Review: Scorsese Invents Movie Magic with HUGO

   There is little doubt when it comes to cinematic excellence, Martin Scorsese is at the top of a list of directors who can create incredible, memorable experiences. Hugo is not only another example of his ability to do so, but is perhaps also an example as to why he has such an ability.

   Hugo is based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. The titular Hugo Cabret is an orphan who lives in a 1930's Paris train station maintaining the clocks. He has an automaton, a mechanized human whose function is to write, that is in need of repair. He needs a key to activate it and hopefully find a message from his deceased father which will really get the adventure going.

   And yet it doesn't. As far as films go, there is no "grand adventure". There is no epic battle against an evil force, there is no magic or ancient artifact that must be rescued. There is simply a device that gets fixed, a simple fact learned, and a conflict that needs to be resolved. That is what makes this film so great. It is very straight forward and does not attempt to add any extra bells or whistles. Sure, the advertisements make it seem more fantastic to draw in that family crowd, but this is a very slow paced, but very sure of itself film that does one thing and it does it well: show an appreciation for cinema.

   The best way to describe Hugo is as a love letter to early cinema. George Melies plays an extremely important role as essentially the father of narrative film and special effects. Without him, we would not have the films we have today. The reverence his craft is treated with shows how much Scorsese respects him and appreciates all he did for the art he holds so dear. Just as we present day film afficenados hold Mr. Scorsese in high regard, did he hold Mr. Melies for all of his work. In real life, and in Hugo as well, he felt unappreciated and forgotten to film goers, but as Hugo proves, that is certainly not the case. The best part about this film is that now a new generation who knew nothing about Melies or even A Trip to the Moon (one of the first films I watched when I became a Media Studies student) now have a much better idea as to what preceeded what they see today.

   The performances in this film are top notch. Ben Kingsley as George Melies is exceptional, showing great emotional range and depth, starting off very antagonistic towards Hugo, then becoming much more sympathetic and grandfatherly as the plot progresses. Another acting heavyweight in the film is Christopher Lee who has a very small role as Monsieur Labisse, a bookstore owner who helps guide our young heroes. While he does not do much, there is a warmth about him that radiates and you cannot help but appreciate his character. Sacha Baron Cohen, best known for his roles in films such as Borat and Bruno, plays Inspector Gustav. He's on the prowl for orphans and makes a fantastic villain, but remains sympathetic enough that you wish him happiness by the end of the film. Usually very funny and always a joy to watch, Cohen does a great job and makes me hopeful he will play similar parts again in the near future. As for the children, Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz have proved their acting chops in the past with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Let Me In respectively. Hugo is no different as both are extremely likable and fun to watch work together. There is definitely feelings between the two as one would expect, but its refreshing to see a film NOT make them get together by the end of the film, instead just leaving such romantic endeavors a thought for something to occur after the film ends in the audience's imagination.

   One of the more interesting proponents of Hugo is the fact that it is a 3D family film by Martin Scorsese of all people. I have been very adamant that 3D is just a fad, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that if all 3D films were done as Hugo's 3D was done, that would not be the case. It is absolutely mesmerizing and completely immersive. I spent most of the film with my jaw dropped in amazement at simply how beautiful the film looked (the opposite of how I reacted to the extremely overrated Avatar).  Scorsese has said that he is very excited for 3D and sees it as the future of film, and it is hard to argue when films such as Hugo are the result. I would highly recommend paying the extra amount to see it with its added sense of depth.

   Directors always want to create just one career defining film in their lifetimes. If a director can create one film that will be remembered by all for being so incredibly well crafted, their career can be considered a success. Martin Scorsese has not only done that, but he has done it once a decade with Taxi Driver in the 70's, Raging Bull in the 80's, Goodfellas in the 90's, The Departed in the 00's, and now, in the 2010's, he has created Hugo. The best part? With films like The Irishman on the way (think The Expendables of gangster films) and a Frank Sinatra biopic, Hugo might just be the start for this decade. And that, is a very magical thing.

Directed by:
Martin Scorsese
Written by:
John Logan
Starring:
Ben Kingsley
Sacha Baron Coen
Asa Butterfield
Chloe Grace Moretz
Emily Mortimer
Studio:
GK Films
Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Running Time:
126 Minutes
Rated PG
Amazing!

(+) Veteran actors show their skills and new actors prove their worth
(+) Baron Coen steps away from his R-Rated comedy for something more endearing
(+) Beautiful visuals that show 3D can work when done right
(+) Wonderful score that adds to what is seen
(+) A true cinephile's dream: a movie by Martin Scorsese about movies
(+) Scorsese's best film since The Departed
(-) Well paced, but slow. Younger viewers will have trouble staying still.
(?) At almost 70, how is Scorsese still making movies that are THIS good? 
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Cin-e-Matic Vlog - The Social Network Contest Results!




After a few weeks, our contest has finally come to a close and a winner has been chosen! Watch for information on Cin-e-Maniac and who the winner of our very first contest is! Thanks for all the support, and even if you did not win, keep supporting Cin-e-Matic, and who knows? Our next contest may be very, very soon!
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Review: BLACK SWAN Dances To Perfection

   Wow, just…wow. This movie is truly a work of art, I know people often say that about good films, but this truly is art. Black Swan rises above the standard set by the current state of films. This movie will keep you thinking long after you leave the theater.

   The movie follows Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) a ballerina who has caught the eye of company director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel). The company is in the process of producing Swan Lake; the production requires a ballerina to play both the innocent White Swan and the sensual Black Swan. Nina is a perfectionist and thus is a perfect fit for the White Swan, while a rival dancer, Lily (Kunis), has a personality that fits the Black Swan. Thomas believes that Nina is too controlled and perfect in her dancing for the Black Swan. As she pushes herself for the role, Nina slowly finds a dark side of herself as she finds her life beginning to mirror the ballet.

