The FilmZ The FilmZ

  • Up In The Air

    Posted by Matt Z

    I just saw Up In The Air (released on DVD March 9th) and it's a movie that seems to be ripped from the headlines of any paper across the country. We all know the economy over the last year or so has been terrible and thousands upon thousands of people have lost their jobs. That's where Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) comes in. Simply put, Bingham fires people for a living. I wouldn't say he enjoys the firing process but he's an expert in people management during the toughest time in many of their lives.

    Bingham travels around the country almost everyday of the year. During the 20 or so days a year that he isn't in the air, he stays at his one bedroom apartment. It's empty, nothing in the closets and not even a toothbrush in the cup by the sink. Empty, just the way he likes it. He's never been married and has no children which is just the way he wants it. Nothing holding him down, nothing holding him back. He loves life on the road, that's home.

    He's also a motivational speaker and he asks the question, what's in your life backpack? If it's full, it will slow you down and life is all about moving. To live is to move. His philosophy is to keep the backpack empty and live a long happy life. It works for him.

    His life seems perfect, I mean he is almost to 10 million frequent flyer miles (he would be the 7th person to do so), all is right in his world. Enter Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick).

    Keener is a young hot shot who is rising up the ranks in Bingham's company. She's developed a plan to cut costs, firing via web chat. Bingham wants to show her that her way isn't the right and so he takes her on the road to get her some experience in the real firing world.

    While on the road he meets a woman, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) and they hit it off. They get together in whatever city they have connection flights. They are perfect for each other.  There is a scene where they are comparing frequent flyer miles and comparing membership cards, it's brilliant.  It's the woman of his dreams, but is he willing to change his ways? Does he want now all of the things he's never wanted before?

    I am a big Clooney fan and he was great in this movie. Kendrick and Farmiga delivered great performances. All three were up for Oscars and the nominations were deserved. The on screen chemistry between all three seemed effortless which is always the point.

    Director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan) nailed it. You know you are good when you can film a scene with a character packing a suitcase and capture it in a way that makes it entertaining. Seriously, I found myself not wanting those scenes to end so quickly. This could have easily been an overwhelmingly depressing movie about massive job loss across the country but it was so much more than that.

    It's the goodness.

     

     

  • Baseball Favorites

    Posted by Matt Z

    Spring training is in full swing and Opening Day is right around the corner!  This got me thinking about my favorite baseball movies, check out the list (in no particular order) and if you have one to add, post it in the comments section.

    The List:

    The Natural
    Eight Men Out
    Major League
    The Babe
    Field of Dreams
    Bull Durham
    Bang the Drum Slowly
    Hardball
    The Sandlot
    Bad News Bears
    Mickey
    A League of Their Own
    The Rookie
    The Scout
    Mr. 3000
    -Only because I am in the movie.....okay, so I was an extra in the stands and you can't actually see me but let me live my dream!!!!
    Rookie of the Year
    -Remember the scene in the doctors office?  The one where the doc gets his nose smashed and says "funky butt lovin!"  I know the doctor!  Pretty sweet except that he wouldn't say the line.  I'm sure he gets that a lot.

    What are your favorites?  What are your favorite moments/quotes?  I've got a ton, too many to share!

  • So Close

    Posted by Matt Z

    Finally the Oscars are over!!!!!!  It's after 11pm and my body is telling me I should have taped the show and fast forwarded to the good stuff.

    If you look at who I gave Oscars to, you will notice that I only got one wrong.  If you watch both The Blindside and Precious you will be just as shocked as Sandra Bullock that she won.  I don't get it at all. 

    I am very happy that the academy proved that amazing special effects and 3D animation do not mean you can forget about writing a great story.  No doubt that The Hurt Locker deserved all the Oscar's they won. 

    Good night now.

  • My Perfect Oscar Night

    Posted by Matt Z

    If I was handing out the gold statues tonight, this is who would recieve them:

    Best Animated Feature: Up (although Ponyo would get it if nominated)

    Best Documentary: The Cove

    Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique

    Best Lead Actress: Gabourey Sidibe

    Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz

    Best Lead Actor: Jeff Bridges

    Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow

    Best Film: The Hurt Locker

    Okay, there you go.  Probably won't work out the way I want it to but you never know.

