Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wednesday, 12/22 and Saturday, 12/25

Because of Christmas, the studios are releasing some movies early (Wednesday), and some movies on Christmas day. For once, no movies are opening on Friday.

True Grit - 3 1/2 stars (opening Wednesday)

I have never seen the original with John Wayne, but I understand that this movie is a closer adaptation of the book than the 1969 version was.

Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, a young girl who's father is killed by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). When Mattie realizes that the local law enforcement is not going to pursue Chaney, she decides to hire a marshal herself to bring Chaney to justice. The marshal she hires is Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). Rooster seems to live in the back of a saloon, is drunk most of the time, and wears an eye patch.

This movie was written and directed by the Coen brothers, and it isn't as quirky as their movies usually are. Two of the things the Coens are great with is dialogue and casting. Both are excellent as usual in this movie. A great scene early on involves Mattie negotiating with a stable owner to get the money for her father's horses. It's not necessarily a funny scene, but it plays so well that I was laughing about how much I was enjoying it.

I do have a couple of minor complaints. One is that Bridges delivers his dialogue with such a gruff voice that sometimes it's difficult to understand him. Another complaint is the ending. The movie builds to what should be a climactic showdown (or two), but I felt a little let down. After the last of the bad guys were dispatched, I was thinking "that's it?"

Those are minor complaints in an otherwise great movie. Go see it, even if you aren't a fan of westerns.

Little Fockers - 2 stars (opening Wednesday)

The first movie was a great comedy. The second was funny, not as good as the first, but still enjoyable. This third movie in the series is just bad. I don't think I laughed at all the first hour. Late in the movie I started to enjoy it a little, but that was only because I have had 2 previous movies to invest in these characters, and I did care about what happened to them.

The worst scene is in the trailer. It involves Greg (Gaylord) Focker (Ben Stiller) trying to cut the turkey at dinner. He slips, cuts his hand, and sprays blood all over everyone at the table. That just isn't funny. At all.

A big problem in the movie is Dustin Hoffman. Originally Hoffman wasn't going to be in the movie. The studio refused to meet his salary, so the script was written without Bernie Focker. After they finished filming, they were under budget enough that they could suddenly afford Hoffman. So they re-shot several scenes and incorporated them into the movie. It's obvious in the movie where they changed it. Hoffman has very few scenes on screen with the other actors. Usually he is on the phone with someone, and you can tell how the original movie was the character talking to someone about Bernie, and now they are talking to him.

One thing I did like in the movie was the way Greg finally learned to stand up to Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro). The first two movies, Greg was scared to death of him. In this movie, when Jack tries to interrogate him, he just says "you know what, Jack? I'm tired, I'm not playing this game, I'm going to bed." He finally learns to stop letting Jack control him.

I can't recommend the movie to anyone, but I'm sure fans of the first two movies will want to see it.

Gulliver's Travels - 2 1/2 stars (opens Christmas day)

When we first meet Gulliver (Jack Black), he is working in the mail room of a big newspaper. He has a crush on an editor (Amanda Peet) but he is too shy to ask her out. One night when they are both working late, he walks into her office. When she asks what he wants, he chickens out and says that he is interested in writing travel pieces for the paper. Because this happens all the time in major newspapers (who have a huge travel budget even in this age of dying newspapers), she immediately hires him and sends him on a trip to the Bermuda Triangle.

When he ends up on the island of Liliput, the tiny people there think he is a scary monster. But once he saves their king's life by putting out a fire using the boy scout method, he is suddenly their hero.

There are some very funny lines in this movie. The citizens of Liliput no nothing about movies or rock music, and because Gulliver is played by Jack Black (who is also a producer of the movie), he stages performances of The Empire Strikes Back and Titanic, and he even gets the little people to dress up as Kiss and perform for him. He also creates his own version of Guitar Hero.

Overall this is a dumb movie. The jokes are juvenile and kids will like it more than adults. It did make me laugh in spots and it doesn't totally suck, but I don't ever need to see this movie again.

The King's Speech - 3 stars (opens Christmas day)

Colin Firth stars as King George VI of Britain. The King has a stutter, and it wouldn't do for the people of the empire (at that time, a quarter of the world's population) to hear their ruler stuttering. So he hires a speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Lionel's methods are unusual, and one thing that rubs the king the wrong way is his insistence that "in this office, we are equals." This just isn't done. George is a king and Lionel is a peasant.

Their scenes together are the best parts of the movie. Geoffrey Rush is always good, and as he argues with King George (or Bertie as he calls him), they start to become friends. At one point in the movie, Bertie confides that Lionel is his only real friend.

The title refers to the speech that King George gives as Britain is preparing to go to war with Germany in 1939. The speech is the climax of the movie, and it is a genuine moment of triumph when he delivers the speech without stuttering too much (that isn't a spoiler; it should be obvious how the movie will end, plus the trailer gives away the whole movie).

I enjoyed the movie, but it isn't best picture material (as many Oscar bloggers are insisting). It is a bit stuffy, and it will appeal more to people who are interested in the royal monarchy.

I Love You Phillip Morris - 3 stars (opens Christmas day)

This movie is like Catch Me If You Can, but with lots more gay sex.

Jim Carrey plays Steven Russell, a man who one day decides to come out of the closet, leave his family and his job as a policeman, and starts committing all kinds of fraud to fund a lavish lifestyle. Over the course of the movie he claims to be a lawyer, gets a job as a CFO of a medical company, escapes from prison many times, and meets and falls in love with Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor).

I enjoyed the movie, and the most incredible thing is that it's a true story. I can't believe how ingenious he was at escaping from prison, and I can't believe that his schemes actually worked.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 - 3 stars

The 7th Harry Potter book was my favorite to read. The six that proceeded it were all basically setup for the events in the last book. The problem is there are a lot of boring parts of the 7th book, and they're all in the first half. And this movie is the first half of the book. By the time the movie ends, I really wanted to see the second part.

After six movies, this is the first one to drastically alter the formula. Every movie before this started at the beginning of the school year at Hogwarts. The movie covered one school year, and at the end there would be a big climax. This time, Harry, Ron, and Hermione don't go back for their final year at Hogwarts. The reason is they are going to look for the remaining horcruxes (items that hold pieces of Voldemort's soul).

Early on in the movie, the ministry is taken over by Voldemort's people, and the wizarding world becomes a fascist police state. The ministry is obsessed with getting rid of wizards who are not pure bloods (the wizarding Master Race). Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to go on the run, and they spend the entire movie hiding from the ministry.

One thing I didn't like in the movie was how much time they spend in the tent. There is a long section where the three have no idea how to proceed. They don't know where to look for the horcruxes, so they just sit around moping. This could have been shortened in the movie. If they had done that, they would have had more time to include a couple of other things from the book that were cut out.

One other complaint I have is with the dialogue. Except for a few jokes here and there, the characters only say things that advance the plot. Once in a while I wish the characters would talk about what just happened. For example, Snape becomes headmaster of Hogwarts. In the book, they talk about this when they read it in the paper. It's kind of a big deal. But in the movie, Harry hears it announced over the radio and doesn't say a word about it.

I really liked the music in this movie. This is probably my favorite HP score since Prisoner of Azkaban (the last movie scored by John Williams). The score really helps make this movie feel epic. I also liked the animated sequence that explains the history of the Deathly Hallows.

Overall I liked the movie. It's one of the better ones in the series. It just feels incomplete without the finale of the second film. July 15th can't get here fast enough.

Fair Game - 2 1/2 stars

This is the story of Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA agent who was outed by the Bush administration during the Iraq war. Most of the movie is pretty interesting. It starts out showing all the undercover work she was doing in other countries. As the administration starts asking the CIA to look into WMDs in Iraq, she starts investigating. She gets an Iraqi born American woman to travel back to Iraq in order to get information from her brother about Saddam Hussein's WMD program. Her husband, Joe Wilson, the former ambassador to Niger, goes to Niger to investigate the rumor of Niger selling yellow cake uranium to Iraq.

As the movie progresses, we see Scooter Libby questioning the CIA. As they tell him that there is no way Iraq could have WMDs, Scooter interrogates them about the possibility that they are wrong. Then comes the point where Bush announces to the country that Iraq is working on acquiring WMDs and war is inevitable. One minute the CIA is saying that they are sure Iraq has no WMDs, the next minute Bush is twisting their findings around and presenting false information as fact.

After the war starts, Joe Wilson writes an op-ed piece in the newspaper explaining the truth of the matter. In order to discredit him, the white house leaks the fact that Valerie is an undercover CIA agent. This ruins her career, and leads to the death of many of her operatives in Iraq.

The movie is very interesting when it is focusing on these facts. The problem is as the movie goes on, it starts focusing more and more on the Wilson's marriage and the strain that this is putting on them. If they had focused more on the facts of what happened, it would have been a better movie. I especially wanted more information on her operatives out in the field that were killed because of the white house's treasonous actions.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Catching up

Unstoppable - 3 stars

This is a movie about a runaway train. Supposedly based on actual events (as opposed to based on a true story), a train carrying explosive chemicals is unmanned and traveling at 70 miles per hour. If they don't stop it in time, it will derail and wipe out an entire city. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine are a couple of engineers who try to stop the train.

I liked the fact that it wasn't a terrorist plot. There wasn't any crazy Dennis Hopper character who was doing this to collect a bunch of money. It was just simple human error. For the first 20 minutes or so of the movie, everyone thinks the train is simply coasting at 5-10 mph. When they find out the train is under power, everyone starts to realize what a dangerous situation it is.

