Tuesday, August 31, 2010


“THE SWITCH” (Jason Bateman & Jennifer Aniston)

To call this a typical ‘rom-com’ is a mistake – there really isn’t much ‘rom’ – The lead female character has a child via a sperm donor – how romantic is that? & there isn’t much ‘com’ – But is there EVER in any typical ‘rom-com’?
This is the story of two friends; Wally (Bateman) & Kassie (Aniston) They have been best friends for several years, much to Wally’s chagrin, but he’s grateful to have been placed in the ‘friend-zone’ by Kassie so at least he’s a part of her life.
Wally isn’t easy to like, which is another reason he’s grateful for his position with Kassie. When Kassie tells him she plans to have a child out of wedlock by finding a sperm donor, he suggests she use his baby making fluids. She laughs in his face, saying, “You can’t be serious?” Among his many detriments, Wally is a hypochondriac who hums seductively when eating a scrumptious meal.
Instead Kassie finds Roland (Patrick Wilson) a good looking married father of two & the ‘conception’ is to take place at Kassie’s best female friend’s apartment. Why? Because Wally couldn’t exchange his specimen for Roland’s if it were done realistically.
Speaking of unrealistic set-ups, this film is hampered by an unrealistic character – the offspring of Kassie & Wally’s non-coital union, Sebastian. The kid comes into the picture at the age of 6 when Kassie moves back to New York – his first meeting with ‘Uncle’ Wally is so contrived & unbelievable, I hated the kid & brought my hopes that this film might be better than advertised crashing down so hard it smashed them to smithereens. Sebastian enters spouting medical terms that only ‘specialist’ doctors would know how to pronounce – of course, this intense intelligence is given to the 6 year old via the internet, so that makes it believable. A few scenes later, during an excursion to the aquarium, Uncle Wally tells Sebastian he has hypochondria. “What’s that?” Sebastian queries... This, from the kid who knew every disease & disorder known to mankind!
Jeff Goldblum, whom I haven’t seen for a few years, was providing his usual schtick as Wally’s boss & buddy, Leonard. And Leonard was quite humorous – Was it because I wasn’t expecting to find anyone funny in a ‘rom-com’, or the fact that I hadn’t been numbed by Goldblum’s ‘deja vu’ acting style so I found his quirky delivery refreshing for a change?
But eventually, ‘The Switch’ grew on me & I would say that it was mainly due to Bateman’s performance – he gets better as the story progresses – even his relationship with Sebastian becomes more realistic; Walking with the boy, he says, “Tell me about your new school.” “Why?” Sebastian asks. “Because you’re a kid and there’s nothing else to talk about.” It’s those believable little moments that turned this from a disaster into something likeable.
The finale gets wrapped up into a neat little ribbon way too quickly, but I’m guessing that’s the fault of ‘preview’ audiences who insisted upon a happy ending – it would have been better without it, but ‘The Switch’ isn’t a bad film – It is if you go in thinking you’re going to see a ‘rom-com’ (&, like my wife, you’re a fan of those generic wastes of time) but this is simply a sweet little story of friendship & how horribly wrong things can go when people start bringing more children into the world... Just my opinion, I could be wrong... but I’m not.

Monday, August 30, 2010


“PRINCE OF PERSIA” (Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley & Gemma Arterton))

