May 26, 2012

Dark Shadows - Regal E-Walk 13 RPX

Erica: Dark Shadows was long anticipated for me. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Tim Burton and I was waiting for this for so long. It did not disappoint either...the cast was great, the story was great and it was a lot of fun.  This is the type of movie that should be seen in RPX. What I love about Burton's films is the whimsy and charm he brings to his movies and that they take you away to another world you only think of of in your dreams. I digress...the movie was awesome. It had that cheap look to it (which in this case is good) and it had that dark, Burton charm. This is the eighth collaboration of Burton with Depp and each time it seems to pay off. Depp is versatile enough to fit into whatever role he is cast in. The music in the movie was awesome, the acting was great and the look was spot on. OK I will stop gushing now and let Mike make some comments...

Mike: I didn't like it as much as Erica did, but I was surprised how much I actually dug it. I too love Tim Burton, but unlike Erica, I don't think he's made a good movie in years. Let's put it this way: I actually thought Planet of the Apes was one of his better recent (if you can call it that) efforts. Dark Shadows is funny and the persistent humor and the amusing performances got me through an otherwise sluggish story with a weak conclusion.

We saw it at the E-Walk RPX screen, not because the screen is fabulous. It's a good, big screen with good sound and it's kept up well, but I wouldn't call it fabulous. We simply went there because we didn't want to take a risk and get stuck seeing a movie we were anticipating in a dark, dilapidated 56-seater. Plus, going to the Regal E-Walk in Times Square, we got to try their cool new soda machines, which I've been hearing have been popping up in other places. I got through almost all of the screens counting how many different sodas they have until Erica distracted me and I lost my count. But I later noticed a sign that said there were more than 100.

May 25, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom - Museum of the Moving Image

Mike: Erica had a gym class so I had to go to this one by myself. Erica doesn't like Wes Anderson's films anyway, so it was probably for the better. It was another free preview screening we were invited to courtesy of the Museum of the Moving Image, which we are members of.

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Wes Anderson, but I'll get into that later. Let me first get the moviegoing experience out of the way, because it was a doozy.

I love the screening room at the Museum of the Moving Image. I don't love the hour it takes me to get there, but that's a different story. I got there about a half hour early and picked a nice seat where I had some extra legroom. The seats next to me were reserved - either for special guests or major sponsors or partners, or who-knows... A few minutes before the movie began, a guy and his lady friend sat in the seats next to me. I don't know who the guy was, but he had some involvement in the film. At first I thought he was one of the actors, but I didn't see him on-screen.

I have had many crazy experiences at the movies, but this was a new one for me. As soon as Moonrise Kingdom began, the guy next to me started whispering a running commentary to his lady friend. He was talking about how the set was laid out, talked about the people appearing on the screen. And it was persistent. The girl asked questions, too. It was incredibly annoying, not to mention really pompous. I wanted to say something, but didn't, for a few reasons: A) I'm not the confrontational type. I'll do anything to avoid confrontation. B) I held out hope that he would quiet down after a while. C) I tried to look inward, not to let something so petty upset me. I wanted to try to ignore it and allow myself to accept the situation and not stew over it, as I so often do. And D) as douchy as the guy was, it seemed like it was a big deal to him. I think it was the first time he saw the movie and he didn't get to go to Cannes with the main cast & crew a few days before. And he was trying really hard to impress his lady friend. So even though he was being a moron, I didn't want to ruin it for him. Nobody else in the vicinity said anything, either. Thankfully, after about 20 minutes, the commentary was turned off. He still laughed at everything - you see, everything's an in-joke for him. That was still annoying, but at least he wasn't talking anymore for most of the film.

So yeah, that happened.

As for the movie... it started off with a 1-minute introduction from Wes Anderson, which he recorded just for this screening. Now, Anderson must have been in France, or he was taping the bit with someone who speaks French, because he had a slight French accent while doing the intro. You ever notice how some people talk with a slight accent whenever they're speaking with other people who have an accent? They take on the accent - usually unbeknownst to them. Anyway, Anderson was speaking with an accent. It was cool to have a little intro, but Anderson didn't really say anything of interest. It was disposable. This week the Moving Image is showing all of Anderson's films, each with a new little introduction. Hopefully he'll have something more interesting to say for the other films, because this was just an intro for the sake of having an intro.

