Wednesday, August 8, 2012


“The DARK KNIGHT RISES” (Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michel Caine, Gary Oldman, Marion Cottiliard, Morgan Freeman & Tom Hardy) I’ll save what bothered me about the theater we saw this in for the end, but as far as I’m concerned, this challenges "Batman Begins" as the best of the trilogy – It’s been a while since I’ve seen the original, so I’ll make the distinction when I see it again. I know, everyone else thinks ‘The Dark Knight’ was a fantastic film that deserved a Best Picture nod, but I couldn’t disagree more – as an overall quality film, ‘The Dark Knight’ did not rise to expectations – Heath Ledger did. Ledger’s Joker dominated that film. Everyone else paled in comparison. And let’s be honest, the Harvey Dent one minute I’m a saint, the next I’m the ultimate bad guy turnaround was stupid. No one else but Ledger was memorable in the film – In ‘Rises’ everyone except the villain is given a chance to ‘act’ and they all do very well. It’s also a much better story, as it brings the character Bruce Wayne and his inner demons back as the main focus. It is a tale of redemption and when it comes to those, it’s good to have Morgan Freeman around, eh? The Joker commanded ‘DK’, while you couldn’t find a blander villain than Tom Hardy’s Bane. And I’m not blaming Hardy, I’m blaming the creation of the character itself – How could Bane be as flamboyantly evil as The Joker when he’s wrapped in a headgear that completely covers his mouth and they give him a voice that sounds like Sean Connery doing a Darth Vader impersonation? James Bond playing a bad guy? Say it isn’t so! Bane stomps around in a fleece overcoat (from either Old Navy or a Sears’ back-to-school sale) and gives generic orders to his minions and the citizenry of Gotham City the same way Stephen Hawking would order lunch at a McDonald’s drive-thru. Please take note of all the product endorsements I’ve added to this review & let Goggle know that you heard about them here! Unlike The Joker, Bane never sent chills up my spine with his dastardly doings, even when he copies the Joker’s ‘ferry trick’ by telling Gotham that if anyone tries to cross the one bridge he didn’t blow up he will blow up the bridge and then the entire city as punishment – It was kind of a ‘been there, done that’ scenario. Usually a movie is defined by its villain, but that is not the case here – the story drives “The Dark Knight Rises” and that’s what made it a much better film for me. Along with Bane, I wasn’t pleased with the opening segment – it was dumb and contrived – the only reason it happened was because they wanted to start things off with a gnarly stunt to wow everyone – the only problem with that was – it was moronic. Think about it – why would anyone go to the trouble, expense and the possible sacrifice of several minions in order to kidnap someone while they were flying in a plane? They do this by hijacking the plane with another plane while in flight. They could have accomplished the same results on the ground. But of course, that wouldn’t have been a spectacle that wowed movie going audiences. Maybe I’m too picky, but if you’re going to open with an awesome stunt – at least make it plausible for those of us who don’t live in a comic book world. ‘Rises’ succeeds by restoring the franchise to Bale and the development of the character Bruce Wayne. Michael Caine’s Alfred has some nice moments, along with Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman with their recurring characters. New to the franchise actors that I liked were Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillaird and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (in that order) Hathaway played a cat burglar named Selina and it wasn’t just her skin tight outfits that caught my eye – I got a kick out of her pussycat like headgear (everything she wore on her head looked like cat ears) But she wasn’t playing the traditional ‘Catwoman’ role; Selina was a flip-flopper – you never knew which side she was on – or if she was basically just out for what she could get out of any given situation. So she was a cross between Catwoman and Batgirl – and I liked the blend. Not knowing how she would react from scene to scene made her a fun character to watch... and the skintight outfits didn’t hurt either... Cotillaird was less noticeable as a woman that helps keep Bruce Wayne’s charitable organizations running while he goes into recluse following his taking the fall for the death of the beloved Harvey Dent. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is usually a favorite of mine (except when he’s in Christopher Nolan films, apparently) as his beat cop with a connection to Bruce Wayne doesn’t give him much of a chance to stretch any acting chops. The sub-plot of why he’s followed Wayne’s career works splendidly – you come to care about him and his cause and you can’t help but grin when you see what his character does at the end of the film... The ‘twist’ in ‘Rises’ was unexpected, but feasible (Unlike Dark Knight’s foolish twist) So there are a lot of reasons ‘DK Rises’ is a better film than ‘DK’. I think Nolan knew he couldn’t compete with Ledger’s Joker, so he purposely made Bane somewhat boring and focused instead on the character that the franchise is based on – and for me, that was the perfect way to go. Too bad there won’t be a 4th one... Like Peter Jackson said he’d never do another movie based on the ‘The Lord of The Rings’, right? Just a word on my movie-going experience seeing “The Dark Knight Rises” on its third weekend. My wife & I were the first to arrive in the theater (I won’t say which one because I’ll still go there even though I wasn’t pleased with them) so I got a good look at the fellow patrons as they wandered in. Tattoo’d biker guy was first on my radar (If anyone was packing heat, it was tattoo’d biker dude) Head shaved goateed jackass next caught my eye – Check out death row sometime – 95% of serial killers are goatee’d wearing skinheads. Head shaved dude had an out, though; entering the theater with his sunglasses perched atop his bald head gave him that ‘fresh out of the closet’ look that didn’t scare me at all. About an hour into the film someone shouted, “Woo! Batman! Yeah!” This made me very nervous... A few minutes later another lame outburst of ‘Woo’s’. I waited for an usher to do their thing of wandering through the theater with his little red glowing flashlight to let them know the moron in the front row was disrupting the film. I think we all had determined that the kid was mentally handicapped so no one wanted to yell at him to shut up... Plus, people were murdered while viewing this movie - I don’t think anyone wanted to chance getting shot over it! What bothered me most is that NO ONE ever entered the theater throughout the entire 3 hours of the film! NO ONE. Not once. It’s like they were afraid to come in and check on us. After running a disclaimer before the previews started of how ‘If we see you talking on your cell phone, or texting during the film, we will tell you to step out into the hall – or if you talk or disrupt the film inany way, we will ask you to leave' – “Don’t be the one we kick out of the theater, because we WILL do it.” we were warned... Then NO ONE enters the theater for almost 3 hours? When I heard that there were uniformed security guards inside the theaters after that horrific and disgusting act in Colorado, I felt that was a bit of over-compensating... but NO ONE, not even a 15 year old usher armed with a little red glowing flashlight? Are you kidding me?

Monday, April 2, 2012


“SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN” (Ewan McGregor & Emily Blunt)

Not exactly an intriguing title, is it? Sounds like a cross between ‘Moneyball’ and ‘Jeff, Who Lives At Home’ two boring titles where the former was as boring as it looked and the latter was quite enjoyable – ‘Salmon Fishing’ falls in between those two (though closer to ‘Jeff’ because it was a nice little film)
Emily Blunt plays Harriet Chatsworth-Talbot. I remember this because Ewan McGregor’s character (Dr. Alfred ‘Fred’ Jones) calls her Ms. Chatsworth-Talbot about 80 times throughout the movie. I won’t do that here – I’ll refer to her as Harriet.
Harriet has a job that somehow includes her assisting a Prince from Yemen (Amr Waked as ‘The Sheik’) The Sheik wishes to bring the religious aspect of salmon fishing to his community. He has spent millions building a dam to assure there will be water for the salmon year round and contributes another 50 million to Dr. Jones when the fishing expert throws that number out sarcastically when Ms. Chatsworth-Talbot asks how much he would need to bring the project to its fruition.
So yes, the basic idea of this film is about an eccentric Arabian prince that frivolously spends a fortune on a cockamamie plan that has little hope for success - And all to stand waist deep in a river with a fishing rod in his hand for endless hours.
The project gets spearheaded by the British government when a military snafu leads Parliament PR person Patricia Maxwell (Kristen Scott-Thomas) to look for a gesture of goodwill toward the people of Yemen and happens upon the salmon project on the internet.
But despite that rather dull sounding concept, ‘Salmon Fishing In The Yemen’ works because of the interaction of the three basic characters (Harriet, Alfred & The Sheik) and a pleasant mix of side characters that stay interesting enough to keep the silly storyline afloat.
This is a good character study, with only one flaw – Harriet’s devastation of learning that the ‘boyfriend’ she’d known for three weeks was M.I.A. in Afghanistan. Okay, so you meet and go out on a date – that’s week one. You meet for a couple of meals and have sex for the first time during week two and you start to feel comfortable around one another during week three and then he gets deployed. You hardly know the guy, let alone feel that the love of your life has been ripped from your bosom.
The problem is how the news of his being ‘missing’ makes Harriet completely fall apart. She leaves Yemen and the project that has engulfed her life with a purpose simply because some dude she’s known for 3 weeks is M. I. A. ?
Meanwhile, married Dr. Jones becomes involved with the project he deems a hopeless waste of time and money because he's told he'll lose his job if he doesn't participate and his wife’s job sends her to Geneva for several weeks.
It isn’t difficult to tell that Alfred is becoming enraptured with the pretty and personable Ms. Chatsworth-Talbot but he finds himself in the dilemma of wanting to express his feeling toward her without looking like a greasy scumbag that just wants to take advantage of her vulnerability as she emotionally crumbles before his eyes while waiting to hear if the guy she’s known for three weeks is alive or dead.
There is also the added dimension of how the Sheik’s people react to his eccentric expenditures and what most would call a foolish dream.
So don’t let the anemic title keep you from checking this film out – if you like original stories that have an offbeat theme with interesting characters that are well acted, you’ll enjoy “Salmon Fishing...” and you might actually find yourself unexpectedly cheering for a mob of 10,000 salmon to swim upstream. It sure shocked the heck out of me when I found myself caring whether they did or not!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The BOTTOM 10 MOVIES Of 2011

Just when I thought I would stop lambasting films and try to look on the bright
side of life - I rented "The Tree Of Life".
One line review; This may possibly be the worst movie ever made.

