Monday, April 25, 2011


“UNKNOWN” (Liam Neesom & Diane Kruger)

After “Taken”, I was skeptical of Liam Neesom’s credentials. If he thought that script was worth filming, I had to question his ability to smell crap.
When I saw the preview to ‘Unknown’, I smelled crap. & since I knew Liam has a blockage in his nasal cavity, I decided to avoid it... And then a good friend told me she thought ‘Unknown’ was better than 'The King’s Speech'. Obviously after such high praise, I had to check ‘Unknown’ out for myself. The plus being, it only cost $3 to see it. Thanks to Diane Kruger's beauty, it was worth the price... barely.
What I liked about the goofy plot is that all of the questions were revealed, sewn up & answered in the final scenes. What I didn’t like is that the answers were kind of far fetched and very silly.
I’ll approach this review from the standpoint of the trailer. Going into this mistaken identity/amnesia plot I understood that Neesom played Dr. Martin Harris (adamantly!)
After surviving a devastating cab ride crash, Dr. Harris returns to his wife who acts as if she’s never seen him before in her life and introduces Aiden Quinn as her husband, Dr. Martin Harris (in a much calmer fashion) For emphasis, Aiden wears a badge emblazoned with his moniker. Upon seeing Quinn’s Harris’s passport & ID, the police instantly remove the taller, hammier Dr. Martin Harris.
Then came the scene that turned me away as Neesom’s Harris points at Quinn’s Harris & says, “This man is an imposter. I don’t know who he is, but I want you to arrest him immediately or many lives will be lost!”
I’m assuming the ‘Doctor’ part of his name means this is a well-educated man, but what kind of dumb-ass makes a statement like that & expects the police to arrest the one that isn’t acting insane? “I don’t know who this guy is, but I’ll bet he’s planning to do something mean!” “If you say he’s a bad guy, Dr. Martin Harris with no ID or credentials, we’ll take you at your word & book him immediately on suspicion of being a potential bad guy.”
Then the line that was suppose to ‘hook’ audiences to check this film out when Quinn stands in a smoke filled room with Neesom and says, “You REALLY don’t remember ANYTHING do you?”
Yes, I wanted to know what the catch was, but I’d been taken in by ‘Taken” – I wasn’t going to fall for another Neesom turd.
The main draw here for me was Diane Kruger as the most gorgeous cab driver in history. I used to feel Diane was worth the price of admission just on that incredible face, so it didn’t matter if she couldn’t act. But once she got away from the Nicolas Cage influence (“Just show up, act disinterested and cash the paycheck, Diane. It’s easy, I do it 8, 9 times a year”) Ms. Kruger (“Inglorious Basterds”) has shown she actually has some acting chops. She is clearly the best part of this film in every sense.
So what’s the story? I’m not going to reveal the ‘twist’ but it’s an acceptable explanation for why Neesom swears he’s Dr. Harris & why Quinn takes his place, complete with passport & a wife that calls him hubby.
I watched this film like a hawk – I was expecting it to be one of those where the plot twists made no sense & I was going to be ready to jump all over it for that.
Neesom’s Harris & wife Elizabeth (January Jones) arrive in Berlin. At the airport, Neesom loads a bag into the trunk of the cab & Elizabeth tells him, “Martin, let the driver do that.”
The driver loads all the bags, except one.
My conclusion - Wife is obviously in on the scam (along with the cab driver)
At the hotel, Neesom notices missing bag & hails another cab to take him back to the airport – the second cab is driven by Gina (Diane Kruger)
Impatiently, Neesom asks if the most beautiful cab driver on the planet knows of any shortcuts, which leads them into the accident which ends with the cab careening off a bridge & into a river. Gina could have let Neesom drown, but risks her life to save him. We can conclude that Gina is not in on the scam. Unless... it was imperative to keep Neesom’s Harris alive because Gina disappears as soon as she gets Neesom to safety.
Neesom comes out of his coma 4 days later; leaves to find his wife & the scene from the trailer ensues. Assuming Neesom isn’t ‘well’ he’s returned to the hospital where they run some tests. When an assassin shows up, he wastes no time in disposing of the nurse on duty, but for some ‘Unknown’ reason decides to kill Neesom slow by injecting poison into his I.V. bag. Really? Like the hospital staff won’t suspect foul play when they find a dead nurse on the floor? So instead of shooting Neesom in the head, he decides the smarter move is to kill Neesom in a way that he won’t be present when the delusional ‘Dr. Harris’ bites the dust?
Frank Langella enters the picture as the one colleague Neesom can remember, his old friend Roy. When Roy turns up the truth begins to unravel. Like I said, the mysteries are all revealed, but the answers are goofy.
The ending left a lot to be desired as well. There’s a scene where one of the characters is trying to defuse a bomb. They stop breaking thru the wall when they can fit their arm through the hole they made instead of breaking it more so they can SEE what they’re doing... Obviously you don’t have to pass an I.Q. test to become a spy.
“Unknown” isn’t awful (like “Taken”) it tries to take a different look at the tired amnesia/mistaken identity plot and it doesn’t leave you scratching your head as to why it turned out the way it did. But when you realize everything that took place was over a new breed of corn... Well, that’s when the head scratching comes in.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ARTHUR - The Remake

