Established May 2010.

Gordie: Do you think I'm weird?
Chris: Definitely.
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody's weird.

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

Member of THE LAMB: The Large Association of Movie Blogs LAMB #1588

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

NOW ON DVD/BLU-RAY: The Tree of Life

Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn

Jack O'Brien (Penn) can't seem to cope with the loss of his brother that happened decades ago at the age of 19. When he sees a tree being planted outside the architecture firm where he works, he reminisces of his childhood in the 1950s. He has a volatile relationship with his dad (Pitt), a nurturing relationship with his mom (Chastain), and brotherly love with his two younger brothers. As he looks back at his upbringing he contemplates the mysteries of life, the world's origins, birth, death, and his relationships. Malick created a non-linear story about the meaning of nature and grace in a very experimental way.

Malick's latest cinematic offering is not for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with that. Not every movie has to appeal to everyone. People will either love this movie or hate it. There is nothing wrong with that either. It's one of those movies where if people hated it, I wouldn't try to defend it or try to persuade them into liking it. I can fully understand why it may not be someone's cup of tea. Is it self-indulgent and try too hard to be artistic? Yes. I think many of the nature sequences (including the dinosaurs) could have been trimmed and not sacrificed the beauty of the movie. The dialogue is quite sparse during the first half of the movie. It's told more in a poetic style than dialogue between the characters. It switches in the second half as the memories of Jack and his family come to mind. The use of sound is very particular throughout the movie. There is a note at the beginning suggesting you play the movie very loudly to get the full effect. Malick sent theaters very specific instructions for the projectionists on how to play the movie. It may even be jarring at times. The dialogue can be whisper quiet in one scene while the score is pumped up to high volumes in the next.

While some of the artistic choices are pretentious at times, I still found myself fascinated over all. I kept my eyes glued to the screen as I tried to figure out where the story was going and what images were going to pop up next. Pitt and Chastain both had winning years this year with fine performances in this movie and others. I would have liked to seen more of Penn. His screen time is very limited and he is left with scenes where he's staring off into space or roaming a desert as he looks back on his life. Like I've said before, the movie is very artistic and beautiful. Is it pretentious? Yes. Is it over the top? Yes. Do I still have plenty of unanswered questions? Yes. Does it all make sense? No. Will it appeal to everyone? No. I found myself intrigued, but I also know many people who did not like it. That is one of the reasons why movies like this are intriguing. It stirs up such mixed reaction and gets people talking.

RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5)

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris

Sherlock Holmes (Downey) and Dr. Watson (Law) are back for more adventures together as they face off with Professor James Moriarty (Harris). Watson arrives at Holmes' estate to bear the news that he and Mary are getting married. He finds Holmes camouflaged in a jungle of a study and a web of red string intersecting from various points. Holmes is investigating a series of murders and terrorist attacks who he believes all lead back to Moriarty. Watson merely rolls his eyes and listens to Holmes' wild theories. Holmes learns from Moriarty himself that he killed Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) as a way to threaten Holmes for interfering in his master plan. Moriarty reveals he is a share-holder in many munitions companies. He plans to push Europe into war to gain a profit. Holmes crashes Watson's honeymoon in order to save him and Mary from Moriarty's henchman. Holmes tosses Mary out of the train and into the river only to be saved by his brother (Stephen Fry). Holmes and Watson set off to investigate the origins of a letter intended for a gypsy fortune teller(Rapace) that could track down the path of Moriarty.

If you're not in the mood for any of the Oscar-bait movies, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows might just be the movie for you. Back for a second time as Holmes and Watson, Downey and Law prove they have great chemistry together. Downey is one of the best character actors working today. Stephen Fry is hilarious as Holmes' brother. The pacing is unbalanced at times. The action sequences, verbal sparring between Holmes and Moriarty, and comedic moments succeed at keeping the story going. Unfortunately, the film tends to drag during the down times between all of that. Even though this sequel is not as good as the original, it is still provides for an entertaining night out. I really hope Ritchie, Downey, and Law are up for more adventures. It's a successful series due to fantastic leads and an updated feel and look to classic characters.

