misterembryo

IMDb member since November 2004
    Lifetime Total
    25+
    Lifetime Trivia
    1+
    IMDb Member
    15 years

Reviews

The Conjuring 2
(2016)

Conjuring 2 Director James Wan is the Master Magician of Horror
Director James Wan is a magician. He has all the tricks... Sleight of hand... Misdirection... Creating illusions that will terrify you to the core, without having to resort to gore or cheap thrills. Granted he is a master of making you jump out your seat, of making your heart skip a beat, but it's his ability to force you to hold your breath that makes his Conjuring movies so appealing and so much fun to watch. The camera pans and tilts at weird angles. The foreground and background focus and blur interchangeably as if to visually bend reality. A voice whispers in the dark. And through all this, somewhere in the back of your mind, the nagging horror that horrified you when you watched the Exorcist for the very first time, five words:

Based on a true story.

Like the first Conjuring (brilliant movie) the sequel is a dramatization of a case investigated by real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The first Conjuring described the events of a house haunted by a witch called Bathsheba. The Warrens were often tackling multiple cases at once, and to emphasize the emotional stress that came with it, the first Conjuring also detailed the Warrens' experiences with a doll named Anabelle that reportedly came to life, possessed by an evil spirit, that is to this day locked away in a glass case in the back of the Warren household.

In Part 2 we are re-introduced to the Warrens by reminding us of the case that catapulted the couple into the public eye, the murders in Amityville. The majority of this film, however, actually takes place across the pond in London, where a strange entity disturbed the peace of a poor, struggling single-mom and her four children. This became the most documented paranormal case in history, an entity known as the Enfield Poltergeist.

The Conjuring 2 has a great cast. Frances 'O Connor plays Peggy Hodgson, the single mom who has to hold the house together in the midst of all the horror, including all the ridicule from non-believers. She's a mother trying and failing to maintain sanity. She wants to be brave for her kids, yet can't help but to be visibly agitated. Her youngest son Billy, a little boy with a stutter, is adorable, constantly bullied by his peers but is overwhelmed with boundless joy at the sight of a biscuit! The one who stole the show, however, was Madison Wolfe as Janet Hodgson, who in the real-life haunting was the entity's favorite target. Definitely see shades of Linda Blair in her performance.

Other players like Simon McBurney as Maurice Gross, the British paranormal investigator who was primarily involved with the Enfield Poltergeist, even the constables who corroborated that some freaky stuff went down in the house, look and act just like those involved in the real case (did some investigating of my own on YouTube).

Of course the real heroes of the film are Ed and Lorraine Warren played by Patrick Wilson (Insidious) and Vera Fermiga (Bates Motel) - as you can see both actors have a tendency towards dark material. They are an attractive couple, extremely likable, and as in the first Conjuring, there's a sense of adoration and compassion for the work the Warrens do. Both Patrick and Vera have this uncanny ability to make you feel comforted one minute, but with a slight contortion of the face, you know something is wrong. "I've got a bad feeling about this." Regardless whether you believe in this stuff or not, there's admiration for a couple who have dedicated their lives to helping others, freeing the tormented from inexplicable horrors when no one else can. Ed and Lorraine Warrens were the only ones outside of the clergy who were authorized by the Catholic Church to perform exorcisms.

"Based on a true story" should always be taken with a grain of salt. There are definitely some fantastical terrors that are there for show, inspired by nightmares as seen in Insidious or the Babadook. Like the first Conjuring, they don't turn a blind eye to alternative explanations for the events that take place, and allow you to view the subject from the skeptic's standpoint before diving headfirst into the dark realm of the beyond. One thing for sure is that the filmmakers have respect for the original material, pulling from old photographs to recreate the real settings, down to the details of the posters on their bedroom walls. What better example is there of respect for the material than this: prior to filming Conjuring Part 2, the filmmakers had a Catholic priest come in to bless the set. Apparently eerie occurrences took place when they filmed the first Conjuring movie.

I ain't afraid of no ghosts. No poltergeist is going to stop Director James Wan and Writers Chad and Carey Hayes from telling the amazing story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and with many more cases yet to be explored, I really hope they can conjure up another one.

Ant-Man
(2015)

Ant-icipation is over. I Love You, Ant-Man.
Ant-Man must have been a challenge for these filmmakers. The preceding films from the Avengers Universe featured an epic roster of out-of-this-world heroes whose names alone make you tinkle a little: IRON MAN, THOR, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY… and then there's Ant-Man. (Womp-womp) While die-hard fans of the comics would recognize Ant-Man as an original member of the ensemble, the general audience may be left to wonder WTF?!

Ant-Man, do you even lift, Bro?

The filmmakers must have been aware of this, considering the tongue-in-cheek treatment of the script. With a screenplay largely penned by Shaun of the Dead legend Edgar Wright, and built upon by other great comedic writers, Joe Cornish (Attack the Bock), Adam McKay (Anchorman), and Ant-Man himself Paul Rudd, Ant-Man does indeed do some heavy lifting, delivering one of the funniest, most entertaining, and visually satisfying superhero movies to date.

The ant super-suit is sick. Red and silver with bulging insectoid eyes, it looks like a modern day motocross version of the Japanese monster slayer Ultraman. As soon as he hits the shrink button, you are sucked into a world so awesome you have no choice but to brace yourself and see where the ride takes you. Stan Lee wanted to make this movie in the 80's but ironically Disney, the production company behind today's Ant-Man, already had a shrinking movie of its own in the works. While "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" was amazing in its time, I couldn't be happier that they waited for the movie effects of today to let Ant- Man zip this way and that, from our world to the minuscule one and back. Coincidentally an ant saved the kids from a giant scorpion in that Rick Moranis classic, and in Ant-Man the ants also play a major role in saving the day. That's right. His power is not only to shrink to the size of an ant, but also to control an army of them. In that respect, this movie is unlike any superhero movie you've ever seen.

The Pym Particle, created by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has the ability to shrink a living human being. Think of the possibilities! Microsurgery, mobility, and of course, warfare! The latter makes Dr. Pym realize just how dangerous this technology really is and he decides to cease research and development altogether. Years pass, and the existence of this technology is reduced to a myth. What Dr. Pym didn't know is that his own assistant Darren Cross (Corey Stoll, House of Cards) had been obsessing over this myth and has been trying to replicate this technology on his own. Stoll has a unique ability to make you sympathize for his character at times, but can also be straight up scary.

Dr. Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly, Lost) know they have to stop Cross but keep butting heads. Hope is a badass, but Pym refuses to let her get involved, which reveals some deeper, more serious daddy issues. Their only hope is Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, my man crush), an ex-convict who was a professional burglar, not a robber because Lang insists that implies physical violence, and he's not about that life. To pull off the job, Lang enlists his original heist crew, played by David Dastmalchian, Rapper T.I., and Michael Peña, who offers some of the most hilarious scenes in the movie. What ensues is an adventure, a comedy, an action movie and a heist rolled into one Little Debbie oatmeal cookie crumb of elephantine excitement and pure elation. If you haven't noticed, I like this movie.