When I found out this was a ‘video game’, I pushed it back into the bargain basement bin. When I sat down in the $3 theatre to watch it I said, “I’ve never seen a bad Jake Gyllenhaal movie – I have a feeling this will be the first.”
So, going with those expectations, I came out of ‘Prince Of Persia’ thinking it was ‘pretty good’. I liked the characters, especially Jake’s Dastan, the story, including the magical dagger & the fact that for an action/adventure flick there weren’t any unrealistic weapons of mass destruction that wouldn’t have been available in the period the film was set in just to appease the type of moviegoer who feels cheated if they don’t see a lot stuff get blowed up. The only questionable weapon was a ‘gatling-ish' dagger dispenser, which was shooting knives, so I accepted it even though I don’t believe such a weapon could exist at that time.
The film opens with the King of Persia adopting a street orphan who outwits his soldiers. The boy turns into Jake’s Dastan, the third & only adopted son of the king. Dastan is the carefree reckless son, probably because he considers himself lucky enough to be rescued from the streets & he has no desire to ever become ‘King’. His brothers, Tus & Garsiv, consider Dastan to be a brother, but an immature goof off for the most part.
While the King is away, eldest son Tus is in charge of running the kingdom – His uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley in that annoying eye-liner making him appear to be the gay uncle the boys were warned to avoid) convinces Tus to invade the city of Alamut because he has discovered they were forging double-bladed daggers & selling them to Persia’s enemies.
Because of his reckless ways & inability to follow orders, Dastan ends up being the hero of the battle which ends with an unusual dagger being in his possession. The Princess of Alamut, Tamina (Gemma Arterton) sees that Dastan has the powerful dagger containing the ‘Sands Of Time’ & thus agrees to become Tus’s 4th(or 5th) wife & sticks close to Dastan as he accompanies her back to the palace.
& thus the adventure begins... Dastan becomes a fugitive when a gift he gives to his father (via Tus) turns deadly & he goes on the run to prove his innocence (with the Princess by his side wanting her dagger back before the screwball discovers its power)
Alfred Molina as Amar, an entrepreneur specializing in ostrich races among other endeavors provides some comic relief & the chemistry between the adopted Prince & real Princess comes about at such a slow pace, it works.
I liked this film. There was nothing about it that seemed ‘comic-booky’ or ‘video gamey’ – it came across as an actual action/adventure film without all the explosions & car chases that usually dominate the genre – there were a few too many ‘on foot’ chases, but at least they stuck to the era – I appreciated that. I’d call it a poor man’s “Romancing The Stone”. Now, if they make a sequel, let’s hope it turns out better than “Jewel Of The Nile”. . .

Saturday, August 21, 2010


“GET LOW” (Robert Duvall, Bill Murray & Lucas Black)

Earlier this year I said the Michael Douglas’ film “Solitary Man” was the type I wished they made more of – THIS is what I meant. ‘Get Low’ is the first shoe-in for Best Picture that I’ve seen & every actor in it deserves recognition for a job VERY well done.
It has humor, drama & is shrouded in mystery as you wonder what happened in Felix Bush’s past that turned him into a crotchety old hermit who shoots at the kids who sneak out to his house to throw rocks at the windows. As Felix becomes more sociable his story is slowly leaked, but just enough to peak your interest as you also come to like the old coot – It was especially easy for me being somewhat of a loner (& a coot) myself.
Robert Duvall plays the hermit who lives alone in the woods with just his elderly mule, Gracie, for companionship. (Felix puts up a sign that reads ‘No Damn Trespassing – Beware Of Mule’)
When the local pastor (Gerald McRainey) ventures out to Felix’s place to inform him that someone he knew recently passed away, Felix begins to wonder if he might be the next to go. This makes him worry about how he’ll be remembered, so he offers the pastor a large wad of cash to throw him a funeral – one, which would include Felix... alive so he can hear the stories everyone will be telling after he’s gone. The pastor refuses, but Frank Quinn, the local funeral parlor owner (Bill Murray) does not. He accepts the old man’s wad of cash with glee. But then Felix’s demands become more extravagant, to the point where he goes on the local radio station to ‘encourage’ citizens to attend his live ‘wake’.
Although I loved him playing someone named Bill Murray in ‘Zombieland’, Quinn may be the best role Murray has ever portrayed. I also think Lucas Black as Frank’s assistant, Buddy, might be deserving of a Supporting Nomination as well. Duvall is a given for a Best Actor nod.
Although piecing the clues together was fairly easy it did not lessen the impact when Felix finally reveals why he built himself a ‘personal jail’ to live in for 40 years to pay for his past sins. Sissy Spacek as Mattie, the one person in town who knew what Felix was like when he was young, fits her role perfectly as well. When Frank & Buddy ask Felix how he knows Mattie, the old crony retorts, “I threw down with her once.”
Which, like a lot of the scenes, ends up being another piece of Felix’s troubled, puzzling past.
The only problem I had with ‘Get Low’ - other than I still don’t know what the title means even though Felix says it to the pastor in an early scene; I’m guessing he meant that it’s his turn to die – is they don’t tell you what happens to Gracie at the end.
This & ‘Shutter Island’ are clearly the 2 best films of 2010 (so far)
My top 10 would include; Iron Man 2 / The Ghost Writer / Solitary Man / Edge Of Darkness (sorry, Mel haters, it was a good film) / Robin Hood / Despicable Me / Green Zone / Hot Tub Time Machine


“DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS” (Paul Rudd & Steve Carell)

I can see where you’d have to be in the mood for silliness to enjoy this, & I guess I was because I liked it. I actually thought Carell gives his best performance to date because he neither looked nor acted like Steve Carell. & Paul Rudd just continues to be impossible not to like – he’s the male version of Jennifer Aniston, no, he’s not a tremendously talented actor, but he has a pleasant presence that wins you over no matter how corny the material he’s performing.
Here, Rudd plays Tim, a schmuck in his own right at work, where he & his fellow co-workers drool over the prospect of getting a promotion ‘upstairs’ when one of the upper echelon employees is ‘let go’.
Tim puts on a presentation during a routine meeting & moves himself into the driver’s seat to nab the promotion – that’s when he learns about the ‘Dinner for Winners’ his boss hosts. Tim is told to bring a dinner companion – the quirkiest loser he can find – the stranger the better since winning the competition will ensure him of getting the promotion. As luck would have it, Tim runs down Barry (Carell) when the latter runs out in front of his car. Tim is extremely apologetic until he discovers Barry’s reason for darting into the street – to save an already dead mouse.
Although Tim thinks he’s hit the jackpot with Barry, he soon regrets the encounter as Barry turns into a human barnacle that Tim just can’t seem to pry off.
In all of his efforts to pay Tim back, Barry just makes Tim’s life worse.
Subplots involving Tim’s girlfriend & a one-night affair turned stalker don’t add a lot to the comedy, but they do end up being necessary. In other words, the laughs go away for a while as the comedy loses its momentum but it returns with an extremely childish finale that worked for me (this time) I would also venture to say this is the type of movie that if I were to view it again, I might not have anything nice to say about it – but for a one-time viewing it kept me entertained.
A bit of silly dialogue that made me laugh was when Barry tells Tim, “I lost my wife’s clitoris... I thought I found it under the couch, but it turned out to be a piece of gum.”
Zack Gallifinakis as Barry’s co-worker/superior Therman is a hit & miss character – sometimes his goofiness makes you smirk & then you get to the point where you just want him to go away.
But the strength here is Carell’s performance – at first you feel sorry for him, then you get to the point where you think, ‘Man, Is he annoying!’ & then in the end, when the reason is given as to why his life seems meaningless, you’re back to feeling sorry for him. And along the way he & Rudd give you a few chuckles – there’s nothing wrong with that. So I’d say when the DVD comes out & you’re in the mood for something silly, definitely give ‘Dinner For Schmucks’ a shot – It isn’t as bad as some are saying it is.
A nameless critic (dbm) labeled this the weakest comedy of the year, but all you have to do to find a weaker one is to watch Carell’s earlier 2010 film, “Date Night”. & to me, the weakest comedy of 2010 is clearly “Cyrus”. Of course, I wouldn’t argue with anyone who would say that Cyrus wasn’t a comedy because in order to qualify there has to be at least one funny line.


