A Serious Man Review

A Serious Man is a modern masterpiece. I loved every moment of it. I would expect nothing less from the greatest directors working today, and in my opinion of all time. A Serious Man was so monumentally enthralling and thought-provoking, while at the same time being whole-heartedly entertaining and down right hilarious. It’s a must see really. The Coen Brothers mananged to capture the perfect amount of character and meaning into one hour and forty-five minute movie.

It tells the tale of a rough patch in the simple life of Larry Gopnik and his attempt to find clarity. That’s it. That’s really the best summary I could possibly give you. It’s simplicity is the most genius thing about it. A Serious Man tells a very simple tale and yet is still able to establish very meaningful undertones.

Every single actor and actor fell perfectly into place, as did every well-thought out detail of the movie. Everyone brought their A-game, but the best part of it is, there’s no big name actors. If your a real Coen fan, you’ll be able to spot a few regulars, but for the most part, we only know these people by the characters their portraying in this film. And to tell you the truth, they couldn’t be performing more perfectly.

The Coen Brothers are at the top of their game here and when aren’t they. Last year they threw out the fantastic film Burn After Reading, which was highly overlooked. I loved it, but it was nothing compared to this piece of art. There is not a single person who can tell a story as well as the Coen Brothers. Hands down, they are the greatest and if they keep dishing out movies this good I won’t ever have to debate that fact.

A Serious Man is a beautiful and poetic look at life and the difficulties it entails. A Serious Man wasn’t just a fantastic movie. It was also a reminder. There was another reminder that came out this year, it was a masterpiece entitled Inglourious Basterds. This is another reminder appropriately wrapped by the two greatest minds working today. A Serious Man is the Coen Brother’s way of reminding me why I love the art of cinema.

Grade: A+

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The Men Who Stare At Goats Review

The Men Who Stare At Goats was exactly what I expected it to be. It wasn’t an amazing movie by any means, but it was however a very fun film, with great acting and worth a lot more watches. It’s really just a fun bit of entertainment that will most likely be overlooked, but shouldn’t be. It told a very entertaining tale, told it well, and along the way made me laugh hysterically.

Its a story of the government attempting to train psychic soldiers or “jedi” to fight with in war instead of weapons. The story is supposedly based on true events, but instead of saying so, it says “More of this is true than you’d believe”, or something along those lines. Clooney plays and ex-jedi whose on a mission to rescue his leader (Jeff Bridges), while Ewan McGregor plays a reporter writing his story and joining in his adventures. Kevin Spacey is expertly thrown in as a rival psychic.

Everyone was fantastic and its really what you’d expect. If I had to pick a favorite I would say I absolutely loved Jeff Bridges in this flick. He was hilarious every time he came on screen. All and all, the movie was a nice bit of entertainment, certainly worth a watch, if not a few.

Grade: B

Paranormal Activity Review

I wouldn’t consider Paranormal Activity a movie. I’d consider it more of a cheap haunted house attraction. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Paranormal Activity and its agenda, that being to scare the living crap out of every audience member. I’m saying that you really can’t review this movie from the normal stand point of a critic. I can’t analyze a plot, a theme, acting and directing very much because thats not what this film was going for. The film was going for a realistic ghost story. The kind you tell around a campfire and it succeeds when looked at from that aspect.

There’s not much to work with, as I stated before, when it comes to character and story. There’s a couple and their being haunted. The guy gets a camera to catch whatever it is in the act and that’s the footage we’re watching. The movie did its job. It was trying to be an entertaining movie with compelling characters, it was trying to scare you. There have been movies that can do both, such as The Shining, but that wasn’t what Paranormal Activity had in mind. Maybe they could’ve went with story and character development, but instead they went with realism and in this rare case. It really works.

I’d like to state that I’d never watch this movie again unless it was with completely different people in order to get their reactions, that’s really the only entertainment I could possibly get out of this film after the first viewing. Other than that, I would never sit down intending to have a nice relaxing evening by watching a movie and pick Paranormal Activity, not because I would be so terrified, but more so because there’s no effect or entertainment value after your first viewing for obvious reasons.

