Tuesday, March 24, 2009


“DUPLICITY” (Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti & Tom Wilkinson)

A better actress in the female lead & you’d have a nifty, intelligent con flick here. Actually, this is a nifty, intelligent con flick which is saying something these days, because, even though it was easy to tell that the con had its flaws & there were already multiple twists in the plot that made you leery of just how many more twists were coming – I liked how it ended.
Clive Owen as Ray Koval; an ex-spy turned get rich quick schemer carries the film. Giamatti & Wilkinson as rival corporate bigwigs do command the screen (especially Giamatti) but they’re the icing on the cake, it is Owen’s character that keeps you interested in what’s taking place. Appearing at times to be highly intelligent & a step ahead of the rest, Ray also has his moments of looking like a complete idiot – seemingly being duped by Julia Roberts’ Claire; another ex-spy turned... well, we don’t really know what she is until the final scenes. Clive has the much more difficult role & simply makes Roberts look like an inferior actor.
The dialogue, as they like to say, is ‘snappy’, but even with the witty repartee the scenes with Ray & Claire are the ones that fall flat. I would liked to have seen Roberts switch roles with Carrie Preston, who plays a corporate secretary that Ray seduces to gain inside info on the company she works for. Carrie was pretty, spunky, naive & ultimately broken when discovering the cute doctor she met in the bar screwed her in more ways than one. The only problem then would have been, can Roberts handle the bit part? . . . My guess is no, she couldn’t.
To reveal too much of the plot would be spoiling the fun because ‘misleading’ is the key word to practically every scene. Other than Roberts, my only complaint would be the irritating ‘flashbacks’ – About every fifteen minutes up pops the dreaded ‘Two Months Earlier...’ caption. Followed by ‘Two Weeks Earlier’, ‘Two Days Earlier’, ‘Two Minutes Earlier’... Okay, I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean. The things is, just like director Tony Gilroy’s first film, “Michael Clayton”, in the end it all comes together nicely & most of the questions are answered. But if it helps you to decide whether or not this movie might be one you’d want to see – here’s the layout in a nutshell... Mmmm, nut shells... In the beginning Gilroy created Ray & Claire; two corporate spies that have a brief history (she duped him years earlier) Ray convinces Clair that he won’t get fooled again & she reluctantly agrees to work with him. Claire works for Wilkinson’s company which is about to unleash a product that's guaranteed to make billions. Ray works for Giamatti’s company that may possibly go bankrupt if they don’t discover what this secret product is & steal it. There’s your basic premise, but it does become somewhat entangled as each flashback reveals more & more about what’s really going on between Ray & Claire. If you’re afraid because Owen & Giamatti teamed in the exceptionally dumb ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’, have no fear with ‘Duplicity’ – If anything this script may be a little TOO clever.
Now that I think of it, Owen & Roberts appeared in the exceptionally boring ‘Closer’, didn’t they? But Clive, at least, redeems himself – he is excellent; & Paul, Tom & Carrie all deliver top notched performances as well.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


“WATCHMEN” (Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman & Matthew Goode)

