Sunday, September 28, 2008


“NIGHTS AT RODANTHE” (Diane Lane & Richard Gere)
For an out & out tear-jerking chick flick this isn’t horrible. There’s the obligatory scene of
‘This bore is a complete a**hole, but I’ll sleep with him anyway because he looks like an older version of that guy who was in ‘An Officer & A Gentlemen’ – but other than that, I don’t have any ‘major’ complaints... I do have several minor ones, though.
First off, a better actor in the role of Dr. Flanner would have helped a lot. Gere’s had a couple of good outings lately, but here he falls back into that ‘I’ll Squint For Every Scene
In Which I’m Supposed To Show Emotion In’ mode.
Diane Lane is very good as Adrienne, the mother of a teenage daughter who looks exactly like one of Ozzy Osbourne’s spawn & a 10 year old Harry Potter clone (Neither of which looks remotely like Ms. Lane)
When Adrienne’s jerk-wad ex-husband asks to come crawling back into her life after being dumped by the younger bimbo he left her for – Adrienne actual considers allowing him back into her life (For the sake of the children)
She’s promised to be the caretaker of her best friend’s Inn in Rodanthe for 4 days & she tells her ex she’ll think about it while she’s gone.
The only guest at the Inn is a Mr. Flanner (Gere) who doesn’t have a lot going for him in the personality department (In fact, he’s somewhat of a jerk-wad himself) Yet still you sense that Adrienne is attracted to him because he reminds her of that whore from ‘American Gigalo’.
When Adrienne discovers the reason for ‘Doctor’ Flanner’s visit & sees first hand what a truly uncaring louse the man is – she sleeps with him. Why? I guess because he reminded her of the ‘John’ from ‘Pretty Woman’, who knows? The movie wants you to think it’s due to a storm that hits the Inn, but I think my theory is closer to the truth...
It seems to me that in order to make a successful chick flick, the leading lady has to sleep with some unlikable creep & THEN he turns into a decent guy. Is that the secret ladies?
Is that why those of us who were decent to begin with never stood a chance with you? Do you all have that desire to Change us men? Trust me, if you slept with us after knowing us only an hour or so, we wouldn’t want to change you!
This movie would have been much more plausible if only they had Adrienne bed Dr. Flanner AFTER his metamorphosis...
The rest of the film dies a horrible death as Dr. Flanner flies off to some remote corner of the world to repair his relationship with his son & we have to sit thru endless scenes of Adrienne reading Flanner’s love letters. This pledge of undying love coming from a man she knew for 4 days – You know if you women would wait a few years before deciding to fall hopelessly in love like we men do, you wouldn’t have nearly as many heartbreaking moments in your lives. But I digress... What really disappointed me was the fact that Dr. Flanner’s letters were exceptionally bland (& a little gay) – I was surprised that he never asked her how she felt about using live gerbils & duct tape to ‘enhance’ their lovemaking techniques!
Add in numerous scenes of Adrienne’s construction of a ‘keepsake’ box for the lover she knew for 4 days & you begin to understand how heavy handed & over-wrought the final scenes of this film play out.
Does Adrienne cave in to her children’s wishes & allow ‘daddy’ to come back home?
Or does she ‘dis’ her ex & cause her children to loathe her by waiting for the redeemed Dr. Flanner?
Well, it’s a typically sappy chick flick – YOU write the ending...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


“GHOST TOWN” (Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear & Tea Leoni)

