State of Play (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A
I've never really been a big fan of the unraveling mystery involving politicians, corporations and wars, so if one is going to really grab my attention it's gotta be good.Â This one not only grabbed my attention but made me fall in love with it too.Â The stellar cast alone should grab the attention of most.Â We know about Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck, but you also have Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jeff Daniels, Viola Davis, Jason Bateman and several other seasoned character actors.Â Plus it has a screenplay co-written by Tony Gilroy who successfully executed the Bourne Trilogy, "Michael Clayton," and "Duplicity."Â So it's got the ingredients for a great recipe, but how does it all taste when it's put together?Â Delicious.Â It's one great twist after another and when you watch this, don't be a douchebag and try to predict the twists before they happen.Â Just enjoy the movie for what it is.Â Besides being a great crime caper, it also appealed to me for showing us a world of a dying industry: newspaper.Â Hell, investigative reporting too for that matter.Â Crowe plays the sloppy, cliche journalist who still writes real stories for real newspapers and McAdams plays the young, hip blogger who writes quasi-news stories with lots of opinion.Â It's the collision of the old world and (sadly) the new world, and unknown director Kevin Macdonald lets you know which world he thinks is better (and I agree).Â It also throws you into a very real world story that mirrors Halliburton and their profiting off of The Iraq War, but tells it with fictional characters and companies.Â It's all very facinating, fun and exhausting.
Earth (Rated G)
Gavin Grade: B-
This is the first film in what is going to be a series of eco-themed movies from a new studio called Disney: Nature.Â The next one is called "Ocean" and it comes out next year on...you guessed it, Earth Day.Â I wanted to see this movie since the first time I saw the moving trailer for it, but it was disappointing that the trailer was far better.Â Disney teamed up with the BBC to make this film, but the BBC had basically already filmed most of it.Â In fact, you may have already seen it on TV under the name "Planet Earth."Â Now, that shouldn't take anything away from this considering that it's one of the most beautifully shot pieces of film I've seen in maybe a decade.Â The Time-Lapse photography is jaw-dropping in the way that it captures entire seasons as it shows everything from plants growing to entire landscapes changing.Â The craft that went into the use of High-Speed cameras to capture the Slow Motion shots of such things as a cheetah hunting, are stunning and gorgeous!Â But that leads me to the first problem, don't let the "G Rating" fool you; this is not a film for the whole family.Â An alternate title of this may by "Adorable Baby Animals Get Eaten for 90 Minutes."Â And since so much of the film follows families of animals, this makes parts of it really hard to watch with kids...or my 20-something year-old girlfriend for that matter.Â The other flaw with it is that it's kind of boring.Â Yes there are thrilling sequences of narrow escapes (or almost-escapes), amazing scenery that you would never see if these directors didn't show it to you and incredible stories of nature, but it doesn't move very well.Â James Earl Jones narrates it (of course) and at times he almost sounds bored.Â However it is an important movie to see.Â It doesn't get preachy about global warming, pollution or over-crowding at all.Â But it stands as a monument that this planet is punishing and rewarding; and that life is bigger and more connected than you can imagine.
Observe and Report (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A-
This new movie from writer/director, Jody Hill, is twisted, offensive, graphic...and I loved it.Â Hill released a movie a few years ago called "The Foot Fist Way" and it starred Danny McBride (who also make a cameo in this film).Â "The Foot Fist Way" was a movie about a delusional Karate instructor who has dreams of becoming something he'll never be.Â "Observe and Report" stars Seth Rogen as a delusional mall cop who has dreams of becoming something he'll never be.Â Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.Â Hill seems to know a lot about these types of characters and their mental illness; and yes they are mentally ill.Â In fact, in this they even tell you that Rogen's character "Ronnie" suffers from bi-polar disorder, and my guess is a few other things too.Â Because Hill understands these characters so well, there are periods of the film that dive into very serious moments where you're unsure if you should laugh or not.Â I love comedies like that, but I understand that not everyone does.Â I get it, that this film is far from being a universally accepted film.Â It's an unsafe brand of humor that is quite different from the Judd Apatow movies, ie: "40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up."Â Both are offensive and extremely funny, but Apatow creates clear protaganists that you champion on and Hill's movies contain characters that make you uneasy about routing for them.Â And in "Observe and Report" he punched those characters up by adding talent like Ray Liotta, Anna Faris (who is growing increasingly more sexy in every movie) and even a cameo from one of my favorite comics, Patton Oswalt.Â I hope that Hollywood gives Jody Hill more chances to make more movies because I enjoy the return of complex, adult comedies with brains and hope to see more of them.
