Monday, January 25, 2010

The BOOK OF ELI

“The BOOK OF ELI” (Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman & Mila Kunis)

Hello, my name is Jeff Albertson. You might know me better as ‘Comic Book Guy’ from The Simpsons. Mr. Reid asked me to write this review for him since he felt he must disqualify himself for hating it because of the heavily religious aspects of the film.

Naturally, my only drawback to this movie is that it was not based on a graphic novel (AKA comic book)
I had no problem with the hero of the story, Denzel Washington’s ‘Eli’, exhibiting extremely gory violence combined with the quoting of bible verses. Although Quentin Tarantino might want to sue the makers of this film for plagiarizing Samuel L. Jackson’s character from ‘Pulp Fiction’, I discerned a huge difference between the two characters; Jackson’s was entertaining, Washington’s was not.
My main complaint was the use of The Bee Gees song “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” being combined with the piano from Chicago’s “Colour My World”! I mean, what was the point of that?

One would hope that these guys simply asked the set designers on ‘The Road’ to let them borrow the same dismal settings to film ‘Eli’ in. It is also the same story, except good guy Eli is more violent than the bad guys. “Put that hand on me again & you won’t get it back,” Eli warns a potential thief... I can only warn you that if you are the least bit squeamish that you close your eyes for a minute or so after hearing that line because the hand isn’t all that gets ‘removed’ in the gross & bloody scene that follows.
Like ‘The Road” the film opens in a post-apocalyptic America with the main character traveling toward the coast & encountering cannibals & various other ne’er-do-wells along the way.
Unlike ‘The Road’, the reason for the holocaust is explained, but the explanation also counters the ‘reason’ for Eli’s trek across the barren wasteland toward ‘salvation’.
To quote from my fellow animated South Park brethren, Johnnie Cochran, “It DOES NOT MAKE SENSE!”

Not even Gary Oldman, playing a meanie named Carnegie, can save this film. For some reason Carnegie believes that Eli’s coveted ‘book’ will allow him to ‘rule the world’... Just one problem with that lofty goal – there is NO world to rule over!
After witnessing Eli dismember several members of his crew, Carnegie invites Eli to become a part of his legion (Dwindling with each encounter with the title character)
Eli, to no one’s surprise, turns him down & after the obligatory shoot out at the O.K. Corral scene in which no one can manage to shoot Eli no matter how close they are to him & several bad guys decide to run out into the open to allow Eli a better shot at them, the chase is on as Carnegie & his illiterate underlings try to hunt down Eli & steal the holy book that will allow Carnegie to rule the world... I’m afraid I must agree with the usual writer of this blog & say, “That is just plain stupid!”
However, I did view this film with The Reverend & Mrs. Lovejoy & they both gave it an enthusiastic '4 thumbs up'.

Later in the film it is revealed that the works of Mozart & Shakespeare will also aide mankind to rebuild & replenish the earth with the very beings that caused it to burn after ‘the flash’.
My favorite scenes & I’m certain Mr. Reid will agree with me on this, were those involving actress Mila Kunis; a very beautiful young woman who brightens every scene she is in by just being there. Never mind how she not only survives, but walks away unscathed from a horrific car crash that kills everyone in the vehicle but her, we are all just thankful that she doesn’t mangle that pretty face & we get to continue to gaze upon her in awe.

If Ms. Kunis is in the cast, & there’s no reason for her not to be, I will look forward to the sequel, “The Second Coming Of Eli” because without her this is unquestionably the worst Denzel Washington movie EVER!

LEAP YEAR

“LEAP YEAR” (Amy Adams, Mathhew Goode & that weird looking stiff actor who played Will Farrell’s successful brother in ‘Step Brothers’)

For the past couple of years it seemed as though Amy Adams could do no wrong... Then 2009 opened with an obvious Academy Award nomination for her role in ‘Sunshine Cleaning’. It then seemed as though she felt that was all she needed to do to keep her ‘star’ shining as the next 2 projects brought her winning streak to a crashing hault – although her role as Amelia Earhardt in ‘Night At The Museum 2’ was the ONLY reason to view that catastrophe, her performance as Julie in ‘Julie & Julia’ was the worst she’s given. So she decides to open 2010 with a dumb romantic comedy; after the wonderful ‘Sunshine Cleaning’, this is an inauspicious beginning to the new year indeed – Let’s hope her choices go in the opposite direction this year (Starts off with a clunker & gets better as the months go by)
Although one of the first things I wrote in my notebook was ‘Did Amy read this script before she agreed to the role?’, she was still able to produce that delightful charm that had won me over in the past & by the end of ‘Leap Year’ I was thinking that it wasn’t ‘ALL that bad’. She’s like the female version of Paul Rudd – just something about them is likeable & they do win you over even when the material has an unpleasant odor to it...