Again, I digress. My love/hate deal with Wes Anderson is this: I love Rushmore. I love Royal Tenenbaums. I didn't like Life Aquatic when I first saw it, but I re-watched it a few times for some reason and kept liking it more and more after each subsequent viewing that I got to the point of loving that, too. But with Life Aquatic, I started wishing Anderson would develop a bit more. Try something new. Head in a different direction. I liked Darjeeling Limited, his next film, but it really bugged me that we were getting more of the same. Anderson seems so bogged down in maintaining his own distinct look, style, tone and general flavor that everything we see from him seems like a re-tread. Other filmmakers have their own distinct qualities, too, but those traits seem more organically acquired. His next, Fantastic Mr. Fox, was stop-motion animated, but it had the exact same problem. That one I didn't care for, whereas all of the previous ones I actually dug, even Bottle Rocket going back to the beginning of his career.

With Moonrise Kingdom, I couldn't help but be disappointed in the fact that it was exactly as I expected. Anderson's quaint and twee shtick is getting seriously stale. We get it. We've seen it. Can't we move on? Whenever I saw one of Anderson's artifacts in Moonrise Kingdom - the props and set dressings that have helped shape his trademark style - say, for example, a Francoise Hardy EP, or fake children's books... I laughed inwardly or giggled or smiled or felt charmed. I was amused. But I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable each time. They're guilty pleasures. I laughed in the way that I might laugh during an Adam Sandler movie. There's something funny, but at the same time I'm aware that it really isn't funny. Not much unlike an episode of Family Guy, all Anderson is doing is presenting us with random nostalgic images and ideas which stir up a favorable emotions that bring us back to our childhoods, or whatever it is that inherited nostalgia does to us. It's pretty manipulative when you think about it, and I think that's what injects my enjoyment and appreciation of Moonrise Kingdom with a sense of reluctance.

At the same time, the fact remains that I did laugh. I did enjoy. I was amused and charmed. And even though I was disappointed that this is more-of-the-same Wes Anderson and it's really tired now, it's an amusing film with funny situations. And it's an interesting take on childhood love, capturing those innocent feelings spot-on. The supporting cast consists mostly of extended cameos. Don't be fooled by the poster and trailers, which give the impression of an ensemble cast film - the movie is about the two kids and you see relatively little of Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, etc. Most of them aren't given much to do, but they're nonetheless interesting.

So, in the same way that I appreciated the movie, I must recommend the movie: with a sense of guilt and reluctance.

May 18, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods - AMC Empire 25 ETX

Mike: I'd been hearing about this movie for the longest time - they finished shooting it years ago, and it was supposed to be some kind of Scream-like breakdown of the horror genre. I was cautious about the hype but nonetheless excited to see it. And while it might have been over-hyped - I tend to think that anything that receives any sort of hype is over-hyped - I was very happy. It's a really cool flick that goes to some crazy places. I think Cabin in the Woods will appease both horror fans and movie buffs who are tired of seeing horror films.

We watched Cabin in the Woods at the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square, and decided to try it in ETX again. First off, I'm happy that this ETX presentation was not in 3D. I'm also happy to report that AMC fixed the jagged screen that we witnessed when we visited this auditorium last year. With Cabin in the Woods, I was really able to appreciate the sound system, although at some point the room was rumbling so much that you could hear a vent or a ceiling panel shaking. Also, the seats are the same as an average AMC room (no leather seats, which can be found elsewhere in the theater), and there are even seats in the auditorium that are partially obscured (in one case by a row of seats in front, and in another case by a high safety railing). The screen also isn't perfect - when white or light colors are projected, you might notice a long streak that runs down the middle of the screen. None of which should be a big deal - you can overlook stuff like that. Except this is the Enhanced Theatre Experience and if you're here, you paid a lot more for your ticket. It's easy to take the biggest room and put in a flashy sound system and a high-range 4k projector, use some flashy branding and charge extra. As I've said in my earlier review of ETX - if you want to make sure you see your movie in a good auditorium and not in a tiny, worn down one, then go ahead and play the premium.

