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Showing posts from December, 2011

Worst and Most Surprising Films of 2011

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2012 is upon us, and I originally wanted to do a "Best of" list for 2011; however, that's not very original, and if you've been reading my reviews, you can most likely tell what my favorites were for the year.

Instead, we have something much more fun: a "Worst of 2011" list and also, for variation, a "Most Surprising Films" list.

Click here to read the rest of the article at my Examiner.com page.

The Darkest Hour

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Oh, Max Mingella. What are you doing in a movie like Darkest Hour? Emile Hirsch, you're in it for the paycheck, I get that - you haven't done a ton of movies recently - but Mingella is fresh off such hits as The Ides of March and The Social Network. Mingella and Hirsch are two actors I like a lot, so I was happy to see that they were in this movie ... until, of course, I actually viewed it.

American friends Sean (Emile Hirsch, Taking Woodstock) and Ben (Max Minghella, The Ides of March) have traveled to Moscow to present an idea for a new social network, which they are hoping to expand to Russia. It turns out, however, that a Swede named Skyler (Joel Kinnaman, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) has stolen their idea and is ready to present it to the Moscow company. Ben is in despair over this, and he and Sean go for a few drinks at a club, where they meet fellow Americans Natalie (Olivia Thirlby, No Strings Attached) and Ann (Rachael Taylor, TV's Charlie's Angels). They …

The Artist

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With the focus on big-budget special effects, 3D movies, and Blu-Ray movies, it's somewhat anachronistic to see a silent movie in 2011. Nonetheless, The Artist tells a story about the film industry in the 1920s, as "talkies" first arrived on the scene. Although there are a few modern actors in it that you may recognize, the two main actors are foreign (French and Argentinian, respectively), so most Americans probably won't know them by sight.

The year is 1927, and silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin, A View of Love) is enjoying a lucrative and successful career. By chance, he meets Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo, Prey), and pictures of the two of them are splashed on the front page of Variety the next day, to the chagrin of Valentin's wife. He later has a run-in with Peppy again, as she has auditioned for and been cast as a dancer in his new movie. Two years later, however, in 1929, the "talkies" start production, and studio exec Al Zimmer (Joh…

War Horse

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War Horse is directed by Steven Spielberg, and distributed by Disney/DreamWorks effort, which gives you one reason right there to see it. From the trailer the film looked a little sappy, and it was, but overall it was an interesting film, if a little long.

After his father (Peter Mullan, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1) overpays for a horse at auction, Albert (newcomer Jeremy Irvine) gets to train the horse. Albert names it Joey, and he must train him to till their fields, since his family is now in debt to their landlord since they spent so much on the horse. Joey will not be tamed easily, but Albert gives him love and respect, and soon the fields are ready for planting. After an ugly storm, however, their crops are ruined; in addition, World War I is upon England. Albert's father sells the horse to the English army, amidst Albert's protests, so that they will not be homeless, and the officer who will take Albert as his own horse (Tom Hiddleston, Thor) promises to…

The Adventures of Tintin

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The Adventures of Tintin is based on a European comic book series written by an author who uses the pen name Hergé, and at the beginning of the movie we see a poster of one of the book's covers on the wall of an apartment. Just like the books, the film follows Tintin, a reporter, and his dog, Snowy, as they uncover wrongdoings and have many adventures. There are no cell phones or internet searches here, just "old fashioned" sleuthing; in a way, Tintin reminded me of Nancy Drew, but with a male protagonist.

Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell, Jane Eyre) and Snowy are browsing at a market one day when he comes across a miniature ship model that he has to have. Immediately upon buying it, a shady-looking man approaching him and offers to pay him twice what he paid, but Tintin refuses. Another man, too, comes up to him and offers to buy it, but Tintin takes the ship and brings it home. Later, Snowy gets into a fight with a cat in Tintin's apartment, and the ship's masthead…

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

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A Game of Shadows is the sequel to the 2009 Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Although the new film features a lot of action sequences and intrigue, I still prefer the first Sherlock Holmes movie, and you must watch the first film before the second in order to understand the characters and motivations in A Game of Shadows.

