Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eraserhead review

This is the weirdest movie I've seen since Mulholland Drive. Which (coincidentally?) is also written and directed by David Lynch.
Eraserhead is the first movie by auteur director David Lynch. The first Lynch film I saw was Mulholland Drive. I went into it thinking it would follow a regular plot and be a regular movie. It was none of those things. The movie was insanely weird and confusing. I initially hated it. After some serious afterthought, I began to really, really like it. So when I started watching Lynch's debut film, Eraserhead, I was quite excited. Hoping to get the strange eerie feel and underlying messages all with homages to classic cinema. What I got instead was an even weirder, less enjoyable, and kind of gross movie that honestly disappointed me. Eraserhead isn't an all bad skip-it-for-sure kind of movie. It has a lot of admirable qualities and it's certainly interesting, but it's bad qualities far outweigh it's good ones. Eraserhead is sort of about a nervous man named Henry (Jack Nance) dealing with his mutant baby in a post-apocalyptic-ish environment. I say it's sort of about that because there's obviously some other themes and messages at work here. Some are obvious like the man's fear of parenthood and others aren't clear at all. With a Lynch film you obviously have to expect some element of confusion and weirdness. Yet, with Eraserhead, I feel David Lynch goes overboard with it all. Some scenes seem like they're weird and gross just for the sake of being weird and gross. The weird scenes may have some deep meaning that only Dave Lynch knows, but after a point all those strange and cryptic scenes just become tiring. I am starting to wonder if even David Lynch himself knows exactly what this movie is about. In one scene in the beginning, Henry's girlfriend's mother informs him that her daughter has had a baby. She becomes visibly angry with Henry, then begins to make out with him. There seemed to be no purpose to that. I felt like Lynch just threw in scenes to test the audience's patience. If that's the case, I suppose he's succeeded. I appreciated some aspects of the film, but most of the movie I spent having a look of disgust and confusion on my face. Some movies are gross and weird, like The Evil Dead, but have many other redeeming qualities that make me not mind the weird grotesqueness. Those films also have a reason for the disgusting weirdness. Eraserhead seems like it has no reason for it. Movies don't have to be constant fun and enjoyment, but they should have an aspect that makes them worth watching. I could barely find one in Eraserhead. The one thing I have to commend Lynch on here is the sound. He's able to use very practical sound effects to create a constant eerie and scary environment that fits the movie like a glove. I disliked most of it, but the sound was really well done. David Lynch is quite adept at creating a tone for his movies. A skill he practically masters here and perfected with Mulholland Drive. His directing is quite good, yet he's written a movie that's just no fun at all to watch. There's one scene at the end that almost made me vomit watching it. This is not a good thing. What I consider to be the best horror films, The Shining and The Silence of the Lambs, use creepiness and occasional gore to speed along a terrific story. Eraserhead's story is weak and it uses creepiness and lots of gross images as a crutch for where it's lacking in other areas. At some point in the movie I became angry at David Lynch. Why can't the guy just make a regular movie? I don't mind strange and confusing films if they are good and have many redeeming aspects to them. Eraserhead didn't. I appreciate some of the technical work on Eraserhead, but I just didn't like the movie. In creating a creepy tone and style for the film, David Lynch has succeeded on all counts. In creating a watchable, somewhat understandable, and enjoyable movie, Lynch has failed on all counts. Happy Viewing, guys. If you haven't already, you should follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at                

