November 30, 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy- Museum of the Moving Image


Mike: The Museum of the Moving Image is a good place to see a movie. Yesterday I sat in the very first row - usually not a good place to watch a movie from, but here the distance to the screen is pretty big (there's a small stage in front of it for Q&A's and presentations) so the view is very good. The audiences are pretty well-behaved, too, which is all the more important for a film like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which needs your full concentration. Last night was no exception, although I could have done without the old lady seated directly behind me, who took about five minutes to open the loud wrapper around her piece of hard candy and then proceeded to suck on it as loudly as possible, smacking every few seconds. But other than that, the audience behaved.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a complex film and it's very tough to keep up with it. But if you're able to, the reward is outstanding. It's a satisfying thriller that allows Gary Oldman to do some of his best work, taking a well-known literary character and making it his own. A rich supporting cast highlighted by Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth and others further elevate it to a classic spy movie. Kudos to Tomas Alfredson for following up his excellent Let the Right One In with something completely different and unexpected.
A word of advice, though: Some people have complained that the movie is hard to follow and tough to figure out. It's a chess game of a film - exciting, but you have to know what's happening and it's not always easy to figure out. I'd recommend getting a head start before seeing the film - read the first few paragraphs of the summary on wikipedia (don't read it till the end, though, as it gives away too much) and take a good look at who is playing who.

November 29, 2011

We Bought A Zoo- Clearview Port Washington

If this movie poster doesn't scream Lifetime Movie of the week, I don't know what does...


Erica: We saw We Bought A Zoo during the special sneak preview. They had the preview a month early with the intent of spreading solid word-of-mouth in advance of its Christmas Day release where it'll be up against half a dozen other big new films. I also feel this is a good week to show this sneak preview as you are with your family and will most likely have seen the new films that came out on Wednesday, or they may be sold out. The theater was not completely packed at first but then got crowded as the movie began (I am guessing some of that was Muppets overflow after the families found that sold out.) All was going well until some guy in front of me decided to watch the movie with his arm up, completely blocking my view. Being that this movie is a little over two hours, I decided not to stand for it and spoke up. Not loudly, not rudely, just stern enough to get my point across. With that said, the movie continued.

Mike:  Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo, to me, seemed like it should have been a Made-for-Disney-Channel movie about ten years ago. With Steve Guttenberg instead of Matt Damon and Aunt Becky from Full House in the Scarlett Johansson role. And directed by whoever made Air Bud 2. It's a sappy, cutesy film that is elevated slightly above typical family tripe by solid performances and better-than-average dialogue under Cameron Crowe's direction. But top notch ingredients don't change the fact that We Bought a Zoo is one animal fart joke away from Disney Channel programming.
That said, as a family film - and not seeing it as a Camerone Crowe film or a Matt Damon film - it's okay. If you have kids, this is a good film to take them to over the holidays. It's enjoyable and probably won't offend you as much as some of the other so-called "family" options you'll have when it comes out in late December, like Alvin & the Chipmunks 3.
Aside from the sappiness and Lifetime-levels of emotional manipulation, there are a few things that bothered me about the film that I want to highlight. Starting with John Michael Higgins' bad guy character - a USDA park inspector who is out to get the good guys and wants to put the kibosh on the park's scheduled opening. It was written and performed as a Hanna Barbera cartoon villain, further reverberating this film's disturbing Made-for-Disney vibe.
But that pales in comparison to the sense of irresponsibility that I gleamed from this film. First of all, the idea of buying and running a zoo without any experience or preparation is not just preposterous but also incredibly irresponsible. The impulsiveness really irked me and didn't belong in a film that's otherwise high on family values. And second, it really bugged me that the film's main character is able to just up and quit his job and buy a zoo, which I'm pretty sure must be expensive. No explanation of how he's able to afford it. In today's economy, I think it's owed to us - an audience comprised of many people who struggle to make ends meet - to explain just how this guy can quit his job and buy a zoo. Did he inherit a ton of money? Did he make a lot of money as a writer and save it up? Was it too much to just tell us that they're set and that they don't have to worry about money? To expect us to just go along with it and not question the fiscal realities bothered me to no end. Only towards the end of the film, when Matt Damon's character runs out of money to get the zoo ready for opening day, does the money issue come up.
We Bought a Zoo is a disappointment as an entry in the Cameron Crowe filmography. But seeing it as a run-of-the-mill family film, it's just fine and will provide two hours of wholesome entertainment for all members of your family. And it's not nearly as bad as Elizabethtown.


