Category Archives: Movies

MOVIE REVIEWS: State of Play is one of the best Movies of the Year. Michelle’s Review

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I’m not one for hyperbole. Ok I am one for hyperbole, I try hard to grab attention but I always pull myself back from going over the top, so when I tell you that State of Play is the best film of 2009 (so far) I don’t say it lightly. This despite of the fact that I really don’t like Russell Crowe as an actor and based on news reports, a human being – but I’ve never met the man so it’s hard to put that kind of judgment on someone. But State of Play is the first film that I’ve seen all year that is about something.   It’s more about the state of the newspaper industry and how it’s gone wrong than it is about the growing mystery surrounding the murder of a Senator Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) lover and how his best friend from College, a grizzled investigative reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) helps him manage the media fall out from this.

No, the murder mystery is secondary to the film showcasing how investigative journalist work, the fights that they have with Executive Editors who now have to worry about the bottom line from their new corporate overseers. It’s about old line journalist and newsrooms fighting the young bloggers like Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) who come cheap, work fast, and don’t necessarily care about getting the facts before she posts something on the newspaper’s website. At one point in the film McAffrey sums up the old guard’s feeling of being slighted by saying, “I’ve been here for 15 years, using a 16 year old computer. She’s been here for a few months and can launch a missile from her phone.”

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The movie’s director Kevin Macdonald obviously has something against bloggers as he spends the first 20 minutes of the film trashing them and then the rest of it converting Della into a “real” Journalist to the point where at the end she says, “No, I’ll wait until this hits the stands, a big story like this needs to be felt on the hands.” I wanted to gag when she said that. Not only that but he doesn’t spend anytime showing her actually, y’know, blogging.


Continue reading MOVIE REVIEWS: State of Play is one of the best Movies of the Year. Michelle’s Review

MOVIE REVIEW: 17 Again is High-School Musical without the Music, Michelle’s Review

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If you are like me and ever wondered what the High School Musical series would have been like with out Zac Efron’s bad singing and all the other horrible songs (that Zac wasn’t involved in) you have your answer in his first post non-HSM effort 17 Again. It’s the same movie only difference is he’s a 40 something dad trapped in a 17 year old body. But all the other elements are there right down to his being the school’s basketball star. Couldn’t he have changed it up a bit and at least be a track star or football star? He even dances a bit in the first few minutes. I like Efron, he’s likeable enough, he rocks the bangs, has amazing eyes and as an old woman I have impure thoughts when I see his amazing six pack, I know that I’m not his target market but I have to say a little bit of him goes a long way. I’m not sure what the message of 17 Again is supposed to be, it’s all over the place.

The joke is that when Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) becomes his teenage self again he rediscovers his teenage kids, what he finds, he doesn’t like – his son Alex (Sterling Knight) is picked on by the basketball star and Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) is dating the jerk. The rest of the movie he tries to help his kids while preventing his wife Scarlett (Leslie Mann) from finalizing the Divorce. There really isn’t much else to say about 17 Again, it’s a competent movie but there’s no real chemistry amongst anyone and it feels as if everyone is just going through the motions. This is the definition of the Disney Cookie factory film but the irony is, it’s from New Line. I usually like teen films like this but this one is missing something. It’s a perfectly bland, forgettable 90 minutes.

Final Grade C

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally posted 4.19.09

MOVIE REVIEW: Crank: High Voltage – A Jolt of Adrenaline/Electricity to the Heart! CLEAR!

Crank: High Voltage steps up the adrenaline generating insanity that made Crank so much fun. Writers/Directors Neveldine and Taylor [who seem to have dropped their first names] have put together ninety minutes of craziness that picks up with Chev Chelios [Jason Statham] hitting the ground after falling thousands of feet from a helicopter – from which point, he is bundled into a van [literally shovelled off the sidewalk – a hint of the nuttiness to come], and finally awakes as his heart is being replaced with a temporary artificial pump to keep him alive until his other organs can be harvested.

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To say he doesn’t take kindly to this state of affairs is an understatement. What follows is probably best not viewed by children of any age – especially the antics that follow when Chelios loses the pump’s battery pack and has to resort to several and varied means to generate enough juice to keep the thing working. Let’s just say that the movie’s sub-title, High Voltage, is entirely appropriate.