“MARMADUKE” (Voice of Owen Wilson)

It was a little odd hearing Marley’s master as the voice of someone else’s dog, but I got over it. I’m somewhat perplexed as to why this didn’t do better at the box office – this is exactly the kind of kiddie flick that usually makes hundreds of millions. Add the sluggish receipts from ‘Cats & Dogs 2’ & you get the feeling that parents are tired of seeing real animals speaking with computer enhanced mouths because I guarantee you the kids aren’t tired of them.
There is nothing wrong with this cute little outing which should please any dog lover as long as you go into it realizing you’re seeing a movie geared toward tykes. It had more doggie scenes than human scenes (a plus) It had more than it’s share of cutesy moments - being a beagle owner, I particularly enjoyed them being portrayed as ‘drama queens’.
& it had a moral to teach the impressionable audience (myself included) about friendship.
I also liked the fact that they didn’t run the 'huge dog creates havoc' set-up into the ground – Yes, there were more than a few of those, but it centered more on the friendship between Marmaduke & the 3 ‘mutt’ friends that he abandons to join the ‘purebred’ snobs. Throw in a couple of poignant scenes – the best involving a cow toy that oinks - & there’s nothing wrong with this movie. So why did critics blast it as being crap & why have audiences stayed away? Well, my only answer to that is the same as when people flock to crap like “Inception” just because critics tell them how wonderful it is... Would have been more apropos if that toy cow went ‘baa, baa, baa’.

Monday, August 9, 2010


“THE OTHER GUYS” (Will Ferrell & Mark Wahlberg)

When I read the synopsis for this film early in the year I thought it had possibilities despite the two leads. With a supporting cast which included Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton & Eva Mendes, I was actually looking forward to seeing the finished product. “The Other Guys” is pretty darn funny & the reason, believe it or not, are the two leads; Ferrell & Wahlberg make this film work BECAUSE they don’t really have good enough acting chops to make any chemistry. Weird thing to write, I know, but it fits because their characters have absolutely nothing in common, yet they are brought together by being partnered as police detectives. Ferrell is Det. Gamble – Wahlberg, Det. Hoitz. Ferrell is a police accountant – Wahlberg is a gung ho hot shot whose career was ruined when he mistakenly shot a star New York athlete & ruined the cities’ chances for another championship. They dislike one another but on entirely different grades – Gamble’s dislike is displayed with an even tempered monotone, while Hoitz’s anger is out in the open & volatile. Under normal ‘Will Ferrell movie’ plots this could have been a disaster, but this time it works because Ferrell keeps his goofy side under control throughout most of the film – In fact, when he does go off like a half cocked lunatic, it’s comical genius since you don’t see it coming (Except for the one they show in the preview, which was obviously included to ATTRACT fans of your typical Will Ferrell movie) Probably his best film other than the almost perfect ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, Ferrell shines – as does Wahlberg. When Gamble takes Hoitz home to discuss the case they’re investigating, in walks Eva Mendes in a sexy low cut dress. Gamble introduces her as his wife, the doctor. “No seriously, who is that?” Hoitz continues to ask as Gamble tries to get back to the matter at hand. “Is that some hooker you hired to impress me?”
Oddly enough, the person that attracted me most to this project isn’t in it very much & isn’t all that impressive – Samuel L. Jackson & Dwayne Johnson play the media darling cops that always make a huge splash when they crack a case – It doesn’t matter that they caused millions of dollars in damage, “We got the job done, that’s all that matters!”
In fact, Jackson & Johnson don’t make much of an impression at all until their final scene together – I will always remember Jackson’s last line in the movie – “Aim for the bushes,” because what followed make me laugh out loud.
And that happened several times during ‘The Other Guys’ but that’s not to say this film is a laugh riot – some scenes worked so well that everything about them seemed hilarious & other scenes just fell flat - & not that they were going for poignant moments & the plot simply became boring, there were scenes that were meant to be humorous that were painstakingly unfunny. But for the most part the Ferrell-Wahlberg combo hits the mark; Hoitz is trying to get the stuffy Gamble to break out of his comfort zone & take on one of the dangerous cases – “Don’t you want to feel the tingling in your balls? The butterflies churning in your stomach?” he asks Gamble, who adopts a look of concern & says, “You think you might have testicular cancer?”
And another line all Mariner fans will chortle at concerns the infamous A-Rod.
It was nice to see Michael Keaton back in the comedy game, though his character is a ‘by-the-book’ police captain who doesn’t get any of the big laughs, but every time I see him I think of ‘Night Shift’ & that alone makes me laugh...
Some silly buddy comedies elevate into a class of their own while some never get off the ground – ‘The Other Guys’ hits some turbulence from time to time, but in the long run it’s a ride you should enjoy taking...