November 23, 2011

Tyrannosaur- Angelika

Mike: While I've seen movies in which Paddy Considine is pretty funny, in recent print interviews and their accompanying photographs the guy seems as serious as a heart attack. So is his directorial debut Tyrannosaur, a dark, depressing tale of a man and a woman who come together when they have nobody and nothing else. The film is really bleak, but Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman deliver such strong performances that you somehow manage to find some hope for their messed-up, seemingly hopeless characters.
We saw Tyrannosaur at the Angelika on Houston St. I don't care for their seats and you can often hear the subway below you, but they show independent and foreign films that often don't show elsewhere. The seats and trains didn't really bother me while watching this film. Instead, I was bothered by a grey-haired gentleman sitting a few rows behind me who couldn't stop talking to his female companion for the duration of the film. He just kept going on and on. There were maybe six or eight of us in the theater on this Sunday afternoon showing. Nobody shushed or said a thing.
In the film, Peter Mullan's character is tested by his neighbor who abuses his son and has an angry dog that he's ready to sic on anyone who messes with him. Mullan plays an angry guy with serious rage issues, but at one point he realizes that he needs to control his anger, even though he really wants to go over and beat that dog once and for all. But he doesn't, and it's very tough for him to just sit there while he has to listen to the dog barking and the kid getting beat up. It kind of paralleled my own situation - I was just sitting there, but I'm a non-confrontational guy. A pussy when you get down to it. While I looked back a few times to kind of indicate that his talking was bothering me, I really wanted to tell the guy to stop talking. "Could you please stop talking? You're in a movie theater." I wasn't intimidated by him at all - he was older and I was at least half a foot taller, definitely stronger... I could have easily said something, but nope, that's not me. I'm a confrontation-fearing pussycat. I sit there and grin and bear it like I always do, wishing I had the guts and self-confidence to just tell people to stop talking, texting, or whatever else they're doing that they shouldn't be doing in a movie theater.

Erica: I really enjoyed this movie. We saw this and Another Happy Day in the same day so it was not the cheeriest days of moviegoing for us. Considine did a great job in his directorial debut. Like Mike, I related to the character. Sometimes you just want to scream and let loose on someone in a situation and you just end up sitting back and doing nothing. I enjoyed the character Mullan played and think he did it amazingly. I would be afraid to confront him on the street, that's how good his acting was. Considine, who is most familiar to me from playing one of the Andy's in Hot Fuzz, also wrote the screenplay which was extremely well written. I am sure it will be overlooked by the Academy but I hope it gets a nomination for at least something (screenplay maybe?). I say definitely check out this movie if there is a theater near you playing it.

Hugo- Museum of the Moving Image

 We saw this screening at the Museum of the Moving Image with a book signing by Selznick and then an intro by Selznick and Logan.

Mike: You haven't seen 3D until you've seen Ben Kingsley's nose in 3D. I was kind of bewildered when it was announced that Martin Scorsese would be adapting a children's book for his next film, but after seeing it it became very clear why. It's a love letter to film history, the magic of movies, and preservation. And I thought it was really, really cool.
I had some issues with the film - most notably, the final show-off seemed a bit anti-climactic, a bit of a 'that's it?' Hugo basically does what he's done the entire movie, only he does it again (trying to be vague so as not to spoil it). Also, the revelation of how movie magician Georges Meli├Ęs ends up penniless and selling toys and parts in a Paris train station - built up as some grand, mysterious secret - is also pretty underwhelming. 'Really? That's it? That's what this built up to?' These are just quibbles to me, but I couldn't argue with anyone who'd consider these to be major story/script issues.
But looking beyond that, Hugo is beautiful, fun, and magical. It's also some of the prettiest, coolest 3D photography I've seen to date. If you need to see a family film (or any film for that matter) and trying to decide between Hugo and The Muppets, don't pick one over the other. See both.

Erica: I loved Hugo. I haven't read the book, although I did purchase it at the pre-screening book signing last night and wanted to rip it open the second I left the screening. I knew it would look awesome being that it was a Scorsese film but it was so jaw droppingly beautiful, I couldn't believe this was a movie. The acting was very well done. The comic relief, as usual, came from Sacha Baron Cohen but I was most impressed with Asa Butterfield, the child who played Hugo. I think seeing this movie with an introduction and comparison from book to screen by the book author, Brian Selznick and screenwriter, John Logan made me appreciate the movie on a whole different level. The 3D is stunning and the movie is just whimsical. I honestly think this is the best 3D movie I have ever seen. Enjoy your families this weekend, go do a double feature of Hugo and The Muppets.


