Movies

The Muppets

Popspotting #166: “The Muppets” (Nov. 21, 2011)

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The Muppets

For Movie Monday, we preview a Thanksgiving release we’re not ashamed to admit that we were really looking forward to, movie critic cred be damned. After a 12 year break, “The Muppets” return to the big screen, led by Jason Segel and Amy Adams.

We also review “Small Fry,” the latest Pixar short that further extends the world of “Toy Story.”

J. Edgar Review

Popspotting #161: “J. Edgar” (Nov. 14, 2011)

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J. Edgar Review

Leonardo DiCaprio takes on yet another larger-than-life historical figure in Clint Eastwood’s new biopic, “J. Edgar.” The film follows the career of the FBI’s first and most infamous director, J. Edgar Hoover, who held his position and influence through several presidents, from 1935 through his death in 1972. He built the agency into an investigative powerhouse, but burned many bridges along the way, surviving largely through the shrewd collection and use of secret files he kept on every powerful person in the country.

In addition to DiCaprio, “J. Edgar” stars Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, and Judi Dench. The film is also full of cameos portraying famous figures from history, including Jeffrey Donovan as Bobby Kennedy, Josh Lucas as Charles Lindbergh, Christopher Shyer as Richard Nixon, and Emily Alyn Lind as Shirley Temple.

Ambitious in scope, with clear Oscar intentions, does “J. Edgar” bring history alive? Is the combination of political intrigue with a forbidden love story a compelling one? Or is the film brought down by its a winding narrative, drab settings, and distracting old-age makeup?

'The Descendants' Poster

Popspotting #156: “The Descendants” (Oct. 31, 2011)

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'The Descendants' Poster

“The Descendants” is the latest film from director Alex Payne (who last brought us “Sideways” in 2004, as well as “About Schmidt” and “Election”), and stars George Clooney (who has already garnered Oscar buzz for his turn in “Ides of March,” which we reviewed earlier this month). On those two points alone, this movie has a lot going for it.

But “The Descendants” is also a film set in, and a film about, Hawaii, based on the novel of the same name by local author Kaui Hart Hemmings. And that’s why we were especially eager to see it.

“The Descendants” doesn’t go into wide release until November 18, but it has already played to much acclaim at film festivals in London, New York, and Colorado. Fortunately, the Hawaii International Film Festival also made the cut (as it should). So with the help of our good friend Chris, we were able to score the hottest ticket at HIFF, and get an early look.

We won’t often review a film before it comes out (it’s a small miracle we get to see movies while they’re still in theaters), but this one was too special to wait. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve been spoiled more than you would be with our discussion.

While we had notably different takes on “The Descendants,” it’s safe to say we both recommend it… especially up against “Twilight” and “Happy Feet 2,” which sadly share the same release date.

How does the Aloha State fare on the big screen? How well can Clooney play a regular guy? Listen for our take!

Real Steel

Popspotting #151: “Real Steel” (Oct. 24, 2011)

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Real Steel

In the not-too-distant future, the sport of boxing swaps robots in for humans. And a young boy’s junkyard find sees an unlikely rise to stardom, as he reconnects with the father he never had. We admit, the setup for “Real Steel” seemed cliche, and the trailers suggested a potential bomb. But while our expectations were low, this family-friendly movie easily exceeded them, and gave us something we might even watch again.

“Real Steel” stars Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, and “LOST” alums Evangeline Lilly and Kevin Durand. It also stars a dazzling array of animatronic and computer-generated robots. We didn’t even get to talk about the score by Danny Elfman, which seemed to draw from a million other “sport champ” themes but still do something interesting.

Did you see “Real Steel”? Did we capture why the flick is so charming? Or have our tastes been corrupted by the unavoidable chemical changes that come with parenthood?

Ides of March

Popspotting #146: “Ides of March” (Oct. 17, 2011)

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Ides of March

After a much-needed week off, we return to “Movie Monday” with “Ides of March.” With a spectacular leading cast and a setup made for the big screen, do we endorse and pledge our delegates to the ticket, or vote it down as mere Oscar bait?

“Ides of March” stars Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymore Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti, and Marisa Tomei.