I have had friends ask me what I thought of certain movies that they've recently
seen - usually via the rental route - and when they mention the name of one of
the really bad ones, I always say, "Why didn't you read my review first?"

My best friend rented "Black Swan" and as she and her husband were suffering thru
it, she sent him to the computer to find out what I thought of it. Their
conclusion was 'Always check Terry's blog before renting something'.

With that story in mind, I figured I should present my Bottom 10 of 2011,
just to create an easy to follow list of films to avoid. So stay away from ;

10 (meaning 10th worse) EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE
It is exceptionally lame & ridiculously annoying.

Yeah, I know, if you haven't learned that anything with a number in the title
is going to suck, you never will. The mermaids were cool, though.

It is the best Adam Sandler movie onlt because of 10 seconds of footage -
Jennifer Aniston in a very skimpy bikini. Other than that precious moment,
it may be the least funniest 'comedy' ever.

Another Oscar nominated film I hated. The fact that dull as dishwater Jonah
Hill was nominated for an Oscar is probably the dumbest nomination of all

It was bad. It was Ashton Kucher bad. However, I liked Natalie Portman more
in this disaster than I did in her Oscar winning role in 'Black Swan'.

It was bad. It was 'No Strings Attached' bad. I love Mila Kunis and was
looking forward to seeing her do an Anne Hathaway style 'let it all hang out'
nude fest (Ala "Love & Other Drugs") and instead all I got was Dusty
Craterlake's butt and a whole lot of assinine dialogue.

Well, Ashton Kucher strikes again, but he isn't horrible in this - he isn't in
it that much, except to grin. The fact that Robert DeNiro and Halle Berry
embarrass themselves by appearing in this garbage not only make it torture
to sit thru, but also cause several moments of painful 'cringing'.

I normally cut a lot of slack for talking animal flicks, but this one is the
bottom of the barrel. Why Rosario Dawson stooped to this level of junk is
the big mystery here.

It brings new meaning to the question, "How ridiculous of a premise do you
think the American public will buy?" The sad part is - they were serious
with this tale of a young teenaged girl beating up and killing every adult
she encounters - and yes, every adult she encounters has military training,
yet they're no match for the deadly little blonde girl.

I had the good fortune to watch this on DVD so the 2 hour & 15 minute running
time flew by in about an hour & a half. Even then, I could only take it in
half hour installments. The only reason I gutted it out until the end was to
find out why the middle kid killed himself at age 19... They never say.
Sean Penn (who's in 3 totally insignificant scenes) after viewing the finished
product said, "I have no idea what the film is suppose to be about."
I can answer that question for you Sean, "It's about 2 hours and 15 minutes
too long."
Avoid this movie at all cost - If you're on an airplane & it comes on - Jump
out! Trust me, you'll thank me later.

ALSO - don't waste your time & money on
I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT - Why isn't this on the list? Olivia Munn is in it.
The horrible Re-make of ARTHUR - Not on the list because Helen Mirren is in
ONE DAY - I barely remember this, but I gave it a C-/D+.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY - Unless you have insomnia and are looking for a
for cure - avoid this snoozer.

The FILMS THAT DID NOTHING FOR ME (Other than I didn't hate them so much as felt
indifferent by them) In other words, the films I gave C-'s...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


“JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME” (Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon & Judy Greer)

This is the story of Jeff (Jason Segel) who lives in the basement of his mother’s house. The odd part of ‘Jeff, Who Lives At Home’ is that for the bulk of the film Jeff isn’t at home. He’s at home when he receives a phone call from someone asking for Kevin, but then he leaves... possibly never to return.

To say Jeff leads a mundane life is putting it mildly. Jeff smokes pot, gets the munchies a lot and believes the movie “Signs” starring Mel Gibson was based on a true story.
The man asking for ‘Kevin’ becomes a sign to Jeff when he sees a black kid wearing a basketball jersey with the name Kevin on the back.
Did I say Jeff liked the movie “Signs”? We soon find out that he’s obsessed with it.
He stalks the kid with ‘Kevin’ on his back; gets into a basketball game with Kevin and his friends and seems genuinely excited when Kevin asks if he’d like to smoke some weed with him.
Ed Helms is Pat, Jeff’s older brother. Pat is the opposite of Jeff. He has a job. And a wife, Linda (the always adorable Judy Greer) Pat is high strung and somewhat of a jerk.
A chance encounter between the two brothers leads to a very telling line when Jeff yells at Pat, “You and mom will never understand me! And you’re all I have left!”
Jeff’s obsession with ‘Kevin’ picks up again when he sees a truck delivering ‘Kevin Kandy’ to various venues and hops onto the back of the truck to see where it takes him.
The adventure rolls through Pat and Linda’s troubled marriage as Jeff discovers his sister-in-law having lunch with a strange man.
Interspersed with Jeff’s Kevinly meanderings are scenes of his mother (Susan Sarandon) at work, discovering she has a secret admirer who throws a paper plane at her desk with a flower drawn upon it. The secret admirer then begins sending her Instant Messages.
So as mom searches thru the office hoping to draw out her secret admirer, Jeff is trying to keep his brother’s marriage from falling apart but not knowing how to do it.
Not surprisingly, “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” is a low budget venture; no hi-tech cameras, the film’s a bit grainy (going for that ‘realistic’ feel)
And it is realistic – at times too much so – it kind of meanders after a while.
It was entertaining with enough humorous lines to keep it from becoming boring, but after a while I just wanted something a little more interesting than Pat and Linda heading for a divorce and mom's secret admirer search.
Obviously, I won’t even give a hint as to what happens at the end – but it blew me away.
I loved it. Just as the film seemed to be grinding to a halt, thanks to a huge traffic jam, “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” comes up with a surprisingly energetic finale.
For a while there I was thinking to myself, “It’s called ‘Jeff, Who Lives At Home’, they weren’t trying to mislead anyone into thinking this film was going to be anything other than the life of slacker.” So I was content enough with what I was getting – it was an ‘OK’ movie... and then I walked out of the theatre thinking it was great...


“WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN” (Tilda Swinton & John C. Reilly)

I can’t decide if this is a poignant, impressive film, or just an exploitive piece of junk. Seriously, I can’t make up my mind – the more I lean toward the junk side, the more disturbing images flash in my mind from the film and I then start leaning toward the impressive angle simply because I can’t get the darn thing out of my head.

“We Need To Talk About Kevin” concerns a mother (Eva K., played by Tilda Swinton)
a father (John C. Reilly as Eva’s husband, Franklin) & their first born – the title character, Kevin. Later, when Kevin is around 9 or 10, his little sister, Celia enters the dysfunctional ‘K’ family.

The film opens with Eva on vacation in India, presumably prior to Kevin’s birth, since she appears to be carefree and happy. The reason for the sight of a large group of people playfully smearing each other with what appears to be salsa is never explained – but by film’s end, I assumed the movie opens with this as being ‘Eva’s last pleasant memory’.

In the next few scenes, the mood becomes darker and Eva doesn’t look so playful anymore. A glass door that opens out onto a patio is shown in darkness with the light coming from outside shining on the white curtains that billow as a breeze blows them inward. And then Eva awakes with a start. She is pale and looks hollow – nothing at all like the woman enjoying her splooshing experience in India.

