Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Not a lot is known about the movie "Hanna" as the previews purposely leave things ambiguous. This might not be intentional as the plot seems to be lacking as well. I feel that the writer knew where they wanted to start and finish the story and decided to add filler with some chases and fighting. This is all a shame, because the director (Joe Wright) has been involved with some very nice films in his young career. Hanna (Saorise Ronan) is a teenage version of The Bride from "Kill Bill" and you can see the Quentin Tarantino influence heavily scattered through this Euro travel guide version. Saorise Ronan is still just a rising star; she is stiff and acts with very little emotion. I really want to see her do well, which is why this movie frustrated me so much. If they took just a glimpse at the Lisbeth Salander character portrayed by Noomi Rapace in "The Girl ..." they would see that the story could have so many more levels to it. Sure the character of Hanna is supposed to be innocent and pure by being raised in the middle of nowhere, but do you have to shove it down our throats with the lack of knowledge about electricity but then provide her with the ability to surf the internet? Cate Blanchett (Marissa) as the CIA agent behind the cover-up didn't exactly help the movie with their acting. I expect a lot more from someone that has been nominated for an Academy Award four times and won once. Her accent came and went from being midwestern to southern to whatever else she tried. Eric Banna (Erik) as the father and former CIA agent was extremely forgettable. I don't usually expect much from him, but even he can do better. There are cameos from Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams go completely wasted. Their story was actually more interesting than the one of Hanna. I would have rather seen a movie about a young family taking a caravan adventure across Europe to experience life at its most purest of moments than watch Hanna stumble through a chase scene again (seriously it was like she ran in a circle sometimes).

Somehow the movie finds a way to set itself up for a sequel, and while the studios might let it happen there will be one less viewer in the audience (unless it is free). It is only worthy of 2 Quacks and I would like to see others challenge me on this one.

(screening date 3/30/11, release date 4/8/11, location Landmark E Street Cinema)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This movie wanted to be good, and I wanted it to be as well, but in the end it is only half a movie. It falls in the trappings of conventional dram-ady styling's by lacking character development and storytelling for pretty faces. Happythankyoumoreplease is the debut from Josh Radnor as a Director and Writer on the big screen. He is mostly known for his character on "How I Met Your Mother". For Happythankyoumoreplease it has been nearly a year since it debuted at Sundance in 2010 and received the Audience Award over other solid entries such as "Blue Valentine" and "Winter's Bone". For some reason "Happythankyoumoreplease" never was picked up by a major studio for release and I am not even sure when it will get the wide release that it deserves. The movie is a snap shot into the lives of three couples that apparently are connected. The relationship that is created between Sam (Josh Radnor), Rasheen (Michael Algieri) and Mississippi (Kate Mara) is spontaneous and echoes the "short story" theme throughout the movie without being a one-night stand. Sam's best friend Annie (Malin Akerman) is the bird with a broken wing that is longing for true love. Finally, there is Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) who have very little relevance to the movie, but have the most genuine story. Some choppy writing brings their characters together, but it is the individual relationships that deserved to be highlighted. The sudden relationship between Sam and Rasheen was nice. You wanted to cheer for the two of them even though you knew what Sam was doing was against the law. Even as life's frustrations result in Sam dropping an "f-bomb" he has the decency to tell Rasheen not to curse. Sam means well and tells Rasheen to read lots of books and never stop drawing. This was quite possibly the most beautiful moment in the movie. You knew things were not going to end well, but you wanted to cheer for them. I want to say that the ending was unsatisfying trying to be artsy without telling the audience what will happen. With the number of loose ends surrounding Sam's character it would have probably taken another hour to properly do this. Perhaps the open-ended conclusion was just that... because in life things are never finished with a cute little bow. We jump in and out of each other's lives and sometimes we make a profound impact on someone but we miss it; or they make one to us and we long for it to happen again but never does. After seeing the movie, I think it became clear why it has struggled to get the wide release. It is certainly worth having its time in the theater and earns the 3 Quacks that I will give it. (screening date 3/28/11, release date UNKOWN, location Landmark E Street Cinema)

If you got this far, I guess I just want to say that I purposely didn't use paragraphs because the title is jammed together and thought it would be fun to do the same thing with the review. Please read other reviews, and let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Music Never Stopped

"The Music Never Stopped" is a beautifully written story about a relationship between a father and his estranged son who are reconnected through the power of music. If you enjoyed the movie "Awakenings" (1990) you will like this movie as well. This movie is based on an essay by Oliver Sacks titled "the Last Hippie" and he also wrote "Awakenings".

