures up.

Worst Eye Gouging Use of 3D: and the winner is The Last Airbender
Worst Sequel, Prequel, Remake, or Ripoff: and the winner is Sex and the City 2 (my pick was Vampires Suck)
Worst Screen Couple/Ensembler: and the winner is Sex and the City 2
Worst Screenplay: and the winner is The Last Airbender (my pick was Vampires Suck)
Worst Director: and the winner is M. Night Shymalan for the Last Airbender
Worst Supporting Actress: and the winner is Jessica Alba for everything she did this year (my pick was Cher in Burlesque)
Worst Supporting Actor: and the winner is Jackson Rathbone for The Last Airbender (my pick was George Lopez for everything he did this year)
Worst Actress: and the winner is the cast of Sex and the City 2
Worst Actor: and the winner is Ashton Kutcher for Valentine's Day
Worst Picture: and the winner is the Last Airbender

and the most covetted beavtrash award is for the Worst Movie Filmed in the state of Oregon... the nominees are:

Extraordinary Measures (Portland, OR) w/ Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford
The Presence (Mount Hood, OR) w/ Mira Sorvino
Meek's Cutoff (Burns, OR) w/ Paul Dano

the winner will be announced this summer (lets be honest it is going to take time to actually watch this trash) ... Quack back with your votes

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hall Pass

I didn't go into this movie expecting much and by the end of the movie I got pretty much what I expected. I guess this could qualify as a rom-com, but it is more comedy as you can be expected from the Farrelly Brothers. However, even their standards seem to be dropping as the attention to detail was shockingly lacking. Apparently they decided to tell a lot of the story through photographs that were to clearly photoshopped that the body and face didn't even match. It was like you opened up your friends wallet to find the family that came with the wallet. The story is predictable with splashes of sexual humor and nudity throughout.

The basic premise of the movie is a couple of married guys (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) have hot wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate), but get caught one too many times gawking at the younger women around them. After the ultra wise Joy Behar suggests giving their husbands a "Hall Pass" for a free week of not being married and some more sophomoric humor the men are given the Hall Pass. Along the way the the husbands and the wives discover many things and among them is the love for each other (sorry to spoil it for you, but did you really think it was going to end any other way).

With any comedy it is almost as much fun to pick up on the cameos in the movie. Bo Burnham who is one of the fastest rising young comedians going right now makes an appearance as a bartender. Vanessa Angel from "Weird Science" (1985) is still hot at 45. Alyssa Milano plays a trophy wife. Of course there had to be a couple of hot girls (Nicky Whelan and Alexandra Daddario) that will probably get some bigger roles in the coming years. However, it is Richard Jenkins who is the only quality actor in the movie and shows it with his performance as the super cool friend that helps us finally get to the end of the movie when it is dragging along.

One final sequence pops onto the screen after the major credits have rolled that is surprisingly redeeming because of its brevity. In fact the entire movie could be done in the same way, however we wouldn't have a full length movie any more (not that it would be a bad thing). I want to give this a little bump since there isn't much in the theaters right now, but I have to give it 2 Quacks. It isn't the best comedy in the theaters right now... but please Quack back with your thoughts on the movie.

(screening 2/22/11, release date 2/25/11, location Regal Gallery Place 14)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

the Sunset Limited

What a treat "the Sunset Limited" is and what a shame that so many people will not get a chance to see it as it is an HBO made for TV movie. Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L Jackson combine for a powerful performance of the Cormac McCarthy play. with the limits of just two characters in one room it is the dialogue from Cormac McCarthy and the acting strength of two of the best actors in our generation that take this from a simple story of a guy that saved another from suicide to a theological debate between two men from disparate walks of life that have been thrusted towards each other. The writing from McCarthy is a true master piece.

What is most powerful is the simplicity of the movie and the short silent moments that a movie allows and a play does not. One such moment is when Tommy Lee Jones looks down into a cup of coffee at the darkness and the emptiness that he if feeling. During these moments it makes the movie easier to understand.

But what would you do if Jesus was to speak to you? You may think that he wouldn't speak to you because you were not virtuous enough. However, you don't have to be virtuous you just have to be quiet. He will talk to anyone that will listen . During the movie the characters take a powerful turn as if Jesus and Satan are having a conversation trying to explain to each other why the beliefs they have split humanity. In this apartment we are not in heaven and not in hell, but witnessing the courtroom where the darkness and the light are fighting for what they believe.

