Sunday, June 29, 2008


“WANTED” (James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie & Morgan Freeman)
I’ll tell you one thing I don’t ‘WANT’ – is to ever have to sit thru this piece of garbage again! “Wanted” is a candidate for the Ten Worst movies list – it absolutely sucks & yet again, I have to wonder what led the 3 lead actors to take on these idiotic roles in this idiotic film...
It starts off very promising actually, Wesley (McAvoy) plays a sniffling, cowardly office worker who despises his overweight condescending female boss & has a snide jerk as a best friend, whom he suspects of having sex with his girlfriend & still does nothing about it (& the jerk IS doing his girlfriend almost daily)
The movie shows some spark when Wesley finally decides enough is enough & dumps his old life for a shot at an adventurous one when he discovers his father, thought long dead, was actually one of the world’s best paid assassins who was recently killed by a ‘rogue’ paid assassin who jumped ship from the ‘good guy group’ of paid assassins to go solo & kill off the good guy group one at a time...
Wesley is tortured while learning how to do things the way his father did so he can become the ultimate paid assassin & bump off the renegade paid assassin that whacked his father. Bullets are shot from miles away & hit their targets with such piercing blows that they enter the back of their victim’s skull & exit thru their foreheads (In super slow-motion with realistic blood splattering accuracy!)
Then there’s the ‘awesome’ multiple scenes of ‘bullet bending’ – Since Wesley’s father knew how to make a bullet ‘bend’ around an obstacle & then get back on the correct path to hit its target, then ‘Junior’ must be able to do it as well! Sure, that makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, my dad once bowled a 299 game, so I obviously should be able to do the same, right? Well, no, I never cared for bowling all that much, I think I rolled a 222 once... but IF I had a team of paid professional bowlers show me how to bend the ball so it hit the pocket every time, I’d surely be able to match the old man’s high score!
All I’ll say is that the 10-11 year olds in the theatre absolutely loved this ‘kiddy’ movie.
“I want to see it again!” one squealed afterward. Though R-Rated, the crowd was inundated with early-&-pre-teen children who giggled loudly at every curse word & ooo’d when Angelina Jolie’s bare butt was shown (Then they giggled after ooo-ing)
So if you’re the type who giggles & ooo’s at the sight of slow motion bullets that travel like heat seeking missiles even though they’re shot from standard revolvers, you’ll love “Wanted”... & let us not forget the ‘wicked’ car chase scenes – that’s one gimmick I’ll never get tired of... Oh, did I forget to mention? This is the second time in my life that I actually fell asleep during a movie - & when I woke up, the chase scene was still going on!


“The INCREDIBLE HULK” (Edward Norton, Tim Roth, William Hurt & Liv Tyler)
“It’s just as good as ‘Iron Man’,” was the promo I’d heard that propelled me to see for myself – along with good reviews from movie goers I respect... up until now!
It not only isn’t in ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Batman Begins’ realm, it is an insipid, cartoon-ish joke of a film that the four big named stars that appear in it should be ashamed of.
I will give some leniency toward Roth, as the soldier who wishes to become the ultimate weapon of mass destruction – his character provides the only enjoyable moments.
I was often reminded of ‘The Bourne...’ sequels when scene after scene of Edward Norton running away from the military took place; I mean, Matt Damon’s a decent actor, but Edward is an upper echelon thespian – why did he take a role where he basically just ran his little legs off for most of the movie? I guess after ‘The Painted Veil’ he needed to make some cash, eh?
The homage to Bill Bixby put a smile on my face, but the Stan Lee & Lou Ferrigno cameos were simply embarrassing to witness.
There’s so much wrong with this film, where do I begin? Okay, at the beginning makes sense – The ‘story’ of how Bruce Banner becomes the ‘Hulk’ is ‘told’ over the opening credits thru newspaper headlines & then the actual film begins with Banner(Norton) hiding out in South America before being tracked down by William Hurt’s special militia team(?) & the first of many elongated chase scenes take place.
They do it right as far as not revealing the ‘monstrous creature’ right away, but when they finally do - it is underwhelming to say the least. I guess comic book fans will appreciate it because that is precisely what The Hulk looked like to me – a comic book drawing.Plus, I thought the ‘idea’ of The Hulk was that he lost all control when angered – this Hulk has complete control whenever in the presence of his girlfriend/doctor (Liv Tyler)
So how the Hulk becomes the Hulk is pretty much dismissed (It is what made ‘Batman Begins’ worth seeing) & The Hulk, instead of being a rampaging ‘horror’ is a meek overgrown green pussycat when he wants to be... Like I said, the only part that worked for me was the abomination Tim Roth becomes in his mad quest for power; & still, the phony, cartoon-like ‘special’ effects turns that intriguing subplot into a joke in the end...
Just to clarify – I was never a big fan of the original series either; perhaps that explains my jaded review...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


