Thursday, September 23, 2010


“The TOWN” (Ben Afleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall & Jon Hamm)

The promos bragged, from ‘acclaimed’ director Ben Afleck... ‘Acclaimed’?
For one ‘okay’ film that didn’t live up to the promise of the source material? (Dennis Lehane’s “Gone Baby Gone”)
Well, I’d say acclaimed director Ben Afleck takes a bit of a step backward with his second effort. The problem is, I can’t really discuss why this film falls a little short without giving too much of it away. So here’s the set up –
Afleck plays Doug Macray, a bank robber. His best friend James (Jeremy Renner) is also a bank robber. They have two other accomplices but they weren’t very good actors so they didn’t get very many lines (One, some overweight goober calling himself ‘Slaine’ has been in 3 films – 2 of them directed by the much acclaimed Ben Afleck... wonder what he has on old Ben that he doesn’t want us to find out?)
The foursome’s M.O. is to don masks (skeletors/nuns) The electronic wiz knows how to shut down alarm systems, the chubby guy is the world’s greatest get-away driver, Doug knows how to sweet talk his way into a vault & James is the violent hothead that strikes fear into the hearts of everyone unfortunate enough to be present during one of their heists.
When a silent alarm is tripped during the film’s opening robbery, they take a hostage, bank employee Claire (Rebecca Hall)
When they make good on their escape, they release Claire but keep her driver’s license.
Doug, obviously impressed with how Claire handled herself under pressure begins stalking her under the guise of ‘making sure she doesn’t tell the cops anything that might give away their identities’. After Doug worms his way into her heart, she reveals to him a detail that she forgot to tell the police – a tattoo on the back of the neck of one of the robbers. The only time in this film that I felt anything resembling a ‘tense’ moment is when James interrupts Doug & Claire’s lunch date & Doug has to keep James from showing Claire the back of his neck.
Jon Hamm plays FBI Special Agent Frawley who both hunts down the criminals as well as connects Claire to Macray. He’s serviceable. Meaning, I have no complaints, but neither did he do anything to stand out from any other actor to ever play a special agent for the FBI.
Chris Cooper has only one scene, but he is, as usual, flawless. Playing Doug’s imprisoned for life father he seems to care more about his relationship with the guards than he does his son. Even for a small part, Cooper immerses himself in his character – which made me wish the acclaimed director had included more scenes with Doug & his father... Perhaps the non-acclaimed actor felt intimidated by being seen onscreen with a true pro?
A big surprise was Blake Lively who plays Jim’s floozy sister Krista. True, the only exposure I’ve had of Ms. Lively is when my wife dragged (& drugged) me to see ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 – the Way the Pants Would Have Wanted It’ so I never would have thought her capable of playing a sleazy addict like Krista. When Krista jumps on Doug’s lap for a quickie & shoves her ample cleavage into his face, I wondered if she was wearing the well worn ‘traveling pants’ (obviously frayed in the crotch area) & if this was indeed the way they wanted it.
But my complaint against ‘The Town’ is the lack of ‘surprises’ – there are none. Everything plays out pretty much the way it’s set up, & to me, that made it a little dull & somewhat predictable.


“EASY A” (Emma Stone)

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Scarlet Letter” takes it on the chin in this High School centered rom/com, but thanks to another young actress that continues to score high in ‘likeability’, Hawthorne’s body shouldn’t be rotating at a very fast clip.
Emma Stone plays ‘nobody’ high school student Olive. The movie is told as a flashback while Olive presents her story on her blog.
In order to get out of spending the weekend with her best friend’s hippy parents, Olive lies & tells her friend she has a date with a college guy. When Rhiannon (the best friend, played by the absolutely gorgeous Alyson Michalka) presses Olive for details, Olive lets her imagination run away & soon the story of how Olive lost her virginity to a college ‘man’ is all over school. Olive becomes popular overnight. A fame she at first enjoys, but soon regrets.
When gay Brandon (Dan Byrd) asks if she’d tell people THEY slept together she refuses. He offers payment & she slaps him. Brandon then breaks down & cries & Olive succumbs to his wishes. They set up an elaborate scene at a crowded party & pretend to have sex in the hostess’ bedroom.
Then the chubby kid wants her to pretend sleep with him. Then the nerdy kid from India. Then every shy geek in school lines up to get a ‘pretend’ date with easy Olive.
Since her favorite teacher, Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church) is having them read “The Scarlet Letter”; Olive adapts the premise of the novel & sews big red A’s onto all of her blouses.
The best part of the film, however, is also the most unrealistic – Olive’s parents, played by Stanley Tucci & Patricia Clarkson are the most understanding, fair, humorous and simply adorable parents ever presented onscreen. So I liked them, especially seeing two 'more than above average' actors in a rather low-rent film, but their characters weren’t ‘believable’...
Amanda Bynes (Didn’t she retire from acting?) plays Uber-Christian Marianne who successfully turns Olive’s celebrity into shunning.
It is hard for me to fathom how Lisa Kudrow keeps getting acting jobs – she is one of the worst actresses alive. As the school’s dim-witted student advisor she once again plays the same person she played on Friends. Come to think of it, is there anybody on that show who could play someone other than the character they played on TV? But Lisa is the worst - & I only say that because Matt LeBlanc has disappeared (thank goodness!)
The most mis-cast character however is Alyson Michalka as Rhiannon – She is the most beautiful girl in school & yet they have her playing an unknown who can’t seem to find a boyfriend (Hence, she spends weekends camping with her hippy parents) Alyson reminds me of a young Scarlet Johanson. Let’s just hope she develops better acting skills. If she does, I predict that this young cutie will become very well known in the near future. Heck, even if she doesn’t, she’s gorgeous - she’ll have a career in films off that alone!
But for acting chops, I’m liking Emma Stone more and more – Hey, anyone that was in ‘Zombieland’ gets an extra star from me.
So ‘Easy A’ isn’t great – it’s entertaining for a fluffy high school piece. It’s worth seeing, if just for Clarkson & Tucci’s performances as the perfect ‘mom & dad’ & Alyson’s Rhiannon rings like bell thru the night & wouldn’t you love to love her? . . .
Uh, that last line was for the male readers... oh, & lesbian Fleetwood Mac fans.


