Thursday, July 31, 2008

Paranoid Park - DVD Review

PARANOID PARK (**) - Starring Gabe Nevins, Taylor Momsen and Dan Liu.
Directed by Gus Van Sant.

Gerry was the nadir of Van Sant's self-indulgence, where Casey Affleck and Matt Damon got lost and walked and walked and walked. I thought Elephant was pretty good, where Van Sant took the trick of showing people walk and walk but made it add up to something.

This is better than Gerry, in that it's shorter and there's a little more story to it. A little. It's about a skateboarder, so we get more than our share of shots of skateboarders, slo-mo, going up and down, as natural as birds in flight. Pretty young men, skating and skating. Yesss.....

Whoa, fell asleep there. Anyway, his use of mostly non-professional actors lends a documentary feel to it. It also means we get a lot of shots of their blank-slate faces, where more depth is being intimated than actually surfaces. We eventually learn that one of them was responsible for the death of a security guard. Was it an accident or murder? We're pretty sure it was an accident (it's deep in the movie before we get the revealing flashback), but the police are approaching it as murder.

I've been a fan of many Van Sant movies, but I'd like to see him get out of this dialogue-free, slo-mo, people walking and walking phase. This could be called Elephant 2: The Skateboarders, a sequel I've never wanted to see.

Side note: Van Sant's next feature is Milk, starring Sean Penn as gay politician Harvey Milk, and it co-stars James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna and Eric Stoltz, and my bet is they do more than walk and walk.

Doomsday - DVD Review

DOOMSDAY (**) - Starring Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Adrian Lester, David O'Hara and Alexander Siddig.
Written & directed by Neil Marshall.

Have you seen Mad Max or Escape from New York? Then you don't need to see this. Those were better versions of this. Sure, those movies might be dated now, but this movie already is. I guess you could say it's Mad Maxine, as our protagonist is a gun-toting, butt-kicking chick, complete with a Plissken-esque eyepatch.

A plague has hit Scotland, and in amazingly quick, organized fashion, England walls it off, creates a no-fly zone, and just lets the place rot for twenty years. The rest of the world has forgotten about Scotland, believing everyone in there is dead and the virus is contained. But when new outbreaks of the virus hit London, the government looks back to Scotland. It seems many people survived the plague, so they send in a task force to find the cure and get out.

Leave Scotland alone for twenty years, and most of the people have turned into this punk-rock, high-mohawk, apocalyptic wasteland straight of the Road Warrior handbook. Or have they? The movie gets really bizarre when the task-force finds a band of people living in an old castle, complete with dressing in medieval garb and engaging in knight games. Through it all Rhona Mitra, who's a cross between Kate Beckinsale from Underworld and Kate (Evangeline Lilly) from Lost, doesn't bat her one good eye as she breaks arms, bashes heads, and fights her way to find the cure.

Bob Hoskins used to get better material than this, but I guess it's all been downhill since the Super Mario Bros Movie.

Step Brothers - Movie Review

STEP BROTHERS (**) - Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn and Rob Riggle.
Directed by Adam McKay.

Ultimately this movie didn't make sense. I couldn't get a handle on the rules of its little movie universe. Will Ferrell is Brennan and John C. Reilly is Dale, two emotionally-stunted 40-year-olds who behave like they're 10 sometimes, 15 other times, and on occassional convenience, 40. Being immature usually means a level of innocence, but they're vulgar and rage-filled as well.

Brennan lives with his mom and Dale lives with his dad. When their parents marry, they become step brothers. And they share a room. And they hate each other. And they make childish threats against each other. (Actually sometimes they act like they're 7. Add that to the maturity fluxuation graph.)

Some of the antics are funny, in their isolated, episodic way. I liked Brennan's cocky younger brother Derek (played with Tom Cruisish smugness by Adam Scott) and his repressed, miserable wife (Kathryn Hahn). The romance and chemistry between the parents is underwritten or non-existent or both. And any movie that has a long, sustained fart instantly loses half a star.

It was okay. There were people around me laughing their heads off. I found it to be a little better than Semi-Pro, but a sign that the Ferrell comedy machine is running out of steam.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Adam Sandler & Seth Rogen in 2001

I rented Disc 2 for kicks of Undeclared, this short-lived 2001 Judd Apatow series, and I got to see the "Adam Sandler as himself" episode. Ultimate foreshadowing, as in Summer 2009, Sandler will star in the Apatow-directed Funny People, co-starring Undeclared alum Seth Rogen.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Charlie Bartlett - DVD Review

CHARLIE BARTLETT (***) - Starring Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey Jr., Hope Davis, Kat Dennings and Tyler Hilton.
Written by Gustin Nash.
Directed by Jon Poll.

