Friday, December 21, 2012

This is 40

Well,"This is 40" could be called a number of things. I suggest "This is Depressing", "This Couple is Awful" or maybe "This is Not That Funny".  We were really looking forward to this movie- which is branded a "comedy" and is supposed to be about the mid-life crises that arise. The previews showed a couple who approached it with humor, or at least togetherness. Oh no- don't go down that path. There are serious control issues, serious abandonment issues, a jillion plot contrivances, immaturity, communication problems - and in fact, a total disbelief that these two (Paul Rudd and the director Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann) would even be together for more than ten minutes on a blind date. The talent tries their best to make it work- Rudd, Mann, the child actors, Lithgow and a really pathetic role for Albert Brooks- and the trying is very obvious. The key problem is the script- it is just all OVER the place. There is no depth- and even a comedy needs a real premise and some depth. Not here. The only role that is believable is Megan Fox as an "escort" with no brains. That I believe. There is almost ugliness in the way people treat one another. And that only makes the audience squirm. Sure- it is funny in parts, but that isn't enough to save the movie. Stay for the final credits for a few minutes to watch Melissa McCarthy adlib a scene in the movie - too bad there wasn't more of her in this.  I'd prefer not to give it 2 stars, but well, maybe nasty arguments and ridiculous kiss and makeups over and over are somebody's cup of tea.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Hobbit (3D 48 fps)

Well, I can't much criticize the storyline, though some things have been added that were not in the book but rather in Tolkein's notes after the book was written. If you haven't read it, now would be a good time so you know who everyone is. I will caution parents that it is certainly scary and gory with very graphic beheadings and mutilations and, of course, Golum. Even Gandalf has some scary moments. So I'd say, a savvy 8 year old might make it through without nightmares. Now on to the rest- IF you see this in 3D, it will damn near do you in. First of all, the depth of field of the film feels BEHIND the actors. There is a hyperrealism to the faces that is strange and feels too close for comfort. There is a blurriness to the action and sometimes the action outruns the 3D effect- thus producing momentary fuzz around a face or character- stuff you just don't see in most 3D movies. I was driven to the optical brink and actually had an eye strain headache the next day. That said, I'd say try it yourself and see. Maybe we all need to get custom made 3D glasses rather than those glossy, glarey 3D movie pass outs.  The movie is also stunningly long- with battle scene after battle scene against goblins and dwarves, etc.  The hyperrealism didn't make it seem scarier - just weirder. Almost video game cartoonish.  If it weren't so long, I'd sit through it again without the 3D and see if it was better. I know, a lot of criticism of the technology doesn't tell you much about the book. This is NOT Lord of the Rings- which was a beautiful epic. I have no idea why Hollyweird goes and spits on their own cake like this- audiences proved that the original technique was well liked. It will be interesting to see how others feel about this. Most of the time, the film editor is the director's best friend. Should you see it? Well, two more are coming out and maybe they'll do a better job, so yeah, I guess so. But people want the illusion and they don't want a visual distraction to keep interupting it. Sigh.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Killing Them Softly

Well, let's just say that Brad Pitt owes me money. This movie is no fun at all. The stylized, graphic to the point of disgusting, plot eating gun violence and beatings are so overwhelming that you expect Quentin Tarantino to show up with a $5 milkshake in his hands.  There is plenty of talking between the scenes of raw violence- PLENTY.  yak yak yak. The first 20 minutes you think, well, this must be an art film because everybody is TALKING my ear off.  Then when the body count brutally adds up, well, you think this must be a sort of twisted art film. Obviously, "art film" means a bunch of pretentious reviewers are going to tell you to go see it. I say punish them all for making this crap. Last time I was roped in by star power, it was Clooney in "the American"- one of the worst movies ever made. Yet the reviews were fawning. Aside from Pitt looking like he is trying too hard to be a real character, there is also the city of New Orleans (post katrina) as a backdrop. He does the city no favors with constant police sirens and casual crime that no one cares about- including a random shooting that isn't part of the plot. It is actually shameful how he depicts his adopted city. This genre is dead and no one told the producers and directors- and I will never go to another one like it. Don't go see it. It is a rip off of your time and money. Hey Pitt- gimme back my money.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


You  know how there is always a Bond girl? I say that the Bond girl of this film is M. She has a special relationship with Bond. And as an homage to her, this film brings back nostalgic pieces of Bond-ism. This intricate dance of emotional time is acted by the combo Daniel Craig/Judi Dench. There is the usual chase at the beginning of the film, then the usual mission impossible scenario or two- but the story is Bond/M.  M proves that she, too, can fight even in her dotage.  There are complaints that this one is too easy and too without gadgets and special spy doodads- I would say that is the charm of this one.  Finally, Bond is not just playing poker in Monte Carlo and sleeping with anatomically named women.  Here we meet James Bond, and we also meet M- the people inhabiting the bodies. I really liked it.


