Thursday, June 30, 2011

Moog - 2004

"Moog" - 2004
Dir. by Hans Fjellestad - 1 hr. 12 min.

Official Trailer

Structure, dammit!  It's almost more important to a documentary to have some sort of narrative arc to make sense of things than it is to fiction films.  Things happen in real life, but without any context or sense of progression, none of it ends up mattering.

"Moog" is about Robert Moog and his namesake, the Moog synthesizer.  You might not know the instrument by name, but if you've ever listened to prog rock of any kind (like ELO or Yes), you're certainly familiar with it's unique sound.  It's an early synthesizer (an analog one, at that), and has dozens of knobs that allow a musician to manipulate a sound in many different ways.  Mr. Moog began building theremins in his teens, which sparked his interest in creating electronic instruments, which ended up with the Moog.

The bulk of this documentary is comprised of contemporary interviews both solely with Moog, and between Moog and other people who were instrumental (ha!) in the history of the Moog.  There's also a decent amount of performance footage, both contemporary and archival, featuring musicians like Keith Emerson, Money Mark, and Mix Master Mike.  The film isn't as structured as it needs to be; I enjoy watching people talking about the things they're passionate about, but far too many details just fly by as asides in the midst of these conversations.  There's not much detail on how Mr. Moog made the leap from making theremins to creating an entirely new instrument, and what is there is sprinkled throughout in bits and pieces.  At another point, Keith Emerson mentions that one of the original Moogs cost as much as a house, which would have been an excellent point to provide some context on how the instrument fit into it's own time, but instead stands as a missed opportunity.  And the last portion of the film has Moog mentally wandering into metaphysical territories without much purpose.

If you're really fascinated by the Moog (or theremins, as there is some theremin performance pieces in the movie as well, including a song by Moog himself), this film will hold some interest.  But the frustrating lack of context and structure limit it's appeal to the hardcore.  And I have to admit, I found myself on the outside of that group when watching "Moog."

2.5 / 5 - NF Streaming

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fast Five - 2011

"Fast Five" - 2011
Dir. by Justin Lin - 2 hrs. 10 min.

Official Trailer

I'm just going to get to the nitty-gritty here: it's fine if you don't like the "Fast & Furious" series of movies, but you've had something like a decade to complain about them already, so save your breath.  This installment, in particular, plays like a bro-tastic version of one of the "Ocean's Eleven" films.  That's a pretty big compliment, too.

"Fast Five" comes on the heels of the fourth installment, "Fast & Furious."  Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) are all on the run, meeting up in Rio de Janeiro.  After a fundraising job goes haywire, leading to the deaths of three DEA agents, the U.S. government is sufficiently pissed off to send  Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and a special forces team down to Rio to haul Dom and crew in.  Things quickly complicate from there, loudly and spectacularly, culminating in a daring heist of a vault from the Rio police headquarters.

There are a couple of big things to consider in a movie like this.  First, the big action sequences have to deliver.  And I felt that they did just that.  There are several sequences worth mentioning, like when Brian and Mia boost Dom from his jail transport, or the initial foot chase through the favelas between Hobbs' crew and Mia/Brian/Dom.  But the big two over-deliver, and are both spectacle and spectacular.  The botched train robbery of some very nice cars early on is great and suspenseful, and ends impressively.

Once the main characters get their bearings a bit, "Fast Five" turns into "Ocean's Eleven" (to the point where they even mention needing to put a team together).  This is where literally every character from the series who's still alive returns to get a piece of the action (which is $100 million in cash).  This is both the benefit of following a series of films, and the benefit of having some on-screen history to work with.  But instead of jazzy sophistication, sharp suits, and a Vegas back-drop, we get a non-stop parade of lust-worthy vehicles, jacked-up guys and slinky, sexy women, and Rio de Janeiro (which is a visual feast).

The last third or so of the film is the heist itself, and it's pretty awesome (in the sense that it's awe-inspiring).  Dom and Brian tear a huge part of Rio a new one (seriously, the amount of destruction they cause in their escape is both impressive and horrifying), and the twist works well.  I'd be more specific about things, but the whole sequence is something that a viewer should probably experience on their own for the first time.  And the whole thing just works.  It's easy to complain about the dialogue or the tough-guy posturing over the course of the series, but again, you already knew that going in, and dialogue doesn't really matter when Dom and Brian are flooring it, trying to get away from an entire city's police force, meanwhile leaving a wake of destruction behind them.

