Monday, May 30, 2011

Quacking BetaMax: The Way Back

"The Way Back" came out in the middle of the Oscar push and while it received a lot of positive reviews it never got my attention. Perhaps it was just the overwhelming number of movies to be seen, but in the end I never felt like I had missed much. I had some friends that so it and they spoke highly of it as well, so I didn't want to completely disregard this film and figured Netflix would be the best place for it in the end. Finally reaching the top of my queue and a long holiday weekend gave me the time to watch it.

Peter Weir directs the epic film of WWII prisoners escaping on the 4000 mile long journey from Siberia to India. The escapees are lead by Jim Sturgess as well as Ed Harris and Colin Farrell. The cinematography is equally impressive as the journey takes them through the snow covered mountains countered by the arid desert. The escapees battle every element and the emotional scars run deep for all of them while they have to carry each other along the edge of life, and death.

If you have read my blog before, you may know that I have been critical of Saoirse Ronan in the past. Her performance is possibly her best ever. In my opinion it is better than her performance in "Atonement" (2007).

In the end the film was nominated for Best Makeup, a category that I usually don't pay much attention to. I could have also seen Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, or Ed Harris receiving a nomination. Neither of them would have won, but they were strong enough in their performance as well as the script and the remaining cast to receive a very honorable 5 Quacks. The film is very long at 133 minutes, so I am glad I watched it at home rather than at the theater for the length alone.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quacking BetaMax: Equilibrium

I don't remember "Equilibrium" (2002) in the theaters, but prior to the screening of "Priest" it was suggested that I check it out by a fellow movie fan. I happened to notice it was playing on the SyFy channel just a couple days later, so I recorded it on my DVR with the intention of watching it over the long holiday weekend.

The film is yet another post apocalyptic society film where all forms of feeling are considered to be illegal. The film was written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, who is better known as a writer than a director. He most recently worked on "Salt" (2010) and is working on the remake of "Total Recall" in 2012. The film is also one of many films that led to Christian Bale being offered the role of Batman from Christopher Nolan.

The film begins with the subtext "In the first years of the 21st Century a 3rd World War broke out and those of us who survived knew that mankind could never survive a 4th. That our own volatile natures could simply no longer be risked. A new arm of the law was created, The Grammaton Cleric, tasked with seeking out and eradicate the true source of man's inhumanity to man, his ability to feel."

The dichotomy of black vs white, or right/wrong, echo throughout the film. Most notably this is seen between Christian Bale and Taye Diggs. The symbolism continues through the use of martial arts and their clothing. Most movie fans will immediately draw comparisons to "the Matrix" (1999) as can be seen in many of the fight scenes. It had some tough competition in 2002 including Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Spider-Man, Catch Me If You Can, and Bourne Identity. So it isn't much of a surprise that this 3 Quack film was forgotten about. If you find it on SyFy and you don't have much else going on then you should certainly check it out.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Too Big to Fail

The programming on cable TV has been getting increasingly better in recent years, and leading this charge has been HBO. The latest HBO movie is "Too Big to Fail", telling the events of the 2008 financial crisis on how Wall Street and Washington fought to save the financial system - and themselves - is based on the book of the same title written by Andrew Sorkin. The film was directed by Curtis Henson and includes a well known ensemble cast.

The story revolves around Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson (William Hurt); President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Timothy Geithner (Billy Crudup); and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke (Paul Giamatti) who are working together to prevent the financial decline of America. The private sector finance leaders of Wall Street are brought together to find a solution. These leaders include:

John Thain, CEO Merril Lynch (Matthew Modine)
Dick Fuld, CEO Lehman Bros. (James Woods)
John Mack, CEO Morgan Stanley (Tony Shalhoub)
Jamie Dimon, CEO Chase Manhatten (Bill Pullman)
Warren Buffett (Ed Asner)

The acting from Paul Giamatti, William Hurt, and Billy Crudup is fine, however the writing and performance for most of the other actors is a bunch of brief quips that were likely pulled from newspapers. The insertion of CNN footage to advance the timeline is a sign of a weak script.