In the final scene, as the sun rises behind the protagonist the audience is issued a question. If we are supposed to help our fellow man why are we not given the words. Is that okay?

I have to give this one 5 Quacks and encourage everyone to look for this movie. If it happens to come to DVD eventually you should get it as quickly as possible. I loved every moment of this movie and found myself rewinding at several points to listen to the powerful words over again. This movie will require to some a second viewing to truly absorb the impact of the movie.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

In 1954 Philip K. Dick wrote a short story titled "Adjustment Team" and more than 50 years later it was adapted into a screenplay by George Nolfi. Taking a short story and expanding it into a feature length film is not an easy task, but through the complexity of a political, syfy, romantic drama/thriller the story holds your attention throughout. In George Nolfi's directorial debut his vision and influences are extremely evident. Without being overwhelming "the Adjustment Bureau" offers a unique look at religion. This movie is a cross between the "Bourne Identity" (2002), "Serendipity" (2001), and the "Matrix" (1999).

The movie stars Matt Damon as a politician who has a chance encounter with Emily Blunt. The question over whether we control our own destiny almost instantly is impressed upon the audience. However, it is the Adjustment Bureau that is writing (or adjusting) our fate and the agents that are following Matt Damon are Tom, Dick and Harry. These agents while perceived to be the antagonist in the story blur the line of good/evil. The acting by the agents is superb with Thompson (Terence Stamp), Richard (John Slattery), and Harry (Anthony Mackie) portraying three different emotional states of the agents. Harry is the agent that is battling with his own decisions and questioning the path that has been written. Richard is the arrogant agent that thinks he knows what is best and blames Harry for his failures. Thompson is the "hammer" that is brought in when the other agents cannot get the case finished. Ultimately, the question of free will vs fate is challenged by Matt Damon and we see the battle between free will and fate unfold.

I found the camera work in the movie to be very stylized and everything was done with purpose. You don't want to take anything for granted in this movie as there is foreshadowing in every shot. The ending is rather abrupt, if a kiss that lasts nearly a minute on screen can be considered abrupt. It is however a quality movie and worthy of 4 Quacks. It is a movie that people will hopefully be quacking about.

After the screening it was an honor to sit in on an interview with George Nolfi and Anthony Mackie. There were some great questions from the crowd and some interesting responses from George Nolfi.

(screening 2/15/11, release date 3/4/11, location Regal Gallery Place 14)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Win Win

"Win Win" is an absolutely beautiful movie from every aspect. The script is delicately put together with just enough humor, foreshadowing, and symbolism. The casting was spot on with some of my personal favorites. The vision from the director is executed flawlessly. I clearly cannot say enough about how much I liked this movie, so I won't stop. The evening was capped off with a wonderful Q&A session with the writer/director, Thomas McCarthy, and first time actor Alex Shaffer.

"Whatever it fucking takes" is the message that shines through this movie and is a great way to look at the challenges that are set in front of us. Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan are Mike and Jackie Flaherty, a married couple with two kids in New Jersey. Mike is the proud provider for the family that even though he has a strong relationship with his wife he cannot tell her that they are having financial problems. He finds a shortcut to the financial problem by being the guardian to an elderly man, but that comes with its own set of complications. Included with those complications is a teenager that is the grandson of the man who is looking to escape.

Thomas McCarthy, who also wrote "The Station Agent", is the heart and soul of the movie as he wrote a script with the actors for the lead roles already in mind. Paul Giamatti was perfectly written into this character who is a struggling attorney and a high school wrestling coach. Amy Ryan apparently lives in the neighborhood with Thomas McCarthy and was written into this role from the start. It was good to see her in a loving motherly role as compared to some of her edgier roles in recent years. The surprise is Alex Shaffer as Kyle. He actually won the state wrestling tournament for his weight class prior to filming, which makes the wrestling shots even more impressive. When Jackie tells Kyle that they love him you could tell that it was the first time that someone has told him that.

This is my first 5 Quack of the 2011 year, so lets see if it will have the lasting power to get the attention from the Academy in a year from now. I think that at the very least the script should get a nomination for original screenplay and Thomas McCarthy should also get some consideration for his directing job especially considering the unknown actor he used in such a large role.