Close friends may say I am biased because it stars Paul Rudd, whom I have been enamored with ever since Clueless. When Cher realized she was in love with Josh, I too realized Paul Rudd is my number one man crush. Let me close this by taking a moment to acknowledge how perfect Paul Rudd is in the role of Scott Lang/Ant-Man. He is a master at self-deprecating humor, as seen in movies like "I Love You, Man" and "Knocked Up" and his role as Mike Hannigan on "Friends." This is a necessity when you see how Ant-Man may have somewhat of a Napoleon Complex when he inevitably has to measure up against the mighty Avengers. Paul Rudd has shown his chops as a dramatic actor in movies like "The Shape of Things" and "Admission," and again here in Ant- Man as an estranged father, who wants nothing more than to spend more time with his daughter Cassie. While elements of his various roles can be seen in Ant-Man this was nothing like anything Paul Rudd has ever done before, and he pulled it off.

His dedication can be seen not only in the moment that reveals his handsomely chiseled abs. In preparation for the role, Paul Rudd bought an ant farm to study. Even after he finished shooting, he decided to keep it. Just when you thought you couldn't fall in love with Paul Rudd any further. On the week the movie was released, Paul Rudd earned a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and deservedly so. Somehow it's not the star that immortalizes him in film history. It's his stellar performance in Ant-Man, the movie that will shrink and find its way into your heart and stay there forever.

Oz the Great and Powerful
(2013)

Pure OZsomeness
Oz the Great and Powerful joins the ranks of Avatar and Life of Pi in creating a world so vivid and immersive, you would be doing yourself a disservice to wait for DVD. There is no other way to watch it than in IMAX 3D. I was smiling from ear to ear from one sequence to the next, surprises at every turn, a Disney attraction within itself. Literally from the very beginning. The opening title sequence is one of the most impressive showcases of 3D I've seen. It's as wondrous, if not more so, as the dazzling world in Tim Burton's Wonderland, only with more memorable characters and a better story.

The true wizard behind the emerald curtain is master director Sam Raimi. He is one of the most versatile directors around, and what he has created here is one of the scariest, funniest, and most charming Disney movies in recent memory. Raimi brings a little Evil Dead demon magic to scenes designed to frighten you. Thankfully his mastery in horror is equaled by his comedic timing, so the little pretties who watch the movie will be able to sleep at night. Finley is the most adorable flying monkey in a bellhop costume you'll ever meet, and the porcelain China doll is a roller-coaster of emotions, broken one minute and quick to show you she's not so fragile the next. They are both beautifully animated and voiced to perfection. Sometimes you wish animated characters can win Best Supporting Actor (ahem- Gollum!).

To use this much special effects but still create the atmosphere of a vintage Technicolor classic is an astounding achievement. Like the opening sequence, there are scenes shot with the aesthetic of a paper doll puppet show, or that French Trip to the Moon movie (like the Smashing Pumpkins Tonight, Tonight video). Other moments submerge you in a world of color, magic, and music (by Danny Elfman) like some kind of living, breathing Fantasia. Many scenes can easily be translated to a Disneyland thrill ride, or a spot on the laser-light Fantasmic spectacular. Whether or not that's done deliberately, who cares? It makes for a thoroughly entertaining movie.

This movie tells the back story of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz before he was so Great and Powerful, when he was a lowly carnival magician named Oscar from Kansas. He could convince you to believe with mind-blowing illusions, but sadly isn't equipped with the stuff that Messiahs are made of. He is crooked and inconsiderate; he lies, cheats, and steals; he's pretty much everything a wizard-genie-messiah is not, and still you can't help but love the guy, which has lots to do with James Franco's natural likability.

When he crash lands in Oz, he is forced to perform the greatest trick of all. He not only has to convince the citizens of Oz that he is the prophesied Great Wizard sent to restore harmony in the land, he also has to convince the three great witches of the realm, three women who not only possess power beyond words, but are also insanely beautiful, a dangerous combination that may be too much for a mere mortal to bear. A world like this demands a wizard whose predecessors include Merlin, Gandalf, and Dumbledore. This wizard's heroes are Houdini and Thomas Edison, and for now that will have to do.

Sam Raimi, Ang Lee, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, and Joss Whedon are all wizards in their own right, reminding us there are still reasons to see a movie at the movie theater.

Les Misérables
(2012)

The Miz is the Bizness
The life of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is best summed up in the words of another beloved street rat, "All this for a loaf of bread?"

From that single loaf, we become witness to an epic game of cat-and- mouse (between Wolverine and The Gladiator), the birth of a revolution, and a gut-wrenching performance from Anne Hathaway you won't ever forget.

The movie was filmed in five months, and is the first musical film adaptation to record the audio live, rather than have the actors lipsync over a pre-recorded studio track. Tom Hooper's decision to film the actors live evokes some of the most powerful scenes in recent memory, particularly from Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, both deserving of Oscar nods. His use of extreme close-ups (REALLY extreme close-ups) and long, uninterrupted takes gives a raw, gritty quality to the film that brings out the true pain and suffering of the Miserable.

While there is much that goes on in this sweeping tale involving the excitement of an uprising, and a short-lived love triangle not unlike the one in Victor Hugo's other masterpiece The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the story is all about redemption, and redemption comes in the form of Jean Valjean. He spent 20 years in captivity, and his only crime was being a good uncle: he stole a loaf of bread to feed his starving nephew. Those 20 years moved Jean Valjean to lose faith. The real story of Les Miserables is Jean Valjean's quest to find it again.

Problem is, the road to recovery is blocked by the lawman Javert (Russell Crowe), who forces Valjean to play Catch Me If You Can a la Frank Abagnale. Like the nugget that won't flush, Javert keeps coming back. He suffers from a classic case of hubris, and refuses to see Valjean as anything more than a criminal. The only thing that keeps Valjean going is Colette, I mean, Cosette (Isabelle Allen/Amanda Seyfried).

While Allen is absolutely adorable as young Cosette, and worth fighting for, Seyfried shines in the role of the woman Cosette has come to be, her voice so angelic you soon forget she used to predict the weather with her boobs. While Javert represents Pride, the only obstacle in Valjean's road to redemption, Cosette serves as Hope and the only guiding light. Valjean takes it upon himself to raise Cosette, after discovering he inadvertently led Cosette's mother's life to ruin.

Not since Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta has any female performance looked so tragic yet so beautiful as Anne Hathaway in her role as Fantine. As brief as her appearance was in the film, she killed the role and stole the show. If Anne Hathaway doesn't get an Oscar, I will shave my head.

How did they deliver such an ambitious film in so little time? For one they had the right crew. The composers and lyricists of the original musical were heavily involved with production. It also helps to have Tom Hooper as Quarterback. Hooper was masterful in telling a simple story about a king with a speech impediment, and is the perfect captain to helm the ship that takes us on a voyage of so many emotions. There's even ample room for humor provided by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, which was much needed in a story so miserable. They both have big names and have the effortless ability to bring big laughs. The same can be said for the entire cast. Not the big names and the big laughs part, but the effortlessness in their abilities to know their roles and to own them. Did I mention Anne Hathaway deserves an Oscar?

Catwoman and Wolverine in one of the most epic musicals of all time. Who'da thunk it? At least we're already used to seeing Jackman with Mutton Chops. Too bad Jean Valjean can't Berserker Barrage his way out of this tragedy. He does, however, have the power to heal himself, only it takes much, much longer. He heals himself through humility, through forgiveness, and through moving musical soliloquies that show us how powerful we can be even when we are most miserable.

Wreck-It Ralph
(2012)

Disney headed in the right di-WRECK-tion!
The trailer alone, garnered much buzz for Disney's latest 3D adventure. Seeing some of'the great video game villains of all time assembled in one room was just too good to be true. The hype was elevated to even greater heights given its ubiquitous presence at San Diego Comic Con. In the back of mind I kept thinking, "THEY'RE GONNA WRECK IT!"

