Monday, September 11, 2006

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Arty. Noir. Sick. Surreal.

O.k., I gotta stop reading those advertising blurbs they write on netflix and stick with my gut. I like my movies as straight up stories. Kiss Kiss indulged in talking with the viewer and pulling little tricks like rewinding the film and messing around in general. It annoyed me as did the story. We engage in an improbable tale of the seamy side of Hollywood (as if it's anything but) as told in an old fashiondey, pulp fiction kind of way. There's murder, fistfights, booze and broads. It's very tongue-in-cheek and Robert Downey Jr. is convincing in his twitchy, alcohol-gulping way. Val Kilmer plays a gay private investigator but is not convincing in his gayness. He says the words but his eyes don't say he loves men. He could also use some slimming down although his man-shaper helped. Sorry, Val.

There's also a quirky beautiful woman sidekick named Harmony is who is embroiled in the drama. She is annoying. The bad guys aren't afraid to bat a woman around and she takes her lumps. I almost shut the movie off ten times or so but having it sit on my shelf for three weeks guilted me into finishing it.

Kiss Kiss was a movie that was way more clever than I. It's half a send up of old-style noir films and a serious story. The twists were sometimes sick, such as the door-slamming incident, and the love story tinny. Unless you're a serious movie buff who likes to be titillated by clever directors I would skip this one.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Match Point: The Talented Mr. Ripley Redux

I absolutely loathed this movie. What was I thinking? Woody Allen? I know what I was thinking. I got sucked in by Scarlett Johansson and her big boobs. I thought this was going to be a hot, sexy movie and it was not. I can't believe how boring it was: a story about snooty wealthy British people slumming with commoners about whom they know nothing.

Tennis. Who cares? And all the philosophical garbage about luck vs. faith and love and crap. You know what bugged me about this movie? No one was likeable. Our two main characters, Chris and Nola, are emotionally vacant gold diggers who like each other better than their marks. It was sickening. The two of them are like looking in a mirror. When I thought the movie would keel over and die Woody supplied a plot twist that put my CSI-teeth on edge. And then he made me watch some more! I shocked myself by watching this movie to the end and I can't tell you how pissed I was at the way it turned out.

Should you see this movie? Well for a posh time put it on your netflix queue straightaway! It's absolutely brilliant, darling, and all that.

Whatever. That's the last time I EVER see a Woody Allen movie. Scarlett might get a do-over. Maybe.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mr. and Mrs. Smith: The Wedding Video

I admit I watched this movie with absurd fascination. With all the hoopla surrounding the birth of Brad and Angelina's baby I wanted to see how they fell in love. And while I have no hope of scheduling a sit down with the two of them to discuss it I had to opt for second best, and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" was it.

Was this a good movie? Not really. As a married person I'm interested in stories of marriages in trouble, but as me, there must be some shooting or explosions going on or I will lose interest. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" is the story of two people who have grown apart in their five years of marriage. Oh, and they are both professional assassins, and have been hiding their profession from their spouse the entire time. This is a fascinating premise and I was extremely interested in the outcome.

They did a silly thing early on in the film. For a few scenes they pretended that the audience did not know what our protagonists did for a living. This led one to suppose Angie was going off somewhere to cheat on Brad (oh no!) instead of meeting him at the Caldwell's for dinner. Knowing what she was really up to, I was annoyed with the deception and I got that pissy frown on my forehead. In the same scene we are also treated to Angie in her best dominatrix-wear which is titillating until she whacks the dude in an effortless and cunning way. (Oops, that's a small spoiler).

This movie walks a very fine line with Brad and Angie's characters. They are both being asked to be meticulously well dressed, excessively attractive and expert assassins. But there is this undercurrent that Angie is better at everything. Brad trips and falls, has a stupid friend in Vince Vaughn, and was fooled by Angie in a very devious way. I wondered why he had to bumble about. They even have him shake a leg as he takes a public piss. It was out of character for him as a nattily dressed person. I thought it was unnecessary to the story to cut him down that way. But I guess it allowed him the opportunity to rise up and allow Angie to see what a real man he was. Blah. Kind of yucky.

I found Vince's sidekick schtick to be extremely annoying. He is so shrill in his assassin paranoia I wanted him to shut up. He dominated every scene with Brad which is understandable given his rapid-fire delivery compared to Brad's mouthful of marbles. You could tell Vince really practiced his lines. No mistakes, ever.

Jane and John's "get back together" scene was accompanied by gun blasts, kicks and punches which did make me wince a bit. Jane is supposed to be one tough broad but, even though she is behind the sofa, I did not relish the sight of him kicking her. He worked too hard at beating the crap out of her. I guess I'm old fashioned.

The movie has a lame plot twist toward the end that leads to the "REALLY LONG GUN BATTLE." (RLGB) That was cool until it was late and got boring. The only thing that piqued my interest was that our protagonists change their clothes and expose Brad for the metrosexual he really is. As Jane and John prepare for the RLGB they get all decked out in their superhero clothes, you know, the kevlar and stuff. Looked wicked snappy. But then they enter a home store and Brad 1.) comments on "what a good store it is" and 2.)changes into a matching gray suit with Jane. It was really unnecessary and a strange thing.