The film that immediately came to mind while viewing “Ghost Town” was “Hancock”.
Like the Will Smith indifferent superhero flick, ‘Ghost Town’ switches from pure comedy to a semi-serious melodrama; the difference – it works here. I really enjoyed this film. It had plenty of laughs & even though they’re sparse in the final acts, I found it to be rather sweet & poignant. “Hancock” goes awry by becoming seriously ‘stupid’, this comedy develops a ‘heart’ & that heart comes from the Ricky Gervais character of Dr. Bertram Pincus – derisively called ‘Pink-ass’ by Greg Kinnear’s ‘ghost’ throughout most of the film.
Gervais is the creator of the original version of ‘The Office’ a TV series I have tried on several occasions to like, but can’t. I like Steve Carell, but I simply don’t find his version of ‘The Office’ very funny.
In ‘Ghost Town’ Gervais’ dentist character is a bitter, unlikeable a-hole. He enjoys his occupation not because he relieves his patients’ pain, but because he can stick cotton in their mouths & shut them up.
The plot percolates when Dr. Pincus dies for 7 minutes during a colonoscopy. After the incident he discovers he can see & hear the ghosts of New York. As they discover he has this ability they begin ‘haunting’ him day & night, asking for him to help them bring relief to their loved ones, or those who’s lives have been ‘damaged’ by their deaths; 3 construction workers want him to tell their foreman it wasn’t his fault they were killed, it was faulty equipment, not operator error. The most annoying ghost is that of Frank (Kinnear) who wants ‘Pink-ass’ to somehow break up the relationship his widowed wife is developing with a ‘smarmy’ attorney. Kinnear’s character is as shallow as Gervais, except the dentist has an excuse for loathing the human race, Frank is just a jerk-wad who was cheating on his wife, Gwen (Tea Leoni) at the time of his death.
So the situation is old – made of the ideas that sprung many a TV sitcom back in the ‘I Dream Of Jeannie’/’Bewitched’ era as Gervais’ Pincus has conversations with ‘dead people’ that only he can see or hear. Yet somehow – perhaps because he is such an unlikeable creep – the dialogue actually comes off as rather refreshing at times. Or maybe it’s due to the fact that this character fits Gervais’ comedic style to a tee. Even when the laughs dry up & they go for the ‘lump in the throat’ bittersweet finale, “Ghost Town” blends both styles perfectly & I found myself putting it in my Top 10 films of the year (So far)
Even Leoni, whom I normally find to be somewhat of a 'stiff' actress, delivers a likeable performance - her reactions to Gervais' Pincus both when he's being a creep & when he
becomes smitten with her are very credible.
If I had one complaint, it’s an odd one – As one scene opens there’s a close up of a pair of hands banging away on a set of bongo drums, for a fleeting moment I thought as the camera panned back to reveal the drummer that it might be Richard Jenkins’ character from the film that is still atop my list for Best Film of 2008, “The Visitor”. But alas, I was wrong. Not a very big detail to be disappointed on though, is it?
Good film – Unless you’re one of those that expect your comedies to remain comedies all the way thru, I would recommend it highly for a pleasurable movie-going experience...

Monday, September 15, 2008


“BURN AFTER READING” (Brad Pitt, Francis McDormand, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, J.K. Simmons & David Rasche)
I had high hopes for this film – so let’s start from there; I was hoping to see my new #1 movie of 2008 – the premise, the cast & the Coens made me think this might be something special. It’s a good film, it’s a funny film... it just isn’t a great film.
Having Brad Pitt play a complete dolt worked wonders because I’ve never been able to take him seriously as an actor (Even in his best performance in ‘7’, his shortcomings were exposed by the performances of Kevin Spacey & Morgan Freeman) Here, he plays Chad, a dull witted employee at a fitness center & the part fits him – an air head pretty boy playing an air head pretty boy. But after a while, it wears a little thin. Actually the two central characters are Francis McDormand’s Linda & recently dismissed CIA agent,
Ozzy Cox (Played by John Malkovich) as the story centers around a disc left at Hardbodies Gym, where Linda & Chad work. They believe the disc contains ‘National Secrets’ revealed by Ozzy who was in the process of recording his ‘memoirs of an ex-CIA agent’ – Never mind the logic that all Ozzy had to do was check to see if the disc was still in his possession, Cox receives a mysterious phone call from Chad & a meeting is arranged.
Most of Chad’s laughs come via sight gags – showing up for the meeting on his bike wearing a suit & tie with his dorky riding helmet / Child-like expressions while sipping his beverage or listening to his I-pod tunes – Chad is the dumbest of the dumb characters involved in this extortion plot.
The biggest laughs however come from the ‘serious’ roles played by David Rasche & J.K. Simmons – Rasche as a head CIA man & Simmons as the boss to whom he reports his findings.
So where does everyone else fit into the story? Well, George Clooney plays a U.S. marshal who happens to be having an affair with Ozzy Cox’s wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton)
Richard Jenkins plays the manager of Hardbodies who has a crush on Linda, which she is totally unaware of until he promises to break into Ozzy’s house for her to try & retrieve more ‘secret’ info. Clooney’s Harry becomes involved with Linda, so he’s not only cheating on his wife with another married woman; he’s cheating on the woman he’s cheating with... Another big sight gag laugh occurs when Harry shows Linda the ‘invention’ he’s built in his basement.
So all of these characters inter-act with one another in some form, some not realizing how ‘involved’ they all are until the final acts.
I’d say the acting is first rate – not a bad performance in the bunch, yet something was ‘missing’ that kept this film from capturing my top spot. I think the main culprit is the tiresome storyline of having all the characters being unfaithful to their spouses – It’s been done more than a few times lately & frankly, I’m just getting tired of it. Even though “Burn After Reading” does it in a comical vein, it’s become an epidemic lately; isn’t it enough to just have one spouse cheat on another – why does EVERY married character have to commit adultery in EVERY movie I’ve seen this year?
The reason this film made it into my Top 5 at all was due to the fact that the final scene of the movie is the best – Involving Rasche & Simmons ‘summing’ up the idiotic happenings that took place & what eventually became of the survivors – since the movie left me with a big grin on my face & feeling good, I’ve placed it #4 of the year so far. So, yes, a very good movie – but I expected more from it, that’s all...