   The direction of this film is brilliant; director Darren Aronofsky shows how capable a director he is once again. Every aspect of this film is brilliant. It is fascinating; the themes that he explores in this film are numerous. The film deals with themes that were in the original play Swan Lake. The main themes that Black Swan deals with are perfection, duality and doppelgangers. Black Swan shows the dark side of a person striving to be perfect, it shows what the effects of such intense training and stress can have on someone’s mental state. Everything in this film has double meaning, ever plot point, nearly every line of dialogue in the film, every character trait represents conflicting viewpoints and ideals, and every seemingly innocent act has a dark side. A perfect example of this would be Nina herself, but one that can be openly discussed without ruining major plot details would be Nina’s mother Erica played perfectly by Barbara Hershey. Erica seems to be the perfect mother; she loves Nina, and puts her before all other needs. This seemingly sweet relationship with her daughter belies a possible sinister nature, she is controlling of her daughter, she forces her daughter to spend every spare minute of their time together, she treats her daughter like a child, and she is obsessive of her daughter, spending her time painting pictures of Nina. Even the comedy relief moments are eerie under further observation; some are even chilling in retrospect. This film also delves deeply into the concept of doppelgangers, something that is central to the original Swan Lake. I will not delve into it any further because I do not want to spoil anything for those who have not seen the film.


   The concept of someone’s passion for their art destroying themselves was explored in detail in Aronofsky’s previous film The Wrestler. In many ways Black Swan and , The Wrestler are opposite sides of the same coin. Both are quite similar in their delivery, yet there are still differences. The Wrestler shows who a burnt out wrestler at the end of his career is trying to make a comeback and how he has managed to self destruct himself through his excesses. Black Swan shows a ballerina self destructing through her drive for perfection in an art that encourages

   Aronofsky really manages to squeeze every drop of talent from his cast, pushing some of them to deliver the best performances of their careers. All of the cast members are extraordinarily talented and truly express their skill here.

   Natalie Portman is absolutely breathtaking in this role. She has always given good performances in her roles in previous years, but in this film, she shines like never before. It is a tall order to say that this is her best performance, but it is not an invalid statement she is nothing short of perfection in this film. Portman perfectly portrays the complex character of Nina; she switches between contrasting personalities at a moments notice. I was captivated by her in this film, she displayed such depth and emotion, and she was magnificent.

   Vincent Cassel is an amazing actor, truly a master at his craft. Here, he is as amazing as usual. His character Thomas is complex and manipulative, for Thomas sexuality is a tool, or an instrument that can be used to shape his dancers to his needs. Cassel is an amazing actor from whom I have never seen a bad performance. Here, he does not disappoint. His character is energetic and yet restrained, emotional, yet cold. I can heap nothing but praise onto his performance.

   Mila Kunis gave the most surprising performance of the film. I have always regarded her as a talented actor, yet I had never seen her live up to the talent I felt she had. In addition, the fact that she is blessed (or cursed?) with being the voice of Meg Griffin, have made it difficult for me to see her is serious roles. Her acting has always been good; her voice just reminds me of Meg. Here though, I did not see Meg, I saw her character Lily. Her performance in this was breathtaking, it is true that her voice is the same, and it is a lovely voice, but here it was not a distraction, rather it added to the nature of her character. Kunis gives an amazing performance here; she is nothing short of astounding.
Nina’s mother Erica was played by Barbara Hershey, she was interesting in this film. Erica is just as complex as the rest of the cast. Outwardly, she appears as the typical worrisome and doting mother. But under closer inspection, her character takes on a more sinister air. Hershey does a brilliant job of never allowing this to show; throughout the film, she seems to be a simple, doting mother.

   I must admit that is was surprised to see Winona Ryder in this film. She gave a powerful performance that acts as a dark warning to anyone who is willing to go to extreme lengths to succeed in a goal. Her character was not in the film that much, but she was magnificent in all of her scenes. She usually plays a certain type of character, often a “good girl” type of role, here it is nice to see her break her usual character type.

   The score to this film was an amazing reinterpretation of the music composed for the original Swan Lake. Sadly, this will prevent the score composed by Clint Mansell will not be eligible for best score at the Academy Awards, if it were eligible it would no doubt stand a good chance of winning the award. The two songs “Perfection” and “A Swan Song” are absolutely chilling; these pieces take an already gripping scene and heighten the emotion considerably.

   Black Swan is the type of movie that only comes along once every few years. It is definitely worth seeing, and you will not regret viewing it. Just as the dancers try to achieve, this film achieves perfection. This is truly Aronofsky’s best film so far, it will be hard for him to top this one.



Directed by:
Darren Aronofsky
Written by:
Mark Heyman
Andres Heinz
Starring:
Natalie Portman
Vincent Cassel
Mila Kunis
Barbara Hershey
Winona Ryder
Studio:
Cross Creek Pictures
Distributor:
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Running Time:
108 Minutes
Rated R
Amazing!

(+) Amazing performances from entire cast
(+) Gripping storyline
(+) Amazing score
(+) Gripping story
(+) Intricately woven themes and symbolism
(+) Beautiful cinematography
(+) Chilling climax
(+) An unexpected delight
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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: A new kind of comic book movie

Comic book movies have certainly risen in popularity in the last decade. We've seen movies of Spiderman, the X-Men, a reboot of the Batman series, and even a Watchmen movie. While not all comic book movies have been good, they are still a growing trend. To some, it may appear that the they are beginning to become a bit stale, since there are so many out there now. If you do, then let me tell you about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. As you may have read in my previous article, this is one of my top 5 favorite movies of the year. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a movie adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim comics written by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Directed by Edgar Wright, this movie is highly entertaining with intense action, and clever humor. The overall story of the movie is about a boy named Scott who wants to date girl named Ramona Flowers. Unfortunately, he has to fight her seven 'evil exes' to be with her. In the story, a lot of the characters have some kind of special ability. These abilities are never quite explained, at least not in the traditional sense that superheroes powers are explained. But that's kind of the point of this movie. The movie is meant to be a tribute to nerd culture. In the movie, Scott is shown early on playing a game called ninja revolution with his first girlfriend in the movie, Knives. It is a motion fighting game that involves actually doing the moves. In the director's commentary, Edgar Wright talks about how this is supposed to be were Scott got his fighting ability. In the comics, the Bryan Lee O'Malley got the overall idea of Scott Pilgrim from Street Fighter, his idea was that the ultimate fantasy for a gamer was to one day be able to do the moves they do in the game.


