Saturday, November 27, 2010


“LOVE & OTHER DRUGS” (Jake Gyllenhaal & Anne Hathaway)

As a light hearted ‘rom-com’, “Love and Other Drugs” made me chuckle frequently.
As a depressing medical drama, “Love and Other Drugs” made me get a bit emotional (Bringing out my rarely seen girlie-man side)
As an ambitious story of a young man that discovers his niche in life and suddenly starts climbing the corporate ladder to success, “Love & Other Drugs” didn’t bore me to tears.
So there’s a lot going on in this movie – A sh**load, in fact – and it’s all over the place in trying to decide what it wants to be when it grows up.
If someone were to tell me they didn’t like it because of that, I wouldn’t argue with them, but somehow the variety of styles worked all right for me & I would recommend ‘L & O D’ as a worthwhile diversion from the depression that is upon us... & by that I mean the ‘holiday’ season.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Randall; a likable sleazy womanizer. Jamie is likable because he comes across as being sincere – he isn’t just adding notches to his bedpost, he beds women because he’s a good looking guy that women throw themselves at & he simply obliges them. But unlike most walking hard ons, Jamie doesn’t have to turn on the fake charm to suit his prurient interests - he appears to be naturally debonair.
When Jamie lands a job as a pharmaceutical rep for Pfizer he uses his boyish charm to smooze his way into places he should never be allowed. While posing as an intern for a horny MD (Hank Azaria as Dr. Stan Knight) Jamie is present when a young Parkinson’s patient comes in for an exam (Anne Hathaway’s Maggie) and Jamie is immediately smitten.
This is where ‘Love & Other Drugs’ takes on another film style – pornography.
I can’t remember the last time I viewed this many nude scenes in a mainstream film. I never watched the ‘Princess’ films Anne made with Mary Poppins, so it wasn’t a shock to me to see her cavorting about au naturel.
Even though it was shown in the trailer, a scene where Maggie comes into Jamie’s apartment dressed only in a raincoat made me laugh – I have to say that it was from actually seeing her naked when Jamie’s dorky little brother sees her that made it funnier than the preview version.
I’ve always been a fan of Oliver Platt and he makes a nice comeback of sorts here as Jamie’s supervisor, Bruce. When given decent material, Platt can deliver and he does so here with many humorous lines.
But be prepared, the light ‘n’ breezy chick flick material gets brushed aside when “Love & Other Drugs’ decides to become a heavy medical drama.
Jamie’s annoying little brother, Josh is inserted at this time to try to provide comedic relief – maybe it was due to the fact that the film took a depressing turn that I found the chubby whiner more amusing during this stage than when he first appears.
Despite being the ‘downer’ character, Hathaway’s Maggie gets the lion’s share of the smart-alec quips as she seems to be the indifferent one that only wants to have sex and not a relationship. It becomes clear that as Jamie falls for Maggie, she wishes that he wouldn’t.
In the beginning, Jamie allows Maggie to control their relationship but as she becomes a walking mass of depression, he switches into protective lover mode
and Maggie rejects him.
I’ve always said the best movies for me are the ones that can make you feel a gamut of emotions, but I normally like things mixed up more than they are in ‘L & O D’. But I’d still say it is worth seeing as long as you’re aware that it isn’t your typical ‘rom-com’ –
it’s R-rated (& if you find nudity distasteful, consider it to be NC-17)
it’s full of immature boner humor (When Jamie starts selling Viagra)
and it takes that dreaded ‘dramatic’ turn.
Whereas Gyllenhaal & Hathaway had no relationship as a married couple in their first film together, the sex scenes in this are so graphic even I felt a bit uncomfortable ‘peeking’ in on their private intimate moments. But I’m betting that Jake had more fun filming these scene with Anne than he did with the late Heath Ledger in ‘Ride ‘Em, Cowboy Mountain’.