If there is a cinematic device available, it is used here – wide-angle shots, Dutch angles, hard cuts, jump cuts, dissolves, lap dissolves, even 8-bit Nintendo-type graphics, split screen and psychedelic polarization effects! Just in passing, we get a character with “Full Body Tourettes,” striking porn stars, public sex, self mutilation, and a character right out of Futurama. Then there are the colorful sub-titles that would be right at home in Timur Bekmambetov flick and the most outrageous fight sequences in recent memory.

Crank: High Voltage lives up to its title. It is whirlwind-paced, colorful, baked, twisted and spun out of LSD-laced cotton candy. Compared to Crank: High Voltage, most other action flicks are on Quaaludes. Seriously. If you want a film that is a genuine experience – and you have no problem with sex, violence and totally whacked-out humor, this is the movie that you need to see.

Final Grade: A

MOVIE REVIEW: State of Play – The Fourth Estate Under Siege!

When the murders of two men – one because his route to deliver a pizza made him a witness – and the death of a congressman’s assistant turn out to be linked, the congressman’s affair with the dead woman comes to light. This puts his investigation into PrivateCorp, providers of mercenary aid in the War on Terror at risk.

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Congressman Stephen Collins’ [Ben Affleck] affair with Sonya Baker [Maria Thayer] is even more ways than just the cheating husband aspect – it pulls his former college roommate, and veteran investigative reporter for the Washington Globe, Cal McAffrey [Russell Crowe] into the mix – and McAffrey will do just about anything for a story. Circumstances dictate that McAffrey is teamed up with Globe political blogger Della Frye [Rachel McAdams] – despite his low regard for blogs in general.

As McAffrey and Frye work the story, they are constantly badgered by their editor-in-chief, Cameron Lynne [the always impressive Helen Mirren]. The paper has new owners and they want to sell papers more than they want quality journalism.

State of Play is adapted from a six-hour British series and, as such, is probably better than it has any right to be. It’s been awhile since I saw the BBC mini-series, so I couldn’t tell you what was pruned for the theatrical film, but even so, it feels like there’s enough material here for at least two movies. There’s so much information in every frame that it’s virtually impossible for anyone [short of Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent] to pick up on some of the most important clues.

For a script that has undergone three rewrites [including a pass by Duplicity’s Tony Gilroy], State of Play really has a singular voice. Chalk that up to director Kevin MacDonald, who propels the film and is very good at creating suspense [a sequence where McAffrey is stalked in an apartment building underground parking lot is particularly well executed]. Somehow MacDonald manages to keep all the various arcs straight and, except for feeling a bit overstuffed, it is a solid, well-crafted thriller. It might even provoke some debate on the necessity for maintaining quality journalism – both in the print and online media.

Final Grade: B+

MOVIE NEWS: 7 Brand New Star Trek Images

Hey Everyone, I know I’ve complained and whined about the Star Trek Webmaster Program, but now that the movie is close, I’m going to give you all of the “latest” news. Starting with brand new photos from the movie. I don’t know the meaning or significance of any of these shots, so no captions. I’m sorry, I’m sure I’m going to love this movie, but I’m not feeling this cast.

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MOVIES: Local Maryland Boy Does Good

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Local filmmaker Jimmy Traynor has been shooting films in the Baltimore area for the last 10 years, shooting well over 15 projects he’s back with his latest effort, The Ticket. The film is a comedy about a man who discovers that he won the lottery. Of course that means everyone’s out to get you, so you do the natural thing and hire a couple of bodyguards. The story is based on a 103 page script written by Jimmy and the actors flew in from LA to work on the film which was shot in a straight 32 hour period.

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He also has another film that he’s promoting called Beat The Bastard Down. This movie is a non-scripted, feature length movie that was filmed improv style in 32 hours. All actors came on set with a variety of clothing and no idea what was about to happen. The entire movie played out only in the director’s mind and it was his job to direct the actors to do what he needed in order to create this quirky and fun movie. Interestingly enough, the movie was NOT filmed in the order it played in the director’s head. What an enjoyable challenge it was and a great performance by everyone all around.Jimmy is one of those gonzo indie filmmakers who is inspiring. He produces, writes, and directs all of his material and for micro-budget affairs you can see a lot of effort and potential in his work. Imagine what he could do if he had a real budget to work with. Check out some of his other features on his website here.

MOVIE REVIEW: Observe and Report – Most of Its Best Moments Are In The Trailer!

The trailer for Observe and Report makes it look like a raunchy romp. Instead, it’s as bi-polar and off its meds as main character, Ronnie Barnhardt [Seth Rogen], head of security in as generic a mall as we’ve ever seen in a movie.

