BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right
Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko
Written by: Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska

You usually watch a movie about the inner workings of the suburban American family expecting to see it deconstructed, but sitting through Lisa Cholodenko’s bracing, hilarious The Kids Are All Right you watch something strange: it being rebuilt.  Following an economic crisis and subsequent rethinking of what it means to be American, Kids comes at the perfect time.  It rethinks the nuclear family on the silver screen by doing the most daring thing: not mentioning it.

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), the two moms at the center of the film, were each impregnated by the same sperm donor.  Now that their daughter Joni (Mia Wasikowska) has turned 18, her brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) pressures her to contact the donor (Mark Ruffalo).  They do, it’s awkward, and it almost tears the happy family apart.

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REVIEW: Machete

Machete
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis
Written by: Robert Rodriguez & Álvaro Rodriguez
Starring: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, and Robert DeNiro

The official end of the Summer 2010 movie season roars by with Robert Rodriguez’s blood-splattered message movie Machete.  Originally showcased as a fake trailer at the beginning of the Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse double-feature in 2007, the cult following of this idea pushed it into production.  Now that the final product is here for everyone to see, they may scratch their heads.

For one, Rodriguez has decided to make the full film version of Machete an indictment of U.S. immigration policy.  If that doesn’t throw B-movie gore-seekers off, Robert DeNiro cheesing it up as a Texas Senator yelling “Welcome to America!” as he blasts immigrants at the border might.  You can’t help but laugh at both of these, the latter pleasantly and the former not so much.  It is this battle of the pleasant surprises duking it out with the unpleasant ones that is at the core of Machete.

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REVIEW: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright (screenplay), Bryan Lee O’Malley (graphic novels.)
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman, and Anna Kendrick

It almost seemed as if America had had enough of Michael Cera.  His “quirkier than thou,” acting career had cornered its hipster niche, and then pummeled it with character after awkward character until they just couldn’t take it anymore.  As we saw with his two earlier and still best movies, Superbad and Juno, his comic style’s effectiveness is screenplay dependent.  Thankfully, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World‘s got one of those, and it doesn’t pummel you with his long pauses or dopey, annoying sensibilities.

Another thing this potent, and fully alive comic book adaptation’s got is a visual style.  I’d rather be pummeled by fantastic visuals than awkward pauses any day, and director Edgar Wright does this.  It can overwhelm at times, and if it were in 3D it would kill you, but Wright effectively makes up for this summer’s lack of visual polish.  You’ll feel like you’re watching a music video and playing a video game, especially if you’re familiar with the artistry of both mediums.

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REVIEW: The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right
Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko
Written by: Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
Starring: Annette Bening, Juliane Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska

You usually watch a movie about the inner workings of the suburban American family expecting to see it deconstructed, but sitting through Lisa Cholodenko’s bracing, hilarious The Kids Are All Right you watch something strange: it being rebuilt.  Following an economic crisis and subsequent rethinking of what it means to be American, Kids comes at the perfect time.  It rethinks the nuclear family on the silver screen by doing the most daring thing: not mentioning it.

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Juliane Moore), the two moms at the center of the film, were each impregnated by the same sperm donor.  Now that their daughter Joni (Mia Wasikowska) has turned 18, her brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) pressures her to contact the donor (Mark Ruffalo).  They do, it’s awkward, and it almost tears the happy family apart.

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REVIEW: Predators

Predators
Directed by: Nimród Antal
Written by: Alex Litvak & Michael Finch (screenplay)
Starring: Adrian Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, and Laurence Fishburne

If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that Adrian Brody would be the sci-fi star of 2010, I would’ve either chuckled or responded with “Yeah, so?”  With his performance in Splice as a genetic engineer he gave us an emotional core, and with Predators he returns to the King Kong action hero he surprised us with in 2005.

Predators is another franchise reboot, and it’s not too bad.  For the action-junkies out there looking to avoid Despicable Me or any of the other 3D cash-ins of the week, here is a semi-intelligent, well-made thriller.  It borrows from The Most Dangerous Game, which in its original form is a demented guy who brings people to his island so he can hunt them.  Here, it’s high-tech aliens.

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REVIEW: Splice

Splice
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali
Written by: Vincenzo Natali & Antoinette Terry Bryant
Starring: Adrian Brody, Sarah Poley, Delphine Chanéac, and Brandon McGibbon

In Splice, we begin our descent into the murky waters of the cloning issue by rising up, in first-mutant perspective, to see our creators.  Through the murky blue-tint of the screen, we see doctors interacting much like they would on any of the countless hospital TV shows on air.  It feels natural, and commonplace.

This is one of the important strengths of Vincenzo Natali’s unique film.  It shows us the everyday lives of two doctors, Clive Nicoli (Adrian Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Poley), whose lives are anything but conventional, and then turns their respective worlds upside down.  The camera does not hint at the abnormal life forms as in Alien.  Rather, it blends the clone Dren (Delphine Chanéac) in with her creators.

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REVIEW: Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex
Directed by: Jim Hayward
Written by: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor (screenplay)
Starring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, and Michael Fassbender

We must face it: the comic book adaptation is here to stay.  You can bet your (kick-) ass that any character that’s ever been drawn to a page to tell a story along with words will eventually get its Hollywood due.  So step right up for Jonah Hex, yet another unknown adaptation from an allegedly brilliant source material.

Hex begins compellingly different than most of its counterparts.  We begin almost immediately at our title character’s (Josh Brolin) moment of dire straits.  Rather than have that Utopian, dull first few scenes with bright colors, giggling children, and adoring spouse, we see arch nemesis (Jon Malkovich) light them all on fire.  One thing that can be said of Jonah Hex, if not much else, is that it doesn’t bull-shit you with its pretentious morality.  The script may try to hint at a soul within our weary anti-hero, but Brolin quells it rather quickly.

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