Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 - DVD Review

**1/2

Starring Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli and Annjanue Ellis.
Directed by Tony Scott.

It's slick, it's solid, it's faithful to the original yet changes things up, and yet it doesn't really do enough to justify its existence. It features some good cerebral cat-and-mouse dialogue between Washington and Travolta, and I liked Gandolfini as the mayor, but for some reason, director Tony Scott has a giant car crash in the middle of the movie which I'm assuming is there for the movie-trailer people to use. He also makes some logical leaps in the third act to make it more actiony, which undermines the first hour. (Let's just say the original had a better ending).

Best TV of 2009

Comedy

1. NBC THURSDAY - Four quality comedies, and they're all ensembles. Community is buoyed by Joel McHale (good enough to be at least the next Greg Kinnear) and Chevy Chase, finally ready for prime time. Parks & Recreation has found its voice and greatly improved in its second season. The Office continues to be a must-see. The Jim-as-co-manager subplot has been uneven, but I look forward to the new direction now that Dunder Mifflin has been sold. And even though it gets all the awards, I like 30 Rock, but I look forward to the other three shows more.

2. BIG BANG THEORY (CBS) - The conventional sitcom lives, and while everyone around him is good at what they do, Jim Parsons as the egg-headed man-child Sheldon, once described as "one lab accident away from becoming a supervillain," steals the show.

3. MODERN FAMILY (ABC) - Nice to see Ed O'Neill back. In fact it's nice to see everyone in the mocku with a heart. Different cast members get a chance to shine each week.

4. BETTER OFF TED (ABC) - This tragically underpublicized comedy combines the absurdity of The Office with the soul-crushing corporate soullessness of Dilbert. It resulted in hysterically wrong situations. They should put this in the Wednesday line-up, so the quality of ABC Wednesday can truly rival NBC Thursday from the 1980's and 1990's, but the ratings are too low to justify that. Alas, poor Ted, I knew him well.

5. CHUCK (NBC) - Adam Baldwin's John Casey is the coolest sardonic tough-guy on TV since Jayne Cobb. Hm... I love the hijinks of the BuyMore crew, the off-kilter chemistry of Chuck & Sarah, and especially the multi-episode arc of Chevy Chase (!) as that Steve Jobs-type villain.

Drama

1. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (Syfy) - One of the best sci-fi series ever went out with class and finality. Most questions were answered, each cast member got their moment, and geeks of the world (and others who can appreciate good drama) can sit back and wait for the next big thing.

2. MAD MEN (AMC) - I started watching this season one, episode one, before all the hype. I can see people getting overhyped for this. But there are so many layers to it, and the season-ender was one of the best springboard episodes yet.

3. DEXTER (SHO) - The fourth season lived up to the first three, with John Lithgow as the disturbing family-man Trinity Killer. And just when it looked like Dex might be able to give up serial-killing, he has his world ripped apart.

4. LOST (ABC) - Here's looking forward to the last season helping this season make sense. Probably won't happen, and I'm okay with the jumbled time-shift thing, but wow, how are the pieces going to get put back together now? Probably with the deaths of many more characters, but hopefully at least some couples will get to live happily ever after. (Jin & Sun at least?)

5. V (ABC) - The remake is faithful to the spirit of the original while reinventing aspects of it that really fit into these modern times. Elizabeth Mitchell carries over her Lost mojo, and I appreciate that this show actually dares have a priest be one of the main good guys. I don't know how Morena Baccarin does it, but she looks like a beautiful woman who's secretly a lizard underneath.

And Other Things...

POLIWOOD (HBO) - Barry Levinson's documentary examines the overlapping relationships of politics and celebrity thanks to the age of Big Media. Even though it covered familiar territory, I learned more than I thought I would. Candid interview with and between celebrities and media pundits made them seem like real people. Which they are, but it's easy to forget when you just see them on TV.

SHATNER'S RAW NERVE (BIO) - I'll take an intimate 30-minute chat with William over any other host out there.

SURVIVOR (CBS) - In the spring, country boy JT was the sly charmer that kept people on his team when it was obvious at the merge he was a biggest threat than Coach the Delusional Dragonslayer. In the fall, Russell pulled a Dr. Will by being so devious and cunning that he became fun to root for. If he'd just been a little less cocky, he would have won.

And, the leftovers I like...

Simon Baker on The Mentalist (CBS), Julianna Marguiles on The Good Wife (CBS), Jeremy Piven on an otherwise stale season of Entourage (HBO), the urgency of 24 (FOX), the whimsy of Cougar Town (ABC), the "Sister Christian" shoot-out on FlashForward (ABC), the group numbers on Glee (FOX), the explosions on MythBusters (DISC), the sightseeing of The Amazing Race (CBS), the dark turns of Breaking Bad (AMC), the Seinfeld reunion on Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), pretending to be a judge of song (Fox's American Idol) or dance (MTV's America's Best Dance Crew), and the summer splashes of Wipeout (ABC).

Worst TV of 2009

I reviewed my 2008 list to make sure I didn't repeat anything.

1. BEN LYONS on AT THE MOVIES (Synd.) - Ben Lyons, E! host, and Ben Mankewicz, TCM host, were horrible choices to fill the balcony chairs once occupied by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. "Mank" actually might have been acceptable if he sat across from A.O. Scott, but Ben Lyons had zero credibility. I'm grateful the producers came to their senses and put real critics back into those seats.

2. SPENCER PRATT on I'M A CELEBRITY... GET ME OUT OF HERE (NBC) - There are plenty of people out there who think they can have it made if they could just become a villain on a reality show. This vain rich-boy was a jerk to everyone just so he could make headlines, and then he tried to quit the show repeatedly until an actual medical condition made him and wife Heidi leave. In two years, I predict him showing up on Celebrity Rehab, just trying to get the other contestants to fall off the wagon.

3. ARTIE LANGE on JOE BUCK LIVE (HBO) - Never has a talk-show debuted with a more boorish, energy-sucking guest. Buck didn't even have a commercial break to bail him out so he could kick him off the set.

