Wednesday, May 25, 2011


“THOR” (Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman & Anthony Hopkins)

Was not a fan of the comic book so I had no interest in this film when I heard about it. When I saw the trailer, Hemsworth (Thor) looked like another ‘wrassler-turned-actor’ so that made it official – I won’t be wasting my time seeing ‘Thor’.
Then 3 things happened; I saw an extended trailer which made the film look much more interesting; Found out Hemsworth isn’t a wrassler but an Australian actor (& I have a long list of Aussie actors that I like) & one review compared it to ‘Iron Man’ because it was funny and the quality of acting was several cuts above your usual comic book movie. The only problem I had was that it wasn’t very funny – a few chuckling moments, lots of grins and my favorite line, “Base command, we’ve got Xena, Jackie Chan & Robin Hood walking down the street here,” was spoken by an unknown extra.
But ‘Thor’ IS a cut above most comic book movies - & this comes from someone who ISN’T a fan of the genre; I love the ‘Iron Man’ series basically because of what Robert Downey, Jr. bring to the table & I’ve liked the new Batman’s with Christian Bale (though not as much as the masses) Other than those – all other comic book movies basically suck.
This doesn’t suck and the acting might be the chief reason; after ‘The Wolfman’, I was leery of being able to take Sir Anthony seriously as a quality actor again- he sort of redeems himself here, but oddly enough, he doesn’t stand out. Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, the earthling Thor meets when he’s cast out of Asgard & worm-holed to earth does a much better acting job here than she did in ‘Black Swan’.
‘Thor’ also has a interesting storyline; though I found it preposterous that dozens of ‘Frost Monsters’ couldn’t overtake a handful of human-like Asgardians (Including Xena, Jackie Chan & Robin Hood)
But the key to making this comic book movie stand out is the character relationships between Thor and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the simmering ‘Smothers Brothers’ animosity that grows because ‘dad always liked you best’. Thor’s broken relationship with his father (Hopkins as Odin) after he defies the old man - and then Thor’s disdain for human’s changing rapidly as he becomes hopelessly attracted to Jane.
‘Thor’ is visually impressive as well; the blue ‘Frosty People’ who are three times the size of Asgardians but can’t seem to win a battle even with the aide of an overweight T. Rex (Introduced in a laughable ‘release the Kraken’ style) were still frightening villains.
I did find it odd that Jane traveled with an older man (Stellan Skarsgard as Erik) who didn’t seem to serve any useful purpose in her studies and Darcy (Kat Dennings) a young girl who took the arrival of Mythical gods & legends with a grain of salt.
But despite the silly moments & odd pairings, ‘Thor’ is an enjoyable watch. It isn’t as entertaining as ‘Iron Man’; though Downey’s character is mentioned when a gigantic metallic robot is ‘beamed’ to earth & the FBI agent in charge asks, “Is that one of Starks?”
‘Thor’ even won my wife’s approval; when I asked her if she liked it, she replied, “Yes, it was fine... he’s easy on the eyes.”
So there you have it, despite all the wrinkles & the eye patch, Anthony Hopkins can still make the ladies swoon... Or perhaps she meant the Aussie who played Thor?


“BRIDESMAIDS” (Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and various other chicks)