Friday, February 21, 2014

3 Days to Kill review

Pauline Kael once said "Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in them." 
She has a point. Unfortunately, 3 Days to Kill isn't great trash. It's just plain old trashy trash. What a shame. 3 Days to Kill is about an aging CIA hit-man named Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) who gets cancer and is given three to five months to live. Luckily for him, if he's able to complete some assignments for the CIA, he'll be given some experimental cancer drug that may help him stay alive to see his estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) and his wife (Connie Neilson). Before I get into the meat and potatoes of my review, let me get something straight. I am not a pompous, uppity, and overtly critical movie watcher. I always try to look for the good in films. I can enjoy a crappy movie. I'm even sort of a fan of dumb action flicks. Sure, they don't have much cinematic sustenance, but they can be a load of fun. I can enjoy stuff like Escape Plan and White House Down. Which is why I was somewhat looking forward to 3 Days to Kill. It was starring Kevin Costner. Costner's last action outing, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, was more than halfway decent. I was sure this would be the same brand of espionage-y fun. I was wrong. 3 Days to Kill was as much fun as death and taxes. It got off to a decent start with a classic spy vs. spy set up. Then it quickly became half cliche and very predictable spy movie and half boring melodrama. I tried really hard to like this movie, but it couldn't be done. Kevin Costner has the capacity to be the kind of action star Liam Neeson has become. Unfortunately, he seems content to "act" in garbage like this. I'm putting act in parentheses because all Costner did was walk around the movie with one expression on his face. It seemed as if Costner was just acting in this so he could get a paycheck and get out of there. I don't blame him. The movie has a lot more problems than just Costner's performance. This movie is directed by some guy named McG. The only other McG directed movie I've seen was Terminator Salvation. I should have known right then and there that this was going to be bad. I don't know who taught this guy how to direct action sequences, but they did an awful job. Whenever some "exciting" action is happening, it feels as if they handed the camera to someone having a seizure and told them to film the scene. The supposed awesome action sequences were irritating to look at and amatuerly filmed. I guess we should count ourselves lucky there isn't much action in this action movie. Most of the film revolves around Costner's character bonding with his daughter and dealing with family melodrama. The script is weak so the family melodrama isn't even interesting in the slightest. Teenager problems and daddy issues rarely make good movies. Especially if a certain movie is marketed as a cool action flick and is actually a mind numbing and syrupy family movie. I didn't go see 3 Days to Kill to watch Kevin Costner teach his teenage daughter how to ride a bike! I don't care who she goes to the prom with! I came for an action movie not a mediocre family togetherness piece of crap! The thing is, it really has nothing going for it. It's very poorly written. The plot is fairly cliche. (So-and-so foreign villain has a bomb and he's bad and you need to take him down like in every other action movie. Except a lot more boring!)he acting is sub par. The action sequences are frenetic and annoying. There are also several half-hearted attempts at jokes here. The jokes aren't funny. At all. The whole movie seems like someone had half a good idea and then gave up there. I wanted to like this, but after a while I could barely stand it. I'm sorry, but this was just bad. Maybe if it had been directed by John McTiernan or J.J. Abrams and written by someone halfway talented it could've been great. But instead it is the opposite of that. Trash. I give 3 Days to Kill 2 out of 5 stars. Take my advice; if you want to see a good action movie, rent Die Hard or the original RoboCop or something like that. Don't waste your money on this. Happy Viewing. You can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at             