Friday, November 26, 2010


“UNSTOPPABLE” (Denzel Washington, Chris Pine & Rosario Dawson)

I wasn’t too keen on seeing this – the preview seemed to advertise, ‘You’ve seen this film before, you’ve seen Denzel play this character before, so save it for the $3 theatre or HBO’. But fellow critic Alan Smithee told me it was both exciting and humorous, so we decided it would make a good Thanksgiving Day flick. It was – though I’m not as exuberant as Mr. Smithee, basically because it IS another runaway train flick which means numerous useless scenes of trains rolling along their tracks and I HAVE seen Denzel play this character before.
What I thought was a ‘terrorists’ plot for a plot turned out to be erroneous on my part and I was happy to see that the runaway train was an accident, rather than a fiendish ploy by some radical organization or religious sect. The train (777, to his friends & co-workers) is sent on it’s destination to disaster by two numbskull railroad employees. One, (Ethan Suplee) too fat and stupid to know not to leave a moving locomotive; the other (T.J. Miller) too lazy to set the air brakes on a train they’re about to move.
Denzel plays Frank Barnes, a 28 year vet of the railway. He is given the assignment of basically training his replacement, though Frank isn’t ready to retire. Chris Pine (Captain James T. Kirk II, to his friends & co-workers) is Will, the ‘kid’ Frank is forced to show the ropes to as they head out in train 1206 for a routine run.
“Unstoppable” works for 3 reasons – Washington & Pine develop a believable bond as they spend the day getting to know one another after starting off on the proverbial wrong foot / The fact that the runaway train is unmanned rather than being ‘used’ as a weapon made the story realistic / & Kevin Dunn’s Galvin, a corporate dunderhead making all the wrong decisions was easy to dislike (providing a ‘realistic’ villain, though he was just trying to do his job under a stressful situation)
Rosario Dawson played Connie, the person at the helm of the control center and who ultimately over-rides Galvin’s decision by allowing Frank to ‘go after’ train #777 in order to divert a catastrophe.
All-in-all it was an entertaining ride. It wasn’t a great film. It would have been better if Frank’s daughters had bigger boobs (They worked at Hooters!) But other than that, it was a mildly tense, mildly amusing enjoyable experience. The only thing missing was a scene with a television showing ‘The Mask’ and Jim Carrey exalting, “Somebody STOP me!”


“WALL STREET : MONEY NEVER SLEEPS” (Shia Lebeouf, Carey Mulligan, Michael Douglas & Josh Brolin)

Somehow I don’t have as much trouble with sequels that take a decade or two to appear. I liked the first ‘Wall Street’, but didn’t have a lot of interest in this sequel only because I’m ignorant of the subject matter. I don’t care about Wall Street, I don’t own any stocks and even though I liked ‘Trading Places’, I still have no idea why Don Ameche screamed ‘turn those machines back on’ at the end of it.
The problem with long-awaited sequels is that the original isn’t fresh in your mind. So when Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox makes a one scene cameo, it didn’t really click for me because I had forgotten exactly what took place 20-some years ago in a film I only watched once.
The addition of the kid who stars in the toy robot trucks movies didn’t exactly lure me into the theatre either. We waited until it came to the $3 theatre, and, as usually is the case, it was worth the price of admission. But I was also glad I didn’t pay full price to see it a month or so earlier.
It is full of witty banter & boring presentation speeches. It has some well acted scenes & a few that made me cringe. & since I hadn’t heard any David Byrne songs for a while, the soundtrack, featuring nothing but the Ex-Talking Heads frontman’s music was acceptable to my ears.
‘Wall Street 2’ usually worked when Michael Douglas was onscreen recreating his Gordon Gekko character; or secondary, Josh Brolin’s even greedier character Bretton.
When it didn’t click was when Shia & Carey appeared. Labouf played Wall Street whiz kid, Jake, who asked his girlfriend Winnie (Mulligan) to marry him minutes after receiving some tragic news about his mentor. Winnie‘s last name being Gekko, daughter of Gordon, recently released from prison for insider trading.
The ‘love interest’ portion of the film fell flat for me because it seemed as though Mulligan has tears rolling down her cheeks in practically every scene she was in – it became monotonous; “Alright, ya big cry baby shut off the waterworks & stop whining about your past!”
So Jake loves Winnie, who hates her father. Jake introduces himself to future father-in-law Gordon & falls in love with him as well. Jake tries desperately to bring father & daughter together, but for what reason? It seems, so he can get in good with ‘dad’ so they begin working as a team in cheating other people out of their money. We’re suppose to feel good about their greed because they are going after other greedy j*ck-offs, but with too many characters not worth caring about, there’s really no point to this film Other than the lesson that money, like rust, has insomnia.
That’s not to say ‘Wall Street 2’ wasn’t entertaining – Bretton is the person that ratted Gordon out which led to Gekko’s 7 year stint in prison; so Gordon approaches Breton at a fundraiser and he tells him, “You stop telling lies about me & I’ll stop telling the truth about you.”
So the easy to follow lame love story dragged the film down, while the ‘I have no idea what these people are talking about’ stock traders made it work.
I liked the fact that 111 year old Eli Wallach was in several scenes and the old guy remembered his lines & the fact that Jake’s cell phone’s ring was the ‘Theme from the Good, the Bad & The Ugly’, which made me wonder if Eli even knew was a tribute to him.
Early on Gordon tells Jake, “Money is a bitch that never sleeps.” & yet, it is abundantly apparent that Gordon loves money more than anything else – so why would he call his one true love a bitch? & why did Lou (Frank Langella) have a bag of potato chips as his last meal? Surely there was a decent donut shop nearby. Sometimes stock brokers just don’t make sense...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