This is the type of movie that Tony Scott can direct in his sleep. It is a simple action movie. No more, no less. His crazy camera style helps the movie because seeing a train over and over can get rather boring. Scott does a great job of using different shots to keep the visuals interesting.

The one aspect I could have done without was the back story. Pine and Washington each have family issues they are dealing with, and the back story is crammed in there just to try and make the characters more interesting. It feels rather unnecessary. It would be enough to know that Pine is new on the job and Washington is nearing retirement. The main plot is interesting enough.

The Next Three Days - 3 stars

Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks are a happily married couple with a 6 year old son, and they are leading a pretty normal life. One day while eating breakfast, the police barge in with a warrant for her arrest. She is accused of killing her boss, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Once her husband realizes that she is never getting out of prison, he decides to break her out of jail.

The first thing to be aware of is that the movie is almost 2 1/2 hours long. The trailers make it look like an action movie. It isn't. It's a a slow-moving drama. The movie was written and directed by Paul Haggis (Crash, In the Valley of Elah) whose movies move at a leisurely pace. That isn't a bad thing, but a lot of people will be surprised by how long the movie takes to get to the prison break.

This doesn't feel like a typical action movie where the hero commits minor crimes when he needs to without breaking a sweat. In this movie, when Crowe is doing illegal stuff for the first time, you really feel the tension. There is one sequence where he is testing a bumper key (kind of a skeleton key) inside the prison, and he is almost caught. That sequence got my adrenaline going as much as any action movie this year, because the movie had done such a good job of setting up the character and the event.

Most of the movie is set up. Crowe spends a lot of time learning how to escape from prison, how to break into a car, how to get fake IDs, all that stuff (it turns out most of that is available on youtube). When the prison break sequence starts, it is very exciting. And this is the type of movie where anything is possible. We don't know whether they will make it or not. We don't even know whether she is really innocent or not.

Burlesque - 2 1/2 stars

I liked it a lot better when it was called Showgirls.

Ali (Christina Aguilera) is a small town girl from Iowa. She arrives in LA fresh off the bus with hopes of a life in show biz. She finds a burlesque club run by Tess (Cher), and manages to work her way up from waitress to backup dancer and eventually (spoiler alert) she becomes the star of the show. Yeah, never seen that movie before.

I actually liked the movie more than I thought I would, which really means it wasn't as painful as I expected it to be. This is Cher's first movie in years and I forgot what a good actress she is. She was entertaining, but not nearly as entertaining as Stanley Tucci, who plays the gay stagehand / costume guy. Aguilera did a good job, especially considering that this was her first movie, although her character got less interesting as she became more successful at the club.

The movie wasn't made for me, and I'm not a fan of the style of music. Although Cher did sing a number late in the second act that was a pretty good song.

I could nit pick a lot of things about the movie that don't work, if I wanted to. Ali isn't singing into a mic, so there is no way the club patrons could hear her sing over the band. The stage is sometimes tiny, other times big enough for a huge production number and lots of backup dancers. I think I'll just stop there.

Faster - 3 stars

Dwayne Johnson makes his return to action movies after doing several crappy Disney movies for kids (he's going to have to make some great movies before I will forgive him for Race to Witch Mountain).

This is a very simple premise. As the movie opens, Driver (Johnson) is getting out of jail. His brother was killed and he is hunting down the people that killed him. That's it. To make the movie interesting, we get Billy Bob Thornton playing the cop who is chasing him. Thornton gets to play a complex cop, as he is a heroin addict. There is also a hit man who is after Driver. This hit man just kills people as a hobby. For his day job, he is some kind of billionaire software developer.

The movie is basically an exploitation movie with the gratuitous stuff taken out (no nudity, not much violence). It takes itself a little too seriously, but it was still enjoyable. One thing that makes it interesting is that some of the people who killed Driver's brother have changed their lives, and in some cases they have families. It reminds me of Vivica Fox's character from Kill Bill. When The Bride tracks her down, she finds a housewife with a young daughter. In this movie, when Driver finds the people who killed his brother and learns they have young kids at home, it kind of takes the fun out of revenge.

Love and Other Drugs - 3 stars

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Randall, a salesman who is lucky enough to work for Phizer right about the time Viagara comes out. Anne Hathaway plays Maggie Murdock, a woman suffering from Parkinson's disease. What a wacky couple these two make!

The movie is a romance, but it's better than the average chick flick. That basically means the characters are well developed, their motivations are believable, and there is a pretty good story here. Maggie doesn't want a serious relationship because of her disease. She only wants casual sex. At first, Jake is happy to oblige. Once he starts falling in love with her, she freaks out and tries to push him away. Then right around the time that she falls in love with him, he starts having doubts.

The movie is a comedy as well as a drama. The fun stuff involves Jamie going in to doctors offices and trying to get them to sell Phizer's drugs. Whether Prozac or Zoloft work better for depression isn't his concern. He just wants them to sell his product instead of the competition's. This is depressing as well as funny, because it's probably the way the drug company actually works. Next time your doctor prescribes a medicine, you have to wonder if it's because it is the best choice, or because he is friendly with the salesman.

Oh, and there is some nudity in this movie. In most Hollywood movies, when a couple is laying in bed after sex, the girl has the sheets pulled up to her chin. Not in this movie.

My biggest complain about the movie is the ending. Not to give too much away, but the climax has Jamie in his car, chasing down a bus that Maggie is on, ready to profess his love for her and try to win her back. Could have done without that ending.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - 1 1/2 stars

This is the third movie in the Millennium trilogy. The first movie, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was great. Good action, good story, and a couple of really interesting characters, especially Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth has a very troubled past (abuse, mental institutions), she is a computer hacker, antisocial, has a photographic memory, has piercings and wears her hair in crazy styles.

The second movie, The Girl Who Played With Fire, was not as good as the first. It didn't suck, but it had a disappointing climax. This third movie is just boring. Lisbeth spends the first half of the movie in the hospital, recovering from the events of the previous movie. The second half of the movie, she is on trial. I don't remember her having hardly any dialogue in the entire movie. She just sits there looking pissed off.

127 Hours - 4 stars

This is the story of Aron Ralston, the hiker who was hiking in the middle on nowhere and got his arm pinned by a boulder. After 5 days, he cut off his own arm to survive. He didn't tell anyone where he was going, but he was such a confident outdoorsman that he figured he could deal with any situation that might arise.

Director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later..., Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire) does a great job of keeping the movie interesting. Most of the movie consists of Ralston (James Franco) in one spot, trapped by that boulder. There are flashbacks and scenes of him imagining himself somewhere else, but we keep returning to that spot. It's amazing that he was able to make that work as a feature length movie.

When the moment of truth arrives, most people will have to cover their eyes. It took Ralston close to an hour to cut off his arm with a dull, cheap pocket knife. The movie does it in under 5 minutes. It is hard to watch, especially the part when he is clipping the nerve, but by that point you are so invested in the character and you want him to get out of that canyon so much that the amputation is a great moment of triumph. It's also a credit to the director that even though we know how the story turns out, it is such a thrilling climax. It's really a movie that you won't be able to forget.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19

Jaimee Alkinani joined us on 94.9 today. In this clip, we joke about the non-story that is the Harry Potter nude scene. We talk about the movie itself (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1) aka The Empire Strikes Back of the Harry Potter saga, we talk about 127 Hours, Marcus wonders when Despicable Me comes out on DVD, and Jaimee talks about her weight loss.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November 12, 2010 radio spot

In this clip Marcus and I talk about Inside Job, Morning Glory, and Unstoppable. Also when discussing A Christmas Carol on DVD, I call it stop motion animation (it's motion capture, duh).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Morning Glory - 2 1/2 stars

Rachel McAdams plays Becky, an aspiring TV producer. When we first meet her, she is working at a small morning show in New Jersey. She is expecting to be promoted to executive producer, but instead she is laid off due to budget cuts. She starts looking for a job and gets an interview at Daybreak, the morning show on IBS. Seriously. In this movie, NBC, ABC, and CBS are real networks, but the fictional network Daybreak is on is called IBS.

Becky is so full of energy that she thinks she blew the interview. In fact, she really shouldn't get the job because she basically admits defeat and walks out. She could at least finish the interview and try to save face, but she walks out. Surprisingly, she gets the call that she has the job. And since this is a movie, the phone conversation goes like this:

Jerry Barnes - "Do you think you could do this job?"

Becky - "Yes, absolutely."

Barnes - "Ok. You're hired. You start Monday."

Becky - "Thank you."

[hangs up]

I don't think anyone has ever been offered a job with that short of a conversation. The person hiring her would have a few more things to say and questions to ask. At the very least, there should be some discussion about what time she should be there.

But anyway, the show is horrible. Becky is going to turn it around, and her first day there she fires the male host Paul McVee (Ty Burrell). This movie is so all over the place tone-wise that McVee has several weird sexual fetishes. The first time Becky meets him, he asks how she feels about having her feet photographed.

Her plan to revitalize the show is to bring in Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), a well respected newsman who hates morning shows. He is a serious old school newsman, and has nothing but disdain for morning shows that are all about puff pieces, celebrities, and cooking segments. But he is forced to do the show because of the terms of his contract.

Ford spends the whole movie being grumpy. It is funny for a while, but eventually it gets old. He does have one scene where he breaks down a little and tells Becky what will happen to her if she spends her whole life focusing on work.