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When a flasher exposes himself to a number of mall customers – and Ronnie’s personal crush, cosmetics salesgirl Brandi [Anna Faris] in the parking lot – it sets off a competition between Barnhardt and Detective Harrison. But, while Ronnie isn’t bright to realize that his second-in-command, Dennis [Michael Pena], isn’t the cool, laid back guy he appears to be, he is tough enough to make Harrison’s set up in a very bad neighborhood backfire [a sequence that suggests Rogen will be up for the action sequences in The Green Hornet].

Unfortunately, outside of terrific performances by Faris and Collette Wolfe [as fast-food server Nell, who has a sweet crush on Ronnie, who is completely oblivious], Observe and Report completely fails to reach its target as a spectacularly dark comedy. Mostly, it’s just spectacularly dark… with intermittent laughs – very intermittent… Even Celia Weston, as Ronnie’s alcoholic mother, is completely wasted. Worse, as the film moves farther into the darkness of bipolar-Ronnie-off-his-meds, even Rogen ceases to convince.

Writer/director Jody Hill keeps things moving, though – which is a blessing, as the movie wraps up in a very quick eighty-six minutes. That’s eighty-six minutes you would be advised to skip in favor of, say, counting molecules or picking your toenails. Seriously, Observe and Report is far less enjoyable than either of those options – Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a better movie!

Final Grade: D+

MOVIES: 7 Summer Films I Don’t Want To See

Last year, Hollywood proved once and for all that we can have big Tentpole films that are both Big, Intelligent, Original and Fun. This year it looks like they reverted back to form and are going for whatever is “safe.” The only movie I think I’m really actively looking forward to seeing is GI Joe and the Bonnie and Clyde Movie (forget the name). Everything else is just, eh. Here’s a list of summer films that I’m not looking forward to seeing – I think they’ll probably be entertaining and will get huge box office numbers, but will they actually be good or great – no.

Star Trek

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I’ve never been a fan of the prequel or the “reimagining,” and I not sure how far the new Star Trek film is on the “reimagining” piece of the puzzle but I’m just not feeling this cast. All of the footage looks pretty amazing, lots of good space battles, the ships look huge and beautiful. This is another one of these films that’s been mishandled by the studio, I was interested in seeing this movie last year, after it got pushed back I lost interest and no matter how many times I see the trailers for this, I can’t seem to get excited.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

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I loved the first Harry Potter film so much that I ran out and read the first two books and got hooked on the series. I became an obsessive Pothead, devouring 100,000 word fanfiction, trolling the Potter forums for any information on the upcoming books and movies. Book 3 came out and was great, but book 4 floored me. The last hundred pages of Goblet of Fire was filled with inventive action, mystery and drama. It perfectly set up the rest of the series to become this bad ass, over the top action piece. Then came Order of the Phoenix and everything completely fell apart. Nothing really happens in Order after all the talk about how evil and bad the Death Eaters and Voldemort we don’t get to see any of it until the end of Phoenix. The book felt like it was there to simply be filler. An 800 page book that’s nothing but filler. While the books became progressively worse, so have the movies. I blame Alfonso Cuarón who completely changed the look and tone of the film. He got rid of the bright colors and beautiful cinematography from the first to films and replaced it with this “gritty,” “grimy,” “realistic” view of the world. Of course the critics went crazy for the new tone, but me, I HATED it, it made the Potter world “common.” And that’s not what I wanted.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is an even worse book than Order of the Phoenix, the Wizarding War is completely in the background, I understand the point of the book is to show how kids and people in general live during War time – that life still goes on, but JKR spends 4 books setting everything up perfectly and never follows through. She totally destroys Ron’s character in HBP, I used to be a Ron and Hermione shipper but after HBP I’m convinced that not only shouldn’t they be together, because any relationship they have would be completely abusive, but they shouldn’t even be friends. The entire plot of HBP could have been solved in a few pages if anyone actually believed Harry about Draco. In the past 5 books everyone complained that Harry never went to any teacher with his suspicions, in HBP he tells almost everyone in the book what’s going on and no one takes him seriously. They are supposedly at war, everyone knows Harry’s at the center of it, and he’s more than earned the benefit of the doubt (yeah he screwed up at the end of Order) and their reaction is always, “oh, Voldemort would never use a teenager?” Really? The most evil Wizard in history would never use Teenagers?

