Friday, December 31, 2010

True Grit

Forget the old True Grit. This one is better. Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn, an alcoholic U S Marshall, who is recruited to help the 14 year old Mattie Ross catch the man who murdered her father. Matt Damon plays a Texas Ranger who is also after the bad guy. The script is humorous in unexpected spots. It is brutal in the predictable spots. The stand out is Bridges with a lot of help from the determined performance of Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie. This is a true western- but one with the kind of spin that the Coen Brothers give to the films they make. It deserves the audience it has gotten. It is one of the year's best films.

The Fighter

Mark Wahlberg plays "Irish" Mickey Ward- who happens to be a real person. Mickey is the little half-brother of  Dickey Eklund (Christian Bale), a former welterweight whose claim to fame is knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard. Dickey is now a crack addict with not much of a brain left, but he is the prize of the family and the former pride of Lowell Mass, despite his problems. Mickey has let his possessive and toxic family ruin his chances, until he gets a street wise girlfriend (Amy Adams) who takes over. The story is  true and well written. Part of the curiosity of this movie is the role of Dickey Eklund. It is clear that it is a role that is so quirky and personal that only someone like Christian Bale could play it. Wahlberg could never have done it and been believable. So as a trade, Wahlberg plays the role of the manipulated Ward. In a way, he has gone the way of such notables as Winona Ryder when Angelina Jolie stole the entire film of Girl,Interrupted. Wahlberg had to know that Bale would walk away with the glory, but yet, he opted to make this movie. Curious. All of the cast is great. The story is entertaining. The boxing scenes leave a lot to be desired since there are such obviously faked punches. If you like boxing movies, and if you like Mark Wahlberg or Christian Bale, then you will love this movie. I was entertained by it, though Bale made me itch.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The King's Speech

Okay- I have to preface this review by saying we'd had a long airplane trip, etc etc, for Christmas and we decided to go see this because of the great reviews. That said, we both almost took a nap somewhere in the middle. I managed to stay awake, but Alex got about 2 minutes of good solid sleep in there. That may have been a sacriledge to some, but jeez louise, it was sloooow and overwrought in places.  Had Colin Firth not been such a great actor, this could have been a comedy. Cruel? Well, 2 hours of stuttering doth generate the occasion titter, no? But because Firth is so compelling and such a sympathetic character, he gets away with it. Some idiot behind us suddenly realized that the children grew up to be Queen Elizabeth and her late sister, Margaret. It took him about 90 minutes. Then he had to say it out loud for our entertainment. That did generate laughter.  The acting is truly wonderful. The script is fairly amusing in spots. I think it is getting rave reviews because it's so hard to believe you could drag a movie out for so long, on such a topic, and still have it watchable. Helena Bonham Carter really can be pretty- I don't know why she fights it so hard. Two second summary- because his idiot brother is sucked in by the dominatrix and black widow that is Wallace Simpson, the throne passes to George VI played by Colin Firth. George stammers but because of that darned invention, the radio, he has to conquer this problem. Enter pithy, witty, self-proclaimed speech therapist and VOILA!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

I liked this one the best of all the HP movies. J K Rowling should be canonized as St Jo for writing this brilliant series of books. Yes, they are brilliant. And the films are generally lockstep with the books. And for that reason, the final book is divided into two films. Radcliffe was one of the worst child actors ever seen- I slaughtered his first two performances on the old website. He was hammy and out of character. But over time he seems to have learned a lot from the series of wonderful directors as well as from his two castmates who have never missed a beat. This film is like watching a drama, relying far less on special effects and creatures. After all, by now we do know who everyone is and what their role is in the story. We truly admire Hermione and Ron in this one- big parts of the story are theirs. The scenery is lovely- it is nice to see them in the real world. The ending is perfect. I have to say that the critics who have complained about this being long or not exciting are missing the point. It is a great movie. We KNOW these kids. We have watched them grow up. We worry for Harry, even though we know he will live. I love being attached to this story. And I thought this movie was fantastic.
 PS my favorite characters have always been the Weasley twins and Luna. Just in case you wondered.


