hollywoodland.jpgrating-4.5Hollywoodland is a movie that builds a bit of fiction around the true-life mystery death of George Reeves, the story of a detective that takes on the case and comes close to finding the truth... But this is no Black Dahlia or Murder By Decree. There are no absolutes and the truth will always remain unknown.

Instead, while edging ever closer to the real questions in the case, the life of our hero detective, played by Adrien Brody, is shown in close symmetry to the arc of George Reeves, whose sad life is played out brilliantly by Ben Affleck in a role that deserved far more credit than it was given.

The plot cuts back and forth in time between detective Louis Simo, looking for answers in Reeves' death, and the story of Reeves himself, torn between women and the dichotomy of desired fame and unwanted infamy.

The plot, while providing no concrete solution, could not be more perfect in the manner in which it lays out the events of both Reeves' and Simo's arcs. The fact that it is fairly well ignored is a shame as it is one of the better noir crime dramas to come out in some time and gives a platform to a wide array of actors, all of whom give excellent performances.

Affleck and Brody, both superb in the film, are backed by Diane Lane and Robin Tunney as two very different femme fatales, Bob Hoskins as the heavy mogul, and many other character actors in supporting performances. And there's not a single bad performance in the whole film, every actor giving the film weight and a depth that does honor to the memory of Reeves and the bleakness of the crime.

The writing and acting draw so much attention that one almost forgets the smooth direction, the first feature work from television director Allen Coulter, best known for a tremendous amount of work for HBO and a variety of TV series. He does very well here without overshadowing his subject matter with directorial flourishes and stylization. We can only hope he returns to film soon.

Overall, this period piece delivers more than expected and manages to be entirely satisfying without tying a true crime story into a neat little bow for the viewer.

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waiting.jpgrating-4.0Waiting is one of those movies somewhat misrepresented by its trailer, a trailer aiming particularly for its most disgusting moments as somehow being the most salable part and representative of the overall film.

Well, fortunately, this was not the case and the movie was surprisingly enjoyable, if slight.

The tale of workers in the restaurant industry, you can tell that writer/director Rob McKittrick has done his time amongst the unwashed masses of the food industry. Capturing well the atmosphere of food services with its zany antics, but somewhat overselling the wackiness of the workplace, McKittrick sculpts a good comedy out of the clay of his work experiences, delivering something human and believable that also acts as a showcase for the comedic talents of an ensemble of young actors.

Ryan Reynolds, of course, stands out first and foremost, as he is one of today's best comedic actors. This is yet another stand-out performance for him and much of the movie feeds off of his aura of charisma.

Justin Long and David Koechner both manage enjoyable and surprisingly not-annoying performances. Long is the real star of the movie, the tale revolving around the story of his growth and the way in which he comes to terms with his own life goals. Koechner, usually appearing in woefully bad Will Ferrel vehicles, ropes in his improvisational urges and plays the chump well.

Anna Faris is, as ever, delightful, but her comedic talents are somewhat underused. And Luis Guzman adds tremendous hilarity while Chi McBride adds class to the film.

The film isn't exactly full-bodied and some might consider its plot a bit malnourished, but it isn't a bad tale of the day in the life of your average server, as witnessed by the new employee.

Waiting... despite it's few flaws is an enjoyable and amusing viewing experience and lends me more hope that the comedy is not dying or being left to the grossly unfunny Sandlers or Ferrels of the world.

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The Bourne Ultimatum

bourne_ul.jpgrating-4.5The Bourne Ultimatum is an easy sell. If you liked The Bourne Identity or The Bourne Supremacy, then you'll probably like Ultimatum. It is, as it should be, pretty much the same deal.

Continuing the direction of Paul Greengrass, Ultimatum is only hampered by the fact that it was being filmed as it was written and the story is much less strong than it should have been to carry such a major franchise into what will likely be its final act. Knowing this, you can easily see the seams, as the movie was constantly being written and rewritten throughout filming, to the degree that its stars never really understood what was going on, trusting that Greengrass would cobble a workable movie out of the mess.

It's not the strongest plot, but it is full-bore Bourne, definitely keeping up the action and chases but refusing to retread the same ground it's already covered with the previous movies' fights and chases. This is accomplished with a different handle on combat, a shortened car chase (inevitable after the weight of Supremacy's climax), and a chase via scooter and dirt bike. Also, kudos have to be given for the strange way in which The Bourne Supremacy's ending is reworked from a conclusion to a mid-Ultimatum plot point, giving the last film a good twist and opening up Ultimatum to be played with without being revisionists.

The one real issue that can be taken with the movie, as pointed out in interviews by Matt Damon, is that Paul Greengrass doesn't use a Steadicam. Every shot is nearly a close-up, filmed with a shoulder-mounted camera, every jolt and movement felt in a way that very few movies manage. While annoying in Lord Of The Rings, the shakey action cam (and generally shakey cam throughout) is entirely appropriate for Bourne, giving the whole movie the feel of a documentary and is consistant throughout. While it does make some of the action hard to follow, it allows for tighter fight sequences that rely less on staging and making sure the audience don't see punches being pulled and allow it to look vicerally real. The seams don't show and we feel the badassitude that Jason Bourne is supposed to give to the movie.