“FAIR GAME” (Naomi Watts & Sean Penn)

I shouldn’t watch movies like this because they make my blood boil and I already have high blood pressure, but I will TRY to set my beliefs aside long enough to give you an insight as to why you should see this film.
Based on the true story of C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame Wilson – some portions that we know to be true and the credits acknowledge books by both Valerie and husband Joe as chief references – but this is Hollywood, stretches and embellishments will be made.

I kept hoping that the part that made my blood boil was ‘made up for dramatic effect’ that it didn’t really happen, especially the way they say it did in the film... I’m debating to myself whether or not revealing the circumstance would be too much of a spoiler, so I’m better off just moving on...

The first half of the film is spent setting up the dramatic second half (In other words, don’t quit on it if it seems boring to you) Multitudes of characters channel in & out of scenes as the filmmaker tries to sum up Valerie’s 18 year career as a C.I.A. agent and what led to her being asked if her ex-diplomat husband would be interested in going to Niger to act as an ambassador to the U.S. and report on a rumor that the government had sold 50 tons of yellow-cake uranium to Saddam Hussein.
Joe Wilson’s report declares there is ‘almost’ a 0% possibility that this event took place.
This does not please the White House, so they garner ‘different’ data that backs the sell and leak the info to the press. When Joe reads this he tries to find out why they would come to this unlikely conclusion (& why the hell did you guys send me over there then?)
Joe is shut out. So he writes his own column and the White House responds by ‘outing’ Valerie as an Intelligence agent; Karl Rove is credited with first saying Valerie was ‘fair game’ and they had every right to mention her by name. They did not. And so ‘Scooter’ Libby was dismissed as the fall guy.
This is when the film takes off; Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, in their third film together, shine as Valerie and Joe – though with Sean, it seemed he was playing ‘himself’ at times. So even though he’s my favorite actor, I have to say he can’t really be a shoe-in for an Oscar nod. The reason I love Sean is due to his ability to become his character (My #1 criterion for great acting) but here, I never lost sight of Sean Penn because I’ve seen him behave the same way & say the same things that he was saying as Joe Wilson. Still, two scenes stand out – One, where he calls a female reporter that disrupts a business meeting he’s holding, a ‘hack’ and one where he argues with Valerie over whether or not they should ‘fight back’ against the Bush administration; “If I talk LOUDER than you, Valerie – Does that make me right?”
But this excellent film is carried by Naomi Watts. She does seem to bring her ‘A’ game when working with Sean. Believable as a tough talking C.I.A. agent in the first part of the film as well as the housewife on the verge of a nervous breakdown after the White House destroys her career; which leads to a major strain on her marriage, relationships with family and friends as well as having to deal with ‘death threats’ from morons who believe politicians don’t lie to get what they want. Why Naomi isn’t being touted as a major contender for Best Actress baffles me – She’s my runaway pick right now.
As far as the section of the film that irked me so? We can discuss it in the comments section for those of you that have seen ‘Fair Game’. For those of you that have not – See it. See it & then tell me these war mongers are the kind of people you want running our country. Because THAT part of the film we KNOW actually happened. . .


