Monday, January 27, 2014

Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm (TV)

Note: This review is exclusively for the pilot episode, not the entire series.

Incredibly funny comedy-special about SEINFELD writer/co-creator Larry David, filmed in a raw/mockumentary style similar to THE OFFICE, that ended up being the premise for the hit show CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. In many ways, it can be looked at as the pilot, and is as equally hilarious as the show's best episodes. This story follows Larry (with Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Richard Lewis, and other series favorites in tow) as he tries to rebuild his standup career, and despite going very smoothly, conflict can never unstick itself from the half-billionaire who can't afford a closed-mouth.

"Breaking Bad"

Non-stop adrenalin-rush crime-drama following the story of Albuquerque chemistry teacher Cranston turning into a methamphetamine kingpin in order to secure his family's finances after being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, calling upon ex-student Paul to assist in the streetwise aspect of the drug business. Cranston is perfect in one of the most mind-blowing hero-to-villain transformations, backed by unforgettable recurring characters like Saul Goodman (played by Bob Odenkirk), Gustavo "Gus" Fring (played by Giancarlo Esposito), Mike Ehrmantraut (played by Jonathan Banks), Todd Alquist (played by Jesse Plemons), Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (played by Laura Fraser), Gale Boetticher (played by David Costabile), Victor (played by Jeremiah Bitsui) and the Salamanca Family (played by Mark Margolis, Raymond Cruz, and twins Daniel and Luis Moncada). Unfortunately, the major supporting roles played by Paul, Gunn, Norris, Mitte, Brandt and Quezada all take their turns at being incredibly annoying or ridiculously codependent on the despicable main character. The show's intensity ends up overshadowing some great themes and symbols involving moral consequences and family devotion. Also, for such a nail-biting show, the ante isn't actually raised all that much in hindsight. Still, and most importantly, it's an overall excellent show—actually one of the few series that literally gets better and better as it progresses. Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

American Hustle

Not-too-dramatic/not-too-thrilling crime tale carried by an ensemble of lead actors from Russell's previous films THE FIGHTER and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK based on the ABSCAM operation from the late-'70s/early-'80s… which includes sting operations on corrupt politicians, perms and comb-overs! Everything in this outing is a little too easy: the humor is simple, there are no extraordinary characters despite a cast of A-list-ers, and the plot is rather bland. Despite all the so-so, it all comes together to be a slightly-above-par flick that is worth having a look to judge for yourself.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fourth installment in the series, this time following Cruise and his spy-team—joined by Patton and Renner, and rejoined by Pegg—trying to clear the IMF after a framed-bombing while at the same time trying to stop dangerous terrorist Nyqvist from striking the United States with missiles from Russian nuclear launch codes he gained access to. Yes… just like any MI film, the plot is a little too complicated for its own good. Still, the entertainment is there and non-stop, perfectly building itself up and never becoming dull. This sequel has the most returning cast members, the majority of which are cameos (Rhames, Monaghan and, perhaps the most rewarding subtle nod, Wisniewski, who forces Cruise's character to wear a bag over his head yet again). The Burj Khalifa sequence alone makes the movie worth while—likely the best action sequence of 2011, and possibly one of the best action sequences involving skyscrapers of all-time. The following dust storm sequence is the cherry-on-top. Nyqvist is an excellent villain, and both Patton and Seydoux are more stunning than Bond-girls.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Last Stand

Arnold in his first leading role since T3, exactly 10 years earlier. This outing rebirths the type of movie that faded in the last-'80s/early-'90s, where the plot is merely a bridge between actions sequences. Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of a small-town in Arizona, retired from the LAPD, but for an unexplained reason has an Austrian accent. Anyway, bad guys are going to use his town as a route for the border, and… well… that's about it. The supporting cast isn't too bad: Knoxville and Guzman are fun; and Stormare is always great. However, Whitaker is quite useless and everyone else is unfortunately forgettable. Still, a movie of this caliber doesn't get made too much anymore, and despite its flaws, it's still better than a lot of other films of its genre.


In a desensitized near-future overrun with corruption, police officer Weller is brutally murdered by a gang of criminals and is revived as a superhuman cyborg. Spot on when initially released. Weller's miming is well executed and much of the SFX still holds up. The stop-motion of the droid in the boardroom scene dates very poorly, but the tragic event within the scene is as chilling as ever. Even though the film achieves at having an assortment of very heartless bad guys, their deeds still seem a bit inexplicable and over-the-top even for the bleak world the story is set in. Some of the character-arcs are a bit bumpy and the ending seems slightly rushed. Criticism aside, ROBOCOP is one of the few sci-fi action films of the '80s that has withstood the test of time.

Road House

An excellent terrible movie about bouncer Swayze hired to clean up a rowdy roadside bar and ends up having to protect the entire Midwest town from a corrupt businessman who seems to be the root cause of every conflict. This film is a definite reminder that the popular belief of what is beautiful is no doubt an evolving concept. The only thing more fun than watching Swayze's character dish out vigilante justice is watching his character NOT practices what he preaches. And how does someone who smokes that many cigarettes be in that kind of shape and have that much stamina? Despite its flaws, the film is incredibly entertaining, never dull and has pretty decent replay value.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


*** This review may contain spoilers ***
23rd Bond film is easily the strongest of the three Daniel Craig movies, with this installment abandoning all plans for the direct-sequel route that QUANTUM OF SOLACE took and going for the traditional episodic contribution. In this outing, we have Bond trying to track down former MI6 operative Raoul Silva (played by Javier Bardem, who's as good as always) whose mastermind attacks are all motivated by good-old-fashioned revenge. This film is notable for M (played by Dench) having a greatly increased role, and is the reboot's introduction to key recurring characters such as Q and Moneypenny. Also, the only Bond film with a title that was not somehow influenced by the title of one of Fleming's books. The scenic shots of Shanghai are tremendous, and the action sequences in the London Underground are perfectly nail-biting. This one knows how to pace itself without being too much nor too little.

Don Jon

Amiable romantic-dramedy about Jersey-boy Gordon-Levitt (also in his directorial debut) and his commendable devotion to his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls, and… best of all (or worst of all)… his porn. Cleverly marketed, immensely unpredictable, and never ever dull. JGL may have been a little too wrapped up in trying to juggle the workload of both director and lead actor that he failed to show concern about coming off as too heavy-handed, but upon replay, it's certain this little flick has a lot more to say than what meets the eye.