Monday, July 20, 2009


“500 DAYS OF SUMMER” (Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Zooey Deschanel)

I defy anyone to watch this film & not like it – If you don’t, I either feel sorry for you, or am envious that you’ve never experienced what Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tom goes thru after meeting the girl of his dreams (Zooey Deschanel’s ‘Summer’)
This is a very realistic romantic comedy that never falls into ‘chick flick’ realm. & the reason it succeeds is Gordon-Levitt; I’m going to say it, though I’m sure I’ll be castigated for doing so, but he deserves an Oscar nomination for his work in this non-Oscar type of movie. I’ve always liked Zooey, & she’s fine here – though I’m beginning to wonder how much range the little cutie has, other than those gorgeous blue eyes – but Joseph, outstanding in “The Look Out” & “Stop Loss” delivers an almost perfect performance – Why should it matter that it’s in a relatively light-hearted comedy?
He sold me, as many actors often do, without saying a word – Tom’s reaction to Summer placing her hand upon his near the end of the film is priceless. Being one who has ‘been there, done that’, I knew exactly what he was feeling & the reaction was executed to perfection – Give the guy a nomination & what the hell, since the Academy has screwed up the ceremony this year by allotting 10 best picture nominees, give the movie a nod as well – it is one of the best of its kind ever made.
Although ‘500 Days Of Summer’ is basically the story of Tom’s roller coaster love affair with Summer, the film adds several nice touches to elevate it above the norm.
It all starts on day 1, when Zooey’s Summer gets a job at the greeting card company where Tom works as a writer (The ‘Roses Are Red...’ card he writes while going thru a depressing time during their relationship is a guaranteed laugh out loud moment)
Normally, I would wince at the thought of the lead actor prancing down the street lip syncing to a Hall & Oates song, but by the time that scene pops up - you are so behind Tom & his quest for love, the ‘fantasy’ dance sequence actually becomes a highlight. It didn’t hurt that they used one of only a couple of H&O songs that I like (“You Make My Dreams”)
It was perfect – as is this film, I don’t think it ever hits a sour note – the relationship depicted here is as real as they get & that’s the attraction – If you can’t relate to this couple & find everything they do believable, you’re living on a different planet than I am.
Director Marc Webb uses the old bouncing back & forth in time routine, which I usually dislike, but it works here – Aided by the fact that they tell which of the 500 days they’re about to show you. Tom enters an elevator all smiles on day 149 – We are told that we are now skipping ahead to day 373 & the elevator doors open to show Tom in complete misery. Yeah, that’s what trying to make a relationship work will do to you. The problem Summer has with Tom is that she knows he absolutely adores her & you can sense that bothers her since she’ll never be able to live up to his expectations. Yet, at the same time, she obviously loves him as well – just not as much as he loves her.
Tom’s two best buddies add to the enjoyment providing lousy advice & less than sturdy shoulders to lean on. & once again, a great song selection is used to enhance a film – this one, however is a surprise as it’s a Nancy Sinatra song called “Sugar Town”. Zooey sings it at a company karaoke outing & I found myself bobbing my head to the breezy little melody. The lone low point in this film is with whatever song it is that Tom croaks out – I’m sure everyone under 40 will be laughing that I have no idea what the name of the song is or who ‘sings’ it, but it does help explain why I don’t listen to ‘new’ music anymore. Fortunately they don’t show him singing the entire number.
So now I have a rarity in my list of 5 favorite movies of the year – a romantic comedy sits at #4 (Behind ‘The Hangover” “Star Trek” & “Sunshine Cleaning”; just ahead of “State Of Play”)
A realistic romantic comedy – what will they think of next? Coming off the heels of having to sit thru garbage like ‘The Proposal’, this film was a refreshing breath of fresh air. & I also dare you not to leave the cinema with a smile on your face after viewing the final scene; the line, & the look are like everything else in this movie – perfect.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


“PUBLIC ENEMIES” (Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard & Billy Crudup)