RATING: *** 1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

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Friday, December 23, 2011

MOVIE REVIEWS: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Darkest Hour

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgaard, Christopher Plummer

Henrik Vanger (Plummer) has been dealing with the unsolved disappearance of his niece Harriet for the past forty years. He is determined that one of his many corrupt family members has something to do with the disappearance. Every year he receives a framed flower on his birthday which is a tradition that started with Harriet and still continues even after she vanished. Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) is a journalist with Millennium magazine. He has recently lost a huge libel case against the Wennerström Corporation. Knowing that Blomkvist unjustly lost the case, Vanger hires Blomkvist to research the disappearance and help solve the forty year mystery.

Blomkvist is skeptical about taking the assignment as he doesn't think he'll find anything new about the case that the police and Vanger haven't already discovered. Vanger promises him a hefty salary for the research and vows to quadruple it if he solves the case. Vanger also entices Blomkvist with information on Wennerstrom that could be very useful. With some hesitation, he agrees and moves up to Hedeby Island in Hedestad where the Vanger's live. Vanger has boxes upon boxes of photographs, police reports, and newspaper clippings regarding Harriet's disappearance and the car accident that also took place around the same time she disappeared. Blomkvist digs deep into the corrupt Vanger family history, the accident, and a parade Harriet attended. Blomkvist asks for a research assistant as he believes he is gaining momentum on what happened. Vanger hires expert computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Mara). To many people, Salander is mentally unstable, crazy, and violent. She spent many years in child custody shuffled between guardians. She has many piercings, tattoos, and wears goth clothing. Salander did the background research on Blomkvist before Vanger hired him. Salander and Blomkvist form a tight union as they realize this case is far more than just the disappearance of a teenage girl.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
is the second adaptation of the Stieg Larsson novel. The Swedish version was released in 2009 to a successful following. David Fincher has succeeded at making his version faithful to the novel while still making it his own and not feeling like a knock-off of the Swedish version. Fincher is no stranger to dark mysteries that involve very heavy material. He does not feel the need to sugar coat the material or gloss over it. Be warned there is a very graphic rape scene. He is meticulous for detail. You know every prop, costume piece, tattoo, piercing, sound choice, and location has been chosen with a specific reason. The viewer can feel the cold bitter Swedish air which only thickens the mood of the movie even more. Fincher received some hesitation for casting Mara over bigger names like Scarlet Johansson and Carey Mulligan. Mara is a revelation as Salander. Salander is no easy character. Mara gives a strong performance in a subtle way that shows the numerous complexities Salander chooses to display. Craig also delivers as Blomkvist. You can't help but feel his sex appeal again but in a different way than James Bond. Regardless of if you have read the book or not, you will get sucked in and see why this Stieg Larsson story is so popular. Once again, Fincher has made one of the best movies of the year.

RATING: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

Director: Chris Gorak
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella

Sometimes when you see a trailer that looks bad but has an actor in it that you like, you try to trust the actor for choosing that project. I like Emile Hirsch and really thought that maybe the trailer just didn't do the movie justice. I had the opportunity to go see The Darkest Hour and decided to put this theory to test. In this case, the movie was just as bad as the trailer. I don't know what Emile Hirsch was thinking when he signed on for this horrible sci-fi story about an end of the world style destruction by energy forces. I can't even justify thinking that maybe it was a good script that turned out to be a bad movie, which happens from time to time. Actors say they read a good script, but the movie didn't turn out the way it was envisioned. This script is just awful. You can hear the horrible lines of dialogue. You can tell Hirsch knows this. He tries to say the bad dialogue in a subtle way so it doesn't come off as melodramatic and awful. The characters are stupid stupid stupid. Between the tough cocky guy who gets killed off early and the crazy paranoid scientist you can't help but laugh. End of the world movies are tricky. You end up having four or five survivors walking around a deserted land. You have to keep the pace moving as there is nothing but them walking around looking for other survivors and looking for answers. Even if you get to see it for free, don't waste your time. Use your time wisely and spend money on any of the excellent movies that are playing at the theater.

