John Delia

Film Editor John Delia has been on all sides of the movie business from publications to film making. He has worked as a film critic with ACED Magazine for more than 11 years and earned a Bachelors degree in communications from the University of Florida. John is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association. Follow John on Twitter @staragent1 or send John a message at jdelia@acedmagazine.com

Limitless, A Chilling Focus Factor

The premise of Limitless involves the use of a mythical drug that magically makes a person a total Einstein, the pure fantasy and consequences of the outcome makes it intriguing.  The cast perfectly drawn and the direction top notch, Limitless thrills and chills.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) has drawn a blank causing a case of writers block.  The company who has given him a monetary advance to write his book is asking for results.  Totally depressed and thinking of ending his career he by chance runs into Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) an old buddy who introduces him to a pill called NZT.  It allows one to use his entire brain including the incidental memory that has picked up information not purposely stored.  With this newfound drug, Eddie is on top of the world and writes his book in four days.  When finds Vernon dead, Eddie realizes the reason and searches his apartment coming up with a bag of the brain stretchers.  When word gets around that Eddie has NZT his world turns upside down.

Robert De Niro as Van Loon and Bradley Cooper as Eddie

The fantasy here shows the premise that if it were true that one could take a pill and use his or her whole brain to it’s fullest potential then an Eddie would probably outshine most everyone with the use of his stored knowledge.  It would be like the memory enhancing supplement Focus Factor on steroids.

The film under the direction by Neil Burger (The Illusionist) gets nicely played out.  He keeps his audience guessing and on the edge as Eddie copes with his situation and the dangerous new ones being created. Cooper makes his character real going from indigent writer to top of the world consultant.  His interaction with superstar Robert DeNiro as investor Carl Van Loon works well. As the two plays off each other they turn a dull possibility into an intriguing interaction showing Eddie’s brilliance.

Limitless is rated PG 13 for thematic material involving a drug, violence including disturbing images, sexuality and language.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A bright chilling fantasy that entertains. (B-)

 

 

The Lincoln Lawyer, ‘Court’ing a Killer

Suspenseful, intriguing and exciting The Lincoln Lawyer makes the legal system entertaining. With all the TV attorney shows pushing for top ratings, this film comes at the right time. A strong cast, excellent direction and a riveting storyline make The Lincoln Lawyer a must see.

Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) keeps his legal business close to him, in his car. Defending the lowlifes or whomever desperately needs legal assistance; Mick turns down very few clients. While working on a questionable case his confidant Val Valenzuela (John Leguizamo) gives him the name of Beverly Hills playboy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe). This client will pay big money to get him off for battery and rape. It’s the case of a lifetime and Mick knows it. Suspicious of the client however, he brings on his friend Frank Levin (William H. Macy) a private detective. When they start getting conflicting evidence, Mick starts to get distrustful of Roulet.

McConaughey, Leguizamo and Macy work nicely together easily bringing out the sleazy ways Mick does business. But the strong performance of Phillippe in his role as the guiltless client makes the script work. I was totally engrossed in the film watching every twist and turn right to the nearly unpredictable turn of events at the end.

 

Mathew McConaughey plays Mick Haller The Lincoln Lawyer

Excellent direction by Brad Furman helps in crafting The Lincoln Lawyer into good show. His ability to maneuver the characters into realistic situations that create suspense with creative conflict makes this film work. The only thing that comes in question is “Did he write McConaughey taking off his shirt into the film or was it his star’s way of leaving his usual mark?”

The Lincoln Lawyer is rated R for some violence, sexual content and language.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A killer of a thriller. (B)

Paul, an A for the Alien

 

If you are a Sci Fi comedy nut like myself Paul delivers 104 minutes of amazement and fun.  The cute little laugher features a great comical cast and although the story gets quite corny most of the sight gags are priceless.

Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost)

Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) have traveled thousands of miles from England in order to attend a Comic Book Convention in the United States.  The two British nerds then plan to take a rented RV for a trip to all the historical UFO sights in Nevada and New Mexico.  After leaving the wild convention they make their first stop in the middle of nowhere for a bite to eat.  On the way out of the joint they dent the finder of a couple of wise cracking patrons and speed off down the road.  Just when they feel they are out of danger a car comes crashing into a ditch, Graeme and Clive get a huge surprise when a snappy little alien called Paul pops out of the bushes.  When Paul talks the two into helping him escape being hunted by the FBI, a road trip to hell begins.

