31 March 2012

2012 Reno Film Festival

This year's batch of films was quite something this year at the Reno Film Festival. All of the Oscar nominated shorts for animation, live-action and documentary were on display.

Review: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
The Oscar winner at this year's Academy Awards, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a delight for fans of animation. The film uses a multitude of different techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) and incorporates them into a film that feels like what Charlie Chaplin would have made if he had been an animator. To put it succinctly this is why we love the movies.

Review: La Luna
A small boy starts learning the family tradition on this evening. Sandwiched between his hulking father and his spindly-but-wise grandfather, they row into the middle of seemingly nowhere in the ocean. The boy must make a choice: continue down the line of his family's work by the way his father chose, or the one his grandfather paved. I would reveal more, but the joy is in seeing this film clean. 

Review: The Shore
A Belfast expat (Ciaran Hinds) returns home with his American daughter by his side. He has come home in order to settle a grudge from his youth involving his best friend and ex-fiance. After reading that story summary, one would imagine that The Shore would be quite grim and dour, but Terry George's direction and the warmth in the performances given by Hinds and Kerry Condon liven it up. What we end up with is  gorgeous cinematography of Ireland and humor from the heart.

Review: Time Freak
The notion of time-travel has been covered before in other science fiction films, notably in Primer, The Butterfly Effect, and Timecrimes, but never before has such a massive and mind-altering concept been used for such benign activities. A quantum physicist finally cracks the secret for traveling through time and space. What does he use it for? Anything  but what you would think. Careless words thrown around at the dry cleaner's? Gone back and done over. Making a fool of himself in front of his crush? Reboot. Imagine if Woody Allen had discovered time travel on his clumsiest day and you have Time Freak.

Review: Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement
Barber, James Armstrong has seen it all: from Martin Luther King's triumphant rise and fall to the historic election of Barack Obama. A subject matter like race traditionally lends itself to preachiness, but 'Barber of Birmingham' is a spotlight on a man who has fought battles for equality and has lived to see another day.

30 March 2012

Warner Bros. Debuts More Alien Superman Logo


Zack Snyder, David Goyer and Christopher Nolan have wasted no time in distancing their Superman from previous incarnations. One wonders if the introduction of this darker redesign of the classic Superman S means that the storyline will be darker as well.

27 March 2012

Hugh Jackman Defies You to Grow a Better Beard


It goes without saying that Hugh Jackman was tailor-suited to play Jean Valjean, but in his preparation for the role has even surpassed Daniel Day-Lewis in facial hair acting. Not a deed easily done. Then again, anything Jackman does will hardly be met with raised eyebrows considering Russell Crowe's head wear.

(Courtesy: The Film Stage)

So Stephenie Meyer Isn't Aware of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'


Poor, poor Saoirse Ronan. Her career deserves so much better.

26 March 2012

Review: Teenage Riot (The Hunger Games)


People have been pitted against one another in deadly combat forever. As long as civilizations have sought venues for entertainment, bloodsport has been there to satiate the need. The difference between Hunger Games and history is that children were never participants in the combative arena.

District 12 serves as a ghetto for children. They are represented by wealthy ambassadors that do not live there, the eldest take on parental duties, and on a regular basis they are required to fight each other to the death in a tournament. At the age of twelve children are required to enter a pool where the name selected shall serve as a contestant. At “The Reaping,” boys and girls are taken from each district and selected by age and the number of rations they accepted throughout the year. There, they are thrown into a controlled arena, only one child survives.

Primrose Everdeen is entering her name for the first time and her sister, Katniss, is insistent that she won't be selected. Katniss was wrong. So distraught by Primrose's entry into the games, Katniss volunteers to go in her stead. Now, she must fight for her life or become another member lost to the boredom release valve that is Capitol City.

There could not have been a better casting choice than Jennifer Lawrence for Katniss. The quiet reserve of strength that every District 12 resident depends upon. Much like Ree in Winter's Bone, Lawrence takes a character and makes her heartfelt. The only chink in Lawrence's armor is when she is seemingly forced to choose between Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). It is below her talent and more importantly, it feels forced in this entry to the series.

