Archive for the ‘Brad Pitt’ Category

MOVIE: World War Z (2013)

July 30, 2013

wwzWell, you know.  It’s a zombie movie.  And the more zombie movies I see, the more I’m beginning to realize there’s really only so much you can do with a zombie movie.  This one is no exception (which is a pity, because I will say the novel was absolutely an exception).

The one thing sort of unique about World War Z, a film about one man’s quest to save the world by flying all over the place looking for clues and getting other people killed a bunch, was the sheer number of zombies involved.  The scenes in which we see them piling up on each other — hundreds, thousands swarming like bees on a hive.  That wasn’t something I’d seen before and I found it pretty effectively horrifying.

The rest of this movie?  Even that one scene with the Israeli girl on the airplane?  Meh, seen it.  (Though apparently the guy behind me in the theater hadn’t — his reaction was a guffaw of shocked, inappropriate laughter, which is always an interesting reaction to such things.  Poor gent.)

By the end of the movie, I was really rooting hard for Brad Pitt’s character to make it, not because I felt anything for him at all — merely in the hopes the last man alive on the planet Earth besides him might end up being a barber, and then we could have this awesome final scene in which someone (anyone!) cut Pitt’s completely ridiculous looking hair, as the swarms of zombies began to heap their way into the salon.  Final moment:  the sound of clippers.  AND SCREAMS.

Mua ha ha ha ha!

Recommended to zombie movie fans, because zombie fans have to watch this movie whether they want to or not (sorry, fellas).  But for others merely looking for compelling walking dead drama, you’ll find better fare elsewhere.  28 Days Later is a good place to start.

[Prequeue at Netflix | Watch trailer]

Genre:  Zombie, Horror
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Matthew Fox, Eric Weston, David Morse, James Badge Dale, Elyes Gabel

MOVIE: Killing Them Softly (2012)

April 1, 2013

killinghtmeThis movie is about a hit man, played by Brad Pitt, hired to take out two idiots who rob a poker. . .

. . . zzzzzzzz . . .

And then there’s something about Obama calling us a “community” but how we’re not really a community because everybody’s all alone in this miserable world of constant fakin’ it. The end.

(I don’t know — you watch it and tell me.)

[Netflix | Buy/Rent from Amazon]

Genre: Obfuscation
Cast:  Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Vincent Curatola, Max Casella, Sam Shepard

MOVIE: Moneyball (2011)

January 26, 2012

Any fan of baseball will find plenty to like about this film, which is based on a non-fiction book of the same title by Michael Lewis, who also wrote the book the film The Blind Side was based on.  It’s about ex-ballplayer Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland As, and how he, along with a kid named Paul DePodesta (fresh out of Harvard with a degree in economics), completely revolutionized the way baseball teams pick players.

Unless you love the game, though (or are a serious math nerd, I suppose), I’m afraid you won’t get much out of Moneyball, despite the fact the writer and director tried extremely hard to give it a broader appeal.  The sad news is, it was that very thing — the addition of a hammy subplot about Beane’s ex-wife and daughter — that took what might’ve been a great movie and turned it into a flick too long by at least 30 tedious minutes (all of which were absolutely insufferable dreck).

Though ultimately, this film really only succeeded for me as a teaser for the book, it’s an entertaining teaser, for the most part.  Beane (Brad Pitt) was General Manager of the Oakland As in the late 1990s when the team’s budget, already low, was slashed dramatically by its owners.  The As had long struggled to be able to afford star players, and with this latest round of payroll cuts, Beane was convinced they were doomed — unless he could figure out a way to think differently about what truly makes a winning team win.

It was right about this time Billy met Paul (Jonah Hill), a young Harvard grad working as a statistician for another team in the majors.  When that team wouldn’t trade him the players he wanted, Beane “bought” Paul instead, and as he began talking to the economist, he realized the kid had some incredible ideas about how to make a ball team successful on the cheap.  Using sabermetrics, Billy and Paul began analyzing the sport’s least valued players, and, after juggling the numbers, realized they could build a team virtually guaranteed to be a success and still stay under budget.

Naturally, the rest of the A’s scouts, owners, and managers were horrified by Beane’s proposed line-up — to them, it just looked like a team of misfits and losers.  But he pushed his ideas through, got the team he wanted, and then sat back to watch them . . . lose.  Manager Art Howe (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) refused to follow Beane’s advice on the order in which to bat each player, which Paul had calculated would promote the most base hits, and the result was exactly what everybody had expected:  a miserable flop.  But as the team continued to get creamed left and right, Howe finally caved and began to do what Billy and Paul were telling him.  And, of course, the As then immediately launched themselves into a record-breaking series of wins, making it to the playoffs that same year.

