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Archive for October, 2010

Movie Review by Matthew Schuchman- Two out of Five ‘Staches

A seemingly quiet town, a deranged killer, horses, townies, a panther and Ryan Kwanten; this could be a short synopsis of the next season of “True Blood”.  In reality, it is what you will find in a new film out of Australia; “Red Hill”.

On the first day of his new assignment, Ryan Kwanten (known best as Jason Stackhouse on HBO’s “True Blood”), just cannot catch a break.  He can’t find the box he packed his gun in, he is tricked into riding the stations uncooperative horse, it seems he rubs his new superior the wrong way, a local farm owner warns of a circus’ escaped panther that is roaming the woods killing his livestock  and an escaped convict with a burnt face is heading to the town  to murder everyone; welcome to Red Hill.

“Red Hill” starts off promising and really does play off the idea of being a good old Western, but out of Australia.  The landscapes are gorgeous, even if they are of a barren land and it all reinforces the idea that the characters and inhabitants of this town are extremely isolated and do things the way, they see fit.  When convict,  Jimmy Conway comes back to take revenge on the man who caught him and those who helped, they feel no need to involve any surrounding towns; the nearest one being about an hours drive away.

The big problem with “Red Hill” is that it is a massively predictable film.   The writer just tried too hard to hide a twist that was obvious from the first minute the character of Jimmy Conway appeared on-screen.  In addition, the “animal of a man” we’re  led to believe Jimmy Conway is, is also described as the best tracker in the world.  Now, certainly being a great tracker is perfect when you are on a manhunt for those who put you behind bars, but it doesn’t make you super human, which, is how he is portrayed in the film.  Let alone the fact that the fear he strikes into his foes makes them totally incapable of shooting him in the back; which they had multiple chances to do, ending the movie a little a head of time.

When you get down to it, “Red Hill” is just a very basic character study.  That fact just leads to another disappointing turn in “Red Hill”.  Yes, the filmmakers set out to make a movie with action, death and suspense.  But if early on in the film, if a certain someone just shot Jimmy Conway in the face when he had the chance, a much deeper and moving character study could have developed.

“Red Hill” is not the worst film out there and it is not really a waste of time in any way, but I can’t sit here and rave about it or any of the performances for that matter.  If you feel like sitting through a quick revenge thriller then the movie is worth your time.  Beyond that, I wouldn’t recommend running out to see, “Red Hill”.

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Movie review by Matthew Schuchman- Two out of Five ‘Staches

Before I get into any specifics about this movie, I  just want to put this out there.  Like most romance films/romance comedies/romance dramas out there, “Love and Other Drugs” is overly formulaic and predictable.  Of course, a film can be as transparent as Christine O’Donnell’s cloak of sanity and still be good, but it has to do something really special to achieve that status  and “Love and Other Drugs” does nothing out of the ordinary to change the game.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays an obnoxious, womanizing, high-end audio/video salesman who loses his job and takes up a position selling pharmaceuticals for Pfizer in 1996.  During his rep work in Ohio, he meets Anne Hathaway who turns out (Possible Spoiler Alert), though not really since you find out the first second she is on-screen, has been diagnosed with an early onset case of Parkinson’s disease.  Due to her unwillingness to get into a relationship because of  her condition, she is just as brash and care free when it comes to sex as Gyllenhaal’s character.  They get together, they break up, they take things further, break up again and then there is a happy ending for all.  You know how it goes already.

Let me first start by getting to the logistics side of Jake Gyllenhaal’s story line in all of this before we get to the pair of actors and their combined story.  The film opens up with a chalky 1996 and then fades into an exuberant Gyllenhaal using his “charm” and “sexuality” to sell a ghetto blaster to a pair of rich white girls.  This is all accompanied by the classic, “Two Princes” by The Spin Doctors.  Now maybe my recollection of 1996 has gone fuzzy, but who the hell was buying ghetto blasters in 1996?  And when did rich white girls go to a high-end audio/video outlet and even think about buying one?  What high-end establishment was even selling the cheap audio equipment shown in the film.  I know what you are thinking, “why get upset about such a minor piece of celluloid that is just starting to set up the story?”  I find it bothersome because this sets off a trend of overacted and over embellished situations that run through the whole movie.

At his Pfizer training, Gyllenhaal is subject to a large array of unbelievable trials and tests along with all the young and beautiful people who are vying for a position at the growing Pfizer corporation (this was before Viagra hit).  One of my best friends is  a drug rep for Pfizer and he is very good at his job and  coincidentally, he  sold audio/video equipment before he worked for Pfizer.  Now, I don’t know the intricate details of his training/meetings, but I can guarantee you that 95% of the situations portrayed in this film are so over dramatic if not completely off the mark.  This is especially evident in how the film portrays how the drug reps deal with doctors.  Yes, a rep entertains doctors non-stop and buys them lunch and diner and so forth, but the plain over the top ideas the film put out there, are just sad.