I can't say I would recommend this movie, unless you like spending time with Brad and Angie. Now that their baby has been born and photographed, the public has lost interest. I tried to imagine a sequel for this movie. Maybe they'll have kids and open their own assassin business.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Fantastic Four - Flame On!, people!

I know, I know, I'm on a superhero kick. But I'm really having a good time with myself. Many people hated this movie but I kind of liked it. It tells the story of how our superhero friends Sue and Johnny Storm (brother and sister), Ben Grimm and Reed Richards become The Fantastic Four. Oh, and Dr. Doom too. I think my favorite character was Chris Evans as The Human Torch. Although I couldn't believe that he could have been a real astronaut I could believe he rides a motorcycle and looks sexy with his shirt off. And when he finally learned to fly all torched up it was really exciting! His antics teasing Ben Grimm and setting things on fire brought some comic relief to a film dulled by the performances of Jessica Alba and Ioan Gruffud. Those two were really boring.

Ioan played Reed pretty straight - the scientist geek loses the girl as well as his pride and has no qualms about a little boot licking to further his research. I understood he needed to make a journey into his leadership role but even in the end you could tell he was always going to be a pansy. But good old Ioan (IMDB kindly provides a helpful pronunciation guide for his name "YO-an") doesn't seem to have the chops to be a top loser scientist. Too young perhaps? I can't put my finger on it but there is no way this guy went to MIT. I saw Good Will Hunting and I KNOW.

I thought Jessica was a little weak as well. I was completely hooked on her in the series Dark Angel so I'm no stranger to her being a superhero. But someone effed up her makeup and she looked really reddish-beige all over. Her constant hen pecking of Johnny and pining for Reed was a turn off.

Michael Chiklis rocks as The Thing (no pun intended) and even manages to show emotional pain after his transformation. He notes that he's the only one who doesn't get to stay his sexy self, and that's rough. And with a heart of gold all he's trying to do is get our lovebirds, Sue and Reed back together. Awww. At least they give him proper manpris, instead of the blue underpants of the comic.

Know what's been killing me about these two movies? Spider-Man 2 and Fantastic Four? The crowds. Both movies are set in New York and there you have our intrepid New Yorkers enjoying their new superhero citizens. "Spider-Man, take me!" and "There's the Invisible Girl!" Instead of screaming in fear and running for their lives folks are down with old Spidey and The 'Four. X-Men's premise is the division between human and mutant so there's no such hammy friendliness. But I'll hit that in another post.

Although the film is bloodless as anticipated Dr. Doom has no trouble putting large holes in the middle of his enemies' bodies. I thought that was a little edgy - "hey, he didn't just knock that guy down with his electric blast!" That surprised me a little. Julian McMahon brought a level of evil smarminess to the role and I sincerely didn't like him. I guess that's good acting.

See? Fantastic Four was good. The action was good, the CGI was better than Spider-Man 2 - Reed is SUPPOSED to look rubbery, and Johnny Storm was excellent eye candy. Oh, and I'm sure Jessica was too. But I think if you're looking for a movie just to see her you'd do better with Into the Blue.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Spider-man 2: Holy tortured soul, Batman!

I resisted Spider-man 2 for a long time. I really enjoy superhero movies but I remember distinctly disliking Spider-man 1 enough so that we stopped watching in the middle of it. I can't remember what irked me so - was it Peter Parker's annoying Aunt May, or the saccharine-sweet MJ? I borrowed Spider-man 2 from my library so the price was right. This was the second time I did so because I chickened out the first.

My second problem with Spider-man is that while Tobey Maguire embodies Peter Parker's youthful spirit his appearance is so...youthful. That makes it hard for me to find him "hot" in any sense of the word. I have to look on him as "cute" in a motherly sort of way and that makes me feel old. Maybe that's why I like X-Men so much. I'm salivating over X-Men. It has attractive superheros for all ages.

Spider-man 2 starts out with Peter in crisis. He is living in one of the most expensive cities in the world and he's broke. MJ has ditched him for his unreliable loser ways, he's just lost his job delivering pizza, he's about to fail his class and Aunt May is losing her home because she's broke too. Plus he's late on the rent in his crappy apartment. It really needed a shot of the cockroaches because a hole like that surely has them. I thought we spent a little too much time detailing his loserdom but maybe all the young whippersnappers needed to truly understand where Spidey was at. I could have used more crime fighting during this period.

I really liked Alfred Molina as Doc Ock. He brought a sensual earnestness to the role. He wasn't just a cold hearted scientist he was a lover with a beautiful wife. I liked the creepy way they attached the arms to his body. It made my skin crawl. J.K. Simmons again made a perfect J. Jonah Jameson. He seemed like a cartoon character himself, brash and loud with his mustache and buzz cut hair.