The dynamic between Becky and Mike is the focus of the movie. Even though she knows what she is getting in to with him, she is still upset and surprised that he won't come around and do lame morning pieces. If she would have an adult conversation with him, they would probably be able to come to a compromise. She could explain that they are in danger of being canceled, and if he will do a few lame shows, she will let him do some serious news stories. But neither one is that smart, and that conversation never takes place.

Near the end, Becky has the chance to take a very good job at Good Morning America (her goal since she was a kid), and I won't spoil what happens, but I really disagreed with her decision. A smart person would take a good opportunity (for a lot more money), but this is a feel good movie where we need to pay off the relationship between the characters.

Oh, and there are way too many musical montages in this movie.

Due Date - 2 1/2 stars

If I had never seen a trailer for this movie, I'm sure I would have liked it a lot better. But unfortunately there were two different trailers, and they were played in front of every movie I saw over the last few months. Not to mention the TV spots that played on Comedy Central all the time. Most of the funny parts were in the trailers.

The story is pretty simple. Robert Downey Jr. is an architect and he is in Atlanta for work. His wife is in LA and she is going to give birth to their first child in a week. He is flying home to be with her, and gets kicked off the plane. He left his wallet on the plane, so he can't rent a car. He is on the no fly list, so he can't fly.

Luckily he met a really strange guy played by Zach Galafinakis (who is the reason he got kicked off the plane in the first place). He rents a car and offers to drive him to LA. It's hard not to compare this to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. You have a normal guy and a buffoon as his traveling companion.

We wouldn't have much of a movie if they got to LA with no trouble. Galafinakis is an idiot, so he doesn't realize that renting the car will max out his credit card, and he doesn't consider the consequences when he spends all his cash on pot. Downey's wife wires them some money, but she has to put it in the other guy's name (since Downey's ID is on the plane), and Galifanakis forgets that the last name he gives is just his stage name, but his real last name is on his ID.

It's hard to write a movie like this and keep it realistic. There are a bunch of solutions that never occur to Downey because we wouldn't have a movie. His wife could wire him money - I'm pretty sure Western Union has an option where if the recipient doesn't have ID, they can ask several test questions to verify his identity. He could take a bus or a train, but this is never discussed. The movie spans 5 days, and the first day, the plane should have landed in LA. Someone in LA could pick up his stuff and fly out to where he is. We learn late in the movie that his wallet isn't actually on the plane, but until he learns this, he could consider the idea.

A few other things that bugged me: Downey is supposed to be a smart guy, but as soon as he is kicked off the plane, we see him trying to steal a rental car? Really? He actually thinks he can steal a rental car from the airport and just drive it home? He shouldn't be that desperate yet, but we don't see him consider any other options or ask anyone for help. There is a scene where they drive off a freeway overpass. Everyone in the car would be killed, but of course they only have minor injuries. And Galafinakis's character is just too stupid. Anyone as dumb as he is would never be let out. They tried so hard to make his character crazy that they made him a cartoon character. In Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, John Candy made his character an annoying buffoon, but he also was a real character that we felt empathy for. Not so much in this case.

Megamind - 3 stars

Just like Despicable Me, this movie is about a super villain. Megamind is born on another planet, and his parents put him in a ship and send him to Earth just before their planet is consumed by a black hole. On the way to Earth, he runs into another ship with another baby. While the other baby lands in a mansion, Megamind lands in a prison for the criminally gifted. He goes to school with the other alien, who has super powers and is admired by all the other kids. Megamind is shunned, and he realizes he might as well be a villain. Nice little message about how we are all products of our environments.

Megamind's goal in life is to defeat his nemesis, Metro Man. When he finally does, he discovers that life is very boring without his enemy. He decides to try and create a new super hero to fight. In the mean time, he has a crush on Metro Man's girlfriend, a TV reporter.

The movie is very funny, and a nice twist on the typical super hero story.

Nowhere Boy - 2 1/2 stars

This is the story of John Lennon. We see him as a teenager, being raised by his aunt and uncle. He hasn't seen his mom since he was very young, but he doesn't know why he isn't living with her (didn't he ever think of asking his aunt?). Early in the movie, his friend shows him where his mother lives - just around the corner, it seems. So he gets reacquainted with his mother, and she turns him on to rock and roll. We also see he is a bit of a troublemaker, skipping school and stealing records with a friend.

The first half hour or so really bored me. There isn't much story or plot to speak of. We are just watching Lennon be a troubled youngster. At some point, his mother teaches him to play the banjo. Then he decides he wants to be a rock star and he gets a band together. We see him meet Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Here the movie gets interesting. We see him try to get the band to write originals rather than playing cover songs. But the movie kind of skims over the details.

I think the bigger of a John Lennon fan you are, the more you will enjoy the movie.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Conviction - 3 stars

This is the true story of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank). Her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, so in order to free him, she gets her GED, then her college diploma, then passes the bar exam and becomes a lawyer.

Through flashbacks, we see how horrible their childhood was. Their mom had like 8 kids by 5 different guys, and she was such a bad mother that they were taken away and raised in foster homes. Betty Anne and Kenny were very close growing up, so it is no surprise that getting Kenny out of jail would be the most important thing in her life.

One complaint I had was that the movie jumped ahead in time too often. One minute she is planning to get her GED, the next minute she is already in law school. No time is spent showing how hard it was to get her GED and bachelor's degree while raising kids and working.

She has to catch a few lucky breaks and get some help from other lawyers, but what she accomplished was pretty incredible. It is very much a feel good movie, but it works.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2 - 2 1/2 stars

Not as good as the first one, but still worth seeing if you really liked the first movie.

This may be a little bit of a spoiler, but this is a prequel to the first Paranormal Activity. The people being haunted this time is a husband and wife with a teenage daughter and an infant son. The surprise is that the mom's sister is Katie Sloat, the victim from the first movie. By the end, they will transfer the demon to Katie, setting up the events of the first movie.

I thought the first movie did a much better job of ratcheting up the tension. This movie has too many sequences where nothing happens for the first half hour, then suddenly all hell breaks loose. The baby is levitating out of his crib much too early, and that almost made me laugh when I saw it.

I like a movie that does a good job of creating a sense of dread, but it's not that hard to make the audience jump. Just have a quiet scene, then suddenly a loud bang. That happens too often in this movie. Good job, you made me jump. Congratulations, scary movie.

The Tillman Story - 3 stars

This is a documentary about Pat Tillman, the football player who left the NFL and joined the Army. He was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire, but the administration lied about his death. They made up a story about how he sacrificed himself to save his platoon, and then he was used as a propaganda tool for the war.

One small problem with the movie is that if you know the story going in, there isn't a lot to learn. We know he was killed by friendly fire, and we know multiple people deliberately lied about it. We never find out for sure how far up the chain it went, but at the end we see Donald Rumsfeld and a couple generals called before congress to testify. The congressmen are the weakest cross-examiners ever, and all Rumsfeld and the others have to do is say "I don't recall."

Never Let Me Go - 2 1/2 stars

This movie had a lot of potential. Set in England in the 70s or 80s (not sure offhand), it is about a group of kids at a boarding school. They seem like normal kids, and for the first while of the movie, you would think it is just a drama about these normal kids. But it turns out they are clones. Their purpose in life is to reach adulthood and donate their organs to their "originals". Some are able to donate as many as 3 times before they die.

There are 3 main characters - Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley), and Tommy (Andrew Garfield). As kids, Kathy has a crush on Tommy. But as they grow older, Ruth and Tommy fall in love. If the movie didn't have the clone aspect, it would still work as a movie about these three people. But as the movie progresses, and the characters begin donating, they know their life is about to end and it becomes about that process.

The biggest problem I had with the movie is that it maintains a level of melodrama the whole time. Even when nothing dramatic is happening, the music is so overly dramatic that I became numb to it. So when a character finally does die, I felt nothing. This could easily have been a real tearjerker, but I didn't connect emotionally at all with the characters.

The Human Centipede - 3 stars

A crazy German doctor kidnaps 3 people, surgically attaches them together, and creates a human centipede. How is it no one has thought of this before?

The movie works the way Hostel works. It is a good horror movie. There is a long sequence where one girl escapes from her bed and is trying to get out of the house. We don't know where the crazy doctor is, but we know at any moment he will pop up and stop her. The idea of what the victims go through is horrifying enough. Surgically attached ass-to-mouth, with pieces of their knees removed, kept in a cage or walked around the yard like a dog being trained, just crazy psychotic stuff.

I don't event want to get in to how they eat (person A first eats the food) ...

Red - 2 1/2 stars

This movie should have been more fun than it was. It was almost good enough to recommend, but not quite. The tone was too inconsistent. If it was a little shorter and had a few more laughs, it would have been ok.

John Malkovich stole the movie, as he usually does. The scene at the end where he is running down the street with a bomb strapped to his chest was hilarious.

Jackass 3-D - 3 stars

I get a kick out of the Jackass movies. Very few movies make me laugh so hard while at the same time looking away and gagging. It's the same kind of fun I had watching Observe & Report or Borat.

I love the stunts and pranks, but I don't like the bodily fluids so much. Anything involving shit, sweat, or semen is just sick and wrong. Although the pee cam was pretty funny.

My favorite sequence was the bit with the midget fight in the bar. Priceless.

Friday, October 8, 2010

10/8/10 and 10/1/10

The Social Network - 4 stars

My favorite movie of the year so far. It has the best dialogue I've heard in a movie in several years. I love hearing smart people say really witty things. Some of my favorite lines in the movie:

"I'm six foot five, 220 pounds, and there are two of me."