In the early 1960’s, when I was a kid, there was a plastic toy machine gun that would make a ‘rat-a-tat’ noise when the trigger was pressed; as an added attraction, a light would flash from inside the plastic mechanism to indicate bullets being expelled.
Director Michael Mann must have gone out & bought a sh*tload of these toy guns – modified them so the light shot out from the barrel & then said, “Okay, let’s make a movie about bank robbers!”
There’s very little that I liked about ‘Public Enemies’ & I blame Mann completely. I disliked it right from the beginning as he seemed to have hired the same guys that shoot the ‘Girls Gone Wild’ videos for cameramen. There is a ‘cheapness’ to the production that spoils the fine performances of Depp & Cotillard as John Dillinger & his lady, Billie.
All I can figure is that Mr. Mann must have signed a merchandising deal with Burger King, so his ‘cheesy’ production values could tie-in with a ‘cheesy’-burger value meal.

Then there’s the costume problem; the film is set in ‘depression-era’ Chicago, yet EVERYONE is wearing pristine suits & hats – even the extras in the banks are smartly dressed, as though this was a very affluent time in America & everyone had plenty of money to spend on expensive suits & dresses. No ‘Brother Can You Spare A Dime?’ bums existed on the streets of Chicago according to Michael Mann – the streets were void of any litter; the cars were all mint condition sedans that never showed so much as a speck of dirt – riddled with bullet holes, but clean as a whistle.
So the camera work was cheap, but everything else was too polished. & trust me, if I notice those things, they are poorly done - annoy me with ‘reality show’ camera shots, make me notice what characters are wearing & you’ve done it all wrong.

I’ve heard nothing but criticism of Christian Bale’s performance - & though, I’m not saying it isn’t warranted, he isn’t ‘awful’. I’d say his character is fairly bland; Melvin Purvis is introduced by showing him gun down Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum in what is clearly his best acting to date) Purvis shows no emotion as he ‘takes out’ the mobster by shooting him in the back. So why should he exhibit ANY emotion for the rest of the film? He reminded me of Jack Webb’s Sgt. Joe Friday; “Just doing my job, ma’am, that’s why I wear a badge.”
No, Christian isn’t the one to be criticized here, it’s Mann. Billy Crudup doesn’t exude much character as J. Edgar Hoover & yet, I don’t hear any complaints about his lackluster performance. But Bale screamed at a production assistant, so now he’s a crappy actor. True, he seems to have peaked with “3:10 To Yuma” & is on a downward slope, but this film is of such poor quality, you can’t fault Bale for that.

SPOILER ALERT! If you’re unaware of Dillinger’s fate in this story don’t read on... Well, if you’re unaware of how John Dillinger died, you probably don’t read much, so never mind... I only bring up the film’s finale because it struck me as ‘laughable’ – compared to the ‘harrowing’ murder scene in “Milk” where I felt sick to my stomach at how realistic that death sequence was filmed, Public Enemies’ climax was just as cheesy as the rest of the film. A big fat cop walking thru a crowded street with his gun arm extended, taking aim at someone who appears to be just another pedestrian & NO ONE in the crowd screams or panics in any way... They do look nice in their pristine suits & fancy cocktail dresses though.

The good parts are provided by Depp & Cotillard; he hasn’t impressed me in YEARS & she is new to me – her Oscar winning performance isn’t the type of film I’d enjoy. But they both shine in this otherwise cheesy flick. Depp has the best lines; Reporter:”Johnny, you have police departments in fourteen states out looking for you, what does that mean to you?” Dillinger:”I’m popular?”
The best scene was made up, so it reduces the ‘realism’ of the entire film, as I’m certain that the real John Dillinger never walked into the Chicago Police Department’s ‘Dillinger Squad’ offices & asked the detectives to tell him the score of the Cubs game.”
Fellow viewer, famed movie director Alan Smithee commented afterward, “I imagine 15-to-16 year old boys will be entertained by it.”
But as I thought about who might enjoy this film, I leaned more toward 90-100 year olds who were alive in the 1930’s... I’m sure even in senility, they’d be thinking to themselves, “I don’t remember everything being so clean & pristine back in those days...”