It starts as a funny teen comedy until the final third, where it curves into angsty seriousness. What kept the movie buoyed through that transition for me was Robert Downey Jr., doing some pre-Iron Man slumming, as a high-school principal who lectures against drugs even though he hits the bottle each night.

Anton Yelchin, who will soon play Chekov in the next Star Trek movie, plays Charlie Bartlett, a rich kid kicked out of all private schools who must endure the indignity of public school. He doesn't have half the charm of Ferris Bueller, but the kids warm up to him when he starts dispensing psychiatric advice and giving them his leftover prescription pills.

The movie is able to walk the tightrope of satire in the first half until real problems develop in the second half, where many characters are revealed to have more depth than at first thought, and winds up being a satisfying whole. And it helps to have Downey, a John Hughes vet, to be here keeping it real.

Nancy Drew - DVD Review

NANCY DREW (***) - Starring Emma Roberts, Tate Donovan, Josh Flitter, Max Thierot, Rachael Leigh Cook, Barry Bostwick, Caroline Aaron, Marshall Bell, Pat Carroll, Laura Harring and Chris Kattan.
Directed by Andrew Fleming.

I was caught by surprise how much I enjoyed watching this movie with my ten-year-old daughter. I grew up reading a Nancy Drew mystery or two, and the preview made it look like they just thrust her into a Mean Girls situation. While that aspect is here, there's also a Scooby Doo level mystery, and loyalty to the sprit of Drew herself.

My first concern was the modernization, but the film starts in River Heights, where Drew has solved pretty much every mystery there, and cops and criminals know that Drew can crack any case. She's Batman in penny-loafers.

Her dad gets a new job, which transplants her to Hollywood, CA. She must goodbye to reliable sidekicks Bess and George, and hello to Corky, a 12-year-old who was moved up a few grades so he could hit on his sister's friends. Her new house, of course, is the center of a mystery, of an unsolved murder involving a famous actress. While the mystery may contain elements of The Black Dahlia and Sunset Boulevard, it's all done within the PG wholesomeness of any Drew case.

The Mean Girls aspect is there, but Nancy is immune to peer pressure. Her mild manners and gee-whiz entusiasm for a good mystery are unflappable. I think the casting of Emma Roberts (Eric's daughter; Julia's niece) is the brightest bit of inspiration in the movie. Too bad this didn't do too well at the box office. I would have been open to taking my daughter to the next Nancy Drew movie.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chaos Theory - DVD Review

CHAOS THEORY (**) - Starring Ryan Reynolds, Emily Mortimer, Stuart Townsend, Sarah Chalke, Mike Erwin and Alessandro Juliani.
Written by Daniel Taplitz.
Directed by Marcos Siega.

I've been impressed with the steady improvement in Ryan Reynolds' acting ability, and he doesn't backslide here. He is performance worked in the comedic and dramatic parts for this movie. He plays a wound-up guy who runs a tight schedule. One day his wife sets his clock back ten minutes to loosen him up, and it triggers a chain of events that sends his life spiralling out of control.

Good premise. Unfortunately near the beginning of the chain of events, we have this contrived misunderstanding that requires his wife to be an irrational nut, enough to make Ralph Farley say "Maybe this is just a misunderstanding. Let's try to get more information." So for the next twenty minutes or so I watched with arms metaphorically folded, wondering what other careening coincidences the script would throw out there in order to get to Point B.

It eventually recovered, only to dwindle into a maudlin ending. I chalk it up as another interesting misfire.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Step Up 2: The Streets - DVD Review

STEP UP 2 THE STREETS (**) - Starring Briana Evigan, Robert Hoffman, Adam G. Sevani, Will Kemp, Cassie Ventura, Black Thomas, Sonja Sohn and Channing Tatum.
Directed by John Chu.

Never saw Step Up, which is fine, since the only tie it has to the first movie is a cameo by one of its leads.

This time around we have Andi (Briana Evigan, daughter of Greg), a "street" girl who spends her time with the 4-1-0, a streetdancing team that likes random public displays of dancing, which makes them a public nuisance. It's silly, but I can see it appealing to young teens.

