Every Single Article Written by Russell - All 140

Killing Them Softly Review: Dying of Boredom

Posted by: on December 1, 2012 at 9:20 am
Killing Them Softly Review:  Dying of Boredom

Pictured: Talking. Not pictured: People being killed softly or otherwise.

Let me start by saying that I absolutely love hard boiled gangster movies; Hollywood has produced far too few in the past decade. So with great anticipation I awaited the release of Killing Them Softly. Andrew Dominik, the brilliant director behind the underrated The Assassination of Jesse James reteaming with Brad Pitt to film a violent gangster flick? And Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini are in the cast? What could go possibly go wrong? Well, the film can be a boring, plodding, goddamn mess for starters. Killing Them Softly is only 97 minutes long, but I feel like I just wasted four hours of my life at the cinema.

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Lincoln Review: The Final Victory of a Great Man

Posted by: on November 24, 2012 at 12:46 pm
Lincoln Review:  The Final Victory of a Great Man

…and the Academy Award for Best Actor goes to Daniel Day-Lewis. Of course.

Making a successful biopic about an accomplished individual is a tricky thing. Most biopics tend to be bloated, self indulgent affairs that span the life of a person from childhood to grave without much emphasis being placed on what made the subject of the film so great in the first place. They tend to be embarrassing Oscar fodder and nothing more. However, a few unquestionably great biopics have emerged over the past decades—Amadeus, Braveheart, Raging Bull, and Steven Spielberg’s own Schindler’s List to name a few—and almost without fail, those movies honed in on a relatively narrow time frame. Instead of adopting a broad unfocused approach to the subject, the filmmakers restricted themselves to giving a detailed, intimate examination of a person during a particular event. In adapting Abraham Lincoln’s life to film, Steven Spielberg chose to focus on the last months of the President’s life instead of indulging in a four hour epic vanity project. The result is probably the greatest biopic on Abraham Lincoln ever put to film.

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Life of Pi Review: Finding God

Posted by: on November 24, 2012 at 8:35 am
Life of Pi Review:  Finding God

A tiger and his boy.

The big movie studios still face a challenge in attempting to convince audiences that 3D is anything more than a fad. Half assed efforts like those from hack director Paul W.S. Anderson, or worse, terrible attempts to post-convert 2D films into 3D, certainly don’t lend the process much legitimacy. And yet there are a few films that show what 3D technology can look like when employed by an expert craftsman—Avatar, Prometheus, and Hugo were all worth seeing in theaters just for the visual spectacle. Those films proved that 3D could be more than a gimmick, that 3D may eventually become as indispensable to the filmmaking process as color cinematography or sound. Ang Lee’s visually striking adaptation of Life of Pi joins this small yet distinguished company. Life of Pi is a poetic, somewhat inert feature that is entirely worth seeing in theaters if just to see how gorgeously Ang Lee employs 3D technology.

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The Comedy Review: Portrait of an Asshole

Posted by: on November 17, 2012 at 11:24 am
The Comedy Review:  Portrait of an Asshole

Their boredom at being in this movie rivals my boredom in being forced to watch it.

Given enough time, any successful comedian will attempt to branch out and do drama. With The Comedy, Tim Heidecker (one-half of the Tim and Eric comedy duo) throws his hat in the dramatic ring. Eric Wareheim is also along for the ride here, too, but he’s given a small supporting role. Given that the comedy of Tim and Eric left us absolutely baffled in the past, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t quite know what to make of their attempt at drama. Is The Comedy actually a merciless satire of shiftless, obnoxious hipsters? Is it supposed to be a sympathetic character study of self-consciously disaffected upper-class snob? Or is it something in between? I occasionally pondered these questions while watching The Comedy, but by the time the movie faded to black, I didn’t care anymore. The Comedy is nothing more than the portrait of an asshole.

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Sleep Tight Review: Hey! A Horror Movie That Isn’t Based on a Found Footage Concept!

Posted by: on November 12, 2012 at 11:01 am
Sleep Tight Review:  Hey!  A Horror Movie That Isn’t Based on a Found Footage Concept!

Warning: This review contains massive spoilers.

In 2007, the directing duo of Juame Balagueró and Paco Plaza made a big splash into the horror scene when they released Rec, the first movie to combine the zombie genre with the found footage genre. They went on to further line their pockets when they released a successful sequel in 2009. But then the co-directors went their separate ways. Paco Plaza proceeded to pull down his trousers and squirt out the hot, slimy piece shit that was [Rec] 3: Genesis, and Juame Balagueró turned his talents toward producing Sleep Tight, a discomforting, creepy little horror gem. The understated brilliance of this movie settles the question of which side of the Rec collaboration contained all of the creative talent.

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Skyfall Review: Destined to Be a Classic

Posted by: on November 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm
Skyfall Review:  Destined to Be a Classic

The Bond movie we’ve been waiting for.

