Safety Not Guaranteed – An unexpected surprise of a movie – directed by Colin Trevorrow

I will freely admit that I decided to check this movie out for one reason and one reason only, and that is Aubrey Plaza. I have had a couple of girl friends in my life, most of them that I absolutely adored, that were pretty much the spittin’ image of Aubrey Plaza in their cynicism, dark sense of humor, and general hatred for humanity. I don’t know if Aubrey is like this in real life, but man, if she is a shiny and bubbly person and the exact opposite of the characters she portrays in movies like this or shows like Parks and Recreation, then she is our best living actress. Because she plays these roles perfectly. Safety Not Guaranteed is an odd little movie, one that is frankly a little hard to review, and even harder to pinpoint or classify. Aside from my fairly ridiculous crush on Aubrey Plaza though, this is definitely a movie worth your attention, because, and yes I realize I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but, they don’t let many movies like this out anymore, it’s different, and different is good – wasn’t that a slogan for Arby’s years ago? Man, Arby’s sucks. Good slogan they had, though.

So this movie is essentially the tale of these two kids, and yeah, that is Mark Duplass from The League, and you can’t see it there, but dude is rockin’ a KILLER mullet through most of this movie. I mean a BOSS one. Which fits his personality here, because the movie is centered around three cynical and jaded reporters – two of em interns (played by Plaza and some Indian kid that doesn’t do a whole lot), with their “boss” being Nick from New Girl, Jake Johnson, who find an interesting want ad, that was actually based off of a real ad from the 1990s. It basically sounds like it was written by a lunatic, and apparently provided a lot of fun for those zany innernets meme kids a while back, but this is it, word for word – Obviously a cynical, or hell, any sane person would be greatly amused by this, and maybe even tempted to contact this guy – especially if you have your own sword, or flamethrower or what have you. So the trip to scope this guy out is on, and that’s where we get our premise. Obviously the director of this movie, who I had never heard of because he had only directed a tv movie or two before this one, was always amused by this and wanted to take it further by making a full fledged movie out of the whole deal. The good news is that it mostly works, but the bad news is that while its a pretty original idea, we still fall into a lot of the “indie movie” pitfalls that could almost classify this movie as “indie movie fluff”, but thankfully it’s the performances from Plaza and Duplass that save this movie from being thrown in the garbage.

So Duplass plays the resident weirdo, mullet and 80’s bandana and all, and damn if he doesn’t play it well. Whereas Plaza’s performance isn’t far off at all from April from Parks and Recreation, this is a big departure from Duplass’ character on The League, in fact this guy doesn’t have much of a sense of humor at all. A big part of this movie is, of course, whether this guy is actually on the level or just a whackjob, but right from the start we can tell that Darius (Plaza’s incredibly oddly named character – director a big fan of Hootie or somethin? Must really love the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch? Click on that link, please, please do it) is intrigued by him, which is really saying something for her, because she isn’t intrigued by much of anything. But much like the idea that he might be crazy, we aren’t really sure if she is genuinely interested or just wants to have a good laugh, which is all Jeff (Johnson) is here for. This is why the movie works in it’s first 45 minutes or so.

And the reason we stick around, well, why females would stick around, because I’m pretty sure that picture is about all any guy needs to see to want to watch this movie, but anyways, we stick around for the latter half for what the movie becomes – and that is a movie about lonely people who just want to connect with someone. Simple, maybe cliched, right? But who cares, aren’t we all lonely, aren’t we all just seemingly drifting sometimes, and we want to connect with that one person that seems to understand us? Darius – I’m just gonna call her Hootie from now, cool? Ok, cool. So, Hootie and Ken (Duplass) connect because Ken is most assuredly a lonely person, someone who may or may not be building a time machine obviously has a lot of ideas kicking around in his head and doesn’t have time for things like “friends”, and Hootie just wants to find something interesting in this boring life of hers. However, what works almost as well as this main story between these two is the side story about Jeff, who is quite a bit older than Hootie, and his similar story about time travel, except his doesn’t involve a machine. He goes on this assignment for selfish reasons, to meet a girl that he hooked up with when he was 18. He still thinks about her, he tells his cronies, because she was hot. He even creepily keeps her pictures in his wallet. Well, when he finds her, she of course isn’t the smokin’ hottie that he remembers, but something quite different. However, since she occupied his mind so much and he is actually probably the MOST lonely person in this movie (perhaps that a testament to how well Johnson plays these characters – because his character isn’t a stretch from Nick on New Girl at all), he goes through with it anyways – and I won’t spoil anything about the scenes between him and his high school girlfriend, but they are quite touching, unexpected, and even sweet. Which was NOT what I expected from this character from the start, at all.

I won’t spoil anything else for you, because if you are into this sort of indie film, you should check it out. But like I said from the start, this movie is NOT what I expected. I expected some lighthearted banter about how much society sucks, a few laughs, maybe a love story I wouldn’t quite buy into but I enjoyed myself anyways. This movie doesn’t have many laughs, and Duplass’ character is pretty much all business. And the ending is fantastic, I know once again that I often say an ending makes a movie for me, but I mean, its true, man. The ending to this one is brilliant, and just as unexpected as the entire movie was – or maybe you saw it coming, I really didn’t. I knew how I wanted it to end, and this movie didn’t disappoint at all. This isn’t a perfect movie by any stretch, like I said, it probably wouldn’t work in the hands of lesser actors. But Plaza has been one to watch since one of her first appearances, the movie Funny People, where she was nearly the most memorable person in that movie – and not just cuz she was pretty, either. Her facial expressions, much like Keira Knightley, are really what help her steal the scenes she is in. Particularly the later scenes where she truly is intrigued by this strange little man. And Duplass has already directed a couple of great movies and is almost always good in anything he’s in, so this movie is memorable because of them, not because it’s going to blow your mind. But it IS a different kind of experience, and we can always use a little indie movie here and there right, even if it does have some of those “indie movie fluff” cliches in it.