Andi catches the eye of Chase (Robert Hoffman), who invites her to join the Maryland School of the Arts. There she is an outcast because she's from the "streets" and then she's kicked out of the 4-1-0 because she's spending too much time at the snobby school.

I was enjoying the light street-competiton storyline until it veered serious, with the rival team engaging in vandalizing the school and jumping individuals. Isn't this just about dancing? I don't remember Kirsten Dunst getting beat up in Bring It On.

The race elements felt weird. They're largely ignored, with whites and blacks and everything in between mixing it up, dancing together. Then when Tuck, black man, leader of the 4-1-0 steps up his wrath, going from street-dancer to thug, that's when the hollowness of the script started to get to me. That's when it's clear the 4-1-0 is mostly black and Andi's team is mostly white.

It all comes to the Showdown, a street dance-off that Andi's new crew isn't allowed to participate in. Cuz the 4-1-0 says so. Andi then gives a nauseating speech about tolerance that includes swelling music, and the crowd is sold.

Oh, am I giving too much away?

There's a cameo from JabberwockieZ, the winners of MTV's America's Next Great Dance Crew. The dancing is the sole reason to watch, and it's pretty good. It's a varied enough mix of moves that I don't think it will be as instantly dated as Breakin' 2: Electric Bugaloo, but at least that movie will be famous for decades.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Definitely, Maybe - DVD Review

DEFINITELY, MAYBE (**1/2) - Starring Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz, Abigail Breslin, Derek Luke and Kevin Kline.
Written & directed by Adam Brooks.

At its heart, this is a pretty good romantic mystery comedy-drama. We watch this guy float through the 1990's, with three different women coming in and out of his life. Which one does he wind up marrying? Ryan Reynolds does his first convincing job as a romantic lead, and all three women are good at their roles.

BUUUT the hook of the story means we're either going to get an emotional downer or an emotional dishonest ending. Guess which one the formula dictates should happen?

The hook is that a girl is asking her father the real story of how he met her mother. She needs to know this, as her parents are divorcing. So he tells her the story of the three women in his life he seriously dated, changing their names, and she will then guess which one her mom is. So you have this cute hook, but the closer we get to the end, the more awkward the ending has to be. When we figure out which one her mom is, we also figure out which one he's divorcing. So how's that for an ending to a romantic comedy? Terrible. What's the other option? Well, as a child of divorce myself, I can tell they went with a choice that is completely emotionally dishonest from the kid's point of view, and not even Abigail Breslin could sell me on it.

Too bad. Most of the rest of it worked.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekend Box Office

1. The Dark Knight - $155.34 million - 1 wk (WB)
4366 screens / $35,579 per screen
2. Mamma Mia! - $27.61 - 1 wk (U)
2976 / $9276
3. Hancock - $14 ($191.5) - 3 wks (Sony) -56.4%
3776 / $3708
4. Journey .. Earth - $11.91 ($43.07) - 2 wks (NL) -43%
2830 / $4208
5. Hellboy II - $10.04 ($56.45) - 2 wks (U) -70.9%
3212 / $3125
6. Wall-E - $9.81 ($182.48) - 4 wks (BV) -47.8%
3310 / $2965
7. Space Chimps - $7.35 - 1 wk (Fox)
2511 / $2927
8. Wanted - $5.1 ($123.25) - 4 wks (U) -57.5%
2433 / $2095
9. Get Smart - $4.08 ($119.56) - 5 wks (WB) -43.3%
2135 / $1911
10. Kung Fu Panda - $1.75 ($206.51) - 7 wks (DW) -60.3%
1505 / $1163
11. Meet Dave - $1.64 ($9.37) - 2 wks (Fox) -68.9%
3011 / $543

Pretty much every major-studio wide release has a deal with the theaters. THey have to be there at least two weeks. When I got tickets for The Dark Knight, I noticed Meet Dave, in its second week, had been cut to one showing on one screen, at noon. So yeah, if many theaters did the same thing, Meet Dave would have a big drop-off. I don't think the same thing happened with Hellboy II. I think for those theaters where they opened it on two or screens, they cut it back to one screen to make room for Dark Knight, as they have the same core audience.

The Dark Knight broke the three-day opening record of all time. Mamma Mia! also opened comparable to last summer's Hairspray, so the counterprogramming worked. Space Chimps, however, showed that outside of Disney/Pixar, DreamWorks and Blue Sky, the animation gig is a tough market to break into.