Thankfully, the movie succeeds in creating a heartfelt tribute to the golden era of the 80's arcade, decorated here and there with familiar cameos that are both nostalgic and laugh out loud hilarious. The actual video game characters and their respective worlds don't play as big a role in the movie as I imagined. My wishful, nerdy brain hoped Ralph would be jumping through pipes in Mushroom Kingdom, riding horseback through Hyrule and blasting away at baddies alongside Mega Man and who knows who else. This didn't happen, and may have to do with the price of buying the rights to some of these iconic images. But the new world Disney Animation Studios created is rich with surprises, and rivals that of Monstropolis, Toy Story, and the Kingdom of Far and Far Away.

Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by the incomparable John C. Reilly) is the Donkey Kong to Fix-It Felix, Jr.'s Mario in a fictional 80's arcade game. The game itself is believable enough to have existed during the era. Ralph, along with other villains in various games throughout the ages, share the same plight of feeling under-appreciated by gamers and other citizens of the video game world.

The breaking point for Ralph was the 30th Anniversary for the "Fix-it Felix, Jr." arcade. To commemorate the event, Felix throws a party in the penthouse of the game's high-rise apartment complex, a party that Ralph wasn't invited to. (The DJ of this party offered another cameo I really wasn't expecting and left me in awe of this tribute to electronic art.)

What sets Ralph apart from all the other villains is that he is determined to actually do something about the unfortunate role of "Bad Guy" he was programmed to assume. He intends to jump to different arcades in order to become a hero in another game. This act of invading a game other than your own is mysteriously referred to as "Going Turbo" by the other inhabitants of the video game world. It's considered taboo, especially since it runs the risk of permanent death: dying outside your own game makes it impossible to regenerate.

After a series of unfortunate events, Ralph eventually crash lands into Sugar Rush, a cross between the worlds of Candy Land and Mario Kart. There he befriends the adorable Vanellope (voiced by the lovely Sarah Silverman), who like Ralph is seen as an outcast in her game. In her case, she is considered a freak due to her tendency to glitch out. To Vanellope, racing runs deep within her code, but the only thing stopping her is the candy land's ruler the Candy King, who is adamant on keeping her out of the race.

Ralph's spontaneous hero's journey spells trouble for the rest of the video game world. Due to Ralph's disappearance, the "Fix-it Felix, Jr." game is in danger of being unplugged, leaving Felix with the hefty responsibility of retrieving his clumsy counterpart. Ralph's brief stint in a Halo-esque game called "Hero's Duty" is also a big nuisance to the foxy Sgt. Calhoun (Jane Lynch). She must now track down and exterminate a Cybug that Ralph mistakenly helped escape from the game. If the bug goes viral, it could destroy every game in Mr. Litwak's entire arcade for good.

The video game setting offers awesome moments of creativity for the Disney animators, from the way the characters are drawn and animated, to the way their lives are portrayed outside of their own game. The voice talent is also really impressive across the board. While the movie isn't the all-out Smash Brothers brawl many were expecting, the movie comes with loads of surprises that are sure to delight and entertain a wide audience, gamers and non-gamers alike.

The movie could not have come at a better time. People who grew up during the era of the arcade are now starting to have families of their own, and are very likely to laugh along with the children they bring to the theaters. This same video game generation also witnessed the Disney Renaissance of the early 90's: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and the Lion King. With Wreck-It Ralph destined to be an instant classic, following the success of the equally impressive Tangled, we are in for a new Disney Renaissance for a whole new generation.

Note: Get there early enough for an excellent animated short, and stay to watch the credits roll if you haven't yet satisfied your nerdy gamer fix.

Tangled
(2010)

Belle Who? There's a New Beauty in Town.
Rather than your ordinary Once Upon a Time, the story of Tangled starts with a voice-over from Flynn Ryder, our egotistical antihero, warning you that this is a story about how he died. This American Beauty style prologue is a clear indication that although it's a Disney movie, this story is not without the darkness of Grimm. As Disney's 50th animated feature film, Disney freaks and general moviegoers alike will be pleased to find that Tangled is worthy of the golden hallmark. It's beautifully animated, full of surprises, and really funny. I'll even go so far as to say it has the power to jerk a few tears.

Disney decided to go with an alternate title instead of sticking to the original Rapunzel. It works because this imaginative retelling seems to be a little more than a story about a girl with long hair. It's also a story about an old woman consumed with a fear of dying. Her name is Gothel, and she's the figure that sets all the action in motion by kidnapping the baby princess at birth. She did this because she's aware of the magical properties that lay hidden in our heroine's golden locks: sing a special song to it, and you can live forever.

Gothel hides Rapunzel away in a tower, raises her as her own, and forbids her from seeing the light of day, urging the world is an evil place. This is creepy within itself, and among all the Disney villains, Gothel is by far one of the creepiest, reminiscent of the mom in Stephen King's Carrie, from the scary way she keeps her daughter sheltered down to the scary way she is ultimately defeated.

Gothel at least had the decency to provide Rapunzel with a library of books. This has kept Rapunzel occupied for all the 18 years she spent in isolation, and has made her apt at a range of activities some of us may never learn: painting, paper mache, charting stars. Still, she longs to see the world, if only to find the source of the floating lanterns: mysterious lights that fill the sky every year on the night of her birthday.

Flynn Ryder's not your average knight-in-shining armor. He's more like Gaston in a Han Solo costume. Poor Flynn is in enough trouble as it is, constantly hounded down for stealing a prized possession from the royal family. Aside from the palace guards, Flynn has to deal with twin goons that resemble Jason Stathem and a tenacious police horse. Next thing you know, Flynn is stuck with a teenage girl in desperate need of rebellion.

Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi provide the speaking and singing voices for our two protagonists, and do a phenomenal job. The voice acting is pitch perfect, just like the music composed by the legendary Academy Award-winning Alan Menken.

I can't wait to see Rapunzel at Disneyland, not just because she's smoking hot, but also because it'll be entertaining to see eight guards following close behind to accommodate her long head of hair. The 260 million dollar budget makes this the most expensive animated feature to date. Considering the magic it will bring to households 50 more years down the road, Tangled is worth every penny.

Going the Distance
(2010)

Drew and Justin go Long and Score
"Going the Distance" is a common tale of boy meets girl, but girl lives thousands of miles away. It's a surprise that this common tale has not yet been the main premise for a movie, at least not to my knowledge, and they pull it off wonderfully.

Sure the movie is formulaic. They meet in a special way (a game of Centipede at a bar) and run into a conflict (she's only in New York for a summer internship). There is no mind-blowing plot line, no epic Shyamalan twist, but Going the Distance is funny, and it has heart. I'll be honest, I wasn't in a rush to see this movie. As a fan of both Barrymore's and Long's work, it looked good, but I wasn't expecting to laugh as hard as I did, mostly spawning from simple dialog instead of broad physical gags, namely the phone sex scene. More and more comedies are leaning towards vulgarity to make us laugh, and I'm happy to say this comedy is one of them.