Sunday, August 1, 2010


“The KIDS ARE ALRIGHT” (Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey & John Entwistle)

This ‘controversial’ film gets off to a very bland start – the lesbian couple & their two children (both mothers gave birth to one using the same sperm donor specimens) are having dinner & the conversation is quite mundane. I found myself thinking, why would anyone want to watch this boring family chit chatting about nothing? Just because the moms are lesbian lovers that automatically makes them interesting?
The family consists of ‘Nic’ (Annette Bening) the pants wearing bread winner of the family (she’s a doctor) co-mom, Jules (Julianne Moore, playing herself*) 18 year old daughter Joni (Alice in Wonderland) & 15 year old son Laser (Josh Hutcherson) (* just a joke, Jules)
We are then subjected to having to view the lesbian couple having sex while they watch gay porn - & by gay I mean, male dudes having sex with one another – these chicks are making out while watching gay men do the same. My reaction was the same as Laser’s when he discovers this fact – WTF?
3 times in the opening 15 minutes someone utters the phrase, “right on.”
& no, this is not set in the late sixties, so why the time warped phrase is repeated I have no idea other than a burned out hippy wrote the script & is hoping the dumb phrase will catch on again – Please, people, let’s make sure this doesn’t happen!
The idea here is that they’re trying to make lesbians appear to be normal & ordinary & in doing so they are boring (just like you & me) I don’t know about you, but in my daily life I’m somewhat boring & ordinary - & I wouldn’t expect anyone to make a movie by filming me having dinner with my family or watching gay porn... uh-oh, did I write that out loud? Forget I ever wrote that, okay?
Then something unusual happened, something that’s never happened before in the history of cinema – Mark Ruffalo shows up & saves the day! If you’ve read my past reviews of Ruffalo appearances you know that he may just be my least favorite actor (Only in ‘Collateral’ did he appear to be someone other than Mark Ruffalo playing a character) & the funny thing is, he isn’t all that far removed from his ‘usual’ character but the best way I can describe it is that he doesn’t seem to be as bored with his character as he normally is. It is true that his character, Paul, the sperm donor responsible for Joni & Laser coming to life, is a huge shot of adrenalin into an otherwise lifeless film which deserves a lot of the credit for what I would call Ruffalo’s best role ever.
Joni contacts the sperm donor when she turns 18 & she & her brother meet with his secretly. When the mothers find out about it, they want to meet him as well & Paul instantly becomes a part of their lives, much too elderly lesbian Nic’s dismay.
Which brings up another complaint – Nic is a bleeping drag. If you weren’t hoping that Paul would run her off & step in & take care of Jules & the kids, you must be... well, like Nic.
Nothing that happens in this story is Paul’s fault – he’s the good guy & relatively innocent in what happens between him & the various family members, yet the far-from-perfect lesbian couple & their desperately in need of a real father figure kids blame him for the problems that ensue after his arrival (at the kids’ behest, remember)
So the only morale I could come up with is – we should no longer allow lesbians to use ‘our’ sperm to grow their own kids... Sorry, lesbians, but your friends Nic & Jules were pathetic parents & yet, this story would have you believe they were SuperMoms...
Sounds like I’m going to give this film a thumbs down, but no – Ruffalo’s performance is worth seeing & this film WILL spark lively conversations among all those who go to see it, so gather as many people that you can & go see “The Kids Are Alright” - it is one of the best documentaries of one of the world’s best rock bands ever made...