Eva opens the door to her small house to find it splattered with red paint - her car has had a bucket of red paint splashed across the front of it as well. She waves at a neighbor across the street as he mows his lawn. The man reluctantly waves back. Eva acts as though nothing out of the ordinary has taken place. She gets into her car and goes to a job interview. Eva is shocked and excited when she lands a position for a travel agency. She rewards herself by going out to lunch where she is approached by a woman she obviously knows, but doesn’t want to encounter. The woman calls her a horrible person and slaps her hard in the face. A man comes to Eva’s aid, offering to call the police as a witness to the assault but Eva begs him not to do anything. Eva rushes away wiping the blood from her face. Her joyful moment was fleeting indeed.

A blur of scenes ensue; it’s dark out but there are several people gathered outside a school gymnasium. Police and firemen keep the crowd at bay as they demand to know what has happened. The woman that attacked Eva is seen among the crowd. Eva appears and tells the police, "My son goes to this school." She sees what is on the door to the gym and freezes.

“We Need To Talk About Kevin” does something that I normally hate – It bounces around in time without any reference as to what moment in time we are actually watching. I’m sure it would be easier to decipher the timeline should I watch this film again, but I’d have to be in the right frame of mind to want to take on this disturbing heavy duty drama one more time. The reason for the bouncing around in time becomes apparent about a quarter of the way thru the story – What we’re seeing are Eva’s drug induced/alcohol impaired memories of what led her son to do the horrific thing he does. Eva K. raised a monster. What I believe this movie tries to tell us is that – in Kevin’s particular case – he was BORN a demon, it wasn’t his upbringing. He wasn’t mistreated, except when his mother accidentally breaks his arm by shoving him during one of his extreme brat-attacks. This scene is introduced by Kevin, in prison garb, telling his mother, “It was the only time I got an honest reaction from you.”

Eventually the film starts to make sense, even though it continues to bounce around in time. We discover that when they’re living in the big fancy mansion that Franklin purchased we are in 'pre-whatever it is that Kevin did' era and if they’re in the dilapidated shack with the red paint splattered across it, we are in 'post-whatever it is that Kevin did' time.

Eva and Franklin are a loving couple until the baby comes along.
The problem is Mom can’t stand being around her baby because the child is constantly screaming. She stands on a street corner next to a group of construction workers using jackhammers just so they’ll drown out the sound of Kevin’s bawling.

Franklin comes home and heads for the basinet. “Oh please don’t wake him, “ Eva begs, “I just got him down for his nap.”
Too late – Dad is already cradling the baby in his arms. Kevin doesn’t make a sound, except for the occasional ‘coo’. “See?” Franklin tells his wife, “You just have to rock him & he’s fine.”

As Eva watches television she is jolted by the image of her son glaring into the camera as he says, “You think you’d be watching me on TV right now if all I did was get an ‘A’ in geometry?”
Eva searches her memory again, wondering where she went wrong.
Kevin is now a young tyke about 5 or 6, but still wearing diapers. He is joyless and morose until Daddy comes home and he gives him a hug and a kiss.
As Mom cooks dinner Kevin and Dad play a video game and all Eva can hear is Kevin repeatedly yelling, “Die! Die! Die! Die! Die! Die! Die Die!” as he presses the buttons on his game player.

There was one moment where mom trumped dad in Kevin’s eyes; She decided to try reading to him at bedtime and selected ‘The Tales Of Robin Hood’. Dad peaks into the bedroom and Kevin tells him to “Go away.” He then crawls into his mother’s lap & says “Keep reading, mommy.”
Eva looks up at Franklin and beams a bright smile as she telepathically tells her husband, “This is the break thru we’ve been waiting for!”
Not to be outdone, dad buys Kevin a plastic bow & arrow set for his birthday. As they play with the plastic suction-cup tipped arrows in the back yard Kevin turns to see his mother peering at them from the kitchen window. He picks up an arrow and shoots it in her direction – the suction cup tip sticking to the glass beside her face.

When Kevin was 9 or 10, his baby sister Celia is created.
With Kevin in his teens & Celia a small tyke, it is obvious that Celia loves her big brother no matter how big of a jerk he is toward her. She brings him a Mountain Dew when he comes home from school & he says, “No, you retard, I want a Root Beer!”
His mother reprimands him for talking to his sister that way, but Kevin just grabs the can of soda from his sister and stalks off.
He belittles the little girl every chance he gets and yet she just keeps on smiling adorably at him. Kevin does something horrible to Celia’s pet and then to Celia herself – though I have to chastise the film for not explaining exactly why Celia is suddenly wearing an eye patch after being left alone with her big brother. Which also begs the question, why would Eva leave her trusting, loving little girl alone with what she knows is a sadistic creep?

It isn’t difficult to figure out why Kevin is in prison, and I won’t reveal what happens at the end, but it sickened me. If the film had ended the way I wanted it to, I’d be hailing it as a masterpiece, but it has one of the worse final scenes of all time and because of that, I’m not sure how much I should regale this film. IT IS MEMORABLE, I’ll grant you that.

Monday, March 19, 2012


“WANDERLUST” (Paul Rudd & Jennifer Aniston)

This raunchy R-rated comedy looked to be a comeback for Paul Rudd (from “How Do You Know?”) and a continuation of Jennifer Aniston’s breaking free of generic dumb comedies (from the promise of “Horrible Bosses”) Although it isn’t nearly as bad as “How Do You Know?” it isn’t even in the same galaxy as “Horrible Bosses”. For an R-rated comedy featuring my least favorite reason for an R rating (full frontal male nudity) “Wanderlust” is actually kind of tame; almost like a regular Jennifer Aniston movie, except with ‘F’ bombs and penises. “Wanderlust” even uses that old ploy of showing flubs and out-takes as the end credits roll – which usually means – ‘Sorry, we put forth such a bland effort so here are some out-takes so you’ll leave the theatre with a grin’...

“Wanderlust” has a decent beginning; Paul and Jen are married couple George and Linda. Living in New York and looking to buy an apartment – something they can call their own, instead of adding to someone else’s nest egg by paying rent. George is on the cusp of landing a big promotion at his job and Linda has produced a documentary she’s sure HBO will want to buy, so they invest in a tiny ½ bedroom apartment. George not only doesn’t get his promotion, his boss is arrested and the business goes under and Linda’s documentary on penguins with testicular cancer is deemed too depressing.
A promising opening, but after setting up the plot – where this ‘big city couple’ end up in rural Georgia at a commune called Elysium (or something like that) which changes both of their lives but in opposite directions – “Wanderlust” loses all momentum and turns into a run of the mill fish(es) out of water tale with very few humorous lines.
Part of the blame I felt came from the poorly thought out characters; George’s brother and sister-in-law being the most objectionable. They were totally unbelievable.
The wine making nudist that desires to be an author doesn’t lend much to the story, except his ever present penis, which of course he has to display for that hysterical never-before-seen sight gag of a man waking up to find a dong just inches away from his face. It’s that stooping to Adam Sandler-style comedy that runs “Wanderlust” into the ground.
Malin Ackerman plays virtually the same role she had in the original “Harold & Kumar” movie who wants to make ‘free love’ with George and for some unexplainable reason, George turns into a babbling incoherent a—hole after receiving permission from his wife to go ahead and nail her.
When one of the commune dwellers turns out to be a greedy sell-out, the film lost all credibility as far as I was concerned – It went from being an amusing idea with anticipation of bigger and better laughs to come to something you’ve seen before and didn’t care for the first time around.
And if you heard that Jennifer does a nude scene – it’s another cruel joke – she’s only topless – and because it’s shown as part of a newscast, her chest is pixilated...
I wanted to love “Wanderlust” because most of the comments I read and heard about it were positive, but I only liked it. And it made me wonder why everyone seemed to be raving about it. Is it just because it’s so early in the year everyone’s expectations are low? But then again, “Paul” came out early in 2011 and finished in my Top 10. I hate to think it, but I’m beginning to feel that Paul Rudd’s magical touch of making mediocre material work is wearing off. If his next project doesn’t pan out he’ll have 3 strikes in a row... I didn’t have a problem with the Rudd-Aniston pairing so I wouldn’t mind seeing them try it again with better material – or it could just be that the Rudd’s style of comedic acting is wearing thin on me...