"Ann, punch me in the face. Continue."

"Wait, I'm just checking your figures. 1,000 + 18,000 = 19,000. Ok, I got the same thing."

And I love when he refers to the Winkelvii.

Jessie Eisenberg is always good, but this is the best work he has ever done. Same with Andrew Garfield. He will make a good Spider Man. And if you want to see his previous best work, check out Boy A.

Let Me In - 3 stars

In some areas, this is better than the Swedish original (Let the Right One In). They don't waste time with the adults hanging out in that restaurant like in the original. And even though I have no problem with subtitles, it is always nicer to watch a movie in your native language.

But this version shows too much. Sometimes less is more. There is a scene where the vampire girl is pretending to be hurt, and a guy stops to help her. They show way too much. We see her jump on him, bite his neck, throw him to the ground, and jump around him. Bad CGI and it took me out of the movie for a few minutes. They should have cut away as soon as she struck. Also, the swimming pool scene at the end of the movie was done much better in the original.

I think Chloe Moretz is very good, but the girl in the original (Lina Leandersson) creeped me out a little more.

Buried - 3 stars

Ryan Reynolds plays a contractor working in Iraq. As the movie opens, he wakes up in a coffin buried underground. He has a lighter and a cell phone. He calls for help, but he doesn't know where he is. People who are claustrophobic may have a hard time sitting through this because the entire movie takes place in the coffin. There are no scenes outside. For 90 minutes he calls different people for help, and the kidnappers call him, and it works really well. It's like a good twilight zone episode.

Secretariat - 2 stars

Diane Lane stars as a housewife and stay-at-home mom who becomes the most famous woman in horse racing in history. Her dad dies and leaves her his farm and horses. She is lucky enough to be the owner of Secretariat who goes on to win the triple crown.

There are a number of problems with this movie. It starts off really boring. We first see the funeral of her mother, and even though we don't know the characters yet, the movie overplays the melodrama. It hits you over the head with sad music and close ups of characters consoling each other. This goes on for a good 15 minutes.

Another problem is it's not really an underdog story, which is what good sports movies should be. She owns this horse that is really fast, and that's it. She is already rich, so it's not like she will be destitute if her horse doesn't win.

I did like the horse racing footage. I don't care about horse racing, but it was exciting. The problem is there are 3 climactic races at the end of the movie. After the first one, I was ready for the movie to be over. But there are still 2 races to go!

It's Kind of a Funny Story - 3 stars

This is about a 16 year old kid who is depressed and suicidal, so he checks himself in to a mental hospital. The teenage wing is under construction, so he has to go stay with the adults. Some of them are really messed up. While there he befriends a middle aged guy played by Zach Galifianakis, who is very good. He was funny in The Hangover, but here it's nice to see him playing a real character, and playing it straight.

He also meets a cute girl his own age played by Emma Roberts. She is the only girl there his age, so how lucky is he that she is also hot, and likes him. The movie is a drama, not a comedy, and while it's no One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, it is worth seeing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Catching up

The Town - 3 stars

This is the second movie Ben Affleck has directed. It's not quite as good as Gone Baby Gone but it's still very well done. The acting is great. Jeremy Renner is so good, I never thought of his character from The Hurt Locker. I wasn't familiar with Jon Hamm before, but he was so good in this that I want to start watching Mad Men. Chris Cooper is one of my favorite actors, and I was bummed that he only had one scene in this, but as always he hit it out of the park. Pete Postlethwaite has never been better.

One complaint I had was that Affleck's character was too careless when he first met her. When she tells him about the robbery, he tips his hand that he had something to do with it. He asks too many specific questions about what she knows and what she told the FBI. If he was a normal guy, he would be more concerned with how she was coping. I thought he was so obvious that it should have occurred to her that he might have had something to do with it.

This is one of those movies where the protagonist is a criminal, but we root for him because he is the protagonist. They make it too easy by having him be the "good" bad guy. He may be a bank robber, but he doesn't like to hurt innocent people. He says he's never killed anyone. By making his friend Jim (Renner) such a psycho, it makes Affleck so much more likable by contrast. It would have been more interesting if he was a bit more of a typical criminal. Then it wouldn't have been as easy for the audience to root for him. Also, he says he has never killed anyone, yet he does a lot of shooting at police with a machine gun. This is one of those Hollywood movies where no innocent bystanders are hit by a stray bullet, and no cops are killed by gunfire. The bullets just hit the police cars so the cops take cover.

Easy A - 3 stars

Emma Stone is excellent in this. She was good in Superbad and Zombieland, but this is the movie that makes her a star. Not only is she gorgeous, but she is also hilarious. I also loved Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as her parents. I could watch an entire movie starring them. They practically stole the movie.

My only problem with the movie is the end. I don't quite get how what she does really fixes anything for her. Just because she tells her story in a webcast that everybody watches, it's not like it's going to make everything go away. If anything, people at school will stare at her more. It just feels a little to much like the typical big Hollywood ending where some huge declaration has to happen in front of a lot of people.

Machete - 3 1/2 stars

This is exactly what Piranha and The Expendables should have been - funny. Both of those movies were too serious and had no sense of irony. They were throwbacks to a certain kind of movie, and you can't treat that kind of material as if you're making a serious drama. Machete had the right amount of blood and boobs. The audience I saw it with broke into cheers several times, and it was one of the funnest screenings I have been to in a long time.

My only complaint is it goes on a little too long. It could have been trimmed just a bit. And the ending somehow felt anti-climactic. The finale was a huge fight between Machete's army and the redneck border patrol people. It just wasn't as big and fun as the movie needed for the finale. Even the moment when Machete puts the huge machine gun on his motorcycle and flies through the air wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be when I saw it in the trailer. And the final fight between Machete and Steven Seagal was overly edited. Way too many cuts. When I see two characters fight, I really want to see more than 2 seconds at a time per shot.

The American - 2 1/2 stars

This one was a hard call. I enjoyed it, but I never want to see it again. And there were too many questions unanswered.

First of all, it's being sold totally wrong. You watch the trailer and assume that there will be some action and intrigue. Instead we are watching a character study. There is very little story here. I don't mind some unanswered questions in a movie. Most Hollywood movies tend to over explain everything, and I like it when a movie doesn't talk down to its audience. But in this case, I really wanted to know whether the woman at the beginning was in on it or not. I like to think she wasn't. He was so paranoid that he shot her without worrying about whether she was innocent or not. But how much did he like her? Did he love her as much as the woman later in the movie? The one he is prepared to run away with?

I really liked the performance by Paolo Bonacelli as Father Benedetto. He has such a great face. I wish there was more time devoted to his character. The scene where he invites Clooney to dinner ends way too soon. They don't even get into a conversation before the scene ends. Which is another problem I had with the movie. Everyone speaks in movie-speak. There are no conversations in the movie. Just lines delivered. Lines that don't reveal anything. When the dinner scene at Father Benedetto's place ends, I wondered what did they talk about for the rest of the meal? Nothing of substance is said. Same with the female assassin he makes the gun for. Very little interesting dialogue.

I had problems with the ending of the movie (spoiler warning). Did his boss hire her to kill him? If so, then what a waste of time and money. She could have killed him when they went to that river to test the gun. If she needed the gun for another job, then at what point did the boss decide Clooney needed to be killed? At what point did Clooney figure out she was going to try and kill him? He must have been pretty certain to rig the gun the way he did. And why was his boss there in the town? Just to see that the job was done? Does he do that often? It would seem like the whole point of hiring an assassin to kill someone is so that you don't have to be anywhere near the crime.

I don't mind some things left unanswered, but it just seemed like too much in this movie.

Going the Distance - 3 1/2 stars

Once again, another movie that looks like a typical chick flick but is actually a very good movie. And very funny. Drew Barrymore has never made me laugh like she does in this movie. Justin Long is usually funny, though.

Most movies involving a romance have to have some kind of obstacle for the couple to overcome. A long distance relationship is a good idea, and is also made believable. In this movie, they talk about how expensive a plane ticket is, and that's why they don't see each other more. In a lesser movie, they would fly back and forth with no mention of the cost of a ticket.

I also liked that it was R rated. They took pretty good advantage of the R rating as far as the language goes. The phone sex scene was pretty funny and realistic. The movie didn't wimp out like, I don't know, American Pie 2 (very lame phone sex scene). They didn't take advantage as far as nudity goes, though. Even though Drew Barrymore bared all in Playboy years ago, she refused to go nude in this movie. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I wanted to see her naked, (well, I'm not just saying that) but it would have made sense in a few scenes. The sex and shower scenes were carefully choreographed and filmed to hide her naughty bits. Justin Long did go nude, but it was kind of ridiculous. He is in a spray tanning both, and even though he is in the room alone, he covers himself with his hands. Which does lead to a funny scene later when he has to explain why he has a hand print on his ass. But that's one of those things that takes me out of a movie. If a character is hiding their nakedness from no one but the camera, it just reminds us that there is a camera there.

My biggest complaint is that the obvious answer is he should quit his job and move to San Francisco to be with her. We do see him calling around, trying to find a similar job to the one he has in New York. But no real discussion of him changing careers. We know she went to college to be a reporter, and that is a good career (the decline of newspapers notwithstanding). But no explanation of how good his job is. He says he doesn't like it, and we know he doesn't make tons of money. She has the better career and he shouldn't expect her to abandon everything she has worked for to be a waitress.