 

The verdict –

Skyfall – Here it is everyone, the best movie of 2012! – Directed by Sam Mendes

Alright, so this is it, the best movie of 2012. Some people that know me well would say cmon dude, you were saying this for months in advance, that it was probably going to be the movie of the year for you. And actually, that was a strike AGAINST this movie. I had HUGE expectations for this, I EXPECTED it to blow my mind, to be in the upper echelon of best action movies, no, best movies EVER for me. That’s a lot of pressure for this little James Bond flick. I have had high expectations for many movies this year, and those expectations have fallen QUITE flat – I’m looking at you, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Brave, Lawless, Sinister – and I’m sure there’s been many more disappointments, those were just off the top of my head. Skyfall delivered on every expectation and then some, and that is truly impressive. In fact, this movie was even BETTER than I expected it to be, and I already figured it would be the best movie of the year. Let me tell you why.

This movie is an action movie that other action movies will be judged against for years to come. In fact I even hesitate to call this an “action” movie, because I don’t like pigeonholing a movie as great as this one into one category, it simply transcends the “action” genre of movies. It’s an “action” movie in the sense that 500 Days of Summer is a “romantic comedy”. You can’t put labels on excellent movies like this. In the first place, this is a new step for a James Bond movie. It can be argued that all of the Daniel Craig Bond movies (well, ‘cept maybe Quantum of Solace, but I loved that one anyways…) are a step into a new dimension of James Bond movies, but man, this one is just so much…better than any Bond movie that has come before it. I’ll admit that I have been partially obsessed with the Bond franchise since seeing this movie three times – I even felt like I needed to see this movie three times before I could review it, actually. Why? Because it’s DEEP man. It has a lot of themes, a lot of character development, which is most often unheard of in a Bond movie, particularly any from the past 20 years or so before Casino Royale turned those old ideas on their head, and it is Skyfall that truly perfects the changeover, the “new guard” of Bond movies. I’ve watched nearly all of the previous ones, and yeah, I love them, but for far different reasons than this movie – they are mindless, escapist fun. They are pretty much the ultimate popcorn movie, it doesn’t get much better than a classic Bond film for escapist entertainment. But this movie approaches the level of such cinematic masterpieces as The Dark Knight and even, I can’t believe that I’m saying this but, possibly THE masterpiece of the “action” genre, were it to be pigeonholed as well, and that is, The Empire Strikes Back.

The reasons for this are…well, there’s a hell of a lot of them. But one of the main ones is, like I said before, it sets out to do something far different than any movie in the series has done before it. The Dark Knight and indeed that whole trilogy took Batman in an entirely new direction, and this one takes James Bond in a different direction, but still, and amazingly, manages to stick to some of the old tropes and gadgets and whoseewhatsits that make it a Bond movie as well. It takes a true master craftsman of a director to pull something like that off, and that’s good, because Sam Mendes is exactly that. Just click on his name there, do it. He hasn’t directed a bad movie, and they run the gamut from straight on family drama (Away We Go, American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) to gangster flick (Road to Perdition) to something like this, which is pretty much an amalgam of both. Wait! Family drama in a James Bond movie?! One may be inclined to yell at me. But yep, it’s in there. You see, because at it’s heart, this movie is just about the relationship between M and James Bond.

The always fantastic Judi Dench reprises her role as M for the 656th time here, and it is this time that she is truly given the chance to shine in the role, as well as show us just how great of an actress she has always been. M has always been a bitch with somewhat of a soft spot for James Bond, who perhaps she has always viewed as a surrogate son. She isn’t the best mother figure at all, in fact their relationship has always been dysfunctional, but this movie explores it far more than any Bond movie before it has dared to. The banter between them is always great for some comic relief, and the scenes where the two of them are shown dealing with the others who question whether they are up to snuff anymore, whether or not they are “getting too old for this s***”, are excellent, and show us something that we might have known already, but it’s there anyways here right in front of us – these two are very similar people. They are old dogs in a new war, and even they themselves question whether they are relevant anymore. By the end of the movie I can assure you that that answer is a resounding “yes, of course they are, stupid”, but how this movie plays with even the idea of that shows that it is a very different Bond movie than anything that has come before it, and really just so much more than that.

And, just like The Dark Knight and Empire Strikes Back, movies like this, of that whole “action” genre, do not work unless they have an excellent villain. And this movie gives us THE best on screen villain since Heath Ledger’s masterful portrayal of The Joker. I’m pretty sure that no one will ever top that performance again, I don’t think it can be done, but damn if Javier Bardem doesn’t give it his best shot at dethroning the champ with his portrayal of Silva here. This guy is a flat on, balls out lunatic. Just like The Joker, except man, he walks that fine line between being too over the top and scary as hell, and you will absolutely take notice of him every time he is on the screen. He also gets an award for “Best introduction ever” with his first five minutes walking up to James Bond. You don’t even see this guy for the first hour of the movie, but it doesn’t matter. He steals every single scene he is in, he is an absolute lunatic, and you will have a blast watching what he does with the role. Bardem is no stranger to playing bad guys of course, and he nails this performance just like he did in No Country For Old Men, but in such a different way. His obsession with M, how James Bond could easily become him had he fallen to the dark side (see what I did there, a Star Wars reference after mentioning it at the beginning? Master’s Degree at work there buddy, that’s how you DO IT), everything about this sadistic villain, is top notch. You are likely to not see a better on screen villain for a long time, and his performance is just icing on the cake to this near perfect movie.

What else do I need to say about this movie really? Oh, the Bond girls. Yes, they are in this one, just like any other Bond movie, however, and this started with Casino Royale as well, which featured the BEST Bond girl there probably ever will be, played by the insanely gorgeous Eva Green, but these women are more his equals than ever before. They aren’t just helpless damsels in distress to fill up the screen with eye candy (although Berenice Marlohe certainly DOES do that in nearly every scene she is in – save for a tragic application of ENTIRELY too much makeup when she is seen in the casino with Bond), they serve a purpose, and while Sererine (Marlohe) is in a fair bit of trouble when she meets Bond, her (albeit entirely too brief) time with him is on par with how women are treated in this new generation of Bond flicks, which is to say, quite well. We have to have a beautiful Bond girl or three, to keep with tradition, but again how this movie manages to differentiate from the others before it is that one of those Bond girls happens to come with a great twist at the end – and her reveal is excellent to any of those who grew up with the Bond movies like I did.