4. LEVI JOHNSTON on THE JOY BEHAR SHOW (HLN) - Oy. Even people who hate Sarah Palin have to feel sorry for her that this is the guy who knocked up her daughter. You can tell he's just auditioning for his own reality show. It didn't help that Joy's line of questioning made Larry King look probing and skeptical. Of course, if Todd & Sarah get divorced next year (as Levi kept saying how bad their marriage is) or if Sarah really isn't Trig's mother, I take it all back.

5. MICHAEL JORDAN on NBA HALL OF FAME INDUCTION (ESPN) - Everyone knows MJ is the best, but instead of being gracious or humble, he kicked sand in the face of anyone who's ever entered his life so he could get in one last "I'm better than you." It certainly shed some light into why he's not been a good front-office guy.

6. SHREK THE HALLS (ABC) - I saw it for the first time this year and was appalled. Apparently we're going to get this lump of mucus-covered coal every winter.

7. BROTHERS (FOX) - Good supporting cast stuck with a non-actor lead and punchlines that make it sound like the live audiences is laughing under physical duress. 'Twas a bust from the get-go.

8. HANK (ABC) - Unfunny Kelsey Grammer vehicle wisely avoided by Nielsen families despite the other-wise strong line-up ABC has on Wednesdays. Grammer deserves better.

9. THE PRISONER (AMC) - I only watched the first half-hour, but everyone I've talked to assures me it never got any better. Pity to waste Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen like that.

10. NBC EXECUTIVES - Their mistake was forcing out Jay Leno to keep Conan O'Brien, but that was a mistake announced in 2004. But by giving The Jay Leno Show five hours of primetime, they've killed their already-bad ratings for years to come. They say they're saving money this way, but they're killing everyone. Sunday Night Football and The Office are their only ratings bright spots. They should just let Conan go and move Jay back to The Tonight Show, then get Law & Order: SVU back to one of the 10/9 spots and probably pick up whatever dramas CBS decides to cancel to fill the other four. What's sad is that there are good shows on their line-up, but if nobody watches them, do they exist?

Dishonorable Mentions:

FIXED CELEBRITY REALITY SHOWS - From Donald Trump picking his pal Joan Rivers as the winner of Celebrity Apprentice even though she walked off the show and kept calling her opponent Hitler, to Hulk Hogan picking his old tag-team partner Dennis Rodman as the winner of Celebrity Championship Wrestling even though two or three other celebs were clearly better, celebrity contestants on shows with celebrity judges need to understand that whoever deserves to win probably won't.

DISNEY/NICK TWEEN SHOWS - I am so not the audience they're aiming for, but while in a waiting room I once endured two episodes of Wizards of Waverly Place in a row, and I felt like I'd just sat through a marathon of Small Wonder and Saved by the Bell: The Next Class.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Julie & Julia - DVD Review


***

Starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond, Mary Lynn Rasjkub, Jane Lynch, Frances Sternhagen and Vanessa Ferlito.
Directed by Nora Ephron.

Had this just been about Julia Child, it would have been delightful, buoyed by Meryl Streep's beaming performance. But there is this other half based on blogger Julie Powell (Amy Adams), and Julie Powell is not as interesting as Julia Child. But sitting through the Julie scenes is worth getting to the Julia scenes. After all, there is good food to be made!

The movie parallels their lives, the small successes, the minor letdowns and obstacles, and it's a tribute to their wills to persevere despite whatever's thrown in front of them. In that way it's an ideal movie about American individualism. Streep deserves another nomination for her work here (and maybe she just might finally win her third Oscar for this), and Adams, let's say, does her mousy best.

The Cove - DVD Review


****

Starring Ric O'Barry.
Directed by Louie Psihoyos.

One caption this documentary can't claim: that no animals were harmed in the making of this film.

Ric O'Barry trained the dolphins on the TV show Flipper. He has spent the rest of his life regretting it. There's high demand for dolphins at Sea World-type amusement parks all over the world, and in the town of Taiji, Japan, fishermen can earn up to $150,000 per dolphin. What about the others they capture but do not sell? They kill them. By the thousands. Every year.

This is a closely guarded secret, and O'Barry, Psihoyos and their activist friends are determined to expose it, and this admittedly one-sided doc takes on an Ocean's 11 feel. They gather the experts then pull off the heist, except the heist is to plant some hidden cameras so they can capture what's really going on in that cove.

Unlike other activist docs where you get the feeling the makers are exaggerating or leaving key facts out, this one present its case very well. Dolphins are second to only humans as the smartest creatures on Earth. Dolphins have a poisonously high amount of mercury in their meat, and yet a DNA scientist takes samples from a Taiji grocery store and shows that dolphin meat is being labelled as something else and sold to the public. Japan is fighting to not only keep dolphins off the protected list from the International Whaling Commission but to lax it up on whales because "they eat too many fish."

Do they get the cameras hidden? It wouldn't be much of a movie if they didn't, and the sight of that blue water of the cove turn red with dolphin blood is one of the most memorable scenes of the year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Terminator Salvation - DVD Review

TERMINATOR SALVATION
Starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Helena Bonham Carter, Common, Jane Alexander and Michael Ironside.
Directed by McG.

**1/2

Oh, come on! It was kinda fun. Why did so many critics hate this? Maybe it was a letdown to those paying full theater prices for it, but it was better than the Sarah Connor Chronicles. That's thanks to the star-making turn by Sam Worthington (Avatar) as Marcus Wright, a human/machine hybrid who only learns halfway through the movie he's not all human.

Is it as good as the James Cameron flicks? Of course not. But McG is really good at staging action sequences and being true to the Terminator mythology. Cameron's, anyway.

Judgment Day has happens. The humans still alive are fighting to survive the terminators Skynet has dispatched. John Connor (Christian Bale) leads the resistance, kind of. He listens to tapes his mother left him and knows he has to find Kyle Reese, a teenager now but a man he needs to find so he can send him to 1984 to impregnate his mother.

Meanwhile Wright, a man sentenced to die in 2003, finds himself alive in 2018, having not aged a day and a little hazy on the past fifteen years.

Their stories run parallel for a while, then Wright stumbles upon a scrawny survivor named Kyle (Star Trek's Anton Yelchin).