The Last Exorcism - 2 stars

If it weren't for the last 5 minutes, I would have gone 3 stars. The style isn't original anymore. From The Blair Witch Project to Cloverfield to Paranormal Activity, the idea of making a movie look like it was found footage shot by someone with a video camera has been done. But that doesn't mean people shouldn't still use it if they have a good story to tell. In this case, Patrick Fabian is very good as Cotton Marcus. He has performed many exorcisms, and he now wants to expose them for the fraud that they are. He explains that they are basically a placebo. People think they are possessed, they think they need an exorcism, he performs that exorcism, and they think they are healed.

He takes a camera crew with him so they can witness the exorcism. He also shows all his tricks to the crew. This is a fun scene. During the exorcism, the movie keeps cutting back to him at his van showing how he makes the smoke come out of the cross, or how he uses his rings to shock the girl. Then it seems like she is really possessed, and he is freaked out. Is she faking, or has he for the first time encountered a real possession?

The reason the movie fails is the ending. I don't know what a fitting ending would have been, but this reminded me way too much of Hot Fuzz. You remember the scene where the entire town is wearing robes and conducting some sort of secret ceremony? The audience I saw this with was laughing during the finale, which is never a good sign for a horror movie.

Takers - 2 1/2 stars

I liked this movie more than I thought I would, but I still can't quite recommend it. Hayden Christensen still can't act, and the filmmakers apparently didn't get the message that it's no longer cool to have characters walk away from an explosion. Especially if they are walking in slow motion.

Get Low - 3 stars

Who hasn't been curious to know what people would say about them at their own funeral? It's a morbid thought, but it is interesting to think about. Who would talk, and what would they say? In this movie, Robert Duvall plays a hermit who really wants to know the answer. He decides to hire a funeral director (Bill Murray) to give him a funeral party. It's just like a funeral, but he will be there alive to witness it.

Duvall has never given a bad performance, and this is enjoyable as usual. One complaint I had was that the entire movie, we know Duvall has a secret. When we finally find out what it was, it isn't anywhere near as horrible as we think it is. Well, it is horrible, but we are led to believe that he did something horrible. He may have been the cause in a way, but he didn't hurt anybody. He tried to stop it. His character has been in hell for so many years that I assumed he had killed a child or something.

Waking Sleeping Beauty - 1 1/2 stars

This is a documentary about Disney. Specifically about the era of 1987 - 1995 when Disney started making good animated movies that made a lot of money. Movies like The Little Mermaid, Aladin, The Lion King. The movie talks a lot about the rivalry between Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

It was fun watching this movie and remembering those movies. I remember when The Little Mermaid came out, I was in junior high. I was at the point where I was not into cartoons anymore. But people were saying I should go see The Little Mermaid. It was better than a cartoon. I ended up seeing it and liking it. Same with Beauty and the Beast, then Aladin, then The Lion King. It seemed like each movie was a big event movie, and you might as well see it so you would know what everyone was talking about.

The movie explains how the animation studio was losing money and almost shut down. Then they managed to turn the ship around with The Little Mermaid and everything was gravy. One problem with the movie though is it doesn't really expose any dirty secrets. Everything in the movie is pretty much either common knowledge or easy to find on wikipedia. I didn't think it exposed anything shocking. At the end of the credits, I understood why. The last title card said "Distributed by Disney." Of course. To get the real, whole story it would have to be independent of Disney. The film makers weren't going to make the company look too bad.

And the story ends in 1994 or 1995. No mention of how the movies started going downhill (Mulan, Hurcules, Pocohantas, or Tarzan), how they focus on horrible live action movies now, and the only good stuff that comes out of Disney these days is by Pixar. No recap of what happened over the last 15 years and where the people ended up. I especially wanted to hear about Katzenberg founding Dreamworks and how Dreamworks animation competes with Disney, or about Eisner firing Roy Disney. Overall, the movie kind of bored me.

Restrepo - 2 1/2 stars

This is a documentary shot in the toughest part of Afghanistan. The filmmakers spent a year with soldiers at the most dangerous outpost there, and this movie really gives you a good sense of what life is like for them. There is no story to this movie, it's just observing daily life at the outpost. It's a noble film, but I don't recommend it.

Animal Kingdom - 4 stars

One of the best movies of the year, and my favorite movie from this year's Sundance Film Festival. Jacki Weaver is going to get the Oscar for best supporting actress next year for her chilling portrayal of the matriarch of an Australian crime family. Like a mother bear protecting her cubs, we can tell she would kill anyone without hesitation to protect her sons.

There is one kill near the end of this movie that was really haunting. Most of the time, when a character is killed in a movie, it doesn't get to me that much. It's part of the story, and it's dramatic. But this one is just gut wrenching. You realize it's going to happen before it happens, and the whole time I was just squirming in my seat. A great movie.

Soul Kitchen - 2 1/2 stars

This movie started off well. It's about a Greek restaurant owner living in Hamburg, Germany. He has a girlfriend who is off to Beijing, so they talk on the phone and attempt to have Skype sex. He hires a crazy chef who has no use for customers who don't appreciate his fancy cooking. He has a brother who is on work release from prison, needs a job, and has a gambling problem.

The movie is very enjoyable for the first hour or so. But then it gets unrealistic and becomes almost slapstick. It starts with the scene at the cemetery. His girlfriend is attending her grandmother's funeral with another guy, and he loses it. He screams "No!" at the top of his lungs, charges them, and ends up knocking the coffin into the grave. Of course the coffin opens and grandma's arm falls out. Then his brother shows an incredible lack of sense and manages to lose the restaurant. Then he comes up with a lame scheme to get the restaurant back.

If the movie had kept the same tone throughout, I would have liked it a lot more.

I'm Still Here - 1 1/2 stars

This movie should have come out a year ago, back when everybody was talking about Joaquin Phoenix and his meltdown. It's really pretty boring. If the whole thing was really faked, it should have resulted in a better movie. Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles should have given Casey Affleck some pointers.

The best part of the movie is when they show Phoenix's appearance on Letterman, and you can see that on youtube for free.

Kisses - 3 stars

A nice little movie about an Irish boy and girl who run away from home for a day. They have some adventures in the big city and at one point narrowly avoid being kidnapped or worse. Most of the movie is lighthearted and fun, but it gets dark when we learn about the girl and her uncle. The kids are good natural performers and the movie is a fun adventure, but I wouldn't recommend it for kids.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Switch - 3 1/2 stars

I didn't expect to like this movie much going in. It sounds like a pretty wacky premise: Wally (Jason Bateman) and Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) are best friends, but we can tell he likes her. He just made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in the friend zone. Kassie decides she wants to have a baby, so she finds a donor and plans her insemination. On the night of the deed, Wally accidentally drops the cup in the sink and the seed goes down the drain. Thinking quickly, he replaces it with his own. Oh, and he is so drunk that he doesn't remember it the next day.

Kassie moves away, and we cut to 7 years later. She moves back and Wally meets her (and his) son. Bit by bit Wally starts to notice how much the kid acts like him. He also develops a really good relationship with the kid. Eventually he figures out what happened, and his dilemma is whether to tell Kassie or not. If he does, she will probably hate him and he will never see the kid again. If he doesn't, he can be in the kid's life but he will never be more than Uncle Wally. Of course he should just pursue Kassie, marry her, then tell her down the road that he is really the father. Or not.

In a lesser movie (a typical chick flick), this wouldn't work. The character's actions wouldn't be believable. But it works in this movie. The writing is better than average and Bateman does a really good job with it. For one thing, it is believable that he would be to chicken to tell Kassie how he really feels about her. His character is very well established as neurotic and insecure.

One thing I didn't like was the movie had the typical confession scene. Any time a character has a secret, he will end up telling the other person in the most public and embarrassing setting possible. Remember The Proposal? Sandra Bullock decides to come clean during the wedding and tell all the assembled guests that their relationship is a sham. She couldn't have done it right before?

Even the public confession scene works because Bateman pulls it off so well, and it makes sense that he would confess when he does. He tries to tell her a few times, but he doesn't get the chance, and something happens that kind of forces his hand.

Jeff Goldblum is entertaining as always as Bateman's co-worker. Juliette Lewis is also very funny as Kassie's best friend. But the standout performance is the kid Sebastian (Thomas Robinson). He is adorable, and I found myself really rooting for Wally and Kassie to end up together. Not so much for them, but because I wanted Sebastian to be happy and have Wally as his dad.

Usually I'm pretty cynical and this isn't my typical movie, but the movie is that good.

Playground - 3 stars

Playground sure means well. It's about a very serious topic - the child sex trade. Do you know what the number one destination is for underage prostitution? Think it's Thailand or some place like that? Wrong, it's the United States.

This movie presents a lot of troubling information. We learn an awful lot about the victims and perpetrators of child sexual abuse. The movie focuses on one particular girl named Michelle. Michelle has had an incredibly difficult life, and she disappeared for a long time. The filmmakers set out to find her. Eventually they do, and she tells us in a very matter of fact way about the horrors she experienced. We hear from other victims, and we even hear from a couple of former pimps.

One injustice the movie brings up is the fact that girls from other countries brought here are treated as victims. Girls from America who go through the same things are criminalized.

The problem with the movie is it's too unfocused. It tries to cover too much ground, and it really started to feel like it was repeating itself. I always try to separate the documentary from the subject. Obviously this is important information, but the movie is not put together very well. But I'm still going 3 stars because it isn't boring and I learned a lot.