Alright, I was worried I would ramble on this one because I loved the movie so much, and we are getting into ramble zone. Two last things – another constant with the Bond movies is the opening credits and the song, which is often hit (Live and Let Die) or miss (Die Another Day, Goldeneye, Licence to Kill, etc.)…ok, so mostly miss. Well, the title track here is in excellent hands, with Adele singing about Skyfall. I got chills just from the opening credits and when the title popped up, which can only be described as epic. Speaking of epic, that is what this movie is – it is full of some dark things, some unexpected things, some things that hurt, it, like Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight, is a low point in its respective series. That isn’t a knock against it at all, in fact, from someone as cynical as me, it is the highest compliment. That means that after this one, with its new beginnings, we have nowhere to go but up. I am pretty much positive however, that the next Bond movie simply CANNOT be as good as this one. They would have to absolutely pull out all of the stops to manage something like that, because this movie is incredible. I will think about the first time I saw this movie years from now, it changed my perspective on what an action movie can be, much like The Dark Knight did the first time I saw it. It is the best film of the year and I highly doubt it will even have another contender for me, and it is also one of my favorite movies of all time now as well. Four stars, I’d give it five if I could. It is a masterpiece of the action genre that will be talked about and compared to for years after, and I’m not the only one to say this either – go check rotten tomatoes and read (lesser) critics’ reviews as well. But before you do that, for gods sake, go see this movie. Even if you aren’t a James Bond fan (I’ve sent five people to this movie who weren’t, all came back loving it), just check it out, no better place to start than now.

 

The verdict –

 

Flight – A fantastic character study of just a…just a MEAN person! – Directed by Robert Zemeckis

So here is a bird of a different feather, as far as popular movies go these days. Oh MAN, I hit you with a pun on the first SENTENCE this time, see what I did there? I didn’t even plan that out! Get it, Flight, birds? GOD I am clever. I will tell you right off the bat that this movie was almost 100% NOT what I expected it to be. In a (mostly) good way here, so it’s ok. But, wow. Robert Zemeckis WAS a good director, I guess – he’s mostly known for Forrest Gump, a movie I do NOT like and find to be highly overrated – and also for Cast Away (you know, that one with the beach ball named Tom Hanks, or Wilson or Spalding or something), but he sort of lost his mind and went out to lunch for this new millenium, and directed not one, not two, but THREE computer animated movies, that all pretty much sucked. Two of em were about Christmas, because yeah, god knows we need more of THOSE movies. So yeah, he lost his mind and must have really, REALLY liked watching fancy animated pictures move for the first ten years of the 2000s. With Flight, he decided to come back to reality, and hoo man, did he ever do it with a VENGEANCE.

Let’s start this right off, real propa like – this movie is NOT for the kids. Leave em at home, even if your ten year old has a crush on Denzel Washington because of…wait, does he even play in any movies that are for kids? Oh yeah, Remember the Titans! Or that one where kids debated that I never watched because, well, it was about a debate team. Well anyways, if one of your kiddies has a crush on Denzel Washington because well, he’s freaking Denzel Washington, arguably (and I’m willing to argue with anyone who wants to about this) our best living actor, tell em to wait a few years. This one has it all – a completely naked woman within the first five minutes, a fair bit of coke snortin’, lots of boozin’, and generally just bad behavior. He even befriends a junkie girl in the hospital, it really has it all except for people’s head’s getting chopped off…so that’s something at least. But seriously, this movie is a very hard R, and that frankly surprised me. This movie came out left field for me, maybe just because I was used to Zemeckis making essentially kiddy fare, or just because he simply wasn’t capable of making something this…deep? Yeah, thats cliche, but seriously, this movie IS man, it just IS.

There, that’s his junkie pal right there, played by the excellent Kelly Reilly, who proves that she is far better than the mostly unknown movies and tv shows she was cast in before this movie. She’s great, she doesn’t steal the show from Denzel, because jesus, who ever could? But she plays a great addition, a kindred soul if you will, someone just as damaged as Washington’s character is, except in a different way is all. This movie shows that there are all kinds of ways to fall in life, and sometimes you can even do it and convince everyone – even yourself – that you are a hero still. An impressive feat for anyone to pull off, and an an incredibly difficult task for an actor to try and make us buy into on screen – but guess what, no surprise here, Denzel nails the performance. I’m not sure if this is THE best performance of the year, I’ll give you the final verdict after I see Lincoln, The Sessions and a couple others by the end of the year – but no matter what, this is another Oscar nod for Washington at the least. It’s truly incredible what he pulls off here.

So I’m sure you are yelling by now, but dude, what the hell is it ABOUT man, WHY does he nail such a good performance?! To which I say, keep your pants on, I’m getting to it. So Washington plays Whip Whitaker, who even has a hero’s name, and he is basically the standard issue veteran pilot who has SEEN SOME s*** man, SEEN SOME S***. He gets on his plane, a little high, a little drunk from having a late night being adults session with the flight attendant on his crew, Katerina (played by the underutilized Nadine Valazquez) but hey, thats nbd he’s done this drunk and high a hundred times before, maybe even a thousand. Well, as the previews will tell you, things up in the air hit a bit of a, bit of a snag if you will, perhaps one could call it a kerfuffle of sorts. Smidge a trouble. And in an absolutely terrifying, riveting, make-you-nervous scene, up there with the best that Argo threw you at you, he somehow manages to land it in a field, and only a couple people die. No one else could have done that. Don Cheadle’s lawyer character even tells him (and us) so later in the movie. So, he’s a hero, right? The movie is about him getting all the fame and accolade and being awesome and things are all hunky dory for him, right? Of course not. He’s a drunk, and a pretty bad one. They find two bottles of vodka in the trash can, and there wasn’t any booze served on the flight, could have only been him or one of the crew. He’s facing losing his license, never flying again, jailtime, the whole nine yards.