“CONVICTION” (Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell & Minnie Driver)

This is a good film that was hard to like. There’s only one likeable character (Minnie Driver’s Abra Rice) and she’s not a major player. This story centers on a love affair between Kenny Waters and his sister Betty Anne. I’m sorry, there’s no better way to describe it than that – it’s the reason I found the movie hard to like – it make my skin crawl and left a distasteful flavor of incest in my Puritan throat. (Do I hear snickering?)

Well acted, because I hated Kenny and found his sister to be excessively creepy, and well told – they didn’t hold back any punches in making Kenny look like the disgusting alcoholic criminal he was – and yet I walked out of the theatre not caring for it all that much.

Basic plot; Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell) is arrested for murdering an elderly woman due to his history of arrests for violent behavior & two witnesses that come forth & say that Kenny told them he killed her. When Kenny is found guilty & sentenced to life in prison, his devoted-beyond-reason sister, Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) a high school drop out, decides to go to law school, become a lawyer & get his conviction over-turned.
For me, there was that gnawing feeling that Kenny actually killed the woman & even if he didn’t, the world was a safer place with a hot tempered a**hole like Kenny behind bars.
In the opening scenes Kenny brings his infant daughter into a stink-hole bar, gets drunk and belligerent, fights with a guy that HE bumps into and then gets up on stage and strips totally nude with his baby daughter & adoring sister looking on. Kenny is scum.
When he makes the statement “Cops are drawn to me like bees to honey.” I laughed out loud. Kenny has no remorse – He isn’t the reason he keeps getting arrested for violent acts perpetrated upon innocent people that happen to get in his way – the COPS are just ‘out to get him’. I was glad to see this scum put away & I didn’t care if he was guilty or not.
Although Betty Anne is basically a nice person, she does come across as being simple trailer trash in many scenes. Her unhealthy attachment to Kenny notwithstanding, Betty Anne eventually neglects her own family (2 sons and a husband) to fight for her douche bag of a brother. When she applies for law school she uses ‘Waters’ for a last name instead of her married name – I could only surmise that she did this because she ‘wishes’ she were married to Kenny.
At law school, fellow ‘elderly’ student Abra (Driver) befriends her – In fact Abra goes above & beyond the call of duty in helping Betty Anne get through school and with gathering information on Kenny’s case. When Abra merely ‘suggests’ that she not get her hopes too high because the evidence might prove Kenny's guilt, Betty Anne orders her to leave. It made me wonder what she would have done to me, because I wouldn’t have ‘suggested’ anything, I’d have told her to give it up because he WAS guilty & prison is where he belonged!
At one point Betty Anne makes the statement that Kenny had been in prison for 6 years and ‘MY family really wants him home’. No, they didn’t. Her family abandoned her because of her obsession.
When Betty Anne tries to enlist the help of Kenny’s daughter, Mandy (the baby he took to the bar) I wanted to hogtie her & throw her in the mud. This young girl was obviously better off without an alcoholic violent father in her life – leave her alone!
So I didn’t like the Waters; I could care less if Betty Anne could find a loophole that would gain Kenny’s release – I wanted that jerk to stay in prison. Which, I guess means, congratulations to Swank & Rockwell for ‘becoming’ their characters, but I can’t recommend this film because I just didn’t find much to like about the ‘subject’ matter.

Friday, November 12, 2010


“MORNING GLORY” (Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford & Diane Keaton)