“MANAGEMENT” (Jennifer Aniston & Steve Zahn)

The first half of this film doesn’t work at all – it is kind of dumb & somewhat boring; then it gradually grabs your attention & you start to forgive it for the early faux paus.

Steve Zahn plays Mike; a guy bored out of his mind & badly in need of getting a life.
He works as the fix-it man & late night desk manager at the low-rent motel that his parents own. His world is jolted into meaning when Sue (Jennifer Aniston, looking very unglamorous) checks into the motel for a 2 night stay.
Sue is in town on business – she sells art to hotels & restaurants.
Trying to come up with a way to both impress & get her to realize his existence, Mike digs up a dusty bottle of wine from the motels cellar & offers it to Sue as a complimentary ‘welcome’ present.
Sue is pleasant toward Mike, but obviously uncomfortable with him being in her room, so she takes a quick sip of the wine & asks him to leave.
The next evening Mike shows up at her door with a complimentary bottle of champagne, which he says is given as way of a ‘thanks for saying an extra night’ gift.
Feeling a little more comfortable with him & realizing he’s relatively harmless; Sue invites Mike to share a sanitized plastic cup of bubbly with her. When dufus Mike comes right out & tells Sue she has a great butt. She asks him if he’d like to touch it. At first Mike is certain that she’s pulling his leg, but when she assures him that she will let him feel her behind with the stipulation that he leave her alone for the rest of her stay, Mike goes for broke.
This is where I felt this film would be a failure if they were to allow these two people to become ‘involved’. Mike showed Sue absolutely no respect by latching onto her derriere simply because she told him he could. To me, it felt like Sue was testing him & he failed miserably. The following morning, Sue flies completely out of character by coming on to Mike in the laundry room.
Then the story gets a little creepy as Mike shows up at Sue’s workplace in her hometown of Baltimore. Sue shows extremely poor judgment by allowing Mike to spend the night sleeping on the floor in her bedroom – I mean, this guy is a stalking motel hack that she’s known for 2 days! & wasn’t Norman Bates also a low-rent motel manager?
The highlight of the first half of ‘Management’ is the inclusion of Three Dog Night’s great rendition of Hoyt Axton’s “Never Been To Spain” (Much like “What Is Life” brought a much needed spark to ‘Away We Go’) as Mike travels across country to ‘stalk’ Sue.
For much of the film there is NO chemistry between Aniston & Zahn – they are both portrayed as ‘drab’ people living meaningless lives, & even as it tried to become ‘sweet’ by showing the couple handing out food coupons & beverages to the homeless, it suffered from the awkward, unbelievable beginning.
But gradually the film does produce a certain amount of charm, mainly thru Zahn’s performance as he continues to ‘stalk’ Sue to Aberdeen, Washington. A far-fetched parachuting scene initially made me roll my eyes, but then provided a nice comedic moment to salvage the ridiculous notion that a novice skydiver could hit an extremely small target on his initial jump.
Mike’s friendship with a young Asian man provides more chemistry than his ‘romance’ with Sue & Woody Harrelson’s cameo as Sue’s ex brought a little bit of life to the tale as well.
The film goes off on an odd tangent when a discouraged Mike becomes a Buddhist Monk, but I have to say that by the end of the movie I was rooting for Mike, the creepy stalker, to find happiness.
Am I glad that I saw “Management”? – Yes, I am.
Would I ever want to watch it again? - Probably not.
It was ‘different’, & despite the boring stretches it had originality going for it – I mean, who would think to make Aberdeen a location in their film?
& despite the fact that she doesn’t have outstanding acting skills, there is just something about Jennifer Aniston that I like – vulnerability, I guess; for something made me forgive her for all the dumb moves Sue makes in this movie...