So what does someone with his track record do? Well, disappear of course. Get away from society, much like he has done most of his life through drink anyways. Certainly used it to get away from his wife and kid, not to mention most of his friends, including someone he used to fly with in the military, played by Bruce Greenwood. Who really WANTS to like Whip, but damn if he doesn’t make it difficult for EVERYONE. This is why this movie impressed, and was also NOT what I expected – Whip is not a likeable guy. Like, really at all. You want to like him, I guess, but I’m not ashamed to say I never really did. And that’s the true brilliance of this movie, as well as a testament to Washington’s acting chops – he can play an incredibly unlikeable character, a bad guy even, and yet, you still love the movie. Of course to anyone that follows Washington’s career (and you SHOULD be, if you aren’t) this will remind you of Training Day, he won an Oscar for that one after all. My personal favorite, and the one I feel he should have won an Oscar for is Man on Fire, but I realize I’m more in the minority there and that that one is more of a guilty pleasure than an actual excellent movie like this or Training Day is. But rest assured this IS an excellent movie.

I’m not going to elaborate much more, I don’t think I need to, because like I said from the start with my awesome awesome pun, this movie is a different fig, it is not what you expect, it will sort of pull the rug out from under you. Particularly some of the ending scenes, the last 20 minutes or so, you may even have your jaw open in disbelief. I have to mention the always wonderful and always scene-stealing John Goodman here, because man, they should just hand that guy Oscars every year for best supporting actor. Just like in Argo, he steals every scene he is in this movie too. Just put him in every movie as a goofy sidekick or the comic relief and you’ve probably got yourself a fine movie, he’s that good. I suppose he is perhaps the greatest supporting actor to contrast with Washington being the greatest lead actor. He plays a part in the incredible last scenes, ones that in a lesser movie, you’d be tempted to get up and leave because it borders on the preposterous. But with this one, you want to stick around, because dammit it all, you want this guy to be good…right? I won’t ruin anything for you of course, but I will tell you that the ending coincides with what you will probably expect with this movie after your two hour ride is over. And what a ride it is…a FLIGHT if you will! Oh SNAP, ended with a pun too! But in all seriousness, the title of this movie applies to MUCH more than just flying, although it’s flying in a different way…ok, I’ll stop being cryptic and give you the verdict, which is that, this isn’t the best movie of the year, but damn if it doesn’t have one of the best, if not THE best, performances of the year.

 

The Verdict –

Argo – probably the most intense time you will have at the movie theater all year – directed by Ben Affleck

Alright, so let’s get this right out of the way first – I don’t want to like Ben Affleck. I really, really don’t. I’ve never thought he was much of a good actor (Gigli, Paycheck, Jersey Girl anyone? No? Didn’t think so), and I was pretty much of the opinion that he rode Matt Damon’s coattails to success after the excellent Good Will Hunting, which is, even still to this day, probably the best thing he’s ever been a part of. I actually think that this video right here best represents my opinion of Ben Affleck as an actor/writer…but dammit, I think I have to grudgingly accept the fact that the man has found his true calling as a director. Who knew, amiright? Maybe he laid off the pot, cocaine, and pointing at random people at parties and saying “ok, I think YOU are the guy who’s gonna get me drugs tonight!” (Yes, I know a true story about Ben Affleck from someone who met him once, and that’s what he said to him – true celebrity status right there, I know) and decided to make something of his life. Argo is an incredibly intense, excellently acted (*sigh*, even a good performance from Affleck, I GUESS), thrill ride of a movie. I’ll even drop a cliche bomb on you up in hea and say that it’s like a roller coaster of a movie. You will be riveted, you will be on the edge of your seat. It is that good. I still contend that Gone Baby Gone is the best movie he has directed and probably always will be (he even co-wrote that one too, s*** I guess I HAVE to like him now…) – quite possibly since he isn’t even in it, his much more talented brother is, in fact turn off my review right now and go rent that first before you see Argo, but still, this movie is great, and not like most of the things you will see in theaters these days – aren’t most of the movies I review on here in that category anyways?

The first thing I want to talk about this time is the supporting cast, cuz man, did Affleck pull out all the stops for this one, it has some of the best names, the always greats, in this one – you got Bryan Cranston, Walter White himself, as Affleck’s passionate boss, you got John Goodman (man, remember King Ralph?! Total classic) and Alan Arkin stealing every single scene they are in, playing the producers of the fake movie that Affleck’s character Tony needs to make in order to rescue these hostages from the absolutely insane country of Iran in 1979. I’m pretty sure Iran is more or less always insane, but JESUS, if there was ever a movie to show that you should never, EVER, EVER go to Iran, or you will DIE, it is this movie. But I digress. Even the people he is trying to get out – essentially played by some unknowns except for Tate Donovan – who can forget the voice of Hercules, after all – all nail their roles and really bring you into the movie.

So then, just what exactly the hell is this movie about, you may be asking. Well, honestly, this movie pretty much writes itself. I’m not even sure how hard the writer Chris Terrio had to work on the script, because, man, this story was MADE to be told in a movie. This is the tale of six members of an American embassy who are trapped in Iran when they escape to the Canadian embassy there after the s*** hits the proverbial fan and all hells breaks loose at their embassy at the beginning of the movie. This is due to us zany ol’ Americans deciding that that fine chap Ayatollah – don’t worry that isn’t a wikipedia link and he’s MOST ASSUREDLY not on imdb though I’m sure he’d have played a fine supervillain since he WAS one in real life – who was dying of cancer, should be extradited to the US and held there to be tried for his crimes. Admittedly, our faces were a little red here, I know, insane that the US would butt their noses in something that probably wasn’t our business, we’ve certainly NEVER done that ever, right? So it was our bad doing this, we should have thrown this psychopath to the wolves in Iran, who didn’t like him none too much on account of him killing lots of their brethren and babies n such, this type of activity is usually frowned upon. So, since we effed up, Iranians are a tad pissed, decide to storm our embassy. Now, I’m not entirely sure how all of this REALLY went down, but this is the opening of this movie, and it is INCREDIBLY intense. I mean like, you WILL be nervous, you will not know what to expect. This is a testament to…*sigh*…to Ben Affleck’s directing prowess, because it is filmed in a harrowing fashion and honestly you won’t even be sure whether ANYONE is going to make it out of alive in this mess, let alone the six that eventually do. It is crazy, and honestly I don’t think I’ve been that nervous in the theater since arguably the most claustrophobic scene ever filmed at about the midway point of the brilliant Punch Drunk Love.