Does it mean much? No. I'd put it on par with Terminator 3. Bale's performance features a lot of shouting, and there were secondary characters that never really seemed to do anything. (Why was Bryce Dallas Howard hanging around?) But I credit Worthington, McG, and every penny of its budget on-screen for making it a decent rental.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Invictus - Movie Review


Starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.

***1/2

I'll start with my quibbles. The movie made me wish I'd brushed up on my knowledge of Nelson Mandela and the rules of rugby beforehand.

This is beyond a typical sports movie. Nelson Mandela is a triumphant figure, and he deserves no less than Morgan Freeman to portray him, and he does so with depth and layers. Everything about this project says it should drown in cliches, and yet it doesn't. The South African scenery, the old neighborhoods, the rugby arena, the black and white bodyguards trying to work together, all lend complimentary details to the story.

It is fortunate that this movie isn't so much about rugby as it is Pres. Mandela's attempts to unify his nation. I get the feeling a lot of South African history was whitewashed to streamline the story. Maybe its lack of box-office success is due to The Blind Side absorbing the sports-drama audience (or being about the much more American sport of football) but this deserves an audience in its own right.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Susan Sarandon & Tim Robbins split

Even not getting married couldn't keep them together after over 20 years.

Goldie Hawn & Kurt Russell - still together.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Actor noms almost sewn up

Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
George Clooney - Up in the Air
Colin Firth - A Single Man
Morgan Freeman - Invictus

and then there's one more...

Maybe...?

Sharlto Copley - District 9
Daniel Day Lewis - Nine
Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker
Michael Stuhlbarg - A Serious Man

I think Renner's most likely to get that fifth spot, but the other four seem guaranteed.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Public Enemies - DVD Review


***1/2

Starring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Jason Clarke, Rory Cochrane, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Davis, Stephen Lang, David Wenham, Giovanni Ribisi, Lili Taylor and Leelee Sobieski.
Directed by Michael Mann.

Few directors are reliable as Michael Mann to produce a good-looking picture. Set piece after set piece is a beauty to behold. It recalls the glossy fun of Brian DePalma's The Untouchables while still taking on some melancholy meditation a la The Assassination of Jesse James.

Johnny Depp is solid as John Dillinger, the notorious bank-robber who became a Robin Hood type anti-hero as he robbed banks and gave some money back to the poorer folks. There's just enough menace there to know this man has no problem killin', but he's in it for the money.

Hot on his heels is FBI man Melvin Purvis, played with blank honor by Christian Bale. Purvis becomes the face of the newly-formed FBI after he cpatures and kills Pretty Boy Floyd, much to the delight and later jealousy of J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup).

Mann's experimenting here with some scenes, the camera swooping and jerking at times. The gunfights feel realistic and the mannerisms period.

It isn't always historically accurate (for instance, Pretty Boy Floyd was killed a month AFTER John Dillinger) and emotionally it may be closer to Miami Vice than Collateral, but sometimes it's nice to watch a talented guy at work.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Surrogates - Movie Review

(Saw this at the $1.50 theater.)

**

Starring Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames and Boris Kodjoe.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow.

Surrogates is a smart idea dumbed down. There's so much potential here for it to be the next Blade Runner, and it settles for not even being the next I Robot. Looks like it hedged its bets on budget too.

This is a future where people can stay in their homes and live their lives through surrogate robots, and we get to the point in this future where almost everyone has a surrogate. There's less crime, less death in this world, but there's also those crazy protesters who think surrogates are killing humanity. For some reason they're mostly rednecks, and they're given their own territory in east Boston to live, like a native American tribe.

Bruce Willis plays a cop who must investigate the first murder in years, where someone's concocted a device that'll kill the user of a surrogate if they "kill" the surrogate. Naturally he accidentally uncovers corporate espionage in his investigation.

Jonathan Mostow films most of the movie as claustrophobically as U-571. We get off-balance close-ups in many scenes which never really made sense to me. And while it's not really the movie's fault, it bugs me when the trailer gives away the ending. I spend the second half of the movie going "Well, I know we still need 'this' scene so there's only two possible ways this movie can end."

I don't know what sausage-grinder this screenplay went through, but it came across as the third draft of the third team who butchered whatever original cleverness may or may not have been there.

Why Nine and It's Complicated?

I haven't seen them yet, so I can't speak with authority, but last I checked, Nine had a 47% RottenTomato ranking and It's Complicated had a 36%. So why are they getting nominated for all these awards? Did any of the nominators see these movies first?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 SAG Award Nominees

Male actor in a drama series
Simon Baker, "The Mentalist"
Brian Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"
Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"
Hugh Laurie, "House"

Female actor in a drama series
Patricia Arquette, "Medium"
Glenn Close, "Damages"
Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: SVU"
Holly Hunter, "Saving Grace"
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"

Ensemble in a drama series
"The Closer"
"Dexter"
"The Good Wife"
"Mad Men"
"True Blood"

Female actor in a comedy series
Christina Applegate, "Samantha Who?"
Toni Collette, "United States of Tara"
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "The New Adventures of Old Christine"

Male actor in a comedy series
Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Steve Carell, "The Office"
Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
Tony Shalhoub, "Monk"
Charlie Sheen, "Two and a Half Men"

Ensembles in a comedy series
"30 Rock"
"Curb Your Enthusiasm"
"Glee"
"Modern Family"
"The Office"

Male actor in a TV miniseries
Kevin Bacon, "Taking Chance"
Cuba Gooding Jr., "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story"
Jeremy Irons, "Georgia O'Keeffe"
Kevin Kline, "Great Performances: Cyrano de Bergerac"
Tom Wilkinson, "A Number"

Female actor in a TV miniseries
Joan Allen, "Georgia O'Keeffe"
Drew Barrymore, "Grey Gardens"
Ruby Dee, "America"
Jessica Lang, "Grey Gardens"
Sigourney Weaver, "Prayers for Bobby"

Male supporting actor in a movie
Matt Damon, "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"

Female supporting actor in a movie
Penelope Cruz, "Nine"
Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air"
Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"
Diane Kruger, "Inglourious Basterds"
Mo'Nique, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

Male lead actor in a movie
Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
George Clooney, "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth, "A Serious Man"
Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"
Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"

Female lead actress in a movie
Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"
Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan, "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia"

