Saturday, April 26, 2008


“BABY MAMA” (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear & Steve Martin)

During the early stages of this movie, I was reminded of last year’s “Knocked Up” (Which I didn’t care for) Never having been a parent, I guess I just can’t relate to stories about people that WANT to have children (That’s not how it was in my day – I was an accident & my parents made sure that I knew it!) But somewhere along the road, “Baby Mama” gradually won me over and just when I thought all the best scenes had taken place – the normally mundane & predictable ‘rushing to the hospital to give birth’ sequence turned out to be laugh out loud hysterical – I really couldn’t tell you everything Amy Poehler said as she was being wheeled into the delivery room, I was laughing too hard.
The plot; Unmarried, successful business woman Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) wants to be a mommy but is told by her OB-GYN that her chances of getting pregnant are a million-to-one – due to her ‘T shaped’ uterus. Kate decides to hire a surrogate mother.
Sigourney Weaver, surprisingly enough, provides the first funny lines as the person who brings Angie (Amy Poehler) into Kate’s life as her vessel for ‘outsourcing’ the birth of her child.
Pretty, but ‘trailer-trashy’ Angie eventually moves into Kate’s apartment after leaving her ‘common law’ husband. At first, Kate is thrilled with the situation because now she can keep an eye on how Angie treats the body that is carrying her much longed for child. The movie then becomes a female version of the Odd Couple, with mildly amusing results.
What makes this film flow gracefully are the many fun & flawlessly performed supporting roles; Steve Martin as Kate’s ‘guru-ish’ boss is a subtle yet offbeat character that I was surprised to see since he wasn’t shown in the trailer; nor was Greg Kinnear as a small business owner/potential love interest for Kate. Romany Malco (from TV’s “Weeds” & “The 40 Year Old Virgin”) plays Kate’s doorman/buddy who discovers there’s more to Angie than meets the eye; or, actually that there’s ‘less’ of Angie than there should be.
Despite all the infant adoration going on, these characters didn’t annoy me as much as I feared they might. Even Angie’s greedy, ne’er-do-well ‘husband’(Dax Shepard) somehow becomes acceptable because the bottom line is – he is simply unable to rise above his low-rent upbringing, while Angie at least attempts to become a better person.
Once the ‘set-up’ is out of the way, “Baby Mama” is a consistently funny, & yes, heart warming film. With the exception of a useless segment where Kate & Angie go to a nightclub, there really isn’t a wasted scene, so I would recommend this to anyone looking for an enjoyable 90 minutes of light-hearted entertainment.


“PENELOPE” (Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O’Hara, Reese Witherspoon & Peter Dinklage)