But this movie will really make you mad and depressed.

Wild Grass - 2 stars

This is a weird French movie. It's original but rather boring.

A woman is out shopping for shoes, and her purse is stolen. Later, an older man finds her wallet abandoned in a parking lot. He thinks about returning it to her, and we hear his entire inner monologue. He keeps playing out these different scenarios in his mind of what it would be like if he called her up. He goes through her wallet, discovers things about her, and starts getting very interested.

He finally turns the wallet in at the police station. They call the lady and when she picks it up, she asks who returns it. She would like his name and number, so she can thank him. When she calls him and says thanks, he asks if that's it, doesn't she want to meet? She says no, and he gets pissed. Then he starts stalking her. He leaves messages on her answering machine every night, he leaves notes for her in her mailbox, and he even slashes her tires at one point.

She tells the cops, they ask him to leave her alone, and he does. But then something funny happens. She starts to get interested in him, and she starts calling him.

From there some unexpected things happen. I really liked the performance by Andre Dussollier as Georges Pallet. He has a great voice and a great way of delivering his lines. The story kept me interested because I was curious to see what happened next, but at the same time it bored me too. Interesting stuff happened, but the characters did not react the way normal people did. It somehow took the impact out of everything.

And what the hell is up with the ending? Strangest, most random last line I've ever heard in a movie.

Life During Wartime - 3 stars

Todd Solondz makes very interesting and original movies about unhappy people. His movies are never uplifting but there is a kind of black humor to them. I found myself laughing out loud several times here, but usually I was saying WTF at the same time.

This is a sequel to Happiness (1998), but with all different actors. Which is a pretty interesting idea. I wonder if he tried to get the same cast together, how many would have come back? Maybe he figured better to have all different actors rather than some of the same and some different.

This was not as uncomfortable as Happiness was. There is some talk about pedophilia, but the conversations are not as bad as they were the first time around.

The kid toucher from Happiness (now played by Ciaran Hinds) just got out of jail. His young son thinks he is dead, because his mom (Allison Janney) didn't want to tell him the truth. She is dating a nice guy who falls for her way too quickly. Joy is married to a crazy, creepy guy and she keeps seeing the ghost of her former boyfriend (Paul Rubens). Late in the movie she goes to stay with her sister (Ally Sheedy).

It seems every Todd Solondz movie has a young kid who asks way too many questions, and seems very mature for his age. In Storytelling, the kid hates the family maid so much he convinces his dad to fire her. In Happiness, the kid asks his dad all kinds of sexual questions. In this movie, the kid is preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. At one point, his mom tells him in too graphic detail how excited she got when her new boyfriend touched her.

This is a good movie, but definitely not a feel good movie.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Eat Pray Love - 1 1/2 stars

Julia Roberts plays Liz, a woman who is just not happy. When we meet her, she is in Bali doing research for a magazine article she is going to write. She meets an old palm reader who tells her that she will have 2 marriages, one short and the other long, she will soon lose all of her money, and she will come back again and teach him English.

Six months later, she is in New York. She is married to a nice guy played by Billy Crudup. She seems happy until she hears him say that he wants to go back to school and get his Master's degree. Suddenly she doesn't want to be married to him anymore. Now, maybe she hasn't been happy for a long time. Maybe they shouldn't have gotten married in the first place. But the movie makes her look like a total bitch. She wants out of the marriage just because her husband wants to go back to college? Oh, and the scene where she prays is terribly hammy. Praying in movies is never done well, and it really made me cringe in this movie.

She tells her friend (Viola Davis) that she longs to travel. She has a box she keeps under her bed, and in the box she keeps travel brochures of all the places she wants to visit. Sounds nice, except 6 months ago she was in freaking Bali! Most of us have never been to Bali. She gets to travel for her job, yet she is complaining like someone who works for minimum wage and has never left the continental US.

She starts seeing a young actor (James Franco), and she isn't happy with him either. The movie doesn't give us any insight into what the problems are. We don't really see them having an honest conversation about their relationship. She just decides that in order to be happy and get balance in her life, she needs to travel the world. Her plan is 4 months in Italy, 4 months in India, and 4 months in Bali.

We also see her telling her friend about how she has been in and out of relationships since she was a teenager. She has never had time to discover herself. How about take some time off from dating? It's not that hard. Someone asks you out, you say no. Just be single for a while.

There is no discussion about how she is going to pay for her trip. She gets divorced and we get the impression that her husband is getting at least half of everything she owned (she was the bread winner of that family). So how in the world can she afford to not work for a year and travel the world? This should have been addressed, but this is one of those movies made by rich people who can't comprehend an existence where you don't always have enough money for everything. It reminds me of that Jennifer Lopez movie where she works as a dog walker and lives in a million dollar condo.

She goes to Rome and moves into a place run by a fussy little Italian lady. There is a funny sequence where she shows Liz how to heat the water on the stove and pour the water into the bath tub. With less than an inch of water, Liz says "There isn't enough water." The woman responds "Everything that is important gets clean." Funny, but they never reference that again in the movie. I wondered if Liz ever figured out how to fill the tub properly. Every night she is going home and not able to take a real bath?

There isn't a good sense of time in the movie. I thought we were on her first or second day in Rome when she revealed she had been there two weeks. She suddenly discovers how good Italian food is, and she starts eating like she is in heaven. This was shot badly. For one thing, we get numerous close ups of Roberts shoving spaghetti into her huge mouth. I kept having to cover my eyes. Has anyone else noticed that there is something really wrong with her lips? Too much collagen, too many face lifts, something.

She makes friends while she is in Rome. She does this quite easily. You get the impression that she could live the rest of her life in Rome and be happy. At one point she tells her Danish friend that she shouldn't worry about a few extra pounds and she should just eat whatever she wants. Yeah, isn't it nice to hear a skinny actress say that? Of course by the end of her trip she is as skinny as she was at the start. On her last day there, she has an American Thanksgiving dinner with her friends and their family. The movie was boring up to this point, but the dinner just stops the movie dead.

The next segment of the movie finds her in India. She goes to work and live in an ashram. I guess she had enough of the touristy stuff in Italy and now she wants to work on the spiritual stuff. While she is there, she meets a Texan played by Richard Jenkins. Here the movie gets interesting for a bit, because Jenkins is so good. At first he only speaks to her in bumper sticker lingo, and he refers to Liz as Groceries (because he notices how much she likes to eat).

There is a scene where he tells Liz about his past and why he is there. This is probably the best performance I have seen Jenkins give, and after The Visitor, that is saying something.

Then she goes to Bali to study with that palm reader she met at the beginning. Here, she meets a Brazilian played by Javier Bardem. The scene where his son leaves to go back to college is maybe the best thing I have seen Bardem do.

Overall, the movie bored me to tears. There was at most 45 minutes of interesting story, good acting, and characters I cared about (mostly thanks to Jenkins and Bardem). The problem is the movie is 133 minutes.

The Expendables - 2 stars

What a missed opportunity. When Sylvester Stallone announced he was doing another Rocky movie several years ago, everybody groaned. Rocky V was bad enough, we don't need another one. I figured he hadn't had a box office hit in so long (anyone remember Driven or Get Carter), he was desperate to get out of movie jail. Thankfully he delivered Rocky Balboa, the best Rocky movie since the first one (maybe not as much fun as Rocky IV, but still).

Then he said he was doing another Rambo movie. Ok Sly, don't get carried away. Well, Rambo ended up being really good too. One reason I liked it was he wasn't afraid to do a hard R-rated violent action movie. Hollywood doesn't seem to make as many adult oriented action movies anymore. Everything is PG-13 (shame on you, Die Hard franchise). So to see Rambo shooting the evil Burmese army to fleshy pieces was very liberating.

Then he announces The Expendables. I'm pretty sure I remember hearing he was going to assemble a great cast of action favorites from the 80s. Well, the movie is kind of a throwback to 80s Cannon films, but the cast? Let's take a look.

First, the Expendables are a mercenary team. Since they are the good guys, they only take jobs where they kill bad guys. So, mercenaries with a heart of gold. They are played by:

Stallone - obviously. The goatee reminds me a little of Get Carter, which just makes me remember how much better the Michael Caine original was.

Dolph Lundgren - good choice. This is what I was hoping for. Nice to see Lundgren get a high profile movie again. It's been a while since Masters of the Universe or Universal Soldier.

Jet Li - wait, what? I like Jet Li, but he doesn't remind me of 80s action movies. I never heard of him until Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). So I guess Stallone is going for action heroes of yesterday and today or something.

Jason Statham - I don't like Statham, but I must be in the minority, because people keep going to see Transporter and Crank movies.

Randy Couture - who?

Terry Crews - again, who?

Not as impressed by the cast as I thought I'd be. Mickey Rourke is also in the movie, but he isn't one of The Expendables. Apparently he used to be. Now he just hangs around his garage/bar/tattoo parlor and paints guitars while he gently weeps.

The bad guys are Eric Roberts and Steve Austin. Roberts is appropriately hammy and Austin is huge and seems like he would survive a shotgun blast to the chest. And as for the Bruce Willis / Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo? It shouldn't have been in the trailer. It would have been a nice little surprise. But Schwarzenegger is in the movie for like 2 minutes. Willis for 3 minutes. And the scene is pretty pointless. Willis is the guy who hires them for a job. Schwarzenegger is a rival mercenary who also wants the job. But as soon as he shows up, he says "I'm too busy anyway. Give this job to my friend here." Then why did you show up in the first place? Just so the crowd would say "ooh, it's Arnold!" Although that does make me look forward to the day when Arnold quits politics and goes back to making movies.

