Tuesday, November 22, 2011


“J. EDGAR” (Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer & Judi Dench)

As an actor, Clint Eastwood has never impressed me – as a director, I think he’s brilliant... Perhaps I should change that now to ‘was’ brilliant, after viewing this jumbled mess of a film. It has its redeeming value; DiCaprio & Watts are in fine form – though Naomi’s role is quite understated, she’s perceptively in character in every scene. She deserved an Oscar for “Fair Game” and didn’t even get a nomination; I’m hoping they do a make-up job by giving her at least a nod for her portrayal of Hoover’s lifelong secretary Helen Gandy. DiCaprio’s nomination is a given. He has finally developed into a decent actor – and I am one of those who thought that would never happen. One thing Eastwood excels at is getting the best performance possible from his actors and in that he succeeds with “J. Edgar”. Where he goes wrong is in the editing room.
The story of F.B.I. director in chief, J. (John) Edgar Hoover is told in the annoying ‘jumping around in quantum leaps’ timeline style. I’d like to tell any director that thinks this is an innovative way of telling a story that is most certainly is NOT.
It’s like listening to someone who is high or drunk (or 10 years old or younger) relate an incident to you. They tell you how the story begins and then they stop and go, oh, wait, before that happens, I gotta tell you about this. Then they tell you about that and then wonder where they left off, so they pick up the story in a completely unrelated spot from where they previous interrupted themselves and then pretty soon there’s another, ‘oh, wait, I forgot to tell you about what happened before that happened’ moment... Imagine this going on for 2 hours and you have how Clint Eastwood decided to tell the story of J. Edgar Hoover.
It’s an interesting story of a very strange man, but it is not a very good movie because of the way it’s told. Eastwood drops in on spots of the historic moments that occurred during Hoover’s tenure as head of the F.B.I. but the only one he elaborates on is the kidnapping of Charles Lindburgh’s young son. Deemed more important than Hoover’s uncovering that Eleanor Roosevelt was having an affair, supposedly with a ‘known’ communist and his blackmailing of FDR to keep this fact from the media; a little thing called World War II, JFK’s illicit lifestyle and assassination, the Vietnam War and Tricky Dick Nixon’s antics – an aviator’s child being kidnapped was the most important event of the 1900’s according to director Eastwood.
While Clint leaves little doubt that Hoover was a gay man who kept this fact secret because his mother (Judi Dench) once told him she hated ‘daffodils’ – going so far as to say she’d rather see him dead than homosexual. Since Edgar doted upon his mother as if she was a religious figure, he had to obey her every command. So he proposes to Bureau secretary, Helen Gandy, because he ‘admires’ her capabilities. Although Miss Gandy turns down his proposal, she ends up spending the bulk of her life as his personal secretary – and the person that destroys all of his secret files upon learning of his death.
Hoover hires Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) to be his #2 man despite having no qualifications for the job. Speculation is that Edgar fell in love at first sight and sensing that Tolson was homosexual as well, convinced him to take a job he didn’t really want.
Edgar and Clyde’s catfights are almost laughable in how they claw at one another ala a cat fight; “You’re a scared, heartless, horrible little man!” Tolson screams at Edgar with tears in his eyes. He follows this with a kiss on the lips. Hoover bellows, “Don’t EVER do that again!” and then when Tolson storms out, Edgar whimpers, “Don’t leave me, Clyde.”
At one point Edgar states, “Love is the most powerful thing on earth.” - Which seemed totally out of place to me. Here was a man who knew no love (other than mommy’s) and spewed hatred and mistrust his entire life; especially toward anyone with power – inclusing every president and Martin Luther King.
The last item I’ll mention is the make-up crew, which I also found baffling. Naomi’s aging was seamless, Leonardo’s was decent, but Armie’s aging Clyde looked like the Elephant Man in a bathrobe.
Eastwood also makes it appear as though Hoover’s cross-dressing was a misnomer; that he only put a dress on once in homage to his recently deceased mother and then never wore a dress again... As though he just wanted one moment to be a ‘daffodil’ now that there was no chance of being caught by mommy.
And there was little delving into the reasons why Hoover felt the need to unethically send his agents out to dig up dirt on everyone he considered to be a threat to his ‘power’. And why Helen was so fiercely loyal to him and never questioned his motives. Tolson would, and Clyde was in love with the freak – so why did Miss Gandy continue to do the heartless, horrible man’s biding even after his death?
I guess that wasn’t as interesting as tracking down the kidnapper of a baby that was never kidnapped, eh, Clint?
If you enjoy films that bounce around in time more often than Christopher Lloyd in all three ‘Back To The Future’ films combined, then you’ll have a good time watching this jigsaw puzzle biopic. Me? I prefer stories to be told without the teller forgetting necessary details every two minutes and having to go back before continuing...