Numbers from

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight - Movie Review

THE DARK KNIGHT (****) - Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts, Cillian Murphy, Michael Jai White, William Fichtner and Anthony Michael Hall.
Written by Jonathan & Christopher Nolan.
Directed by Christopher Nolan.

Believe the hype, about Heath Ledger's performance and the movie overall.

I loved Batman Begins, and this movie's better. That movie was all about Bruce Wayne, and it's abou time we had a Batman movie that did that. Now it's a year later and we're seeing all the repercussions of Batman being a vigilante on the prowl. There are copycat batmen on the prowl, getting their butts kicked by more prepared villains. And with a law-enforcer as extreme as Batman, naturally his opposite will arise. Enter the Joker.

This movie is like Brian DePalma's The Untouchables, Michael Mann's Heat, and Martin Scorsese's The Departed, with cops and criminals trying to outsmart each other, double-cross each other, and they can't avoid their fates. Eliott Ness happens to wear a batcape while Al Capone smears make-up on his face.

Everyone brings their A-game, but above them all is Ledger. Now I thought Ledger was a weird casting choice when it was first announced. I couldn't see it. Really, the guy from A Knight's Tale as the Joker? But Heath creates a unique and scary villain here. A terrorist with no morals and no greed. He just wants to create as much chaos as possible. He erases memories of Jack Nicholson's Joker.

If Chris Nolan has a weakness, it's the staging of the action sequences. Sometimes they get too choppy and we can lose our sense of where we are in the battle. But Nolan (Memento, The Prestige) is first and foremost a story-teller, and he's a good one. There's a lot of thought-provoking themes here, with parallels to the Patriot Act to the criminal justice system.

Caine, Oldman and Freeman are the three noble adults who have to bring the subtlety to keep their characters fresha nd relevant, and each has his moments and deliver the gravitas. Gyllenhaal is a step up as Rachel Dawes (replacing Katie Holmes) and while her part is still underwritten, she becomes an important part of the story.

Christian Bale has a great time playing up the playboy image of Bruce Wayne, while still get down and dirty as Batman. Aaron Eckhart may get overshadowed with all the chatter since Heath is so good, but I really felt for Harvey Dent. It's one of Eckhart's best performances. Dent is the White Knight of Gotham, a fearless district attorney out to clean up the city, knowingly putting his life in danger to do the right thing. The further we got into the movie, the more I felt for this guy and hoped he would escape his fate. But we all know Two-Face is coming.

The movie made me that much sadder that Heath Ledger is dead. Not just because if there's a third Nolan-directed Batman, we won't see the Joker. This was a role that would launch him into the A-List stratosphere, put him with Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt, where he could do whatever project he wanted.

I saw in IMAX, and regardless of format, I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008 Emmy Nominations

Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Entourage (HBO)
The Office (NBC)
30 Rock (NBC)
Two and a Half Men (CBS)

Boston Legal (ABC)
Damages (FX)
Dexter (Showtime)
House (Fox)
Lost (ABC)
Mad Men (AMC)

Antiques Roadshow (PBS)
Dirty Jobs (Discovery Channel)
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC)
Intervention (A&E)
Kathy Griffin: The Life on the D-List (Bravo)

The Amazing Race (CBS)
American Idol (Fox)
Dancing with the Stars (ABC)
Project Runway (Bravo)
Top Chef (Bravo)

The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
Late Show with David Letterman (CBS)
Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)
Saturday Night Live (NBC)

The Andromeda Strain (A&E)
Cranford (Masterpiece Theatre, PBS)
John Adams (HBO)
Tin Man (Sci Fi Channel)

Bernard and Doris (HBO)
Extras: The Extra Special Edition Series Finale (HBO)
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (Lifetime)
A Raisin in the Sun (ABC)
Recount (HBO)

Alec Baldwin (30 Rock, NBC)
Steve Carell (The Office, NBC)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies, ABC)
Tony Shalhoub (Monk, HBO)
Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men, CBS)

Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?, ABC)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine, CBS)
America Ferrera (Ugly Betty, ABC)
Tina Fey (30 Rock, NBC)
Mary-Louis Parker (Weeds, Showtime)

Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment, HBO)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, AMC)
Jon Hamm (Mad Men, AMC)
Hugh Laurie (House, Fox)
James Spader (Boston Legal, ABC)

