Monday, June 29, 2009


“MY SISTER’S KEEPER” (Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin & Jason Patrick)

Fans of “7 Pounds” should enjoy this film – well, that’s not a fair comparison; the heavy drama of Will Smith’s ‘downer’ flick was at least cloaked in mystery – why is he doing what he’s doing? With ‘Sister’s Keeper’, you know going in what it’s about & that there won’t be a lot of laughs coming your way.
But like, ‘7 Lbs.’, the cast help to make it realistic with their performances – especially impressive because children & Cameron Diaz are involved. Is Abigail Breslin as good as Dakota Fanning in her ‘prime’? It’s starting to become a viable argument.
The plot is rather morbid, but true to life with the obscene ways parents behave in this ‘modern’ society; Diaz & Patric are Sara & Brian Fitzgerald (I think Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song about their relationship back in the 70’s) Their second child, first daughter, Kate is diagnosed with Leukemia at a very young age. Their less-than-reputable physician actually suggests that they create a clone of Kate in a test tube to be her own personal organ donor. Sara & Brian, being idiots, do this. & thus, Anna (Abigail) is born and ‘harvested’ for the first 11 years of her life to help keep sickly dying Kate alive.
When Kate’s kidneys shut down, Anna is expected to give up one of hers. With help from older brother Jesse (Evan Ellingson) Anna hires lawyer Campbell Alexander (Another impressive cameo by Alec Baldwin) to sue her parents for the rights to her own body. Now, any normal thinking parent would suddenly realize that what they’ve been doing to Anna is downright despicable & come to their senses - Sara, an obsessed witch of a mother, takes her daughter to court to force her to continue to donate body parts & fluids to her dying sister.
They say this film will cause many controversial discussions, but I don’t see how anyone in their right mind would find a logical humane reason to back what Sara does. I give Diaz credit in that I hated Sara, but was her acting all that impressive? No, it really wasn’t, since anyone playing that role would have been easy to despise – but that’s not to say Diaz was bad, she didn’t detract from the storyline with her acting & for that she’s to be applauded. The rest of the cast is outstanding; Sofia Vassilieva as Kate couldn’t have been more believable as a dying teenager. Jason Patric as firefighter dad who takes way too long to stand up to his bitch of a wife deserves credit as well. As I said, Abigail has reached the plateau of one of the best child actresses ever; her scenes with Baldwin are probably my favorites in the film.
Now for the nitpicking; I liked Joan Cusak as the judge that has to decide the outcome of Anna’s lawsuit, but I was let down by a scene in which Anna asks her, “What does it feel like when someone you love dies?” (The judge had recently lost her own daughter)
She answers with the clichĂ©'d ‘lone tear streaking down her cheek’ – she should have answered the question – to me, this scene felt like a cop-out by the writer.
My next nit to pick is the soundtrack – Liked the use of Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home” during the frolicking on the beach scene, but at one point in the film, I found myself thinking, “What the...? Is that ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’?” It was being sung by a male with a slow, maudlin arrangement... Don’t ask me why they chose this selection other than to check & see if anyone was paying attention to the music - & those of us who were, at least got a chuckle out of this otherwise bleak film.
A small nit, but worth picking at was the disturbing sensation I felt while watching the very sexy Aunt Gloria (Nicole Lenz) romp on the beach with her young nephew Jesse. I’m not alone in this, others have told me they felt the same uneasiness concerning that relationship.
And I didn’t like the ending, though I obviously won’t reveal why in this review, I’ll just say that it wasn’t very realistic as they tried to put an upbeat spin on the future of the Fitzgeralds.
Over-all though, a very good film; it tugs at your emotions in many different fashions & is elevated above the ‘Movie of the Week’ plot thanks to some very fine acting and plot twists.


