ANIMAL KINGDOM Rated: 8 1/2
Set in contemporary Melbourne, Australia, ANIMAL KINGDOM tells the violent story of what happens to seventeen year old J -aka Joshua- (James Frecheville) when he finds himself suddenly living in the home of his maternal grandmother (Jacki Weaver) and her three twenties to thirty-something criminal sons (Ben Mendelsohn, Sullivan Stanton & Luke Ford). The accomplished and attractive almost all Australian cast also includes Joel Edgerton as a business associate/friend of the family, plus Justin Roseniak as a corrupt detective, and personal favorite Guy Pearce as the senior homicide detective.
Australian first time writer-director David Michôd is amazing. I’m reminded of some of Christopher Noland’s work. The totally appropriate musical score (and scoring) from Australian Composer Antony Partos is as fascinating as it is unique. He has won international awards for his previous work which features acoustic instruments blended with electronic elements to amazing effect and Oscar consideration must follow. Especially impressive are the sequences where writer-director, editor and composer worked together to move the plot along with music replacing dialog.
Add this one to the growing list of really special Australian films. Limited US theatrical release began in August 2010. If you miss it in theatres, add it to your list for later DVD viewing.
BURLESQUE Rated: 8
I’ve read many other reviews of BURLESQUE. About half are positive and half negative.
I disagree with the negative ones. Most that dislike BURLESQUE are vicious with their vitriol and have overlooked the fact that it is a musical and a fairytale-fantasy at that. One favorite critic of mine, unnamed here, even complained that the dimensions of the club were not expansive enough for staging some of the production numbers as presented! Imagine that. Realism in a musical? I think not. Further, in my opinion, it was clear that many (most? all?) of her musical numbers were visualized on film as they were happening in the mind of Ali (Christina Aguilera), whose character is the talented small town girl making good in the big city against all odds.
Although I knew who she was before I saw BURLESQUE, I was not familiar with Christina Aguilers’s music. I’m impressed with her musical talent and found her quite likable here. As Ali, she is really good casting and, frankly, I just don’t understand any of the negative reaction toward her. I especially liked two of her numbers near the middle of the film, namely, “But I’m A Good Girl” & “Guy What Takes His Time”. If she decides to go in that career direction, Broadway is a distinct possibility and I think she’d be sensational. She is perfect casting for any of Kander & Ebb’s best such as CHICAGO, CABARET, KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN.
As for Cher, I’ve liked her music from the start of her career but have only become a real fan these last few years. This part is perfect for her and my guess is that the actress and the character share many traits. Her banter with Stanley Tucci is delightfully sharp. A highlight is Cher singing the Diane Warren penned song, “You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me”. Expect a well deserved Oscar nomination for it. I also really like her other number, “Welcome To Burlesque” and, to my ears, she has never been in better voice than here.
Jack, the male lead & love interest to Ali, is perfectly under-played by Cam Gigandet. It’s likely that he is made-up, lit, and photographed more carefully/lovingly than any male actor since Brad Pitt in the unintentionally hysterical epic LEGENDS OF THE FALL (1994). Gigandet’s career should get a big boost from this exposure, pun intended! I’ve liked him since first noticing him as Kevin Volchek in his 2005-06 15 arc on Fox’s television series, THE OC. Others who made good use of their limited screen time are Eric Dane, Peter Gallagher, and Kristen Bell.
Admittedly, film would have been improved if it included fewer characters and subplots. Wisely/necessarily/obviously, Alan Cumming’s part was a victim of post production editing.
Having read a lot about the behind-the-scenes, off camera drama makes it difficult for me to know how much credit goes to first time director, Steve Antin, but I’m impressed by what is on the screen and am inclined to give him his props, regardless. Clearly, he had a great feel for the material and my guess is that what we see is very much his vision. Antin is also an actor with a colorful personal life and history. High praise to those responsible for the razor sharp editing that moves the plot forward with short dialog scenes intercut with the musical performance of several songs near the finale. Both the decision to do so and the result really worked for me. At those points, it was important to tell parts of the story clearly & quickly.
I loved the distinctive cinematography by Bojan Bazelli and the expert editing by Virginia Katz. Production Design, sound and costumes are exactly right, also.
If you like movie musicals, you’re in for a treat.
CATFISH Rated: 6 1/2
News Flash: Just in case any of you out there don’t know, I have shocking news. People often lie about & misrepresent themselves on the Internet in general and on Facebook in particular. If you plan to see CATFISH and aren’t aware of this very common occurrence, read no further. SPOILER ALERT.
According to the editors of IMDB: “Filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost document a story involving Ariel’s brother, Nev, a 24-year-old New York-based photographer, and Abby, an 8-year-old girl from rural Michigan who contacts Nev via Facebook, asking for permission to make a painting from one of his photographs.” Yes, more or less, that is the stated setup. According to Universal Pictures, the distributor: “They (the filmmakers and their brother) had no idea that their project would lead to the most exhilarating and unsettling months of their lives.” I doubt it and think they knew (or hoped) this was going exactly where it went right from the start. A pertinent question is when the filmmakers and Nev realized that Abby just might not be “real”. My guess is that the filmmakers knew early and just went on with it, anyway. Not that there’s anything really wrong with that, necessarily. Whatever sells tickets, I suppose…
Given the premise, this is well done and I was entertained/fascinated up to a point although I became antsy waiting for the film to reveal what I found obvious very early on. I found the two principals, Nev Schulman & Megan Faccio, likable although I have no idea how much of what we see them do is acting and how much is reacting to real situations. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Further possible SPOILER: I was relieved & grateful that there was no violence involved.
I can’t recommend CATFISH, but I’ve wasted many hours on far worse.
CLASH OF THE TITANS Rated: 6
CLASH OF THE TITANS is really not my kind of film. Therefore, I was surprised that it held my interest throughout. That well may be because the film makers stuck to a coherent and rather simple story line. I am not a huge fan of special effects unless they don’t look like special effects and serve the story rather than the other way around. The effects used here matched the slightly campy and somewhat cheesy tone of the piece. I’m giving the benefit of the doubt by assuming all was intentional.
The jury is still out on Sam Worthington’s potential as a movie star or actor. His part and performance here is very similar to the human character he played in the far superior AVATAR (2009). Liam Neeson (TAKEN -’09) as Zeus & Ralph Fiennes (THE READER -’08) as Hades are reunited for the first time since SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993).
They earn their paychecks and seem to be enjoying themselves. It is probably impossible to overact when playing a Greek God but Fiennes deserves Razzie consideration for his attempt here.