Thursday, November 17, 2011


“TOWER HEIST” (Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Tea Leoni & Michael Pena)

This isn’t anything special, but it’s entertaining enough – It was the first time in decades that I laughed at anything Eddie Murphy did. Same goes for Matthew Broderick – he & Murphy were clearly the funniest characters in this film. It’s not a laugh out loud comedy, it isn’t an intriguing story – it turns into a silly throw a car off the roof of a skyscraper to steal it crime caper. The revenge factor of getting back at the rich a—hole that lost all of the employees pension finds kind of loses its steam after a hotel maid (Gabourney Sidibe) pushes her cleaning cart into an FBI agent & he gets knocked unconscious by the mild blow that would have had anyone else just go “Ow! Why did you do that?” And then the agent seems to stay knocked out for hours before coming to?
The thing about Ben Stiller movies is that they can sometimes be entertaining but it’s never due to anything that Ben Stiller does; “Tower Heist” is no different. Stiller mopes thru the role in his usual manner & never says or does anything remotely funny.
But the supporting cast helps bring this movie to life and make it worthy of something to watch while munching on a $6 bag of popcorn and slurping on a $4 soda. Say, theatre owners, do you think that in this time of financial hardship for most regular folks you could bring the concession prices down a tad?
Okay, back to the film, “Tower Heist” concerns the employees & residents of a high priced apartment building. One resident in particular, Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is arrested for insider trading and when the smoke clears after his indictment, the employees at the high rise discover that Shaw pissed away their pension funds after promising to triple them. Josh Kovacs (Stiller) is the hotel manager – he is also quite friendly with Shaw (they play on-line chess against each other & seem very buddy buddy in the beginning) Charlie (Casey Affleck) is the desk manager who is always late and doesn’t seem to take his job very seriously, and Enrique (Michael Pena) is a newly hired elevator operator who gets fired along with Josh & Charlie for confronting Mr. Shaw. One realistic touch that was added; Charlie, the most incompetent of the three is not only the only one hired back, but with a promotion!
Matthew Broderick plays Mr. Fitzhugh, a resident who has lost his job, followed by his wife & kids and avoids being evicted by simply not answering the door.
Part of the fun of “Tower Heist” was seeing actors that haven’t been seen in a while; “Hey, there’s Hawkeye Pierce!” “Look, its Alex Reiger from ‘Taxi’.” “Isn’t that what’s-her-name that married the sex addict that used to be on “X Files”? & “That can’t be Eddie Murphy he’s actually making me laugh!”
Remembering how good Murphy & Broderick were in their early days helps to boost the enjoyment of ‘Tower Heist’ as well – Thinking about “Beverly Hills Cop”, “Trading Places” & “48 Hrs.” along with “War Games” “Project X” & “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off” brought some of the classic scenes from those films to mind - which is never a bad thing.
Murphy plays Slide, a current and ex-convict that Josh knew as a child and sees everyday as he walks to work. When Josh hatches the idea of stealing the 4 million dollars he believes Arthur has in a hidden safe in his luxurious suite, Slide is the only ‘acquaintance’ he knows that can help them. Some of Slide’s moves are clever, some, such as telling the three would-be break in men to go steal something from the mall they’ve convened in & to keep them from just purchasing the merchandise tells them to leave their wallets on the table are so juvenile they barely deserve a smirk. However, having said that and seeing a mile away that Slide was going to take all their money, Murphy’s delivery of the line that tells the trio what morons they were is perfect. He took a scene that didn’t deserve a guffaw and made me spit one out in spite of my smugness.
“Tower Heist” isn’t memorable, but it was a pleasant distraction from the rest of my current life of recovering from hip replacement surgery. It doesn’t sound like much of one, but it IS an endorsement...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