Funny moments also come from the support system: Erin (Barrymore, Wedding Singer) confides in her older sister Corinne, while Garrett (Long, Waiting) turns to his drinking buddies. The support isn't really support at all, as Corinne (Applegate, Anchorman) constantly feeds Erin nuggets of paranoia and logic to show her that long distance just doesn't work. On top of that, Corinne has a hyperactive four-year old who can only be tamed with the word "Statue." Meanwhile, it's impossible for Garrett to carry a conversation with his long-distance girlfriend without getting harassed and mocked by his male brethren, his coworker Box (Jason Sudeikis, "SNL") who offers completely inapplicable bromantic advice, and his omnipresent roommate Dan (Charlie Day, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia").

Barrymore is no stranger to the Rom-Com, but while her past flings possess a more fairy-tale quality, her latest on-screen relationship is the most realistic. Justin Long is awesome at playing the awkward everyman, and given his inability to figure out how a tanning salon operates, he is a regular Ross Gellar.

The film ends abruptly, but it's not the destination it's the journey, right? I heard Justin Long interview on a morning radio show in San Diego, and he confessed his fear of this particular movie's reception. Fear not, Mr. Mac, this movie is not a PC.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
(2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Scott Pilgrim wins. Flawless Victory.
The movie opens with an 8-bit recreation of the Universal Pictures company logo, complete with a new rendition of the studio's fanfare done in nostalgic MIDI format. Ah the good old days of fat video game cartridges that never work until you blow into the microchip slot. For me, this was love at first sight as Edgar Wright (Director, Shaun of the Dead) prepares you for a crazy ride through the trying times of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a young romantic determined to literally fight his way into the heart of his one true love, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). You will find yourself entranced by the dazzling visuals backed by a score made up of head-thumping punk rock and classic video game themes. This truly is an epic of epic epicness.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is adapted from a popular series of graphic novels written by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Inspired by punk rock, Manga comics, video games, and Kung Fu classics, this movie is a modern telling of a classic love story, catered to the MTV Generation. That's not to say anyone born outside of this generation won't enjoy the ride. No joke falls flat. Instead they fly at you in vivid color. The movie reads like a comic book and plays like a video game. Like a comic book, the text is an integral part of the storytelling. A series of D's flies out of Scott Pilgrim's bass guitar in rhythmic fashion as he prepares for a killer solo. An occasional onomatopoeia flashes across the screen with a THWOMP or THUNK of someone's head, reminiscent of the Adam West Batman. Like a video game, every bad guy Pilgrim kills spontaneously bursts into coins, accumulating a score that serves no purpose. It's a wacky game of Whose Line is it Anyway where the points don't matter but you find yourself rooting for a winner.

I was reminded of Tarantino's Kill Bill. The hero has a list of people to kill, but unlike the Bride, Pilgrim isn't out looking for trouble. The trouble finds him in the form of The League of the Seven Exes, a dark alliance formed by Ramona's latest ex, Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzman), whose sole purpose is to challenge any romantic soul brave enough to seek the heart of the impulsive, attractive, and elusive Ramona Flowers. Every ex that Pilgrim encounters offers a different kind of fight, a new challenging way for Scott to win, and another chance for Wright to bring you an entertaining display of light and sound.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World introduces you to a wild ensemble of characters. Scott Pilgrim himself is a scrawny, unassuming young man who seems harmless at first until you discover the impressive track record of broken hearts he's left along the way. One of those broken hearts belongs to the girl drummer in his indy punk rock band, the Sex Bob-Ombs, another endearing Nintendo reference. Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) is his Chinese high school girlfriend, head-over-heels in love with her boyfriend and completely obsessed with his band. Pilgrim's anal sister (Anna Kendrick) and his gay roommate (Kieran Culkin) also offer big laughs.

Like Tarantino in Kill Bill, Wright is given a playground with no rules. The fourth wall is almost nonexistent and nobody ever asks why, not the people watching the movie nor the people in the movie. You sit back, suspend all belief, and hope that Scott Pilgrim beats the game. Like Miyamoto's Super Mario Brothers, Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a game you will want to play again and again and again.

Kick-Ass
(2010)

"Kick-Ass": They're Not Who We Thought They Were
"Original" and "Unconventional" seem to be the common words used to describe "Kick-Ass". The movie climbed to the number one spot in the box office opening weekend, climbed up the prestigious IMDb Top 250 Movies of All Time, and has climbed into the hearts of moviegoers across the country. Unfortunately, all of this, especially the premise of the movie itself, is completely misleading.

A painfully mediocre high school student wants to make a difference in his own dull life and in the violence-ridden streets of his own city. Our antihero wants to become a superhero. The story starts off on the right note, getting us engaged and bringing on some good laughs in the process. He has no revenge story, no Martial Arts training, no money to get a hold on any cool gadgets. However, what begins as an "unconventional" and "original" superhero story, takes a turn and becomes the same typical, cliché, and generic superhero story it intends and claims to drift away from.

By some freak accident, he acquires a damaged nerve system that significantly decreases the sensation of pain, and even gets some cool metal plates integrated into his skeleton. Cool! Like accidentally getting bitten by a radioactive spider.

Then he meets Bid Daddy and Hit Girl. People love Hit Girl, and what's not to love? She's an 11-year old kid who can say bad words, dodge bullets, and kill a dozen bad guys at once. People say this movie has no gimmicks. An 11-year-old kid who can say bad words, dodge bullets, and kill a dozen bad guys at once is a total gimmick. Big Daddy is a supercop with a vendetta and Hit Girl is his daughter who has learned everything a supercop knows. They have a revenge story, and even have a ton of money which allows them to buy a bunch of fancy new weapons. Cool! Just like Batman.

Sure there may be some entertainment value in it for you, (if you're into a couple masturbation scenes and an 11-year old girl getting shot at) and the acting is convincing enough, given the ridiculousness of the story. The movie only falls short in being something other than what it claims to be. "Kick-Ass" is not "original" (see Blankman) and is not "unconventional" (see Spider-Man and Batman).

The last I checked, at the bottom of the Top 250 List was "Toy Story 2," which is more than a hundred spots short of the place "Kick-Ass" landed so quickly. If you want to see a movie that's a hundred times more original and unconventional than "Kick-Ass", see the movie that's at the bottom of the list.

(500) Days of Summer
(2009)

(500) Thumbs Up for Days of Summer
An opening disclaimer sets the tone for the rest of the movie: ironic and so true. The movie is fun, frustrating, simple, difficult, triumphant, and depressing, much like the nature of any loving relationship. (500) Days of Summer is a traditional love story told in a nontraditional fashion, combining and contrasting over-the-top fantasy with harsh reality. Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy loves girl, girl doesn't love boy because her divorced parents destroyed the very idea of true love sending the boy into a downward spiral of sorrow and recklessness.

Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an aspiring architect that writes greeting cards for a living. Of course, he has an even greater aspiration to one day find true love, a curse and a blessing that was embedded in his innocent mind after watching "The Graduate" at a young and tender age. His life changes completely when a new Executive Assistant joins the office: Summer Finn (the beautiful Zooey Deschanel), and she's like a modern-day Audrey Hepburn. Who wouldn't fall in love with an Audrey Hepburn? A drunken office karaoke session and a long-awaited kiss later, Tom and Summer Finn are goofing off and holding hands at an IKEA. (Aww, Tom and Finn. How cute.) Their relationship is reminiscent of Joel and Clementine from "Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind." Like Eternal, their story is told nonlinearly. We ping-pong between different stages of their relationship, from Day (1) to Day (500), revealing both the beauty and the tragedy of Tom's pursuit to win Summer Finn.