Yay! A captivating and musical story starring Rapunzel and her suitor. Yes, I DID just write that phrase. It isn't raking in the cash because it stinks now, is it? It is lovely. The animation is great, the story is cleverly told and moves along with great speed, and it is as much fun for the adults as it is for the kids. It has gotten to where animated stories are better than most of the movies out there. This is best seen in 3D. Parts of it are beautiful in 3D. Of course, it ends well- it's a fairy tale.

Love and Other Drugs

Oh please. This is really about seeing Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway naked. That's the most interesting part of the film. It's a boring story with a very predictable ending. Hathaway has Parkinson's and uses a hard shell to hide her internal pain. Gyllenhaal is a charming playboy drugs salesman. They meet, she resists, he uses his smoldering puppy looks, yada. At points, it feels interminable. If these two weren't such good actors to watch, this would have been flushed. It was part Love Story (minus the preppie remarks), part Up In The Air lonely horny man meets woman who won't commit. It isn't so horrible a film that they shouldn't have made it- they just shouldn't have made it with such good actors because that made it almost acceptable. Skip it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


This is the same old same old "Bad Guy is really a good guy", etc, and he falls for the cute woman who rejects him until he turns good. Oh yeah, you've heard it all before. But it is funny and so well done that you don't care about the stale plot.  Voice work is done by Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt and Tina Fey. Ferrell and Pitt don't sound exactly like themselves, so the audience is allowed to believe the characters. Tina Fey, on the other hand, makes no effort to not sound exacty like Tina Fey. It really stops the suspension of belief and makes you think "hey, that's Tina Fey". It's a peeve of mine- voice talent should not be readily recognizable. But little kids won't notice it is Tina Fey. And the other things about this film are so entertaining and fun that there is no reason not to see it. A word of caution- 3D is far more expensive- even at the matinee. So check out the price before you bring the neighborhood kids with you!

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The usual cast of suspects returns for the third and final installment of the Stieg Larsson series. And it is going to get the same review as the others but perhaps harsher. First of all, despite the hoopla, the books are intricate, involved and have often unnecessary plot diversions- they are, in a word, busy. This movie also in the same frantic mode goes chopping from scene to scene with little explanation as to whom the people are or what their relevance is. The movie is like the Cliff's notes for the book. If you haven't read the book, you  may as well take a nap. And when that is the case, the movie is a failure. Since I read the book, I'll give it 2 stars. But truly, no movie should need an interpreter. And if it is going to acts as a summary then it should at least stick to the plot. Some major elements are left out- and they aren't small. Oh well. Maybe the American remake will do a better job.

Monday, October 25, 2010


The Hereafter- if you sit long enough in this dull and lengthy movie, that is precisely where you will wish you were. Matt Damon is listed as the star- but it is a crummy role indeed. He is only in 1/3 of the film. He has repetitive and annoying dialogue as a retired psychic. He plays a real psychic- he actually can communicate with the dead. Enter the requisite and predictable female who has a near death experience she needs explained. Then enter the saddest loss- a young boy who has lost his twin brother. You can actually write the ending yourself if you've ever seen a movie. It is not poorly edited- it is mostly overscripted. It feels tedious and pointless for 2/3 of the film. You don't have a lot of interest in these boring folks even though they are acting their butts off. When the end mercifully arrives, it is so contrived and so idiotic  that you can hardly believe it. The final 10 seconds are inexplicable. Oh well. See it at your own risk. I think part of the problem is that you honestly have been led to believe you are going to see a movie with Matt Damon in the film- the entire film. Nope.  But you'd be far better off  walking into the next theater to see Jackass 3D- not because I refuse to see it and won't review it, but because at least Jackass doesn't pretend to be art. On the upside, Hereafter isn't the worst film of the year because George Clooney all ready beat them to it.

Let Me In

This is a vampire movie. Make no mistake- it has violent and vicious moments. It is more of a literary movie in that it requires a little more thought than the average vampire flick. If you like somber themes with violence thrown in, then you might do better to rent the original Swedish version, Let the Right One In. The vampire is a young girl- she can never grow up despite her years as a vampire. She will never age. But she must have a companion- and that will be the child who is the loner who is bullied. He will be the best victim. And he will be her slave. But he will age and eventually she must find another. The Swedish version uses long winter nights and snow to contrast with the blood and the hiding. But the plot is the same. If you've never thought about how a vampire child would entice someone to be her caretaker in the human world, if you see this movie, you will. If you don't like dark movies with somewhat restrained action, this would never be the movie for you. But I liked both versions and would really recommend you try one of them. Or read the book.