(screening 2/23/11, release date 3/18/11, location AMC Loews Georgetown)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cedar Rapids

"Cedar Rapids" originally had its debut at Sundance, but not sure I could call this an indie flick or that any of the actors would be considered unknown. That might be the only negative I have for the movie. It is absolutely hilarious in a very quirky way. Not sure that Ed Helms can carry a film, but he doesn't have to in this comedy club of a movie that includes John C Reilley (Talladega Nights), Anne Heche (Hung), Stephen Root (Dodgeball), Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show), Rob Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine), Mike O'Malley (Glee), Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) and Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!).

Ed Helms is the main character, Tim Lippe, a small town guy that is in his mid-30s and has never left his Midwestern town of Brown Valley, Wisconsin where he lives in the house that he grew up in alone and has recently taken up a relationship with his grade school teacher (Sigourney Weaver). We learn that he was hired by Brown Star Insurance at a young age with a promising career; but he has simply amounted to nothing and he is a rather disappointment. Fortunately, Lippe has a chance to redeem himself and win the Two Diamond Award for Brown Star Insurance at a convention in the booming metropolis of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There he meets his role models in the insurance industry and the fun begins.

Not sure if this movie will be a fireball hit like "the Hangover" was, but you will find yourself buying this on DVD for friends come the holiday season. Tim Lippe truly is a hero and we call him Insurance Man...

This movie not only receives 4 Quacks, but also a solid Two Diamond Award from the ASMI. Remember, what happens in Cedar Rapids, stays in Cedar Rapids. In closing, what do you call an anorexic with a yeast infection?

ANSWER: a Quarter Pounder with Cheese (PS stay for the credits because there are more jokes from the cabin at Lake of the Woods)

(screening date 2/7/11, release date 2/11/11, location AMC Loews Georgetown)

Just Go With It

The rom-com continues with the power of the ring. The precious ring bestows confidence in Adam Sandler (Dr. Danny Maccabee) to pursue 23 year old ladies into the bedroom. Sounds like a dirty joke and with Adam Sandler involved you can usually expect one of two things; (1) the jokes won't stop, or (2) he will continue down his relatively mature career path and show some acting skills. "Just Go With It" slides somewhere in between where the Queen of the rom-com (Jennifer Anniston) pulls up her side of the movie and helps Adam Sandler continue down the path of maturity.

I never saw the original version of this movie from 1969 with Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, and Goldie Hawn, but Adam Sandler does a terrific job in setting the stage, while Jennifer Anniston shows her strength, and Brooklyn Decker remains an unknown. Overall the movie doesn't really surprise you as most of it is pretty cliche, but the jokes were clever enough to keep the movie running.

In supporting roles, Nicole Kidman and Dave Matthews play a cool couple, but both of their acting was over the top and annoying. I guess that is what the characters were supposed to be and that is why you hate them, but they just don't deliver it for me. Nick Swardson plays the brother of Dr. Danny Maccabee and is also over the top in his fake Euro-trash accent and sheep loving abilities. Finally it wouldn't be an Adam Sandler movie without Kevin Nealon who in his 5 minutes is shockingly grotesque. Several other friends of Adam Sandler make a cameo so it is fun to look for them throughout the movie in small roles.

The one that really steals the show is young Bailee Madison who has worked with some top names the last couple years in movies "Brothers" (2009), "Conviction" (2010) and now "Just Go With It". She is only 11, but I hope that she can continue to grow in acting then take some time off for education and then come back in her 20s as a powerhouse. Seriously she has some acting skills and I am glad to see her in a comedy and not a serious drama like the other films. In one scene the brother in the movie is having an emotional moment and she turns to console him like a big sister would in that situation and it looked genuine.

If you are looking for a date movie at the theater this is a decent one, but if you are just looking for laughs you can wait for it on DVD. Overall it is just 2 Quacks.

(screening date 2/9/11, release date 2/11/11, location Regal Gallery Place 14)

Jack Goes Boating

This is a fine example of what good acting can do with an average script. We have seen this movie done a number of times where one couple is falling out of love at the same time that another couple is falling in love. In less than 90 minutes Philip Seymour Hoffman in his debut as a director gives a fresh look at this simple story. Hoffman delivers his acting performance in the title role of Jack with the dominance that he is accustomed to. He is set up on a blind date by his friends Clyde and Lucy played by John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega, respectively. His date is the adorable Amy Ryan (Connie) who has some baggage of sorts to deal with. As perfect as Connie and Jack are for each other their friends Clyde and Lucy are growing apart and unintentionally try to ruin the chances of Connie and Jack.