MJ. Mary Jane. I know she's supposed to represent the girl next door, vibrant, sweet and alive. But she just doesn't do it for me. The one thing I will say is that Kirsten is a good match for Tobey. She doesn't look too old and she doesn't have any boobs. Any sexier and it would have given folks that uneasy feeling I was worried about in paragraph two. Casting should be credited for that.

While I liked this movie overall I did have a teeny problem with the CGI. Spidey looked great swinging between the buildings but the fight scenes looked like a cartoon. Spider-man looked too much like a Stretch Armstrong doll as he fought Doctor Octopus. I guess it was to be expected. No stunt people could jump around and stick to buildings the way the computer Spidey can.

The movie proceeds as expected and has a boring ending after the big fight. The filmmakers do leave a nifty option open for a third movie. Will I see it? Only if I can borrow it from my library.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Chronicles of Narnia

I really enjoyed the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I'm sure it was a bit nostalgic for me because I escaped into this story during a particularly hateful stint at summer camp when I was eight years old. I was drawn into the story with it's magic and battle between good and evil. I found the movie excellent, aside from a couple of technical faults, and can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Tilda Swinton plays the White Witch and she's excellent with her guile and evilness. I have to hand it to the costume design team which dressed her in the most amazing evil queen raiment. During the battle scene, for example, they gave her a collar made from Aslan's shorn mane which provided a chilling effect. What better way to demoralize your opponent - wearing the fur of their leader? It looked sick.

I was really impressed with the CGI and costumes of all the magical creatures. It really worked in the film and was very believeable. I had a tiny problem with the river scene when the kids got soaked. They were on an ice floe yet didn't seem to suffer too much afterwards. "Peter, may I have my coat?" When it's freezing cold I need folks to act it.

The battle scenes were bloodless based on the PG rating. I could go along with that. In a way I was glad they didn't give it too much edge since blood and gore was never a focus of the story. And although the CGI Aslan couldn't compare with the real life White Witch I would have liked to have spent more time hearing from him. The White Witch's strength and power of her magic gave her the authority to lead all those evil beasts. I could have used more than my memory to flesh out Aslan's character. Still, this one is a keeper.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Serenity: Too TV or not TV?

Arrrgh! I don't know how I feel about this movie. Arrrgh! That's pirate in case you didn't recognize it. I'm frustrated because Serenity came highly recommended and I don't feel I watched it correctly because I didn't like it.

Serenity is based on the Joss Whedon-created sci fi series Firefly which I've never watched. I heard that it would stand on it's own so didn't worry about that. I'm still trying to figure out if it can or not. The story begins 500 years in the future with the abduction of a teenage girl who is in the process of being horribly tortured in a lab. She gets sprung by her brother and escapes to a spaceship with a swashbuckling captain and corresponding witty, good looking crew. Adventures ensue while a deep cover government agent pursues the team, trying to get the girl back.

While watching this movie I noticed something after a while. The actors all had strange, slightly irish accents and there was no heavy metal music. Lately when Hollywood tries to reach the teen crowd (my mentality) they employ hard hitting pop tunes that remind me of the flick when I listen to my radio. There was none of that here. There was lilting, celtic sounding music that I typically avoid like the plague. (Hey, I used to live in Boston so I'm no stranger to Irish music - RUN!) I'm not saying it was awful, just unexpected.

If you're a super duper sci fi geek then watch this movie. It had some cool ass-kicking scenes. The boo hoo stuff at the end didn't hold enough water for me, however. I didn't buy the captain's change of heart. Perhaps if I'd seen the show in advance I would have had time to fall in love with him and then not care.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This movie is a colossal inside joke. If you've never read the book(s) your eyes will enjoy the flashy flashy, and you might get a few yuks but it will be *really* difficult to appreciate the full spectrum of Douglas Adams' wackiness. For example, about a third of the way through my better half announced "I don't get it" and set off to bed. He's not a sci-fi geek and so a sci-fi spoof was a reach for him.

The Guide centers around a sad sack British guy named Arthur Dent who is rescued from certain death by a friend he didn't know was an extraterrestrial named Ford Prefect. Ford does so by hitching a ride on a space freighter just seconds before earth is destroyed. (Since everyone has read the book this is not a spoiler, I hope). Arthur, Ford and shipmates Trillian, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the Robot begin having adventures in a spaceship named The Heart of Gold.

The Hitchhiker's Guide provides useful tips in the spirit of The Lonely Planet guides - geared towards the worn-heeled traveler using less well-beaten paths. For example, the guide recommends that a towel is an immensely useful item to keep with you while traveling. I admit I had one stuffed in my backpack at all times when I was an exchange student. It makes a nice pillow on a rattling train to Portugal and a nice beach blanket once you get there. But most of the tips are just plain kooky and hysterical.

I knew I would find this movie funny but my laugh out loud moments really surprised me. Mos Def played Ford and he was so straight - just spot on with the humor it killed me. And Sam Rockwell as Zaphod just about put me away. He had the whole Vince Neil rockstar thing going on - bleached blond rock and roll hair, and an "I'm fabulous," groupies welcome, ditzy personality. I cracked up.