Considering the context, this is probably nit picking but I think the size of the dreaded Kraken seemed woefully out of proportion. It appeared larger than the town it was attracting.
COP OUT Rated: 2
Not that it comes as a surprised to me after seeing the trailer and being familiar with the previous efforts of director Kevin Smith, COP OUT is just plain awful. I smell Razzies and predict that it will be prominent in that group’s 2010 awards. The set-up finds a Black cop, Tracy Morgan, partnered with a White Cop, Bruce Willis. It has been done much more competently many times before, probably most successfully in 48 HOURS (1982). This time the result falls flat in large part because the dialog seems to have been improvised on the set as the cameras rolled while the action sequences are limp. Proceed at your own risk.
DATE NIGHT Rated: 7
Given the cast and the basic setup, DATE NIGHT had a real shot at being something special. Sadly, it isn’t. That said, it is considerably better than other recent comedies and has moments guaranteed to make you laugh.
Tina Fey, best know for NBC Television’s 30 ROCK and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE co-stars with Steve Carell, best known from THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN (2005) plus NBC Television’s THE OFFICE. They make a terrific team and I have little doubt they will work together again and soon. Mark Wahlberg (BOOGIE NIGHTS – ’97, THE DEPARTED – ’06) is delightfully amusing in support and can be proud to add this one to his resume.
It’s a shame the decision was made to turn this into an action comedy at about the 45 minute mark. The action part is lame & trite but given director Shawn Levy’s previous work, that’s no surprise. He directed both NIGHT OF THE MUSEUM films (2006 & 2009) to big boxoffice success. I managed to sit through only about half an hour of the two combined and left with headaches.
If you arrive at with DATE NIGHT somewhat modest expectations, you probably won’t complain.
DEAR JOHN Rated: 6
Along with several other projects, Nicholas Sparks wrote novels that became movies named THE NOTEBOOK (2004) & DEAR JOHN (2010). Think chicken salad (The Notebook) versus chicken shit (Dear John). I read both books and saw both movies. THE NOTEBOOK is one of my alltime favorite 100 Films and I loved the book. While the film DEAR JOHN is a significant improvement over that book, it’s still unsuccessful, at least for me. Think shallow, predictable and sugar-coated. [POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT: Not that I much cared either way, the resolution of the love affair in a brief low key scene at the end of the film is a total turnaround from the way the book wrapped up the fate of the lovers.]
To be fair, girls and young women like or love DEAR JOHN in both forms while boys and men will have little interest and are quite likely to be bored. Be guided accordingly and keep in mind that I’m completely out of the target demographic.
Stars Channing Tatum (STEP UP – ’06, G.I. JOE – ’09) & Amanda Seyfried (MAMMA MIA! – ’08) are perfect casting and can’t be faulted. Personally, I was happy to see Scott Porter, one of my favorites from television’s FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS – 2006-08 in brief support. Director Lasse Hallstrom who guided THE CIDER HOUSE RULES to greatness in 1999 was a good choice for this material and he handles individual scenes well. Alas and alack, somehow, the whole thing never jells.
EASIER WITH PRACTICE Rated: 7
EASIER WITH PRACTICE is a good little independent movie. I saw it 2-26-2010 at the Laemmle Sunset, West Hollywood, CA. It’s only in very limited theatrical release in NYC & LA and will probably be available on DVD soon. It earned/deserved a couple of 2009 Independent Spirit nominations and is worth checking out if you like little films. The main attraction is lead actor, Brian Geraghty who can be seen currently in a prominent supporting role in THE HURT LOCKER, also. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez is a talent I expect to hear from again soon. I have a little trouble believing the “flip” at the end of but still came away satisfied.
EASY A Rated: 7
I found EASY A amusing but was slightly disappointed based on how much I liked the trailer. (Many of the good parts are in the trailer, not unusual, but still…a questionable practice. )
I read that the budget was only $8 million. If true, my congratulations to all involved for proving that good entertainment can be delivered economically. Another smart move was selecting unique & picturesque Ojai, California for the entire shoot. Best of all is the casting of Emma Stone as the lead. Probably 20 at the time the film was shot, she did seem older that most high school girls but I suppose GLEE has prepared me for that casting practice. Ms Stone is currently shooting (Sept. 2010) likely hit THE HELP (2011) and that may well propel her into real stardom. She is also rumored as the female lead in the 2011 SPIDER-MAN re-tool. The supporting cast is surprisingly stellar but as effective as expected. It includes Penn Badgley (Television’s GOSSIP GIRL – 2007-11), Amanda Bynes (HAIRSPRAY – ’07), Thomas Haden Church (SIDEWAYS – ’04), Patricia Clarkson (WHATEVER WORKS – ’09), Cam Gigandet (THE O.C. – 2005-07), Lisa Kudrow (NBC Television’s FRIENDS – 238 episodes 1994-2004), and Stanley Tucci (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA – ’06).
Given the goals of & budget limitations on it, twenty-something director Will Gluck (FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS – 2011) delivers impressively.
THE GHOST WRITER Rated: 9
As of this writing (May 2, 2010) THE GHOST WRITER is one of only three outstanding films released so far in 2010 that I’ve seen. It will be in my Top 10 for this year.
When director Roman Polanski is matched with exceptional material, no director gets better results. While THE GHOST WRITER is not quite in the rarefied strata occupied by Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) and his CHINATOWN (1974), it easily ranks as third best of his career in my opinion. I’m hoping he’ll get a totally deserved Oscar directing nomination for it. Likewise, cinematographer Pawel Edelman, composer Alexandre Desplat, and editor Herve de Luze deliver outstanding, award worthy work here.
Further, the casting and acting are superb. I don’t always like or appreciate Ewan McGregor (STAR WARS: Episodes I, II, III -1999, 2002, 2005 and MISS POTTER – 2006) but he is pitch perfect here, looks great and is rarely off camera during the brisk 128 minute running time. Pierce Brosnan (“Bond, James Bond” 4 times between 1995 & 2002) and Kim Cattrall (SEX AND THE CITY television & 2 features 1998 – 2004, 2008, 2010 plus PORKY’S – 1982) contribute strong support in roles well out of their normal comfort zones. As the female lead, Olivia Williams is riveting. I was impressed with her as a rather colorless school teacher in AN EDUCATION (2009) but didn’t even realize I was seeing the same woman here until I checked her credits. (Interestingly, she was also Bruce Willis’ wife in THE SIXTH SENSE – 1999.) Now in her early forties, she has limitless potential. Her performance here is even more interesting upon a second viewing when you know more about her character.