Fifty years after his cinematic debut in Dr. No, James Bond is still alive and kicking. Following the awful Die Another Day and the rise in popularity of the Bourne series a decade ago, the prospects for 007’s continuing dominance of the spy-actioner genre looked bleak. Bond had become too corny, too clichéd, too dated; meanwhile, Bourne was new and sexy and fresh. It’s no wonder that the filmmakers behind the last two films in the Bond series rejected all of the hallmarks of the franchise, favoring instead the gritty, frenetic approach of their competitors. With the Sam Mendes-helmed Skyfall, however, Bond once again embraces all of the hallmarks and symbols that made him so iconic in the first place. Ironically, by firmly embracing the cinematic heritage of Ian Fleming’s secret agent, Mendes and crew have crafted a spy thriller that’s ultimately fresher and more engaging than any action vehicle that’s been released in the past few years. Skyfall isn’t just a great Bond movie, it’s a great action movie, too.

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The Bay Review: Don’t Drink the Water!

Posted by: on November 7, 2012 at 8:24 pm
The Bay Review:  Don’t Drink the Water!

Yes, that’s Kristen Connolly playing a reporter, and yes, that means this is another found footage movie from Oren Peli.

So imagine that it’s the Fourth of July in a little all-American town on the Chesapeake Bay. The people all conform to the stereotypes of apple-pie fed Middle America, being fat, white and complacent in their little American flag t-shirts and patriotic paraphernalia; there are parades, sparklers, eating contests, and dunking booths. The festivities are presided over by a slightly shady mayor, a local entrepreneur who is aggressively pro-business; he’s probably a Republican, but he’s friendly enough. Everything is about as perfect as you could imagine. And then people start puking blood. Entire families begin developing lesions and boils on their arms, backs, and legs. People’s stomachs and faces begin bursting open and cockroaches the size of tennis balls crawl out. That sounds like one hell of a Fourth of July celebration, but it also happens to describe the new ecological horror flick from director Barry Levinson.

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The Man with the Iron Fists: Needs Less Talking And More Punching

Posted by: on November 3, 2012 at 7:55 pm
The Man with the Iron Fists:  Needs Less Talking And More Punching

Yes, that’s RZA punching a man so hard his eyeball flew out of his head. This movie needed more of that.

Well, I think we all knew this was coming: RZA, co-founder of the legendary rap outfit, the Wu-Tang Clan, has produced, directed, co-written, starred in, and composed the soundtrack for a martial arts movie. You can’t say we weren’t warned. First he began acting in offbeat movies like Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Coffee and Cigarettes, then he united with Quentin Tarantino to compose the soundtrack for Kill Bill. Given the fact that he named his rap group after an old Kung Fu movie, it was only a matter of time before the man directed a martial arts flick himself. So how is The Man with the Iron Fists? Oh, it’s terrible. Not even so bad it’s good. Don’t be fooled by Quentin Tarantino’s name being plastered all over the movie, Tarantino had nothing to do with this one.

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Wreck-It Ralph Review: The First Good Video Game Movie Ever Made

Posted by: on November 3, 2012 at 10:47 am
Wreck-It Ralph Review:  The First Good Video Game Movie Ever Made

It’s like a Pixar movie, except not by Pixar.

Well, director Rich Moore, whose credentials include a number of Futurama and golden age Simpsons episodes but no feature length films, has accomplished the seemingly impossible: He has directed a video game movie doesn’t make me want to slit my wrists. Yeah, Mr. Moore and the folks at Disney have kind of cheated—they made a movie about video games instead of adapting a particular video particular video game—but after decades of outright awful video game adaptations coming from hacks like Uwe Boll and Paul W.S. Anderson, I’ll take what I can get. Wreck-It Ralph may not be an actual video game, but the movie itself treats gaming culture with fondness and respect, which is more than any other Hollywood film has done up to this point. If Moore can make a fun movie about a non-existent game, then there’s still hope that someone will one day adapt a real video game into a great movie.

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Cloud Atlas Review: The Most Ambitious Mainstream Film in Recent Memory

Posted by: on October 26, 2012 at 9:40 pm
Cloud Atlas Review:  The Most Ambitious Mainstream Film in Recent Memory

Pictured: the future. Also, Tom Hanks and Halle Berry

The last time the Wachowski siblings directed a good movie, Bill Clinton was in the White House and Lana Wachowski was a man. Now along comes Cloud Atlas, the duo’s most ambitious film to date and a fine film in its own right. Well, at least I think it’s a fine movie. Cloud Atlas will likely divide movie goers into two camps: those who think it’s a top notch piece of scifi entertainment and those who think it’s a silly piece of new age bullshit. I currently find myself in the former category, but I can see why others could be turned off by it. Cloud Atlas is the kind of movie you’ll either love or you’ll hate.

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