Monthly Archives: January 2014
Better Living Through Chemistry (2014)
In my world, Sam Rockwell can pretty much do no wrong.
In Better Living Through Chemistry he plays a pharmacist with a basic, uneventful life. His life gets turned upside down when he starts a crazy love affair with a gorgeous customer (Olivia Wilde). The pharmacist gets tangled up in a mess of drugs, sex, and problems with the police.
The movie was written and directed by Geoff Moore and David Posamentier and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Michelle Monaghan, Ray Liotte, Jane Fonda, Ben Schwartz, Peter Jacobson, and Ken Howard.
This movie looks like it will be good for some laughs.
The film is set to release on 03/14/14.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)
I had never even heard of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints until I rented Charlie Countryman (2013) at the Redbox. When you rent Charlie Countryman, you get A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints as a bonus movie. They give you a two-for-one, a double sided disc for the price of one movie. It’s a Shia LaBeouf double feature. They are both indie films. This was all the more intriguing to me, so I watched each movie the other night. You can guess what one of my next reviews will be.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was based on the book with the same title. Surprisingly enough, the man who wrote the book, Dito Montiel, also directed the movie. The movie is a film adaptation of Dito Montiel’s life growing up in Astoria, New York in the 1980s. The story is a look into a messed up childhood in a rough part of the city. It follows the struggles of inner city teenagers, Dito (Shia LaBeouf plays young Dito, and Robert Downey Jr. plays grown up Dito) and his friends as they are becoming adults. The circle of friends are pitted against drugs, violence, sex, love, hate, loss, and hardship. All the while, Dito wants to escape New York and try to make a better life for himself somewhere else.
The rest of the noteworthy cast includes Channing Tatum, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz, Martin Compston, Scott Michael Campbell, Anthony DeSando, Adam Scarimbolo, Peter Anthony Tambakis, Laila Liliana Garro, and Eric Roberts.
I’m surprised that this movie got past me 8 years ago, because the cast is excellent. I should have been aware of this film earlier. It’s another low-budget independent film that slipped through the cracks.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was hard to watch, at times, but it was also hard to stop watching. The film was an excellent depiction of how rundown certain areas of the country can be and how it affects the people living there. It’s indeed unfortunate, but it’s in-your-face honesty. Some people won’t be able to handle the honesty of this movie. The trashy characters, obscene language and other vulgarity, along with the sex, nudity, and mindless violence, among other things, will be too much for some.
But, you have to take the sweet from the sour. There is indeed a silver lining in this story. The headlining actors in this film are exceptional. The movie makes you feel like you are in the slums with the characters experiencing it all. The actors portray a remarkable friendship and camaraderie that helps you come back to the reality that people often try to be good even if they are bad.
The story is rigid and rocky, but the writing and acting make it all worthwhile. Here is an unknown gem for those who are willing to give it a chance.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
If you liked A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, you might also enjoy the following movies:
American Hustle (2013)
Back in August of 2013, when I first heard about American Hustle, this was my viewpoint on it:
David O. Russell has taken 3 stars from his film Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and 2 stars from his film The Fighter (2010), and brought all 5 of them together to make a movie. If The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook had a baby, it would be named American Hustle.
Not only is this film a guaranteed Oscar contender, but it will likely be amazing.
I have been excited about seeing American Hustle ever since.
What do you get when you cross two conniving con artists, a crazy FBI agent, corrupt politicians and the mob? The answer, American Hustle. Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) have developed an excellent partnership of swindling desperate people out of their money. Everything is going great until one day, a power hungry FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) catches the couple in his web. In order to keep from going to prison, Irving and Sydney are forced to work with the FBI to try to help bring down other criminals. One thing leads to another and they find themselves butting heads with the mafia. The beauty of it all is that you can’t tell who is conning who.
The rest of the noteworthy cast includes Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Pena, Alessandro Nivola, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Robert De Niro, and Paul Herman.
I have to say that I loved the trailer for this movie. It tells you what the movie is about without telling you much about the movie at all. They leave a lot to the imagination. It was refreshing. You get excited to see the movie because of the cast of characters and how they are acting, but you are dying to know what the movie is really about. In this day and age, this is a risky concept because there are multiple movies out there that appear like they are about nothing because their trailer does not tell you much, and when you go to watch them they are pointless. Their secrecy sucks you in, but in reality they weren’t keeping a secret. They just really suck and you just wasted your time. American Hustle is not like that, at all. There is far more to this film than the trailer leads you to believe.
I did not expect there to be as much humor as there was. The movie was laugh-out-loud hilarious. It was very smart, well thought out dark humor.
The film oozed with elegance. Everything about the movie seemed classy. It was clean and crisp. The colors were so clear and bright. From a filmmaking aspect alone, the movie was perfection. Picture that, but then throw in some of the best actors in the business into a flawlessly put together movie.