Have you have ever heard a song on the radio and instantly been brought back to the first time you heard the song, recalling memories that you had not thought about for years? If so, then you will know how important this movie is to people. The memories we have are the most valuable things we possess because they are the building blocks of who we are today. It is through these memories that we connect with each other and hold onto the ones we love.

In this movie, Gabriel (played by Lou Taylor Pucci) is the "last hippie". Through complications of a brain tumor that had gone untreated for nearly 20 years; Gabriel still thinks that Nixon is president, that his friend just left for Vietnam, and that his girlfriend is still in high school. Gabriel was born in 1951 and his generation of music was vastly different from his parents. He loved Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and the Grateful Dead while his parents enjoyed the big band classics of Duke Elington. His father (Henry) is played by JK Simmons, who is in his 60s and is struggling with ways to connect to his son. His mother (Helen) is played by Cara Seymour, who is battling the years where she ignored the tension between her husband and son.

The story is told with two periods of reference, (1) the current time period in the 1980s and (2) the developing years that lead up to the difficulties between father and son in the late 1960s. The flash backs are perfectly placed and contribute to the emotion that one will feel towards this movie. The connection we make as an audience through the music and relationships are very well done. I had heard that the soundtrack was a good one, but this movie is so much more than the classic rock that is the theme. It is a powerful movie that I strongly encourage people to see.

There were times when I thought that Gabriel should not be remembering things, yet he is acting "normal". Also, when the same actor plays a 18 year old kid and a 38 year old man it takes a bit more than a beard to make it convincing. All of that is just me being an overly critical movie fan and shouldn't be a concern to anyone else, because this movie is well done and should be seen by everyone. I give this one 4 Quacks and hope that not only fans of music see this movie.

(screening date 3/23/11, release date UNKNOWN, location E Street Cinema)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

Don't be so quick as to say that Matthew McConaughey is "back"... he never really left, but rather made some terrible movie choices and had a run of taking his shirt off to entice the female audience. What is probably the truest thing to say about him is that when he gets a character that has depth and personality it is where he is the strongest. This is where "The Lincoln Lawyer" shines; with complex characters portrayed by Marisa Tomei and Ryan Phillippe the movie is able to deliver on the courtroom drama that has been missing recently in the theaters due to the over saturated TV titles.

Michael Connelly continues his strong presence in the courtroom drama with his novel "The Lincoln Lawyer". This is the second of his books to be made into a movie with the other being "Bloodwork" in 2002. The character development is a strength in "The Lincoln Lawyer" and is a signature of Michael Connelly. The fans of his writing are going to be clamoring for follow-up movies featuring Matthew McConaughey portraying Mickey Haller in "The Brass Verdict", "The Reversal", or "The Fifth Witness". Working with the young director Brad Furman he was able to influence the movie making process in just the right ways and the jury is still out if the other books will have their time in the theater.

In "The Lincoln Lawyer" Mickey Haller has a reputation for being the guy that you go to when you need a defense attorney that can get you what you need. He is asked a couple times in the movie by his peers how he is able to defend the low life scum and his response isn't that he is defending them but that he is fighting the system. A system where the district attorney may try to attach extra charges to a case without the proper evidence is what Mickey Haller views as an injustice that he is fighting. At first the case that he has taken appears to be an easy one with the convincing plea of innocence from Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe). However, as the investigation from Frank Levin (William H Macy) uncovers evidence that conflicts with the beliefs of Mickey Haller the skills he carries into the courtroom are tested.

At times the movie wants to be "Primal Fear" with the deception and twists. Other times the movie wants to be "A Few Good Men" with the colorful witnesses that are called to the stand. The movie does drag towards the end as it wraps up the loose ends and is rather forgettable. This movie doesn't shine in any way, but is decent enough to earn all 3 Quacks.

(screening date 3/14/11, release date 3/18/11, location Mazza Gallerie)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Source Code

After the last couple months, I have come to a realization. We might be seeing a resurgence of the scifi genre. Gone are the days of "Flash Gordon" and every movie that made "Mystery Science Theater 3000" so funny. Sure there will always be misses in the scifi genre, but there have been more quality films made in this genre lately. Some possible reasons for this is that the plot of the films are getting smarter; the actors attached to the films are better; and the special effects compliment the story better than ever. I still enter these movies with more skepticism than I probably should, but that makes it more fun when I walk out impressed.

