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Evan’s Top 10

1.  Midnight in Paris

2.  Young Adult

3.  Drive

4.  Red State

5.  Attack the Block

6.  The Descendants

7.  Hobo with a Shotgun

8.  Tree of Life

9.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes

10.  Rango


Rik’s Top 10

1.  Tree of Life

2.  Drive

3.  Meek’s Cutoff

4.  Young Adult

5.  Hobo with a Shotgun

6.  Attack the Block

7.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes

8.  Win Win

9.  Ides of March

10.  The Muppets


Ryan’s Top 10

1. Drive

2. Win Win

3. The Descendants

4. Hanna

5. Ides of March

6. Attack the Block

7. The Redemption of General Butt Naked

8. Hugo

9. Midnight in Paris

10. The Trip


Call it a required bit of man-hood or necessary part of the American life-style, but at some time in his life, every man desires to ride the prairie with no worries but what kind of beans are for dinner and where the next saloon is.  Short of stealing a horse and shooting a cowardly sheriff, the best way to satisfy this dream is to grab the nearest Clint Eastwood film, settle in, and enjoy every moment.  Having just finished the “Man With No Name” trilogy, I had to watch more Eastwood (much, much more).

I would have loved to have written about Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly… but enough wonderful things have been said about these classic pieces of cinema… and I have very little to add.  So I took it upon myself to write about Clint Eastwood’s 1973 film High Plains Drifter.

High Plains Drifter, Eastwood’s first self-direcrted Western is a gritty portrayal of a story you’ve seen a million times before… from Blazing Saddles, to Bug Bunny…A stranger wanders into town and saves the timid town-folk from a wiley gang of hoodlums.

Does that make this film a tired re-telling of a worn-out story?  Not in the least bit.

This film stands out among Eastwood’s other films in more ways than one.  While many characters and heroes in Westerns are cardboard cutouts of good and evil (with intentions as clear as day), High Plains Drifter leaves you guessing at every second about “The Stranger’s” intentions and what he will do next.

High Plains Drifteris  a story of a corrupt mining town that hires an un-named drifter to protect them from a gang of gun-fighters.  The film begins with a haunting score and images of Eastwood’s character riding into the small desolate town looking for a drink of whiskey and a hot bath.  Quickly we see the dark nature of the towns-folk and “The Stranger’s” ability to swiftly deal with them. Without a moment’s notice, we have three dead-bodies in a film that has only begun.

I will stop giving away the finer plot-points here, because you should go into this film knowing as little as possible and enjoy the ride.  I applaud this movie for always keeping me guessing, exploiting curruption and cowardice, and even thorowing in elements of the supernatural. Not to mention you’ll see where the term “paint the town red” originated.
So put High Plains Drifter at the top of your list of films to see, and thank me later.

Alan J. Pakula.  Alan J. Pakula.  Alan J. Pakula.  I should stop here.  The Parallax View is the second movie in Pakula’s political paranoia trilogy, with Klute and my all time favorite All the Presiden’ts MenThe Parallax View is a straight-forward movie about a reporter, Warren Beatty, who gets in way over his head while investigating the assassination of a Senator and the mysterious deaths that follow.  His investigation leads him to the Parallax Corporation who is in the business of identifying potential assassins and hiring them out to clients.  Their motivations seem to be monetary and not political.  Trust no one and suspect everyone.

What I found to be refreshing is that the good guys don’t always win.  Political/conspiracy thrillers today, like The Interpreter, Vantage Point or The International, don’t do that any more.  Michael Clayton might be the best recent example and although the good guy wins the bad guys aren’t blown away after a brawl on top of the U.N.  The one fault with the Parallax View is that it is too straight forward and doesn’t argue or delve into conspiracy theories but this is hardly a criticism.  Pakula chooses not to dwell but to entertain.  Lone gunmen are hardly alone but to have it pinned on one keeps things tidy.

Night Catches Us did not catch me completely.  I was intrigued by this film because it takes place after the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and tensions although a memory at this point are still high.  This is the first film for me to cover this period and ask the question, ” We have just gone through all of this, demonstrations and violence so we can have the basic freedoms and rights like everyone else, so now what?”  I suppose the answer is, time.  Time happens.  History moves on.  For many that is enough and for others it only deepens their anger and resentment.   Night Catches Us is refreshing in that it avoids the street war cliche but did not delve into what the status of African-Americans is at this point.  The visuals support nothing has changed.  So the efforts of the Black Panther Party were fruitless?  This is the missing piece and I think this quote sums it up…”A refreshingly brainy, honorable attempt to address a complex chapter of African-American pride.”

-Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York

Old people, science fiction, aliens and cocoons; this sounds like a recipe for disaster. The perfect by-product of a bad movie concept straight out of the eighties. I’m a science fiction nerd and this didn’t even sound appealing to me, but we gave it a shot anyways. What other film could be more appropriate for “The Golden Years”?! This film reeks of old-age, and the only young character in the movie is a grandson who wishes he were old so he could be as clever and astute as his effortlessly funny grandpa. “No Italian food! Makes me fart!”
With each introductory scene I instantly fell in love with all the characters (excluding David’s shrieking mother). Each person was charming in their own little way, and the beginning of the movie did a great job of establishing each character’s personal situation. Steve Guttenberg isn’t an actor I could see myself ever applauding, but his witty one-liners and sense of humor won me over in this film, “Hey, what are you… Just… Get your ass of my boat, Man. Get your ass off my boat. Do you believe this? And, take your embarrassing beach towel with you! ”
It took place in a pleasant retirement home where the members were free to come and go as they pleased, still maintaining a quality of life so it wasn’t too in-your-face oppressive, (let’s admit, old age isn’t pretty). Cardigans, shuffleboard, card games and Ex-Lax, even someone who despises old people would find it hard to not melt a little at some point during the movie. I had read a lot of reviews complaining that the humor was too crude and dirty. Perhaps I’m a little vulgar myself, because I didn’t agree whatsoever. People act as if geriatrics are old broken down miserable beings who possess no sense of humor or will to power at all. This is not the case though, their minds are sharp while their bodies grow dull. The movie shows what each character were to do if they regained their youth, and it’s interesting to watch. Bowling, dancing, cannon-balls and abandoning the ol’ separate twin bed routine, they take full advantage of their new vigor. Cocoon gives a new perspective on a generation that suffers from stereotypes. My nerdiness showed itself more and more as the plot thickened and the science-fiction began. What a wacky concept, but it all just worked. Keep in mind it was made in 1985, so the not-so-special effects (minus Kitty’s glowing blue arm underwater…aweeesssommmmee) are bad, but forgivable. At some points it almost became too much, but I simply ignored it. It touches on more serious points as well… death and dying, (I particularly loved the scene where he explains to his grandson that he’s “going away forever” and he’ll never see him again. It was symbolic of dying, only he got to get in a proper goodbye before, an opportunity most grandparents don’t get) and the human race’s destructiveness. It also communicated our instinctive fear of the unknown, (Bernie’s refusal to take part in the alien’s “Fountain of Youth” due to his stubborn dedication to mortality), a questionable debate over the existence of a God, and the unforgiving toll that Mother Nature takes on us humans. I give it 4 stars, it kept me consistently chuckling and I wasn’t disappointed in the least bit.

“Well I’ll tell ya, with the way nature’s been cheating us, I don’t mind cheating her a little.”

(If you’re hoping to watch this in the future, my review might give a few things away…just a warning!)
I literally just finished this movie about 5 minutes ago, and when it was all done and over with all I could say to myself was “Jesus……..Christ.” It’s been so long since I’ve seen such a well-rounded drama like Match Point. It began with about an hour of risque’ romance, and then took a completely different approach from there on out.  I was skeptical in the beginning..Scarlett Johansson is typically hit-or-miss for me, and I’m not into the type of plot this one possessed. I couldn’t even begin to attempt forming an opinion about it until it was completely finished, and I absolutely love that. It’s also surprising to me that Woody Allen wrote it, yet the way it was filmed in his style became very familiar right away. There are so many things I could go into about this film that occurred to me while watching it, I’m afraid I won’t be able to list them all. The story was conventional in the beginning, took a couple twists, and eventually became something I’ve never seen before. The main character (Meyers) did a beautiful job portraying all the emotion that comes along with someone in his position. The further you get in the movie the better his acting becomes, I give him 5 stars. I was honestly glued to my seat the entire time…the sneaky phone calls, hour-long rendezvous’, and the close encounters kept me going. Watching him spiral downward and create a web of lies was riveting. It was an excellent portrayal of human instinct, lust, and the power of deceit, as well as what it can do to you over time. It goes to show that nobody gets away clean. If they do in technical terms, they almost never do consciously. He sought out in one woman what was lacking in the other, and by doing this he turned his lust into everything that bored him about his love. It came to a point where the two almost blended together, and what was supposed to be fun and games to him turned into a self-destructive mess of constantly being followed, scrutinized, and scared. Scared of the truth, and scared of his lies, the main character created a disaster for himself that seemed nearly impossible to get out of. He even became so desperate that he committed an act he could never live down.

