Archive for December, 2012

End of Watch

End-of-Watch_05

Buddy cop movies are a dime a dozen. Most of them are a) comedies and b) terrible. End of Watch is neither. Upon seeing the cover art, I had no interest in checking out this movie. I know, cover art usually isn’t exactly a great way to determine what movies are worth watching. I’ve just seen so many terrible, unoriginal cop movies that I just didn’t want to go down that road. Randomly, though, I wound up on a website that featured about one minute of footage from the movie and I was intrigued.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as partners in an urban unit of the LAPD. As they say in the movie, they come across more trouble in a typical shift than many cops do in their lifetime. When I first watched the movie, something reminded me a little of Narc and Dark Blue from the earlier part of the 2000s. After the movie was done, it all made sense to me since Dark Blue was also written by director David Ayers. The movie feels, if nothing else, like a very realistic depiction of probably some somewhat unrealistic circumstances. The language is raw and the relationships and emotions seem strongly rooted in reality.

From what I’ve heard, there has been a little Oscar-buzz surrounding this one. I think that’s aiming a little high, but it’s worth checking out. If you’ve enjoyed some of David Ayer’s past work (Training Day, Dark Blue, etc.), you’ll probably enjoy this one, as well.

24

12 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Frame grab from opening fireworks sequence

This past September, the local Whiskey Creek Film Festival was once again playing a half hour from my home in Wadena, MN. For the past five (or so) years, they’ve had a week-long film festival that featured a whole bunch of documentary, indie, foreign, and otherwise obscure really good movies that just don’t get played on the big screen. This year, the feature films included Moonrise Kingdom, To Rome with Love, The Kid with a Bike, Bully, The Intouchables, and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Of all of the movies, Beasts of the Southern Wild seemed to get the best overall reviews. However, when my wife and I watched the trailer, it just looked a little bit… strange. Fireworks. A young black girl in her underwear. Aurochs.

We went to Bully instead.

Turned out to be a great decision because Bully was fantastic and will certainly be on my 2012 top 10 list. Beasts of the Southern Wild, on the other hand, was quite possibly the most disappointing of the year. Certainly it was the weirdest movie I’ve seen. And the dullest. Worst ending. Worst story.

I just didn’t connect with this movie. I get what the filmmakers were trying to do. They were trying to be bold, original, and make a statement. They were trying to take a chance similar to that of 2011’s Tree of Life only, for me, it flopped horribly.

That all being said, the movie is well made. The cinematography is simply gorgeous. The performances by the two main characters – neither of whom had acted before this – were pretty impressive. Beasts of a Southern Wild is a really good example – similar to a movie like Eyes Wide Shut – of how a movie can be really well crafted in very capable hands, but will just drag with a poor story.

5.5

out of 10

21

12 2012

The Bourne Legacy

The-Bourne-Legacy

It was a really long time ago since I’ve last seen it, but I really enjoyed the first Bourne Identity movie. I purchased the book and was really disappointed because after Jason Bourne is found in water, the book is a 100% different story than the first movie. I was subsequently disappointed in the action of the second movie. I enjoyed the plot, but I found the shaky cam effect too much to handle. Finally, they won me back with the Bourne Ultimatum. Upon author Robert Ludlam’s death, Eric Van Lustbader has put out 7 additional books, so you can expect more of these movies in the future.

The first of the reboot of the Bourne series (by the way, how weird is it that the Bourne Identity and Spiderman are “so old” they are considered in need of a reboot?) stars Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross. He’s essentially the same character as Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne only in a different yet simultaneous overlapping situation.

The plot is similar to that of the Bourne movies (rogue agent versus the spy institution) yet this still manages to feel somewhat fresh. Jeremy Renner, who’s been fantastic in such films as The Hurt Locker, The Town, and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, once again proves he’s more than capable of carrying a major action thriller.

As far as spy thrillers go, the Bourne series has raced the stakes for all other thrillers that followed. Watching Haywire a few weeks ago, I could definitely spot Bourne influences on action and pacing. Thankfully, The Bourne Legacy doesn’t disappoint.

8.0

out of 10

20

12 2012

25 Days of Stocking Stuffers – Dramatic Flms

Over the next 25 days, I’m going to have a list of 25 stocking stuffers (five different ideas from five different BH network websites).

Today, I’m featuring all of the dramatic films I reviewed on Motion Artifacts this year. You can click on each review for a more in-depth look or just read the quick blur and make sure you have a gift receipt. Works either way…

United – A true story about the tragic plane crash that killed half of Manchester United’s squad in the 1950s. You definitely don’t h

Sin Nombre – It’s not a 2012 film, but it might be my favorite movie I saw in 2012.