This is one of those films I find it hard to say anything bad about & yet wouldn’t necessarily recommend all that highly. It is a cute little fairy-tale with only one distracting acting performance (O’Hara) otherwise, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this movie – it isn’t as good as “Enchanted”; & perhaps that may be the sole reason it didn’t ‘bowl me over’ – it just isn’t as good as “Enchanted”.
A witch puts a curse on the Weathershead family that every female offspring shall be born with a ‘defect’. For generations the family bears male children & when the first female finally comes, she isn’t cursed because her mother cheated on her husband, so the child wasn’t a true Weathershead. Catherine O’Hara is the lucky mother who gives birth to ‘Penelope’(Ricci) who emerges from the womb with a pig’s snout & big floppy pig-like ears. The ears are easily covered by hair, but the snout is another problem. Rhinoplasty is made impossible by the curse. Catherine & her husband decide to fake Penelope’s death & have her ‘body’ cremated. Penelope is then raised secretly in the Weathershead’s attic – never allowed outdoors. When she reaches marrying age, suitors are invited to meet Penelope, as the curse can only be lifted by a marriage to a ‘blue blooded’ Englishman. They all leap thru a 2nd story window in horror at the sight of Christina Ricci with a pig’s nose. . . I’m sorry, but I think Christina has always been under-rated as a ‘looker’ – I actually found the snout somewhat endearing; I not only would not have run away from her, I would have tried to make out with her, if that’s what she wanted. Watching dweeb after dweeb screaming in fright after seeing a girl with Christina’s eyes & figure was more than a little ‘over the top’.
Only Dak McCrimmon (McAvoy) remained from the latest batch of suitors since he was lying on the floor behind the couch when Penelope made her startling entrance. They begin conversing thru a 2-way mirror – all goes well until Dak is startled when he finally sees the ‘pig-nosed’ girl. Fed up, Penelope escapes her parent’s mansion.
Pretending to be recovering from a botched nose job, she befriends Cassie (Weatherspoon) When she is finally revealed, Penelope has developed enough social skills to charm the hordes of press & photographers – she becomes a media darling.
A marriage is ‘arranged’ to one of her former suitors – to save face for his family.
Will this lift the curse? If so, will Penelope be happy with a normal nose that makes her less of a celebrity? & what about Dak, who realizes he ‘blew’ his one chance at love?
Well, it IS a fairy-tale so you know a happy ending is coming, but perhaps not the one you expected.
My only complaint is minor, but in a story set in England, the five main characters all use ‘American’ accents (Even James McAvoy!) while all of the extras speak proper King’s English. But hey, in fairy-tale land, who’s to say that Americans can’t dominate a story set in the U.K.?
Peter Dinklage once again turns in a picture perfect performance as a reporter obsessed with revealing the truth about the existence of the ‘pig girl’. Even when he gets the last scene in the movie (without saying a word) he portrays what his character’s thoughts are so expertly that you don’t have to guess at what he’s thinking as he rows his little boat off the screen. A nice little film, see it when you have a chance – you won’t feel as though you’ve wasted any precious time out of your life for having viewed it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


“FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL” (Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis & Russell Brand)

I was not impressed by the trailer to this, but critics started raving how funny it was and the preview didn’t do it justice – so I went... All I can gather is – the critics I read & heard are easily amused.
“In Bruges”, a ‘dark’ comedy, had 3 times the laughs of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”.
That’s not to say that “Forgetting S.M.” isn’t a pleasant little romantic flick, it is... well, once you recover from all the gratuitous shots of male genitalia being shoved in your face. I’m guessing Judd Apatow asked his regular gang of idiots, “Which of you has the longest schlong?” & that’s how Jason Segel won the part – it definitely wasn’t for his acting abilities.
The premise is in the title; Peter (Segel) writes the music score for girlfriend Sarah Marshall’s (Kristen Bell) TV series / she dumps him after he emerges from the shower, thus leading to the first of many full frontal shots of Peter’s peter. Again, I’ll reference a much funnier film – “Walk Hard:The Dewey Cox Story” featured full frontal male nudity that worked for comedic effect – Here, there is nothing funny about the scene whether Segel’s willy is shown or not; a quick naked buttocks shot would have sufficed – ‘Okay, we know she’s breaking up with him while he’s naked, tee-hee, let’s move on.’
To get over Sarah, Peter goes to Hawaii where he discovers Sarah with new boyfriend, ‘pop star’ Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) A series of ‘situations’ ensue with minor moments of ‘comedy’... So, yes, this is a ‘sitcom’ with FFMN (Full frontal male nudity)
Almost as though the writers said, “We know the dialogue isn’t funny, but if we keep showing the dumped guy’s wang, they’ll be rolling in the aisles.”
I even found the numerous scenes of Segel walking around shirtless to be disturbing because of his ‘puffy’ nipples... guys with puffy nipples should keep their shirts ON.

I was hoping Apatow regular Paul Rudd would provide some laughs in a minor role, but nope, didn’t happen. & Apatow regular ‘the chubby kid from “Superbad”', was just pathetic to watch (& not in a humorous way)
However, the reason I call this a ‘pleasant’ flick is Mila Kunis as Rachel, a hotel employee who at first takes pity on the heartbroken Peter and gradually falls for the crybaby whiner. Yet, at the same time she doesn’t fit her role because she’s much too striking (gorgeous eyes) – she makes Bell’s TV starlet look ‘below average’ by comparison. I don’t know what she’s done since ‘That 70’s Show’, but Mila is a major hottie with a very bright future in feature films.
Just for the record, my wife agreed – it wasn’t a very funny movie & ‘1 or 2’ penile shots would have sufficed. Her quote, “I guess he must be really proud of that thing.”
My final comment – I’m sure I’m not alone in saying movies with more male nudity than female are not what the public wants to see; & what’s even worse is when you have the opportunity to show attractive females having sex and then shoot the scenes so nothing that we want to see gets shown! So I’d recommend “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” to all my gay pals & to my hetero buddies – avert your eyes during the break up scene... You’ve been warned!