If they had tweaked this just slightly they could have gotten away with calling it “The Mary Tyler Moore Show Movie”. And that isn’t a bad thing - ‘MTM’ was one of the best TV series ever. But Rachel McAdams’ Becky could just as easily been called Mary Richards; Harrison Ford’s Mike Pomeroy could have been grumpy Lou Grant & weatherman Ernie (Matt Malloy) becomes Ted Baxter. Make Diane Keaton slutty Sue Ann Nivens & Patrick Wilson writer Murray Slaughter & there you go! Of course seeing Mary sleeping with Murray would have been a little hard for us older folk to handle, but hey, if Uhura can sleep with Spock then anything’s possible.
In fact, this film came so close to resembling ‘MTM’ that I thought they should have included a scene where Mike Pomeroy smiles at Becky and says, “You’ve got spunk!”
Then frowns as he adds, “I hate spunk!”
This works as a rom/com becomes it isn’t much of a rom/com – like MTM it’s the story of a newsroom (Or in this case ‘studio’) that is taken over by a young, spunky executive producer (Becky) It then becomes about her life; the fact that she falls for a producer that works on a different show (Patrick Wilson’s Adam) is almost incidental. The meat here is her relationship with the grouchy Pomeroy.
Shortly after being hired by Jerry (Jeff Goldblum) to revitalize morning show ‘Daybreak’, Becky is told that she has to get the ratings up quickly. She makes a major change her first day on the job & then pulls legendary ‘hard news’ reporter Mike Pomeroy into the co-host seat where he doesn’t want to be – but his contract doesn’t contain the loophole needed to get out of the job. Unfortunately for Becky the off air banter between Mike & long-time hostess Colleen (Diane Keaton) is more lively than the on air babble (Mike answers Colleen’s first question by saying, ‘Yes’)
The entire cast plays together well, but Matt Malloy’s dorky weatherman Ernie steals the show when Becky decides to stop playing it safe by putting Ernie in undesirable positions; his first, going for a ride on the world’s fastest roller coaster is absolutely hilarious. Then Colleen tells Becky she wants in on the goofy antics as well & the show’s ratings begin to climb – but will they rise fast enough for everyone to keep their jobs? That, as expected, comes down to whether or not Becky can get Mike to play ball. Just when she thinks she has him in the right frame of mind, he turns the tables on the young producer by coming up with a ‘hard news’ story.
Patrick Wilson plays Becky’s love interest with just enough sarcasm to make him likable & ‘real’. When Becky happens to bump into Adam & Mike in the elevator after her job interview & she gushes over Pomeroy, Mike asks, “Is she one of yours?” & Adam responds, “No, I’m just here to show her how to work the elevator.”
Adam & Mike have a history; Adam repeatedly calls him ‘The Third Worst Person In The World’.
Sure, it’s light & breezy & Rachel plays Becky like someone who could turn the world on with her smile, but the dialogue is often witty & when you see half of Becky’s naked butt poking out from her lingerie you realize this is one chick flick that us dudes can appreciate as well.
It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a Rachel McAdams project this much, but with “Morning Glory” I’d sing to her – “You’re going to make it after all” . . . .


Monday, November 8, 2010


“YOU AGAIN?” (Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis & Sigourney Weaver)

Let’s take a look at the leading candidates for WORST MOVIE OF 2010, shall we?
The films I gave ‘D’ ratings to are; “The BOOK Of ELI”, “The BOUNTY HUNTER”,
Add “YOU AGAIN” & you have 6 nominees.
Now the question is – who is the leading candidate?
Not ‘ELI’ because Mila Kunis was in it & she was enjoyable to look at.
Not ‘BOUNTY HUNTER’ though it was total crap, but Jennifer is still enjoyable to watch.
Not “SHREK 4” because Donkey was in it & I DO like looking at a nice ass.
That leaves Inception, A-Team & You Again. I know the masses would howl if I picked ‘Inception’ but it’s because that crummy film was hailed as being great that I came to loathe it more & more.
So it’s down to ‘The A-Team’ & ‘You Again’. Makes sense - they’re the only two I gave D-minuses.

I don’t want to hear from the guys chastising me for going to see it in the first place, it was one of those my wife wanted to see & I’ve already played the “let’s wait until it’s at East Valley” card too many times this year. And then the film doesn’t come to the $3 theatre & my wife is disappointed. So it was either this, or the Katherine Heigl ‘baby’ flick.

I don’t know what it is with Kristen Bell – she’s not unattractive; the thin nose makes her look cross-eyed sometimes, but I’d still say she was ‘pretty’. But she is quickly becoming the Queen of disaster flicks – Just recently seeing ‘When In Rome’, which I gave up on after 15-20 minutes – I felt the same way about ‘You Again’ but I’ve never walked out of a film in a theatre & I’d like to keep that record intact.

