Brick (2005)

brick-movie-wallpaper-5

 

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

 

Advertisements

The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Original Theatrical Release Date: February 15, 1985
Director: John Hughes

Five high-school kids end up in detention who couldn’t be more different from one another; “The Brain” Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), “The Athlete” Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), “The Basket Case” Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), “The Princess” Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) and “The Criminal” John Bender (Judd Nelson) – they are all different stereotypes who find out that they are all the same in more ways than they imagined.

John Hughes made lots of films, but this one resonated with me more than most. It was set in high school and although I wasn’t in high school when it was released (I was only four years old at the time) I saw it later on in life when I needed to see it and it actually helped me with my own mindset during high school in different ways.

Ringwald and the rest of the cast are well-chosen for their individual roles, especially Judd Nelson as the kinetic John Bender and Ally Sheedy as the creepy girl, Allison. Paul Gleason played a great villain in the form of the teacher looking over detention, Richard Vernon. Ringwald doesn’t really do much different in this film than she did in other Hughes films – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Breakfast Club plays out almost in a vignette fashion as the hours in the day move on and on and while at first being tongue-in-cheek and sort of silly, actually moves on to be relevant and full of heart – a love/hate letter to high school life in the 1980’s.  The performances bring life to a vehicle with not a lot of actual story content – at face value, this is a film about kids in detention….but as far as deeper meanings go, this is an allegory which teaches us that we are all human and all have something akin with one another.

JOE Review: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For The Breakfast Club

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka the crime-fighting everyman named Kick-Ass who inspired many people to take arms and assume the role of city protectors is looking to form a superhero team with none other than Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) – the closest thing to a real superhero that Dave has ever seen. However, Hit Girl has her own problems with the “Queen Bee” of the school, Brooke (Claudia Lee), who’s raining on her parade and her new adoptive father-figure Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut) who forbids her from participating in antics as Hit Girl. This leaves Dave to look elsewhere, which leads him to Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and his ragtag group of superhero hopefuls. As Dave tries to continue on his path as defender of the innocent, he must contend with the likes of The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) – formerly Red Mist, who has gone insane with revenge bloodlust resulting from Kick-Ass killing his crime-kingpin father, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)….as well as all of the hired killers that money can buy.

In my opinion, this film was much more enjoyable than Kick-Ass, the previous entry. While I love both movies, this one kept my interest the entire time and it did not waver. The characters, especially Colonel Stars and Stripes and Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) really jumped out and distinguished themselves within the context of the film.

The action was fast-paced, there weren’t a lot of slogging story problems and the special effects were decent. There were a couple of silly elements which almost ruined some of the movie for me, but other than that the only thing I can really complain about is Hit Girl and her dealings with high school students and high school life: Nobody really cares. We spent far too much time dealing with the likes of Brooke, and exposing ourselves to Hit Girl’s vulnerable side…but Hit Girl doesn’t NEED a vulnerable side. I wanted to see more of her, well…hitting stuff.

So, if you liked the first one or other films in this genre (Super, Defendor) then you’re sure to love Kick-Ass 2.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Original Air Date: January 20, 2008
Stations Airing: AMC
Number Of Episodes In Season: 7

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher who discovers that he only has two more years left to live because of his unexpected stage III cancer. With nothing left to lose, and no other means to provide for his family, he enlists the aid of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a bright but broken junkie and former student to help him distribute some crystal meth, which “Walt” is very proficient at creating. Soon, the duo find themselves not only at odds with each other but also crossing paths with heavy-duty drug dealers like the insane and violent Tuco (Raymond Cruz) as Walt and Jesse shoulder in on the meth-dealing business.

I had been extremely excited for this show upon seeing the original trailers on AMC back when I had cable. When it finally came on, I was not disappointed. I missed most of the original airing, but recently caught up on all the episodes using Netflix.

Right off the bat, the series and season one starts off at a decent pace, and you really get to both fear and love Walt by the end. I would say that the beginning half of the season is a nice segway into the dark, frenetic and chaotic second half with episodes like Crazy Handful of Nothin’ where Walt shaves his head and begins to really embrace his inner gangster. The dichotomy of Walter White, chemistry teacher with an extreme illness and Heisenberg, the meth-producing hard-ass is amazing and I can think of no better-written show in memory that could stand up to this series.

The relationship between Walt and Jesse is really, extremely well-done and is the subject of discussion even now among some of my friends. One of my friends, actually, (if you’re interested at all) has many theories about the show, especially when it comes to color symbolism. Check her out, but be careful because there might be spoilers if you haven’t seen the entire series yet. She makes some good points and observations, for sure, though. Her name is Erin Enberg and her website is HERE.

Breaking Bad has inspired so much conversation, between things like plot and characters, to other things like color symbolism. It’s that good. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven’t already. Just be prepared to become addicted to the show and not see the light of day until the series is over.

And even if you’ve already followed the show through to its satisfying conclusion, I found that it’s best to re-watch the series again right away from the beginning. You’ll really see how the characters have changed, mostly for the worse. Now get out of here and go watch it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Breaking Bad 

Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 (2012)

Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 (2012)

Original Air Date: April 1, 2012
Stations Airing: Disney X D, Disney Channel
Number Of Episodes In Season: 26

Peter Parker (Drake Bell), was bitten by a radioactive spider which granted him spider-like powers such as the ability to crawl on walls and increased strength and agility, as well as an internal warning system he calls “Spider-Sense” which usually lets him dodge incoming attacks.