November 22, 2011

Another Happy Day- City Cinemas Village East

Mike:  Another Happy Day needs no 3D glasses or scratch-and-sniff Odorama cards handed out when you enter the theater. But if there was one tchotchke or gimmicky thing to give viewers when they walk in, a bottle of vodka and razor blades would be fitting. The story is similar to Rachel Getting Married: Miserable family gets together for a wedding, where their combined misery explodes in chaos. Except the people in Another Happy Day are about ten times as F'ed up as anybody in Rachel Getting Married, and if there's a coming apocalypse it's even more apparent here than in this year's other wedding chaos flick, Melancholia. And here it's nearly every single character - I don't think anyone goes unscathed. In fact, I don't know why these characters keep living. At several points during the movie I felt like a mass suicide would be something that could be justified. Watching Another Happy Day made me feel better about myself and made me feel a bit normal.
As miserable as all these characters are, the movie is very funny and poignant. It's headlined by a powerful, honest Ellen Barkin in probably her best role to date, and she gets strong support from Ezra Miller, Thomas Haden Church, Kate Bosworth, Ellen Burstyn and Demi Moore. It was also great to see George Kennedy and Siobhan Fallon in a movie again. With its daring performances and a fascinating collection of characters, I think Another Happy Day is one of the best films of the year.

Erica: This theater is really nice inside. It wasn't always a movie theater, it opened in 1926 as a Yiddish Art Theater. It wasn't turned into its current incarnation until 1992. The structure is very pretty. You can read more about the theaters history on the official site. This movie, as Mike said, should give you a razor blade and a bottle of vodka on the way in. There is one huge theater in the Village East, Theater number 1, which is where this theater was playing. Maybe not the smartest choice to have multiple balconies and stairs in a movie as depressing as this one. Just saying...luckily nobody wanted to take a plunge during our showing. People were just there to watch this train wreck of a family come apart.

The Descendants- Lincoln Square

Mike: Just what we needed, another George Clooney movie that starts off with his calm voiceover. Except this time, it's directed by Alexander Payne and co-written by the skinny bald dean from Community. The Descendants offers more proof that Alexander Payne is a master. Clooney is solid as usual and is joined by a colorful cast of supporting characters. And the backdrop is an unglorified view of Hawaii.
We saw the movie at the AMC Loews in Lincoln Square - the cursed theater. And it struck again. A sold-out showing, Erica was trapped next to a sleeping geriatric who snored through much of the film. She escaped to the sole empty seat in the front row about 15 minutes into the film. The old man's wife kept nudging him to wake him up, but he couldn't help dozing off every few minutes.
The entire auditorium was filled with at least 75% senior citizens - I guess Clooney is their go-to guy for grown-up entertainment, plus this was the Upper West Side where there is no shortage of dressed up old folks. As we exited the theater, a long line of elderly UWSers was waiting to fill the auditorium for the next screening. I saw at least 40 Ruth Madoff look-a-likes.
There's something wrong with just about every type of film audience. We've discussed at length the rowdy, obnoxious types. 'Old people' is another category of troublesome audience. I love the elderly, dearly. They deserve our respect and we must absorb their wisdom whenever possible. But there's something about the movie theater that makes some of them lose their manners. Many haven't quite figured out their cell phones yet so you might hear more phones ringing than usual. That stuff doesn't bother me so much - who can blame them? They talk a bit more, perhaps unaware of the volume of their voice. Again, only an issue if it happens a lot. What does really bug me is that they're frequently grumpy, especially up here in NYC, with no shortage of bickering. They're pissed off about something and can be really rude. Some of them feel the need to sigh - their futile and extremely annoying method of expressing frustration and impatience. I can only hope that I will age more gracefully than the group of people I found myself in the midst of at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square.
Erica: The movie wasn't bad. I found myself being the only one in my row not crying at the end of the movie. I don't cry during movies, normally I don't mind if people cry except for this movie. We knew what was going to happen since minute one. I don't understand why people cried, the whole movie was leading up to a sad moment. Clooney was fine in the movie. I like Alexander Payne and think that the movie was well written and well acted. I am sure Clooney will get another Oscar nomination (even though not really deserved for this one). If you are an elderly person, this movie is perfect for you. You can swoon over Clooney and his dreamy eyes for two hours... Anyway, after I switched my seat due to the snoring drowning out the dialogue, the woman next to me in the front row kept getting up and leaving for 20-30 minute intervals at a time then came back to eat food out of small little packets (was it sugar or something? I don't know)...she kept staring at me when she came back like I was going to steal her ugly bright purple coat or something. Aaah the joys of the cursed theater.

