Thursday, April 29, 2010


“AVATAR” (Sam Worthington & Sigourney Weaver)
First off, I’m not a paid critic so I can say whatever I please & all you can do is read it, shake your head & think, “What a jerk.”
So here goes – I found it hard to believe that this film, clearly the greatest movie ever made according to the American movie going public, is nothing more than propaganda proclaiming that American soldiers are not only the biggest bunch of a**holes on earth, but in the universe & beyond. I could understand why a film like this would do boffo box office overseas, but here in America? If you paid more than $3 to see this film, you’re unpatriotic and I suggest you leave this country immediately.
Okay, I’m kidding - I had no problem with the American military being portrayed as total dicks – but I did find it hard to believe that SO many flag waving, red, white & blue blooded Americans overlooked that fact & made this the biggest grossing movie of all-time.
It’s not great, but I will give it a passing grade. What I liked about it though, isn’t what everyone else has raved about – I thought the special effects were quite cheesy – I started getting a headache from looking at all the black light posters, which is basically what this movie is, kids – it’s one giant moving black light poster. Plus, it’s also half real life actors/ half cartoon - & it isn’t even as innovative as ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ because the cartoons & real life actors don’t interact until the final scenes.
I can easily see how little children would be fascinated by it. Thanks to the soundtrack & the jungle theme, at times I felt like I was watching a ‘Lion King’ sequel.
I mean, come on, it was ridiculously silly at times – Unoptainium? Which in & of itself is a rip-off of Rocky & Bullwinkle’s Upsydaisium from the early 60’s!
The ‘monsters’ of the jungle were the least impressive creations – they looked like plastic models to me. The elongated cat-like Smurfs were somewhat more detailed than your average Smurf, but hey, this isn’t a Saturday morning cartoon, this is the greatest motion picture ever made so I’d expect the stretched out Pussy/Smurfs to have movable ears & tales.
Probably the silliest concept was how the Pussy/Smurfs connected with their pterodactyls... by braiding their hair together. I’m sure off-camera they probably did each others’ nails as well...
To me, to be a great film, you have to include it all – a good drama will get bogged down if it doesn’t include a few light hearted/comedic moments – I chuckled once during this 2½ hour film – the audience (about a dozen or so people) didn’t make a sound the entire time.
The acting was substandard, but that isn’t a priority in any James Cameron film – As wheelchair-ridden ‘jarhead’ Jake Sully, Sam Worthington’s toughest stretch was learning how to maneuver about in a wheelchair. Note to filmmaker – he looked awkward; someone should have practiced with him more.
Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Ripley showed more realistic facial expressions as a cartoon than she did as herself.
Giovanni Ribisi has managed to turn his once promising career into a throwaway ‘bit actor for sale’ reputation.
& the guy who played Scarface (Sorry, I didn’t stay for the credits my butt was numb & I had to get up before rigor mortis set in) couldn’t have been more of a carbon copy blowhard Military General if he tried.
What I liked about it was the storyline – It basically followed the same path as when the Europeans first set foot in what would become known as America – they came, they saw a peaceful people who respected the land & the creatures they shared it with, & they conquered the living crap out of them. Except here, the ‘Indians’ band together & fight back.
Being one of the last people on the planet to see ‘Avatar’, I’m guessing its okay for me to reveal the ending, right? Because I was trying to figure out the morale to this story – Was it the American military is evil & we must stop it before it gets out of control?
Or was it – In a battle of robots versus cartoons, bet on the Pussy/Smurfs over the Transformers?

Friday, April 23, 2010

DEATH AT A FUNERAL (2010) / (2007)

“DEATH AT A FUNERAL (American Version)” (Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence & many more second rate bad actors)