Here’s the premise that was suppose to incite moviegoers to select this film; On Leap Year day in Ireland, it is acceptable for a woman to propose to a man... In America a woman CAN propose to a man 365 days a year (366 during a leap year) So what’s the big deal?
Amy plays Anne from Boston, her long time boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) is also from Boston... neither of them has even a trace of a Boston accent. I guess since most of the film takes place in Ireland, they figured it would be too complicated for audiences dumb enough to buy tickets to this film to be able to decipher two accents in one movie.
Anne gets tipped off by a friend that Jeremy was seen coming out of a jewelry store & so she practices looking surprised for when Jeremy finally pops the question. Instead Jeremy purchased a pair of earrings for Anne prior to leaving on a business trip to Ireland.
John Lithgow plays Anne’s Irish father who reminds her of the oft-told story of how her Great Grandmother proposed to her Great Grandfather on Leap Year day in Ireland.
So instead of dumping the deadbeat, Anne decides to follow in her Great Grandmother’s footsteps & flies to Ireland to surprise Jeremy with a proposal of marriage on Leap Year day.
As with all insufferable chick flicks, Anne’s plans go awry – an ‘unexpected storm’ forces the plane to land off course & Anne must find different means of getting to Dublin on time (Even though she has 3 days to get there – apparently storms in Ireland tend to last for weeks)
After a series of dumb mishaps, Anne enlists the aide of bar owner Declan (Matthew Goode) to drive her to Dublin. Declan calls Anne’s suitcase ‘Louie’ because of the ‘designer’ name that is embedded upon it & he cares so little for Anne, he calls her 'Bob'.
More dumb mishaps ensue, including the crashing of Declan’s car & the pair having to pose as a married couple in order to stay at a B & B. Raise your hand if you haven't seen either of those lame premises a dozen times before.
Anne & Declan travel thru all kinds of inclement weather & yet Anne’s hair always bounces back sweeping & full bodied without the aid of shampoo or a hair dryer (Or electricity for that matter)
Then something unusual happened – a scene made me laugh out loud – I can even reveal what was said because out of context it isn’t going to appear to be funny at all; Jeremy cries out, “Jesus Christ!” & Anne softly adds, “Our Lord.”
My mood lightened after that & damn that Amy Adams, she had me ignoring the lame, time worn, can see the ending coming from a mile away plot & put a smile on my face... How does she do that?
A hard film to enjoy, but credit has to be given to Amy Adams & Matthew Goode for somehow creating enough chemistry to make this dreadful material show a little spark to make it passable by the time it ends. & I can’t say that the material improved at all as the film played out, but for some reason it stopped bothering me.