Super hardcore Hitchhiker fans were shaking in their boots about this film worried that it would get screwed up. But it did not disappoint and I could see the franchise easily continuing. I hope they keep getting it right.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Murderball: The most badass sport played while seated

I had heard really good things about Murderball but this documentary exceeded my expectations. I thought there might be some boo-hooing from some of the individuals portrayed in this movie but it turned out to be completely devoid of self pity. Murderball was SO good I just have to tell everyone.

The story centers on a segment of the United States Quadriplegic Rugby Team, the game typically called Quad Rugby. If able bodied rugby is considered a rough sport (no helmets, no pads) then you should check out Quad Rugby. Each player is assigned a number of points based on their physical ability and there can be no more than 8 points total on the court at one time. The game is played on a basketball court with players using Mad Max style reinforced wheelchairs. Those things rock!

We learned how the players came to be disabled and their stories were chilling. But instead of making us feel sorry for them we see how these guys continued to find purpose in their lives. The movie also gives us a close look at a newly disabled person, Keith, who was injured a little less than a year prior to the time of the film. But even Keith was stoic, working hard at rehab and showing interest in his future. For example, he asks his doctor about what he should expect when having sex - how will that work? That leads to a eye-popping informative video (serious stuff) on how a quadriplegic male might engage in sexual relations. I needed to fan myself afterwards.

A great part of the story centered on the rivalry between the United States and Canadian teams, specifically between player Mark Zupan and the Canadian Coach Joe Soares. The backstory is that Joe was a player for the U.S., was cut when past his prime, and then burned his bridges. Exchanges between the two teams is colorful and builds excitement for the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. The filmmakers included coverage from the actual Paralympic Games that was so cool looking I plan on catching the games in 2008.

Murderball was so compelling I watched it twice. I even indulged in some of the extras offered on the dvd. One of the deleted scenes "Frogs" showcased Joe's sister's frog collection at her home in Providence, RI. Anyone who has an eccentric relative will find this scene hysterical. For all of it's hard hits I found Murderball's central themes to be strength, teamwork, mental fortitude, love and family. It told a terrific story.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A History of Violence: Wiseguys in the Heartland

I didn't know whether to grab a picture of a big hunk of Wisconsin cheddar or the Philly cheesesteak to capture my thoughts on this film. I settled on the sandwich because 1) I was hungry and 2) because I thought the mob guys really stood out in this movie.

I remember feeling really jazzed when I saw the trailer for this movie - Viggo Mortensen - yeeha! And the premise seemed so cool: local yokel whacks two cold-blooded killers when they come to rob his diner, delighting the entire town. It turned out that I wasn't disappointed and with the R rating the movie was edgier than if they courted the PG-13 set. I have to hand it to the filmakers on this one - cutting out that whole demographic - because they easily could have filled theaters with 15 year old boys. (Even though it included mom and dad sex - eeeeuuuwww!) Speaking of sex the scenes were fairly eye-popping and included glancing over at my husband like "are you WATCHING this?!" We are so easily shocked. But we managed to get through it.

Ed Harris made for a really creepy, black-suited wiseguy. If they made his suit color gray, and removed the eye injury, he would have looked FBI. But the beefy, not-so-smart henchman made it clear his nature was evil. And their shiny black sedan was so out of place in a town full of pick ups.

I loved the family farmhouse - old yet comfy without being too country. I thought that fit a guy living under the radar. What didn't fit for me was Richie's house in Philly - a monstrous, overblown fortress. The short amount of time we spend with Richie made me wonder why he would have such an enormous house with only his henchmen to fill it. Maybe I should watch Scarface and ask myself again later.

What surprised me the most was the subplot of Tom's son Jack, a high school geek who uses self deprecating humor to defend himself from the jocks. Tom's act of self defense frees Jack to kick a little ass himself, and we cheered for him. I liked Jack.

Maria Bello plays Edie, Tom's wife, and I found her reaction to Tom's deception believable. I'm glad they didn't make her character cutesy. I needed Tom to be married to the antithesis of the ganster moll. And, even though I don't expect a sequel, I was satisfied with the cliffhanger ending. To have Tom and Edie's future spelled out for us would have annoyed hell out of half of the viewers.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

I noticed there is a woman in the League. Shouldn't the title be "The League of Extraordinary Gentlepersons"? I'll have to check with Miss Manners, one of my personal heroes. But I guess that title didn't pack the same kind of punch. I read that the promotional title for this movie was "LXG" which reminded me of X-men. I get chills thinking about X-3. Anyway, we'll use the shortened title for simplicity.

I remember seeing the trailer for this movie, way back when. It seemed mildly interesting with the different famous literary characters all banded together. The movie is about a group of folks with special powers or abilities brought to fight an archenemy who is trying to start a world war. While watching the movie I polled my inner pre-teen and teen kids and asked them if they knew any of these people. They'd heard of Tom Sawyer, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but these other dudes? No way. Dorian Gray? I know Dorian Gray because in a fit of needing to know I read the novel. It was creepy and Dorian was vain. But he was no crimefighter. He was a murderer! He didn't get old because the portrait in the attic absorbed all his vanity and evil for him. I certainly didn't see how he'd be selected for the LXG. My inner kids liked the movie because things got blown up (like Venice) and the cool car but they didn't know Captain Nemo or Mina, our vampiress or especially our lead, Sean Connery, as Allan Quartermain. That hurt the story for me because I needed a good point of reference as to why these people were brought together. Allan was an old dude rotting at an imperialistic British club in Africa. Why him? No one else in the United Kingdom was as good a shot?