Daniel Day Lewis channels Lincoln in the time leading up to the end of the Civil War and to his inevitable end. Speilberg directs and finally doesn't screw it up with some ridiculous plot twist because he CAN'T- heh, we all know where this story is headed. If you've read some Lincoln biographies, you know a lot about Lincoln. Of course, you might not know that Lincoln really loved a different woman and settled for crazy Mary Todd, or that Lincoln was severely depressed and struggled to stay mentally afloat. Not much is mentioned about Lincoln initially supporting only the end of slavery in new states- but I digress. Fact is, Lincoln did his best. Had he not succeeded in keeping the union together, well, who knows. The fact that he (well not HIM exactly) went on to fight a war that killed 62,000- that must have weighed heavily on his shoulders- and it should have.  The north benefitted mightily from slavery while pretending not to notice where their food and cotton came from. I digress again.  Certainly, the viewer will learn that Congress has always been composed of verbose and insulting people. Why stop it now? See it- of course. But you shouldn't let Hollywood tell you a story you should all ready know.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Whip Whitaker (yes, you heard me) (played by Denzel W) is a pilot with problems. First off, he's had a bad day after a hard night because his plane almost blows up, and he does a miraculous job of landing it and not killing most of the souls onboard. (as an aside, I love the airline industry for referring to passengers as souls). Anyhoo, we know Whip likes the sweet nectar and the booger sugar because the film opens with him partaking. He's also partaking one of the female flight attendants, and that is important later on- so pay attention.  After the crash, we see the incredible disintegration of an alcoholic- we are given flashes into his sadly destroyed personal life and his inability to give up the demons.  It is a painful and sorrowful film in so many ways- a cautionary tale that is really not far from the slow slide into alcoholism that becomes a full blown disaster for some. Denzel Washington does such a good job in every role he plays- and I love that Don Cheadle was cast in a role that the director said "get me a Don Cheadle type" and they went out and got the real Don Cheadle. Nice. John Goodman plays the aging hippie drug supplier in what is such a throwaway parody of some of his other work that it seems unnecessary.  The airplane footage is so realistic that it makes you sort of queasy.  This is a very, very, very good movie. It's not about the airplane though. It's about the sad desperation of alcoholism.

Wreck It Ralph 3D

This animated 3D color explosion is about a vintage (can I use that word for 20 years ago?) video game character named Wreck It Ralph. Because he wrecks things. In a computer game. What is really fun is the cast of characters because they are familiar to anyone 25 or older and the parents who put the quarters on the console for anyone who is 25 or older. Even one of the pac man  ghosts is cutely portrayed.  Ralph gets tired of being excluded from the after hours socializing of his video game folks, and he goes on a video-gameland adventure. This movie wouldn't be nostalgic for kids, but they won't care. The WORST and I mean the ABSOLUTE WORST thing about it is the continually IRRITATING voice work of Sarah Silverman as Vanellope von Schweetz-  a little outcast character who runs the entire second half of the movie. It is so FAKE-and so contrived and so annoying. There are so many talented kids in Hollywood who do voice work- why some idiot chose to have the cloying little girl version of Sarah Silverman, I do not know. (I can guess but that's an adult topic).  I'd assume little kids would be even more irritated by it because they've never heard a kid talk like that! But aside from that problem, this is a cute and fun film.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Seven Psychopaths

Now, see here all you folk who think I am unnecessarily rough on movies that score well on the tomatometer- Seven Psychopaths is one percentage point higher than that mess The Master, and this will be a very, very, very good review. So relax.  I loved this movie- saw it with about 12 other people at one of the first showings. EVERYONE laughed. Some people (to my dismay) talked back to the screen. But that's a good sign usually. Take a dog napper, a serial killer, a couple of crazy people, a cute dog and a whole lot of graphic carnage (to the point of cartoonish feeling) and mix it with a snappy little script and familiarly fun actors, and voila!, a great little violent movie. It was so gruesome in parts that the audience gasped and laughed. No kidding. Me, too. Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken- do you need to know more? Colin Farrell is a screenwriter, too- even that feels like a suspension of belief of some sort. Why a movie this violent and bloody and full of knives and guns should be so funny, well, I don't know. Maybe a psychologist could explain that. I'm not a horror film fan- at all. I can't even sit still for Dexter. BUT I'd go see this one again. Don't go if you hate blood and much worse- because it is very visual. Otherwise- have a great time!