So, now you have a diamond of a movie with a cast that is worth its weight in gold. What do you get now? Fireworks. American Hustle recreates the 70s believably and the soundtrack is there to prove it. The actors play the game like the all-stars that they are. The chemistry was electrifying between everybody. The actors kept one-upping each other.
Chistian Bale, with a porky belly and the cheapest comb over imaginable stood out among the rest. His performance was not surprising, but it was every bit as good as anything he has ever done before. His performance was not surprising because he has been acting at such a high level for such a long time, that it’s hard to expect anything less out of him. His acting was power and precision. For a long time now, Johnny Depp has been my favorite actor and Bale has been my second favorite. I think Bale just surpassed Depp. Dare I say, lately he is more consistently in better movies. Bale is capable of almost any role and he proves it time and time again. I have not seen all of the movies that are up for Academy Awards, but as of right now, Bale gets my vote for Best Actor, and he should be competing against himself for Out of the Furnace (2013)(that movie was snubbed), as well.
Speaking of Academy Awards, Amy Adams. She was absolutely wonderful in American Hustle. She was stylish and sophisticated. Instead of being dressed down, like she was in The Fighter, her beauty was really able to shine through to her core. She played a woman who was always in control and it was the best performance by an actress that I have seen since perhaps, Hilary Swank in the film Million Dollar Baby (2004). It certainly was Amy’s best film that I have seen to date. It was even better than her performance in The Fighter.
Bradley Cooper had more curlers in his hair than Amy Adams. He pulled it off though and it was funny. He brought a level of insanity to his role in American Hustle that showed similarities to Silver Linings Playbook. He was allowed his moments to shine, but you could tell he was along for the ride in the back seat behind Bale. Amy Adams was riding shotgun and Jennifer Lawrence was in the back seat behind her, sitting next to Cooper.
Jennifer Lawrence seemed to pick up right where she left off in Silver Linings Playbook. She was the broken housewife with an attitude and an appetite for wreaking havoc and turmoil. I thought she played the part about as well as she did in Silver Linings Playbook.
David O. Russell has come a long way since Flirting With Disaster (1996) and I Heart Huckabees (2004). He took a page right out of Martin Scorsese’s book by having multiple narrators in American Hustle. The movie actually was very Scorsese-esque. Russell’s last three films have all been Oscar contenders and American Hustle is as deserving of an Oscar as either of the other two. My only concern is that this movie gets screwed out of the Academy Awards that it rightfully deserves for the sake of diversity.
This film was like the acting all-star game of 2013.
I rate this movie a 10 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
Note: I usually do not rate a movie a 10 after the first showing, but I could not find anything wrong with this movie. I thought that it might drag on a little bit because of the 138 minutes running time, but it didn’t. It was just an exercise in excellence. I am often reluctant to give a movie a 10 rating right away because I think that it should prove the test of time. I think this one already did.
If you liked American Hustle, then you will most likely enjoy the following films:
Please take one second out of your day to vote for which movie I should see tonight. I’ll write a review afterwards and have it up in time for the weekend.
You can help influence one of my next reviews. Which movie would you like to see me review? Please cast your vote below.
Thank you to everyone who voted. There was a 3-way tie, but American Hustle got the most votes first, so I decided that would be the tie breaker. I’ll have my review for American Hustle (2013) up tomorrow. Thanks again for participating!
I just got back from the movie and I noticed that I got more votes. I appreciate everyone who voted, sorry the late votes didn’t count. Click on the link below for my full review:
Wrecked is a low budget independent film that may have exceeded expectations if given the proper opportunity.
Before watching this movie, I knew nothing about it except for the fact that Adrien Brody was the main character. I have been a big fan of Brody ever since I saw the film The Pianist (2002). He acted his heart out in that movie and I quickly came to find out that he usually does in all of his films. It’s no wonder that he received an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Pianist.
Wrecked is about a man (Adrien Brody) who awakes to find himself badly injured in a mangled car wreck in the middle of a densely wooded area at the base of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. He has no memory of how he got there, who he is, or who the dead passengers nearby are. He is stuck inside of the car and is forced to try to survive as he contemplates his past and how he got into his current situation.
The film was directed by Michael Greenspan and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Caroline Dhavernas, Ryan Robbins, Adrian G. Griffiths, Adrian Holmes, and Jacob Blair.
I listed the rest of the noteworthy cast, but in reality Wrecked is a one-man show. The vast majority of the movie is Adrien Brody acting alone. The movie has some similarities to 127 Hours (2010), All is Lost (2013), The Edge (1997) and Unknown (2006).
It takes a highly talented actor to make a film like this watchable, let alone entertaining. Brody was up for the challenge and he was a superb choice for this role. The pain that his character felt in in the movie appeared genuine in every way. You feel for his character as if the events that are happening to him on screen are actually happening.
The film is pretty gruesome and intense. There is a bit of language throughout, but it all serves to make the story more realistic.
Unfortunately, I think that this movie is underrated and under watched. It didn’t get the chance that it deserved in theatres.