Monday, September 8, 2008


“TRAITOR” (Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Said Taghmaoui & Jeff Daniels)
“Traitor” is a very good film, but as Don Cheadle’s character Samir says to his girlfriend, “The truth is... it’s complicated.” Now the plot isn’t complicated. Most of the characters are easily defined & we know enough about their background to know who they are & what their purpose in the movie is, with one exception – Jeff Daniels plays Carter, Samir’s lone contact, & we have no idea who he is – Is he FBI? CIA? or just a rogue detective wanting to stop terrorists in his neck of the woods? Or... is he a terrorist himself, using Samir as a dupe to plot another 9/11-ish attack on U.S. soil?
So it was complicated for Samir to explain to his girlfriend how he became involved with a terrorist organization & how he rose to the top of the FBI’s most wanted list; what isn’t complicated is following the plot of ‘Traitor’ – As long as we discovered the ‘truth’ about Jeff Daniels’ character...
Guy Pearce plays the FBI man intent on tracking down & stopping Samir & his fellow terrorists from fulfilling their ‘duty to Allah’ by bombing hundreds of innocent American civilians. I have read where some say he & Cheadle give Oscar-worthy performances...
Here we go again! They are both good in this film (Cheadle especially) but both were better in recent performances; Don in last year’s “Talk To Me” & Guy in “The Proposition” & no one buzzed about those great showings... As of this moment in 2008, would they be on my list of
Best Actor/Supporting Actor possibilities? Yes, they would, but due only to the fact that there
is NO competition right now. (More on that in a different blog)
But as I said, this is a very good film & a rarity for its ilk in that it IS easy to follow, despite the few surprises that crop up. But, as with almost every film I view these days,
I DO have my complaints. I don’t want to give away the terrorists’ plot of how they plan to pull off the next 9/11 disaster, but I found it odd that they went to great extremes to protect their identities – If you wanted America to ‘wake up’ to the atrocities its government has been committing around the world, wouldn’t you want the people of America to know who was behind this master plan? I mean, if you were indeed doing these heinous acts to grab the public’s attention, don’t you almost Have to reveal who you are so they better understand?
Despite this complaint, I thought that Said Taghmaoui, playing Omar, the terrorist that befriends Samir did an excellent job – he made me believe he actually ‘felt’ what his character was doing was ‘righteous’.
There’s another scene, late in the film where the masterminds behind the attacks are escaping by boat; The head bodyguard informs Samir that there are 6 other bodyguards onboard – yet when the proverbial poop hits the fan, none of these half dozen armed protectors show up? & if it was their purpose to protect the evil genius’s – why weren’t any of them in the same room to begin with?
The ‘twist’ at the end where the terrorists are ‘subdued’ didn’t make sense to me at first –
I can’t really go into detail without giving the ending away – but my wife came up with a plausible explanation for it – which, in my annoying fashion, I found a way to over-rule.
For those of you who have seen it, please send me your comments on what you thought of Samir’s ‘trick’ that semi-foiled the terrorists’ plans & I’ll elaborate more as to why it didn’t make sense to me.
So, yes I had a couple of problems with the ending & the Jeff Daniels’ character not being fleshed out enough, but for the most part, “Traitor” is both an intriguing & enjoyable ride & that is not an easy task to pull off...