“ARTHUR (The re-make)” (Russell Brand & Helen Mirren)

When I heard about this movie I was totally against it – You don’t re-make a classic, you re-make movies that had a good idea but for some reason didn’t quite work out onscreen the first time around – “3:10 To Yuma” is a prime example – Or – to ‘update’ an oldie but goodie to introduce it to a new audience (“The Wolfman” SHOULD have fit this category, but failed miserably) This re-make of an endearing comedy doesn’t fail miserably, but fails nonetheless. There are several reasons, the main being writing. There simply aren’t that many funny lines, whereas the original had more laughs in the first twenty minutes than this has total.
The second is casting; I like Russell Brand as a back-up singer, but not as a lead vocalist – too much dosage of Brand leads to many annoying side effects.
#1 – playing a lovable drunk millionaire worked for Dudley Moore because he was diminutive (Which helps with making him lovable) Brand is freakishly tall & lanky (Something about that combo doesn’t lend itself to lovable – Don’t ask me why)
The first time I saw Brand was on the BBC’s ‘Graham Norton Show’ – he came out as though he were a rock star – I had no idea who he was, of course - & was surprised to discover he was a comedian. Not a joke-teller per se, more of the teller of humorous antidotes – he seemed to be famous in England for getting laid a lot.
The persona Brand exuded on that talk show was similar to the Arthur Bach he plays in this film; exceedingly laid-back, childish, devilishly impish in his openness in discussing his sexual preferences and somewhat difficult to understand because of his annoying habit of slurring his speech. An interesting character, but not lovable. Arthur needs to be lovable, otherwise he’s just an annoying drunk spoiled brat millionaire playboy with no scruples. As I watched this film I found myself wondering ‘Why would they put this out NOW?’. Now, at a time in America when the filthy rich are being given every break possible & the working people are not only suffering because of it, but are also getting the blame for the economy, instead of the filthy rich who screwed us out of our savings & homes?
I know, no one likes it when I get political in my reviews, but as I’ve said before I try to relate my movie-going experience with these blatherings & I was annoyed at the way this ‘Arthur’ foolishly & wastefully threw cash away like it was bread crumbs in a park full of pigeons.
Next, let’s talk chemistry; the original pairing of Moore & John Geilgud (as butler ‘Hobson’) clicked in every scene. One of my favorite Hobson lines, “It was a pleasure to meet you, Linda; normally one must go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature.” obviously wouldn’t have worked coming from Helen Mirren’s mouth – still playing ‘Hobson’, but as Arthur’s ‘nanny’ instead of his butler.
Is it acting ability that Brand is lacking, or just that his version of Arthur wasn’t lovable that generated zero chemistry between him & Mirren? I’m leaning toward the former, because his relationship with chauffer Bitterman (Luis Guzman) didn’t connect either.
Making potential bride Susan Johnson (here, played by the vastly over-rated Jennifer Garner) a greedy b*tch didn’t help – It was her father, Burt that needed to be the unlikable heavy. All I need to say as to why this Burt Johnson didn’t work is two words; Nick Nolte.
Extravagances; Why did this Arthur have a floating, magnetic bed? So that when unwanted fiance Susan came over to show Arthur her kinky side (In a metal corset, naturally) the bed, which she conveniently crawls under scoops her off the floor and attaches itself to her. Why? I asked again. So Arthur could say the 'really reaching for bit of comedy' line, "At least something in this room is attracted to you."
And every scene that they copied from the better Arthur seemed out of place – A clear mistake every time they did it. Which brings me back to my original complaint – Why didn’t they just make an entirely new story about a drunken millionaire playboy that falls in love with a commoner when his family wants him to marry for ‘prestige’? They could have called it ‘Dudley’ as a nod to the original for the idea, but re-making ‘Arthur’ didn’t work because you’re only going to invite comparisons that your new version can’t possibly win.
The original opened with Arthur driving up to two prostitutes and from the back seat of his Rolls Royce asking, “Would the one of you who’s the more attractive please step forward?” & despite being constantly drunk, Arthur was polite; “Aren’t waiters wonderful? You ask them for things and they bring them to you!” It was funny and charming right from the git-go. The new Arthur opens with Arthur in a batman costume and chauffer Bitterman in a 4 sizes too small Robin costume on their way to a fund raiser hosted by Arthur’s mother. They drive recklessly through the streets of New York and crash their batmobile. There was nothing funny or charming about any of it.
Finally, I’ll end by picking on Greta Gerwig – for some reason playing Naomi, instead of Linda (Liza Minnelli in the original) the only name change that I could tell. Linda is introduce to Arthur after stealing a tie to give to her father for his birthday & the police are forced to let her go when Arthur intervenes and tells them to put it on his tab. Naomi, although much prettier than Linda gives ‘illegal’ tours of Grand Central Station... WTF? I can’t remember the last time I witness such really awful acting. She’s very cute and I enjoyed the throw-back mini skirts she wore, but Greta is in need of acting lessons.
If you’ve never seen the original – go see Brand’s Arthur first. Then rent the ‘classic’. I’d like to know if you agree that the two versions are miles apart, or if it’s just a matter of ‘timing’ – that now is just a dumb time to put out a film with a drunken spoiled billionaire as the lead.
Other than the woman Arthur falls for being better looking, there is nothing about this remake that comes remotely close to matching the original.
If this is ‘The Best That Brand Can Do’ – he’d better go back to being the screwball side-kick because this starring role attempt is a complete failure.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