I did like Stuart Townsend as Dorian Gray. His vain behavior (I spotted him plucking his eyebrows) and fussiness rang true for the character. I also enjoyed Jason Flemyng as Jekyll and Hyde. I was amazed to find out he played both characters. While the prosthetic arms were ridiculously plastic looking his pointy head mask provided a phenomenal change. I didn't recognize him. I found sympathy with Mr. Hyde. I had to laugh a couple of times at our Captain Nemo friend. He was so earnest yet makeup gave him this footlong beard that stuck straight out from his chin, masking almost his entire face. Nemo should have had a good Omar Sharif goatee not this silly square shaped beard.

For kicks I checked out the special features. Watching every deleted scene didn't really add anything. The special effects segment, however, explained quite a lot. For example, I learned they filmed in Prague where they built a large scale model of Venice. While I was glad the good people of Prague were able to earn the $3 million bucks it took to build the city the result was less than authentic looking. And during the movie I thought the destruction of Venice was curious. It seemed gratuitous because the result is that the bad guys get away and nothing is resolved. Our friend Tom Sawyer drives that ridiculous boat of a car to target the building which will end the explosions - boom. So...I breathe a huge sigh of relief because only a dozen buildings (with people inside) were destroyed? That was a little difficult to swallow, aside from the fact that it looked so fake.

A particularly funny moment occurs when Allan Quartermain and Tom Sawyer are recruiting Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Hyde is leaping around rooftops in Paris and they catch him by causing him to slide off the roof tiles. Tom picks up Hyde's enormous top hat looking at it in amazement. I laughed because his clothes are in tatters (except the pants) from his transformation into the monster yet his hat grew several sizes larger? We never see the big hat again in the film.

If you see your hand reaching out for this dvd, snatch it back.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Groundhog Day - Perfect fare for a bus ride

I had the pleasure of traveling to New York City a few weekends ago. I elected to travel by bus, seeing that both airline and train fares were outrageously expensive. Plus, I'm a veteran bus rider and thought I'd spend the day reading. Imagine my surprise when I saw the bucket of headphones while boarding my 10:30am Concord Trailways out of Portland. We were actually going to watch a movie! I was delighted.

It turned out to be the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. This was a repeat for me but fun nonetheless. Here's the storyline: Bill Murray plays Phil, an egotistical weather man out of Philadelphia come to cover the annual festivities in Punxsatawney, PA. The bad news is that Phil has to keep reliving February 2nd over and over until he gets it right. We're not sure who, exactly, is in charge of that decision but we can refer to our own personal Jesus for that answer.

Watching the way the scenes replay again and again was so funny. I'd see Phil wake up several days in a row, rapid fire, and his facial expressions just cracked me up. Here I am, on the bus, laughing through my ridiculous headphones. It's great to travel anonymously. But it's not all fun and games for Phil as he plunges into the depths of despair. He attempts to commit suicide dozens of times to no avail. Somehow, and I'm not clever enough to figure this out, the movie makes light of this serious topic without being callous about it.

Phil realizes his goal in life is getting into Andie's pants, and works towards that end. This results in several humorous face slapping scenes. He just doesn't get it! I tried to figure out approximately how long it was taking Phil to make this introspective journey. And it seemed like YEARS! Damn. I would go insane.

Groundhog Day is a perfect Twilight Zone theme made into a really funny movie. Before I knew it the credits were up as we rolled into Boston. It made for a very quick trip!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Flightplan: SeanBeanSeanBeanSeanBean

What? This is a Jodie Foster movie? Yes, that's right but here is Sean again! Unfortunately, stuck in his supporting actor role, he doesn't get to take center stage in this misguided thriller. Nothing against Jodie, because I love her, but this mother-daughter stuff is just o.k. I kind of liked Panic Room, because of the colorful bad guys, but I'm starting to not be able to buy what's she's selling. I admit I was excited about the movie when I saw the trailer. I liked that she knew the plane and was going to have some fun running around it, chasing bad guys, looking for her kid. I identified with the kid loss aspect because I too have a six year old. If I lost her, I'd fall down dead with grief. But there were certain events that derailed this movie which was just too bad.

I don't want to do any spoilers here today. But I read a news story about Flightplan shortly after the movie came out. It seems a group of employees in the airline industry protested the portrayal of their characters in this film. Quite frankly, they ruined the story. I tried to forget but I couldn't completely fool myself and it did bum me out. Toward the end of the film we find out "why Jodie?" It happens over a couple of scenes and I got that frown on my face, like "did someone just bullshit me?" The explanation didn't work. I found the "you're crazy, lady" storyline annoying after a while. And Sean, as the captain, didn't act as I would expect him to. Since 9/11 (and they reference that in the movie) there are very specific rules for when things go wrong on an international flight - or any flight. For example, overly loud or irrational passengers and physical altercations. So many things go wrong on this plane that any sane captain would have had such heebie jeebies the plane would have been landed asap. But time and time again they just let it go.

