Archive for the ‘S’Category

seven2

Seven Psychopaths is somewhat unfortunately named. At first glance, it seems like the name of a terrible horror movie that was released straight to dvd instead of an incredibly funny dark comedy that it really is.

Seven Psychopaths seems like a mixture between a Tarantino movie, Breaking Bad, The Big Lebowski, Ocean’s Eleven, and Very Bad Things. It’s uber violent. If your wife (or fake dead girlfriend) is at all squeamish at the sight of violence/blood, she’s probably not going to love this film. However, the violence is all for a reason. This isn’t violence for the sake of being violent. The acting and cast – including such big hitters as Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson – is fantastic. Walken and Harrelson are almost playing a parody of past Walken and Harrelson roles which, in turn, made the movie all that much more enjoyable to me. The real star here, though, was Sam Rockwell. It’s somewhat ironic that he’s playing a role that would’ve been perfect for Walken 30 years ago since he’s become somewhat of a go-to guy for weird roles lately.

The story, which much like a Tarantino story is actually multiple separate storylines, is Marty (Farrell) plays a writer who is trying to write a story about seven different psychopaths. His best friend Billy (Rockwell) is a guy who makes a living by kidnapping dogs and collecting reward money along with his partner Hans (Walken). They find themselves in trouble when they kidnap the beloved shih tzu of a hardened gangster (Harrelson). As the movie progresses, it becomes more and more of a satire (nearly entering the “Lebowski zone”).

Overall, it’s a very enjoyable watch. I have a real strong feeling that it would be a movie that would be way more enjoyable on the fifth viewing than on the first viewing. There are some movies I “grade” the same, but have no real strong desire to watch again. However, I definitely will be popping this in for a repeat viewing sometime. It also makes me want to watch In Bruges which I apparently incorrectly discarded as an artsy-fartsy movie (a la “Beast of the Southern Wild” this year) that wouldn’t interest me.

8.0

out of 10

31

01 2013

Sleepwalk With Me

sleepwalk

Mike Birbiglia is a comedian who happens to be a sleepwalker. In fact, he once fell out of a window while sleepwalking causing himself to require 33 stitches.

Sleepwalk with Me is a semi-autobiographical movie based on his hit one-man show of the same name. Birbiglia stars as Matt – an unknown comic who works as a bartender at a comedy club with aspirations of someday making it big. Abby (Lauren Ambrose) is his longtime girlfriend that he just can’t find himself committing to.

As a comedian, his act is stale until he starts interjecting true (but sometimes painful) stories about his real life relationship with Abby. He starts to have a little success as a comic on the road, however his home life with Abby seems to be deteriorating. To make matters worse, his sleepwalking spells are increasingly putting him into bad situations.

I didn’t dislike Sleepwalk with Me, but I just didn’t connect with the movie like I wanted to. Mike Birbiglia was funny in a way only Birbiglia can be, but I just felt like the movie lacked a little something that could’ve made it a hit. At times, the movie felt like it was hitting some of the same heartstrings as some indie-commercial blockbusters from the past few years such as Garden State and Little Miss Sunshine, but it just seem to come up a little short for me.

6.5

out of 10

09

01 2013

Searching for Sugar Man

Searching-For-Sugarman-poster1

On an episode of the Film Vault podcast a few weeks (months?) ago, Bryan Bishop was raving about Searching for Sugar Man – a documentary about a mysterious musician from the 1970s.

Rodriguez was a Hispanic musician from an unknown location who released two albums that were commercial flops in the early 70s. After minimal success, he was dropped from his label and seemed to vanish into obscurity. He was semi-famous for lighting himself on fire and committing suicide on stage. Or was it pulling out a gun and shooting himself while on stage?

Trying to figure out the story of Rodriguez, a few fans from South Africa started a website to try to find more information about the mysterious man they call Rodriguez. In 1998, the daughter of Rodriguez contacted some of the people that had been searching for him. Their family had utterly no idea that Rodriguez was a huge musical star in South Africa (one person interviewed said he was bigger than Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones).