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Lego Movie review

If you don't like The Lego Movie, you are Fox News.
If you had told past me that a 100 minute toy commercial released in the bleak winter months would be one of the best movies of the year (so far), I would laugh in your face and say some arbitrary statement like "No good movies come out in January or February!" or "A movie about Lego's? Give me a break." Past me knew nothing. The Lego Movie is the best animated movie I've seen since Toy Story 3, and it's better than anything that has been released in 2014 so far. I can almost guarantee it a spot on my Favorite Films of 2014 list. The film is about Emmett Brickowoski (voiced by Chris Pratt) He loves his job as a construction worker, where he builds things according to the instructions and blows up things that are "weird". Emmett drinks coffee at a chain coffee shop where coffee costs 37 dollars. He thinks this is awesome. Emmett fits in so well, that his coworkers barely even notice him. That all changes when he accidentally finds the mysterious "piece" that will help stop Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from using the Kragle to destroy all of the Lego world. It all sounds very confusing I know. Don't worry though. It all makes glorious sense when you see the movie. Many animated movies nowadays are made specifically for profit reasons and only entertain the little kids. Rarely is there an animated film that captures the imagination and attention of both the adults and kids in the audience, all while being an actually "good" movie. Cars 2 this is not. The Lego Movie is a strangely effective mix of classic science fiction, pop culture references, fast paced witty comedy, and fantastic animation. Take the kids, but you may actually be getting more out of it than they will. In the city that a majority of the film takes place in, there are big billboards with the face of President Business saying things like "Conform" and things like that. I can't help but think of John Carpenter's 1988 movie, They Live. Even Business' minions bare a striking resemblance to the evil aliens from that film. Lego Movie takes a lot from classic sci-fi like 1984, but adds it's own style and humor.The Lego Movie was marketed as a fun kids movie, but obviously has a lot more to say then just that. It takes jabs at Big Business and government surveillance, yet doesn't hit you over the head with the message. More important than that, the movie is really quite funny. The script for the film is actually genius. It's able to stay consistently funny while not getting tiresome. It's characters are ridiculous at times, yet they also feel weirdly real. The writers and directors of the film, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, have made some decent movies in the past. They did Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which was alright. And 21 Jump Street, which was actually very funny.Take the best qualities of both those movies and then multiply it by ten, and you may have an idea of what The Lego Movie is like. The voice acting here is awesome. Elizabeth Banks, Charlie Day, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell,... the list goes on. It's not just a smorgasbord of celebrities being paraded around,, everyone here has something to offer. The talent is put to good use. I really can't get over how great the movie is! It's funny, yet deep and meaningful. It's exciting, but not tiring. It's so, so well animated. I know I'm probably overly praising this right now, but just trust me on this one. The Lego Movie is awesome. The best way I can describe the film is if you took The Avengers and 1984, then mushed it into a terrific SNL skit, threw in more pop culture references, then made it into a movie involving Legos. The movie is great. It left me in a state of awe, all while making me crack up. I really did love it. The Lego Movie is a film for our generation. It personifies a lot of today's society, and carries a timeless message. I was expecting the movie to really suck. How could an hour and forty minutes of product placement be good? Yet, it really is. That's all I'm going to say for now. I give The Lego Movie 4.5 out of 5 stars. Happy Viewing! You can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at!      

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Fistful of Westerns: A Cinephile's Look at an Age Old Genre