50/50 – I haven’t been closely hit by cancer the way a lot of people have, been this movie seems to be a pretty accurate portrayal of the emotions one would go through. Really good movie…

Sarah’s Key – Another foreign flick, this is a fictional tale based on World War II. One of the more touching and emotional WWII movies I’ve seen (which is saying quite a bit).

Of course, there are a few movies that you would overpay for if you found them in the Wal-Mart $1.96 bin. Please, at all costs, avoid the movie Safe House (but don’t avoid my review, of course).

20

12 2012

25 Days of Stocking Stuffers – Action Films

Over the next 25 days, I’m going to have a list of 25 stocking stuffers (five different ideas from five different BH network websites).

Today, I’m featuring all of the action films I reviewed on Motion Artifacts this year. You can click on each review for a more in-depth look or just read the quick blur and make sure you have a gift receipt. Works either way…

Headhunters – It may be in Norwegian, but it’s fantastic

Battleship – Utterly awful. Only reason to buy this movie is if you plan on holding someone hostage over the next calendar year.

The Avengers – Not as great as comic book nerds would have you believe, but it’s still highly watchable. Your 13-year old nephew would love this gift

The Hunger Games – Better than I thought it would be… just do yourself a favor and pretend the third book (and eventually movies) don’t exist.

Battle Royale – Probably wouldn’t buy this for like your girlfriend or your mother-in-law, but it’s Tarantino’s favorite film of the last 20 years (which should tell you something…)

The Dark Knight Rises – No real good reason NOT to own this on DVD, Blu-Ray, digital, etc…

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15

12 2012

Looper

Being that I rarely go to movies in theaters, I do a lot of filtering on what movies I actually see based on the reviews of others. Probably not the greatest tactic if you run a website that, in fact, reviews movies. As you can see by my reviews, though, I manage to avoid a lot of mediocre-to-bad movies. One of the big things I took away from the summer was Prometheus wasn’t as good as everyone hoped it would be, The Dark Knight Rises was good but not as good as The Dark Knight, and Looper was really, really good.

After having seen it, I can agree – Looper, is in fact, really good. The barely recognizable Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Jeff Daniels are all excellently cast as are many of the lesser roles (I wanted more Paul Dano, though!)

The story is interesting. In 2074, time travel is invented and immediately outlawed. It is only being used by organized crime to take out people before they essentially exist. The “loopers” are paid to kill and dispose of people sent back in time. They are paid handsomely, but part of the deal is they are forced to kill the “old” versions of themselves. Meaning once they kill the old version of themselves, they have 30 years to enjoy their riches before they will be killed.

There are some slight logic problems I had with the story. I’m not sure if watching the movie a second time would help solve those problems or if it would compound the problems. My other major beef was all of the optical flares in the movie. Besides Micheal Bay’s Transformers, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a movie with this many optical flares. Many of them seemed to be post-production, as well, which makes it kind of annoying.

Overall, I’d say Looper was a highly enjoyable movie that will obviously make you think. For a movie that I consider pretty great, the ending was kinda so-so (better than No Country for Old Men or Hoop Dreams, but still mediocre in comparison to the rest of the movie). If you’re a fan of movies, it’s definitely a movie worth checking out on dvd, though.

8.5

out of 10

11

12 2012

25 Days of Stocking Stuffers – Comedies

Over the next 25 days, I’m going to have a list of 25 stocking stuffers (five different ideas from five different BH network websites).

Today, I’m featuring all of the comedy films I reviewed on Motion Artifacts this year. You can click on each review for a more in-depth look or just read the quick blur and make sure you have a gift receipt. Works either way…

The Artist – Sort of a comedy, sort of a drama. Definitely a good movie, but probably not Oscar-worthy.

That’s My Boy – My buddy Cory might disagree, but I thought this was Adam Sandler’s temporary return to form.

The Campaign – I don’t know how this movie didn’t do gangbusters at the box office because it’s on par with Anchorman as an instant Will Ferrell classic.

Ted – Best comedy of 2012. Can’t go wrong buying this one. Unless, of course, you buy it for your six year old niece.

Sometimes, almost as important as finding out what gift to give for Christmas is finding out what gift to definitely not give… unless you hate the person or something. Avoid these movies at all cost

Rock of Ages – Awful. Awful. Awful. But Tom Cruise IS kinda funny.