“The LINCOLN LAWYER” (Matthew McConaughey & Ryan Phillippe)

If I had one complaint about this film, it’s that it is TOO slick. The courtroom scenes should have been extended to make them more believable. Matthew McConaughey’s Mick Haller questions the prostitute that filed the suit against Ryan Phillippe’s Louis Roulet and tricks her into perjuring herself for admitting that she had seen Roulet driving a car after testifying 3 questions earlier that she had never seen him in a car... Sometimes the bitches just deserve it.
True, the courtroom scenes weren’t the meat of this story, so I wouldn’t expect it to have the impact of ‘A Few Good Men’, but I would liken this film to “And Justice For All...” without the humor. ‘Lincoln’ does have some excellent actors which seemed to have made the second-raters ‘up’ their game... I won’t pick on the star because he actually does a nice job here, but it’s performances from the always reliable William H. Macey and a brief but powerful appearance from Michael Pena that help to lift this film to higher than expected expectations.
As lawyer Haller, McConaughey dominates the film as the story is basically told through his eyes and it is clearly his best acting since ‘We Are Marshall’...
A divorced alcoholic that uses his Lincoln town car as his office, Mick is both portrayed as a crooked loser and a top notched high price win at all cost defense lawyer with the ability to dazzle even higher priced corporate attorneys.
After the film establishes Mick’s renegade style of practicing law, he is asked by a courthouse friend (John Leguizamo) to assist Louis Roulet, a wealthy young man who was arrested for beating up a prostitute. We’re never quite sure how much of Roulet‘s story Mick believes, but you do get the feeling he takes the case merely because he sees a huge payoff at the end of the rainbow (& doing a favor for a wealthy family could only lead to bigger and better paydays)
Wasted is Marisa Tomei as Maggie, Mick’s ex-wife and mother of his young daughter – the pair seems only to exist as fodder for the bad guys to threaten.
In fact both supporting female characters are lackluster as Frances Fisher plays Roulet’s mother as a carbon copy rich bitch that feels as though her ‘baby’ is above the law whether he’s guilty or not... Sometimes the bitches deserve it.
Bryan Cranston does well as the police detective out to nail Haller for his unethical practices & Josh Lucas plays Ted, the D.A. during Roulet’s trial with zero flair – it wasn’t until I thought back on the film that I realized that was exactly what his character needed to be – Haller was going to try & bring as much drama to the case as possible, so Ted wanted to be the laid-back voice of reason.
I also liked Laurence Mason as Haller’s chauffer, Earl – given the job of driving Mick’s ‘office’ until his license is ‘un-revoked’ following his latest DUI. Earl always seemed too cool for the room (or Lincoln in this case)
When a burly motorcycle gang surrounds the Lincoln, Earl calmly asks, "How do you want me to play this, boss?"
It is cleverly written, doesn’t stoop to bizarre revelations that make no sense and lays out a very logical and believable path as to how Haller turns the tables on his client without breaking the lawyer/client confidentiality pact.
‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ isn’t a classic, but it is a very good film – not too far fetched but with enough twists to maintain your interest throughout.

