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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Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Director: James Watkins
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer

Three young girls are innocently playing tea party when all of sudden they see something. They promptly stand up, walk to the window, and step out to their deaths. Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is a young lawyer who is sent to settle the estate of Alice Drablow. Kipps is recently widowed and is forced to leave his young son for the weekend for his new job. Kipps discovers all too soon that something is being hidden from him. The children of the town seem to be kept indoors and the townspeople do not want him dealing with the Drablow house. Kipps arrives at the estate only to find it abandoned and in shambles. There is an eerie feeling to the dark hallways, cobwebs, dolls, toys, and shadows that fill the space. Kipps starts to see visions of a woman in black and various children off in the distance as he stares out the window. He must make the connection to who the woman is and why she has cast a haunting aura over the village.

A horror movie that comes out in the middle of winter can usually spell trouble. I'm looking at you, The Devil Inside. Luckily, The Woman in Black is not that kind of movie. Maybe it is has to do with the fact that it is not your average slasher flick or devil possession movie. There is a classic horror movie feel in the style. Don't be turned off by the slow pacing at the beginning. It all builds up as Arthur discovers what is going on in the house and how the woman in black is involved. I don't want to go into too much detail as to give too much away. Watkins does a fantastic job at revealing the suspense at the same speed as Arthur is feeling it. Like many Hitchcock movies, the audience is never ahead of the main character. My only grief is the use of sound effects. The use seems a little forced as they try to evoke scares and jumps when the suspense and score alone would do the trick. You don't need to use sounds effects on top of the score. I don't mind the use of both but not at the same time. In his first post-Harry Potter role, Radcliffe succeeds at building a different character far different than the 17 year old we last saw him portray. I never saw Radcliffe and thought "Oh, it's Harry Potter acting scared of the dark". The Woman in Black is a smart, slick, and chilling ride that leaves you on the edge of seat.

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

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Director: Stephen Daltry
Starring: Thomas Horn, Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis

Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer of the same name, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close deals with the affects of September 11, 2001 on a ten-year old boy who lost his dad when the towers fell. Oskar Schell (Horn) in wildly imaginative curious young boy. He has an amazing relationship with his father, Thomas (Hanks), but he doesn't always see eye-to-eye with his mother, Linda (Bullock). Thomas and Oskar have little games they play including "Reconnaissance Expedition" where Thomas sets up the game/idea and Oskar must figure it out. Thomas informs Oskar that New York originally had a sixth borough, but no longer exists. It's Oskar's job to figure out where the borough was located. On September 11th, Oskar is released from school early due to the collapse of the World Trade Center. He comes home without a real sense of urgency and listens to the messages on the answering machine from his dad trying to reach his mom.

A year has passed since his dad's passing and Oskar decides to go into his closet for the first time. He finds an old box of film reels and a camera that his dad saved as a family heirloom. As he pulls the camera down, a vase comes crashing down and breaks. Inside the vase contained a small envelope with a key and the name "Black" on it. Oskar is determined that this is part of the Reconnaissance Expedition and must figure out what the key belongs to. He maps out addresses to where anyone with the last name Black may live in each of the boroughs. Along with his tambourine, back pack, Fig Newtons, and other supplies, Oskar sets out to discover the box the key opens desperately trying to hold onto the memories he has of his father.

One could watch this movie and call it hokey, contrived, emotional, and unrealistic. Many critics have had very negative reactions to it for these various reasons. I think they might be missing the point. The story is all in the eyes of a young boy who is far smarter than the average kid his age. He is going to have out of this world ideas. He is going to think outside the box. He is going to think his expedition makes sense or is realistic. Daltry does a fantastic job of making the audience see the world out of Oskar's eyes. There are specific camera shots of his viewpoint that create the isolated feeling he has after listening to the answering machine. Thomas Horn is pretty fantastic as Oskar. It is stunning to think that this is his first movie. He was discovered after appearing on the Kids Week episodes of Jeopardy. Legendary actor Max von Sydow is heartbreaking as The Renter. The Renter is an older man who lives with Oskar's grandma and goes on some of Oskar's missions all while living a silent life. He communicates with tattoos of the words "Yes" and "No" and through hand written notes. The film just received two Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Max von Sydow. Don't forget to bring your tissues, you may need it a couple of times.

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

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

MOVIE REVIEWS: The Iron Lady, We Bought a Zoo

Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Coleman

An elderly Margaret Thatcher (Streep) spends three days packing up her late husband Denis' (Broadbent) belongings as she tries to move on from his passing. This very conventional setting is the catalyst for delving into the life of Thatcher. Throughout this process Thatcher envisions Denis around her and reminisces over various memories. These memories flash back and forth all too briefly recounting the days she met and fell in love with Denis, joining the Tory party, and her time as Prime Minister. Thatcher seemed to fight the fight to gain her seat and voice in a very male dominated party.