Being in DC and having an accounting background the the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) has been a topic that I have needed to pay attention to. Everyone in America has an opinion on whether TARP was the correct approach taken, but what the film depicts is the decision not to bail out a failing bank. The intention was to have the public sector correct the poor business decisions, however the error was larger than ever imagined. It was probably a jab at the banks, but I did enjoy the inclusion of a line where the bank CEO was asking about executive bonuses.

Following the passage of TAP, banks made fewer loans and markets continued to tumble. Unemployment rose to over 10 percent and millions of families lost their homes to foreclosure. The financial markets are recovering and the American public are still struggling in some parts of the country. As an educational piece of cinema this is a very telling part of American history. I don't know if it will be strong enough to receive any awards, but is certainly worth viewing and gets 3 Quacks from me.

In 2009, panicked markets stabilized and the slide into a global depression was averted. The biggest banks repaid their TARP money. In 2010, compensation on Wall Street rose to a record 135 billion. Ten banks now hold 77 percent of all US bank assets, and have been declared too big to fail.

Midnight in Paris

I have defended Woody Allen to friends in the past, but "Midnight in Paris" just does not work for me. I think I have finally come to the realization that his approach of making a movie per year results in a lot of not so good movies. Usually I enjoy his films when I can see Woody Allen in the protagonist, but with Owen Wilson as the lead I just couldn't make that connection. I couldn't help but think of "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989) during the screening.

“Midnight in Paris” cannot be compared to the perfection of “Match Point” (2005); and doesn't have the quality to pronounce it as a classic alongside “Annie Hall” (1977). The film does however equal the cinimatography of the beautiful landscape provided in "Vicky Christina Barcelona" (2008). The opening montage of the City of Lights being backed up by the jazz sounds is possibly the best part of the film.

Even though I have issues with the script, the cast is still amazing with Owen Wilson in the lead role as Gil, a struggling Hollywood writer engaged to Inez (Rachel McAdams). They have come to Paris with her parents played by Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy. Gil is fascinated by the nostalgia of Paris, while Inez and her parents are only concerned with the present. Instead of a time machine, Gil finds his way into the 1920's through a midnight stroll where he encounters F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Salvador Dalí (Adrian Brody), Picasso, Buñuel, TS Eliot and many, many more.

The audience certainly had a lot of laughs. It was like watching an episode of "Friends" where the jokes are there in front of you, but you just don't find them to be that funny. Woody Allen has some great contributions to the history of cinema, but "Midnight in Paris" isn't going to make the list of great movies. Instead the film falls flat and barely deserves a 2 Quack rating.

(screening date 5/26/11, LIMITED release date 5/27/11, location Landmark E Street)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to Die in Oregon

Whether you refer to the topic as "death with dignity" or "assisted suicide" the fact is the topic is extremely polarizing. What "How to Die in Oregon" shows us is that not only is it a difficult decision for the individual, but also within the family the opinions may differ. Additionally, even those diagnosed with a chronic disease will fall on both sides of the argument. Some may say it is a separation of church and state, while others will view the issue as a public healthcare topic. Watching the documentary made me realize that there isn't a right answer to this topic and the film leaves you asking the question of what side are you on?

Filmmaker Peter Richardson's "How to Die in Oregon" won the grand jury prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. He began his filming in 2007, conducting interviews with several terminally ill Oregonians as well as those in Washington working on Initiative 1000 fighting for the Death with Dignity Act (I-1000).

The documentary follows two main stories with the first being that of Cody Curtis, a Wife and Mother, who has been diagnosed with liver cancer in 2009. The interviews of her family and the growing relationship with her children show how strong someone can be even at their weakest moment. The portrait that is given of the individuals with the terminal illness is that of being at peace. Having the opportunity to get things in order so that you can say goodbye to your loved ones before the quality of life reaches a point where you are not able to take care of yourself. Only the ones that are truly courageous are the ones that are willing to suffer the most. The message that Cody leaves us with is that one doesn't want to subject themselves or family to needless suffering; and that there is dignity in suffering, but also grace in accepting the inevitable.