For anybody that likes classy, intelligent films, this is a must see!
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Rated: 9
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is the first novel of & first film from Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson’s worldwide best selling Millennium trilogy. It has a much more descriptive title in Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor which translates into English as MEN WHO HATE WOMEN. This film which is based on that first book is a knockout that sneaked up on me. I have not read the book. In fact, other than seeing the English title on the Best Selling Fiction Lists, I didn’t realize that it had been filmed until it showed up in Los Angeles (and other key markets) theatres in March of 2010.
Sony has secured remake rights to all three completed Swedish films based on the novels but it’s not going to be easy to equal the bravura standard set here by Danish born director, Niels Arden Oplev. Casting for the English language version has got to be highly competitive since parts as juicy as these are rare. (I’m thinking Russell Crowe or Clive Owen & Angelina Jolie, Michelle Williams or Natalie Portman would be ideal.)
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO follows tattooed computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) and journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Michael Nyqvist) as they get entangled in a series of murder mysteries that occured over decades. At the start of the film, the journalist is hired by a rich, retired businessman to find a missing relative & the computer hacker eventually joins the journalist in his quest.
Be warned that THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO contains brutal violence and includes plenty of disturbing content. It’s a complicated, riviting thriller but definitely not for the squeemish.
GREEN ZONE Rated: 8
While not a classic and no where near as good as the BOURNE films, GREEN ZONE did hold my attention. Actually, I gave up early on following every twist and turn since it is very complicated. By the end, I think I got everything out of it that I needed to know, anyway, and I felt satisfied. As usual, I enjoyed Matt Damon. Generally, I like the work of writer Brian Helgeland (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL -’97, MAN ON FIRE -‘O4) although his contribution here is hard to gauge. I’m a big fan of director
Paul Greengrass (THE BOURNE SUPREMACY -’04, UNITED 93 -’06, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM -’07). Nobody does smart action films better.
The cinematography by Barry Ackrord (THE HURT LOCKER-’09), the musical scoring by John Powell (THE BOURNE IDENTITY -’02, THE ITALIAN JOB -’03, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY -’04, MR. & MRS. SMITH -05), and the editing by Oscar winner Christopher Rouse (THE ITALIAN JOB -’03, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY -’04, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM -’07) are award worthy but will most likely be overlooked.
Unfortunately, here in early 2010, plans for another BOURNE film to bring together a mix of elements from this talented group of men have been scrapped. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail, deals can be made and we can be BOURNE again soon!
HEREAFTER Rated: 9
This is a wonderful movie!
HEREAFTER, from director Clint Eastwood, does require exercising some patience and attention must be paid. The emotional resolution/payoff is well worth any extra effort required, however. It will easily make my Top Ten Best Films of 2010 list and Clint Eastwood deserves special credit for his wonderful original music score in addition to his assured and measured directing. Matt Damon is excellent in a nice, understated and entirely appropriate performance.
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE Rated: 3
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE is as incompetent as it is repugnant.
And, it isn’t funny. And, it got some good reviews, anyway.
I’m anything but a prude and I don’t get offended easily.
Among my favorite films that succeed at doing what HTTM seems to be attempting
are THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998), WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (2007), & THE HANGOVER (2009).
To be fair, some of the matinee audience I saw this piece of garbage with yucked it up.
I was just stunned by its bad taste, sloppy writing, lazy acting and trashy production elements.
INCEPTION Rated: 8 1/2
INCEPTION is a must see film for any serious film-goer. While I found it fascinating, I also found it frustration. It is very complex and layered. After a second viewing, I think I “got” most of it. Generally, I don’t like for films to make me “work” to appreciate them but make an exception here. It requires concentration but does answer most of the issues and questions that it raises…I think!
The production values and the overall look of the film are fantastic and it is technically masterful. Look for multiple award hardware. The casting and performances are all dazzling although I doubt that it will receive any acting awards. Especially notable are Leonardo DiCaprio (SHUTTER ISLAND – 2010), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (THE LOOKOUT – ’07, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER – ’09), Ellen Page (HARD CANDY – ’05, JUNO – ’07), Ken Watanabe (LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA – ’06), Cillian Murphy (RED EYE – ’05), and Marion Cotillard (LA VIE EN ROSE -07). And I particularly enjoyed new-to-me Tom Hardy who has been cast as the lead in upcoming MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2012).
Writer-director Christopher Nolan (MEMENTO – 2000, INSOMNIA – ’02, BATMAN
BEGINS -’05, THE PRESTIGE -’06, THE DARK KNIGHT -’08) continues to dazzle as a major talent and personal favorite of mine.
IRON MAN 2 Rated: 8
I suspect that anybody who liked IRON MAN is going to like IRON MAN 2, also.
I found them very similar in every way. This is not my favorite genre and I’m most certainly not a “fanboy” but I was entertained.
Although it is a close call, the effects support the narrative here and don’t quite overwhelm it…and that’s a must for me.
Based on the trailer and early reports, I was relieved that I enjoyed IRON MAN 2 much more than I expected to. The trailer made it look like TRANSFORMERS 3, and I dread that. IRON MAN 2 tries to cram too many villains into the mix and would have been better if they’d saved Samuel L. Jackson for an inevitable sequel. Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow get it just right. I also liked both Sam Rockwell & Scarlett Johansson although I don’t always enjoy their work. On the other hand, personally, a little of Mickey Rourke goes a long way for me and there’s a lot of him here.
THE JONESES Rated: 8
THE JONESES is a “little” movie that I found very enjoyable & satisfying. Obviously, it was made on a modest budget but, other than some minor quibbles about never quite being able to figure out the setting, geographically speaking, the budget was appropriately. THE JONESES grabbed & held my attention throughout and I left the Beverly Center Cineplex happy.
The concept/setup is unique but I won’t spoil the little surprise here beyond saying that the obviously successful & very attractive family made up of a husband & wife plus their late teen son and late teen daughter make a big impact on their new Washington State or Georgia (!) suburban community soon after they move there at the start of the film. [According to the credits, these are the two states where the film was shot.] The title refers to the phrase/concept “Keeping up with the Joneses” and the film illustrates the perils of trying to do so.
