Sunday, July 25, 2010


“DESPICABLE ME” (Voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand & Julie Andrews)

I don’t know if it was due to the fact that the last film I saw was the incredibly boring ‘Inception’, but I was very entertained by this cute little cartoon movie. Much better than the lauded ‘Toy Story 3’; ‘Despicable Me’ scored a respectable 19 on my laff-o-meter & I also found the sappy ending to be quite touching – probably because the film made me laugh so I forgave it for the predictable outcome.
‘Despicable Me’ worked on practically every level; I liked Gru (Steve Carell) the openly evil super-villain who goes to the Bank of Evil (formerly known as Lehman Brothers) to borrow money to support his dastardly plans to ‘shock the world’.
When Vector (Segel) his personality-challenged nerd competitor steals the great pyramids of Egypt, Gru comes up with a plan to steal the moon (by shrinking it) to top Vector’s feat.
Other than mad scientist, Dr. Nefario, Gru’s crew consists entirely of small egg shaped creatures he calls minions. The minions are cute & loveable & yet I liked them anyway. I was shocked to see that Dr. Nefario was voiced by Russell Brand; I saw his name in the opening titles & kept waiting for an evil/mad British scientist to come onto the scene, but no such English accented villain appeared. & using a big name star like Julie Andrews to voice Gru’s mother was rather pointless as the woman never says more than one word sentences.
3 cute, but quirky orphan girls enter Gru’s world when they are able to gain entry into Vector’s secret hideaway by selling him cookies. I liked the characters in this story so much, they even got away with using a horrible Bee Gees song (“You Should Be Dancing”) & I not only didn’t mind, the scene made me laugh! Gru tells his elderly inventor that he wants him to build cookie robots & Dr. Nefario thought he said ‘disco’ robots.
The minions, the girls; Margo, Edith & Agnes, Gru’s reading of bedtime stories, in fact, everything in this film worked for me – or was it just because NOTHING worked for me in ‘Inception’ so I was begging to be entertained for a change? Who knows? But I consider this to be one of the better animated movies (Of course nothing can touch ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’) but it is right up there with ‘Up’ & ‘The Simpsons Movie’ as a feature length cartoon that I, as an adult without children, felt was well worth seeing...
Now if we can just get those people who made the mistake of having offspring to leave the noisy little brats at home I might enjoy more of these ‘kiddie’ flicks...

Monday, July 19, 2010


“INCEPTION” (Leonardo DiCaprio, etc.)

My initial reaction when this film ended was, “Worst Leonardo DiCaprio movie EVER!”
Then I remembered “Revolutionary Road” (Which I was so grateful to have forgotten)
This movie sucks. I mean really, really sucks.
It isn’t often that I’m so disenchanted with a film that I spend most of the second half wishing it were already over, but that was definitely the case here. My wife told me that if I had said something she would have gladly left.
I would say if you like crap like ‘The Matrix’ films, you’ll probably like this crap as well, but I hated ‘The Matrix’ & thus, I hated this equally (the only difference is the acting is better in this one) But the only way the actors could have saved this film is by refusing to do it, thus saving my wife & I 3 hours of our lives that we’ll never get back.
Although I came up with an even worse DiCaprio movie, I do believe this is far & away the worst Joesph Gordon-Levitt film to date.
Now those who have seen it are probably thinking I was bored by the convoluted plot, but that isn’t the case at all – it’s actually fairly simple to follow – My problem with it is that its incredibly stupid. The entire reason for this film to exist is so writer/director Chris Nolan can amaze those who are easily amazed by using that tired old Matrix trick of showing the amazing scenes in amazingly super slow motion. If filmed in regular motion the entire way, you’d knock a good hour off the running time & might have something worth viewing... though the plot would still be stupid.
Good cast though; DiCaprio, who has earned respect lately after some piss-poor showings after ‘Gilbert Grape’, plays Dom Cobb, a man who specializes in entering others dreams / Joeseph Gordon-Levitt as his partner Arthur / Tom Hardy is Eames who for some unknown reason can make himself appear as someone the ‘mark’ knows – in this case Tom Berenger’s ‘Browning’ / Ken Watanabe as Saito, a victim of Cobb’s that turns around & hires him to bring down Cillian Murphy’s Robert Fischer – the son of a recently deceased billionaire whom they want to influence to disassociate himself from his father’s inheritance / Marion Cotillard as Teddy Daniels dead wife Delores, who haunts his dreams & hides a secret involving their children... No wait, that was the much better ‘Shutter Island’, but same character, different name (Mal) / Michael Caine plays Cobb’s father-in-law / & the over-rated Ellen Page as an apprentice dream architect.
The fact that there is a similarity between DiCapiro’s Cobb & his Teddy Daniels from his last film made me chuckle – Both characters are haunted by their dead wives in dreams / Both share peripheral visions involving their children / & at one point Cobb is shown splashing cold water on his face in a rest room – In my head I heard, “Get a grip, Teddy!”
But alas, “Inception” didn’t have the delightful plot twists that “Shutter Island” gave us;
In fact, “Inception” didn’t have much of a plot, period. In Nolan’s vision of ‘dreams within dreams’ there are car chases aplenty, bullets being expelled from automatic weapons in the millions & enough fiery explosions to last thru 2 or 3 Die Hard movies.
Now initially, I bought into the concept; I liked the fact that Cobb shoots & kills his best friend Arthur in a dream so he’ll wake up – but following that rule, how come all those thousands of thugs who are shot & killed inside the dream world don’t just wake up & re-enter the dream again? I’ll tell you why, because this movie is STUPID.
I got a kick out of the packed house that watched this sleep inducing story with us when they let out a collective gasp when the screen went to black after the final scene. Without giving anything away, I was just relieved that it was finally over, so I could care less what the object onscreen was going to do. So don’t be surprised if you go to see this incredible blockbuster involving revolving dream worlds & it makes you yawn....
You’ve been warned.