Erica: I am a Joss Whedon fan, when we arrived in the ETX theater, I noticed the seats we chose and the row in front of that one had obscured views. If I am paying extra money for that 'experience' I want to see the whole screen (not someone's head or chair). Luckily, I got over it quickly so I was able to watch the movie. I somewhat enjoyed this movie. I hated the last half hour, but the rest of the movie was a pretty good movie. Predictable but it kept me entertained.

May 17, 2012

American Reunion - AMC 34th Street 14

Mike: I just loved American Pie when it came out. Gosh, it was thirteen years ago. Crazy how time flies. I remember disliking the third film and honestly don't remember a single thing about American Pie 2. But I remember the characters and liked them quite a bit. As with last year's Scream 4, I couldn't help but wonder: Who asked for this? Did anyone want this movie? It reeked of desperation. I'll take it, though. Even though the thought of feeling nostalgic for 1999 makes me uneasy.

American Reunion is funny and it was nice to catch up with all those people. I enjoyed myself. But it was strange. Gross-out comedies have changed in the last decade. In a way, American Reunion seemed like a relic of the past. Of the way movies used to be then, for a brief period of time, and of the things that used to make us laugh. Like Scream 4, the film seems dated.

One thing you'll surely notice is how awful some of the actors are. Chris Klein is unbelievably bad, and nearly every moment he's on screen made me cringe. He was the worst of the lot, although Tara Reid and Mena Suvari also made me feel uncomfortable.

Erica: I was never a big fan of any of the first 3. Why we needed another one was beyond me. The idea of high school reunions in an era of Facebook and Twitter seems obsolete and unnecessary, which is exactly how I felt about this movie. Some of these actors were very happy they made a fourth movie because they can't get a job in any other movie (we are talking to you Chris Klein).

May 16, 2012

The Three Stooges - AMC 34th Street 14

Mike: Another movie I couldn't drag Erica to see, so I had to see it by myself. I was expecting very little from this - the last few Farrelly movies weren't great, and I wasn't crazy about the idea of a new set of stooges. But I ended up really enjoying myself watching The Three Stooges. It was hilarious. The jokes and gags kept coming at a rapid pace, leaving no time for boredom. Best of all was Larry David, who is in the movie a lot and plays a nun the entire time. I couldn't help but laugh whenever he was on screen, if only because of the idea that he's playing a woman.

The three relatively unknown actors hired to play the Stooges set out only to recreate the Moe, Larry and Curly we already know. There was no attempt to re-invent the characters at all, and that commitment - from the actors and well as the writers/directors - is admirable. And while I wasn't expecting it to work, it totally did. The Three Stooges is a fun, harmless way to pass ninety minutes, and succeeds in bringing these iconic characters to present day.

May 15, 2012

Side by Side - AMC Loews Village 7 (Tribeca Film Festival)

Mike: Erica was at work so I went to see this by myself. I remember first reading about this film a while back and thinking 'huh?' Keanu Reeves and the shift from film to digital - an odd match, and who knew that Reeves had any interest in it, to the point of making a documentary about it? I thought it was a joke. But perhaps due to his involvement, the documentary collects an impressive roster of subjects - Scorsese, Lucas, Lynch, the Wachowskis, etc. The only other guys I would have liked to have heard from were maybe Eastwood, and Spielberg, although he's made little secret of his attachment to shooting on film being mostly sentimental.

Through these fascinating interviews, Side By Side successfully tackles a very broad subject, documenting the convergence and shift of two worlds. There's a over a hundred years of history and a lot of technology and chemistry to deal with that could have filled hours, but Side By Side manages to pack it all in while avoiding a sense of information overload. And at the same time, I didn't feel like I was getting a 'Film for Dummies'-type general overview or sampling - it's expertly assembled and should prove absorbing to both film gurus and casual enthusiasts.

