Tuesday, December 29, 2009


“BROTHERS” (Tobey McGuire, Jake Gyllenhaal & Natalie Portman)

Like the sisters in “Sunshine Cleaning”, I found myself relating to the brothers in this film because they were reminiscent of my own life. But does that make a film better?
I think it helps, but if the story or the acting go astray or hit a sour note somewhere along the line, the likeability can unravel in a moments notice; & I shouldn’t even use the word likeability because at times, not all of these characters are ‘likeable’ - & that’s what makes a human drama great – these people are ‘real’; they have flaws & we get to see what goes on behind the closed doors of their private lives & wonder what we would do in similar circumstances. But they weren't the type of people who were SO annoying that we didn't care about them (as in "Revolutionary Road")
“Brothers” had a lot of positives going for it as the believability of the story held up while we were expected to buy a plot where one brother falls in love with another’s wife & she falls in love with him despite his being an ex-con & the ‘missing’ brother being a great guy & very much loved by ‘everyone’.
Tobey McGuire & Jake Gyllenhaal play the brothers in question – Sam & Tommy Cahill. Natalie Portman plays wife Grace, caught in the middle & encouraged by her two young daughters, Isabel & Maggie.
Sam is a captain in the marines & his father’s pride & joy. Tommy is a loser drunk just released from prison for robbing a bank... If dad hasn’t disowned Tommy at the beginning of this film, he’s one straw away from the proverbial ‘last’ one.
When Tommy shows up at Sam & Grace’s for dinner, daughter Isabel opens the door & instantly reveals that ‘my mommy doesn’t like you’.
When Sam is given orders to go to Afghanistan, the question is asked, ‘how do you tell the bad guys from the good guys?’ Isabel answers that one with ‘the ones with the beards are the bad guys’ & gives a disapproving look at bearded Uncle Tommy.
Sam’s helicopter is shot down & he is presumed dead. Grace tells Tommy this fact when he’s drunk & he gets angry that she didn’t call him sooner.
At the funeral for the fallen soldier, Tommy sits in the second row (not with the immediate family) & is the only one who doesn’t sing along to the religious hymns. But when he sees his father constantly swigging at a flask, Tommy suddenly becomes protective of his nieces & tries to take the old man’s keys away.
Tommy joins 3 friends to start a remodeling business & they start with Grace’s ugly, inconvenient kitchen. I did get a chuckle out of the fact that Tommy’s ‘crew’ never seemed to do any work, just stood around with bottles of beer in their hands.
His nieces warm up to the ‘new’ Uncle Tommy & Grace begins to see him in a new light as well.
In the meantime we are shown that Sam didn’t die in the crash & get to be privy to the tortures he endures at the hands of his Afghani captors. Since it’s in the trailer, I don’t call that fact a ‘spoiler’.
Sam returns to Grace, but an obviously disturbed man with haunting demons that he will never be able to bury – he eyes Tommy’s remodeling job with suspicious eyes.
One of my favorite scenes occurs during Maggie‘s birthday party, when an angry Isabel yells, “You’re just mad because mommy would rather sleep with Uncle Tommy than you!” at her father, that’s when the fireworks begin. Who wins? Who loses? Who lives? Who dies?
That’s what makes this a great film because these characters are so real – with credit being given to both the writer & the actors – that you want them all to ‘live happily ever after’ but there’s no way that’s going to happen . . . or is it?
And the major reason I loved “Brothers” had nothing to do with the adult actors – they are all fine, in fact, I’d say the 3 leads did a fantastic job – but it’s the two young actresses playing Isabel & Maggie (Bailee Madison & Taylor Geare) that elevate this movie to the plateau of a ‘remarkable achievement’. Average kid actors would ruin a film of this sort because the girls (esp. Bailee) are required to ‘become’ their characters & react in a believable way in a make-believe setting instead of just ‘behave like you normally do & just get your lines out’.
The only time I scoffed was at a sign that was shown on a store which read ‘Save Our Fallen Soldiers’ . . . Huh? Then I thought about it & had to nod in approval because that is just the kind of asinine statement some nimrod would display. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sell a ton of bumper stickers with that phrase on them in all the Jerkwater Burgs across the U.S.A....
Loved this movie, it will be in my Top 10 of the year & the actors should all be given high praise & award nominations.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


“INVICTUS” (Morgan Freeman & Matt Damon)

Clint Eastwood & Morgan Freeman team up yet again, this time with Clint staying behind the camera & the results aren’t nearly as entertaining as their last outing, “Million Dollar Baby”. It is a good film – Interesting & entertaining; but way too many rugby scenes make it a little boring. Not that rugby is as boring as soccer or baseball, but the way Eastwood filmed the games, it comes across as being dull. The rules are never explained - & they could have & should have been since the black secret service men that were hired to protect Mandela had no idea how the game was played & the white secret service men kept trying to get them interested. Even when the ‘Springbokkes’ play for the Rugby World Cup, one black officer looks at his white partner & asks “What happened?” You’d think by then they would have picked up the basic rules!
The film is the story of Nelson Mandela’s life AFTER he is released from prison. Morgan Freeman plays him as a cross between Shawshank Redemption’s ‘Red’ & Ben Kingsley’s ‘Ghandi’ (& sometimes sounding exactly like a typical Morgan Freeman voiceover instead of the president of South Africa)
I say that because it’s true – I’ve loved Morgan Freeman in almost everything he’s been in (We won’t mention ‘Wanted’, I’m sure he regrets that role as much as I regretted spending money on it) but "Invictus" just didn't have that ‘magic spark’ that I felt from his other collaborations with Eastwood.
Matt Damon has been mentioned as a Supporting Actor possibility & I don’t see that either; He really doesn’t have a lot to offer as S.A. rugby team captain Francois Doppleganger(I really don’t know what his last name was, let’s just go with that)
He grunts as he plays rugby; he gets invited to ‘tea’ with the president; Mandela tells him to inspire greatness in himself & his team; He gets his parents tickets to the big game; He plays rugby & grunts a lot... I’m not saying he isn’t convincing enough, but that’s really not an Oscar caliber ROLE as far as I’m concerned.
Mandela is portrayed as a fairly simple man with an equally simplistic philosophy; ‘just keep smiling’. The problem is he has just taken control of a hornet’s nest of a country divided & even his backers question his ability to lead his countrymen into making their country ‘great’. He chooses to make the Springbokkes, the South African rugby team his pet peeve & invokes the team captain (Damon) to win the world cup & unite the people.
“Invictus” is the title of the poem Mandela would often repeat to himself during his nearly 30 years of imprisonment. He passes this along to Francois, along with the request that his players learn the words to the National Anthem (Since all the blacks can easily tell they’re just moving their lips incoherently)
It’s almost fairy-tale like in its simplicity - & who knows how much of it came from ‘reality’? Maybe that’s why it didn’t strike a grand chord with me; there’s nothing bombastic about this film – the racism is underplayed; the unrest is underplayed & the rugby is underplayed (Too many field goals, not enough touchdowns)
It would have helped to have the rules explained, if just to know why sometimes they could pick the ball up & toss it to a teammate & sometimes they’d have to huddle together & grunt at the opposing team... It’s hard to get excited over a game when you have no idea what’s going on, Clint. As Columbus from ‘Zombieland’ would say, that should be ‘Rule #1’
Yet, in the end, I connected with the story – You’d have to be a racist or a zombie not to – the white & black South Africans coming together to root for the team wearing the apartheid colours. It WAS moving, but the trip to the finale wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I was hoping it would be. Eastwood has been on a nice roll in his latter career of acting & directing, & I wouldn’t say that he stumbles here – It’s much better than “Flags Of Our Fathers” – so if they decide to give him an Academy Award nomination for this to make up for snubbing him last year for both “Gran Torino” & “Changeling” I won’t have a problem with that decision...


“ZOMBIELAND” (Jessie Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone & Abigail Breslin)

This is one of those films where you’re better off leaving your brain at home.
Seriously, if there are any zombies in the audience, you really don’t want to tempt them by bringing in their favorite treat.
I am NOT a fan of straight zombie movies – In fact, I hate them. But I am a fan of gay zombie movies & “Zombieland” follows nicely in the footsteps of “Shaun Of The Dead” as a pretty funny spoof of a crappy genre.
Jessie Eisenberg plays ‘Columbus’ (Each character is referred to by their hometown)
It is his adventure thru Zombieland that the film follows. Oh, yes, Zombieland is post apocalyptic America in case you didn’t know. Columbus survives, despite being somewhat of a wimp because he follows his own set of rules on how to exist in Zombieland (i.e. Always check the back seat of a car before entering; Stay out of public restrooms; Remember to double tap – Shoot every zombie a second time in the skull to make sure they stay dead this time)
Staying in shape & limbering up are 2 more of the multiple list of rules because - as the opening sequence points out – the ‘fatties’ were the first to go since they couldn’t outrun the living dead.
As Columbus heads east in hopes of not becoming a human Happy Meal, he meets Tallahassee (AKA Florida) Woody Harrelson in another scene stealing role (He was the only reason to sit thru ‘2012’) Tallahassee is just the opposite of Columbus; he thrives in Zombieland because there is nothing he enjoys more than killing zombies. Tallahassee is also hell bent on finding the last box of Hostess Twinkies – at any cost.
When Columbus & Tallahassee encounter 2 sisters – Wichita & Little Rock (Emma Stone & Abigail Breslin) – Columbus informs the girls not to worry about Tallahassee’s crude demeanor; “He grows on you,” the young man assures before pausing to reconsider the statement... “No, he doesn’t – He actually gets worse.”
But the sisters have their own agenda & heading east isn’t on their battle plan, so they dump the men & leave them stranded. Just like in real-life America, the dumb males fall for this trick more than once.
The film climaxes in Hollywood where they break into the house of a well-known comedic actor, who happens to be Tallahassee’s idol. Supposedly revealing the surprise ‘cameo’ is a spoiler, so I’ll just say – It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this guy do anything this funny – from his ‘secret’ to surviving in a world full of zombies to the revelation that he spends most of his time... pleasuring himself, it is an enjoyable addition, especially since the film started to drag as the writers decided to create a love interest between Columbus & Wichita.
Does it matter that Hollywood is just as full of zombies as the rest of the country? Does it matter whether or not Tallahassee gets his hands on a twinkie? Does it matter that Zombieland doesn’t have an uplifting ending? No, it doesn’t – In fact, this film is just like ‘The Road’ except it’s completely different. Nothing is played for laughs in ‘The Road’ while everything is up for ridicule in ‘Zombieland’ – Yet I thought the same thing about both films when the screen faded to black at the end . . . & they were all killed & eaten the next day...