“AWAY WE GO” (John Krasinski & Maya Rudolph)

First off, someone needs to explain to me why Maya Rudolph was given the lead female role in this film & Maggie Gyllenhaal, a minor supporting one – If they had switched parts this would have been a much better film.
As it is, it’s simply a boring little movie that meanders without much purpose. Burt (John Krasinski) & Verona (Rudolph) are a happily unmarried couple that find their selfish lives altered when ‘Rona’ becomes pregnant. These people are in their thirties; they should have been prepared for this event – Instead, they are devastated when Burt’s parents announce they are moving to Belgium for two years because now they would have no one to watch over the baby while they carried on with their selfish, drab lives.
As the parents, Catherine O’Hara & Jeff Daniels bring a spark to the script, but all too quickly they are gone & we’re left with a now semi-happily unmarried couple.
Burt & Verona make a plan to visit every city in which they might like to raise their child, with the provision, of course, that they already know someone there who could help them raise the little bastard and ‘Away They Go’ . . .
Allison Janney is the brightest spark as Rona’s friend Lily, & comedian Jim Gaffigan is the perfect sarcastic compliment as Janney’s alcohol loving spouse, Lowell.
They are rejected because of their lack of parenting skills.
The Maggie Gyllenhaal segment is just plain ‘creepy’, as she and her mate have extremely radical views on parenting. Gyllenhaal plays L-N (pretentious for Ellen) & in her opening scene she is ‘breasts’ feeding her children. This, combined with the story she tells about another breast feeding incident are... ‘creepy’. The segment does end with a rare chuckling moment as Burt takes L-N’s older child for a stroller ride that makes his parents freak out. Then I wondered why Burt & Rona didn’t keep the stroller for their own child instead of leaving it with L-N, who obviously wouldn’t use it. Oh, yes, I forgot – this couple is just the opposite of the creepy couple – they don’t care ENOUGH about their forthcoming child, they are on a quest to find someone suitable to raise it for them.
Finally, they try Montreal & meet a seemingly stable young couple (Melanie Lynskey & Chris Messina as Munch & Tom) They appear to be the perfect pair. It is the most significant segment of the film, but it ends sadly & abruptly with no resolution & includes a very unsatisfying stripper’s pole scene in which no clothing is removed.
Acting-wise, Krasinski is very good – shows a lot of promise; he, Janney & Gaffigan provide the few comedic moments. I don’t see much a future in motion pictures for Rudolph – perhaps a series on the Lifetime channel should be her next career move. Not only is she one of those actresses that appears to be thinking about her lines as she ‘reads’ them in her mind, but she has no personality at all. A supposedly poignant moment when Rona & Burt recite their own personable ‘I Do’s’ falls flat because I didn’t feel Rudolph was a real person – I was always aware that she was just ‘acting’. Plus, Verona’s lack of commitment to Burt detracts from this ‘journey’ of a not-all-that happily unmarried couple. Also, close-up’s are not in Rudolph’s best interest either; Krasinski was much too good looking a guy to be with a rather plain woman whose face was spackled with green freckles to further enhance her lack of beauty.
I saved my biggest complaint & compliment for last – each involving the soundtrack. I think the last time I was this annoyed by the song (& artist) selections in a film was ‘Juno’ – Except here, the songs didn’t grate on my nerves (Like in ‘Juno’) they actually just added to the boredom which surrounded this mundane couple. EXCEPT, out of nowhere on comes George Harrison’s fantastic “What Is Life?” from his debut solo album “All Things Must Pass” – that excellent opening guitar riff & toe-tapping melody was clearly the highlight of the movie – when it faded out, I can’t begin to describe how disheartened I was. In the end I found it odd that they didn’t chose a more apropos song from that album – “Isn’t It A Pity?”

