Movie Madness

My movie reviews and rants at your fingertips.

Monthly Archives: November 2009

The Fourth Kind

After Paranormal Activity, my hopes of being scared by another horror movie again so was low. But The Fourth Kind delivers. In the same way as Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, much of the most ominous happenings occur off-screen or in a manner that we can’t see.

The movie starts with a brief introduction by Milla Jovovich, acting almost as a disclaimer to what follows. The film is claimed to be based on actual events, but I, as of yet, have not been able to find evidence to support that. Regardless, the movie is a rare thing: A PG-13 horror movie that is actually scary*.

The story is about Dr. Tyler, a widower attempting to finish her late husband’s research. In Nome, Alaska, there appears to be some sort of strange phenomenon that is lead to a bunch of unsolved cases. With “interviews” (Quotes because I don’t know if they are real or simply a part of the script) that are acted out on-screen simultaneously, we get a sense of how these affected people are feeling. Tyler uses her psychological background to attempt to cure and/or understand what is happening to these people. Hoping that in some way, she find out what happened to her husband.

The interviews and “actual footage” is where the true horrors kick in. Even though I saw a good portion of it coming, it still made every hair on my body stand up. It made it such that I was afraid to move or leave my chair after the movie. To my credit, I saw the movie in an empty theater. Something that always elevates the scares when you are actually alone. So, despite a slow start, I give the movie 3.5 out of 5 stars.


An Education

**Contains potential spoilers**

Let me first start by saying that I thought this movie was going to be a romantic drama. What I got instead was a not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman films. But in this case, one that works.

Carey Mulligan plays Jenny, a girl in love with France and hopes to one day attend Oxford. The film begins with Jenny striving to be best prepared for Oxford after high school. Something her father, played by the humorously disarming Alfred Molina, pushes for a great deal. Everything appears to be status quo until a man one day gives Jenny and her cello a ride home in the rain. The man, played by the always brilliant Peter Sarsgaard, takes a liking to Jenny right away. And soon, the two are spending a great deal of time together as well as with his friends (Dominic Cooper & Rosmund Pike).

Things start innocent enough, but soon we learn of where Sarsgaard’s character gets his income. This inevitably leads to more realizations about their relationship that eventually lead to it’s undoing. This is where I expected the usual romantic drama wrap-up, but once again, my expectations deceive me. The remainder of the movie follows Jenny as she picks her self up after a bad decision and attempts to right her wrongs. The ending is one of happiness and of pride. You feel her accomplishment and relish in her independence. An Education I give 3 out of 5 stars.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

First off, I do have to say I’m probably Team Jacob. Team Edward and Team Jacob are the sides the fans choose over who they want Bella with. That said, here’s my review:

New Moon picks up almost seemlessly from where the first one ended. Not in terms of events, but in terms of continuity. A scare from a birthday party the Cullens (the vampire family), leads Edward and the rest of the family moving.  The bulk of the movie is about recovering from the loss of true love and trying to get back on your feet. Bella finds refuge in Jacob, a muscular Native American from the local tribe.  Together they grow close, leading to a “are-they-or-aren’t-they” subplot that pulls the viewer in. As the bond between Jacob and Bella strengthen, we are left to wonder how this affects her connection to Bella. The last half hour or so is Bella attempting to find Edward because he believes she is dead.

The plot of this movie, as well as the first aren’t strong, but the journey from beginning is one that can be enjoyed anyway. Where I liked the first one better, the second one has more meat to it. The characters are more layered and the complications of Bella’s feelings for both men are carefully displayed, yet restrained enough to elicit a mystery.  Director Chris Weitz does an excellent job of taking Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight’s director) and continuing it. Because neither director is truly striking or avant garde, their films meld into a consistent film.

Regardless of what “Team” you are on, this is good way to spend two hours. 4 out of 5 stars


Emmerich has done it again. As a fan of both “Independence Day” and “The Day after Tomorrow”, I was skeptical this would be a good movie. Both ended with a bit too tidy of an ending, but this film stays more true to its source material.

A cast that truly stands out makes other multi-narrative destructo-porn. Cusack plays an estranged father and writer who drives limos to pay the bills. Ejiofor, Glover, Platt, and Newton all play the role of the government “family”. The film follows these and a few other minor characters as the realization that the Mayan calendar is right hits our scientists, and quickly afterwards, our politicians.