Sunday, December 6, 2009


“The ROAD” (Viggo Mortenson, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Charlize Theron)

From now on when you look in any dictionary for the word bleak, it should say; See “The Road”. You couldn’t imagine a more pointless existence than the lives Viggo Mortenson and Kodi Smit-McPhee lead as father & son in ‘The Road’. I would suggest that they used the Talking Heads’ song “Road To Nowhere” as a theme to this film, but even that tune is more uplifting than the visually drab path ‘Papa’ & his young son travel.
Having said that, you’d think this was going to be a negative review, but it is not – I am merely warning those of you that haven’t seen it what you’re in for. “The Road” plods along from one bleak sequence to the next and yet somehow along the way you become captivated by this obviously doomed pair while fearing for how they will reach their inevitable conclusions. Less than halfway thru the film I surmised that there was no way this story was going to end happily. But is it worth seeing? Undoubtedly –certain scenes will stick with me for a very long time, even if I chose to never view 'The Road' again. As Viggo’s Papa holds the family gun to his son’s forehead & the frightened lad utters “When will I see you again?” It is a gutwretching moment. & the film is full of them, so don’t get ticked off if you feel that I’ve revealed too much by telling you about that scene – What leads up to it & what follows are just as heartbreaking & dismal.
The plot is simple – Due to some catastrophe of nature, the earth has been laid barren & most of mankind ceases to exist. Those that are left alive forage for anything edible to stave off starvation & with most of the plant & wildlife being eradicated as well, that means cannibalism is prevalent.
As Viggo (listed in the credits as ‘The Man’ but called ‘Papa’ by his son) leads his offspring along the barren road southward toward the coast his one & only concern is keeping his boy from being taken by the 'bad' guys that would kill and eat him.
This also means distrusting every human they encounter, even the ones who appear to be ‘good’ guys. ‘Papa’ is so focused upon this goal that he begins to lose his humanity and his son struggles to keep him from losing it completely.
The film isn’t in black & white, but for the post apocalyptic scenes it might as well have been. Charlize Theron plays Viggo’s wife who appears in flashbacks via his dreams – always to return to the gray, colorless world with a jolt. If I have one major complaint about the movie it is how Charlize’s departure is never really explained.
Robert Duvall & Guy Pearce appear in short cameos, but this is Mortenson’s & the young Smit-McPhee’s showcase & they are outstanding in their portrayals of two characters trapped in a complete state of desperation. Normally a film this bleak wouldn’t stand a chance of getting an Oscar nod, but with the expansion to 10 nominees & an exceptionally weak crop of worthy films, I’d be shocked if “The Road” doesn’t get in.
It is harrowing, bleak, depressing, bleak, scary, bleak & above all bleak, but it is a damn good movie... Did I mention that it’s also a little on the bleak side?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


“The BLIND SIDE” (Sandra Bullock)

This will be a dull review because this is one of those films that I can’t say anything smart-assy about – usually a given with a Sandra Bullock vehicle – but this, like ‘The Express’, ‘Glory Road’ & ‘We Are Marshall’, is one of those uplifting sports movies that as long as it doesn’t make too many mis-steps is bound to please its audience.
About the most far-fetched aspect of this ‘true’ story is that a family of religious Republicans actually cared about a large black kid & took him into their home when he didn’t have one of his own. Proving there are exceptions to every rule.
Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, wife of a wealthy restaurateur (Tim McGraw as husband Sean) who lives in Memphis, but hates the Tennessee Vols – being Ole Miss grads. Leigh Anne was a cheerleader, Sean played basketball.
They have a pretty teenaged daughter that they saddled with the odd name of Collins (played ironically enough by a girl named Lily Collins) who also aspires to be a cheerleader at Ole Miss. Their young son, Sean Jr. goes by S. J. (Jae Head) he is the one character that isn’t very believable. Early on he uses the phrase ‘multi-cultural bias’ & his parents don’t even blink when he says it – like it is something all 8 year olds use in their everyday conversation. But, as I was able to overlook the ‘too worldly-wise to be realistic’ teenaged girl in “500 Days Of Summer”, I was able to overlook the obvious plot ploy of making S.J. appear to be a genius despite the fact that he still has crooked baby teeth.
I even forgave it for using a silly opening involving L.T.'s crushing hit that broke Joe Theismann's leg in half - Making it seem as if no other quarterback had ever been blind sided before that incident - But it was a way to introduce non football fans to the importance of the players whose job it is to protect the QB & so I understood the insertion.
But this is Bullock’s film & she’s impressive – the heart of the film centers on her relationship with the large homeless black kid known as ‘Big Mike’ (Quinton Aaron)
& since Big Mike rarely speaks, even after he becomes a ‘member’ of the Tuohy family, Leigh Anne has to carry the load of what makes this film work – for that Sandra is to be given at least a glance at an Oscar nomination; mainly because this is a weak year not only for films but for actors & actresses as well.
The movie doesn’t glamorize Republicans, as Leigh Anne abandons her snobby friends who question her decision to invite a ‘colored’ boy into her home. If they hadn't included that scene, I don't think I would have liked 'The Blind Side' as much as I did.
If the way the film depicts how ‘Michael’ learns how to protect his quarterback is even remotely close to the truth is irrelevant – in the world of filmdom, it just works & puts a smile on your face whether you believe it actually happened or not.
A slew of current & ex-college coaches make cameos (Fulmer, Holtz, Saban, Tuberville, Nutt & Orgeron) & again, the lack of acting skills doesn’t matter, it is the bond between the feisty white blonde Republican & the silent overgrown traumatized black ‘child’ that endears you to this story.
It isn’t all roses & rainbows; this film has a gritty side as well, including a turn that makes you question the Tuohy’s ‘actual’ reason for bringing Mike Oher into their lives.
Even Leigh Anne wonders if she had an ulterior motive for approaching the boy & start
caring for him without any knowledge of his background.
What can I say? It’s a very good movie because it’s a great story – You can’t possibly walk out of the theatre feeling disappointed that you watched it.

Monday, November 23, 2009


“A SERIOUS MAN” (Michael Stuhlbarg)

A better title for this film would have been, “Unresolved: The Story Of A Jewish Man & His Jewish Family Living Ultra-Jewish Lives”
Although, they are correct in that this is a ‘serious’ movie; but being a Coen Brothers creation, one would have thought that was a facetious title... It isn’t, though the Jewish people in the theatre ‘got’ the so-called jokes that went over my non-Yiddish head.
For the record I chuckled once (At the oft repeated line, “I’ll be out in a minute!”)
& laughed once (At the one memorable line, “F Troop is fuzzy.”)
For the rest of the duration of the movie my emotions ran from confused to bored to annoyed. This is an awful film. It will be hard not to include in my Bottom 10.
The film starts in what I imagine was Hebrew; a scene involving whether or not a certain Jewish man was dead. The reason for this intro is never explained – apparently it was to tell us that the Gopnik family has a curse on it... But it was all gibberish to me, so I could be wrong, & if I am, I really don’t care.
They used subtitles for the opening scene, but then they stopped for some reason, even though I had no idea what language these Jewish people were speaking. I was told that one needn’t be Jewish to enjoy this film – That is a complete & utter lie.
You only need to read a couple of my reviews (“Religulous”, “The Invention Of Lying”)
to know that I am not a fan of religion... ANY religion. So I didn’t have any desire to see this film. Then I was told that it was the story of a ‘typical’ family from the 1960’s that ‘just happen’ to be Jewish’. No, these people are Jewish to the core; everything they do, think & speak involves being Jewish. Your ‘typical’ family doesn’t wear beanies & run to rabbis every time they feel troubled. Your average teenage son doesn’t have a Bar Mitzvah that you have to suffer through while he practices the ‘chant’ he must recite at the religious ritual. Yes, I’m picking on Jews because that’s what this film is ALL about.
If it was all about any other religious cult, I’d be complaining about that ‘sect’. & I was unhappy about it because I was led to believe that religion WASN'T the centerpiece.
Now, if you happen to BE Jewish & you’re still reading, I am going to recommend this movie to you (I mean, if you’re REALLY into being Jewish)
The plot in a nutshell; Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor seeking tenure at the college where he teaches math (That’s another thing – You need to REALLY be into math equations as well!)
I guess it was suppose to be funny that Prof. Gopnik’s lone Asian student was the only one who was failing his class & that his family decided to bribe the teacher to get their son a passing grade.
Larry’s wife, Judith tells him she’s been seeing widower Sy Ableman & she wants Larry to move out (Along with his Uncle Arthur)
Don’t get excited about the name, old timers, it isn’t Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur, it’s Richard Kind & you couldn’t imagine a more annoying person if you tried...
Larry’s trips to see the 3 rabbis follows & each ‘visit’ is as uninteresting & void of humor as the next.
By the time they got to the unrealistic & dumb meeting Larry’s son has with the eldest rabbi, I was so done with this film, I saw no humor at all in what I’m sure the Coens thought was a very clever scene. It wasn’t clever, it was stupid – trying to make a 100 year old rabbi seem ‘hip’ was a very low grade ‘pay off’.
So yes, if you’re Jewish & rabbis telling dull stories are your ‘bag’ then you’ll love ‘A Serious Man’.
& I can’t sign off without registering one minor complaint that no one else would have noticed or been bothered by – It's my trademark - At one point Larry is on the roof of his house fiddling with the TV antennae when he notices the well built Mrs. Samsky (Amy Landecker) sunbathing nude next door. Later, Larry fantasizes about having sex with Mrs. Samsky & she’s wearing a bra... I couldn’t help but shake my head in bewilderment – What kind of man’s fantasy life is less erotic than reality? He knows what her breasts look like (& they’re spectacular) so why does he cover them with a bra while fantasizing about her?
No wonder his nagging, unattractive wife left him for Sy Ableman!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


“PIRATE RADIO” (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Tom Sturridge, Kenneth Branaugh & Nick Frost)

