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by Brandon Barb 04.24.2012
at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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'Jeff, Who Lives at Home' Saved Me from the 'Stooges'

Indie dude comedy feels more real than most in genre

So I recently tried to force myself to buy a ticket to The Three Stooges, but in the end my better judgment prevailed. Standing at the box office trying to convince myself that the Stooges wouldn’t be that bad was a near impossible task. There are just so many things wrong with the Stooges movie — mainly that there is one out there and the fact The Jersey Shore cast fist pumped its way into the plot. In the end I kept myself from the train wreck and saw the Jason Segel film, Jeff, Who Lives at Home.

If you haven’t heard of Jeff, Who Lives at Home that's probably because it wasn’t widely advertised and only saw a limited release in theaters. It was a stroke of luck that the AMC at Newport on the Levee was showing it that night, or, as Jeff would put it, “a sign."

Segel plays Jeff, a thirtysomething man living in his mom’s basement. The film starts like a stoner comedy with Jeff sitting on the couch watching infomercials while smoking weed. We are introduced to his belief that everything is connected somehow like in the 2002 M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs. A simple wrong number phone call leads Jeff into an eventful day.

Ed Helms plays Jeff’s older brother, Pat. Helms is a little out of his wheelhouse here, playing an all-around jerk who is trying too hard to be a successful guy, but he pulls it off nicely. Jeff and Pat don’t get along but through series of synchronistic events end up helping one another.

Susan Sarandon plays Sharon, Jeff and Pat’s mom. There is a subplot involving a secret admirer that gives the audience a break from the two brothers. But every character seems to come together randomly at the climax on a stretch of highway.

Jason Segel tends to play lovable characters that a good number of people can relate to. Jeff isn’t any different. Sporting unkempt hair, a scruffy five o’clock shadow and an old hoodie through the majority of the movie, Jeff is a guy you could find walking down the street right now, although maybe not as big — Pat calls him sasquatch at one point.

The same can said about each of the main characters, really. Mothers are upset with their children for lying around not doing anything, while husbands make stupid decisions like buy expensive sports cars without talking it over with their wives — Pat buys a Porsche in the early going of the movie.

This was the first Indie-type film that I have seen in a theater and I was impressed. This was also the first Duplass brothers movie I’ve seen. Their last film, Cyrus, featured a son way too attached to his mother and had the same charm that Jeff, Who Lives at Home does.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a man-boy comedy but it feels more real than others in the category. Maybe it is the close up camera work or down-to-earth characters; either way Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a breath of fresh air amidst the spring time blockbusters.
 
 
by Brandon Barb 04.13.2012
at 12:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Movies In Question: 'The Raven' and 'Stooges'

John Cusack an odd choice for Edgar Allan Poe; Larry, Moe and Curly finally go big screen

When I first saw the trailer to the upcoming John Cusack movie The Raven I wasn't quite sure what to think. At first, I was excited because it is a movie based on Edgar Allan Poe’s work, but I'm still skeptical. The English major side of me jumped for joy (but then remembered he was an English major and went back to brooding).


Everything was fine until John Cusack walked in from the shadows. Don't get me wrong, his movies are some of my favorites and I love his work, but Cusack playing Poe is a strange combination. Maybe they wanted to have the same dark character they saw in Identity. There are a few people that I could see playing Poe. Off the top of my head, Sam Rockwell, Edward Norton and Gary Oldman are three guys who could pull off the dark character that Poe was. At least Cusack resembles Poe in the movie.

Maybe it is just the trailer that turns me off to Cusack filling the boots of the late American poet. In it, Cusack’s delivery is dry and stiff. I don’t feel any kind mystery that surrounds Poe. Some of his writings are real disturbing when looked at closely, but with Cusack the character appears to be deflated. I guess this hesitation comes from Poe being one of my favorite writers. For all I know, the trailers don’t do the movie justice, which I hope is the case. Cusack is known for his obscure roles and disturbed characters, so this is probably a perfect fit.

The premise for the film has been done before, but since it's Edgar Allan Poe it gives the movie somewhat of a different angle. Some man is committing murders based on stories written by Poe, and then Poe has to figure out who the murderer is with the help of Detective Fields played by Luke Evans. If you're worrying about spoilers, don't be — all of that is in the trailer. I think I know who the murderer is already, but it’s Hollywood so anything can happen.