Friday, October 8, 2010


 Seabiscuit is a much better movie, so if you are seeing this movie for exciting horse races, go rent Seabiscuit. This is the story of Secretariat- sort of. How the horse finishes up is known by almost everyone who knows anything about horse racing history. The film tries to be the back story- the story of the woman, Penny Tweedy Chenery, who predicted the genetic breeding victory of a horse with enough speed and the stamina to win triple crown when she goes to try to save the family farm. Unfortunately, the back story is told in very choppy, uneven bites of storyline. You don't understand why a woman ("housewife") would stay around such a bunch of misogynists.It also indirectly addresses the misery that is the inheritance tax.  The writers bring in the Chenery kids and starts one small, lame story line about a daughter who wants to be a hippy (1973 was pretty late for that anyway). It never gels. Of course, the horse racing scenes have little tension because, well, Secretariat was the greatest horse of his time.  But if you like horses, and you like fairly non-offensive films, this might be a pleasantry for you. But do yourself a favor and rent Seabiscuit, too.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Social Network

What happens when you put the director of Fight Club, the writer of The West Wing in cahoots and have them hire a talented cast to perform a script based on a compelling story? Well, something incredible happens. From the opening scene to the final moments, the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks where you sometimes don't know who to root for because it's not that simple. This is a somewhat (but not much) fictionalized account of the founding of Facebook. It's based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich (who also wrote Bringing Down the House). Jesse Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. It is clear that MZ got his idea from others but no one had the patent, and there was no existent code that was stolen, so it gets down to a Harvard gentlemen's code as to whether or not it was actual theft of intellectual property. It is also a story of a fairly austistic human who struggles mightily to understand the nuances of nonverbal and emotional reactions in his interactions. Justin Timberlake is a wonderful version of the sleazy Napster co-founder, Sean Parker. Pay attention to Rooney Mara- the first girlfriend- because she will be the American version of Lizbeth Salander soon. Flashback movies are often annoying. Sometimes they border on incomprehensible. But a writer like Sorkin doesn't have those problems. And this film is virtually flawless. There are no boring moments, no confusion about the characters, and it is written so that each character has enough time for the audience to identify with them. It's a rare film, indeed, that can do these things. This will wind up being the best movie of the year.
And as an aside, Mark Zuckerberg was a phenomenal child prodigy- his parents had special tutors for him to help him learn how to properly write code. It is an example of parents being able to recognize a gift in a child. For all we know, they took him to a shrink all those years, too, hoping to socialize him. Maybe that's a story for another time.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Town

The movie is about a gang of 4 criminals (some not so petty, but some related to one another) who have been together a long time and live in Charlestown, MA. You won't recognize everyone in this film, but you will recognize Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner- who could be called Stretch and Stubby. Renner seems to get shorter and shorter as the movie progresses. It's like he's shrinking. Hamm plays the FBI head as Don Draperish as he can- which is too bad. He should be more versatile. The gang gets together for a major heist even though they know the FBI is on to them. I have to say, it is a really good movie- there is palpable tension and best of all, the chase scenes are well-timed and worth watching. Regular Flickerchick followers (and I do love you) know how much I hate lengthy and ridiculous car chases or ski chases or boat chases. They waste time and hurt the pace of the film. But finally a movie has it right. I liked this movie much more than I thought I would. I do highly recommend it if you like just enough shooting, just enough car chases and just enough plot. I felt like the baby bear- it was just right.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The American