November 21, 2011

J. Edgar- AMC Essex Green Dine-In Theater

Erica: OK our first experience at this theater was better cause it was earlier in the day, we basically had free reign of the theater and it was quiet due to the snowstorm but I am not saying this experience was bad. We were with a group of 6, the theater was full (the showing was sold out) and they brought me the wrong food. My weirdest experiences though occurred outside the theater. I got up to use the bathroom before the movie started and there were some ghetto people in there and the girl was saying how great her cleavage looked in her shirt so she wanted to tweet a photo but her phone was dead, so she proceeded to charge her phone in the BATHROOM! Really? Just take a picture when you get home...I am sure your cleavage will still be there then. Then I went to the bathroom again during the movie (I had a lot of water and it was a long movie) and this time I was in there with one other woman and her child. When I was walking back to the theater, there were cops outside the theater looking for this woman. Theater management said they saw her and her child go into the bathroom so I knew it wasn't me...I tried to stay outside to see what was going on without drawing attention to myself. She got taken away in handcuffs but I don't know what happened. So technically, I had 2 movies going on at once.

Mike: J. Edgar is a perfect movie to see in AMC's Cinema Suites. The movie is fairly long, so the comfortable reclining seat is perfect. Just don't drink too much, or you'll need to use the bathroom.

Clint Eastwood has become such a hit-or-miss director lately. While J. Edgar is a fine film, coming from Eastwood it's a bit of a miss. There's something missing - or maybe a few little things - that keeps it from being a really good Eastwood flick. The same was the case with The Changeling and Hereafter - decent, but off. Thankfully, it's way better than Invictus.

Leonardo DiCaprio has been hailed for his performance. While he brings a great deal of depth to the mysterious character, his boyish voice is a constant reminder that it's movie star DiCaprio behind the make-up.

With any biopic or historical film based on true events, I'm always aware of artistic license to fill in the blanks. There's no way to know what really happened. In J. Edgar, I admired the way in which his notorious habit of cross-dressing is presented and interpreted. We'll never know the truth, but this was a tasteful way of at least acknowledging the rumors.

I enjoyed the film. I have to agree with Mike about the boyish voice of DiCapro that kind of takes away from the character. Armie Hammer did a good job as Clyde Tolson. There are lots of standout performances in the film that I see garnering Oscar Buzz.  I appreciate that Eastwood did not dedicate a huge portion of the film to the cross dressing (just one short scene that seemed appropriate), especially since we do not know the truth about if it was indeed the truth. I love history so a movie like this is intriguing to me. I was the kid in school in social studies class (do they still call it that or am I dating myself?) who was always fascinated enough to pay attention and get good grades. Yeah I was the hated one in history class. I do recommend J. Edgar except for the fact that I think DiCaprio with the older J Edgar makeup looked so much like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I couldn't get over it.

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas 3D- Clearview Port Washington

Erica:I saw the first two of these movies because I am a Neil Patrick Harris fan. I saw the third one for the same reason. It was also nice to start getting into the holiday spirit a bit early this year. I feel this was by far the best in the Harold and Kumar series of movies. Normally a movie about two stoners craving a hamburger doesn't call out to me "I must see this immediately". I watched the first two movies only recently and am all for any movie with NPH so I was excited to see him in 3D. This was actually funny in a stupid way and not just stupid. Neil Patrick Harris was a delight and always shines when he gets to perform musical numbers. The 3D was perfectly executed cheap tricks that you would expect in a movie like this and my mom tagged along and even laughed a few times. 

Mike: The third Harold & Kumar flick is even funnier than the first two. All three films are silly but the third time around, they've gotten even more extravagant with their countless gags. At times I can't help but feel like a moron for laughing at some of the stuff that happens on screen. Thomas Lennon joins in for much of the fun, Neil Patrick Harris gets even more screentime, and a few more funny cameos are peppered throughout. Unfortunately the film drags a bit in the middle, but I think that was a problem with the first two as well. The laughs aren't non-stop, but pretty close. 

Tower Heist-Clifton Commons 16

Erica: Despite the star-studded cast, I went into this film with low expectations, however this movie was far better than I thought it would be. I was entertained and to me, sometimes that is all it takes (with movies nowadays it is hard to find even that). There is finally a decent Brett Ratner movie in the world ( I mean come on he produced, the crapfest that was Catfish and a TV Movie about Nick Cannon) . I am not a fan of his, he seems like a pompous douche who is used to having star power and just not knowing what to do with it. He hits it on the head here with the all-star cast he was given. He made the whiny actors seem not as whiny (yes I am talking to you Ben Stiller and Matthew Broderick). 

Mike: I also can't stand Brett Ratner and dislike most of his movies. This one might be one of his most entertaining, and props must be given to Ratner for getting the goods out of Eddie Murphy, something we've witnessed just a few times over the last twenty years. The movie is a bit overpopulated with characters - Casey Affleck and Matthew Broderick are fine, but did we need both in the same movie? Even Murphy, the stand-out here, seems somewhat marginalized by his limited screentime.
It was great to see Robert Downey Sr cameo at the beginning of the film, something he's done for Ratner as well as Paul Thomas Anderson. I don't quite see the connection between the two - they're friends, but there is no trace in anything Ratner has ever done of anything Downey accomplished or built to in his career. It's nice to see him on the big screen, but I'd rather he pop up in PT Anderson films.
Tower Heist is a fun timewaster with plenty of thrills and laughs, but don't expect anything more than that. Recommended.

