Sunday, May 18, 2008


“THEN SHE FOUND ME” (Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, Colin Firth & Matthew Broderick)
Let me start by saying I liked this movie, but I am going to pick at its flaws... At times it reminded me of “Smart People”, in that the characters were believable because they reacted the way a human being would – some days they’re likable, some days they’re crabby & obnoxious...
April Epner (Helen Hunt) is a 39 year old elementary schoolteacher who wants to have a baby. The night she plans for conception seems to fall apart when her husband Ben (Matthew Broderick) tells her he’s been cheating on her & wants a divorce... For some unknown reason, April has sex with him anyway (A major flaw) Where the movie heads next, as far as I’m concerned, is into a much more interesting direction & so the whole ‘having sex with Ben after he tells April he’s leaving her’ scene was not necessary to make this a good film.
Within hours of being dumped, April’s adopted Jewish mother dies; the handsome father of one of her students (Colin Firth) makes an awkward pass at her (or was it?) & her birth mother, Bernice (Bette Midler) contacts her for the first time & reveals that Steve McQueen was her father... So on top of being dumped – a whole load of issues are dumped upon April.
Yet, the movie dashes through these myriad of emotional moments in such quick concession it almost seems unreal at times. There’s too much on the plate at one time. I wanted director Helen Hunt to slow down, to edit out some of the extraneous storyline – ergo, the soon-to-be-ex-husband stuff. The gradual affair that blossoms between April & Frank (Firth’s character) is sweet; the much too eager to make up for lost time birth mother versus the ‘stop-doing-this-to-me-I can’t-deal-with-you-coming-into-my-life-right-now’ daughter scenes involving Hunt & Midler are the best parts of the movie... seriously! & I say that as someone who has never been a big Bette Midler fan. She’s fun on talk shows, but neither the musical nor the acting career has done much for me in the past. Midler's Bernice comes on like gangbusters & bounces in and out of the film until she suddenly realizes what she’s doing is the wrong approach & literally drops to her knees to beg April to give her a chance to make up for abandoning her.
April says & does some stupid things & it is sometimes difficult to forgive her, but the movie virtually begs you to do just that.
Also a scene where lovable Frank goes berserk & cusses out April hits the mark – it makes him ‘human’.
Where the movie goes awry is at the end; a religious discussion in a doctor’s office that ends in a prayer confused me.
& the ‘Feel Good Tacked On Happy Ending’ (Ala ‘Smart People’) really doesn’t work here because it tells you the April you’ve come to know has changed overnight without any explanation!
Still, as a ‘character study’, I enjoyed most of “Then She Found Me”, despite the fact that with Helen Hunt’s first close-up, I thought she was Roger Hodgson of Supertramp! Her withered & wrinkled flesh made the fact that she was supposed to be portraying a 39 year old a bit of a joke. All in all, though, I found Helen’s directorial debut to be a nice little film that would be worth renting on DVD someday. Very good performances by the entire cast, & a surprisingly impressive showing from Ms. Midler.

Monday, May 12, 2008


“WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS” (Ashton Kutcher & Cameron Diaz)

What Happens In Vegas Isn’t Funny... & Stays Isn’t Funny. Folks, this movie is just plain awful. Throughout the entire film, I kept asking myself, “Somebody wrote that line & thought it was funny? & then somebody read that line & thought it was funny enough to include in a major motion picture? & then Ashton & Cameron said those lines & thought what they were saying was funny? . . . How does someone somewhere along the line put a halt to this nonsense & say, “Hey, guys... this s**t isn’t funny!”