“CYRUS” (John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei & Jonah Hill)

John C. plays John (middle initial unknown) a likeable goof who describes himself as a human ‘Shrek’. When Shrek meets Molly (Marisa Tomei) at a party, he is instantly smitten. The weird part is, she’s attracted to him as well. What’s not to love? After all she catches him peeing in the bushes for their first encounter.
John/Shrek & Molly get drunk & end up having sex. John calls Molly the next morning, they make a date for that evening & they have sex again. John then turns into a creepy stalker as he follows Molly home & camps outside her house. Later, when he approaches the house, he meets Molly’s son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill) who invites the stranger into his mother’s home & they spend the day together until Molly arrives. To Shrek’s credit, at least he owns up to ‘stalking’ her as the reason why he knew where she lived.
But here’s why I came to hate this movie instead of merely finding it boring – Almost the entire movie is filmed in extreme close-ups... So we’re talking extreme close-ups of John C. Reilly & Jonah Hill – 2 guys you want to view from as far away as possible & we’re subjected to JCR’s huge bulbous, Karl Malden, Jr-type nose & Hill’s enormous double chin (I’m sure he had several of them at one time but the biggest one ate the others)
And it gets worse – in every scene there’s a quick zoom in. So we start with a close up on John & Molly & for no reason whatsoever the camera zips in a couple of feet & stops.
This happens in every scene, sometimes several times in each one. It was so annoying, I waited to see the name of the camera operator but got as bored reading the credits as I did watching the movie & left. I’m sure my friend dbm knows who worked the camera for this, so I’m relying on him to tell me his name so I can avoid any of his future films. I don’t know why, but I’m thinking his name might be Nelson Muntz...
I went to see ‘Cyrus’ because I was hoping for a dark comedy – but nothing dark nor funny happens. It sets up as a possible good film but never pays off with a ‘wow’ sick moment or a single humorous line.
The fact that it is dominated by close-ups & zooms gives you no perspective of reality. This is purely a character-driven story so it should be told in a realistic way & it is not.
The only time I laughed is when a shot of a cell phone on a table was shown & then zoomed in on. By that point it had become ludicrous...
I would describe the acting as being unimpressive; since the story became bogged down in blandness, I’d say the cast has to take some of the blame for that, including Catherine Keener as John’s ex-wife.
You wonder why a decent looking chick like Marisa would instantly fall for a Shrek until you realize he probably reminded her of her chubby creepy son. The problem was, neither John nor Cyrus were creepy enough, just mildly weird to the point where you didn’t want to spend any time with these slightly creepy but very boring people...


