Wednesday, August 31, 2011

'The Debt' Movie Review

“The Debt” had me for two-thirds of the movie—maybe it was even three-quarters, I wasn’t wearing a watch. John Madden’s (director of “Shakespeare In Love” John Madden, not the senile, football-spouting loudmouth with the same name) crafts a tense thriller about Israeli Nazi hunters that grips you and has you on the edge of your seat and all of that other stuff that a thriller is supposed to do. Even in moments of down time you’re still engrossed, leaning slightly forward, hanging on every frame. The film is expertly paced, flawlessly acted, and has a unique, intricate structure that is executed with pinpoint accuracy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

'Colombiana' Movie Review

After witnessing the brutal murder of her parents at the hands of Colombian drug lords, Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) grows up to become a ruthless assassin bent on revenge. That’s the plot of “Colombiana” in a nutshell, and to be honest, there isn’t much more substance than that to the story. At the core the story is like “Leon” light, essentially an empty version of the same plot carried further. Lucky for you there is some solid ass kicking action to back up what the script by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen lacks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

'Target Practice' Movie Review

“Target Practice” looks a lot like a movie that some of your more enterprising buddies made—shooting on weekends, using the props and locations available to them, full of questionable acting, and that sort of thing. And if you approach the film from this direction, it’s not bad. The action sequences are surprisingly solid, and the story, while not pulled off particularly well, is interesting enough that it could have been good. So “Target Practice” has these two things potentially working towards its favor, but not much else.

Friday, August 19, 2011

'Fright Night' Movie Review

I’m going to try not to waste a bunch of time with a pointless how-dare-they-remake-a-classic-like-“Fright Night” rants. We all know that well trod territory is completely pointless, and they’re going to keep coming, like it or not. Besides, I’ve seen the original—though it’s been at least 15 years, probably more—and while I remember enjoying it, I also remember that it wasn’t any sort of masterpiece to begin with. Sorry to all of you hardcore fans out there, you can send me hate mail if you want. I’m here to say that “Fright Night 3D”—director Craig Gillespie’s remake of the horror comedy—isn’t all bad, but it is mostly bad.

'The Last Circus' Movie Review

Okay boys and girls, it’s time to put on our bat-shit-crazy-pants and get a little bit nuts. And by a little bit nuts, I mean a lot bit nuts. This is really the only way to prepare you for the onslaught of Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia’s (“Accion Mutante”, “800 Bullets”) latest film, “The Last Circus” (“Balada triste de Trompeta”). It is one of the most bizarre and wonderful movies I’ve seen in a long, long time. Any movie that starts with a clown wielding a machete is on the right track. Circus performers conscripted against their will to fight a war they neither believe in, nor have any interest in participating in. How can you go wrong?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blu-ray Review: 'The Big Lebowski: Limited Edition'

Fuck it, Dude, let’s go bowling.

I didn’t love “The Big Lebowski” the first time I saw it. It feels good to finally admit that. By the time 1998 rolled around I’d been a big Coen Brothers fan since first watching “Raising Arizona” in 1987, and had seen everything they’d put on film. “Fargo” only solidified my affection, so when their next film, “Lebowski”, came out, I went to a Sunday afternoon matinee that first weekend. Walking out into a drizzly March afternoon in the Pacific Northwest, I’d enjoyed myself well enough, but it wasn’t anything that blew my hair back. I wasn’t the only one with a less-than-enthusiastic reaction, and the film was neither a critical nor commercial success.

Home video is where “The Big Lebowski” really hit its stride and found an audience. This film makes a definite case for repeated viewings. With the ability to watch and re-watch you are afforded the opportunity to drink in and truly appreciate the subtle jokes, Walter’s priceless rants, and the random weirdness that makes “The Big Lebowski” so great. Watching it now I can’t see how I had such a tepid reaction my first time, and the film has blossomed into a full-blown cultural phenomenon. There are constant midnight screenings, t-shirts and bumper stickers printed with quips of dialogue, websites, chatrooms, and even regular festivals and conventions. Hell, at work we have three phones, each with a name. One is “Walter”, another “The Dude”, and we call the third “The Jesus”. (Let it be known that I had nothing to do with this.) “The Big Lebowski” isn’t “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” or “Rocky Horror” in terms of nerdy fan obsession, but it isn’t far off.