“MONSTERS Vrs. ALIENS” (Voices of Reese Witherspoon, Keifer Sutherland, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert as 'The President' & Paul Rudd)

I do give credence to ‘expectations’ having a lot to do with how much someone enjoys a film. I had low expectations for this (Anything I wait until it comes to the $3 theatre is either something I wouldn’t pay full matinee price to see or a movie that my wife has no interest in seeing) So with that in mind, ‘Monsters V Aliens’ isn’t all that bad. If I had gone in believing those that called it a ‘laugh riot’, I would have been extremely disappointed.
There really isn’t much to comment on – everything you need to know is right there in the title; it is a cartoon version of Alien Vrs. Predator, except it has nothing to do with those scary Aliens & there is no Predator. Okay, it has very little to do with Alien Vrs. Predator other than the similar titles, I just needed to write something to pad this review.
Witherspoon voices Susan, a young woman living in Modesto, Ca. who gets hit by a meteor on the day of her wedding & grows 50 feet during the ceremony. Don’t ask how she survives being hit by a meteor; if you need an explanation as to how this sort of thing can happen, watch a Roadrunner cartoon & pay close attention to how many times Wile E. Coyote survives what would normally be a fatal incident... & yes, that’s me padding some more.
Susan is then whisked off by the military & confined with 4 other ‘monsters’; Dr. Cockroach (Laurie) is a scientist that tried to make himself invincible by crossing his DNA with a cockroach – instead it just turned him into a talking cockroach that wears a white lab coat. The ‘Missing Link’ (Arnett) is a Creature from the Black Lagoon-ish talking fish with arms & legs. B.O.B. (Rogen) is a blue blob created by combining a tomato with gelatin & having the mixture go terribly awry. & even though BOB seems to be indestructible, he doesn’t have any actual ‘skills’ to bring to the table.
The 4th monster is a Godzilla sized bug that doesn’t have the ability to speak – so it basically is just a big bug that stands in the corner of the room doing nothing.
Aliens attack earth because of the substance contained in the meteor that hit Susan; it is supposedly the most powerful substance in the universe & Big-headed 4-eyed Alien Guy (I think they called him Galaxar, but Big-Headed 4-Eyed Alien Guy is a better name since it’s longer & assists in the padding procedure) will stop at nothing to find it.
Galaxar(Wilson) sends a giant metal probe to track down Susan - Since the substance is now inside her.
Keifer Sutherland voices General W.R. Monger, the man in charge of keeping the monsters contained until every branch of the military fails to stop the probe.
Paul Rudd voices Susan’s annoying weather-man/anchor-man hopeful fiancĂ©, Derek. Paul was so exuberant with his voice work, I didn’t even recognize him.
There are a few laughs along the way, so ‘MvA’ isn’t anything special, just a silly little cartoon flick with plenty of goofy looking creatures to entertain the young uns...

Monday, July 6, 2009


"GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST" (Matt McConaughey, Jennifer Garner & Michael Douglas)


