Search form

Rick's Flicks Picks on AWN

Blogs A DANGEROUS METHOD (2011) (***1/2)

David Cronenberg is not director shy in exploring the strangeness of sexuality. So it seems obvious that he would tackle psychoanalysis pioneers Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. Based on Christopher Hampton's screenplay adaptation of John Kerr's book, the conflict between Freud and Jung centers around their relationship with patient / future psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein, who will challenge their thoughts on repression.

Jung (Michael Fassbender, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS) has decided to try talk-therapy for the first time on his new patient Spielrein (Keira Knightley, PRIDE & PREJUDICE). The young woman is suffering from violent seizures, driven by years of abuse from her father and the repression of her sexual desire associated with being humiliated. Jung counsels her and encourages her to find the source of her problems and in confronting them cure herself. Jung uses the case as a way to meet his idol Freud (Viggo Mortensen, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE), who disagrees that any analyst can cure a patient.

Blogs A DANGEROUS METHOD (2011) (***1/2)

David Cronenberg is not director shy in exploring the strangeness of sexuality. So it seems obvious that he would tackle psychoanalysis pioneers Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. Based on Christopher Hampton's screenplay adaptation of John Kerr's book, the conflict between Freud and Jung centers around their relationship with patient / future psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein, who will challenge their thoughts on repression.

Blogs THE MUPPETS (2011) (***)

Jason Segel has made his love letter to the Muppets. This nostalgic comedy is clearly made by fans. It takes some vibe from the TV series and some from the features. While it might not have the spark of the original MUPPET MOVIE or the very best of THE MUPPET SHOW, it respects those origins and presents a heartfelt film for a cynical world.

Gary (Segel, FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL) and Walter (Jim Parsons, TV's BIG BANG THEORY) are brothers, but Gary is a man and Walter is a muppet.  As kids they discovered THE MUPPET SHOW together, but Walter has never outgrown them and Gary has never outgrown his bond with Walter, much to the frustration of his Pollyannaish girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams, ENCHANTED). She just smiles when Gary tells her Walter is coming along with them on their anniversary trip to L.A., the home of the Muppets studio.

Blogs THE MUPPETS (2011) (***)

Jason Segel has made his love letter to the Muppets. This nostalgic comedy is clearly made by fans. It takes some vibe from the TV series and some from the features. While it might not have the spark of the original MUPPET MOVIE or the very best of THE MUPPET SHOW, it respects those origins and presents a heartfelt film for a cynical world.

Blogs UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (2011) (***1/2)

This film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is from Thailand and the story deals with a dying man recollecting his life. This includes living, dead and missing relatives and past lives that include a shepherd, futuristic soldiers, pet apes, a princess and a frisky catfish. The whimsical title fits the mood of this surprisingly touching and humorous film.

Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar) is suffering from kidney disease and has a Lao nurse caring for him. His sister-in-law Jen (Jenjira Pongpas) and nephew Tong (Sakda Kaewbuadee) come to visit and help out around his farm. Boonmee proposes that if he dies Jen could leave the city and take over the farm, but she's scared of wild animals and all those smelly foreigners in the area. As we get to know them, we find that despite his health problems Boonmee is eternally optimistic, while Jen is nervous and caring. Then one night out of the blue during dinner, the ghost of Boonmee's dead wife Huay (Natthakarn Aphaiwonk) appears. And this will be the least strange appearance of the evening.

Blogs THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1 (2011) (**)

By Rick DeMott | Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 11:37am

This is a movie for fans. While I haven't read the books it feels like every detail is here, because it's a slog to move through. If you don't care about these characters going in, it's not really going to change your opinion. For non-fans it really is like getting invited to a stranger's wedding.

Blogs THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1 (2011) (**)

By Rick DeMott | Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 11:14am

This is a movie for fans. While I haven't read the books it feels like every detail is here, because it's a slog to move through. If you don't care about these characters going in, it's not really going to change your opinion. For non-fans it really is like getting invited to a stranger's wedding.

An exorbitant amount of time is spent at the beginning preparing and celebrating the wedding of Bella (Kristen Stewart, THE RUNAWAYS) and Edward (Robert Pattinson, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS). We are introduced to a host of new and old characters that have no meaning to those who have not memorized Stephenie Meyer sacred tome. Hey why is Shannon from LOST or The Ice Truck Killer from DEXTER on the guest list? But I guess this will make more sense in PART 2. Or maybe not because this isn't a series interested in developing the enormous amount of supporting characters.

