Friday, April 25, 2008

Baby Mama

Since Alex and I could laugh at Amy Poehler reading the phone book, we preferred this to seeing harold and kumar. I'm not a huge fan of Tina Fey- feeling that she was probably a really mean girl in high school, therefore, not my kind of girl. It starts out as a send up of women in their late 30s who face poor fertility by succumbing to the newly developed fertility industry, and winds up as a sweet little romantic comedy. It is this bizarre sort of plot twist that detracts from the film. In the beginning, it's screwball and full of sight gags and then it slides into a straight romantic comedy. Not that it isn't funny- because it IS. Poehler looks older, but somehow sweeter on the large screen. Greg Kinnear is finally growing into his looks- no longer boyish, but charming. Sigourney Weaver does an over the top performance as the head of the surrogate mother business. Holland Taylor reprises her role as a mother, exactly like her character in Two and a Half Men. Maura Tierney, who has a beautifully sweet face, plays the sister. And one of my favs- Romany Malco (from Weeds), is the doorman. Steve Martin plays Fey's boss with a wonderfully controlled parody of a new age exec. For once, he doesn't mug his way through- he just relaxes and does it. With that cast, this movie really couldn't fail even with the huge lapses in script. It is funny, some times it is very funny. But it isn't the success it could have been.


In this film, Ben Stein talks about the oppressive censorship in the hallowed halls of academia when science expresses an interest in Intelligent Design (from any source or origin) as a way to investigate the unanswered questions of Darwinism. Now, with electron microscopes and detailed biological data, we can see the brilliance, order and intricacy in the tiny human cell. We can also see that Darwinism is, to some extent, relatively quaint - adequate to a point, but unnervingly incomplete. Ben Stein is a brilliant man. No one can doubt that he has made a living thinking and wondering and learning. He is a scholar and writer. And he comes across as far smarter than most of the Darwinists in this film. And it mystifies me as to how the mass media film reviewers would give Michael Moore and Al Gore a pass on their inconsistencies and exaggerrations, but criticize Stein for his allowing these academics to hang themselves. Truth? Maybe we can never find how we got here. But to gag (fire!) the dissenters- to assume that only humans can explain humanity- well, is there a gene for hubris? Keep in mind that it is NOT just intelligent design that gets this shrift- it is also global warming opponents and the ADA support of low fat diets to prevent heart disease. The day academia accepts theory as fact and punishes dissent is the day human knowledge disappears.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Whoa- it isn't often that a romantic comedy has full frontal male nudity. I figure that's as good a way as any to start a review. It follows the typical romantic comedy formula from the opening scene to the credits as if it was an online stock outline where you fill in the characters and plot twists. Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother) plays essentially the same character that he does on HIMYMother. But he does a very good job of being likeable and believable. Mila Kunis is adorable as always. Kristin Bell and Russell Brand might be the unknowns (at least to me) but there is a cast full of recognizable Apatow regulars. The setting is Hawaii. The story is Boy loses Girl, goes to Hawaii to recover, gets into resort where Girl is with New Boyfriend, Boy falls for desk clerk..scramble, unscramble and finis. There was ID checking at the theatre, though one stupid parent didn't get it. He walked out after the second male nudity with his 10 year old daughter. I hope they didn't give him his money back. We laughed during all of it- because it was funny. I didn't like Superbad- I thought it was very dumb and very "boy" oriented. But women and men both liked this movie and everyone was laughing and having fun. It isn't a documentary about brain surgery- it is a silly, raunchy, funny movie about a probable romatic mess. I loved it. But remember, on the old review web site I wrote a pretty good review for Deuce Bigalow, so take your chances!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Let's say, for a moment, that I could write this review merely by suggesting a subtitle: "My Big Fat Lebanese Monsoon Wedding". Because those 2 movies must have made BIG contributions to this movie- particularly Monsoon Wedding. This is a movie about women. And they are each loveable and strong and loyal to one another. The setting is Beirut. And we are reminded again that there are countries that are highly developed, complete with world class universities, but the infrastructure and utilities are crude and unreliable. It is a country that still requires proof of marriage for a woman and man to share a hotel room. It is a country where men demand proof of virginity so doctors specialise in putting in a "stitch or two" so it will guarantee a renewed virginity. And it is a country where women know that to love and support one another is what keeps their lives not just bearable, but vibrant. It is an interesting movie, and in some ways a romantic and sweet movie, and it is beautifully acted. I would say that, especially for women, it is worth 4 stars.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Counterfeiters

Set in a concentration camp, a Nazi plan to flood the economy of Britain with fraudulent money makes use of Jewish prisoners who have histories of excellence in the skills necessary for counterfeiting money (and passports). Since the actors are largely unknown to American audiences, there is an intensity to the portrayals. Unlike the melodramatic "The Pianist" which I abhored, or the incredulous "Life is Beautiful", this movie does not strain credibility or logic. At least not to the limit. I found it intense, and it presents the audience with questions of what would their own participation in these scenarios be. It was gritty and violent because concentration camps and Nazis are grim and violent. It is a reminder of what despots can do, and what the human cost of the world's dictators bring to the rest of us. It is a story of lucky survival for some because of a talent honed for criminal purposes. Is it fair that the counterfeiter is the one to be fed and housed while so many Jews with other talents are starved to death and gassed? There are other questions in this film that you can only answer for yourself.

Friday, April 4, 2008


This movie comes within an inch of being successful. It's pleasant enough, and has some funny lines, but it suffers from bad casting in the form of Zellweger, mugging in the form of Clooney, and an inability to burst into song, which would have come in handy. It's a period piece set in the 20s, and everyone acts like it just so you don't forget. The blatant overacting is the reason WHY Clooney is NOT now and never will be Cary Grant. It isn't smooth- nothing in the film is smooth. John Krasinski is well cast in his role, at least. There is never quite enough punch, and Zellweger is hardly believable as a femme fatale with snappy wit. She is, in fact, the major problem (other than the poor pacing). How Zellweger has a leading lady career, as opposed to playing the side kick, is just not clear to me. And I'm not alone on that elevator. If anything is worse than Clooney's mugging, it might be Zellweger squinting like she lost her glasses. In every scene. And it is highly implausible that she would be noticed by all men withint a 20 foot radius. Where is Reese Witherspoon when you need her? In fact, where are the "30 something" actresses who could have carried off the Carole Lombard type of skills needed to play this role? I think, sadly, nowhere. I wouldn't make this a special trip.