That’s all the further I’m going to go with the plot simply because I don’t want to spoil anything else for you. If you are a fan of music and/or documentaries, though, I have a hard time believing you won’t find this 86 minute movie well worth your time. The soundtrack – featuring the music from Rodriguez’s two albums from 1970 and 1971 – is really, really good. I was constantly surprised at how good the cinematography looked. Hard for me not to recommend this one…

8.5

out of 10

08

01 2013

Sarah’s Key

If you are looking for a feel good movie to watch with the family during this Holiday weekend, do yourself a favor and skip Sarah’s Key. As a general rule, if you are in the mood for a feel good movie, skipping any movie with the word “holocaust” as a keyword on the IMDB page is probably a good idea.

Sarah’s Key is a 2010 French drama that jumps between present day and 1942. American journalist Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her husband are inheriting an apartment from her husband’s elderly grandmother. When she finds out they have lived in the apartment since 1942, she becomes curious as she had recently written an article about the roundup of Jews by the French. No, that wasn’t an error in my article. Apparently I didn’t pay attention in high school social studies because I was completely clueless that the French held over 13,000 Jews at a velodrome and then held them in internment camps.

After investigating, she finds out some back story about a 10-year old girl – Sarah Starzynski – and her brother along with their family who once lived in the inherited apartment.

I don’t want to give much more away in terms of plot because I’m going to spoil the movie for you, but this is a must watch.

After watching the movie, I found out the story is, in fact, fictional. The fact that I had to look up whether or not it was true should indicated that it easily could have been a true story. I was a little apprehensive about watching this movie going in (let’s just say I’ve been burned – or rather bored – by foreign period pieces before), but I was completely impressed by the story, the cinematography, and excellent acting performances. I can’t recommend this under-the-radar film highly enough. It is currently available streaming on Netflix

8.5

out of 10

21

11 2012

Sin Nombre

Available on Netflix

Sin Nombre is a movie I’d seen pop up on a few different “best of” lists a few years ago. The Film Vault – a great weekly movie podcast by Anderson Cowan (famous for getting yelled at by Adam Carolla on Loveline) and Bald Bryan Bishop (famous for getting yelled at by Adam Carolla on the Adam Carolla Show) – has recommended this film for quite some time.

Sin Nombre is a 2009 deburt film by American film director Cary Fukunaga about the Mexican Mara Salvatrucha gang. In the opening scenes, Mara gang member Casper is seen recruiting a young boy – Smiley – to join the gang. Lil Mago the heavily tattooed gang leader (and when I say heavily tattooed, I’m talking more tattoos than the starting 5 of any NBA team combined) introduces Smiley to the gang by, of course, beating the tar out of him for 13 seconds.

Casper and Smiley are sent to go after a rival gang, but instead Casper goes to visit his girlfriend. After getting caught lying, Casper and Smiley are punished and viewed as not loyal to the gang.

Simultaneously, Sayra along with her uncle and father are trying to illegally immigrate from Honduras to New Jersey for a better life. They are planning on taking riding aboard the tops of various trains until they can reach the Mexican-US border.

I’m trying to be as spoiler-free as possible, but this is an incredible movie. At only 90 minutes, it’s incredibly fast movie while still allowing characters time to breathe and develop on screen. The movie is very thought provoking on many levels. First, the gang-related violence makes this a very dark and, at times, bleak movie. The overall hopelessness and poverty also might make you second guess your thoughts on illegal immigrants coming to America.

Overall, it’s a fantastic film especially for a first time director. The performances from all of the main characters where incredibly gritty and realistic. It reminded me an incredible amount of the 2009 HBO documentary “Which Way Home” (also available on Netflix right now) that I really enjoyed, as well. If you are a fan of really good cinema (regardless of the fact that you are going to have to “read” the movie subtitles), I can’t recommend this movie highly enough.

9.5

out of 10

14

11 2012

Spirit of the Marathon

Spirit of the Marathon is a 2007 documentary about six runners training for the Chicago Marathon. The runners range from contenders to win the race (Deena Kastor and Daniel Njenga) to competitive amateurs, first timers, and back of the packers. All six runners share a common bond of loving running.