EVERYBODY'S FINE

“EVERYBODY’S FINE” (Robert DeNiro, Kate Beckensale, Sam Rockwell & Drew Barrymore)
With a plotline very similar to ‘About Schmidt’, ‘Everybody’s Fine’ fails because it is a much weaker film.
It was nice to see DeNiro attempt to play a ‘normal’ guy; his latest films have been huge failures, although I kind of liked ‘What Just Happened’, but his legend has been tarnished with the roles he has selected of late. The downside is – he’s too bland in ‘Everybody’s Fine’, I kept thinking ‘Nicholson was much more entertaining when he played this role!’
DeNiro’s Frank, whose wife died 8 months earlier, invites his 4 grown children to visit him & they all decline the invitation due to “Now is just not a good time.”
Frank decides to disobey his doctor’s orders not to travel & go visit his children. From the way Frank drones on & on about his grown children, you’d think he was a loving, caring father; but we learn that Frank was the disciplinarian in the family & that the ‘kids’ could always talk to ‘Mom’ but not to dad. 3 of the 4 offspring seem grateful to Dad for pushing them to be ‘the best that they could be’, yet you also get the feeling that they resent him a little for it as well.
Son Charlie is not at his N.Y. apartment when Frank drops by unexpectedly, so Frank slides an envelope under his door with a ‘sorry I missed you’ note.
As Frank rides the train west, he bores his fellow passengers numb by making them guess what he did for a living (giving the one clue of ‘you’ve been looking at it since we boarded’) “Please, Mr.,” the female across from him begs, “I don’t know & I don’t want to guess anymore!”
In Chicago, daughter Amy (Kate Beckensale) seems to be doing quite well for herself running an advertisement agency – the only humorous scene in the movie is when 2 gay salesmen ‘pitch’ their ad campaign to Frank for his ‘everyman’ approval – but Amy’s home life is a different story as her husband & son don’t seem to like one another.
In Denver, son Robert (Sam Rockwell) has led dad to believe he’s the conductor of the Denver Symphony when in reality he’s just one of the drummers. Still, Robby tells his father he’s happy, though he doesn’t seem to be (“They pay me to make noise all day – how can that not be fun?”)
In Vegas, the most cheerful sibling, Drew Barrymore’s Rosie, actually appears to be living her dream – dancing in Vegas shows & living in a luxurious apartment. The only downside appears to be an intruding neighbor that begs Rosie to watch her baby for her, disrupting the father & daughter’s dinner plans. This time it is Frank who cuts the visit short when he overhears a phone call & realizes things aren’t quite so rosy for Rosie.
Frank’s flight home & his subsequent awareness of Charlie’s actual whereabouts should have led to a dramatic, heartfelt ending, but for some reason, I didn’t care that much about these people so it didn’t affect me that much. Was it due to DeNiro’s ‘blah’ performance? Maybe, I’m not sure – he was ‘okay’ in the role – perhaps it was due to the fact that I expected more from him. Barrymore didn’t bug me as much as she normally does & Rockwell, whom I felt gave the best performance of the cast, was still a little stiff as well. So everyone isn’t fine in ‘Everybody’s Fine’, but if they had called it ‘About Frank’ that wouldn’t have worked either...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The LOVELY BONES

“The LOVELY BONES” (Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci & Susan Sarandon)
There are elements to this film that I liked & some that I did not like. It had the potential of being an excellent movie & it seemed to me that director Peter Jackson ruined that opportunity by taking a very serious subject matter & making it a paean to religious beliefs (Which is going to lose me every time)
Two of the biggest pluses are also wasted (a bit) – Stanley Tucci’s George Harvey & Susan Sarandon’s ‘grandma’ provide the creepiest & most lighted hearted moments (respectively) Maybe Sarandon’s grandma is used just enough, but the film needed more Tucci; instead of having his latest victim, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) ‘telling’ us the list of young women/girls that Mr. Harvey murdered, it would have been much more powerful to show short clips of how each met their demise at the hands of the serial killer. Instead of focusing on the horror of being murdered at the age of 14, Jackson decided to paint a ‘pretty’ picture of death by showing the corpse/soul of young Susie frolicking in the afterlife by pretending to be a famous fashion model.
But let’s get to the basic storyline, which is one of the good elements; though it initially made me turn away from this project – a 14 year old girl is raped & murdered by a neighbor & her ghost comes back to try to lead her family to the killer, yet at the same time the ghost is ‘haunted’ by the fact that her killer appears to be getting away ‘scot’ free. It was a bit too gruesome of a plot for me, but it only took a short clip of seeing Stanley Tucci as the ‘ultimate’ creepy neighbor to peak my interest.
If you’re squeamish about that plot, don’t worry, there are no scenes of actual violence toward young women in the film – Only Susie’s dad (Mark Wahlberg) is a victim of onscreen violence.
Susie’s younger sister, Lindsey (Rose McIver) has an encounter with Mr. Harvey that leads her to eye the man with suspicion & the film becomes an intense thriller when Lindsey breaks into Harvey’s home to try & find some evidence against him.
Will they ever catch Mr. Harvey? Or will he continue his murderous spree - & will his next victim be ‘the other Salmon girl’?
Stanley Tucci is the stand out & should garner an Oscar nomination (It would be a travesty if he didn’t)
Susan Sarandon should also get consideration for her role as the grandmother that doesn’t want to be thought of as a grandmother (Her caked on makeup & dyed hair give away her desire to try & remain looking younger than her actual age) Grandma provided the necessary comic relief to keep this film from becoming too dramatic.
Mediocre performances by Mark Wahlberg & Rachel Weisz as Susie’s parents, Jack & Abigail, neither add nor subtract from the quality of the movie; with Wahlberg it’s expected, but I’ve come to expect more from Rachel. Michael Imperioli (of ‘Sopranos’ fame) also delivers a rather bland performance as the police detective in charge of the case.
So there’s the good & the mediocre, here’s the ugly...
Susie being trapped in the ‘In Between’ is a major distraction – trying waaay too hard to be visually stunning, Susie’s afterlife feeds into the lie that being dead is more fun than being alive. If this were actually true, those of you who believe in heaven, then why is every religious person so afraid of death? When Susie decides it is time for her to leave her paradise & make the final trek to heaven, she isn’t met by family members/pets/loved ones that had passed before her, but by Harvey’s previous victims. This is what heaven is... a support group?
It seemed the only thing missing from Susie’s short life was receiving her first kiss, so in a totally lame ‘transference’ scene, Jackson allows that to happen. I’m sure he was thinking gullible audiences would ‘awww’ at the scene, but it was so far fetched & stupid, I blew a raspberry. It reminded of those old commercials where the daughter’s boyfriend mistakes her mother for her (“Mrs. Johnson??? I though you were Dale!”) except the boyfriend here doesn’t even bat an eye when his current girlfriend magically turns into a living dead girl. How does one think that something that dumb is going to work with an intelligent audience? (I say that because this is a character driven movie with no axe murderers, car chases, martial arts, or scenes involving Vin Deisel)
The violence is downplayed too much so it loses its power & the afterlife is so wondrous & surreal that we should all turn into suicide bombers so we can get there quicker!
That said, I still give ‘The Lovely Bones’ a passing grade basically due to Tucci – both he & his ‘safe’ sent shivers up my spine...