“The SORCERER’S APPRENTICE” (Nicholas Cage & Jay Baruchel)

I’m going to give this film a decent review, but it must be taken into affect that I waited until it came to the bargain $3 theatre – so when I say it’s a decent movie, I mean for only having to spend $3 to see it.
It’s #1 endearing quality & one I didn’t expect is an excellent sense of humor –
it rarely takes itself too seriously. Jay Baruschel (as the title character) plays the exact same role as he did in “She’s Out Of My League” – including the hitting on & capturing the heart of a chick that’s w-a-y out of his league – but Jay has a high likeability quotient, sort of like a young, homely Paul Rudd. It is Dave, Jay’s character that makes this film work - & it doesn’t hurt that Nicolas Cage (As Balthazar, the Sorcerer that takes Dave under his wing in order to save all of mankind) shows a playful, campy side as well without coming off as a jerk.
The tale, as presented in the opening sequence, concerns the 3 most powerful apprentices of the mega-wizard Merlin. Knowing that an evil sorceress named Morgana
(No, she doesn’t race into sporting events looking for superstars to smooch) had become powerful enough to defeat him, Merlin divides his powers up between the 3 apprentices.
Unfortunately Bath-whore (Alfred Molina) turns against Merlin & joins forces with the dark side. With a name like Bath-whore, Merlin should have seen it coming, but it just proves that wizards aren’t soothsayers. As Merlin lays dying he presents Balthazar with a dragon ring which will tell him whom his successor & the only sorcerer with enough power to defeat Morgana will be.
Balthazar imprisons Morgan in a nesting doll but his lover, & the 3rd apprentice, Veronica sacrifices herself in the process. Balthazar also captures Bath-whore along with some other villains inside the doll & then sets out on a world wide journey to find Merlin’s successor. 1,000’s of years pass but Balthazar doesn’t age due to a spell Merlin cast before his death.
We then slide effortlessly into New York in the 1990’s & meet Dave, a goofy kid that has a thing for a cute classmate named Becky. Dave accidentally enters a curio shop run by Balthazar. On a hunch the sorcerer offers Dave the dragon ring & it comes to life, wrapping itself around his finger. Dave then accidentally allows Bath-whore to escape from the nesting doll & Balthazar ends up being imprisoned himself while recapturing Bath-whore... Are you still with me?
Well, forget everything I’ve just written because nothing happens for another 10 years. Dave is now a grown up (Baruchel) & Becky (Teresa Palmer) is a
D-J for her college radio station. When Dave keeps showing up at the radio station, Becky asks, “Are you stalking me?” Dave mumbles, “Yeah, but not in a threatening way – so that’s good, right?”
Dave impresses Becky with his engineering skills & so she throws her former classmate a bone by agreeing to a date. When Balthazar & Bath-whore are released from their prison (A Russian urn) all heck breaks loose & the fun begins. Balthazar needs Dave to learn the ropes of wizardry quickly & Bath-whore needs his ring to bring Morgana back to life.
The special effects are kind of cool (The main reason I wanted to see this in a theatre) Bath-whore turns a Chinese ‘parade dragon’ into the real thing & it chases Dave relentlessly thru the streets of N.Y.C. Balthazar brings a giant eagle statue to life for transportation & a life-sized bronze statue of a bull presents the good sorcerers with an imposing predicament.
I liked it fine, but it isn’t ‘terrific’ – the homage paid to the original “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (Mickey Mouse) is a dumb waste of 10 minutes – but if you can overlook the silliness of the script & the fact that Morgana instantly knows how to use modern technology in order to bring ancient darkness back to life, it’s a worthy effort, due mainly to a genuine sense of humor. I laughed frequently and that made the movie enjoyable to me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