All the characters in the film are great, and the cast does a great job with their roles. Every character whether they are a minor character or a main character is highly entertaining. All the evil exes are funny nicely portrayed, even though they have brief roles, they each feel like they have distinct personalities. Michael Cera does well in the main role as Scott, managing to be both nerdy and funny, giving us and entertaining main character. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does fairly well as Ramona Flowers. Her character is not the most entertaining to watch onscreen, mainly due to the fact that she does not seem to get as many jokes as the rest of the main characters, but she manages to play her role skillfully, which is all that can really be asked of her. Ellen Wong does a great job as Knives Chau. She manages to be funny, hysterical, and sympathetic making her one of the most likable and entertaining characters in the movie. There many other supporting characters such as Scott's sister and roommate, but I will not go into great detail with each of them. They are all well played and make the movie even more enjoyable.


One of the things that is really cool about this movie is its fight scenes. All of the fights are just awesome. Each one had great choreography, and was incredibly creative. You can really tell that the stunt team worked hard with each fight. The fights include fist fighting, sword fighting, and all kinds of action. The amount of effort put into each fight really pays off in this movie. There was not one fight that I did not enjoy watching.


One of the things I want to talk about is this films visual style. First, as I am sure you noticed if you watched the movie, there are several scenes were when a phone rings, you see the word 'ring' pop up, or when a doorbell rings, you see the words 'ding-dong' pop up. During the fights, you also see words like 'krow' pop up when someone is hit kind of similar to the Adam West Batman. It creates an almost comical effect in the fight scenes, making them both ridiculous and intense at the same time. This was how the scenes were done in the comic-book and Edgar Wright adapted these scenes exactly, giving the film a unique atmosphere. These effects, along with other effects used during the fight gives this film a unique style, that helps make the film even more entertaining to watch. Another thing that adds to this movie's atmosphere is that all of it is shot on sight in Toronto, were the books take place. In one of the commentaries, we find that the settings in the story were real places that Bryan Lee O'Malley had been to as a kid. The film crew goes to each of these actual locations giving the film's setting an authentic feel to it. The camera angles and cinematography add to this as well giving the movie a very unique feel to it. Many of the scenes in the movie are amazing, such as the scene with Ramona and Scott walking in the park.

This scene has such a unique, magical feel to it. There is nothing you can see in the back ground, letting you focus on the characters while at the same time making you feel like your actually there. Scenes like these take the film to another level. While not groundbreaking, they do help make this movie slightly above average.
Another part of the movie I loved is the music scenes. The music is great in this movie, and the effects in these scenes make an experience I won't forget anytime soon. Effects in these scenes, such as the D's coming from ones guys guitar really make these scenes unforgettable. The soundtrack is just awesome, made up mostly of Rock music, a genre that I personally love. The soundtrack for this movie is great, and the music scenes really added a lot. The band Scott is in in the film is called Sex Bob-omb and we get to see them play several times in the movie. Every time, they play, you know something awesome is about to happen, whether it is a fight or some other kind of stunt, it is almost always exciting. The other music in this movie is great and really makes the movie feel exciting and fast paced.

Apart from the visuals, action, and music the thing this film really has going for it is humor. While the story is nothing spectacular, the humor written into it is extremely funny, and I found myself laughing though out the film. While not all the characters are like able, they are enjoyable, and that makes up for it. I don't want to go into great detail on the jokes, they are more enjoyable, I don't want to spoil anything for anyone. Most of the jokes are clever, and avoid cliches the majority of the time. Part of this is due to the fact that the movie is based off of a pretty clever comic series, but another factor contributing to it is that Edgar Wright and Michael Bacall wrote a good screenplay. They also worked with Bryan Lee O'Malley, and all their hard work really pays off.


The DVD has a lot of extras including deleted scenes, galleries of photos, bloopers, and commentaries from the cast, director, and even the writer of the original comics. I recently watched the commentary with Director Edgar Wright and comic writer Bryan Lee O'Malley and it was really good, it gave me a lot of insight on how they put the movie together, and how they worked together to make the movie while the comic wasn't even finished. Other commentaries where with people from the special effects team, and cast members such as Michael Cera and Brandon Routh. The deleted scenes are a nice addition, they included extended scenes that were shortened, alternate scenes that were cut and re shot for various reasons, and even an alternate ending to the movie. The galleries were interesting, especially if you are someone who is interested in art. They included some great concept art, photos, and a slide show that compared scenes in the comics to scenes in the movies to show how they were adapted. There also a few photos of Edgar Wright at various filming locations for the movie, and some the cast members on set. Some of the concept art was of stuff that did not even make it into the movie because they could not fit it in, which was pretty cool. I do not have a Blue-ray copy of the movie unfortunately, but I know it has all the bonus features of the DVD, as well as a few extras. Overall, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was a great movie, showing that there is still fresh content out there for comic book movies. It certainly isn't groundbreaking, but it is a lot of fun, an pretty original (or at least as original as a comic book movie can get).The DVD and Blue-ray had a lot of bonus features that definitely make it worth buying. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys comics, video games, music, comedies, or was born in nineties, as this movie has a lot of references to them. If you like movies that are serious, story driven, character driven, or logical this movie will probably not fit your tastes. If you like the Scott Pilgrim comics, I would definitely say check this out, but don't be to upset if a few things change, after all, the comic still wasn't finished when the movie was being made. I am not saying this is for everyone, but I am sure there are many people out there who will have a blast watching this movie. Its humor and style separate it from any other kind of comic book movie out there making it an experience that is unforgettable.

href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_ZtX_w9dvhIQ/TQubUWWK5TI/AAAAAAAAAPo/yzjcsSJZlSQ/s1600/4halfstars.png" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;">






Directed by:

Edgar Wright

Written by:

Michael Bacall
Edgar Wright
Starring:
Michael Cera
Mary Eliabeth Weinstead
Kieran Culkin
Ellen Wong
Alfie Rackley
Studio:
Big Talk Studios
Relativity Media
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Running Time:
112 Minutes
Rated PG-13
Outstanding!