Monday, June 22, 2009


“IMAGINE THAT” (Eddie Murphy)

If it wasn’t for ‘Norbit’ (or was it ‘Norbert’?) I’d say Eddie Murphy has hit a career low with this. but when I thought about it – making awful movies is pretty much Eddie’s forte these days. After seeing the extremely humorous ‘Hangover’ recently, I began thinking about where it ranked in the all-time best comedies & one of the films I had among my all-time favorites was ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ – Oh, how far has Mr. Murphy fallen?
I heard someone say that if it wasn’t for ‘Dreamgirls’, Eddie would be on the longest losing streak in the history of films. My first thought was “This person thinks ‘Dreamgirls’ wasn’t trash?”
In fact, thanks to the exclusive use of Beatle songs in the soundtrack, I’d say “Imagine That” is better than ‘Dreamgirls’ because I could only sit thru about 15 minutes of THAT horrendous ‘musical’. Incidentally, the Beatle songs are cover versions; with the exception of “All You Need Is Love” being butchered during the finale, the covers aren’t all that bad.
This film is so stupid, I shouldn’t give it a review at all; Just write – It sucks, stay away!
Here’s the premise, folks, & I kid you not – Eddie plays a financial advisor climbing the corporate ladder. Thomas Haden Church offers nothing but yawns as Eddie’s chief competitor, a Native American who speaks as though he’s in a commercial for littering instead of offering sound financial advice.
Eddie’s young daughter has imaginary friends that she speaks with thru her 'blankie'.
The child starts telling dad financial advise given to her by her imaginary princess’s.
Of course, the make believe princess’s are never wrong & Eddie begins to shine at the company. Church discovers Eddie’s ‘secret weapon’ & begins harassing his own son for brokering tips. You HAVE to believe me, because no one would make up something that dumb.
Someone wrote that Eddie ‘redeems’ himself with this performance, which had me utterly baffled – this is one of, if not THE most embarrassing role of what has become a very embarrassing career.
At this point even a return to Axel Foley would probably be a complete failure. Eddie might as well team up with Tim Allen for ‘The Santa Claus 5: St. Nick Meets The Klumps’ . . .


“The TAKING OF PELHAM 123” (Denzel Washington & John Travolta)

I’ve never seen the original, so I can’t comment on how this stacks up against it.
For the most part, I enjoyed this film; for the first 3/4ths of it I felt I was viewing John Travolta’s finest acting excursion ever. He does, unfortunately, ruin the accolades I was going to heap upon him by falling into a one-note character. If you go to see ‘Pelham 123’ after reading this, please count the number of times John’s character, Ryder, says ‘m-f-er’ – My guess would be about 2 dozen.
Denzel Washington does his usual outstanding job as Walter Garber, a long time transit employee who has been demoted to subway dispatcher while being suspected of taking a bribe. During most of the film, I was thinking Travolta is holding his own with Denzel and in some scenes was actually ‘out-acting’ him, but by films' end, this thought had dissipated & Denzel comes through as the clearly superior actor, even though there’s no logical reason to believe his character would do what Walter does. Washington brings depth to his characterization, while Travolta does not. Still, I was impressed with John for most of this – just disappointed with how he didn’t breathe any new life into the character as it reached its conclusion.
The set-up here starts off muddied, but clears up as the film progresses (As all good films should) but, without going into spoiling detail, of course, I was less than thrilled with the way it ended.
We see Denzel’s Walter sitting in a crowded control room, speaking into a microphone and telling subway drivers where and when to go. Interspersed with these ho-hum routine scenes is a group of ne’er-do-wells obviously carrying out some diabolical scheme as they board subway train 123. Travolta’s Ryder pulls a gun on the driver and orders him to open the door to his ‘cockpit’.
The thugs eventually separate the lead car from the rest of the train (with logical reason) and Walter Garber is the lucky dispatcher that gets to negotiate with the homicidal lunatic calling himself ‘Ryder’.
An excellent supporting role from John Turturro as the ‘professional’ police hostage negotiator who is humble enough to realize that Walter’s demeanor & rapport with Ryder are the best chances the hostages have for survival. And James Gandolfini as the mayor of New York City (Still playing a mobster, eh?) comes across as believable despite looking exactly like Tony Soprano.
My least favorite movie gimmick – the obligatory car chase scene – isn’t as annoying as usual in this because the police are rushing to pay off the $10 million ransom Ryder has demanded before he starts killing hostages. HOWEVER, (You knew that was coming, huh?) the fact that director Tony Scott just HAD to include a gnarly crash sequence had me shaking my head in dispair, while others in the theatre felt the need to ‘woo-hoo’ the sight of a squad car being demolished. Yeah, like we haven’t seen that 123 times before...
Overall, though, I liked it. Perhaps because it follows so closely on the heels of ‘Angels & Demons’ which became rather stupid & obvious, despite having a really good plot; instead of potential Popes being assassinated within a certain time frame, ‘Pelham 123’ puts innocent subway commuters’ lives at stake. And, of course, it follows the formula for added suspense by turning Walter into the ransom ‘delivery boy’ so he & Ryder can meet face-to-face. The problem I had with the finale is that Walter isn’t a cop, he’s a subway employee – a desk-job flunkie that doesn’t normally do what he’s being asked - & yet he turns into Dirty Harry out to take down the punks once he gets his hands on a ‘piece’. Still, Denzel made it work... somewhat.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