“The RUM DIARY” (Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Rispoli, Richard Jenkins, Aaron Eckhart & Amber Heard)

This is far and away the most coherent story concerning Hunter S. Thompson I’ve ever seen or read – But that’s not to say it’s cohesive. At times it’s a rambling mess of political unrest, the rickety future of the newspaper business, a property scheme involving rich people risking nothing to gain even more wealth and three mainland American reporters living in Puerto Rico in 1960 and finding nothing better to do than to drink rum practically every waking hour of every day... However, taken scene by scene, it is quite funny and Depp, playing a man named Paul Kemp (who is actually Thompson as it states at the end of the film) is actually one of the saner members of the crew.
I wasn’t planning on seeing this film, but it had been a few weeks since I was able to see a movie & it was either this or ‘Johnny English Reborn’ – fortunately my wife made the correct choice. I was impressed with the cast, however, I had just seen Richard Jenkins in “Let Me In”, so seeing him as the editor of the paper that hires ‘Kemp’ threw me off for a second as I flashed back on a scene in “Let Me In” where he disfigures himself in a rather gruesome way & so my stomach churned every time I saw him. Sure hope that feeling goes away with time...
I remember liking Giovanni Ribisi years ago but then he hit a couple of snags & seemed to disappear – here, he comes back with a vengeance as rogue reporter ‘Moburg’ who produces 470 proof alcohol in a homemade still set up in Kemp’s apartment.
The co-worker that takes Kemp under his wing is staff photographer Sala (Rispoli) These two become almost inseparable since the moment they meet and they segue from one drunken escapade to the next without taking a breather to stop & think about the idiotic situations they keep finding themselves embroiled in... But they are fun to watch (at times)
Then there’s the real estate developer, Sanderson (played by Aaron Eckhart) who starts throwing money at Kemp as soon as he lands on the island & then becomes indignant when Paul refuses to do his bidding. Despite all of his wealth, Sanderson's chief asset is his gorgeous girlfriend, Chenault (Amber Heard)
Speaking to the male readers – Am I the only one who noticed that Chenault without her ruby red lipstick isn’t all that sexy, while glossed up Chenault is incredibly hot?
The story is supposedly fact-based, taken from a H.S. Thompson novel – but if the man was drinking as much as Kemp was during his stay in Puerto Rico – he couldn’t possibly remember all that much of what went on!
Then there’s the land development side plot; I could understand it being a concern today – but in 1960? In Puerto Rico? & all Sanderson seems to do is give Kemp money & cars & show him how to live the ‘good life’ & in return, Kemp steals his boat? & Sanderson’s the bad guy?
If they stuck close to the book, & I doubt that - otherwise it wouldn’t have made ANY sense, being the ramblings of Hunter S. Thompson, it is awfully coincidental that Puerto Rico in 1960 is an awful lot like America, 2011 – political unrest, the newspaper business dying off, the greedy rich wanting to get richer at the expense of the poor & guys who show up drunk for work everyday & wonder why they lose their jobs.
Did they throw all that into the mix just so younger people could relate to the basic story despite all the drunken mishaps?
Still, it is humorous; like when Kemp uses the 470 proof alcohol as a flame thrower to escape from angry drunken Puerto Ricans that were going to kill him just because he knew Sanderson. Boy, I remember when I had my first beer...