One has to wonder why they made this movie? What story of Margaret Thatcher were they trying to tell? The movie has a whole is one big mess. I don't feel like I got any information about Thatcher that I didn't already know. When I go see a biopic, I love the history aspect of it. I want more information about the subject that I didn't know previous to the movie. I barely know anything about the life of Thatcher, which makes the movie all the more disappointing. It is partly a story about the relationship between her and her husband. It is partly about her run as prime minister. Unfortunately, both of these parts don't equal a whole. Even though the script is weak, the performances are the only thing that capture the movie. Jim Broadbent is a fantastic character actor. While he's good here, it's a wasted performance as those scenes don't quite often work. The ghost like visions of Denis to Margaret seem phony. Meryl Streep can do no wrong in my book. She is a goddess and it shows in every performance. Some of her movies are pretty perfect, while others can fall flat. She always delivers at 110% even if others do not. The Iron Lady is in the latter category unfortunately. Like the chameleon that she is, she fully embodies the voice and physical life of Thatcher. Playing an aged character can be a challenge but that is precisely when Streep shines even more. The best moments of her performance come when she is playing the older version of Thatcher. Streep could easily win her third Oscar for this performance. It will be rightly deserved, but I just wish it would have been for a better movie.

RATING: ** (2 out of 5 stars)


Director: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit

"You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it."

Cameron Crowe is back after six years with a true story that is far more family friendly than most of his movies. Benjamin Mee (Damon) is at a cross-roads in his life. His wife has passed away leaving him with their children, seven-year-old Rosie and fourteen-year-old Dylan. Dylan has now been expelled from school for the fourth time and faces expulsion. Benjamin has a sweet and playful relationship with Rosie but seems to struggle with his relationship with Dylan. He quits his job and decides that a new house and a new beginning are in order to bring his family back together. Like many Crowe characters from before, Benjamin takes a giant leap of faith. After seeing Rosie's joyful appearance, he decides to buy a house that has a zoo as part of the purchase. The zoo is technically closed but a group of workers (Scarlett Johansson, Patrick Fugit) spends their days and nights caring for the property and animals. Without any knowledge of zoology or wild animals, Benjamin promises to get the zoo up and running again for the community.

Sometimes the best movies are the ones that come at a total surprise. You watch the trailer, see the TV spots, read some reviews, and you think you have a good idea about what the movie will be. I have always been a fan of Cameron Crowe. He was long overdue for a new movie. His last few movies were not hugely successful, so I was really rooting for this one to be a knock-out. It's a family friendly feel-good story. The trailers promote and rely on this to try to sell the movie. However, there is more here than a story about a man and his zoo. The relationship between Benjamin and his children is where the heart of the movie sit, especially the back and forth struggle between Benjamin and Dylan. Crowe typically pulls double duty serving as director and screenwriter. His script based on the book written by the real Benjamin Mee doesn't have the sharp style his screenplays normally have. He normally writes great supporting characters, but the characters here seem more generic. Patrick Fugit is a terrific actor but isn't really given anything here to let him shine. Damon is always a strong actor. There is an honesty and yearning for his characters that he is always able to pull off. We Bought a Zoo really struck a huge chord with me. Yes, it can be sappy and predictable. There are no surprise moments or twists to the story, but it provided an emotional connection that I did not see coming.

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

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Friday, January 13, 2012

"Unleash Your Inner Foodie"--A Look Back at SIDEWAYS

It's time for another article for DeeAnn McArdle and her website "Unleash Your Inner Foodie". One of the best foodie movies in my opinion is Sideways. With Alexander Payne's The Descendants now in theaters, I thought it would be the perfect time to revisit one of his earlier movies. Here are my thoughts on the movie and a link to "Unleash Your Inner Foodie".

A Look Back at Sideways

One of the biggest movies gaining Oscar buzz this season is The Descendants starring George Clooney and directed by Alexander Payne. After I saw it, I was reminded of how much I loved Sideways which Payne made in 2004. Sideways is a fantastic movie for any wino out there. It was only fitting to open a bottle of red to go with my revisiting of this Paul Giamatti hit. This evening’s glass of wine was a 2008 Cline Ancient Vines Carignane. To read the rest click here



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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

MOVIE REVIEWS: Man on a Ledge, The Devil Inside

Director: Asger Leth
Starring: Sam Worthington, Jamie Bell, Elizabeth Banks, Ed Harris

The title pretty much sums it up. Within the first five minutes of the movie, Nick Cassidy (Worthington) enters a hotel room, clears his fingerprints, leaves a note, and steps out onto the ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. Cut to one month earlier, Nick has been spending time in prison for stealing a precious diamond from David Englander (Ed Harris). He has proclaimed his innocence time and again and proclaims he was framed by Englander himself who still has the diamond. After Nick is allowed to attend the burial of his father, he escapes the arms of his attendees and flees to a storage unit. As he gets to storage unit, you find out there is more behind Nick's escape. There are police files, money, and IDs. His brother Joey (Bell) and Police Officer Mike Ackerman (Anthony Mackie) seem to be in on the escape and ultimate plan. As Nick risks his life by hanging out on the ledge surrounded by a crowd of on-lookers, Joey and his girlfriend sneak into Englander's building to steal the diamond back to prove Nick's innocence.