I’m generally neutral about both Demi Moore (ST. ELMO’S FIRE – ’85, GHOST – ’90) and David Duchovney (KALIFORNIA – ’93, Television’s THE X FILES 1993 – 2003, & THE TV SET – ’06) but really liked both here. Each is near their fiftieth birthday but both are in great shape and easily pass for forty or so which I’m guessing is the age of their wife & husband characters. While she is undeniably attractive, I’m no fan of Amber Heard although she fits this part of the daughter and is up to the task. I thought she was awful in NEVER BACK DOWN (’08) but acceptable in THE INFORMERS (’08). On the other hand, I really liked Ben Hollingsworth as the son. I was unfamiliar with him until now but hope to see him again soon. Both Gary Cole (NBC television’s MIDNIGHT CALLER -1988-91) & Glenne Headly are very effective in hefty supporting roles.
I strongly recommend it but suggest waiting for DVD availability due to current inappropriately high theatre ticket prices especially for minor films. It will receive very limited theatrical exposure, anyway.
KNIGHT AND DAY Rated: 7 1/2
Based on the trailer, I expected to like KNIGHT AND DAY. I did.
Nobody is going to accuse it of being very original, special or award-worthy, but it is good summer movie fun and is clearly aimed at groups outside the fanboy demo that is so popular with film makers currently. If you are attracted to it by its obvious elements, I suspect you’ll come away pleased.
I have mixed feelings about Tom Cruise. What I surmise about him as a person makes me cringe but I like his on-screen persona. Of his films, my favorites are RISKY BUSINESS – ’83, TOP GUN – ’86, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY – ’89, A FEW GOOD MEN – ’92, JERRY MAGUIRE – ’96, MAGNOLIA – ’99, and I find MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE I, II, & III – ’96, 2000, 2006 diverting. Further, I loved his cameo as Les Grossman in TROPIC THUNDER (2008) and as the same character on the 2010 MTV Awards Telecast. His willingness to kid his own image for major comedic effect is smart.
Cameron Diaz is at her best here. I loved her in THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (’98) and with exception of the wretched mistake called THE SWEETEST THING (2002) consider myself a fan of her work. While I look forward to future light-hearted outings from her, personally, I’d like to see more of her portraying characters similar to her NFL football team owner in Oliver Stone’s ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999). Cruise and Cameron have great chemistry.
The rest of the cast is good enough without standing out except for one of my personal favorites, Marc Blucas. As Fireman Rodney, he sparkles and proves that’s he’s ready for bigger parts and challenges.
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT Rated: 9
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT and this movie is wonderful!
While a serious drama at its core, it also contains some delicious and subversive humor causing me to laugh out loud several times.
In only very limited at this July 13, 2010 writing, it goes into wider release over the next several weeks. Seek it out and don’t miss it.
The acting by the five leads, (Annette Benng, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson) is as good as any acting you’ll see anywhere. All these top billed actors are worthy of serious year-end Award recognition as is co-writer/director Lisa Cholodenko (LAUREL CANYON – 2002).
I have a spot reserved on my 2010 Top Ten List for THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT.
THE LAST EXORCISM Rated: 8
Before he gives up the practice, a troubled evangelical minister in today’s Southern Louisiana agrees to let his last exorcism be filmed by a documentary crew. In advance, he shows the film crew (and us) the gimmicks and tricks he uses to make the procedure seem real to the believers. Said minister shares that he doesn’t think that his subjects are actually possessed, but is satisfied that he’s doing good (and no harm) when the subjects believe that he can exorcise and/or has exorcised their demons. And… as he states, he is good at it & that he has a family to feed!
The first third or so of the film introduces us to preacher/exorcist Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) then shows him performing one of his routine exorcisms on teenaged Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) while her concerned/troubled father, Louis Sweeter (Louis Herthum) and skeptical brother, Caleb Sweeter (Caleb Landry Jones), along with the documentary’s director and cameraman, observe. It goes well; the Devil is displaced; the crew and the exorcist pack up and leave. Then the trouble starts!
Telling more would reveal too many spoilers but careful attention should be paid to Nell’s drawing/paintings since they provide peaks into future events. Before the end, a certain terrific film from the sixties featuring somebody’s baby is evoked before the end credits roll! Be warned that I found the ending a bit abrupt.
I hated THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (’99) and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (’09) and am not fond of all the other pseudo-documentaries they enabled or spawned. Further, I’m not a fan of the plentiful, low-budget slasher/horror genre so the odds of me liking THE LAST EXORCISM were minuscule. Although the style, budget and look are similar to some of those, this is far superior in every way. Imagine my surprise at finding it clever, smart, subversive and thoroughly entertaining.
Although Patrick Fabian’s resume boosts more than a hundred television credits between 1992 and 2010, mostly on network television series, I never noticed him until now. Although from Pennsylvania, he is totally believable as a good ole aging southern boy just like so many I grew up around. He would be perfect if anybody wants to remake ELMER GANTRY (1960) and he could rival Burt Lancaster’s Oscar winning interpretation with the right direction. Ashely Bell as the possessed teenager Nell has done some television work but this is a breakout performance that should get her plenty of future casting opportunities. This part allows her ample opportunity to show extensive range. I loved this performance. Also deserving special mention are Baton Rouge native Louis Herthum as the father & Texan Cabel Landry Jones as the brother/son. (Interesting note: Many of the actors and characters share their first names.) I also loved the sly take by Becky Fly as Becky Davis in support. (Somebody should introduce her to Del Shores!) Likewise, Logan Craig Reid got just the right tone in his oivotal scene as Logan Winters.
The writing by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland is really smart. Based on their work here, I now plan to see the upcoming release of THE VIRGINITY HIT (Oct 2010) which they co-wrote and co-directed. German born director Daniel Stamm did a solid job and really captured the texture & feel of the area around Baton Rouge. Obviously produced on a very limited budget, every dollar is right up there on the screen thanks to the director and everybody else involved. In particular, Cinematography by Zoltan Honti, Music by Nathan Barr, Production Design by Andrew W. Bofinger, & Casting by Lauren Bass are commendable.
Lastly, notable among the nine listed producers is Eli Roth, best known for his supporting actor stint in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009).
THE LAST SONG Rated: 6
After struggling through DEAR JOHN (2010) just a few weeks ago, I knew I was in for a tough 100 or so minutes with this one, another project spawned by best selling novelist Nicholas Sparks, and especially so soon. Further, teen sensation Miley Cyrus (HANNA MONTANA, herself) is not a personal favorite. As I expected, THE LAST SONG is no better and no worse than DEAR JOHN. In fact, in most ways, they are slightly different takes on the same story. Along with numerous other similarities, both boast beautiful cinematography of southern beaches, feature an ailing major character and are sure to please the intended female audience. As for me, I’ve had enough, thanks.