Monday, January 11, 2010

A SINGLE MAN

“A SINGLE MAN” (Colin Firth & Julianne Moore)

Viewed the same day as ‘Crazy Heart’, I expected to enjoy this film, but I didn’t.
I liked the premise – a gay man living in the early 60’s is despondent over his lover’s death & spends the day contemplating suicide. Having a family member take his own life when I was younger, I thought I’d be able to relate to this film – but I didn’t.
If I were gay, would I have been able to relate to these characters? Well, if any gay readers saw this film & found it interesting, intriguing or entertaining, I’d like to hear why?
This was Tom Ford’s first film & it shows – he doesn’t know how to tell a story thru film. Throughout the entire movie I was extremely annoyed by the multiple extreme close-ups that were used – Scene after scene contained an actors head filling the entire screen – it took away the sense of realism – it was... invading and it detracted from the story, as well as cheapening the actors' performances.
Colin Firth plays teacher George Falconer; a gay man who has to hide his sexual preference because he’s an Englishman living in 1962 America during the Cuban missile crisis. Through flashbacks we learn that George’s lover, Jim, died in an automobile accident(Along with one of his dogs) When George sees a woman with a dog that looks similar to Jim’s he sticks his head inside the woman’s car window & wipes his nose on the poor animal’s fur. I found this a little difficult to swallow as most dogs would not ‘allow’ a stranger to put their hand inside the car let alone his entire head (Which seemed HUGE thanks to the extreme close ups)
This is the day George is going to end his miserable life, though he encounters nothing but young, attractive gay men who want to have an encounter with him... so why is George suicidal?
Julianne Moore plays ‘Charley’ (Charlotte) George’s oldest & dearest friend – at first her cockney accent seemed forced & unnatural, but either it grew on me, or Moore’s vocal coach helped her to tone it down as filming progressed. Charley laughs way too loudly & much too often over nothing (She’s practically in hysterics as she & George ‘twist’ to Booker T & The MG’s “Green Onions”)
When George neared the end of the day & I tried to become interested in his plight, as well as hope to learn something about what drives a person to commit such an act, he & one of his male students go skinny dipping... Okay... what bothered me was the swelling orchestral music that accompanied this scene – it was making what should have been an innocent scene of two poofters splashing each others privates seem like the most poignant, dramatic scene of the film... Problem is - it was just two poofters swimming in the nude!
I wanted to see this with ‘Crazy Heart’ because Bridges & Firth have been prominently mentioned as Best Actor candidates; Bridges should win in a landslide then because Firth really doesn’t bring much to the table here. Odd coincidences run through both films though – there’s hardly a scene in either film in which someone isn’t smoking or drinking alcohol or both; & each lead actor ends up with a cut on his forehead in the same spot!
There is a significant age difference in the two pairs of lovers in both films, but the Single Man’s coupling with a male student, who doesn’t look old enough to shave, is rather off-putting (& it’s not because they’re gay – I didn’t wince when Heath ram-rodded Jake in that tent scene... Well, okay, maybe I vomited a little, but it’s not that I disapprove of the lifestyle, I just don’t want to witness what goes on behind closed doors)
Bridges’ Bad Blake is a sarcastic a**hole, but I loved the character.
Firth’s George Falconer is a sweet guy with a broken heart, but other than crawling into a sleeping bag to shoot himself so he doesn’t make a mess, he really doesn’t do anything interesting.
I was disappointed with “A Single Man” because the way it was shot made it difficult to watch – I turned to my wife afterward & said, “What a load of rubbish!” & I said that, not because it was an awful film, but it had a lot of potential & Tom Ford blew it (If you’ll pardon the expression)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