The difference is, Tom doesn't have a machine to erase any trace of Summer, but must instead live with the pain that scarred him so deeply. What Tom does have is a great support system: two close buddies who care for him sincerely but have no clue how to handle this unhealthy situation, and a kid sister who happens to say all the right things.

Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel are perfect in this movie. He is tossed around both emotionally and physically, from extreme highs to terrible lows, and if you don't cheer for him, then you have no heart. She just owns the screen, and everything about her makes it easy to see why a guy would spend (500) days pining for this woman.

There are some amazing moments in this movie, beyond the content. Like Eternal's Michel Gondry, Director Marc Webb started his career making music videos ("All That I've Got" by The Used and "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" by MCR, amongst other countless greats). It's no wonder why his feature film debut is as artistic and as entertaining as it truly is. This is Day (1) of a film career that is no doubt going to be an enjoyable one to watch.

Drag Me to Hell
(2009)

Drag Me to Hell is an Instant Horror Classic
In the spirit of the Evil Dead Trilogy, Director Sam Raimi drags you into a world of complete insanity with this soon-to-be horror/comedy classic "Drag Me to Hell". The movie is everything I expected it to be: no holds barred, good old fashioned fun. It knows no bounds and goes completely over the top, and just keeps going. It's loud, imaginative, as scary as it is hilarious, and especially enjoyable to go see at the movie theaters. Sam Raimi's blend of humor and horror is unique and exciting, his timing is amazing (which is difficult enough when the two genres are separate), and you really do enjoy every minute of it.

The premise is simple. A loan officer (played by the lovely Alison Lohman) is cursed by a really creepy old gypsy woman after denying her of a third extension on her mortgage payments. She visits a psychic, who tells her a very evil spirit is now after her soul and she only has three days to rid herself of this black curse. Justin Long plays her immensely supportive and incredibly wealthy boyfriend. He is a realist who believes her experiences are merely the product of post-traumatic stress, but is willing to accept the notion of supernatural forces if it helps her.

The movie does not take itself too seriously, like many horrible horror movies tend to do. Instead, the movie plays like one of those walk-through haunted houses you visit during Halloween, or those creepy carnival rides with spooks that make you jump at every corner, for the sole purpose of keeping you fully entertained. "Drag Me to Hell" makes it fun to go the movies, and it will definitely endure as a great feature for decades of horror movie nights to come. Ultimately, "Drag Me to Hell" is just a classic campfire horror story, and Sam Raimi just so happens to be one of the greatest storytellers of our time.

Up
(2009)

"Up"-Lifting
The masterminds behind the mysterious walls of Pixar Animation have the strangest ability to transform the simplest ideas into the most poignant stories of our time. They do not disappoint this time around, as they take you on an aerial odyssey to South America in a floating house. I know we say this every year, but this is arguably the best Pixar film yet, and quite possibly one of the best films of all time, period.

"Up" tells the amazing story of Carl Fredrickson, a retired balloon salesman who refuses to surrender his house to the demands of urban expansion. On the surface is a little old man who is stubborn, apathetic, uncooperative, and bitter with age. But beyond the rigid face, the white head of hair, and bulky glasses is an aging man who is suffering from loneliness, unable to part with the house he once shared with the love of his life. He met her when he was a goofy little boy, and she was a spunky little girl, and together they shared a lust for adventure inspired by the great explorer Charles Muntz. The history of Carl and his wife Ellie is told through one of the most moving opening sequences in recent memory. Translation: I may have shed a tear or two.

Lucky for us, Russell, an enthusiastic Junior Wilderness Scout, comes around to mend our broken heartstrings in hilarious fashion, as his youthful innocence is quickly countered by Carl's old indifference, and vice versa. What they do share, however, is determination. Russell will do anything to assist the elderly and become a Senior Wilderness Scout, and Carl will do anything to find Paradise Falls and finish his late wife's Adventure Book. Their interaction is classic, a relationship that both child and adult are likely to enjoy.

As always, Pixar does a fine job of suspending our disbelief in a way that is strangely acceptable. The flying house, for example, is a simple network of balloons sprouting out of the chimney, with the strings tightly fastened to the fireplace. To steer the flying vessel, shower curtains serve as the sails and a crank tied to the weather vain is the helm, while a garden hose works as the anchor. The idea is incredible, but works wonderfully in the reality of the story, as Carl in his youth often had trouble preventing his balloon cart from floating off the ground.

While the movie is obviously fantasy, it touches on issues and emotions that are very real and very dark. "Up" serves as a reminder that adventure is out there, even in the boring stuff we take for granted in everyday life, and therein lies the real answer to overcoming our darkest times.

"Up" is original, funny, inspirational, beautifully animated, and full of surprises, as all Pixar films tend to be. Even an old bit like talking dogs is used in a way that is different and really entertaining. Fortunately for me, I only watched "Up" in 2D, and have an excuse to come back and enjoy once again, the magical adventure of Carl Fredrickson and the little flying house that could. Adventure is out there! And on my list of cinematic adventures, "Up" is way up there.

Hannah Montana: The Movie
(2009)

Hannah Montana is not a bad movie.
I won't use words like "wholesome entertainment" or "family fun" to describe Hannah Montana the Movie. I'll be the first to admit it. Hanna Montana the Movie was a great movie.

Miley Cyrus is not afraid to make a fool out of herself, and it's easy to see how millions of kids across the world absolutely adore her. The movie is simple and genuine, and although the story overall is predictable as expected, you've got to admit it's all entertaining. Of course you've got your obligatory dance number, and believe you me, the "Hoedown Throwdown" is catchy, and yes I learned it. Not since Mr. Cyrus' own "Achy Breaky Heart" has a line dance been so infectious. I challenge you to leave the theater without repeating "BOOM BOOM CLAP, BOOM CLAP" over and over again.

The casting was great with supporting roles from Margo Martindale playing Hannah's sweet grandma, and Melora Hardin (the Office) playing Billy Ray's love interest. And the music wasn't bad either. Don't be ashamed. Have a good time and see Hannah Montana the Movie. You'll enjoy it.

I Love You, Man
(2009)

I Loved it, Man!
Man, I love Paul Rudd. And I'm almost positive that right after you watch his latest feature, you will too.

Paul Rudd (Clueless, The Shape of Things, Anchorman, "Friends", 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Role Models) plays Peter Klaven, a semi-successful real estate agent who proposes to his beautiful girlfriend of eight months, Zooey, played by the talented heartmelter Rashida Jones (Karen from "The Office").

Their relationship seems almost picture perfect, their classic love-at-first-sight story, their comfortable HBO TV Nights, and best of all, her girl friends adore him. The only problem is, Peter's guy friends don't care much for Zooey, because well, he doesn't have any. In fact, he's never really had any. Which begs the question: Who the hell will be Peter Klaven's Best Man at his wedding??

A couple of uncomfortable and unpredictable man dates later, enter Sidney (Jason Segel), who shows up at an open house hosted by Peter Klaven. Only he's not there to check out the multi-million dollar estate owned by "The Incredible Hulk" Lou Ferrigno. Sidney's there to scope out the recent divorcées who commonly show up at open houses, and to grab some free sandwiches while he's at it.

With Sidney's uncanny understanding of male behavior, his barbaric display of testosterone, his similar taste in Rock & Roll, and his honest and vulgar approach to male bonding (hence the R-Rating), is this really the Best Man Pete's been looking for? Or the Worst Man that could ever happen to not only Pete's pending marriage with Zooey, but also his career, and ultimately his life??