“GET SMART” (Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin & Dwayne Johnson)
Most critics hate this movie. I’m guessing they’re younger guys who don’t remember the ultimate silliness of the original series; in my 53 year old mind, they did it justice. In fact, I’d say this is the funniest ‘TV Show-turned-Featured Film’ since ‘The Simpsons Movie’... Okay, that wasn’t very long ago, but I will tell you that I found myself laughing out loud several times during ‘Get Smart’. Almost everything worked for me, & yes, I was a big fan of the old series; it, along with ‘F Troop’ were the epitome of ‘idiotic’ comedies from the 60’s. The formula is simple – ‘stupid’ people having jobs that require them to be intelligent and surviving thru dumb luck. Call it the ‘Pink Panther’ syndrome.
If done correctly (& it is a mighty fine line) it makes you laugh in spite of your better judgment. & this movie made me laugh – a lot. It was so funny, it made me forgive the little peccadilloes that seemed to ‘turn off’ other critics – the fact that Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) is much too young to be Max’s love interest (This is explained in the film) and the fact that 99 doesn’t even like the bumbling Agent 86 and doesn’t want to be partnered with him. That the few times the humor doesn’t work is when they pay homage to the original series by using Smart’s catchphrases, ‘Sorry about that, Chief’, ‘Missed it by that much’ & ‘Would you believe...?’ I’m sure if they didn’t include those tribute lines, those same critics would have found fault with their exclusion.
I had no problem at all with the casting; Terrence Stamp as Seigfried plays his villainous role ‘straight’, but in the end it worked out fine & the cameo by Bernie Kopell was a welcomed sight – His Seigfried was my favorite character from the original show.
“Starker!!! This is KAOS, we don’t go ‘pffth’ here!” made me laugh every time.
I don’t see how casting anyone other than Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart would have worked at all. His similar look & mannerisms to Don Adams made him the perfect fit – Not as funny as Don because he was mimicking, but I’m actually looking forward to a sequel or 2 to see if Steve can make the role his own...
Alan Arkin started out a little too dry for 'The Chief', but loosens up quickly. As new character, 'Super Agent' 23, Dwayne Johnson does a commendable job - at his best when teaching Larrabee that his lackadaisical work habits aren't appreciated.
Critics I’ve read & heard have said the only thing this film has going for it is that it’s a decent ‘serious’ spy flick... these guys are nuts. This movie rarely takes itself seriously, and when it does, it blows the whole concept of what Mel Brooks created.
A major continuity flaw is so obvious you know that the director filmed it that way on purpose; Max is attempting to shoot off his handcuffs in an airplane bathroom & keeps missing (the miniature bow & arrow device he uses keeps shooting arrows into his face)
When he accidentally hits the eject button, Agent 99 comes to his rescue. When they finally reach the earth safe & sound, Max not only doesn’t have any arrows stuck in his face, he isn’t bleeding at all from the multiple wounds he inflicted moments before. Like I said, so obvious, it was done on purpose.
So, here I go sticking my neck out by raving about a movie most critics & audiences don’t seem to care for (ala “The Happening”) but I can only give you my honest opinion & that is I thought this was an exceptionally funny film – my wife and the small crowd we watched it with laughed heartily as well. If you’re a fan of the original series & you’ve seen ‘Get Smart’ & didn’t like, I’d like you to leave a comment & tell me why, because I don’t get where all this hatred is coming from – it totally cracked me up.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


“THE HAPPENING” (Mark Wahlberg & Zooey Deschanel)