I know that when you hit a fifth movie in a series, people pretty much already know if they're interested in a fifth installment or not.  Although there are some elements to this series of films that aren't exactly topics for serious discussion, I respect the fact that each film hasn't been the exact same thing.  So if you do go see this one, don't leave until the credits are done.  I was kind of pissed off and simultaneously excited after the short end scene - now I need to see the sixth one.

3.5 / 5 - Theatre

Friday, June 24, 2011

Radio Bikini - 1988

"Radio Bikini" - 1988
Dir. by Robert Stone - 56 min.

Full movie

It's difficult to judge things out of their time, sometimes.  Usually, a good documentary either is based on fascinating subject matter, or it reveals something shocking and factual.  This documentary, released in 1988, is about the Bikini Atoll nuclear bomb tests between 1948 and 1956, and features a ton of archival footage, presumably shot by the military at the time.  It was nominated for several awards, including the Best Documentary, Features in the Academy Awards that year.

So I was expecting a bit more than I got here.  First off, when I went to the Wikipedia page to find the Bikini Atoll page link, I was surprised to read that there had actually been twenty-three nuclear tests done at this site - the film focuses on only two of them.  It's entirely possible that the others were mentioned, despite the short run time, I had to split this film into two sessions to get through it.  Secondly, and this is admittedly an admission of my cynicism, I have absolutely no shock left in me when it comes to the US of A steamrolling a small group of people.  Relocating an entire island population (granted, only about two-hundred people) so that the military could blow up and irradiate the island over and over again?  It not only sounds plausible, but in comparison likely and and entirely reasonable.  During the same time span, the U.S. government was also responsible for the Tuskegee experiments and Japanese Internment Camps, so why wouldn't they have done this?  

And that's what I mean about it being difficult to judge things outside of their time, sometimes.  Twenty-plus years ago, I couldn't just pepper in Wikipedia links to prove my point, and providing information about an atrocity of sorts (I think that the military personnel that were deliberately exposed to radiation were treated more cruelly than the Bikinians, although that particular battle is not a contest I'd want to be competing in) was a much more revolutionary act.  But right now, if I learn more about a given subject by reading the Wikipedia entry than I did by watching a feature-length (almost - an hour is pretty short for a movie) film on the same subject, then time hasn't done the film any favors.

2 / 5 - NF Streaming

Sunday, June 19, 2011

X-Men: First Class - 2011

"X-Men: First Class" - 2011
Dir. by Matthew Vaughn - 2 hrs. 12 min.

Official Trailer

I was not entirely on-board for an X-Men reboot going in.  There are several reasons, chief among them that I already paid for and watched three X-Men movies (with varying results), and just like with the Spider-Man movies, I feel like there's not a good creative reason for a reboot.  Granted, there's been literally thousands of comics books made of these characters, but the entire point of doing movie versions is to cherry-pick those stories and hit a grand-slam every time you commit two hours of film to one of them.  The second you start to dip your toes into sub-excellent material, it's better to wrap things up.  I guess the best way to put it is that if Marvel is going to start re-telling stories they've already made into films, I'm done.  Tobey Maguire is my generation's Spidey for good or ill, and I'm not that interested in starting the hero's journey over again with someone I've never heard of.

Another big source of my hesitation: the trailers didn't do a lot for me.  Honestly, I don't even remember them, which is kind of sad.

So let's get into the things that helped me enjoy this movie.  First, it's more of a soft reboot, in that it serves as a prequel (and one that's set many years back, instead of being a direct prequel with cheaper actors).  That definitely helps deal with seeing different actors playing the characters that have already been established over the other three X-Men movies.  Second, as it turns out, sharp suits, rad cars, and mini-skirts with go-go boots go a long way with me.  I can't stress this enough, we all dress like complete slobs now, and even the teenagers here look sharp as a tack (and in a believable way, too).  It's not just a product of the time, it's the very existence of dress denim as a concept that's the problem.  A little style goes a long way, and "X-Men: First Class" has more than a little style.  Even Kevin Bacon, as the main villain Sebastian Shaw, always cuts a dashing figure, regardless of the evil he's up to.