High Fidelity Poster

Popspotting #141: “Dumping Lloyd Dobler” (Oct. 3, 2011)

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High Fidelity PosterThis “Movie Monday” brings another double feature, this week highlighting two of Jen’s favorite John Cusack films. Although he’s plays a teenager in one and a directionless twenty-something in the other, Cusack delivers memorable performances in both as men dealing with love and heartbreak.

“Say Anything” was released in 1989, and was written and directed by Cameron Crowe. We meet aspiring kickboxer Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), who romances valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye). This is Jen’s all-time favorite movie (although she’ll tell you it’s “The Godfather Part II” to save face), and one that we both have seen over a hundred times.

Released in 2000, “High Fidelity” is based on the Nick Hornby novel of the same name (published in 1995). Directed by Stephen Frears, who’s only other notable credit is probably “Dangerous Liaisons” two years earlier), the film is a snapshot of a generation… or at least a generation of men. Cusack plays Rob, who gets dumped by yet another girlfriend, and decides to take a trip down memory lane to figure out what’s wrong with him.

The possibilities are endless for John Cusack features, and John Hughes films for that matter. Got a suggestion for a future film pairing? Speak up!

Moneyball

Popspotting #136: “Moneyball” (Sept. 26, 2011)

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Moneyball

We kick off the week with another new release. “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, is based on a true story and a book of the same name by Michael Lewis. Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, changes the game by adopting a new way to build a competitive baseball team.

The movie was directed by Bennett Miller and features a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian.

With Sorkin’s hand behind this material, it’s hard to avoid comparisons to “The Social Network.” Jen loved “The Social Network,” even though she’s not an Internet geek. And while she’s not a big baseball fan, she loved “Moneyball” even more.

"Drive" with Ryan Gosling

Popspotting #131: “Drive” (Sept. 19, 2011)

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"Drive" with Ryan Gosling

For Movie Monday, we take in an unusual, unforgettable, riveting and sometimes shocking new film from director Nicolas Winding Refn. An unabashed throwback to an earlier time, “Drive” takes you on a one-of-a-kind ride through the darker streets of Los Angeles.

It’s not so much an action film, nor a psychological thriller, nor a heist film nor a western, but a mix of all those things. “Drive” stars Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks, and Oscar Isaac. Gosling carries the film, but Mulligan makes it shine.

Next week, “Moneyball”! If you’ve seen either of these films, we’d love to hear your review.

Pulp Fiction - Square

Popspotting #128: “Needledrop Soundtracks” (Sept. 14, 2011)

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Pulp Fiction

We love movies. We love music. Why not combine the two? For Wildcard Wednesday, we start with your suggestion for a “favorite soundtracks” show, but with a slight twist. Instead of film scores (which we’re saving for later), today both of us share our “Top 5 Needledrop Soundtracks,” movie soundtracks that use popular music to set the scene.

We also covered a few runners-up that didn’t make the top five, but had to cut them from the podcast. They included “Romeo + Juliet,” “500 Days of Summer,” and “Forest Gump.” Of course, several other Tarantino films could have made the list, including “Reservoir Dogs” and “Kill Bill.”

Lost Boys

Popspotting #126: “Fun at the Amusement Park” (Sept. 12, 2011)

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Lost BoysWe might not be able to send you home with a Giant Ass Panda, but we hope today’s double feature helps grow your appreciation for a couple of great films set in or near classic amusement parks.

First up, “The Lost Boys,” a classic teen horror comedy film by Joel Schumacher starring starring Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Corey Feldman, Dianne Wiest, Edward Herrmann, and Alex “Ted” Winter.

Then it’s over to “Adventureland,” an often overlooked and understated gem directed by Greg Mottola, and starring film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Margarita Levieva, Ryan Reynolds, Martin Starr, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wiig.

Though released in 2009, “Adventureland” was set in 1987, the same year “The Lost Boys” came out.

Sure, “Zombieland” was an obvious pairing with “Adventureland,” but let’s just say we’re saving that one for a future zombie double feature. If that’s not your style, then speak up and share your idea for a better theme!

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