Lord help us all. George Clooney is going to have to learn to work a little harder. This morose and boring film indulges itself and its star at every point. It's chock full of Italians because it really takes place in Italy. You just aren't going to believe half-no, make that MOST, of it. If you can ever figure out what it is really about. The first twenty minutes are your cue that you might want to go to another theatre and slip into another film, because the movie does NOT get better. Clooney must have thought this slow and deliberate crap (sans explanation of any motive or real plot) would escalate him into the rank of artsy. Instead, you sit for almost two hours wishing you had one of his guns and you could put a few holes in the screen before you scream you've had enough. I want my money back. And I might write Mr Clooney at his environmentally friendly villa (sarcasm here) on Lake Como and ask for him to send me $18. OH yeah, plus popcorn, so $116. You get to see another side of Italy, but it's kind of same old same old. You will be asked to believe that no one is on the streets of the small towns in Italy where police seem not to really notice the bodies around, and you will be asked to believe that an incredibly gorgeous young woman could be a two bit hooker because no one will have her. Jeez louise. Tedious. Awful. Period. I am giving it no stars because Clooney is too experienced to pull this mess on us.

Get Low

Robert Duvall has a curmudgeonly turn as a rustic recluse (think Boo Radley) with a reputation for being a dangerous and crazy sort. He wants his funeral done before he dies so he can hear the stories about him. He harbors a secret about his first love. The movie builds and builds until the truth outs- but unfortunately, it's a real let down. This is the part where YOU get low. But, up until that point, there is a well acted, well directed charm about this movie. Just don't expect a decent ending. Sissy Spacek does her part as the sister of the first love. Bill Murray is always believable as a low key funeral director who seems capable of bad behavior at any moment. I'd say you should see if it you can, and definitely rent it at some point. It manages to be interesting without being overwrought.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Switch

I'll tell you what got switched- Aniston's old nose for a new one. In profile, she has hardly any nose left. It makes her look even odder. (Just so you are prepared for that if you go see this film.) On the upside, Juliette Lewis looks like she's taken a bath recently. Enough of that. Jason Bateman plays an inexplicably inarticulate Wall Street guy who still loves former girlfriend and current bestfriend Aniston. Aniston wants a baby but has no baby daddy in sight, so she picks a sperm donor. Bateman switches his you know what for the you know what in the cup. Aniston uses the you know what in the cup and has his baby, yada yada and the rest of the movie shows how alike the baby is to his daddy and how ..oh never mind. You don't want to go see this obvious and trite movie. Neither character makes any sense. The story is ridiculous. And the only good point is the way the little boy actor (Thomas Robinson) poignantly shows how a child really does want and need a dad- even if that dad isn't so hot. Maybe this movie will finally kill Aniston's career and we can be done with it. Oh dear, I must need something to drink.

Eat, Pray, Love

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. oh, excuse me, just the title now triggers some automatic response.
This movie could not get any more boring. The scenery is lovely. But lawdy, it is a snoozer. First of all, I do not find any part of Julia Roberts (below her eyes) to be interesting or pretty. I find most of the time she is onscreen I am trying to figure out what people see in her. This script is flat and dead. No one is interesting. Everything feels superficial. And she runs from Rome to India to Bali with no real feeling that any of them mattered. And it goes on FOREVER. On the upside, you will be spared a trip to any of those places. On the downside, it will feel as if you went and stayed for months. Just not worth it.