“SPLICE” (Adrian Brody & Sarah Dolley)

Brody & Dolley play Clyde & Elsa, genetic scientists working for a place called N.E.R.D... Got a problem with that? Yeah, me too. First off no one named Clyde is going to become a scientist; secondly, NERD? Really? Did they actually think they were coming up with a clever, believable Acronym with that? “Hi, I’m Clyde, I’m a scientist working for NERD...” Not gonna happen.
Clyde & Elsa are also live-in lovers – they have developed a new life form which they have named Fred & Ginger... No, this is set in modern times, not in the 50’s when those names would have been more recognizable. Fred & Ginger resemble living loafs of unbaked bread with mouths. At their first meeting the creations reveal exceptionally long tongues that seem to blossom as they intertwine – Aww, Fred & Ginger experience love at first sight. So now we just sit back & wait for Ginger to start having litters of unbaked pretzels & bagels...
For the head of NERD, this is not enough – I’m not really sure what she was asking for, other than telling Clyde & Elsa that they needed to move on to ‘Phase 2’ in order to keep the grant money coming in.
Elsa decides they should use human DNA in their next experiment, which Clyde is initially opposed to until Elsa tells him they could create something that could “Save millions of lives.”
I was not only disliking the film, I disliked the lead characters as well. I especially disliked Elsa when she tells Clyde to turn off the Led Zeppelin song he’s listening to because, “Zeppelin crashed and burned before I was born!” - So did Fred & Ginger, babe, develope some good taste, will ya?
When their human hybrid comes out of the artificially created womb it looks like a sting-ray. Now we reach the point where I started to become annoyed as they begin stealing from my favorite sci-fi movie of all-time, “Alien” The sting ray turns out to just be a shell. What emerges looks like a plucked chicken with long legs, a stubby tail & no wings. Clyde thinks it is in pain & wants to kill it – Elsa stops him.
She nurtures the creation thru its awkward phase, naming it ‘DREN’... How did she come up with that clever name? That’s right, it’s NERD spelled backwards.
Now I’m hating this film & just want it to be over with.
Like ‘Alien’ the creature ages rapidly & goes thru many metamorphoses eventually turning into a humanistic being – In one quick edit it suddenly has arms & has developed a deadly looking stinger protruding from the tail, which is now quite long.
Once out of the evolutionary stages, ‘Splice’ started to become interesting. I noticed how Elsa always referred to Dren as ‘she’, whereas Clyde would use ‘it’. When Dren develops a burning fever they place her/it in a vat of cold water to bring the fever down.
As it battles ‘mom & dad’ to get out of the tub, Clyde decides he’s had enough, grabs the tail to control the stinger & drowns Dren... Weirdly enough Dren doesn’t die, but I loved the fact that clueless Elsa thought Clyde wasn’t trying to kill ‘it’.
There’s an unfortunate scene involving the presentation of Fred & Ginger that, though necessary to the plot, was played up big time for those who crave scenes of gore in their sci-fi flicks. I thought it would turn out to be a dream sequence, but it wasn’t.
‘Splice’ takes some inane, sick twists but by the end I felt that I had witnessed something worth seeing – Visually, Dren is a fascinating creation & LOOKS real. Even though Clyde & Elsa don’t act like believable scientists (It would have worked better if they were teenaged mutant ninja scientists) their behavior should lead to some interesting post-film conversations. Unfortunately for me, I took my dogs & all they wanted to talk about was the scene where the cat is killed.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


“TOY STORY 3” (Woody, Buzz & Friends)

When the first Pixar ‘event’ came out – Toy Story - & everyone gave it rave reviews, I probably went into it expecting too much. I was under-whelmed; cartoon toys that come to life when cartoon humans aren’t around didn’t do much for me. I guess I was supposed to be dazzled with the new innovative animation techniques – I wasn’t. To me, the best cartoon movie ever made was ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’ – I’ll take the hilarious script over nifty computer drawings every time. If I ever saw TS2 – I don’t remember it. So I had no interest in #3. This is one of those where the consensus of critical raves made me decide to check out a film I otherwise would not have paid money to see. I came out of the theatre feeling I had seen the best Toy Story movie, but was it all THAT good?
I liked it, but did I love it? No, it’s better than the first one because it has several ‘dark’ moments – In fact, I was surprised that it received the rave reviews because I would think that fans of the original Toy Story wouldn’t like it because it isn’t just ‘toys’ playing with each other behind their owners back – these toys are thrown away & abused as ‘old pieces of junk’ that are no longer useful now that their little boy owner has grown up & is heading off to college.
Yes, it’s a cartoon & I shouldn’t let the ‘reality’ of wondering why no one ever seems to notice that these toys are never where anyone leaves them (because they come to life & move around when left alone) but that did kind of bug me – I can’t help it, it’s the way I am!
TS3 scored an 8 on the laugh-o-meter – not great, but it’s still more than the combined total of every Adam Sandler movie ever made – so it had some humorous moments, but I liked it because it had its ‘Pinocchio’ moments as well.
All of the toys, sans Woody, are placed in a garbage bag intended to be stored in the attic & are mistakenly left by the side of the curb for the garbage man to haul away. Seeing this, Woody chases after the bag & the entire movie becomes a rescue mission. Just when the toys think they’ve found a safe haven (A day care center) the tale grows dark again. This pattern is repeated until it reaches the point where you just wished they’d put these poor animated playthings out of their misery!
So remember this is coming from someone who wasn’t all that crazy about the first Toy Story, but Toy Story 3 is not a bad little cartoon feature – but to call it one of the best movies of the year is beyond ridiculous...


