A Collection of Short Reviews

Posted on August 6, 2013


I realized, in looking over my list of movies, that there were several that deserved short reviews. I have collected those here.

Safe Men(1998)

I caught this one On Demand, courtesy of our cable provider.

 I am a big fan of both Steve Zahn and Sam Rockwell. In this movie, they play two unsuccessful musicians who are mistaken for major league safe crackers by gangster Big Fat Bernie Gayle (Michael Lerner). The supporting cast includes Paul Giamatti, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Pais, and Harvey Fierstein.

 Think it’s a crime action-comedy, like some budget version of Ocean’s Eleven? It’s not. This is an independent film about paternal relationships, and how much of our identities come from ourselves, and how much from families.

 Well worth watching.


Heartless (2009)

Between Across the Universe (see it!) and Wanted (hey, we liked it), I became a fan of Jim Sturgess.

 That said, nothing about this movie worked for me.

 Sturgess plays Jamie Morgan, a guy with a big birthmark on his face. The birthmark makes him afraid of all social contact. Then he meets a girl. Then he meets Satan. Then he realizes that demons live in his neighborhood.

 Except that really, he’s just delusional and freaking out.

 The movie didn’t build the reality of the supernatural elements enough for me to be shocked when they turned out to all be in his head. Morgan is not an intriguing anti-hero, despite Sturgess’ performance.

 Skip this one.


Good Neighbors (2010)

Unlike my wife, I don’t think anything ever actually “stars” Scott Speedman (Felicity, Underworld).

 On the other hand, I’m a big fan of Jay Baruchel.

 This movie is set in Montreal in 1995, where a serial killer is stalking a neighborhood. Victor (Baruchel) moves into an apartment building with wheelchair-bound Spencer (Speedman) and Valerie (Anne-Marie Cadieux).

 What’s supposed to happen is a love triangle, and a suspenseful cat and mouse game. Unfortunately, the movie can’t pull off any of it. Can’t say whether it was the acting, writing, or directing.

Just skip it.


Anonymous (2011)

My wife and I enjoy Shakespeare. We are amateur scholars, at best, so we are not in any position to take a position on who actually wrote William Shakespeare’s plays.

This movie presents the idea that Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) was a front, a beard for the Early of Oxley (Rhys Ifans). The movie jumps back and forth through time without warning or indication. The accents are thick, the sound is muddy, and the sets are dark, and the characters are indistinct.

Yes, yes, it was fantastic to have Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave (daughter and mother) both play Queen Elizabeth at different ages. Yes, David Thewlis is awesome.

No, not even Derek Jacobi’s framing device can save this movie.


I am Number Four (2011)

I have been a fan of director D.J. Caruso for a long time. I’ve seen quite a bit of his television work, and I really enjoyed The Salton Sea (didn’t much like Eagle Eye, though).

So I was inclined to like this movie even before I spotted Timothy Olyphant (Hitman, Justified) and Kevin Durand (Dark Angel, Real Steel, etc).

I thought this was a well-made action movie, but it suffered from origin story syndrome.

When we go see a sci-fi movie (like this one), a comic book movie, or a fantasy film, we don’t need a lot of exposition. We’ve already bought into the basic premise of the film, because of the marketing, by the time we buy a ticket. So don’t tell us why things are happening. Just make them internally consistent and tell us a good story.

I am Number Four is clearly trying hard to launch a franchise, and that’s too much to ask of a movie. Tell us a good story well. If you can manage that, we’ll come back for a sequel.

Not great, but worth a look.


Lucky (2011)

Colin Hanks (Tom Hanks’ son), Ann-Margret, Jeffrey Tambor, and Mimi Rogers in a movie about a serial killer who wins the lottery? Sounds like a must-watch for us.

 I don’t really remember Colin Hanks in Roswell, but my wife watched it more than I did. On the other hand, I thought he was fantastic in Orange County, and I’ve watched out for his work ever since.

 This movie kept surprising me. Was Ben Keller (Hanks) a killer, or a victim? Had he, in fact, ever killed anyone, or was it just a fantasy that helped him deal with the frustrations and humiliations of daily life?

 Lucky is, at best, an independent black comedy. If you like that sort of thing, you will probably enjoy it as much as I did (which is to say, a lot).


End of the World (2013)

This was a SyFy “original” TV movie that my wife and I really enjoyed.

Greg Grunberg (Alias, Heroes), Neil Grayston (Eureka), and Brad Dourif (Dune, The Lord of the Rings) are big reasons why.

Greg and Neil play a couple of guys who own a video store that specializes in movies about the end of the world. When the world starts to end, they turn out to be the people best equipped to save it.

Sometimes you watch a movie or a TV show, and you can tell how much the actors enjoyed the experience. You can totally tell here that these guys loved playing movie geeks and working together.

I thought it was better than Sharknado, but your mileage may vary.


Catching Up

Thank you for allowing me to clean out my backlog of movies. The trouble is that I watch a lot of movies, and don’t always have time to immediately write a review. Over time, the movies build up and my memory fades. I can’t write the more detailed analyses of acting, direction, and most commonly writing that I prefer.

This lets me catch up with my list.

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