Dr. Watson (Jude Law, Contagion) is about to get married, and he is counting on his friend and comrade Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man 2) to throw him a "stag" (bachelor) party. However, Holmes needs Watson's help on an unfinished case. It turns out that Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris, TV's Fringe) has been stockpiling weapons and bandages and has become involved with specific events that he hopes will turn France and Germany against each other, thus resulting in a war for which Moriarty will be able to meet the demand for supplies. Moriarty sends assassins to kill Watson and his new bride (Kelly Reilly, Sherlo…

Young Adult

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There has been lots of buzz that Young Adult could be a "dark horse" Oscar contender, and I was interested to see it, especially at an early screening. I generally like director Jason Reitman's movies a lot (Juno, Up in the Air, Thank You for Smoking, etc.), and he worked with writer Diablo Cody on Juno, which is one of my favorite movies. Unfortunately, Young Adult ended up not really being "my cup of tea," though perhaps others will like it better.

Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron, Hancock) is a ghostwriter of a young adults series, Waverly Prep, which has just been canceled. She needs to write the last book in the series, however, and she has no inspiration for it. Sick of the random guys with whom she's been having one-night stands, she convinces herself that her high school sweetheart, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson, TV's A Gifted Man), is the one she is meant to be with, even though he is married with a newborn daughter, and so Mavis returns to her hometo…

New Year's Eve

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New Year's Eve is the newest film by director Garry Marshall, and is sort of a follow-up to last year's Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, even though the formula was basically the same, NYE's script was not half as good as its predecessor's. On top of that, the movie is far too long, clocking in at 117 minutes ... and you know there's a problem when I enjoy the bloopers in the credits more than the actual movie. I would normally say that the problem was cramming too many characters into one movie; however, Valentine's Day managed to do that and make itself interesting too.

It's New Year's Eve in New York City, and everyone is getting ready for the ball to drop. Claire (Hilary Swank) is in charge of the ball-dropping spectacle herself, but she has somewhere urgent she needs to be at midnight. Tess (Jessica Biel) and her husband Griffin (Seth Myers) are waiting to have their first child, and they just found out that whoever gives birth at their hospital…

Holiday movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

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The holidays will soon be upon us, and as the weather gets colder here in Michigan, it's a great time to curl up at home with a glass of hot cocoa and a movie.

Here are my top five best holiday movies, and a few "worst" ones as well.

Best:

1) Love Actually, 2003. 135 minutes, rated R.

From IMDb: Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely and interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.

There are a lot of movies out nowadays that use this format - lots of stories, but they all relate to each other in some way (see: Valentine's Day, and New Year's Eve, out in theaters soon). Love Actually has a stellar cast as well: Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, and others. It's one of my favorite Christmas/holiday movies, and I own it on DVD so I may watch it again this season.

2) Bad Santa, 2003. 91 minutes, rated …

Palladium to host canned food fest on Dec. 8th

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If you're looking to see a movie in December while at the same time being charitable, check out the Uptown Palladium's "Filmanthropy" festival. The first 1,000 people who show up between 6pm-9:30pm on December 8th with three canned goods each can see any "first run" movie of their choosing, except for those in 3D. Metro Times, the Palladium, and 93.9 The River are sponsoring the event, and the canned goods will go to Gleaners Food Bank of Southeast Michigan.

From 93.9 The River:

This is an opportunity for individuals and families to give back to the hungry in their communities while having a fun night out together during the holidays!

It is recommended that guests arrive early as Film-anthropy is only open to the first 1,000 attendees. Donations that consist of quality canned goods that are not expired nor will expire within the upcoming months are preferred.


I'm planning on seeing Happy Feet 2 (in 2D), since I missed the screening of that movie. What w…