Ever since the invention of cinema first graced Earth, people have been making westerns. The first western film was made in 1903, back when the Old West was practically still around!. It was called The Great Train Robbery. It followed a very simple plot. It was exactly what it sounded like. Some guys robbing a train. The genre has evolved quite a bit since 1903. Going through ups and downs. Reaching its peak around the 50s and 60s then slowly but steadily fading from the public conscience. There have been few great westerns in the last decade: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, True Grit, 3:10 to Yuma, and Django Unchained are the only ones that come to mind. If it weren't for people like Clint Eastwood and The Coen Brothers, I believe the genre would be completely dead. If you haven't noticed by now, the western is a genre very dear to me. I've been watching them since I was first captivated by Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid as a small child. I remember being completely blown away after experiencing The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in the fifth grade. I could never get enough cowboy hats, six shooters, and sweeping shots of the expansive western landscape. I sometimes fell away from the films in search of others, but I always came back. Nothing captured my imagination quite like a good western film. Maybe it was the
wondrous sense of adventure. Maybe it was the thought of a wide open and exciting unconquered land where anything was possible. Maybe I just love a good hero story and the Wild West is a good template for the story. Maybe it's a mix of all of them. No other movie genre is so distinctive and exciting as is the western. It can be used simply as an action movie template (i.e. For a Few Dollars More) or for a deep and meaningful story (i.e. Duck, You Sucker and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). It can even blend the two as The Searchers did. It's a malleable genre. And a wholly wonderful one at that. Westerns can be big and ambitious and epic as in Django Unchained and Once Upon a Time in the West. Or they can be small scale pictures like Rio Bravo or High Noon. I have to say, I'm partial to the epic western.  Many directors have ventured into the western, some more successful than others. I'd say the most adept at making western movies are Sergio Leone and John Ford. Leone has been a favorite of mine for quite some time. He's made what are some of my favorite western films and has an unmistakable style that's indistinguishable form other directors. Plus, he always collaborates with composer Ennio Morricone. Morricone's music can make even
the most mediocre westerns seem wonderful. Not that any of Sergio Leone's movies are mediocre. My favorite, as you probably know, is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Yet, he has made many other great films, like Duck, You Sucker and Once Upon a Time in the West. I consider Duck, You Sucker to be an under seen and underrated masterpiece with one of Ennio Morricone's best scores. As I mentioned before, Leone has a very distinct style. Close ups, violence, shoot outs, and emphasis on the lone outlaw. In all of his movies, there is a singular hero. Or some silent/charismatic type that fits in with his original Man with No Name character played by Clint Eastwood in the Dollars Trilogy. Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West. And a mix of Rod Steiger and James Coburn in Duck, You Sucker. There's also almost always some epic shootout or standoff towards the end of Leone's western films. My favorite being in either For a Few Dollars More or Once Upon a Time in the West. John Ford's westerns on the other hand are slightly more peaceful and character driven. My Darling Clementine is a very sweet hearted western were the violent shootout doesn't come towards the end, similar to High Noon. Except My Darling Clementine is a much better movie in
general than High Noon. The Searchers also strays away from the violence mostly until the last ten minutes or so, and focuses on racial issues, the landscape, and John Wayne's character. It has bits here and there, but nothing compared to a Sergio Leone movie. None of this is bad for either director, it's just their different styles. Both very good. The Searchers is my favorite John Ford movie by the way. There are other directors like Andrew Dominik, Quentin Tarantino, and The Coen Brothers who have made great westerns, but have only done it once or twice. They have practically mastered the genre on a first try. Each of their films are imprinted with a particular style, though. It would be awesome if they could make another film like that. There's a common misconception that westerns, at least older ones, are very cliche and often boring. This is very, very wrong. I have watched quite a few western movies in my life and very few of them have seemed cliche or boring at all to me. Almost every western I've seen has been distinctive and I may be bias just because I like and appreciate the genre so much, but I've only seen a few westerns I really didn't like. High Noon is a critically lauded film starring Gary Cooper. It won Oscars and everyone seems to love it. I did not. It was boring and slow and DID fall into cliches often. The "big" payoff at the end wasn't big at all and Lee Van Cleef was completely wasted as an actor. Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo follows a similar premise to High Noon but does it better and with more excitement and style. I didn't love Rio Bravo either but it did what High Noon couldn't. Dead Man which was directed by Jim Jarmusch was so slow and not enjoyable I couldn't finish it. Out of all of Sergio Leone's movies, I actually dislike A Fistful of Dollars the most. Don't get me wrong, I love all of his movies, that one just is the weakest. It also came off a tad cliche at parts. I feel as he went on, Leone became a better director and better at holding the audience's attention. Most people don't realize but there is are different sub-genres in the western genre. There's the well known spaghetti western, popularized by Sergio Leone. The spaghetti western often involves the film being shot in Italy, lower budgets, traditionally more violence, and selfish character motives. The spaghetti western is my favorite sub-genre. Then there's the Revisionist western, which I'm not as familiar with. That involved the changing of ideals and landscape in the not so Old West. One of my favorites is the neo western. The neo western takes place in a contemporary
American west setting, but makes use of western tropes and themes like, shootouts, wide open landscapes, and a lone hero (or anti-hero). Some examples are No Country for Old Men, 2 Guns, Desperado, Brokeback Mountain, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. No Country for Old Men is the best example of a neo western in my opinion. One could even argue that Rian Johnson's 2012 sci-fi flick, Looper, is a neo western (or I guess sci-fi western). It fits the categories. A future setting not in the Old West. A lone anti-hero. Shootouts. Open western landscapes. Bruce Willis' character even uses a futuristic revolver. Unfortunately the western is going out of favor. but I feel like the neo western may be coming into play. This excites me because the neo western is a malleable and interesting genre that a lot could be done with. Who knows? Maybe in a few years the neo western will be as popular as neo noir has become. As I mentioned before, the western is going out of favor. It's very depressing. The last western released, The Lone Ranger, flopped really badly and got less then favorable reviews. Quentin Tarantino was originally going to make another western called The Hateful Eight to follow up Django. He now isn't going to make that. The next big western coming out is Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West. It's a comedy and has the potential to be very bad. Really the only good comedic western is Blazing Saddles. The state of the western is a sad one. I truly love the genre and hope it doesn't befall the fate it looks like it's headed to. In the mean time, go watch Duck, You Sucker or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford! Go watch The Searchers! There are a whole lot of fantastic westerns out there and I've only scratched the surface. I still have to watch How The West Was Won and Unforgiven, along with many other westerns I've yet to watch. It's a vast and awesome genre that doesn't get enough credit. The western is old, wonderful, and exciting. It always will be. That's all for now. Happy Viewing.
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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit review

