Movie Reviews

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Battle: Los Angeles
Columbia Pictures
In Theaters: 03.11
It may not be the most innovative concept to surface from Hollywood lately, but there’s something oddly engaging about watching multiple renditions of the eradication of the human population by enraged extraterrestrials. Director Jonathan Liebesman roughs up the sci-fi genre with a shaky-cam war drama that pits America’s finest, led by Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), against a race of merciless invaders who’ve come for our natural resources and aren’t in the mood to negotiate. As the largest cities on the Pacific coastline of the United States are overtaken by the assault, the command is given to protect the city of Los Angeles at all costs. Essentially, it’s The Hurt Locker wrapped together with District 9. Forget cheesy, “Now, that’s what I’m talking about!” dialogue from Will Smith—Liebesman focuses his film on a more realistic approach to an intergalactic war on American soil. Within fifteen minutes from the get go, the audience is tossed directly into the firefight and dodging the barrage of enemy artillery that never seems to cease, as Liebesman never takes his foot off the accelerator. There are the all-too-familiar character introductions with hints of who will become cannon fodder momentarily (i.e. if you mention your upcoming wedding, you probably won’t make it to the altar), but where Liebesman partially stumbles, he makes up for it with raw war footage that sets the tone for a new generation of alien encounter projects. If you ever considered joining the armed services, this courage-filled peek at the unity formed between soldiers may push you over the edge. Ooh-Rah! –Jimmy Martin

I Saw the Devil
Magnet Releasing
In Theaters: 04.01
Korean filmmaker, Kim Jee-woon, brings audiences a gruesome psychological thriller that spares no gut-wrenching graphic detail with I Saw the Devil. After a psychopath rapes and murders the pregnant fiancée of secret-service agent Kim Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun), the psychopath becomes the unsuspecting prey of the grief-stricken man. Soo-hyun’s mission is to hunt the man down who murdered his wife-to-be and make him suffer. Soo-hyun feels that murdering the man or turning him over to the authorities wouldn’t be  harsh enough and instead decides to enact his own form of revenge by teasing and torturing the killer and ultimately making him feel like a victim. I Saw the Devil has plenty of scenes to make you squirm—a child finding a dismembered ear in a field, severed heads, an Achilles tendon being sliced in half and even cannibalism. The gratuitous violence is broken up with numerous one-liners (translated from Korean) to make the audience laugh and lighten the mood. I Saw the Devil stands with some of the best in the genre. It’s a film to watch for the “seriously fucked up” factor and one that would probably do well with audiences at Brewvies Cinema Pub. –Jeanette D. Moses

Crispy Films
In Theaters: 01.26
My opinion of this movie is very similar to my opinion of David Sedaris, the NPR humorist and bestselling author. I enjoy satire, I really do. But the manner in which Sedaris delivers his monologues makes me bored after the first two minutes. I appreciate his social commentary and witty euphemisms, but I grow tired of hearing his voice recite them. I really want to like David Sedaris—I love many of the NPR radio programs he’s been featured on like This American Life (and I respect Ira Glass as an editor) but I just don’t feel it. Sedaris’ words don’t strike a chord with me. There are so many things about him that I do like that it is hard to believe that I still can’t be a fan. I can’t read his widely popular books. I like the topics they tackle: sex, humor, well-dressed women, homosexuality. I’ve tried to read one or two but I couldn’t get through them. Kaboom, I’m sorry, but you will always make me feel like I feel about David Sedaris. I couldn’t get through you and I was bored the entire time. I found myself thinking about my Twitter account in the middle of the movie and purposely took an unneeded bathroom break. I’m sorry Kaboom. I don’t think I will be looking up your director/screenwriter Gregg Araki’s back catalogue anytime soon, but someone else will. –Gracie Law