One of the biggest problems I have with THE LAST SONG is the star, Miley Cyrus. To me, she is not particularly attractive and I found her more annoying than likable here. And, she tries way too hard as an actress. (I predict a Razzie nomination.) She may improve with practice and acting lessons so I’ll leave it at that. Further, as played and/or written, I never believed that the practically perfect character, Will, as limed by Liam Hemsworth would have been attracted to her and/or put up with her off-putting shenanigans. Hemsworth has considerable potential. (Question: Would straight, rich, handsome teen-aged southern boys who play bare chested beach volleyball shave their chests?!)
As the father, Greg Kinnear is quite effective and I enjoyed the performance of young Bobby Coleman as the brother.
In the middle of the film, accompanied by a car radio, Miley sings part of a song on screen and is very effective. For her, vocally, that’s it until the end credits. Surprisingly, the song used over the end credits is undistinguished.
LEAP YEAR Rated: 7 1/2
LEAP YEAR is the first 2010 release I saw at the start of 2010. Perhaps my rather generous rating was influenced by the fact that it started the new year off pleasantly for me, movie-wise, with a likeable romantic comedy. Nobody that sees movies often is going to accuse it of being original but it proves that well done formulaic projects can still entertain when done well.
The best thing about it is the cast. Amy Adams (JUNEBUG – ’05, ENCHANTED – ’07) & Matthew Goode (MATCH POINT – ’05, THE LOOKOUT – ’07, A SINGLE MAN – ’09) make a great team and should seek out other projects for working together again soon. They are as likeable as they are attractive.
LETTERS TO JULIET Rated: 8
This is a sweet little movie set in Italy looking its best. It’s an ideal date movie but if you miss/missed it in theatres, catch up with it on DVD.
As the lead, Amanda Seyfried (MAMMA MIA! – 2008, DEAR JOHN – ’10) is at her likable & loveliest best as she continues her rise to real stardom. Australian Christopher Egan is a bit bland in a bland supporting role but is certainly well cast and does exactly what was required to be effective. In the other male supporting role, Mexican Gael Garcia Bernal (Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN – 2001, BAD EDUCATION – ’04) is amusing and I enjoyed seeing him all-cleaned-up in a main stream film for a change.
Saving the best for last, Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave (MORGAN! – ’66, CAMELOT – ’67, ISADORA – ’68, ATONEMENT – 2007, F/X Televisions’ NIP/TUCK 2004-09) is radiant and completely winning. She deserves another Oscar acting nomination and the only question I have is whether she should be considering for support or lead. I say, size up the competition in both categories when the time comes and pick the one giving her the best chance.
MORNING GLORY Rated: 7 1/2
While I’m a bit disappointed, this is a nice little diversion. I was hoping for a companion piece to BROADCAST NEWS (1987) and it doesn’t come close. Of course, most films don’t approach the quality of BROADCAST NEWS either.
The real joy of MORNING GLORY is Rachel McAdams. She proves right here that she is quite capable of carrying a major film on her beautiful shoulders. For me, this is easily her most significant work to date with the possible exception of her outstanding breakout performance in THE NOTEBOOK (2004). In major support, Harrison Ford & Diane Keaton get ample opportunity to show why they are enduring stars. A favorite of mine, Patrick Wilson (LITTLE CHILDREN – 2006 and several more) is charming and attractive in a part that calls for just that and nothing more.
I really like the song used on the soundtrack at the end of the film. It’s named “Strip Me” and is performed by Natasha Bedingfield. It is quite infectious and gives the film a boost right where it needs it. If original, I’d like to see it get an Oscar nomination as best song.
At the end of MORNING GLORY, I left the theatre smiling and content.
NEVER LET ME GO Rated: 9
The first thing you need to know about NEVER LET ME GO is that, going in, the less you know about it, the more likely you are to appreciate it. Therefore, I urge you to read as little as possible about the plot/concept/situation until after you see the film.
It’s really rare for me to see a film before I know a lot about what it is I’m about to see, but by design, I went into NEVER LET ME GO only knowing it was a romantic drama with a science fiction component. It captured my attention from the start and I thoroughly enjoyed having questions answered in due course as the plot unfolded in a
No spoilers here. The setup: Told in flashback, we meet three friends named Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy where they spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school called Hailsham. As young adults, we see them come to terms with the haunting and inescapable reality that awaits them in a world where disease has been conquered.
The casting and performances couldn’t be better. Carey Mulligan (AN EDUCATION – ’09) is Kathy; Andrew Garfield (LIONS FOR LAMBS – ’07, SPIDER-MAN Reboot- 2012) is Tommy & Keira Knightly (PRIDE & PREJUDICE – ’05, ATONEMENT – ’07) is Ruth. Offering vivid support are Charlotte Rampling (THE VERDICT – ’82) & Sally Hawkins as Miss Lucy. I also liked Domhnall Gleeson as Rodney.
This is only the second feature film Mark Romanek has directed and it is even better than his earlier success, ONE HOUR PHOTO (2002). Expect more. The script is by Alex Garland (28 DAYS LATER – ’02) and it is based on the Kazou Ishiguro novel. All technical elements are top drawer with special praise for musical scoring by Rachel Portman (THE CIDER HOUSE RULES – ’99) & the cinematography of Adam Kimmel.
Additional kudos to Jane Monheit for singing the title song (off screen). It was written by Luther Dixon.
NEVER LET ME GO is not going to capture the attention of or please everybody. Many would find it boring. Don’t expect action. Count me as a big fan.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME Rated: 4
For perspective, keep in mind that I didn’t like any of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films (2003, ’06, 07). POP is the same type of muddled, bloated, bloodless noise. If you liked them, you’ll probable like this. I didn’t. I don’t.
I am a big fan of Jake Gyllenhaal (OCTOBER SKY – ’99, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – ’05) and am glad he got what I would expect to be his biggest payday to date for this. I won’t even try to evaluate his performance here but I am glad it was him in the part rather than Johnny Depp. Jake’s British accent was consistent but why bother. He was obviously in excellent physical condition, clearly up to the task of appearing to do the stunts and he left the more obnoxious scene-chewing to Ben Kingsley & Gemma Arterton. Ms Arterton is attractive but she appeared to have been goosed in many of her scenes and I got very tired of her sing-songish line delivery and eye-popped expressions.
I assume director Mike Newell did it only for the money also & suspect he delivered exactly what Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the Disney Folk dictated. Surprisingly, he is same man that directed the wonderful FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL in 1994.