“The AMERICAN” (George Clooney)

After starting with a bang (literally) ‘The American’ dissolves into a bland movie where absolutely nothing happens. It’s like ‘In Bruges’ without Colin Farrell’s character, just Brenden Gleeson walking around being grumpy.
And then the unanswered questions – mainly, why did he do what he did in the opening scene? Did he think the girl led the assassins to him? Was it just the ‘rule of the job’ to leave no witnesses? Or did she give bad head?
George Clooney plays ‘Jack’, an American hitman in Europe. For the longest time I thought the purpose of this film was to make fun of the fact that European hitmen are stupid and only American hitmen can get the job done – thus the change from the title of the book it was based on, “A Very Private Gentleman” to “The American”.
Normally, going to a George Clooney film means you’re going to see something well worth viewing, so I was anticipating seeing another Oscar caliber movie – This isn’t. It’s not as bad as ‘Syria’ because it’s just the opposite of that convoluted mess – there was too much going on in ‘Syria’ – there’s nothing going on in ‘The American’.
I could, if I wanted to play spoiler, tell you the entire story in 3 or 4 sentences.
Most of ‘The American’ is void of dialogue – if you like looking at scenery you might enjoy this jaunt through the snow of Sweden & countryside of Italy. Scenes of Jack driving, walking, drinking coffee & putting together a rifle for a fellow assassin to use dominate the running time.
The only refreshing change I enjoyed was the addition of female nudity (Woo-hoo!) when Edward (The name Jack uses in Italy) engages an exclusive relationship with a prostitute named Carla (Violante Placido)
The only other positive I can come up with is that in its sluggish redundancy there was an underlying tension that builds slowly as you wonder who is going to try to kill Jack – Is he the mark his fellow assassin has been assigned to take out - Or will it be someone unexpected, like Carla? But unfortunately, you can pretty much see the ending coming from a mile away, so instead of leaving you with a breathless ending to make up for all the boredom, the finale fizzles like the rest of the film.


“SALT” (Angelina Jolie & Liev Schrieber)

Saw this on Labor Day after viewing “The American” & there’s no question that 'Salt' is the better film. Why? Because, if anything, there’s too much going on in ‘Salt’ whereas nothing happens in ‘The American’.
I liked Salt because the plot was intriguing; the action scenes, though far-fetched as most action scenes are, still held my interest & that’s not easy to do. But what separated Salt from the usual spy flick is despite the confusion & the twists & turns in the plot, if you paid close attention to the little details, you could figure it out. So I appreciated that my diligence in noticing those details paid off & that there was only one twist that I didn’t see coming – when it came, I was a little disappointed in the overkill of Russian spies, but what the heck, it was an enjoyable ride watching this unique yarn spin itself out.
From the trailer you know that a former member of the Soviet Union (Daniel Olbrychski as Vassily Olov) surrenders to the Americans and while being interrogated by agent Evelyn Salt he tells her that she is going to assassinate the Russian president because she is a Russian spy.
Salt’s major concern from the moment this revelation comes to past is toward her German husband who rescued her years earlier from a Korean prison when she was caught spying & subsequently tortured.
C.I.A. agent Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) goes a little overboard in trying to keep Salt contained & then recaptured when she escapes - as Evelyn leaps from vehicle to vehicle on a busy freeway, Peabody shoots at her, obviously not caring if a stray bullet hits an innocent driver whose auto could then spin out of control killing several more – or my favorite is when he shoots at her whilst she balances atop a tanker truck. My wife’s explanation for this was “He probably figured the tanker was empty.”
Just before leaping onto the freeway, Evelyn proclaims, “I’m being set up! I’m innocent!” Yet, she still makes her way to where the Russian president will be attending the funeral of the American Vice President.
Like everyone else, I was thinking she was going there to try & prevent the assassination but that doesn’t seem to be her purpose as she devises a way to be alone with the Russian leader & doesn’t try to hide what her intent is.
I don’t want to give too much away, like I said there are twists aplenty – although I knew why Salt was doing what she was doing by paying attention – Just keep asking yourself, “Why is she doing that?” & you’ll figure it out as well. And I liked that – too many films throw twists in from out of nowhere just to make themselves look clever. I think it makes them look stupid – If you don’t give us any clues, how can we figure it out, dumb-ass?
There was one major continuity problem – Evelyn escapes her apartment via the fire escape with her dog in a backpack – one second the dog is seen & the next second the backpack is zipped up with no dog in sight.
Liev Schreiber plays Evelyn’s supervisor, Ted Winter, who keeps telling the C.I.A. she’s innocent until she proves him wrong – then he wants to track her down & kill her more than Agent Peabody does.
The final scene was totally unnecessary as the U.S. President (played by a white guy for some reason – I guess they wanted us to think that it was Cheney who died) could have explained who did what. But I guess they felt they needed one more outlandish stunt to go out on. Still, I was very entertained by this film, even though the idea of rekindling the Cold War with the meek & mild Russians is more than a little idiotic, but the premise, the idea that is presented isn’t far-fetched, especially if you’re one of those conspiracy theorists – you’ll actually believe something like this is GOING to happen. & soon!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The A - TEAM