My favorite scene of the movie was in the restaurant at the bar, where him and his wife are discussing his job options and what he should do about them. I admired the acting and poise that came along with being in such a long take…it was seriously minutes, with no mistakes! It was so natural and well-done, I felt like I was on the other side of the bar eavesdropping on a real couple’s conversation. Of course I have to mention something I would change, and that would be the wife’s unsuspecting attitude throughout the entire movie, and how she’s portrayed as this boorish character who doesn’t seem to be bothered by a thing. I expected maybe at least one scene where she finally broke down due to his incessant shadiness. I nearly shouted “FINALLY!” at the point where she asked him if he was having an affair. But, ignorance is bliss, which is a good example of the role she played, the (mostly) unsuspecting wife. I almost wish it would have spelled things out in the end, letting the viewer know the definite outcome, (movie-buffs say “what’s the fun in that?!”) Open-for-discussion endings are not something I’m against, but I was just so anxious to find out what Wilton’s destiny was going to be that I resented it just a tiny bit, (not near as much as my resentment for the detective who was determined to nail Chris Wilton with the crime….C’mon! Just let him get away with it!)
Overall I was completely blown away by this film, and loved just about every part of it. Five stars, bravo.

1. Cocoon (1985)

2. Grumpy Old Men (1993)

3. Nobody’s Fool (1994)

4. Assisted Living (2003)

5. Up (2009)

What is this?  A vampire movie that doesn’t get bogged down with the rules of being a vampire or goes for cheap scares and minimally uses special effects to enhance the story.  What?  A movie that actually has a compelling story.  I like special effects.  I would like to see that blue man 3D movie, just to say I saw it.  But if all it has to offer is a new, cool way to do special effects and doesn’t offer an interesting story then I am bored.  I should not have to go to Sweden to see a good movie.

I think I am going to carve “Oskar & Eli forever” into the tree in my backyard.

full5First let me apologize to the two readers of Filmgrounds for taking way too long to review this movie.  I really hate myself because I put off watching a truly hilarious comedy.  Here’s my thing… not every comedy has to be bogged down with story or some moral blah blah.  I want a comedy that makes me laugh throughout, that’s the point right?  Wet Hot American Summer does that and doesn’t apologize for it.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Knocked Up, Role Models, Superbad are funny but they all rely on the story to get you through.  WHAS, as I will refer to it from here on, is about moving from gag to gag and by the end of the movie all the rules have been thrown out and it’s a comedy free for all.  Really the end is more of an homage to all the crazy crap that goes on in “real” movies.

Great comedies are defined by how quotable they are and WHAS has many quotable lines.  For example, “Before we start, I’d just like to say the campers you’re about to see suck dick! But nevertheless, please welcome them.”  “If you wanna smear mud on your ass, smear mud on your ass – just be honest about it. Look, Gene, I’ve never told anyone this before, but I can suck my own dick, and I do it a lot.”  And Finally… “Excuse me, ladies. You may remember me as the guy who came to dinner a few weeks ago with underwear on my head. My name is Keith Stat from Millburn, New Jersey. State bird, the mosquito. And as you may have heard, I am recently a crowned class B dungeon master. So if any of you would like to play D&D today, please speak now or forever hold your peace.”

It should be noted that the “smear mud on my ass” line was delivered by a can of vegetables.  Now that’s funny.

in-bruges-posterBruges, the armpit or better yet the asshole of Europe as it is considered by Ray played by Colin Farrell.  Bruges might be his hell but this movie was my heaven.  I absolutely enjoyed this movie.  This is not you typical hit man movie.  No one curved bullets while doing a cartwheel. And if that is what you are looking for then find another movie and perhaps another blog.  Yes there is a action but it is not the focal point.  Two hit man, Farrell and Gleeson, are sent to Bruges to hide out after a hit and instructed to lay low and do a little sightseeing.  During their stay details of the hit are uncovered as they discuss life, death, and do some blow with a dwarf.  Be prepared for some deliberately offensive dialogue and 126 uses of the word fuck.  For me it was great and worked within the framework of the characters

I know Colin Farrel is a good actor but recent roles have not supported that thought but ‘In Bruges’ gives you a reason to like him again with this colorful role.  See this movie.