It seems fitting that since the home video market is so responsible for the popularity of “The Big Lebowski”, now it is getting special edition Blu-ray Book release. I’ll try not to waste too much of your time with plot details, as I’m going to assume that most of you are at least marginally familiar with the movie. It is essentially the Coen Brothers’ loose retelling of Raymond Chandler’s 1939 detective novel, “The Big Sleep”. Remember the use of the word “loose”. There are distinct similarities between the two works, but they are, obviously, vastly different entities.

Instead of Chandler’s hardboiled private investigator, Philip Marlowe, the story centers around a burn-out, ex-hippie stoner named Jeffrey Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), know as “The Dude” to his many friends and well-wishers. Floating through life on a cloud of smoke, his daily routine consists primarily of getting high and bowling with his buddies, Walter (John Goodman), an easily agitated Vietnam vet, and Donny (Steve Buscemi), a na├»ve milquetoast who often unwittingly walks right into Walter’s rage. After being mistaken for another Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston), a wheelchair-bound millionaire no less, the Dude is compelled to navigate a seedy criminal underworld that includes kidnapping, blackmail, murder, and modern feminist art, among other things.

At a basic level, what the Coens did is drop a laid-back slacker into the middle of a tense, twisted detective story, just to see what would happen. The result is a frantic mish-mash of comedy, mystery, and cinematic trickery that, while it can be overwhelming at first glance, is one of the most unique and entertaining films in a generation. Endlessly quotable, the re-watch potential for “The Big Lebowski” is through the roof. Like I said, it is one of those films that gets better with age, and no matter how many times you’ve seen it, you can pop it into your disc playing machine, and watch it again and again.

You are entering a world of pain.

Besides a sharp, clean picture, “The Big Lebowski” Limited Edition Blu-ray Book comes with a ridiculous number of extras, a list that it is truly worthy of the “Special Edition” tag. With the package you get a digital copy of the film, as well as a 28-page booklet that features exclusive interviews, trivia, and photos from the movie. But wait, there is so much more:

There are a trio of interactive “U-Control” features; “Mark It, Dude”—an on-screen counter that keeps track of the “dudes”, “Lebowski-isms”, and “f-bombs” throughout the movie—think the “Carnage Counter” on the “Red Dawn” DVD; “Scene Companion”—which lets you watch behind the scenes footage, interviews, and assorted other extras while you watch; and “The Music of ‘The Big Lebowski’”—a feature that identifies the songs on the soundtrack and lets you build a custom playlist.

“An Introduction”—This is the least entertaining of the bonus features. It is a faux intro from a faux film industry type that just doesn’t hit the mark and is tired rather than entertaining. It is only four minutes, but feels much longer.

“Worthy Adversaries: What’s my Line Trivia”—This is exactly what it sounds like a “Lebowski” trivia challenge. The kicker is that you can play solo, or test your knowledge head-to-head with a buddy. Won’t that sound like fun after a couple of hearty bong rips.

“The Dudes Life”—This 10-minute featurette is taken up mostly by Bridges discussing his process as an actor, and some specific preparations he employed to get ready for his role as The Dude.

“The Dude Abides: ‘The Big Lebowski’ Ten Years Later”—After a full decade has elapsed, members of the cast and crew are interviewed about the legacy of “The Big Lebowski”, with a large emphasis placed on the Coen’s and the unique way in which the brothers work.

“Making of ‘The Big Lebowski’”—An older inclusion, this is a pretty standard making-of feature, though it is interesting to hear the characters discuss their roles and the film not only before it was released, but before it became a true cult phenomenon.

“The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever’s Story”—Features clips from Eddie Chung’s film “The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans”, a documentary about the people behind “Lebowski Fest”, an event that has since become an annual gathering of like minded Dude devotees.

“Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of The Dude”—Exactly what it sounds like, this extra explores the “Kafka Moments”—as the Coens call them—where “The Big Lebowski” flies off on surrealist tangents. Don’t ask me how I know, but these interludes are the closest thing to a glue-sniffing hallucination that I’ve ever seen captured in a movie.