The comedy comes swift and often with crazy sight gags and snappy one-liners. Although most of the comedy has a British flare it’s still understandably funny.  If you have seen Shaun of the Dead or even Hot Fuzz you will get my meaning.

Seth Rogan provides the voice of Paul

Leading the cast of crazies are Simon Pegg and Nick Frost the duo who made several films together including their next big release The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn. Bill Hader, Kristin Wigg and Justin Bateman a trio of Americans help deliver the very funny movie under the fine direction of by Greg Mottola (Adventureland, Superbad).  The unmistakable Seth Rogan voices Paul the smart ass alien who kicks the movie into high gear with his super powers.

The movie is filled with lines and gestures borrowed from many science fiction movies and I found myself counting them as the film progressed.  The most oblivious is Devils Tower National Monument a site that Close Encounters of a Third Kind made famous.

Paul is rated R for language including sexual references and some drug use so even as cute the alien, please be cautious about bringing immature children.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An A for the Alien. (A)

 

 

Studio Ghibli Releases New Film on DVD

Japan’s most prestigious animation studio has released a new entry into the market called Tales of Earthsea.  Studio Ghibli the production company that made the Academy Award winner Spirited Away and the recent kid favorite Ponyo delivers exciting family friendly films that inspire and entertain.

A new animated feature from Studio Ghibli and directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son Goro has been released on DVD.  The adventure called Tales From Earthsea is the first directorship for Goro and it shows a lot of influence by his father.  The movie is based on the series of fantasy books by Ursula Le Guin.

Set in a fantasy world of magic we follow Arren a prince who is conflicted over a wrongful deed against his father.  Arren travels the land where he meets Lord Archmage Sparrowhawk a master wizard who takes the troubled youth under his wing.  When THE mysterious Cobb tries to destroy Arren over the special sword he carries, an epic battle ensues.

The attention to detail in all of Studio Ghibli is evidenced in this adventure of a troubled youth looking for redemption and self-discovery.  I like the feel of the film in this Asian style of 2D animation that’s more story oriented than the computer graphic delivery we get with most USA productions.

The DVD special features include the The World of Studio Ghibli where you can visit the land of Earthsea in an interactive experience.  It also contains a trivia challenge an much more.

Tales of Earthsea is rated PG-13 for some violent images.  It stars the voice talent of Timothy Dalton (Toy Story 3), Willem Dafoe ( Spider Man) Cheech Marin (Cars, Beverly Hills Chihuahua) and Mariska Hargitay (TV’s Law & Order)

 

 

Cedar Rapids, Comedy Insurance

Posted on March 12, 2011
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The comedies are taking over this movie going year and with Cedar Rapids it’s an above average laugher.  The film moves along with a great deal of character build up then explodes with some very nicely staged sight gags and embarrassing situations.  The fun here comes from a keenly written script and fine acting.

Anne Heche and Ed Helms play insurance reps in Cedar Rapids

The story centers on Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) an insurance man who has been on top of his game in an office that has won the prestigious Two Diamond Award for three years running.  In a quirk of fate he is sent to represent the company for the first time at the annual insurance convention where he will compete for a fourth consecutive Two Diamond Award. In his way, however are his gullibility and the inexperience of dealing with his fellow salesmen.

Ed Helms plays straight laced Tim Lippe

With Ed Helms doing straight-laced comedy making Tim Lippe much like The Office character Andy Bernard or his The Hangover’s Stu Price he sets up a series of naïve gags that he easily carries throughout.  But the big hitter here is the always-funny John C. Reilly as Zeigler who takes Tim under his wing and leads him into some very wacky situations.

Sure the film gets silly and predictable, but that’s what makes Cedar Rapids fun.  It may not be the funniest film for 2011, but it certainly offers 90 minutes of escape from the trying times in which we live.