Adventureland (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B
Remember the movie "The Village" by M. Knight Shamyalan?Â Were you one of those people who hated that movie because you went into it thinking it would be really scary and when you weren't scared in the slightest you were just pissed at the movie and thought it sucked?Â Did you ever go back and watch it again and realize that it's actually a really good drama and not a thriller at all?Â Well it is.Â It was a victim of dumpy advertising.Â Exhibit B in the case against crap advertising: "Adventureland."Â All the advertising for this movie made it seem like a very funny comedy about a horrible summer job.Â It's about a summer job alright, but not a comedy.Â This is a film that pumps in the same vein as "Juno" or "Little Miss Sunshine."Â It's a drama that just happens to have some funny scenes.Â What I really enjoyed about this movie was the nostalgia.Â Granted the film takes place in 1987, when I was only 7, but it makes you remember fondly that one summer job you had that you hated at the time but now realize it was the best summer of your life.Â For me it was when I was a tour guide at a cave called Indian Echo Caverns.Â It also was a great period piece that subtly captured the culture clash going on in the mid-80s of the rich, the poor and the nouveau riche.Â Greg Mottola ("Superbad") wrote and directed this as a semi-autobiography and you can tell.Â Newcomer, Jesse Eisenberg stars in it as an identifiable character, but not a super likable one at times.Â Kristen Stewart (Bella for all you "Twilight" nerds) is in this to prove once again that she is either a terrible normal acttress or a terrific actress with a crippling twitch.Â SNL stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig tagteam as great comic relief but the comedic star is a performance by Matt Bush.Â You may not know him yet, but he's in the AT&T commercials where he fights with his mom over old rollover minutes.Â He was fantastic in the movie and I have a feeling we'll see a lot of him in the future.Â But again I warn you not to see this looking for a laugh-a-minute romp, but instead a pleasant, warm emotion as you think back to a snapshot of your own horrible summer job that lead to the best summer of your life.
Monsters Vs. Aliens (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: C+
I think this movie was pitched as a MUST to see in 3D, however compared to more recent 3D releases, I feel like it was a put-on.Â The premise of the movie is that when Aliens attack the world the only force strong enough to stop them are Monsters that the government has kept secret for decades.Â That plot screams adventure and action; plenty of chance to flex a 3D muscle.Â But it was almost like the makers of the film didn't know how to flex it.Â The real winner in this movie was the voice work from an all-star comedy team; ie: Seth Rogen, Stephen Colbert, Will Arnett and half the cast of "The Office" just to name a few.Â The inside jokes that only adults would get run rampant through the story and result in a few legit belly laughs.Â I definitely think that Seth Rogen, who plays a gelatinous character named B.O.B., steals the show as far as the jokes come.Â Surpringly funny in the movie was Hugh Laurie, who you know better from Fox's show "House."Â He uses his real British accent as Dr. Cochroach and shows off his comedy chops for once.Â Makes me look forward to a comedy starring him at some point.Â However, the movie itself didn't stand up to the calabir that its stars could produce.Â It seemed like the voice work was an A+ effort but the director and other people making it were playing on a J.V. level.Â I felt like I wasn't alone feeling that either.Â As I looked around the theater, it seemed that halfway through I saw a lot of bored faces and yawns.Â Even through the 3D glasses I could tell the eyes were glazing over, and yes I'm talking about the kids too.Â It was almost as if the crew at Dreamworks knew they had a cash cow on their hands and just assembled a huge comedic cast of voice actors and then crapped out a story and slapped it together just to put out there and make some quick, easy cash.Â I'd say I was wrong perhaps if the movie wasn't set up with a cliffhanger to set up a franchise before they were even sure how it would do at the Box Office