As implied by the sentimental title, this film was building up to be the definitive Bromantic Comedy, and in my opinion, they pulled it off. I Love You, Man is Paul Rudd at his finest. He charmed his way into a clueless Alicia Silverstone, he started a timeless string of homophobic questioning with Seth Rogen, and he helped a self-loathing Jason Segel forget Sarah Marshall with a spaced out surf lesson.

Now Paul's back to find a best man, and the chemistry he has with the best man to-be is pure comedy. Thankfully we get a front row seat to all his awkwardness, his flamboyance, his unabashed silliness, and his hopelessness, and all of it is completely hysterical, and completely endearing. (You know how I know you're gay? You think Paul Rudd is endearing.)

Alongside Paul is a unique ensemble of characters, including Andy Samberg playing Pete's gay brother, JK Simmons playing the everyman father (not unlike his role as Juno's dear old dad), and a handful of other awesome cameos that create some great moments. Director John Hamburg does a great job of creating an open environment to let them play off of each other, uninhibited and sometimes ridiculous.

I Love You, Man is funny, honest, over-the-top yet true-to-life, and yes, I'll say it again, completely endearing.

Confessions of a Shopaholic
(2009)

Confessions of a Shopaholic-aholic
I confess. I fell for the Shopaholic. Isla Fisher is charming, funny, adorably goofy yet undeniably attractive. You can't help but notice her uncanny resemblance to Enchanted's Amy Adams, which is not a bad thing at all, yet she still maintains the same unique kookiness we all enjoyed in her role as Vince Vaughn's equal in The Wedding Crashers. The incredible job on the CGI'd mannequins, done by Lucasfilms' Industrial Light & Magic, is also worth mentioning.

You're not supposed to go into the movie expecting it to be the next epic Titanic love story. You're expecting it to be goofy and sentimental yet genuine and entertaining, and it was all those things.

Confessions of a Shopaholic is a rare gem that's worth the guilty swipe of a maximized credit card.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno
(2008)

View Askew and Apatow Peeps Make an Awesome Movie.
Thanks to the aptly named title, brilliantly appointed by Kevin Smith (writer, director, and creator of the View Askew Universe), you go into the film with a certain mindset, a dirty one to be exact. This follows the explicit what-you-see-is-what-you-get nature of every pornographic film title, a fact that offers hilarious moments as Zack and Miri are eventually faced with the difficult task of creating a movie title that says it all.

Yes, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is exactly that, Zack and Miri making a porno. And believe you me, there is plenty of potty mouth to go around. But as dirty as the movie is, you will be surprised and delighted to find that this is a movie with a lot of heart, and as with all Kevin Smith pieces, a great deal of brain (no pun intended).

Zack and Miri have been BFF's since the first grade, which has rendered their relationship strictly platonic. They have never really amounted to much since graduating high school ten years ago, but know that deep down inside they are really much better than the others, or at least tell themselves that.

At the high school reunion, Zack and Miri have to endure the inevitable: the mindless chitchat and feigned nostalgia. The only reason Zack goes is to laugh at people, while Miri goes to show her high school crush what a hottie she's become. To Zack the night is a success, thanks to a hilarious cameo by Justin Long, while Miri's night doesn't quite go as planned. What they come away with is the realization that they really need to do something with their lives, if only to save them from their economic crisis, a story that is not uncommon in America these days. You guessed it. They make a porno.

As silly as it sounds, there is something truly heartfelt, albeit raunchy, about watching Zack and Miri and the rest of their crew make their porn movie. It's kind of like watching Mark Borchardt make his low budget horror flick in the hilarious documentary American Movie, only the porn Zack and Miri and company make is quite possibly the worst porn ever made (okay, okay that may be an exaggeration but you get my point).

All around is a job well done by the cast and cameos. Seth Rogan plays the everyman to a "T" and Elizabeth Banks shines as the high school outcast turned hottie. Their chemistry as platonic friends is golden, and sparks truly fly when their true feelings finally come to light. You'll see familiar faces from both the View Askewniverse and the Apatow family, creating pure hilarity as both of these comic forces collide.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is less about making a porno than it is about everyday people finding their niche in life. Their niche in life just so happens to be making pornos. Zack and Miri Make a Porno can be synonymous to Joe Six-Pack Becomes a Professional Wrestler, or Joe the Plumber Makes Over $250,000 a Year. Venues who opted not to show this film, I feel are overreacting a bit. Although Kevin Smith's latest certainly lives up to the name, what we ultimately get is a feel-good movie. And a feel-good movie has never felt so good. In the end, Zack and Miri made a porno, and Kevin Smith made an awesome movie.

Pineapple Express
(2008)

Good stuff. Not the best I've had. But good stuff.
Obviously, they were high when they made this movie. At times it works to the movie's advantage, creating really hilarious moments, and other times it leaves the movie looking sloppy.

What's awesome about the Apatow productions we've grown to love is their fearlessness in being blatantly crude, yet smart, and actually pretty touching in their own silly ways. This movie was exactly that at first, but once the movie switched from comedy to action/comedy, it snowballed into a mess that could've been done a whole lot better, and maybe even funnier.

Watching the previous Apatow movies, it's pretty apparent that a stoner movie is something they've been anxious to do for a long time. With their edgy sense of humor, and a touch of Mary Jane, Pineapple Express was destined to become perhaps the best stoner comedy in history. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to its destiny.

What Pineapple Express suffers from is another case of great characters stuck in an okay movie. You got Dale (Seth Rogen) who of course smokes pot all day and has a day job passing out subpoenas in the most creative ways he can think of; Saul (James Franco), Dale's dealer who is hilariously outlandish at times, but proves to have a genuine heart, and has a day job selling and smoking pot all day; Dale's high school girlfriend Angie (played by the lovely Amber Heard), who remains devoted to Dale despite being thrown into his unfortunate predicament; Red, Saul's supplier who displays incredible resilience; and the hit men, who are just as sloppy and clumsy as the potheads they're chasing.

Sounds funny, and it is, which is why I'd still recommend this movie, but the movie was only a disappointment because I strongly believe an Apatow stoner movie could have been done way better. As far as stoner movies go, I'd still pick Half Baked or Harold and Kumar over Pineapple Express. As far as action/comedy, I'd pick Hot Fuzz or Last Action Hero over Pineapple Express. As far as Apatow productions go, I'd still pick Knocked Up or Superbad or 40-year-old Virgin or Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Anchorman or Talladega Nights over Pineapple Express.

Again, I'd still recommend Pineapple Express because there's no denying it's hilarious. It's like the Class Clown. He says something, and you laugh because he's always funny, even though he's had better days. Today the Class Clown just happens to be high.

The Dark Knight
(2008)

Dark Knight shines bright!!!
After sitting in the darkest, dirtiest slums of Gotham City for a little over two and a half hours straight, I still didn't want to go home. "The Dark Knight" was brilliant in every way. Although this is the darkest superhero movie to date, the incredible vision of Director Christopher Nolan, the captivating action sequences, the philosophical themes, and the pitch-perfect performances delivered by every member of the all-star ensemble made "The Dark Knight" shine bright, especially, of course, the darkest performance of them all, The Joker, brilliantly played by the late Heath Ledger.

Heath has just been showered with enthusiastic reviews since the early screenings. You can't help but wonder how good Heath can possibly be. After watching the screening on Wednesday, trust me, Heath is so good it's scary. You hold your breath in absolute awe with every scene he enters, and linger on his every word. You laugh along because he's hilarious, but deep down inside you are terrified. The Joker gets so deep into your psyche you find yourself rooting for the lunatic, and wondering why.