Thankfully, the romantic subplot between the three is not made the central focus of the film. What director Gary Ross does is create a world where you are placed in Katniss' shoes. Your heart races with every ticking second and attempt on her life. This is a harrowing experience and it is amazing that Ross got away with a PG-13 rating.

Which brings me to my only problem with The Hunger Games, there seems to be no sympathy. Granted, there are those who finds themselves trying to aid Katniss and Peeta, but those who do are far outnumbered by the main who remain lethargic. Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) cannot make up for the sheer ignorance that allow the games to exist. In films like Spartacus and Gladiator the protagonists' circumstances create reasonable suspension of disbelief. There is nothing that can serve in an equatable fashion for The Hunger Games. Elites like Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) know the game to be nothing less than an occupation. A producer continuously rising like Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) can only hope that the carnage exceeds expectations. I do not want to live in a world that has people that are so incredibly lethargic that they can cheer on a massacre like a sweeps episode of The Bachelorette.

What The Hunger Games creates is a lived-in universe where the characters act and feel authentic. Lionsgate has created something here that will tap the zeitgeist. I look forward to how this series will play out and where Lawrence's Katniss will go.

***/****

25 March 2012

Review: Mirror Mirror


The story of Snow White is very familiar to most. King and Queen marry, sire a child. Queen dies. King remarries. King dies. Evil queens usurps young princess to take the throne, banishes said princess from the castle, and proceeds to make life miserable for the rest of the kingdom.

In a way, the Queen (Julia Roberts) is the perfect representation of the one percent. However, she has squandered most of the kingdom's fortunes and finds herself on the market for a man with a lot of money and not a lot of brains, despite what the focus groups suggest.

Like The Princess Bride before it, Mirror Mirror takes leaps and bounds to avoid treading on one too many tropes of the genre. The handsome prince is a dork (albeit an incredibly good looking one), the seven dwarfs are less affable care-takers than disgruntled revolutionaries and even Julia Robert's Queen is a little meta. Perhaps the most redrawn character is Lily Collin's Snow White. She may not wield armor and a mace like Kristen Stewart, but she is not above reminding the kind Prince that she doesn't need rescuing.

Still, if she were looking, what a prince indeed. He's good looking, he's talented, he has an excellent voice. One may think that this description matches Prince Charming, but in reality this portrays none other than Armie Hammer.

His turns in The Social Network and J. Edgar made the public aware of his abilities, but with Mirror Mirror he finally has the platform to take himself to the next tier. Hammer knows how to poke fun at himself and he's not afraid of a little slapstick. He's a leading man in-the-making. It's a good thing he's around considering how often these stories rely on cardboard cut-outs and audience familiarity.

With such an oft-told story, the director must make most of what the screen can show. For those of you whom wondered whether Tarsem Singh's colorful palette would continue, worry not. However, where Immortals and The Fall were lacking in humor, Mirror Mirror attempts, not always to great effect to get a belly laugh.

When Singh isn't going for laughs, he uses all of his discernible talent to dazzle with CGI.

The film excels when charm is hefted out, not leaving any to spare and even when the humor falls flat, the cast and visuals are more than enough to save it.

***/****

23 March 2012

10 Words or Less: Wrath of the Titans (2012)


MULLETS. IN. 3D.

22 March 2012

Get Glue Caption Contest

Want movie stickers? Of course you do! Or you do if you love movies, which is a given and why you're here. At the end of the month the lucky winner will receive stickers from such films as Hunger Games, The Avengers, and The Dark Knight Rises

The best caption for the screenshot takes home the package of stickers. Captions will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. 3/31. Winners limited to U.S. residents only. Good luck!

The Vault: Kes (1969)

Based on the modern classic novel “A Kestrel for a Knave” by Barry Hines, Kes is an intimate and bleak observation of working class opportunities and lifestyle of 1960s working-class Britain.

The novel has become an essential study piece of the UK’s high school English curriculum, and due to the sympathetic and unaffected adaptation of the book into film by renowned kitchen-sink-drama director Ken Loach, the film is often used as back-up study material for students to this day.

