Friday, January 20, 2012


Mallory Kane is a Marine Devil Dog whose idea of relaxing is a glass of wine while cleaning her guns. She’s a baddass at kicking ass and she’s lent her talents to a private government contractor for the last three years. Her company, however, is falling apart and she wants out. As she puts it, she’s not going down with the ship, but leaving a covert organization is not as easy as she may think. Things get bad fast. Now, she must find a way not only to get out, but survive.

I really liked this movie. It’s nothing groundbreaking, a very cut-and-paste plot that’s even visually generic, but it’s a solid good time. The fight scenes are well thought out and well coordinated. Soderbergh populated the movie with professional fighters rather than actors, usually a bad idea, and it worked well, lending a level of authenticity. You can’t fake those fighters eyebrows and ears. The acting was solid, the story was fun and the action was Bourne-level good. So, while it’s not going to change your life, it’s definitely worth seeing if you’re in the market for a good action flick. I certainly enjoyed it and it’s the first the first mainstream action flick I’ve seen in a while that I didn’t leave feeling like my money was robbed and my intelligence insulted.


Winter's Bone

Winter’s Bone tells the powerful tale of a daughter who has had enough. Ree is the daughter of a meth dealing lowlife who lives with her mother and two siblings in the rural Ozarks. One day a sheriff’s deputy arrives at the house looking for dear ole dad to remind him of an upcoming court date. Well, that date comes and goes and dad never shows up. Soon after a bail bondsman comes by and says they’ve had enough too and are going to take the family’s home and timber property that dad put up as collateral on his most recent bond. Ree is but a teenager, the other kids are little and mom is a space cadet. If they lose the home and the timber, well, that’s the end of the line. So, Ree sets off to find ole dad, come hell or high water and she will not stop until he’s home paying his dues.

I gotta confess, this movie just didn’t do it for me and I really don’t know why. It had many of the elements of movies I love (strong female protagonist, journey story, right prevailing over selfish evil), but for whatever reason, it just never sucked me in. It’s a good story that is well shot, but I was never all that engaged and the movie quickly left my mind. Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as Ree and John Hawkes was good too, but the rest of the actors were pretty forgettable. So, in the end, I’m not sure what to say. It’s a well-made movie with an interesting story, it just wasn’t for me.

P.s. Is it weird that Debra Granik has now made two features and both have the word bone in them?


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mary and Max

Mary and Max is an Australian clayamation drama about, you know what, I’ve lost some of you already, haven’t I? Ok, well, if you know from the first clause of that sentence that this isn’t the flick for you, I understand, and you’re probably right. For the rest of you, here goes. Mary and Max is an Australian clayamation drama about a middle-aged man with crippling mental disabilities and a young girl with a devastating and unfulfilling home life who find enrichment and friendship through a pen pal relationship. They are from different ends of the world, but they serve as the sole shining lights in their otherwise dark worlds. They yearn for and dread the letters from the other, as the letters end up being both escapes and painful reminders of their own oddities and shortcomings. There isn’t much more to it than that.

The movie is sweet, odd and interesting. It would be as painful as a root canal if it weren’t for the stop motion animation, which allows for beautiful moments of illustration and exposition that wouldn’t be possible with a live action shoot. While the movie is certainly unique, it also doesn’t have a great deal of depth and would have been much better if it were like a 45-minute bit for television or a short. So, in short, if you find matters of mental health and personal issues of family function interesting, you may dig on this movie. If you, like me, are a total sucker for stop motion animation, then there is no chance you won’t at least enjoy the craft of this movie and enjoy watching it. Even if you are both of those things, however, I think you’ll agree that the story of the film could have made more of a substantial point and been told in a more concise manner. Not a bad movie, fairly forgettable, but worth a watch.


Monday, January 9, 2012


Eddie Morra is hitting the rock bottom of his life. He is an unsuccessful New York writer who finally landed a book deal only to blow the deadline without so much as a page written. Oh, and he just got dumped by his girlfriend. As he stews in the detritus of his life, he happens upon his ex brother-in-law, Vernon. At first it seems like just another bad thing going on, as Vernon does little more than mock Eddie for where he is in life and treat him like a second-class guy. Then, Vernon tells Eddie about a drug his company is developing that allows one to access 100% of their mental capacity and encourages Eddie to try it. Feeling as though he has nothing to lose, Eddie gives it a shot, but he soon learns the great benefits may well come with great and grave consequences. So, Eddie must decide: does he brave the dangers in order to live life as this heightened version of himself or does he go low risk and accept that the ‘real’ him is good enough? Nothing in life is free, but is he willing to pay the price for what he seeks?

What can I say about Limitless? Well, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t all that good either. That sentence pretty much sums up the state of mainstream film in 2011. It’s not like it’s poorly made, but it’s hardly engaging or groundbreaking and is easily forgettable. And so, Limitless was well shot, well acted, completely devoid of surprises and wholly forgettable. Let me sum it up by saying the flick was adapted to the screen by Leslie Dixon, who is an immensely successful screenwriter, whose most famous works include Mrs. Doubtfire, Overboard, Loverboy and the Jamie Lee Curtis/Lindsay Lohan version of Freaky Friday. So, was it bad? No, but it’s about as fulfilling and satisfying as cotton candy.


Word Wars

Apparently there is a chunk of the international populace that takes Scrabble very seriously. I don’t mean they’re into it, I mean they do it and nothing else. Word Wars follows a group of men who have forsaken all (or occasionally almost all) to be considered a member of the elite in tournament Scrabble. One of the profiled, a man who is referred to as GI Joel (no, not b/c he’s ex-military but b/c he has persistent gastrointestinal problems, get it, GI) who literally doesn’t leave his apartment except to attend Scrabble group meetings or competitions. Another of the group works nights as a security guard just so he can spend all day and night studying words and Scrabble strategy. These, and the others like them, are not considered weirdos or eccentrics but are revered as the true greats, being interviewed and asked to teach classes.

It is a very odd segment of the world population and this movie gives us a peak into that strange, compulsive world. Combining just the right elements of character study and competition, Word Wars makes this flick hard to shut off. It’s as though you just can’t stop watching, can’t stop yourself from wanting to see how it ends. Truth be told, there are no stakes here. These people have made a decision to dedicate their lives to a board game, clearly denoting an egocentricity and narrow mindedness that fuels a quest to do something that does little more than make a small amount of money and a large amount of self-satisfaction. That said, I can’t help but admit it’s fun to watch them do so for just under two hours and then to gladly move on with the rest of my life, free from the snare of that foul mistress known as Scrabble.