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.