1960s Working Class Britain - Opportunities, or Lack Thereof

Kes is set in late 1960s Barnsely, a Northern English mining town which is both blessed and cursed by its rural proximity. The story follows a young boy named Billy Casper, whose character and lifestyle is typical of many others like him of that era and class; he lives with his belligerent older half-brother, Jud and his middle-aged, single mother. Although the idea of a non-nuclear family is now considered quite normal, in 1960s England there was still a certain stigma attached to a family where the father was not present, not to mention the concept of having siblings who did not share the same biological father. This lack of a father figure or “man of the house” subsequently meant that the mother would have to work long hours in any form of job (usually menial work, or factory work in Northern England) and elder siblings would similarly have to leave school at 15 years old, to go straight into work to provide the family household with much needed money.

With a lack of both a mother and father figure throughout the majority of the day (and often the night) this would leave younger family members, such as Billy, to basically fend for themselves, tend to their own meals and ensure they partake in school as required. Billy’s home life is by this measure, reflected as austere and basic, in terms of both emotional balance and fiscal security.

Life Up North – Coal Mines and Council Estates

The film opens with a quiet, darkened room, the silence broken by the harsh ringing of an analogue alarm clock. As our eyes adjust to the dark, we realize that we’re observing brothers Billy and Jud sharing a bed, as dawn arrives. It’s time for Jud to arise for his job, working “down t’pit” – working in coal mines was often the only line of employment for young men in the North of England at this time, whether they wanted to choose that career path or not. Jud’s reluctance to leave the warmth of his bed to attend a job he hates is clear, and he makes no qualms in taking his frustrations out on Billy, who could have possibly lay in bed a little while longer.

“Hands off cocks, on socks” Jud blurts out, as he rips the bedclothes from Billy and proceeds to switch the light on.  Here a short but important discussion occurs between the two brothers; Jud informs Billy, whom is fast approaching school-leaving age, that he needs to get used to these early mornings, because he will shortly be employed to work down the pit also. Billy exasperatedly exclaims that he will never work in coal mining, ever. He’ll do anything other than that.

Yet, this is crucially the crux of the film; Billy, although he may have passions within his heart, is the product of an impoverished society. There were little options or efforts in place to ensure that children of working-class backgrounds could receive the attention needed to progress in a career of their choice. It was “The Pit” or nothing, like the siblings and family members whom had gone before them.

However, as the story progresses, we see a glimmer of hope for this otherwise hopeless and mischievous teenager. The setting of Barnsley is a contrast of bleak, litter-strewn streets in the depths of a council housing estate, where stray dogs run free and grubby children play games on street corners, yet all this is surrounded and enclosed by miles of beautiful countryside. The open fields and flora and fauna of the countryside is symbolic of the freedom that Billy desires, and it is here that he happens upon the one thing that might eventually change his path in life – Kes, the Kestrel.

A Chance to Shine

Having previously shown little to no interest in education of any type, Billy’s life is filled with a newfound enthusiasm and interest in rearing and training Kes. He is infatuated with the bird’s demeanor and independence; he understands that although he may be able to train the bird, he ultimately needs to earn the respect of this regal creature before he can succeed. His understanding of the power held by the kestrel is an important turning point for Billy, and he decides to dedicate his life to raising and caring for the Kestrel.

Whereas previously Billy was unsuccessful in his education, spending his school days avoiding work and getting in to trouble with figures of authority, Billy applies himself whole-heartedly to Kes. He does whatever possible to ensure he can train the bird, from stealing falconry manuals (after an unjustified failed attempt to borrow a library book) to reappointing his paperboy wage to buy food for the Kestrel. He starts to show great promise as a skilled falconer, and we are given the impression that perhaps there may be a way out of a life down the pit for Billy.

His enthusiasm starts to shine through in the classroom, when a kindly teacher’s interest in piqued by Billy’s stories of his bird. The class becomes engrossed in Billy’s descriptions of his falconry techniques, and the teacher goes as far as to make an unprecedented visit to the field behind Billy’s house to see the Kestrel in action.

No Place for Dreamers


This, however, is where the story takes a disappointing turn. Despite Billy’s love for Kes and talent as a falconer, his upbringing and deprived surroundings take an unrelenting hold on his ambitions. There were little funds nor time devoted to children from working class backgrounds in this era. Career options were limited to manual labour, education was a basic requirement to be met by youngsters, and there was no interest in allowing a child to thrive in an area where they could flourish.