Ensemble in a movie
"An Education"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Nine"
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 Golden Globe Nominations

Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical):
"(500) Days of Summer"
"The Hangover"
"It's Complicated"
"Julie & Julia"
"Nine"

Best Motion Picture (Drama):
"Avatar"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Precious"
"Up in the Air"

Best Director for a Motion Picture:
Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
James Cameron, "Avatar"
Clint Eastwood, "Invictus"
Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"
Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"

Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical):
Sandra Bullock, "The Proposal"
Marion Cotillard, "Nine"
Julia Roberts, "Duplicity"
Meryl Streep, "It's Complicated"
Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia"

Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical):
Matt Damon, "The Informant!"
Daniel Day-Lewis, "Nine"
Robert Downey Jr., "Sherlock Holmes"
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "(500) Days of Summer"
Michael Stuhlberg, "A Serious Man"

Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama):
Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
George Clooney, "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth, "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"
Tobey Maguire, "Brothers"

Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama):
Emily Blunt, "The Young Victoria"
Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"
Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan, "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious"

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture:
Matt Damon, "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture:
Penelope Cruz, "Nine"
Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air"
Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"
Monique, "Precious"
Julianne Moore, "A Single Man"

Best Screenplay for a Motion Picture:
Neill Blomkamp, "District 9"
Mark Boal, "The Hurt Locker"
Nancy Meyers, "It's Complicated"
Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"
Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"

Best Animated Movie:
"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"
"Coraline"
"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
"The Princess and the Frog"
"Up"

Best Foreign-Language Film:
"Baaria"
"Broken Embraces"
"The Maid"
"A Prophet"
"The White Ribbon"

Best Television Series (Drama):
"Big Love"
"Dexter"
"House"
"Mad Men"
"True Blood"

Best Television Series (Comedy or Musical):
"30 Rock"
"Entourage"
"Glee"
"Modern Family"
"The Office"

Best Actress in a Television Series (Drama):
Glenn Close, "Damages"
January Jones, "Mad Men"
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Anna Paquin, "True Blood"
Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"

Best Actor in a Television Series (Drama):
Simon Baker, "The Mentalist"
Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"
Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"
Hugh Laurie, "House"
Bill Paxton, "Big Love"

Best Actor in a Television Series (Comedy or Musical):
Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Steve Carell, "The Office"
David Duchovny, "Californication"
Thomas Jane, "Hung"
Matthew Morrison, "Glee"

Best Actress in a Television Series (Comedy or Musical):
Toni Collette, "The United States of Tara"
Courteney Cox, "Cougar Town"
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Lea Michele, "Glee"

Best Miniseries or Made-for-Television Movie:
"Georgia O'Keefe"
"Grey Gardens"
"Into the Storm"
"Little Dorritt"
"Taking Chance"

Best Actor in a Miniseries/Made-for-Television Movie:
Kevin Bacon, "Taking Chance"
Kenneth Branagh, "Wallander: One Step Behind"
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Endgame"
Brendan Gleeson, "Into the Storm"
Jeremy Irons, "Georgia O'Keeffe"

Best Actress in a Mini Series/Made-for-Television Movie:
Joan Allen, "Georgia O'Keefe"
Drew Barrymore, "Grey Gardens"
Jessica Lange, "Grey Gardens"
Anna Paquin, "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler"
Sigourney Weaver, "Prayers for Bobby"

Best Supporting Actor (Television):
Michael Emerson, "Lost"
Neil Patrick Harris, "How I Met Your Mother"
William Hurt, "Damages"
John Lithgow, "Dexter"
Jeremy Piven, "Entourage"

Best Supporting Actress (Television):
Jane Adams, "Hung"
Rose Byrne, "Damages"
Jane Lynch, "Glee"
Chloe Sevigny, "Big Love"
Janet McTeer, "Sense & Sensibility"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Anvil: The Story of Anvil - DVD Review

Directed by Sacha Gervasi.

***

The real Spinal Tap.

This documentary shows the true story of Anvil, a heavy metal band from the early 1980's that was poised to be as big as Megadeth or Slayer or Iron Maiden, and they have rock icons like Metallica's Lars Ulrich and Guns N Roses's Slash testifying to such, but through bad luck or whatever, they never quite took off. But for almost thirty years, the two founding members still play together and still hope for that big break.

Lips Kudlow and Robb Reiner are two sides to the same coin. One is the ultimate optimist/hissy-fit-throwing lead singer, and the other is the more stable/no-less-delusional drummer. When we first meet them at their day jobs, it felt like The Wrestler. Once they hit the road for a tour, it's Spinal Tap time!

Ultimately though, I rooted for these guys. I wanted them to find whatever slice of success they could carve out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Blind Side - Movie Review


***

Starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Kathy Bates and Ray McKinnon.
Directed by John Lee Hancock.

Sports movies tend to come down to the last play with two seconds to go. Football movies tend to be about the quarterback, the running back, or the wide receiver. How nice to see a football movie that does neither. I don't believe I've ever seen a football movie about an offensive lineman. And while he's significant, it's just as much about his mama.

Based on the true story of Michael Oher, this movie's about a large homeless kid bounced around in foster care who's taken in by a Christian school (who eyes him for sports first, but he needs good grades too) and one wealthy woman who seems him walking alone in the dark and decides to take a chance.

This may sound like one of those Hollywood white liberal guilt movies where the white person saves the black person, but I didn't really feel that watching the movie. Sandra Bullock, in her best role in years, plays a tough Southern socialite who fixes whatever she sees needs fixin', and if you give her guff, she'll get back in your face. As she says to one thug, "I'm in a prayer circle with the D.A., I'm a member of the NRA, and I'm always packing." As she pats her purse.

Michael is a withdrawn giant, and it takes the efforts of this woman to figure out how to get him out of his shell and help him succeed. My hunch is the real Michael Oher wasn't this introverted, but maybe he was in high school and college is where he learned to truly fly on his own.

It hit all the right emotional notes at the end, and I came out satisfied.