What could have easily been a CGI bore (I hate CGI) is a movie with heart. It shows the reactions of people in all walks of life trying to stay ahead of impending doom. The special effects are dazzling, and more than once I found myself riddled with tension from how into I got. This is definitely a great popcorn movie. It won’t win any acting awards, but it’s an enjoyable 2 1/2 hours (which goes by quickly and effortlessly). 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Men Who Stare At Goats

This movie has a cast that is truly brilliant. Clooney gets crazy hair. Spacey is supposed to be a L. Ron Hubbard clone. Bridges grows his Lebowski hair back. McGregor holds his own. How did the Coens not direct this?!

The film follows McGregor attempting to prove to his estranged wife that he’s not a coward. He decides becoming a journalist in Iraq is his ticket back into her heart. This is where he meets Clooney, playing his most wacky character ever. Together, they are on a “mission”. Clooney uses the time they are together to educate him on the background of Jedi powers. I loved how Clooney is educating McGregor on the ways of the Jedi when McGregor played a Jedi three times. The mission gets more and more out of comprehension. But that isn’t a bad thing.

The film is not a plot based film. It’ s more of an adventure without a clear destination in mind. And whenever the film starts to slow down too much, a flashback comes in and refreshes the experience. The joy of this movie is watching all these actors embodying their roles. Quickly, you believe these characters are real people. And apparently, a good deal of this movie is true. Which leaves one to contemplate which parts are real and what’s embellished. If you enjoy Clooney being a loon and/or Jeff Bridges looking like “The Big Lebowski” in uniform, give this treat a view. 3.5 stars out of 5

Law Abiding Citizen

By my count, this is Gerard Butler’s third movie this year. First Gamer, then The Ugly Truth (see review on this blog), and now Law Abiding Citizen. F. Gary Gray has built himself quite the M.O. His other most memorable film (to me) was A Man Apart with Vin Diesel. Another movie about a man who loses his family and attempts to teach those allowed the criminals to escape punishment.

Law Abiding Citizen opens quite quickly. Showing us the carnage that befalls Butler’s family and the deal (in lieu of trial) that Jamie Foxx agrees to. Fast forward 10 years and we see Butler orchestrate a painful death of both of the men who took his family from him. As the movie goes from there, it becomes less clear as it goes. He begins to kill all those involved in the case of his family’s murders. But to what conclusion?  Though a decent movie, the ending isn’t as cookie cutter as some want while simultaneously leaving it tidy enough to appear resolved.

There are a few great scenes of Butler and Foxx playing off each other. Without these two, this film would have been quite the bore. These two take a film to a level that isn’t greatness, but harmless viewing, and the B.O. shows. 2.5 stars out of 5

Michael Jackson’s This Is It

 I’m not much of a concert movie guy. I like them separate, but together it’s hard for me to interpret. Do I stand or do I sit? That is my dilemma. But in this case, This is It is so much more. It’s a candid look at an icon preparing for his final performances, a study of what goes into a concert, and the last days of one of the most talented artists of the last century.

        Kenny Ortega, the choreographer turned director, puts together a rough set list and lets us just enjoy what the concert most likely would have been. It isn’t a prefect show, but that’s what is so interesting about it.  Piecing different rehearsals together to create a composite show almost void of anything except music. The brief interviews with his dancers and band only add to the intimacy of the experience. At times you see Michael going all out, only to see the audience is staff. But the staff is almost as into it as he is.
        Though Michael would have never allowed this footage out if he was still alive, it’s a wonderful tribute to see him preparing for the last big hurrah of his career. And though many have heard of his drug problems, he shows no signs of it here. It’s a truly great experience, and one for all ages. 3.5 out 5 stars

Saw VI

This series is definitely running out of gas. What started out as a truly spooky concept has been watered down over the years.  When a horror movie franchise dips in quality, one expects to see nudity or great gore scenes in its place. In Saw VI, neither is present. 

        VI picks up where Saw V left off, with Detective Hoffman attempting to cover his tracks. But a small miss of his has him scrambling to stop the force he works for from finding him out.  What is a bit of cat and mouse with little payoff. The other plotline is the victim, an insurance claims man who is known for his denials more than his approvals. Early on we see that Jigsaw, though dead, had chosen this man a while ago. He must overcome his self-serving nature to save both his family and himself. 
        Once again, the movie layers the previous movies into the a plot that is almost hard to decipher. I’d love to see a site that puts all events of the franchise in chronological order. The last five minutes is also there. The whole wrap-everything-up-in-the-last-five-minutes-and-trick-them concept. All in all, a letdown by horror standards and a big letdown in overall. 1.5 out of 5 stars