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Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Hot Tub Time Machine

In Movie Reviews on June 30, 2010 at 7:11 am

Fueled by energy drinks, vodka and nostalgia for their younger, wilder days, a group of aging best friends travels back in time to 1987, where they get the chance to relive the best year of their lives. And their time machine? Well, it’s a hot tub. John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Crispin Glover and Sebastian Stan co-star in this out-of-the-box comedy that takes time travel to a whole new level.

This movie suffers from one of the worst mistakes a movie can make: not knowing what it wants to be. In this case, is the movie a witty comedy about the yearnings for ones youth? Or is a morality tale about accepting what you have in life? Or perhaps it is a reflection on how the friends of our youth do not fit into our adult lives? Or is it all of the above? Or none of the above?

See the problem?

The concept of going back in time has been done over and over again (the best of which is of course Back To The Future) and no new ground is covered here. The cast, led by one of my personal favorites John Cusak, does a good job with what they have to work with, but it not much of a starting point. One of the biggest problems with the movie is that the gags and jokes in it require you to have a pretty deep knowledge of the 80s to even get them. I grew up in that era and even I had a hard time grasping some of the humor they were going for.

Also, there are far to many uncomfortable moments in this movie to make it funny. Scenes like Cusak getting high (a BIG killer for me in any movie). Craig Robinson’s character calling the 9 year old version of his future wife and screaming at her, and Rob Corrdry’s banging of Cusak’s sister as Cusak stands outside the door and listens all put the movie on an incredibly dark level.

Even at the end, where you think that maybe the characters will have some type of redemptive break through on changes to make to their life, you are left disappointed.

2.5 out of 5 stars, not one I would rush out to see, but it is passable if you have nothing left in your Netflix queue.

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She’s Out Of My League

In Movie Reviews on June 30, 2010 at 6:15 am

When he starts dating drop-dead gorgeous Molly (Alice Eve), insecure airport security agent Kirk (Jay Baruchel) can’t believe it. As his friends and family share their doubts about the relationship lasting, Kirk does everything he can to avoid losing Molly forever. Kyrsten Ritter, Lindsay Sloane, Jasika Nicole and Andrew Daly also star in this charming romantic comedy about unlikely lovers. Jim Field Smith directs.

In some of the earlier reviews, I spoke of chemistry being a key component to making a romantic comedy work. It is what brings the audience into the lives of the lover birds and makes the audience want to root for them. There are some movies where the chemistry is too forced to really be effective. Other times, it seems too perfect to make you want to really care about anything that happens to the characters you are watching.

Fortunately, neither is the case in this witty and charming romantic comedy (and make no mistake, this is a chick flick wrapped in crude guy wrapping paper). Kirk is Mr. Everyman. He works at a dead end job, has dreams of doing something more with his life but really does not have the drive or motivation to do it. His family is just plain insane (leading to one of the best dinner table scenes I have ever seen in a movie, rivaling that of Wedding Crashers). His ex is a psycho and his friends the worst advice givers on the planet. In other words, he is someone everyone one of us can relate too.

Molly is just the opposite. Insanely hot (she really is one of the most attractive females I can remember seeing onscreen in a long long time). Ultra successful and has the ultimate bitch friend sidekick. This combination can lead to disaster in some movies, because the audience becomes jealous of a character like Molly. So many times when you watch a film like this, you end up hating the female lead because she is just too perfect, with some made up character flaw by the writers to make her just a little bit off enough to knock her down a peg.

In this film, the writers have struck just the right balance to make you actually WANT to see Molly be happy. As the movie unfolds, the reasons become more and more obvious to audience as to why she likes Kirk so much, while still remaining completely non-obvious to the characters themselves. And this is exactly what a romantic comedy is supposed to do. You want to be able to say “I get it” by the time the end credits role. Not because you are forced to believe the pair is supposed to be together, but because the writers have taken you down the path to believe it for yourself.

A very highly recommended 4 out of 5 stars.

The Dark Knight

In Movie Reviews on June 28, 2010 at 9:59 am

(this is my original review from Yahoo the day after the movie opened)

Man, how I wanted to see this so bad. I really don’t head to the theater too much (thank you Netflix!), but trekked out to the theater and sat in the packed, sold out theater. An hour in, I was ready to fall aspleep, and not because I was tired.

The story is just totally and completely non-existent. I am talking none, zero.

The acting is average at best. Everyone praising Heath Ledger is simply not wanting to speak bad about someone who passed away. How Maggie Gyllenhaal continues to get work is beyond me. Aaron Eckhart is completely wasted, and Christian Bale (who I loved as in Batman Begins) takes a huge step down.