Sorry Chris Pine, no matter what, you'll never live up to Harrison Ford. That guy's shoes are just too big to fill.
Imagine if you took a Mission: Impossible movie, took out all the main characters except for Ethan Hunt, and then toned down everything a few notches. You would then basically have Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but I feel it's fairly accurate. The new Jack Ryan flick is about, well, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine). It starts with him in Oxford where he's studying economics, finding out about the 9/11 attacks. Then flashes forward a few years where Ryan is a Marine. He gets a bad injury in a helicopter crash and is put out of commission for a while. At rehab, he's approached by CIA director/agent guy, Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Harper is impressed by Ryan, and then invites him to join the CIA as in analyst. After some thought, Ryan decides to go for the job. He goes undercover at a Wall Street firm, looking for false accounts and stuff of that nature. He has a girlfriend named Cathy (Keira Knightley) and he makes a decent amount of money. Jack seems to be having a decent life. Then he has to go to Russia to check out some unknown and possibly dangerous accounts held under business baddie Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh). This is when Ryan is thrown head over heels into the spy world. Having to kill people, steal information, and lie. The stuff James Bond does with no problem. I don't think anyone had really high hopes for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. It's a reboot, released in January, based on a series of movies that weren't really barn burners themselves. Sure, Harrison Ford had a decent run, and The Hunt for Red October was pretty good, but the last version with Ben Affleck was just okay and the films never had a big following in the first place. The fact that the newest Jack Ryan film has even more than an ounce of originality is really a miracle. I didn't love Jack Ryan. It was really just okay, nothing truly special. Yet, as a fun little winter movie, Jack Ryan does everything it has to, and then some. Last year around this time, the newest Die Hard came out. The only thing that had to offer was being really disappointed in Bruce Willis. Too many action films that get released (I'm looking at you Fast & Furious 6) are just mediocre explosion shoot out fests with a generic plot. Jack Ryan, while occasionally cliche, has a very interesting and original story with an okay performance by Chris Pine. The evil scheme planned by Cherevin, involves buying up lots of American dollars and then dumping them as the dollar goes down and then doing some other confusing things that would basically leave America very, very poor. It would cause a second Great Depression. I have to give credit to director Branagh and writers David Koepp (who actually wrote the first Mission: Impossible) and Adam Cozad. I haven't seen this story before, and it's done quite well. While the film isn't groundbreaking in any way, it's nice to see a stripped down and slick action movie that isn't trying to be too grand or too convoluted. I enjoyed the film quite a bit. It's nowhere near great, but's it's exciting and fun. One major problem I had was the accents. Kenneth Branagh, who did a good job directing, put on a very cliche and awful Russian accent to play the villain. It sounded like an American trying to do a Russian accent, which is what it was. Which isn't a good thing. The British Keira Knightley does an equally bad American accent. She sounded like Sandra Bernhard mixed with a 6th grade girl. There's also a scene with Knightley and Pine in a hotel that felt very clunky, overly sappy, and just out of place. The rest of the movie had a fairly nice flow. Pine is capable as the hero. He throws out that assured cockiness he played in the Star Trek films, and takes up this cool patriotic persona. He does what needs to be done. He isn't amazing, but he's good. This Jack Ryan movie isn't fantastic. It doesn't do anything revolutionary. It even occasionally seems repetitive And it's not the best action movie I've seen in a while. Yet, it's interesting and fun. For a season of dismal releases. What more can you ask for? I give Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit 3.3 out of 5 stars. Happy Viewing. Remember you can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at            