With the "Source Code", we finally have the big budget follow up from Duncan Jones who gave us "Moon" a couple years ago. With the bigger budget comes some bigger profile actors including Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga. Usually the acting in scifi can be laughable, but that cannot be said about "Source Code". Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens who is a helicopter pilot that is working with a different branch of the military as part of an experimental project attempting to gain information about a plot to bring Chicago to rubble. The beautiful Christina (Michelle Monaghan) provides the grounding counterbalance to Colter Stevens and the on screen chemistry is well done. The other balance needed by Colter Stevens is provided by Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) appears too much through a video screen and gives the movie a video game feel. I would have liked a different use for her part of the story. Having noticed that Russell Peters was included in the cast peaked my interest because he is one of my favorite comedians. However, his role is not very significant and outside of the major cast there is not much to speak of from the supporting roles. However, like most scifi films the technical skills of a movie are being tested. In "Source Code" the sound mixing was slightly above average, but it is the editing that makes the movie work.

Without giving away too much of the story I do want to say that it was very familiar to me having read the graphic novel "Ronin" from Frank Miller and the book "The 13th Hour" from Richard Doetsch. Having read these two books there were aspects of the movie that were rather predictable, but the movie is still original and a quality offering that should be seen by everyone and has earned 3 Quacks (could even see it going up to 4 Quacks if you like SciFi).

(screening date 3/13/11, release date 4/1/11, location Regal Gallery Place 14)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


This isn't the first, nor the last, movie that touches on the indulgences and side-effects of drug use in various cultures. The visual and sound mixing contribute well to the drug induced feeling of the movie. "Limitless" is based on the book "The Dark Fields" written by Alan Glynn in 2001. The movie is reminiscent of "Strange Days" in 1995 and "Fight Club" in 1999. In the same style as the book, the movie is told from the first person narrative with Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) guiding the audience on the sober and drug enhanced life. Using the first person narrative can be a crutch too heavily relied upon by a young director to advance the story. It is impressive that Neil Burger can do this in only his fourth feature.

It is interesting that Bradley Cooper was selected for the lead in this film because back in 2008 it was Shia LaBeouf that was attached to this movie. Personally I think this change was a brilliant one because I don't feel that Shia LaBeouf shows the maturity on the screen that it would take for this role. Bradley Cooper controls the movie and is complimented by the beautiful Abbie Cornish and the legendary Robert DeNiro in this relatively small cast.

Abbie Cornish (Lindy) is the girlfriend that is the catalyst to the events in that unfold. Eddie is given a clear pill that offers enhanced intellect and allows the user to see patterns in otherwise disparate information. As Eddie navigates his way from being a writer to the financial world were he makes millions of dollars in a down economy using information theory and the psychological behavior patterns of man, he is introduced to Robert DeNiro (Carl Van Loon). The action picks up quickly and keeps the audience engaged. With any drug there is usually a downside and this one includes an obvious chemical dependency and mental instability. Eddie starts going through withdrawals and is on the run to save his life.

The conclusion of the movie is a bit choppy with a "12 months later" graphic. A small compliment is given to Alan Glynn with the title of the book that Eddie's character writes, which gets published under the title "The Dark Fields". For the most part the movie was true to the book with the most obvious difference being the name change from Eddie Spinola to Eddie Morra. The other difference is the drug name MDT-48 in the book compared to NZT in the movie.

I may have a hangover from the dreadful "Red Riding Hood", but I am going to give this one 4 Quacks. After a week I am going to revise this back down to where it probably should be ... 3 Quacks. It is good and should be seen in the theater, but no need to rush out.

(screening date 3/9/11, release date 3/18/11, location AMC Loews Georgetown 14)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Red Riding Hood

The Brothers Grimm are rolling in their grave laughing at how bad "Red Riding Hood" actually is. I walked into this moving not entirely expecting much which got a few looks from the teenage and college girls in the theater that were within earshot. The younger crowd really wanted this movie to be a winner largely due to the vision from Catherine Hardwicke who is the director of the first "Twilight" movie. The studio even tinkered with the idea of bringing in some familiar actors from "Twilight" by including Billy Burke and Taylor Lautner, but decided not to include Lautner. Instead the eye candy for this movie is Amanda Seyfried (Valerie aka Red Riding Hood), Max Irons (Peter), and Shiloh Fernandez (Henry). Since the cast up to this point doesn't have much acting the studio tried to balance things with Virginia Madsen (Suzette aka the Mother) and Gary Oldman (Solomon aka the werewolf hunter).

With all of the effort to putting together a cast that would meet the masses; the movie fails on every level. Set in a small dark village that is haunted by a werewolf, Valerie is in love with Peter a lumberjack, but her family has given her hand to the village blacksmith Henry. The story is simple enough that Valerie and Peter plan to run away together, but the story gets turned on its head when the town calls on Solomon to hunt the wolf before the village is destroyed. Of course nobody is innocent and the methods used to flush out the wolf are insane including a Trojan Horse in the form of an Iron Elephant. Not to be outdone was the accusation of witchcraft where Valerie is put into an iron mask that looked like "Alf".