So it is Affleck’s characters’ – sporting some BOSS facial hair and chops in this movie, as you can see – who plays a CIA operative who specializes in these sorts of rescue dealies, job to get these people out. There are some hilarious scenes reflecting the ineptitude of our government leading up to Affleck’s arguably shaky idea, one in particular that has them cooking up an idea to rescue them with BIKES that they can ride all throughout Iran to be rescued eventually (“and hopefully we’ll be waiting at the border with Gatorade…” quips Affleck), until this idea of a fake movie has some merit. Tony’s kid is the maguffin here – he dreams up the idea of making a sci-fi movie since they were all the rage in 1979 (Star Wars HAD just came out, after all…) when he is watching Planet of the Apes with his kid on the phone. We don’t care about his family and we never need to, it isn’t the focus of the movie. I suppose we all need to have something to root for the hero, something he can come home to, but this movie is so good that that extra filler isn’t necessary. The kid only serves the purpose of giving Affleck the idea.

It is here where he meets scene stealers John Goodman and Alan Arkin, who gives by far and away his best performance since Little Miss Sunshine, maybe even better than that. Wait…has he BEEN in anything since that movie?! Eh, who cares, he rules. He has laugh out loud funny lines all throughout, including one that I can’t print here that could almost be the tagline for the movie, and him and Goodman add much needed comic relief to an incredibly intense movie. They are probably the best parts of the movie aside from the story itself, and with their help the movie idea is off and running. I don’t need to explain much more of the plot, you just have to see it for yourself. But the fact that this is based on a true story, which of course means that some liberties were taken to entertain us, but damn, if most of this is true, then this is one of the most incredible stories the CIA has ever been a part of.

  I will go on record and say that the last twenty minutes or so of this movie are probably the most intense I’ve ever seen on film. Yeah, I went there. My best friend watched this after I HIGHLY recommended it to her and she was texting me (she watched it at home people, don’t worry, she wasn’t one of THOSE people…) during these last few moments saying “I can’t take it, omg what is gonna happen?!” and she was riveted the entire time. You will be too. This movie deserves all the praise it is receiving and is most assuredly one of the best of the year, I’d imagine it might end up with an Oscar for the writer here although maybe thats unfair because like I said, this story pretty much wrote itself. But it is incredible, intense, well acted, and provides just enough comic relief to take you out of the tension at crucial moments. It is worth the price of admission just for the last 20 minutes alone. Go see it immediately.

 

The verdict –

 

 

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – an EXTREMELY underappreciated gem of a movie that no one saw – directed by Lorene Scafaria

This movie should have made a hundred million dollars. The sheer travesty, the injustice of the fact that it was only in theaters for about two weeks TOPS and therefore no one at all got to see it really pisses me off. I’ve already ranted about movies that make it and get over hyped in Hollywood enough in my last review, so I’ll try to keep my whining to a minimum this time, but, MAN, just, this movie should still be being talked about, and should be all over your TV set being advertised. You should be sick of hearing about it already, and should have said “OK! F*** I’ll go rent it, LEAVE ME ALONE TV GODS!” Instead we get more 3D movies like Silent Hill (which I’m pretty sure I”d like, but I still doubt its a great movie) and Paranormal Activity 5….THOUSAND crammed down our pieholes and this movie gets left behind – I couldn’t even find this movie to buy at a couple places for Gods sake!

But enough ranting – I think its obvious WHY I’m ranting, and it’s because, this movie is incredible. Here is a movie that set out to do something different, a different take on the end of the world genre of films (for one, there aren’t any zombies – SURPRISE! right?!), and yet, a story that we are all pretty familiar with and can relate to. It takes a special talent to bring a subject as dark as the end of the world and somehow blend it together with a nice little romance that doesn’t feel trite or forced. And Lorene Scafaria, aside from having a pretty cool name, has done just that. Apparently, and sadly, she wrote the god awful Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist back in 2008, a movie so bad that I don’t even need to link it because you are better off not knowing it exists, but she has learned from quite a few of the mistakes she made in that movie – not quite all of them, because this movie DOES have it’s cliches and sometimes it falls back on some of the same crap we see in nearly any romantic comedy, BUT, you probably won’t care simply because of the strength of the actors – and while this movie is most assuredly a post apocalyptic one, sometimes you almost forget that because the main focus is on two characters, a boy and a girl, I guess – though the age difference is somewhat jarring, I’ll admit.

The uh…”boy” I guess, is played by the pretty much always great Steve Carell. You usually can’t go wrong casting this guy in your movie – yes, he’s well known for the “funny man” due to his years on The Office, but he is also more than capable of playing the depressed loner (Little Miss Sunshine) or the goofy guy you probably would want to be friends with that still has marriage and love issues just like the rest of us, no matter how fun he appears on the outside (Crazy Stupid Love). He’s even made mostly bad movies quite a bit better than they probably had any right to be just by being in them (Dinner For Schmucks, Date Night, Dan in Real Life) – so basically the argument is, guy is a special talent. Chances are I’ll probably check a movie out if he’s in it. And this movie has him playing a bit of a cross between the sad, suicidal lonely man from Little Miss Sunshine and the goofy, loveable guy from Crazy Stupid Love/The Office. I wouldn’t say this role is anything like a big stretch for him, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fantastic. He plays the depressed man whose wife has just left him three weeks before the world is set to be hit by a giant freaking meteor incredibly well, you might not feel for him at first, but by the end rest assured you will.

