A lot of critics say that movies about the Iraq War aren't very good and don't do very well at the box office.Â I don't entirely agree with that.Â I thought "Jarhead" and "The Kingdom" were two very well done Iraq War movies.Â But there's something about "The Hurt Locker" that makes it not only the best Iraq War movie ever made, it might be possibly one of the best war movies ever made.Â But don't go into this expecting the epic scale of "Saving Private Ryan."Â Don't expect the heartbreaking drama of "Platoon."Â In fact, don't even expect the sense of gallant pride that "Glory" delivered either.Â This movie is more in the realm of "Full Metal Jacket."Â It's not really about anything.Â It doesn't have much of a story but it doesn't need one.Â It's written by Mark Boal who was embedded with explosive experts in Iraq.Â The portrait he paints of soldiers (he also wrote the very underrated "In the Valley of Elah") is not heroic nor controversial.Â He knows that soldiers are complex and tortured people who have problems and dreams and fears but are trained not to let any of that surface.Â I think it has to be noted also that this movie was directed by Kathryn Bigelow...a woman.Â I think that's significant because A: she proves that you don't need to be a testosterone-filled man to tell a compelling war film and B: she may be the first female Best Director winner.Â She uses mostly handheld camera shots to create an amazing sense of tension and suspense.Â She also made the call to cast unfamiliar actors as the leads with a few famous faces throughout in cameos.Â Stars Jeremy Renner and Anthonie Mackie show us tormented and dark people who suppress their emotions so well, that it makes them a far cry from the John Wayne-type of heroes we're used to seeing in war films.Â To describe what "The Hurt Locker" story is about is pointless.Â I think that's why the title of the movie doesn't even show up in any of the credits or is even spoken in any dialogue.Â But a "hurt locker" is a military term for a figurative place where someone is expected to suffer great pain.Â Whether or not the "hurt locker" in this movie relates to Iraq or the mind of the soldiers is up to you to interrupt.
The Hurt Locker (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A-
This was the first "Potter" movie I saw where I had the entire book read before I saw the movie.Â That makes my enjoyment of the Harry Potter world much more enjoyable but it does make it harder to watch the movies from a critical view.Â I really will attempt to review this movie as JUST A MOVIE and not based off of my captivation of the books.Â The director of this one (the last one, and the last two also) is David Yates.Â I was not a fan of his, but anyone who comes after accomplished director of the 3rd one, Alfonso Cuaron, must understand that it's not easy to improve on his work.Â However, he does a wonderful job of directing this one.Â It gives me hope for the last two (the last book is split into two movies).Â He has really made a worthy effort to keep the angles and shots in this movie complex and dazzling, while also matching the colors and editing with the bleak story and maturity of the characters.Â Speaking of the characters, the entire cast returns for this one with the addition of Jim Broadbent, who is brilliant as Prof. Slughorne, and Jessie Cave as the lovestruck, Lavender Brown.Â They blend right in with the rest of the cast as if they've been there all along, but both easily steal the show with their brand of humor, which there was plenty of!Â This might be the first "Potter" film that made me laugh out loud at genuinely funny performances.Â But I wonder if trying to put too much of that into the movie made them take their eye off the ball by focusing on more of the character-driven adolescent nuances than the mystery and adventure surrounding the ending of the film.Â That's my only complaint with this movie.Â They took out, what I consider to be, key scenes that explain Harry and Dumbledore's quest.Â Those scenes would have kept the movie darker and mysterious, while satisfying fans' thirst for glimpses into Voldemort's past.Â Damnit!Â I couldn't do it.Â I tried not to, but I'm reviewing it as a movie from a book instead of JUST A MOVIE.Â Ignorance might be bliss when seeing these because if you don't know a scene exists, you'll never miss it when it's taken out.Â As a fan of JUST THE MOVIE, it is the best in what is arguably shaping up to be one of the greatest movie series of all time.Â As a fan of the movies based on books that I love, it's a wonderful and heartbreaking setup to what I hope will be the climax ending we all hope it should be...it just could've had a little more.
Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: A
Going to see "Bruno" is a like going into battle; you're not all gonna be there when it's done.Â There were several people who walked out of the screening I went too who just couldn't take anymore.Â One of which was a father with his little kid.Â Thank God they walked out early before things got worse.Â The creators of "Borat," Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles, have teamed up again to make comedy gold.Â Is it better than "Borat?"Â No, but it's still an assault of comedy.Â Borat was a loveable innocent character who didn't know any better and Bruno isn't.Â Bruno is self-centered, shallow and knows exactly what he's doing.Â That may turn even some "Borat" fans off, but not me.Â What I loved about this movie the most was how you find yourself wanting to look away every time there's an edit.Â My girlfriend Stacy said (more than once) "Gavin, I don't know if I can watch this."Â The style of comedy that tests your limits for being offended and making you uncomfortable is one of my favorites...but it's not for everyone.Â You need to keep in mind that this movie just snuck by with an "R" rating after being trimmed down from an "NC-17."Â I'm honestly STILL shocked they showed what they did in some scenes.Â Even though this movie is one of the funniest so far this year, it's far from perfect.Â What I didn't enjoy about it was the story that they felt they needed to shoehorn in.Â What makes these movies funny are the interactions with unsuspecting people, not the story line...which in "Bruno" takes center stage at times more than the commando comedy does.Â I felt like, at the very least, he could've extended some of the interviews that remind us of the amazing HBO series "Da Ali G Show," which is where Borat and Bruno came from.Â I mean, come on, the movie's only 83 minutes long!Â The other complaint is the movie's staggering around it does at the end trying to come up with an ending.Â From what I understand though, that's not entirely their fault since the ending had to be changed and diced up since some groups were really offended by some ways he wanted to mock California's denial of gay marriage.Â Oh yeah, Bruno's gay.Â I probably should've mentioned that.Â You have to be comfortable enough to see that.Â If you're one of those thick-neck, jock douchebags that screams and looks away when you see two men kiss in a movie, then go see "Ice Age 3."Â But if you can handle "in-your-face crotch" gay jokes,Â and find men making out and lots of floppy penis funny, your movie has arrived!
Bruno (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A-
The trailer for this movie was haunting, creepy, confusing and I loved it!Â I wanted to see what it was about in the worst way.Â However, seeing the trailer and going into this movie with a preconceived notion of what it was about made me like it a little less though.Â Sam Rockwell is not only the lead in this movie, he's the ONLY one in this movie.Â There are some recorded images here and there from other actors and an eerie performance by Kevin Spacey as the voice of GERTY the robot.Â If you have no idea what this movie is about, you're better off.Â But since I mentioned that it stars only one person and there's a robot in it, I should say that it's a Sci-Fi movie about one man living on the Moon for 3 years working for a company that harvests clean energy for Earth.Â That's covered in the first 30 seconds of the film and that's all you get from me.Â To explain this movie in any fashion is a disservice to anyone who hasn't seen it.Â What makes it so good is the unraveling of the story.Â The other aspect of what makes the movie so good is Rockwell.Â I've seen him in so many movies that range from utterly hilarious (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) to disturbing psycho horror (Joshua) to heartbreaking drama (Choke).Â He's truly an underrated renaissance man of the acting world.Â So if you're going to make a movie that only has one actor in it, he better be amazing...which is just another way of saying he better be Sam Rockwell.Â I want to tell you why he's so great in this but that would blow part of the story.Â But what I can say is how new director Duncan Jones chose to make this film was part of why Rockwell looked so good.Â Jones (who's David Bowie's son) gives us a dirty vision of a world that doesn't need to sit in a certain year or placate to the lowest common denominator-of-viewers.Â The movie echoes "2001" and other sci-fi movies that also try to make a statement.Â It's deep.Â It's complicated.Â It's confusing.Â It's creepy.Â It's everything that I hoped it would've been except for what it was about.Â But I wasn't disappointed by it at all.Â It just took me to a different place than I thought I was going too, which (without saying too much) is a good way to sum this movie up.
Moon (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A-
Woody Allen is an American icon.Â He has made a movie once a year since 1975!!!Â Not sure if you really grasped that.Â One man has written and directed a movie every single year for the past 34 years!Â He has one of the longest catalogs on the IMDB.com website.Â He's written some of the funniest movies ever made, won Oscars but has also made some crap.Â This one falls somewhere in between.Â It stars Larry David, who if you didn't see him on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on HBO or know he was the creator of "Seinfeld," would think he's just some guy who won the Woody Allen look-a-like contest.Â He plays the lead opposite Evan Rachel Wood, who is a young, Southern barbie doll who develops an unlikely friendship with him.Â Wood is completely unrecognizable since seeing her last as Mickey Rourke's daughter in "The Wrestler."Â She is really developing into a great actress that has the chops to hold up against any drama and any comedy.Â Larry David on the other hand is good at one thing...playing Larry David.Â That's not really a bad thing since all he's doing is stepping in for Allen who is only good at playing Woody Allen as well.Â That's a kind of accurate way to describe the film as a whole too.Â It's a Woody Allen movie that is really only good at being one thing...a Woody Allen movie.Â It's a slice of romantic comedy New York City life as told (directly to the camera) by a miserable, Jewish, hypocondriac genius.Â It mocks the south, stupidity, religion and conservative people.Â Those are all things that I find amusing and funny but it doesn't help Woody Allen's reputation for being a snob at all.Â One of the best Woody Allen movies ever made (and best movie in general ever made) is "Annie Hall."Â It's like he wanted to recapture the magic in that movie and made this but ended up getting just a low-rent version of it.Â It's a jaded, apathetic, negative look at love but still ends up with a positive message and a couple big laughs by the end.Â If you're a fan of Woody Allen, you know that watching his movies is like watching a play; you have to be patient and get ready for a lot of talking that aims intentionally over your head, but if that's your cup-of-tea then sit down and enjoy a pot with this.
Whatever WorksÂ (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B-