Blogs HAPPY FEET TWO (2011) (**)

If George Miller's original dancing and singing penguins film has a happy surprise than its sequel is the opposite — nothing about it is surprising. The story borrows a little from the original and attaches it to a familiar family/action plot. The first incorporated popular songs into the fabric of its world and the characters, while the songs here are uninspired, obvious or just not that good. Not even two krill that sound a lot like Brad Pitt and Matt Damon can save the day.

Blogs HAPPY FEET TWO (2011) (**)

If George Miller's original dancing and singing penguins film has a happy surprise than its sequel is the opposite — nothing about it is surprising. The story borrows a little from the original and attaches it to a familiar family/action plot. The first incorporated popular songs into the fabric of its world and the characters, while the songs here are uninspired, obvious or just not that good. Not even two krill that sound a lot like Brad Pitt and Matt Damon can save the day.

Now Mumble (Elijah Wood, LORD OF THE RINGS) is a famed hero in the community and dance it embraced by all the penguins. However his son Erik (Ava Acres) doesn't have the same dance prowess as his dad so he feels like an outcast (much like his dad did in the original because he couldn't sing). Erik ends up following Ramon (Robin Williams, GOOD WILL HUNTING) back to his penguin colony where a strange big-billed "penguin" named Sven (Hank Azaria, THE SMURFS) has become an idol because he can fly. He tells Erik that whatever he wishes will come true, so to the chagrin of Mumbles, Erik believes that he can just wish his way into flying.

Blogs THE DESCENDANTS (2011) (****)

George Clooney's Matt King lives by his father's principle that you should give your kids enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing. He is a descendant of King Kamehameha and is the head of a family trust that controls some of the most pristine undeveloped Hawaiian land. His cousins want to sell to a local developer, because it seems like the right thing to do. But would their ancestors really want a resort with golf course on the land? The principle applies to much more than money.

Matt describes himself as the back up parent. His wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie, PRINCESS KAULANI) was the primary caretaker for their two daughters. But now Elizabeth is in a coma following a boating accident. Matt is now confronted with two kids that make no sense to him. His 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) is unruly and likes to get attention by saying inappropriate things. His 17-year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley, TV's THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER) is on another island attending a boarding school where she is supposed to be cleaning up her act from alcohol and drugs. Matt brings Alex home but it never seems like the right time to tell her that his mother will never recover. But when he does, she has something to tell him — Elizabeth has been cheating on Matt.

Blogs BOY WONDER (2011) (***1/2)

This indie has the general premise of KICK-ASS — what if a regular man became a vigilante superhero. But this film isn't a satire, it takes the story seriously and takes it to the dark realms that it leads. As a character study, it really looks at the personality of someone who goes into the street to find justice while risking their life. The title might be a reference to Batman's sidekick Robin, but this is not a teen in green, red and yellow tights.

Sean Donovan (Caleb Steinmeyer, TV's LOST) could easily be described as a boy wonder. He speaks several languages, listens to classical music on his iPod, and spends his days at the police station combing through files looking for the man who murdered his mother. The cops just think he's a troubled kid looking for some closure and they're right, but what they don't know is he's finding it by hunting down criminals who have gotten away with murder.

Blogs IMMORTALS (2011) (***)

Tarsem Singh brings his unique visual style from his previous films THE CELL and THE FALL to this Greek myth epic. Within his surreal CG landscapes and strange, but beautiful, costumes, he gives us a classic hero and a maniacal villain. These elements worked for me. If you allow the simple man vs. man story and the visuals to sweep you along, you will find enjoyment in this 300-inspired actioner.

Blogs IMMORTALS (2011) (***)

Tarsem Singh brings his unique visual style from his previous films THE CELL and THE FALL to this Greek myth epic. Within his surreal CG landscapes and strange, but beautiful, costumes, he gives us a classic hero and a maniacal villain. These elements worked for me. If you allow the simple man vs. man story and the visuals to sweep you along, you will find enjoyment in this 300-inspired actioner.

Theseus (Henry Cavill, TV's THE TUTORS) is a peasant who lives in a village that is built on a sheer cliff. Beside the inherent tension of living in such a place, I'm not sure why people would settle here. King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke, THE WRESTLER) is laying siege to city after city, angry with the gods for allowing his family to die. He is in search of the Epirus Bow, a magic weapon that sends unlimited arrows with the power to blow up impenetrable walls. His goal is to free the Titans, the only beings known to be able to kill gods. While Theseus doesn't believe in the gods, Zeus (Luke Evans, CLASH OF THE TITANS) believes in him and so does the virgin oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE).