I had to see this just to see what they did with one of the most under-rated comedies in recent filmdom. I didn’t see the point – the British version was the funniest movie of 2007 – why would Chris Rock think that by making it about an American black family would improve it? When it was over, I was asking a different question to Chris – Why in the hell did you take a very funny film & make it as unfunny as you possibly could?
The main reason is the acting – I knew these characters from their British counterparts & they were funny (Only Peter Dinklage reprised his role from the original) - the same lines that were used in the original seemed stilted & forced coming from this cast – which is why I slammed them in the heading.
The most notable being James Marsden playing Oscar. Alan Tudyk in the original was named Simon & he was outstanding in the role – I thought he should have been given a Best Supporting Actor nod in ’07. Marsden just isn’t a very good actor – at least he paled in comparison to Tudyk’s performance.
Danny Glover was fine as cantankerous Uncle Russell, but the rest of the cast was quite bland, especially the horribly miscast Luke Wilson. And Tracy Morgan continues his streak of never having said anything that I found to be remotely humorous. In fact, I so dislike Morgan that when his character, Norman, gets splattered with feces, I was hoping they used actually diarrhea so he really did get a mouthful of s**t...
So if you’re thinking about seeing this because the trailer looked like it might be good – don’t go to the cinema, call around to rental places & ask if they have the British version available & watch that. In laugh-o-meter language, the original scored in the mid-40’s – this one got a 9.

“DEATH AT A FUNERAL” (British Version) A bunch of English actors, Jane Asher & Peter Dinklage.

This starts off ‘veddy’ British; a certain application of snobbery & low-key humor that doesn’t make you laugh as much as grin at how drolly ‘clever’ they are. Then, like that snowball in the opening to Rocky & Bullwinkle it starts to build momentum and when it’s over you realize you’ve just seen the funniest movie of 2007.
Jane Asher’s husband has just passed away; the funeral service is being held in her home where one of her two sons still resides. Daniel(Matthew MacFadyen) is married to Jane (Keeley Hawes) & they are in the process of putting a down payment on their own flat.
Jane’s other son, Robert (Rupert Graves) is a novelist living in New York – he flies in to pay his respects to his departed father.
The movie takes its time introducing the main characters as various Uncles, cousins & well-wishers arrive. Howard & Justin are called at the last second to pick up Uncle Alfie; a crotchety old coot confined to his wheelchair – there is an extremely funny (though somewhat disgusting) scene where poor Howard has to assist Uncle Alfie in getting to the ‘loo’ before he craps his pants.
Niece Martha (Daisy Donovan) with her just turned fiancé Simon (Alan Tudyk, who pulls off the most ‘demanding’ role) stop by to give her brother Troy(Kris Marshall) a ride to the funeral. Troy is studying to be a pharmacist; he has dozens of bottles of pills in his flat. Simon, suffering from a bad headache, brought about by the fact that Martha’s father hates him & will undoubtedly throw a tantrum when she announces their engagement, is given a valium by his bride-to-be.
Later, it is discovered that Troy put LSD tablets in the valium bottle so they would appear to be ‘innocent’ tablets. Sometimes Simon’s bizarre behavior is a little ‘over-the-top’, but most of the time, it is laugh out loud funny.
This gets the snowball rolling, and by the time my favorite ‘height-challenged’ actor, Peter Dinklage arrives at the service asking to have a ‘private’ conversation with Daniel about his ‘relationship’ with his late father – the snowball is unstoppable.
“Death At A Funeral” is dark, silly, subtle, grotesque, far-fetched, believable & uproariously funny – a veritable hodge podge of styles all wrapped into one film.
There is one very predictable scene – you know what’s going to happen when the 2 brothers put what they believe to be their father’s dead gay lover into his coffin with his corpse, but it’s still going to make you laugh when the inevitable pay off comes.
If there’s one drawback to this film, it’s that it has too many characters (& all speaking in that foreign language – English; at times I wished there were subtitles scrolled along the bottom of the screen) But the characters are so well-defined, and expertly portrayed, each with their own ‘quirk’ that they are easy to tell apart.
I did an injustice to the cast with my heading, but the truth is there are so many excellent performances by actors I’ve never seen before, it would take three or four lines to give them their due - &, unless you’re from the UK, I’m guessing you’ve never heard of them either – except Paul McCartney’s ‘Beatle-era girlfriend’, Jane Asher who looks nothing like I remember from the 60’s - & still, even with her wrinkles is much better looking than that one-legged dancing cow he regretfully married & dumped.
“Death At A Funeral” is a smart, offbeat comedy for those of us who don’t find low-rent crap like “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” humorous.