I’m not going to reveal very much about this movie, giving away the basic plot would definitely be a spoiler. I’m just going to say that I liked it – it has an interesting premise & there isn’t a disappointing ‘twist’ near the end that spoils the whole movie (ala ‘Signs’) What I’m going to do is tell you the first three scenes, then you can decide if it intrigues you enough to want to find out what happens next...
Opening scene – Central Park – 2 women sitting on a bench; one hears a random scream in the distance, she turns her head toward the sound & hears another scream. She turns back toward her friend who seems to be in a trance. The woman looks around and notices that everyone in the park has stopped dead in their tracks. The only movement is a gust of wind blowing through the treetops...
Cut to Construction Site (Also in NYC) – 4 workers are BSing when they hear a crash behind them – one of their co-workers has fallen from the top of the building. The foreman calls for an ambulance – then BOOM! Another body hits the ground, followed by a 3rd and a 4th; soon bodies are crashing to the ground all around them. The foreman looks up & sees construction workers purposely walking off the side of the building to their deaths...
Cut to a high school classroom in Philadelphia. Teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) is asking his students to give an explanation as to why honey bees have been vanishing from the face of the earth without any bodies being found. The students surmise global warming might be the culprit, but why no dead bees? The last student to respond suggests a random act of nature could be the explanation, thus surmising that we may never learn the truth surrounding this odd occurrence. All the while, written on the chalkboard is a quote from Albert Einstein: “If the bees were to disappear from the earth, mankind would probably last about four days.”
An emergency teacher’s conference is called – the principal tells them to send their students home, due to the ‘terrorist attacks’ taking place in New York...

Zooey Deschanel, a wonderful actress with an original style plays Elliott’s wife, Alma. In her opening scenes, she appears to be ‘spooked’, but as the film rolls on, she actually becomes a subdued version of the ‘normal’ Zooey. In other words, she doesn’t stand out like she has in her other roles. The ‘star’ of ‘The Happening’ is actually the plot. Go see it – tell me if you like it. I found it to be somewhat believable- thus making it kinda scary to think about. See it – tell me if you buy the theory that something like this could possibly happen, or if you think it’s a load of bunk.
& watch for M. Night Shyamalan in the role of ‘Joey’. Because I don’t remember seeing him! (I believe it’s a joke, because he’s listed in the credits for playing a character in the movie that is never seen nor heard, but mentioned nonetheless)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


“KUNG FU PANDA” (Voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman & Angelina Jolie)

Your worst fears are realized at the closing credits – Yes, they do sing “Kung Fu Fighting” over the credits (Run quickly from the theater as soon as the screen goes black!)
I don’t know why I went to see this; I hate martial arts movies – what made me think I’d like an animated one? Well, there was that ‘Surfing Penguins’ movie that wasn’t half bad & I’ve never surfed in my life either...
I guess I thought it would have some funny lines (there are a few, but they’re sparse)
I didn’t think it would have countless ‘serious’ cartoon Kung Fu fights, to which my wife pointed out, “It’s called KUNG FU Panda & you didn’t expect to see any Kung Fu-ing going on?”
Then, of course there are the children... & the parents of the children who bring them into my theater & don’t seem to care if they bawl, talk loudly or run up & down the stairs throughout the entire movie as long as they bug everyone else & NOT THEM... That always adds to my enjoyment of an animated feature...
If you’re interested in seeing this & I haven’t helped you decide, well, let me try to remedy that – Jack Black voices Po, an overweight Panda whose Goose father wants him
to follow in his footsteps & sell noodles. Po’s lone interest is the Fab Five – China’s greatest Kung Fu-ists & finding out which will be selected as ‘Dragon Master’ & take on the dreaded Snow Leopard that has vowed to return to the city & conquer his one-time master Shi-fu (Voiced by Dustin Hoffman)
A sage old turtle shocks everyone by proclaiming the slow (& slow-witted) Po as the Dragon Master – destined to save the world from Tai Lung (Ian McShane as the Snow Leopard)
So Shi-fu is forced to attempt to train the useless Panda to become a Kung Fu expert in just a matter of days...
I don’t know if it was the fact that the Fab 5 consisted of a Praying Mantis, a Crane, a Monkey & a Viper (Along with the sexy ‘Tigress’ voiced by Angelina Jolie) or if it was simply due to the fact that it just wasn’t very funny – it took itself way too seriously at times! But I can’t recommend ‘Kung Fu Panda’ to anyone. Unless you’ve really been dying to see an animated martial arts film showing a Praying Mantis & a Crane performing acts of Kung Fu-ism...