Grade: B

Funny People Review

I had seen this movie a while ago, but I unfortunately never got around to writing a review. I’d like to start by saying that, though I did find Funny People rather long, which is the complaint most critics gave, I will say for the most part I was pretty entertained throughout. At the heart of this comedic gem is a surprisingly serious character study of stand-up comics involving friendship and a near-death experience.

Apatow was really able to find a close to perfect mix between serious and comedy. He did it perfectly in Knocked Up and came pretty close with this one. Adam Sandler plays a famous stand-up comedian and actor who finds out that he’s going to die soon and starts changing his lifestyle habits, while gaining a friendship with Seth Rogen’s character. That’s really all you need to know.

What I love about Apatow’s movies and especially in this one, is the comedy feels so real and heartfelt, almost awkward at times. Its the comedy you share with your friends daily and that’s  what makes his movies so enjoyable. He doesn’t force anything, he just tells his stories while being pretty hilarious along the way. If you liked any of his work I’m pretty sure you’d find yourself enjoying Funny People. I know I did.

Grade: B+

Top Ten Westerns

This is a list I’ve truly been prepping for, for about a year now. About a year ago I had only seen a couple westerns that I had actually enjoyed (a few of those made this list), and I realized as a lover of movies I have not seen nearly enough westerns. So, I filled my netflix queue and got to watching and enjoying. I realized two things while watching the many westerns I did.

First of all, I’m quite sorry to say and I know many won’t agree with this statement and might even just X out of this page as soon as they read it, but an opinion’s an opinion and I’m not gonna lie to agree with society. I found John Wayne to be overrated. I’m just not a fan. I liked a few of his movies, such as The Searchers and The Shootist, and my favorite would probably have to be The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but that didn’t even make the list. It probably would be 11 or 12 though if I were to add on to this list.

Secondly, and much more importantly, I realized that the Western genre is one of my favorites and this list would be harder to make than I thought. I was very right. Through watching this dying genre I found not only fantastic westerns, but also some of the greatest movies I’ve seen of all time. Well, I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time now. Here are my top ten favorite westerns.

10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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At the heart of this classic lies what may be the most iconic duo of all time. Paul Newman and Robert Redford play so impeccably well off each other that every scene is made real and memorable. The timing of every witty crack is absolutely perfect, the action sequences are highly entertaining, while sticking to realism and the finale is breathtaking.

9. Tombstone

Tombstone is a fantastic film that  was a shoe in for this list. Tombstone is the greatest telling of the now classic tale of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. There are many memorable parts, from the classic OK coral shoot-out, to Holiday’s tricks with a tea cup in a bar. There’s something for everyone in this flick because even if you don’t find solace in the fantastic scenes, you will certainly find enjoyment out of Val Kilmer’s masterful performance as Doc Holiday.

8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

This is one of the newest westerns to be placed on this list and in my eyes this movie is a breath of fresh air because it showed that great westerns can still be made today. Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck are phenomenal. A brilliant cast and script was combined to tell the very true and quite epic tale of the assassination of one of the most famous western outlaws there ever was.

7. For A Few Dollars More

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For A Few Dollars More is a fascinating character study of bounty hunters in the old west. It’s the second film in Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name Trilogy, but as with every movie in the Dollars trilogy, it stands alone as its own fantastic story. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef make for a very interesting and entertaining pair in the old west. Leone builds tension, keeps you guessing, and in the end he most certainly does not disappoint.

6. The Proposition

The Proposition is another western that is relatively new. It was made only a few years ago and I believe it is one of the greatest westerns of all time, only surpassed by some of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. The plot of The Proposition is genuinely simple, yet superbly poetic. In the Australian Outback, a man is hired to kill his older brother in order to save his younger one from the noose. It’s the most brutal western I’ve seen and it never lets up till its pitch-perfect ending.