The Master

Oh dear goddess of the never ending film- did you really need to add another one to the world? And yet, you did.  Never has such a good cast been put in such a disaster- well, okay, maybe I exaggerate. This tedious mess got an 85% on the tomatometer- because it is pretentious and talky and has a director with a reputation for great movies. It shows you how pretentious and talky some reviewers are. This is not a great movie, and because it is heavy handed, it isn't even a good movie. A movie with 85% on the tomatometer (, and a cast that is well known, should make MILLIONS of dollars, but word of mouth and social media can kill a bad film and it looks like this one has been shelved by the people who have spread the word. It is supposed to be a movie based on Scientology- that's how it got people to the theater to begin with. Don't go. Wait for it on cable or something.  Ugh.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Argo does something that is almost impossible- it makes a nail biter out of an incident where the viewer knows the outcome. The setting is the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, when Carter was slogging through a relatively miserable presidency. Iranian militants stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and (unlike the muderous folk today) took every one in it hostage. Initially top secret, 6 people escaped to the Canadian embassy.  That led to the messy problem of how to get them out of Iran and back home-from a country where Americans are reviled and easily lynched by the populace at large. Of course, since they GET home, we know it is all going to be okay before we even sit down. That alone makes it worth seeing.  The CIA helps the Canadian government. I'd tell you more, but that would be everything and you wouldn't need to see it! Point to be taken- this is BASED on a true story. As usual in Hollywood, it isn't what exactly happened. You'll have to do your own research for that!

Friday, October 5, 2012


I'm not sure WHO thinks this is a family film, but I heartily disagree and I'll let the dog out of the bag and tell you right now that I cried (genuine tears) twice in this stop-motion animated movie. Why? Shhh- because the kid's dog get killed by a car. Of course, using Frankensteinian science (lightning bolts just like the original movie), he resurrects his beloved dog. And in the end, you'll cry again. If you have ever loved a pet, well, even in stop-animation it is tough to watch a beloved pet die. Then there are tons of scary images in 3D- rats, dinosaurs, creepy kids. So, think twice before bringing the tiny set. They can go see Nemo. That said, Danny Elfman did the music, Tim Burton did the story, and that ought to tell you what to expect. If you have seen the classics horror films, you will recognize the lisp of Boris Karloff, the smirk of Peter Lorre, and the monsters from such wonders as Godzilla and Gremlins.  Even the poodle gets in a little Elsa Lanchester. It was fun to see the homage to the original Frankenstein with Karloff.  It was a very touching film, very sweet, with adorably clueless parents and a kind and loving child. As an adult, it is certainly worth seeing. For kids- well, it depends on how sensitive your child is.  The stop animation is great- and the 3D is almost seamless.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


It is 2044, the world looks like crap because it ALWAYS does in futuristic films. The premise is that time travel has finally arrived- criminals from the future are rounded up, sent back in time travel to 2044 to a specific location where a looper await. The Looper blasts them immediately, hauls them off to a firepit somewhere and then gets paid. The criminal comes complete with silver ingots taped to their body and that is the payment for the Looper. Trouble is, at some point, the final victim arrives and has gold ingots taped to their back. This means the Looper is done, and retires for 30 years on his bounty, and then one day, he is sent back to  the past to be murdered himself. Why? Well, who knows. Some evil guy is in the future and he is ending the loopers loops early. And the word gets out. Oh, I'll quit now. But it was AWESOME. I've seen Die Hard more than I've seen any other movie. BRUUUUUCE! It's all sort of mundane until BRUUUUCE arrives and starts shooting. Like most science fiction movies, there must be a suspension of truth in your mind. Forget what you know about what can and cannot be done. Just sit back and watch BRUUUCE! Endings almost NEVER surprise me, but you know what?- this one really ended the way most movies should- with a surprise and a bang. I have got to say the ending alone added another star.  I'd highly suggest you read a summary somewhere that does not include the ending, mostly so you understand the premise. Maybe this was enough. Don't spoil the ending for yourself!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This is a film version of the YA epistolary novel of the same name written by Stephen Chbosky. In fact, Chbosky is so protective of his material that he directs the film also. The wallflower in question is a high school freshman named Charlie, who writes "letters" to an anonymous friend that are narrated in the film and explain some of the events. Without them, the film would be hard to follow. The cast is stellar- with Emma Watson really proving she was absolutely the best actor in the Harry Potter series for a reason.  Charlie fears his freshman year until he falls into a group of quirky seniors. It's the early 1990's and the dialogue and jokes and music are faithful to the age. It has a complex enough plot to keep you interested in all of them- and if it has a cop out ending, well, remember that it was a YA novel and YA novels love to bring in all sorts of issues that evidently must interest adolescents. It was very well written, very poignant and very funny in spots. Some of the dialogue is actually hilarious. I would say that a cynic would say "too predictable". But in a way, almost all movies are predictable. It's the content that counts and this movie is very, very good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hope Springs