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Monuments Men review

Old guys going to war. Kind of like The Expendables. Except with classical art and more talented actors.
The Monuments Men is the true story of a bunch of rag tag art historians who went into battle grounds and Nazi salt mines to save and retrieve stolen statues, monuments, and ancient art. The movie revolves around Frank Stokes (George Clooney), who recruits his team to tackle this truly "monumental" job involving Rembrandt, Da Vinci, and Hitler. (See what I did there? Monumental. Monuments Men? Get it?). I have to admit, when I first heard about this movie, I was monumentally excited. It just seemed like such a monumentally awesome film (Okay, I'll stop with the 'monument' puns). I happen to be a pretty big fan of most of George Clooney's directorial efforts. I loved Confessions of A Dangerous Mind. The Ides of March was pretty damn good. I'd heard Good Night, and Good Luck was great also. I admittedly am also a big fan of Clooney in general. I mean, how can you not like the guy? He's smoother than extra smooth peanut butter and he is the essence of suave. The other parts of this movie looked great too. The rest of the cast, for one. Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, and that guy from The Artist. It also had a seemingly exciting premise. I thought it was going to be a major Oscar contender. How could this not be good? It was originally slated for a Christmas Day release date, as were many Oscar hopefuls, like The Wolf of Wall Street for one. Then it was pushed to early February. Often, when a movie is pushed back like that, it is very bad news. This means it probably wasn't good enough for the Christmas slot, so it got pushed to be released next to stuff like I, Frankenstein and the RoboCop remake. I kept my hopes up still. Even when increasingly negative buzz kept rolling in, my blind Clooney loyalty pushed those doubtful thoughts away. Well, I'll tell you that The Monuments Men is nowhere near as bad as some reviews say it is, but it's nowhere near as good as I expected either. The Monuments Men isn't the groundbreaking Oscar bait it was originally marketed as. It's much more of an Indiana Jones-meets Oceans Eleven-meets Valkyrie adventure film. Which is to say, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's not a really good movie, but it has a lot of good things about it and it's enjoyable to watch. The best and most obvious strength the film has is it's impeccable casting. The cast here is nothing short of legendary. Older "classic" greats like Bill Murray and John Goodman going up against new Hollywood talents like Jean Dujardin and Matt Damon. The chemistry with all the actors is terrific. They work together like they've been working together for years, which in the case of Clooney and Damon, I guess is true. Goodman is his usual jokey self. Which I have no problem with. Murray plays his deadpan comedic role like he often does, but adds some real emotion in there. Murray definitely has real talent. It's just a surprise how seldom recognized he is for it. Clooney and Damon seem to coast by on mostly charm, charisma, and dashing good looks. I actually don;t have a problem with that. For this flick, charm and looks are all they need. I think the fault of this film was marketing it as an Oscar contender. It's much more of a fun adventure film in the vein of Indiana Jones and National Treasure. Not a dearth of substance, but a lot of fun. You get to watch all these big stars have fun finding treasured paintings and planning "heists". I ate it up. The film is far from perfect though. It sometimes drags a bit. It isn't a huge problem, but occasionally I found it could have some parts left on the cutting room floor. The movie also felt very fragmented at times. Scenes would jump back and forth very choppily, and the tone felt off. At times it felt like it wanted to be darker and say more, yet then it would revert to a jokier, lighter, and more action-y vibe. The script, written by Grant Heslov and George Clooney, felt stilted and very unnatural at other times. It did bother me some, but it wasn't a wholly bad screenplay. It just really didn't work at times. And it also took very little time to develop some of it's characters. Like Cate Blanchett's character for instance. We know she's some French art worker type, forced to work for the Nazis, with a brother in the resistance, but that's about it. One character, who shall remain nameless as not to spoil anything,  is developed so little that when he dies it seems like little more then to spur on the plot. It's actually fairly tasteless in that aspect. But otherwise I did thoroughly enjoy The Monuments Men. It was very fun, had a terrific cast, and dug up old memories of fun adventure movies and old treasure hunter novels. Clooney has a long ways to go as a director, but I did like this film. Sue me, but compared to some of January's more dismal releases, Monuments Men is thin shaft of hopeful light. It's just not as hopeful as I expected it to be. I will recommend this. Just keep your expectations low and try and enjoy it. I did. I give The Monuments Men 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you haven't already, follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at! Happy Viewing!          