Another thing that helps here is that the movie has a flawless structure (and realizes it, and then doesn't mess with what's always worked in the X-Men comics), in that the emergence of mutant-kind is really all about the civil rights movement.  Placed in the context of the 1960's in America, and with the viewers having knowledge of everything that's ensued since then, a heavy cloud hangs over the rhetoric exchanged between Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender).  There's always been a comparison that Xavier was Martin Luther King, Jr., and Erik (Magneto) was Malcolm X, but where this movie really succeeds is showing how each man arrived at their philosophy, and not condemning either view.  And it's made clear that the two men achieve more working together than they do separately, which is a statement for modern times if there ever was one.

I won't bother with a plot recap, other than to say this is a version of the original X-Men origin story, explicitly using Cold War tensions to advance the story (which is a million times more interesting than the standard action movie plot of a baddie stealing some virus which will kill mankind).  While there is a good guy/bad guy plot, there's also the matter of whether or not people with very different ideas about how to live can work together in any meaningful way.  This story came together in a believable, tense way.  For a movie that I was nearly completely unexcited to see, I ended up really liking what I saw.  From bringing some much needed fashion-sense to geekdom, to a really great cameo for the folks who have seen the other three X-Men movies, to not being afraid to give voice to both Malcolm and MLK, it all works, and it's a really good movie.

4 / 5 - Theatre

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bridesmaids - 2011

"Bridesmaids" - 2011
Dir. by Paul Feig - 2 hrs. 5 min.

Official Trailer

Thank goodness!  Not because I was worried that it wouldn't be as funny as I'd been led to believe - this batch of actresses led by Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph could polish just about any turd.  And not because I was worried that it would be too girly - the characters are well-rounded enough to not need to be pigeonholed into a standard issue chick flick.  No, thank goodness that this was a really good comedy.

The plot is something of a combination of "Knocked Up" and "The Hangover," and just happens to star women.  I can't stress that enough, this is not a "Sex in the City" situation, and I feel kind of yucky for having to emphasize that.  At the same time, the fact that I feel it's necessary to do so says a lot about how infrequently comedies are made with female leads.  Wiig plays Annie, who's childhood friend (Lillian, played by Maya Rudolph) gets engaged.  Annie gets Maid of Honor duties, which plays in direct contrast to how Annie's life is playing out.  A string of bad luck has her dumped, working at a jeweler (instead of running her own pastry business, which went under), rooming with a pair of creepy British siblings with boundary issues, and being third on Don Draper's booty-call list.  Like "Knocked Up," she's in over her head, and like "The Hangover," her precarious footing leads to a series of events that would be considered bottoming out, if they weren't soon to be trumped by a new low.

The thing that really made this comedy tick for me is that while the things that happen are kind of outrageous, the actresses largely react how you'd expect people to react in a similar situation.  It also helps that the batch of bridesmaids (Wiig, Rudolph, Jessica St. Clair as Wiig's rival, Reno 911's Wendi McLendon-Covey, Elie Kemper, and Melissa McCarthy) are all distinct personalities that behave in distinct ways.  I can't stress that enough - it's enough of a problem in male-oriented comedies (there's always an overabundance of indistinguishable quick-witted jackasses who's only differing character traits are their stature in these kinds of movies) that it almost feels revolutionary here.  That's not a condescending pat on the head, either.  It's acknowledging some really fucking good writing and comedic performances.  If it were easy to do that, there'd be a million films this good and this funny.  But there aren't, and "Bridesmaids" makes it look kind of easy.

By my count, this is a really funny comedy that's sharply written, full of great performances (I need to also single out Melissa McCarthy - she was a riot in every scene), and just flat out works.  I'm pretty eager to watch this one again, which is as good of a compliment to a comedy as I can offer.  So, you know, maybe go check this one out if you get the chance.

4 / 5 - Theatre

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

American Grindhouse - 2010

"American Grindhouse" - 2010
Dir. by Elijah Drenner - 1 hr. 20 min.

Official Trailer

I always enjoy watching documentaries about film history - I've watched a ton of movies, but my actual education in film can be largely attributed to one class I took in my senior year of college (a really good class that started with James Cagney's "The Public Enemy" and wrapped with "Pulp Fiction").  I spent those years of voracious ingestion of history and minutiae pointed squarely at comic books, instead.  So when I get the chance to see a movie that shines a little light on an area of film history I haven't really stumbled across, I jump in it.