“MAN ON A LEDGE” (Sam Worthington & Elizabeth Banks)

I liked this movie. I think the reason I liked it was due to the fact that it was a ‘crime caper’ without any car chase scenes & a minimal amount of weapons fired (Until the final scenes)
Was it far fetched? Sure, what crime caper movie isn’t? Did it get a little mundane with the ‘phew, that was a close call’ moments – Of course it did. But I liked the fact that the bulk of the movie concerned Sam Worthington’s Nick Cassady standing on the ledge outside of the hotel room he checked into as Joe Walker and his conversations with detective Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) as she tried to talk him off the ledge and he used her to stall for time while his accomplices robbed a safe in a building across the street.
Nick is an ex-cop who claims he was set up by billionaire David Englander (Ed Harris) by making Nick the fall guy for the theft of the Monarch Diamond. Nick’s defense was that Englander stole his own jewel but no one on the jury saw any sense in that. Harris, who normally plays a terrific bad guy seemed rather bland to me in this role – he actually showed more life playing bland John McCain than he did as a despicable billionaire.
When Nick’s father dies he is allowed, under armed guards to attend the funeral. During a heated skirmish with his younger brother, Nick escapes and sets his ‘man on a ledge’ diversion into action.
Ed Burns, one of the purveyors of bland acting to the point where he might as well use the same name for every character he plays since they all seem to act alike, is Jack Dougherty – the detective that is first called to the scene. Nick tells Jack the only person he’ll talk to is Lydia Mercer. Mercer, infamous for not talking down a depressed cop enters the film by crawling out of bed to answer the phone. It is one of the hottest non-nude scenes I’ve seen in a long time as Elizabeth looks smokin’ hot in just a wife-beater tee shirt and shorts.
Anthony Mackie plays Nick’s ex-partner Mike Ackerman and his uneasy facial expressions tell you that he’s hiding something, but yet he seems to care about what happens to Nick.
Add Kyra Sedwick as a bothersome news reporter and “Man on a Ledge” has a nice, easy to follow group of characters – It doesn’t get bogged down with too many exponential characters that only exist to complicate matters for the viewer.
Still, calling this plot ‘simple’ would be a misnomer; what goes on in the building across the street is where all of the ‘phew, that was close!’ scenes occur.
I wouldn’t discount anyone for disliking this film because of how easily Nick’s accomplices get inside a heavily guarded building and blow things up inside it without being detected. Plus, there’s only two people carrying out this elaborate scheme which makes it all the more unbelievable.
The surprise twist of revealing a supporting character’s true identity at the end wasn’t way off the wall like most surprise twists – this one made me smirk instead of roll my eyes... So there were some clever moments and some dopey moments, but over-all I liked the film because of the interplay between Worthington and Banks.


“CONTRABAND” (Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Kate Beckinsale & Giovanni Ribisi)

This is one of those early in the year hits that doesn’t have any reason to be a hit. I seriously doubt that most of the people that paid full price to see this did so for the same reason I shelled out $6 (total) for me and my wife to check it out – the supporting cast; I knew Foster and Ribisi were included, but an added surprise was J.K. Simmons, who turned out to be the best part of the movie... something he’s been lauded for many times in my reviews.
A plotline that stretches the boundaries of realism to begin with goes overboard with multiple complications that make the entire film impossible to take seriously.
Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, an ex-criminal gone legit by starting a successful home security business. He has a pretty wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale) who has a low-life younger brother, Andy, that gets caught smuggling drugs and has to throw a duffel bag full of cocaine overboard to prevent going to prison. The man he was working for, Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) doesn’t have much sympathy for Andy and tells him he’s responsible for paying back what he threw off the ship.
Chris pays Briggs a visit to try and work out a deal, but Briggs is nonplused – He tells Farraday that if his skanky brother-in-law fails and he has to kill him that Chris then inherits the kid’s debt and if he doesn’t come through then he’ll go after his wife and kids and, well, that’s when Chris lets Briggs know that threatening his family wasn’t a very bright thing to do. Chris does agree to help Andy raise the money to repay what he lost by going back into the dirty business of smuggling, but this time the bounty is going to be counterfeit currency and a deal is struck with an old contact in Panama or Paraguay or somewhere south of the border.
Ben Foster plays Sebastian, Chris’s best friend and ex-partner in crime. While Chris sets sail to make the counterfeit score, Sebastian’s job is to watch over Kate and the couples’ two young sons.
J.K. Simmons shines as the stoic captain of the ship that’s carrying Chris and his crew to their destination. He’s aware of Chris’s sullied past and so he keeps a watchful eye on the ex-criminal. Making what Chris and Co. pull off even more far-fetched.
Everything that can go wrong goes wrong in a barrage of bullets and car crashes.
In a plan that left no room for error, there are errors galore and still the plan comes off without a hitch... Well, there are hitches aplenty as well but they kind of work themselves out without that bothersome plot getting in the way. Every move Chris and his boys make works in their favor and ALWAYS just in the nick of time. Whew! That was a close one, I wonder what would have happened if the scriptwriter added a little logic into the scenario.
There are a few plot twists as well but almost all are as predictable as a two horse race where one of the horses scratches. The one that really threw me for a loop was when Briggs and his two henchmen – loaded with automatic weapons and proving time and time again that they are not opposed to discharging them – simply give up when the cops surround the house where they’re enjoying the fruits of their labours. Sorry for the ‘spoiler’, but I’m sure those of you who’ve already seen this epic were shaking your heads at the same I was.
I always wonder – when dozens of characters die in such a short span of time in a movie like this – How did these airheads ever survive long enough to make it into the film? Were they smart criminals before the screenplay came along – or did the screenplay just cause them all to have massive brain farts and suddenly decide that firing their machine guns at the police while standing out in the open was a good idea?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012



BEST PICTURE (At least 5 & up to 10, if deserving of nomination)

I’ve got 5 because there were only 3 I thought deserving...

The DEBT *
50 / 50

Apes & Beaver barely beat out- Horrible Bosses, Paul & We Bought A Zoo!

DANIEL CRAIG (Dragon Tattoo)
MEL GIBSON (as The Beaver)
RYAN GOSLING** (Ides Of March)

ROONEY MARA (Dragon Tattoo)

KENNETH BRANAGH (My Week With Marilyn)
ANDY SERKIS (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

JENNIFER ANISTON (Horrible Bosses)
JESSICA CHASTAIN** (The Help! & The Debt)
SHAILENE WOODLEY (The Descendants)

Keeping in mind I have not seen ‘Tree Of Life’, ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ or ‘Beginners’ I would have liked to but they never came to the South End.


Of the 9 Best Pictures, I’ve seen 6; loved 1, really liked 1, liked, but was disappointed by 1 was less-than-thrilled by 1, was annoyed by 1 & hated 1.
The only one I know I’ll never see is the so-called favorite, “The Artist” – This, & “Hugo” are the type of movies Hollywood likes to embrace because they’re about making movies when movies were sh--ty.
I’m hoping ‘Tree Of Life’ comes on HBO before the Oscars so I’ll know if it’s as bad as Sean Penn claims, or a masterpiece, as the snooty critics call it.
I have little desire to see ‘Midnight In Paris’ but will if it comes to HBO.
Why ‘The Debt’ & ‘50/50’ were not nominated baffles me about as much as ‘Moneyball’
& ‘Extremely Loud’ getting in instead.
‘The Help’ & ‘Descendants’ are good flicks, I have no problem with them being here.
Surprised that ‘Girl With Dragon Tattoo’ didn’t get a nod.
Glad that ‘Bridesmaids’ didn’t – if a pure comedy were to make it, ‘Horrible Bosses’ or
‘Paul’ should have been the choices.
My pick among the nominees; ‘War Horse’ is clearly the best.
MY PREDICTION, however, is ‘The ARTIST’

ACTOR; Saw 3 & have mixed feelings – I like Clooney but he was so MUCH BETTER in Michael Clayton that it seems a shame that he’s favored to win for ‘Descendants’. In fact, I would have preferred he get a Supporting nod for ‘Ides OfMarch’...
& Gary Oldman has NEVER been nominated??? But they give him one for what has to be his dullest performance ever? I guess I’m glad he’s in it because he’s long
deserved to have ‘Academy Award nominee’ next to his credits, but I can’t root for such a boring film... & Brad Pitt... REALLY? I’ve been warming up to him lately – ‘Benjamin Button’ was a deserved nomination & I liked him in ‘Burn After Reading’, &, of course, my favorite of his, ‘Seven’, but ‘Moneyball’ is a bottom 10 piece of yawn inducing junk. The only thing that would be more mystifying is if they nominated Jonah Hill for his extremely bland supporting role...
I don’t plan on ever seeing the other 2 nominees, ‘A Better Life’ or ‘The Artist’.
Me? I don’t have a strong choice here – any one of my 5 choices (none of which were nominated) would be deserving in my eyes. Heck, of my next 5 choices, only George Clooney is among the actual nominees (For the record they are; Clooney, Matt Damon (Zoo) Johnny Depp (Rum) Leonardo DiCaprio (J.Edgar) & Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code)
My choice would be to call it a tie between Ryan Gosling & Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
My PREDICTION is The French guy that doesn’t say anything in ‘The Artist’

ACTRESS; I haven’t seen ‘Albert Nobbs’, don’t plan to – it just looks creepy. Surprisingly, I have no qualms with any of the nominees (3 of the 5 made my list)
The only reason Michelle Williams didn’t is because I saw Michelle, not Marilyn; though as I said, she had the mannerisms & voice down pat, so I’m okay with her getting a nod.
& honestly, Rooney Mara made my list only because my other selection was Jodie Foster for ‘The Beaver’ and I felt that she wasn’t in the film enough to warrant a Best Actress selection.
My selection here is Helen Mirren for ‘The Debt’.
MY PREDICTION is Viola Davis – but Meryl Streep wouldn’t be a shock.