Thank God Christian Bale as Batman is just as likable and just as ruthless, and we're all relieved that we still have a reason to root for the good guy. Once you get past the phony raspy voice Batman must feign to conceal his identity, you will begin to appreciate Christian Bale as the most complicated Bruce Wayne to date, faced with serious cerebral issues, whether he's struggling to find out what's best for the city, what do about his love for Rachel Dawes, and what the heck is going on in the Joker's crazy cranium.

At some point in the movie, every character is faced with a seemingly simple, yet ultimately difficult decision, what's right and what's wrong. For someone like Harvey Dent, perfectly executed by Aaron Eckhart, everything can be made right. For the Joker, the whole world is wrong. Throughout the entire course of the movie, the line between right and wrong gets thinner and thinner, and what ensues is complete mayhem.

"The Dark Knight" is a total package. You get an adrenaline-pumping action flick, a suspenseful crime drama, an emotional love triangle, the perfect amount of comedy, and a complete work of art. Round of applause once again for all the performances. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman are just naturally likable actors. Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, and Maggie Gyllenhaal continue to impress again and again. And yes, the crowd was applauding when Tiny Lister made his appearance (aka Deebo for "Friday" fans and Zeus for wrestling fanatics). And sigh, Heath Ledger.

Jack Nicholson's Joker had a line that haunted me as I grew up watching Tim Burton's film: "You ever dance with the devil under the pale moon light?" The new Joker introduces a new question to torment the ages: "Why so serious?" The eerie monologue that introduces this creepy quote is sure to leave a lasting imprint in the back of your mind for years. And Heath Ledger delivers a haunting performance that will join the ranks of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal and Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh, and will go down as one of the greatest villains, if not the best, ever depicted in the history of film.

WALL·E
(2008)

Pure Genius.
Original and incredibly insightful. Heartwarming and hilarious yet surprisingly dark. With dialog almost nonexistent, Andrew Stanton (writer and director of Finding Nemo) exhibits an amazing ability to tell an intelligent and emotional narrative, relying heavily on expressive action and stunning visuals. The story of WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth class), a robot whose sole purpose is to gather up the forsaken Earth's rubble and compile it in an organized fashion, is a blatant reminder that we ultimately need to get our (keep it G-rated) act together.

And of course Wall-E is not without it's special treat, an animated short that precedes the main feature. "Presto" is equally brilliant, lovable, and fully entertaining.

Planet B-Boy
(2007)

Planet Bboy: Powerful, Emotional, and Hilarious
There is an underground culture of performing arts that often goes overlooked or under-appreciated. The artists that dedicate their entire lives to the art form often come from meager lifestyles and impoverished conditions. But when they perform, whether it lasts for ten minutes or thirty seconds, they have the power to captivate your entire soul. Planet Bboy takes place during the Battle of the Year competition in 2005 and documents the culture that originated in the urban streets of New York City and spread like wildfire all over the world. Crews from all over the world strive to be the best, and to be the best they must grace the center stage of the entire world of b-boying, "Battle of the Year." One crew represents each of the participating countries to compete in the grandest bboy battle in the entire world. The prize money is close to nothing. The true prize is to create a name for yourself, to earn respect and recognition, and most of all to be the best in the world. The documentary focuses primarily on five different crews, Knucklehead Zoo from Las Vegas, Ichigeki from Japan, Phase-T from France, Last for One from Korea, and the reigning champions the Gamblerz also from Korea.

Each crew possesses their own unique style and presence, and the documentary shows the strong bond within each crew. The power moves and stunts are crazy! However, the heart of the film lies in the individual life stories. Bboys who want nothing more in life but to dance often come in conflict with the interests of the families, especially those who live in poverty.

Planet Bboy is powerful, raw with emotions, not to mention hilarious. The interactions between the bboys and their families provide moments of heartfelt emotion and moments of true hilarity as the facial expressions on the bboys say that they've heard these lectures their whole lives. We feel for them when the pursuit of their dreams is rejected, and cheer for them when they are appreciated. Great moments also arise when the bboy crews from different countries finally get together and experience a culture shock that is both threatening and awkward.

The film has the same heart and passion as the bboys have for their artistic outlet of dance. I can't remember the last time a movie made me cry. Planet Bboy was the first film in a long time I had to pretend there was something in my eye.

I left the film feeling a deeper appreciation for dance as well as the quality of life. Life is not worth living unless you dare to dream.

Cloverfield
(2008)

Cloverfield: Midnight Showing
At one point in the movie, one character echoes the famous words from the original home-video horror flick The Blair Witch Project: "I'm so scared." Only in Cloverfield what they encounter is much more scary and life-threatening than a crazy lady running through the woods. Cloverfield is a 90 minute roller-coaster ride that will increase your adrenaline as much as it will increase your dire need for a vomit bag.

Rob is leaving for Japan for his career and a surprise party is thrown on his behalf. Hud takes up the responsibility of cameraman, whose purpose is to document the farewell testimonies. This provided an interesting way to introduce the characters and gave insight into their personalities and relationships. Telling a story through this style of filming could be pretty difficult, but Cloverfield actually pulls it off. You even grow fond of some of the characters in the process, which is especially important for a movie that depends on the survival of the characters. It also helps that the actors gave likable and pretty convincing performances.

The party is interrupted by a series of tremors, a short blackout, and a flurry of fireballs flying through the air. New York is under attack. From then on you are sucked into a crazy trip through the panic of the dismantled city as Hud decides to continue videotaping the events, knowing that the world will want to see what exactly happened that night in New York City.

Although the movie offers a great story of bravery and camaraderie, that's not what anyone cares about right? Everyone wants to know what "It" is. Trust me. "It" is something far more ugly and terrifying than a giant cuddly ape.

Going into the movie, you of course need to suspend a little disbelief. Aside from the monster itself, you also have to accept their ability to somehow escape certain situations; otherwise it would be a much shorter movie. If I were documenting the whole thing the video would probably last five minutes. To make up for it, little details are thrown in to maintain the atmosphere of authenticity, taking pictures of the head of a decapitated Statue of Liberty with a cell phone camera for example, or the looters who horde the electronics store amidst all the chaos.

The special effects are completely mind-blowing. The Toyota Tacoma and "Ratchet and Clank" commercials really did something special when they combined special effects with the home video feel. Cloverfield takes this concept to the maximum extreme and does an excellent job making the surreal as real as it can get.

The suspense will get to you. There are times that make you jump and times that make you cringe. The end will either leave you wanting more or begging for it to be over. No matter what the case, Cloverfield is an experience you will never forget. (Word of advice: DO NOT sit in the first five rows, especially in IMAX. Big mistake.)

Dan in Real Life
(2007)

Dan in Irony
There is a scene in Dan in Real Life where the family is competing to see which sex can finish the crossword puzzle first. The answer to one of the clues is Murphy's Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. This is exactly the case for Dan Burns (Steve Carell, the Office) a columnist for the local newspaper. Dan is an expert at giving advice for everyday life, yet he comes to realize that things aren't so picture perfect in his own. Dan in Real Life is amazing at capturing these ironies of everyday life and is successful at embracing the comedy, tragedy, and beauty of them all. Besides that this movie is pretty damn hilarious.