Then there is his equal, the also pretty much always great Keira Knightley who we haven’t seen in too many movies lately. Usually known for making those period piece dealies, she steps out of her comfort zone a bit for this one, but absolutely knocks it out of the park here. My friend even made a comment while she was on the phone in the movie, really just talking to no one on the other end if you actually take yourself out of the movie for a minute and think about how they work, and you buy everything she says. Her tears are real when you see her cry in this movie (and you will, a few times – I mentioned that this IS about the end of the world, right?!), and you will feel for her. I also want to go on record that I think she has the best laugh in the movies today…something infectious about it that has you smiling too. I’ve thought this all the way back since Love Actually (another wonderful movie, by the way), actually, hey cool I just used the word actually twice in a row and it makes sense – Masters Degree on full display tonight people! But anyways – she is spot on in this role, and sure, her quirkiness and overall optimism about life is maybe a little TOO much of a perfect antithesis to Carell’s character, but hey c’mon, we ARE watching a movie after all, you gotta suspend your disbelief a bit to enjoy what we are seeing – and you gladly and willingly will, especially at about the halfway point of this movie, which sees them both in the slammer for a bit (you know, jail, to you people who don’t readily embrace terms said by old men in the 40’s for a couple of years – the clink, the can, the hole, what have you) – don’t worry I’m not spoiling anything for you, just know that this is a special scene and one that showcases the acting chops of BOTH of these great actors.

There are also some excellent cameos at the beginning of the movie as well, which features an absolutely insane and hey, fitting, end of the world party held by some of Carell’s friends – Rob Corddry, a master scene stealer (well…’cept for in Hot Tub Time Machine…), Patton Oswalt in what is arguably the funniest two minutes of the movie, Martin Sheen, and a few other interesting cameos show up here – but the movie rather quickly switches its focus to tell the story of these two. And these two fit so well, like I said almost TOO well – but their journey is a great one. Carell’s character receives a letter from his high school sweetheart, the one who got away, and since his wife has left him, he decides why the hell not, let’s road trip it up and Penny (Knightley) ends up with him because after she essentially barges into his apartment a ball of emotion (and shes pretty), he has no choice but to be her friend and wants to save her when the true rioting begins about two weeks before the world is set to end. Yes, the letter is a maguffin. No, we don’t care. The journey is one that has the two of them question their lives, of course – what the hell else are you going to do when you know the world is ending? It will also make YOU think – about what you would want to do if you knew it was all over in two weeks, who you would want to spend it with, what exactly you would do. Of course it can be argued that any movie about the end of the world does that, sure. But this one is a different fig entirely, and really just a shining example of how yes, we see a lot of post apocalyptic things these days, its a common, generalized fear anymore and movies, video games, books, they all take advantage of that. But this one does it entirely different than the others before it have.

I don’t think I need to tell you that I loved this movie, I think I’ve established that. It has a lot, I mean MANY subtle little nuances about it too, some truly nice touches, so many I noticed that I’m absolutely positive I didn’t see them all in one viewing – and might not in five viewings. Some of these nuances are very touching – one in particular made me tear up almost right away. It’s brilliant stuff. It also has a lot of wonderful lines – usually delivered by Carell, who I think I could just relate to more because I myself am a huge cynic just as he is in this, but that doesn’t mean Knightley doesn’t shine in some of her scenes, especially the ones where the director focuses on her face (she has such an expressive face, it’s a big part of her charm as an actress), she absolutely does. This is a wonderful movie. As might be realized by now, an ending can make or break a movie for me, I was texting with a friend and said “this could very well be the best movie of the year depending on what they do with the ending” and I’m not ruining anything in saying that it ends like it should, this IS about the end of the world after all people. Not everything is happy, nor should it be. The ending is near perfect, and the only thing keeping this from me saying that it IS the best movie of 2012 so far for me is some of those damnable cliches that kept popping up in my head after I watched it, little jarring things that took me out of the movie. But that isn’t to say that this movie isn’t incredible, it absolutely is. Go BUY this movie, do not rent it, don’t spend $56 to rent it for two hours on demand, go BUY it. It didn’t make the money nor get the recognition it deserved, not by a long shot. Support this writer/director so that we can see what she will dream up for us next, though uh, spoiler alert, I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to be Seeking a Friend for the End of the World 2.

 

The verdict –

(500) Days of Summer – another of my favorite movies of all time – directed by Marc Webb

I went with an unorthodox picture instead of the usual movie poster here, because for one, I certainly HOPE that nearly any of you reading this review have already seen this amazing movie, and two, it represents pretty well one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie, and, well, almost my favorite scene in any movie ever. So, here goes, this is probably another pretty biased movie review, but we’ve already established pretty much any review is biased anyways, so suck on dat. This review is going to be part of a weekly series, my favorite movies of all time, and this movie would probably fall at about a solid #7 on a top ten list were I to make one (and I have, many a time…I have too much time on my hands, just like that awesome Styx song). Once I figure out what the hell I am doing with this blog I’ll even put these reviews in a different category, because I assume that most people have seen these movies already – and if you haven’t, then shame on you.

But on to this brilliant, wonderful, genius little hour and a half of a movie. This is not a traditional romantic movie at all, you aren’t going to have Katherine Heigl in some zany situation where she ends up having to care for her dead aunts kid or something and shes paired with the dreamy Josh Duhamel or something – yes, that’s a real plot for a movie. But hey, if DEATH BED: THE BED THAT EATS can get made, well then of course we can get a couple of nonsensical garbage Katherine Heigl vehicles, right? But in between all that tripe and sex in the city sequels, we have this gem of a “romantic comedy”. I use the quotes there because, if it absolutely HAD to be classified, that’s probably where we’d put it. But it wouldn’t like being there. This movie warns you right from the start that “it is not a love story”, and of course, like any good tale, it secretly really is, but it wants to turn all of those cutesy boy meets girl stereotypical movie ideas, you know, the ones that usually piss off jaded cynics such as myself, right on its head. And it succeeds mightily, even if we DO have a couple of those cliche’s peppered here and there in the movie…but hey, can’t have an omelette without breakin some eggs, right? Mmm, I could go for an omelette.