The parts of this film that focus on the statistical work behind the scenes are the best parts of the picture.  Watching the ballgames was fun, of course, too.  But the addition of way too many scenes featuring Beane’s ex-wife and daughter, and the other personal struggles he was experiencing off the field, were absolutely awful.  They were trite, badly acted, and felt clumsily inserted — an afterthought clearly intended to alter the demographics for the movie’s audience and bring in more chicks.

Newsflash, filmmakers:  chicks dig baseball too.  And what’s more, we hate being pandered to.  Y’all should knock that shit off.

Nevertheless, despite this movie’s numerous weaknesses (to be honest, this is not Pitt’s best work either), I was definitely entertained and, what’s more, the film really piqued my interest in the book.  Watch for a review of that coming in the next few months.

And in the meantime, only 24 days until ball players report for Spring Training — hurrah!

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre: Drama
Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop, Reed Diamond

MOVIE: Megamind (2010)

March 12, 2011

Super-powered aliens Megamind (Will Ferrell) and Metro Man (Brad Pitt) grew up together in Metro City after crash-landing (separately) on Earth as infants.  In school, Metro Man was constantly being honored for using his powers and considerable charm for good (you can tell he’s the good guy by his hulking, square chin), while Megamind, blue-headed being of the puny jaw, was continually punished for acting out.

After years of being picked on and, in his opinion, unfairly judged as “bad,” Megamind decided it was time for a change — he was going to become as famous as Metro Man.  Only he was going to become a famous super VILLAIN instead.

Thus began years of conflict between the two supers, as Megamind developed dastardly plot after dastardly plot, all foiled time and again by Metro Man.

Then one day, Megamind came up with the perfect plan — well, okay, technically he didn’t come up with it; it was “perfect” plan mostly by accident.  But NO MATTER.  Victory was finally his and Metro Man was kaput.

At first, Megamind was ecstatic — now he was the ruling super of Metro City (which he pronounces “Metrocity,” rhymes with “atrocity”).  Only, as it turned out, being an evil genius without a nemesis is pretty, well . . . dull.

So, Megamind and his minion, Minion (a fish with a robot body), decided to create a new superhero to combat, turning a dorky news cameraman named Hal into the super-powerful Titan.

What Megamind didn’t count on, however, was Titan’s reaction to his new abilities.  And before you could recite Megamind’s “presidential” motto, “No you can’t,” Titan had gone over to the dark side.

This animated film is a true delight with tons of quirky humor, much of it clearly designed for parents my age — references to Marlon Brando as Superman’s dad, Donkey Kong, the Karate Kid, and more.  And it’s loaded with all the stuff kids love too — silly jokes, archetypal battles of good vs. evil, and ridiculous cuteness.  Stellar voiceover work by Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Jonah Hill and bright, colorful animation round the picture out, making it a blast for the whole family.

I had a great time watching this one, and so did my 6 and 4 year-old nephew and niece.  Definitely recommended!

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Kids, Animation
Cast:  Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, David Cross, Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Jessica Schulte, J.K. Simmons

MOVIE: Inglourious Basterds (2009)

September 9, 2009

ingbasterdsOne of the things I love about Quentin Tarantino movies is that there’s absolutely no mistaking them for anything else.  If I hadn’t known Inglourious Basterds was a QT film going in, I would’ve called it immediately the moment the film opened with a classic WWII scene paired with an oddball combination of Debussy’s Claire de Lune and the whistles and clangs of spaghetti Western music.  Throw into that mix an homage to just about every film ever made coupled with a story that is both completely unique and brilliantly literary, and what you have is quintessential Tarantino.

This movie opens with two separate stories that, in typical QT style, collide together in the final act like hydrogen nuclei in a fusion bomb.  The first story is about a young Jewish woman, Shoshanna, whose entire family is killed right in front by infamous the infamous “Jew Hunter,”  Nazi Col. Hans Landa (played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz).  For reasons that didn’t make a lot of sense — I’m guessing it’s as simple, and as complicated, as the fact he’s a  sick, crazy bastard — Landa lets Shoshanna escape.  We catch up to her a few years later, where she’s living in Paris under an assumed name, running a movie theater.  A young Nazi soldier, a war hero and the star of the latest Goebbels smash hit, Stolz der Nation (A Nation’s Pride), tries to befriend her.  But when he manages to get the big movie premiere switched to her theater, Shoshanna makes plans for more than just a simple screening.  Revenge, she decides, is a dish best served piping-frakkin’ hot.