"American Grindhouse," as the title indicates, is a documentary on the seedy, murky, filthy, and a little bit sticky history of grindhouse movies in the U.S.A.  It's narrated by Robert Forster, and has interview footage with both directors who were into these kinds of disreputable films (Joe Dante, John Landis, and Allison Anders, to name three), as well as some of those responsible for the films themselves (like Herschell Gordon Lewis and Don Edmonds).

Over the course of this documentary, these non-Hollywood studio productions are variously credited as pre-punk (Allison Anders offers the DIY, fast/cheap/dirty, low-budget nature of these films as being spiritual kin to the punk movement in the 1970's), educational and empowering for women (there was a span of "educational" films, which were sometimes the only means through which women could obtain information about sexual health), a trendsetter for actual Hollywood productions (for the most part, whatever grindhouse movies would do would end up in Hollywood movies in some manner in a matter of years), and as no different than Hollywood productions (a direct comparison of Hitchcock's "Psycho" and Lewis' "Blood Feast"), budget aside.

The commentary is intelligent and enthusiastic throughout, which is a relief.  Probably the best part of this film for me is that it was a way to sample a ton of marginally-known films, and find a few that I wanted to check out in full.  Beware though, for that privilege, you have to sit through a clip of an actual live birth.  I'm not sure those things even out, but it's a good, concise history of grindhouse films.

3.5 / 5 - NF Streaming

Friday, June 10, 2011

From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money - 1999

"From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money" - 1999
Dir. by Scott Spiegel - 1 hr. 28 min.


I want to be as fair as possible when I write about movies, even when they do really unfair things back.  For instance, everything I've ever read about this movie mentions that Bruce Campbell is in it (and he's easily the biggest name involved), but his role is probably best classified as a cameo rather than a role.  And even though the fact that this was a straight-to-video (or straight-to-DVD, I'm not sure where the market was at in 1999) sequel should have tempered my expectations a bit, it's still a sequel to a collaboration between the two filmmakers who have the best handle on how to make trash entertaining (Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez).

As far as sequels go, this one doesn't carry over much from the original.  There are the vampires that can turn into bats, and Danny Trejo is still tending bar at the Titty Twister (he doesn't have much of a role here, either), but there's only one scene at the bar, and there's a passing mention of the Gecko brothers.  So, to be fair, I almost have to discount entirely what's come before, since "Dawn 2" doesn't make any substantial use of it.

So what's here?  Buck (Robert Patrick) is assembling a crew for a bank heist in Mexico, a haul possibly up to $5 million.  Meeting Buck in Mexico is Luther (Duane Whitaker), who runs his Jeep into a bat in the middle of the night, which starts a chain reaction of people turning into vampires.  Despite this, they still attempt the heist.  And there's a long, drawn-out gun fight that comprises pretty much the entire third act.

To be fair, this isn't a very good movie (even if I was to extend it every benefit of the doubt possible).  On it's own merits, it fails.  There's just too much bad acting (and not in an entertaining way), too many scenes that are drawn out beyond any reason (probably to fill time, and this still clocks in under 90 minutes), too many bad special effects (but again, not bad enough to be awesome like the "Evil Dead" series).  There's an inexplicable abundance of "potato-salad cam" shots (the first time I really noticed the POV shot was in some movie that had a woman walking through a dinner party with a tray of potato salad, inside of which was the camera).  There's the push-up cam, there's a safe combination dial cam, there's a Luther's head cam (when he arrives at the Titty Twister, there's a POV shot that has the brim of his hat visible), there's even a vampire's tonsils cam that's used repeatedly.  That's probably only half of the uses of that particular shot, and it's such a bizarre visual tic to decide to use over and over again.

If I was going to be unfair, I'd probably note that following up a Tarantino movie or a Rodriguez movie with your weakest sauce is a bad idea.  Granted, this kind of movie isn't going to have the benefit of George Clooney or a script by Tarantino, but there are plenty of things that were interesting in the original that could have been imitated (even badly).  Too bad they went for the vampire angle, instead.

1 / 5 - NF Streaming

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Hangover Part II - 2011

"The Hangover Part II" - 2011
Dir. by Todd Phillips - 1 hr. 42 min.