I couldn’t find one single similarity.
This wasted the longest 116 minutes of my weekend.
REMEMBER ME Rated: 3
REMEMBER ME is a bad movie. It is drab, dull and forgettable.
It deserves to be “honored” at Razzie nomination time although I would NOT include the actors for such derision. It isn’t their fault. Since both the lead actor & the lead actress offer equally low energy performances punctuated by halting line readings, I’ve got to assume they were directed to do so for whatever misguided reason. Groan.
I’m still willing to give Robert Pattinson (the TWILIGHT films 2008, ’09, ’11) the benefit of the doubt. He is attractive in a young Robert Mitchum (THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER – ’55, HOME FROM THE HILL – ’60, CAPE FEAR -’91, and many more) kind of way and seems to have some screen presence. With a decent script and a competent director, who knows? In this one, he is sullen & distracted. I liked female lead Emily de Raven on ABC television/s LOST (2004-10) but found her annoying here. [Note: The only film I can recall liking that includes a scene where the lead actress vomits on camera is Robert Altman’s BREWSTER McCLOUD (1970).]
I consider it irresponsible for teen favorite Robert Pattison to be shown smoking in half his scenes and wonder if Tobacco Institute money changed hands to make it happen.
SEX AND THE CITY 2 Rated: 6
My rating is too generous but I decided to focus on what I liked rather than what I didn’t. Make no mistake however, there are things here that made me actually cringe.
Unlike a lot of serious critics, however, I won’t be spending time and energy bemoaning the fact that the principals aren’t positive role models or even real people. They were created to wear pretty costumes and perfect self-indulgence. At some level, most fans of the series and the movies, including me, realize this and just go with the fantasy flow. The biggest problem this film has is when it attempts to tackle serious issues and fails spectacularly. I was thoroughly entertained for the first 60 or so minutes of the way-too-long 146 minute running time, and can’t understand why somebody didn’t yell CUT no later than at the two hour mark. The gay wedding in general & Liza Minnelli in particular set just the right tone.
When the girls leave the city, the trouble starts.
All the principals get their moments and if you like them, you will be rewarded to some degree.
SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE Rated: 3 1/2
SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE is a wretched, misdirected vulgarity. In particular, the scene with the dog licking the sticky substance off the lead actor made me cringe, and it is poorly shot/edited.
Let the record show, I’m not easily offended and loved the AMERICAN PIE (1999, 2001) films, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (’98), and much of the many Judd Apatow writing oeuvre, especially WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (2007) to name but a few that pushed the boundaries of acceptability with laugh inducing success.
This little pile of caca is another matter. The unrelenting foul language and awkward situations are present to shock rather than to serve the plot or provide laughs. I was just repulsed.
The premise of a far less attractive male catching the fancy of a knockout female is rich with possibilities, all wasted here. The main problem is that somebody forgot that the male would have to have some less-than-obvious sterling qualities that the female would see while others couldn’t/didn’t/wouldn’t. The male, as played by Canadian born Jay Baruch, is dull, in poor physical and mental shape, has no ambition, and is unattractive in almost way. The female, as played by British born Alice Eve, is beautiful, accomplished, well adjusted and, most of all, a nice person. I didn’t believe for one second that she’d be attracted to him. Consider it a fantasy of the male screenwriters, I guess.
I hate films such as this where there is not a single grounded person present. When everybody depicted is wacky, off-putting, ill-tempered or demented, it just doesn’t work for me. The actors are not at fault although I question selecting Jay Baruchel as the lead. I can’t really judge the writing since I didn’t read the script, but I found the directing by British born Jim Field Smith sloppy & excruciating.
All the above aside, I suspect young males, including those who find a way around the Restricted rating, will love it. To others, I offer this as Fair Warning!
SHUTTER ISLAND Rated: 9
Leonardo DiCaprio & Martin Scorsese score again!
Don’t miss it! More comments soon…
THE SOCIAL NETWORK Rated: 10
Destined to be better known as “The Facebook Movie”, by any name, THE SOCIAL NETWORK is exceptional film making and a terrific movie. It is the best reviewed film of 2010 so far, and that distinction is likely to last through December releases. It will be among my Best 10 of 2010 and I find myself liking it better the more I think about it.
As with most really good movies, it all starts with the script. Expect Aaron Sorkin (NBC’s THE WEST WING – 154 episodes – 1999-2006) to add an Oscar nomination to his career accolades, and I won’t be surprised if he takes home a lot of hardware for his smart adaptation of Harvard graduate Ben Mezrich’s book, “The Accidental Billionaires” . The story recounts the founding of the wildly popular social network site, Facebook, at Harvard by Harvard students in the early 2000s and shows us the individuals involved. While there is disagreement about just how accurate the depiction is, there is little doubt that the essence is accurate and I’m not about to sweat the details. Neither should you.
Expect multiple Oscar nominations including, but not limited to, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Script & male acting nods. As with most really good films, all technical components are expert and exceptional. Specifically, I was especially impressed with the cinematography of Jeff Cronenweth (FIGHT CLUB – ’99), the expert editing of Kirk Baxter (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – ’08) & Angus Wall (ZODIAC – ’07, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – ’08) and the production design from Donald Graham Burt (ZODIAC – ’07, BENJAMIN BUTTON – ’08. Not surprisingly, all four of these listed artists have worked with Director David Fincher on his past projects.
The flawless casting is as impressive as the acting. It isn’t a necessity for success, but I like that the major actors look a lot like their real life counterparts. Acting award consideration-wise, expect Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg to receive lots of votes as best actor while Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin is a likely supporting actor candidate. This is a break-through/star-making showcase for Jesse Eisenberg while Andrew Garfield equals his amazing work in another major 2010 film, NEVER LET ME GO. Next, he title stars in the SPIDER-MAN 2012 reboot.
Justin Timberlake is still best know (so far) for his music making, especially as a member of boyband NSYNC, but he is just exactly right as Napstr founder Sean Parker. His acting style is different from the two stars and that is just as it should be since his character’s origins and educations are equally different from theirs. Armie Hammer, new to me, dazzles/fascinates as he plays the Winklevoss twins, Cameron & Tyler, with a body doubling assist by successful male model Josh Pence. Even with knowing in advance that one actor plays both twins, this is amazing cinema magic and totally seamless trickery. Rooney Mara makes her relatively brief screen count as Erica Albright, the girl who caused Mark Zuckerberg to launch Facebook by rejecting him, at least according to the script. As I write this, Ms. Mara is filming the English language remake of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009 & 2011) in the title role of “Lisabeth Salander”. (Not incidentally, David Fincher directs that as well as this.)