Rogue Pictures
In Theaters: 03.18
It’s a common myth that the typical human only uses 20% of their brain’s capability, which forces one to consider the possibilities and ramifications of unlocking the remaining allotment. This is the premise in Neil Burger’s thriller that focuses on struggling novelist Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) who’s recently been dumped by his girlfriend, is suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block and is on the verge of being evicted from his New York City apartment. All would seem lost until Eddie bumps into his ex-brother-in-law and is given an off-the-market drug that opens the brain’s full functionality. Within hours, all of his life’s problems are effortlessly resolved. The ability to seduce women, play the piano and learn foreign languages could not be any easier. However, when Eddie’s supplier is murdered and the remaining pills fall into his possession, the sky is the limit, but not without the constant threat and paranoia of outsiders wanting in on the ruse. Burger’s hyperactive MTV background surfaces with his exploitation of various image-twisting camera lenses and post-production strobe light effects. The color scheme alternation from a bleak and gray undertone world into a vibrant and pulsating environment, post pill ingestion is a nice touch. The film sets off on the right foot and ends with an unexpected yet gratifying twist, but the meat of the sandwich is where the predicaments lie, story-wise. You would think a genius would be smart enough to avoid a loan from a Russian mobster or at least would remember to pay off his measly $100,000 loan after making $2 million in the stock market. I suppose the drug carries a memory loss side effect? The initial concept is enough to spark interest, but the addition of pointless side characters and a mysterious murder subplot hinder the narrative’s full effectiveness. –Jimmy Martin

The Lincoln Lawyer
In Theaters: 03.18.11
It’s been over 15 years since Matthew McConaughey stepped into a courtroom to unleash a barrage of legal lingo with 1996’s A Time to Kill, but it’s certainly the profession his signature smooth-talking charm fits like a glove. From the opening credits’ slick multiple split-screen shots of a Lincoln Continental driving though Los Angeles with Motown’s finest adding a slice of smooth to the mix, it’s clear defense attorney Mick Haller (McConaughey) isn’t your typical lawyer as he conducts business from the backseat. While run-of-the-mill prostitutes and drug dealers form the majority of his clientele, an opportunity to represent a wealthy young man from Beverly Hills who has been arrested for attempted murder arises. Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) never refrains from proclaiming his innocence, but, after taking the case, Haller quickly realizes he’s entered the world of an even greater and potentially dangerous hustler. While director Brad Furman has only reinvented the wheel when it comes to legal dramas with various twists and turns, he has succeeded in assembling a strong lead and supporting cast with memorable characters and alluring performances. It’s satisfying to observe McConaughey and Phillippe return to the screen with toe-to-toe tension-filled encounters that are both gripping and terrifying all at once. Along for the ride and also offering solid performances are Marisa Tomei as Haller’s ex-wife and William H. Macy as his wise-cracking investigator. –Jimmy Martin

Mars Needs Moms
In Theaters: 03.11
It’s fascinating to witness the progression of motion-capture filmmaking, because the end result is becoming more and more brilliant with each title’s release. Let’s just agree to put the creepy images of 2004’s The Polar Express behind us. With that said, it’s still irritating to observe filmmakers neglecting other elements like story progression and dialogue due to their infatuation with the technology. Such is the case with Simon Wells’ intergalactic adventure which starts off with exciting and beautiful action sequences and likable characters, but once the Red Planet is reached, the momentum slows down to a sufferable degree and the charming wit is lost in the stars. Milo (originally acted and voiced by Seth Green, but replaced by child actor Seth Robert Dusky) is an average kid who hates eating his vegetables and being ordered around by his nagging mom (Joan Cusack). After pronouncing how wonderful life would be without her, Milo must toss his aggravations aside and rescue his mother after she’s kidnapped by Martians and taken to their home planet. The major problems with the film arrive with the entrance of Mars’ inhabitants, which include a long-time human resident living underground, Gribble (Dan Fogler), and Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), a Martian who studied English by watching 1970s television. You can imagine how groovy her dialogue is. Speaking of the dialogue, whoever decided that a “Who let the dogs out?” punchline was still acceptable by modern standards should be blacklisted immediately. The grand finale hits a surprisingly emotional chord, but, in retrospect, doesn’t deserve the accolades with such a discouraging second act. –Jimmy Martin