P.S. Michael Oher still plays for the Baltimore Ravens, and in the Packers game I watched this week, I never saw Michael's guy make it to the quarterback.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

No 'Harvey' for Spielberg

After Tom Hanks and Robert Downey Jr. passed, Steven Spielberg has decided to abandon his remake of 1950's Harvey. The original starred James Stewart.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Invention of Lying - Movie Review

**1/2

Starring Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis CK, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan, Stephanie March, Christopher Guest, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jason Bateman.
Directed by Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson.

Saw this at the $2 theater. Used to be the $1 theater, but in today's economy...

Ricky Gervais (BBC's The Office) is a great writer and funny actor. As a co-director, meh...

The clever high-concept premise is to introduce a world where no human being ever has told a lie. They not only always tell the truth, but they also share whatever's on their mind at that moment. Also in this world, atheism is the true religion, which seems to make everyone calloused and shallow. I know the intent of the makers is to ridicule belief in God, but they wind up sabotaging their own point. And why is this the point of what is ultimately a rom-com?

Gervais is the star, a screenwriter named Mark Bellison. How can there be movies in the future? Since everyone always tells the truth, no one can act or write fiction, so movies solely consist of charismatic readers reading history to the audience. (There are some funny commercials too.) Mark finds himself fired and on the verge of eviction when something in his brain clicks. He tells a lie at the bank to withdraw more money than he actually has. He has a new power.

Kudos to the cast and the writers for the first half. Pretty enjoyable. Then Mark sits at his mother's side as she is dying, and she is afraid of disappearing into an eternity of nothingness. So Mark, to bring her comfort, assures her there is life after death. The medical staff overhears, and Mark's fame quickly spreads.

So for the next half-hour or so, the movie hammers its point on how silly religion, particularly Christianity, is. And yet this is a world with no philanthropy and ugly people should just commit suicide. If emphasis is placed so highly on genetic appearance, it makes me wonder what eugenics or genocidal issues this universe has.

I laughed enough early on that I want to overlook its agenda, the weakest part of the film. I also go back to his directing style. 95% of the camera angles are close-ups on whoever's speaking, which doesn't give the film enough organic flow. So I guess I enjoyed the first half of the movie, before the wheels came off.

Angels & Demons - DVD Review


**1/2

Starring Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Pierfrancesco Favino and Nikolaj Lie Kaas.
Directed by Ron Howard.

Having recently read Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol put me in a more cynical mood to watch a movie on Robert Langdon. Of the three Langdon books, I think Symbol's the weakest and Angels is the strongest, but seeing Brown dramatized really underscores some of his narrative flimsiness.

Tom Hanks is back as Prof. Robert Langdon, symbologist-adventurer. He has a better hair-cut this time around, and while the Da Vinci Code danced around the edges of a Catholic conspiracy, this one puts him right in the heart of Rome. The Pope has died, and before the new Pope has been selected, four cardinals have been kidnapped, allegedly by the Illuminati, a secret ancient organization.

Naturally, Langdon hooks up with an age-appropriate female expert at something (in this case, anti-matter) to help him race the clock, but Ayelet Zurer is no Audrey Tautou. There is decent supporting work from Ewan McGregor as the earnest papal assistant, Stellan Skarsgard as the devout police detective, and Armin Muller-Stahl as one of the hand-wringing cardinals. Muller-Stahl in particular is one of those actors who makes whatever scene he's in just a little more interesting.

Once the race is on, I got swept up by the action, and I credit the set design and cinematography for a lot of that. I also noticed toward the end they rearranged some plot devices from the book, for the betterment of the filmed story, though it's still pretty humorless.

Overall it was fine. But Ron Howard & Co. will have to change a lot more than a couple devices to make a good movie out of The Lost Symbol.

All Good Things straight-to-DVD

All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella, will be debuting on DVD later this month. It's from the Weinstein Company, so it'll likely get an exclusive Blockbuster deal before being available in early 2010.

Here's the plot summary from Comingsoon.net:

"Set in the 1980s, the story centers on the scion of a New York real estate dynasty (Gosling) who falls for a beautiful girl from the wrong side of the tracks (Dunst). But the fairy tale ends when the girl disappears. As a down-and-out detective stumbles on info that may lead to the truth, the political stakes get higher and people close to the case end up dead."

National Board of Review Awards

BEST FILM - Up in the Air
BEST DIRECTOR - Clint Eastwood, Invictus
BEST ACTOR (tie) - Geroge Clooney, Up in the Air
BEST ACTOR (tie) - Morgan Freeman, Invictus
BEST ACTRESS - Carey Mulligan, An Education
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
BEST FOREIGN FILM - A Prophet
BEST DOCUMENTARY - The Cove
BEST ANIMATED FILM - Up
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST - It's Complicated
BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR - Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
BREAKTHROUGH ACTRESS - Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - A Serious Man
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - Up in the Air
SPECIAL FILMMAKING ACHIEVEMENT - Wes Anderson, The Fantastic Mr. Fox

NBR usually kicks off award season in the first week of December. Over the next few weeks we'll get Golden Globes noninations and awards from different critics societies from all the major metro areas, and then the Oscar race will be on.

The biggest surprise to me was Woody Harrelson for The Messenger. This is a bit of a comeback year for him, when you add in the commercial success of Zombieland and 2012. I expect Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) to get an award or two soon in that category.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Roger Ebert on At the Movies in 2009

Ebert's thoughts on the show he started and where it is now. Warning: corporate suits ruin some of the journey.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Disney's Christmas Carol - Movie Review


***

Starring Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Robin Wright Penn, Bob Hoskins, Cary Elwes, Fionnula Flanagan and Daryl Sabara.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis.

As long as it's done well, I never get tired of this story. I've seen several movie & TV versions. I've actually acted in two different stage versions. Redemption's a great story. Now we see what Zemeckis and his Image Capture team can do. He's getting better at this. The eyes of the people aren't as dead as they were in Polar Express, and the people look realistic more often than they look like marionettes.

Jim Carrey is the iron man here, playing Scrooge, young Scrooge, and the three Ghosts of Christmas, plus he gets plenty of stainless steel support from Gary Oldman (Bob Cratchit & Jacob Marley), Bob Hoskins (Fezziwig & Old Joe), and the rest. The closing credits revealed what everyone did, and pretty much everyone had at least four roles.

