Brick (2005)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: January 1, 2005
Director: Rian Johnson

A teenage loner, Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), seeks the whereabouts of his girlfriend, Emily (Emilie De Ravin). When it turns out that she was a victim of apparent foul play, Brendan finds himself in the seedy underbelly of a high school crime syndicate run by the notorious and mysterious Pin (Lukas Haas). Brendan must sort through his own morals and reserves of courage if he is to get any answers for Emily’s disappearance.

Brick is one of those films that was always sort of on my radar but never a film I purposely sought out. To understand why, you must understand that as a rule – I hardly ever watch gritty, ultra-realistic crime films. I see enough of that stuff on the news, so I don’t feel much particular need to seek it out in films I enjoy watching. I use films as an escapist sort of entertainment. The image on the movie jacket did little to inspire any ideas I had about the film being anything other than a movie where a girl is murdered.

With that said, I recently watched this at a friend’s house in Vermont. He and his wife suggested a few of us all watch it for a “movie night” of sorts, and I’m glad he did. First off – this is not ultra-realistic at all. This is a blend of Noir and a sort of high-school/teen drama film. You wouldn’t think such a combination would be satisfying or poignant, but you’d be just as wrong as I was. The ultra-stylistic dialogue and the snappy cinematography  and the quirky characters had me intently watching the screen for the duration of the film.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in a great performance as Brendan. Lukas Haas is very hilarious and on point as The Pin while Noah Fleiss’ portrayal of a henchman named Tugger had me laughing at several points. This is a dark comedy, for sure – as it still deals with drug trafficking and death – but it’s all set against the backdrop of High School, something most of us can relate to. The noir world that the characters inhabit is very believable within its own context and pretty much everything about the film is enjoyable. If you haven’t seen this film yet, give it a shot. It’s really worth taking the time to watch. (Especially if you like films such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Brick

 

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – (2014)

the amazing spider man 2 (5)

Original Theatrical Release: May 02, 2014
Director: Marc Webb

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) enjoys the freedoms of being Spider-Man – slinging webs through the city and showing off for the crowds. He tries to balance his two lives, with some success, as he forges a stronger relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and a childhood friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). However, when the villain known as Electro (Jamie Foxx) appears – someone so powerful that he’s made out of energy – Spidey realizes that he may not be able to protect everyone and that even when you have superpowers, it might not be enough.

Being a Spidey fan is a roller coaster ride in this day and age. Marvel is making cinematic gold with films like Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy – with more on the way. Spider-Man is pretty much the mascot of Marvel Comics. Well, at least he is to me, so I’d like to see him represented better in his film incarnations.

Sam Raimi had a decent run with his own trilogy back in the early 2000’s, starting with Spider-Man back in 2002, which was decent. Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 was even better. Spider-Man 3 was pretty terrible. Webb’s first film in this new reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, was actually pretty good – although I had problems with it being a reboot so soon after the original trilogy. I wish they’d gone in a different direction rather than re-hash the origin story yet again. Still, the dark qualities of the film drew me in and Andrew Garfield was the only thing I really didn’t like about it (because Peter Parker isn’t supposed to be a “hot” semi-popular hipster/skater kid. He’s supposed to be awkward and picked on). I was willing to give Fox (the studio which owns the film rights for Spider-Man) a chance on the second film.

That being said – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a huge disappointment.

First off, the script was a chaotic mess. There were some redeeming qualities but ultimately the story felt fractured and disjointed and by the time the movie actually ended I felt nothing and I just wanted it to be over with, I wanted the movie to have ended an hour before it did – which is never a good thing. The movie felt like part rom-com, part action flick and part advertisement for Oscorp Industries. Peter’s relationship with Harry seemed solid enough at first, but it wasn’t focused on long enough to make much sense later in the film, with how their dynamics changed. Some of the character motivations were just flat-out unbelievable, especially Foxx’s nervous and emotionally unstable Max Dillon/Electro.