Despite the cloudy plot, the acting, action, and direction are all top-notch and, while some questions are left unanswered, Ultimatum gives a satisfactory close to a pitch-perfect trilogy that managed to thrill audiences without ever pandering to them.

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Thank You For Smoking

thank_you.jpgrating-4.5Being a satire and based on a novel, Thank You For Smoking has the benefit of not beating the audience over the head with its point. That point: cigarettes are bad for you, but we're relentless sold on them and told otherwise anyway.

What could have, at worst, been a two-hour PSA is instead one of the most witty and incisive movies of its time, using every bit of Aaron Eckhart's cynical charm to make the movie work in a way that you wouldn't have suspected it would.

The tale of an unrepentant cigarette industry warrior, spreading disinformation for the cause and living large, takes a turn as betrayal almost topples our villain/hero, who still manages to remain amoral and save his own skin and his son's burgeoning respect for his father's intellectual trickery.

An exceptionally dark fable of one man's fall and rise back to his place, it doesn't bother to make you try to dislike it's despicable characters, instead daring the audience to love them as they bilk the public and escape from ramifications by sheer strength of will and uncanny knack for circular logic. Eckhart's Nick Naylor goes far beyond "antihero", instead appearing as completely reprehensible but lovable and we feel for him as he goes about his war on the public conscience.

The acting is, of course, superb, with Eckhart being backed by J.K. Simmons, Maria Bello, David Koechner (at his least annoying), Katie Holmes, Robert Duvall, and William H. Macy. Even Cameron Bright, as his son, manages to break away from his career of playing the flat, creepy, dead-eyed kid and gives a lively and intelligent performance.

Though it will likely not end up on your all-time-favorite movie list, there is very little not to like about the powerful and funny little film. It would be a crime to miss this film.

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ultraviolet.jpgrating-2.0I'm not sure if Ultraviolet is worse because it's a terrible movie or a huge disappointment.

You see, Kurt Wimmer, Hollywood screenwriter and auteur behind the fantastic Equilibrium, was due to make another amazing dystopian sci-fi movie. Equilibrium had been the kind of movie most sci-fi action fans had longed for and it's easy pace, excellent character pieces, and avoidance of bludgeoning the audience with its backstory made it one of the finest and most satisfying movies I've ever seen. Christian Bale more than carried his weight and was supported by an excellent cast.

Ultraviolet is dead-set in opposition to everything that Equilibrium stood for and, as such, is a painful, heartbreaking experience for people who have seen the latter. It's much akin to being a child and waking on Christmas morning to find that all your presents have been replaced with boxes filled with shit, your stocking is filled with shit, your parents have been replaced with huge piles of shit, and the world outside has become nothing but a raging torrent of human excrement. But in a bad way.

The film goes wrong from its opening moments, signalling its imcompetence with a long montage of fake Ultraviolet comic book covers. In a comic movie, this might be seen as tacky but reasonable. In what is supposed to be a bleak dystopian vision, it sets the stage for hokey bullshit and style over substance. It also plants its anime-inspired aesthetic flag early and signals that the movie will be nothing more than a series of action scenes and bad cliches.

The story is, for the most part, totally incomprehensible. It revolves around an embittered nurse, played by the always-horrible Milla Jovovich, who has contracted a human-generated pathogen-spread vampirism that shortens the life, though they never bother to adequately explain that in the theatrical cut, who is waging war on the Nazi-like human forces that have exterminated her people to stop them from finishing the job. She attempts to steal their ultimate weapon, which turns out to be a child, and then makes a series of unintelligible decisions that lead from fight scene to fight scene in a manner that suggests the central narrative was never a major factor in the screenwriting.

So, Violet goes on to bloodlessly kill faceless troops in dozens of vignettes that revolve around what a badass a former nurse is when turned into a vampire, making you wish that had found a vampire soldier played by an actual actor to fill the main role. The damaged woman instead moves through the beautiful computer-enhanced setpieces that only prove how far style passed substance in Wimmer's construction of this film after the low-budget tension of Equilibrium. Oh, it's all very good-looking, but it's like a commercial for car insurance and everything that worked about Equilibrium stands out like a sore thumb as abyssmal in this movie. The gun kata is abhorent and out of place, the use of swords in a contemporary setting is braindead, the stylized action is annoying and over-the-top, and every action trick feels like a gimmick saved up from years of Cyberpunk roleplaying game sessions to be used in this movie, whether or not it makes any sense or is even a good idea. And there's virtually none of those in this film.

Despite the fact that it's really one of Milla Jovovich's better performances, an accolade that means absolutely nothing, it's still hard to watch her scenes or take her seriously as the terrible, overwrought dialogue is delievered flatly by her or anyone else. Cameron Bright does his usual thing as the strange, quiet child actor, but adds very little, not that he could, and Nick Chinlund and William Fichtner try to pull their weight, but the strain is too much when the material is so stupid.

The glossy, big-budget looks can't cover how terrible this movie is at the heart and it pains me to think that I used to have so much respect for this man when he obviously can't write his way out of a fucking broom closet.

All I can hope is that someday I get to punchfuck Kurt Wimmer's face until I get an explanation and apology for this day-glo abortion shitpile, a refund, and a promise that this visual Holocaust will never happen again.

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