“SOLITARY MAN” (Michael Douglas)

There are a lot of decent supporting roles in this film, but its Michael Douglas’s baby from start to finish so he’s the only ‘star’ that should be mentioned.
This is the type of film that if they made more movies like it, I probably wouldn’t have cared for it all that much – but it is an anomaly; a character driven story with absolutely no stunts, explosions or eye-popping visuals – in other words, a film with dialogue. Yet, at the same time, would I call this film exciting or tell everyone, ‘hey, you gotta go see this movie, its fantastic!” – No, I would not. It’s a good film because they don’t make ‘em like this very often. Is it worth seeing? Definitely, especially if you don’t need your eyes popped out every 5 minutes & you enjoy a good character study with actors playing believable people.
“Solitary Man” is the story of Ben Kalmen (Douglas) the one-time extremely successful owner of several car dealerships that went bankrupt because Ben got greedy and started doing business the under-handed way. The film opens with Ben attempting to gain the financial backing to start a new dealership in New Jersey.
Throughout the story, Ben’s ex-wife, Nancy (Susan Sarandon) current younger girlfriend, Jordan (Mary-Louis Parker) her daughter, Allyson (Imogen Poots) his daughter, Susan (Jenna Fischer) Ex-college buddy (Danny DeVito) & college kid he meets (Jesse Eisenberg) filter in & out of his life. Everyone, with the exception of Parker, is excellent in their roles.
Ben is a horndog; a fact his girlfriend (Parker) should have been well aware of, yet she insists that he act as chaperone for her daughter on her trip to try to make it into a prestigious college (with alumnus Ben’s help by putting in a good word with the dean)
Ben makes a deal with Allyson that he won’t tell on her if she doesn’t tell on him and soon Ben is teaching Daniel(Eisenberg) the kid that is assigned to show him around campus how to pick up, nail and satisfy your typical college coed. When Ben questions his old pal Jimmy Marino (DeVito) who runs the town diner on why he doesn’t hit on the sexy young women that eat at his establishment, Marino replies, “Sure, they’re hot now, but in a couple of years they’ll put on pounds and add some wrinkles... and I’ve already got one of those at home.”
It shows the difference in the two men (Other than Ben is a fairly attractive old geezer and Jimmy is not) in that Marino looks at women from a relationship standpoint and Ben looks at them as conquests to be used and then forgotten. So it comes as no surprise when Ben screws up and his life falls apart in a matter of days. Ben’s Son-In-Law sums up the lead character perfectly when he says, “Every time I lower the bar of expectation for you Ben, you still manage to limbo right under it.”
Musically, the opening title song posed a question in my mind that I’ve always wondered – How in the heck did Johnny Cash ever make a living as a ‘singer’? At least Dylan was a decent songwriter, but as The Man In Black ‘talked’ his way thru the early Neil Diamond tune, I just wanted it to end – quickly - & I love Diamond’s original version – Why didn’t they just use that, or get someone who could sing to do a decent re-make?
It is definitely the front runner for worst version of a good song used in a film for 2010.
And I picked on Mary-Louise Parker because I didn’t see anything from her in this role that I haven’t seen before – Now, some may say the same of Jesse Eisenberg, but at least he made me believe he WAS that character – I didn’t buy Parker in her role for a second.
I won’t spoil the ending other than to let you know, it leaves you to draw your own conclusion – For me, it was obvious what Ben was going to do after the screen went blank – but for the group of older women who were discussing the ‘up in the air’ finale, they were all convinced that Ben would change his ways... Okay, maybe a kid in his teens or early twenties might become a different person someday – But a character old enough to be played by Kirk Dou, um, I mean Michael Douglas? Ain’t gonna happen.