(+) Extremely funny and entertaining
(+) Awesome action scenes
(+) Cool visuals give the film a unique atmosphere
(+) Highly enjoyable film
(+) Well written dialogue
(+) Good performances from the cast
(+) Great music, really fits the movie
(-) Humor may not be understood by everyone


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Coming this January: Slow Month with a Few Stand Outs

January, probably one of the slower months of the year, and 2011 is no exception. As part of our new monthly series, the following films will be releasing this month.

January 7th:


Season of the Witch
Starring Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore

Synopsis:
The church elders, convinced that a girl accused of being a witch is responsible for the devastation, command the two to transport the strange girl to a remote monastery where monks will perform an ancient ritual to rid the land of her curse. They embark on a harrowing, action-filled journey that will test their strength and courage as they discover the girl's dark secret and find themselves battling a terrifyingly powerful force that will determine the fate of the world.

Braeden's Take: 
It has the same name as the most notorious (though admittedly underrated) Halloween film. Early screenings for press have not been positive, and even Nicolas Cage fans should beware. While films such as The Wicker Man were unintentionally entertaining, apparently Season of the Witch is not. That is the curse of of Nic Cage it seems.

Country Strong
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, Leighton Meester

Synopsis:
Soon after a rising young singer-songwriter (Hedlund) gets involved with a fallen, emotionally unstable country star (Paltrow), the pair embarks on a career resurrection tour helmed by her husband/manager (McGraw) and featuring a beauty-queen-turned-singer (Meester). Between concerts, romantic entanglements and old demons threaten to derail them all.

Braeden's Take:
I saw the trailer of this attached to True Grit and I honestly had no opinion of it. It looks competent and coherent, but certainly not up my alley, even as a country music fan. If you are a fan of this genre, you should probably enjoy it, but those looking for something deeper may be better off checking out Crazy Heart, featuring an Oscar-winning performance from Jeff Bridges, instead.


January 14th:


Barney's Version
Starring Rachelle Lefevre, Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Giamatti

Synopsis:
Based on Mordecai Richler's award winning novel -- his last and, arguably, best -- "Barney's Version" is the warm, wise and witty story of the politically incorrect life of Barney Panofsky. The film spans three decades and two continents. There is his first wife, Clara, a flame-haired, flagrantly unfaithful free sprit. The "Second Mrs. P." is a wealthy Jewish Princess who shops and talks incessantly. It is at their lavish wedding that Barney meets, and starts pursuing, Miriam, his third wife, the mother of his two children, and his true love. Not only does Barney turn out to be a true romantic, he is also capable of all kinds of sneaky acts of gallantry, generosity, and goodness. His is a gloriously full life, played out on a grand scale.

Braeden's Take:
I cannot say I know much about this film, but it did receive recognition from the Golden Globes, Paul Giamatti's performance in particular. Look for this film to receive similar recognition at the Academy Awards, making this a possible must see in an otherwise bleak movie-going time.

The Dilemma
Starring Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder

Synopsis:
Since college, confirmed bachelor Ronny and happily married Nick have been through thick and thin. Now partners in an auto design firm, the two pals are vying to land a dream project that would launch their company. With Ronny's girlfriend, Beth, and Nick's wife, Geneva, by their sides, they're unbeatable. But, Ronny's world is turned upside down when he inadvertently sees Geneva out with another man and makes it his mission to get answers. As the amateur investigation dissolves his world into comic mayhem, he learns that Nick has a few secrets of his own. Now, with the clock ticking and pressure mounting on the biggest presentation of their careers, Ronny must decide how and when he will reveal the truth to his best friend.

Braeden's Take:
After seeing TRON: Legacy, we noticed the poster for this film. With an uninspired title and a generic tagline, this film screams "MEH" at the top of its lungs. Even the synopsis sounds very generic and I fear this will not be one of those "better than it sounds" kind of films, but of course I could be wrong.

The Green Hornet
Starring Seth Rogan, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Edward James Olmos

Synopsis:
As the son of LA's most prominent media magnate, who dies mysteriously, Britt Reid inherits his father's vast empire. Striking an unlikely friendship with one of his father's more inventive employees, Kato, Britt sees a chance to do something meaningful in his life: fight crime. To get close to the criminals, Britt and Kato plan to pose as criminals themselves. Britt becomes the vigilante Green Hornet, and Kato builds the ultimate in advanced retro weaponry, an indestructible car, equal parts firepower and horsepower. The Green Hornet and Kato quickly make a name for themselves. And, with the help of Britt's new secretary, Lenore Case, they begin hunting down the man who controls LA's gritty underworld: Benjamin Chudnofsky.

Braeden's Take:
This is one of the few films that I am actually looking forward to in the month of January. The trailers have not done a lot to sell the film (but the lack of material in the latest trailers hopefully means they are saving it for the film, rather than there not being any material to show). Seth Rogan seems to be taking the role very seriously as this is an important project very near and dear to him. Plus it has Christoph Waltz. How can you go wrong there?

The Heart Specialist
Starring Wood Harris, Zoe Saldana, Brian J. White, Mya

Synopsis:
A modern comedy about the everyday perils of first year medical residents at a shabby south Florida hospital. Wood Harris is the Chief Resident, who teaches the trainees how to save lives and not take themseleves too seriously, all the while hiding a chilling secret of his own.

Braeden's Take:
To be a comedy, the synopsis sure does sound like a horror movie of sorts. I have found next to nothing about this film and that is never a good sign. Most independent films have a good amount of press, yet I have heard virtually nothing.


January 21st:


No Strings Attached
Starring Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Cary Elwes, Kevin Kline

Synopsis:
A guy and girl try to keep their relationship strictly physical, but it's not long before they learn that they want something more.