The problem with such a big ensemble is there are too many characters to get to know. Stallone gets plenty of screen time but we learn nothing about his back story, except he and Rourke fought lots of battles together back in the good old days. Statham is the only one given any kind of side story. He has a girlfriend who has left him for another guy. There are two scenes about this side plot, and they stop the movie cold. I didn't care at all. Just get back to the main story.

The movie opens with The Expendables going to rescue hostages from Somali pirates. Which isn't that exciting. Right before the shooting starts, Statham's cell phone goes off (this is in the trailer). It's supposed to be funny, but it's just awkward. They kill the pirates and rescue the hostages, with Lundgren using a gun so big that it rips them in half. Then Lundgren decides that for fun, he is going to hang one of the pirates. This is where Stallone and crew draw the line. Blowing them to pieces is ok, but hanging them is going too far. I guess it's because they are disarmed and maybe it's against their code to kill an unarmed enemy, but this causes them to fire Lundgren from the team. I wonder if Lundgren will show up later as their enemy?

Then there is a half hour of nothing. Just scenes of them saying badly written dialogue. I was really getting bored. This isn't what Stallone promised us. This is no fun.

Finally we get some action again. The big job is to go to an island nation somewhere in Latin America and kill the evil dictator there. Stallone and Statham go to check it out. There, they meet the required lady in distress. She is their contact, and they will have to leave in a hurry, leaving her behind. The scene where they get away is pretty freaking awesome. They have this plane, see, and it has guns in the front, and drops gasoline from the rear, and ...

Stallone and Statham decide the job is too dangerous and they aren't going to take it. But Sly can't stop thinking about that woman they left behind, and he decides he needs to go rescue her. And this leads to the type of scene I hate. Sly is going back, but he's going back by himself because it's too dangerous to involve the others. So what does he do? That's right, he goes and tells them. "Guys, I'm going back, but I'm going alone." My response would be "Then why are you here? Why haven't you gone yet?" But of course this is just so the guys can say we're going with you.

The final 20 minutes of the movie have some very cool action. It is almost worth the price of admission. Terry Crews has a very cool (and loud) gun, and there is a great sequence of him shooting soldiers in this hallway, and we see it from a distance. That was a cool bit.

The music is way over dramatic throughout the movie. There is a part where they are planting charges all over the general's palace. The entire time, the music is swelling and the audience I saw it with started to chuckle. It went on too long.

Overall, the movie is a disappointment. The escape with the plane and the final battle are the only cool things in the movie. The rest is pretty boring.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - 3 1/2 stars

This movie is from Edgar Wright, and if you've seen Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, or Hot Fuzz, you have some idea what to expect. The movie is full of pop culture references.

The movie is basically set up like a video game. The hero, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) likes this girl. In order to date her, he will have to defeat her 7 evil exes. Kind of like a video game where you have to defeat a boss at the end of each level.

The rules of physics do not apply in this movie. Each time he fights an evil ex, suddenly everyone can fly and has powers. The funniest part is when he defeats an enemy, they vanish and leave coins behind.

Some random things I liked in the movie:

The Universal logo in 8-bit Nintendo graphics and sound.
Brandon Routh's vegan powers, how he loses them, and what happens then (the Vegan Police!).
When Routh punches a girl, he punches the highlights out of her hair.
Everything Kieran Culkin says.
The Seinfeld bit.
Alison Pill (the drummer of Pilgrim's band, and one of his exes).

My only complaint about the movie is it's too long. I was ready for it to be over with about 20 minutes to go. They did a good job of making each battle with an ex different, but by the time he got to the final one, I was about done.

Holy Rollers - 3 stars

Jesse Eisenberg plays a youth from an Orthodox Jewish community. He is very devout in his faith, set to marry a pretty local girl (a marriage arranged by their fathers), and he hopes to be a Rabbi one day. His family doesn't have much money (their stove only works half the time), and he is helping the family by working with his father.

One day his friend offers him a job carrying medicine. He flies into New York with the medicine, and he is told it will help people. His friend says if customs or police start asking questions, "just act Jewish." I guess the police never think to suspect people in Hasidic Jewish attire of smuggling.

It turns out what he is carrying is not medicine but Ecstasy. As religious as he is, this doesn't seem to bother him too much, and he keeps doing it. He even starts recruiting other Jewish people to carry the drugs for them, with the explanation that they are carrying medicine that will help people.

The movie doesn't focus too much on the dangerous side of the drug trade. The drama in the movie comes from Eisenberg's relationship with his father. His father figures out pretty early that he is up to no good, and the journey he goes through by the end of the movie is pretty heartbreaking.

It isn't a great movie, but it is enjoyable. Eisenberg is a good actor and he carries the movie easily.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Solitary Man - 3 1/2 stars

Michael Douglas plays a pretty despicable guy, but since he's Michael Douglas, we still root for him. For a while, anyway.

He used to be a very successful businessman. He owned car dealerships all over New York City and he was even on the cover of Forbes magazine. We never get the details of exactly what happened, but he engaged in some illegal scam, got busted, and his reputation was ruined. He was also married to Susan Sarandon before he started cheating on her with every hot, young girl who would say yes to him.

Now he is trying to re-start his business. He is also dating Mary Louise Parker. His downward spiral starts when he accompanies her daughter to her college interview. As the movie progresses, he is having trouble paying his rent and he is ruining every relationship in his life because he can't stop sleeping around.

As bad as his character is, the other characters are pretty refreshing. Susan Sarandon knows what a scumbag he is, but she is still there for him when he needs someone. Jenna Fischer plays his daughter, and she does a great job standing up to him. You can tell how hard it is for her to cut off his access to his grandson. Danny Devito also gives a nice understated performance as a friend from college. There is a nice scene near the end where Douglas tells Devito that he doesn't know how to be a good friend to anybody.

Jessie Eisenberg has a few scenes as a college kid who gives Douglas a tour of the college. They form a friendship and Douglas gives him advice about girls. I would have liked a bit more with the two of them. Eisenberg is shy, doesn't have a girlfriend, and Douglas is going to help him out with that. But by the end of the movie, he has also screwed that relationship up.

I think this is the best work Michael Douglas has done since Wonder Boys, and it's nice to see Douglas and Devito together in a movie again.

Friday, July 9, 2010

4 weeks, 13 mini reviews

Why haven't I posted in several weeks? I'll get back to you on that. Here are my thoughts on the movies that came out since my last post.

Despicable Me - 3 stars

Funny. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Would you believe me if I said I liked it more than Toy Story 3?

Predators - 2 1/2 stars

I almost went 3 stars, but I didn't like it quite enough to recommend it. It's not bad, it has some good action and good Predator killings. But at the end, I was underwhelmed. And it really didn't need the little twist at the end.

Ondine - 3 1/2 stars

A sweet little movie. Colin Farrell is a fisherman in Ireland, and he catches a woman in his nets. She doesn't remember her name or where she is from. He takes her out fishing with him, and when she sings, he catches fish. He and his daughter begin to suspect that she may be a mermaid or some other magical creature (a selkie).

The performances were really good here. Just like with In Bruges, I like seeing him act in his Irish accent, instead of pulling off an American one. The only problem is the third act of the movie. It changes drastically in tone, and while I don't think it was a bad way for the story to go, I just didn't like the movie as much when it became a thriller.

Winter's Bone - 4 stars

Loved this movie. Really chilling. Set in the Ozark mountains, Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree Dolly. Ree is 17 and is raising her younger brother and younger sister. She also takes care of her mom, who is practically comatose all day long. Her father cooks meth, he was out on bail, and they haven't heard from him in weeks. One day the sheriff shows up and tells Ree that her dad put their house and land up for his bond. If he doesn't turn up for court, they will lose the house.

The movie consists of Ree going around to various houses and asking about her dad. It seems like everyone in the area is involved in the drug trade, and everyone tells her to stop snooping. The people she talks to are scary. They could care less about Ree and her siblings, but you get the impression that everybody knows something. Despite all the threats, she keeps investigating and, well, I won't say any more. Go see it.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - 2 1/2 stars

Each Twilight movie is better than the previous one, which really means more tolerable than the last one. There were things I liked in the movie, but I can't recommend any movie where the characters have the same conversation over and over and over and over ...

I'm sick of Edward, but Jacob keeps the movie interesting. The actors do the best they can with some really bad dialogue, and the relationships are starting to grow on me just a little. The scene with the three of them in the tent is pretty good drama.

Grown Ups - 3 stars

Much better than I thought it would be. The trailers didn't look very funny to me, but for once, they put the worst jokes in the trailer rather than the best jokes. The funniest stuff was when the actors were just sitting around giving each other a bad time. The chemistry these actors have in real life is up there on the screen, and it's easy to forgive the dumb stuff in the movie.

Except a few things. For one, why do the adults pee in the water at the water park? No set up, no explanation. Any adult who pees in a public pool should not be allowed out in public.

Also, what water park would ever have a zip line like the one in this movie? One has to hold on to the handle and fly over concrete, 30 feet up, before they're over water. The first time a kid rode the zip line, they would let go early, fall to the cement, and break both their legs. The place would be sued. It's hard to get into a scene when it would never take place in the real world (when the rest of the movie is supposed to, I mean).