Gary Oldman and Virginia Madsen are complete opposites in this one where Virginia Madsen is shockingly under performing and Gary Oldman extremely over acts. Amanda Seyfried is like a deer in the headlights acting as stiff as a board during the "emotional" moments. The male eye candy wasn't much better.

I certainly hope that they never attempt to make the Russian tale of Peter and the Wolf because that is pretty clear the direction the studio is trying to go with this movie in the end. Since I have to give this movie a rating, I guess that it is 1 Quack, but to be honest it isn't even worth that much. It will no doubt receive nominations for the Razzies or the beavtrash awards.

(screening date 3/8/11, release date 3/11/11, location Courthouse AMC)

Sunday, March 6, 2011


The young and talented James Wan and Leigh Whannell don't want to be considered the kings of the horror genre. They are the creators of the "Saw" series that started in 2004. So many movies in the horror genre are simple slasher movies and don't take the time to properly develop a story. This is where Wan and Whannell shine by developing the mood. "Insidious" is a film about a family moving into a new house, but the traditional imagery isn't what you think it will be.

The family includes Patrick Wilson and the beautiful Rose Byrne who have three children. The oldest of which does some exploring in the new house only to fall from a ladder and bump his head allowing for a portal to the soul to be found for the demons from the Further. The story delicately tip toes through the tulips scaring in genuine ways without grossing you out.

I really liked the montage intro which provided a little foreshadowing with a name being on the screen and then the shadow of the name rising up from it. There was also an interesting background shot of a chalkboard where the Jigsaw Killer is drawn as well as James Wan's name. Not sure if everyone caught that, or if there is anything else hidden the movie, so if there is Quack back with what you found.

This movie is a step outside of what I usually enjoy at a theater, but will probably shock some people by giving this one 4 Quacks. James Wan and Leigh Whannell have done it again leaving the audience on the edge of their seat wanting more. People will be talking about this movie for sure.

(screening 3/6/11, release date 4/1/11, location West End Cinema)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Jane Eyre

Well it wasn't like we needed a new version of the Charlotte Bronte classic "Jane Eyre", but version #22 was a solid entry. Will this one hold up or will version #23 be necessary as well. I had to consult with my sister on this one because even though I have an English degree (minor) I avoided that genre and stuck with more manly subjects like Shakespeare...

There isn't really a need to recap the story, so I will focus more on the players involved. In this version we have the rising star Mia Wasikowska as the poor, obscure, plain and little Jane Eyre that we know and love. At the young age of 20 during filming, Mia is able to show her independence and feminist strength in a way that other young women of her age disregard while filming popcorn teen flicks. Mia has built a strong resume already with films like "Defiance", "Kids Are All Right", "Alice and Wonderland" to name just a few; and this will only further her career.

We have excellent complimentary players with Jamie Bell (St John Rivers), Sally Hawkins (Mrs. Reed), Dame Judi Dench (Mrs. Fairfax), Michael Fassbender (Rochester) and Amelia Clarkson (young Jane Eyre). The acting was top notch, but the choices for some of the rolls could be a bit off for fans that would prefer to be true to the vision of Ms Bronte. Jamie Bell is a great young actor, but he really seemed too young for this role. They tried to put facial hair on him, but he just looks too young right now for a role as a clergyman. Another important character that is not heavily inserted into this movie is from Sally Hawkins who was strong early in the film, but in the end was not at her best (go see her in "Happy-Go-Lucky" instead). The acting picks up for obvious reasons once Dame Judi Dench emerges. You almost feel sorry for Mia Wasikowska, because you know she cannot measure up and in a way that works because it makes Jane Eyre seem even more plain and simple. Then there is Michael Fassbender who will obviously be compared to Orson Welles (1943), Timothy Dalton (1983) and William Hurt (1996). He does a quality job, but isn't really memorable to me.

I am going to reach a bit here on categories I usually don't know very much about and say that this will be nominated for Costume Design and Art Direction. It could be too early to nominate any of the actors, but Mia Wasikowska, Dame Judi Dench and Michael Fassbender all performed superbly and that is why I am going to bump this all the way to 5 Quacks. I could see Dame Judi Dench nominated for a supporting role and Mia Wasikowska getting some attention for the lead. With that, it could be a long while before version #23 is necessary. However, it won't stop Hollywood from making version #15 of Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" that is scheduled for a Fall 2011 release.

(screening date 3/3/11, release date 3/11/11, location AMC Mazza Gallerie)

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