The second part of the film addresses the state of Washington and the I-1000 campaign being led by the wife of someone that wanted to receive the treatment in Oregon, but was rejected as he didn't qualify for residency. His dying wish was that his wife fight for change in Washington and their story ends with the passing of the initiative in 2008.

Additional sub-elements of the film come from Ray Carnay, an Oregon voice over artist, journalist and radio personality who, post cancer diagnosis, (his voice box was to be removed) asked his doctor for a lethal prescription just in case. He records his eulogy in the studio, and he ultimately died in the hospital from complications from his surgery. There is also the more political element as detailed by Randy Stroup of Dexter, Oregon who is an uninsured Oregonian with prostate cancer that has been denied health care by the state and offered physician-assisted suicide instead.

The documentary aired on HBO on May 26th, but will be available onDemand and will likely play again through this weekend. In memory of those that have suffered through the pain, the documentary receives all 5 Quacks.


Even if documentary films are not your normal form of entertainment, I strongly encourage everyone to see this film. The depiction of the life for our military is pure and honest. “Restrepo,” is a documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The movie and outpost, “Restrepo,” are named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. The emotion of our soldiers is so rarely seen, but this film provides a perfect snapshot of what the mental difficulties of the war are like for the soldiers.

An aspect of the war that is too often forgotten is the faceless soldiers. We may know someone that is serving in the military, but what about the men and women we don't know. They are just as important and they are the family for the soldiers away from home. The bond they create with each other is amazing. This film provides a face to the soldiers that protect our freedom. The film is engaging and absorbing as a collection of moments and scenes, detailing what everyday life is like. By providing a face and a name to the soldiers, we gain our own emotional bond to them. One face that stands out for me is U.S. Army Sgt. Misha Pemble-Belkin who is from Hillsboro, Oregon. The stories he tells of his childhood growing up in Oregon are as real as the reality he experienced in Afghanistan.

Tim Hetherington, one of the documentary film producers, directors and cameramen, was killed recently covering the conflict in Libya. In his memory, and to the brave men and women that risk their lives for the freedom we have in America, the film honestly deserves all 5 Quacks. Look for the film on the National Geographic Channel or rent it.

Attack the Block

The early buzz about this film is very much deserved. "Attack the Block" comes from the creators of "Shaun of the Dead" (2004) and "Hot Fuzz" (2007). The film certainly had a "Doctor Who" holiday special vibe to it. However, it was more the survival guide to dealing with an alien invasion that kept me entertained. Falls into the SciFi category, it fortunately doesn't try to be more than it is. By not taking itself too serious the comedy element comes through to compliment the action.

The film follows a street gang, Moses (John Boyega), Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones) and Biggz (Simon Howard). While they are mugging Sam (Jodie Whittaker), an object falls from the sky, crashing through the roof of a nearby car. Viewed as an opportunity to loot the vehicle Moses reaches inside only to discover a creature from the meteor and they kill it. Soon more aliens crash land and the gang has to defend themselves and their council estate from the alien invaders. The alien is described best looking like "a monkey fucked a fish" and as gorilla wolf monsters. Whatever you want to call them, they are pretty gnarly looking and blacker than black.

The best advice that the movie provides as the survival guide to an alien invasion is that rather than calling the authorities, that "you'd be better off calling the Ghostbusters”. Terrific one-liners like this as well as the two kids that play Probs and Mayhem contribute to comedy of the film. I could almost see Probs and Mayhem getting their own movie, or special short film, on the DVD.

The social media campaign for the film is funny, and suggests everyone to follow @atbmovie on twitter as well as the hash tags for #trust and #blockheads. Everyone should believe the hype surrounding the film and I give it 3 Quacks.