“UP” (voice of Ed Asner)

Every time a Disney Pixar animated film is released, critics heap praises upon them, calling them fun for children ‘of all ages’ (I guess that includes morons of all ages too)
& the public gobbles them up as well, since they are almost always among the highest grossers of the year... Me ? I don’t get it. I liked ‘Toy Story’, but it wasn’t ‘spectacular’. I liked ‘Wall-E’, but it wasn’t ‘brilliant’. “The Incredibles’ was barely passable as entertainment & I hated ‘Ratatouille’ & ‘Cars’.
So here comes Pixar’s ‘Up’ – the story of a crotchety old man that wants to get away from city life (namely ‘people’) so he attaches a million balloons to his house & flies off to some remote location to live out the rest of his life in peace & tranquility... Wouldn’t a plane ticket to Florida accomplish the same result?
Still, I’m a 50-something kid at heart & am a sucker for a good cartoon every once in a while (I loved last years ‘Bolt’) & since my wife enjoys the simplicity of animated tales, we went to see ‘Up’... In regular ‘D’, by the way.
For the first time, I almost agree with the critical praise – with one catch – I don’t think this is a very good kid’s movie – it REALLY is for an older audience. I mean, do kids want to watch, or would care about an elongated silent montage on how Carl & Ellie went from childhood ‘chums’ to young, excited newlyweds, building their nest egg for when they can make their live-long dream move to Paradise Falls in South America?
Along the way enduring some heartbreaking moments, ending with elderly Ellie passing on leaving Carl so desperately alone that his daily routine consists of walking out to the front porch and sitting down to be harassed by all the construction going on around his home. An existence that includes just a handful of meaningful items for him to remember his dear departed mate, Carl is deemed ‘dangerous’ by the city when a careless construction worker damages one of these precious items. Thus, I reprimand myself for making light of why Carl decides to ‘float’ his home to Paradise – so along with having some light-hearted comedic moments, ‘Up’ is mainly a touching story of one man’s attempt to take the ‘memory’ of his beloved Ellie to the location she always dreamed of seeing. It isn’t often that a cartoon will put a lump in my throat, but ‘Up’ did.
It's far-fetched, but that’s what cartoons are supposed to be. Being a dog lover, I enjoyed the ‘invention’ of a device that allows dogs to speak in English through their translator collars & that every canine in the film is engrossed at the thought of the possibility of a squirrel being nearby.
I’m guessing that pre-schoolers will like it because of the big colorful bird that befriends Carl, but any kid with a ‘working’ brain isn’t going to relate to this film unless they’re a boy scout, maybe. Yes, it’s message of you can find wonderful friends in the least likely of places - & ages & forms – is one that should be appreciated by all – but I just feel that when I was in elementary school – thru my early teens, I wouldn’t have been entertained by this old man since I had no way to relate to his predicament.
Bottom line, ‘Up’ almost lives up to the accolades that are automatically heaped upon Pixar films by actually having an animated ‘heart’ that touched mine.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


“The HANGOVER” (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis & Justin Bartha)