Braeden's Take:
Portman goes from Black Swan to No Strings Attached. Just wow. Though in her defense, this film has been stuck in development hell for a while if just because distributors did not want to distribute it under its original title. While Kevin Smith may have had an argument in renaming his film from A Couple of Dicks to Cop Out, I don't think they really had an argument in keeping the title from changing from F*ckbuddies.



The Way Back
Starring Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan, Colin Farrell

Synopsis:
A fact-based story centered on soldiers who escaped from a Siberian gulag in 1940.

Braeden's Take:
The film has already been shown at a few festivals and is currently viewable in the Los Angeles market, and I have heard very positive things. Emotionally riveting, this is certainly a must watch for those looking for a film that takes a little more thought. I am however worried as to how available this film will be to moviegoers. A quick look on AMC Theater's website showed no record of this film. And yet there was a record for The Heart Specialist. Its a sad world we live in indeed...


The Company Men
Starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Kostner

Synopsis:
Bobby Walker is living the American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves him and co-workers Phil Woodward and Gene McClary jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands, and fathers. Bobby soon finds himself enduring enthusiastic life coaching, a job building houses for his brother-in-law which does not play to his executive skill set, and perhaps the realization that there is more to life than chasing the bigger, better deal.

Braeden's Take:
A well cast movie with an interesting premise in a time where the economy is one of the central issues in America. Affleck's films tend to do better when he's directing, and this is John Wells's first film as a director. He did serve as executive producer of the television drama E.R. however, so he does know something about drama at least, and maybe that will work to this film's advantage.


January 28th:


From Prada to Nada
Starring Camilla Belle, April Bowlby, Alexa Vega, Wilmer Valderrama

Synopsis:
Two sisters, one a young beauty who chooses passion over logic, the other a law student whose fixed moral compass keeps her from following her desires, are uprooted from their luxurious home when their father suddenly passes away. Out of money and out of options, the women move into their Great Aunt Aurelia's modest, but lively home in the Latino-centric Boyle Heights neighborhood where they find themselves thrown into a world that, despite their heritage, seems completely foreign. Over time, they discover the beauty of the culture they once fought so desperately to hide. And in the process they find the one thing that had eluded them: love.

Braeden's Take:
Maybe it's just because this is not my kind of film, but the whole thing seems very been there, done that, what's the point? And the title, while different shows what kind of film it is and the demographic it is aiming for. Unless you love the millions of generic chick flicks that come out each year (or you have a lovely lady who wants to see it), avoid this one I would say.

The Mechanic
Starring Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn

Synopsis:
Arthur Bishop is a 'mechanic' - an elite assassin with a strict code and unique talent for cleanly eliminating targets. When his mentor and close friend Harry is murdered, Bishop is anything but detached. His next assignment is self-imposed - he wants those responsible dead. His mission grows complicated when Harry's son Steve approaches him with the same vengeful goal and a determination to learn Bishop's trade. A methodical hit man takes an impulsive student deep into his world and a deadly partnership is born. But while in pursuit of their ultimate mark, deceptions threaten to surface and those hired to fix problems become problems themselves.

Braeden's Take:
From feminine chick flick to masculine action movie. This is my "awesome" movie of January for certain. It seems very similar to The Transporter, but is that a bad thing? Jason Statham is always enjoyable to watch as the action movie loner paired with an unlikely partner, but here we see someone who is young and up and coming, but competent in his ability, if a bit impulsive as described. This may not be a "masterpiece of cinema", but more likely than not it will be a very enjoyable, fun film. Bonus points for having an awesome poster.

The Rite
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Ciaran Hinds, Alice Braga, Toby Jones

Synopsis:
The Rite follows skeptical seminary student Michael Kovak, who reluctantly attends exorcism school at the Vatican. While he's in Rome, Michael meets an unorthodox priest, Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), who introduces him to the darker side of his faith, uncovering the devil's reach even to one of the holiest places on Earth.

Braeden's Take:
This feels like The DaVinci Code meets The Exorcist or something like that. I'm not a big horror fan, but Anthony Hopkins is a great actor and is always enjoyable in these darker sorts of roles. This is the only thing close to horror (described as a drama, though its advertising seems to suggest otherwise), so for those fans of the genre, this might be your only choice in January, if a choice at all.


And that's January ladies and gentlemen, with twelve films being released. How many of these interest you? Were there any that did not interest you until now? Be sure to leave a comment!
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Cin-e-Matic Forum is Open!

That's right Cin-e-Maniacs, our new forum is officially open! Help us build it up and start a real, film-loving community! Plus, if you create an account on the forum, that's an ADDITIONAL entry into our contest to win a free copy of The Social Network! So check it out, join up, and help Cin-e-Matic grow!

To visit our forum, visit: http://cin-e-matic.proboards.com

For more contest information, visit: http://cin-e-matic.blogspot.com/2010/12/contest-win-free-dvd-of-social-network.html
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Review: KNUCKLEHEAD is an Apt Name

   As I'm sure many of you may not know, I am a big fan of professional wrestling. Call it fake, scripted, or redneck, I enjoy it like I would any television show or movie, as a story driven product. Whether it be through interviews or backstage confrontations or in-ring action, I enjoy the story presented. Sure it can get stupid (if it didn't, WrestleCrap.com wouldn't exist), but when you look at stories such as Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, its easy to understand why there are a lot of wrestling fans out there. What I am not a fan of is bad movies, and that includes WWE films. The latest film that got a "special limited release" to about ten theaters, is Knucklehead, starring former world champion, The Big Show.

   Knucklehead is about a thirty-five year old orphan named Walter Krunk (Big Show) who is turned into a mixed martial artist by struggling manager Eddie Sullivan (Mark Feuerstein). Krunk and Sullivan, along with sister-figure  Mary O'Connor (Melora Hardin) travel to New Orleans to compete in a tournament that will give them the money to save the orphanage where Krunk resides. However, they are constantly battled along the way by Memphis Earl (Dennis Farina) and his fighter Redrum (Lester Speight). And for all you WrestleCrap or TNA fans who will get the reference, that's "murder", spelled backward (and obviously The Shining fans will get part of the joke, but I digress).