SUPPORTING ACTORS; I wished I’d seen ‘Beginners’. Since I did not, my selection is Jesper Christenson (The Nazi doctor in ‘The Debt’) with a runner-up nod to Andy Serkis (Rise of Planet of the Apes) Neither of them were nominated.
MY PREDICTION one one Sure bet is Christopher Plummer for ‘Beginners’ – a revered 82 year old actor that’s only had one nomination? (also for Supporting) Add that he was pretty good in ‘Dragon Tattoo’ this year & he’s a shoe-in.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS; This category is almost always a farce because there never are 5 deserving performances. This year I at least found 5 performances that I liked, but
would I have called them Oscar caliber? Elle Fanning impressed me as a CHILD actress in ‘Super 8’, but I don’t normally recognize child actors because they are children. I also gave credit to Shailene Woodley for being the most impressive actress in ‘The Descendants’ & Jennifer Aniston for finally playing someone other than Rachel Green in ‘Horrible Bosses’. So that leaves the under appreciated Naomi Watts (‘J. Edgar’) & the busiest little actress of 2011, Jessica Chastain (they say ‘The Help’, but I’m adding ‘The Debt’ to the mix because she was superb in both) so Jessica is my pick.
MY PREDICTION is OCTAVIA SPENCER (Help!) I loved how she sang ‘Ticket To Ride’ while skiing down the Alps...

DIRECTOR; I’m going with non-nominated Steven Speilberg (“War Horse”) which is funny because I’m not a big fan of his – well, he’s made some good films but he’s also made a lot of crap that for some unreasonable reason became massively popular.
MY PREDICTION ... this is a tough one – will they heap the majority of awards upon a black & white silent film, or give some love to the ‘other’ film about crappy movies, “Hugo”? Martin winning his first recently might throw some votes in another direction...
All right, I’ll say they continue the lovefest for ‘The Artist’ & say Michael Hazanavicius.

NOTABLE SNUB; ‘J. Edgar’ NOT nominated for MAKE-UP? Sure Armie Hammer’s was crap, but Leonardo’s & Naomi’s were perfect!

BIGGEST MISTAKE; ‘The Debt’ not being nominated for Best Picture.

BIGGEST JOKE; A silent movie, ‘The Artist’ being nominated for BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY . . . & Hollywood wants us to take them seriously???


“SAFE HOUSE” (Denzel Washington & Ryan Reynolds)

This was disappointing. I expected a more intelligent thriller. I don’t really care what a film is rated; R, PG-13 or whatever, because I now realize that all I need to know is – How many car chases are there and how many weapons are fired (Total # of bullets fired will suffice) In ‘Safe House’ the answers are too many and too many. With Denzel in the cast, I was hoping to see something much more intriguing and much less ‘Vin Diesel-ish’.
They had a pretty good premise; Matt Weston (Reynolds) works for the CIA, but he doesn’t have a glamorous job. He basically baby-sits a facility in Cape Town, South Africa where nothing ever happens. He constantly begs his superior (Brendan Gleeson) to get him into the real world of being an agent.
Denzel plays Tobin Frost; a rogue agent that’s wanted for selling information to the highest bidder. When Tobin gets his hands on some incriminating data, he is immediately set upon by a gang of thugs with automatic weapons that don’t seem to care how many people they have to gun down as long as one of them is Frost. Tobin’s only escape route seems to be to turn himself in and is whisked to Matt’s safe house. When the facility is compromised by the thugs and the men that brought Frost in are gunned down one by one, Tobin tells Matt, “They want me alive, but you?They’ll kill.”
We later learn that's a lie because the number of bullets the thugs fire at Tobin runs well into the hundreds of thousands.
The story then becomes an hour long chase scene as Matt & Frost attempt to elude the thugs in one reckless car chase scene after another – with hundreds of thousands of bullets being fired from the windows of speeding cars and into Cape Town neighborhoods. I had to laugh out loud when at one point the thugs come to a screeching halt and stop firing their weapons at the sight of a singular police squad car.
Vera Farmiga virtually copies the same role she had in the much more interesting “Source Code” as she plays a CIA agent that stands in a control room, takes phone calls from CIA head Sam Shepherd and argues with Brendan Gleeson.
The one thing ‘Safe House’ offers that most shoot ’em up’s don’t – most of the characters actually get shot during the 14,872,693 bullets that are fired.


“The VOW” (Rachel McAdams & Channing Tatum... or is it Tatum Channing?)

Every year I VOW to have more tolerance for chick flicks my wife wants to see and every year I break that vow in January or February...
There were two reasons I didn’t get up and let my spouse watch the second half of this pseudo-tearjerker alone while I waited in the car; One, Rachel McAdams is just so darned cute and Two – Channing Tatum didn’t attempt to sing “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” a second time. I even warned my wife after the first infuriating chorus, “If he does that again, I’m leaving.”
This based-on true facts story begins with the accident; Paige (Rachel) decides she’ll have a better chance of getting pregnant if she and husband Leo (Tatum) have sex in their car while parked at a stop sign during a Chicago snow storm late at night. Shortly after unbuckling her seatbelt to get the action started they are rammed from behind by a truck, sending Paige thru the windshield. The resulting damage to her brain causes Paige to forget the last 4 or 5 years of her life and so her hubby goes about the task of trying to make her fall in love with him all over again. Leo does everything wrong; he brings her home to a large crowd of people shouting ‘Surprise!’ She doesn’t like that this guy claiming to be her husband would think that’s the kind of reception she would want on her first day out of the hospital. The next morning, Mr. Duh walks into the bedroom completely nude. When Paige freaks out at the sight of his package, he smirks and offers, “Well, it’s not like you haven’t seen it before.” . . . Duh, Mr. Duh – she’s suffered brain trauma – the fact that you’re entirely insensitive to that makes you a jerk.
During her first outing alone, Paige becomes lost – she can’t remember where Mr. Duh lives – so she calls her mother (the queen of bad actresses, Jessica Lange) to come and take her ‘home’ – to her parents house. Sam Neill plays dad, a highly paid successful lawyer that wanted his daughter to follow in his footsteps. Much to his dismay, she dropped out of law school to become a sculptor.
In Paige’s mind, she’s still in law school and engaged to a smarmy cheeseball named Jeremy (Scott Speedman) Jeremy’s gel stricken hair is the only reason I started hoping Mr. Duh would come around and start behaving like a decent guy instead of an airhead.
Leo’s attempt to win back his wife’s affection creates some sparks, but in the end they are futile because Paige is unnerved by this stranger who is madly in love with her.
Does Paige regain her memory and return to Leo’s arms? Does she succumb to Jeremy’s attempt to reconnect with her since she doesn’t remember why she dumped him the first time around? Does she figure out what it was about her family that drove her away from them in the first place? Do we actually care about the answers to these questions? Well, only because Rachel McAdams is just so darn cute we kinda do, but whatever happens it doesn’t stir enough emotion to call this a worthy chick flick – it’s got that typical soap opera formula; Amnesia, men behaving like pigs and pushy parents. If that's your idea of a winning formula - go for it, but you could see similar fare on the Lifetime network...