“HOT TUB TIME MACHINE” (John Cusack & friends)

Forget the title – I wasn’t too keen on seeing it myself because of it – but this is a fairly funny film where the title, though accurately portraying the plot, doesn’t do it justice. I would call it a low-rent ‘The Hangover’.
First off, it scored a 24 on my laugh-o-meter. ‘Date Night’ scored a 16 but received 5 of those points during the blooper reel at the end.
Adam (John Cusack) Nick (Craig Robinson) & Lou (Rob Corddry) are three 40-something buddies who are having relationship problems, so they decide to go to the ski lodge where they had their most treasured memories from the past.
Tagging along is Adam’s nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke) who lives in Adam’s basement and rarely leaves it.
Rob Corddry’s Lou is a disgusting a—hole, practically every thing he says & does makes you wonder why anyone would stay friends with him. It takes a l-o-n-g time but once you get used to his vulgarity, he kind of grows on you.

A Russian energy drink gets spilled on the hot tub controls & the 4 losers are sent back in time to the 80’s – where the music & clothes are hard to take, but the chicks are hot ‘n’ easy, including Adam’s sister, Kelly (Collette Wolfe) the nerdy kid’s mother.
Once they realize they’ve gone back in time, they are very mindful of the time/space continuum & agree to do the same things they did the first time around; but even the smallest of details can change the future & a scene involving a rogue squirrel comes back to haunt Corddry. Although the result is historically inaccurate, it does lead to a very funny scene between Lou & Nick in the men’s room.
Crispin Glover as a one-armed bell hop is a running gag that they milk way too often, & Chevy Chase as the mysterious repair man is pretty much like most Chevy Chase cameos... not all that funny.
But despite the title & the ‘toilet’ humor, the film does have a certain amount of charm – Credit Cusack for bringing a touch of class to the ensemble. Though the film definitely has its skid marks – Nick introducing ‘rap’ to the big haired band fans of the era is definitely a low-lite - but overall, I found myself being entertained by ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


“GREEN ZONE” (Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson & Amy Ryan)
Taking your plot from ‘real life’ & making your own fictitious story around it is tricky business - it worked to perfection in “The Last King Of Scotland” – & they make it work here. “Green Zone” centers around Matt Damon’s Chief Roy Miller & his battalions’ fruitless searches for WMD’s in Iraq. “All they want to do is find something they can hold up on CNN.” But all Miller’s men find are toilet parts & pigeon poop.
What I liked about this movie is that it was easy to follow because it was based on a recent historical event – We all know there were no WMD’s, so it was easy to concentrate on the characters & the ‘cover up’. If someone were to complain that it might be a bit TOO simple, I wouldn’t argue with them.
Greg Kinnear plays Clark Poundstone, Washington D.C.’s head of ‘Intel’ in Iraq – he controls the ‘SF’(Special Forces) who blindly follow orders though knowing that what they’re doing is wrong. Poundstone continues to defend his source, the mysterious ‘Magellan’, & blames the military for being unable to follow directions to the WMD sites.
Brendan Gleeson plays C.I.A. agent Martin Brown; Poundstone’s main antagonist, who is constantly attempting to undermine Poundstone’s authority.
When Chief Miller is approached by a one legged citizen named Freddy who witnessed one of Hussein’s chief advisors, General Al Rawi, entering a home just a few blocks away, Miller risks walking into a booby trap & follows Freddy.
I had to chuckle every time Al Rawi was shown, as he immediately scampers away like a frightened pussycat as soon as gunfire is heard, proving that when the going gets tough, the Generals run away to safety.
Speaking of which, ‘Green Zone’ refers to the ‘safety zone’ where the strategists can be pampered in luxury while the ‘real men’ are left to scurry about the filthy streets knowing that a sniper’s bullet could end their lives at any second.
Freddy proves to be valuable to Miller as a translator, though the Iraqi citizen is clearly uncomfortable with the job. He tells Miller, “It is not for you to decide what happens here.” Freddy knows Miller is one of the rare good guys so his quote was meant toward the U.S. Government...
When Miller hooks up with Agent Brown, they plot to bring in Al Rawi to find out what he knows as the U.S. attempts to bring in an outsider to take over the country.
The last thing Poundstone wants is for the truth to come out, so Intel shuts down the CIA & Miller is left to act on his own.
‘Green Zone’ is intelligent, well acted (forgot to mention Amy Ryan – very believable as Wall Street Journal reporter Laurie Dayne) & probably closer to the truth than the Republican party would want you to believe... Which leads me to another complaint – why do they call them ‘parties’ – nobody in politics is having any fun... well, except for the horndogs who are cheating on their spouses.