RATING: 1/2* (Half star out of 5 stars)

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NEW TRAILERS: The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Prometheus

I can't think of three movies I'm more excited about for 2012. I've already gushed about The Dark Knight Rises numerous times. This week Peter Jackson released the trailer for the first part of his take on "The Hobbit", The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. 2012 is shaping up to be a huge year for epic movies. Ridley Scott will also premiere his return to his sci-fi roots with Prometheus, starring: Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, and Michael Fassbender. It is thought to be a prequel to the Alien story.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


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Monday, December 19, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol, The Adventures of Tintin

Director: Brad Bird
Starring: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner

After an IMF mission to steal Russian nuclear codes goes astray, a prison break-out is put into action to release Ethan Hunt (Cruise) from the Russian cell he is being held captive. Hunt is whisked away and joined by fellow IMF teammates: beautiful Jane (Patton) and wise-cracking hacker Benji (Pegg). Hunt is informed that there is a person of interest known as "Cobalt"(Michael Nyqvist) who has come in control of a Russian satellite and certain codes that can lead to nuclear war. The team sneaks into the Kremlin to gain access to secret files that could identify "Cobalt". An underground explosion under the Kremlin interrupts the mission after the IMF team has been spotted. They are put under blame for the explosion and the mission has been shut down. During a limo ride with the secretary of the IMF (Tom Wilkinson) and analyst Brandt (Renner), Hunt is told that the US President has ordered a "Ghost Protocol". The mission has now turned to an under-the-radar style operation. Hunt, Benji, Jane, and Brandt identify "Cobalt" as a Russian man named Hendricks. They must track down him and the nuclear codes down before nuclear war destroys the country.

Confession time. I went to the Great Clips IMAX at the MN Zoo to see it solely for the six minute prologue for The Dark Knight Rises. I don't even know if I would have see this latest Mission if it wasn't for the prologue. I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a movie I've seen on the massive IMAX screen. Mission:Impossible-Ghost Protocol is no exception. Numerous parts of the movie were filmed on IMAX cameras, and it is stunning. Bird shows off the majestic landscapes and action scenes with the IMAX shots. It makes this explosive edge-of-your seat even bigger and even more jaw-dropping. My fear of falling/heights definitely got to me. I consider that a good thing when a movie can get those feelings out of you. Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but he wears the Ethan Hunt shoes, tux, and sunglasses at ease. He feels right at home with one of his most popular characters. You have to give him credit for performing all of his crazy stunts in this movie. You will know what I mean during the scenes at the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest structure in the world. From the start of the movie to the last frame, the action does not let up. The pacing is sharp and tense. Pegg offers a warm sense of humor to balance all of the action. Even if you have a slight interest in seeing Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol, go see it and see it at the Great Clips IMAX at the MN Zoo. It's well worth the trek and money. You won't be disappointed.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)


Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost

The Adventures of Tintin is the first collaboration between Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings). This also marks Spielberg's first animated movie that he has directed. Tintin (Bell) is a young journalist out for a stroll in the market with his dog Snowy. He buys a model of three masted ship for one pound. Just as he is about to walk away with his new purchase, he gets accosted by two other gentleman wanting to buy it. They warn him of the dangers of this model ship, but Tintin refuses to resell it and heads home. One of the two men turns out to be the evil Ivan Sakharine (Craig). Back at home, Tintin props it up on the table only to have it knocked off when Snowy and the cat start chasing each other. As it falls to the floor, a small metal tube rolls under the shelf. After his ship is stolen, Tintin pays a little visit to Sakharine. He discovers there are two ships and that Sakharine is after scrolls that are hidden in the ship. Tintin comes back home to find it ransacked but finds the scroll in the tube that rolled under the shelf. Sakharine's henchman come to Tintin's home and kidnap him to get the second scroll. While trapped on the SS Karaboudjan, Tintin and Snowy meet Captain Haddock (Serkis) who was also taken captive due to his history with the ships and scrolls. Tintin and Haddock discover there are three model ships and three scrolls that Sakharine is after. They must escape the SS Karaboudjan and figure out the location of the third scroll before Sakharine gets to it and discover what the message in the scrolls reveals.