This movie stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as an almost elderly couple who have been married for 31 years. They haven't had sex in 5 years or so and they never touch or even really talk.. They share nothing except a house- they don't even share a bedroom.  SO they go to an intensive marriage counseling week at a charming town in Maine (really Connecticut -but who cares) where the marriage counselor (Steve Carrell) helps them work through it. And for the love of all that is holy, it is the MOST DAMN BORING movie ever made. Seriously. It's like you've been there for those 5 years.  I kept wishing I had a remote to fast forward through the misery that is Tommy Lee Jones in this. And Meryl Streep plays a character who is about 62-and is digusted by sex, etc. Excuse me??? If she is around 62, she was in college in the late 60s- was she in a cave? a nunnery? a cult? Her character is such a boring woman. This movie was so unrealistic. And so many pauses. And so many stupid and contrived moments. Nothing about it was good but the lovely room they get at the Inn. I'm going to look that one up to see if it is real or just a set.  Otherwise, SKIP IT and don't even watch it on cable. EVER. I'll give it 1 star - I don't even know why.

Ruby Sparks

A writer (Paul Dano) suffers a severe case of writer's block after having published a blockbuster novel and having been proclaimed a "genius"- the kiss of death in creativity. The pressure freezes his brain. But his shrink suggests he do a specific writing exercise, and voila!- the woman he imagines is perfect and is his total creation- so of course, in she walks into his life. Really. Named Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan- Dano's real life girlfriend as well as the writer of the film), and everyone else can see her, too. Now there is a novel in the making.  Some people want to compare this to all the other films based on this idea- but I would prefer to simply say there is a charm and inventiveness to this film. Dano plays the reclusive and inept boyfriend with just the right intensity. Kazan is the appropriate level of charming and goofy- she's written herself a role full of opportunity.  Of course, the viewer can pull a lot of analysis into the characters- I found the ending to be a cop out- but it certainly is one of the best movies this year. I would hope Dano and Kazan win an award or two for what they accomplished.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Batman-The Dark Knight Rises

OH God. Please give me back the over 3 hours I sat through this movie. The villain mumbles, the hero lisps, Catwoman sleepwalks through her lines, ugh- so what if it has special effects and a lot of shooting and bombing and slicing. I'll be the brave critic-- it isn't that good. The script is confusing in spots, the storyline is weak and often nonsensical. There is a RULE I have for science fiction or fantasy- it doesn't have to be REAL, or even plausible, but it has to be true to its own reality. You can't suspend the plot logic just because you want to. (Harry Potter is a great example of being fantasy that is true to its own reality).  Ugh. What a shame that most reviewers won't tell you that this movie is really only for the die-hard batman fans. I've never like Christian Bale as Batman but compared to Michael Keaton- well, he does do a much better job.  I expected the darkness, and I expected the twists, but not the totally illogical actions. It was as if the editors realized the movie was getting damn long so they just snipped away without thinking of what it meant. Just as an example- if someone sticks a knife in your chest or belly and twists it for a few minutes and rips it around, even if you are Batman, you are going to be HURT badly. Sigh. I loved the Dark Knight- it was chilling and real. This is not. Why one star- well, with that budget and those special effects they owed us more.

Safety Not Guaranteed

From the same folks who brought you Little Miss Sunshine comes another quirky (and sometimes downright odd) indie type film.  It's about a bunch of bored reporters who have no real story but decide to follow up on an ad in their little paper- one asking for a companion to go along on a space time travel mission- and safety not guaranteed. Of course, the acting is spotty- especially the lead actress who should probably stay unknown. But the story is kind of touching - especially because the end is fun. I'll give it 2 1/2 stars because it is almost really good.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Katy Perry: Part of Me

Confession: I didn't really get Katy Perry- I thought she was just a concoction dreamed up by a record company to impress young girls and about 5 boys who might or might not grow up to be costume designers. She was too cutesy and too, well, nice.
Confession: I was SO wrong.