As an interviewer, Reeves is surprisingly skillful. I say 'surprisingly' because I think we've all bought a little bit into the cartoonish impression we've gotten of him over the years and his spacey presence. We all knew he was somewhat of a spiritual guy, but seeing him as a serious, focused, insightful interviewer reveals a new side. Reeves doesn't just ask the questions - he creates a conversation and isn't afraid to contest the viewpoints of some of these giants of the industry.

While I have nothing but praise for Keanu Reeves the interviewer, he's not the most engaging narrator. There are a handful of short, necessary segments where Reeves explains the technology, and while they're succinct and easy to follow with accompanying diagrams and animations, it feels like you're listening to Reeves reading from a book. I know, someone explaining how cameras work and pointing out the different parts maybe isn't something that can be livened up by an enthusiastic narrator, but it's a little odd to hear Reeves go from energetic and engaging one minute to quiet and dry the next seems a bit uneven. Nevertheless, the narrated portions are quick and serve their purpose well.

For most of the interviews, Reeves has a professional appearance. But for one or two he sits across from the director in a silly haircut. It's not necessarily a distraction, although the fact that I'm mentioning it here means that I took note of it. Reeves isn't someone who most people take seriously - no offense to him, but I think most Americans overall have a positive image of him but see him as a bit of a moron. This documentary is a stretch for him and while he does an amazing job here showing a different side and proving himself talented and capable, the hair kind of made me take a step back. Not because having a silly haircut is any indication of anything, but, he's sitting there, asking of us to take him seriously, and we do - we go along with it and when the documentary starts we see that he's a smart guy and not the doofy guy we thought he was... but then he shows up in a silly 'do. Of course, I don't think Reeves is on any kind of a journey to show people that he can be a smart guy. And to his credit, Reeves remains insightful and engaging throughout all the interviews, weird hair or not.

Those are minute quibbles and I have nothing but raves for everything else in this film. I was particularly fascinated listening to older cinematographers discuss their views on digital filmmaking - and many cinematographers are featured here. I was surprised to see many of them embrace it, some reluctantly and others with genuine enthusiasm. Another highlight is The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan, who provides the strongest, most passionate defense of shooting on film without resorting to the easier arguments (i.e. sentimentality, 'this is how we're used to doing it', etc.). Overall, Side By Side is an entertaining, informative and insightful doc loaded with captivating interviews. The topic of the shift from film to digital filmmaking and distribution might seem boring to some people, but the Side By Side filmmakers manage to put together a film that should appeal to a wide range, from the occasional filmgoer to the well-versed aficionado.

May 14, 2012

Take This Waltz - AMC Loews Village 7 (Tribeca Film Festival)

Mike: Another movie I had to see by myself at Tribeca. For this one, I stood in line in a rush line for over an hour. I arrived at the right time, though - I was something like #10 or 12 in line. By the time they started letting people in, there were over 100 people in the rush line. I was one of maybe 20 that they let in. But I'm really glad I went and it was worth the wait. Take This Waltz is among the best films of the year so far.

While the similarities to Michelle Williams' recent Blue Valentine are strong - it's another relationship drama that chronicles how a married couple's relationship falls apart - Take This Waltz seemed a bit more down to earth to me. Blue Valentine was so focused on performance, and in Take This Waltz I felt like I was getting a more valuable insight into the crumbling of a marriage. They're both very similar in that they're kind of hopeless, offering little faith in long-term relationships. So yes, Take This Waltz is pretty bleak. But there are a lot of laughs, and you might say that Take This Waltz is like Blue Valentine with a sense of humor.

If there's any fault, it's that Take This Waltz lacks some subtlety. There's a key scene towards the end in which one character offers Williams some advice which encapsulates her entire experience, almost appearing like the concluding lesson at the end of an After School Special. The words offered to Williams do put her experiences into perspective, but the directness and conclusiveness of it were a bit off-putting to me.