    So I am watching the Oscar's red carpet show right now and Kathy Ireland is the worst host ever!  She is so stiff and doesn't even listen to the guests that are forced to stop by and talk with her.  Also, I don't think she's moved her right arm in the past 15 minutes, it looks like she is trying to not fall down while posing and talking at the same time.  Yikes.

  • The Messenger

    Posted by Matt Z

    The Messenger, written and directed by Oren Moverman who is a veteran of the Israeli army, is a movie that tells the story of two soldiers assigned to the Army's Casualty Notification service.

    Staff Seargant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) has just come home, injured, from Iraq.  He's often referred to as a hero for what he did in Iraq (what he did isn't clear until the end of the movie).  When he get's assigned to his new position, he isn't exactly excited about his new role with the military. 

    You can understand why, I mean can you possibly imagine having to go to a family and bring them the news that their son/daughter, brother/sister, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife has been killed in action?  Even if you get through the first time, imagine having to do it over and over and over again.  Could you remain calm when a father blames you for the loss of his son?  When he say's it should have been you and not his kid?  When he spits in your face?  Could you keep your composure when a mother and father break down to the point of becoming physically ill after you tell them their child won't be coming home again?  It takes a certain person with certain traits to do the job and do it well.  Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), who shows Will the ropes because he's been doing it for years, says there's no scenario you can walk away from and tell yourself "job well done."  It just doesn't work that way.  Do everything by the book no matter what, don't make physical contact with the next of kin.  Will clearly takes it more to heart than Tony, at least on the surface.  His instinct is to make a personal connection, even if it can lead to trouble and difficult moral choices.

    Both men have their own issues to deal with, their own demons, their own life complications.  When Will left for Iraq he had a girl back home.  Kelly (Jena Malone) has moved on to a new man but clearly still has a connection to Will.  That becomes clear in a very revealing way early in the movie.  Will also doesn't really have a family to call his own so part of his struggle is trying to find that connection with someone.  He's not over Kelly and that leads to some very uncomfortable moments in the movie (some of the best also).  He becomes very connected to Tony but is he really the man Will thinks he is?  There's also a strong connection to Olivia (Samantha Morton), a new widow who Will meets on the job. 

    The movie is powerful, emotional, gut wrenching and very touching.  It's a movie you go into knowing that crying is a very distinct possibility.  You don't expect to have many laughs but that's where it surprises you.  There are humorous moments and that's what's very neat about the movie.  It offers you more emotionally than what you are expecting.

    Foster is fantastic and so is Harrelson.  Harrelson is nominated for Actor in a Supporting role at this years Oscar's and you can see why.  I don't know if he's going to win it but it would be hard to argue against him if he did.

    The movie was released back in November and came to Green Bay yesterday (March 5th).  Go and see it while it's here, it's very good.

     

     

  • Ponyo

    Posted by Matt Z

    Ponyo is an animated movie from arguably, if you read what the experts think, the best animator going today, Hayao Miyazaki.  If you are familiar with his work (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away are just a couple and I LOVE BOTH) then you can understand why so many believe there is no one better.  In a world of CGI, his drawn by hand animation is that much more impressive.

    The movie is about Sosuke (voiced by Frankie Jonas), a 5 year old boy who lives by the ocean in a house on a hill with his mother, Lisa (voiced by Tina Fey).  One day a goldfish trapped in a jar washes ashore and Sosuke sets her free.  Once he gets her in a pale he decides to call her Ponyo.  But Ponyo (voiced by Yuria Nara) is not a normal goldfish.  She is magical and after her father, Fujimoto (voiced by Liam Neeson), comes out from his under water home (he is a sorcerer who keeps things balanced in the ocean), Ponyo is taken back to the ocean.  She wants nothing more than to become human and reunite with Sosuke but if she transforms there are great consequences that will not only alter the balance of the ocean but also the rest of the world. 