Look- she is really beloved by a lot of kids and teens. And this is a documentary made during her year long (and VERY exhausting) world tour. It is her first world tour- and she gives it her all. This is a smart, caring and decent woman. She isn't that young- she is 27 rapidly closing in on 28. But she is young in spirit and certainly in shape.  I was interested in her from the first frame to the last. She is a role model for anyone who has talent and a dream. And her personality made her influential friends along the way- especially the woman who got her to Capitol records.  When she marries Russell Brand, you feel the chill in your heart for her because you have the knowledge that hindsight gives. Near the end of her tour, when the exhaustion and the breakup have pulled her into a cave, if you are female, you cry with her. She is broken in the way that girls and women get when someone doesn't love them anymore.  She has tried so HARD to make it all perfect. I have a newfound and HUGE respect for her. Some critics have called this film manipulative and promotional- but it is a documentary after all. She isn't going to be the gross Ho that Madonna was (hey thanks Madonna for giving MY kid such a crap music role model).  Moms aren't going to wring their hands over I Kissed a Girl. They love her, too.
I wish everyone with a music ambition would watch this very carefully- particularly if you aren't as talented and driven as Perry. Because that is what it takes.


Okay- it is funny. The teddy bear a child gets for Christmas comes to life and grows older with his owner. He smokes dope, makes sexual gestures, and in general, is a rather dissolute sort of bear. His owner, Marky Mark, also does those things, but he has a long patient girlfriend waiting for her ring and time alone with him. Since Ted has no real moral compass, it isn't too long before he crosses the wrong boundary and gets thrown out. I'll stop there. This is NOT for kids. It is NOT for young teens. It is a full blown, somewhat hilarious, innuendoed and NOT so innuendoed, comedy.  I did not laugh as much as Alex did, but it's always a good sign when I pick a movie and he laughs more than I do.
It was destined to be funny anyway because, face it, what is funnier than a teddy bear with a bong?


Another Disney epic- this time about a Scottish princess who wants to do her own thing, which is basically not anything her mom wants her to do- like stand like a princess, eat like a princesss. Instead, Princess Merida is a crack archer, horseback rider, etc. It takes you through a celtic sort of romp involving an attack bear, some witches, and then some. It has a lot packed in it, and sometimes it seems a little lacking in direction. But the animation is gorgeous. Just beautiful. The story does have some scary parts for little kids- and so that might make it better seen on a small screen- but it has good music, good action, a female who is fearless- so just use your judgment. I liked it- but  I liked it visually way more than I liked the storyline.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rock of Ages

All those tight panty critics who give this 2 stars can suck it. I am going to give it FOUR stars- not just for some "rock ' n roll will stand" philosophy, but because it has sex, drugs (alcohol), rock and roll AND some 1987 rock songs that are somehow, someway connected to the very slight, very predictable and hilarious performed story line. Julianne Hough plays a perky new-to-Hollywood sort of modern Doris Day with stars in her eyes. She falls for the guy (somebody I never heard of but I guess they cast a nobody to play a nobody) who tries to save her from being robbed at the bus station (yep- the BUS STATION- that's 4 stars right there). Tom Cruise plays a raunchy aging rock star (4 MORE STARS!!!) and of course, there is  boozing, stripping, simulated sex acts, and- wait for it- a MONKEY like Michael Jackson had. WHAT more can a film do?? Of course it is silly- but adult silly. And you will be laughing at the likes of Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, and Paul Giammati. It is brilliant at what it sets out to do- parody, farce- you name it. But I smiled throughout. There is no sub-story. There is no pretense other than humor. I loved it, and I thought it was light and funny and exactly what I expected. Cruise is so good at playing Stacee Jaxx that he is worth the price of the ticket all by himself. So, if you don't want to see a sound track to 1987 with movie stars in it, then don't go. But I say, go have some fun- movies have become such a drag at times.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Madagascar 3

I saw the first 2 Madagascar films and I loved them. This one is no different. It moves along at a clip- I guess to keep the kiddos in their seats. The 3D is really fun- they make the best of it. The animals go through a big circus adventure on their way back to NYC (finally). Some of the lines are only for adults and the kids will NOT know why you are laughing (thank goodness). It is bright and colorful and keeps the little ones happy.  I really liked it. If you like animation intended for families, then this will be something not to miss in 3D.