Official Trailer

Let's get this out of the way: "The Hangover Part II" is not quite as good as "The Hangover" is.  It's not a bad movie at all, it has much of what made the first installment great, but it's just not quite as good.  Part of the reason is likely that instead of watching a string of horrors unfold, a viewer is now expecting the horrific (in a funny way, as long as it's not happening to you) events to come.  There's more than enough here to keep you entertained and interested if you liked the first one, but since this is structurally extremely similar, the element of surprise is lost.

Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married in Thailand (and not to Heather Graham's character, who isn't in this film).  The rest of the Wolfpack are attending, and things quickly go south.  As a lot of the humor relies on surprises, it's not really fair to say much more than that.  If you saw "The Hangover," you know where it's headed anyways.  There are two fundamental changes in the sequel: the missing person is Stu's fiancĂ©e's little brother, and Bradley Cooper's character (Phil) turns into a raging asshole.  I don't remember Phil being quite that much of a dick (it seemed that previously, when the characters mistreated one another it was reacting poorly under substantial pressure), but Part II starts off nearly immediately with Phil turning into a fairly unlikeable character.  And I'm not talking about a charismatic, best friends messing with each other kind of asshole, but just a dick.

While this time around, you're no longer wondering whether things have bottomed out each time something awful happens to Stu, Phil, and Alan, "Part II" makes up for it by upping the ante each time.  Setting the movie in Bangkok ("Holla!  City of squalor!" says Chow, played by Ken Jeong) allows things to get pretty dark pretty quickly.  The fundamental mystery of where Teddy (the previously mentioned little brother) has disappeared to works well, keeping the Wolfpack moving and discovering just how bad their previous night had gotten, bit by bit.

Director Todd Phillips has a couple of classic comedies to his credit now ("Old School" and the original "The Hangover").  "Part II" isn't that good, but it's better than "Starsky & Hutch" or "Road Trip," and that's fine by me.  The best thing I can say about this movie is that if there was a third installment, I'd more than probably go see it, too.  Being able to maintain an audience along sequels is a tricky task, and I felt like it was successful at that.

3.5 / 5 - Theatre

Monday, June 6, 2011

Clerks - 1994

"Clerks" - 1994
Dir. by Kevin Smith - 1 hr. 32 min.

Official Trailer

When you've seen a movie more than a couple of times, it gets really hard to talk about it objectively. Everyone has films they like, but it's still probably pretty uncommon to see a film more than a couple of times. Above that level, there is a level of film enjoyment that approaches how someone might enjoy an album; no one thinks twice about listening to an album ten times, or even one hundred times. I've got a few movies that have reached that sort of status – far beyond just liking a movie, but to the point where it's more like a favorite, most comfortable pair of shoes. I'm not even sure how many times I've seen “Clerks,” at least twenty-five times. Fifty? I lost count a long time ago.

Released in 1994, writer/director Kevin Smith filmed “Clerks” on a budget of $27,000, financed largely on credit cards. “Clerks” was filmed largely at the convenience store where Smith had worked, at nights when the store was closed. The 1990's were a high-point for independent film-making (the filmmakers leading that charge at the time were Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, Steven Soderbergh, and Richard Rodriguez, to name a few); a lot of quirky, idiosyncratic work was being made on a shoestring budget, “Clerks” being one of the least expensive to make. Once the film was acquired by Miramax, the soundtrack budget alone was actually higher than the $27K it cost to film “Clerks” in the first place.

The story is pretty simple, Dante Hicks (played by Brian O'Halloran) is called into work on his day off, and things get progressively worse from there. There's a parade of unruly customers, punctuated by Dante and Randal's (played by Jeff Anderson) hilariously off-hand filthy-as-fuck discussions. Also, Dante is caught in a bit of a love triangle, mired in indecision on whether to break up with his current girlfriend Veronica (who wants him to return to school and find some direction in life) in order to try things again with his high-school flame (who did nothing but cheat on him the whole time). Jay and Silent Bob lurk outside the convenience store the whole time, engaging in various illegal activities.