Oh, all right, I already tried to one line review with ‘Paul Blart’ I guess I’d better not do it again. On my laugh-o-meter ‘GGP’ scored a 2 & 1/2 . . . that’s 76 & ½ fewer than ‘The Hangover’ (Even ‘The Proposal’ made it to 3)
This film is an insult to both arrogant a**holes & airhead bimbos – plus it has the added ‘attraction’ of two of the most over-rated ‘pretty’ actors in Tinseltown. I don’t understand what attracts women to McConaughey & I personally find Garner to be a little on the homely side. & acting chops? Let’s not even go there; I think I’ve insulted the two stars where it hurts them the most anyway.
This movie doesn’t waste any time in letting you know where it is headed – right from the opening scene you are made aware that Conner Meade (McConaughey) is the world’s biggest jerk – Doesn’t even pretend to be suave, & makes it perfectly clear that he thinks women have one purpose in this world & that’s for him to lay & then toss aside. He has a reputation for doing this, so naturally ALL women find him irresistible (Hence my summation that this film even insults bimbos)
The groomsmen in Conner’s brother’s wedding party think he’s a ‘legend’. These so-called ‘men’ are, of course, pathetic losers. I would hope that most guys would look upon Conner as a legendary a**hole who shouldn’t be admired by anyone with any trace of self esteem.
Jennifer Garner plays ‘Jenny’ – the one that ‘got away’ from Conner . . . ‘Got away’ meaning that after she asked him to spend the night spooning her after the first time they had sex, she woke up alone.
If there’s anything positive to say about this film, it would have to be Michael Douglas’ performance as Conner’s late Uncle Wayne, appearing both as a ghost & in flashbacks as he teaches young Conner how to disrespect females in every possible way. Even having said he’s a ‘positive’, Uncle Wayne really doesn’t do or say anything clever.
After introducing us to Conner the a**hole, we are then further subjected to just how uncaring this horndog is as he proceeds to destroy his younger brother’s wedding; one truly moronic scene has Conner ruining the multi-tiered wedding cake when all he had to do was to call out for someone to help him in the kitchen.
The film then decides to insult the work of Charles Dickens as Conner is told by ghost Uncle Wayne that he will be visited by 3 ghosts. The best line in the movie is delivered by the Ghost of Girlfriends Past – the 16 year old that was Conner’s first conquest – as she tells him “We’re going to try & figure out how you got your head shoved so far up your own a--.”
The Ghost of Girlfriends Present speaks a telling line with, “Look how much fun everyone is having now that you’re gone.” Too bad the script writer didn’t realize how truthful that line was & not create this loathsome character to begin with.
& you already know that the GGF shows Conner his own gravesite with his brother being the lone mourner. . . If Mr. Dickens isn’t spinning in his grave each & every time this film is being shown then he must have been cremated.

“17 AGAIN” (Zac Efron, Thomas Lennon & Matthew Perry)

Wife wanted to see it, waited until it came to the $3 cinema & built up some ‘husband’ points so I could get to see the stuff I want to see later in the year.
This film was very confusing to me, since the lead character -
& I was so impressed with this movie, I don’t remember any of the character’s names, so we’ll call him ZacMatt –
appears to be the gayest member of his high school basketball team, but then we see him walking out on his team in the middle of the ‘big’ game when he discovers his girlfriend is pregnant... Must have been ‘experimenting’ with heterosexuality before taking classes on interior decorating?
We then FF & see MattZac as a frustrated loser of an adult (& his gay/boyish looks have been totally shot to hell) who wakes up as a 17 year old after telling the janitor at his old school that he’d really like to get another shot at winning the ‘big’ game. When the premise of your story is that some old fart wakes up young again, you'd think the writer would at least try to come up with something 'creative' as to how it happened!
Comedy doesn’t exactly thrive in environments such as this & ’17 Again’ is no exception. ZacMatt is shocked to discover his daughter is a slut throwing herself at a future deadbeat dad; his son is the school putz; & his ex-wife wants to screw his brains out because he reminds her of the man that disappointed her so much over the past 20 years.
Without revealing the ending, as if you even WANTED to know how it ends, I will always remember this film as being the one where Zac Efron walks off the basketball court in his uniform & as he turns back into Matthew Perry, the uniform actually becomes baggier rather than tighter . . . Does anyone actually believe that MP is in better shape the ZE?
Oh, & co-writer Thomas Lennon (Reno 911) plays MattZac’s best friend who pretends to be his father after he turns into ZacMatt. Thomas acts & dresses even gayer than ZacMatt, yet they still expect the audience to believe that his character has the hots for the school principal – Who ISN'T a dude. Is this the ‘metrosexual’ trend taking over Hollywood? Seems to me there are a lot of obviously gay characters being presented as ‘macho’ guys lately. Does this mean all those flaming disco songs The Village People sang back in the late 70’s are coming true?
Well, spank my a-- & call me Sally!