I know I promised Google that I would keep this blog ‘clean’, but this movie is fu**in’ hilarious! I have not laughed as much in a theatre since ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’. I went into this thinking it would be a mildly amusing second-rate comedy, leery of Bradley Cooper’s ability to be laugh-out-loud funny & the inclusion of 2 ‘Daily Show’ correspondents (Ed Helms & Rob Riggle) Don’t get me wrong, I love the Daily Show, but its funniest alumni are just that – in the past (Steve Carell, Lewis Black & Stephen Colbert... Okay, okay, Black may still show up from time to time, but he’s not a regular anymore – don’t nitpick)
I had hopes for Zach, being a stand-up comedian (Or is he a sit-down comedian since he's often at a piano during his act?) Throw in the ‘he hasn’t been funny since Hank Kingsley’ Jeffrey Tambor, the extremely cute Heather Graham, Mike Freakin’ Tyson & Chelsea Lately audience warm-up guy Brody Stevens(in a bit part that doesn’t even constitute a ‘nibble’, but he’d be overjoyed at being mentioned in any review of this film & since I met him once a few years ago at Swannie’s Comedy Underground, I figured I’d throw him a bone) & you really didn't expect this film to be the wall-to-wall crack up that it is.
From start to finish it all works – there is hardly a scene that doesn’t include several chuckles & many times I burst out in my annoying girly-man guffaw. Some would call me a tough audience, but when the material is this funny, I am actually an easy laugh.
I have mentioned my ‘laugh-o-meter’ before & since its invention no film has garnered into the seventies – until now. ‘The Hangover’ scored a 79. Last year’s exceptionally amusing ‘Tropic Thunder’ was in the mid-40’s. Anything in the 20’s is considered to be a ‘good’ comedy.
‘The Hangover’ scored a 79.
No, I’m not telling you very much about the film, but I don’t think I should – I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you – Just go see the damn thing, it’s fu**in’ hilarious!
I should warn you that it is quite ‘raunchy’, oft times stooping to crude, bawdy humor but it is very well written with one snappy quip after another & one absurd set-up after another to make the filthy-yet-witty quips work. I laughed my ample ass off.
It is also clearly a guy’s movie. Maybe that’s why I loved it so much – Cooper finally got out of that chick flick mundane comedy rut he’d been stuck in & he has become a star in my mind with this quirky dude-relatable outing. But I did ask my wife if she found it amusing, or too dirty and low-brow for her taste & she, though acquiescing that I enjoyed it much more, said it was a very funny film.
The film opens with Phil (Bradley Cooper) looking pale & weary with a still bleeding split lip calling his best friend’s bride-to-be on his cell phone while appearing to be on a deserted stretch of highway & telling her that her fiancĂ© Doug (Bartha) is not going to make it to their wedding on time. We are then sent back in time to 2 days earlier where Doug & his future brother-in-law, Alan (Galifianakis) are being fitted for their tuxes & planning Doug’s bachelor party trip to Vegas with his 2 other groomsmen, Phil & Stu (Helms)
Doug’s future father-in-law (Tambor) lends Doug his BMW for the road trip, asking only that he not allow his son Alan to drive – nor Doug’s best man Phil; since Alan is a f--- up & Phil is an a—hole.
To give you a taste of the type of humor ‘The Hangover’ offers – When Doug & Alan pick up teacher Phil at the middle school where he works. Alan says, “I’m technically not allowed to be within 3 blocks of any school,” as he salaciously eyes the young children as they emerge from the building. This film is rated R for a reason – Don’t take your kids!
When the foursome arrives in Vegas Stu announces that he’s going to ask his girlfriend (who cheated on him with a cruise ship bartender) to marry him during the reception after Doug’s nuptials. He produces the engagement ring saying it was his Grandmother’s Holocaust ring, to which a confused Alan remarks, “They gave out rings during the Holocaust?”
Although the movie starts off strong, it actually soars into a whole new stratosphere when the ‘title’ comes into play. The ‘hangover’ segment begins with Stu, lying face down on the floor of their Vegas suite, bleeding from his mouth. Alan stumbles out from behind the bar wearing nothing but a t-shirt. & Phil is rudely awakened by Alan when he comes running out of the bathroom, having the piss scared out of him (literally) by the full grown tiger that he finds in the can while taking a leak. Doug is nowhere to be found & none of the 3 men can remember anything that happened the previous evening.
I would also like to commend the make-up artists on this film, as you have never seen 3 guys look more like actual victims of the world’s worst hangovers in your life. You understand why they have total amnesia since they made my stomach feel queasy just by looking at them!
A baby left in a closet, a stolen cop car, kids with tasers (the scene that includes Brody) the owner of the tiger, a naked Asian man & the mystery of Stu’s missing tooth all combine to help the threesome retrace their actions & discover the whereabouts of the groom-to-be.
Heather Graham is still a knockout playing the sweetest hooker/stripper you’d ever want to meet while on a drunken/drug-induced bender & just when you think they can’t possibly make you cackle with laughter anymore, they run a somewhat pornographic yet side-splitting photo montage of the events that led to the 'morning after'... Did I mention this movie scored a 79 on my laugh-o-meter? Dude, that means it’s pretty fu**in’ funny!