IT'S COMPLICATED

“IT’S COMPLICATED” (Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin & Steve Martin)

You can’t call something this simplistic & stupid ‘It’s COMPLICATED’ – It’s only complicated to the moronic characters in this dumb ass movie.
Let’s start with the lead female dumb ass, Jane Adler (played like a teenager by elderly Meryl Streep) she lives in a mansion – alone - & she decides in these difficult financial times to add another kitchen with a bathroom onto her mansion - & it had to be pointed out that Jane bought this house after her divorce, so we males who were dragged to this chick flick would stop thinking she screwed her ex in the divorce settlement.
While discussing this renovation with her new architect, Adam (Steve Martin) the idea of his & her sinks for the bathroom comes up – Jane let’s Adam know there’s no ‘his’ in the picture – Adam asks if there might be the possibility of a future his & she responds, “Oh God, now we’re talking code about my life!”
Am I missing something with this lingo? How is that talking ‘code’? What’s the code?
He asked a simple question – there was no CODE involved.
Next superficial Jane visits a plastic surgeon to see if he could fix the flabby skin over her eyes – We’re suppose to remove the superficial label from Jane because she decides not to have the surgery.
I began to wonder how Jane became so filthy rich she could build an extension on her huge home & consider insignificant plastic surgery – turns out she owns a bakery, and as everyone knows bakeries are the last shops to feel the crunch when an economy collapses.
Alec Baldwin plays Jake Adler; he has married the much younger, no need for plastic surgery woman who stole him from Jane. Lake Bell plays Agnes, the wench with the great body & nothing much else.
To add to the fun, Agnes has a son (Pedro) who was conceived during an affair she was having while married to Jake. Jake informs us that Pedro ‘picks the menu’ of what they eat; Pedro gets everything Pedro wants. Pedro is a brat. Brats aren’t funny.
I didn’t like Jake, Agnes or Pedro. Adam seemed to be the only decent character & he was boring!
Jane isn’t much better as a mother to her & Jake’s 3 kids; their son comes to see mom & tells her he ‘loves her credit cards’. For most the movie, the Adler kids are happier than the freakin' Brady Bunch; they never seemed to stop smiling – when they all are seen crying together in bed, I just figured that the drugs must have worn off.
Jane keeps forgetting her appointments with Adam (& now we discover she’s adding a new bedroom onto the mansion as well – Why doesn’t this broad just buy a new f***ing house?) so he gives her the gift of an appointment book - & this is suppose to represent Adam’s romantic inclination towards her.
Jane & Jake get drunk together & end up in bed... Jake comes to the conclusion that they’re doing ‘something brilliant’ by getting back together... Yeah, these two should be accepted into MENSA...
Seeing these ‘beyond middle aged’ people acting like horny teens didn’t make me laugh, it made me queasy...
Lines are thrown out without any thought behind them – Jake tells a story to Jane where he asks, “Do you have any idea what it’s like to fly on a plane with someone who’s crying for 10 hours?” Then the punch line is, “I was talking about me!” While the women in the audience laughed hysterically at this tired set up, I was shaking my head because Jake WASN’T flying with someone who was crying for 10 hours, the woman with him was.
You may call that nitpicking, but there were several continuity problems that made this film look ‘sloppy’ as well as stupid.
Having graying at the temples Jake use ‘O M G’ was a clear case of a female writer writing for a male character as if he were one of her gay friends. “You’ve turned my world right side up,” Jake tells Jane & I almost spit out my frozen Junior Mint...
Then we discover Jane sees a psychiatrist (She lives in a mansion that she’s expanding, consults a plastic surgeon, sells cupcakes for a living & she NEEDS a psychoanalyst???
John Krasinski plays the Adler’s oldest daughter’s fiancĂ©, Harley – this isn’t used as a punch line in the film, but his bride-to-be’s name is Laurel... Laurel & Harley. Might have been a chuckle if that had been pointed out, but it isn’t.
Anyway, Harley is fairly likeable, but he basically just witnesses Jake & Jane’s affair & keeps spouting, “Oh my God!” (I guess I should be thankful he didn’t keep using 'O M G') Krasinski does a nice job despite the lack of having anything meaningful to say.
Streep does get off one funny line when Jake OD’s on Flo-Max.
To make these characters seem even more juvenile a joint is introduced & Jane gets even more school-girlish & giggly.
Baldwin’s nude scene would have been funny if Jake wasn’t so pathetic (& the movie were more humorous leading up to it)
I kept thinking, “I would never allow someone who ruined my life back into it – Why does Jane?” – then it hit me – that’s right, she’s a teenager living in a wrinkled old body, it’s like Freaky Friday, but the teen doesn’t become the mom.
Near the end of this epic, Jane says, “So THAT’S the way grown-up’s talk.”
If only she’d discovered that 90 minutes earlier it would have saved me from having to listen to all her immature, insipid dialogue.