Monday, April 12, 2010


“DATE NIGHT” (Steve Carrell & Tina Fey)

I like these two actors (but not their TV shows) so I went into this ‘Out-Of-Towners’ rip-off with hopeful expectations.
Carrell & Fey play Phil & Claire Foster, parents of two young children who lead very boring lives. The problem with setting up a story about two very boring people is that the film has to start off by being very boring as well. But it does pick up eventually.
Claire puts on a cleavage revealing dress & suddenly Phil wants to take her someplace special for their weekly date night. They arrive at a posh Manhattan seafood restaurant without a reservation & hope to catch a break & get a table. While waiting in the crowded bar, the hostess calls out for the Triplehorns to be seated & Phil decides to steal the reservation by pretending to be the Triplehorns.
As the couple dine they are approached by two seedy looking men who escort them into the back alley & demand the flashdrive they stole from mobster Tony Moletti (Ray Liotta)
This is where ‘Date Night’ turns into ‘The Out Of Towners’ as Phil & Claire race thru New York while being pursued by the mob bosses’ hit men. & yes, my least favorite item, the elongated car chase scene, is included.
Mark Wahlberg plays an ex-client of Claire’s who helps them in so many ways its ridiculous, but his constant bare-chested appearance does set up Carrell to utter one of the movies’ funnier lines.
Things finally get humorous when The Fosters manage to track down the actual Triplehorns (James Franco & Mila Kunis who steal the film) but when the Triplehorns leave the screen, the movie lapses back into being boring & predictable.
This movie wasn’t scoring very high on my laugh-o-meter until the blooper reel that played with the closing credits – some people left early & missed them. The 4 best laughs of the movie are in the bloopers, so if you still want to go see this, don’t cheat yourself out of some genuinely funny moments by leaving too soon.
I don’t know if it was due to the fact that this old trick of trying to salvage some laughs from mundane material hadn’t been used for awhile, or if the fact that I wanted to laugh at this film but couldn’t find any reason to until the blooper reel rolled, but it boggled my mind that the best lines in the movie were left on the cutting room floor. Thankfully someone was smart enough to sweep them up & tack them onto the end of this mildly disappointing film.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010