Most disappointing to me was the direction. Christopher Nolan, who directed one of my favorite films of the last 10 years (The Prestige), can’t decide if he wants to make an action film or a drama, and ends up just making a film with no clear direction at all.

Yes, the visuals are stunning in the movie, and the action scenes are first rate. And I guess that it is why it i getting such great reviews, because we live in an MTV society which wants everything in your face and pounded over your head instead having to be made to pay attention to things like character development and plot.

My advice to you all: skip this one and wait for the dvd.

Thrashin’

In Movie Reviews on June 28, 2010 at 6:47 am

In Los Angeles’ raging skateboarding scene of the mid-1980s, Corey Webster (Josh Brolin), the preppie ringleader of a skateboarding dynasty, falls in love with the sister (Pamela Gidley) of Tommy Hook (Robert Rusler), the punk leader of a rival gang. The forbidden romance flowers as the two gangs train for a grueling, 20-mile, downhill race — with corporate sponsorship as the reward for whichever team can thrash its way to victory.

One hot girl. Check! One outsider to the locals. Check! A family member that does not approve. Check! A group of misfit friends who help the outsider get even. Check! Cheesy music montages used as a story device. Check!

Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is the quintessential formula 80s movie. The problem is, this one is just done so badly, you can not even call it a “good” bad movie. First off, I seriously do not remember skateboarders traveling around the streets like a motorcycle gang. And I know I never saw one person on a skateboard put makeup on, looking like a wanna be member of KISS, to go “joust” with a rival gang. But that is just the tip of the iceberg for the things wrong in this film. Let’s take a quick recap:

– Josh Brolin’s character skateboards across the country with just $30 in his pocket.
– The “gang” is called the Daggers and the leader of this gang is called “Hook”. Really? I mean how cheesy can you get.
– The leader of said gangs’ biggest concern in life it what earring to wear to the club.
– The sister of this guy shows up to the club in a bad prom dress, while everyone else around her is wearing ripped up jean jackets. Meanwhile, the “misfits” group shows up wearing clothes straight out of an American Eagle catalog. Yet no one seems out of place. To make the wardrobe choices even worse, the leader of the gangs girlfriend is dressed like a Grease cast extra reject.
– The Daggers live in a big house, drive cars and have all kinds of gadgets, but no one seems to work. ever. Same can be said of the misfits group.
– Apparently the easiest way to outrun a bunch of people chasing you on skateboards is to ride into a parking garage and skate UP to the very top of it. Yeah, that makes sense.

Oh I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

Now I thought maybe, just maybe, there would be some redeeming value in the skating scenes. Boy was I wrong. Everyone single one of these scenes in nothing but horribly stage close ups backed by B-grade keyboard music.

The director could not even get the cameo by The Red Hot Chili Peppers right, as Another Kedis’ mouth is completely out of sync with the soundtrack playing.

There is absolutely not one good thing to say about this movie, and I could not even recommend it to the most die hard “bad” movie fans out there.

For the first time ever, 0 out of 5 stars.

The A Team

In Movie Reviews on June 28, 2010 at 3:30 am

There are two different ways you can approach this film. The first it to sit back and pick apart it’s flaws. You can go down the road of how insanely unbelievable many of the action set pieces and stunts are. You can talk about how Jessica Biel’s character is close to as useless of a movie character that has ever been onscreen. You talk about how the camera work is so choppy in some scenes, you have no idea who is fighting who. And you can say that the ending is so over the top that you just want to roll your eyes and scream “oh come on!!”.

If you were to say any of the above, you would be perfectly justified. But you would also not be the target market for this movie, because you would only be showing you never watched the show. Because the original A Team series is all the things I just described and more.

You see, this movie is meant to be watched a completely different way. It is made to be watched with a relaxed eye and mind when it comes to movies. This film is completely built around one word and one word only: FUN. The movie is not designed to draw out some deep emotion from you. It is not meant be some political statement on anything and it is not meant to make you want to go out and change the world. The filmmaker set out with one goal in mind when making this movie: we are going to blow up as much stuff as possible and have a damn fun time doing it!

If you can not get on board with this idea, then you better stay home. If you want to see Oscar worthy performances and writing, stay home. This movie is for the person who just wants to sit in a theater for 2 hours and turn their mind off and have fun. And on that level, it is a masterpiece, because if you can not step out of the theater and the first thing you say is “man was that fun to watch”, you completely missed the point of the film.

A very strong 4 out of 5 stars based on the intent of what the movie set out to do.

Say Anything

In Movie Reviews, Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 3:15 am

A budding romance between noble underachiever Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and high school valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye) is threatened when Diane’s overly possessive, disapproving father (John Mahoney) interferes with their relationship. With a prized scholarship to study abroad hanging in the balance, Diane must find a way to make both men happy. Writer-director Cameron Crowe steers this 1980s teen flick into instant-classic territory.