November 18, 2011

The Muppets- Museum of the Moving Image

Erica: It's time to raise the curtain, it's time to light the lights...The Muppets are back in their first big screen outing since 1999's box office bomb, Muppets from Space. I LOVE and adore the Muppets and Jason Segel so this movie is a big win for me. The only thing going through my mind was 'don't suck and ruin my childhood'. Being that Segel is a self-proclaimed Muppet obsessed fanatic, I wasn't too worried. He didn't disappoint. In this movie, the whole gang is back together for the first time in years. We meet a new Muppet, Walter, who is Segel's brother (yes I know the concept is strange but this is a movie based on felt with a guy's hand up their butts...)who are both obsessed with the Muppets and Walter's dream is to go to Muppet Studios in Los Angeles. The jokes are classic Muppets and like all the Muppet movies that preceded, there are a handful of celebrity cameos. 

 The Muppets is Jason Segel's funny, fresh, and ultimately satisfying love letter to Jim Henson's enduring creations. I love the Muppets and really liked the three original Muppet movies, but the quality of Muppet product in theaters and on the small screen has been a mixed bag since the mid 80s - even before Henson died. The Muppets' return to TV in the late 80s wasn't too great and I'm not a big fan of the movies from the 90s. I didn't care for A Muppet Christmas Carol - perhaps because I didn't like seeing the Muppets playing different characters instead of themselves. I didn't see Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppets From Space was an undeniable misfire. Yet they've done some amazingly hilarious music videos and short bits online. And my memories of Muppets Tonight are pretty good. I didn't see the Muppet Wizard of Oz, but one of their other TV movies, A Very Merry Muppet Christmas, was absolutely terrific and one that I've watched multiple times on DVD. They followed that up with another holiday film, Letters to Santa, which wasn't nearly as good but still very enjoyable. The Muppets deserve a lot better and Segel gives them exactly what they need with this film.

The Muppets is funny and touching. The mix of Muppet and human time is pretty appropriate. Segel and Amy Adams sort of disappear for much of the second half, but that's okay. They're there to bring the Muppets back and that's what they do. And every Muppet has their moment, although I thought there wasn't enough Rowlf. There aren't as many cameos as news stories reported or rumored. No Lady Gaga, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, etc... maybe some of them were cut and maybe some of them were just rumors, but don't go into the movie looking for cameos. There are just a few and mostly they're pretty funny. The music is great, too, although I didn't really laugh at villain Chris Cooper's short rap song. The film tends to wallow in nostalgia a bit much - yeah, the Muppets used to be great and they gave us so many great memories, but it gets to be a bit much at times. Rainbow Connection is one of my favorite songs, but did we really need a reprise? It felt a bit too easy a grab at our heartstrings and nostalgic sensibilities. I liked hearing it again in this film, but felt kind of reluctant about it. Maybe that's just the sourpuss in me trying to come through.

We saw this film at a preview screening at the Museum of the Moving Image. Jane Henson, widow of Jim Henson, was there too with their daughter Heather. I don't know if this was their first time seeing it. We were sitting a few seats away from them at one point towards the end of the movie, I peeked over to see how Jane was reacting to this film. She was dancing along to the music, moving her arms, clapping and cheering. It was wonderful sight to see.

It's Muppetational and I suggest running to the theaters to see this when it opens. As Waldorf and Statler say in the AMC ads, "If you want to see The Muppets see them in the theater because you don't want to bring them into your home." You will want to bring them into your home and your heart for the first time in a very long time.

November 16, 2011

Jack and Jill- Clifton Commons 16

Truest tagline on a movie poster ever...


Mike: I'm embarrassed to say that I enjoyed this. Something about Adam Sandler talking like his Gap Girl character makes me laugh, even for 90 minutes. I usually enjoy Sandler's films to a degree but always leave disappointed. This movie is stupid and follows the Sandler formula to a 't'. Sandler plays a rich white guy? Check. His friends are in it? Check. His kids? Check. There's an over-emotional tie-up-all-loose-ends conclusion that makes you feel so awkward you want to slit your own throat? Check.

