Saturday, May 30, 2009

Push 2009

I had been waiting to see Push from the first time I heard about it 4 or so months ago. I liked the TV show Heroes and I just generally like most super-power themed films or shows. Chris Evans (Sunshine, London, Fantastic Four) is one of my favorite actors of late and he plays the lead in this although the movie is not all his; Dakota Fanning does a great job as the way-too-mature-for-her-age character that she almost always plays. This time it's that same character except with the power to see into the future and draw it on a notepad in crayon. Camilla Bell plays the main love interest and Djimon Hounsou is the ominous and scary black guy, think his performance in Constantine. The movie's special effects were utterly spectacular at times and the different powers are portrayed in a very satisfying way. There is one particular shootout in a restaurant that includes the slow motion "Matrix Effect" but with a twist so original that I feel it is a must-see for all action fans. The plot is a tad convoluted but very original and is set in Thailand of all places. The photography is great and if they didn't shoot it on location in Thailand they fooled me big time. The only particularly negative thing I have to say about this film is that the pacing is schizophrenic. You get action for 10 minutes, people sitting in a room talking, action for 40 minutes, plot, sitting in a hotel room, action, end. Come for the special effects and stay for the very original plot and unique twist on the "superhero" theme that is so popular now.

Honestly: 7.75 out of 10

Genre: Action, Adventure, Superhero, Super-powers

In the Same Ballpark: X-Men, Heroes (TV)

Somewhat Related: Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, etc.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mental (TV) Pilot

I was looking forward to seeing this new Fox TV show from the time I first heard of it. I am a bit of an amateur psychologist and I enjoy studying the philosophies of the different psychological disciplines. Ego, id, borderline personality disorder, collective unconscious, Freud, Jung, etc. I imagine eventually all of these concepts will be included in the show. Just in case you are uninitiated I'll give you a rough idea of what Mental is all about. An L.A. area mental hospital has just lost its director and the hospital decides to go a little off the beaten path for a replacement. The new director Jack Gallagher is a bit of a wild card and unorthodox but completely dedicated to helping the patients under his facility's care. He takes a hands-on approach which is unusual for a head of a hospital who would normally delegate responsibilities and play more of a manager type role. Some of the employees are perturbed for one reason or another and that is the source of some of the conflict of the pilot. I would like to mention that the lead is played by Chris Vance who also played James Whistler on Prison Break (another Fox show, Imagine that.) I thought he did a noticeably outstanding job in that series, and that was one of the reasons I had watching the pilot penciled in on my schedule. In the first 5 minutes or so I got the feeling that the actors and also the entire production weren't exactly comfortable yet. The opening scenes were most likely the first shots the production team had filmed together and they didn't have that "flow" that a crew gets after having worked together for a while. That's not to say that the opening scenes weren't good story-wise, especially the obligatory "off-the-wall" arrival of the new director of the mental hospital. The pilot had its ups and downs but it all came together after the first 15 minutes or so. The show has a bit of a "police procedural" vibe to it, with the residents going outside the facility to investigate the lives of patients who are having trouble. I think Mental is a good show and might have the potential to be a great show as long as they keep it from going over the top and keep the different patient's cases true to life and interesting.  If I had to predict whether or not this show will get canceled I would probably say that they are at least going to air all the episodes. I believe I can say that with some certainty but it's too early to tell whether or not it will have a second season. I'd say there's about a 40% chance of that happening. That's not bad though for a new show.

Honestly: 7.25 out of 10 (preliminarily, might change after watching more episodes)

Genre: Hospital Drama, Investigative Medicine

In the Same Ballpark: The Mentalist, Psych

Somewhat Related: CSI, Prison Break

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rescue Me (TV)

I was one of those guys that didn't think that Denis Leary's comedy wasn't all that great. His stand up was kind of over the top and I just didn't really get into it. I also thought that his TV show about firemen who lost some colleagues in 9/11 would be just sort of lame and not good. Well, I am halfway into season 2 of Rescue Me and I am enthralled. This show portrays the lives of one house of FDNY firefighters closer to reality than I could imagine possible. The firehouse is loaded with seemingly stereotypical ''macho men," perpetually worried about how many "broads" they'd each banged and the details of each encounter therein. On first glance they are immature, lazy, and stupid but admittedly dedicated to their job and saving people's lives. The brilliance of the show is taking these seemingly stereotypical characters and giving you the full picture of their lives, their motivations and ultimately getting down to the truth of each of them. Denis Leary's character is of course the standout and the series' main character. I am constantly re-surprised at his acting range and abilities and how perfect he is as the hard-drinking, kick-ass, smart-ass, lying-ass Tommy Gavin.  I don't think I'll trust my judgement on actors and shows that I haven't seen ever again. Though his role doesn't overshadow some of the interesting sideplots of the other firefighters. The heft of the series deals with the families of said firefighters, their wives children and in some cases ex-wives and ex-children. All of the characters in the show, from the extended family to the victims of various fires, are well written and none of their interactions between each other and the world at large seem disingenuous. They are breathing, laughing, sweating, screwing, bleeding and in some cases dying people. Some are brothers, half-brothers brothers in arms and brothers for life. Most are flawed and human but all are funny. It is a drama first and foremost, but the humor in the show is so funny because it is totally organic. It's like slipping and falling on your ass on the wet pavement while walking to your car. Your ass is wet and you're hurting but you still laugh because you just have to. Nothing will be able to stop me from taking this show to its conclusion. I have 3 more seasons to go and I am very excited for it. I'm glad I didn't watch it until now so I don't have to wait months and months for the next season to come out. I just pop the next disc in. 