At the beginning of Season 1, Peter has been Spider-Man for one year. He’s still learning, and when S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Chi McBride) offers to give him training that will make him into the “ultimate” Spider-Man, Spidey can’t refuse. The catch is that he has to lead a fledgling group of other superheroes including Iron Fist (Greg Cipes), Power Man (Ogie Banks), Nova (Logan Miller) and White Tiger (Caitlyn Taylor Love) and show them what ropes he DOES know, and he reluctantly agrees.

The show is a good mix of silly with the serious. Spider-Man has always been about the humor, and Deadpool has sort of taken that away from him in recent years…but Spidey, in this series, acts a bit more like Deadpool than is normal, with constant breaking of the fourth wall. To me, this is a good thing at least in context of the show because the show itself is kinetic and hyper-stylized, and is definitely aimed at a younger audience.

Older fans, don’t worry. I am a long-time Spidey fan and I actually really like this series. The team-up is a strange but cool concept, and there are constant throwbacks to story threads found in the Ultimate Marvel Verse. Spider-Man also teams up with other heroes in different episodes, like Thor, Dr. Strange, Iron-Man and others.

All the staple Spidey characters are there, including Aunt May, Flash Thompson, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson.

The action sequences are really well-done, and the humor is usually spot-on. One thing I didn’t really like is how sometimes-annoying Spidey’s voice is. Otherwise, all the voice acting is good.

If you want more serious Spider-Man viewing pleasure, there are definitely other choices, but at least watch this one through the first season because you’ll get a feel for how the rest of the story’s going to go.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Ultimate Spider-Man

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: August 27, 2004
Director: Jared Hess

Napoleon (Jon Heder) lives in a small Iowa town, where there seems to have congregated a long list of off-the-wall eccentric characters including his crazy family – Kip (Aaron Ruell), Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) and Grandma (Sandy Martin). At his school, he pursues a girl named Deb (Tina Majorino) and tries to help his newfound friend Pedro (Efrem Ramirez) become the class president and defeat the obnoxious Summer Wheatly (Haylie Duff).

The big draw to this film, in case you couldn’t already tell, are the zany characters. The story is there to fit the characters, and not the other way around.

Heder is definitely at his best here, playing the squinty, annoyed and overly-confident but tragically clumsy Napoleon who must constantly wade through the others in the cast to get anything accomplished in his life…from his squabbling brother Kip, who wants to be a cage fighter and somehow gets more attention from the ladies….to his Uncle Rico who does nothing but eat steak and wish he were still in the 1980’s.

There are many worthy moments of comedy cold and there are lots of catchphrases still being used even today from the film (and even a new animated show, which I’m not sure is still on or not).

The locations where the film was shot hold a sort of nostalgic charm that you can’t find in today’s hustle-and-bustle cities and it’s really fun to see a world where you’re really not sure if it’s supposed to be the 1990’s or if it’s really just that backwater there.

This is a classic, for sure.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Napoleon Dynamite

Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man (2002)

Original Theatrical Release: May 3, 2002
Director: Sam Raimi

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is your average high school student from New York who has a lot of troubles in his young life. Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is the girl of his dreams but doesn’t really give him the time of day. He gets bullied, and doesn’t even live with his real parents – instead living with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). Next to his rich best friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco), Peter’s life looks pretty lame. Well, until he is bitten by a radioactive spider and is granted great powers. As young Peter finds out in a very hard and tragic way with the murder of his Uncle Ben, with great power must also come great responsibility. Peter dons the identity of Spider-Man and fights crime, and the menace of the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), in New York City.

When this movie first came out, I was ecstatic. I never thought I would see a Spider-Man movie on the big screen. Not only that, but it was being directed by Sam Raimi, the same guy who made those Evil Dead movies that I loved so much.

The film mostly lived up to my expectations. Tobey Maguire has always been questionable to me as a good Peter/Spider-Man, but I think he pulled it off (quite a bit better than James Garfield, I’m sorry to say….but I’ll tell you why in my review of the newer Spider-Man movie when I finally do it) for the most part. I always thought of Peter as really dorky and Maguire can certainly pull off dorky.

I know a lot of folks had a problem with Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, but I enjoyed her in that role. It’s probably the only role of hers I actually like. (Not sure on that, yet)

James Franco was okay as Harry Osborn, but he wasn’t amazing. In fact, I like him in almost any other movie. I felt like he was hamming it up too much in this film. I dunno why. Maybe just because it was a comic book movie and he felt he had to be Shakespearian?

Willem Dafoe was AMAZING as Norman Osborn, but the choice to put him behind a metal mask as the Green Goblin was atrocious. We could have had some really demented scenes with Dafoe, especially if he wore prosthetics or a different mask, but instead we got fights that were reminiscent of Power Rangers….where you hear the voice of the villain but if the sound were off you would just see him shaking his head around a lot when he’s “talking”. I know it’s possible to do this with some range, just like in V For Vendetta, (the link to my review for that film) but whatever their technique…it didn’t work.

Almost everything else was great, though. I didn’t like the organic webshooters, though it DOES make sense…that’s not who Spider-Man is. I wanted to see him create the web shooter devices as he does in the newer movie (and they do it quite well) because that was integral to his character in the comics. I feel like he was dumbed down a lot in the film.

So, overall, it was a decent movie (the second one was much better) but due to a lot of weird problems, I didn’t think it was as amazing as it should have been.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Spider-Man