Movies based off of literature are good as long as they keep true to the source material. It will be interesting to see what happens with The Raven. It feels like a mixture of the Sherlock Holmes movies and the Johnny Depp picture From Hell. We will all find out on April 27.

Another movie is being released today and me torn as to whether to watch it or not. The idea of a The Three Stooges film has bounced around for years, but now it has finally limped its way to the screen. Leave it to Hollywood to take a beloved comedic classic like the Stooges and churn out a mediocre-looking movie.


There have been many names were attached to this project, including Jim Carrey, Justin Timberlake, Andy Samberg and Paul Giamatti. Actually filling the shoes of the Stooges are Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly and Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe. To me the only choice that makes sense is Sasso because he made a name for himself with physical comedy on Mad TV.

I’m surprised this is actually a movie, because it just looks horrible. I don’t want to watch it but I probably will end up in the theater because the original Stooges are a great gift to slapstick comedy — I’ll even give Curly’s replacement Shemp a nod and say he wasn’t that bad, either. But any movie that incorporates the Jersey Shore should just go straight to DVD.

The tagline for the movie is “Just say Moe” but someone should have told the Farrelly brothers to just say no. They are known for great comedies like Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary and Me, Myself & Irene, but their trek into classic slapstick comedy appears to be anything but. As much of a fan as I am of the Stooges I hope I'm wrong with this one, and that at least Will Sasso is just as good as he was on Mad TV.

 
 
by Brandon Barb 04.06.2012
at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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The '80s and '90s Called; They Want Their Movies Back

'Clash of the Titans,' 'Total Recall' and 'American Pie' all get remakes/sequels

Movies that populated theaters in the '80s and '90s are making a comeback. Some are better than others but since there is a built-in audience, Hollywood is cranking out remakes and reboots left and right.

This practice has been done for years but recently more movies than ever have been redone. March brought 21 Jump Street with skinny Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. The buddy cop movie was actually funny and has made more than $90 million so far.

Other notable remakes over the last few years include Fright Night, Conan the Barbarian, Karate Kid, Clash of the Titans, Footloose, Nightmare on Elm Street, Wall Street, Arthur and Die Hard. Out of the nine mentioned, only Fright Night and Die Hard were actually enjoyable (in my opinion).

The worst out of the bunch had to be Clash of the Titans. Cheesy acting and bad 3D effects plagued this Sam Worthington CGI-fest. Worthington did a better job in the ads for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 video game.

Now an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is getting another look, and thank goodness it isn’t Junior.

The first trailer for a new Total Recall was released Sunday. No, this isn’t a late April Fool’s joke. The remake to the 1990 Schwarzenegger movie is a real thing, and fans of not only the original but of science fiction in general should be giddy with anticipation.

The remake stars Colin Farrell, coming off of his performance from the 1980s vampire remake Fright Night, with Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel taking roles of eye candy. Will there be another three-breasted woman? Fans of the original can only hope. AMC’s Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston plays the bad guy. The cast alone gives a lot more credit to this remake than most.


We will all have to wait to actually watch the thing to figure out if it’s worthy enough to be considered a decent remake.

In other movie news, the next American Pie installment hits theaters today. To me, this is going to be a paycheck movie. Meaning, the original cast of characters is only returning because they haven’t been in anything major in the last few years. Well, for the exception of Allison Hannigan who has been on the long running show How I Met Your Mother. Expect a lot of dick and sex jokes, which is essentially what the first movie was, but now the cast is much older.

The original American Pie was released in 1999 and was seen as a fresh take on the high school sex comedy. The second added on to that with more outlandish situations — like mixing up lube with super glue. American Wedding was thought to be the ending to Stifler and the gang’s stories compared to the first and second, it was somewhat of a letdown. Then came the straight-to-DVD American Pie Presents movies. I will admit, though, American Pie Beta House was a hilarious college comedy; women might not want to watch because it focuses on a misbehaving fraternity.

Squeezing film stars for as much money as possible is the norm nowadays with movie franchises – just look at Pirates of Caribbean. Maybe I am jumping to conclusions with American Reunion, but the pie lost its flavor a long time ago.