We do get another great performance out of Michelle Williams, who's become one of the most reliable leading ladies in recent years. Sarah Silverman and Seth Rogen surprise in their serious roles. Take This Waltz is coming to theaters in the coming months, and I highly recommend checking it out.

May 13, 2012

Evocateur - The Morton Downey Jr. Movie - Clearview Chelsea (Tribeca Film Festival)

Mike: I had never seen a single minute of The Morton Downey Jr Show, but I'd heard that he was an interesting guy and a friend told me that this should be interesting. Erica volunteered at the Tribeca Film Festival and didn't have time to use some of the vouchers she earned, so she gave me some and I checked this one out.
The Tribeca Film Festival uses a handful of downtown and midtown theaters, including the AMC Loews Village 7 and the Clearview Chelsea. I've been to the Clearview Chelsea a handful of times - it's a nice place, and they sometimes have displays up with props or costumes from a recent movie. The auditoriums I've been in are nice and spacious. For the film festival, they had a small gift shop set up on the second floor.
The scene outside of the theater was a bit of a zoo, even for this afternoon screening, but once inside the volunteers were friendly and helpful and pointed me in the right direction.

As for the documentary - I'm very glad my friend recommended this (without having seen it yet himself). Morton Downey Jr. was a maniac - someone to easily dismiss as a crazy. But his quick rise and fall in the late 80s was absolutely fascinating, and Evocateur brilliantly chronicles his life before, during and after his talk show career. One way in which I often judge a biographical documentary is: Did it answer all my questions? And this one mostly did. It provided a very clear timeline (something so many documentaries leave to be desired) and my only issue with it is one that I've had with so many documentaries lately - gimmicky, distracting, and ultimately unnecessary animated sequences. And while they were well done - nothing against the animator - they just didn't need to be in there. But other than that, Evocateur is highly entertaining and fascinating.

May 12, 2012

The Avengers - Starplex East Brunswick (D-BOX Review)

Mike: A while back I read about D-BOX, a fairly recent theater seat technology that turns your movie going experience (or home theater experience, since they're also available for personal use) into something like a theme park attraction. Your seat shakes, moves, tilts and vibrates along with the film.

There are no theaters with D-BOX in New York City, but I knew of one about an hour and a half out in East Brunswick, New Jersey. We were heading in that direction so we planned a slight detour to take in a screening of The Avengers in D-BOX on the way back.

Our timing could have been better. We went to see the film on Saturday, May 5th. Two days prior, the theater - formerly Mega Movies - was taken over by a different chain, Starplex Cinemas. And we were in for a headache. You see, D-BOX seats take up only two rows of seats (premium priced - we paid $16.50 for a Saturday 3D matinee and the rest of the seats were only $6.50). And on the Mega Movies site, you were required to pick your seats. With tickets sold on the Starplex site, we weren't able to select our seats. When we arrived at the theater an hour prior to showtime, we were told that we wouldn't be able to sit next to each other, because the other seats were all reserved. Of course, I can't fault the management - they just took over the theater two days prior and were figuring all this D-BOX stuff out. And today, the issue is fixed because you can go on the new site and reserve specific seats. Furthermore, the manager later came in and re-arranged a few things and allowed us to sit together, anyway. So it all worked out in the end, but it was a bit frustrating at first considering we had traveled so far to see this movie in D-BOX.

I was a bit disappointed that the D-BOX showing was only for the 3D version of The Avengers. It wasn't shot that way and I read some bad reviews of the 3D conversion, so our preference was for the original 2D version. But whatever, we didn't have a choice. Before I get into the D-BOX experience, I should note that this theater had a serious problem with its 3D projection. The lower right quarter of the screen was not properly aligned. So the top and left half of the screen was fine - everything was sharp and in focus - but in the lower right corner, I saw everything double. It was slight, but easy to notice and extremely distracting. Something must have been wrong with the projector or the set-up. It wasn't bad enough to ruin the movie for me, and since it was a theater outside of our neighborhood and under new management, and we were really just there to experience the D-BOX seats, I didn't complain. But it was really annoying and it really bothered me, and if it wasn't isolated to our screening, I hope enough people complain to get it fixed.