CRAZY HEART

“CRAZY HEART” (Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhall, Robert Duvall & Colin Farrell)

I went into this film thinking I wouldn’t like it – I don’t like country music & it looked like a ‘Tender Mercies’ retread - Hell, they even added Robert Duvall to the cast to make it a dead giveaway!
But Jeff Bridges’ Bad Blake is a memorable character due to one reason – Jeff Bridges gives a flawless performance, the most believable of his career.
To run down a quick bio of Bad, you’d think he was a character no one would want to be around – He chain smokes(Uses the last cigarette to light the next) He’s an alcoholic (Check out that smile on his face in the first scene when the liquor store clerk says, “It’ll be on honor for me to buy Bad Blake a drink” as he sticks the bottle of whiskey into the bag & hands it to the ‘has-been’ country/western singer) He’s also immature, self centered, & a thoughtless womanizer – what’s not to love?
What won me over was his sarcastic sense of humor – As Bad travels from one southern hick town to the next playing gigs in honky tonk bars & bowling alleys, he’s usually under-whelmed when his back up band for the evening introduces themselves. “When should we start rehearsing?” One young local musician asks in preparation for the bowling ally ‘concert’ – “As soon as you can and as often as you can,” ‘wise’ old Bad imparts before closing the door of his motel room on the boys. When his agent calls & tells him he arranged for Bad to open a concert for Tommy Sweet, the singer that Blake taught how to play ‘country’, Bad squeals like a schoolgirl, “Do I get to go backstage & meet Tommy?”
Bridges doesn’t do anything spectacular in ‘Crazy Heart’ other than ‘become’ Otis “Bad” Blake & I was thoroughly impressed with his portrayal.
I thought I wouldn’t find anything to like about the film & it turned out there wasn’t much that I DIDN’T like. Nice little subtle touches like Bad fishing his sunglasses out of the garbage can he just vomited into; trying to lock the door of his room with the chain lock & finding nothing to connect it to, yet still giving the mechanism a couple of strokes as though there was something there. Arguing with ‘Bear’, the sound tech during his rehearsal before the big show opening for Tommy. & that ever-present smart-ass tone Bridges adds – one line in particular I liked was his delivery of, “Ain’t rememberin’ wonderful?” when Tommy stops by to reminisce. Another line involving his agent’s sister will make you laugh out loud.
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jane, a ‘wanna-be’ reporter who interviews the one-time country star and winds up falling in love with him. Robert Duvall is Bad’s closest friend – a bar owner who can’t remember if his one employee is named Juan or Jesus... & the biggest shocker of all came with the casting of Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet, a big time country/western star – Expecting Farrell to fail miserably, I had to give him even more credit when it was discovered that he not only pulled off a believable southern ‘twang’ but also did his own singing (As did Bridges, of course)
That’s another thing – either I’m getting older, or country music is finally maturing because I kind of liked most of the songs in Bad’s repertoire.
The March/December romance between Bad & Jane doesn’t come across as too creepy due to the actors involved – they just made you believe it.
If I had one complaint it would have to be when Bad loses Jane’s 4 year old son, Buddy in a mall. Bad has one drink & the kid disappears – they should have made him have another drink before losing the kid because it happens too quickly – Buddy disappears so fast even a prudent person would have lost him.
But that’s so minor, it doesn’t spoil this very fine film at all – though the most impressive thing about it is Bridges – I’d have to call him the frontrunner for Best Actor after viewing this performance. Most impressive indeed.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