Glenn Close (Damages, FX)
Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters, ABC)
Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU, NBC)
Holly Hunter (Saving Grace, TNT)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer, TNT)

Ralph Fiennes (Bernard and Doris, HBO)
Ricky Gervais (Extras: The Extra Special Edition Series Finale, HBO)
Paul Giamatti (John Adams, HBO)
Kevin Spacey (Recount, HBO)
Tom Wilkinson (Recount, HBO)

Dame Judi Dench (Cranford, Masterpiece Theatre, PBS)
Catherine Keener (An American Crime, Showtime)
Laura Linney (John Adams, HBO)
Phylicia Rashad (A Raisin in the Sun, ABC)
Susan Sarandon (Bernard and Doris, HBO)

Tom Bergeron (Dancing With the Stars, ABC)
Heidi Klum (Project Runway, Bravo)
Howie Mandel (Deal or No Deal, NBC)
Jeff Probst (Survivor, CBS)
Ryan Seacrest (American Idol, Fox)

Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men, CBS)
Kevin Dillon (Entourage, HBO)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, CBS)
Jeremy Piven (Entourage, HBO)
Rainn Wilson (The Office, HBO)

Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies, ABC)
Jean Smart (Samantha Who?, ABC)
Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live, NBC)
Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men, CBS)
Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty, ABC)

Ted Danson (Damages, FX)
Michael Emerson (Lost, ABC)
Zeljko Ivanek (Damages, FX)
William Shatner (Boston Legal, ABC)
John Slattery (Mad Men, AMC)

Candice Bergen (Boston Legal, ABC)
Rachel Griffiths (Brothers & Sisters, HBO)
Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy, ABC)
Chandra Wilson (Grey's Anatomy, ABC)
Dianne Wiest (In Treatment, HBO)

Bob Balaban (Recount, HBO)
Stephen Dillane (John Adams, HBO)
Denis Leary (Recount, HBO)
David Morse (John Adams, HBO)
Tom Wilkinson (John Adams, HBO)

Eileen Atkins (Cranford, Masterpiece Theatre, PBS)
Laura Dern (Recount, HBO)
Ashley Jensen (Extras: The Extra Special Edition Series Finale)
Audra McDonald (A Raisin in the Sun, ABC)
Alfre Woodward (Pictures of Hollis Woods (Hallmark Hall of Fame, CBS)

Will Arnett (30 Rock, NBC)
Shelly Berman (Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO)
Steve Buscemi (30 Rock, NBC)
Tim Conway (30 Rock, NBC)
Rip Torn (30 Rock, NBC)

Charles Durning (Rescue Me, FX)
Robert Morse (Mad Men, AMC)
Oliver Platt (Nip/Tuck, FX)
Stanley Tucci (ER, NBC)
Glynn Turman (In Treatment, HBO)

Polly Bergen (Desperate Housewives, ABC)
Edie Falco (30 Rock, NBC)
Carrie Fisher (30 Rock, NBC)
Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives, ABC)
Sarah Silverman (Monk, USA)
Elaine Stritch (30 Rock, NBC)

Ellyn Burstyn (Big Love, HBO)
Diahann Carroll (Grey’s Anatomy, ABC)
Sharon Gless (Nip/Tuck, FX)
Anjelica Huston (Medium, NBC)
Cynthia Nixon (Law & Order: SVU, NBC)

Funniest Commerical on TV?

Neil Patrick Harris for Old Spice, sending up his old Doogie Howser image.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Drillbit Taylor - DVD Review

DRILLBIT TAYLOR (*1/2) - Starring Owen Wilson, Leslie Mann, Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile, David Dorfman, Lisa Ann Walter, Beth Littleford, Alex Frost, Josh Peck, Kevin Hart, Danny R. McBride and Stephen Root.
Directed by Steven Brill.

I did a little background research on this, since its tone and story were so conflicted, and now it makes sense. Seth Rogen co-wrote this, he of Superbad fame, and I don't think it's too small a coincidence that the three leads feel similar to the teen geek-trio from that movie, albeit two years younger. The storyline overall feels very similar to a comedic take on 1980's My Bodyguard, and John Hughes wrote a story like this about 25 years ago. I would assume the story never made its way to the big screen because of how similar it is to My Bodyguard.

So we have the occasional Seth Rogen riff in a world where bullies are unstoppable monstrous demons, jocks think it's cool for weaker kids to get beat up, and principals and teachers who don't care. I could see this movie, made in the 1980's, as cathartic an experience as when Alfalfa beat Butch at boxing in Little Rascals, or when Daniel-san gets in that crane-kick to the face on Johnny in The Karate Kid.