The first time my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I told him ‘a disc jockey’. When I finally decided to pursue a career in radio, I was in my thirties. I went to work for the station I grew up listening to, KJR. I was the overnight board op, meaning I could play anything I wanted as long as it was on the playlist. It was the perfect job for me, but I couldn’t go on the air. Then the station switched to an all-sports format & everyone was ‘let go’ except me. I was finally disposed of after 18 years.
So I know a little bit about the radio business – well, more the ‘on air’ side than the business side as I worked directly with D-J’s (in the beginning) & Talk Show Hosts for the bulk of my career. I throw that background into this review just to let you know where I’m coming from when I say I enjoyed this film because despite the fact that they didn’t stick exclusively to songs that were released in 1966-67, the soundtrack is fantastic & the portrayals are realistic.
Originally titled ‘The Boat That Rocked’, this fictitious story ‘inspired’ by actual events depicts a rivalry between Philip Seymour Hoffman’s ‘The Count’ & Rhys Ifans ‘Gavin’ that is exactly the type of egotistical behavior one would expect to find when the employees of a radio station are forced to live together as well as work together. Hoffman’s verbal & facial sneers at the ‘hot shot’ Gavin are what elevate the otherwise thin plot to an upper level.
True, the film tries frequently to capture the look & feel of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” & fails basically because there’s no John, Paul, George or Ringo... Anywhere! Not even in the soundtrack (Blame Michael Jackson) which made it seem ‘unrealistic’; How do you depict the ‘feel’ of mid-60’s rock & roll without including the group that was played the most often on radio & located off the shores of the country of their birth?
Still, there were plenty of great songs from that era & the ‘DJs’ play several tunes that took me back to my youth (They also play some that made me shake my head & go ‘huh?’) I’ll run thru the list at the end of this review, but first I’ll finish off the ‘movie’ part – To keep from having to pay royalties to Her Majesty & licensing fees on top of that, rock radio stations would anchor themselves off shore & broadcast from ships. Kenneth Branaugh plays a stuffy British official whose main goal in life is to shut down ‘Pirate Radio’ despite the fact that rock & roll in the mid-60’s saved the U.K. from delving into a depression. For this reason, I doubted the validity of this character, but watching the film I realized, this clown is a government official, of course he hasn’t a clue as to what’s going on in the real world.
Bill Nighy plays Quentin, the owner of the radio station/ship & the story sort of centers around his Godson, Carl (Tom Sturridge) who comes on board as an intern. Most of Carl’s scenes involve his attempts to try to lose his virginity to the maidens that row out to ‘be’ with a big time DJ.
But the best parts are the scenes involving the DJs & their off air hijinx. This is true, 80% of my favorite radio memories are moments that happened ‘behind the scenes’.
Although I liked Nick Frost as one of the DJs, one scene that fell flat was when he tried to switch places with young skinny Carl so the lad could ‘lose his cherry’ to an unsuspecting fan of Nick’s.
Emma Thompson has a cameo as Carl’s hot mother & it’s a nice segment, but surprisingly short & void of a grand pay-off.
I’d be interested to see what the Under 45’s think of this film; especially the soundtrack since all of the songs played were recorded before they were born – That would be like me watching a film that only featured 40’s & early 50’s crap... But I know a lot of under 40’s who were introduced to The Beatles by their parents & consider them to be one of, if not THE best rock group of all-time. Now ‘Pirate Radio’ wonders – will they like the bands that followed in their footsteps?
Movie review portion over – Now for the soundtrack...
Opening with The Kinks “All Day & All Of The Night” was pure genius – A much better song than their early ‘staple' “You Really Got Me”, “All Day...” provided a toe tapping blast of fresh air that put this viewer in the right frame of mind; to not care whether or not the song was released in 1966, but to just sit back & enjoy. For the record “All Day...” was a hit in early 1965.
The Easybeats were actually from Australia, but “Friday On My Mind” captured the British Invasion sound so succinctly it belongs on any ‘Best of the 60’s’ compilations. It was released in early 1967.
“Here Comes The Night”(1965) was by Van Morrison’s Them (“Gloria” was their biggie) an unorthodox melody switching from skiffle-like verses to a bluesy chorus. I didn’t care for it much as a kid, but learned to love it later.
“Hang On Sloopy” the first American song heard was a huge hit for The McCoys featuring Rick Derringer (Of ‘Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo’ fame & later as Weird Al’s guitarist) ‘Sloopy’ came out in 1965 as well.
“I’m Alive” was an early Hollies song that didn’t do anything on the American charts yet went all the way to #1 in England (1965)
An odd selection came next, The Tremeloes “Silence Is Golden”. For one thing it came out in the summer of ’67 & secondly, they did a great rendition of Cat Stevens’ “Here Comes My Baby” which preceded ‘Silence’ & is just a better all around song.
To bring things to a complete stop, they played Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is”. I guess because they had yet to play a song that was actually released in their target year, 1966.
A welcome surprise was John Fred & His Playboy Band’s “Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)”; Outside of the box (It hit in 1968) but one of those quirky little numbers that you can’t help but like. Bending the rules to include this was an excellent choice.
I found Lulu’s “To Sir With Love” to be a weird choice, but she’s so cute & adorable, I never mind hearing one of her songs (1966)
When you talk ‘classic’ psychedelia, you must include something by Donovan & the “Pirate” producers went for the sure thing, “Sunshine Superman”(1966) I just wished they had found room for his equally strange but delightful “Epistle To Dippy”.
The Supremes should be mentioned during this era & the inclusion of “The Happening”
didn’t bother me at all; In fact, it’s a favorite of mine (1967)
Good thing Michael Jackson didn’t own the Rolling Stones catalogue otherwise “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” wouldn’t have been heard – Going outside the parameters again(1968) but glad they did.
“Fire!” How dull would the 60’s have been without this gem from The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown (featuring a young Carl Palmer on drums) So far every time they’ve ventured in 1968, the results have been fantastic.
The Yardbirds’ “For Your Love”(1965) was their first & biggest American hit but I would have preferred “Shapes Of Things” or “Heart Full Of Soul”
The Box Tops’ “The Letter” kind of came out of left field in 1967 as their debut single held the #1 spot for a month. Joe Cocker's remake cooks but this was the original.
I guess to give the ‘gals’ something to enjoy “Georgy Girl” by The Seekers was ‘aired’. It fit the criteria (early 1967) so why not play something cheesy? It just dawned on me – This, “To Sir With Love” & “The Happening” were all theme songs from movies of the same names & they are the only songs used so far with female lead singers... Hmm?
I loved Otis Redding’s ‘Sittin’ on The Dock Of The Bay’ so much, I bought his Greatest Hits CD & discovered ‘Dock’ was Otis’s attempt to move in an entirely different direction (& unfortunately he died before we got a chance to hear where that new direction would have taken him) So I knew his “These Arms Of Mine” when it played, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it – thrown in as an ‘oldie’ I guess since it came out in 1963.
The first song I had no idea who sang it or what it was called was a Leonard Cohen tune, I’m guessing the title was “So Long, Mary Ann”. Leonard was big in England for some unknown reason, so using this made sense for a British radio station to play.
The Turtles provided the next 2 tracks; “She’d Rather Be With Me” came out in ’67 so it fit, but “Elenore” (late 1968) was included solely to be played for a character of that name to be introduced. Still, both cuts are favorites of mine- some labeled Flo & Eddie’s original band ‘bubble gum/pop’ but I was never one to label songs – they were catchy tunes that were fun to singalong with & if it makes me a pansy for admitting I liked The Turtles, so be it.
A lost ‘classic’ came next – better known for the simplistic ‘Wild Thing’, I loved The Troggs’ “With A Girl Like You” back then & it holds up to this day. If ever a vocal ‘style’ matched a song perfectly it was Reg Presley’s on this. (1966)
A second Kinks effort appears with the hard not to like “Sunny Afternoon”(1966)
The Stones are back with the song that I mention anytime someone offers the opinion that THEY are the greatest rock group of all time. Has nothing to do with “Let’s Spend the Night Together”(1967) being a bad song, on the contrary, it’s one of the best ‘flip sides’ ever; but those who know the story about The Ed Sullivan Show will understand when I say the greatest rock band of all time wouldn’t have changed the lyrics to appease Ed’s stuffy producers. Ask Jim Morrison what a ‘real’ rock star would have done in that instance...
Herb Alpert crooning a Burt Bacharach tune on ‘Pirate' radio? “This Guy’s In Love With You” provides more than enough schmaltz to the brew. Doesn’t even fit, it came out in the summer of ’68!
To let everyone know its Christmas on the Boat That Rocked we rock out with The Beach Boys’ “Little St. Nick” just to prove that pirates are pussies too...
Not a favorite of mine, but Martha & The Vandellas’ “Dancing In The Streets” at least brought the soundtrack back to life for a moment.
I love Dusty Springfield’s voice, but calling her ‘rock’ is stretching things - Why “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” (1966) made the soundtrack had to be because she’s British.
Sorry, Seattlites, but Jimi Hendrix had to go to England to be discovered, thus his rather boring “Wind Cries Mary”(1967, originally) works in this environment.
Skeeter Davis’ version of “The End Of The World” is used instead of Herman’s Hermits for some reason (Michael Jackson owned Herman’s stuff too?) since the original came out in 1963 & The Hermits better version fits right in with the mid-60’s motif...
The Who are finally showcased with 3 songs, one too early (My Generation-1965) one that ‘almost’ fit (I Can See For Miles-late 1967) & one so far off it didn’t even come out in the 60’s! (Won’t Get Fooled Again-1971)
I’m sure ‘Fooled Again’ being included is what set off the naysayers to gripe about the songs being ‘no where near’ the time period. That’s why I bothered to look up every songs year of release – ‘Fooled’ is the ONLY one that isn’t even on the map, but because a few 1968’s were sprinkled in that makes them feel justified to complain.
Procol Harum’s 1967 masterpiece “Whiter Shade Of Pale” would have been a major oversight if they’d forgotten it. Too bad 'Conquistador' wasn't included as well.
Cat Stevens’ “Father & Son” also came out in the 70’s, but it was used as a plot point.
The Moody Blues’ “Nights In White Satin” belongs in any group of ‘classic’ rock collections. Though it wasn’t a hit in the U.S. until the 70’s, it came out in the U.K. in 1967, & it would have been a nice ‘moody’ track to end the film (The station does go ‘off the air’ at the finale)
But then they decided to send the audience on their way home with a more uplifting rock classic... Would they, in true pirate radio fashion, decide to say screw you to the Michael Jackson estate & play the ultimate 60’s song “A Day In The Life”? No, not exactly uplifting, is it? “Got To Get You Into My Life”? or “Day Tripper”? No? Don’t want to take a chance on having to pay for that extravagant funeral? Okay, Cream hasn’t been used – “Sunshine Of Your Love” Yes, that’s the perfect song to go out with! What? Too obvious? What the ---- does that mean? Oh, you want something more obscure – another ‘out of left field’ shot that everyone will enjoy hearing again – an overlooked gem that hasn’t been heard in years... I got it – “Him Or Me – What’s It Gonna Be?”
Works on all levels – released in 1967 – fits with plot (DJs fighting over chicks) - & brings Paul Revere & The Raiders back into the limelight with a great singalong cut that also has some bite to it. No, doesn’t work for you? Okay, what kick ass classic song from the mid 60’s do you want to end with? . . .

Go see the movie & tell me if you think THAT was a good choice. I like the song fine, but as a classic ‘send them home bobbin’ their heads in time with the beat’ number? It falls waaaay short.
& those are just the songs I remember hearing!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


“2012” (John Cusack...No need to list any other actors since they are merely fodder for the special effects team to create their ‘magic’ around)

Let’s look at the most recent ‘End of the World’ films; “Knowing”, “Wall-E” & “The Day After Tomorrow”; The only one that presented its apocalyptic world sensibly is the cartoon, “Wall-E”. ‘2012’ is like a conglomerate of these 3 films (Only borrowing from the Wall-E the idea of creating space ships to escape the crumbling earth)

‘2012’ actually starts off making plausible sense; presenting a scenario that very well could happen – it’s a question I asked my father as a child; “What if the sun explodes again?” What makes this film a joke is the way they ‘imagine’ the results of such a catastrophe will affect our planet.
According to this movie, we’ll have 3 years to plan ahead...Yes, folks, sorry to say, the sun has already exploded & the neutrinos are on their way as we live & breathe... but hey, we’ve got 3 years to get our affairs in order.