I had used the term “holds up well” in a couple previous reviews. I have watched Say Anything I would say about 100 times in my lifetime, be it just catching bits and pieces of it on TV when I see it is on and straight through. But for the Project, I decided to just dedicate myself to watching it like it was the first time I was seeing it.

In this mindset, I have to say the movie does not hold up well. Yes, Lloyd Dobler is still as adorable as ever. Ione Skye plays the innocent (hot) smart nerd nicely. But after being bombarded with so many of the “loner boy seeks hot girl” movies since this one was released, the plot is tired.

So you have to ask yourself: what else is there in the film beside the love story that can keep you interested. And this is where my problem with the film lies.

The relationship between Diane Court and her dad is uncomfortable to watch. Remember, the “overbearing parent” trend was just starting when this movie came out, and knowing what we know now, watching John Mahoney (yes, that is Frasier’s dad) manipulate his daughter just made me squirm. Even in the final jail scene between Cusack and Mahoney, there is an underlying protective creepiness that will not go away.

As usual Crowe holds the film together with music, and this movie does have one of the best soundtracks ever for a movie, anchored by the iconic “In Your Eyes” scene. And the supporting cast is strong (look for a cameo by a very young Jeremy Piven). But the movie lacks the deep emotional dramatic effect is strives so hard to achieve.

3 out of 5 stars

Death On The Nile

In Movie Reviews, Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 2:55 am

A star-studded cast unites for this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s mystery novel of the same name. A rich but reviled heiress is murdered on a cruise down the Nile. Luckily, brilliant detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) is on board, and takes on the case. Can he find the culprit before they reach port, possibly losing him or her forever? Maggie Smith, David Niven, Bette Davis and Mia Farrow co-star in this Oscar winner for Best Costume Design

Just look at that cast! Seriously, this film has one of the best casts I can remember seeing in a movie (with the possible exception of The Great Escape). This is a who’s who of movie royalty. And every one of them is perfectly suited for the role they play.

This film has all the parts of an outstanding mystery. Stellar cast, exotic location, jealousy, cheating, and ever so clever humor. But for some reason, this movie struggles to put all those pieces into place.

The slow moving plot (a staple of most Agatha Christie stories) at times feels disjointed. There are whole segments in the story that you seem to ask yourself “where is this going” or “what does this have to do with anything?”. There are vague references to wills and lawsuits, but they are never explained, and the viewer never really knows why anyone wants to the heiress dead.

But the biggest failing of the movie is the ending. Unlike “Murder On The Orient Express” (the Christie movie made prior to this one), the solution to the mystery is completely unsatisfying and bordering on absurd. The ending in Orient was at least a little believable and plausible. This one just gets more and more ridiculous as it is explained (once again in typical Christie fashion) by a long monologue by Poirot. The final scene, which I am guessing is supposed to be shocking and dramatic, borders on comical.

But, even for all its failings, this movie still gets a recommendation from me simply because of the cast. It is a pleasure watching these legends at work, and it makes me yearn for the day when actors had talent, and were not completely CGIed out like in today’s world.

3.5 out of 5 stars

One Crazy Summer

In Movie Reviews, Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 2:53 am

Budding cartoonist Hoops (John Cusack) just finished high school, but still needs to turn in a project for acceptance into art school. So he goes to Nantucket with his pal, George (Joel Murray), for inspiration, which luckily comes in the form of pretty musician Cassandra (Demi Moore). Throw in a spoiled local bully, a sailing race and an evil developer’s machinations to build a lobster restaurant, and you’ve got the makings of one crazy summer.

This is one of the underground movies that has a massive following which I had never seen. I am a huge Cusack fan, so I really don’t know why I never bothered to watch it.

I can honestly say I was not blown away by the movie, but I was also not disappointed. It is one of those types of films that is goofy, silly and just meant to be fun. And in that regards, it succeeds. You are not going to walk away with some deep emotional meaning from this movie, that is for sure.

Cusack is his normal everyman self, and Demi Moore is adequate but not spectacular in role as the outsider of the town. This is actually one of the few roles where I would describe her as cute. The rest of the cast ranges from a mix of soon to be stars (including a brief appearance from Jeremy Piven) to a list of also rans.

My issue with the film is that it has no real identity. It can’t decide if it wants to be a gross out teen sex comedy or a PG rated family movie. Because of this, you never really connect with any of the characters. You combine this with the off cartoons sketches just randomly thrown in at weird times, and the movie feels every disjointed, like it was rushed through the editing room on its way to the theater.