This is supposed to be a comedy but it's full of unreal setups, stereotypes, and of course, relentless bullying. I's just not funny to see three kids beat up and humiliated over and over again. Alex Frost (Elephant) is good at being the bully, even if this bully is just a year or two away from beginning his serial killer career. Laughs come from finding truth in surprise. The movie lacks honesty, and it's predictable from beginning to end, so what good is it?

And Owen Wilson doesn't elevate the material at all. It's one of his laziest performances to date, and this is a guy who's perfecting the slacker persona. It was around the making of this movie he had his suicide attempt, so maybe that's why his heart's not in it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

24: Season 3

First season was riveting. Second season was great, even if the central premise, that a vice-president and a cabinet would move so quickly to try to secretly impeach a president, was flawed. Season 3 took some cakes. The first eight hours got thrown out the window by a plot twist that felt more like a lazy writers' device. The next six hours got thrown away again as the main villains got killed and turned out to not be the main villains. No it's really an evil British guy, and he made Pres. Palmer compromise in ways that seemed out of character for him. Palmer's always surrounding himself with wolves and devils that betray him, and hey, they're often family. His ex-wife, his brother, his VP, his trusted advisor Mike in Season 2, so many people are around him to give him bad advice and stab him in the back. My wife and I have come away from this loving Chloe and not too sure if we want to dip into Season 4 too soon. Does it get progressively worse each season?

(It bothers me that Wayne Palmer eventually becomes president. How could such a weak guy rise in the ranks?)

I do love the convenience of TV on DVD, even if I'm a few years behind.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Superhero Movie - DVD review

SUPERHERO MOVIE (**) - Starring Drake Bell, Sara Paxton, Christopher McDonald, Leslie Nielsen, Kevin Hart, Marion Ross, Brent Spiner, Pamela Anderson, Tracy Morgan, Regina Hall, Keith David, Robert Joy, Jeffrey Tambor, Robert Hays, Nicole Sullivan and Kurt Fuller.
Written & directed by Craig Mazin.

I don't think I'm ever going to like a parody movie again. I'm too old. In my thirties doesn't feel old, but these are clearly aimed at teens and pre-teens. Fart jokes? Check. Nose-picking jokes? Check. Puking? Check. Poop? Check. Pee-pee? Check. Airplane was funny. Naked Gun was funny. The novelty has worn off, and we get these every few months. The less-talented team behind Meet the Spartans already has Disaster Movie opening in August and Sci-Fi Movie opening in February 2009. We're doomed. Doooomed!

But these are the guys behind Scary Movie 4, which actually made me chuckle a couple times. So Superhero Movie throws out a gag every 15 seconds, and if one of 20 work, it's a hit. I'd say one out of 40 work.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hancock - Movie Review

HANCOCK (***1/2) - Starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman.
Directed by Peter Berg.

I loved this movie, and I don't get what stick is up the butts of the other 64% on who didn't like it. They complain about originality then excoriate a movie for being original with its third act?

If you've seen the previews, you know pretty much how the first two acts will go. I am grateful the publicity campaign gave no hints where Act III is coming from, though any savvy filmgoer can probably guess.

Will Smith plays John Hancock, the world's only superhero. He can fly, he's indestructible, he's immortal, and he's a petulant alcoholic punk. He tends to not care about destroying the environment around him and he saves a life here or stops a thief there. He has an eagle on his hat, he's named for a founding father... he's a metaphor for America in the world today.

America is the only superpower left in the world, a world that would rather have Her go away than come in and "help." Yet when America doesn't help, the world misses Her.

Hancock saves the life of a struggling PR rep named Ray (Jason Bateman), as in ray of sunshine, as in a naively optimistic person who wants to return the favor to Hancock. No jail can hold Hancock, but Ray convinces him to go anyway, to pay for the damage he did on his last bad-guy catching.

Hancock is similar to Iron Man in that it's not about a boy becoming a man, it's about a guy becoming a man. Iron Man's Tony Stark doesn't really care about what his weapons are doing until he gets kidnapped and has his eyes opened. Hancock, so used to being alone, doesn't try to mature until someone else reaches out to him first, and so he allows Ray to save him.