Families barely had enough money to buy food, clothing and home ware, so books and study materials were more than a luxury.

Kes is a voyage of escapism in the mind of a socially neglected child. It is a statement about allowing children of all backgrounds and classes the chance to find themselves intellectually, and the importance of supporting children with love and attention to succeed regardless of their upbringing.

20 March 2012

Listen to The Hunger Games Soundtrack

The soundtrack for one of this year's most hotly anticipated films came out today. After giving it a listen, without a doubt, "One Engine" by The Decemberists has to be my favorite track. Great song, I hope that it is actually included in the film instead of dubbing over the credits. The rest of the soundtrack includes bands Arcade Fire, The Civil Wars, Maroon 5 and Kid Cudi. Those interested in acquiring the album can hit up the link below.


19 March 2012

'Nero Fiddled' Now 'To Rome With Love'

Sony Pictures Classics has recently announced that Woody Allen's newest film will have its name changed to To Rome With Love. This marks the second change following the original change fromThe Bop Decameron to Nero Fiddled.

Is it just me or is anyone else having a hard time imagining the Woody Allen of yesteryear changing a film title to suit more mainstream audiences? Then again, Annie Hall was originally Anhedonia, so what do I know? More likely Allen's recent success with films Midnight in Paris and Vicky Christina Barcelona are the root for the change.

To Rome With Love, or whatever the title will be in summer, will be released on June 22nd.

10 Words or Less: The Ring (2002)


Just hit pause.

16 March 2012

Review: 21 Jump Street


In high school, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) was barely noticed and Jenko (Channing Tatum) was king jock. With graduation eight years behind them, both Schmidt and Jenko find themselves in line to become police officers. Getting over hating each other in high school, the pair help each other through the academy and set about starting their dream of being BAMFs. That fantasy, however, is quickly jettisoned as they end up partners riding bicycles in the city park.

The popular misconception about 21 Jump Street is that it would just be a cash-in on a brand with market recognition. If the announcement that Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall were writing the screenplay didn't ease those fears, then the film's total self-awareness will do so immediately. Actually, self-aware doesn't even begin to do the film justice. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, bring a verve of cartoon zaniness that keeps the film from being just another buddy cop movie.

Take for example this scene where Schmidt and Jenko are reprimanded for not reading a suspect his Miranda rights. Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) gives up on the duo and refers them to another program. "We're reviving a canceled undercover police program from the 80s and revamping it for modern times. You see the guys in charge of this stuff lack creativity and are completely out of ideas, so all they do now is recycle shit from the past and expect us all not to notice."

This unit is headed by Captain Dickson (a very angry Ice Cube), who is well aware that he is the angry captain, but he worked hard to get there, so deal with it. Schmidt and Jenko are assigned to act undercover at a local high school and infiltrate the organization passing out designer drugs.

What a difference time makes, while Jenko may have been popular then, he isn't concerned enough about the environment to pass the smell test this time. Schmidt is psyched to find out that not only is he cool, but he can also get the girl (Brie Larson).

The laughs in 21 Jump Street are fast and frequent with Hill and Tatum playing off each other extremely well. Schmidt and Jenko wind up being closer than partners, and more like brothers and that heart drives the film. They are assisted by a very game supporting cast (Rob Riggle, Dave Franco, Nick Offerman, Ellie Kemper, Chris Parnell and Ice Cube).

Interestingly, the picture also has the potential to be Channing Tatum's breakthrough role. What makes this Tatum's big role was that we always knew he could play the jock with more heart than brains, but this time he played the role with a sense of humor about himself. That he can bounce off co-star Jonah Hill so well reflects his burgeoning status as a comedic star.

***/****

Review: Manhattan Blues (Friends with Kids)

Child rearing has spawned countless numbers of get-help books, tutorial videos, counselors, and lord knows how many films. So the prospect of taking a time-old tradition and putting a modern spin on it seemed right in Jennifer Westfeldt's wheelhouse. Westfeldt has been known for making dramedies that put a fresh face on old issues: Kissing Jessica Stein took on dating and Ira & Abby took on marriage, so with Friend with Kids it seemed she was ready to reflect how society deals with children and loved ones.