I didn't see it in 3D, but there's some effective swooping shots of 19th century London. I could've recited half the script from memory, so it's pretty faithful to Dickens' original wording.

The Jacob Marley scene's scary for young kids, but I think by the time the closing credits arrive, they've forgotten about it.

New Moon - Movie Review


***

Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen, Billy Burke, and Dakota Fanning.
Directed by Chris Weitz.

Complaining about all the angst in the Twilight series like complaining there's too much magic stuff in Harry Potter. This is for teen girls, and it turns the audience into teen girls while it's running. Heck, when Jacob rips his shirt off the first time, pretty much every woman in our auditorium squealed with delight.

I liked it about as much as the first one, maybe a little more so thanks to Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) and Dakota Fanning showing up as two powerful vampires.

The Cullens, that vampire family, have decided to move out of Forks, WA, after Jasper loses it and almost eats Bella. But Bella keeps seeing Edward in swishy visions, so she can pine and mope and brood. Meanwhile, changes have been coming to her buddy Jacob, now 30 pounds buffer, and not quite human.

I already know the arc of the Twilight saga, since my wife read the books and I knew I wouldn't. I wish Jacob had a shot with Bella, because Edward just isn't good for her. Why is this 109-year-old hanging out in high school anyway?

The movie is about angst and longing and desire unfulfilled, and in that way, it reminds me of the old-time love stories, where the two lovers never consumated, so the movie ends with tension unreleased. Let's go make out in the car now.

Year One - DVD Review


*

Starring Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt, David Cross, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Vinnie Jones, Juno Temple, Olivia Wilde, Hank Azaria, Paul Rudd, Xander Berkeley, Bill Hader and Harold Ramis.
Directed by Harold Ramis.

I've never seen Caveman, the 1980 prehistoric comedy with Ringo Starr, Dennis Quaid and Shelley Long, but my guess is it's no less amusing now than this movie is (particularly to see Long in pre-Diane Chambers mode). I'm almost tempted to get it just to compare.

Jack Black's been funny, and Michael Cera's been funny, but it doesn't necessarily mean they make a good comic team. In fact, they do the opposite of compliment each other. Black's devious eyebrows and Cera's stammering deadpan only highlight how crutch-like those tools can be.

They play Zed, a bad hunter, and Oh, a weak gatherer, and they get banished from their village after Zed eats the fruit from the Tree of Life. They trek around and meet several characters, like Adam, Cain, Abel, Abraham, Isaac, and the fine citizens of Sodom & Gomorrah.

At one point, the two are in a dungeon, but Oh is hung upside-down. It might be amusing when Oh calls for the guard because he has to pee. All humor is sucked out of the room when we then see... well, you know. The movie's full of bad gags like that.

Harold Ramis directed this? The guy who did Stripes and Groundhog Day? There are several talented actors in the supporting cast too, but this is a wasted effort.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bruno - DVD Review


*

Starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Paula Abdul and Ron Paul.
Directed by Larry Charles.

I kinda liked Borat, but seeing another prank-style movie just illustrates that Cohen is no Andy Kaufman, a wildly overrated comedian who is only been put on a pedestal because he's dead. I think the key is that Borat was a kind-hearted ignorant protagonist. Bruno is a self-absorbed ignorant jerk, so seeing him intrude into other people's lives just isn't that funny.

Here Cohen is playing Bruno, Austrian gay fashionista who has set his sights on Hollywood to become a big star. More often than not, I wasn't laughing at people's reactions to him, I felt sorry for his victims.

In one spot he got a job as an extra on NBC's Medium. Miguel Sandoval keeps doing serious emotional takes, ruined by Bruno being a distracted juror. I'm not laughing. When he tries to interview Harrison Ford, Ford has one second of screen-time, where he's trying to get away from Bruno and tells him exactly what to do. Good for him. In another scene he tries to seduce Ron Paul. Paul barges out because, dude, he's getting sexually harrassed.

The pieces that amused me: when he has real people serve as a focus group for his new show. Some of the comments: "It was worse than cancer." "It made me want to put my eyes out with hot sticks." "You'll have to borrow the sticks from me."

There's another scene where he's interviewing parents of babies/toddlers to appear on his show, and it's amazing what the parents agree to. "Sure, she's fine with operating heavy machinery."

When he goes to the Middle East, that is when he really puts his life on the line. He comes close to peaceful talks when he gets an ex-Mossad agent and an ex-Hamas leader together, and they both agree that Bruno is an idiot. Sometimes it's like watching a Jason Jones segement on the Daily Show, if Jones thought'd be funny to start molesting his guest.

Most people just suffer through Cohen's antics or run out on him. I think Borat had a better, clearer structure, but it really comes back to the stunts he's pulling and why. I can't tell if he's promoting or satirizing homophobia while simultaneously pointing fingers at the fool who would actually approve of everything he's doing, and I don't really care. I'm just glad there won't be a Bruno 2. No more unsuspecting victims.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Moon's big weekend

Weekend Box Office

1. New Moon - $140.7 million - 1 wk (Sum)
4024 screens / $34,965 per screen
2. The Blind Side - $34.51 - 1 wk (WB)
3110 / $11,096
3. 2012 - $26.5 ($108.22) - 2 wks (Sony) -59.4%
3408 / $7776
4. Planet 51 - $12.6 - 1 wk (Sony)
3035 / $4152
5. A Christmas Carol - $12.23 ($79.79) - 3 wks (BV) -45.2%
3578 / $3418
6. Precious - $11.01 ($21.4) - 3 wks (LG) +87.4%
629 / $17,501
7. The Men Who Stare at Goats - $2.77 ($27.62) - 3 wks (Ove) -52.7%
2056 / $1349
8. Couples Retreat - $1.95 ($105) - 7 wks (U) -53.1%
1712 / $1140
9. The Fourth Kind - $1.73 ($23.34) - 3 wks (U) -62.4%
1648 / $1050
10. Law Abiding Citizen - $1.62 ($70.03) - 6 wks (Ove) -57.5%
1327 / $1217
11. Michael Jackson's This Is It - $1.58 ($70.22) - 4 wks (Sony) -69%
1640 / $960

New Moon, sequel to Twilight, did double the business Twilight did its opening weekend.Stephenie Meyer's vampire saga has two more installments over which to be queen of the box office, and Summit has to be thrilled.