The Kids Are All RIght

As I was leaving the theater, I was trying to pick one word for this movie- and I think it is "authentic". Two lesbians (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) are raising two kids who go find their sperm donor. Which, to me, any child would want to do. The need for identity is very strong, even if the guy is a disappointment in the end. In a hetero film, the sex scenes are often erotic. For some reason, the sex scenes in this are almost laughable. I am unsure as to whether or not that was deliberate. Mark Ruffalo, the donor, acts like a scruffy loser with a barrell of excuses in his arsenal. Yet he owns a successful restaurant- so he must have something going for himself. Bening looks 65. She really seems to not care, and maybe that's a good thing. Maybe she is the only actress in Hollywood who believes in using her face in her acting roles. The film is graphic in spots, certainly not for kids under 16(?) because otherwise it'd just be creepy. Is it worth the monumental reviews it got? I don't think so. It is a little preachy, talky in spots. But it is worth the price of admission. If you have missed it, be sure to rent it. I didn't find it funny at all. So I'll call it a drama because whenever two women live together, there is drama.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Angelina Jolie is Evelyn Salt- cia agent, possible spy, kickass fighter and loving wife. The whole movie is a "is she or isn't she" sort of thing punctuated by relentless chases and running. Funny thing is that what annoyed me SO MUCH in Inception, was rather entertaining in SALT. Just one fight after another. Perhaps because it was unnecessary in Inception, and very necessary in a spy movie like this. Jolie is a bucket of miscellaneous adjectives, but the first on the list is skinny. Really, really skinny. She is also rather adept at staying in character because you actually believe that one day you'll find out that she is really working for the CIA in real life. I liked this movie and I wasn't prepared for that. I went in with bias. I'd read a few reviews that hated it-as in , skip it. But in the end, I thought it was just lightweight, fluffy, predictable and fun. Go figure.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Ah, this is a tricky one. The good or the bad first? Okay- the good. The premise is brilliant-don't think of this as a heist film- it's a dream fim. I went in not expecting much because the guy who directed Memento did this. But it's also the guy who did The Dark Knight. I hated Memento (so many holes in the story) and loved The Dark Knight. The idea of levels of dreams and being in the world invented by someone's mind and the concept of perceived versus real time alterations, etc,- all very intriguing and thought provoking. The idea of being able to plant ideas by using dream manipulation- well, scifi aside, it works. If you can relax and enjoy the ride, it will all make sense in the end. That part of the story ALONE would have been enough. The movie does drag on for 2.5 hrs and why? I'm gonna tell you. Because 20 minutes is wasted on unnecessary murder. I love a good cinematic shoot em up as much as the next person. But here, it got to the point that the useless gun fighting just wore me down. I mean it WORE ME DOWN. I finally just shut my eyes and waited for the noise to end. Then I'd go, ahhhhh that's over for 4 minutes. There was no point in beating up the audience with a lot of unnecessary, time eating, plot killing gun action. The film would have been brilliantly inventive without it. The acting by everyone is great- with one exception. Ellen Page. She needs to get a facial expression. No kidding. She is in the company of MASTERS in this film- DiCaprio, Watanabe, Caine, Cotillard, Berenger, Gordon-Levitt and the creepy Cillian Murphy. Page is so boring to watch- she's like a 13 year old in history class looking out at the playground. She could not hold up to what was around her. (Michael Cera is NOT Michael Caine). So in short, it is totally worth seeing, take a little more thought than most people go to the movies to do, and is absolutely STUNNING in its visuals. It's a great premise, a great story, well filmed and well acted. But the negatives are the wasted time in gun battles and watching Ellen Page struggle. Have fun!

Despicable Me

Awwww, come on. It's adorable. Plenty of humor for the adults and the use of the word "fart" for the kids and adults who act like them. A diabolical genius who wants to steal the moon uses 3 little orphan girls as pawns in his scheme but falls in love with being their dad. It's funny and cute and sweet and, in some places, very sharp. Steve Carell, Jason Segel and Russell Brand all do great voice work here without sounding like themselves. The animation is fun (3D) and there is not moment of great angst. We particularly loved the interation between Gru (Carell) and his mother. Gentle fun. Go see it.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If you haven't read the book by slogging through the first two or three chapters of character after character, then the Cliff note's feelings of this movie might confuse you. It doesn't follow the book in all of the plot and it certainly doesn't have the back story or political insight of the Swedish system of "ward of the state" and socialist politics that the book gives. But it is close enough. In fact, if you saw the movie first, the book would unfold more easily. Yet, the book is better. It's a whodunnit murder mystery sort of story with a lot of sub plot that a movie reviewer cannot cover. But it is fun to see the book put to life and to see how the very intricate and damaged Lisbeth Salander is portrayed. See the movie AND read the book. The movie really gives you an idea of what the physical and mental state of these characters are.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Toy Story 3

Back to the world of Woody and Buzz Lightyear. And what a wonderfully sweet world it is. When Toy Story 1 came out, I gave it the best review I'd ever given a film- with good cause. The Toy Story franchise is so perfect for kids and adults. I cannot imagine not liking this film. It is funny and probably very exciting for little kids. Of course it has a good ending, but it has a great beginning and middle, too. The animation is clean and colorful and the story line is energetic. After such pap as "UP", it's nice to have a story that sticks to the premise and doesn't take you on a preachy and disjointed plot addition. It is seamless. Don't miss it.