The premise was semi-intriguing; Marni (Bell) returns home for her older brother’s wedding & discovers he’s marrying the b*tch that tortured her throughout high school. They explain that Joanna went by ‘J. J.’ back then so Marni is caught off guard.
Then Joanna’s Aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) shows up & we discover that she & Marni’s mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) were best friends as children but had a blow-up in high school that separated them. Throw in Betty White as Grandma Bunny & you actually have a promising set up. But instead of being a little dark, they go a lot stupid and make J. J. over-the-top mean in both flashbacks & in the way she treats Marni behind her family’s backs.

The reason this movie sinks even lower than your normal crappy chick flick is the soundtrack – Never have I been so disappointed that I didn’t have to go take a whiz as when J. J. started rapping in her old cheerleader costume – that wins most annoying scene of the year hands down... well, Robert Downey, Jr. spitting on a defenseless dog was disgusting, but ‘Due Date’ was an otherwise ‘decent’ film.
When the bride & groom-to-be started caterwauling “Kiss On My List”, I prayed that I would go temporarily deaf. In a desperate attempt to connect with one of my favorite chick flicks, “(500) Days Of Summer”, where “You Make My Dreams” was used perfectly, You Again’s use of a Hall & Oates song is irritating.

And let’s stop putting Betty White in movies – she works on TV – she’s one of the best TV actresses of all-time; if you haven’t seen “Hot In Cleveland”, try to catch it – In almost every episode Betty comes up with at least one funny memorable line. But even the cameo of another Mary Tyler Moore Show cast member couldn’t save ‘You Again’ from being one of the two leading candidates for worst film of 2010.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


“DUE DATE” (Robert Downey, Jr. & Zach Galifianakis)

There are almost enough funny lines and sight gags in “Due Date” to make up for what is wrong with it. . . I said ‘almost’.
Robert Downey, Jr.’s character, Peter, is such a despicable human being that anyone who likes or relates to him obviously has acute character flaws. So ‘Due Date’ is a great date movie if you’re going out with a guy you’re just not sure about. It’s okay to say, ‘that movie was pretty funny’, but if they say Peter’s behavior was acceptable – dump him, he’s a turd.
I’ve read two reviews that go on & on about how tired they already are of Zach Galifianakis. I didn’t have a problem with Ethan (Zach’s character, a wanna-be ‘Hollywood’ actor) he was annoying, but had a good heart. Peter, if you’ll pardon the expression, was a dick.
Unfortunate comparisons must be made to two comedy classics; “The Hangover” & “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” because this film was co-written & directed by Todd Phillips (of ‘Hangover’ fame) & the premise is – It’s Tuesday and Peter is in Atlanta. His very pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) is in L.A.; her ‘due date’ is Friday. Even though Peter is boarding a plane on Tuesday to take him back to L.A., the expectant mother calls him, worried that he won’t make it home on time. A series of screwy, unexpected events leads to Peter being forced to drive across southern America with an effeminate, would-be actor (Ethan Tremblay) along with his masturbating French Bulldog, Sonny, and a coffee can containing the ashes of Ethan’s recently deceased father. So it is virtually a ‘remake’ of ‘P, T & A’ (A good looking businessman needing to get home to his attractive wife by a certain day & an overweight, over-bearing but likeable misfit who carries the burden of a recently deceased loved one – Ethan even secretly uses Peter’s credit card to pay for the used car they drive in the beginning of the journey)
‘Hangover’ was great because it was not only hilarious, it was also a mystery; what on earth happened to Doug? The only mystery in ‘Due Date’ is; will Peter ever stop being such a turd?
In ‘P, T & A’, one of the many funny bits is how the pair of traveling companions gradually destroy the used car they’re driving; In ‘D D’ the car is fine until a horrendous, unquestionably fatal crash totals the rental in the blink of an eye (or 40 winks, as the case may be) With Sonny (the dog) sitting on the back seat, Ethan falls asleep at the wheel; when they land, the back of the car is completely demolished so naturally we reach the conclusion that the little mutt that enjoys pleasuring himself has been crushed to death. As far as the humans go, it would be highly unlikely that both would survive. But no, we forget that this is a ‘comedy’ so the gratuitous crash scene was simply added to enhance the premise by putting another obstacle in the trio’s path.
At times the humor sinks to ‘dumbed down’ levels as well – Not to say that there was anything ‘high brow’ about ‘The Hangover’, but the way it was set up worked to perfection. Here, when wheelchair bound Danny McBride beats ‘customer’ Peter with a club, we’re suppose to find that humorous?
Where this film goes wrong is easily traceable to Peter – not Robert Downing, Jr. – Peter.
He has a quick temper which, when it flares, is downright abusive. Being a dog lover, I was appalled when he gathers up a wad of mucus and spits in Sonny’s face while the ‘injured’ pup is wearing an Elizabethan collar (after the near death experience in the rental car) Peter is mean. Peter seems to live for moments when he can lash out & hurt someone in any way he can. He goes off on a shouting rant at Ethan for saying he wants to go to ‘Hollywood’; “Nobody calls it Hollywood! It’s freaking L.A.!” Peter, as I concluded early on in this film & review, is a dick. So anything bad that happens to Peter is well deserved and thus the humor takes a backseat to our dislike of the lead character. Knowing his hair trigger temper explodes in violent outbursts I worried about the safety of his wife & child when they finally reach their destination. If you view this film & you feel all warm & gooey over Peter’s determination to be there to witness the birth of his first child – think about what an ass he has been to Ethan & Sonny – How could anyone want this turd to have a happy ending? If he had redeemed himself at the closing by saying he’s decided to go to anger management class, I’d still wonder about his sincerity. Phillips goes the route of ‘we’ll make him likeable by injuring him severely’ . . . Doesn’t work, Todd – I’m in my 50’s now & I’ve been saying this for over 30 years because it has always rung true – Once a dick, always a dick.
But it DID make me laugh frequently... weird, huh?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