Now, I know what you’re saying, ‘Look, Mr. Critic, you knew going into this flick that it wasn’t going to be funny, so why did you go?’ That’s a good question. I go to a lot of movies that I have bad feelings about. My answer is – I’m trying to be a good husband.
My wife works hard all week at a stressful job & sometimes she just wants to go out & watch something light & fluffy that’s not going to challenge her intellect; so as long as there’s nothing playing that I really want to see, I take her to romantic chick flicks so she can just unwind with her bag of popcorn & get lost in the fluff... & then I get to jump on my blogsite & rip the things to shreds!
The plot, if you can call it that; Ashton’s father fires him from the family store for being a goof-off – Cameron’s boyfriend dumps her in front of all their friends during his birthday party & the both decide to take off for Vegas with their best friends to forget their woes.
Rob Corddry & Lake Bell play the second bananas, but neither brings nothing but peels to the table. They meet, get drunk, wake up married & win 3 million at a slot machine. Since it was her quarter & he was the one who inserted it, the each lay claim to the money. That incredible thespian Dennis Miller plays the realistic judge who sentences them to 6 months of hard marriage before deciding who gets the jackpot... Contrived? Yeah, maybe just a little...
The fact that I didn't even bother to jot down any of the character's names shows you how little I thought of this 'dumpster filler'...
This will definitely make my bottom 10 of 2008.
I don’t really mind Ashton all that much – he’s an ‘okay’ actor, I don’t expect much from him, so he rarely lets me down (He DOES in this, though!) & with Cameron, I think I speak for a lot of males when I say she was simply adorable in “There’s Something About Mary” & then... what happened? There was a movie called “In Her Shoes” where she had a scene in a skimpy white bikini that made the whole film worthwhile just because of that :30 clip. But lately, her acting skills seem to keep eroding with every terrible film she makes & it has cultivated in “What Happens In Vegas”. I don’t know if it’s all the fault of the lame dialogue, because in the scenes where she’s supposedly roaring drunk, she comes off like an older gal ‘pretending’ to be a frat girl just to fit in & it’s just all so embarrassing, you just wished she’d go away – In fact, you keep waiting for the producer & director to yell out, “That’ll be enough, Ms. Diaz; Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You!” Or to quote Eric Cartman, "Don't call us... we won't call you either."


“The OTHER BOLEYN GIRL” (Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson & Eric Bana)

I’m not much for period pieces so to get me interested in one you have to have an intriguing story... This isn’t. If it is a semi-accurate depiction of the times, I’d seriously have to question England’s reluctance to over-throw the monarchy – these people are sick and disgusting. The fact that a ‘queen’ can be imprisoned because she was unable to give birth to a male & her replacement beheaded for the same crime is barbaric. But instead of public outcries from the townspeople as to why these injustices are taking place, they gather round the square to cheer on the horrific punishments.
This story focuses on sisters Anne & Mary Boleyn(Portman & Johansson) Mary is already married, so when news is spread that King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) is looking for a new wench to bed, since the queen can’t produce a ‘proper’ heir to the throne, Mr. & Mrs. Boleyn offer up daughter Anne. However the king is smitten by the more demur Mary & offers her & her husband positions in the king’s court.
Since no one is allowed to disobey the king, when he sends word to Mary that he plans to ‘nail’ her that night, she dresses appropriately & awaits his mounting... The king acts as if it is of the utmost importance that Mary gives birth to a boy, but when she does, for some reason it doesn’t count because he’s a bastard... Huh? Then why did the king care in the first place?
Don’t ask me why any of this took place, & why it mattered, or didn’t matter – I don’t have a clue. This film makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The rest of it centers on Anne’s second shot at seducing the king & how she wraps the most powerful man in Europe around her little finger & forces him to make her his queen.
So Henry is depicted as a cold, heartless dictator who only sees women as a vessel to deliver England’s future king, yet when some insolent little tart starts playing games with his affections, he turns into a major wimp, forsaking his duties as king to get into Anne’s bloomers. & Anne, in turn, goes from being brash & coquettish into a miserable, panic-stricken whining ball of mush when she fails to deliver the ‘holy’ male child.
Not a lot to like here; especially from ‘Daddy’ Thomas Boleyn, who pimps his daughters out like they were common whores (Which, in all honesty, they are)
How much of this is ‘story’ & how much is factual, I do not know. I have never had a lot of interest in the Royal Family – but it’s amazing to think that these so-called well-bred English ever evolved into a ‘normal’ society with trash like Henry Tudor in their past.
Acting-wise, I liked Eric Bana in “Troy”, but here, he just doesn’t seem to fit the role. Natalie’s portrayal of Anne is believable until she makes that sudden faux-Soap-Opera-dramatic turn at the end. & Scarlett, a very beautiful woman that I’ve always enjoyed gazing upon, has the acting skills of a bar of soap. Having said that, she isn’t awful in this since her role doesn’t require her to stretch too much...
Just the whole idea of the Boleyn girls being sent out like prostitutes by their own parents & uncle was disgusting, & the fact that the women did as told with very little protests didn’t speak well of their character either. When the film takes a stomach churning turn near the end, it doesn't shock you all that much, given the type of characters that have been introduced.
In fact, the only part of the movie I liked was when Henry’s first wife, Catherine, pauses in front of the Boleyn sisters, curtsies & addresses them as ‘The whores’...

