American History X (1998)

american-history-x-1998Directed By: Tony Kaye

Written By: David McKenna

Starring: Edward Furlong and Edward Norton

Nominated for 1 Academy Award (Best Actor)

I apologize for my lack of posting. Finals are coming to an end, so things should be back to normal.

And you thought that racism was a thing of the past…

After losing their father to murder by an African American man, Derek Vinyard (Norton) decides to get involved in a neo-nazi skinheads in Venice, California. The skinheads essentially hate everyone that it is not white. After Derek is given 3 years in prison for a triple homicide of three black men, his brother, Danny (Furlong), attempts to continue his legacy and joins the skinheads himself. After thinking that his brother will come back proud of him, there is an obvious change of heart that his brother experienced in prison. He is suddenly not so supportive of the skinheads and their message. Danny’s principal, Bob Sweeney (Brooks) gets involved and the story turns into a thrilling mess.

The story written by producer David McKenna is flawless. With how fantastic the script is, it shocks me that McKenna has written no other major titles. This film was by far the biggest snub at the Oscars in 1998. The headline was Saving Private Ryan not winning, but when nominations were announced the headline was American X not getting nominated. This was disappointing, but not particularly surprising. A more recent Oscar-snub comparison for American History X is Drive. Just like American History X, Drive only received one nomination, which was just the Academy’s way of saying, “great movie, but we’re too conservative to encourage you.” Being a huge fan of the Academy, I hate having to say things like that, but when movies like American History X and Drive are not nominated, they leave me no choice. McKenna’s snub was perhaps the biggest one of all. The idea and execution were fantastic and he did not only deserve to be nominated, but to take home the golden trophy as well.

Edward Norton in American History X

Edward Norton in American History X

Edward Norton is very hit or miss with me. I can’t deny that I am mainly a fan of educated actors (i.e. Matt Damon, Will Smith) and not a fan of uneducated ones (i.e. most Hollywood actors). Knowing that Norton studied history at Yale automatically increased my interest in him. What I’ve found is that there are times that there is no denying his brilliance (i.e. Fight Club, The Illusionist), but at other times he is simply obnoxious (i.e. The Italian Job, The Incredible Hulk). With that being said, American History X is by far the best work of his. He drives the movie through every scene and the film would truly be different with out him. Aside from Norton, everyone, especially Furlong, is at their best. To make a film that will stick with you for hours after viewing, filmmakers need the best out of every actor involved, and that is what they got with American History X.

Maybe it makes the film even better that the director, Tony Kaye, has not worked on any major projects since American History X. He brings a style of direction that viewers are not used to seeing, and it only adds to the brilliance of the film.

Whether it be the capturing story, the world-class performances, or the fantastically original directing, American History X succeeds in tapping into viewers emotions, and spitting them out feeling different than they were when they entered.

IMDb: 8.6/10 (#33 on the top 250)

Rotten Tomatoes: 82/100

Metacritic: 62/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 90/100

In Theaters this Week (May 10-16)

Expectation: 75/100

Expectation: 75/100

Wide Release: No amount of bad reviews can change how I feel about Gatsby. It’s one of the greatest American stories, and I can only hope that it will translate well to the big screen. If the reviews are correct, this will be the 2nd unsuccessful adaptation of this wonderful novel. The main complaint that I find in reviews of The Great Gatsby is that it tries too hard to be modern, and ‘Gatsby’ is simply not a story that needs to be modernized. This is one of the best casts we’ve seen this year, which gives any film fan hope. I’m not letting the poor reviews get me down, and I’m hoping for the best with The Great Gatsby. RT: 48%

peeples-poster

Expectation: 15/100

Wide Release: I’ve grown to accept that movies like this are made. Real film fans ignore them, and casual movie goers fall for the same scheme over and over again. It’s not entertaining. It’s not funny. It’s simply not good. Peeples will be the same as movies of the similar kind (i.e. Tyler Perry movies, The Big Wedding, Couple’s Retreat). Reviews for Peeples just further confirm what we already knew. Stay far, far away. RT: 38%

aftershock

Expectation: 40/100

The only good thing to have Eli Roth’s name attached to it is Inglourious Basterds. I expect that streak to continue with Aftershock. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) that I saw a movie set in Chile, so they get some originality points for that. The setting also indicates that the filmmakers did not target the USA audience, but instead have tried to make it an international hit. Risky move, but it might prove to be very clever. The movie that I could not stop thinking about when I watched the trailer was The Darkest Hour (4/10). That movie was underwhelming and Aftershock looks far too similar for it to be any different. Aftershock will receive a limited release on May 1oth.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron-Man-3-Movie-HD-Wallpaper_Vvallpaper.Net

Directed By: Shane Black

Written By: Drew Pearce and Shane Black

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Don Cheadle

He’s back.. and with a heart (pun intended).