“BIG MIRACLE” (Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Ted Danson & Kristen Bell)

Following in the footsteps of “Dolphin Tale” this is another true story of water mammals being rescued by humans. What “Big Miracle” does to prove their story is real is use actual news footage of the event. Yes, it adds realism but overall, I felt it detracted from the story by over-use. All right, I get it, this really happened, but I'm more concerned with the whales than I am with old Tom Brokaw footage.
“Big Miracle” is the tale of three grey whales that become trapped in the ice off the northernmost region of Alaska. I had a problem with the trailer when they announced the whales were named Fred, Wilma & Bam Bam... As everyone should know The Flintstones child was named Pebbles – Barney & Betty had Bam Bam. They explain the reason for the misnomer in the film as being the baby whale is a male not a female...
Who gives a s--t if a whale named Pebbles is a male? If you have a problem with it, call him Dino. But having Fred & Wilma & Bam Bam is simply unacceptable and goes against the laws of cartoon nature. There. I said what we have all wanted to say.
With that off my chest, I consider this film much like “Dolphin Tale” – It’s a sweet, touching movie where mankind attempts to save one of the world’s creatures instead of hunting it to extinction – Though that idea is bandied about by the local Eskimo tribe that votes on whether or not to kill the whales or try to save them... to then kill at a later date when they’re technically not ‘fish in a barrel’.
For the most part, I like John Krasinski as a movie actor and here he fits the bill as amiable Anchorage news reporter Adam Carlson; the man who breaks the story of the three trapped whales, which gradually leads to national coverage.
Drew Barrymore plays Greenpeace activist Rachel – and although her character is likable enough, her cheesy acting style makes you want her to succeed in her mission to save the whales, but not to win back ex-boyfriend Adam.
Ted Danson is McGraw, the bad-guy Oil Company executive that comes to realize that saving these whales is the kind of publicity that will help him to destroy thousands of animals in the near future with his plans to destroy a game reserve.
Kristen Bell is unusually effective as Jill, the ‘pretty princess’ news reporter that accepts the job of covering the story no one else wants.
Dermont Mulrooney, another one of those actors that always seems to be annoyed no matter what his character calls for, plays the man in charge of getting an ice breaking barge to the site of the trapped whales before the hole they’re breathing from freezes over completely. His character is quite a cranky little snot and so his annoyed veneer actually fits here.
Stephen Root plays the Alaskan governor who is forced to change his stance on helping the whales when it becomes national news.
And the Daily Show’s Rob Riggle has yet another amusing bit part (He was the cop in the original ‘Hangover’ that had his squad car stolen) when he and his business partner appear with devices that help to keep the ice from sealing the whales underwater to meet their doom. I always find it amusing how there is no difference between Minnesotans and Canadians as they speak the same language... eh?
That’s the run-down. It’s just a nice little tale of human beings actually being humane. The power of the media is brought forth, for without it there’s no way anyone would have bothered to do anything about three whales trapped in the Arctic Circle. The governor wouldn’t have called on the National Guard and the guys with the ice melters would not have known about the sea creatures’ plight.
It’s one of those films that you just can’t say anything bad about. Unless you’re one of those nitwits that thinks the Cold War is still going on and it was ‘just wrong’ for the U. S. to request help from those godless Ruskies...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


“EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE” (Thomas Horn, Max Von Sydow, Sandra Bullock & Tom Hanks)

Basic rule of thumb #1 in making a movie – Don’t expect a kid actor to be able to carry your film. ‘EL&IC’ does, and it fails miserably. Thomas Horn plays Oscar, a lad who was clearly closer to his father (Tom Hanks) than his mother (Sandra Bullock) and when dad dies on 9 / 11, Oscar goes from being an interesting child – a little quirky, but in an intelligent way – to being a drama queen.
Oscar screams at people for no reason, even while he’s trying to explain his situation; and Thomas, whom I don’t blame for coming across as a totally unbelievable character, is expected to carry this rather lengthy film from start to finish – he does the narrative and he is practically in every scene. That’s asking a lot of a kid actor and the director seemed oblivious as to when the boy was over acting to the point of irritation to the viewing audience. I stopped caring about Oscar’s plight when he told someone where he was during each and every one of his father’s phone calls home on the day he died. Oscar wasn’t home for five of the six calls and at one point he says, “I know I was in front of the church when my dad’s
4th call came because I counted the steps from my school to the church and a typical child my age takes ‘X’ amount of steps per minute...” blah, blah, blah... My eyes were rolling like pinballs at that one. From then on, I found Oscar to be the creation of a writer that didn’t know how to write for a child. He stopped being real to me and so I wasn’t affected by his predicament.
The predicament itself was intriguing; Oscar accidentally breaks a vase that was situated on a shelf in his father’s closet. Hidden inside the vase was a small envelope with the word ‘Black’ written on it. Inside the envelope was an unmarked key. Oscar then makes it his purpose in life to find what the key fits. He starts by visiting every person in New York named Black. Oscar’s adventures should have made this a movie worth watching. Unfortunately, most of the people Oscar meets are kind of boring. Well, they’re New Yorkers, what would one expect?
Oscar is also a little bit creepy as he likes to watch his neighbors thru binoculars. I found it to be unnerving that he mainly zoomed in on his grandmother. When an elderly gentleman (Max Von Sydow) rents a room in Granny’s apartment, Oscar is told to ‘leave him alone’. When The Renter’s identity is finally revealed, they think it’s a big dramatic moment, but my wife & I knew who he was before his first encounter with Oscar. The old man doesn’t speak – not that he can’t, he simply chooses not to. He was the words ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ written on the palms of his hands to answer any question requiring one of those answers.
One of the reasons I’m very disappointed in this years’ Oscars... perhaps I should use Academy Awards here – is, not only are my nominees are completely different from the Academy’s, but here’s a year where a silent, black and white film is nominated for Best Picture; an actor in that silent film is nominated for Best Actor; an actor that doesn’t say a word in his film is nominated for Best Supporting Actor and a silent movie is nominated for Best Screenplay . . . WTF?
But the main reason to stay with this film is to learn what the key fits and what’s inside – and that intriguing set up – the main crux of the movie – is blown off. Another odd thing Oscar does is hide the phone messages his dad sent on 9 / 11 from his mother. He plays all but the last one for The Renter – leaving us wondering what the hell was the final message? The only way to redeem this story is for that message to have some emotional impact – to make up for all the overly dramatic screaming and bad acting we’ve had to endure – I needed that message to be something heart wrenching... and it isn’t. It’s, like everything else in ‘EL & IC’; unemotional and rather pointless.
This movie is nominated for Best Picture. The even duller ‘Moneyball’ is nominated for Best Picture (As least ‘EL&IC’ had the possibility of ‘intrigue’) The barely entertaining ‘Hugo’ is nominated for Best Picture. A silent black & white movie that over 30% of audiences in the U.K. walked out on and demanded their money back is nominated for Best picture. A Woody Allen movie is nominated for Best Picture (Wasn’t he banned from this country for molesting his daughter? Oh, that’s right, he married his daughter so it’s not a crime) A film in which one of the stars said, “I’ve seen it twice and I still have no idea what it means.” is nominated for Best Picture – But the Best Picture of 2011 is NOT nominated. The Best Picture of 2011 didn’t receive a single nomination in any one of the 532 categories.
So despite the fact that I write a review of every movie I see and I’ve seen about
70 of them this year (Down a bit from previous years) I will not be watching the Academy Awards Ceremony this year – I have no rooting interest. I know ‘War Horse’ won’t win, so what’s the point? It’d be nice if ‘The Debt’ was nominated, seeing it was clearly the Best Picture of 2011 and we could have a neat little match race between it and ‘War Horse’, but in a down year for film – the Academy has decided to give an acting nomination to Jonah Hill... Seriously? Does anyone think Jonah Hill did a better job of acting in ‘Moneyball’ than Jesper Christenson did in ‘The Debt’ ?
Also, I did not see ‘Beginners’ (though I wanted to) so this is going to seem like a goofy prediction, but my one sure bet for Oscar night is Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor. He’s 82. He’s never won. Only been nominated once before. And he was also in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. He wins.
Let’s see, anything else bother me about ‘EL&IC”? Oh yes, the tambourine! As if Oscar’s screaming and hammed up phony emotional outbursts weren’t annoying enough – the kid shakes a tambourine throughout the entire movie. I am not exaggerating, I counted 37 scenes where I was hoping the ghost of John Belushi would show up in a toga and rip that stupid so-called musical instrument from Oscar’s hand and smash it to smithereens.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


“The IRON LADY” (Meryl Streep & Jim Broadbent)