Monday, September 1, 2008


“VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA” (Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall, Penelope Cruz & Patricia Clarkson)
I scribbled several nearly indecipherable notes in the dark while watching this film... None of them were positive. However, the one positive thing I have to say about this movie didn’t require a reminder – Javier Bardem is a damn good actor. I don’t see the ‘heart-throb’ good looks that others claim he possesses (& my only complaint is that he looks so stoned in a few scenes he can barely keep his eyes open) but the man becomes his character with what appears to be relative ‘ease’. As artist Juan Antonio, he elevates himself above his fellow actors; in one scene involving Scarlett Johansson’s Cristina & his hot-headed ex-wife, Maria Elena he gets so frustrated while trying to tell Maria to speak in English, he starts rambling in Spanish while doing so. Then he screws up a line, as most distraught people would do, following the argument – whether that was done on purpose or writer/director Woody Allen was just smart enough to leave it in – it’s little things like that which help to make a character believable. Penelope Cruz plays Maria Elena & goes a little over-the-top with her semi-deranged character, but she's improving as an actress, there's no doubt about that.
Okay, that’s the only nice thing I have to say about ‘VCB’.
First the plot, then I’ll decipher my scribbles / Plain looking Vicky (Rebecca Hall) & gorgeous Cristina are best friends. Vicky is about to be married & Cristina can’t seem to hold a job or a boyfriend. Not meaning to sound like Homer Simpson describing his screenplay idea – but the gals decide to spend the summer in Spain ‘for some reason’... Sorry, I forgot! By the end of the film I was so bored with these people, I was just happy to see the screen go dark. They are approached by Juan Antonio, a man they know of but have never met; he invites them to spend the weekend with him. Along with seeing the sights, Juan also offers to share his bed for the purpose of making love. Vicky rebukes the offer, while horny Cristina agrees to go. Vicky then decides to tag along since she seems to be the only one concerned with Cristina’s safety.
Eventually Cristina moves in with Juan. When Juan’s ex-wife with the flame-thrower temper shows up threatening to commit suicide, Juan invites her to stay with them. Apparently they don’t have ‘men in white coats’ to come & take such disturbed people away in Barcelona. In the end everybody has had sex with everyone & they live miserably ever after...
The MOST annoying ingredient is the ‘Narrator’ (The pathetically weak voice of Christopher Evan Welch) Though not sounding totally gay, this was far from the ‘manly’ voice one expects from a narrator – nor was it the voice of one of the characters, so you have no way to relate to this wimp. This was just an average speaking voice spouting off insipid lines like, “It was a sunny day in Barcelona when Juan & Vicky met for lunch.”
Most of his unwelcomed 'storytelling' involved lines even more mundane than the one above.
Words did not flow easily from this man’s lips either, he seemed to struggle to make sure he annunciated properly – I mean, if you’re going to use an off screen narrator, for goodness sake hire Morgan Freeman!
There was a scene where Vicky received a phone call from her fiancé (from the U.S.) in which she speaks to him for :15 and hangs up... How is that believable? They haven’t seen one another for days & she says 2 lines to him & hangs up?
To find an actor to play the fiancé, Woody must have placed an order for a ‘dull, cookie cutter geeky nerd’ & they sent this guy over from Central Casting! (I could look up his name, but why bother?)
Your lead characters are a shallow, self-centered male and two shallow, self-centered, gullible females. And like ‘Elegy’ the moral of the story is – EVERYBODY cheats on their spouses, fiancés & loved ones. I’m sure those that enjoyed ‘Elegy’ will think this tripe is entertaining as well, but I’m sorry, I need someone to root for in a film – when every single character is a low-life piece of dung, I lose interest – I DON’T CARE what happens to them! The main concern here is - should Vicky tell Juan she’s in love with him even though he’s boinking her best friend & ex-wife simultaneously?
Once again, Patricia Clarkson has a minor role and does a nice job with it, but her character (once again) becomes semi-ridiculous as a woman cheating on her ‘good guy’ husband & feels remorseful for doing so, but then encourages Vicky to make a play for Juan Antonio... Dumb, dumb, dumb.
At one point in the film, after the fiancé shows up in Barcelona to be with Vicky, he tells her Juan & his friends are ‘Pretentious, boring and cliché’ . . . I couldn’t find three better words to describe your film, Woody – thanks for helping me write this review!