Sunday, May 4, 2008


“IRON MAN” (Robert Downey, Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges & Terrence Howard) / “MADE OF HONOR” (Patrick Dempsey & Michelle Monaghan)

This was a trade-off weekend – my wife went to ‘Iron Man’ for me & I went to ‘Made Of Honor’ for her. The reason I’m lumping them together is we both liked both movies. ‘Iron Man’ isn’t your typical ‘Comic Book Superhero Extravaganza’ & ‘Made Of Honor’, though definitely ‘chick flicky’, was a cut above the normal dumb romantic comedy. So if you’re looking for a good something for him/something for her combo with your date, I’d recommend this duo; she’ll be surprised how good Iron Man is & he’ll be shocked that Made Of Honor doesn’t totally suck.
That said – here’s my “IRON MAN” review...
Let me begin by telling you I DON’T LIKE COMIC BOOK SUPERHERO MOVIES; I loathed the first ‘Spiderman’ & was very upset with Roger Ebert for singing the praises of ‘Spiderman 2’ & tricking me into spending money to sit thru that piece of trash. I liked the new Christian Bale ‘Batman Begins’, but didn’t like any of the Michael Keaton, (etc.) Batman movies. The only Superman movie worth a darn was ‘#2’ with Christopher Reeves. I felt it necessary for you to know my background on the genre so when I tell you I loved ‘Iron Man’, you’ll realize this isn’t coming from a comic book geek. I don’t know if I ever read an Iron Man comic! My only reason for wanting to see this film version was Robert Downey, Jr. in the starring role & of course, the obvious cameo by Ozzy. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first; Ozzy Osbourne does not make an appearance in the film. The good news – Robert Downey, Jr. steals it, so it’s not that much of a disappointment.
This is a character driven story that doesn’t involve anything all that far-fetched (No radioactive spiders or beings from other planets) Tony Stark(Downey) is an arms creator/ manufacturer. He runs Stark Industries with his late father’s partner, Obadiah (Jeff Bridges, barely recognizable with a shaved head & bushy grey beard)
After conducting a demonstration of his latest ‘weapon of mass destruction’ in Afghanistan, Tony is kidnapped by terrorists who want him to build them one. With the aid of another prisoner(Who saved Tony’s life) Stark ‘pretends’ to build the bomb while actually constructing a suit of armor that would protect him as he just walked out of captivity. (Rocket boosters would help propel him to a safe distance as well)
If there’s a downside to this movie, it’s that a little too much time is spent with ‘technical’ scenes showing how the plans were conceived & the suit is built. But if they edited the scenes, I’d probably complain that they ‘made it look too easy to build’ – They must have reached a happy medium because I loved this film! On the other hand – the ‘test drive’ scenes where Tony 'irons' out the kinks in his new gadget are among the most enjoyable; his 'relationship' with his robotic aides provide many genuinely funny moments. Yes, this film has it all – the terrorist aspect makes it scary; Tony’s redemption gives it heart & makes you ultimately cheer for the ‘war monger’; Gwenyth Paltrow (as Stark’s assistant Pepper Potts) provides sweetness & a ‘spark’ of romantic chemistry; & Jeff Bridges plays his role as sly as Howard Cosell – right from the moment you meet him, there’s just something about him you don’t like. Terrence Howard, who has been on a role lately, plays Tony’s best friend Jim Rhodes & even though he isn’t given one of the ‘juicy’ roles, he adds to the believability of the entire story by being an average, ‘centered’ character.
But this is totally Robert Downey, Jr.’s baby – If, like me, you’re a fan & was concerned over his choice to take on a ‘Superhero’ role – don’t be. He’s Robert Downey, Jr. playing a fast talking womanizing weapons genius & pulling it off as only he can. Iron Man isn’t a ‘super’ hero – he’s a guy in a ‘suit of armor’ that allows him to do ‘superhero’ tasks. This is an actual ‘story’, well acted, with excellent character development. & for those who are jones-ing for the ‘rock ‘em, smash ‘em superhero special effects scenes, well, it’s got that as well, just not on a continual loop.
Go see ‘Iron Man’ even if you don’t like ‘Comic Book’ movies – I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. I don’t mean to sound snobbish (Cause I hate those kind of critics) but this is the ‘Superhero’ movie for those of us who don’t normally care for ‘dumbed-down’ Superhero movies. You know the kind – where plot doesn’t matter, it is only used to set up the next spectacular special effects scene.
Oh, & a warning for you non-Comic Book Superhero Movie fans that go to this – If they tell you ahead of time to stay seated thru the credits for a ‘special’ surprise – don’t bother; it is just a :15 promo for another Comic Book Superhero Movie starring Samuel L. Jackson... I was hoping it would be the ‘deleted’ scene with Ozzy!