Meanwhile, the resurrection of Sandra Bullock's career is continuing in full swing. The Proposal was summer's top romantic comedy, and now she's managed to open an inspirational sports drama to $34 million against New Moon. (Inspirational sports dramas don't tend to open that well. See Glory Road, We Are Marshall, etc.)

Planet 51 showed the kids market might be a little too saturated right now, doing business closer to Astro Boy than A Christmas Carol.

Precious continues to do phenomenal business whereever it opens and is getting closer to "shoo-in" status for a Best Picture nomination. (Oh, wait. They're nominating ten this year. It's a shoo-in.)

In The Loop - DVD Review

IN THE LOOP

***1/2

Starring Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Gina McKee, James Gandolfini, Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky, Mimi Kennedy, David Rasche, Paul Higgins and Steve Coogan.
Directed by Armando Iannucci.

Biting satire about bureaucrats bumbling around trying not to go to war, but not ruling it out either. It doesn't feel like too much of an exaggeration as to how we went to war in Iraq, but done with Office-like characters. Half of them are insane, and the other half are just doing their job. Standouts include Tom Hollander (Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3) as an official who always makes things worse when a microphone's in front of his face, and David Rasche (Burn After Reading) as the deputy secretary of state who has no problem rewriting memos to justify his actions.

Monday, November 16, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - DVD Review


**

Starring Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid, Rachel Nichols, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Byung-hun Lee, Ray Park, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Arnold Vosloo, Said Taghmaoui and Jonathan Pryce.
Directed by Stephen Sommers.

The 1980's were a great time to be a kid. It was a time when red-white-n-blue patriotism was cool, and when we learned (on everything from G.I. Joe to the A-Team) that you can fire automatic weapons and no one will get killed. To update G.I. Joe for this day and age, guns have to kill people, and having Joe be strictly a US force when we're already in Afghanistan and Iraq might be too much.

The international flavor is here. The Joes are compromised of the best fighters from 23 countries, not just the USA. At the same time, they made Cobra Commander and the Baroness into Americans, and siblings. And the US President is Welsh. And Destro's a Scotsman whose family has been in weapons trading for apparently 400 years. And instead of dating Snake Eyes, Scarlett is single, so Ripcord can flirt with her. And... and...

The movie was about what I would expect from the trailers and from knowing it's directed by the guy who did the Mummy trilogy. There's CGI galore, tons of swooping shots of stuff blowing up, and I had to smile at how G.I. Joe and Cobra both have underwater training facilities that would cost $300 billion each to build if they were real.

I can't say anyone does a good acting job. I don't know what Joseph Gordon-Levitt is doing here, other than he has bills to pay and maybe he owned some of the action figures as a kid. He plays Dr. Cobra, who eventually becomes Cobra Commander. Even Dennis Quaid is flat as General Hawk, leader o' the Joes. We get cameos from Sommers vets Brendan Fraser and Kevin J. O'Connor.

The movie is called the Rise of Cobra for a reason. This whole thing is origin story/set-up, poised for a sequel. Even though this wound up not losing too much money, I doubt that sequel's going to happen.

Weekend Box Office (Nov 13-15)

Here are the numbers from the weekend:

1. 2012 - $65 million - 1 wk (Sony)
3404 screens / $19,095 per screen
2. A Christmas Carol - $22.33 ($63.29) - 2 wks (BV) -25.7%
3683 / $6062
3. Men Who Stare at Goats - $6.2 ($23.38) - 2 wks (Ove) -51.2%
2453 / $2528
4. Precious - $6.09 ($8.92) - 2 wks (LG) +225.2%
174 / $35,000
5. This Is It - $5.1 ($68.21) - 3 wks (Sony) -61.2%
3037 / $1679
6. The Fourth Kind - $4.74 ($20.59) - 2 wks (U) -61.2%
2530 / $1875
7. Couples Retreat - $4.25 ($102.13) - 6 wks (U) -30.6%
2509 / $1695
8. Paranormal Activity - $4.2 ($103.85) - 8 wks (Par) -49.3%
2712 / $1549
9. Law Abiding Citizen - $3.93 ($67.33) - 5 wks (Ove) -34.5%
2071 / $1899
10. The Box - $3.19 ($13.21) - 2 wks (WB) -57.9%
2635 / $1209
11. Pirate Radio - $2.87 - 1 wk (Foc)
882 / $3253
12. Where Wild Things Are - $2.42 ($73.44) - 5 wks (WB) -42.2%
2090 / $1156

Moving 2012 to November really paid off. I don't think it would have opened that high in its original release spot the week after Transformers 2.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Wanda Sykes Show

For those who want the liberal Bill Maher, but they don't have HBO and they want him to be a black woman who strives a little more for funny and a little less for self-righteous vitriol. She spent the first half-hour blasting Fox News, Bush, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, anyone who criticizes Obama, and Fox News, concluding with "If Rupert Murdoch walked in here, I'd say... Thank you! Can I have more money?" The second half had a guest format I like, where there's three of them and they just talk about whatever. Her guests were Mary Lynn Rajskub (Fox's 24), Daryl Mitchell (Fox's Brothers) and Phil Koeghan (CBS's The Amazing Race). Funniest part was when Phil narrated the Amazing Race if it had a pit-stop in space. I don't see this lasting long, but it's probably cheap to keep until they can develop something better. Heck, MadTV ran 13 years and no one ever watched it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Carrey's Carol wins weekend

1. A Christmas Carol - $31 million - 1 wk (BV)
3683 screens / $8417 per screen
2. Michael Jackson's This Is It - $14 ($57.86) - 2 wks (Sony) -39.7%
3481 / $4022
3. The Men Who Stare at Goats - $13.31 - 1 wk (Ove)
2443 / $5448
4. The Fourth Kind - $12.52 - 1 wk (U)
2527 / $4955
5. Paranormal Activity - $8.6 ($97.43) - 7 wks (Par) -47.5%
2558 / $3362
6. The Box - $7.86 - 1 wk (WB)
2635 / $2981
7. Couples Retreat - $6.43 ($95.98) - 5 wks (U) -.5%
2857 / $2250
8. Law Abiding Citizen - $6.17 ($60.87) - 4 wks (Ove) -16.6%
2474 / $2495
9. Where the Wild Things Are - $4.23 ($69.27) - 4 wks (WB) -28.8%
2756 / $1533
10. Astro Boy - $2.59 ($15.07) - 3 wks (Sum) -25.2%
1918 / $1349

Friday, November 6, 2009

Food Inc. - DVD Review


***1/2

Directed by Robert Kenner.