This was advertised as ‘The Hangover’ of chick flicks – but don’t call it a chick flick...
Well, I believe in honesty and though it isn’t a run of the mill awful chick flick – it IS still a chick flick. I can say that because I just didn’t ‘get’ the way these women behaved, though my wife & the heavily perfumed members of the audience seemed to understand them and thought they were much funnier than I.
For a chick flick it was quite funny, but compared to regular comedies, it’s just ‘all right’.
The plot works (which is a rarity for c.f.’s) Kristen Wiig (as Annie) discovers her lifelong best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph, who should never be shown in close-ups) is getting married. As the obvious maid of honor, Annie is put upon to virtually organize every pre-wedding excursion she and the other bridesmaids are expected to make. Problem for Annie is she’s broke – her dream bakery shop failed miserably which lead to her boyfriend dumping her and having to move in with a loathsome brother & sister combo and taking a job in a jewelry store where her depressed persona isn’t appreciated. And now she’s expected to shell out hundreds of dollars for a dress & hundreds more for a trip to Vegas while being unable to come up with her share of the rent, straining the relationship with her unsympathetic roommates, as well as with Lillian.
There is no resemblance to ‘The Hangover’ in any way – having a scene where Annie gets plastered doesn’t make it Hangover-esque.
Annie’s car is an additional pain, though the piece of junk does lead to a meeting with a friendly police officer (Chris O’Dowd)
Annie has no one but herself to blame for the ton of baggage she carries around because she makes the choice to be treated like dirt by the douche bag who 'allows' her to have sex with him as long as she leaves shortly after he's through with her. Still, you can’t help but feel sorry for her because she is an obviously nice person who is just having an extended streak of bad luck.
So Kristen Wiig as Annie is the perfect lead character – where ‘Bridesmaids’ goes wrong is with the other title characters - & not to say that any of them are horribly written or unpleasant – it’s just that this group of women would never join forces under any circumstances. Someone like Lillian would never have such a diverse collection of friends. I guess the thought process was – make the bridesmaids as varied as possible & that will lead to hilarity... but I just kept thinking – why are these women in this wedding party? The only actress I knew previously was Wendi McLendon-Covey (from Reno 911) The other three; the chubby, looks-like-a-lesbian-but-apparently-isn’t, one; the rich bitch & the quiet one are played Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne & Ellie Kemper. They all play their roles well, but there’s no chemistry - & how could there be? They have nothing in common. So I guess we were supposed to laugh at all these various personalities clashing from scene to scene.
But Wiig is the mainstay and I have to give her credit for holding this film together (being a co-writer she’s responsible for the good & the bad) because I cared about Annie; I wanted her to stop being a doormat & realize that officer Rhodes wasn’t another douche bag male.
There is one stretch of the film which had me laughing out loud as Annie continuously drives by officer Rhodes’ squad car trying to get him to pull her over. That scene alone provided enough comedy to elevated 'Bridesmaids to ‘one of the better’ chick flicks I’ve seen.
As the film reached it’s climax, brief pop sensations from the 90’s, Wilson Phillips appear to sing at Lillian’s wedding; I thought for certain they had a replacement playing the part of Chynna Phillips as the woman in the middle didn’t look at all like the cute blonde I remember as being the reason for viewing their videos – turns out it’s actually Chynna Phillips... Botched plastic surgery? The Wilson sisters looked pretty much the same, but what the heck happened to Chynna?

You women can tell me if I’m wrong, but I was put off by the failed attempts at gross-out comedy – For me, it just wasn’t funny (except for the one scene where one bridesmaid throws up on the back of the head of the bridesmaid who made it to the toilet first)
Guys can be rude & crude because we are in real life. I guess I just expect women to be better than us so when they act like men they’re more disgusting than funny.
So yes, this is the rare chick flick that I can recommend despite the absence of any scantilly clad hot babes... Jeez, what the heck happened to Chynna Phillips?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


“The BEAVER” (Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin & Jennifer Lawrence)

There’s no full frontal female nudity, and no, Jerry Mathers does not make a cameo appearance – still, this version of ‘The Beaver’ did not disappoint. In fact, it ‘wowed’ me; it was funny, touching, depressing, uplifting and weird. I could actually understand someone not liking it because it isn’t a film you can pigeonhole into a specific category. Let’s face it, people who went to see ‘Fast Five’ are not going to enjoy something this off-the-wall and relevant.
“The Beave” won’t do boffo box office but if you enjoy an intelligent family drama with enough quirky comedic touches to ensure a virtual roller coaster ride of emotions, then Mel Gibson as The Beaver is something you’ll enjoy. Provided you’re not one of the sanctimonious perfect people that won’t see this film simply because Gibson stars in it. Yes, he has personal issues that bug me – the melt downs on the phone with his ex not being one of them – What man hasn’t been (bleeped) by a (bleep) that (bleeped) him over? - but does that lessen his acting skills?
Gibson is outstanding in this film, as are all of the actors.
I thought back on the previous Gibson/Foster pairing in ‘Maverick’ & it’s like two entirely different actors here – ‘Maverick’, though not a horrible film, wasn’t one either actor could say was their finest work (most embarrassing, maybe – finest, no)
In ‘The Beaver’, Gibson gets the teeth, literally, as armed with a buck-toothed beaver puppet on his hand he chews up the scenery like he was building a freaking dam.
But in the subtle scenes, Jodie Foster as his wife gets the grand prize. Frequently she has to convey her character’s feelings through facial expressions and she does so with an acute awareness – probably aided by the fact that she was directing herself.
The plot concerns Walter Black (Gibson) the president of a toy manufacturing plant who has fallen into a deep depression. When wife Meredith (Foster) kicks him out of their home, Walter stops by a dumpster to toss out those of his belongings that are weighing him down – he finds a discarded hand puppet in the dumpster – a toothy beaver. Walter smirks at it & walks away... then turns back & takes the puppet with him.
Why? Well, apparently to assist Walter in his attempts to commit suicide. The puppet tells Walter he’s so worthless he doesn’t even have the guts to kill himself. During the ensuing argument with his hand, Walter winds up unconscious on the floor of his hotel room with his tie around the shower curtain rod & the TV on his head.
In a way, Walter succeeds in committing suicide as Walter Black fades away into oblivion and ‘The Beaver’ takes his place. His youngest son delights as dad shows him attention under the guise of an Australian accented rodent made of cloth, whilst eldest son, Porter (Anton Yelchin) is so embarrassed by his father’s new persona that his hatred for the man quickly reaches a boiling point. In his bedroom, Porter has a collection of post-its with ‘similarities’ written upon them between himself and his father – the high school student chagrins every time he adds another trait to the numerous yellow slips of paper that decorate his wall.
But as Walter rebounds from depression by announcing to his employees that The Beaver is now in charge and unlike the old regime, the puppet WILL listen to any ideas they may have to improve the company – Porter is approached by cheerleader Norah (Jennifer Lawrence) who wants to pay him to write her valedictorian speech.
‘The Beaver’ is like a twisted roller coaster – it soars and dives from sly comedic touches to gut-wrenching emotional moments to lead characters exhibiting extremely strange behavior to an ending, which even though I saw it coming, was still powerful.
Just to let you know, I lost my father to suicide when I was 16, so I can relate to this film in a very intimate way. That makes me prejudice – I loved it. Maybe this review will make you not want to see something this off center from the mainstream. I can accept that – my whole reason for doing these reviews is to simply tell you how each film affected me personally – I have no hidden agenda for liking or disliking any movie.
I won’t tell you I question your sanity if you see ‘The Beaver’ and don’t care for it (Well, I’ll say I question your sanity, but I won’t actually mean it)
But please do not refuse to see this remarkable film on the grounds that Mel Gibson has serious personality problems in his real life – you’ll just be depriving yourself of witnessing something that I think is a very special, unique film.