There are certain "unbelieveialities" (Ha ha - what a stupid fake word-perfect for this blog!) that I can handle. Like in The Island. That's set in the future where just about anything can happen. But Flightplan is set in this time period and I can't get past so many shortcomings. In a final annoyance I checked IMDB and found out that Erika Christensen played one of the flight attendants. What was so irratating about this was that Erika got so much screen time but never really did anything. I kept waiting for her to unmask herself as SOMETHING - a good guy or a bad guy. I got zip nada from her. I figure she must have been dating the director.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Hellboy: Channel your inner 11 year old

You know I haven't yet seen Fantastic Four but my question is, how did they pass up Ron Perlman for the role of The Thing? I mean, he would have been perfect! But I'm sure Michael Chiklis did a terrific job and when I see it, I'll let you know.

Hellboy was a great flick. Perfect for muching the popcorn and slurping the soda. Sitting in my basement I did none of those things but I'm sure it would have added to the enjoyment. Speaking of eating and drinking there was an odd thing that happened with product placement in this movie. There were only two products, beer and candy bars. What's odd about this is that in a pre-teen movie, I would expect to see dozens of products from just about everything. But there were the candy bars and the six pack of beer done in an in-your-face kind of way. That's it. The camera zoomed up, showed us the product, and panned away. Off to the next scene. As if they said "check! product placement scene complete." They should have just left them out. I think the product placement sales guy took off in the middle of his shift.

Hellboy (Ron) was dark and broody and missing his girlfriend. He has a soft spot for cats. When we see him for the first time as he's introduced to his new keeper I was startled. I thought he ate the cats! Whew! Glad we cleared that up. He had a couple of cute nicknames, "HB" and "Red". I don't know if they do that in the comic book but it must be awkward shouting, "hey Hellboy, what's shakin'?" Red was good for me. I have yet to see an un-made-up Ron Perlman but he certainly fit the role physically. I liked that cool rock arm they gave him. I guess he was channeling his inner pussycat with that swishy tail. And the cigars! I thought the stubby stogies fit him very well. What does he care about smoking? He's a demon! A zippo is always a cool accessory.

I enjoyed the villain Rasputin, played by Karel Roden, especially when he was conjured up from a pool of blood. That was creepy yet fascinating. What confused me at the end, however, was his frustration with Hellboy who wasn't completing his duties as expected. During other scenes, Rasputin is unflappable. But in the face of Hellboy's little rebellion, he gnashes his teeth and shakes his fist as if they put mustard on his quarter pounder. But I still liked him.

The monster, Sammael, even gets a credit. He (it) was played by a dude named Brian Steele. I think Brian is pretty good at this sort of thing as monsters are his specialty. Sammael, with his snakey dredlocks, reminded me of our excellent Predator friends from those movies of the same name. Very fond memories, there.

I liked Hellboy because it took itself seriously but didn't hesistate to enjoy the work. The characters were earnest without being overly so. And finally, the romance between Hellboy and Selma Blair gave new meaning to the phrase "hot burnin' love."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Curious George The Movie: "That was awesome!"

...shouted my six year old at the end of this oh-so-cute movie. A few parents around us chuckled and agreed. While I have raved about other animated films in the past I would have to say this is one for the kids. They really enjoyed it but I could have taken a pass.

My four year old mentioned a few times during the movie "we've been watching for hours!" in a sure sign of boredom. I thought they could have picked up the pace a bit too. The boring stuff they plugged in was the trite, embarrassing, uninteresting, and unnecessary relationship between the Man in the Yellow Hat and Maggie, played by one of my least favorite actors, Drew Barrymore, the little slut. As if I have always wondered why The Man in the Yellow Hat doesn't have a girlfriend. When we read these classic stories his marital status is the last thing on my mind. And Drew, drawn with huge anime eyes, takes a superior tone with the bumbling bee-colored explorer, and that annoyed me. Harrumph.

George is very adorable. He is voiced by Frank Welker who coos like a happy baby throughout the film. George is like a non-verbal two year old with the acrobatic ability of The Flying Wallendas. Although he sometimes expresses disappointment, George never gets angry. In a "my dad doesn't love me" storyline, Junior, son of Mr. Bloomsberry, attempts to discredit George. His treachery got caught by my daughter who reported, "he's not nice, Mommy." Not nice indeed.

I've read reviews of this film where folks hacked on the animation, that it wasn't up to par. I thought it was pretty, and brightly colored (lots of yellow!). The kids were engaged. But I would ask that the script writers decide in advance what they want to do with a film. If they are going to make me sit there in the theater for 86 minutes, then the grown up storyline needs to really grab me. If not, then keep the story at the kid level and go straight to dvd. That way I can still do the laundry while they watch it.