Monday, April 4, 2011


“PAUL” (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost & (voice of) Seth Rogen)

Just as Simon Pegg was getting to the point of being given the first name, ‘Heywhateverhappenedto?’ he bounces back with what is clearly his funniest film.
‘Paul’ is exactly what I was hoping it would be – a return to the Simon Pegg that made the humorous parodies “Shaun Of The Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” (the former being the better of the two) as ‘Paul’ sends up science fiction/alien flicks in the same silly low-brow way that ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ skewered zombie films. The difference being, I laughed almost continuously at ‘Paul’.
It doesn’t start off well though. When I saw Pegg & Frost (co-writers of the script as well as co-stars) playing ‘elderly’ English nerds vacationing in America by visiting Comic-Con and every infamous UFO site in their ‘Traveling Beagle’ RV, I was worried. I thought this film wasn’t aiming at me as its target audience. But then I started laughing and I rarely stopped. Yes, this is the funniest movie since ‘The Hangover’. The question now is - will I laugh when I view it again?
Pegg & Frost are Graham & Clive; middle-aged geeks but with a goal – Clive has written a science fiction comic book (Sorry, I refuse to use the term graphic novel) with Graham’s illustrations. The cover features a female alien creature with three breasts – a bit that gets over-milked (If you’ll pardon the expression) but I have to admit I chuckled at the final “3 titties... awesome!” quip.
They show the comic to every geek they encounter, including a famous sci-fi writer played by Jeffrey Tambor.
Graham & Clive encounter every form of American misfit you can imagine but the one that changes their lives is when Paul, a stereotypical short green creature with large eyes and an ‘E.T.-like’ torso crashes in front of them.
As a CIA agent (Jason Bateman) pursues them, aided by two local agents - Paul, Graham & Clive become buddies.
Apparently Paul’s usefulness has run its course (Steven Speilberg has made a film about every one of his stories) so now they’ve decided to dissect the alien to find out how he ticks.
There are childish fart jokes and crude R-rated lines like “Get your damn hands off my (bleeping) nuts!” but they work simply because the script is so full of funny lines. It also helps that Seth Rogen is heard but not seen – as the voice of Paul it is clearly his best ‘acting’ to date.
SNL’s Kristine Wiig plays the daughter of an RV park manager who joins the trio... well, I say ‘joins’ because kidnapped is such an ugly word, and she is another bright spot, given plenty of R-rated language to spew as a deeply religious woman who is shone the light of truth via Paul’s ability to transfer his knowledge to others.
It took me a while to place John Carrol Lynch as her father since he has hair! To those who watched the Drew Carey Show, Lynch played Drew’s large, bald and gay older brother.
Like ‘Hall Pass’, the laughs are cheap and stupid - but it did make me laugh, scoring a 57 on my ‘Laugh-o-Meter’.
I told my wife as we sat in our seats, “I’m hoping this is Simon Pegg returning to what he does best.” And it was.