Director Roland Emmerich uses cracking asphalt the same way John Williams score was used in “Jaws” or a rippling puddle of water in “Jurassic Park” to announce that Mr. Rex was approaching – The difference being the music & the ‘impact’ ripples made you anticipate the arrival of something monstrous; the cracking sidewalks made me think, “Oh crap, what’s going to fall over & barely miss killing John Cusack THIS time!”
As with Nicolas Cage’s character in “Knowing”, John Cusack’s Jackson Curtis is the central focus used for viewing the end of the world, thus making it implausible that ALL of these near-catastrophic fates could happen to one person.
By the way, if you expect to learn anything about the Mayan calendar & why they predicted 2012 to be the final year of mankind, you won’t.
Jackson Curtis is a struggling writer, divorced with a young daughter who likes spending time with him & a son who doesn’t. Jackson takes his kids camping in Yellowstone & meets an eccentric goofball named Charlie (Woody Harrelson, clearly the best part of this movie) Through Charlie, Jackson learns why the asphalt is cracking & he rushes to get his ex-wife (Amanda Peet) & her new husband & lead them to safety... Hmm, if the whole planet is ‘caving in’, where does one take ones family to be ‘safe’? Aha! We’ll charter a plane & fly to safety! The scenes of Scott (the 2nd husband) flying the plane between buildings as they collapse into one another is supposed to be exhilarating, instead they are laughable since Scott admits before they climb on board that he’s only had a couple of lessons.
It’s the absurdity of it all that ruins this movie – I could have enjoyed the special effects roller coaster ride if they had just put it in a more logical setting – “Scott flew jet fighters in Iraq, he can get us to safety!” but no, they have Scott sitting in the cockpit looking for the emergency brake release as the runway collapses behind them... Stupid.
& how many times can one dysfunctional family barely escape death? According to
‘2012’, the answer is infinite.

Although they don’t matter, let’s delve into the acting anyway; Cusack does ‘okay’ – he’s forced to say some pretty dumb lines at times, but I didn’t hate Jackson Curtis. Woody is the best by far – Was anyone else hoping that the pick up truck they see in the Himalayas was going to have Charlie behind the wheel? (“Yeah, dude! I was wearin’ a parachute & the volcano blew me clear over here!”)
The ‘other’ characters centered on Danny Glover as President Barrack O’Dogma; his daughter, Laura (Thandie Newton) & his not-to-be-trusted aide Carl (Oliver Platt)
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Adrian Helmsly the ‘American’ who discovers what has happened to the sun by placing a phone call to India (Which was one of the few aspects of the film that made sense) & is given the job of predicting what the outcome of the explosion will have on the earth. Even though Adrian’s predictions are all incorrect, he somehow keeps his job. I’m wondering, did anyone think the same thing that I did – that this film was made by Republicans to ‘warn’ white America what can happen when you put black men in charge? I felt insulted by the film for making that thought cross my mind.
The religious finale added to the laughter, though they tried to cloak it in seriousness by having the Chinese build the ‘space ships’ that would save the most important members of mankind (i.e. the filthy rich)

‘2012’ follows a path from the ridiculous to the sublime, as it takes longer for the ‘space ships’ to open & close their pod bay doors than it did for California to fall into the Pacific. & speaking of the pod bay doors, sorry if this spoils the ‘plot’ for those who haven’t seen the film yet, but it seemed to me that the gears that get jammed should have had 2 obstacles that needed to be removed. I think it would have been gnarly to have Jackson reach down & pull what was left of the ‘other’ item that got stuck in the gears.

Just a word to Danny Glover, if this is the best acting you can do then the line you repeated so often in the Lethal Weapon movies has come to light – You ARE too old for this sh*t.
Another disappointment was the exclusion of the obvious song that should have been played every time there was an asphalt cracking scene – “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” (And I’m So Bored...)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


“THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS” (George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges & Kevin Spacey)

From the title alone you knew this wasn’t going to be an ordinary film... & it isn’t.
It is funny, it is well acted & above all, it is very original & I wanted to love it because of all that, but I can only say that I liked it an awful lot. I don’t know if it was the jumping back in forth in time that kept it from being great, or the mere fact that, even though it is supposedly based on a true story, it was still just a little too bombastic to swallow. It was almost as if the characters were being too serious to be taken seriously.
I have absolutely no complaints about George Clooney’s performance as Lyn Cassady; George was clearly the best part of the film. Jeff Bridges as Bill Django was funny, but not very broad; one wayward critic said he was channeling ‘the Big Lebowski’ – which was ridiculous because ‘Dude’ didn’t care about anything & Bill was one determined hippy officer whose sole purpose in life was to create an army of psychic soldiers – he may have looked like an older version of the Dude, but the characters had very little in common. Ewan McGregor may be the reason why it didn’t click on all cylinders; it is his character that narrates & ‘experiences’ the mayhem that leads to the grand finale. Though I can’t say as I felt that way while watching the movie – he seemed to do ‘okay’ as reporter Bob Wilton who miraculously meets up with Lyn after hearing his name from a discharged nutjob in his hometown. & finally, Kevin Spacey comes into the story late & doesn’t bring that boffo moment that I was hoping for. It was fun to see Kevin playing someone quirky again, but I was disappointed that he wasn’t given better lines.
Even though I laughed quite frequently (A 37 on my laugh-meter) I got a kick out of the premise & I thoroughly enjoyed myself for an hour & a half – something intangible was missing & just can’t put my finger on it (Other than McGregor may not have been the right choice to play the reporter)
The story bounces between the time when Bill Django gets shot in Vietnam (because his platoon doesn’t want to chance hitting someone when they fire their rifles) & his creation of a special forces squad of ‘psychic soldiers’ & present day Iraq where McGregor’s Bob meets Clooney’s Lyn.
Props to the make-up department in making George appear several years younger than his actual age during the flashback sequences as they show his development in Bill’s Psychic army. One of the exercises is to stare at goats & try to make their hearts stop; which Lyn explains he didn’t want to kill a goat with his mind, but he gave it his best shot because he was curious to see if he COULD actually do it.
In one scene, an officer gets up from being the desk in his office & runs full force into the wall. Pardon the bad pun, but that scene falls flat on its face. Maybe it was just that one moment that spoiled this film just enough to keep it from being #2 or #3.
Still, I encourage you to see it because it should make you laugh several times & it is very original – I doubt that you’ll get bored. You may walk out shaking your head wondering, “What in the hell was THAT all about?” – but I still think you’ll feel you were entertained.
Getting kidnapped, escaping, being rescued by idiots, escaping from their rescuers & discovering the Psychic army still exists are all humorously written scenes from the Iraq portion of the plot, but somehow it didn’t quite jibe for me... that mysterious missing link that kept it from gelling. It’s still one of the best movies I’ve seen in this very weak year,
but it had the potential to be #1 & it isn’t...

Sunday, November 1, 2009


“AMELIA” (Hillary Swank & Richard Gere)

This should have been titled “Amelia & George: A Bland, Lifeless, Loveless Story”
What we learn about Amelia Earhart during this biopic is that she was a fraud, an adulterer & a publicity whore.
Apparently Amelia accomplished one single feat in her lifetime (Crossing the Atlantic solo) & turned it into a lifetime ‘gig’ as a corporate shill. The only ‘interesting’ event that happened to this woman was the way she died.
I didn’t like the movie from the beginning because they open by showing Amelia with her navigator during their fateful flight. Earhart writes him a note. He reads it & chuckles... We, the viewing audience don’t get to see what is written. I was a bit peeved – why aren’t we allowed in on the joke? That’s simply poor filmmaking & writing. Then I thought – they’ll probably let us know what she wrote when time catches up to that moment in the film (Which bounces back & forth from telling Amelia’s life story to scenes from her final flight) but they don’t.
It was like they wanted to show the audience that Amelia had a sense of humor, but we’re not clever enough to think of something humorous for her to have written.
If Hillary Swank even gets nominated for this performance, it will be a joke (Or as it looks like it’s going to turn out, the weakest year for films in this century) Both she and co-star Richard Gere (as husband/PR man George Putnam) are as unimpressive as one can imagine. I pinpointed the problem with the fact that they seemed to try so hard to get their accents down they forgot to develop their characters – especially Gere, but we expect him to give weak performances; Swank should apologize for her lazy portrayal. If only they asked Amy Adams to reprise HER Amelia (from the insipid ‘Night at the Museum 2’ in which she was the only redeeming fixture) this film might not have been so boring.
The only thing that works here is if you’re a scenery buff – there is plenty of aerial shots of cool sunsets & storms & banking over waterfalls that if you’re the type that gets a thrill from looking out a window at crap, you’ll enjoy. But it doesn’t help matters when they have Amelia speaking such unctuous lines as ‘the stars seem to be near enough to touch’. . . No, they don’t! They’re millions of miles away, you nimrod.
Amelia initially makes a name for herself by being a passenger on a cross Atlantic flight. She turns this ‘feat’ into a full time occupation (Thanks to George) by becoming the abovementioned ‘Publicity whore’. She fails to win an ‘air race’ to promote women aviators & then, after marrying George, she has sex with a much younger more handsome suitor in Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor) whose greatest accomplishment was in fathering Gore (Shown here as a fraidy cat little boy who has been duped into believing Ms. Earhart HAS actually accomplished something)
When they finally show her one great feat, which she tells George she wants to attempt BECAUSE she is a fraud – the cross Atlantic trip is shown in a 2 minute clip in which Amelia takes off, encounters turbulence & then lands in Paris... er, no, I guess it was Scotland (or was it Wales?)
To subtract from the believability of this landing scene, they show ‘newsreel footage’ of Amelia shaking hands with the baffled sheepherder. Now, in today’s society it’s not that far of a stretch to believe that someone just happened to have a camcorder handy to record this ‘historic’ though wayward event, but in the
mid-1930’s I don’t imagine too many shepherds wandering the rolling hills of Scotland (or Wales) had videotaping devices handy just in case an American female pilot should happen to land amongst their flock...
A fraud, a cheating spouse & someone who would promote any product for money whether she approved of it or not – that’s how the heroine in this film is portrayed. Despite Amelia’s comments that she whores herself out for publicity just so she can fly, doesn’t dismiss the fact that she still whores herself out for publicity.
And I almost forgot to mention the amount of chemistry Swank & Gere produce onscreen... that’s because there isn’t any.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009