As for the film itself, I really dug it. It was mindless fun, and the culmination of four years of anticipation. The movie provided me with everything I hoped for. And it was a start-to-finish thrill ride, so it was a great choice to see in D-BOX.

My thoughts on D-BOX: The D-BOX seats are fairly standard - your typical movie theater seats, but spaced out a bit, so everyone gets their own armrests. There's not a lot of space in front of you, but I somehow managed to survive with my long legs.

I was impressed with how well the seat movements synch up with the action on screen. I had no idea what to expect, and my expectations were leaning towards some generic movements. But after sitting through the film, it's become apparent to me that a lot of care went into programming the seats for the film.

Your seat has three levels of intensity and the option to turn it off. Throughout the entire film, I had my seat set to the maximum level. It wasn't distracting to me, but I could see how it might be annoying to some people and I could even imagine it will make some folks queasy. But the amount of movement and vibration seemed just about right to me. During some scenes, when there are just characters talking, the seat doesn't do anything, obviously, so it's not like you're in a non-stop simulator ride.

The running time of The Avengers is two hours and twenty minutes, which might not be the best kind of movie to use to try out these seats, but we were fine. I think the movie has to be engaging enough to keep the seat movements from being distracting, so we had no problem getting through the running time.

My only problem with the D-BOX experience is the noise. I don't know if it's really noise, but the vibration from the seat movements equated to noise for me. The movements are generally fluid, but you're always aware that there's a machine underneath you, and with every tilt or shake you feel the mechanical movements.

The pricing is tough to judge, because we weren't in the expensive market where we normally see our films. We paid $16.50 for the weekend matinee, which is $10 more than the normal price. I think a ten dollar premium is about right - these seats are expensive and there aren't many. I don't know if this is still in a testing phase, because D-BOX seats have been in theaters for a few years now, but it's odd that this hasn't made it to NYC yet. If there were D-BOX theaters in NYC, I would definitely visit them from time to time. Overall, it was a fun experience and I'm really glad I tried it. I just wish the projection wasn't problematic.

Erica: I enjoyed the D-Box seats. They kind of freaked me out at first but then I thought it was fun. I didn't really notice the noise but I did notice the right side of the screen being slightly off. I also had my seat intensity all the way up. I wasn't going to set it there but just knowing I can change it but my mind at ease. The movie was entertaining, it was far superior to any superhero films of 2011 so we are off to a good superhero start 2012. I think Ruffalo as The Hulk was a great casting choice and he played it well. Downey Jr. was great as Iron Man, as always and the two of them alone is enough to see the movie (which clearly everyone has with its 200 mil domestic opening). I feel bad that we dragged my poor mother to this movie, especially with the D-Box seats but she seemed fine with it and enjoyed the experience. The Hulk smash in the D Box seats was super fun! Oh and on another note...does Chris Evans' hair ever move out of place?? You're fighting I want your hair to be messed up, not perfectly coiffed

Mansome - BMCC (Borough of Manhattan Community College)

Erica: We went to the premiere at Tribeca. I was volunteering there this year so I was able to get free tickets to whatever movies I wanted (I got one voucher per shift). I couldn't use them any other times so I jumped at the chance to catch this one. The venue was alright, It is a college theater so the chairs aren't super comfortable and the leg room is lacking as they need to cram as many college students in there as possible. I am usually a big fan of Morgan Spurlock. I enjoyed Super Size Me and even his show, 30 Days but this I was not that big of a fan of. Unlike Comic Con, Spurlock is back in front of the camera along with some celebrity friends and came up with a movie about 'manscaping'--boring...while Jason Bateman and Will Arnett are funny together at the spa, that is pretty much all this film has to offer. This is better off being a special episode of 'Dateline' or something to that degree, maybe even a segment on 60 Minutes but as a full length feature?? No thanks.