“THE BROTHERS BLOOM” (Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo & Rachel Weisz)

The easy comparison here is to ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ - one of the 2 great Steve Martin films - & that’s one of the main reasons ‘Brothers Bloom’ fails.... It is NO
‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’.
Brody & Ruffalo play the title characters, Bloom & Stephen Bloom; professional con men.
Stephen provides the schemes & Bloom... well, goes along with them. Rinko Kikuchi
plays their nearly mute demolitions expert.
Beginning with the brothers as young lads, the film starts off slowly & remains inert until Rachel Weisz’s Penelope appears. Rachel provides what little spark there is to this bland, routine ‘con job’ caper, but even she can’t save it from dissolving into its own cesspool of blandness. For once Penelope catches onto the fact that she is being conned by the Blooms, she still sticks around to be conned yet again & again. You could understand her enthusiasm at wanting to become a member of the gang & join them in conning others, but she is always the mark & she continuously allows herself to be taken until she reaches the stage of appearing pathetic. It wasn’t humorous to watch them con her the first time & it became monotonous watching them screw her out of her inherited wealth time & time again. By the time the film reaches its conclusion – Is it another of Stephen’s cons being played out yet again, or is he actually in danger of being killed? - I didn’t give a crap. I didn’t like him, & I especially didn’t like Bloom since he was ‘pretending’ to fall in love with Penelope while constantly bilking her. I guess we were supposed to have an inkling of compassion for Bloom since every time Penelope tried to hand him a wad of cash he’d secretly return it. The meaning for this is never explained, the conclusion I drew was that he didn’t want her to just ‘give’ him money; he wanted the pleasure of ‘tricking’ her out of it... Like I said, this movie fails on almost every level.
Normally I would find it easy to blame Ruffalo for his dull performance as an excuse as to why I did not like one of his films, but here he actually shows a little bit of range, brings a little bit of life to his character... but then I noticed something else about Mark;
he is simply a bad actor & I didn’t buy him as the brains of the outfit for a second.
Brody, whom I normally like, is so one note in this, HE’S the boring actor. Only the two females provide any reason to stay interested & since Rinko rarely speaks, that leaves the major load up to Rachel, who does do a commendable job, but everything bogs
down as the storyline just drags along repetitively.
I wanted to like this movie but for a whacky con job story, it simply wasn’t funny & it wasn’t very clever as it would resolve its predicaments in a relatively dumb manner.
To close on a pet peeve of mine – Why would the casting agent hire a kid with a very small nose to play Adrian Brody’s character as a boy? I didn’t know which kid was which brother until they growed up & Ruffalo called Brody ‘Bloom’... & was his name Bloom Bloom, or did the older sibling just call him by his last name?
If you are fan of Rachel Weisz, you’ll enjoy her performance in this, but otherwise there is absolutely no reason to check out ‘The Brothers Bloom’.