Moving beyond all of this, the love story is just as I stated; trite and predictable.  The film takes it shots at trying to be the kind and caring, shining light to the problems of those with Parkinson’s, even including a section of those who really suffer with it speaking at a “convention”, but over all the movie is really about the relationship of two people you have no reason to like.

Anne Hathaway does a good job in the film against the ham job delivered by Jake Gyllenhaal.  The film has a great yet underused supporting cast that includes; Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Judy Greer and George Seagal.  Josh Gad as Gyllenhaal’s younger brother turns out to be the one who provides the most genuine laughs.  No matter what you read about this film, it will have a pretty big box office once it becomes well-known that the lead actors spend the first 40 minutes of the movie naked.  Sorry ladies, no full frontal shots of Jake’s crotch and yes guys, 35 of those 40 minutes is pretty much Anne’s breasts, so don’t ask me to elaborate.  Once it is all over though, you probably will wish you spent your time watching, “Love and Other Drugs” while on the other drugs.

I would like to thank the staff and organizers of the CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival for providing a screening of the film as well as others that will have reviews up very soon.  The amount of content they provide for festival goers is outstanding.  Make sure to keep up with all your CMJ news here.

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Movie Review by Matthew Schuchman- Three out of Five ‘Staches.

Everyone and their mother wants to see “RED”.  I mean, who doesn’t want to see Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfus go rogue, CIA style.  It is a dream come true.

“RED” is everything you expect it to be.  It is funny, action packed, over the top and at times just a little heartwarming.  The film’s only real flaw is its actual story.  Now, normally that is a big killer for me.  In this case though, the story is there just to give us a reason to witness the glorious images of Helen Mirren with heavy firearms and John Malkovich getting mushy over a weapons cache.  But it has to be mentioned, the plot of “RED” is as thin as it can get in Hollywood.  And once again, like some other recent films, “RED” is based on a comic book that I have never read, so my frame of reference is only limited to what is shown on-screen.

Aside from the pull of having such an ensemble cast, which also includes Mary-Louise Parker, Karl Urban and Rebecca Pidgeon, I know a lot of you out there are just dying to see John Malkovich just go off the deep end with this character.  Mr. Malkovich is pretty much seen as a bit of a weirdo by most movie fans I think, but what I don’t think people realize is;  acting out or acting truly insane is not a very easy thing to do and in “RED” Malkovich pulls it off with exceptional skill and beauty.  Which brings us to the film’s only other flaw.

With all this talent and so many jokes to pull, whether they are obvious or not; you know we missed out on so much more.  For as much as you may want to see an entire film of just John Malcovich in this role or any other of the cast members, there still is this flawed story to tell so things get wrapped up in the end.  In a perfect world, the DVD release of “RED” would have a full two and a half hours of cut footage to quench everyone’s thirsts.  This is the risk you run with an ensemble cast.  No matter how much you want to cling on to certain characters, this is still a movie about two specific people and not Brian Cox as a Russian KGB agent.

Ultimately though, none of this will matter when you are sitting and enjoying “RED”, anyway.  So go see it and make sure you don’t run out right before the credits roll or you may miss one of the oddest, yet funniest things you will ever see.

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Attention NYC, here comes the 2010 CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival.  The ‘Stache will be attending this year to cover the wide array of films the festival is showcasing.  I have to keep a little hush-hush right now in terms of the special treats they have for everyone to see.  However, I will also be covering a lot of the musical acts this year for my friends over at the Art and Music web magazine, I Paint My Mind and some other fantastic publications.

This years popular guests include: Phoenix, GZA, U.N.K.L.E., Black Sheep, Four Tet, Helmet, Ghostface Killah, Kristen Schall and Friends (Mel from “Flight of the Conchords”) and Good Old War.  There are close to 700 artists that will be performing people!

The festival will also offer panels and round table discussions for those trying to make their name in the industry or those just curious to know more about the world of music; even a seminar on Entertainment Law will be offered.

The CMJ festival does hold a special place in my heart, as it was at their festival that I first got the chance to see, The Mars Volta, live.  So make sure you stay up to date if you want to catch your favorite act or check out one of the new up and comers out there.  CMJ always showcases a handful of acts that blow up in the near future.  Click here to make sure you know what is going on before it is too late and clear the calendar from October 19th through the 23rd.

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