Erica: As expected, it's terrible, unfunny, and a waste of 90 minutes...and Al Pacino

November 14, 2011

The Skin I Live In- Cobble Hill Cinemas

Mike: After my pleasant experience of seeing Anonymous at the Cobble Hill theater on Court Street in Brooklyn, I thought I'd go there on a Thursday night to see Pedro Almodovar's latest, The Skin I Live In. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, tickets are just seven bucks. This theater is a short walk from our apartment, which makes it a convenient alternative to the Brooklyn Zoo UA Court Street 12. Erica wasn't interested again, so I went solo.
It's nice to see a movie with a quiet, appreciative audience. Part of it comes from the audience, but the movie has to be compelling, too. Almodovar has delivered an engaging thriller, complete his trademark quirks and twists. It was refreshing to see Antonio Banderas giving a quality performance in a quality production again, and seeing him act in his native Spanish I was able to appreciate him a lot more than in any of his stateside films.

Erica: I just want to add that I post these and posting this poster creeped me out so I am glad I missed out.

The Guard- Village East

Mike: I was very excited to see The Guard, which I thought was from the same director as In Bruges, a film I absolutely adorded a few years back. I must have missed somewhere that it wasn't directed by Martin McDonagh, but his brother John Michael McDonagh. Talent must really run in their family because I found this to be easily one of the best films of 2011.

Brendan Gleeson's police sergeant, the main character in The Guard, is a fascinating, memorable and complex character who drives this retro-styled black comedy. Don Cheadle has a funny supporting part as the straight man to Gleeson's wacky character.

We pushed off seeing this film too long but thankfully it was still playing at the City Cinemas Village East, a nice theater just a block away from the Loews Village. The main theater is a huge balconied affair, but we were in one of the smaller rooms. I'm not crazy about the seats but there were plenty of seats with extra legroom. The Village East tends to give films more of a chance to build an audience, which is something I certainly appreciate. It gets really crowded on weekend nights, though. We don't go here often because there are no discounts - each ticket is $13.

Erica: It's true that the seats aren't the greatest in this theater but the crowd is pleasant as they pay full price to be there.  I LOVE British movies and this one was no exception. I often find black comedies enjoyable and this reminded me of another British cop film i LOVE Hot Fuzz . I thought Gleeson did a great job in the lead. It was funny, smart, and a must see movie. This movie is not for everyone though, you need to appreciate British humor to appreciate this fantastic movie.

November 11, 2011

I Melt With You- VOD

Erica: We have rented movies from VOD in the past, and usually it goes off without a hitch but this time was different. We have a Tivo so it works a bit differently from your DVR VOD. You rent the movie through Amazon. It started out fine but then as the movie was going, the screen kept freezing and pixelating but the audio kept going. So we stopped the movie and I called up Amazon. They were extremely nice and apologetic about it on the phone and credited my account and said to retry downloading the movie. So I did that and the representative I spoke to called back (as promised) to follow up and when I told him the problem still wasn't fixed, he credited my account again and gave me an additional $10 credit to purchase another movie (I didn't ask for that, but that was the right thing to do to keep customers).  

I Melt With You is pretty ambitious and hits some of the right notes, but it's 30 minutes too long. It's nice to see Rob Lowe in a regular dramatic not-made-for-TV role again - he's pretty good, as are Thomas Jane and Jeremy Piven. Christian McKay is pretty good as well but sticks out like a sore thumb. I guess that's part of the story, but it just seems so unlikely for him to be best friends with Lowe/Piven/Jane.

Which brings another aspect of the film that I didn't like - the party habits of the four main characters are pretty extreme, which make the characters less relatable and the whole thing a bit unlikely. Imagine a movie about douchy fratboy villains from college comedies, who continue to party and do drugs and be jerks 25 years later, and you'll be pretty close to I Melt With You. I'm sure there are plenty of people that party that hard, but it's pretty tough to instill depth into these ridiculously loud and obnoxious characters. Still, the film tries and accomplishes it to some degree. It's definitely worth watching, but I think it could have benefited from a shorter running time.

The movie was enjoyable but I have to agree with Mike about McKay. He seemed like the odd man out from the group. The movie is, like Mike said a bit too long and for men in their 40s, they should not even know where to GET that amount of drugs, nevertheless consume it. I have never watched Entourage but I imagine this is where they will be in ten years if they do a reunion movie (Jeremy Piven seems kinda douchy to me anyway). I felt the second half of the movie was better and far more interesting than the first half. The whole movie Mike and I were wondering if they were going to pull a Take Me Home Tonight by not playing the song of said title in the movie. Does the Modern English song make an appearance? Well you have to watch to find out.

November 09, 2011

Anonymous- Cobble Hill Cinemas

Mike: Last night I ventured out to another Brooklyn movie theater on Court Street, the Cobble Hill Theater. It's independently owned and plays a combination of Hollywood and foreign/independents. I really liked it. There's no stadium seating or super-comfortable seats, and the building is pretty old, but it doesn't attract the hoodlums and riff-raff en masse like UA Court Street 12 does. Granted, I only saw one flick on a Tuesday night, but the audience was mostly quiet and didn't look like they were dealing drugs.

