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Movie Review Monday: The Adjustment Bureau

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Mike Finkelstein was supposed to go to a Broadway play Friday night in the city.  Then, he saw a bunch of guys wearing fedoras and suddenly decided to change his plans to a movie.  Thanks to that quick choice (made entirely by free will), here is his review of “The Adjustment Bureau”

PLOT: David Norris (Matt Damon), an up and coming politician, meets Elise, the girl of his dreams (Emily Blunt). The only problem is that she is not part of his carefully designed “life plan” maintained by the angel-like “Adjustment Bureau”.  After being exposed to the wizard behind the curtain, David pits himself against the entire bureau, including agents Richardson (John Slattery) and Thompson (Terence Stamp), and does everything he can to try and outrun their life resets and be with Elise for good.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU is a movie that seemed to be well overexposed by its single trailer that played in front of almost every single recent movie that came out.  And yet, for some reason, I still wanted to see it…was it because of Matt Damon or Emiliy Blunt?  Or maybe because of the idea of a scifi/romance?  Or maybe it was just because of those awesome fedoras that everyone seemed to wear…

Whatever the reason may be, THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU turned out to be a pretty damn good time at the theatre.  From the previews, you get the impression that the movie is a sci-fi/dimension swapping thriller with a romantic background.  Turns out it’s actually the opposite.  Here, the romance takes the lead with some interesting sci-fi and fate/free will topics thrown in, begging the question “What happens when you love someone, but literally EVERYONE, including the man upstairs, says no?”

For a first time director, George Nolfi does a great job with a very original premise.  (He adapted this screenplay from a short Philip K. Dick story that really doesn’t have much in common with the final product.)   After writing and producing THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (among others), I think the man has developed a very good feel for the camera and used it well to tell his story.  When we first see David Norris, Nolfi gives us wide shots to show his isolation, only to get close up every time he runs into Elise.  Whenever The Adjustment Bureau had control, everything was stagnant and motionless, only to give way to steady cams and dolly shots for anything chaiotic and the big chase around the city.  Oh, and speaking of the city, New York looked crisp and almost Zion-ish with its colors.  Anyone who lives there will tell you that’s not exactly a realistic portrayal, but I loved how beautiful Nolfi was able to make my city look, and it made me feel proud to be a New Yorker.

However, let’s rewind and switch back to that romance thing we mentioned earlier…Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are the reason this film works so well.  You could see the bad boy gone good in Damon, and Blunt is nothing but sweet.  From the first time they meet on screen, you feel the chemistry ringing between David and Elise.  They’re fun and playful like two kids, and are completely exposed to each other (which, as you will see, for David is not something that comes easily).  After the movie finished, my friend and I realized that they literally spent a total of four days together, and yet we believed so powerfully in their love and wanted them to be together.  In the hands of lesser actors, I don’t think the impact would have been felt as much, but the chemistry was spot on, and I guarantee you, you will catch yourself smiling at how cute they are together more than once.

As for the rest of the cast, we have a great supporting group in the form of fedora wearing John Slattery, Terrance Stamp and Anthony Mackie.  Slattery was intimidating as Richardson, the first official of the Bureau threatening David, and yet he was able to pull an entire 180 when you see how he reacts to being called into the Chairman’s office.  Anthony Mackie was also great as the guardian angel type who has been with David since he was a boy.  Obviously, for someone who has been watching over a person that long, there is a parental bond/protection there, and Mackie pulls it off beautifully.  However, I have to say it was obviously Stamp who takes the cake here.  He could play roles as silly as the ones in YES MAN and MY BOSS’S DAUGHTER, and still pulls off a human snake.  He owns the few scenes that he’s in.

With all this praise, there was something about THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU that did bother me.  I had a great time, and I could watch it again, but at times, the movie seemed almost generic.  There was enough explanation about the bureau and rules that made this world seem real, but at the same time, there wasn’t enough to give any definite answers.  Also, David had the entire world against him, and yet when it came to real threats, it seemed like there was always a trapped door for him (literally) to run into.  While it was exciting to see David and Elise run, I never really had any doubt that they’d end up together, and without that risk to make the movie stand out, it’s just going to end up blending in with other films over time.

Overall, THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU was a good time at the movies.  In a world of sequels and remakes, let this one be your escape.  It has its intricate world of sci-fi wires and ripples, but also at the core, a beautiful story of love and determination that may spark a nice debate about free will later at dinner.  While it may not be a classic in the future years, I got my money worth and a good conversation about fate.  A chase movie that makes you think is rare, and that in itself deserves a look.

GRADE: B+

Mike’s LIKES:

1) THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU: A very cool concept for the ‘keepers of the universe’.  Whether they’re guardian angels or just completely separate entities, we don’t fully know, but with their slick overcoats, fedoras, and jumping space and time, I approve.

2) SCI-FI AND ROMANCE: I went in expecting a very heavily based sci-fi flick, and came out with a romance instead.  Just enough of a balance between the two, and took the idea of fighting to be with someone to a whole new level.

3) CHEMISTRY: Matt Damon and Emily Blunt knock it out of the park here.  The two fit together so well that we honestly cannot see them with anyone else, even after two fateful meetings…

4) HARRY: Anthony Mackie is just cute as David’s caseworker.  They say that caseworkers live a lot longer than humans, and we definitely get that personal caretaker vibe from Harry.  You know he’s been watching him a long time, and we feel the love.

5) DOOR JUMPING: I’m a huge sucker for anything relating to time travel or dimensions.  This concept was a new one, and I just had fun with it all, especially well used cameo of Yankee Stadium.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) NOT TOO MUCH EXPLANATION: While we get a basic idea of the hierarchy of the Bureau, we never get a fully detailed view of how it works.  Granted, it’s not necessary by any means, but it would have been cool if Nofli was able to come up with a detailed system that worked.

2) SOMETHING SEEMED GENERIC: This is a big one, and I can’t tell why.  Maybe it was because of the ending or because of the lack of explanation mentioned above, but I don’t see this movie as being a classic.  I see it as being a good movie on Matt Damon’s IMDb, and nothing else.

EXTRA FACTS:
1) The story is loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story “Adjustment Team”.

2) Shots were planned in advance with storyboards but often changed when shooting to fit the conditions on the day rather than worrying about everything being exact. The visual plan for the film was to keep the camerawork smooth using a dolly or crane and have controlled formal shots when the Adjustment Bureau was in full control, with things becoming more loose and using hand held cameras when the story becomes less controlled.

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REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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