Friday, April 18, 2008


“SMART PEOPLE” (Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church & Ellen Page)

I could see how some people might find this film somewhat ‘dreary’ – The characters are all flawed (despite their obvious intelligence) and they do tend to plod thru their lives and at times you wonder – why am I watching these miserable, un-likeable people? But the main reason I enjoyed it is that because of their flaws, they are more realistic than a lot of characters you find in movies these days. It is un-orthodox in that the characters don’t seem to have a clue as to what they want out of life. I’m kind of in that boat myself right now, so I could relate.
Dennis Quaid plays professor Lawrence Wehterhold, a widower who has clearly given up on ever being happy again (and just for good measure, he wants everyone around him to be as miserable as he is)
The fact that Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Dr. Janet Hartigan doesn’t put up with Prof. Wetherhold’s pompous, egotistical behavior during their first date, but then decides to give him a second chance – is just like the kind of silly things women do, isn’t it? Then, when she has sex with him on date #2, she immediately regrets it and makes up an excuse to get him out of her bed. These are the things men and women do to one another, even to the ones they like... and then later feel guilty.
Ellen Page plays Wetherhold’s daughter Vanessa with the exact same delivery as she used in ‘Juno’. Although this makes me question her acting range, I found her character here to be more believable because Vanessa strives to get good grades and so her intellectual quips are more befitting than that of disinterested student Juno.
Once again Page’s character has an un-nerving relationship with an older man – this time with her ‘Uncle’ Chuck (Thomas Haden Church) Chuck is the most ‘normal’ character among the group, being the only non-intellectual; he is, however, a classic deadbeat.
I didn’t like the tacked-on ‘happy’ ending, but most of that is taken up with ‘cheery’ photos shown with the closing credits. But I liked “Smart People” simply because the characters were constantly changing their minds about what they wanted out of life. Some might say that makes them annoying and not worthy of filming – it is difficult to figure these people out – but to me, that is what made them seem ‘real’.


“NIM’S ISLAND” (Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster & Gerard Butler)

This film is much more childish and silly than I anticipated – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m just warning you if you think the appearance of Jodie Foster in the cast is going to make it more ‘adult’... she doesn’t.
‘Nim’s Island’ is aimed at the pre-teen female audience and I think as long as you understand that going in, you can enjoy this cute little tale and might even get a kick out of watching Jodie ‘hamming’ it up as an agoraphobic novelist named Alex Rover.
Abigail Breslin plays Nim, who lives on a deserted island with her scientist father (Gerard Butler) When dad disappears during a storm, Nim turns to her favorite author –
Alex Rover; except she thinks Alex is a cavalier, swashbuckling young male stud adventurer who tells true tales of his escapades.
So ‘Alexandra’ Rover conquers her fears and races to rescue her young fan. Accompanying her is the imaginary hero of her books, ‘Alex’ (also played by Butler)

But then the film turns ‘Disney’ and becomes a silly ‘Home Alone’-like romp in the jungle, as Nim ‘fights off’ pirates that invade her island. The only problem is – they aren’t pirates, they’re a ‘cruise ship’ that comes ashore with a large contingent of vacationers, who couldn’t be mistaken for pirates by anyone with a working set of eyes!
And of course, the most intelligent creatures on the island are Nim’s animal friends; a lizard, a seal & a Mensa member pelican. Meanwhile Alexandra is going thru all kinds of ‘heck’ to rescue a little girl who is too dumb to realize she’s already been rescued! (by the cruise ship)