Jason (Adam Scott) and Jules (Jennifer Westfeldt) have known each other since they were in college. They know everything there is to know about each other. They know each other's positions on religion, politics, favorite coffee maker, etc. They would be perfect for each other if they weren't, you know, completely unattracted to each other. But like every Manhattanite in her age range, Juls is quickly approaching an age where she may not meet Mr. Right in time to have kids. Jason, always up to help "Doll", proposes a modest situation: they have a child and each partner takes all of the responsibility half the time.

Like the audience, not all of Jason and Juls' friends are receptive to the idea. To them, it feels like a direct attack on their lifestyle. Why would they think that they, the two most flawed members of their group, would be able to raise a child without loving each other?

Just as Jason and Jules carry on their grand experiment of having children without having spouses or complicating relationships, the film turns right back around on dating and romance in Manhattan. The reliably funny Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Chris O'Down and Maya Rudolph are reduced to bitter caricatures of messed up marriages that we have seen way too often before. The films is infinitely better when it stops painting these four parents as monsters as more as actual people. The film's two leads, Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt have chemistry, but they are being forced to fit genre conventions too often to really be given room to breathe.

As innovative as Friends with Kids tries to be, before you know it, the film devolves into a series of love triangles involving unaware interlopers that completely abandons the child Jules and Joe had, except as a reminder of how much the two care for each other. At that point, Friends with Kids is less a story about having kids then just another story about a man and woman who got along, didn't, and then got back together again.

**/****

14 March 2012

ArcLight Interviews: Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt


Off to see Friends with Kids tonight. While you wait for a review, here is an interview with stars Jennifer Westfeldt and Jon Hamm on making the film in less than a month and shooting in cramped apartments.

12 March 2012

Javier Bardem in 'Skyfall'

Not everything is as it appears in this new Skyfall set pic. Hit the link for the first peek at Javier Bardem as Silva.

Bardem appears to either be in disguise for this particular scene, or he is indeed a blonde for the film. What is intriguing is that we finally have a name for Bardem's character: Silva. Given that there isn't a character named Silva in the Bond mythos, this character is an entirely new creation.

(Courtesy: /Film)

Review: A New World (John Carter)


Most of the buzz surrounding John Carter has been solely based around the film's budget. Never mind that the film is Andrew Stanton's first live-action film, or that the film predates everything that others claim it to be "ripping off". This is not Star Wars, this is not Avatar, this is not box-office obsessives' opportunity to destroy a film before it is released because it cost a lot of money. This is a story, plain and simple. Wait for the lights to come up before you make up your mind.

Many films have started out with the premise of a lone man in a world that he doesn't fit in, disjointed from society as much as he is from himself. He has proven himself in battle, to the point where drawing a gun is easier than negotiating. The Civil War has left a hole in John and he isn't sure if that void can be filled again, fortunately, the isolation of the west has provided a break in the meantime. John Carter is not the most unique protagonist, but he is the hero we are given.

And that hero finds himself in the midst of a civil war raging on Mars. The Helium Academy finds itself under attack from the ignorant brute that is Sab (Dominic West) backed with a dangerous weapon from the far more nefarious Matai Shang (Mark Strong as evil as ever). The Tharks have found Carter and see him as the weapon that can be used to best Sab's. John just wants to get back home.

Yes, I know you've heard it all before: the fish out of water comes to new land, finds himself an interloper in a larger conflict and reluctant to join, he relents and joins the fight at the behest of a young woman and gives a rousing speech to the masses. But that description matches 40% of the films released in the last thirty years, so if John Carter is not completely new you'll have to forgive me for not caring.

With all of that said, John Carter is the live-action debut we were hoping to get from director Andrew Stanton (WALL-EFinding Nemo). A genre-melding epicthat's rightwestern, war and fantasythat offers as much in story as it does in spectacle. Mars and its inhabiting characters are painstakingly and thoughtfully fleshed out and brought to life. Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) in particular, is a treat.
What shortfalls may come from the story are not complicit in the visual realization of Mars.