(screening date 5/25/11, release date UNKNOWN, location Regal Gallery Place)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hangover II

Nothing annoys me more in film than lazy writing and "the Hangover Part II" is exactly that. This usually happens in remakes and sequels, but never have I noticed a sequel that felt like a remake more than this one. I enjoyed the original "Hangover" (2009) so much that I was willing to see it more than once in the theaters. The clues to Doug’s whereabouts came from clever writing that gave the guys just enough information to keep them moving forward.

In the original film, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) wake up with memory loss, unable to recall the night before ("remember"). The sequel begins like the first movie, with Phil explaining that they won’t be able to make it back for the wedding, and then it proceeds forward with the guys trying to find clues as to the whereabouts of their lost friend, this time the brother of the bride to be (Mason Lee). The path they take to find their missing friend seems forced and now unoriginal, just when they think they are about to find Teddy, they realize they don't, and then suddenly they remember something that makes sense  and they have a deep cleaning with a happy ending.  The international criminal sting operation between Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and Kingsley (Paul Giamatti) is the only redeeming aspect of the story. 

The differences are simple as they find a monkey in the room rather than a tiger. Stu now has a face tattoo rather a missing tooth. When they think they’ve found the missing person, it turns out to be a Monk that has taken a vow of silence.  Even the hilarious song that Ed Helms sang in the first film about Doug has a new version for the sequel, but makes you wonder where he found a guitar on a river boat.  It's as if no thought at all went into making the film.  They just did it in Bangkok instead of Vegas.  Ultimately, what happened in Vegas should have stayed in Vegas. 

I almost want to compare this film to "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift", which was another sequel that bombed. Just because you change the location doesn't make it a new movie.  Instead it comes across as an insult to the audience.

Perhaps this is all a joke from writer/director Todd Phillips in that we are supposed to still be hungover from the original.  I am sure that it will get a strong number at the box office this weekend, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it have a significant drop the following weekend.   I wish I could give this a better review, but 2 Quacks is really all it is worth. One night in Bangcock and the worlds your oyster as the devil is walking next to you.  Even Mike Tyson hasn't seen what comes at the end of this film.

(screening date 5/24/11, release date 5/27/11, location AMC Loews Georgetown 14)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Outdoor Movie Screenings

See the rest of the Outdoor Movie Screening Schedule here.

June 1: "Stand By Me" (1986) NoMa Summer Screen (Wednesdays at 7pm)

Not sure I can say anything negative about this film. By far one of my all time favorites and completely disregarded by the Academy Awards with only one nomination for Adapted Screenplay. The film certainly starts from a strong script based on the novella "The Body" written by Stephen King. Perhaps it didn't receive any acting nominations because of how the story is told without one true lead, but Rob Reiner directs the young boys superbly in the emotional story that is beyond their years. The sensitive one is Wil Wheaton (Gordie), the tough guy is River Phoenix (Chris), the flamboyant one is Corey Feldman (Teddy) and the coward is Jerry O'Connell (Vern) who have together set out on a journey across the Willamette Valley of Oregon to find a dead body. They sneak smokes, tell stories, use foul language and discover the strength of friendship along the way. Stand By Me is a special film about friendship and growing up. In the 25 years since this film was released, it certainly stands the test of time and gets 5 Quacks from me.

June 2: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) Capitol Riverfront Front Flicks (Thursdays at 8:45pm)

The start of an amazing franchise for Indiana Jones and one of the pillars that cements Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas as two of the greatest ever. As a kid I wanted to be Harrison Ford, but I decided to study accounting instead of archeology. The supporting cast is also one of the best with Karen Allen (Marion), John Rys-Davies (Sallah) Denholm Elliott (Marcus Brody) and young Alfred Molina who dies early in the film. The Nazi challengers include Paul Freeman, Wolf Kahler, and Ronald Lacey. I never quite understood as a kid why the Nazi element was necessary and especially wondered why Hitler would ever want a religious artifact. However, as a kid what did I care since the movie had action. Indiana Jones, and Harrison Ford, were cool with his hat, whip and leather jacket. It has been 30 years, and because of the special effects near the relative beginning of Industrial Light & Magic the movie still holds true to me. I still give this one 5 Quacks.