In Theaters: 03.18
If you’ve never experienced the comedic duo that is Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, it’s certainly something you should rectify in your life immediately, especially if you consider yourself a resident of planet geek. While their latest pairing project, Paul, isn’t as original or witty as their previous endeavors (Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz), it still strikes an amusing chord with their core audience, maybe the only group to appreciate the humor. While visiting America to attend San Diego’s Comic Con, über-nerds Graeme and Clive (Pegg and Frost) plan a cross-country expedition to visit every major UFO hotspot on record, but their plans are disrupted after coming into contact with the extraterrestrial Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who requests the duo help him get back to his home planet. Hot on their heels are three government officials led by the straight-laced Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) and his two bumbling cronies (Bill Hader & Joe Lo Truglio). Pegg and Frost have been known to incorporate nerdy pop culture references within their dialogue, but they never forgot to keep their own humor as amusin. This is not the case in this science-fiction blend of Dumb and Dumber and Howard the Duck. The countless allusions to Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and Aliens are indeed hilarious, but the bombardment of stereotypical drug jokes ruin the final product. To make matters worse, Rogen’s identifiable stoner voice takes away from the story whenever a syllable is uttered. If you know how to ask “Where is the bathroom?” in Klingon (it’s “nuqDaq ‘oH puchpa’’e’”), you’ll find sanctuary in the film, otherwise you’re better off staying at home and watching the original classics being mocked. –Jimmy Martin

Red Riding Hood
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 03.11
It would appear Catherine Hardwicke is incapable of shaking off the mystical adolescent love story genre since her attachment to the Twilight saga. Her last two endeavors have revolved around a supernatural female who’s adored by two males (both of whom are incompetent in the acting department) and one may be a werewolf. The most appealing aspect to the medieval-era project is Don Macaulay’s gorgeous art direction captured by Mandy Walker’s remarkable cinematography, but that’s where the encouraging elements end and the troubles arise. In this retooling of the classic tale, Amanda Seyfried dons the rosy robe as Valerie, the daughter of a lumberjack who’s been arranged to marry a wealthy blacksmith, but her affection for one of her father’s co-workers has obstructed the agreement. Even with all the ongoing personal drama, the village is constantly under threat of a vicious werewolf, but, after the unprovoked killing of Valerie’s sister, the township decides to end the legendary feud once and for all. With a red moon present allowing the beast to pass along the curse to anyone bitten, Valerie must keep a close eye on those she once trusted. With a telepathic werewolf and the use of direct quotes from the fairy tale (“Grandmother, what big teeth you have.”), the chilling atmosphere Hardwicke tried so hard to create quickly plummets into an undesirable and preposterous category neither audience nor director wants. With the talents of Hardwicke, Seyfried, an obviously gifted production crew and a supporting role provided by Gary Oldman, it’s sad to see so many talents wasted on such a mediocre project. –Jimmy Martin

Source Code
Summit Entertainment
In Theaters: 04.01
Duncan Jones, the independent science-fiction filmmaker who brought you the eerily brilliant seclusion film Moon, has returned with another fascinating idea that takes the repetitious concept of Groundhog Day, yet straps a time-sensitive terrorist plot angle to it to add another level of excitement. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Captain Colter Stevens, an American helicopter pilot in Afghanistan who suddenly finds himself aboard a train minutes before it’s bombed in a terrorist attack. Rather than opening his eyes to the pearly gates, Stevens finds himself restrained in a dank and frigid metal compartment. His only connection to the outside world is via a small video screen with the voice and image of officer Carol Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) providing instructions on his current mission. Using the state-of-the-art system, Source Code, Stevens is capable of entering a parallel universe and embodying a passenger traveling on the ill-fated train and has exactly eight minutes to discover clues to solve the mystery behind the attack before being obliterated again. While enduring a fiery death over and over, Stevens inches his way through the maze while also trying to solve the secret behind his unusual predicament. Jones has perfected the sense of isolation and forces his actors to generate a variety of emotions and realizations with no one else around to help, and Gyllenhaal takes hold of the daunting task and achieves greatness by offering a dramatic role that’s not afraid to poke fun at the precarious situation. The end result may baffle and irritate some moviegoers, but the cleverness and romantic elements (Michelle Monaghan is available as a doomed passenger/love interest) should be enough for all to enjoy. –Jimmy Martin