Cedar Rapids is rated R for crude and sexual content, language and drug use. Well it seems that most all films rated R today include a sex scene and Cedar Rapids conforms.  Even Sigourney Weaver gets into the act bouncing on Ed Helms within the first ten minutes of the movie, but in this case it’s for shock effect I’m sure.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  Who’d a thought Insurance could be funny. (B-)

 

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Battle LA, on Shaky Ground

You can see that lot of work and energy went into Battle: Los Angeles, but all for naught.  The filmmakers use a shaky cam throughout the whole movie similar to the films The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield.  I was really puzzled since the trailers are mostly steady shots.  The bouncing gets so annoying that it takes all the punch out of the film.

 

 

At the center of the plot is an attack by aliens to take over Earth for the surface water.  In order to do this they need to annihilate all humans.  Initially thought to be meteors pummeling the planet, the government sends in the military to check out the damage only to find an extraterrestrial enemy that has all the firepower of World War II in their huge space ships.  When a squad of hell bent on winning Marines, led by beleaguered Staff Sgt, Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), gets assigned to rescue a group of citizens they unwittingly become the Earth’s only chance for salvation.

CGI and Special Effects create the action in Batttle: Los Angeles

Name a war movie and there’s probably a little bit of it in this hackneyed mostly computer-generated film that becomes laughable at times.  With director Jonathan Liebesman bouncing his camera crew around like they were on a trampoline he thinks he’s getting a feel of a documentary being made of all the action.  The problem is, no documenter would jiggle his camera ALL the time.  Even when Cloverfield used motion jiggle when the action calmed down everything became steady so the audience got a rest.  Committing the biggest sin, Sony’s television ads only showed a smidgeon of shake, but those same scenes in the theater version were as shaky as the rest of the movie.

The acting suffers from their clichéd lines and death certainty situations that were easily staved off so the small squad would last at least till the finale.  It’s Independence Day, District 9, War of the Worlds, and many more all rolled into one. Add to the trite plot some laughable lines that make the military leaders look silly.  And, Aaron Eckhart’s character Staff Sgt. Nantz reminded me of Ted Striker in ‘Airplane!’ who had a similar problem that kept coming back to haunt him.

Aliens win a skermish

What’s good about Battle: Los Angeles?  The special effects, aliens, space ships, computer generated images, explosions, all the things that attract a young audience.  But if you are a member of the older generation and just have to see the film, take a Dramamine and look away from the screen once in awhile.

Battle: Los Angeles is rated PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language.  The film also contains a gory, yucky, squishy operation on a living alien.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  Avoid any contact with this alienation. (D)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Riding Hood, Hardwicke Hoodwink

 

 

Alright Twilight fans here’s a little change a of pace called Red Riding Hood with romance and werewolves that should fulfill your cravings until you can get more of Stephanie Meyer. However, don’t be too quick to jump into this one if you are a reasonable adult that’s looking for some horror that chills. The fright is fleeting and the terror no more scary than a large devilish dog.  Mostly shot on two sets, the film could have easily been a theatrical play.

Valerie (Ananda Seyfried) leads townfolks into square

Most everyone remembers the story of Little Red Riding Hood and this film uses it in a very dark way. In a small isolated village in the deep forest live several families who have been fighting off a werewolf for years.  Young Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) has reached the age of being married, but her older sister who has been promised to Henri (Max Irons) must be first.  In the meantime Valerie has accepted the charms of Peter (Shiloh Fernandez )and is quite content on waiting.  Suddenly the werewolf kills her sister and Valerie gets ordered to marry Henri.  When the town comes under siege by the howling daemon, Valerie devises a plan to escape her fate.

Valerie travel to grandma's house in her red hoodie

 

The costume film takes on a striking aura with fairytale garb, ‘gingerbread’ cottages and thick forests.  But, all the above looked like a theatre set perfectly placed and lifeless, even sand covers the ground in an attempt to resemble snow.  Two main locations make up the film, the small town square with lower class buildings and an isolated house where grandma lives.  The actors move about the sets reciting lines that direct all the action.  I found this a little boring and listless at times.

Julie Christie as Grandma

Saving the film from total loss is the beast and the fight.  Cruel and with a vengeance it attacks the townspeople for food.  The battle against the creature and the intermittent love triangle keep Red Riding Hood interesting and palatable.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Julie Christi’s brilliant performance as grandma and Amanda Seyfried’s pervasive screen presence.