The third installment in the Iron Man series does not provide much variation from the other two. Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) is all over the place in this one. At one point he is the same, cocky, arrogant, lovable guy that we’ve seen in the previous films (especially the first), but in the very next scene he is breaking into full on anxiety attacks. Stark and Pepper Potts (Paltrow) are now in a committed relationship, which takes away from any random Tony Stark one-night-stands (unless there’s a flashback..). Who’s the villan? Well, there’s a new terrorist in town that fans of the comic book will know that goes by The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), and viewers will be shocked when they get to meet him. There’s also an unappreciated villainous mastermind in Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) that comes in to shake things up. Iron Man 3 has one of the better superhero plots, but its lack of execution is where the problem lies.

Would you really trust a relatively unknown director with your $200 million? Marvel did, and it did not pay off. There are moments in Iron Man 3 that had great written potential (i.e. plane rescue scene), but the execution was flawed. The only fault that can attribute to this is the director. My only advice to Marvel can be to get some more experienced people working on their projects. Or is it possible that no acclaimed director wants to take up a film with so much hype surrounding it? Is that why The Dark Knight trilogy was so successful? This is the only reason this reviewer can provide for Marvel’s decision.

With that being said, the writing was far from perfect. Can someone please explain to me why for two movies in a row, the Iron Man movies have not featured very much Iron Man? Until viewers meet The Mandarin, he is a fascinating character, but his comical entrance is ultimately disappointing. Writers Drew Pearce and Shane Black rely too heavily on cheesy one-liners. At the end (or during) every “exciting” scene there is an unnecessary one-liner given by Tony Stark or sometimes Pepper Potts.

Stark and Potts (Downey Jr. and Paltrow) at the Paris premiere of Iron Man 3.

Stark and Potts (Downey Jr. and Paltrow) at the Paris premiere of Iron Man 3.

Stark is not the same cocky piece of shit that we’re used to, and I miss that. I have no problem with character advancement, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t miss the old Stark. The Stark from this scene is what I crave, and while you get glimpses of him, I wonder if he will ever return. Robert Downey Jr. delivers another steller performance as always, but he fits the repetitive feel of the movie. He does not add anything new to Stark, and simply delivers his lines in the way he always had. The performances in this action flick are all up to par, but one new man must be noted. Guy Pearce adds so much to Iron Man 3. Perhaps I like him because he is the only taste of variation found in Iron Man 3. Whatever the reason, his performance in Iron Man 3 is the highlight of the film, and it is good to see Guy Pearce back in a leading role.

I might just be overly harsh on Iron Man 3. It was light years better than the second film, so maybe I’m just sick of it. Not just Tony Stark. Maybe I’m sick of Marvel. The Avengers (great film) might have just been the end for me. Whether it is Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America infront of the camera, every scene begins to feel the same. Is it overkill? At the end of the day, every movie will entertain viewers and everyone will keep seeing them. And if we all keep seeing them… they’ll just keep throwing them out there. Whether or not that is a bad thing depends on the viewer.

Overall, I’m not dying to see Stark or his suit(s) anytime soon. Iron Man 3 does not hurt the marvel series in any way, but it does not add anything new to it either.

IMDb: 7.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 77/100

Metacritic: 62/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 71/100 (Expectation: 75/100)

Series Roundup: With every new addition, I like to rank every film in the series from Best to Worst:

1. Iron Man

2. Iron Man 3

3. Iron Man 2

In Theaters this Week (May 3- 9)

Iron-Man-3-Movie-HD-Wallpaper_Vvallpaper.Net

Expectation: 75/100

And let the summer begin… Iron Man 3 comes out this week.

With Robert Downey Jr. confirming that $50 million of the films budget went to him.. viewers begin to wonder: Is it worth it? Yeah, Iron Man was pretty sick and falls in my top 5 superhero movies. With that being said, we have to face the fact that Iron Man 2 was incredibly mediocre. Bring in a new director for Iron Man 3.. and viewers are immediately sucked back in. I like Marvel’s efforts, and Iron Man 3 will not be the first movie of theirs that I don’t see. No matter how good (or bad) viewers think it will be, I guarantee just about all of us will go see it. Marvel’s movies are not always good (The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2), but most of them are.. don’t expect Iron Man 3 to be the best of Marvel, but it will entertain us for all 130 minutes. Oh, and don’t expect anything new.. it will be the same thing that we’ve seen, and honestly, I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing.