I find it hard not to like Michael Moore – He makes documentaries where he basically stands up for the ‘little guy’ in America; to say to the heartless big shots that run this country, “Hey, we matter too!”
I find it hard to understand why so many of the ‘common’ people dislike him. None of my friends are rich; I don’t hang out with the so-called ‘upper class’; so I have no idea how they feel about Moore’s work – I would imagine that they hate it because it paints them in such a bad light.
One person said they didn’t like him because he’s a hypocrite (“The only reason he made this movie was to make money”) Well, if Michael Moore is making tons of money off his filmmaking ventures, you wouldn’t know it to look at him – the guy still wears the same frumpy jeans, windbreaker & baseball cap that he wore in his first documentary (‘Roger & Me’ – revisited here) Also, who makes movies to NOT earn money from them?
We went to see “Capitalism” after it had been out for 2 weeks so we could use the free passes we received from purchasing tickets to other films. I couldn’t resist. I even reiterated the point to the girl at the ticket booth, “That’s right I’m using my free pass so I can see ‘Capitalism’ for nothing!” . . . She either didn’t see the irony, or just didn’t give a sh--. (I believe the latter is probably the correct answer)
The small auditorium wasn’t exactly packed; in fact, if I had bothered to take an actual head count, I doubt that I would have needed to use all of the digits on my two hands.
So if Michael Moore is a millionaire who’s biting the hand that feeds him, he deserves an Oscar nomination for his acting ability!
Okay, on to the film itself, which I will go on record right now as saying it is his weakest effort since his debut. Although I found myself nodding my head in agreement quite a few times, I was also shaking my head in disagreement when Moore would go down the wrong path & make his point look ridiculous. I refer to his questionable decision to interview priests to make disparaging remarks toward Capitalism; “It’s EVIL!”
Then a gay priest appears to show support for some displaced workers in Chicago that were not only let go from their jobs but not given benefits they were promised. When the dispute is finally resolved I almost expected Moore’s narration to end with ‘Jesus Saves!’
About 3/4ths of the way thru, he brings in a shining ray of hope by making Barrack Obama’s election as president appear to be the ‘second coming’ of you-know-who.
It kind of splats against the wall when you look at what Obama has actually done so far...
Another annoyance was his rallying cry that the poor people of America can change things with a single vote because their vote counts the same as a filthy rich snob’s vote. That’s being ignorant & naive. No, they don’t. Never have, never will.
But there were ‘fun’ moments too. Even though I saw the exact same interview with Elizabeth Warren, the woman who was put in charge of the billions of taxpayer dollars that was given to bail out the American banking and auto industries on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, it was still a head shaker when she admitted that she had no idea where the money was or what it was used for.
The clip of FDR calling for a ‘2nd Bill Of Rights’ gave me new respect for his extended stint as president, but then again, did he just throw that out there because he knew he was dying? And then the question arises, why didn’t Truman implement this plan during his reign?
Speaking of presidents; Moore shows the difference between a good president who got a bad rap and a bad president who received mostly good publicity with two clips from Jimmy Carter & Ronald Reagan. Carter, sitting alone at his desk in the oval office spells out the truth to the American people; & as anyone in politics knows that is no place to be seen speaking the truth! Then Reagan, with the CEO of Merrill Lynch at his side is seen babbling on about how good things are in this great country of ours. We then discover who really WAS running the country at that point and because of that we knew that the good times weren’t going to last.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur rips her constituents a new one with a fiery, passionate speech that clearly showed she actually ‘represented’ the people who voted for her.
If all politicians cared about this country as much as Ms. Kaptur we wouldn’t be in the mess we currently find ourselves.
So there are some new revelations & a lot of old ground covered with Moore’s slant & sense of humor involved but it is still worth seeing. If for no other reason than to discover that there’s a thin line between the CEO’s that run America’s biggest corporations & the so-called ‘terrorists’ of the Middle East. If Salman Rushdie ever views this film I’m sure he’ll cock an eyebrow at the memo that ended with the words, ‘Kill Him Dead!’

Monday, October 19, 2009


“COUPLES RETREAT” (Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Kristen Bell, Malin Ackerman, Kristin Davis, Faizon Love & Jean Reno)

The first thing I wrote down in my notebook while watching this film was the word
‘Ass-tastic’; I don’t remember what it means, only that it was stupid. That’s how memorable ‘Couples Retreat’ was – as soon as it was over, I couldn’t erase it from my mind fast enough.
This film starts off bad and only gets worse – Vince Vaughn’s son opens the movie with a ‘pee’ joke (Only funny if you’re a parent, I would assume) and 2 minutes later the same child is involved in a second pee joke - like we didn’t get how hilariously funny it was the first time. I’m not a parent, so a kid peeing in a public place didn’t strike me the least bit funny – I only got annoyed at Vaughn’s poor parenting skills.
The movie then introduces you to Vaughn’s three ‘buddies’ who are just about the worst friends you could possibly imagine; his token fat black loser friend (Faizon Love) calls him & begs him to co-sign for the motorcycle he wants to buy for his 20 year old girlfriend.
Another needy friend, Jason Bateman makes a major imposition upon Vince & the other two couples in order to concoct the premise of this disaster flick & the only thing I remember about Jon Favreau’s introduction is that his character is simply an unlikable arrogant jerk
All 4 male leads have way over-chicked; none of these guys are rich, none of them have sparkling personalities that draw you to them, & most importantly, none of them are FUNNY. 2 of the men have bigger boobs than their mates; 3 of them are cradle robbers, hooking up with ‘girls’ that would normally be cast as their daughters.
There is nothing here that feels ‘real’ – it is just one contrived scene after another; one of those ‘pamphlet’ screenplays where Vince & Jon probably wrote; “couples are visited by a therapist; think of something funny to say.”
The plot is as vacant as the humor; Bateman & Bell don’t let their friends know they’re having marital difficulties until they show them a video about Eden (The retreat) They then inform their friends that they can’t afford to go unless they get 3 other couples to join them for a group rate and that they must decide within 24 hours. Even if my very best friends in the world were to throw something like that at me, I’d not only say no, I’d probably stop taking any phone calls from them... but then again, my friends WOULDN’T do something like that – no TRUE friend would.
Then we get to see these bestest buddies interact with one another & that isn’t a lot of fun either. The token fat black loser, who couldn’t afford a motorcycle suddenly has enough cash to go on this tremendously expensive ‘vacation’? He weighs well over 300 lbs., but yet this cash-flow impaired walking blimp was able to attract a fairly cute twenty year old bimbo to sleep with him?
As soon as they get off the boat, Favreau’s character starts hitting on cute single chicks young enough to be his daughter, & since Jon was one of the scriptwriters, these knock-outs aren’t repulsed by his enormously flabby manboobs - they actually flirt back with him!
The only thing I’ll probably remember about ‘Couples’ Retreat’ is Malin Ackerman’s red hair. Why? The first film I saw her in (Watchmen) she wore a jet black wig and in the second, she was blonde. Although Malin was clearly the most attractive member of the cast, changing the color of her hair hasn’t improved her acting skills. I guess dying her hair is her only way to show she has versatility.

The audience (& my darling wife) seemed to enjoy the scene with the yoga instructor, but by the time this scene appears, I hated these people so much, even that set-up seemed moronic; Oo, look, Fabio is tea-bagging Jason Batemen, isn’t that a hoot! If any of the previous scenes leading up to the tea-bagging yoga instructor had been humorous, I may have gotten a chuckle out of it – but I didn’t like these people or this story – it was like being at a party where everyone just sat around & bitched about the other guests.

You may have noticed that I didn’t bother to write down, or look up the characters names; when I do that, it means the film stunk... excessively.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


“THE INVENTION OF LYING” (Ricky Gervais & Jennifer Garner)

The only thing that kept this movie from being perfect was Jennifer Garner. And I mean her acting & her character – everything negative stems from Jennifer & Anna (the role she plays) On the plus side, I guess she gets some credit for making me dislike her character so fiercely – but she’s supposed to be the Romantic Lead! You’re supposed to like her & want her to stop being such a stuck up b*tch!

But I loved this movie, so I’ll try to concentrate on what made it work.
2 years ago I would have told you Ricky Gervais didn’t have much talent.
Now, it seems the man can do no wrong – After “Ghost Town” & a very funny HBO comedy special, Gervais has come up with another hit – as co-writer/co-director & star of ‘The Invention Of Lying’ he is to be given the bulk of the credit for making this very important film (important to me & those of my ilk)

My constituents who richly add to this blog with their comments have often told me that I need to loosen up & ‘lose myself in the fantasy’ of a film (& not take them so seriously!)
Well, I totally lost myself in Gervais’ fantasy world where no one is able to tell a lie & I took it very seriously – Even though it was the personification of ‘brutality’ in it’s depiction of a brutally honest society – I still liked it better than the one we’re living in.
Gervais plays Mark Bellison; a screenplay writer in this world of complete honesty. And since no one has the ability to ‘make something up’, all screenwriters do is write stories of historical facts that professional readers ‘perform’ while seated next to a desk lamp.
Mark is stuck with the 13th century – the dullest century in history - while rival writer Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe) gets the more modern ‘exciting’ centuries to recreate.

Mark meets Anna on a blind date whereupon she immediately dismisses him for being pudgy & having a pug nose. She announces that she’s going upstairs to finish.... uh, ‘pleasing herself’ since there’s no chance this date will end in a sexual encounter – not even a kiss.
They don’t waste any time in letting you know this is a world much different from ours, even though everything else seems the same.
Advertising is as bland as the readers who sit & read ‘movies’ – a bus rolls by with the billboard ‘Pepsi – when there’s no Coke in the house’.

I don’t want to reveal too much & spoil this film - which I would call a ‘must see’ just from the message it sends – but needless to say Mark becomes the first person in this alternate universe to tell a lie (& it’s a whopper, but with good reason)
But his tall tale becomes a huge burden since no one has the ability to lie (except Mark) so every word he says is taken for truth.
I won’t tell you the set up, but my favorite line came from a woman in a crowd that yells, “We have to stop that bastard before he kills us all!”

Good tunes enhance the soundtrack, including an interesting remake of Cat Stevens’ under-rated “Sitting” by Elvis Costello & comedian Louis C.K. is very funny as Mark’s best friend, Greg (Well, at least Greg THOUGHT he was Mark’s best friend)
Another pleasant surprise are the cameos – Philip Seymour Hoffman takes a laid back approach as a bartender in one scene / While Edward Norton hilariously chews the scenery as a motorcycle cop. Also featured in cameos are Jason Bateman, Tina Fey & Christopher Guest; Bateman (as a doctor) & Fey (as Mark’s secretary) are memorable, Guest (as a movie ‘reader’) is not.

I’ll let you know that two ‘insulted’ couples left the theatre when it became apparent as to what the film was mocking & all I could think was, “I’m glad I’m not as closed minded as you pathetic pinheads.”
This will be in my Top 10 of the year no matter what – Because I think it’s not only funny, but necessary for people to see – if just one person sees this film & changes their mind about what they believe in, it won’t be enough, so that’s why EVERYONE has to go see it...