 
 
by Brandon Barb 03.30.2012
at 12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Worth the Hype: A Look at 'The Hunger Games'

Don't compare the latest young adult book-to-film to 'Twilight'

When I go see a movie, it better be a great one — at least a good one so that I didn’t waste an evening. Being in my final year of college I don’t exactly have all the time I want to go out to the theater. There have been numerous movies that are already out on DVD that I missed out on seeing on the big screen, the most recent example being The Rum Diary.

There is another reason that I visit the theater maybe two or three times a year, and that is the price of tickets. My student status means what little money I have goes to more important needs. Going to see a movie should be an enjoyable event not a troublesome occasion that breaks your bank account. Tickets, dinner and movie snacks can get incredibly expensive which is why I’m glad there was still a little tax return money left when I went to see The Hunger Games. I know this is a little late in regards to the movie’s release, but better late than never.

Going into the movie I had not read any of the books. I know that is sacrilegious in some circles — even the English major in me was furious. But I am not here to talk about the book, even though I did subsequently pick it up, so that could happen in a few days.

With that being said, I didn’t have any preconceived notions of the story, characters or setting. In some cases that is the best way to be introduced to a series. With a clean slate, that allows little room for disappointment. The only thing that I was really disappointed about was the use of the shaky camera, mainly in the opening and final scenes in the arena. Apparently director Gary Ross felt that using shaky cam work would help give a better portrayal of Katniss Everdeen’s point of view and gave a sense of urgency to the movie. My only advice is that if you get motion sickness, be careful with this one.

At risk of sounding cheesy, everything else about the movie was great. Jennifer Lawrence did an excellent job of being the badass Katniss is. Woody Harrelson kept his string of great roles going; in some scenes he stole the light away from Lawrence and company — at least in my eyes. Maybe I’m just too big a fan of Zombieland.

There was one thing that went unnoticed though. Peeta, played by Union, Ky., native Josh Hutcherson, turned into a wimp in the arena. A big deal was made of how much weight he could throw around, even showing him picking up a spiked metal ball and hurling it across the room. I was expecting him to throw a heavy boulder at someone Braveheart-style. Instead, we were shown that he all he could do was camouflage himself to look like a rock. At least in the book he killed someone.

The only bad part of The Hunger Games was having to sit through a trailer for the final Twilight movie. That whole series is like watching pieces of wood trying to act. There have been comparisons of the two book/film series but there is one difference between them: The Hunger Games is actually good.

The Twilight books are horribly written ­— I wasn’t able to get more than 20 pages into the first one before I had to stop — the English major in me came out again, rejoicing like the Wicked Witch was dead. Then the Twilight movies completely destroyed every bit of vampire lore ever created. Vampires don’t sparkle and they can’t go out in the sun. I guess I don’t get the appeal of Twilight because I’m not a teenage girl. The choice of actors/actresses was strange as well, mainly because they give the same performance in each movie they are in. Check out Taylor Lautner’s terrible action movie Abduction for a piece of wood with abs’ best impression of acting. With that, I think I need to stop with the Twilight comments before it gets out of hand.

Though I picked up the Hunger Games book after I watched the movie, I can now say the filmmakers stayed true to the source material. There have been other movies with the same concept of a group of people fighting to death — The Running Man, Battle Royale and The Condemned are only a few. The story has been done before but it still manages to stay fresh. I’ve been going on and on, go see the movie for yourself or better yet read the book, it would only take a day or so to get through it.

 
 
by Steven Rosen 02.29.2012
at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Oscars Give Short Shrift to Foreign, Documentary Categories

Now that Sunday night’s Oscars are over, the Internet is full of catty stories and tweets parsing every last second of televised coverage, from Angelina Jolie’s exposed leg to Adam Sandler’s participation in a taped segment in which actors discussed why they love movies. (If he really loved movies, he’d stop making them, some have said.)

It’s both understandable and sad that the Oscars — and movie-award season in general — ends like this, with far more interest in the telecast’s trivia than in the movies that win awards. Arguably, the news value of this year’s show peaked before it even officially started, when Sacha Baron Cohen, in costume as “The Dictator” for an upcoming movie, spilled an urn of faux human ashes (ostensibly Kim Jong-il’s) on interviewer Ryan Seacrest.

It’s getting worse, too, now that the Internet and 200+-channel cable television have educated us ad nauseam to the nature and inner workings of the Oscar campaign season. We carefully learn how a film builds momentum by moving through all the secondary award ceremonies from critics groups and the Hollywood professional guilds and associations.