“NOWHERE BOY” (Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas & Anne-Marie Duff)

Confession time. When I was growing up my two best friends were my dog Laddie & someone I had never met in my life. Weird kid, right? My other best friend was John Lennon. I knew quite a bit about John’s life & he knew nothing of mine. So he wasn’t the greatest friend in the world, but I still admired the guy – Even when he started acting goofy during his peace protests with his even stranger Japanese wife, I was in simpatico with the message he was sending out – War Sucks, Give Peace A Chance.

I know his story from interviews and genuine autobiographies. Not after-the-fact tabloids written by someone just trying to make a buck off of his name.
I have always said, no matter how old I’m getting to be, I’m grateful to have been born in 1955 since I was alive when The Beatles came to America (I was 8) I was able to witness the phenomenon, & quite frankly was confused by it – Yes, the music was different, but I never understood the ‘mania’; I never attended a Beatles concert because I wanted to hear the music, not a din of maniacal screaming girls.
So I bought the records. The first song I bought was “A Hard Day’s Night”, the first album I bought was “Revolver” & the first book I bought was the Authorized Biography of The Beatles by Hunter Davies which came out in 1968 when they were still together. It delved deeply into each member’s childhood, especially John’s. Reading it, I saw similarities between John’s childhood and mine. He was my favorite Beatle because I liked his songs the most & obviously ‘something’ about him came across the airwaves that I connected with – after viewing this film I realize now what it was – sarcasm.
One of those things that can’t be taught – you either have it or you don’t. Something unusual that John & I shared. Maybe that’s why I made him my ‘real, yet still invisible’ best friend.
I tell you all of this to help you understand why I was reluctant to see this movie. I thought for sure they would get it wrong – they would ‘make up’ crap that didn’t happen to sensationalize the story when, if they did it proper, it would be a powerful ‘family’ drama and an insight into what made John Lennon an icon. I’m here to tell you that they did this story proper – as uneasy as it was to watch at times, it is a great film – and remember I’m speaking as a disciple of Johnny & The Moondogs & The Quarrymen. I would be very interested in hearing what you youngsters think of this movie – I hope you’re able to catch it because I’d like to know if it hits any of you like I think it might – It is simply a heartbreaking story of a young man who is made to feel ‘unwanted’ by his own family. Even if you can’t relate to that, I think you’ll feel empathy for the lad. My wife is not a Beatles fan so I went to ‘Nowhere Boy’ alone. I wish she would have come with me because I think she would have related to his childhood as well & would appreciate his music more because of it. She’ll see it eventually, but it would have been nice to share the first viewing together. & we would have had the theatre all to ourselves as I was the lone audience member. On the plus side, it was as if I was getting to know my old buddy all over again; Just me & John. Pete & Ivan. & those two little guitar playing twerps, Paul & George.