Get Him to the Greek

I thought this movie was very, very funny. I'd like to say it was the magnificent acting, but really, I think only Russell Brand was great. It was,however, the group of actors assembled- particularly using P Diddy as a rock promoter. It was gross and silly and rude and hilarious all at once. I can see how some people wouldn't like it at all. But I laughed out loud about every 5 minutes. It's Jonah Hill's (the nebbish underling) job to get Russell Brand (the rock star) to the Greek theater in LA for a revival of Brand's rock career. The movie is a recounting of how that happens. I would say that if you liked movies like Superbad, well, this is better. So, on a rainy day, if it is still playing, go see it.

Solitary Man

Michael Douglas plays a 60 something year old car dealership(s) owner who is a liar, a womanizer, and basically a man of little character who is divorced and trying to start over after a stint in the pokey for deceptive practice (I think that was the charge- it was murky). His ex-wife, Susan Sarandon, got to keep the gorgeous NYC apartment, and she has moved on with a stellar career in real estate. His daughter, the dead pan Jenna Fischer, tries to have a non-co-dependent relationship with her father while trying to balance her marriage with her father's needs. Douglas plays the role with a level of mindless creepiness that keeps the audience at arm's length. Everyone is believable. Douglas and Fischer are perfectly cast. Anyone could have done the Sarandon role. I liked this film. It isn't a big movie, but it is a very interesting one.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Iron Man II

Okay, I'll get it over with. Paltrow is as nasal and flat and boring in this as she was in the first. Scarlet Johansson is almost as bad but she gets to run around in a cat suit, so that at least distracts you from her wooden acting. There, I'm done. The rest of the movie is great. If you liked the first one, you will like the second one. I found the film predictable except for the fact that the final battle scene (oh come on, you know there's one) seemed really SHORT- I kept waiting for Mickey Rourke to pop back up. Robert Downey Jr is really great- he's familiar with the material. Rourke is always going to play a perfect villain. The special effects are perfect. Aw- just go see it because there was not one curse word, no graphic sex (just some unfortunate, chemistry lacking kisses between Paltrow and Downey), and only one hanging. So, have fun!


This documentary follows a baby from Japan, the USA, Mongolia and Namibia from birth until they begin to walk. It is exactly as you would think. The baby in Namibia is raised by tribal women, wears no diapers ever, teeths on an old animal bone, is filthy except when his mom spits on him, and is treated like just another kid by the sibs. The baby in Mongolia is tied to a bed when the mother is outside, is allowed to run free with goats and cattle, and is brought home on a motocycle. The baby in Japan is doted upon (even though it is a girl) and is set up for academic work by the age of 1. The San Francico kid is smothered by a boring mother whose reaction is always a sense of ridiculous calm- and when hit in the face, pulls out a book called "no hitting", has her kid in a group where they sing about mother earth while the kid tries to escape (probably wishing she LIVED on the earth like the Mongolian kid), and of course, despite her hippie parents she is surrounded by plastic toys and expensive, unnecessary strollers. It is obvious which babies will grow up to be calm and happy (Namibia and especially Mongolia) and which baby will be pushed (Tokyo) and which will run away at 16 (san Fran). This would be a great film for a pregnant mom to see- it does show how babies are made to survive. And a little dirt doesn't kill them- well, not usually.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