I’ll be shocked if David Fincher isn’t nominated as best director of the year from all major award bestowing organizations and, at this point, I’m betting on him to win many of them.
Obviously, I recommend THE SOCIAL NETWORK and urge you to see it soon and often!
STONE Rated: 2
I hated every one of STONE’s interminable 105 minutes. I forced myself to stay to the abrupt/unsatisfactory/cop-outing final frame so I could warn others. (I don’t review films unless I see them from start to finish.)
This is an awful movie. I give it a “2” by default. I can not think of one single good thing to say about it. If there’s a theme, I missed it. I only rate films lower than “2” when I hate everything about them including their theme. The basic plot is simple enough but convoluted crap is layered on to the point where total confusion is likely to occur for anybody with the misplaced determination to try to follow this junk.
Based on his other credits as director of THE PAINTED VEIL (2006) & as script writer of THE KILLER INSIDE ME (2010), STONE’s director, John Curran, is likely to join Peter Hyams, Edward Zwick, Mike Leigh & James Gray in a four-way tie as “The Worst Director In The World” if he continues, somehow, to get himself hired or his projects financed. I thought THE PAINTED VEIL was totally devoid of energy and that THE KILLER INSIDE ME was fatally fragmented/fractured at best although it’s hard to know who to blame for its failure. Based on photos, Mr. Curran appears to be an attractive young man, and well may be a nice person. I hesitate to be so harsh, but I have really hated what I’ve seen of his work so far. The credited screenwriter of STONE is Angus MacLachlan whose only other credit is the excellent JUNEBUG (2005). It’s hard to believe the same person wrote both.
I thought both lead male performances were as mannered as they were self indulgent. I suspect both actors are way beyond taking direction from anybody but themselves at this point in their careers so maybe director John Curran shouldn’t shoulder all the blame. Can it be that Robert De Niro has forgotten how to act? Here he seemed to be trying to blend the jerk he played in NEW YORK, NEW YORK (1997) with his grouchy grandfather character from the FOCKERS films (2000, 2004, 2010). And Edward Norton! He never let me forget for a moment that he was ACTING. Both men seemed to think they were on stage rather than on set facing a camera and the dialog was as endless as it was pointless. I still don’t have much of an opinion about Milla Jovovich but I suspect she came close to projecting the tone the writer had in mind. She is very loose and seemed to be having fun despite the sordid subject matter. As written and played, it seemed to me that Frances Conroy belonged in a different film entirely. Maybe best known for her work in television’s SIX FEET UNDER (2001-05), as written/edited, nobody on earth could have made this character work. For no good reason, both actresses did the tobacco industry proud by their incessant puffing throughout and I hope they were well compensated for same.
ENOUGH! I’ve wasted far too much time on this pretentious piece of tedium already. You’ve been warned.
THE TOWN Rated: 9
THE TOWN will easily make my Top Ten of 2010. So far this year, I haven’t seen anything else this well directed. I can’t find a thing about it that I didn’t like. Ben Affleck actually improves on the outstanding directing he did on his only other behind-the-camera stint, the equally wonderful GONE BABY GONE (2007). There is not a bit of fat present here and each scene really counts. Nothing introduced goes unanswered or unresolved by the fadeout. The balance between action and emotion is perfect.
The success of this film clearly starts with the script. Those credited with the screenplay are Peter Craig, Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard and it is based on Chuck Hogan’s novel, “Prince of Thieves”.
From the stars right down through extras, the cast is amazing. Ben Affleck, directing himself, gives the best performance of his career. He builds on his excellent work in HOLLYWOODLAND (2006). Rebecca Hall (VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA – ’08), Jon Hamm (AMC Television’s MAD MEN -2007-10+), Jeremy Renner (THE HURT
LOCKER – ’08), & Blake Lively (Television’s GOSSIP GIRL – 2007-10+) deserve award consideration since each is vivid. Oscar winner Chris Cooper contributes strongly in his one telling scene and Pete Postlethwait is solid in support.
All technical components are as good as it gets including expert editing from Dylan Tichenor (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – ’05); original music by Harry Gregson-Williams (MAN ON FIRE – ’04) & David Buckley; cinematography of Robert Elswit (BOOGIE NIGHTS – 1997).
Too rarely a film will come along that reminds me just why I love going to the movies. My reaction to THE TOWN was visceral and renews my faith in the medium. Do yourself a favor; SEE IT!
UNSTOPPABLE Rated: 8
UNSTOPPABLE is non-stop captivating & thrilling entertainment. It held my attention completely for its brisk 100 minutes and I left the theatre pleased & content. Given the concept and the objective, mission admirably accomplished. ASIDE: if I lived close to active railroad tracks, I’d probably have already placed a call to my real estate agent and moving company!
The three leads deliver exactly what is required. They are attractive, believable and likable. Denzel Washington hasn’t always been a favorite of mine, but I liked him in this almost as much as I did in my two favorite performances of his career, MAN ON FIRE (2004) & ANTWONE FISHER (2002). Chris Pine proves that STAR TREK (2009) wasn’t a fluke and gives every indication that he will become a major leading man and successful action star. The career of Rosario Dawson (EAGLE EYE – 2008) will benefit significantly from her work here.
Director Tony Scott deserves high praise for understanding the material and getting the tone & pace just right. Among my earlier favorites from him are TOP GUN (’86), DAYS OF THUNDER (’90), and MAN ON FIRE (2004). When it comes to selecting a director for a big budget action film, he would have to be near the top of every producer’s wish list. The efficient and lean script is from Mark Bomback (LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD – 2007) and is based on events that occurred in 2001. The editing, musical scoring, cinematography and sound are expert. Given proper/necessary promotion, consideration for award metal is merited and likely.
VALENTINE’S DAY Rated: 5
Generally, I really like good romantic comedies that include multiple and/or single story lines. For example, LOVE ACTUALLY (2003) is among my 100 Top Favorites of alltime. That’s what I was hoping for here and I suspect that was the intention of the VALENTINE’S DAY creators. Sorry, not even close! Instead, VALENTINE’S DAY reminds me of the seventies television series, THE LOVE BOAT. Of course, many people adore (and still enjoy) THE LOVE BOAT episodes so, I don’t want to discourage them from seeing VALENTINE’S DAY. As for me, I’ll be watching my LOVE ACTUALLY DVD as I try to get VALENTINE’S DAY purged from my memory.