“The PROPOSAL” (Sandra Bullock & Ryan Reynolds)

This was a ‘wife wants to see it’ deal, so no guff from the peanut gallery as to why I ‘wasted’ my time with this fluff piece (of crap)
& what crap it was! Let’s start with the ridiculously lame premise – Margaret Tate (Bullock) lead editor for a prominent New York publishing firm forgot to dot the I’s & cross the T’s on her Immigration form (She was born in Canada)
So instead of following logic of having her fill in the blanks, she is ‘deported’ back to Canada (for being an undesirable alien?)
In order to avoid deportation she instantly comes up with the ‘beyond anyone’s wildest imagination’ plan that she & her male assistant who despises her are engaged to be married. Reynolds plays Andrew (Drew) Paxton, the much maligned assistant.
To let you know that even the production values of this crappy fluff piece are awful, the same woman is seen walking past Margaret & Andrew 3 times during a scene on a busy N.Y. street – then a guy that was seen earlier walks by yet again as well. I wondered if they did it on purpose just to give those of us that are going to be starving for entertainment something to distract us from the inane dialogue that’s being spoken.
The Immigration Agent assigned to Margaret’s ‘case’ warns Drew that if he’s caught lying about the engagement he faces a 5 year prison term & a $250,000 fine... Since when did New York decide to declare a ‘War’ on Book Publishers?
Drew strikes a deal with Margaret for a huge promotion after he marries her & off they go to Sitka, Alaska to meet his family.
Here is where I thought there might be a spackling of humor since Betty White was cast as Drew’s ‘Grannie’; but no, even though Ms. White has a history of being surprisingly funny in cameos, she doesn’t utter a single funny line. Malin Ackerman, looking much prettier as a blonde than she did in ‘Watchmen’, plays Drew’s ex-Alaskan girlfriend & even though you’re supposed to tell there’s still a ‘spark’ between them – there isn’t; whether its the lack of chemistry, or the two actors just aren’t that dynamic onscreen, this subplot simply doesn’t create any interest.
Mary Steenburgen has become the actress to cast when a typical/bland mother is needed.
Although Craig T. Nelson brings nothing to the table either as the father Drew never connected with, he did utter my favorite line when he adopts a bewildered countenance & asks, “Am I the only one that doesn’t get this?” I had to respond by saying, “No, Craig, you’re not alone.”
This ‘weekend’ trip to Alaska seemed to last several days as Drew & Margaret ‘pretend’ to sleep in the same bed about 4 or 5 nights, but yet the film starts on Friday & ends on Monday! (Must have something to do with those ’30 days of nights’ in Alaska, eh?)
There’s a recurring character named Ramon that appears every 15 minutes (Whether you want him to, or not) Ramon is exceptionally annoying – though the easily entertained Renton audience laughed hysterically at everything he did & said, so what do I know?
There was a cute little Alaskan puppy that I found adorable to look at, but the attempts at using the fuzzy ball of white fur for comedic purposes failed as well. (Just to me though, the easily entertained Rentontonians guffawed loudly)
There is an insipid scene where Margaret & Drew collide while both are totally nude (Margaret just emerged from the shower; Drew’s reason for being naked has no logic other than the director’s thinking, “I’ll bet people in Renton, Washington will think this is hilarious.”) Prior to the collision, Margaret is trying to find a towel to dry herself with & for some reason thinks the puppy will attack her if she makes a move toward the linen closet – while dealing with the puppy, Margaret covers her chest & groin with her hands... Why? In real life, do people really cover themselves when there’s a pet in the room? “Oh my God, there’s that dog – I can’t let him see my boobs & ‘fluff’ – he’ll describe what I look like naked on the internet & my career as a deported book editor will be ruined!”
The Paxton family convinces the ‘happy’ couple to get married the next day (After all, it IS a never-ending Alaskan weekend) & who shows up? The Immigration agent from New York... He FLIES from N.Y. to Sitka, Alaska to witness a book editor marry her assistant just because he’s convinced they’re perpetrating a fraud... Even if this movie had a few funny moments in it, I would have turned against it for being so aggressive at insulting my intelligence.
I’ll end my review with my other favorite quote; Margaret writes Drew a farewell letter in which she promises to get his book published – Drew throws the note to the floor saying, ”And then she writes this crap!” . . . I didn’t check to see if a woman actually did write the screenplay to ‘The Proposal’, but either way, that line pretty much sums up every line of dialogue presented in this fluffy piece of crap.