Leave common sense at home and you just might enjoy this little ‘fluff’ piece. The interaction between Nim & her ‘pets’ is adorable, just REALLY far-fetched.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


“21” (Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey & Kate Bosworth)

About an hour into this film I thought of whispering to my wife, “Are you as bored with this as I am?” Instead I waited until it gratefully ended & said, “I know one thing for sure – You enjoyed this movie a hell of a lot more than I did.” Just for the record, she did; she kind of liked it.
Where do I begin to tell you how wrong she is – I guess we could compare it to last year’s “Lucky You” & say it isn’t that much better. Suffice it to say – movies about card games suck. What separates this from “Lucky You” is better acting (from Sturgess & Spacey) but “21” is insufferably boring with numerous plot holes & a whole lot of ‘I Don’t Care!’
The premise is interesting, it’s what drew me to see this in the first place; Jim Sturgess plays MIT student/wannabe Doctor Ben Campbell. He has the smarts, but not the dough to be successful at reaching this goal. When teacher Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) offers Ben a shot at joining his team of card counters, a hesitant Ben says no; then, for a reason that is never expressed, turns around & says yes. Ben is taught the rules of the team; Signals from the lesser intelligent members of the team tell the smart guys which table to play; various cue words let the big money player know where the card count currently stands. Looking a little old to be playing a co-ed, Kate Bosworth plays Jill, the sexiest college girl in Massachusetts (according to this film) Looking much too old for young Ben, the inevitable pairing up takes place – again, for no apparent reason, since she rejects his advances earlier on.
What this movie lacks is ‘reason’ – it is established by Rosa from the beginning that card counting is NOT illegal & yet casino security expert Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne in a role I hope he wishes he never undertook) feels it is okay to beat the living snot out of those he catches counting cards. Though I’ve never been there, I’m fairly sure there are more than a couple of casinos in Las Vegas – So why does this group of card counters continually camp out at the one Cole Williams watches like a hawk?
Supposed genius Ben takes to putting his cut of the loot in his dorm at school. I’d say once it gets to six figures, an intelligent person would take that money out of his mattress & put it in a bank. Especially after one member of the team gets booted off for getting drunk & blowing a big score – a member of the team that Ben usurped to take the #1 spot on Rosa’s team. I’d say only an idiot would stash over $300,000 in cash in his dorm room. Gee, I wonder if somebody steals it?
Time & time again I kept coming back to the fact that if what they were doing wasn’t illegal – where’s the suspense? & why is one head of security 'judge, jury & executioner' in Vegas? (At one point Cole tells Ben – if I see you in my casino again, I’ll kill you.”) Easily solved is it not? – stay out of Cole Williams’ casino! Apparently these matheletes can’t figure that one out. So if it isn’t illegal to count cards, but it is illegal to beat someone senseless – how is it Cole Williams holds all the cards in this flick?
Like I said, I’ve never been to Vegas, but I’ve done some gambling in my day & as far as I know, casino security guards are not allowed to beat people up for winning money at the tables... Is this why they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Because after seeing this supposedly ‘true’ story – I don’t ever want to go there in the first place!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


“STOP-LOSS” (Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum, Abbie Cornish & Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