   Perhaps it is because I went in with NEGATIVE expectations, but I came out of this film with a smile on my face. The acting is decent some of the time, which is more than you can say for a lot of films. Big Show has this energy about him that makes him fun to watch, as cheesy as he might be. The script is cliche, almost overly so, but the film really is harmless enough. There are fart and testicle jokes for sure, and they really do bring the film down, but there were a few jokes that got an audible laugh out of me (which is apparently more than one could say for the recently released Little Fockers). That being said, the entire thing feels very "by the book" and it seems like any knucklehead (pun intended) could write it. And there were THREE writers, which makes it all the sadder that this is the case.


   Of course, the entire film screams WWE promotion, and it is, but it is aimed at a family demographic, and unlike most of the straight to DVD kids films, at least this one has some star power, even if its marginal or of the sports entertainer variety. And as cliche as this film is, at least it acts like it has some common sense behind it. I won't spoil a few of these moments, but in the course of them occurring I thought to myself "are they really doing THIS?!" only to have them go the "normal, real life, common sense route" which is a bit refreshing. Then again, you also have underground Jewish fight clubs which are either so ridiculous its painful to watch, or so ridiculous its hilarious, depending on how you look at it.

   Will most people reading this blog enjoy this film? Probably not. Will your children? Oh absolutely, they will love this film to death I'm sure. Will your average wrestling fan enjoy it? I consider myself a wrestling fan and I got some enjoyment out of watching one of my favorite entertainers in his first starring role (you might recall he  also played a giant Santa in Jingle All the Way). There is not a whole lot to say about this film, so I do apologize for the brevity, except that if you are the demographic WWE was aiming for with this film, I would say give it a watch, you might get some entertainment out of it. Plus for Netflix subscribers, its on Instant Watch, so you don't even have to use one of your DVD rentals for it. That's not too bad if I do say so myself.


Directed by:
Michael Watkins
Written by:
Bear Aderhold
Thomas Sullivan
Adam Rifkin
Starring:
Big Show
Mark Feurerstein
Melora Hardin
Dennis Farina
Studio:
WWE Studios
Distributor:
Samuel-Goldwyn
Running Time:
100 Minutes
Rated PG-13
Below Average

(+) Has a few laughs
(+) Most kids will enjoy watching Big Show
(+) WWE fans might enjoy it
(-) Little talent in the film, and what talent there is is wasted
(-) Very cliche, nothing stands out about it
(-) Likability remains within target demographic
(?) If this is for kids, why the heck is it PG-13?
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300+ Articles in 2011? Why Not?

   Hello Cin-e-Maniacs (at least until I figure out a better term for our readers), I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to 2011 and did not get too crazy at the turn of the decade. I am sure everyone out there has a New Year's Resolution or twelve. Personally, I'm trying to be a bit more upbeat and not worry so much. And as a film buff, I want to watch as many movies as possible. I plan on watching at LEAST 300 this year, and will be keeping track of it. In the past two days alone, I have already watched four films. But then I got to thinking, why not use that to help build Cin-e-Matic?

   So, that being said, I will start to write reviews and articles on all the films I'll be watching. Some will be reviews, some will be editorials such as analyses or top lists, and should total at least 200 on my part. I will not write on every single thing I watch (though new releases will certainly receive write-ups unless Richard or Joshua want to write the article on that film). Doing so will allow two things to happen. First and foremost, you get more content to educate and entertain you. Perhaps a movie that was released in the nineties flew under your radar because of your age or situation at the time, and the article will serve well to introduce you to it. Secondly, it will allow us to beef up our review database, which is always a plus.

   I will be re-watching some films I have seen before, but plan on also watching new films and going through new cinematic experiences that I may have missed out on in the past. I hope each and everyone of you enjoys the hundreds of articles to come out of Cin-e-Matic in the coming year, and we always look forward to your suggestions on films to cover. If you have any viewing suggestions, please leave a comment here. We really enjoy getting all of your input and love reading and replying to your comments in all of our articles, so keep it up!
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Review: LITTLE FOCKERS is a Fock Up


   Little Fockers is the latest sequel to the film Meet the Parents. It reunites Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, as Greg Focker and Jack Byrnes. I could give an outline of the plot, but that would be pointless since this film has a near identical plot to the last two films. Greg tries to prove himself worthy of Jack’s daughter Pam (Teri Polo), Jack disapproves of Greg. Stuff happens to make Jack suspicious of Greg and hilarity is supposed to ensue. The only difference here is that the Little Fockers manages to remove the humor that the other two films possessed. Oh, and it has Jessica Alba as a drug representative that is keen on seducing Greg for some reason. The plot is painfully predictable, especially for anyone who has seen the previous two films. The big difference is that this film introduces multiple subplots that are never resolved.

   The film is helmed by director Paul Weitz, famous for American Pie. Weitz is not the most experienced director; his biggest hits were director alongside his brother Chris. Paul Weitz solo career has mostly been lackluster films like Cirque de Freak: The Vampires Assistant. After watching Little Fockers I wonder if he was possibly, intimidated by the all-star cast he had. Little skilled direction is evident in this film; perhaps he needs a little more experience before tackling another big budget film.

   Little Fockers has an excellent ensemble cast; sadly, they are all wasted on poor performances. Only two actors actually seem like their hearts are in their performances, the rest simply seem to muddle through their scenes, waiting until the end of the day to pick up their paychecks. It is not entirely their fault, much of the blame falls on the poorly written dialogue and possibly bad direction.


Gaylord “Greg” Focker- Ben Stiller
   Ben Stiller is painful to watch in some scenes. He stays well within his usual style of humor, rarely branching out into unknown waters, like trying actual comedy. There is very little to note about his performance, it was bland and uninteresting.

Jack Byrnes- Robert De Niro
   It is physically painful to hear a great actor like Robert De Niro utter some of the dialogue in this film. The lines that they give him and the situations they put him in are excruciating to watch. It seems as though they wrote his character with multiple personalities in this film because he acts out of character for a large portion of the film. No explanation is given for why he acts the way that he does, it is not character development, none of that exists in this film, rather his character switches personalities between takes.