Honestly: 9.5 out of 10

Genre: Drama, Family, Firefighters, Comedy, 

In the Same Ballpark: Six Feet Under, Weeds, United States of Tara, Breaking Bad, Brothers and Sisters 

Somewhat Related: The Shield, The Sopranos, Dirty Sexy Money

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Superman (1978)

On a lark I decided to re-watch Richard Donner's 1978 version of the DC Comics' superhero Superman. I can't imagine a person out there who has not heard of Superman and I believe I read somewhere that Superman is one of the most recognized words throughout the world along with Mickey Mouse and Coca-Cola. I had a cynical point of view about older films earlier in my life. I had this belief that filmmaking had progressed so much in the present that past films would become unwatchable and unenjoyable because the more advanced (read: better) filmmaking techniques of today had fundamentally altered our perception of what a movie should look like, sound like and feel like. It turned out that this hypothesis was incorrect. I actually found that films in general haven't changed all that much and older films are still very effective and capable of reaching us in the same way,  no matter what the age or what techniques utilized. Superman is one such movie that you could, with a very few exceptions, release in the present day and it be as successful as it was when it was first in theatres 31 years ago. The jokes are still funny, the special effects are still stunning and the characters and the actors portraying them , especially Christopher Reeve, are still wonderfully convincing and loveable. The only parts that fell a little flat were some logical questions I had about the plot towards the end of the movie but that I will leave out here to prevent spoilers. Superhero films are ubiquitous in Hollywood today but it's good to know that they got that way because of well made and genuinely superb films like Superman. If you'd like to see how Superman's contemporary persona and what made Superman a household name all over the world look no further than the Salkind's original 1978 production. 

Honestly: 8.25 out of 10

Genre: Superhero, Action, Supervillain, Good Guys vs Bad Guys

In the Same Ballpark: The 5 Batman films, Spiderman, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk,

Somewhat Related: Blade, Wolverine: Origins, The X-Men Films, The Punisher, Unbreakable

The International (2008)

This movie surprised me in a few ways. I went into it thinking I was going to see an espionage-heavy semi-thriller with political overtones. The International was certianly that, but the plot also dips into extremely effective action territory throughout. There is a shoot-out scene in the middle of the film that really blew me away. Think the shootout from Heat but on a smaller more intimate scale. The best feature of this movie was that I found it to be extremely realistic across the board. It had a real-world plot involving mutli-national conglomerates and the politics surrounding the prosecution of said international corporate law-breakers. The realism extended to an instance of a particular medical emergency suffered by one of the supporting characters that didn't leave out any of the gory details. Most films show people dying in an audience-friendly way. They usually struggle for a second then fall over and close their eyes. That's not how it happens. Death in real life is an extremely ugly experience and this film has a few unflinching views of the truly gut-wrenching side of death. None of the action overshadowed the main plot but greatly added to it. The performances by the supporting characters weren't particularly memorable but Clive Owen was very good as the idealistic but tough-under-pressure Interpol agent. Naomi Watts' character didn't break out the way I know she is capable of doing but it didn't detract at all from the enjoyment of the film. It was a fantastic and sometimes harrowing escape into international espionage that didn't disappoint.

Honestly: 8 out of 10

Genre: Political Thriller, Espionage, International Law, Conspiracy, Action (Some)

Mission Statement

I will try as hard as possible to make this blog a place you can go to find out about new and old movies and decide whether or not to watch them. In this economy money and time are in short supply and you want to know when to use what little free time and money you have to watch a movie. I hope that you'll come here to get honest advice on films that is as fair as it can be as well as informative. I'll help you figure out what movies you'll like, learn what other movies you might like that are related, and also the relationship to films you already know. I have found that most critics are people who are either in the industry or wannabes who are extremely jealous and have a real ego problem. A handful of them are even paid to write good or bad reviews on certain movies to trick you into going and seeing them. Others use their writing to tear down directors, producers or actors that they hate or resent and you can definitely tell it. I promise that you'll never read a review here that doesn't include some good things about a particular movie or TV show, but I will be honest. I personally feel that films are art and are to be interpreted by the viewer and judged accordingly. I don't believe (with a very, very, very few exceptions) that a movie "sucks" or is "garbage," I just think there are movies that some people don't like. I think it is a critic's job to try to help people who are trying to decide what movies to watch and steer them to films they might enjoy and maybe save a person from a movie that they won't. It's not a critic's job to pick apart every single aspect of a movie and tear the ones they don't particularly like to shreds. If I see a movie I didn't like, I'll tell you the reasons why I didn't but also why I could imagine some people would like it in the hopes that maybe my tastes are just a little bit different. I wouldn't want to exclude a movie from someone who would like it simply because I didn't. Every film has redeeming qualities and I will point them out. I will say what works and what doesn't but I won't nitpick and I won't villainize anyone. Every movie that comes out was worked hard on by someone and they deserve a lot of credit for that. For most filmmakers it is a labor of love and they aren't doing it for the money, so to tell them their movie blew ass and that it should be set on fire and that they should douse themselves with gasoline and jump in with it is not the way to go. I won't do that. So, I hope I can give you some good advice about films and TV shows and maybe you'll come to trust me and come here often.

If you'd like me to review a movie of yours or write for your publication or to put on this blog please email

I would greatly appreciate access to any screeners and I promise they won't show up on the internet after I get them. Also, if you have a request for me to watch a film and tell you what I think about it email me and I'll see what I can do or write some comments on a post.