June 3: "Anchorman" (2004) Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival (Fridays at 8pm)

Probably the weakest of the three Outdoor Movie Screenings this week, but that isn't really fair because of who the "Anchorman" is being matched up against. You could also say that it is a perfect week for Outdoor Movies with three all time favorites and hope that the weather holds up for us and we can enjoy them all. Will Ferrell is one of the best to ever be on Saturday Night Live (SNL) and his continuation to the big screen has been equally enjoyable. The rest of the cast includes Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Fred Willard, Chris Parnell, Seth Rogan, Fred Armisan and many others. With any of the movies featuring an SNL regular they seem to always find a way to get their friends involved in the film as well. The jokes will probably always be funny and is why I will give the film 3 Quacks. The first lines just seem like the best way to go out...

"There was a time, a time before cable. When the local anchorman reigned supreme. When people believed everything they heard on TV. This was an age when only men were allowed to read the news. And in San Diego, one anchorman was more man then the rest. His name was Ron Burgundy. He was like a god walking amongst mere mortals. He had a voice that could make a wolverine purr and suits so fine they made Sinatra look like a hobo. In other words, Ron Burgundy was the balls."

the DC area Outdoor Movie Scene

Summer is the perfect time to watch movies under the stars. In the DC area we have several options of when/where to watch movies. When the weather agrees with us they are a lot of fun, so grab your friends, some beverages and snacks to enjoy during the movie. This might be the only time that it is okay to Quack during the movie...

The image attached is a schedule I put together for the four major outdoor screenings using the following corresponding key:

C Crystal Screen: By the Numbers (Mondays at 9pm)
M NoMa Summer Screen (Wednesdays at 7pm)
D Capitol Riverfront Front Flicks (Thursdays at 8:45pm)
R Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival (Fridays at 8pm)
The Crystal Screen: By the Numbers will be located near the Crystal City metro at 18th and South Bell Street. The NoMa Summer Screen will be shown in a lot on L St. NE, between 2nd and 3rd streets. The Capitol River Front Flicks can be found at Tingey Plaza located at 100 Tingey Street SE. The Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival is two blocks from the Rosslyn Metro.

Check the blog regularly for weekly movie reviews to help plan your week ahead for outdoor screenings...

June is the unofficial start to this section:

Week 1 - May 30th to June 3rd
Week 2 - June 6th to June 10th

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quacking BetaMax: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Having recently watched a couple movies involving Sam Rockwell (Conviction in 2010 and Moon in2009), and with the hype of Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) featuring Rutger Hauer, I just had to break this one out of the movie bin. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) is absolutely amazing with the story telling of Charlie Koffman, who is also known for Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002), and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004). The film was the directorial debut for George Clooney, and has several cameo appearances that have come to be a signature of anything that George Clooney is involved with. The cameo appearances are almost the same as Ocean's Eleven (2001) including Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. There are a couple other cameos that you might not recognize right away including a young Michael Cera and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Charlie Koffman probably deserved a nomination for his screenplay but with Adaptation coming in the same year the Academy probably played it safe by not nominating him twice. Additionally, Sam Rockwell continues to be one of the most under rated actors as he did a terrific job as the CIA operative that grows nervous of those around him to the point that he even pulls a gun on a comedian behind the curtain during a taping of one of his game shows. A suprise performance comes from Drew Barrymore as the girlfriend to Chuck Barris. So often she takes a roll that has no depth or quality. It was refreshing to see that she can act as well as everyone wants her to. The random appearances from George Clooney in front of the camera was also interesting as it makes you wonder if he was real or just the imagination of Chuck Barris. This certainly helped to contribute to the questioned sanity of Chuck Barris and whether or not he really was working for the CIA.