Blogs J. EDGAR (2011) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 10:45pm

Interwoven throughout Clint Eastwood's biopic of J. Edgar Hoover is Hoover dictating his "Untitled FBI Story" to a series of young agents. One agent asks if the story of Hoover and the FBI can be separated. It's hard to say because for better or worse Hoover was the FBI for most of its existence. He became the Bureau's head in 1924 and stayed there through eight presidents. He asks another agent who the most famous man in the world is and the agent replies, "You, sir."

Blogs J. EDGAR (2011) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 10:24pm

Interwoven throughout Clint Eastwood's biopic of J. Edgar Hoover is Hoover dictating his "Untitled FBI Story" to a series of young agents. One agent asks if the story of Hoover and the FBI can be separated. It's hard to say because for better or worse Hoover was the FBI for most of its existence. He became the Bureau's head in 1924 and stayed there through eight presidents. He asks another agent who the most famous man in the world is and the agent replies, "You, sir."

Leonardo DiCaprio crafts a subtle portrait of a man who few truly knew because Hoover didn't even know himself. In the film, Hoover is portrayed as a do-gooder whose biggest joy is to impress his mother Annie (Judi Dench, JANE EYRE). It is believed that Hoover was a secret drag queen, but the film doesn't delve into salacious details. It presents the facts fairly straight forward. He was a life long bachelor who lived with his mother until she died. And once the tall, handsome Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer, THE SOCIAL NETWORK) joined the Bureau, they were inseparable. Hoover seems to have a classic case of transference where he moralizes to the public and struggles with secrets behind closed doors.

Blogs Blu-ray: BLUE VELVET (1986)

Read my review of BLUE VELVET

I recently watched my DVD copy of David Lynch's classic and now having seen this new AVC encoded 1080p transfer the two really don't compare. The picture quality is so decidedly better it's like seeing the film anew. Lynch supervised the color correction and it is impeccable. One is stuck instantly by the deep blue of the velvet current that shimmers behind the opening credits. The color saturation is deep and moody. But now we also have the clarity. The sharpness creates more depth and detail. On DVD the picture was soft and murky throughout, but now it's clean, which adds to the surrealism. Darker scenes do get crushed and edge enhancements are also noticeable, but overall the picture quality is a huge leap forward from DVD.

Blogs MELANCHOLIA (2011) (***1/2)

Depression is an oppressive force. It filters all light through murky waters that the sufferer is drowning in. Lars von Trier finds a metaphor for it that seems so obvious and yet it comes off ingenious. A mysterious planet is headed for a collision course toward Earth. That's a big weight on your shoulders.

Blogs MELANCHOLIA (2011) (***1/2)

Depression is an oppressive force. It filters all light through murky waters that the sufferer is drowning in. Lars von Trier finds a metaphor for it that seems so obvious and yet it comes off ingenious. A mysterious planet is headed for a collision course toward Earth. That's a big weight on your shoulders.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst, SPIDER-MAN) is getting married. But she's not really happy. Her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgard, TV's TRUE BLOOD) seems to know that she suffers from bouts of depression, but he doesn't understand the extents... or doesn't want to admit it. Her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg, ANTICHRIST) is putting on the lavish event for her, but tells her that she hates her sometimes for how she acts to ruin things. Claire has the added pressure of being constantly reminded how much the wedding is costing by her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland, TV's 24). When you meet Justine and Claire's divorced parents Gaby (Charlotte Rampling, SWIMMING POOL) and Dexter (John Hurt, THE ELEPHANT MAN) you might understand why Justine is depressed.

Blogs CERTIFIED COPY (2011) (***1/2)

Director Abbas Kiarostami (TASTE OF CHERRY) begins his film with an intellectual debate about art and its representation of real life. Then he switches the debate to how it would apply to real life. This might sound too esoteric but Kiarostami wraps it around two compelling characters and the romantic subtext that it conjures. And then there is the twist that makes us question what is going on at all.

James Miller (opera singer William Shimell) is a scholar who has written a new book arguing that a copy of an original piece of art has just as much value as the original because it makes us appreciate the original. Elle (Juliette Binoche, THE ENGLISH PATIENT), an antiques dealer, thinks the argument is interesting, but flawed. James defends his argument by asking whether the awe of a child gazing on the beauty of a copy of the Mona Lisa is any less authentic because it is not the original. He believes that the point of life is to enjoy it in whatever way you want even if someone else might believe it is not right. Elle believes this is good for philosophy but doesn't apply to reality.