    The movie is beautiful in it's animation and it's story.  If you think you have a great imagination, Miyazaki will make you rethink your beliefs.  He creates two different worlds, one above ground and the other below, and he does it seemlessly. 

    Ponyo is a great movie for kids and adults will find it equally enjoyable.

    I watched the DVD in English and also in Japanese (English subtitles), and if you don't mind subtitles I would recommend going with the Japanese version.

    I almost forgot, Ponyo is not nominated for Best Animated Feature at this years Oscars.  That's possibly the biggest snub of the year.  It's ridiculous.

  • Shutter Island

    Posted by Matt Z

    To lobotomize or not lobotomize, that is the question.

    I saw Shutter Island earlier tonight and I really enjoyed it from start to finish.  The movie is set in 1954 on an island outside Boston.  The island is home to a mental hospital/prison.  Federal Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are sent to investigate the disappearance of an inmate/patient.  Sounds like a pretty simple and straightforward storyline but it's anything but that.  From the onset you get the feeling that things aren't going to be quite what they seem but you are never really sure about what's a bit off and what's not.

    As Daniels and Aule begin to ask questions about the escape, we begin to understand a bit more about the island.  It is home to only very violent, criminally insane offenders.  There are parts of the facility where no one is allowed alone and what happens in certain parts of the complex is unclear and a bit mysterious.  During an inmate interview session while Daniels and Aule are trying to get information on the missing prisoner, a female inmate tries to warn Daniels to get off the island.  But he's convinced that there is a bigger situation happening on the island and he has to get the evidence to prove it. 

    The facility is run by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and he has this presence about him where on the one hand you believe everything he is saying but on the other your BS alarm is screaming at you.  I really enjoy Kingsley in this movie and in any movie really.  He's one of those actors that no matter what he's in you know at the very least he is going to be rock solid.

    The movie utilizes a good deal of flashbacks that help build the characters back stories and also provide a bit of foreshadowing.  Through flashbacks we see that Daniels fought in World War II and that he is still holding onto the memory of his wife.  Daniels is flawed, he has plenty of baggage that he's brought with him to Shutter Island.  The flashbacks are great and they are very beautiful in their styling.

    The whole feel of the movie, from the opening music to the cinematography, is dark and gloomy.  The mind games the movie plays on you are never cheap and the twists in the plot pay off big time.  I sat there being sure I had figured out key points in the plot and then quickly having to refigure what I thought I knew.  As soon as you think it all makes sense another turn comes along and suddenly you are going the wrong way and it doesn't stop.  There are parts that you might think don't fit together when it's all said and done but maybe that's the point.  There are so many questions throughout the entire film that maybe we aren't supposed to have all the answers because in some ways the characters never do either.

    I do have to say this because I am not a big Leo fan, he was really good.  I loved him in What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Basketball Diaries but I've never really cared much for him other than that, especially his inability to stick with an accent for an entire movie.  But in this film, he was great.

    What are you waiting for?  Go see it!

  • 2012

    Posted by Matt Z

    2012 (on DVD March 2nd) is a movie about the end of the world.  The Mayan people have predicted that on December 21st, 2012, the world will undergo massive destruction and we will all be victim to it.  Do you believe that?  The makers of this movie at least want you to entertain it as a possiblity.

    The premise of the movie is that the earth's core will heat to the point that the outer crust will begin to seperate and crack and so on and so forth.  The science behind it is way above my head and I don't imagine there are many of you that would want to see me try and explain it, I couldn't anyway.  Basically we are all s#$% out of luck.

    Our leading man is Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), who is a struggling author and we learn early on that he is no longer with his wife Kate (Amanda Peet).  She and her kids now live with Gordon (Thomas McCarthy), a successful plastic surgeon.  Curtis's son prefers Gordon and it causes tension on more than one occassion.  Curtis goes camping with his kids in Yellowstone and they stumble upon a secured area of the park.  They are quickly descended upon by the U.S. military.  They aren't supposed to be there (so what's the cover up?) and that's explained to them by Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a government scientist who is working on predicting exactly when the world will end so that the governments of the world can make a safe getaway. 