I was prepared not to like this film since I vehemently disliked the worst Prime Minister in the history of Great Britain (Well, in my lifetime) I thought they would glorify her mistakes as accomplishments and sugar coat her deplorable decisions that took England from being prosperous (Thanks in part to a pop group called The Beatles) to being an economic disaster... One might call her the prototype to the Bush administration.
Instead, I found a different reason not to like it – it is quite boring – especially the beginning. It piddles along for the first 20 minutes or so showing an old lady (a retired Thatcher) basically doing nothing. She buys a carton of milk... She spends several minutes picking out a suit for her husband to wear... She tells someone on the phone that they’re having halibut for dinner... I wasn’t at all tired when I went into the theatre, but I found myself yawning at the lack of entertainment I was receiving.
Meryl Streep plays Margaret Thatcher from middle-age on and she is very good in the role, though some of the credit should go to the make-up artists that made her look believably elderly, as well as the authentic horrible British teeth she revealed whenever she smiled – usually in a condescending manner toward whomever she was addressing – be it family member, staff member or member of Parliament. I’ve never been a big fan of Streep’s, I think she’s been vastly over-rated in the past, but here she earns her reputation and so I won’t grimace when she finally wins an academy award that she actually deserves. She is good – the film, not so much.
As “Iron Lady” tries to rebound from its droning start, it delves into time travel as Thatcher’s life story is told via memories spurred by the elderly, borderline dementia-stricken Thatcher as she putters around her apartment. Jim Broadbent plays her carefree, happy-go-lucky dead husband Dennis – Sure, who wouldn’t be happy-go-lucky in death after being married to the Iron Bitc... um, I mean, Lady.
Retired Thatcher does make a telling quote when she tells a reporter, on being in politics; “It used to be about trying to DO something – Now it’s about trying to BE someone.”
Problem with Thatcher is that she tried to do too much and most of her ideas were crap.
When the film finally became interesting – on the first lady Prime Minister’s handling of the Falkland Islands debacle – I thought for sure they would spin it to make that look like a reasonable undertaking, but they do not. When the American ambassador questions her motives for calling for an all out attack, Thatcher thinks she puts him in his place by comparing the United States decision to go to war with Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor with her extremely stupid military decision - I was glad to see the ambassador, as well as every person in the room at the time wear the same bewildered look I had.
Thatcher makes big speeches about ‘prosperity’ and ‘doing what’s right for the country’ but she doesn’t DO anything about it. Kind of like our current administration...
Margaret Thatcher had no idea how to run a country and as Great Britain begins collapsing around her she blames her staff instead if taking responsibility for her actions. So the film got it right – No sugar coating. She seemed to be surrounded by likable people – which made her hard-assed ‘I’m always right and you’re always wrong’ attitude easier for everyone to put up with, and her steadfast, “I have a Cold War to win’ mentality began the fall of England’s economy. In fact, I found it amusing as the film rolled along that the old Iron Lady with dementia made more sense than the Prime Minister in her prime.
One notation I had was how it struck me that there were no other females involved in the Parliamentary procedure even after M. T. was elected P.M. You’d think after her victory more women would be encouraged to delve into British politics, but I guess she wasn’t a very good role model was she?
It wasn’t a bad film, in the long run, but it left a lot to be desired – there was very little back story as to what qualified Thatcher to make the citizens of Great Britain want to put her in the ultimate place of power... other than losing the frilly hats.

Monday, January 16, 2012


“MY WEEK WITH MARILYN” (Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branaugh & Eddie Redmayne)

Prior to entering the theatre my main concern was that Michelle Williams simply wasn’t pretty enough to play Marilyn Monroe. Being old enough to remember the living breathing Marilyn, I figure I have the right to pass judgment.
I will congratulate Michelle for getting Marilyn’s voice and mannerisms down, but she never convinced me for a single moment that she was MM – Too many close-ups didn’t help – Every time my mind kept telling me, “That’s Michelle Williams in a blonde wig with a fake beauty mark on her cheek.”
I liken it to having Will Smith play Muhammad Ali; I just wasn’t buying it at all.
Kenneth Branaugh, though looking nothing at all like Laurence Olivier, pulled his impersonation off without any complaints. Laurence, though a talented thespian (a little over-rated, but what actor from his era isn't?) was never an icon like Marilyn.
Branaugh was able to convince me he was Olivier from his acting ability and the fact that the image of Sir Laurence is not ingrained in my memory from childhood.
But it wasn’t Michelle’s casting that made this movie something to scoff at rather than admire – It was the story.
Normally a film taken from someone’s ‘memoirs’ is labeled as being ‘based’ on a true story – “My Week With Marilyn” flat out boasts ‘This IS a TRUE story’. . . Yeah, in Colin Clark’s dreams it’s a true story.
I liked the first half hour or so; it was interesting to see how a movie was brought together – Laurence Olivier being hired as the director and his concerns of working with the American beauty that was reportedly ‘difficult’. And Marilyn did not disappoint... Well, she did disappoint, but disappointment is what was expected so... never mind.
Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) is hired as the 3rd assistant director to Olivier by simply showing up on set and helping out without actually being paid. The title ‘3rd assistant director’ is given to make the gophers feel more important. Redmayne as Colin couldn’t look any more hillbilly if he wore a straw hat and overalls – the distraction is that he spoke with that ultra-British accent and was so soft spoken that I knew he’d never yelp out a ‘Yee-haw!’ for me.
Marilyn arrives with new husband Arthur Miller and within a few scenes Arthur and Marilyn are having marital problems. I know the Millers marriage didn’t last, but I think they probably were still in the stages of bliss so soon after their honeymoon - but if that were the case, Colin’s fantasy wouldn’t be believable... Yee-haw!
Somehow the gopher becomes Marilyn’s favorite person to lean on when she’s depressed and throughout the story Colin both skinny dips and sleeps in the same bed with a naked Marilyn Monroe. Now, they don’t have sex – he didn’t carry the fantasy all the way to ‘give me a break!’ land, but trust me, it was creepy enough just watching her frolic with this hillbilly kid in the nude as if she were madly in love with him.
The first part of the movie was enjoyable – it was interesting to view the behind the scenes making of a film starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. But when it turned into Colin Clark’s ‘fantasy’ version of what it was like it became to unbelievable to take seriously; when the naked Marilyn
invites the gopher to ‘spoon’ with her while she was lying naked beside him, I could only picture the real life Colin whacking off at his typewriter as he wrote that fantasy scene... Reality checks weren’t being cashed during the second half of the film as it deteriorated into something a kid going through puberty would write... At least they waited about 60 years before trying to pass this story off as a being TRUE. I’m sure Marilyn is rolling over in her grave... but not to spoon with a gopher!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


“TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY” (Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, John Hurt & many more)

Today’s ‘Worst Person In The World’ award goes to Keith Olberman, who spent an entire segment of his show ‘Countdown’ singing the praises of this movie, which he hailed as possibly the best movie ever made. I was expecting to see a film that clearly belonged in the Top 10 of 2011 because Olberman wasn’t the only one harping “Tinker, Tailor...” as a taut espionage thriller. It’s going to end up being closer to the Bottom 10 than the Top 10 and I don’t think the let down from high expectations is the reason – this film is exceedingly bland; about halfway thru I renamed it “Tinker Tailor Snoring Spy”.
I was also encouraged when I saw that John le Carre, author of the original novel, was one of the producers – that’s usually a good sign that they ‘did things correctly’.
I came away with the impression that the film was made for those who had seen the British miniseries version of the story in 1979 because I had no idea what was going on – who was who – and why were they doing what they were doing and where they were doing it. Olberman did warn me that the film bounces back and forth in time and the best way to tell which ‘period’ they were in was to notice George Smiley’s glasses, since director Tomas Alfredson decided not give the audience any assistance in figuring out where and when in time the current scene was taking place.
But when all was said and done and the ‘Mole’ was revealed – easily figured out by everyone in my party – there was no ‘taut’ thrilling finale; the ending like the rest of the film was bland and boring.
Gary Oldman played George, the ‘Spy’ of the title (though they ALL were spies) and if ever an actor slept walked his way thru a film, Gary’s performance here rivals the Nicolas Cage in almost every single one of his hundreds of roles of the past decade – the difference being we expect mediocrity from Cage, NOT from Oldman.
The concept was intriguing; John Hurt, playing ‘Control’, the boss of all the spies working for ‘The Circus’, discovers he has a mole in his organization and calls all of the suspects together to hopefully get the others to flush out the traitor. His right hand man, George, is pretty much put in control by Control but Smiley later learns that he too is a suspect.
After a half hour or so of ‘set ups’ to nowhere, a character named Ricky Tarr appears and tells George an interesting story about an encounter he had with a Russian girl named Irina – the story is set in England in 1973 so Cold War fears are prominent.
We are told of a ring of Russians called ‘Witchcraft’ but we are never really told as to what their mission is or who they actually are. Just the word ‘Witchcraft’ is supposed to make adrenaline pump thru our veins and strike fear in our hearts – it did nothing for me.
Mark Strong makes an early appearance as spy ‘Jim’ who is shot and killed during a meeting in Budapest. I mention him only because he finally returns to some of the promise he showed earlier in his career. To give the film a bit of praise – the acting is above average – and even though Oldman never changes his expression; whether celebrating at the Circus’ Christmas party or discovering fellow spy, Bill (Colin Firth) is diddling his wife, Ann – Smiley’s countenance remains as stoic as a statue. That couldn’t have been easy, yet at the same time made George come across as an unfeeling robot.
Another piece of faint praise; the movie was set in the 70’s and it not only had the look of that decade, I kept being struck by the fact that it ‘felt’ as if it had been filmed in the 70’s... You tell me if that’s a good thing or not.
Toby Jones plays feisty little spy Percy who acts like he’s in charge and can do whatever he wants. In the latter part of the film, the others start talking about Allaline; ”Where is Allaline? Did you meet with Allaline?” I had no idea who Allaline was until the credits rolled and they revealed that Percy’s last name was Allaline.
The film becomes a horrible parade of one bland float after another with no cohesive story being put together until the final scenes – and then, whether it was due to indifference or lack of surprise, I really didn’t care who the mole was, I just wanted this movie to end.
I tried to watch closely, to pay attention to the clues so I could cleverly tell my wife and ex-teacher why everything that happened in the movie happened – but along the way, I simply lost interest.
An espionage thriller? Not hardly – it’s just about a bunch of whining English twits that start bawling like babies when they’re outted as traitors to her majesty.