Blogs TOWER HEIST (2011) (**1/2)

For a heist to work it needs a good plan, but it also needs perfect execution. Brett Ratner's heist comedy has a good plan, but doesn't deliver on the details. It's inspired by the Bernie Madoff scandal where the fraudulent investor bankrupted the savings of thousands of people. In the film, a wealthy investor runs a similar Ponzi scheme, but in this fiction his victims set out to steal the millions he has hidden in his penthouse apartment.

Blogs TOWER HEIST (2011) (**1/2)

For a heist to work it needs a good plan, but it also needs perfect execution. Brett Ratner's heist comedy has a good plan, but doesn't deliver on the details. It's inspired by the Bernie Madoff scandal where the fraudulent investor bankrupted the savings of thousands of people. In the film, a wealthy investor runs a similar Ponzi scheme, but in this fiction his victims set out to steal the millions he has hidden in his penthouse apartment.

Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller, TROPIC THUNDER) is the general manager of the most luxurious apartment tower in New York City. He tells the new elevator operator Enrique (Michael Pena, CRASH) that residents aren't just buying posh pads and top security, but also the 24-7 attention of the staff. Kovacs is great at his job and impresses the penthouse owner Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda, TV's MASH). But when Shaw is arrested for fraud, Kovacs has to tell his employees that their pension fund has been wiped out. Feeling responsible, he decides to break into Shaw's apartment and steal the money he knows is hidden there.

Blogs Blu-ray: CARS 2 (2011)

Disney continues their winning streak with this showroom quality release. The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer has impeccable detail from the slightest dents and rust on the cars to the vast crowds of vehicles at the races. Color quality is electric, giving viewers vibrant primary colors, especially the neon in the Japanese sequence. Digital anomalies are pretty much absent. With so much red in the palette, the absence of banding and aliasing is impressive.

Blogs Blu-ray: CARS 2 (2011)

Read my review of CARS 2

Disney continues their winning streak with this showroom quality release. The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer has impeccable detail from the slightest dents and rust on the cars to the vast crowds of vehicles at the races. Color quality is electric, giving viewers vibrant primary colors, especially the neon in the Japanese sequence. Digital anomalies are pretty much absent. With so much red in the palette, the absence of banding and aliasing is impressive.

Sonically the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track matches the luxury level of the picture. Combining cars and spy action provides for a great many opportunities to impress and the release delivers. From the engine revving races to the explosions and gunfire of the chase sequences the soundtrack utilizes the full range of the sound field. Races and bullets race from left to right speakers and front and back. The LFE track rumbles as racecars zip by. All the powerful sound effects are balanced perfectly with the dialogue and Michael Giacchino’s classic Bond-esque score.

Blogs A BETTER LIFE (2011) (***1/2)

Chris Weitz takes the general premise of Vittorio de Sica's THE BICYCLE THIEF and transports the action of the neo-realist classic from 1940s Italy to 2010s Los Angeles. Like THIEF, a father and son search their city for the man who stole a possession crucial for their job. In the new take on the story, Weitz looks at the experience of illegal immigrants.

Carlos Galindo (Damian Bichir, CHE) snuck into the U.S. years ago with his young wife, because that is what people did in his small village in Mexico. Since she has left him to care for his son Luis (Jose Julian), who is now 15 years old. Carlos works as a gardner for Blasco (Joaquin Cosio, QUANTUM OF SOLACE), who owns a truck and the equipment. Blasco has saved enough to buy a farm in Mexico and wants to sell his entire business to Carlos, who is reluctant because as an illegal simply getting pulled over for a broken tail light would get him deported. But the gang filled neighborhood he lives in doesn't promise the future he wants for his son, so he borrows money from his reluctant sister. Now the boss he needs to pick a new employee, so he goes to the corner where day workers wait and choses Santiago (Carlos Linares, QUINCEANERA), who waits for Carlos to shimy up a palm tree and then steals the truck.

Blogs Blu-ray: ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 10:26am

While it's not perfect, Sony does bring a handsome transfer of this low budget production, which is destined to become a cult classic. The MPEG-4 AVC encoded Blu-ray is true to its source. The color palette is desaturated and dark due to the low light. This lessens detail in the outdoor night sequences, as well as suffers from limited pixelation, but the picture becomes richer in the brighter indoor scenes. Film grain is natural and unobtrusive. Black levels, however, are inconsistent, but shine in the inky black of the alien invaders, which are meant to look like black holes running across the screen. And boy do the glow in the dark teeth of the aliens pop.

Pages

randomness