This movie works because of the acting performances, without it the movie is just sub-par. Hoffman shows the emotion of lonely, awkward, man in his late 30s that has become socially removed from the norm. He hides in his everyday life through his music where he can silence the daily chatter that annoys him. His chemistry with Amy Ryan is terrific as they play off each other in similar ways to how she works in "the Office" with Michael Scott. Amy Ryan plays the broken, fragile, woman so well and when she hurts in the movie you want to give her a koala bear (yeah never mind). As happy as these two characters can be, it is the counterpoint delivered by John Ortiz as a jealous husband with trust issues; and Daphne Rubin-Vega as a wife that is living with the guilt of decisions she made over the years. As they grasp for each other they inadvertently slice through what Jack and Connie are creating.

As a director, Hoffman chose interesting camera shots that bleed in and out of his imagination as he visualizes how things can be done perfectly. One sequence that stands out is while he is learning to swim he is crossing a bridge and stops. Looking out over the passing cars below he visualizes himself gliding through the water. When he opens his eyes you see a glimmer of life in this lonely character, a smile gently passes over his face and you trust this guy. You want him to be happy.

As a complete movie this one gets 4 Quacks. I missed it in the theaters and it looks like the Oscars didn't appreciate it as much, but I think that Hoffman could have received an acting nomination.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I am Number Four

I knew nothing about "I am Number Four", but did a little research to find that it is based on a young adult novel that apparently is a big hit. This is the adaptation of the first of a six book series with the next volume coming in August 2011 title "the Power of Six". Knowing that the story is part of a series helps, but having read the book is not necessary. They do an average job of character development, but you have to be willing to accept the story for what it is worth. If you try to over analyze the characters then you will be upset. Remember that this is a movie for teenagers and not for adults in their 30's or 40's. It is a decent popcorn flick and has some young actors that we can expect to see a lot from in the coming years.

The ending of the book provides a good summary and sets up the series at the same time. "They caught Number One in Malaysia; Number Two in England; And Number Three in Kenya.
They tried to catch Number Four in Ohio and failed.
I am Number Seven; One of six still alive, And I'm ready to fight."

The title character is portrayed by Alex Pettyfer who is the teen heart throb that will be getting the attention of the girls if they every forget about the Bieber. The eye candy for #4 in the movie is Dianne Agron who is best known for the TV show "Glee". To complete the rest of the team there is Teresa Palmer as #6 and Callan McAuliffe as Sam. I haven't heard of any of these kids before, so I wasn't expecting much "acting" and you shouldn't either. This isn't a movie you go to for the acting, it is the special effects.

The action in the final 20 minutes moves fast, but it often leaves one wondering "what just happened". Michael Bay produces and you know it is going to be at least half decent. DJ Caruso is the director and he should be back for the sequel once it gets announced.

The movie is worth waiting for and earns 2 Quacks. I didn't stay through the credits, so if someone does go see this movie please Quack back with what they do after the credits.

(screening 2/17/11, release date 2/18/11, location AMC Tyson's Corner 16)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop

I have never been into the documentary genre, but from time to time I will check one out. You rarely hear about them in the theater, so DVD and online video is pretty much the best way to go. Once they get nominated for an award it then becomes the trendy thing to talk about, which is lame because if you didn't care about it before why do you all of a sudden have to talk about it like you are some cool person that knows more than the next person about movies.

Anyways, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is about this French guy, Thierry Guetta, who set out to find a reclusive graffiti artist named Banksy. He hides his identify throughout to protect himself from prosecution. I don't know that i have ever seen any of his work, but there is something about a quality graffiti job compared to simply tagging that is considered "art" in my mind. so Thierry eventually locates Banksy and convinces him to let him film some of his exploits so as to compile the footage into a documentary.