Andrew Garfield did a better job at being Spider-Man this time around, but did an even worse job of being Peter Parker. Emma Stone was decent as Gwen Stacy in the first film, but became an annoying, nagging foil to Spider-Man’s every move in this sequel. Dane DeHaan did a great job as Harry, at first, but the manic side of him just wasn’t believable in the film itself (though this wasn’t necessarily the actor’s fault). Jamie Foxx can act but he basically played one of his bumbling characters from the old comedy sketch show he used to be in called In Living Color – which isn’t a good thing for the character of Electro. And Paul Giamatti makes absolutely no sense whatsoever as the villain Rhino. I have no idea how that casting choice happened. I love Paul but he basically just screams into the camera for a half hour and spouts Slavic-sounding gibberish.

The fight scenes are pretty much the only saving grace this film has, aside from a switch to a more classic-looking costume (thank you!). The rest of the film is really underwhelming. I honestly hope that Marvel can somehow get back the film rights to Spider-Man so they can do it some justice, because if not – Fox Studios is going to run this character into the ground, which stinks for those of us who have been longtime fans of the character and want to see him treated well.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For The Amazing Spider-Man 2

 

Hot Rod (2007)

Hot Rod (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: August 3, 2007
Director: Akiva Schaffer

Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) is the son of a stuntman who worked alongside Evel Knieval, and he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. So, he repeatedly attempts to do stunts, failing in the process. At the same time, he tries to make his stepfather Frank (Ian McShane) respect him…by beating him in hand-to-hand combat. When Frank gets sick and it’s discovered he needs a heart transplant or he’ll die, Rod decides to kill two birds with one stone and make the ultimate jump for the ultimate cash prize.

If you’re going into this movie expecting any Oscar-worthy performances or storyline, you obviously don’t know about Andy Samberg’s group, Lonely Island.

Hot Rod is basically a meld of Saturday Night Live and Lonely Island skits. Samberg does a great job with his usual comedic stylings, along with his other Lonely Island group members. Other cameos and supporting roles by great comedic actors like Bill Hader, Danny McBride and Will Arnett round out the bunch. Isla Fisher was okay, but there weren’t exactly a lot of great women’s roles, if you’re looking for that. Still, she was fine for what the role intended and she is very quirky in her own right and seemed to fit naturally within the film’s silly world that is at times reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite.

I base my enjoyment of movies on what they were trying to accomplish and how successful they were at it, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the silly spectacle of this movie for what it was….which is an hour-long skit medley.

If you enjoy silly humor and need a night of laughs, watch this. (Also, the soundtrack is amazing)

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Hot Rod

Role Models (2008)

Role Models (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: November 7, 2008
Director: David Wain

Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and Danny (Paul Rudd) are two energy drink salesmen who travel to various schools and businesses to try and sell their company’s drink. Danny is jaded and fed up with the company and is taking it out on everyone around him, including his girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks). When Danny goes too far and ends up trashing his company’s truck, he and Wheeler must face either jail time or community service. Not opting for jail, the two salesmen end up as Big Brothers; Danny to a socially-crippled teen named Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who spends his days dreaming of being a medieval warrior. Wheeler, meanwhile, is assigned to a foul-mouthed boy named Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson) and the both of them give the guys a run for their money, testing their patience, wallets and friendships.

I never quite know what to expect from a movie that has either Paul Rudd or Seann William Scott in it. Sometimes I think they get typecast as the same old characters they always play. This movie isn’t that different, but it certainly does some interesting things that a lot of their other films don’t do.

First, I did like the dynamic between Scott and Rudd. They’re just like a different version of the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson duo, to me, and that formula works pretty well. Rudd was sarcastic and sometimes angry like Ben Stiller and Scott was sort of daft and out for himself, but full of heart like one of Owen Wilson’s characters. (Think Starsky and Hutch, or Zoolander).

The addition of the big brother program headed up by Jane Lynch’s character was great, as well as the LARP (Live Action Roleplaying) group that Christopher Mintz-Plasse enjoys so much. There were a couple of smarmy moments I didn’t enjoy, because I find that a lot of times in comedies like this they try to throw in some touchy-feely type things like Adam Sandler started doing with all his comedies after the 90’s and it sort of ruins the pacing.

Overall, I think it’s one of my favorite Paul Rudd movies. Plus, he helped write the script so it looks like working with Judd Apatow has paid off for him because this definitely seemed like it could be an Apatow movie. Give it a watch, even for all the cool cameos by other funny folks.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Role Models