Moonrise Kingdom

Well, there is good and bad news aside from the obvious that Anderson isn't using futura as his font. But on the good side- it is whimsical and fanciful and really is a fairy tale or sweet story he is telling. I have no IDEA why this is a good thing because in the end, the flat faced, monotoned performances by the lead children is enough to kill the audience.  You know how bad Matthew Weiner's kid is in Mad Men? Well, these kids are WORSE. Flat affects are one thing, but no personality at all gives the audience no sense of liking the kids we are supposed to be rooting for. Because it is Wes Anderson, it is so stylized that it feels phony. But if you saw the Royal Tennenbaums or The Life Aquatic (or even Rushmore), then you have to expect it. So you can't complain about it like I do. I'm the critic here. I had to see it.  But it was, in two words, charmingly boring. The script was full of one liners that are pretentious. It just tries too hard.  I think Anderson's best work was The Fantastic Mr Fox and nothing has happened to change that. Maybe I just can't suspend belief long enough to see this as anything other than self-indulgence. Sigh. But if you are a fan, it will not disappoint because it will be everything you expect.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Just before Warrant Officer Ridley goes about alien stomping, she must first have a reason to have stumbled upon them. Now, I could be wrong, but that is what this movie is all about. It takes place in 2093- which is a HUGE form of wishful thinking even if private space travel can get that far. And as in most Ridley Scott films, just don't bother getting attached to anyone or cheering on their behalf. Just saying. Right away, it's just a question of when- and frankly, not even how since most everyone knows going in here what most of the HOW will be. So sit back and enjoy the film. And you can, if you don't mind gross here and there, because it is HALF as scary as Alien or Aliens. And it actually is funny in parts- well, our audience laughed several times. And the best performance, hands down, is by Michael Fassbender. Fassbender, probably in an effort to make us forget he was in Shame, goes into excellent acting mode in the role of a humanized robot who models himself after Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia - probably to pass the time since for 2 years he(it) wanders about the ship while everyone else is in suspended animation. But you do believe this character- he is stiff and oddly detached. Fassbender is just wonderful in that role.  There are holes in the plot- BIG ones- but who cares- and frankly, you are watching fiction after all. The special effects are fantastic- and the 3D is seamless. In fact, unlike other 3D movies, you are unaware of it. That's good. You don't want guts in your face anyway. Now to the weak part- Charlize Theron. Period. She is wooden and her face looks plastic and unemotional- not in a "cool and calculating" way but in a "I'm sleepwalking" way. And she is far too young for the role. Maybe Tilda Swenson- she has cold bitch down.  But NOT Theron.  Anyhoo, have fun. It's a beautiful film with great detail and attention and the set design and special effects are fantastic.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Men In Black III

Ah, you might think "not this again". BUT you'd be wrong. This is by far the best of the franchise. Maybe the maturity of the actors, or the twist of humanity at the end, or the innovative use of Josh Brolin as the young Tommy Lee Jones- I don't know, but it is a much better and far more entertaining movie than its predecessors.  I really enjoyed it. The usual aliens lurk about. There is a villain and a hero- and it just when you think the end is predictable, it throws a sweet twist in. I do recommend it, and I would see it again. What a surprise!

The Dictator

I can't. I just can't. Awful. Just awful. It went for cheap laughs, the usual stupid pubic hair jokes and in general, if you can't see Sasha Baron Cohen laughing AT you for being in the theater, then I guess it would be the kind of movie you could enjoy.  Dumb and not a moment of creative energy. It just wasn't anything. No.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Avengers

I'm a nice person, really I am. Or I try. But I have to say RIGHT AWAY that  the director uses the two most boring actresses alive - Paltrow and Johansson- and then he runs out and grabs the third one- Cobie Smulders (the Canadian from How I Met Your Mother) and throws HER in the cast.  Are there really no other actresses to use in a movie this much fun?  Fortunately, Paltrow isn't on for long. Sigh of relief.
The actual film is really good- it is a lot of action and the action is flawless. I saw it in 3-D but I am not sure that makes a whole lot of difference. Maybe it was the smaller screen I saw it on- but I never felt like something flew over my head. And I'm pretty sure it was supposed to. The movie really is one big special effect. I doubt something will be better this year so it'll probably get an Oscar for that. It sort of feels like most of the lines are a set up rather than dialogue- but you didn't come for Shakespeare, did you? The set design, CGI, costuming, etc was all remarkable. The final action sequence is fantastic.
I give it 3 stars because I really enjoyed the guys and the action. Take it from there....