Man on a Ledge succeeds on the basic notion that it keeps you entertained the whole time. The script is not as smart and faced paced as Mission:Impossible-Ghost Protocol. I never felt my fear of heights come into question nor was I on the edge of my seat the whole time. On the other hand, it is not so dumb and full of stupid characters that you get frustrated. The characters are flawed enough to make them believable. Elizabeth Banks steps a little outside of comfort zone as the negotiator trying to get Nick off the ledge. Her acting comes off a little melodramatic at times. Maybe it was a weak script. Sam Worthington has dialect issues playing a New Yorker. All too often his natural Australian would step in. Not all of the acting is off. Jamie Bell is slick and funny as the younger brother. Man on a Ledge will take your mind off of thinking about your daily routine, but it won't challenge you enough to keep you guessing about what will happen next.

RATING: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

In theaters January 27th


Director: William Bell Brent
Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth

Isabella Rossi (Andrade) heads to the Vatican to visit her mother who is being held in a psychiatric hospital. When Isabella was a kid, her mother killed two priests and a nun while they were performing an exorcism on her. Isabella meets two young priests, Ben (Quarterman) and David (Helmuth) in an exorcism studies class she attends. Ben and David have their personal histories on why though chose to become priests. They like to perform unauthorized exorcisms when the Catholic Church doesn't recognize certain cases. Ben and David convince Isabella that they best way to learn about exorcisms is to watch a live one over sitting in a classroom. Isabella comes to terms with demonic possession and demonic transference. Is Isabella's mom possessed by the devil or does she just suffer from mental illness?

Like many horrors movies of late, The Devil Inside is filmed like a documentary. I don't know who these filmmakers think they are fooling anymore. The use of a shaky hand held camera, "real" news footage, interviews with experts, unknown actors, and an abrupt ending are not scary anymore. It's almost more frustrating knowing that they are trying so hard. One of the other big problems with this devil of a movie has to do with focus. Does the lack of focus seem to make it more realistic? What at first seems be about the possession of a mother turns out to be about demonic transference. This means to me that the screenwriters didn't know where to take the story after page 60. It just feels like it should be called "The Paranormal Last Exorcism of Blair Witch". Watch those three movies and you'll predict this paint-by-numbers story.

RATING: *1/2 (1.5 out of 5 stars)

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Monday, January 2, 2012

MOVIE REVIEWS: The Artist, War Horse

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell

Any director, screenwriter, or studio head that believes you need to have huge explosives or chase sequences every twenty seconds to make a good movie should study The Artist. I may be comparing apples to oranges here, but The Artist proves that even a silent movie with a simple story can be the best picture of the year. It will even have audiences in the movie theater grinning from ear to ear. George Valentin (Dujardin) is the debonair silent film star of his day. Audiences flock to see him and his dog in the latest silent picture they are premiering. Outside after a screening, Peppy Miller (Bejo) is awaiting with the rest of the crowd to get a glimpse of Valentin as he poses for the cameras. She happens to stumble out of the line and gets the attention of Valentin. She lays a kiss on him and it makes the front page of Variety the next day. Peppy is an aspiring young actress that sees this as a perfect opportunity for her to get noticed. Valentin has to succumb to the fact that his wife (Penelope Ann Miller) takes this kiss in the wrong way as he sees it. Peppy gets cast as in an extra in Valentin's next movie and her career takes off. As the era of talkies start to take over, film producer Al Zimmer (Goodman) tells Valentin that he is no longer in demand and that Peppy will be the new star for the studio. The macho star does not take this news too lightly as he's being pushed aside by this new starlet.

The Artist is daring proof that a silent movie can work in this day and age of the silver screen. Jean Dujardin is pitch-perfect and dashingly handsome as George. He uses charm and physicality to mug not only the audience viewing the movie but George's fans that swoon after him. Bérénice Bejo is equally charming and sweet. They have fantastic chemistry together, and their performances wouldn't be the same without each other. Special acknowledgment is due to Ludovic Bource who composed the score. Due to the fact that most of the movie is silent, his score comprises 99% of the sound. If you could give an award for best animal in a movie it would be a tight race between George's dog and the horse in War Horse. This dog is a show dog of all show dogs. Like George, he knows how to win over the audience and milk them for every swoon they have. Everything about this movie is perfect, and it is a glorious tribute to the golden age of silent movies. Even if you think you a silent movie sounds boring, I challenge you to see The Artist and not come out in a positive mood and your spirit lifted.