The second story in the film is about the Inglourious Basterds themselves.  The Basterds are a group of undercover American soldiers, mostly Jews, who are dropped into France with the sole purpose of “killin’ Nat-zis.”    Think “The Dirty Dozen,” except completely sociopathic.  Led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt, rocking a thoroughly embedded Southern accent), each of the Basterds has been assigned the task of taking 100 Nazi scalps apiece.  After taking out dozens and dozens of German soldiers, and not with mercy (to put it mildly), the group has become infamous amongst the German Army.  Everyone fears the Basterds, and the stories of them, and specifically of their cruelest member, “The Bear Jew” (the wild-eyebrowed Eli Roth), quickly begin to rival folklore about the bogeyman.

The stories converge at the end, when each set of characters initiates a separate, complicated plan to destroy the movie theater and, in so doing, kill Hitler and end the war.  Whether or not either plan succeeds is something I’ll leave for you to discover.

Instead, allow me to say a few things about a some of the actors in this film.  First things first, if Christoph Waltz doesn’t win every Best Actor award from the Oscars to the Razzies, he was completely robbed.  His character, Nazi Col. Hans Landa, is, hands-down, the most thoroughly disturbing Tarantino villain since Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs, and for the exact same reasons.  The most bad-ass of any character in a  Tarantino film is always the one the exudes the most calm, and Landa is about as calm as they get.  Had he, at any point, put on the radio and started dancing around a chair singing oldies songs, or begun quoting from Ezekiel 25:17, it would’ve merely been the icing on the holy-mary-mother-of-god terror cake.

And then there’s Brad Pitt, the leader of the Basterds, who continues to surprise me every time I see him of late and, with this film, has finally  established himself in my brain as a goddamn genius as well as a pretty face.   I keep thinking Legends of the Fall, and he keeps sweeping the leg, so to speak.  When we walked out of the movie theater after seeing this film, it occurred to me I couldn’t think of a popular actor in Hollywood right now who was more versatile and talented than Brad Pitt.  And in thinking about it some more since, I’ve still got nuthin’.  Man, I hate it when geniuses are also ridiculously gorgeous.  It’s like a boot to the shins.

Melanie Laurant, who played Shoshanna, was a new one for me, and I also found her a complete revelation.   I thought her acting was brilliant, and loved even more the way Tarantino shot her, with close-ups on her eyes, her lips, her legs making her look like a 70’s psychological thriller siren, when the reality went so incredibly much deeper.  More, more, more play on genre, which is Tarantino’s specialty and one of the primary reasons I think his films get better with repeated viewings than worse.

As for Eli Roth, whose work as a horror director I have long admired, his acting was a bit over-eager and clumsy from where I was sitting, though others I’ve talked to about this movie didn’t notice anything awry.  That might be because I knew who he was, and so I was paying more attention to him than they were.  But in any case,  it hardly mattered, and besides, I’ll forgive him for all of it if his next project is turning his fake Tarantino Grindhouse trailer (Thanksgiving) into an actual film.

And now, to do something Tarantino himself likes to do in his films, I want to end this review by coming full circle back to the way I started it, and that’s with some talk about the Tarantino style.  This movie does a lot of things Tarantino frequently does — it interrupts the story with asides, it pauses the film to slap on a bold character title to let us know who’s who, it throws music together from almost every genre without care for anachronism, it plays with camerawork —  in fact, it plays with just about everything.  Its characters are ridiculously larger-than-life, its women ridiculously more beautiful than life, and its violence so graphic it frequently crosses the border into camp (note to the squeamish, you may want to avert thine eyes during any and all scalping scenes).  I love all those things in Tarantino films.  I love that Tarantino films are completely unmistakable.

THAT SAID, while it always seems to work out brilliantly, including here, I will say I think there’s a point at which Tarantino is going to cross the line from brilliance to overdone predictability, and while I know a gazillion people (or, possibly, EVERYONE) is going to disagree with me on this, I think he’s reached that point.  If his next movie features the same bag of tricks, regardless of the quality of the story, I’m going to sigh with a little impatience even while I lap it all up hungrily.  Go ahead, argue with me.  I’ll listen.  But I’m still right.   Just you wait, ‘enry ‘iggins.  Just you wait.

And the rest of you, go see this movie, because it’s completely insane and absolutely brilliant.  FIN.

[Prequeue me at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Defies classification, really, but let’s go with War.  WAR.
Cast:  Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Til Schweiger, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Mike Myers (no, really!)

MOVIE: Burn After Reading (2008)

February 2, 2009

WTF?!

(Shortest movie review ever?)