SHERLOCK HOLMES

“SHERLOCK HOLMES” (Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law & Rachel McAdams)

Sometimes screwing with classic works of the past is a very bad idea; sometimes it surprises you (Take the new Star Trek – though some would argue correctly that ST isn’t a ‘classic’ in the same sense as Sherlock Holmes... Yeah, no sh*t, Sherlock)
But this wasn’t some yahoo’s take on one of the most well known literary characters, this was Robert Downey, Jr.’s take - & it works because of him. But it doesn’t work on all levels & the 3 main culprits are 1/the director 2/the writer & 3/the lead actress.
No, I can’t say that I’ve ‘enjoyed’ any of Guy Ritchie’s previous films all that much – but this is clearly the best of the lot & even though there were times when the ‘slow motion action sequences’ were annoying, he still allowed Downey to be Downey & thus created an entertaining film in spite of himself.
The writing irked me because the story wasn’t exceedingly ‘clever’ & even though the Downey / Law scenes as Holmes & Watson included some smirk-worthy tete a tetes, the basic plotline & villain were somewhat lame. Mark Stone, whom I’ve liked in the past, doesn’t bring much to the table other than a crooked fang as serial killer Lord Blackwood.
& the biggest disappointment is Rachel McAdams – so good in previous years, this is her second bad performance in a row (In the I wish I could forget I ever saw it ‘Time Traveler’s Wife’) She plays American pick pocket/low rent thief Irene Adler & simply seemed out of context with everything that was going on around her in every scene she was in; she was too pretty, too ‘pristine’ in her appearance to be a ‘common’ thief/ the fact that she spoke in her normal voice was a distraction (People who spend any amount of time in a foreign country DO tend to start sounding like those around her so even if Rachel could only manage a ‘poor’ English accent that would have been more believable than none at all) & finally - something I can't quite put my finger on - for whatever reason, she didn't come across as someone who 'fit' in the period she was suppose to be reflecting - & I realize that isn't an easy thing to do & many actors fail at it (Though Downey & Law managed quite well, thank you) & is another reason why I normally avoid 'period' pieces...
What this film had going for it in my eyes were the 4 lead actors & 2 of them let me down with substandard performances, yet still, I enjoyed it... The Power Of Downey Compels Me!
Eddie Marsen plays Inspector Lestrade, & as everyone knows that’s a role best suited for someone without much of a personality & Eddie fits the bill perfectly!
So they took Sherlock to a different level – Who cares? Did you really want to see another stuffy Basil Rathbone-like portrayal? Seriously, did you? It wasn’t the direction they took the character in that bugged me as much as the senseless slow motion/FF jerky ‘cage match’ fight scene Ritchie felt the need to include (To entice the WWF crowd into the theatre perhaps?) The fight scene with the ‘giant’ in the shipyard worked because the goon was a hired hand of Blackwood – but putting Sherlock Holmes in a bare knuckled fist fight in a pit with a dimwit numbskull for no reason whatsoever was stupid.
In the end, the Downey, Jr. – Jude Law combination of Holmes & Watson won out over the annoyances & I would call this a film worth seeing because of them & I’ll be looking forward to the next installment – provided – there’s a different director, a different writer & someone teaches Rachel how to speak with an English accent – or find someone a little less attractive who can... I wonder if Vera Farminga can do a Cockney voice?