The audience, as well as Banksy, quickly realize that Thierry isn't much of a film maker and just someone with mental problems that just happened to have a camera. So Banksy takes the existing footage and turns the camera on Thierry, who has now decided that he too will take his turn at being a street artist under the moniker Mr. Brainwash (MBW). This is when the best parts of the documentary start to come out, because it is clear that Banksy is more than just a graffiti artist, but rather he has the artistic ability to extend himself into other mediums (including film).

A question that is often debated is "what is art?" and my response to that is that you know it when you see it. That may not be the answer people want to hear when they ask the question, but it is true because Art to one person may not be so to another. When Thierry sets out to be a street artist there is nothing different about what he is doing as compared to what Banksy is doing, however because there is no one like Thierry that is what makes it art nevertheless. Ultimately, there are no real rules in art and that is what makes art what it is.

If I owned a building and someone put graffiti on a wall of the building that was artfully done then I would be okay with it. It is vastly different from tagging. Documentary is still not my preferred choice, but it was a great way to spend an evening when nothing was on TV. So I give this one 2 Quacks.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Redbox Sunday

I was a bit frustrated by the delay in delivering the goods by Netflix because of the "long wait" for an Oscar nominated film. I think that Netflix should have an elite status similar to hotels, rental cars, and airlines where as if you have been a customer with Netflix you earn priority treatment over others on the "long wait" list. That being said I went to my back-up plan and my dirty little secret that is Redbox. It is like going to the ghetto and getting a dime bag, or watching porn at the airport. Everyone knows what you are doing and you feel guilty about doing it, but it doesn't stop you.

So for a dollar each I rented Animal Kingdom and Cyrus...

Animal Kingdom

This movie first got on my radar at the beginning of 2010 when it won at Sundance for World Cinema -Dramatic. It has since received numerous festival and Golden Globe nominations and recently some Oscar buzz. The movie centers around a teenage boy "J", played by James Frecheville, in Australia that is thrusted into a family that he doesn't really know after the death of his mother. His grandmother and uncles are a crime family that is trouble to everything that is good for "J". The family is abusive to each other and uses drugs, all the while the matriarch, played by Jackie Weaver, of the family pulls the strings when she must to ensure that her boys are around her. She is willing to sacrifice one for the well being of her favored son Pope, played by Ben Mendelsohn. The police are getting close to the family and the lead inspector is played by a mustached Guy Pearce, and they will try to use "J" to get inside the family and take them down. The question in the movie is whether or not "J" will grow up in time to save himself from the family that is falling apart.

The acting is spotty at times, but one performance powerfully emerges from the crowd in Jacki Weaver. She is a little bit Brando in Godfather and a little bit June Cleaver in how she handles the family needs. She can be orchestrating a crime while baking a batch of muffins. Also noteworthy was Joel Edgerton as one of the Uncles and some will remember him as Uncle Owen in the Star Wars films. While some may want to give James Frecheville some acknowledgement I think it is better given to Laura Wheelwright in her debut performance as the girlfriend Nicky. I look forward to seeing her in more things.

The movie earns a respectable 3 Quacks and Jacki Weaver is a dark horse for an Oscar in the Supporting Actress category. She really could steal this one and it would be deserving.


Possibly the best movie of the weekend for me, which is interesting because romantic comedies don't usually hit it for me. If you look only at the cast of Jonah Hill, John C Riley, Catherine Keener and Marisa Tomei you might think that this will be a great comedy as it has some funny people and some solid actresses. Take that thought and throw it out the window as this is a classic dark comedy that makes you laugh and then feel guilty for doing so.

We start with John C Riley a stuck in the rut, depressed, loser who is divorced from Catherine Keener who breaks the news to him that she is getting married again. The past relationship isn't really believable, but could easily be replaced with them being brother/sister as they are totally best friends, which is unlike most divorced couples I know. But I she motivates him to go to a party, meet people, and talk to ladies. This reminded me of my sister in a lot of ways, but that makes me the depressed-loser (damn!!!), which I don't think I am. So at the party he meets the beautiful Molly, played by Marisa Tomei, and one thing leads to another. They start seeing each other and that is when he finds out she has a son, Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill. In all seriousness he is a Shrek of a man now and it is difficult to take him seriously given his comedy background. The romantic comedy part starts to pick up some steam as Cyrus and John battle for the affection of Molly.

I really liked this movie and while I may get some people who disagree with me I am going to give this one 4 Quacks and instruct all of you to go rent this movie.
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