Friday, February 03, 2006

TROY: Sean Bean is Magic and the Slave Girls Are Back

After complaining about Sean's work in National Treasure, now I see him everywhere! In Troy he plays Odysseus, the guy who's supposed to keep Achilles in line, if that were possible. More about him later.

I'd like to share a little tidbit. I'm of Greek descent. My Dad used to tell me about the Greek gods and we even had a copy of Bullfinch's Mythology on the shelf. So I had some rudimentary knowledge of the story of the battle of Troy. When the movie started I tried to remember the players: Achilles, Paris, Helen. That's as far as I got. It started to come back thinking, "yeah, Agamemnon, that nutjob." But I was surprised during that first scene with Paris - who was that other guy? Hector? Who is he? What I found out is that Hector was the true hero of the story. Achilles, on the other hand, is a pig. I had to laugh (inappropriately) when we first meet him: a boy has been sent to find him to fight as Agamemnon's champion. So where is he? Piled on his sleeping furs with not one but TWO beautiful women. It's as if someone checked out the script for "Alexander" and said, "Achilles will NOT be gay!, Not gay!" They weren't going to screw that up. But the bottom line is that Achilles is not a nice guy, one could say barely honorable. Which was very big in those days. A helpful voiceover in the beginning of the movie sets the tone for the relationship between Agamemnon and Achilles so we know those two are going to be trouble.

One of the biggest surprises for me was the portrayal of Paris, played by the plucky Orlando Bloom. I find out that he's really just a boy. He has no battle experience and is basically a pampered prince coddled by his older brother Hector and his father. He's been shagging Helen, wife of Menelaus, right in the middle of peace talks and then he steals her away! For love. What a dope! Hector thinks so too but it's an awful dilemma: return Helen and be killed or continue to Troy and start a war.

I need to talk a little bit about Brad and technical details. I realize why Brad Pitt was chosen for the role: he's a popular actor, hunky, and a draw for male and female movie viewers. But I don't feel he was right for the role of Achilles. The way he spoke his lines didn't ring true for me. I tend to imagine that actors in these epic films have spent time on the stage, honing their skills with Shakespeare. But not Brad. His sentences were clunky as he worked with the formal speech, like he couldn't wrap his mouth around the words. Sure he has a nice body (I mean, really sure) but it didn't seem fabulously warrior special. Achilles is supposed to be nigh invulnerable. Mom dipped him in the river Styx, effectively giving him skin of steel. I really expected him to take an arrow to the chest, and have it bounce off. But the filmmakers never did that. I wonder if they thought it would be too cartoonish. He ran around a lot, and fought, but again, I didn't see any particular skills that were so special. His dyed blond hair was brassy and unattractive, even showing roots in some scenes. They should have kept it natural. There's nothing that says that Achilles must be blond. It was ugly hair.

I'm back again to discussing people's teeth. Specifically, actors with veneers. You can see them! And while I hate to be a stickler for details there were no veneers in ancient Greece! The extent of dental work was pulling out rotten teeth, not covering them up and making them beautiful and white. Agamemnon, played by Brian Cox, has a nice set of choppers. But they were not authentic.

"Cue the dancing slave girls!" Here we go again. Troy had that same MGM old time epic film feel. It was a big undertaking but it missed the mark. The Trojan War was a complicated story and I give them credit for maintaining the threads throughout. But I tried to find a sympathetic character and the only ones I could really like were Hector, played by Eric Bana, and Odysseus, played by my man Sean. It didn't make me laugh, or cry or feel much of anything. The fighting was never really clever, even with the horse. The city of Troy had a soundstage feel to it so I didn't mind when they burned it down. It was just a bad movie. Skip this one.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Layer Cake: Dude's the New Bond?

Huh. I don't know if I'm going to do spoilers or not. If one pops in I'll be sure to put in the warning. I don't like to ruin anyone's fun! I liked this movie. I enjoy gangster films with dangerous situations, clever and not-so-clever criminals, and head-busting scenes. The accents make it fun to listen to if you don't mind thinking over and over: "What? What the heck did he just say?" British films are good for that. Does anyone remember Snatch? I don't and I saw it. I can't remember what anyone said because I couldn't understand it the first time around. And I was a language major!

But anyway. Onto Daniel Craig. We learn about our main character's flaw right up front. He wants to retire from his lucrative drug business and thinks he's clever enough to do so. Oddly enough, he doesn't like violence and doesn't carry a gun. "I hate guns!" he exclaims. He's sort of prissy about the whole thing as if his work was a high paying 9-5 job like anyone else. But bad guys step in and mayhem ensues for poor Daniel. With lots of funny twists!

I really checked out this guy's apartment. I don't know London, but one of the characters makes mention of Daniel's tony neighborhood. One of the things I like to do sometimes is look closely at the sets. This one was austere, almost as if he were an allergy sufferer or cleaned compulsively. The walls and furniture were dark, gray and concrete looking. It was a man's man kind of bachelor pad with minimal but strong furnishings. Remember that commercial where the guy in the scarf is listening to music so loud it starts to blow his champagne glass over? "Is it real, or is it Memorex?" It was like that. Supercool. He had a nice bed, with luxurious looking sheets.