Sunday, June 1, 2008


“THE VISITOR” (Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira & Hiam Abbass)

This is a remarkable ‘little’ film, highlighted by an exquisite performance by veteran ‘supporting’ actor Richard Jenkins; As Connecticut teacher Walter Vale, Jenkins evolves from a man who simply stops caring about his life & work until he discovers a new passion thru an unexpected influence.
It all begins when Walter is sent to a conference in New York to make a presentation on a book he ‘barely’ co-authored (“She wrote it,” he confesses, “I just read it.”)
He discovers a couple living in his ‘seemingly abandoned’ NYC apartment & throws them out. The man, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) is very apologetic, even though he explains how they were the victims of a con artist who scammed the pair by renting the place to them. The woman, Zainab (Danai Gurira) isn’t as understanding – the killer looks she throws at Walter & Tarek plainly tell her feelings toward them both.
We then witness the first moment of ‘caring’ in Walter’s eyes as he has a change of heart & invites the couple to stay in the apartment until they can find other accommodations.
I must warn you this is a very slow moving story – you need to have patience as you get to know these characters and ultimately root for them to succeed; even though they have no one to blame but themselves for their predicament.
The evolution in Walter takes place in small steps & this is the core of the film; his metamorphosis & subsequent guilt over what happens to his ‘friend’ is what keeps this slow moving vehicle chugging along.
When Tarek’s mother, Mouna arrives unannounced from Michigan wondering why she hasn’t heard from her son, Walter’s ‘caring again’ meter takes another jolt. The relationship that grows between Mouna (Hiam Abbass) & Walter is so realistic & touching it deserves to be seen by as many ‘lovers of great acting’ as possible.
When the screen went black at the end, I verbally whined, “Oh no!” Yes, it was a slow moving, character detailed story that seemed rather mundane for the first 15 minutes, yet when it was over, I wanted MORE! After that initial disappointment wore off, I was able to appreciate the final scene – as I imagine would anyone.
See “The Visitor” when you can, & even though it isn’t ‘Oscar’ season & I know it’s a long-shot – I’m predicting a Best Actor nomination for Richard Jenkins. Probably won’t happen, but it should.


“HAROLD & KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY” (John Cho, Kal Penn, Rob Corddry & Neil Patrick Harris)

I will start by telling you, I never thought I would pay money to watch the sequel of “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle”, but in the interim of seeing the first film on TV & being pleasantly surprised by Neil Patrick Harris’ comedic portrayal of Neil Patrick Harris – said actor landed a role on a sit-com that my wife enjoys. So with slim pickings at our local theaters, the Mrs. wanted to see ‘Barney’s movie’...
As with the original, NPH is the best part of the film – he is, unfortunately, not in it very much & is pretty much doing the same shtick. That’s not to say this ‘stoner’ movie sequel doesn’t have its moments of humor (Though it does suffer from ‘taking a decent bit & running it into the ground’ disease) But from the viewpoint of a 50-55 year old male that has never been ‘stoned’ in his life, I would still recommend this movie to most of my friends & relatives that enjoyed any of the Cheech & Chong movies which came AFTER “Up In Smoke”.
Too many scenes of watching characters getting high & behaving ‘stupidly’ afterward would be my #1 complaint. #2 would be the addition to Rob Corddry as an overzealous FBI agent. Didn’t care for his ‘Steve Carell-Wanna-Be’ bits on the Daily Show & don’t understand why he’s being given movie roles – though he does have one scene with NPH that works well.
Still, it made me laugh a few times – Got a ‘17’ rating on my ‘How Funny Was It?’ meter.
To give you an idea of how the meter works – I laugh out loud – that’s a point. I chuckle - that's half a point. & then I give ‘humorous lines that make me crack a grin’ a quarter of a point. For comparison, “Wedding Crashers” & “40 Year Old Virgin” both scored in the 60’s; 2007’s “Death At A Funeral” hit the 40’s & “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” finished with 1 & ½..
If you really want to know more about the plot than what the title infers, then you shouldn’t see this film. If you liked ‘H&K-White Castle’, you’ll probably like ‘H&K – Guantanamo Bay’ because you obviously aren’t bothered by an overload of silly characters combined with a simplistic plot....