Dina Byrnes (Jack‘s wife, Pam’s mother) - Blythe Danner
Pam Focker (Greg’s wife, Jack’s daughter)- Teri Polo
   Blythe Danner and Teri Polo, to be honest it is easy to forget that these two are in the film at all. Blythe serves only to watch De Niro move around and occasionally talk. Whereas Teri Polo’s character only exists to explain what happened to the titular Little Fockers, her and Ben Stiller’s kids. She is a stay at home mom with no personality. Sadly, neither Danner nor Polo leaves any sort of impression after the credits roll. The closest thing to an impression that I got from Danner was the sense of discomfort I felt when she attempted to seduce Robert De Niro, not a pleasant scene.

Roz Focker (Greg’s mother)- Barbara Streisand
   Barbara Streisand gave a solid performance; she seemed to handle the horrendous dialogue the best out of the cast. Of course, this may be because of her character being one of the most eccentric in the film. It may also be because her overall screen time is quite brief compared to the rest of the cast.

Bernie Focker (Greg’s father)- Dustin Hoffman
   Dustin Hoffman gave one of the two truly enjoyable performances in this film; he has near perfect comedic timing. While not the best performance of his career, he is still a joy to watch as his breaths life into the film during his brief scenes. His character is the most enjoyable to watch, yet is barely on screen. Perhaps that is why he is so enjoyable; he is not on screen long enough to enough the audience as the rest of the cast does.

Kevin Rawley- Owen Wilson
   Owen Wilson was the only other enjoyable performance of the film. His character of Kevin is as hilarious as he was in the previous two films, this time he seems to leave a larger impact on the audience. His scenes were the ones that seemed to get the most laughs from the audience.

Andi Garcia- Jessica Alba
   Good lord, Jessica Alba. No one ever said that she is a great actor; the quality of her performances varies greatly. In this film however, it is sickening to watch her, I cannot even call it acting. She is just bad. Her character is simple; she is loose drug rep who has taken an interest in Greg Focker. Her only purpose is to seem attractive and offer temptation to Ben Stiller’s character; it seems like a simple enough role. It may be supposed to come across as a testament to Greg’s character that he does not sleep with Andi, but I honestly think that the reason he did not sleep with her is that her character is so annoying. I believe that they were going with flirty in this case, and I have seen her pull that off quite well, I honestly do not understand how her character ended up like this. Forget the ending to Inception; the logic behind Alba’s performance is going to be the question that plagues me.

Randy Weir- Harvey Keitel
   Harvey Keitel’s performance made me want to cry. Keitel is one of my favorite actors and while he does not do badly in this film, his talent is sorely wasted. There was not really even a need for his character, he was completely pointless and served no purpose in this film. One of the few things that kept me watching this film was the hope that he would reappear on screen for at least one more scenes to give his character some closure, but no that plot thread is quickly forgotten.

Henry Focker-Colin Baioochi
Samantha Focker-Daisy Tahan
   As for the Little Fockers themselves, Colin Baioochi and Daisy Tahan leave absolutely no impression on the audience. These child actors are terrible, Tahan being slightly less so. The kids never seem to find a place in the film, they seem like a last minute addition to the film or an afterthought.

   This movie did have one significant factor that I found interesting. To my knowledge, this film is the first on screen pairing of screen legends Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel since Taxi Driver. Few people know this but it was Harvey Keitel who convinces Robert De Niro to accept a supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s film Mean Streets. That film was De Niro’s breakthrough role and the one that brought him to the attention of the media. Of course, this film was followed with another pair of De Niro and Keitel in yet another Scorsese picture, and arguably the most important in De Niro’s career, Taxi Driver. After parting ways after Taxi Driver, De Niro would go on to become one of the most successful actors in Hollywood, Keitel would have a more eclectic career. Little Fockers marks the first time in decades that these two have shared a scene, and it only lasts a few minutes. Like Keitel’s role in the film, their scene is brief and pointless. In fact, I am willing to bet that the scene was written just to say that the film paired them together once again.

   I think that this was the quietest theater I have ever seen a film in, half the time I felt like I was watching the film alone. In reality, the theater was quite full, maybe a half dozen empty seats in the theater. Outside of a drama, this is probably the most silent audience I have ever seen. There was rarely a laugh throughout the film, and this was billed as a comedy.

   I do not recommend this film, to anyone. It has three of my favorite actors in it, yet is probably one of the worst films I have seen any of them in. This is definitely the worst film in the franchise, even after the disappointing Meet the Fockers. This film is a mess and should not be viewed unless you are left with no other option, and even then it should be viewed with caution. I feel that this image best sums up the quality of this film, think of it as a warning.

Lovely is it not?


Directed by:
Paul Weitz
Written by:
John Hamburg
Larry Stuckey
Starring:
Ben Stiller
Robert De Niro
Owen Wilson
Blythe Danner
Teri Polo
Studio:
Relativity Media
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Running Time:
98 Minutes
Rated PG-13
Not Good

(+) Has two, maybe three, funny scenes
(-) Horrible dialogue
(-) Non-existent story
(-) Great, talented actors just wasted
(-) Multiple subplots with no resolution
(-) Only fans MIGHT enjoy this film.
(?) Why was this even made?
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Joshua's Top 5 Favorite Movies of 2010

   Well, New Years Eve is upon us once again and I guess now is a s good a time as any to look back on all the movies that came out this year. With as many good movies as there have been in 2010, it is not easy for me to choose my favorites. While there have been quite a few bad ones, the movies that were good really did stand out this year. I did manage to narrow down my top five favorite, but only after careful consideration. Now these are not movies I consider to be the best movies of 2010, only the ones that are my favorite. Before I start, I would like to mention that I did not see everything I wanted to this year, so some movies may not get any attention simply because I haven’t seen them yet.