UP IN THE AIR

“UP IN THE AIR” (George Clooney, Anna Kendrick & Vera Farminga)

This had the burden of being hailed as a possible Best Picture candidate, & any other year, I would have laughed at that lofty designation, but in this crappy movie season,
“Up In The Air” IS in the running (Despite not being nearly as good as Clooney’s ‘Michael Clayton’)
It is a very likeable film – akin to ‘Thank You For Smoking’ in that it has some very clever & witty dialogue which causes you to connect with the characters even though they aren’t exactly the type of people you'd want have around.
George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham; a man with a job most would hate to have, but Ryan loves it. Spending most of his time flying across the country to various companies to do their dirty work of firing members of their staff for them is perfect for Ryan because he has become totally disconnected with humans in his personal life.
The film introduces Ryan by showing how he conducts his ‘business’ – he fires Zack Galifinakis (of “Hangover” fame) promising Zack’s character that “This is just the beginning, pal - I’ll be with you until we get you back on your feet.” Then, as the camera shows Zack walking out with a somewhat positive attitude after being ‘let go’, Clooney says (in a v/o) “I’ll never see him again.”
Ryan is on the road more than 300 days a year & he likes it that way, so when boss Jason Bateman calls everybody in off the road for a ‘special’ meeting, Ryan is less than pleased. When it is announced that everyone has been grounded & would be doing their firing from their offices in Omaha, Ryan scoffs. Young, spunky college grad Natalie (Anna Kendrick) has been brought on board to lead the team into the new century by showing the experts how to fire people in the most demeaning way possible, via the internet.
Ryan scoffs & challenges Natalie’s idea; the boss’s solution is to send her ‘up in the air’ with Bingham. As he does with practically every film he is in, J.K. Simmons steals his one scene by simply being perfect. In a film that had several original lines of dialogue, my favorite, without question, was when Simmons looked crossways at perky, cherub-faced Natalie & sneered, “Go F--- Yourself!” It’s all in the delivery & J.K. does it as well as any character actor around.
Vera Farminga plays Alex; Ryan’s love interest, & even though I enjoyed their witty banter, something about the coupling didn’t sit right. I felt that Alex seemed too young for Ryan, or that she wasn’t attractive enough to entice a guy that looked like George Clooney. Both characters are shallow, but that’s what brings them together & I enjoyed their seemingly meaningless relationship based only on sex & the aforementioned mutual shallowness. The few times the movie went thru any turbulence, was with Ryan & Alex – it shined, however with the ‘business-only’ relationship between Ryan & Natalie.
Now, when you think about the premise of this film, it sounds quite boring – It is basically a love story (Ryan & Alex) but how do you sell the idea of a plotline that includes flying on a plane (where nothing ever really happens) walking thru various airports & rental car agencies (where nothing much ever happens) & several scenes of employees being fired by someone they’ve never met before (Because as Ryan says in the opening, “the boss is too chicken sh*t to do his own dirty work)
It actually SOUNDS depressing, & unfortunately that’s what happens in the last 15 minutes of “Up In The Air” – It is as if the script writer decided he was tired of writing clever lines that evoked chuckles & smirks so he decided to end the story on a down note by not having a single funny line. This happens coincidentally when Ryan & Natalie are pulled from the road.
In this really bad year, “Up In The Air” is a bright spot – but is it ‘great’? No. But it dares you not to like it & succeeds in being an entertaining flick. Between this & his work in ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’, George Clooney may get my Best Actor of 2009 award (Won last year by Robert Downey, Jr. for “Tropic Thunder” & “Iron Man”)
In the critically panned ‘Goats’, Clooney played an off-center character & was the best part of the film – in “UITA”, it seems as though he’s playing someone close to what he’s like in ‘real life’ – so which is the better acting job? & simply because ‘the critics’ love this film & hated ‘Goats’, George will get a nomination for playing Ryan Bingham & not for Lyn Cassady even though he really had to work his acting muscles in the latter role...