Watching Spirit of the Marathon, a few things stood out to me. First of all, the movie is extremely well made. You can tell they had a little bit of a budget and access with cool things like crane shots, overhead shots, etc.

The second (and most important) thing that stood out about this movie is the love of the marathon. I haven’t run a marathon in over 5 years. After about five or six really good years of running, my own running has wavered due to many reasons (increased responsibilities being a dad/husband/coach/employee, etc.). In the past year, though, I’ve really recommitted to my running. As I was watching this movie, I could see on the screen some of those things that I love & hate about running that sometimes can be difficult expressing to others.

The marathon is a race that you is difficult to describe if you haven’t gone through it. It would be like explaining what the color blue is to someone who is color blind. Running a marathon is equally the most miserable and soul-filling experience I’ve ever done. I simultaneously love it and hate it. There is no denying the race is painful (understatement of the year?) whether you are a five hour runner or, as is shown in the movie, a world class runner such as Deena Kastor. The sense of achievement of not only finishing a marathon, but everything that came before it with the training is hard to describe unless you’ve been through it.

The movie does a good job of showing all the surrounds the marathon. Watching Spirit of the Marathon, you are subjected to a little bit of history of the marathon (as well as a history of each of the featured runners) along with a view of everything that goes into the training and preparation from long runs every weekend to preparing your outfit, bib, race chip, and food the night before the race. You experience the excitement moments after the gun goes to the agony almost every runner is feeling about 20 miles later. The filmmakers have done a fine job showing and conveying all of the emotions that surround the experience of running a marathon.

If you are not a runner, you probably aren’t going to enjoy this quite as much as I did. However, if you are a runner and you can relate to the love/hate relationship with running, Spirit of the Marathon is well worth a watch.

7.5

out of 10

Check out the trailer here

19

10 2012

Safe House

When I say the name Robert De Niro, it likely conjures images of the second Godfather, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, or the handful of other great roles he’s played in the past. I’m guessing you aren’t thinking of any movie he’s made since 1995 (Casino or Heat). Basically, we’ve given him a pass for making a decade and a half of terrible movies. From the start of his career until Ronin in 1998, he’s got 38 certified fresh movies on Rotten Tomatoes vs 6 Rotten movies (that’s an .864 batting average for those of you scoring at home). Since 1998? 10 fresh movies, 23 rotten movies for a .303 batting average).

So why start a review of a movie not starring Robert De Niro with a bunch of Robert De Niro facts? Quite simply, I’m a little worried Denzel Washington is taking a trip down Robert De Niro lane. If you look at Denzel’s career from 1991-2001, he’s made a bunch movies that were both socially important – Malcolm X, Hurricane, Philadelphia – along with extremely entertaining – Crimson Tide, He Got Game (except for the last scene), Training Day – or profitable (Remember the Titans, Pelican Brief). Since 2002, he’s not made bad movies like De Niro. With the exception of American Gangster (which I thought was a wee bit overrated) and Inside Man, he’s just made a bunch of really average movies.

Coming into seeing Safe House, I was quite excited to see this movie. The trailer looked pretty solid and although I hadn’t read any reviews (I’ve been reading less and less movie reviews lately), the buzz I’d heard around the movie was mostly positive.

A half hour into this movie, I was all in. Ryan Reynolds is someone I’ve liked in the past (Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, Van Wilder) and Denzel is always pretty solid (usually in a role that involves him playing a different version of “Denzel.”) Initially, this movie struck me as a good knockoff of The Bourne Identity.

Then, I fell asleep. Figuratively (not literally, unfortunately). The second half of the movie just completely lacked any punch and imagination whatsoever. The story became somewhat stale and predictable. The last half hour of the movie turned into almost forced movie watching.

It was really unfortunate because I think they had 85% of what it takes to make a really good movie. They had a solid cast, a quality action-filled opening sequence, and a really good trailer. It just felt like somewhere in the middle third of the movie, there was a chance to make the movie unique and interest, but they took the safe and predictable road instead.

Overall, I’d say you can skip this one.

5.0

out of 10

21

08 2012