Then we have the third act that goes a whole 'nuther direction. Which was cool too. It may seem like the role of "Ray's wife" is beneath the talents of Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, but there are subtle things she does that pulled me in, intrigued me to her character.

My Blueberry Nights - DVD Review

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (**) - Starring Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman.
Directed by Wong Kar Wai.

There is some beauty in this otherwise pointless tale about the drifting aspects of love. Actually, "tale" is too generous a word. It's more like a series of vignettes that don't really add up.

Norah Jones is forgettable in her acting debut. I'd rank her somewhere between Damages' Rose Byrne and 24's Reiko Aylesworth. In other words, Jones would probably do better on TV. On the big screen, especially opposite people like, you know, the rest of the cast listed up there, she doesn't stand up.

Wong Kar Wai is great with images and thoughtful moments. But in this story, where a waitress meets a guy in New York, falls in love, sees him with another woman, then moves from town to town trying to get over him, nothing seems to be building to anything. It's like three episodes of one of those TV shows where the main character keeps moving on, like The Fugitive or The Incredible Hulk.

I found Portman miscast. She plays a poker pro, made to look like a 40-year-old, to which I say, why not cast an actual 40-year-old?

The piece that stuck out most for me was with David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck, The Spiderwick Chronicles) as a man who can't quite give up drinking, or his ex-wife.

In my book, it's a pretty-looking, sometimes-interesting misfire.

Meet the Browns - DVD Review

TYLER PERRY'S MEET THE BROWNS (**) - Starring Angela Bassett, Rick Fox, Margaret Avery, Frankie Faison, David Mann, Jenifer Lewis, Tyler Perry and Sofia Vergara.
Written & directed by Tyler Perry.

Never seen a Tyler Perry movie. Thought I'd give one a try, seeing as how Angela Bassett is headlining, and she mysteriously doesn't get to act much these days.

It's a weird mix, and my understanding is that it's par for the course for it to veer with little warning between preachy melodrama and slapstick comedy. Bassett plays a single mother down on her luck who finds out her long-lost father has died. She packs her family up on the bus and heads down, ony to learn her new extendeds are the wacky Browns.

Some actors are going for realism, some are going for play-to-the-balcony dinner theater, and one (Rick Fox) can't act. Bassett seems more comfortable in the dramatic scenes; in the comedy, she's the straight observer, looking around for an exit while the queens in the cast strut and fan themselves while singing, "Lo'd have mercy!"

It did nothing to make me want to see another Tyler Perry movie. Buuut it was better than Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins - DVD Review

WELCOME HOME ROSCOE JENKINS (*1/2) - Starring Martin Lawrence, Joy Bryant, Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Earl Jones, Mo'Nique, Margaret Avery, Nicole Ari Parker, Louis CK and Damani Roberts.
Written & directed by Malcolm D. Lee.

What a strange, broad comedy this is. I can't think of another movie where it's intended moral is the importance of family, but the family it displays is so obnoxious and unlikeable that the moral could easily be flipped to "Once every ten years is good enough."

One thing, among many things, that felt out of place, is how parents played by James Earl Jones and Margaret Avery could raise their kids to wind up being so rude and so biologically different. Martin Lawrence, Michael Clarke Duncan and Mo'Nique are siblings?

Lawrence is not his usual motor-mouthed jester self. Here he's the beat-down emasculated one. He's a successful Maury Povich-type talk-show host who hasn't been home to downhome Georgia for nine years. He takes his stick-thin girlfriend, who also won her season of Survivor, to be there for his parents' 50th anniversary. There he has sisters Mo'Nique berate and mock him constantly, grown cousins (Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps) berate and mock him, and the one nice brother punches him out when Roscoe lashes out at him. (Actually I'm not sure how Mike Epps fit in, but it provided an excuse to reunite the Honeymooners).

Let's go to that. Duncan punches Lawrence. Then in the next scene, Mo'Nique makes fun of him for the bump on his head. When he retorts, she beats the crap out of him. Why is this entertaining, beyond bloodlust from an audience that sat through Black Knight and National Security?

This is one talented cast where I'd like to see someone reign them in and play to their strengths, but most of the time they go bigger and bigger, waiting for that direction to pull back that never comes. And once we do get to the end, the moral of the story, it's unearned. Only by presenting Lawrence with a worse option, his Survivor girlfriend who reveals herself to be more shallow and selfish as the movie progresses, does he have his heart-strings tugged to give his family a chance. Hollow, forced, fake.