So this movie stars the always lovely and incredibly talented Zooey Deschanel, who was actually mostly just an indie darling before this movie – although this movie could still be considered “indie”, I think it’s distributor knew it had a hit on its hand and so it was advertised pretty heavily for months leading up to its release – a far cry from other (also great) movies she had starred in previously, ones you’ve probably never heard of like All The Real Girls, Flakes,  or Yes Man…..oh s*** she was in that pile of garbage with Jim “I’m far past my prime but keep doing these stupid movies that have the same plot as Liar Liar” Carrey, wasn’t she? Well, I forgive her because of this movie. Which is a tall order because good god in heaven, did that movie stink. So we have Zooey, who is just wonderful in this as she often is, and she plays Summer, the cynical, jaded girl who doesn’t believe in love. And we have my boy Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is becoming pretty much a regular for the movies I review I’m noticing, in the movie that kinda skyrocketed him to fame in the mooovies. Well, I mean, he WAS Cobra Commander after this and was the annoying kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun before this, but wasn’t everyone on that show annoying anyways? Yes, yes they were. But this was the movie where he really shined. He plays the antithesis of Summer – the hopeless romantic, sappy, believes-in-love-at-first-sight type we usually see in these movies. For gods sake, he even works at a greeting card company and writes sappy things for people who can’t just say it themselves.

The movie jumps around a lot ala Pulp Fiction, giving you a number for one of the 500 Days of Summer – OH! He said it! and this makes the movie all the more interesting and able to mess with your perceptions even more. One scene will have them madly in love, the next he is devastated and lying in bed alone. It’s these different takes on a romance that make this movie work so well, and why it is still so memorable even after you watch it for the tenth time (like I just did last night). Another trope of writing, specifically poetry, makes this movie succeed as well – and you know that if I am breaking out the big guns and comparing a movie to poetry, well then, me obviously likey this movie a lot. But the trope I speak of here is repetition – a GOOD sort of repetition, like a chorus to a song you can’t get out of your freakin’ head (A GOOD song, not like, “Who Let the Dogs Out” or anything by stupid Katy Perry) – this movie repeats some of it scenes, often played in Tom (Levitt’s) head. Except where first this scene might be something great he remembered about Summer, why he fell in love in the first place, the next time we see the scene it is in a completely opposite light – much like human nature views being in love and falling out of love. Yes of course this is a movie, and you need to suspend your disbelief just like you always do – particularly in a song and dance number that occurs right after they sleep together for the first time, or when he sees her face in every person on the street – but some of the truly real human emotions this movie explores are another thing that make it anything but your traditional romantic comedy.

As I’m already rambling about this movie (jesus it sure is easy to do with the ones I really love), I’ll skip ahead to what is, arguably, my favorite scene in any movie I have ever seen – yes, EVER – and it is represented in that picture there. There is about a five minute segment in this movie that has two views – the expectations of what he expects to happen at a party she invites him to after they randomly end up together at a wedding long after they are broken up, versus the reality of what happens. I have no other word to describe this scene but to say it is brilliant. Maybe magnificent? Yeah, I don’t use that word enough anyways. It represents all of our human-ness in it – how we always expect the best, particularly with someone we are completely in love with, and how the reality is often far, far from what we expect. Yet we keep these expectations anyways. This scene left me shaking my head at the end of it – not because I didn’t buy it, because I did, wholeheartedly – but because man…that’s just LIFE man! Life will let you down, it often does for anyone, and this movie just NAILS it in five minutes. It’s brilliance is reminiscent of how the movie Up told a better love story in five minutes with no words at all, than 95% of any other movie you see today can do – particularly those ones involving sparkly vampires or a stuck up prissy spoiled bitch looking for “Mr. Right” with all her slutty, inane friends.  The ending of this scene gets a little artsy on you and sort of colors his world to black and white…and then rubs out all of the surroundings around him…just fantastic. It represents that nothing else matters sometimes, our world and surroundings, no matter how beautiful they are (because he is most assuredly walking into a beautiful scene here), do not matter one bit if we can’t share them with the person we truly love.

Alright, it was part of my job when I set about writing this review that I had to talk about that part, and I’ve done it. This is just an incredible movie. For those of you who haven’t seen it, and I really hope there aren’t many anymore, but if you haven’t, I won’t spoil the absolutely spot on ending. It is what needs to happen, given the characters in this movie – Levitt needs to play it this way and Deschanel needs to do what she does at the end. It is perfect, it is fitting for both of them. Yes, in the middle we see a few romantic cliche’s, we have a few annoying supporting characters like Levitt’s guy friends who are essentially pointless, but for every misstep (and again, there are few), we are redeemed with something great – like his whimsical, down-to-earth little sister, played by the adorable Chloe Grace Moretz here – although she plays anything BUT adorable roles after this one, but thats ok, keep your eye on her, she was excellent from the start. This is a fantastic movie, have I said that enough already. Go buy it immediately and watch it every six months to put a great big smile on your face, and know that while hollywood keeps pumping out mostly garbage, rehashes, unnecessary sequels (I even reviewed one a while ago, neat!) and stupid pointless 3D movies to take your money, something magical like this can still get made every once in a while and truly surprise you.

 

The verdict –

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – probably the best movie I’ve seen all year so far – directed by Stephen Chbosky

Alright, I’m just going to come right out and say this right off the bat, so that you know that yes, this review is going to be a little biased (well, aren’t all of mine anyways?) – this is probably my favorite movie I’ve seen this year so far. It faces a few more contendas – specifically SkyFall (don’t need to link that one, you’ve seen a commercial for that newfangled James Bond movie every other commercial break on tv, or on yahoo, or wherever you fancy – hell I’d advertise for it on here if I could), Cloud Atlas, Lincoln, and Django Unchained coming out in the next two months…but this movie was just brilliant. It dethroned the previous champ, Cabin in the Woods, which held it’s place for quite a long time, but while that movie was great in its own right, this movie affected me much more deeply than that movie ever could (it WAS just a horror movie, after all – ever had any profound life revelations after watching a scary movie? Didn’t think so). This was a fantastic, wonderful, nearly magical movie, that was an obvious labor of love by its director – who also wrote the book AND the screenplay – Steven Chbosky. This could very well be the 18-21 year old kids today’s Breakfast Club. Yep, I went there. It’s just that freaking good.