Daniel himself was dressed pretty nattily all the time. He was a little on the metrosexual side, kind of fussy but good looking nonetheless. I worried that he was so lean, though, that folks wouldn't think he was nourished enough to be the next Bond. They might want to fill out those hollow cheeks a bit prior to filming.

I tried not to like Sienna, because she is so beautiful. But they kept her part small enough that it was never annoying. When he asked "what are you doing?" and she said "nuffing" I was amazed at how cute British women can be. I reflected on how I loathed Renee Zellweger in the last "Bridget" movie but then again, she was only faking being British, fat, and annoying.

Colm Meany (what a cool name) deserves a shout out for his portrayal of Gene, a right hand man. He brings a real grittiness to the role and I'm so glad he's moved on from Star Trek. Morty, played by George Harris, was deceptively violent. I didn't think he had it in him, at first. I enjoyed Morty.

See? No spoilers today. Stick Layer Cake on your Netflix queue, or get it from your local library, like I did. It was a fun violent movie that had me exclaiming "NO!" and laughing several times.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Rumor Has It: Time for Kevin Costner to go away.


If you like all the folks who star in this movie you might want to close your browser right now. I have to explain my motivation in seeing this movie. Observant readers might recognize that chick flicks are not my favorite genre. But I went to see it at as a birthday event for a friend of mine, and Memoirs of a Geisha wasn't playing. We have the coolest movie theater around here. It's called Smitty's Cinema Pub and you can order drinks and dinner while watching a film. The good food and company couldn't erase what was going on before my eyes although I wish I could erase it from my memory.

Rumor Has It is a fictional real-life take on The Graduate, as if it were based on the true lives of the characters in this movie. Jennifer Aniston plays the grandaughter of "Mrs. Robinson", artfully played by Shirley MacLaine. Jennifer is a woman in crisis - she's heading home for her little sister's wedding, she doesn't know if she's in love with her fiancee, she's in a dead-end job writing obituaries for a NYC newspaper and she doesn't feel a true member of her family. This is a hard place for a 39 year old woman to be in, and I almost wept for her.

Kevin plays the graduate, but all grown up and incredibly wealthy. Jennifer wants to meet him because she's got this crazy idea that he's her real father. She thinks her mom somehow picked up Grandma's sloppy seconds the week before her wedding. Using her reporters credentials she sneaks in to a conference where he's giving a speech. I swear, I was sitting there in the theater trying to understand the kind of BS he was spouting about Internet search engines. Jennifer is dazzled, of course, and it made me want to puke.

The true insult occurs in how the two get together. In an anticlimatic scene Jennifer learns he's not her father, that it's not possible. O.k., so now she's depressed and he takes her out to get drunk. In a sick and incestuous twist, she's turned on by him and they end up fooling around.

Compared to Shirley MacLaine Kevin was a big dud. O.k., he's a big dud all on his own. Maybe it's his softspoken manner or that he never seems to get mad. But I simply could not buy the relationship between Kevin and Jennifer. I found myself growing more and more annoyed every minute I watched this movie. Definitely not my happy place.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The 40 Year Old Virgin: The chick flick for guys

I think I've discovered a new genre for movies. It's the reverse chick flick. According to Hollywood guys want to go to the movies to see hot chicks, and watch things get blown up. Chicks want to watch love stories with hot guys where everyone hooks up at the end. "Cue the wedding montage!" So how do you have a chick flick for guys? Enter Steve Carrell as the 40 Year Old Virgin. Storyline: Nice guy practices extreme clean living, acts a bit eccentric and has no woman. Well meaning coworkers want to help him break out of his colossal rut and have sex with a woman. Nice guy resists transformation but is ultimately convinced - "Yes! It could be me!"

This movie is hysterical. I watched the unrated version which is extremely dirty, rude, improbable, and, at times, bizarre. Andy, our protagonist, is a seriously introverted geek who manages the storeroom at an electronics store. His apartment is stuffed with unopened (collectible) toys and one is sure that he is/was a Dungeon and Dragons master. He spends his evenings doing various hobbies or watching tv with the old couple upstairs. He seems to have forgotten his sexual self, evidenced by completely ignoring his morning wood early on in the film. One quickly learns that this movie will cut no corners.

Andy's friends vow to help him out and provide all sorts of misguided advice. It's really cute though, how their friendship is genuine. They're not just trying to make him the butt of a joke. In an early scene they ask if Andy is gay. During his protests Cal, played by Seth Rogan, delivers the line that cracked me up, "I once touched a guy's balls in Hebrew school." This revelation gets no response from the others during their rapid exchange.

I want to warn folks that the unrated version is LONG. With all those filthy dirty deleted scenes stuck back in the film seems to go on forever. But its all pretty funny and proceeds to surprising end. I mean, we all know how its going to end but it's cute nonetheless.

If you're not in the mood to watch stuff blow up but do want to watch a "guy" movie then I recommend The 40 Year Old Virgin. It's got some knee slappers that are worth watching.