“Interactive Map”—Flip around and choose between significant locations from “The Big Lebowski”. Each entry comes with a brief, usually less than a minute, glimpse at the places where the movie was filmed, and a bit of trivia about each spot in the greater Los Angeles area.

“Jeff Bridges Photo Book” and “Photo Gallery”—This is exactly what it sounds like.

And to top off the whole thing there are a handful of online Blu-ray features for you to explore. All in all this is a great package, especially for die-hard fans of “The Big Lebowski”.

Friday, August 12, 2011

'Final Destination 5' Movie Review

There were a lot of things I didn’t expect from “Final Destination 5”. First off, I didn’t really expect it to happen, but it did, so right out of the gate it defied my expectations. Was there really such a big audience just clamoring for a fifth chapter that they had to make this film? The second thing I didn’t expect was that I would enjoy “Final Destination 5”, but I sure as hell did. I guess that’s what I get for making assumptions—I made an ass out of u, me, and umption. “Final Destination 5” is not a good movie by any means, in fact in many ways it is barely competent, but goddamn it is a lot of fun.

'30 Minutes or Less' Movie Review

“30 Minutes or Less” is a breath of fresh air in what has overall been a stale summer. Director Ruben Fleischer’s follow-up to “Zombieland” is one of the few comedies this season that isn’t trying to be an edgy, raunchy, gross-out fest; and it doesn’t end with some heavy-handed, overly-simplified moralizing that even an idiot boy-child can see through. “30 Minutes or Less” is fun, funny, but also manages to tell a good, surprisingly tense story with solid characters. Who would’ve thought to do that?

Monday, August 8, 2011

DVD Review: 'Clash' (AKA 'Bay Rong')

We’ve been writing about Vietnamese actioner “Clash” (AKA “Bay Rong”) on this site for some time. So long, in fact, that you might notice that the box for the region one DVD that just came out bears a quote from us on the bottom left-hand corner. While “Clash” isn’t blazing any new trails or breaking any new ground, it is pretty much right up our alley. And by that I mean it is a badass crime film full of all out ass-kicking and large-scale gun battles. If that doesn’t sound like a damn fine way to spend a couple of hours, you and I certainly have different tastes, my friend.

Friday, August 5, 2011

'The Guard' Movie Review

What do you get when you throw together a crotchety Irish cop and a straight shooting, by-the-book FBI agent? You get a damn good time, that’s what. And director John Michael McDonagh’s new film “The Guard” is just that, a blast from start to finish. The movie works as a 70s throwback crime flick, while at the same time taking the piss out of the genre. “The Guard” is raucous and depraved, but also one of the most entertaining, darkly comic detective movies in recent memory.

'The Change-Up' Movie Review

It’s about damn time. All my life I’ve watched movies like “Freaky Friday”, “Freaky Friday” remakes, and “Freaky Friday” knock-offs, screaming, “When? When, God, will bros finally get their turn?” And I am pleased to finally be able to say that today, August 5th , 2011 (unless you’re reading this later), the bros finally get their due, thanks to director David Dobkins’s (“Wedding Crasher”) new body-swap comedy “The Change-Up”. Because of Dobkins, and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (“The Hangover”), no longer will we have to wonder what it would be like if two dudes, two dudes with polar opposite personalities and lives, switched places with each other for a short time. No longer will we have to theorize how this scenario would play out, we have concrete cinematic proof of the wackiness that will ensue.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

'Another Earth' Movie Review

“Another Earth” starts off with an interesting enough, if completely ridiculous premise. Scientists have found a heretofore-unnoticed planet, an exact replica of Earth to be exact, hiding behind the moon, and the movie attempts to explore the impact this discovery has on the people of “Earth One”. What it actually does is meander around for a while, trying to be moody, but succeeding only at boring the ever loving crap out of you. At times it is painfully indie, full of long, static shots of characters walking from one side of the frame to the other. Once in a while that device is okay to use, but it comprises roughly half of “Another Earth”. You just want something interesting to happen, but it never does.