With the impassioned direction of Andrew Stanton any flaws there may be in the story do not overshadow what is happening onscreen. Taylor Kitsch manages to create empathy with his character, Lynn Collins' warrior-scientist/princess doesn't need help, but will fight on her own because her cause is just (seriously, Collins may have one of the best female characters of all-time) and Willem Dafoe takes a role that could be nothing more than mail-in and infuses it with heart.

John Carter may stumble a few steps before leaping to heights of its ownintegrating the background of an entire franchise into a 140 minute film will do thatbut when it gets there, the audience could truly care less about the projected weekend revenue or how much money is onscreen. They only see the heart.

***/****

Review: Politics Echo Through the Passage of Time (Coriolanus)

What I found most fascinating about Ralph Fiennes’ occasionally poignant but ultimately misguided directorial debut is how politics seem to be the one constant throughout society. The ideas of deception and greed are amplified in Coriolanus. And with 2012 already bringing the skewed and often juvenile GOP debates (in which incorrect information is spouted by candidates to better their entrance into the Oval office) The Weinstein Company couldn’t release this film at a more opportune time.

Like the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, Fiennes creates a contemporary translation of  Coriolanus, one of Shakespeare’s least-recognized plays. The story is simplistic: Caius Martius Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes) is a primitive soldier for Rome. Upon his return from war, society feels Caius is not fit to represent the people. He’s arrogant, unsympathetic, inflexible, and antiquated. But he has power. And with power, he has authority.

That is until Coriolanus is banished from Rome on charges of “treason”. Infuriated and forced to leave his family behind, he joins forces with his archenemy, Tillus Aufidius (Gerard Butler), to take revenge on the city that disavowed him. Manipulation is the intricate piece of the puzzle in Coriolanus. The citizens of Rome change their views on our hero with a slip of a malicious word. In Fiennes’ adaptation it would appear that not a single citizen contained a thought of their own. Then again, that begs the question: Has that really changed?

Aside from the political aspects of the film, Coriolanus is a mess. Lacking in tone, pace, and in feel for its modern-day atmosphere. I was never quite convinced that our characters – speaking in a seemingly cryptic Shakespearean vernacular – accepted the setting.  That’s not to say the acting on display isn’t impressive. Fiennes, Butler, Vanessa Redgrave (as the mother of Coriolanus), and Brian Cox (a consultant) are all fantastic. And the films attempt to modernize a play by Shakespeare is sporadically rewarding.

Coriolanus shows great promise for Fiennes. It’s an intelligent film; it’s also unfortunately devoid of a narrative. The character of Coriolanus is a living enigma. And that enigma provides sufficient initial intrigue. However, by the films conclusion, it has – as with our protagonist’s character – many flaws in its narrative structure that make forgiving the film nearly impossible.

2 out of 4 stars

You may read everything I write Duke & The Movies and follow me on twitter @SamFragoso

11 March 2012

Review: Project Vile

It’s Thomas’s (Thomas Mann) birthday today. His parents are going out of town for the weekend in light of their anniversary. He’s been given the privilege of staying home alone for the next few days, without parental guidance, oversight from relatives or family acquaintances.

He has two nebbish friends, Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown), fixated on throwing a reckless high school party tonight. The objective these three senior geeks have is to be considered “cool” by their classmates, defy laws, and possibly get lucky with an attractive (preferably intoxicated) female.
Project X – through a documentary style of filmmaking – is the chronicling of the most “epic party” … ever. It’s the type of bash every high school student wishes he or she could attend.
So, how bizarre is this junction?

Lets see. We have droves of varying alcohol, naked women (both high school and college), conspicuous folks from Craig’s list, an older father who thinks he’s still in high school, a midget, marijuana, cars in pools, a drug dealer with a flame thrower, two child security guards and an abundance of profanity.
And yet – albeit every ridiculous element this film is constructed with – Project X is a long and unfunny winding road to nowhere.

Thomas is a rather likable protagonist, but he’s laced with two buffoons for friends. Costa is the type of babbling, cruel intentioned idiot everyone despises. JB is in the film because of his weight. There isn’t a ten minutes stretch without a joke directed towards JB’s tubby stature.