5. True Grit

The Coen Brother’s never cease to amaze and with their remake of the now classic John Wayne movie, they do more than that. True Grit is undoubtedly the most light-hearted of their films I’ve seen and the most light-hearted western. It’s also the one that feels the most real. Like almost all westerns, True Grit tells a simple tale, but because of the people who are telling the tale, what you get is something unbelievably moving.

4. Once Upon a Time in the West

Sergio Leone’s complex, gritty, western tale of revenge and mayhem is so amazing that it was hard to even put it at just number three. I’m going to say this right now, Sergio Leone builds tension better than Hitchcock does. Every single scene from the (waiting for the train) opening to the final showdown, your always on edge. I’d also like to say that Ennio Morricone is probably the greatest film composer in history. Westerns almost always have fantastic scores, but this is my favorite of any western score.

Last, but certainly not least I have to mention Henry Fonda’s flawless performance as the ruthless western gunslinger Frank, certainly out of character for him; his best work. This is some of Sergio Leone’s best work. A film that builds and builds with a well thought out, detailed and at times even complex plot that ends up being a very simple tale of good vs. evil. Sergio Leone’s masterpiece is the third greatest western I’ve seen.

3. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Most commonly called the classic western and for good reason. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is nothing and I repeat nothing short of a masterpiece. If I’m not mistaken I think the Man With No Name trilogy is the only trilogy that truly gets greater with each film. Leone’s skill for building tension, which has been attempted, but never matched, was never greater than in every single, intricately plotted, scene of this movie.

What Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood (Blondie-The Good) , Lee Van Cleef (Angel Eyes-The Bad) and Eli Wallach (Tuco- The Ugly) have given us is masterful look at the west, the adventures, and the subsequent stories that were inspired. A story full of depth and characters, whether that be the good guys, the bad guys, and the ones in between. A timeless epic that savors my hunger for excellence with each passing scene eventually leading to what is probably the most iconic and greatest western showdown/ending ever put on screen. And for this, from the bottom of my heart, I thank them.

2. Django Unchained

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Django Unchained is about a hero of mythical proportions on a quest for love. It’s a tale of friendship and taking a stand against the savagery of slavery. It’s a spaghetti western and an epic legend with all the blood and violence of the west and the heroes and villains you find in legends. It’s finds a balance between the intense drama that’s playing out and the rollicking good time that it is. It’s a magnificent story as only Quentin Tarantino could’ve told.

It’s hard not to root for Django in his vengeful and loving journey. It’s hard to to jump up and cheer when the whip or gun is turned back on the slaver. Dr. King Schultz can see slavery for what it is and he sees Django as a man and a friend in need. Only together can they attempt to conquer the Candyland and the ignorant villainy that lies within. Django Unchanged is ridiculously entertaining and unbelievably powerful.

1. Unforgiven

As I said in the past, this was a difficult list to make, but there is not a doubt in my mind when it comes to number one. Clint Eastwood starred in many classic westerns including Sergio Leone’s classic Man With No Name Trilogy. Then he directed some of his own great westerns. His knowledge on the genre grew over years of experience and he eventually gave us the greatest western of all time. Unforgiven is the western that was able to do what no other western was able to. It showed us what the west really was. Unforgiven showed us that a ruthless killer could fall off his horse or miss a shot.

Unforgiven shows the realistic West where no one could really be considered the good guy, not even the guy your rooting for (William Munny- Clint Eastood in an Oscar nominated performance) ,  and especially not the sheriff (Little Bill Dagget- Gene Hackman in an Oscar winning performance). Unforgiven was a masterful look into a world we’ve never seen. We thought we had, but we realize now that was all just fantasy. Unforgiven mixes dark realism with the  fantasy Western genre. Add brilliant acting and characters, fantastic writing and direction and the result is not only the greatest western of all time, but one of the greatest movies ever made. A true masterpiece of our time worthy of recognition and praise.