“The A-TEAM” (Liam Neeson & Bradley Cooper)

Never watched the TV series but I heard some decent things about this big screen version so I coughed up $3 & checked it out... To the three people that told me this was worth seeing? You each owe me a dollar.

I should just let it go at that – but just in case you’re one of those who didn’t think this would be something you’d care to see & you have a friend or two that told you it was good, I’ll go into more detail as to why it sucks so you won’t be taken in like I was.
All I remember about the series is George Peppard played a guy who smoked cigars & Mr. T played a guy with a Mohawk who pitied fools (Like those who watched TV shows about jerkholes who smoked cigars & wore Mohawks)
The big screen edition opens in Mexico with Liam Neeson as the cigar smoker (Col. Hannibal Smith) handcuffed to a chair in a barn being tortured. When the Mexican police officers come to the conclusion that their prisoner isn’t going to talk they decide to let their dogs eat him for lunch. Two Rottweiler’s come charging into the barn & disappear into the darkness behind the chair. They come out seconds later ‘handcuffed’ to each others’ collars. You don’t see how the Colonel performed this amazing feat in a matter of seconds – stopping two huge attack dogs & cuffing them together without getting bitten. They don’t show it because it was an impossible feat to accomplish – I rolled my eyes while the dozen or so people in the theatre laughed... I knew I was in with the wrong crowd.
The movie then spirals downward as they simply roll out one improbable stunt after another while numbing my mind with ‘sophomoronic’ dialogue and painfully unfunny punch(less) lines. To give you an example – Col. Smith, in all seriousness states, “General Morrison is not deceased – he was murdered.” No, this wasn’t meant to be funny, but it was the only line that made me smirk.
Want to know what else wasn’t funny? While showing a 3-D movie in an insane asylum, a jeep drives toward the screen – then in reality, the A-Team drive their jeep thru the wall of the asylum at the same time – the nut jobs are very impressed with the realistic 3-D effects. Of course, being sane, I found it to be just plain stupid – throw in the fact that the jeep is only slightly damaged & is able to back up & drive away & you understand why I used the word improbable to describe the stunts.
Shortly after the jeep scene, the military aircraft the A-Team has stolen is shot down & the boys find themselves falling from the sky in a tank that just happened to be equipped with a parachute. B.A. asks, “Are we flying a tank?” Hannibal responds, “Technically, we’re not flying.” B.A. yells, “But we fallin’, fool!” Again, the rest of the audience cracked up at this while I pondered whether or not I really needed to see how this mess ends. Oh, & B.A., I was surprised to learn, does not stand for Bad Actor.
Since this is an updated version if tired old material, the ‘plot’ concerns a group of Iraqi’s who have stolen some U.S. $100 plates so they can make their own counterfeit useless money. Clever, eh?
Bradley Cooper (playing someone called ‘Face’ – probably because he has so many Facebook friends) is wearing out the warm & fuzzy glow I had for him from ‘The Hangover’ & is quickly sliding back into the ‘hack’ zone.
I’ll give Shaltro Copley some credit for playing a completely different character from the dweeb he played in ‘District 9’ – Still, his Murdoch isn’t nearly as funny as he thought he was; most of his attempted comic lines fell flat but I’d blame that on the sh*tty material rather than the actor.
Jennifer Biel, who is nice looking, but not gorgeous, kept her business suit on throughout the film, so she added nothing to help ease this unpleasant experience. & Patrick Wilson as a smarmy C.I.A. agent was simply dull.
If the A-Team TV show was filled with bad dialogue, humorless jokes & dumb stunts, then these guys did a great job of copying that formula, but for me, I’ll be skipping ‘The A-Team 2: More Outlandish Stunts & Stupidity’.

Webster’s definition of a ‘sophomoronic’; someone who laughs at childish humor like that seen in the movie ‘The A-Team’...