    Curtis also stumbles upon Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), a very crazy (but we find out not all that crazy) end of the world believer who also just happens to have his own radio show on which he spreads the news of eventual destruction.  He runs his show straight out of the back of his mobile home.  He also has uncovered exactly how the governments of the world are going to survive this disaster.  There are others in the movie who figure out the governments plot to save only a select few and leave everyone else behind to die and when the U.S. government learns of these people you can guess what happens to them.  It's funny that Charlie knows, broadcasts it to anyone who will listen (he also repeatedly tells his listeners his exact location) and yet the government doesn't seem to care that he knows their plans.  I will say this, I am glad that they leave Charlie alone because he is really the only entertaining character in the movie.

    Now the destruction begins, the world's governmental leaders start the evacuation process and the ridiculousness goes into full swing.  I completely understand that this movie is not supposed to be believable and that it's mainly about the special effects but it wouldn't have hurt to make things just a bit less outrageous.

    My favorite parts were anytime Curtis got into a vehicle it turned magical.  It started with a limousine that made it out of a rapidly collapsing city basically unscathed.  Then it was a private airplane, a mobile home, and a jumbo jet.  He had the magic touch.  I get that he had to survive but it was crazy nonetheless.  I actually said out loud "every vehicle he gets in is suddenly magical." 

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  My favorite line from the movie came from Gordon while in a supermarket shopping with Katie.  Gordon brings up their relationship and he feels things just aren't going right and says to Katie, "I just feel like there's something pulling us apart...." and at that moment they are seperated by a huge crater from the earthquake that just split the store in two.  Genious writing, pure genious.

    The movie is very predictable and for being all about the special effects, I was left unimpressed.  If you are in the mood for a movie with tons of destruction and you don't really want to think much about the plot, then you will enjoy this movie.  If you are looking for something more than maybe find a different one.

      

     

  • Gentlemen Broncos

    Posted by Matt Z

    When I first saw the trailer for Gentlemen Broncos (comes out on DVD March 2nd) and saw that it was written and directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre), I got very excited.  I am a big fan of Napoleon and Nacho.  Well, I just got done watching the movie and my excitement level is non-existent.

    The movie is about Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano) a teenager who loves to read and write science fiction novels.  He creates a book called Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years (I laughed at the title) and submits it to be considered for a prize at a writers camp.  The book is read by Dr. Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement, one half of Flight of the Conchords), a sci-fi novelist whom Purvis idolizes as do many other sci-fi fans.  To make a long story short, Chevalier steals the story from Benjamin and gives it to his publisher.  The book becomes Chevalier's next big hit and Benjamin is left with nothing.  

    Throughout the movie we get to see glimpses of the Yeast Lords novel in fantasy sequences, sort of like a movie inside the movie.  The character of Bronco, in these fantasies, is played by Sam Rockwell.  I love Sam Rockwell and if you haven't seen Choke or Moon, stop stalling and watch them.  Anyway, Rockwell's performance as Bronco is the only part of the movie I truly enjoyed.  If it wasn't for his scenes (there weren't enough) I would not have liked the movie at all.  Sure, I laughed at a couple of lines here and there but not enough.

    A couple of the other ridiculous characters are Benjamin's mom Judith (Jennifer Coolidge, aka Stiflers mom) and Benjamin's guardian angel Dusty (Mike White, School of Rock).  I like Coolidge and White but not in this movie.  It wasn't really their fault it's just that the characters they played weren't funny at all and they were so overly forced into being "odd" that they were just stupid.

    Not one I would recommend.  

  • Crazy Heart

    Posted by Matt Z

    "I'm Bad Blake.  My tombstone will have my real name on it, until then I'm just going to stay Bad."  Words to live by, right?

    Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake, a late 50's country music singer who was once a star but now is struggling to just make it from city to city.  He's broke, an alcoholic and nothing close to his former self.  We get a full understanding of his current situation only a few minutes into the movie.  Bad pulls into his latest gig, an empty bowling alley, gets out of his nearly broken down suburban and emptys his version of a port-a-potty.  We realize, it's come to this.