As a result, the Academy Awards themselves have become anticlimactic, which partially explains the media devotion to dissecting the telecast. And the attempts by the Motion Picture Academy to build false enthusiasm by allowing up to ten Best Picture nominees have been a disaster, since we all now know how to “read” the   nominations to distinguish the real ones (they also have Best Director nods) from the padding. Not all that long ago, few outside Hollywood insiders even knew there was a well-orchestrated “campaign season,” much less how to follow and handicap it.

Convention wisdom, and you hear a lot of it these days, would be to revive the Oscar telecast by de-emphasizing the importance of the awards, themselves. Reduce the number given out on TV, especially the more esoteric or niche ones, in favor of increasing the glitz, spectacle, star power and big production numbers. Do like the Grammys have done, where classical, jazz, folk, blues, opera, international and more are rarely ever presented on the show.

But I think the Academy should go the other way and try to increase public awareness of the importance of Oscar nominations. But maybe not for the Big Four categories – Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress, which probably do suffer from overexposure by the time the telecast comes around (although The Artist, this year’s big winner, could use the help since many people have been scared off by the fact it’s a black-and-white silent film).

Click the jump for more on ways the Academy could draw more attention to deserving films such as A Separation, In Darkness, Footnote and Bullhead. 

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by Jac Kern 02.01.2012
at 12:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Clooney Gives Local Shout-outs on Bravo

George Clooney was featured on Inside the Actor's Studio with James Lipton Tuesday night. The local hero talked about growing up in Kentucky, making it in Los Angeles and many of his famed performances on the oft-spoofed show.

There were plenty of local mentions throughout the interview. Clooney briefly talked about his time at Augusta High School, where he played basketball (he claimed that the team was 1-25 his senior year) and was generally a great student. Just like myself growing up, every student who got As at his school received Reds tickets. Gotta love that Carl Lindner.

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by Jason Gargano 12.07.2011
at 11:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Know Theatre Screens Sundance Documentary Tonight

'Miss Representation' looks at how woman are protrayed in mainstream media

There's been a lot chatter in the vast, ever-opinionated movie blogosphere about the 2012 Sundance Film Festival's recently unveiled slate of films. Locally, the inclusion of Cincinnati native Todd Louiso's third directorial feature, Hello I Must Be Going, in the U.S. Dramatic competition is the most intriguing development.

But there's also another noteworthy local Sundance connection this week: Know Theatre is giving a 2011 Sundance film its Cincinnati premiere with a one-time screening 7 p.m. tonight (Dec. 7) in its space at 1120 Jackson St. in Over-the-Rhine. (Tickets are $10.)

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by Jason Gargano 12.02.2011
at 01:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Friday Movie Roundup: Sundance Lineup Edition

I haven't done an exhaustive study, but it seems for the first time since I've been writing the words that appear in this space, there are no new movies opening in theaters this week. Zero.

But that's not to say there aren't plenty of worthwhile options currently residing in local theaters.

As I pointed out last week, there have been an uncommon number of strong movies released of late, including four last week: The Descendants, Hugo, The Muppets and My Week with Marilyn. That quartet follows the recently released Martha Marcy May Marlene and Like Crazy, which means a half-dozen movies in the last three weeks have garnered an A- or better from CityBeat's typically stingy crew of critics.

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by Jason Gargano 11.30.2011
at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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'The Artist' Wins Best Picture Award

The awards season is upon us.

In just the first of a coming avalanche of groups that will unveil their various movie awards/prizes/best lists, the New York Film Critics' Circle, considered one the more discerning groups of critics in the country, yesterday announced its 2011 award winners. Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist — a silent, black-and-white drama about the silent, black-and-white era of 1920s Hollywood — won Best Picture and Best Director.

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by Jason Gargano 11.23.2011
at 01:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Wednesday Movie Roundup: Sweet Holiday Bounty Edition!

After months mediocre movie options, recent weeks have give us a plethora of worthwhile offerings in a variety of genres — from art-house-leaning fare like Margin Call, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Skin I Live In, Like Crazy, Take Shelter,The Interruptors,Senna,The WayandThe Guard to higher-profile multiplexers like Moneyball, Drive, 50/50andThe Ides of March.

The winning streak continues this week. In fact, it's shaping up to be the best slate of opening films in recent memory.

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