SHERLOCK HOLMES 2 : Game Of Shadows

“SHERLOCK HOLMES 2 : Game Of Shadows” (Robert Downey, Jr. & Jude Law)

I could take the easy way out and tell you just to scroll back to my review of the first installment of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ with Robert and Jude because the similarities are prominent. Being a sequel makes this the lesser film because it’s simply a matter of ‘been there, seen that’.
Once again, the culprit for what hurts the movie is director Guy Ritchie – Can we PLEASE get someone else to take over this franchise? And if not, then let’s kill it before he drags the good name of No Poop Sherlock down into the slow-motion pit of shame where it will die an ugly, though exceedingly l-o-n-g death...
Once again, Downey & Law provide the only entertainment value in the film – despite the irritating slo-mo for no reason and the fact that most of Holmes’ brilliant deductions come from figuring out how to win a fistfight before it actually begins instead of making clever deductions from the clues left in a room as to who was there and what they were doing – The Holmes-Watson relationship remains fun to watch. And a lot of that credit I feel has to go to Robert as his subtle English accent is so dead on you couldn’t tell which of the two actors was the actual Englishman. Usually I’m praising English or Australian actors for their ability to adopt ‘American’ accents so it’s nice to be able to throw some accolades to one of ‘our’ thespians.
One problem I had with the first was the casting of Rachael McAdams as Holmes’ love interest. Here, Rachel disappears early after making several ‘Why did she do that?’ moves in her opening scenes. I kept waiting for her to reappear to explain herself, but in typical Guy Ritchie fashion that never happens. Guy and bad story-telling do seem to go hand-in-hand.
Sherlock’s #1 nemesis, Professor Moriarty should have elevated this story to a higher level of entertainment value, but no, when it comes time for the Professor to confess his evil plan to Holmes just before killing him, thus giving Watson enough time to swoop in and save the day, we are told that Moriarty’s reason for devising his latest devilish scheme is to ‘sell bandages’. Sorry for the spoiler – but maybe it isn’t really THAT stupid - perhaps I just made that up to conceal the true evil plot of that maniacal criminal genius of literature. Yes, I must have, not even the annoying filmmaker Guy Ritchie would stoop so low as to make Professor Moriarty nothing more than a salesman for Band-Aids*.
*Band-Aids is a registered trademark and should not be included in this review by penalty of law.
Okay, pretend you didn’t read that part about Band... er, uh, ‘Ow-ie patches’...
The stuff that worked / the addition of Watson’s bride, whom Holmes throws from a speeding train – It would initially seem just to get rid of her so he and his ‘bud’ can continue to fight crime without female interference.
The stuff that didn’t work / the addition of Holmes’ brother Mycroft; although I didn’t have a problem with him until the extremely overweight broken nosed actor that played him did one scene completely nude. There was no reason for it, other than Ritchie thinking it would be hilarious to show an unattractive fat guy walking around his house naked while having a tea and crumpets with Mrs. Watson.
Noomi Rapace plays a gypsy woman (Of Curtis Mayfield fame) who warns Holmes that he has the mark of the werewolf upon the palm of his hand – No wait, that’s from the original ‘Wolfman’ with Lon Chaney – but, I digress...
I have nothing bad to say about the addition of Rapace – nor did she bring much in the way of interest to the table. Let’s just blame that on the director too and make it a clean sweep, eh?
I said it at the end of my review of ‘SH 1’ and I’ll repeat it here – If there’s a sequel, I’ll be there as long as Guy Ritchie is NOT involved!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


“WAR HORSE” (Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullen & Emily Watson)

Any critic that doesn’t give “War Horse” a glowing review is a soulless creature without a heart. This is a wonderful film, the type that used to win Best Picture Oscars before they decided to start giving trophies to lesser stories just to be ‘fashionable’ (I’m talking crap like “Slumdog Millionaire” and the over-rated “Hurt Locker”)
“War Horse” is an epic story; well made and well told. it included some scenes that were hard to watch but almost every scene (after the initial ‘introducing the characters’ beginning) contained a memorable moment, or what I would call a ‘nice touch’.
I would compare it to a little gem I loved called “Paulie”. If you haven’t seen it, and you liked “War Horse”, make it your next rental choice.
“Paulie” was a simple story about a special little bird and his quest to find the young girl he was taken from by a jealous father.
“War Horse” is the story of a remarkable equine and is told in a grandiose style spanning the length of World War I. I can only fathom that anyone who has a bad thing to say about this film is P.O.’d because the Americans aren’t given credit for helping the British win the war. But, my over zealous patriotic Americans, the movie isn’t about America or Great Britain for that matter – it’s about Joey - the horse that would never give up hope of finding his lost master. Like “Paulie”, Joey was separated from the human that cared for him by an ungrateful father, who sold him to the British army.
Jeremy Irvine plays Albert ‘Alby’ Narracott, who, after witnessing ‘Joey’ being born, becomes infatuated with the colt.
For some unknown reason (one of the films few flaws) Jeremy’s father, Ted (Peter Mullen) buys Joey at an auction – spending more than twice what the horse was worth, just to one-up his landlord, Mr. Lyons (David Thewlis)
Rosie, meticulously played by Emily Watson, is Alby’s mother and she is furious with her drunken sot of a husband for spending the rent money on a horse that can’t plow. Albert insists that he’ll train Joey to be a usable workhorse and Rosie agrees to keep the animal.
Under the watchful eye of the Narracott’s ‘Watch-Goose’, Albert develops a bond with the thoroughbred, allowing his young owner to place a harness around his neck in an attempt to plow the Narracott’s rocky pasture.
Even after Joey and Alby prove their worth, Ted, a truly worthless, drunken gimp, sells Joey to the British Calvary – specifically, to a young Captain (Tom Hiddleston) who promises Albert that when the war is over he will do everything in his power to return Joey to his rightful owner.
Joey befriends the regiments’ commander’s horse, whose original name I didn’t catch.
Since he was a black horse, I called him ‘Sham’ (expertly played by Sarah Jessica Parker)
At first it seems as though the older horse takes the younger under his wing until Joey proves he is the fastest, toughest and bravest horse in camp. One of those ‘special moments’ occurs when Sham is summoned to help pull an enormous cannon to the top of a hill and Joey intervenes to save his friend.
There are so many of those heart-tugging moments in this film that to list them all would spoil it.
I do have a question for my readers, though – if anyone can explain to me why the German’s left Joey & Sham in the windmill after punishing Gunter & Mikael, I’d appreciate it, as it left me a bit baffled.
And another item that both my wife & I wondered about – It seemed that the two German boys – Gunter & Mikael switched names from the first time they were introduced – Was anyone else confused by that, or were we not paying close enough attention?
The moments were both sweet – French girl Emily, after renaming the pair of horses Francois and Claude, tries to teach Joey (Francois) how to jump over a fence and Joey either does what the girl does, or cheats his way around the blockade.
It had already been established that Joey/Francois DOES NOT jump.
And other moments were dreadful – very difficult to watch. I know they used computers to make it seem as though Joey ran through barbed wire fence after barbed wire fence until he was thrown to the ground after doing a complete somersault, but boy, that was painful to view – congrates to the special effects dept. for making that look horribly realistic.
A German soldier, put in charge of ‘captured’ soldiers Joey & Sham says, “It’s a pity they found you.”
I liked the fact that they made some of the ‘evil’ Germans appear human – this was a man who obviously loved horses and was more than likely forced into the war.
Not every person on the ‘wrong’ side was bad just as not every soldier on the ‘good’ side was angelical.
The two soldiers that meet in ‘No Man’s Land’ to save Joey from the barbed wire that would have torn him to shreds if he struggled while they tried to free him was another ‘moment’ that left a lump in my throat.
I even inserted my own special moments – When the Lieutenant from Devon (Charlie, I think – there were a LOT of characters that came & went) was rescued by Albert during a fierce battle, I thought he should have told Alby the name of the girl that was in the car with him when Alby discovered Joey didn’t jump fences.... Alby had asked him earlier for her name and he arrogantly answered, “I don’t recall – there’ve been so many women in my life.”
Incredible film – An epic – And if it wins best picture, despite all of the lame brained critics that have panned it, it will be a well deserved award.
Oh, and thanks, Emily's Grandpa, for turning that lump in my throat into tears streaming down my face like the little girly-man that I apparently am...