Overall this is an absolute 4 Quack movie and would be more if it didn't run a bit long for my taste. I suppose that is typical with biographical films trying to tell a full life story, but a couple scenese could have been pulled I figure. Perhaps it was because it was George Clooney's first time directing that this could happen. Regardless I fully recommend this one to everyone that missed it nearly a decade ago.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2

As a kid I enjoyed the Saturday morning cartoons like Bugs Bunny, the Smurfs, and the classics from the USA Cartoon Express (e.g. Grape Ape, Jabberjaw, and the Snorks ). I could keep going, but the list of cartoons I watched as a kid while my Pop made waffles is just too long. Cartoons on TV today just don't compare, so the adults that grew up on the good ones are now making movies.

Since the first Kung Fu Panda (2008) was such a hit, I am not surprised that Kung Fu Panda 2 was made and will probably become the next animated franchise like Shrek. Returning to the mix is Jack Black (Panda), Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Seth Rogan (Mantis), Jackie Chan (Monkey), David Cross (Crane) and Lucy Liu (Viper) combining for the Furious Five and led by Dustin Hoffman (Master Shifu). Joining the cast as the signature villain is Gary Oldman as Lord Shen the evil Peacock.

Not sure why, but a lot of movies lately have found it necessary to develop the background story through the use of an animated clip inserted into the film. What is funny to me is the idea of inserting an animated clip into an animated feature. I know that the first Kung Fu Panda film took this approach and it wasn't a surprise when this one did as well. All of that being said, the writing is clever enough to entertain both the kids and the parents. One of the most interesting lines was when Po the Panda is excited about a new mission and is asking Master Shifu if they are going to defeat some pirates. It most certainly was a nudge at the latest Pirates of the Caribbean. A subtle undertone to the film is that of the relationship between a father and his son. With the film coming out a couple weeks prior to Father's Day will make this a great film for any dads with kids to spend a special day together.

Since so many of the films for kids are painful for the parents to watch, the Kung Fu Panda series is quite refreshing. I will give it 3 Quacks and encourage those to enjoy a bucket of popcorn with your kids. The film will likely get nominated for an award or two as the best animated film, but not enough for me to pump up my rating.

(screening date 5/21/11, release date 5/27/11, location AMC Tysons Corner 16)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beautiful Boy

The words in the trailer give the perfect canvas to draw upon for the film. In a single moment your entire life can change. The hardest part of moving on is letting go, and finding the courage to forgive; to regret; and to love. To comfort those around us in times of need we often use words like hope, heal, trust, hurt, feel, and rebuild. However, it is the word "live" that is the most important. When the emotions of life have gotten the better of us, we forget how to live. This is a film about living. So rarely do you find such a beautiful debut film for a writer/director, but Shawn Ku has done just this with "Beautiful Boy". The decision to use distant camera shots that are then zoomed in provides a layer between the characters and the audience that works in this film as we are invading the private lives during their most difficult times.

The film follows the emotional journey of Bill (Michael Sheen) and wife Kate (Maria Bello) who are coping with the loss of their son from a college shooting incident. The blurred foreground as you peak through a window, or from another room in the house, to see and hear a conversation is perfect as their lives are forever going to be in a fish bowl. We all want to stare and look, but are afraid to get close and truly understand what they are experiencing. The film deals with a topic that is for the most part unfamiliar to all of us. We have seen the unfortunate tragedies of Thurston HS (1998), Columbine HS (1999), and Virginia Tech (2007). However, the emotions of the families are completely foreign.

The supporting roles are quietly powerful with Alan Tudyk (mostly known for his role of Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball) as the brother of Kate, who defends his sister to his own wife when she is acting like "supermom" to her nephew. Then there is Meat Loaf as a hotel manager that says what we all are thinking. However, the best of the supporting cast might be Deidre Henry as the neighbor who quietly delivers the best performance. Her comforting hug to Kate is exactly what you in the audience might want to do.