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Comedy
Cast:  Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Francis McDormand,  Tilda Swinton, J.K. Simmons, Richard Jenkins

MOVIE: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

March 17, 2008

Many, many years ago, I read the novel on which this movie is based. I’d picked it up at a bookstore one day because the title had given me a chuckle. Not the part of the title in which it is told to us that it’s about Jesse James getting assassinated (a couple of weeks ago, by the way, a friend of mine asked me what this movie was “about,” and I was all, “Um, did you just ask me what a movie entitled ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ was ABOUT?”). But instead the whole title itself, which is so reminiscent of those old — oh hell, what are those things called? Not dime novels, which came later, but the little books they used to write about Western heroes back in the 1800’s? The ones about the Earps, Doc Holliday, and, of course, Jesse James.

It’s been years now since I read Hansen’s novel, and though I remember really enjoying it, I don’t remember anything else about it. When I heard it was being made into a movie with Brad Pitt as Jesse and Sam Shepard as his brother Frank, though, my reaction was one of unbridled glee. First of all, we need more Westerns. And second, Brad may be just ridiculously gorgeous, but he is also, without a doubt, a truly talented actor with an extremely wide range. I could see Brad doing James pretty easily. And what’s more, I really WANTED to see Brad doing James.

Unfortunately, as a film, I have to say this one fell a bit flat for me. Part of the problem with this movie is that it tries to get too arty for its own good. I started out loving the gorgeous scenery — the pause when the train comes around and you see its lights glowing through the trees, the sweeping prairie shots, etc. But once it started moving towards (and then past) the 120 minute mark, I confess I got a bit impatient. Westerns are often full of rambling slow moments of sweeping scenery — consider the ubiquitous tumbleweed shot — it’s one of their trademarks, really. But in a GOOD Western, the scenery should feel more like an extension of the cowboy himself, rather than an attempt on the part of the director to win an award for cinematography. Here, it just felt too heavy-handedly like the latter. To me, anyway.

And as for Brad Pitt’s Jesse James, he takes a quintessential American hero/anti-hero and turns him into. . . yaaaaawn, I’m sorry, were you saying something? I nodded off there for a second.

Know what I mean?

I appreciated that, for once, a movie about Jesse James made the attempt to demonstrate that he was, in fact, a really bad guy (compare to, for example, unBoyfriend Colin Farrell’s James in American Outlaws). Pitt’s James is clearly violent, lugging around some pretty intense mental and emotional demons (take the scene in the barn with the kid, for example). But his attempt to do “troubled and intense” mostly seemed to involve sitting around looking stony-faced, and it just didn’t do much for me, I’m afraid.

Casey Affleck, on the other hand, is just plain genius as Robert Ford. About twenty minutes into this film, it occurred to me that what I was watching was actually Single White Female with dudes on horseback — it really is the same story. It’s the tale of a young man totally infatuated with the person he thinks lives the perfect, most ideal life imaginable. Infatuated to the point of obsession. But it’s not that Bob wants to be partners with Jesse James, or even to earn his respect, really. It’s that he wants to BE Jesse James. The more he comes to realize the only person who can be Jesse James is Jesse James, the more he starts to turn ye olde stalker message of “If I can’t have you, nobody can” into “If I can’t BE you, nobody can.” And it’s all kinda downhill from there for both parties.

As with Gone Baby Gone, Affleck brings an truly fascinating balance of innocence and toughness to his part. Even knowing, as we all do from the title, that Bob is going to kill his childhood hero by the end of the movie, we can’t help but feel sorry from him from the moment he enters the screen. He’s a sad, pathetic little wannabe, desperate to be taken seriously. But he doesn’t have the intelligence and strength to actually obtain greatness. So, he does what so many pathetic little wannabes do to try to become famous — he assassinates someone bigger than he is. And down in history he goes.

The last thirty minutes or so of this movie, focusing purely on the two Ford brothers (Bob’s brother Charley is played by Sam Rockwell, by the way), is one of the best parts of the entire film, in my opinion. It follows Bob and Charley’s respective regrets and downfalls as they first try to capitalize on the murder by turning it into a stage play, thinking they’ll be heroes for having brought down one of the notorious bandits ever, and finally realize they are even less respected than ever before (didn’t help, of course, that Bob shot Jesse in the back). This was a part of the story we don’t often see, and it was a part I found both intriguing and moving.

In any case, despite my minor complaints, I think this is a movie well worth seeing. I think it could’ve benefitted from stronger editing and better pacing, though. And, sorry to say it, someone other than Pitt in the title role. Nevertheless, Western fans will find much to enjoy here, and so will anyone interested in the history of an American legend.

(By the way, best version of that Jesse James song at the end of the film in the bar? The one by The Pogues.)

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Western
Cast: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Paul Schneider, Mary Louise Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Jeremy Renner