Every young American considering joining today’s Army should see this film. I only wish it was released a few years earlier.
“Stop-Loss” is the first Iraq War movie I’ve seen that actually deals with what the soldiers are going through - & the results are shocking. I’m surprised that the current administration has been able to get away with the ‘Stop-Loss’ procedure; but at this point unscrupulous behavior seems to be the norm doesn’t it?
In his best acting role to date, Ryan Phillippe plays Sgt. Brandon King who leads his platoon into an Iraqi ambush where 3 of his men are killed & one is maimed & badly burned. He is decorated upon his return to the states for saving his best friend, Steve (Channing Tatum) during the fracas.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays guitar playing soldier Tommy Burgess who also comes out of the experience ‘damaged’.
On the day Sgt. King believes he’s to be released he is instead told he is being ‘Stop-lossed’ & will be returned to Iraq for another year of duty. His cowboy hat wearing Texas father (Englishman Ciaran Hinds ‘cowboying’ it up with a Southern drawl) believes he needs to do what’s right to serve his country, but Brandon thinks otherwise & goes AWOL in the hope of enlisting the help of a Texas senator who told him at the awards ceremony ‘if you ever need anything, you come see me’.
Fetching Abbie Cornish plays Steve’s girl, Michelle. She doesn’t like the violent change she sees in Steve & offers to help drive life-long friend Brandon to Washington D.C.
The film then focuses on their adventures trekking from Texas to (eventually) Buffalo.
Sgt. King considers it his duty to stop & see the families of the men who were killed under his command & pay a visit to Rico, the soldier who lost an arm, a leg & his sight during the ambush. Rico’s outlook on life is surprising & you can see that Brandon finds it hard to believe that Rico seems to be the only soldier to come out of the War ‘unscarred’ mentally.
Brandon is left with 3 choices; leave the country for good & never see his family again; turn himself in & do jail time for his crime of refusing to be ‘recycled’ back into a devastating, senseless war; or be a good little soldier boy & do another year in hell for GW. His final decision may surprise you – whichever one he makes, a sad ending is guarenteed.
My only complaint with this movie is the MTV style camera work & the rap & screaming ‘soundtrack’ that caused me to stick my fingers in my ears more than once.
But as a story it is excellent & poignant – Like I said, thinking about joining the Army?
Parents of kids of enlisting age? Go see this movie because this kind of thing is really happening, folks – ‘Stop-Loss’ wasn’t ‘invented’ by Hollywood – guys who have already served their time are being sent back because there aren’t enough volunteers to fight the war that shouldn’t be.


“RUN FAT BOY RUN” (Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton & Hank Azaria)

If you enjoyed “Hot Fuzz” & “Shaun Of The Dead”, don’t be fooled by the appearance of Simon Pegg in “Run Fat Boy Run” – this is NOT a Simon Pegg film – it’s directed by David Schwimmer (of “Friends”) & even though Simon apparently stepped in & re-wrote parts of the script, it is a ‘romantic comedy’ in every sense – a ‘watered down’ version of a typical Simon Pegg film.
The opening scene is poorly done – Dennis (Pegg) is shown leaving his pregnant girlfriend Libby (Thandie Newton) at the alter... doesn’t exactly make him the kind of guy you want to win the girl back, does it?
The film then jumps forward 5 or 6 years where Dennis is allowed by Libby to be a part0time father to their son. When Dennis meets Libby’s smug American boyfriend, Whit (Hank Azaria - whose entire film career has been playing smugly obnoxious boyfriends) he suddenly decides he made a mistake by ditching Libby & to show her he’s changed he’s going to run in the upcoming marathon for charity event coming up.
Thanks to Whit being extremely unlikable, you find yourself rooting for the dopey Dennis & when he utters the clichéd line, “I decided it was better to ruin your day than to ruin your life” as an excuse for running out on their wedding day, you almost buy into it because you just don’t want her to end up with Whit, the ugly American.
It is an enjoyable enough ‘romantic comedy’ & I offer Pegg as the chief reason for that. & yes, I dare you not to find yourself cheering on the ‘out of shape’ marathon man as he strives to win back the woman he wronged.



OK, it’s official; The Seth Rogen recycling of 3 dorky kids striving to become ‘cool’ has run its course – it’s over Seth. STOP NOW. I’m encouraging you, the movie viewer to help with this campaign by not going to see this turkey in the theatre or renting it when it comes out on DVD – trust me; you’ve seen this film before & with much funnier dialogue. ‘Drillbit Taylor’ plays like an idea that has not only run out of gas, but has stooped to using squeegies to clean windshields for beer money.
Owen Wilson brings nothing new to the table as the homeless title character that becomes a body guard-slash-mentor to 3 dweeby teens.
The kids are the same 3 you’ve seen before’ the skinny shy kid who has a crush on a girl who is out of his league – the chubby Seth Rogen look-alike who seems in a perpetual state of ‘hyper’ - & the uber-geek little squirt that no one would want to hang out with but proves his meddle in the end.
There are no laughs – a sprinkling of chuckles are about it – as most scenes are of un-humorous sight gags involving someone being punched. “We need to find out what it’s like to be hit in a fight so let’s beat each other up!”
The sub-plot of Drillbit’s homeless buddies robbing the house of one of the boys under his protective wing is actually kind of sad & pathetic. I know the idea is to provide a scenario so Drillbit can have his stereotypical ‘change of heart’ but it just simply doesn’t work The only true humorous moment does involve his homeless buddies as they take Drillbit’s scam of showing up at school with coffee cups in their hands & drawing a paycheck as a substitute teacher. But the rest of ‘Drillbit Taylor’ is been there/done that.