The film was a winner at the Toronto International Film Festival and will continue to receive the award recognition that it deserves. An early favorite for me and a 5 Quack review. Michael Sheen and Maria Bello should receive some recognition for Best Actor and Best Actress. However of the two it is Maria Bello that really stands out. The script is also worthy of a nomination for tackling such a difficult topic.

(screening date 5/18/11, release date 6/17/11, location Regal Gallery Place)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The film is based on the 1998 graphic novel created by Min-Woo Hyung, PRIEST (Tokyopop), which is described as an intense combination of a horror Western with blazing nonstop action. In the graphic novel, a man walks across the Western frontier batteling fire-breathing demons while he seeks revenge for the death of his loved one.

The movie version of PRIEST, diverges from the graphic novel timeline and events, while expanding upon the concept with fresh ideas. Director Scott Stewart attempts to make up for the failure that was "Legion", which also starred Paul Bettany in a religous themed story. So what about these "fresh ideas". Why must Hollywood make everything involve vampires now? I didn’t know much about the graphic novel that Priest is supposed to be based on, but what I found out from Wikipedia is that it doesn’t involve vampires at all. So why change it, and if you are going to change it should you really include in your cast an actor from Twilight (Cam Gigandet) and someone from True Blood (Stephen Moyer)? I thought that the cast would get a boost from Paul Bettany and Karl Urban, but they are completely flat. Lily Collins, who will be playing Snow White in 2012 for the Brothers Grimm was annoying. The only decent performance was from Maggie Q, but that is being generous because it really is the fight scene she has towards the end of the film that was any good.

Having not read the graphic novels, I cannot comment on whether or not the visual aspects of the film represent the vision of Hyung Min-Woo. What I can say is that the use of 3D in the film is certainly not necessary and fails over and over again. The over stylized, post-apocalyptic, vampire-western where a religious figure wages war to save humanity is grasping in so many directions that the script couldn’t help itself but to suck. The story lacks originality and follows the cliché-riddled ridiculousness we've seen time and time again.

For a script that separated itself so much from the graphic novel, it was insulting that they even attempt to set it up for a sequel in the end. I have gone back and forth on this, but unfortunately this movie falls in the 1 Quack category and will likely receive the Beavtrash award for worst comic book movie.

(screening date 5/12/11, release date 5/13/11, location Regal Gallery Place 14)

Monday, May 9, 2011


Judd Apatow has done it again, but this time from a distance as the producer with long time friend Paul Feig taking the shot at the big screen. Paul Feig is better known as a writer going back to his days with "Freaks and Geeks". With a cast that includes Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph from "Saturday Night Live"; Ellie Kemper from "the Office"; Melissa McCarthy from "Mike & Molly" and "Gilmore Girls"; and Wendi McLendon-Covey from "Rules of Engagement" you know it is going to be funny. You knew what you were going to get from the comedians in the cast, but the wild card was Rose Byrn who was most recently seen in the horror film "Insidious".

The film is being hyped as a female version of "the Hangover" and that could not be further from the truth. "Bridesmaids" is a chick-flick that guys will want to see. The jokes are not from a guy's locker room, but instead the ladies locker room. You wouldn't hear a joke about watching tennis compared to a tampon commercial in "the Hangover", but in "Bridesmaids" it fits perfectly and gets the response intended. However, the signature from Judd Apatow and Paul Feig isn't being forgotten with the food poisoning scene that leads to a lot of gross-out humor.

I think my one big complaint about the movie is the casting, which is awesome. My problem is that I find it a little less believable to see the more mature ladies in their mid/late-30's in these roles. The story is more fitting of a character in their mid/late-20's (e.g. "Something Borrowed"). However, the younger actors couldn't deliver the comedy the way that Kristen Wiig does. In the end it works, but just a small complaint.

Anytime a movie like this is put together with a large ensemble cast, the cameo appearances from friends of the cast are almost as fun to spot. The scenes involving Matt Lucas are hilarious, while everyone will hate the character created by John Hamm. I cannot wait for more of America to know who Matt Lucas is, because he is extremely funny. However, not to be outdone the scene stealer has to go to Melissa McCarthy. I have never watched an episode of "Mike & Molly", but I may have to check it out now.