    Bad Blake is a stereotypical fallen country star turned alcoholic who thinks he still has the goods.  But he's not written stereotypically and Bridges plays the character brilliantly.  It's fresh and great to watch him at work.  There are some actors that I love watching no matter what they are in, Bridges is one of them.  How can you not like a guy who can go from Wild Bill to The Dude and not miss a beat?  It's hard to admit this but I stumbled on the movie Stick It, on either TNT or TBS several years ago, and I ended up watching the entire movie because he was in it.  Should I seek help?  No thanks.

    The supporting cast is very good.  Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jean Craddock, a single mom and an up and coming entertainment reporter.  One of the better scenes in the movie is a hotel room interview between Bad and Craddock.  Robert Duvall is rock solid as Wayne, a bar owner and longtime friend of Bad.  If you have seen the movie Tender Mercies, you will understand why Duvall is also a producer for Crazy Heart.  Colin Farrell plays Tommy Sweet, Bad's protege turned monster star.  You wouldn't think Farrell could pull off playing a country singer but he does. 

    Speaking of singing, what makes this movie so good is the fact that Bridges can actually play guitar and sing, and he's very good.

    The only fault I have with the movie is the ending.  To me it wrapped up too neatly, too holly-woody.

    Bridges is nominated for Best Actor at this years Oscars (March 7th), and his performance is deserving of a statue.  I hope he gets it. 

     

     

  • Precious

    Posted by Matt Z

    I recently saw the film Precious and it was emotional, powerful and very well done.

     

    Gabourey Sidibe plays Precious and for an actress making her debut performance to be playing this role is impressive.  It's even more impressive that she did it so well.  Precious is a young woman with no real chance at life and it's not her fault, it's her situation.  She's got a kid and is pregnant with number two, neither were her choice.  Her mother, played by Mo'Nique, does everything in her power to make sure that her daughter knows just how worthless she thinks she is.  When she's not verbally abusing Precious, she's physically abusing her and it's usually with any object she can find.  At times it was hard to watch the two interact and not want to leap at the screen and come to the defense of Precious. 

    The movie is full of great performances from Lenny Kravitz to Mariah Carey.  I can't stand Mariah normally but she was excellent.  Paula Patton plays Ms. Rain, she's a teacher at the alternative school Precious attends, and her character offers hope when there is none.

    The films is nominated for several Oscars including Best Picture, Best Lead Actress (Sidibe) and Best Supporting Actress (Mo'Nique).  It won't win Best Picture but it would be hard to argue against it if it does.  Mo'Nique will win the Oscar for  a character that is horrible and frightening on so many levels but brilliantly performed.  If you do see the movie, keep in mind that Mo'Nique is best known as a stand-up comedian.

    See it before the Oscars on March 7th.  It's good, really, really good. 

  • Hurt Locker....Watch It!

    Posted by Matt Z

    As the Oscars rapidly approach, the sexy pick for Best Picture seems to be "Avatar", the latest film from James Cameron.  "Avatar" has made over a billion dollars worldwide but a movie that has made much, much less is looking to pull off the upset.

    The movie, "The Hurt Locker", has made just over 12 million domestically and has recieved far less attention than Avatar but the critics love it and so do I.  I watched it the other night and was afraid to blink because I didn't want to miss anything.  The movie is dramatic, very intense and from everything I've read it's very realistic (I have no firsthand knowledge).  The acting is great, the story is compelling and it's well written and directed (Kathryn Bigelow).  If you haven't seen it, check out the trailer:

    "The Hurt Locker" won Best Picture at the Producers Guild Awards (the other PGA) and the winner of that award has gone on to win the Oscar the past two years.  The movie has also won the Critics Choice Award for Best Picture.

    The Oscar nominations come out on February 2nd and "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" should be the top two contenders.  Making the competition a bit more interesting between the two films, Kathryn Bigelow was once married to James Cameron.  Cat fight!

    The last thing I have to say about "The Hurt Locker", WATCH IT!