The kiceer here is our producer: Todd Phillips. Known for his work on The Hangover franchise, Old School, and Due Date, the director/producer has created for himself a niche in the world of irreverent cinema.

Perhaps Project X can serve a reminder that the studio behind the film has little effect on the quality of the final product. The same studio that put out Casablanca, also released Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Now, I suppose you can make a correlation between Bogart and fluffy animals, but it’s tough.
Point being, while The Hangover was a powerhouse comedy and Old School was forgettable fun, Project X is a disposable, unexciting, grossly manipulative wreck.

Is that the message our culture wants to send out? I suspect not.

I’ve seen few films in my life that had a message as bluntly incorrect and offensive as Nima Nourizadhe’s directorial debut. “Hey, if you disobey your parents, degrade society, women, humanity, and hurt others, friends will swarm your way.”

For those who think I may be overanalyzing the film too much, let me state that this is not because I have a certain disdain for high school grounded mantras. Superbad is one of the best comedies of the past decade, and contains – through high school experiences – authenticity and pure laughter. It’s a much better version of Project X, and contains nearly the same plotline. All three characters in the former film want to have sexual relations with a girl – but while attempting to do so, a greater bond of friendship ignites them all.

Still, Project X is not an atrocious film because it projects a vile message or because it contains an entirely unrealistic plot. It’s a heap of self-congratulatory, shoddily produced trash because it fails to be humorous. Even at a measly 88 minute run time, the film scarcely elicits anything that could be considered comedy or, you know, cinematic enjoyment.

I will say though, I didn’t believe it was possible for a film to be more flaccid than the girls our three protagonists lust after. What a grandstanding achievement.

1 out of 4 stars

You may read everything I write at Duke & The Movies and follow me on twitter @SamFragoso

08 March 2012

When Will Don Draper Die?


With all of the whiskey swilling, questionable bed mates, and smoking our morally ambiguous ad man, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), has done I'm sure we are all wondering when Mr. Draper will kick the bucket. No? Well I'll admit I have and, fortunately, the morbidly curious writers over at Vulture have an answer. Here's hoping that Don's expiration date is after that bottle of gin he has laying around.

Be sure to watch the fifth season premier of Mad Men when it comes on March 25th at 9pm.

(Courtesy: Vulture)

You Are Cordially Invited to 'Moonrise Kingdom'


This definitely looks like a outdoor gala invitation, despite the fact that it features two armed and dangerous children. 

First Look at 'Lone Ranger'



It looks like Tonto is in charge of Disney's Lone Ranger this go-around. At least from the skeptical look on Johnny Depp's face anyway. Although it will be interesting for a marginalized character to be the lead for a Disney film.

The Lone Ranger is a thrilling adventure infused with action and humor, in which the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes. Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice—taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.


05 March 2012

10 Words or Less: We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

A condom could have prevented all of this.

02 March 2012

Focus Features Turns Ten



Focus Features, the house for such classics as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, In Bruges, Brick, Atonement, Brokeback Mountain and Eastern Promises, celebrates ten years at the cinema this year. In the mean time, let's look at some of the best performances to have come from Focus Features during that decade.

(Courtesy: Thompson on Hollywood)

01 March 2012

Preview of 'The Dark Knight Rises' Score


Grim, moody, everything that I want from Hans Zimmer's score for the conclusion of the Batman trilogy.

TWC Buys 'Only God Forgives'


The Weinstein Company's VOD shingle has purchased the rights to the next Nicolas Winding Refn/Ryan Gosling team-up Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives centers around Julian (Gosling), who has lived in exile in Bangkok after killing a cop ten year ago. He runs a Thai boxing club with his brother as a front for the family's drugs smuggling operation run by mother, Jenna (Kristin Scott Thomas). Julian's brother bites off more than he can chew when he murders a prositute, and the cops call on retired cop Chang--aka The Angel Vengeance--to determine the outcome. With his brother in mortal danger, Julian is forced to seek vengeance or risk his own death.

That leaves one wondering if Drive was going to be one of the cuddlier Refn films. Either way, I'll be there in theatres, or online.

(Courtesy: The Playlist)