Pricing is nice, too. Tickets are just $10, they have $7 weekday matinees, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays tickets are $7, too. Although for some reason Anonymous counted as a 'special engagement' and I had to pay the full $10.

I was in theater 2, which is upstairs. It's an old room, but kind of charming. They showed a film print, which I always like, and Cobble Hill has a really cool intro reel. It's very dated and cheesy, as if it's from the late 80s or 90s, but that's what makes it awesome. The seats aren't great, but there is one chair to the side where you have extra legroom. Sitting in the front row wouldn't have been bad, either.

I really liked Anonymous and was impressed with Roland Emmerich. He's only done cheesy sci-fi films so far, so I was expecting Anonymous to have a certain hokey quality to it. But it didn't, although some might argue that the present-day wrap-around is. It didn't get the best reviews, but I think it's worth watching. Emmerich managed to get great performances out of his actors, which include Vanessa Redgrave and Rhys Ifans, both of whom are excellent. My only concern with the film was the character of William Shakespeare himself - it's a supporting part, but pivotal, and I thought the character was a bit too oafish and cartoonish. Overall it's a very engaging period piece. Not what I'd expected from the man who brought us 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.

Johnny English Reborn- Regal Court Street

Mike: I earned a free ticket from Regal so one night last week when Erica was busy I thought I'd walk down to the Regal/United Artists Court Street 12 here in Brooklyn and check out something that Erica wouldn't care to see. So I ended up watching Johnny English Reborn. I really don't know why - I hated the first one, for which I also can't give the reason why I saw it. Maybe because I like Rowan Atkinson? It was free, so all it cost me was my time and the embarrassment of saying "one for Johnny English, please."

There's not really much I can say about the movie. It exists. It was slightly more amusing than I remember the first one being, but that's saying very little. I chuckled a few times and cringed many times. 

The UA Court Street 12 is a twelve-floored labyrinth with revolving doors. People walk in and out of the auditoriums at will. They might have bought a ticket to Real Steel but make their way through half a dozen movies, sampling a little bit from each. They don't come here to watch a movie. They come here to hang out, walk around, and watch random scenes from films without actually watching one from beginning to end. Nobody stops them. Such is the Court Street 12 on weeknights.

Thankfully, the audiences that wandered in and out of Johnny English Reborn were pretty quiet and respectful. For the second half of the film I was the only person in the room.

Real Steel- Regal Court Street

Erica: I love when Fandango had their super cheap movie ticket deals. The only downside is that we usually end up using them at the Regal Court Street. Ugh. The ghettotasticness continues tonight when we caught Real Steel. The audience were drifters from other movies who did not really seem to care who was in the movie or what it was about.

Mike:  I can't believe how much I enjoyed a movie about robot boxing. I was expecting something really lame but Real Steel is an enjoyable popcorn flick that delivers on what it promises. The concept is preposterous, but the way its built up and presented in Real Steel is well-done, with a rich backstory that, while not exactly plausible, at least convinces you to just go along with it. I had a lot of fun watching this - you really root for the characters and Hugh Jackman is funny and likeable. In fact, it might be good enough to forgive a handful of scenes that involve embarassingly stupid robot dancing.

The movie reminded me a lot of Over the Top, the similarly silly Sylvester Stallone father-son flick set in the arm-wrestling circuit.

I too was surprised as to much I actually liked this movie. The concept is stupid but once you get past it and see deep down it is a story of an absentee dad who is forced to take care of his son for a few months who inadvertently gets him involved in the world of robot boxing, you see there is a charming storyline in there somewhere. Hugh Jackman and action is pretty standard fare over the past few years so lots of action was to be expected. From a female perspective, the movie wasn't bad and for the record, if there was a robot dancing competition, I would be front and center.

November 08, 2011

The Rum Diary- Clifton Commons 16

Erica: Following up the experience of the Dine-In Theater was going to be difficult as expected but being that we cannot afford to keep going to the Essex Green, we found ourselves back at our Jersey staple, the Clifton Commons.

The seats may have disappointed but the movie did not.