iceman_ver2

Expectation: 70/100

Nobody was going to challenge Iron Man 3 with a wide release this weekend.The Iceman is receiving a limited release (4 theaters) on May 3rd. It stars five quality actors: Ray Liotta, Chris Evans (Captain America), Winona Ryder, Michael Shannon, and James Franco. Oh, and David Scwimmer makes an appearance. The storyline looks exciting and it comes from an amazing true story. It is made by a young, relatively unknown director, which is surprising for the amount of big names in the cast. The Iceman shows more promise than most releases so far this year, but mixed reviews plus an unknown director is definitely something worth raising the red flag about. The strong cast will carry it threw what otherwise would have been a very questionable $10 million budget. Living in Los Angeles, I do have access to the limited release if I decide that The Iceman is worth getting off my ass for.

There are two other notable limited releases this week: Scatter my Ashes at Bergdorf’s, and Love is all you Need. Click on each movie to see their trailers.

Mud (2013)

Mud Banner Poster

Directed and Written By: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon

Well that was a hell of a lot more than just a coming of age story…

Taking place just off the Mississippi river in Arkansas, Mud is a story told through the eyes of two 14-year-old boys (Sheridan and Lofland). One day when they are exploring an island that is conveniently only inhabited by one man that is oddly known by everybody as Mud (McConaughey). Even the man that raised him (Shepard) only knows him as Mud.. strange. Well then again one of the main characters is named Neckbone, so I guess that’s just what they do in Arkansas. Mud is a wanted murderer that is being hunted by both the police and a group of bounty hunters. Mud follows his plans of pursuing his love, Juniper (Witherspoon), and sends the boys to deliver messages for him. I’ll stop myself there to prevent from giving away too much of the film, but Mud is one hell of an Indie.

Coming from the director of Take Shelter, I was anticipating quite a lot out of Mud. The story sounded great, it was accepted into Cannes, and it starred one of todays’ biggest actors: Mud had everything going for it. Jeff Nichols wrote a powerful script. From what I’ve heard, there was hardly any modifications from the rough draft to the script used during filming. This shows a director with a vision, which is something that viewers should always appreciate. A writer/director with his confidence is a beautiful thing. While there are plot holes that can be found inside Mud, the writing is fantastic for it being only his 3rd directoral effort. We saw it with Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild last year, and we are seeing with Jeff Nichols’ Mud this year. Sundance has gotten two of the best young filmmakers the last two years, and if this is things are going then we have a bright future for cinema. Nichols’ writing/directing shows confidence, but whether or not it pays off is a matter of opinion. Personally I loved the way he went with Mud.

The Brains Behind 'Mud' in order from left to right: Jacob Lofland, Jeff Nichols, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey, and Tye Sheridan

The Brains Behind ‘Mud’ in order from left to right: Jacob Lofland, Jeff Nichols, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey, and Tye Sheridan

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have jumped on the McConaughey bandwagon. His acting is great, and I appreciate that he now takes roles that speak to him instead of roles that will make him money. He has identified that his Rom-Com days are over, and he will now do the dramatic acting that he always wanted to do. After all, he’s pretty damn good at it. His performance in Mud makes me appreciate him even more. After seeing the film, I would not want anyone else to play Mud.

Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are both performances worthy of sharing screen time with McConaughey. Similar to Nichols and Zeilin in directing: Quvenzhane Wallis and these two boys show tremendous potential in front of the camera.

When I got word of Reese Witherspoon’s involvement, I was skeptical to say the least. I don’t like her as a person after reading about her arrest last month, and I think her acting is mediocre at best. She does not have enough screen time to have much effect on the movie, but for her minor role she gives an above average performance. It’s also a flaw in the script that such a major part of the story receives not attention at all. The viewer struggles to care about Juniper, and the girl that is being fought for just comes across as a hot mess.

The writing had a few too many loose ends for my taste, and the ending felt rushed and ultimately underwhelming. I commend Jeff Nichols for his ambition, but his writing could have been a bit better. The script is incredible for almost all of the film, but the ending does get scrappy. The good thing is that the movie fails to give you the Hollywood treatment, and leaves the viewer with a satisfying, but believable conclusion.

Overall, Mud is the best 2013 release so far, and it will not waste viewers time. Mud is a beautifully crafted film, and it is the first movie this year that sparks any Oscar hopes. While an April release is unlikely to receive recognition, I would not be surprised to see something for McConaughey and maybe, just maybe, a Best Picture nod. It’s a long shot, but expect to hear Mud’s name thrown around come January 2014. It’s a coming of age film that goes far beyond what the genre suggests. Mud has something for everyone, and should be seen by everyone.

IMDb: 7.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 98/100 😀

Metactic: 76/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 82/100