I’ll start with the negatives & get the nit-picking out of the way. It bothered me right off the bat that Aaron Johnson (Lennon) had blue eyes – that should have automatically dismissed him from the role, but the rest of the 1950’s Lennon-look he had down pat, so I was able to put that annoyance behind me. They sugar-coated his temper - Which made sense because you do need your lead character to be likable; hence they heavily leaned on John’s sarcastic side. For some reason they renamed John’s father ‘Alf’ (It was Fred) For most of the film I thought they made John’s Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) too mean – To make John look better, I thought, & I didn’t like that angle. But in the end you understand why Mimi acts the way she does – when the flashback to when John was 5 & his parents made him choose between them is shown, Mimi becomes the heroine. & if that scene doesn’t bring moisture to your eyes, then I don’t think anything can. I knew it was coming, of course, but I realized as I watched these actors playing it out in front of me that I’d only pictured it in my mind – it packs a powerful emotional impact when you see it ‘for real’ on the big screen. And it stirred flashbacks from my own childhood, just to let you know why it got to me.
Sounds like I’m through nit-picking since I’m singing its praises now, so here’s what I loved about ‘Nowhere Boy’... Oops, one more complaint – I hate that title, basically because John dismissed ‘Nowhere Man’ as ‘crap’ & a much better title would have been ‘In My Life’. Also, the omission of eventual first-wife, Cynthia Powell, was a bit of a mystery, but then again to add her into the later stages would have been overkill, so I don’t have a problem with it, just a little curious as to why she was left out. It was refreshing to see something about John that didn’t have Yoko’s greedy handprints all over it!
What I loved most was Anne-Marie Duff as John’s mother, Julia. An incredible performance of a difficult role – Julia was an enigma; a ‘hot mess’ (as they would say today) of a mother, but a woman who outwardly seemed to have a fervent love for life &, when John comes back into her life in his teens, a rather uncomfortable feeling for her son – to call it borderline ‘lust’ isn’t stretching the truth at all (She calls him her ‘dreamboat’) In a year where Supporting Actress roles are even slimmer than usual, I’m declaring Ms. Duff MY winner in this category.
The name ‘The Beatles’ is never mentioned; this story takes place during The Quarrymen years – John’s meetings with Paul & George are displayed accurately & I appreciated that. The fact that they have him giving jealous, almost scornful looks toward Paul & George as they play onstage were exaggerated, but since they toned down his temper it was an appropriate addition to help capture the ‘essence’ of John.
Kristin Scott Thomas deserves recognition as well, but her role was much easier to portray since Mimi is pretty much a cold fish throughout the film, but she is superb at relaying the fact that she seems to hate the fact that she has to be that way in order for John to have a ‘proper’ upbringing – You realize after the film that if it wasn’t for Aunt Mimi, John may have never formed a band & that would have left me without a make believe, yet human best friend during my childhood.
I don’t know if this was filmed in sequence, but it seemed as though Aaron Johnson ‘became’ John Lennon as the story progressed. I liked the little nuanced clips relating to The Beatles; John rides his bike past the orphanage ‘Strawberry Field’, under-aged John tries to sneak past the bouncer at The Cavern Club and is told to ‘beat it’; on a couple of occasions they have Johnson ‘pose’ in ways familiar to those of us who were members of the fan club & had seen the pictures they were recreating (& when far enough away to not tell that his eyes were blue, looking eerily like the real thing)
With all the junk that’s been written about John since his murder I never thought a film like this could be made, but thank you, Sam Taylor-Wood for the fairly accurate depiction of the fifteen year old in Liverpool who would eventually go on to change the world by asking if he could ‘hold our hand’ and made ‘goo goo ga-joob' sound like a phrase that actually meant something...