But, that’s not enough to make up for the lines Valerie has to say to her grandmother that add a feel of silliness during an important scene. A look at grandma’s eyes, ears and teeth by Valerie is all that’s needed here, but director Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) goes for the punch, but looses the fight.

The film is rated PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality.  Immature youngsters may get easily freighted so take this into consideration before allowing them to go with siblings.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A teen chick flick that suffers from over indulgence in the fairy tale. (C-)

 

 

Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone at GIFF

Posted on March 10, 2011
Filed Under Entertainment, Movie Review | Leave a Comment

By John Delia

The Gasparilla International Film Festival has a gem waiting for film lovers, rock enthusiasts and a look at music in a historical sense.  The documentary is called Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone and features the rise, establishment and finally the erosion of the funk band’s amazing existence.  Told by Lawrence Fishburne, featuring tons of actual footage and interviews with the band members, after seeing the film it’s heard to get it out of my head.  Truly amazing, the film is surly one of the highlights of the 2011 film festival.

An all black band, the story starts when they meet by chance in a small all white high school in 70’s Los Angeles.  Bussed in from outlining black neighborhoods during desegregation the boys decide to form an unusual musical group that plays a wild and funky rock.  Not the music norm for their ethnic heritage they are not taken seriously until their first gig after graduating where they bring down house at Madame Wong’s oriental restaurant.  From these surprising roots comes the historical band Fishbone and in the film you will see actual footage of the rockers throughout their musical career.

A rocky career that remains together through ragging civil rights riots in Los Angeles and the hatred of the black population revealed with the Rodney King incident. In spite of many changes in the group as they evolve, a kidnapping ordeal, resignation of band members, they survived for over 25 years playing in concerts all over the world.

Fishbone

The original 1979 Fishbone featured lead singer Angelo Moore, bassist Norwood Fisher, drummer Phillip “Fish” Fisher, guitarist Kendall Jones, keyboardist Chris Dowd and trumpet Walter Kirby II.

The film’s soundtrack features dozens of Fishbone’s songs, music videos (including one produced by Spike Lee), and movie interviews with the famous in the music and film industry including Flea, Ice-T, No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani, Perry Farrell, Bob Forrest, Branford Marsalis, George Clinton, Tim Robbins and Jason Lee.

The film is scheduled for a showing on March 25th at the Centro Ybor Muvico 20
1600 East 8th Avenue in Tampa, Florida at 7:30 PM as part of the Gasparilla International Film Festival.  On hand will be producer/director Chris Metzler who will entertain a question answer interview following the showing.  For more information on the documentary and tickets you can log on to www.giff2011.com

FINAL ANALYSIS: remarkable and tunefully contagious. (A)

(The Gasparilla International Film Festival runs from March 24 thru March 27, 2011 in Tampa, Florida)

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Hannah Montana Forever, Bows Last Season

For all you [amazon_link id=”B004EJTGPS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Hannah Montana[/amazon_link] lovers, youngsters, tweens and teens the hit Disney show ended and the final season has been enshrined on a 2-disc DVD set.  Whether you want to see it over and a over again until you wear it out, or just have it in your collection of the other three seasons, Miley Cyrus proved to be one of Disney’s hottest commodities. Read more

Take Me Home Tonight, Check it Out!

Although it may be a little over the top, Take Me Home Tonight’s a comedy that delivers. Very funny and crammed with sight gags at most every turn, the film keeps the laughter rolling to its ridiculous ending. Much like the continuously changing turn of events in the film Superbad, Take Me Home Tonight is an equal winner. If you like innocence lost in your romance films then check it out tonight. Read more

Drive Angry, Hell on Earth

Out of the depths of hell and brimstone comes Drive Angry 3D a wicked ‘grindhouse’ film that takes evil to a higher level.  It’s a lot of campiness in a large bundle of violence and mayhem.  Director Patrick Lussier gets his cast to whittle down their talent and fit their trailer trash persona.  If you are a fan of films like Machete and Planet Terror, then this cut is right up your alley. Read more