But worst off all for me was the blatant ripping off of the ended to “Summer Rental”, the John Candy comedy which came out a year before. It is so obvious, you could almost say they used the same script and just changed the names.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Just Like Heaven

In Movie Reviews, Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 2:52 am

Just Like Heaven (2005)

Shortly after David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo) moves into his new San Francisco digs, he has an unwelcome visitor on his hands: winsome Elizabeth Martinson (Reese Witherspoon), who asserts that the apartment is hers — and promptly vanishes. When she starts appearing and disappearing at will, David thinks she’s a ghost, while Elizabeth is convinced she’s alive. Their quest for the truth ultimately leads to love in this spectral romantic comedy.

There is one key component that every romantic comedy must have to be successful. No matter how sappy the script is, no matter how many holes the story, no matter what the situation the would be romancers find themselves in, if one thing is strong in the story, nothing else matters. And that one thing is chemistry between the two leads. This axiom goes all the way back to the romcoms of the 30s and extends all the way through to today.

In Just Like Heaven, it is a good thing their is exceptional chemistry between Ruffalo and Witherspoon, because the premise and development of the story is such a mess, the movie would fall flat. But the interaction of the two stars make this one of the more enjoyable romantic comedies I have seen in a while.

Think of the story as “City Of Angels” light. Witherspoon is the overworked career women who has no time for a social life. Ruffalo the brooding loner with a secret in his past he is trying to drink himself away from. Sound familiar? Well, it should, because it essentially the same story in every one of the these “seeing your life through deaths eyes” premises. This storyline was first given to us in Dickens “Christmas Carol” and has been repeated in books and film since then. Will Witherspoon see there is more to life than work? Can Ruffalo get passed his past? Yeah, you have seen and heard it.

But, what makes this one different are the stars. Witherspoon’s entire acting career is built on these roles. The cute and perky innocent one. She is this generation’s Meg Ryan, only she does it so much better. And Ruffalo seemed to have fallen into the same mold (although he can currently be seen in Shutter Island). Because both the actors have perfected this genre, they both know how to pull it off exceptionally well.

This is by no means an outstanding movie. There are some scenes which made me just groan out load (in particular the hospital scene at the end). But the cast (included the only time I have actually enjoyed seeing John Heder onscreen) is enjoyable to watch. This is a good Saturday night date movie. Light hearted and not preachy, and the kind you will forget by Sunday morning.

3 out of 5 stars.

North By Northwest

In Movie Reviews, Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 2:50 am

What if everyone around you was suddenly convinced that you were a spy? This classic from master director Alfred Hitchcock stars Cary Grant as an advertising executive who looks a little too much like someone else and is forced to go on the lam (helped along by Eva Marie Saint). Hitchcock’s sure-handed comic drama pits Grant against a crop duster and lands him in a fight for his life on Mount Rushmore — a true cliffhanger if ever there was one.

In my life time, I have watched thousands of movies. From some of the worst every put to film (I actually watched a movie called “Worm Eaters” once!) to some of the supposed classics (Citizen Kane is completely overrated in my opinion, but that will be for another review). Not one of the movies I have ever watched has made me feel as completely and totally satisfied as this Hitchcock classic. Now notice I did not put the title of the in the headline (though some of you may have figured it out from the description). That is because I want you to read the review before revealing what the movie is.

I will start with my only complaint with this film: Eva Marie Saint. I do not like her, and would have much preferred Grace Kelly in this role (whom Hitchcock used a few years later in Rear Window). I find Eva Marie Saints delivery to be stiff and unemotional, and she does not give off the lady in distress vibe needed for her role. But this is my one and only complaint with this film, everything else is complete perfection.

Carey Grant is one of the finest actors to ever live, and shows off why in this role. Completely bewildered about his situation, he sets out to gain the truth, even as more and more forces conspire around him. Hitchcock is a master as keeping the audience guessing, and this is the finest example of his craft. Just when you think you have things figured out, another chip falls. But it is not done so in a cheap way. So many of today’s writers use cheap gags and unbelievable plot manipulation to change direction. Hitchcock does not. He gives you the pieces of the puzzle like slow dripping syrup, so by the end of the movie, you have all the pieces, yet still go say “man I did not see that coming”.

Many scenes from the movie have been imitated. From the crop duster chase (if you saw the horrific “Eagle Eye” you would have caught the homage to this scene) to the Mount Rushmore scene (Family Guy attempted to replicate this and failed horribly).

This movie is the gold standard to which all other movies should be help. A tight well crafter thriller with subtle humorous undertones. What more could you ask for?

I give you my favorite movie of all time: 1959’s “North By Northwest”

10 out of 5 stars!!!!!!