“MADE OF HONOR” isn’t as bad as the trailer makes it out to be; the preview is aimed at the ladies & the actual movie isn’t that silly or sappy. It has its silly & sappy moments, but it is ‘watchable’. Patrick Dempsey plays womanizer Tom; his best friend is Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) they met when he mistakenly climbed into bed with her in her college dormitory. There’s no real character development as they just jump to ’10 Years Later’ & we see Tom bringing ‘buddy’ Hannah some coffee (with the phone number of a woman he just met written on her cup)
As I sat thru the early scenes, checking my watch (counting down the minutes until I could escape) I was feeling correct in my assumption that this would be a long, agonizing process. But somewhere along the road, it stopped being ‘ridiculously stupid’ & started having some realistic scenes with honest emotion involved as Tom realizes he’s in love with Hannah – after being without her company for 6 weeks when she is sent to Scotland by the museum she works for. Tom’s male buddies provide some humorous moments & I have to say that even though Michelle Monaghan isn’t a ‘wondrous’ beauty by any means, she looks pretty hot prancing around in the lingerie scene.
I might say the movie gets off track by making the Scottish hunk that Hannah falls in love with too nice of a guy; the formula should be that Tom is such a better person than Colin (Kevin McKidd) that we want him to get the better of Hannah’s fiancĂ© & win her away – but Colin is perfect in every way – a nice guy; filthy rich; good looking, & apparently very well endowed (But fortunately I finally got a movie that didn’t show us proof of such! WHEW!) Yes, my initial reaction was that’s a mistake – Colin should be flawed in some way (& I guess the fact that he likes to hunt & kill defenseless animals is one flaw) but it apparently is what Scottish men do to prove their manliness since they run around in skirts a lot of the time!
I don’t know, maybe I was on a high after seeing ‘Iron Man’, but by the time they got to the typical & predictable sappy ending, I’d stopped looking at my watch long ago...