Monday, October 5, 2009


“The INFORMANT” (Matt Damon & Scott Bakula)

Odd little flick here; not nearly as humorous as the trailer made it seem – in fact, it takes a rather dark twist along the way - & for some reason; one that I can’t quite put my finger on, I still liked it. I guess for being off the wall & not your ‘run of the mill’ whistle-blower story, but yet, there was something missing - it didn't 'sizzle'.
I have nothing bad to say about the movie except the ‘background’ music – it was hideous! Here’s a film that is mainly set in the 1990’s & Marvin HAMlisch’s soundtrack consists of early-60’s ‘cheese’ (ALA ‘Austin Powers’) Plus, it was over-bearing; instead of subtly playing in the background, it kept screaming “Listen to me! Listen to how perky & cheesy I am!” Which begs the question – Why is Marvin Hamlisch still writing soundtracks? Didn’t he peak with ‘The Sting’ when he stole Scott Joplin’s music?

Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, a company nerd who fears for his job security so he turns to the FBI when asked to perform duties that Whitacre deems to be illegal.
Scott Bakula plays FBI agent Shepard with such blandness I think he actually put himself to sleep in a couple of scenes. I was looking forward to Seattle native & 'The Soup' host Joel McHale’s appearance as Bakula’s partner and he made me long for his better TV performances as well.
But this is Damon’s vehicle & he does a decent job of driving it from start to finish. The film is about a boring businessman attempting to bring some excitement into his life, and he does succeed at doing that – So I don’t know if I just got tired of Damon’s character’s innocuous screw-ups or that I didn’t ‘buy’ Mark as being a ‘true to life’ person – Could anybody be this stupid & naive & keep a relatively important job? As Mark is presenting the Feds with information that will bring the company he works for crashing to bankruptcy, he asks, “I’ll still be able to keep my job after all this comes down, right? I mean, they’re going to need someone like me to help build up the business again, won’t they?”
Just prior to entering an elevator to attend a meeting with various lawyers, Mark says, “Look, I was lying to you guys before, but I’m going to set the record straight when we get upstairs.”
Other than the background music I don’t have anything negative to say about the film; it was mildly amusing throughout, but the humor didn’t ‘crackle’ (If that makes any sense). It was a fairly interesting plot & yet I felt bored at times.
Decent cast; Rick Overton as Mark’s business associate Terry & Tom Papa as the boss (because his Papa owns the company) are both adequate. I don’t know if it’s just because I was expecting it to be off the wall funny and instead it becomes off the wall serious (While Mark reamins a moron)
They make it very clear up front that ‘The Informant’ is BASED on a true story & that some portions of the plot & dialogue were ‘made up’ to enhance the film... I wondered if they made up the funny parts or the boring parts?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


“LOVE HAPPENS” (Aaron Eckhart & Jennifer Aniston)

The character Aaron Eckhart played in ‘Thank You for Smoking’ would have kicked ‘Love Happens’ Burke Ryan’s ass. Unfortunately, Burke (also played by Eckhart) doesn’t get his ass kicked though I kept hoping his Ex-Marine Father-In-Law (Martin Sheen) was going to show up & do just that – Instead, the one time Jarhead shows up & starts weeping like a 6 year old girl who just had her pigtails pulled by the class pigtail puller... That’s not to say this movie totally sucks – In fact, if promoted properly this film would be receiving a more favorable review, but I don’t see how anyone that bought tickets for this ‘Romantic Comedy’ on opening weekend could walk out of the theatre feeling anything but confused on how it was marketed. First, there’s the light & breezy title; which sounds like the theme song should be sung by Peter Cetera(or someone equally wimpy) Like the promos, it is misleading – the storyline has virtually nothing to do with ‘love’ or how it ‘happens’ - I thought of 2 more suitable titles; “Death Becomes Him” or “Sham Wow!” - because this film is about a man (Eckhart’s Burke Ryan) who uses his wife’s death to scam people that have recently lost a loved one due to tragic circumstances. Burke is one of the most unlikable people you’d ever want to meet, & yet those responsible for the writing & creation of this movie expect audiences to root for him to succeed in finding happiness with Seattle flower shop owner Eloise (Jennifer Aniston) I guess by promoting the film as a ‘romantic comedy’ & using the sappy title ‘Love Happens’ they figure they’d bring in the classic chick flick crowd & they would look past Burke’s obvious disgusting flaw & just go “Aww, the poor man lost his wife & Jennifer is just too adorable for words, I sure hope they end up together – that would be sooo sweet!”
If I reveal too much about the plot in this review, well, tough – if you’re thinking about seeing this tearjerking weeper, at least I’m giving you a realistic viewpoint on what to expect.
Now the older couple that sat in front of us, laughed & clapped their way thru this from start to finish, so they were ‘getting’ the jokes that apparently were escaping me. But this film is about as comedic as ‘7 Pounds’, ‘Atonement’ or ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry’.
However, as J.K. Simmons made ‘Extract’ likable, John Carrol Lynch saves ‘Death Becomes Him’ with a marvelous performance as Walter from Billings, Montana.
I guess I’d better expand on the plot so you understand why Walter saves this from being a complete failure.
After losing his wife in an automobile accident(3 years prior) Burke writes a book called “A-Okay” about coping with the loss – it becomes a best seller & Burke’s sleazy agent (Dan Fogler) decides he should give seminars to cash in on the book’s popularity. Seattle is one of the stops booked for the scam, er, I mean seminar & it just so happens to be where Mrs. Ryan was killed. The dupes, er, I mean audience that pay for the seminar are mostly made up of senile old women & assorted dimwits eager to part with their money for a ‘get well quick’ scheme after losing someone tragically – with the exception of Walter who tells Burke he was coerced by his sister to attend. Walter has lost someone special as well, but he’s smart enough to realize that Burke is just out to make a buck & immediately asks for his money back – con artist Burke knows exactly how to play Walter & talks him into ‘hanging in there’. When Walter refuses to go along with a hokey confidence building routine, I found someone I could relate to. Early on, Burke takes the group of misfits to the roof of a Seattle skyscraper – I remember thinking, even in those early stages, that if these people were smart, they’d all jump off the side of the building & put themselves out of their collective miseries... (Spoiler Alert - they don’t)
I suppose you’re wondering where co-star Jennifer Aniston fits in? Well, that’s another problem with this film – she doesn’t – or I should say – she shouldn’t. This film should have been about redemption; Burke’s & Walter’s – it would have been an improvement.
& I’m not saying Jennifer is awful – she does well in this role & the material/dialogue she’s given. She doesn’t have great acting chops, but she’s just so darn cute & cuddly she’s hard not to like. When she feigns being deaf in order to reject Burke’s initial ‘come-on’, I thought that was clever. Until the a—hole discovers he was duped & confronts her for stooping so low as to pretend to be handicapped just to get out of having a conversation with a fellow human being. I hated to admit it, but the jerk was right; thus spoiling the first light-hearted moment of this dreary tale.
As much as I disliked Burke & this film in general – the damn thing did eventually win me over (But you weren’t expecting that line, were you?) & once again, I can’t tell you why I ended up liking the film because that would be an actual spoiler, giving you no reason to see it yourself. Let me just say that Walter’s story was the backbone & the fact that Eloise’s tight jeans kept my interest peaked (& Eloise wears those jeans throughout the entire movie) Although they lost me momentarily with a moronic, contrived attempt at comedy with the Rocky the cockatiel routine, even that stupid moment had a nice payoff in the end. So what can I tell you?
I hated ‘Love Happens’ for better than 3/4ths of the film & then it turned my disgruntled frown into a satisfied smirk proving yet again, it is better to have a welcomed ending than it is to get off to a great start & then fizzle out. Just know that ‘Death Becomes Him’ (AKA ‘Love Happens’) is NOT a romantic comedy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


“EXTRACT” (Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Ben Affleck J.K. Simmons &
Clifton Collins, Jr.)

Why would someone who hated ‘Beavis & Butthead’ & can’t stand ‘King Of The Hill’ go to a movie written & directed by Mike Judge? The answer is simple – the alternative was “All About Steve”.
My reason for choosing ‘Extract’ was simple – If I’m going to be insulted by dumbed-down comedy, I'd rather look at the exceptionally hot Mila Kunis instead of the over-the-hill Sandra Bullock.
When I saw Mila in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ I was stunned at how attractive she was. I tuned into a ‘That 70’s Show’ rerun to see how I could have missed such a gorgeous female & didn’t find her overwhelmingly pulchritudinous. Was it the transference of her beautiful brown eyes to the big screen that did it – or did she simply grow up & blossom since the series ended? Either way, Mila has now become one of those actresses I will pay money to see in a film simply because she is so adorable she’s worth the price of admission alone. Plus, she shows a bit of range in her role here by playing the ‘bad girl’ that preys on the type of losers that appear in Mike Judge productions.

So how bad was ‘Extract’? Well, thanks to J.K. Simmons it earned an 18.5 on the laugh-o-meter, making it a mild surprise.

The plot revolves around Jason Bateman’s character, Joel, who runs a company that produces various ‘extract’ flavors. Ben Affleck plays his best friend Dean. J.K. Simmons is Brian (Co-owner of the company, I believe – or his manager) Clifton Collins, Jr. is ‘Step’ an employee. Kristen Wiig plays his frigid wife, Suzie, and David Koechner his annoying next door neighbor.
An accident at the factory leaves Step with only one testicle & that’s where con artist Cindy (Mila) comes in. Cindy seduces Step as he recovers, talking him into suing Joel & the plant. She then takes a job at the plant & comes on to Joel.
There’s your basic plot & character list; now, what made this film work was Brian. When J.K. Simmons gets the right role he can steal a movie with one scene (As he did at the end of ‘Burn After Reading”) Here he does it with his flawless delivery of calling every employee at the plant ‘Dinkus’ (Except when referring to ‘Boy Genius’)
I anticipated every scene involving Brian & that alone makes this a film worthy of viewing.
Because of the lack of attention he gets from his wife, Joel starts planning ways of seducing the new girl, Cindy; to make this acceptable to Joel, his friend Dean tells him to hire a male gigolo to seduce Suzie, so he can have an affair with Cindy as an act of revenge.
As you can see, ‘Extract’ isn’t your run of the mill comedy & for that, Judge is to be commended. The characters are both unique, yet mainstream (if that makes sense) In other words, they have quirks, but are relatable – You should recognize these Dinkus’s from your own life, be they co-workers, family or friends (Or that ‘Boy Genius’ friend of a friend you’re acquainted with)
There is one exception to the ‘pleasant surprise’ of this film & that is the unfortunate inclusion of Gene Simmons as shyster lawyer Joe Adler... I couldn’t really tell you which annoyed me more – the fact that ‘this’ Simmons simply can’t act – or the fact that he looks like he’s made of plastic. Stay in the realm of ‘reality TV’ Gene, you’re annoying enough just being yourself – Oh, & good luck selling all those Kiss coffins...