The death of his wife forces Dan to raise his three daughters all on his own... each daughter in their own pivotal stages in life: the first one anxious to try out her drivers license, the middle one well into her teenage angst phase, and the youngest one drifting away from early childhood. Things take a turn for Dan when he goes to Rhode Island for a family reunion and stumbles across an intriguing woman in a bookstore.

Her name is Marie (Juliette Binoche, Chocolat) and she is looking for a book to help her avoid awkward situations... which is precisely whats in store when they get thrown into the Burns Family household.

If you've seen Steve Carell in The Office or Little Miss Sunshine, you'd know that he is incomparable with comedic timing and a tremendously dynamic actor as well. Steve Carell is awesome at capturing all the emotions that come with family life: the frustration and sincere compassion. The family as well as the house itself provides a warm environment for the movie that contrasts the inner turmoil that builds throughout the movie and finally bursts out in a pretty suspenseful climax. The movie only falls short in some of the predictable outcomes, yet at the same time life is made up of both irony and predictability: which is an irony within itself.

Dan in Real Life is definitely worth seeing, for the sole enjoyment of watching all the funny subtleties we often miss in everyday life, and I'll most likely enjoy it a second time, or even a third. Just "put it on my tab."

TMNT
(2007)

I spell awesome T-M-N-T!
Dude. I love that movie almost as much as I love being a turtle. Not to hype it up or anything, but I would have to say that this is the best Ninja Turtle movie ever made. Let me be like the master Splinter for a second and school you on why this was totally awesome dude.

For starters, the story is pretty sweet. In a nutshell, or turtle shell, a corporate Mogul named Winters is mysteriously collecting stone statues, a brotherhood that was turned to stones 3000 years ago. Things really get crazy when we find out that the Foot Clan is involved. When the turtles finally reunite, it is their job to uncover the mystery of the stone statues and find out why the Foot is still around, even after the fall of Shredder.

The CGI is the perfect format for the Ninja Turtle series... It allows for unlimited possibilities to showcase what the Turtles can really do. Sure I'll miss the fun Jim Henson costumes, but you can only do so much with a bulky rubber suit and animatronic head. Just watching the Turtles running through the New York City skyline is an amazing sight that would never be captured as smoothly in the live action format. The choice to use CGI also brings back the cartoony feel of the original series and combines it with the realistic texture of actual turtles.

Then there's April. I always had a problem with the April's from the other Turtle Movies. Sure they were pretty at times but in all honesty, none of them were nearly as hot as the original April O' Neal. Going back to CGI, you don't have to worry about casting the right April. Now April is perfect. She has that sweet wholesome girl next door sex appeal coupled with that tough girl Bride from Kill Bill attitude... and wardrobe...

All the characters are great... you have all the classic personalities from the old series... Donatello the intellect, Michelangelo the party dude, Leonardo the leader, and Raphael the rebel... complete with sarcasm and sassy one liners.

Although the movie is a bit cutesy at times, it's actually pretty hilarious. But we have to remember that kids should be able to enjoy it as well. I know the Turtles is a product of our 80's generation, but now it's time for the new generation of kids to see why we loved the turtles so much. But you will not be disappointed. There is a fair share of great fight scenes, namely a one-on-one encounter that should've been done a long time ago...

You don't have to be as passionate about the Turtles as I am, but it is definitely worth checking out. The story is great, the voice acting is solid, and the characters are awesome. You'll see the familiar faces (April, Splinter, and Casey Jones) and you'll see some new creations that are also fun to watch. If you didn't notice already, I was really impressed by this movie. Now I remember why I was a ninja turtle 3 years in a row during my childhood... and why I am going to do it again this year and the next.

I call Raphael!!!

300
(2006)

Explosive to the Extreme!!!
Only the hard and strong can be called Spartan. 300 is a film that brings forth the same intensity and passion to film-making that the Spartan warriors they portray bring to the battlefield. Visually stunning frame-by-frame with sword clashing, bone crushing audio that creates the same impact to the film.

The Spartans are beasts. A whole army of 300 bloodthirsty soldiers... an 8-pack of abs seems to be a mere requirement. King Leonidas is so fierce and hardcore, he makes Achilles and dare I say Maximus look like Ben and Jerry.

With each fleet that King Leonidas and his army of 300 Spartans must endure, comes new surprises and new challenges that keep the audience wondering if or how they will survive. The fights are unsparingly brutal and innovative, beautifully shot. And the scenes aren't just blood, sweat and gore. Although you get all that and more, the fun is also in witnessing the different tactics the 300 use to outsmart and overpower the Persian Army. One thing that sets the 300 battle scenes from Troy, Gladiator, or Braveheart are the wide assortment of creatures they are forced to do battles with. I guarantee you will not find a goat playing a sitar in any other movie but this. I will say no more.

Even the love scene is shot so intimately and passionately with the same intensity as the battle scenes. (By the way, on a side note, isn't funny how an audience giggles when there's a naked man, and goes dead silent when it's a naked woman?) Anyway...

The Queen is just as powerful as the warrior king. She has the challenge of gaining the support of the rest of Greece to join in her husband's fight against the Persian Army. She's so likable and respectable, you have her back the whole way through.

So far the Frank Miller series is 2 for 2! This is a film not to be missed. Yet again another theater that ended with a resounding applause. King Leonidas can now join the ranks of the other epic heroes that shoot fireballs from his eyes and lightning bolts from his arse. FREEDOOOOOOOM!!!

Cars
(2006)

Pixar delivers another classic package.
Pixar has the difficult obligation of bettering itself with each subsequent movie in order to please their fans. With instant classics in Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles, the Pixar standards are set high. I wondered how Pixar could take the concept of talking cars into an entertaining film and original story and characters, especially considering the studio's standards.

Though the new Pixar film is not "better" than its other features, Cars is definitely up to par with the rest of the classics, delivering yet again a complete package of stunning visuals, a great story, and memorable characters.

Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson, is a hot shot racecar that needs to make it to California to make it to a big race and fulfill his childhood dreams of winning the Piston Cup. However, a series of unfortunate events lead him to the beat up town of Radiator Springs. Though the town doesn't look like much, it is actually full of an assortment of charming citizens that take great pride in the place they lived in all their lives, its people (cars rather) and its history.

In Radiator Springs, the hotshot McQueen learns lessons about the different aspects of life he has taken for granted, among other things: like how to have a good time at a night out with Mater, a rusty tow truck voiced by Larry "the Cable Guy" (Git R Done!).

Pixar pulled it off. A movie about talking cars actually turned out to be a heartwarming story, with hilarious sequences and dialog. Pixar does a great job of personifying the world of inanimate objects. A lowrider that specializes in Body Art. An Italian tire salesman (salescar rather) obsessed with and only with Ferraris.

The movie was entertaining from beginning to end (even before and after the movie). Make sure to get there early to check out the awesome short "One Man Band" a worthy addition to Pixar's collection of animated shorts. And after the film, Pixar replaces their blooper gag reel for a new treat that may be the funniest closer yet.

How does Pixar do it? Create such great stories with such memorable characters? Besides Oscar the Shark Slayer I can't remember anyone else from Shark's Tale, and I am hopeless in remembering a single character's name from Robots, nor the Wild, but I can name Pixar characters in a heartbeat. Those movies can eat Pixar's dust Lightning McQueen style.

No photo finish is necessary to determine that Cars is a definite winner. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that John Lasseter and Pixar yet again prevailed in bringing us another gem to join our growing collection of Pixar classics. Sigh.

See all reviews