I'm miles past being able to tell you how funny the movie is – the shock factor is long gone. I remember watching it for the first time and being blown away by how dirty the movie is (in fact, the MPAA awarded “Clerks” an X-rating based solely on dialogue before it was successfully appealed, which was both a first and a potentially crushing blow for a low-budget film from a first-time director). It did take a handful of viewings to get past that aspect of “Clerks,” but there's a lot more to the movie than just shock value. Even if the characters don't actually do much, they're in definite emotional peril. The sources of conflict feel real and legitimate. Dante is clearly making a bad choice, but it seems reasonable that he would try make a change in his romantic life because he feels powerless to change other aspects of his life. Veronica is frustrated with Dante because he's mired and in a slump, and won't let anyone help him. Randal is concerned about his best friend's well-being almost exclusively, even if he's clueless about the ways in which he tries to help him. Caitlin's up to her old tricks, even while trying to create a fresh start with Dante. And all of the characters are constantly being distracted from trying to figure this out by outside forces: customers, family, friends.

So look, there's likely no way that someone seeing this film for the first time now would get what I got out of it. At the time, and at my age, it made film-making feel accessible in a way that nothing else has (if you combine this with reading Robert Rodriguez' “Rebel Without A Crew,” you might find yourself staring at your camcorder, thinking “what if?”). And that's beyond the fact that it's an entertaining, hilarious film. It felt so unbelievably punk to just grab your friends and a fistful of credit cards, start filming on your off-hours from work, and end up with a movie that was in actual theatres, and that didn't suck. The whole thing sounds impossible. This movie, for me, is more than just a movie that I liked, it became important. Those lessons aren't the same now, the financial and technological barriers to film-making just aren't the same, and without understanding the context of the time when “Clerks” was made, I don't think you can understand just how huge Kevin Smith's balls are. That's okay, though, because it's still a really funny film, and if you're into off-color humor (which many people are – R-rated comedies are whole industry these days), you're going to dig this.

4.5 / 5 - DVD

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Source Code - 2011

"Source Code" - 2011
Dir. by Duncan Jones - 1 hr. 33 min.

Official Trailer

When I saw the trailer for this movie, I wasn't terribly impressed.  It focused on what would turn out to be the two least interesting things about this film: explosions and the love story.  I understand the impetus to do so - you can rarely go wrong by underestimating your audience's intelligence.  But, by obscuring the true focus of the film and instead making it look like it's about stopping the one of the many explosions before they blow the girl up for good, this film was drastically undersold.

"Source Code" stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays a military helicopter pilot (Colter Stevens), possibly wounded, definitely disoriented.  He's strapped into a pod of sorts, and is part of a military program that the woman on the screen (Vera Farmiga, playing Goodwin) will not explain to him.  Stevens is sent into what he thinks is some kind of field test - he's on a commuter train headed to Chicago that's about to be bombed, and he's got eight minutes to figure out who did it in order to prevent a further, more serious attack.  When he fails, he has to start over with another eight minutes on the clock.  What makes this possible is called the source code, which I won't try to explain.

This is one of the first times I've ever seen a video game influence on a movie that actually works.  Any gamer knows the frustration of finding a level that they just cannot figure out.  That's not to say that any of this has anything to do with video games, and this isn't a fresh idea (the obvious comparison is "Groundhog Day," with a little "The Butterfly Effect" thrown in as well), but the military and thriller aspects of the movie lean towards that comparison.  Plus, there are several of those moments in the film where you can see that Stevens is figuring out what he needs to do even as he's failing at it.

So yes, there are a bunch of explosions, and yes, there is a sort of a love story (with Michelle Monaghan, called Christina), but what is more interesting here is initially the mystery of who is responsible for bombing the commuter train, and then the realizations that Stevens comes to in the second half of the film (which would be unfair to discuss here).  There's also the question of just how much can one person accomplish in eight minutes, which turns out to be one hell of a lot (especially if you don't have to worry about what comes after those eight minutes).  And the metaphysical turn late in the film is both great, and great science-fiction.  The actors also do a very good job with the material.  Gyllenhaal is a good anchor, and it's a lot of fun (even in tense moments) to get to see a batch of people play out several strings in a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story.

"Source Code" is a really good movie - on the whole, everything holds up at a first glance, and the run time blows by.  A lot of the descriptions of this movie focus on the thriller aspect, which is present, but it's the sci-fi ideas that form the foundation.  It's probably harder to do a good sci-fi movie than some other genres (the basic ideas stretch believability frequently), so it's worth applauding when a movie and a filmmaker do it right.

4 / 5 - Theatre