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

You're Next review

I'm next, she's next, you're next.... Who's keeping track anyway?
Horror movies seem to have been steadily going downhill for a while now. There's been a few good hits here and there, but there's been a lot of garbage in the genre recently (the entire Paranormal Activity series and Final Destination 5 to name a few). The trailer for You're Next was basically a generic horror movie preview but with Lou Reed's Perfect Day put over it. While the ironic use of the music intrigued me, I wasn't intrigued enough to buy a ticket and see the thing. Maybe I should have. You're Next starts out as a very predictable horror flick. Starts out showing a bit of violence, then establishing the "normal" world and environment. Setting up all the conditions of the situation and surrounding, and of course taking a little time to develop character and add a bit of suspense. Then, for lack of a better word, shit goes down. The movie completely spins everything on it's head and creates one of the more jaw dropping, well made, and surprisingly funny horror films I've seen in quite some time. Not to mention it has one of the best uses of practical effects I've seen since maybe the original Evil Dead movie. First off let me state, the movie isn't perfect. It occasionally ventures too far into the homage territory and starts becoming more of a bloody rip off. Then it quickly bounces back and surprises you while at the same time even making you chuckle. I've never seen anything else Adam Wingard has done, but he defintiely shows promise. He not only directed You're Next, but edited it too. I know editing is a frustrating and hard thing to do. Wingard does it wonderfully. He makes it all pair so well with the plot and his direction. He cuts between the horrific murder scenes and the regular scenes with such skill it seems almost seamless. And his ironic use of music really adds to the sort of awesome black comedy vibe it has. Let's just say it, the guy did a terrific job. He's not the only one. The acting is alright here, nothing too special. You can't expect flawless acting in a low budget horror flick most times. Although sort of newcomer (she's only had bit parts until now) Sharni Vinson did a bang up acting job here. She plays this sweet Australian girl who goes through a bit of change and becomes quite awesome. I won't spoil it but her character and her acting become very cool as the movie progresses. Most of the rest of the cast is just alright. They scream and cry and laugh when they have to but not much else. Then again, the acting doesn't really matter here. The other two actors who shined here were Joe Swanberg and A.J. Bowen. Swanberg plays this douche bag big brother of A.J. Bowen's character and he plays him so well that you actually hate him for a while. His character has his moments though and is the subject of much of the aforementioned dark humor. A.J. Bowen doesn't do much until later in the film, where he gives a sort of speech that I found funny and very well delivered. Speaking of which, the writing here, while not Oscar worthy, was still very good. The story and all the twists were fresh and original and some of the dialogue and situations were very comical in the best way. I feel like if the Coen Brothers wrote a gruesome home invasion movie, it'd somewhat resemble this. The gore and blood here is a tad excessive at times, although not to the extent that some scary movies have gone to. What also helps is the wonderful use of practical effects that Wingard uses here. It all looks real, but if you really pay attention to the little details, you can see, say, that the blood is a bit too sticky and looks a lot like corn syrup. Yet, Adam Wingard uses it all so well! In a cinema world so polluted by CGI, special effects, and editing tricks it is rare to see stuff done this realistically and raw. It's actually damn refreshing to see this. I've mentioned the twists and turns this movie has. It has a very healthy amount of them. Not too much where it gets gratuitous, but enough where it keeps you excited and guessing. They're not the obvious twists either. I give much credit to the writer for this, and for the director for carrying it out so well. You're Next is one of the most coherent, well thought out, and entertaining horror films I've seen in a long time. Yes, it's better then the original Paranormal Activity. Which on a side note I find to be an overrated and mediocre found footage movie that isn't as revolutionary as people say it is. But more on that another time. If I had seen this before I made my Favorite Films of 2013 list it would've probably gotten the #15 spot, or at least honorable mention. I recommend you see it, even if you're not a horror buff. You do need to be able to have a moderately strong stomach though. It gets bloody. As always, Happy Viewing everybody. You can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at to keep up with my movie related thoughts and escapades.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Once Upon a Time in the West review