#5. Toy Story 3
   Well, I’ll admit this is a movie that made me cry a little. The original Toy Story was one of the first movies I ever saw and remains to this day to be my favorite movie from Pixar. This movie truly has a heart to it. In the previous two installments, Andy, the boy who owns the toys is a kid. In this movie, he has graduated from high school and is going off to college. This coincidentally came out during the summer right after I graduated high school and right before I started college, so it was really special to me. In the film, Andy has to decide what to do with all his old toys that he never uses anymore. He has to decide what to take with him and what to leave behind. In some ways, the movie is about being able to move on, while at the same time remembering that the family and friends that we have grown to love along the way are still the same people and are still just as important to us, even if we don’t know it. This movie feels like a coming of age movie for me, it was emotional and Pixar manages to produce a great film with this story, mixing in humor with emotion throughout the movie. All the main characters that we have grown to love are there, and the film does not fail to maintain the personalities that have been developed for each character. This film truly does have a heart to it, and is able to be both mature and child friendly at the same time. I am proud to have this in the number five spot in my top 5 favorite movies of 2010.

#4. The Social Network
   This is a movie that surprised me with how much I liked it. I thought it looked okay when I saw the trailers, but it did not seem like the kind of movie I would enjoy. When I first heard of it I thought, come on, a movie about the creation of facebook, seriously, how interesting could this be? I thought it would end up being some boring movie, but I am proud to admit I was wrong about it. Not only was it interesting, it proved to be one of the best movies of the year. I ended up seeing one day with a group of friends and I was impressed not only with how good it was, but by how much I enjoyed it. The way it was set up, the way it was presented was done perfectly. The story is mainly about how the network Facebook was created, but it is much more than that. It is about relationships, how they change, and about how greed and jealousy can poison a friendship. The entire cast does a good job, especially Jesse Eisenburg who really shows his talent in this movie. The film has a nice mix of drama, and humor keeping the story from dragging on. This is a movie where there is always something that keeps my attention, whether it is funny, or tragic. The way David Fincher presents the characters and the way he tells the story is excellent. He shows us all the steps it took the create Facebook, and the way embarking on such an enterprise can change someone. He showed how much effect one random conversation can have, how something seemingly insignificant can spark an idea. I’m not a huge fan of dramas, but this is one managed to keep my interest for the entire time I was watching it. Personally, I think this is one of the best movies to come out this year as well as one of the most entertaining.

#3. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

   This is a film that to me, is nothing but pure fun. It is an adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim comics. What makes this movie so entertaining is that it is basically one great big tribute to geek culture. Imagine a movie that tries to take everything that a geek finds epic and cram it all into one movie. That is this movie and despite the fact that it there are so many ways this could have gone wrong, Director Edgar Wright pulls through and makes it work. There are tons of references to comics, anime, video games, movies, and music. The fight scenes themselves are intense and involve the combatants using everything from teleportation, to psychic powers, to super speed, and samurai swords. The effects only make the movie more captivating, giving the film a very unique style. The movie is meant to be a comedy about geek culture, focusing on the . The story is not the best, but then again it’s not supposed to be. The movie knows what it is and it knows exactly what demographic it is trying to reach out to, and it simply tries to give that demographic the best time that it can. The result is a hilarious movie with highflying action sequences, intense visuals, and references that are fun and nostalgic. Not only does this movie present us with an enjoyable experience, it shows that there is still untapped potential for comic book movies, that there can be more to them than the traditional superhero movie.

#2. The Town

   This was a movie that surprised me with how much I liked it. I had seen trailers for it a couple times, and thought it would be a decent movie, but it was still much better than I expected. This the second movie directed by Ben Affleck, the first movie being Gone Baby Gone which I have not seen, though I have heard some good thing about it. This movie has a fine balance between scenes that are humorous and scenes that are pure violence. Ben Affleck’s directing works well, and his acting in this movie, while not Oscar worthy is decent. The story is adapted from the book Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan. What I liked about the movie was how it focuses on the bonds the thieves have and how it managed to mix in some humor with the building tension allowing giving the movie a kind of unique feel to it. I really felt myself caring about the characters in the story and I felt the suspense rise as the film moved towards its climax. The movie gave you the feeling that it could go either way, that it could end with a happy ending or end in a tragedy. I won’t say what happened at the end or whether or not it ended happily, you’ll have to see it for yourself. This is definitely one of the best to come out this year, and it really shows Ben Affleck’s strengths as a director. I really hope he will direct more movies in the future because this seems to be were his strength lies in film.

#1. Inception

   You might be wondering why I would put this movie in my number one spot, especially when I have movies like The Social Network, The Town, and even Toy Story 3 on my list. While there is probably not a high chance of this movie receiving any awards this year, it was definitely one of the best and my personal favorite. This is a movie that truly amazed me. It’s so complex, yet its core idea is so simple and understandable that it’s just astounding that the final product that we see onscreen is just awesome. It’s one of those films that really make you think when you watch it. The story line is given such a depth that there’s never a moment were you feel bored watching it. The basic storyline is about a group of people who enter people’s minds to steal their secrets. I won’t give too much away; but the storyline is much more complex than it sounds. Christopher Nolan worked hard on this project and the effort really shows. In the movie, we see the main characters enter peoples’ minds several times and each time we do, it feels as though tension is building, as things become more and more interesting. The group of people is hired to enter the mind of the heir of a huge business empire, but not to take something out, but to put something in. Nothing is ever obvious in this movie, which is something I personally appreciate. While it may not be the best that has come out this year, it is definitely the most fascinating movie to me and the one that I enjoyed most.

   Well that's it for my top 5 favorite movies of 2010, but before I go, I want to point out that I still haven't seen quite a few movies that came out this year, such as Shutter Island, Black Swan, or even True Grit. I do intend to see these movies eventually, but for various reasons, I still haven't, which is part of the reason they aren't on my list. I would also like to make a few honorable mentions: Easy A, Megamind, Machete, The Losers, and TRON: Legacy. These were all great movies, and I would highly recommend them. I won't go into detail why they didn't make it onto my top 5 list, but they are each enjoyable in their own right, so do not think that just because they aren't on my list means they aren't good. Looks like this is the end fo 2010, lets hope 2011 is a good as or even better than this year.
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