“The BANK JOB” (Jason Statham & Saffron Burrows)

Is not the kind of film you’d expect to see Jason Statham in – there are NO CAR CHASE SCENES! It is a throw-back to the 70’s, fitting the era in which this ‘based on’ true story takes place in London.
The plot focuses on the Royal Family attempting to avoid a national scandal by paying off a blackmailer who has come across nude photos of the princess having sex.
Saffron Burrows plays Martine, a woman who is enlisted to help Scotland Yard retrieve the photos after being caught trying to smuggle drugs. She approaches Terry (Statham) an old boyfriend/small time crook with a foolproof plan to break into the bank vault where the police have learned the photos are being kept. Terry & his crew know nothing of the actual reason they’re breaking into the vault but he becomes suspicious with Martine’s sometimes odd behavior.
Like I said, this is a throw-back film – it actually has a story & sticks to the plot without any extraneous explosions or special effects to enhance the visual aspect for no apparent reason. They use pick-axes to shovel under the vault & walkie-talkies to communicate with their outside look-out. So no, this is not a spectacular ‘man, you’ve got to see this!’ flick – it is a believable & interesting bank heist filled with intriguing characters.
I can pretty much guarantee you won’t feel as though you’ve wasted 2 hours of your life after watching ‘The Bank Job’... unless, of course, you want to see mindless car chases & senseless explosions...


“MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY” (Frances McDormand & Amy Adams)

Chances Are if you liked Amy Adams in “Enchanted, you will like her in this . . . just not as much. And Chances Are that if you’ve longed for the days when songs like ‘Chances Are’ were dominating the pop charts, you’ll also enjoy the soundtrack & style of ‘Miss Pettigrew’; In other words, if you’re elderly, this is the flick for you.
With the odd addition of a rather graphic shot of one of the male co-stars rear end, this is very much like the type of films they made in the 40’s. Not so surprising since it is based on a book that was written in 1939.
It is normally the kind of movie I would avoid, but the two female leads lured me in. & although MacDormand & Adams do not disappoint, they can’t make this dreadful script enjoyable to follow.
‘Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day’ is literally a 24 hour span in the life of a woman who goes from the poorhouse to the penthouse in a single day. Aided by the exceptionally ditzy Alysia Defossie (Adams) McDormand’s down on her luck Miss Pettigrew assumes the position of Ms. Defossie’s personal secretary by showing up at the right place at right time.
Alysia, though a pleasure to watch as she flits around in a nearly see-thru robe, is almost too stupid to be taken seriously as a viable character. If you buy into her brain-dead-starlett-in-waiting persona, then you’ll probably enjoy this... I didn’t.
Alysia basically needs help juggling the 3 men in her life – the rich guy who expects her to be there at his beck & call (since he pays the rent on her luxurious ‘loft’) – the young foppish producer who could cast her in a role that would make her a star - & the ex-con piano player who turns out to be the only ‘decent’ man of the trio.
Alysia, in fact doesn’t deserve him, since at the time she was supposed to be picking him up after his release from prison, she was having sex with the well-hung ‘producer’.
Ciaran Hinds plays a lingerie designer who dumps his fiancé; dates a new girl; comes on to a woman he’s just met; goes back to the fiancé & then dumps her yet again – All in a 24 hour span... If Miss Pettigrew lived for a week that would still be a little too much to believe, but the fact that it takes place in a single day ruins any of the likable qualities this film has.
Nice performances – terrible script.