A large, popular cast was assembled but few are given very good material and several are even poorly photographed. In particular, Anne Hathaway (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – ’05, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA – ’06), Jessica Biel (EASY VIRTUE – ’08) & Bradley Cooper (FAX television’s NIP/TUCK -’07-’09, THE HANGOVER – ’09) were badly lighted and have never looked worse. In general, the whole film is too dark and has no sparkle. Frankly, it looks cheap.
The two most prominent actors in terms of both plot and allotted screen time are Ashton Kutcher (television’s THAT 70s SHOW – 1998-2006, and WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS – ’08) & Jennifer Garner (television’s ALIAS 2001-06, and 13 GOING ON 30 – ’04). Both are appealing, attractive and lovable, as usual. They are used to frame the story…more or less.
Since I love Julia Roberts (PRETTY WOMAN – 1990, CLOSER – 2004 & many more), I enjoyed her brief scenes and appreciate the fact that her story featured a mild surprise. Bradley Cooper is a good match for her and I’d like to see them together as a romantic team with a strong script. Eric Dane, best known for television’s GREY’S ANATOMY 2006-10 so far, is quite well cast as an aging pro-football player and his character’s secret comes as a welcome surprise although it has zero prep in the script. Patrick Duffy, also from television’s GREY’S ANATOMY, is dull and wasted as a jerk. Where has Topher Grace (TRAFFIC – 2000, SPIDER-MAN 3 – 2007) been?! It’s good to have him back and looking hale and hearty. Jessica Alba (FANTASTIC FOUR – 2005) is good enough as Ashton’s would be mate. As usual, I found Jamie Foxx (RAY – 2004) grating. Predictably, teenager Taylor Lautner (THE TWILIGHT SAGAs) made the young girls in the audience squeal as planned when he first appears. Current music & Grammy sensation Taylor Swift is cute and energetic, actually too energetic. If directed, she could have real big screen potential. Credited director here, Garry Marshall, who has passed his peak, must have been taking a nap during the filming of her scenes.
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS Rated: 6
Bottom line: I just didn’t like it.
I found WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS to be competent, conventional, complicated, and to a fault, conversational. In fact, there were times when I thought the conversations would never end…and…what the characters were saying was out of sync with what they were doing or what they were going to do or what they had done. Simply put, for me, the script is the problem. I found all the main characters interesting but flawed to various but significant degrees. Credited, one way or another with the writing are Allan Loeb, Stephen Schiff, Stanley Weiser & director Oliver Stone.
Speaking of Oscar winning director Oliver Stone, generally, I’m a big fan. Among my favorites from him as director are SALVADOR (1986), PLATOON (86), BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY (89), JFK (91), ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (99). On the other hand, he missed badly with HEAVEN AND EARTH (93 ) & ALEXANDER (2004). His best films are flashy, passionate & edgy. Few would use those adjectives to describe WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS.
I’ve rarely been so aware of blatant product placement. I don’t really object in many cases such as the prominent Bed Bath & Beyond sign that caught my eye but it seemed appropriate and natural. However, the scene where one character offers another a Heineken (beer) plays almost like a television spot and paused the flow of the action for a closeup of the bottle. Further, am I the only one that cringed when real life throat cancer stricken actor Michael Douglas clearly enjoys a large cigar?! Also, Josh Brolin is filmed smoking cigars and Susan Sarandon puffs away on cigarettes for no apparent plot point reason. Like it or not, these actors are role models and I consider their on screen tobacco use irresponsible and objectionable. My guess is that money changed hands between the Tobacco Institute and the producers and/or actors. GROAN.
The main characters were all well cast and the actors gave good performances although all have been much better elsewhere. Worthy of note are: Michael Douglas (ROMANCING THE STONE – ’84, WALL STREET – ’87, FATAL ATTRACTION – ’87, THE WAR OF THE ROSES – ’89, BASIC INSTINCT – ’92, WONDER BOYS – 2000), Shia LaBeouf (DISTURBIA – ’07, TRANSFORMERS 2007 & 2009, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL – ’08), Carey Mulligan (AN EDUCATION – ’09, NEVER LET ME GO – ’10), Josh Brolin (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – ’07, MILK – ’08,
TRUE GRIT – ’10) and Susan Sarandon (THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW – ’75,
BULL DURHAM – ’88, THELMA & LOUISE – ’91).
YOU AGAIN Rated: 4
Fair Warning: This is a bad movie that should have been much better given the premise and the cast. It runs a long 105 minutes & I thought it would never end. I stuck it out but found it painful.
Whoever made the trailer was talented enough to lure me into seeing the film. I was mislead into believing this would entertain me. Wrong. Every decent moment of the film is in the trailer. The film, itself, is repetitious, undisciplined and the story has no arc since it continually doubles back on itself plot-wise.
Since most of the performance are pitched at the same hysterical level, my guess is that Director Andy Fickman uttered only two words on the set. Namely: “more” & “bigger”.
While the two older leads, Jamie Lee Curtis (HALLOWEEN – ’78, PERFECT – ’85, TRUE LIES – ’94) & Sigourney Weaver (ALIEN – ’79, WORKING GIRL – ’88, COPYCAT – ’95, AVATAR – ’09) ) do have some decent moments and are in excellent shape, much of what the writer and/or director had them say/do just made me uncomfortable. Younger co-lead Kristen Bell, probably best know so far from 64 episodes of television series VERONICA MARS (mid-20000s), is growing on me. She has several upcoming projects. The other younger co-lead, Odette Yustman, is new to me. She is attractive, energetic, game & as good as the material allows although I doubt that she’ll ever become a favorite of mine. On the other hand, the male fiance of the piece, James Wolk well may become a favorite of mine, critics, and many others. Unfortunately, his Fox September 2010 Television Series, LONE STAR has just been canceled after only two episodes aired to poor ratings. He’ll be back. I’m a big fan of Kristen Chenoweth. Her multi-mediumed career gems include originating “Glinda” in WICKED on Broadway & guest stints on television’s GLEE (2009). Her performance in YOU AGAIN will not make her highlight reel. I’m a big fan of Kyle Bornheimer and he avoids embarrassment in support here as Tim. So far, his best showcase was the 16 episodes of 2009 television series, WORST WEEK. If good luck brings him the right part in a hit, he can easily become a big star. Here’s hoping. Lastly, speaking of embarrassment. I was embarrassed for Bette White. Until now, I had never thought about her teeth…I’ll leave it at that.
ANIMAL KINGDOM Rated: 8 1/2