Thursday, September 10, 2009


“TAKING WOODSTOCK” (Demetri Martin, Imelda Staunton & Henry Goodman)

“It’s getting to the point where I’m no fun anymore; I am sorry...”
Stephen Stills sang that line at Woodstock in 1969 & now, 40 years later, it perfectly describes the movies of 2009. Even though this film was ‘all right’, it wasn’t anything special – unlike the event which inspired its making. I liked most of it, up until the ‘festival’ got started & they then turned it into a long, boring acid trip (just to let everyone know that it was as much about drugs as it was about peace & music?)
Yet another ‘Daily Show’ contributor tries his hand at acting & although Demetri doesn’t ruin the film, he doesn’t add much to it either. I look at his contribution in two ways – One positive; his normal persona fits the character he’s playing – plus it’s the peripheral
characters that are meant to bring some spark to the table, not his – but he becomes a negative because he has to carry the entire film – the film is his story so the camera basically follows him around showing just what He went thru to help make Woodstock happen & what He did during the 3 days of peace, love & music (& DRUGS!) So if you’re expecting to see actors playing your favorite artists & see what sort of backstage shenanigans took place, you’ll be disappointed – there is NONE of that. & that’s why I used Stephen’s line – in the end, ‘Taking Woodstock’ wasn’t as much FUN as I hoped it would be.
Demetri plays Elliot Teichberg; living in Bethel, N.Y. with his aging parents (Staunton & Goodman) helping them run their dilapidated hotel & wishing he had the guts to leave home & get out on his own.
Probably due to the fact that no one else wanted to bother to do it, Elliot heads the city council & every year he helps put together the summer music festival which usually consists of a couple of high school bands. Still, Elliot needs a permit & approval from the council to set this miniscule shindig in motion, so when he learns that the people of Walkill drove the ‘Woodstock’ festival out of their town Elliot contacts Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff) & suggests holding it in Bethel. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Groff was ‘created’ as a clone of the late T. Rex frontman, Marc Bolan.
Eugene Levy plays Max Yasgur, the dairy farmer who initially rents his farm to the festival for $5,000 – until he learns how massive the event was becoming & suddenly his asking price skyrockets.
Liev Schreiber plays Vilma, the ‘person’ in charge of security at the hotel. Playing a transvestite isn’t easy to pull off & sometimes Schreiber hits & sometimes he misses, but I still looked forward to every scene in which he appeared just because Vilma was such an unusual character.
& I hate to say it, but once again, Paul Dano becomes the biggest bummer in a movie by playing a groovy, peace-loving stoner without much conviction. I liked the film up until Dano shows up – then it bogs down with a totally NON mind-blowing LSD trip. I guess Ang Lee wanted to give those in the audience the experience of taking a trip on acid with silly 60’s style artistic images that quite frankly bored me. I wanted Elliot to get to the festival & go behind the scenes – meet Pete Townshend who would abruptly turn around & say, “Get the (bleep) off my stage!” SOMETHING involving some of the acts that performed. Even a contrived meeting with Stephen Stills; Elliot could meet him just as he, David & Graham are about to go onstage & ask how he felt. “How do I feel?” Stills could reply incredulously, “I’m scared sh*tless!” To which Graham could remark, “Hey Stephen, you should use that to introduce us!”
But no, there’s nothing like that – the music is barely heard at all except in the distance. The artists take a back seat in this ‘Woodstock’ & that’s a total bummer, man.
Knowing this would have helped me enjoy the film more, because I did enjoy seeing how the event unfolded & came into being – I just wished they would have left Elliot & his first experiences with sex & drugs behind while we got to peek backstage & watch the professionals have sex & drugs instead of the novices...

Sunday, August 30, 2009


“JULIE & JULIA” (Amy Adams & Meryl Streep)

Five and a half hours of cooking food, eating food, talking about food, writing a blog about food and compiling a cookbook - This may well be the dullest movie ever made & a shoe-in to make my 10 Worst of 2009 list.
How could the two female leads of “Doubt” produce such dreck? This film is awful. I cannot fathom how anyone would find anything in this story even remotely interesting.
It is, in a word, B-O-R-I-N-G, with a capital BORE.
When I heard about this film I thought it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the plot would lead you to believe – but it’s even worse than I could have imagined. For those of you who may not know, this is the 'tales' of 2 women leading exceptionally boring lives & boring us with their unfathomably boring exploits in which absolutely nothing interesting happens to either person. To add to the misery everyone they know & come in contact with is also a boorish boring bore.
To give you an idea as to how terrible this film is the lone highlight involved a SNL rerun involving Dan Ackroyd. The only deserving Oscar nomination from this pile of rubbish should go to Ackroyd for Best Supporting Actress. In my last review I took a shot at ‘Inglourious Basterds’ for stooping to a low level by including Mike Myers; Here, the only scene worth viewing WAS an actual SNL skit!
Amy Adams plays Julie; a boring woman with a boring job who has aggravatingly pretentious friends whom we are forced to endure during a ‘lunch’ scene in which the two most insufferable of these friends spend more time on their cell phones talking to their assistants than they do with their dining companions. Having to sit with a pair of boring, insufferable bitches is not my idea of entertainment – It’s ANNOYING!
When Julie finds out one of her boring friends is having her blog turned into a book, she decides she can do the same – after all, she’s just as boring as they are & not nearly as pretentious or insufferable. Unfortunately Julie decides to blog about cooking every meal in Julia Child’s French cookbook... Scene after scene of cooks cooking & bloggers blogging; how could the script not be jam packed with excitement?
The film then shifts back & forth from Julie’s boring exploits as a cooking blogger to how Julia Child actually came to write a boring cookbook with her boring ambassador to France husband (boringly played by John Tucci)
Let’s pick on Julie first, shall we? We are forced to sit thru a scene with Julie & her husband eating dinner & both continuously talking with their mouths’ full - & what are they talking about? Well, the food they’re eating, of course! (Why did you even bother to ask?) So not only are these people boring, they have deplorable table manners as well.
An early entry in Julie’s blog reads, “Yesterday, I poached an egg...”
Fascinating reading, is it not?
Since I am a notorious nit picker, here’s a little snippet about Julie that annoyed me as well; after inviting friends over to have one of her fabulous French meals, Julie greets her female friend with a warm hug – she then addresses her friend’s male companion as “Hey, You.” I hate that. It is so rude & condescending. ‘Hey You’ is what you call someone when you can’t remember their name or feel they are so insignificant you don’t give a crap what their name is... Bloggers are such bitches.
Now, I’ll switch gears to the fascinating world of Julia Child before she ‘changed the world’ with her cookbook... Yes, they actually say this woman ‘CHANGED THE WORLD’ with a COOKBOOK.
As Julia attends a cooking class in France, we get to see her & several other chefs on the brink of changing the world as we know it by chopping onions... Not content with showing us the one scene of onion chopping, we are then shown a scene of Julia chopping onions at home (going solo – must have been that extra effort that helped her to change the world so dramatically) We then are taken back to cooking class where we see... you guessed it, future French chefs standing around a table chopping even more onions. If viewing a circle-onion-chopping-jerk is your idea of great filmmaking, you WILL shoot a load while watching ‘Julie & Julia’.
Julia tells her husband, “All I think about is food – All I DREAM about is food...” & all she ever talks about is food! They couldn’t have written these characters any more boring even if they had used actual corpses to play the roles.
Also Julia & her husband are chain smokers – in the 136 scenes of Julia & her non-morbidly obese husband having dinner, they both are shown smoking cigarettes & cigarette smoke is swirling in big puffy clouds all about them... I grew up in a family full of chain smokers – You can’t taste anything but smoke when you eat around them & this pair of nimrods are so infatuated with food that it’s all they think & DREAM about?
Their taste buds are covered with tar & nicotine! They can’t taste anything but ashes!
The usually scene stealing Jane Lynch plays Julia’s sister, Dorothy & when I realized it was Jane playing the role, I actually got my hopes up that this film was finally going to entertain me briefly... Don’t ask me how they did it, but they even made Jane Lynch boring!
There was one scene that made me smile (Aside from the SNL rerun) At Dorothy’s wedding, Julia touches her sister’s arm while dancing with their spouses. Dorothy reaches out & touches Julia back. It was a sweet moment, a tender moment & a wonderfully welcomed moment... Because No One Was Talking About FOOD!
Other than my mind shouting to me, “Hey, look, its Cliff Clavin’s ‘ma’!” this film was void of any memorable scenes.
I’ll quote my favorite quotable character to end this review – As Homer Simpson said to Tom Petty after Tom told the wanna-be rockers at the Rolling Stones Rock’n’Roll Fantasy Camp how hard it was to come up with a set of truly meaningful lyrics . . .

Tuesday, August 25, 2009



Is ‘Inglourious Basterds’ the best movie of 2009 so far? Well, to quote a character from the film, “NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN!”
Is it an entertaining ‘farce’? Oui.
Probably Brad Pitt’s most memorable performance on film; clearly a break out for Christoph Waltz & a surprisingly excellent performance by Diane Kruger (Who knew she could act?)
So why did it leave me with such a distasteful load of hokum in my mouth?
The ending just flat out sucks. You base a film on actual historic events & then you change history just to be ‘whimsical’, you’re a cheater in my book. Anyone who gave Tom Cruise crap for speaking ‘American’ in “Valkyrie” better not dare say anything positive about this film – At least the story of Valkyrie stuck to the truth!
The very final scene could have been left intact & I would have loved “Inglourious Basterds”, but what happens just prior to it is so absurd, it makes a farce of the farce and 'basterdizes' the whole movie. Now I know why QT misspelled the words in the title – Nothing about this story is ‘right’. Despite the fact that they start off by telling you events that everyone ‘should’ know to be true (Be you old enough to remember the actual events or spent any inkling of time studying a history book) Tarantino ‘invents’ this band of Jewish/Americans that call themselves the Basterds. You’ve probably seen clips of Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine ‘addressing’ his troops and demanding that each of them deliver 100 Nazi scalps, as well as The ‘Bear Jew’ that brings a baseball bat to ‘interrogations’ & the aforementioned ‘Hitler’ quote, “NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN! NEIN!”
My first warning to you is that there are subtitles galore; French, German, Italian & English are switched back & forth within the same scenes. There is a continuity problem so obvious in the opening scene that the director HAD to have done it on purpose (I refer to the movement of the glass of milk on the table) I’m sure he did it to let you know there’s nothing in this film that should be taken seriously. I guess you have to give QT originality points for presenting a ‘real life’ historical situation & re-writing history to please the huddled masses... perhaps the Basterds traveled back in time to correct that which had once gone wrong? THAT would have been more plausible to me because I wouldn’t have felt hoodwinked by the director for enjoying his film up until he went totally batsh*t with the ending!
The acting here is very impressive; the lone disappointment to me was the inclusion of Mike Myers playing a cheeky monkey of a British officer – it gave the film the feel of a SNL skit. That was yet another warning to not take anything that happens in this film seriously; Austin Powers playing a General?
But I don’t like being played for a fool & having the wool pulled over my eyes; if there had been a warning at the beginning of the film saying ‘The following events are based on conjecture of what ‘might’ have happened had there been an actual group of ‘Basterds’ on the loose in France during WWII’ I would have been able to sit back & enjoy the film more & gone along with the goofy ending.
As it was, I DID enjoy ‘IB’ despite the over-the-top violence (Which I expected, but doesn’t mean I liked seeing it) because it presented some interesting characters & situations.
Told in Chapters; the opening introduces the most fascinating character in the film – the scene stealing Christoph Waltz plays Nazi Colonel Hans Landa; nicknamed ‘The Jew Hunter’ by his countrymen because of his uncanny ability to ‘sniff out’ Jews in hiding.
As Landa interrogates a French dairy farmer in his home, the tension builds – similar to the coin flipping scene in ‘No Country For Old Men’ with Javier Bardem’s assassin, Anton & the old man at the gas station.
Chapter 2 introduces the ‘Basterds'.
Chapter 3 is the interrogation scene; both brutally violent & laugh out loud funny I’d have to call it the best scene in the film.
The following chapters tell the story of Joseph Goebbels’ plans to premiere his film about a Nazi sharpshooter that killed hundreds of Allied men from a turret. Goebbels, played by Sylvester Groth, comes across as being a bit fruity & so I didn’t buy him as the monster he was in real life (Another ‘wink, wink, this isn’t a true story’ clue from QT?)
Martin Wuttke plays Hitler as a hotheaded paranoid nimrod, which I believed for a brief while, but not as he sat chortling and clapping like a mentally challenged individual watching Goebbels’ film, “Nation’s Pride”.
Kruger plays actress Bridget von Hammersmark & almost steals the film from Pitt & Waltz with her amazing performance. I call it amazing because she has been nothing but eye candy in every movie I’ve seen her in.
The only major character I haven’t mentioned is Melanie Laurent’s; I omitted writing about her because to do so would give too much of the plot away. Although I had no problem with Laurent’s performance, I will let you know if you need to take a bathroom break during this 2 ½ hour film, do it while David Bowie’s “Cat People” is inexplicably playing under a scene where Laurent is applying make-up. Just don’t dawdle in the head; you won’t want to miss Lt. Raine’s first face to face meeting with Landa while pretending to be an Italian film director (because Aldo is the most affluent member of his squad at speaking Italian) But you will want to have an empty bladder prior to viewing the scene as it may cause you to wet yourself with laughter.
Yes, a very good film, & I’m sure when I view it again, I’ll be able to appreciate it more because I’ll know going in that it has absolutely nothing to do with HISTORY as we know it...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