From beginning to end, this film is part of the continual evolution of animation- and it is incredible. Some of the scenic animation is so good that it is hard to believe it is not actual footage of water or land. The scenes on the ocean are fantastic. The flight sequences put you right in the picture. I almost felt the wind on my face. (that would have been a nice touch!) The story tells a tale of a boy who, by giving an animal (dragon) a chance, begins to understand the creature. It's a story of war and peace and father and son, in a good way. The girls are strong characters, too. The score is lovely. Fortunately, the voice actors are not so iconic that their voices distract. I truly found nothing to criticize in this film. It is a much better film than UP because it doesn't go into sappy, distracting story lines that are preachy (the end of UP was inexplicable)- it simply tells a story that is a fairy tale. And it is so likeable that even the little kids in the movie are quiet and mesmerized. The 3D is done very well- no headaches reported. I do foresee a time where 3D may have run its course- but not for animation. I think it is here to stay, and it is just a matter of time until you have to order your own custom 3D glasses to your prescription. I am giving it 4 stars. It deserves it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Oh dear. There was a premise here that borrowed from quite a few other films (Peggy Sue, Back to the Future, etc)- and while there is no actual crime in that, even in making a "guy gross out bonding film", there have to be limits. Gross can be funny, and it can also be stupid. This movie is inexcusably stupid. Even the 80s parody part of it is so off the mark- and could have been at least entertaining, but wasn't. I didn't expect anymore from this than I did back when I reviewed "The Ladies Man" for the old website. But I'd sit though The Ladies Man twenty times before I would even watch the opening sequence of this ridiculous movie again. This will not be a cult favorite. There is not one endearing moment in it that would make you be interested in these characters. It is just plain awful. The high point- hearing "Talk Dirty to Me" on the soundtrack. The low point- everything else.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

It's not exactly Alice in Wonderland. But it is a wonderland of special effects and familiar characters. But it is not comical. Not for a moment. There is no warm or fanciful charm. And since it is never cartoonish but rather very realistic, it is not really for smaller children. It's the movie you'd wish they'd made in 1970. If you don't like Tim Burton's bizarre visions and interpretive tales, then you will HATE this movie. But if you have a soft spot for Burton and his willingness to twist and turn and darken all he sees, then you will find it a little joy ride. The most peculiar part of this film is the casting of Mia Wasikowska as Alice- she is as bland and engaging as a water cracker. Such effort wasted on so much vagueness. But Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and others are excellent at what they have come to do. The 3D was well done- unlike the headaches many people got in Avatar. There was no visual lag to interfere with the story. If Burton is your cup of tea, then have a seat with the Mad Hatter. And as usual, enjoy Danny Elfman's score.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Shutter Island

DiCaprio, Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow, Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer--7 reasons to see this movie. Everyone gives a flawless performance. DiCaprio plays a federal marshall sent to investigate the goings on at a mental hospital for the criminally insane on an island off Boston. Martin Scorsese directs it with a dark undercurrent and does keep it moving along amidst great scenery. Plenty of clues are dropped along the way. And there are actually TWO twists in this movie- one is about 20 minutes from the end when you find out what is really going on. The other is in the last two minutes- where you find out that some memories are better off lost forever. That's all I can say. Great cast, great director, great setting and costuming, and a good script. The only misstep was the music- unnecessarily morose and foreboding in spots where it wasn't needed. In the first scene, the music was so heavy handed that I said a silent prayer that it would stop. It was only intermittent, but Scorsese should have seen that the music didn't call attention to itself in an otherwise wonderful film. See it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Last Station

This is about the events leading up to the 82 year old Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer looking older than dirt) deserting his wife (Helen Mirren) and wealth to start a new life of asceticism. Tolstoy has a complicated brilliance- he begins as an author of very popular literature and becomes involved in pacifism and non-violence. Over time, he becomes something of a hypocrite as he preaches against wealth, but lives as a rich man-which causes him intense guilt. Yet, he is a Christ figure to his followers. They are devoted to him. With time, his wife becomes aware of the dangers of having an idol as a husband. Mirren plays Sophia Tolstoy as a hysteric- but with good cause. Someone IS trying to take her family's fortune away. James McAvoy plays Tolstoy's secretary, Bulgakov. As usual, he is incredibly good. Paul Giammati plays Chertkov, the leader of the Tolstoyans. The cast is so good that the poor editing in the film is barely noticeable. But not quite. There are a couple of scenes that seem to come out of nowhere- as if a logical transition would have been impossible. It's emphasis on the hysterical Mirren seems to go on too long. We GET it. But it is certainly worth a trip to the movies-if for no other reason than to see something about a man who influenced people like Martin Luther King on the value of non-violent resistance. I didn't know what to expect when I bought my ticket, and I was very pleasantly surprised. Plan to stay through the final credits since original film of Tolstoy is shown.