Mike: As a big fan of both Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and Where the Buffalo Roam (the movies, I haven't read any of the books) I was looking forward to The Rum Diary. I wasn't disappointed. While not as crazy as the aforementioned films, The Rum Diary has more of a plot and character development, as it's somewhat of a prequel that lays out the early development of Hunter S. Thompson's gonzo writing style and persona. Those looking for another movie to get stoned to and giggle along might be disappointed. The movie is funny and has plenty of surreal moments, but has its feet grounded in reality. Plus, rum only makes you drunk.
Depp's Fear & Loathing movie really struck a chord and helped grow HST's cult following. The Rum Diary seems like it will end up with a fate similar to that of Bill Murray's Where the Buffalo Roam - which had its fans but was mostly forgotten until a little over a decade ago after Fear & Loathing came out followed by a revived interest in Murray among younger generations. It probably won't have anywhere near the afterlife of retroactive admiration that Fear & Loathing did.

I LOVE Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I was looking forward to The Rum Diary but did not have high expectations because Fear and Loathing to me, was pretty much close to perfection. I was pleasantly surprised by The Rum Diary. There was no shortage of great acting performances and comedic moments but it also had a plot and somewhat charming story. 

I say definitely see the movie if you are  HST fan or a fan of Depp or both, but don't go into it thinking it is another Fear and Loathing.  

Moneyball- AMC Essex Green

Erica: We decided to try an AMC Dine-In Theater so while in NJ, we visited the AMC Essex Green in West Orange. From the time we walked into the building it was a great experience. You can choose your own seat if you buy your tickets in advance (which I recommend to ensure it doesn't sell out.) Being that we had never been to one of these before, I chose Row B due to the ample leg room. Let me tell you, you walk in, you see giant plush leather seats that are really comfortable. You call the waiter, place your order and let the fun begin. The food is surprisingly good but the seats (which we found out recline) are an absolute amazing amenity to have for just a few extra dollars (if you see the matinee in NJ, it was still cheaper than a full price ticket in Manhattan). I think I could have watched any movie sitting in those seats, but we saw Moneyball. 

We went to this theater for the dining experience, not necessarily for the movie. If you do want to try a Dine-In Theater, please know that there are two types of dining theaters, The Fork and Screen which is a regular theater with seats for dining that is set up like a regular theater and the CinemaSuites (which is what we chose) which provides you the full dining experience with the whole theater filled with those luxurious leather recliners. It is very easy to fall asleep in those seats. The food is decent and they have a wide array of food choices and it is cooked to order which is the most surprising thing of all.

For what it was, Moneyball was a pretty good movie. I am not a fan of baseball nor do I understand the innerworkings of the sport and this gave me some good insight on what goes on behind the scenes. 

Mike: It's a pretty good movie with a tight screenplay and great acting by Brad Pitt, but not sure if all the Oscar talk is necessary. Its a good, solid movie that we recommend seeing.

I cannot wait to go back to the AMC Essex, an awesome theater going experience.

Check out the Dine-In Theater Experience here:

November 02, 2011

The Big Year- Regal Court Street 12

Erica: Again, we found ourselves at the ghettotastic Regal theater in Brooklyn. We had some Fandango coupons so we decided to cash some in and catch The Big Year. This movie has gotten nothing but horrible reviews and bombed at the box office, despite 3 big stars in the lead (Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson). This movie has been out for a while so we figured it would not be crowded and boy were we right. Bad reviews didn't keep us away from this movie about Birdwatching....yeah ok maybe that is part of the reason this movie bombed...

Mike: There's something fascinating about how big of a bomb The Big Year turned out to be. Sad, but interesting. It had three big stars, and they did plenty of appearances to get the word out. I saw plenty of ads, which promised a family-friendly comedy. And it launched in over 2,000 theaters - not too wide, but far from a limited release. The movie was set in the world of birdwatching, but is that the big turn-off? It opened terribly to $3 million and was seemingly pulled from theaters after two weeks and a total cume of $6 million. The thing is, the movie's not half bad.

I wasn't expecting much from the director of Marley & Me and The Devil Wears Prada, whose films are drenched in annoying family-sitcom-style sentimentality. The Big Year suffers the same fate - what must be his trademark use of overly dramatic music timed to well tears makes its presence known - but it's still a lot more enjoyable. I found the universe that The Big Year is set in - competitive birdwatching - to be absolutely fascinating, and the three different characters (Black, Wilson, Martin) each had their own reasons for being into it. So I enjoyed it quite a bit, in spite of some of its shortcomings, and hope it'll someday overcome its reputation as just a box office bomb.

It wasn't as terrible as I was expecting it to be. That being said, with three funny comedy superstars in the lead roles, I was expecting to laugh...a lot. I didn't. The most entertaining part of the movie to me was the children sitting behind us with their grandmother (the only other people in the theater) asking if they can leave and when it will be over. This is marketed as a 'family-friendly' film but leave the small children at home. If you have to explain every aspect of the movie to them, it is not worth bringing them to grandma. 

I think some people will enjoy this movie and some won't. It is not the greatest movie, but it is certainly not the worst. You should watch it and judge it for yourself.