The Dictator – Like Borat, it’s essentially the same joke over and over again. Unlike Borat, it’s not really funny.

10

12 2012

Haywire

Approximately 22 new action movies show up on video shelves every single week (this is just a guess). Since about 1% of these movies are actually watchable, I usually wait to hear from a few different sources that a movie is worth watching before I drop the $1 at Redbox.

Haywire, a 2011 spy thriller from Steven Soderbergh, seems to attempt to capture the spirit of the Bourne series. Female MMA superstar Gina Carano stars as Mallory, a secret agent who is running from her life for reasons that are, at the start of the movie, unknown. The movie starts with a fighting scene in a diner between Mallory and Aaron (Channing Tatum). Mallory escapes and tells her story to the customer at the diner who intervened and allowed her to escape. The next 2/3 of the movie is told through a series of flashbacks before we get to the present time finale.

The action in Haywire is very precise, clean, and unique. I particularly enjoyed the very subtle sounds dubbed into the action scene. Instead of the traditional punch sound you are used to hearing in movies, Soderbergh took a more realistic (and well appreciated) approach to the sound. Gina Carrano might not be the next Oscar winning actress, but I could certainly see her carving a career as the first (???) major female action star.

The cast (Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas) is quite impressive. It has a good look and feel. I enjoyed the pacing, but ultimately it’s somewhat forgettable. It’s probably worth watching once, but it’s not worth racing out to buy immediately, either.

7.0

out of 10

06

12 2012

25 Days of Stocking Stuffers – Documentaries

Over the next 25 days, I’m going to have a list of 25 stocking stuffers (five different ideas from five different BH network websites).

Today, I’m featuring the documentary films I highlighted on Motion Artifacts this past (half) year since the inception of the website. I highly recommend each movie, but encourage you to check out the review.

Winnebago Man – One of the most foul-mouthed YouTube videos is expanded to an interesting character study of a confusing, but intriguing guy.

Spirit of the Marathon – A must-watch for anyone who has, or would like to, run a marathon.

Ballplayer: Paletero – Another must-watch for the Twins fan and/or baseball fan in your family.

Long Green Line – A cool running documentary about a legendary high school cross country coach.

The Two Escobars – One of the handful of greatest documentaries I’ve ever seen. The best of the 30-for-30 series which is saying quite a bit.

Pelada – A surprisingly good look at pickup soccer across the world.

05

12 2012

Ted

This past April, my brother-in-law and I had planned a great one day outing. After getting up early in the morning, we planned on going to a noon Twins game followed by a 7 PM Timberwolves/Thunder basketball game. After the Twins game, though, we had four hours to kill. We decided to check out “American Reunion,” which I really enjoyed. Before the movie, I saw my first preview for the movie “Ted.” It looked like the it had the possibility of being the dumbest movie I’d ever seen (really, an adult comedy about a talking teddy bear?), but I knew I had to see it.

“Ted” is the live-action directorial debut of the uber-talented Seth MacFarlane. It stars Marky Mark Mark Wahlberg as a 35-year old slacker who lives with his teddy bear who was brought to life (a la Pinocchio) when Wahlberg made a wish as a child.

The plot, as is the case in a lot of mindless comedies, is pretty lame, but irrelevant. The jokes and references, though, are fast and furious. Many of the long-running jokes throughout the movie (“Thunderbuddies,” Flash Gordon, Giovanni Ribisi’s character) are set up early and paid off in a big way later in the movie.

Part of the appeal of the movie is obviously the absurdness of a foul-mouth, pot-smoking, beer-guzzling Teddy Bear. The constant beating over the head with bad Adam Sandler movie after bad Adam Sandler movie has almost programmed me into thinking this kind of movie can’t be funny. While much of Ted comes of sophomoric, it’s still funny (which, obviously, is what separates Ted from every Sandler movie not-named “That’s My Boy” from the past 10 years). The movie maintains a surprising amount of consistency for a comedy that would very easy to fizzle out in the last third of the movie.

After making a boatload of money, it’s been predictably announced that a sequel to “Ted” is in the works. I’m a little concerned about this because, as James Benadelli pointed out in his review, it’s essentially a one-joke movie. It’s a very funny joke, but it’s still one joke.

Should you watch Ted? If you’ve got a sense of humor and aren’t easily offended, absolutely. As far as I’m concerned, it was the top comedy released in 2012 and I think it is going to have one heck of a shelf live on dvd/cable.

8.5

out of 10

04

12 2012