Mike: I thought Mansome - while enjoyable and at times interesting - was ultimately pointless and padded. There is really no need for this movie to exist. It doesn't at all seem like an organically developed film - something that came into existence because there was a subject, or a story, that needed to be told. My guess is that this documentary came together because a couple of guys with a new production company thought 'hey, let's make a documentary, but what about?' and ran through a bunch of ideas. The end result - while it has its funny moments and isn't terrible to sit through - is similar in that it seems randomly put together. Moreover, it has scenes that just go on and on, as if the running time needed to be padded. My recommendation: Skip Mansome at the theater and on DVD, and catch it when it airs on, I don't know, the Discovery Health Channel or CNBC on a Friday night within the next year.

May 11, 2012

Wrath of the Titans - AMC Empire 25

Mike: I don't know why I went to see this. I saw Clash of the Titans when it came out and I didn't like it. Wrath of the Titans was just as bad. I wasted enough time watching this movie, so I'll leave it at that. Erica had the right idea. She stayed home.

May 10, 2012

21 Jump Street - Regal E-Walk 12 RPX

Mike: We went to see this at the Regal E-Walk in Times Square and used it as an excuse to see something in their RPX (Regal Premium Experience) auditorium. I actually watched the TV show back in the 80s, although I barely remember anything about it other than the catchy theme song. When I heard that it was being turned into a movie a few years ago by none other than Jonah Hill, I was expecting something really stupid. But when the trailer came out and then the film started getting buzz, my expectations rebounded. It was looking to be a funny film. And it was was. 21 Jump Street is funny from start to finish, and moreover, its approach to the idea of a movie based on a TV show was fresh and original.

Erica: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as stars of a movie did not thrill me and I never watched the tv show. I just wanted to give RPX another try and luckily it was a great one. I wasn't laughing the entire movie, but I laughed enough to make it worth your while. The RPX screen and sound is great and the seats are comfortable and it does indeed help pass the time.

May 09, 2012

The Raid Redemption - Regal E-Walk

Erica: This was a movie I was not thrilled about seeing. I went in not knowing what to expect. What I got was a violent bloodbath to take out one crimelord and a few of his men. For what it was, it was a fine movie but I wouldn't say 'run out and see this movie' as it wasn't necessarily my type of movie. Now let me say, I am not against movie violence, it isn't that it's just that I wasn't thrilled with this movie. What I learned from the movie was if I needed to fight someone, I want the main character on my side...

Mike: Sorry, I kind of dragged you into this one. It's one of those movies that gets a lot of buzz, like last year's Attack the Block. I tend to think that anything that gets any amount of hype is over-hyped, and as much as I think The Raid has been over-hyped, I still must say that it's a damn cool movie. The Raid is exciting from start to finish. There's a good story, a cool premise, some plot twists and memorable character, but it's really a collection of awesome action scenes that couldn't stop impressing me. Highly recommended.

May 08, 2012

Detachment - VOD

Mike: I'd been looking forward to see something new from director Tony Kaye, and heard some interesting things when the film played festivals. Plus, teacher movies are usually pretty interesting, and Kaye's take on Dangerous Minds or Stand and Deliver would be fascinating.

It is, to a degree. The usual new-teacher-comes-to-school-and-makes-a-difference storyline is present, but the new teacher doesn't exactly bring a lot of hope. In fact, the whole movie will make you feel hopeless. As a portrayal of the present-day US school system and all its problems, it's fascinating, and the many stars peppered throughout the production (I think every single teacher is someone you'll recognize) make it memorable. But the film seems to be too busy making statements about our schools and the focus on the storyline is lost. Worth a watch, but wait for cable.

Erica: I didn't think this movie was that great.  I do think it is an accurate portrayal of teachers in school systems as well as students in our school systems today. I kind of lost interest relatively quickly once I knew the basic premise. I am not an Adrien Brody fan so that also kind of turned me off. It was a film festival darling but if you do decide to check this movie out, wait for Netflix.