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Five Year Engagement

If you liked Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Muppet Movie, then run to buy a ticket because this is the same type of "it's all going to work out in the end" type of movie. Why? Because of Jason Segel, that's why. A wise man said that romantic comedies only work if you actually FEEL this couple is worth it. Now, I didn't. I thought Emily Blunt was woefully miscast- though she does act her heart out it just should be the heart that Jason Segel chooses. Segel may not be exceedingly handsome but to me, Blunt is not very attractive and certainly gives off no aura of sexual attractiveness at all. She is just bland and plain and not someone who, on the big screen, makes the audience believe that she is worth the pain she has handed out. The actual script is clever and believable. Segel is great- a real muppet of a man. But I felt the movie dragged because I couldn't understand why Segel would want to waste years of his life for her.  Sigh.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cabin in the Woods

Let's get this straight- this movie got a 93% on the tomatometer for a reason. Don't ruin it for yourself by looking up a synposis- just go with it. I will say this much- it is far more a science fiction film than it is a horror movie. I am not sure why it is in the horror genre. Five teen agers go to a cabin in the woods where there is no cell phone coverage, no landlines, no other people, etc. And there is murder afoot!
But this is not like any horror film you've ever seen. It is funny, has great special effects, etc. It has gore upon gore, zombies, evil scientists and scary moments. It has the overdone musical score, too.  It deserves a good rating from me mostly because it is inventive, well written and clever. Not something you often see.  Unlike the Scream series, it truly has something to think about at the end. If it were YOU, what would you do? I can't say much else because anything else would spill the guts, so to speak. By the way, my answer to that question is not the noble one.

American Reunion

They are all back. Every last one of them. And if you are a fan of this franchise, you could probably either write the script, or at least yell out the next scene from the audience. It's gross, funny, silly, immature and predictable. But it's the old gang, and there is something always fun about that. I liked it and so did the rest of the audience. There is no use giving the plot in any way- pointless. It's just the same jokes with the same people, and that's fine by me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hunger Games

I didn't read the books, so I can't tell you whether or not the plot is exact. BUT it's a great movie. A boy and a girl from each district of a formerly rebellious area have been chosen once a year for 74 years to compete in a fight to the death. The rebellious districts are starving as their punishment for the long ago offense. The "other world" is one of fanciful costumes and plentiful food. It's an adventure movie where you know from the start that most of the 24 kids will be dead by the end- yet, if possible, the violence is handled with a fair amount of discretion. It is still pretty violent even if it is only your mind creating the scene. It is well written, wonderfully acted and beautifully produced. It was about 15 minutes too long- but I can see why the editors couldn't let go of it.  The lead actress is Jennifer Lawrence- and if you didn't see her in Winter's Bone, then you might not recogize her- but she was nominated for an academy award for it (and you should see it also). I loved the costuming and set. It could be next year's awards season winners. The only problem I have is that now a million little girls will be named Katniss-though  it sounds better than Hermione.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

21 Jump Street

Of COURSE I went to see it. (I'm sure you had your doubts).  Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are former high school opposites who become cops and get sent undercover in a high school to find the drug dealing supplier of the drug du jour that has killed a local student. It proves to be a chance for them to relive their high school angst, or lack thereof, in a sort of role reversal. The cast of regulars is in it- if you've seen the other Jonah Hill coming of age "comedies" you will recognize almost all of them. And yes, they get paid for it. Is it a bad movie? Well, not if you know what to expect. For what it is- silly, over done, high school boy gross, etc, it is done fairly well. It is raunchy, a bit violent, vulgar and doesn't pretend to be anything else. Alex laughed more than I did, but I was entertained. So I'll hit the middle ground with 2 stars.  It is never ridiculously funny or horrifically gross.  I am sure I will enjoy the upcoming American Pie sequel more, but til then, this is okay.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Separation

This film won the academy award this year for best foreign film, and it is easy to see why. It was fascinating- because even if you didn't care for the plot or acting, it would be riveting just for the way it portrays modern Iranian society and its treatment of women, as well as how the legal system functions without lawyers but rather uses mediation style judges who hear evidence and pronounce the fate of the parties.  The title is misleading- it is not really about a separation of a married couple. That is merely the catalyst for the rest of the film. It is a film about all kinds of desperation and the results of that desperation. This film was made on a $500,000 budget, so it is fair to assume that nothing was done to manipulate the surroundings- the streets and housing of modern Tehran. To see modern shops and normal traffic and people going about their business (probably oblivious to the camera in their midst) is really interesting. We assume so much about modern Iran, and yet there it is on film with no pretense or manipulation.
If you haven't seen it, go see it. And for my sake, pay a lot of attention to the surroundings and the interpretations of Iranian law. I think we'd settle a lot more small cases in this country without lawyers, and this will make you to think of how that could work.  Also ponder the Iranian law on rights of the unborn child and why that seems to shock some people.
It's a really good movie. REALLY good.  The academy got it right this time.