“DISTRICT 9” (Sharlto Copley & Some Prawns)

It gets originality points, but the first half hour is very tough to weather, I almost turned to my wife & told her ‘If you want to go, I don’t have to see the rest of this’ - & that’s something I’ve never done. But I didn’t do that & the film did get better as it abandoned the ‘documentary’ style & turned into an actual movie with a decent storyline.
Sharlto Copley plays Wikus Van De Merwe; employed by a company called MNU & given the job of overseeing the evacuation of ‘Prawns’ from ‘District 9’ in South Africa.
He is given this task not because he’s a capable employee, but because his father-in-law runs the company.
As explained during the ‘documentary’ portion of the film (which is never totally abandoned, but has the decency to get out of the way so the interesting moments can take place) ‘Prawns’ are aliens from another galaxy that have more or less ‘crash landed’ over Johannesburg – though their spaceship doesn’t ‘crash’ to earth, it has merely run out of gas & hovers over the city like a dark foreboding cloud of metal.
The ‘Prawns’ are gathered up & put in what becomes a ‘slum’ known as ‘District 9’ (Pretty much the same set that Slumdog Millionaire used except with slumfishyaliens instead of dogs)
One rather odd revelation is that the Prawns have ‘extreme’ weaponry but since they didn’t come to attack earth, I guess they decide not to use them on us even after we treat them like they’re the scum of the universe. Another little quirk, these handheld WMD’s can only be fired by a Prawn; they won’t fire if a human pulls the trigger.
Wikus is called on the lead the evacuation of Prawns to an even more remote & unlivable situation (District 10, if I remember correctly) being filmed as he goes from shack to shack requesting each aliens ‘signature’ to properly ‘evict’ them.
While snooping thru the Prawn called Christopher’s quarters, Wikus discovers a large metal vial. He tries to open it & it spits out a black liquid that splatters on his face & hand. Almost instantly Wikus doesn’t feel well, but he keeps on making his rounds.
I won’t go any further in telling you what happens next, but it IS when the story began to catch my interest.
I am kind of surprised that there’s been a lot of good buzz about this film since it's just ‘okay’.
The Prawns are inventive beings, but they do look like they’d be more comfortable in an aquarium than a spaceship. But I can’t believe that no one has voiced their disapproval of the film’s anti-human slant. We, the earthlings, are the bad guys in this film – We’re, to quote Daffy Duck, ‘desssspicable’!
Pretty much every human except Wikus is a horrible person & the Prawns are innocent victims of our inability to NOT be racists. Now, I have no problem with this concept at all, I’m not a big fan of the human race as a whole either – I just don’t understand where all the nutjobs are in regard to this anti-human being flick. All I can figure is that they agree with everything the government of South Africa does to these creatures, so they’re all hunky dory with the story...


“The TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE” (Rachel McAdams & Eric Bana)

It didn’t take Eric Bana long to wear out all of the accolades I laid upon him for his appearance in 'Star Trek' – seeing ‘Un-Funny People’ & this film on back-to-back weekends really pointed out how ‘stiff’ an actor he is when not playing an evil alien leader. & once again we are slapped in the face with yet ANOTHER time traveling escapade that wears out ITS welcome long before the ending credits begin to roll.
Bana plays Henry, who has been ‘afflicted’ with a time traveling gene since childhood. Henry bounces back & forth thru time confined by the years of his own life. In the opening scenes (Stop here if you don’t want to know how the story begins – since it happens in the first 10 minutes I figure its all right to relate) Henry is a small boy sitting in the back seat of a car driven by his mother. Mom is trying to encourage little Henry to sing with her but he is reluctant. It is a snowy night & the roads are icy. As an out of control truck slides into their lane, Henry’s mother slams on her brakes & the boy vanishes from the back seat. Henry reappears naked by the side of the road just as his mother’s car collides with the truck (& the obligatory fiery explosion occurs) Eric Bana, as grown up Henry suddenly appears beside Henry with a blanket to wrap around his younger self. He tells himself “You just time traveled, but don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.”
So right off the bat, I have a big problem with this story. Little Henry didn’t ‘time travel’, he was ‘beamed’ out of the car & transplanted to safety - & I know Scotty didn’t do it because he hates Romulans & wouldn’t save ones life for all the Scottish whiskey in the universe.
The story then begins to focus on Claire (Rachel McAdams) the time traveler’s wife-to-be. This film has to be her weakest performance to date – she seems to let her dimples & high cheek bones do all her acting for her. Yes, she’s cute & adorable whenever she shines the coy smirk, but that’s about All she does in this - & she’s the Title Character!
One of the problems with this film is casting – McAdams & Bana have zero chemistry (My choice would have been to replace Bana even though Rachel was disappointing, perhaps she would have sparkled more with a different co-star)
In fact, the only chemistrial* spark that lights up is in the scenes between grown up Henry & Claire as an elementary school child – which is ‘ultra-creepy’ when you realize Henry is going to have sex with the little cherub later on in her life. (*Yes, I made up my own word, it fit, so why not?)
I’d call this a ‘low-brow’ ‘Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ in that an interesting story could have been made from this premise, but it isn’t the one the filmmaker chooses to tell. & I don’t mean to over-praise ‘TTW’ or slam ‘CCoBB’ by comparing the two – they are both based on characters with an oddity. & I thought ‘Benjamin Button’ should have focused more on how Benjamin dealt with his situation rather than turn it into a sappy romance - & the same goes here. Henry’s troubled existence opened up a wide variety of interesting paths to take – Instead they center on his affair with Claire, bringing nothing new to the table; Claire is like a jilted wife being cheated on by her ‘never there when she needs him’ husband.
& I won't get into the lazy make-up departments piss poor job of aging both Bana & McAdams as they play their characters from early 20's into their 40's & the only way to tell that Henry is older is due to a few streaks of grey in his hair & McAdams doesn't change at all except she is given a long haired wig to wear to represent Claire in her late teens.
& my final problem with this story is that after they lay out the rules of Henry’s time traveling abilities, they break them without any explanation as to why he was able to appear in years that didn’t fall within his lifetime. As if we, the audience, are just supposed to sit there & go “wasn’t that sweet?” Well, I didn’t go ‘Wasn’t that sweet?’
I went ‘Huh???’

Thursday, August 13, 2009


“FUNNY PEOPLE” (Adam Sandler & Seth Rogen)

I keep saying it every time I suffer thru another crappy Adam Sandler movie – This is the last time I put myself thru this torture - but there I was in Bellingham with 3 films to choose from; Julie & Julia, Something Getaway, & Funny People. The latter won because it was playing at the ‘little’ 3 screen theatre I like the most up there (Sehome)
When I heard that there were several comedians in the film, playing themselves & making hilarious cameos, I thought for sure I would see an Adam Sandler movie with twice as many laughs as his previous high (2)...I didn’t. It seemed as though the cameo comics were told to not use material that would upstage the ‘star’ of the film, so they were all pretty bland.
Sandler did make me laugh for the first time ever by using an X-rated bit about fellatio. It was actually funny & I was shocked that it came from the mouth of the least humorous comedian ever.
Sandler plays George Simmons (AKA Adam Sandler) a stand up comedian who graduates to a film career full of embarrassingly bad movies. When George is told that he has an incurable disease that will eventually kill him, George decides to return to his roots & put together a stand up act. He sees hopeful comedian Ira Wright (Rogen) sputtering thru unfunny routines that remind George of his ‘best’ material & asks if the guy would write him some jokes. Ira becomes George’s assistant while shutting out his buddy Leo (Jonah I’mnotfunnyeither Hill) whom George also thought funny enough to provide him with material.
Since he’s dying, George looks up the ‘one that got away’ (Leslie Mann) & decides to break up her marriage & ruin the lives of her two young daughters in the process. Not that George is an uncaring selfish jackass – he’s actually an uncaring selfish jackass who thinks he’s funny.
An equally unfunny subplot involving Ira’s other room mate, Mark (Jason Schwartzman) & his unfunny TV series, ‘Yo, Teach’ added 0 points to my laugh-o-meter (Which, by the way, did reach a new high for an Adam Sandler movie – 3 & 1/2)
Just to give you an idea as to how scared Sandler was at being upstaged by people who actually ARE funny – the ‘comedian’ with the longest cameo was Em-and-em (The unfunny untalented white rapper – the ‘Adam Sandler’ of the rap world, if you will)

A week earlier my dog’s girlfriend, Amy (she’s human, she just happens to be in love with Duffy) asked if we were going to see ‘Funny People’. I said ‘No.’ She asked why.
I responded “Because there’s no one ‘funny’ in it.”
I must have psychic powers, eh?