Percy Jackson &The Olympians:The Lightning Thief

Okay- I am going to try to be fair. I never heard of this book series. Strike one. I am not between the ages of 9 and 13. Strike two. I cannot help but compare it to Harry Potter. Strike three. Percy is the son of Poseiden- thus explaining his love of sitting at the bottom of the pool. Someone has stolen Zeus's lightning bolt. The daughter of Athena and the satyr, Grover, go with Percy on the mission to find the bolt- where they run into hellfire and brimstone, Medusa, etc. So this is the fair part- IF you have a kid between 9-13 who doesn't scare easily and who is smart enough to be interested in mythology, this is a terrific film. It does have some adult humor but the kids won't get it. The special effects are a tad dated, but still scary enough. The movie is so simple that most kids wouldn't even ask you to explain anything. I give it two and a half stars because, well, in the words of the flickerchick: "It is what it is."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Hurt Locker

I saw The Hurt Locker but didn't review it. Sorry! But since it is up for an Academy Award, I will do a 1 minute summary. The main character, played by Jeremy Renner, works on the bomb squad in Iraq. What the audience quickly learns is that if you work the bomb squad, you have to assume you are going to die. And once you come to terms with that, then stop and enjoy the adrenalin rush of knowing each time could be your last. And with that acceptance comes a casual courage that ordinary people can't fathom. And the worst thing might be having to go home - because painting a fence isn't the same as cutting a red or green wire in a 100 pound suit. I thought this was great movie. It creates tension but not so much that you can't enjoy it. The performances were amazing. There wasn't too much anti-American sentiment as you usually find in Hollywood. SO, if you haven't seen it, definitely rent it.

Crazy Heart

I am not the first to observe that this movie is what The Wrestler wanted to be- but The Wrestler was too brutal to accomplish the feelings that this film leaves the viewer with. It is a story of an aging, alcoholic singer (Bad Blake played by Jeff Bridges) who never shows up late to a gig, even if it is at a bowling alley. He resents the success of a protoge (oddly well played by Colin Farrell), though in his heart he knows that drinking has killed his career. And with a sweetness at his core, he falls in love with women. When he falls for a local reporter at a gig, played by the hangdog and miscast Maggie Gyllenhaal, he convinces himself that he can be a success as a husband and stepfather. He does well, and almost makes it, except for what alcohol does to his judgment. Bridges is wonderful- one believes that he is capable of loving and being loved. He comes through the film and (at least for now) grows into the man he could have been all along. This film isn't really about music- it's about alcoholism. The music is great and the acting is great. The weak link is Gyllenhaal- this is a role that someone like Maura Tierney could have done- but Gyllenhaal's droopy and plain face doesn't inspire any emotion for her, and to make that character work- you'd have to believe this woman was a little wild with passion and distraction. No one in their right mind lets their kid be babysat by a late middle aged raging alcoholic! This film was a great character study and was very believable. I give it 4 stars.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Up In The Air

George Clooney works his way rather effortlessly through this little morality tale of a man who makes a living traveling all over the country doing what the weak bosses cannot do- fire people. He is a man who finds his home in the constancy of a hotel chain- to the point that his own apartment looks like a room that has just been checked out of. He has travel down to an art- a comfortable art where he is greeted and treated as a VIP- due to his amazing accumulation of miles. He has an even life- one of work and travel with the occasional hook up. And he likes it. There is no conflict. When his comfort is challenged by a young hire who want to do the firing via teleconferences rather than travel, he wants to prove to her that there is more than a script involved in firing unsuspecting employees. When he enters into a relationhship with an aggressive fellow traveler, he almost slides into another reality. If you think hard enough about the movie, you can find some irony in most of it. The acting is superb. And I really liked this film- I'd overanalyze it though because it is actually a story with 3 subplots that involve other kinds of firing. It is like a very good short story- it gets the audience to FEEL for the people in it. There is no real high drama, and the plot twists aren't much of a surprise, but the cast does so much with it that you don't notice those things. GO see it. (Just don't pay attention to Clooney's new teeth and botox- I don't mind the botox, but those new choppers keep him from looking like George Clooney. I will grudgingly admit he looks better. But hey- I guess it's his job to look good, so go with the new).