Even though I loathed the book, I still forgave it, thinking ok, we still have Dealthy Hallows and that’s really going to be over the top great – boy was I wrong. JKR cared more about “Swerving” the audience then following a logical story progression in the last 3 books. She actively did the opposite of everything she sets up previously. Characters aren’t consistent, no one really dies a “heroic” death, no big battles, just terrible. I also hate MIchael Gambon as Dumbledore. I’m hoping the films take some liberties with the materials and at least show us that, yes, they are at war and not just talk about it. Then there’s the way WB has poorly handled the release of this movie. They don’t show a trailer or anything from the movie until a month before it’s November release, then at the last minute decide to push it back by 8 months. For all of these reasons and more, I’m not looking forward to seeing Half Blood Prince.


Continue reading MOVIES: 7 Summer Films I Don’t Want To See

MOVIE NEWS: Miley Cyrus Plans Big Surpise

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Ok this is my lame attempt to suck up to Disney, I’ll be completely upfront about that. But those of you who have read the site for the last 11 years, know that I’m generally a sucker for the teen film. I had a really bad, tasteless joke, but I’ll refrain. I actually like Miley, can’t stand Billy Ray though. But anyway, I love Disney’s little marketing scheme to pump up opening weekend traffic by promising surprise pop-ins by the stars of the movie. Of course they won’t come to DC, but you never know. You could be at the GT Theater getting your $10 Chicken Tenders, while you are waiting for your order you eyes wonder to the front doors and all of a sudden, bam! You see a limo pull up and it could be MIley or someone else from the cast. It’s all part of Disney’s new Opening Weekend Surprise program, in which moviegoers who show up to the theatre for a 2009 Walt Disney Pictures film during its national opening weekend could be treated to a truly magical Disney experience. This might include surprise in-theater appearances by talent from the film, live performances and more. Moviegoers won’t know in advance which cities, theaters or show times will be selecte

MOVIE REVIEW: Sunshine Cleaning: Making Things Just a Little Bit Better

Sunshine Cleaning, which opened wide this weekend, is a quirky, entertaining dramedy that mines the same kind of vibe that propelled Little Miss Sunshine to hit status. It’s about pursuing a dream even though it would have appeared that it was too late. It features a very familiar performance from Alan Arkin as Joe, the eccentric father to sisters Rose [Amy Adams] and Norah [Emily Blunt], and grandfather to Rose’s equally eccentric young son, Oscar [Jason Spevak].

(Left to right.) Amy Adams and Emily Blunt star in Overture Films' Sunshine Cleaning.

Rose works for a home cleaning company [a kind of maids-on-wheels gig], but was once the captain of the cheerleading squad and girlfriend of the quarterback. She’s still the girlfriend of the quarterback, Mac [Steve Zahn], a married police detective], but that’s the only thing her life has in common with her younger self. This is not where she thought she’d be – something that being invited to a baby shower for a former fellow cheerleader drives home.

Norah was probably the class clown until she dropped out and began a series of wage-slave jobs. Where Norah is responsible and maybe more than a bit worn down, Norah still acts like she’s in high school. We meet her as she gets fired from yet another job.

When Mac suggests that Rose get involved the lucrative crime scene cleanup game, she takes the idea and runs with it – dragging Norah along with her. Working together has opposite effects on the sisters: Rose really gets into it, learning everything she can about the job – and excelling at it [plus, she believes it makes things better in some small way]; Norah, who really needs a handler at all times, is easily distracted and not really interested – a combination that brings about some really bad results. Since Rose needs the money to get Oscar into a private school, where he can get the kind of attention an eccentric kid like him needs, this drives a huge wedge between her and Norah. Meanwhile, Joe is trying various get-rich-quick schemes with little to no success.

Sunshine Cleaning is not the next Little Miss Sunshine, but that’s okay. It is a witty dramedy that gives us interesting characters who react to their circumstances in very real ways. The script, by Megan Holley, is rich enough in terms of both characters and situation that it feels real and we can easily relate to them. Director Christine Jeffs draws a solid performance from her cast, but I doubt that Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are even capable of turning a bad performance. Where Jeffs’ skill shows, is in her work with young Jason Spevak. Oscar could have been just another precocious kid, but he’s not – in a world of precocious kid actors, Spevak is intriguingly fresh. He cloaks his character’s intelligence within his eccentricities in a way that really does make Oscar unique.

If Sunshine Cleaning doesn’t quite hit all the heights to which it aspires, it still has enough wit and intelligence and warmth to balance its darker moments [and there are a number of them, right from the fade in]. It is a solid, entertaining film.

Final Grade: B+