Get the Gringo - Regal Union Square

Mike: Erica hates clowns, and the trailer for Mel Gibson's latest, Get the Gringo (formerly How I Spent My Summer Vacation, a title I liked better), showed Mel in a clown mask. So I knew I was going to have to watch this by myself. I first heard about it a few years ago and was excited to see it. After all that Mel has been through lately, I wasn't taken that much by surprise that this was skipping theaters in favor of a VOD release, albeit an unprecedented on at that with DirecTV.

Ain't It Cool News partnered with Gibson to have a special screening in ten cities, with a live Q&A with Gibson immediately following the presentation. In order to win a ticket I had to write about my favorite Mel Gibson movie, and was very happy to find out that I ended up with a ticket. I was very excited about seeing the movie.

The screening was at the Regal in Union Square - a theater I've been to many times but not very often in the last few years, as AMC gets most of my business now. So it was pretty nice to be back here. I was hoping the show would be in one of the auditoriums with a balcony, but unfortunately it was in a regular room. There was a special screening of The Raven going on at the same time and a huge crowd showed up for that. I got there super early, fearing I might not get in, but it ended up being only 2/3rds full. I was relieved that the usual gang of free ticket folks weren't there - they always make events like these in NYC a nightmare in and not worth your time, but my guess is that writing about their favorite Mel Gibson movie was too much effort.

Anyway, the movie finally started at 8 PM. It was nice to see Gibson back on the big screen again with another bad ass character. And right off the bat, he's a real bad ass. The old Mel Gibson we used to love so much. As the film progresses, he softens a bit, and that was my main problem. I understand that a character needs to have an arc, but here it just wasn't at all plausible. The Gibson at the beginning of the movie is far too different from the one you see at the end.

The production values were good. I could see the post-production budget being a bit limited - the effects aren't as polished as I'm used to seeing on the big screen. But the film has a slight direct-to-video feel to it, and it has nothing to do with the way it looks. It's because of the dialogue. Get the Gringo tries very hard to be clever and to deliver as many memorable one-liners as possible. Sometimes it succeeds, but too often it feels forced or out of place.

I can't really complain, though. I wanted to see Mel Gibson in another action movie, and that's what we get. There's plenty of craziness to make the movie enjoyable and worth watching - especially for just $10 on VOD - but the film misses its mark with the dialogue and by turning Mel Gibson from a hard ass into a softie.

May 02, 2012

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope - VOD

Erica: Anytime we can watch a movie from the comfort of our own home it is so much better. I am a big fan of Morgan Spurlock and while I was upset he wasn't on camera, this movie delivered even without his presence. Trying to watch this movie on demand was quite a chore. Mike began downloading it while I was out so it would be ready when I got back. It never loaded. After calling Amazon and Tivo and wasting 7 hours of my day (yes you read that correctly....7 hours!) I gave up and then all of a sudden at 9:30 the movie was on our Tivo. Of course, Amazon refunded me the money so this movie cost us $0 to watch it which maybe made it better. Mike and I go to the New York Comic-Con every year but have never been to San Diego Comic-Con, but have always heard amazing things about it so it was great to see the inner workings and it was a great thing to focus on a few separate people's stories and what they go to Comic-Con for. I go for t-shirts and DVDs but others have a certain item they are searching for and won't give up until they have it and may even trample a few people to get to it. The movie was funny and insightful and I highly recommend it. It is better if you have an interest in the Con or are a geek but if you want to know what everyone talks about, this is a great glimpse inside the world of Comic-Con.

Mike: I always look forward to the New York Comic-Con - which is pretty big but nowhere near the size of the San Diego Comic-Con. However, the idea of a documentary about it didn't really appeal to me. Each year, there is endless coverage. But Morgan Spurlock found a nice angle - a good way to present it. He focused on a number of different areas that make up the Comic-Con experience, and presented it all respectfully. I also liked how the documentary addressed how comic books have taken a bit of a back seat at the event in recent years, and the effect that's had on the comic book sellers who set up shop there every year. As a whole, it's a funny and heartfelt documentary.