Let me try to explain this film to the movie-goers from my generation (Born in 1960 or
earlier) . . . Xena, the Warrior Princess is in love with a Big Glowing Blue Rooster /
Don McLean (of ‘American Pie’ fame, not the ex-NBA player) dresses up like a gay hawk & has a secret crush on Xena /
Meanwhile, grown-up Danny Partridge is running around town doing Clint Eastwood impersonations with a gunny sack over his head /
Shaun Cassidy (Keith Partridge’s real-life brother) plays the smartest guy in the world &, like all effeminate Mensa members, is a master of martial arts /
Robert Downey, Jr.’s much less talented older brother plays ‘The Comedian’ who, oddly enough, doesn’t do or say anything remotely funny /
Later, when Danny Bonaduce is sent to prison, we are shocked to discover that the transgender loving punk turns out to be the baddest ass to ever set foot in prison; “I’m not locked in here with you, YOU’RE LOCKED IN HERE WITH ME!” Little Danny bellows after deep fat frying a large black inmate that was about to give him the shiv. Then after the inmates gain control of the prison (We’re not told how, it apparently isn’t one of those factors we needed to know) Kelly Leak, er, I mean, Danny Partridge pummels pro wrassler Haystack Calhoun & then flushes Kramer’s dwarf buddy from ‘Seinfeld’ like he was just another dump /
Finally, Bob Hope’s corpse plays Richard Milhous Nixon, the President that cares so much about mankind he’s re-elected 5 times... Yes, folks, this IS quite a far-fetched fantasy!
Yes, all of you comic book lovers can sneer & boo at your computer screens & mumble how this idiot writer doesn’t ‘get’ the underlying concept of what ‘Watchmen’ is really about, but I can only report what I perceive, & as I watched this 2 hour forty-five minute long fiasco unfold, the voices in my head kept yelling “Enough already!”
Enough of the graphic shots of the Big Glowing Blue Rooster; Dr. Long Island doesn’t wear pants – Okay! I get it! Let’s just show the nature lover from the waist up then! Enough of the gory scenes of violence created solely to appease the ‘slasher’ film crowd. Enough with these supposedly ‘normal’ humans that like to dress up like superheroes taking on dozens of armed gang members with just their bare hands & coming out victorious, & without a scratch. Does anyone actually feel ‘entertained’ by watching elongated fight scenes? The film constantly goes from super slo-mo to incredibly FF to stop action to normal speed to super slo-mo, FF, stop, normal; it does this so many times I lost count of how many Enough Already’s went off in my head.
The underlying plot of World War 3 looming between the Russians & the U.S. was intriguing, but NOT with America being the home of the Big Glowing Blue Rooster, the only actual Watchman with super powers - Unimaginatively enough brought about by a radiation experiment gone awry. BGBR (AKA Dr. Manhattan) has the ability to transport himself anywhere in the universe; grow as big as a mountain & obliterate human beings with a wave of his hand (Would have made more sense if he disintegrated people by shooting a ray from his mighty Blue Rooster, at least that would explain why he felt the need to have the thing poking out all of the time) So Dr. Manhattan is a walking invincible nuclear reactor with the ability to destroy the entire planet, should he choose... Why then, would the Soviet Union escalate the Cold War to Def-Con 1 proportions, knowing the U.S. had this ultimate weapon of mass destruction?
So the part of the film that showed some promise didn’t make any sense. I also liked the idea of ‘masked’ vigilantes (ala Batman) actually existing – the premise, as I understood it was that these costumed crime fighters were being assassinated one at a time & the Danny Partridge character, Rorschach was the only one concerned about it & the film would be about his attempts to both stay alive & unravel the mystery. Unfortunately it doesn’t live up to that promise. It is SO FAR OUT there, it’s silly. It would be different if it were set in the future – when people were so bored with comic book movie sequels that they decide to create their own real-life costumed heroes & then bring in the mystery of ‘Who is killing them off & why?’ – then you’ve got an intriguing concept on your hands, but being set in the 80’s detracts from the ‘fantasy’ – We KNOW none of this nonsense took place, so no, it was impossible to lose myself in the fantasy. Sorry, comic book fans, but this, the most celebrated comic book in the history of mankind, is a total failure as a film.
If I were to praise it at all, it would be to say it WAS ambitious – there’s no question about that & I’m sure those of you that enjoy this type of crap (Spiderman, X Men, Friday the 13th) will absolutely love this because there is plenty of mindless violence & unnecessary special effects to keep your eyes busy (That is as long as you like looking at Big Blue Roosters) But I walked away thinking it was written by someone with an over active imagination that doesn’t know when to back off & a director that pounds & pounds one outlandish scene after another into your brain thinking it will pass as entertainment.
Now, for the item that bugged me – Rorschach wears a sack over his head that continually changes from one ink blot to another – I thought that was clever – but they don’t explain how it does that – Nor how does Danny Bonaduce see thru it?
Is it explained in the comic book? & yes, people, they ARE comic books – If you want to divulge into your own fantasy world by calling them ‘graphic novels’, that of course is your privilege, but don’t expect the rest of us to humor you. If it’s a picture book where what the characters are saying is printed inside a balloon – it’s a comic book! Call them ‘Illustrated Stories’, I’ll go along with that – but don’t insult me by using the word novel. A co-worker (Who loved ‘Watchmen’) told me he heard that the film makers used the comic books as their storyboard. & if that’s the case – then you have to call every storyboard for every movie ever made a ‘graphic novel’. . . I rest my case.
Prior to this century the only comic book movie I liked was ‘Superman 2’. In the 21st century, I’ve liked 3 of them – ‘Batman Begins’, ‘Iron Man’ & ‘The Dark Knight’(over-rated though it be) That is why I gave ‘Watchmen’ a shot. I knew the basic premise & kept hearing how it ‘wasn’t for kids’ - & yet there were plenty of them in the theatre – what does that tell you about modern day parents? “A violent comic book movie with swearing & nudity? Sure, kids, I’ll take you to see THAT!”