The Adventures of Tintin
feels part Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Pirates of the Caribbean. It is based off an old comic series by Hergé, which I am unfortunately not as familiar with. Spielberg and Jackson use motion-capture technology to bring the Tintin story to life. Not only does it still feel like a comic series, it brings the characters to life and gives them three dimension over having simple voice-over work done. Like the classic Spielberg movies from before, there is plenty of action, chase scenes, and bumps in the road for our hero. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are hilarious as two bumbling policeman who are on the search for a pickpocket. With Hugo still in theaters, it's great to have two fantastic movies out there for young kids that are smart, engaging, daring, and fun for the whole family.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Movie Review: YOUNG ADULT

Director: Jason Reitman
Screenwriter: Diablo Cody
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser

When are you too old to go back to your hometown and try to win back your high school boyfriend? Mavis Gary (Theron) is a recent divorcee living a very delusional life. She lives in downtown Minneapolis and is the author a young adult series about the lives of high school girls. She believes they are bestsellers but can't face the fact that she is currently writing her last entry as they are no longer in demand. She is quick to clarify they are not about vampires. She receives an e-mail announcing the new birth of Buddy Slade's (Wilson) new baby and is confused on why she gets it. Mavis and Buddy were high school sweethearts. She questions why she got it to a friend only to internally question why she isn't the one having babies with Buddy.

Being the delusional person she is, Mavis packs a suitcase and her dog and drives back to her hometown of Mercury, MN to win back Buddy. She merely sees his wife (Reaser) and the baby as baggage. Why should a little baggage stop someone from rekindling an old high school romance? While grabbing a Maker's Mark at the local bar, she runs into Matt (Oswalt) who was another classmate of theirs. Mavis doesn't recognize him until he mentions he was "The Hate Crime Boy". A prom queen like Mavis would never associate with a "fat geek" like Matt. Matt is the fat geek that makes bourbon in the garage and names it after Star Wars terminology. He also like to take apart action figures and rebuild them with different toys. Mavis struggles to write her book while getting pressure from the publisher. With no end time to her trip, she passes the time getting wasted with Matt and desperately tries to win back Buddy.

Diablo Cody's style of writing may not be for everyone, but she writes very interesting, flawed, and realistic characters. With strong writing comes strong acting. I love when actors step out of their comfort zones. Patton Oswalt is known for doing more comedic work. As Matt, he really shines as the lonely, depressed guy who hasn't made any efforts to do something with his life. Charlize Theron started her career by playing ingenue after ingenue in plenty of thankless roles. Ever since she blew the roof off movie theaters by playing serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, she has proven she is more than capable of playing complex characters. Young Adult is another winning performance for Theron. People keep talking about how Mavis is such an unlikable awful human being. Another local critic hated the movie due to his disdain for Mavis. I believe that only proves what a fantastic performance Theron gives. Theron makes the delusional world Mavis lives in believable. I don't mean to say that everything she does is forgivable. Mavis is mean, rude, and makes some pretty unforgivable choices. It's going to be a competitive race this year for the Best Actress Oscar. In any other year, Theron would nab one of the five nomination slots. We shall she if she can squeeze her way in this year.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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Warner Bros. released a new teaser one-sheet for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I literally gasped in the car as I saw Bane (Tom Hardy) standing by Batman's mask which has been smashed. The tagline reads "The Legend Ends". Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan have confirmed many times that this is the last entry in their Batman series.

Warner Bros. has always had great marketing for the Christopher Nolan-Batman movies. This week, a six minute prologue for the movie will screen before certain IMAX showings of Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol. I cannot WAIT to feast my eyes on the footage. The first six minutes will be introducing Bane similar to how The Joker was introduced in The Dark Knight.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Unleash Your Inner Foodie: "Christmas 2011 for the Movie Lover"

Many of you know that I submit articles for "Unleash Your Inner Foodie" by DeeAnn McArdle. It's that time of the year again when I come up with gift ideas for the movie lover in your life. Here's the article:

It’s time to go shopping for your favorite movie buff. Our movie critic, Paul McGuire has the perfect ideas ranging in price depending on who happens to be on your list and how naughty or nice they have been...

You can read the rest here



Enjoy! Merry Christmas!
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