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

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston

Despite the need for a plough horse, Ted Narracott buys a weak colt at an auction for 30 guineas which is far more that what the horse is worth. He does it to spite his landlord Lyons (Thewlis) who tried to out-bid him. He brings the colt home to be reprimanded by his wife (Watson) but adored by his son Albert (Irvine). Albert names him Joey and promises to train him to plough. They hope to grow and sell turnips to make money for the rent. A bad rainstorm destroys the crops and any hope of them making a profit. This loss forces Albert's father to sell Joey off to Captain Nicholls (Hiddleston) to be used in World War I. After Nicholls and Joey are deployed to France, the Germans invade and defeat Nicholls and his men. While many of the horses perish, Joey lives and is taken by the German army. Years pass as we see Joey pass off from one master to the next including two German brothers and an old man and his granddaughter. Albert joins the war in hopes to one day be reunited with his horse.

War Horse is based on the children's novel and stage play of the same name. Spielberg bought the film rights after reading the story. He then saw the production in London based off the recommendations of his long-time collaborators Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. Spielberg knows his audience and what they like to see. War Horse is the typical Spielberg pull-at-your-heart epic story with a John Williams score behind it. John Williams does not score as many movies as he used to, but he always finds time for Spielberg. What would a Spielberg movie be without Williams? Spielberg paints beautiful images all while not being afraid to show the horrors of war on both the men and the horses. Be warned there are some disturbing images. With a running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, it does tend to drag in the middle. It may not be his best movie, but it is still a crowning achievement.

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

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Year in Movies: 2011 Edition

I stole this idea from my wonderful friend, Max. I've never tallied up how many new movies I saw in a year, so I figured I'd see what my results looked like. I tracked the movie, date, how/where I saw the movie, director, and actors. 96 new movies in total ranging from old classics like All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard to 45 2011 releases from Source Code to The Tree of Life. I'm quite surprised how many I saw. I feel like it's been a fairly busy year. Between doing one show, working two jobs, getting healthy, and moving in with my partner, life has taken some exciting new routes.

The List
Rabbit Hole
True Grit (Coen Bros.)
Viva Las Vegas
Blue Valentine
Connie and Carla
Joan Rivers: a Piece of Work
Wendy and Lucy
About a Boy
The Town
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Capturing the Friedmans
Jesus Camp
Food, Inc.
Solitary Man
Red Riding: 1974
The Fighter
All About Eve
An Affair to Remember
Animal Kingdom
Patrik 1.5
Then She Found Me
The House Bunny
Red Riding: 1980
Red Riding: 1983
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish)
Source Code
Cedar Rapids
Eat, Pray, Love
Scream 4
My Soul to Take
I Spit on Your Grave (remake)
Love Story
The Hangover 2
Dinner for Schmucks
X-Men: First Class
Sunset Boulevard
The Last House on the Left (remake)
Jackass 3
Super 8
Bram Stoker's Dracula
No Strings Attached
The Pride of the Yankees
Midnight in Paris
Little Fockers
Green Lantern
Bull Durham
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Friends with Benefits
The Help
The Girl Who Played with Fire (Swedish)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Debt
Fright Night (remake)
Big Night
The Mist
The People Under the Stairs
The Thing (John Carpentar)
Trick 'r Treat
The Howling
The Last Exorcism
Paranormal Activity 3
The Ides of March
Footloose (remake)
Shaun of the Dead
Pet Sematary
J. Edgar
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1
The Muppets
My Week with Marilyn
The Descendants
Young Adult
Mission:Impossible-Ghost Protocol
The Adventures of Tintin
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Darkest Hour
Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
The Tree of Life
White Christmas

My Top 10 2011 Releases

The Artist (viewed in 2012)
Super 8
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris

Please note at this point, I have NOT seen-We Bought a Zoo, War Horse, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Iron Lady, Shame. I saw The Artist on January 1, 2012

Notable Performances

Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Armie Hammer (J. Edgar)
Albert Brooks (Drive)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Jessica Chastain (The Help, The Debt, The Tree of Life)
Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
Viola Davis (The Help)
Charlize Theron (Young Adult)
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Leonardo DiCaprio (J.Edgar)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50)
Ryan Gosling (Drive, Crazy Stupid Love, The Ides of March)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball, The Tree of Life)
George Clooney (The Descendants)

WORST Movie of the Year: The Darkest Hour
WORST Performance: January Jones (X-Men: First Class)

We shall see what 2012 brings to me. Who knows how often I'll make it to the theater. It's already shaping up to be a good here at the cinema.

12 to Look Forward to in 2012
The Woman in Black
The Hunger Games
Dark Shadows
Snow White and the Huntsman
Rock of Ages
The Avengers
The Amazing Spider-Man
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
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