I really hate the word epic. It's overused in all the wrong ways and it's never used when it should be. In the case of this movie, I believe the word epic can be used.
As you very well may know, I'm partial to westerns. Sergio Leone westerns in particular. And since I'm trying to watch a lot of westerns to learn about and understand the genre more, it was only natural of me to watch Sergio Leone's famous 1968 western, Once Upon a Time in the West. I had tried to watch the whole thing about a year ago, but I kept getting distracted and not being able to finish it. Finally, I sat down and watched the entire film from start to finish. While I can't say it's Leone's best movie, it certainly is a very good one. Once Upon a Time in the West is a story of Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale), whose family was killed by a group of land hungry bandits led by the very evil Frank (Henry Fonda). Cardinale teams up with the notorious Cheyenne (Jason Robards) to help her stay safe. Meanwhile, a stranger known only as Harmonica (Charles Bronson) also helps Cheyenne, while simultaneously attending to his own agenda. I feel like Sergio Leone movies just get better as they go along. Starting with the very good A Fistful of Dollars, and getting increasingly better from there. The only exception of the rule is that The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly came before Once Upon a Time in the West. In all fairness, it is quite difficult to beat The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The rest of his movies follow that path though. Maybe because he just got more and more experienced. Once Upon a Time in the West is one of his later films, and one of his best. It combines serious drama with classic western standoffs and good acting. While I really do love all of Sergio Leone's westerns, the acting in them is never great. Granted, I've unfortunately never seen Once Upon a Time in America. Sure, Clint Eastwood's outlaw is a classic character, but is the performance really good? He is passable, but most of the other roles can be laughably bad. What makes Once Upon a Time in the West stand out is its talented all star cast. Charles Bronson is alright in the role of Harmonica. He plays him with a nice mix of deadpan and comedy, while still maintaining the mystery of the character. Jason Robards is good too as Cheyenne. He's nothing truly special though. Henry Fonda is deliciously bad as the main criminal, Frank. I don't think I've seen Fonda play a bad guy before, but he is good at it. The real star here is Claudia Cardinale. She is talented, pretty, and able to carry this movie on her shoulders. I haven't seen her in anything else but I'd certainly like to. Despite the film being made in a time when woman weren't as respected, Cardinale plays a strong and independent woman who isn't a nagging housewife or Playboy girl. She isn't exploited here, and she isn't left in the background either. Cardinale is front and center, showing off her skill. And that is just were she deserves to be. As I mentioned above, this film is really epic. It spans a whole three hours, and makes use of every minute. The last forty minutes are riveting. There is an incredible gunfight, and a terrific bittersweet ending that shows us that no matter what, the growth of the West will prevail. Ennio Morricone's terrific score helps too. The composer always teams up with Leone for his films, and the finished product is always great. I recommend you to listen to all of his western musical scores. They're all great in their own way. Overall, this movie is about the hardiness and promise of the Old West. It rings with the message of prevailing through the darkness and triumphing evil. It's a good old fashioned adventure epic. It's not Sergio Leone's most meaningful western, (Duck, You Sucker takes the cake for that) but it's a hell of a lot more thoughtful than some of his other stuff. I do recommend the movie. It's nowhere near perfect, but it still is awe inspiring and  good. Happy Viewing everyone. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at!