Friday, January 27, 2012


This movie is about an "agent" who is double crossed and then spends the rest of the movie tracking down and killing - I guess you'd call it revenge. But the weird thing is that unless you are a fan of MMA (that's mixed martial arts for you pacifists), you will keep asking yourself "who is this unbelievably bad actress playing the lead?" She does her own stunts, but still- it's like watching paint dry when she is "delivering" her lines. The average 7th grade lead in the play does a better job doing Death of a Salesman. If you try to just get past her it is almost impossible since she is in almost every scene.This movie has gotten good reviews- really, it has. But I cannot decide why. I am stumped. Kill Bill was better if you want to see humans fake fight and not get nearly as hurt as they would be in reality. Perhaps this is a film school type film where I was supposed to appreciate some sort of satire or tribute to some genre. I found it dull. Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas are ALL in this movie. So you'd think there would be an explanation. But probably not. I am giving it 2 stars because Soderbergh deserves it for conning people to produce and act in it!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Artist

A little bon-bon from France pretty much sums up this imaginative, funny, and very charming black and white silent film about acting in silent films in the 20s and 30s. In order for any movie to be truly loved by the audience, the audience must CARE. And you care by the bucketload because more delightful lead characters (one of whom is a Jack Russell ala Asta) are not to be found. The lead is played by Jean Dujardin, a French comedian/actor, and no, you haven't seen him before. The ingenue is played by Berenice Bejot, aptly named Peppy in the film.(also the writer/director's wife in real life) The movie is almost totally silent for dialogue, but the music plays throughout. Of course, here is also a lesson in the importance of the film score to the action. The actors, though French sprinkled with some English/Americans, silently speak in English so you can lip read on occasion. Just like reading subtitles in a foreign film where you are tricked into thinking "hey I totally can speak Chinese here!" so is the audience lulled into thinking they are hearing dialogue. One great side effect is that the audience in my theater was dead silent- no chit chat, no whispers- there was an acute awareness of how much everyone could hear. And so we listened more closely to words that were actually unsaid. Uncanny, but true. This is a truly wonderful film. It deserves all the credit it gets. And the charm of Dujardin cannot be overstated. The last moments of the film and just 2 words reveal what this has been about, and don't worry, you won't miss them. But it is a sweet revelation to the audience.  Go see it and bring all your friends.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I sort of dreaded seeing this. Yes, I read Stieg Larsson's books- every last one. I found them bloated and always in need of a sharp editor with a pair of virtual scissors. Larsson's books are full of needless random subplots and overdone narrative- and that is why the Swedish film versions of these books are awful. In order to understand the Swedish films you must have READ the books- characters drop in and out and scenes are truncated and obtuse to follow- as if the screenwriter would be tased if he left out one tidbit. So I feared another lengthy feature length film would make me sorry I ever heard of the franchise. But what a great surprise! At heart, these books are written by an angry, angry socialist who thinks everyone is a victim (my opinion- you can keep yours). And the best point of the books is that Salander is a survivor- competent, not afraid to be brutal,and gifted. Larsson uses Salander as a social and political cause- evidently Sweden is tough on its wayward youths all the way into their adulthood. Sadly, we cannot interview the very late Larsson to see if he is still so angry. But he does make the guys in the audience squirm. So the script writer had a choice- clutter the US version with the useless meanderings in the book, as Sweden did,  or stick to the heart of the story. And by sticking to the heart of the book, it is  far better than either the book or the Swedish film. The cast is terrific except for the surprise of seeing Robin Wright (Penn) flash on the screen- which actually caused some laughter in our theater. It is as brutal as they come- fairly graphic and hard to watch at times. Daniel Craig is a great Blomkvist and Mara Rooney is even better as Lisbeth Salander. What IS funny is how half the cast speaks English with an off and on Swedish accent. Or I assume it is Swedish. Then some speak with a British accent that also comes and goes. It is distracting and truly a detail the director should NOT have missed. I am glad that they pared the story down as far as it could go- no one will miss the unimportant scenes that stemmed from the ADD/ADHD mind of Larsson in his books. I hope Hollywood makes the other books into movies with the same scriptwriter, Steve Zaillion- because he got the gist of it.  And because of that, if you promise not to bring the kids, I highly recommend this movie.