The movie grabs on to you in the very beginning and keeps you guessing what will happen next. It is slow at times, but that is to be expected when there is basically only one person in the film. The suspense holds your attention throughout as Adrien Brody’s character is injured in the wild and facing what the wilderness has in store for him.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
If you liked Wrecked, then you will probably enjoy the following films:
127 Hours (2010)
The Edge (1997)
The Book Thief (2013)
The Book Thief is a heartbreaking and heartwarming story of innocence, stolen.
I’ve always been drawn to stories about World War II. Movies about WWII have a tendency to be very powerful films if done correctly. I think that this is because it was such a hard and troubling time in the world when Hitler was in power.
The movie is based off of the novel with the same name by Markus Zusak. The film is about Liesel (Sophie Nelisse), a young girl without a family in Nazi Germany during WWII. She gets taken in and adopted by a couple who also hide a Jewish boy under their stairs. With all of the terrible things going on around her, Liesel takes comfort in learning how to read. She begins to read whatever books that are available to her. Eventually she starts stealing books and sharing them with her new family.
The film was directed by Brian Percival and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Ben Schnetzer, Joachim Paul Assbock, Kirsten Block, Roger Allam, Nico Liersch and Sandra Nedeleff.
The film was slower, but a true drama. It depended solely on acting and story to get its point across. Don’t expect an action-packed war movie. However, a story about Nazi Germany during WWII is intense enough. Although the story is pretty serious, I liked how there was a bit of humor thrown in to cut the tension and make it more enjoyable.
The Book Thief had some similarities to the movie The Pianist (2002), except that it was not as intense.
I will admit, the touching story made me shed a few tears. The movie does a great job of making you care about the characters. The acting draws you into the story.
Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nelisse both deliver genuinely heartfelt performances. The presence of Rush was what was needed to make everyone act on a higher level. He was the glue that held the movie together.
The set was a work of art. Germany during the late 30s and early 40s was duplicated very believably. That task could not have been a simple one.
The only thing that I thought was a little weird about the movie was the way that it was narrated. The only explanation that I can think of as to why it was done the way that it was is maybe that was how it was narrated in the book. Regardless, it comes off as a little odd. The narration style does not seem to fit the type of film that The Book Thief is.
I applaud the filmmakers for getting a movie like this one made. In a movie world so consumed with special effects, action, sequels, superheroes, and unoriginality, The Book Thief is the type of film that we need more of. It’s a genuinely refreshing story that takes plenty of risks.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
Man of Tai Chi (2013)
Keanu Reeves returns ruthlessly with a vengeance. Not only is he a star in this film, but he also made his directorial debut.
The fact that this is a martial arts movie was intriguing to me because after watching Keanu’s fighting skills in The Matrix (1999), I was thirsty for a little bit more of his flying jump kicks and karate chops. It’s just a bit of a shame that he waited so long after The Matrix Trilogy to showcase his combat expertise. He is probably a little more known for his slow-motion bullet dodge than his actual fighting skills, but he has proved that either one can be sufficiently entertaining. The bottom line is, Man of Tai Chi is Reeves in a fighting movie.
The film is about wealthy businessman Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves), who discovers uniquely talented fighters who he then convinces to fight for him in underground and illegal fighting matches in China. His most recent fighter, Tiger Chen (Chen Lin-Hu), has a special and virtually one-of-a-kind style of hand-to-hand combat with a Tai Chi base. Tiger Chen needs the money, and the fights pay, but once he is in the game, Donaka Mark makes it difficult to stop.
The rest of the noteworthy cast includes Iko Uwais, Simon Yam, Karen Mok, Silvio Simac, and Jeremy Marinas.
The movie goes back and forth between spoken English and Chinese with subtitles. It’s a foreign film with American and Chinese actors. I believe that the joining of the two cultures in the film works to successfully portray the mix of each cultures’ fighting style.
The martial arts in Man of Tai Chi is depicted gracefully and eloquently. The choreography is amazing. The movie has some of the best fighting scenes that I have seen since The Raid: Redemption (2011). Each move seemed so intentional that it almost felt like the fighters were dancing, but the dance was a work of art.
The film’s soundtrack helped to give what was happening on screen a deeper, more intense feel.
The movie started off impressively and this continued until probably the last quarter of the film. It certainly had potential to be better, but I felt like the ending fell short. This was pretty disappointing because it was so good up until that point.
Iko Uwais, who became famous for his role in The Raid: Redemption, was way underused in the movie. If his character was given the chance to show what he was made of, the film could have reached the same caliber as The Raid: Redemption. Instead, his part was cut far too short.
Man of Tai Chi was certainly crammed with action-packed goodness. If it weren’t for the ending, I would give the movie a higher rating. Even though the film was a bit of a letdown towards the end, it was still fun to watch. Keanu did his job well, but his martial arts skill unfortunately didn’t add up to the rest of the fighters in the movie.
I rate this movie a 7 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Rent.