The story is predictable and at times runs a bit long. Overall the film delivers where it needs to and is my favorite comedy of the year. Even though I will over give it 3 Quacks, I still hope that everyone will go see this one and stick around into the credits for yet another bonus scene (that is entirely not necessary).

(screening date 5/10/11, release date 5/13/11, location AMC Mazza Gallerie)

Monday, May 2, 2011


When the talk of making an Avengers movie began a couple years ago, I had to do some research of what exactly that was going to mean. Would every character from the Avengers get a movie, or just a couple of them? With "Iron Man" (2008) having a cameo from Nick Fury and "Incredible Hulk" (2008) having a cameo from Tony Stark all the pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together. To further titillate the fanboys there was the inclusion of the Captain America Shield and the bonus scene showing the Mjolnir (pronounced MYOL-ner) Hammer of Thor in "Iron Man 2" (2010) that kept the buzz going. Now finally in 2011 we have the next chapter in the series "Thor" and later this summer is "Captain America". But what about Dr. Hank Pym (aka Ant-Man or Giant-Man), the Wasp, or Hawkeye ? Now that I got my geek moment out of the way lets discuss this movie...

"Thor" takes on two stories that while linear come across rather disjointed between present day Earth and the realm of Asgard. At the center of the story is the Mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who is shown early as being an arrogant son and heir to the throne of Asgard held by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). As a warrior, Thor is reckless in his attempts to reignite an ancient war that his father was involved in. Thor is cast down to Earth by his father Odin and is forced to live among humans. The beautiful Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), is a scientist that is on the verge of discovering a wormhole. She is assisted by Darcy (Kat Dennings) who provides a bit of comic relief at times. Thor learns the humility and honor that his father was trying to teach him by being cast out of Asgard. Thor becomes a true hero and is ready to take on the most dangerous villain of his world, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

The screening was in IMAX 3D, but honestly it wasn't necessary. There is really only a couple of times that it was worth the effort, and instead comes across as being a showy attempt. Kenneth Branagh as the director was always an interesting choice and not sure what he added to the film from his Shakespearian background. In fact, I think one could argue that the film only had four acts and was missing the thematic concluding final act that Shakespeare was known for.

For fun I watched some of the 1966 original cartoons of Thor to get my bearings since I never read the comics. A couple things that I found fun were the inclusions of "the rainbow bridge of Asgard" and the reference to Dr. Donald Blake on the shirt that Jane Foster gives him in the movie. There was no transformation or secret identity used in this film (nor should there be). Whenever they showed the rainbow bridge of Asgard the people I was with all got a laugh out of it. It is only referred to as such once, or twice, in the film, but it is clearly a rainbow bridge as the colors change with every step. Some around me compared it to the Rainbow Road from Mario Kart. Further attempts to be true to the comic story included Thor's friends known as the Warriors Three, which failed for me in the film. The joke about them being Jackie Chan, Robin Hood, and Xena was the only redeeming value of their inclusion. Finally, in a rather empty attempt to connect Thor to S.H.I.E.L.D. a conversation is held with Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) where he says they are fighting for the same thing.

The cameo from Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye was not as exciting as I had hoped, and not sure everyone in the audience picked up on it. The cameo from Stan Lee as the truck driver trying to move the magical hammer Mjolnir was fun and everyone in the audience immediately got a laugh out of it.

As with the other films in this series that are leading us to "The Avengers" (2012) you will want to stick around into the credits for yet another awesome bonus scene that is leading us to the culminating moment... "Well, I guess that's worth a look." Overall, the film left me wanting more as it lacked a solid connection to the other films and didn't really point us in a direction of where the Avengers will be going. It is worthy of a viewing by any fans of the genre, but save your money and see it in 2D... 2 Quacks.

(screening date 5/3/11, release date 5/6/11, location Regal Cinemas Majestic Stadium 20 in Silver Spring, MD)

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