The only movie out that I wanted to see, my wife didn’t (Repo Men) so I decided to give her Easter & knock off these two chick flicks that she wanted to see. It was, as expected, Eastertime in hell...
We started with the newer ‘Last Song’ for the early bird special & then glided over to East Valley for the $3 ‘Dear John’ ($18 for 4 tickets, from that aspect, I got off cheap) My wife asked me as we left the second film, ‘which one was better?’
I said, “This one.” “Why?” “Because I don’t remember what the first one was.”
It wasn’t a joke; I had to think for a moment to recall the movie we had seen just a few hours earlier. When I remembered, the answered held, “Dear John” is much better than ‘The Last Song” - & that’s not to say ‘Dear John’ won’t be a candidate for my Bottom 10.
I wasn’t aware until later that both films were based on books by the same author – who also wrote “The Notebook”, which I liked (up until that ridiculous ending)
These are chick flicks to the maximum – but Dear John has noticeably better acting and isn’t quite as sappy & cookie cutter as ‘Last Song’.
So I’ll start with the older film.
In ‘Dear John’, the perpetually mundane Channing Tatum plays ‘John’ / Amanda Seyfried plays the letter writing Savannah, a girl John meets two weeks before he is to be sent to Iraq (John’s an army man)
Richard Jenkins plays John’s distant father, though they live in the same house – Dad is overly occupied with his coin collection to the point of being obsessed. Savannah insults John by suggesting his father might have autism, but when John starts paying more attention to dad after the statement, he sees that she may be right.
Henry Thomas plays Tim, a friend of Savannah’s. Tim’s autistic son Alan takes an instant liking to John, which of course is ‘amazing’ because Alan doesn’t speak to anyone until he gets to know them. This is meant to make us believe that John is someone ‘special’, but yet the first chance he gets to lose his temper & exhibit ultra-violent behavior – John goes apes**t. He is, after all, a military man.
After their whirlwind romance, John goes overseas & the film sinks to the boring letter reading montage as John & Savannah exchange communiqués.
SPOILER ALERT! – This movie wasn’t exactly winning me over, but it wasn’t ‘stupid’ until John is forced to come home due to a situation arising with his father. He confronts Savannah with “Why didn’t you call me?” & she yells, “Is THAT why you came back here?”
He came back because of his dad, you thoughtless b*tch & you were so selfish you didn’t even care enough to stay in touch with the old man... That was my thought as this scene of heavy drama played out.
So by the end of the film, you really don’t have anyone to cheer for – You definitely don’t want John & Savannah to end up together because that would mean that John has no self respect, dignity or testicles. But due to the fact that it doesn’t have your conventional ‘chick flick’ sappy happy ending, I’d have to say ‘Dear John’ is a notch or two above the norm for the genre...
“The Last Song” is not. It is chick flick sickening from beginning to end with very little to recommend, & yet I don’t really feel like bashing it. I’ve never seen Miley Cyrus do anything before so all I know about her now is that she has no future in acting – Stick to whatever made you famous, sweetheart, or channel all your time & energy into acting lessons because you can’t make a career in movies by just being cute... What am I talking about, of course you can! & I will grant her that - she does have a certain likeability without displaying much talent (Probably why I don't feel like bashing her)
Miley plays Veronica (Ronnie) a musical protégé until dad divorces mom (Greg Kinnear & Kelly Preston) & she stops playing the piano & turns down an offer to attend Julliard.
As Mom prepares to re-marry, she sends Ronnie & her little brother Jonah off to spend the summer with dad at his beach house.
With Jonah, there is no happy medium, this kid is either overly enthusiastic or bawling his eyes out in sorrow – In other words, he doesn’t come across as a ‘real’ character. Do we blame the inexperienced kid for over-acting, or the script which called for him to be one or the other in every scene he’s in?
Here’s the first hour of the movie in a nutshell; Before the story starts there are 2 musical montages (from here on known as mm’s)
Kids arrive at dads - Ronnie goes for a walk along the beach (mm)
Ronnie gets knocked over by volleyball playing Will (mm)
Ronnie stops a raccoon from eating sea turtle eggs on the beach, stays up all night to protect them (mm)
Will shows up as a volunteer from the aquarium & sets up a protective net for the eggs (mm)
Will invites Ronnie to meet his parents (mm)
Will’s family is filthy rich, but with a dark cloud hanging over it (sad mm)
Ronnie is moved to show Will that she can play the piano – but first she must take 30 seconds to tie back her hair in slow motion – after all, you wouldn’t want her hair to get in the way while she plays, right? (mm)
Will gets into fight at his sister’s wedding (Oh no, he has a violent temper!)
The sap runs so thick in this film it should have been set in the forests of Vermont.
The screenplay simply jumps from one clichéd scene to the next with very little connections. To give you an idea how idiotic it is – Will’s best friend Scott was witness to a crime but he was also involved in it – When Will begs him to step forward so the real culprit pays for his deed, Scott is adamant about not taking a chance of ruining his future. A few scenes later, Will shows up at Scott’s workplace and says ‘Please’ & nothing else. Scott instantly changes his mind about his future & confesses... Huh? Oh, and (mm)
I didn’t realize until the credits rolled that Greg Kinnear’s character’s name was Steve Miller... Then why in the heck did we have to suffer thru all those cheesy teen pop mm’s when they could have used “Fly Like An Eagle”, “Rock’n Me” & “The Joker”?
But unfortunately, in the end, “The Last Song” was just a boring piece of background music... Literally.