So our main character here, who definitely gives his best performance to date, is a relatively unknown actor (well, he was Percy Jackson, but that movie didn’t make THAT much money – did it?) who plays a fairly troubled, reclusive kid. He plays this part with reservations however, so much so that we aren’t even really sure why there is anything wrong with him until about 1/3rd of the way through the movie, and we don’t know why there’s something REALLY wrong with him until nearly the end of the movie. He could have fallen into cliches with this character, he could have just been your typical kid-with-no-friends-who-suddenly-is-on-top-of-the-world-because-he-meets-a-girl in a movie that we’ve seen a thousand times (like maybe, this movie, or this one, or maybe even this one, which reaaaaally sucked – and these are all just from the past few years!), but he makes his performance so much more than that. So much so that you actually buy into what has happened to him, these terrible things, and you feel for the guy, you don’t scoff and say “yeah, cuz THAT would really happen, cmon now!” at the end, when you easily could have had a lesser actor played this role. It’s great work from this kid, and I expect big things in the future – make your paychecks with Percy Jackson, and keep doing great things like this, Logan Lerman – jesus, and maybe change your name too.

And then there is this girl, the beautiful, the lovely Hermione – I mean! Emma Watson. This is essentially her first real role stepping out of the shoes of Hermione (aside from a bit part in My Week With Marilyn – another movie you should see), and I’ll admit I was unsure what to expect. Sure she was great as Hermione, but c’mon, she did it eight times, anyone could have caught on by then I hope, like riding a bike n such. It was going to be interesting to see her play a potential love interest to someone other than ol’ Ron Weasley. Well, good news everyone – she nails it. She is by far and away the best part of the movie, so much so that when I first texted some of my friends about what I thought about this masterpiece of cinema I said “SO good – but! Needs more Emma Watson!” because it really does, plain and simple. She disappears for a while in the latter half of the movie and that essentially left me scratching my head, because sure, this movie is mainly about Charlie’s (Lerman) journey through high school and life, but c’mon, she is the one who defines his high school experience. Well, her and her QUITE gay (and VERY entertaining) stepbrother, played by Ezra Miller, who has already proven to us that he is someone to watch in the incredibly troubling (and great) movie from last year, We Need To Talk About Kevin. Check that one out for something completely different, just uh, don’t expect to be leaving with a smile on your face – which is something you WILL do when you walk out of THIS particular movie. And in no small part due to Watson’s portrayal of Sam – I have no doubt that her innocence to new roles aside from Hermione only added to how great she was in this – she plays Sam with all the wonder, ignorance, charm and grace of any beautiful, misunderstood teenage girl in high school – even to the point of pissing you off in some parts. She is someone you would have wanted to know in high school, and she plays this role so well that you know that she will only be more interesting later in life. Alright alright, I’m getting carried way. She’s just tops in this movie, she made the movie for me, and she splits most of the memorable lines from this movie (and there are many) right in half with Charlie (Lerman), let us move on.

This movie, much like any great and memorable movie, also has an excellent supporting cast – Dylan McDermott has some great lines as Charlies father, Nina Dobrev, Bella #2 from the Vampire Diaries herself, is great as Charlie’s sister, Paul Rudd is out of character and excellent as a very supportive teacher of Charlie’s writing, and the always excellent (and another one to watch, particularly in the tv show Parenthood, which you should be watching) Mae Whitman as a short-lived but long suffering girlfriend/other love interest to Charlie. She is essentially channeling the exact same character she plays in Parenthood (and I’m starting to think, maybe in real life too), but she is a great addition to this little group of outcasts.

I don’t need to spoil a lot of the plot for you in this, because you need to see it, especially if you were like me, and didn’t really “get” the high school experience or what exactly you were supposed to do there – but you had a couple awesome friends to get you through it anyways. If you have a nerdy bone in your body, if you have ever thought of yourself as eccentric or as someone that, if people could actually hear your thoughts, they would all think you are completely insane (that’s actually similar to a line in the movie, by the way), then you need to see this movie. I might be being cheesy and gushing about this movie, but I feel like I’m not the only one who felt this way about this excellent movie (it’s currently rocking an 86% on rotten tomatoes, for instance, so suck on THAT). I WILL say however, that the movie was lucky that it has such strong characters, because it ALMOST lost me toward the end – ALMOST. HOWEVER – I think this was just something personal to me, because I wanted this movie to stay firmly grounded in the “magical high school experience centered around an amazing girl” realm, and it did something that yanks you RIGHT out of that toward the end. But don’t worry! It’s fine, and this IS based on a book after all, so that’s how it has to happen – I just didn’t really it want to. I think that Lerman and Hermione and the gang do such a great job of helping you forget that Charlie was troubled to begin with due to some certain issues that are brought up early that you are like, “oh s*** yeah this guy WAS messed up, wasn’t he?” at the end when some stuff hits the fan. But don’t worry, it works, and the more I thought about it, it fits.

One last thing before I give you another four star verdict (like that will surprise anyone – “I’m giving this movie my lowest rating ever! SIX thumbs up!”) – this movie has some just excellent, truly memorable lines. Yes, Breakfast Club/Say Anything caliber memorable quotes – but actually, and this is weird, but, some of the lines really affected me in a way like the movie…now bear with me here, because the movie I’m about to mention is COMPLETELY left field from this magical little movie here, but….the movie Ordinary People. Donald Sutherland has a line toward the end of that movie that I still think about to this day, I still remember the first time I heard it, and it floored me. Charlie says a few things that ALMOST reach those heights for me, and that right there is well nigh unprecedented in a movie nowadays. I think its obvious I can’t say enough nice things about this wonderful little movie, I want to go see it again tomorrow. Go see it as soon as you can if you can find it anywhere near you, and thank me later.

 

The verdict (obviously) –