Trash Humpers - 0 stars

This is the worst thing I have ever seen. I was only able to watch 40 minutes then I had to turn it off. I think Harmony Korine is doing some kind of experiment with this movie, like he is trying to see how long audiences will put up with it. I'm not even going to try to explain the movie. Just make sure you never see it.

Mother and Child - 3 stars

Annette Benning plays a woman who got pregnant as a teenager and gave the child up for adoption. Now, she is single and caring for her elderly mother. She has all kinds of emotional issues. When a co-worker (Jimmy Smits) takes an interest in her, she bites his head off any time he tries to talk to her. The most interesting thing about her behavior is that she knows how messed up she is. Right after yelling at Smits, she berates herself for being so stupid.

Meanwhile, the child she gave up for adoption is played by Naomi Watts, who is climbing the corporate ladder by sleeping with her boss. Currently, that boss is Samuel L. Jackson. I can't remember ever seeing Jackson get a love scene, so good for him, I guess.

Another sub plot follows a couple (Kerry Washington and David Ramsey) who can't have kids of their own, so they are looking to adopt. I liked the characters and I liked the movie. Well, not all the characters are likable, but they are interesting. The movie is kind of depressing at times, because of all the self destructive things some of them do.

Knight and Day - 3 stars

I don't care how crazy Tom Cruise is in real life. I like him as an actor, and it's been a long time since he has played a character like this. He is having a lot of fun playing Ethan Hunt mixed with some other crazy character I can't think of at the moment.

By the end of the movie, once we understand what has happened, it doesn't really hold up well. For one thing, I think he killed a lot of good guys throughout the course of the movie. But if you don't think about stuff like that or how unrealistic it is, you should enjoy it.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work - 3 stars

Joan Rivers is insecure and obsessed with making money. Shocking! But seriously, this documentary is pretty interesting. A nice bit of behind the scenes of showbiz. It doesn't make me like her or hate her any more than I did before, but you have to respect how hard she works. Although if she didn't live such a glamorous lifestyle, she wouldn't have to work so hard. The secret to happiness: live below your means.

Jonah Hex - 1 1/2 stars

Boring. Megan Fox - why was she even in this movie? Her character adds nothing to the story. John Malkovich - I can't remember the last time he gave such a lazy performance.

Toy Story 3 - 3 stars

That's right, only 3 stars. Sorry, I don't get all the love for this movie or the franchise. It's good for what it is. If I had kids, I would much rather take them to see this than most other kid-friendly movies Hollywood puts out. But I have a hard time getting into animated movies. The movie made me chuckle, but I rarely laughed out loud. And no, I did not cry at all. Didn't bring a tear to my eye in the slightest.

That being said, if you loved the first 2, you will love this one. It was well made. Liked it, didn't love it.

Please Give - 2 1/2 stars

Not bad, could have been better. Oliver Platt and Catherine Keener buy antiques from the family of the recently deceased, mark them up 500% and sell them at their store. They also live next door to a 90 year old lady, and they can't wait for her to die so they can take her apartment. They have a daughter who is so spoiled that she can't believe her mom won't buy her a $200 pair of pants.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Get Him to the Greek - 2 1/2 stars

This movie had a lot of potential. It started out really funny, and for a while they are just throwing out jokes left and right. Not every one works, but enough work that I was laughing constantly.

Then the movie gets weird, and then the movie gets serious. And it doesn't work anymore. Too much sentimentality just doesn't make this kind of movie better. It kills the momentum.

Jonah Hill and Russell Brand are both best as supporting characters, but Jonah Hill is the lead in the movie. He actually does a decent job of playing the straight man, but I think the movie would have worked better with a better actor that we can relate to. He plays Aaron, a guy working at a record company run by P. Diddy. Diddy is really enjoying playing the asshole, and he gets some laughs, but his scenes should have been trimmed just a bit.

Aaron's job is to pick up rock star Aldous Snow (Brand) and take him from London to the Greek Theater in LA in time to play a big concert. Snow is a typical rock star - all he wants to do is drink, do drugs, and get laid, and he doesn't really care if they make it to LA in time. Meanwhile Aaron's live-in girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss) works round the clock shifts at the hospital. She is offered a good job at a hospital in Seattle, and when she suggests they movie there, she and Aaron fight and split up.

There are some great cameos in the movie, including Rick Schroder, Lars Ulrich, and Tom Felton. Colm Meaney plays Aldous's dad, and he is always good. Aziz Ansari is very funny, but he is only in the first 10 minutes of the movie. I think the movie should have been about 15 minutes shorter, and they should have lost the stuff regarding Aldous's emotional issues (he is lonely and depressed, and that's why he acts the way he acts). If the movie had stuck with the funny, it would have been worth recommending.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

RUSH: Beyond the Lighted Stage - 4 stars

Full disclosure: Rush is one of my favorite bands of all time, and I play in a Rush tribute band. That being said, this is a great movie. This documentary has everything one would want to know about Rush. Even if you don't like Rush, you will find something to like in this story about three guys who wrote and recorded the music they wanted to record, and stayed true to their own musical vision (despite the interference of too many keyboards in the '80s).

The A-Team - 3 1/2 stars

I never watched the show, so I don't know how faithful the movie is to the show. But the movie was a lot of fun. The action was great and there was a lot of humor.

The Karate Kid - 2 1/2 stars

Not bad, but it should be called The Kung-Fu Kid. It also doesn't need to be 2 1/2 hours long. It is not quite as good as the original, but there is some good kung-fu fighting in it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Splice - 3 stars

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are research scientists. They are splicing DNA together to try and come up with new species. They're doing this to try and find new hormones to fight diseases.

One day, they create something really strange. I'm not going to tell you if it is part human. I'm not going to say whether it gets smart, and starts killing people. I'm also not going to tell you if it gets horny ...

If you like creepy horror movies, you may like this. It's more unnerving than it is scary. I enjoyed it, but I don't think I would watch it again.

Killers - 1 star

No wonder Lionsgate didn't want any critics to see this before it came out. It is so bad that I can't believe anyone wrote the dialogue and expected an audience to take it seriously.

Ashton Kutcher is a CIA assassin. He meets Katherine Heigl in Nice. He is on a job, she is on vacation with her parents, played by Tom Selleck and the great Catherine O'Hara. They meet, go out on a date, then the movie cuts to three years later. They are married, and he has quit being an assassin. He never did tell her he was an assassin, probably because he read the script and there wouldn't be a movie if he had.

The plot kicks into action when people show up trying to kill Kutcher. Of course his wife it there, and yes there is a scene where has asks her to go get his gun, and she carries it like it's a dead animal and she is afraid to touch it. Even though her dad shoots skeet in his backyard, she apparently has never handled a gun before.

I actually laughed at the movie, but that was because I saw it with friends, and we talked over it the whole time, MST3K style. There is no way to take it seriously. Kutcher and Heigl are horrible in it. The only one who actually gives a good performance is Catherine O'Hara, and it's because she knows how bad the movie is, and she is having fun with it. Tom Selleck gets some laughs too.

When the end comes and we find out who was trying to kill him and why, it is about the dumbest reveal I have ever seen. It's at this moment that I realized the filmmakers were trying to make their own version of a crappy Roger Corman b-movie.

It really sucks.

Harry Brown - 2 1/2 stars

Michael Caine plays Harry Brown. His daughter died long ago, and his wife dies early in the movie. So he is all alone. His only friend is Leonard, played by David Bradley, Filch from the Harry Potter movies. Leonard and Harry meet at the local pub and play chess regularly.

The apartment complex where they live is run by a violent gang. When the gang kills Leonard, Harry goes all Charles Bronson and starts killing them off.

Michael Caine is always good. I don't think he has ever given a bad performance. Unfortunately the movie lets him down. One thing I didn't like was the look of it. It was kind of dark. Even when scenes take place in broad daylight, it had a dark look to it. The movie also didn't have any humor. I always say that it doesn't matter what kind of a movie it is, it needs to have a little humor.

I also didn't like the end. This isn't the kind of movie that needs a surprise reveal at the end. I'm OK with a character turning out to be a relative of one of the gang members. I can buy that that character doesn't want his relative to be killed, even though he knows the kid deserves it. But I don't buy it when that character is suddenly a ruthless killer himself.

Overall, the movie is dark and depressing. I can't really recommend it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Square - 3 1/2 stars

Raymond and Carla are having an affair. They are both married, but neither one is really happy in their marriage. One day, Carla comes home to find her husband with a bag full of money. He doesn't notice her come in, and she secretly watches him hide it.

The next time she is with Ray, she tells him about the money. She wants him to go to her house and steal it. He says no, we would never get away with it. Her husband would figure it out. The only way to get away with it, he says, is to burn the house down so her husband thinks the money burned up.

There is the perfect plan. They hire a guy to burn the house after Carla grabs the money, and from there, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Ray is the worst guy to commit a crime. The first time he meets the arsonist, the guy tells Ray to "wipe that guilty look off your face." Complicating the matters is the fact that Ray is also taking kickbacks at his construction job. It's hard to keep the lies straight when you are trying to get away with several things at once.

There isn't a lot of humor in this movie, but one thing I thought was funny was the way their dogs became so close. Ray and Carla each bring their dogs with them sometimes, so the dogs become friends. So when Carla's dog gets out of their yard, he runs to the river, swims across the river, and ends up at Ray's door.

The movie reminds me of Blood Simple or A Simple Plan. A very good directorial debut from Nash Edgerton, who before this was one of the top stuntmen in Australia.