Monday, May 9, 2011


“JUST GO WITH IT” (Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston & a really hot blonde)

No, don’t go with it. Stay home. Save your money. A one-laugh disaster with a great looking chick and an awesome scene of Jennifer Aniston in a skimpy bikini; other than that - & you could probably find the stills of the bikini scene online somewhere – there is absolutely no reason to waste your time with this crap.
I was watching a show on HBO recently with Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Louis C.K. & Ricky Gervais just sitting around talking about comedy. Chris made the comment that some people can be funny for a short period of time, but no one that isn’t genuinely funny all of the time can have a sustained career in comedy. I discredited his remark by saying, “Adam Sandler.”
And it isn’t just that he isn’t funny – he’s possibly the worst actor on the planet.
People slam Nicolas Cage for ‘walking thru roles just to collect a paycheck’ but at least he varies is style slightly from film to film to film to film, but Sandler is the same mumbling, juvenile slob in every single one of his humorless outings.
Here, he plays a plastic surgeon. A plastic surgeon who comes to work wearing an oversized plain blue shirt (untucked) with well worn frumpy blue jeans. The jackass isn’t even trying to commit to character! ‘Hi, I’m Adam Sandler pretending to be a plastic surgeon, isn’t this hilarious?’
Why, you may ask did I go to see yet another Adam Sandler film when I’ve been annoyed by every single one I’ve seen? It was Mother’s Day – my wife (mother of our two furry kids) had wanted to see it since it came out & so I sacrificed my dignity and took her to see ‘Just Go With It’...
On the one hand, I always enjoy viewing Jennifer Aniston on the big screen, but I’m also almost always disappointed with her script selections –I knew this one was going to be a huge disappointment walking in, so I wasn’t ‘let down’ by her. In fact, she was so hot in the skimpy bikini that when this rotten film comes to HBO, I’ll be setting my VCR (yes, I’m the guy that still uses video tapes) to record the 5minute ‘swimming in the water hole’ scene for posterity.
Hey, at least I have an early favorite for Worst Movie of 2011...


“SOURCE CODE” (Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga & Jeffrey Wright)

Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) wakes up and finds himself on a commuter train in Chicago sitting across from the lovely Christina Warren (Monaghan)
Christina speaks as though they know one another when Colter has no idea who she is. Then she calls him Sean. He tells her she’s mistaken him for somebody else – Christina looks at him as though he’s lost his mind. Colter excuses himself and enters the men’s room only to find an unfamiliar face staring back at him in the mirror. Colter freaks out; the obligatory ‘This can’t be happening’ line is uttered and he goes back to Christina hoping she can shed some light on this nightmarish situation. 8 minutes after Colter awakens on the train a bomb explodes killing everyone on board.
Colter Stevens then finds himself inside an enclosed metal bunker with a female voice asking him if he discovered the identity of the bomber. The last thing Colter remembers prior to the experience on the train was flying his helicopter in Afghanistan.
The voice belongs to Colleen Goodwin (Farmiga) who heaves a frustrated sigh and runs Colter through a series of memory tests. She tells Colter he’s being sent back to the train and that he has 8 minutes to find out who planted the bomb.
This is the premise of ‘Source Code’ – the name of the secret project headed by Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) - Colter Stevens, it turns out, is the perfect guinea pig for the Source Code experiment as he is able to ‘quantum leap’ in Sean’s body for the last 8 minutes of his life repeatedly, each time uncovering more information about the bomb and the possible suspects onboard that planted it. Each ‘leap’ opens with Colter sitting across from Christina; the same soda pop can being opened, the same comments being made by those sitting nearby and the ticket taker asking Colter to produce his ticket stub.
But each leap is altered as Colter gathers information and at one point leaves the train with two incentives in mind; follow a suspicious passenger and get Christina off of the doomed freight.
Each explosion is followed by a trip back to the bunker and Goodwin’s voice asking if he discovered the identity of the bomber. When Colter excitedly tells Goodwin & Rutledge that he saved the girl, they look at one another with 'should we tell him the truth?' expressions.
Colter is told his only mission is to give them the name of the person that planted the bomb as the terrorist has already taken credit for the deed and claims that a bigger explosion with many more casualties is coming later that day. Colter focuses on the task at hand, but is dismayed when he leaps back into Sean’s body and there’s Christina – back on the train, sitting across from him.
‘Source Code’ is far-fetched, but it’s the kind of far-fetchiness I can enjoy – the set up, the chemistry between the actors and the eventual out come are all well done, even if it leaves the audience scratching their heads when recalling some earlier scenes.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Jake Gyllenhaal just knows how to pick good projects.
This is a combo of the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ (without the humor) and the TV series ‘Quantum Leap’ and oddly enough it works. I’m not one to leave reality behind when I enter a movie theatre but I was able to for ‘Source Code’ and I credit all of the actors and a good character-driven storyline for making that happen. Good popcorn flick. Even if you don’t like popcorn...

Thursday, May 5, 2011


“WIN WIN” (Paul Giamatti)

I heard this began regaled as a laugh out loud comedy... That line couldn’t be more misleading. This is a dramedy; the humor is mostly subtle. Whenever I laughed at something, it wasn’t loudly. This is a decent film, worth seeing, but if you go in expecting to giggle a lot – that isn’t going to happen... well, unless you’re high.

“Win Win” is the story of a struggling lawyer named Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti)
Mike runs his own practice, he isn’t a high priced attorney for a big firm and so the economy has Mike looking for ways to increase his income. A client named Leo (Burt Young) has Alzheimer’s and no guardian – his lone daughter disowned him and hasn’t been heard from in years – so when Mike discovers his guardian will get $1,500 a month to care for Leo, Mike takes the job. Then he promptly moves Leo out of his house and into an old folks home so he doesn’t have to actually ‘care’ for the old guy. Mike somehow makes this ethical in his mind because ‘Leo can afford it’. Even though it is clearly not what Leo wants.

Even though we come to like Mike for being a decent guy, we keep hoping that he’ll eventually do the right thing for Leo. To me, Mike’s flaw made him human. Clearly if it wasn’t for the tough economic times, this lawyer wouldn’t have made such an unethical move.

Things get awkward for Mike when Leo’s grandson Kyle (played by a pre-Fast Times At Ridgemont High Sean Penn) appears on Leo’s doorstep. Now Mike has to lie to the kid about why Leo is in a place he doesn’t want to be. The Flaherty’s take Kyle into their home – for wife, Jackie (Amy Smart) it’s due to her charitable nature / For Mike, it’s clearly out of guilt.

The subplot involves Mike’s ‘hobby-job’ as a high school wrestling coach. After Mike discovers Kyle is a state champion caliber wrestler, he asks the boy to join his winless wrestling team. Jeffrey Tambor plays Mike’s assistant coach so low-key you hardly remember him being in the cast, while Bobby Cannavale adds a major creepy factor as Mike’s best friend, Terry. Terry comes across as a closet pedophile in the way he enthuses over watching teenage boys grappling in close quarters. When Mike agrees to allow Terry to become his 2nd assistant coach I thought for sure the storyline was going to end with Terry in jail for sexually harassing one of the boys.

Then Kyle’s mom (Melanie Lynskey) comes to town and the proverbial poop hits the fan for Mike. Just like in ‘South Park’ this Kyle’s mom is a b*tch as well. And Kyle freaks out when she appears, but the reason is never fully explained – other than she’s been in rehab most of his life and he hates her for it.

So ‘Win Win’ presents an interesting premise; Nice guy Mike does a bad thing because he thinks no one will ever find out – soothing his conscious by saying ‘Leo’s better off being watched after by professionals’ – and then gets buried in lies to everyone in his life to cover his greedy move and now his marriage and livelihood are crumbling over this one stupid misdeed.

It’s a pleasant film – an interesting film. But it isn’t even close to being a laugh out loud comedy!