I'd never heard of Monsanto. Now I feel like they're one of the most evil companies on Earth.

Monsanto owns the patent on genetically-modified soybeans. 90% of the soybeans grown in the US have the gene, so those crops belong to Monsanto, and if any farmer doesn't pay tribute to them, they get shut down. Any farmer who refuses to use Monsanto soybeans but someone how that gene can be detected in their crop, Monsanto will sue them into bankruptcy.

But they're not the only company with blood on their hands. This movie illustrates how in just a few short decades, the food industry has become an assembly-line monster, unhealthy and unnatural, with perfect collusion between corporations and the government to subsidize bad behavior. Justice may be blind, but money can tip her scales. The food industry is so protected that they can sue someone if they criticize their product. Remember when Big Beef sued Oprah Winfrey? Did you know that court case took six years and cost over a million dollars in legal fees before Oprah won? Did you know the vast majoity of cows set for slaugther live their entire life covered in feces?

Just like Super-Size Me made me stop getting the fries at fast-food restaurants, this movie makes me want to seek out organic foods more.

P.S. I am glad Michael Moore didn't make this movie. This is done in a way where we have narrators but I don't think the director himself actually appears on screen. I would hope Kenner or someone of his ilk would revisit the ground Moore covered in Capitalism: A Love Story so we could get a clearer-cut look at the bad marriage of K Street and Wall Street.

Outrage - DVD Review

**1/2

Directed by Kirby Dick.

This movie's opening credits start with the interview audio between Sen. Larry Craig and his arresting officer for that tap-dancing in the bathroom incident. Once the credits are done, these words brandish on the screen:

"There exists a brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy to keep gay and lesbian politicians as closeted as possible. This conspiracy is so powerful the media will not cover it, even though it profoundly harms many Americans. This film is about politicians who live in the closet, those who have escaped it, and the people who work to end its tyranny."

"Its" tyranny, I assume at the beginning of the film, is the tyranny of the conspiracy. So who are the tyrants behind the conspiracy? The bar's been set high.

The film proceeds to produce evidence, testimonials and so forth, to officially out Sen. Larry Craig (R), Gov. Charlie Crist (R), Rep. Jim McCrery (R), Rep. David Dreier (R), Ken Mehlman (R), and former politicians like Terry Dolan (R), Ed Schrock (R), and token (D) Ed Koch, targetting these individuals because they were or are in power and voted against gay marriage or other gay issues while holding such power.

The movie argues that there's nothing worse for gay rights than a closeted self-hating gay in politics. This movie's main enemy is hypocrisy, and one of its biggest villains is Mary Cheney, out but still voted for Bush and her dad.

But then the movie commits its own hypocrisy. It outs Fox News reporter Shepard Smith. Shep's not a politician. I really don't get why they included Shep. Because Anderson Cooper works for CNN, he's off the hook? Meh, doesn't matter. Those specified here have already had rumors about them for years, maybe decades.

What I would have really wish they would have delved into is what would make a closeted gay go into politics. In fact this movie made me wonder about many issues it hinted at before it moved on. What about the psyche of one who would beat up a gay guy just to prove he's not gay himself? It gets a teary-eyed interview with NJ Gov. Jim McGreevey, forced out of the closet after an extortion scandal, but the more compelling, credible interview comes from his ex-wife Dina Mattos, immortalized as standing by her man in that painful press conference.

In the end, there is no "brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy" that Dick is able to prove or display, except the general disposition of Americans to not vote for openly gay candidates, Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin being two talking-head exceptions. There are no tyrants, other than Dubya, who supported the Defense of Marriage Act. It's more gossip than expose, but some of the interviewees, such as the now-out Republicans like Jim Kolbe, are pretty interesting.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

DVD Reviews (Sin Nombre, Away We Go, Land of the Lost, The Proposal)

SIN NOMBRE (***) - Starring Edgar Flores and Kristian Ferrer.
Directed by Cary Fukunaga.

Gangs in the USA have nothing on gangs down the continent. That's what I got out of this.

It's the story of two brothers, both too young to be in gangs, but then no one should be in one. They live in a world wherereally, it's the only way for them to survive, and little kids are taught how to murder at the command of their leader. After saving a girl, one brother must go on the run. The other brother pledges to prove his loyalty to the gang by insisting he be the one to kill his brother.

It's a sobering meditation on what loyalty should be.

----

AWAY WE GO (***) - Starring John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Catherine O'Hara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Paul Schneider, Josh Hamilton, Allison Janney and Jim Gaffigan.
Directed by Sam Mendes.

This melancholy comedy/drama is about a young pregnant couple trying to decide where to move to raise their new family. It's a road trip, with them stopping off at different destinations to hook up with family or old friends to see if they'd want to live in the same city. Each couple they meet with represents a different angle of dysfunction, to the point where the two leads start to feel like a desert island might be best.

Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) doesn't seem to have a lot of faith in families, but he does have faith in love, and the chemistry between John Krasinski (The Office) and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) makes it an okay journey. Rudolph especially proves she can pull off a serious, three-dimensional character.

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LAND OF THE LOST (*1/2) - Starring Will Ferrell, Anna Friel, Danny McBride and Jorma Taccone.
Directed by Brad Silberling.

I had no faith in this being good, since it should be a kids movie and they potty-humored it up. It threw in a lot of elements that would only be familiar to fans of the show, but still, it has the most wrong-headed approach to the material.

The series had Rick Marshall, with his children Will and Holly. Here we have characters with those three names, but Holly is a love interest and Will is a tattooed pervert.

When they get to the Land of the Lost, they meet Chaka, the missing-link creature who, here, is also a pervert. There's run-ins with dinosaurs, the lizard-men called Sleestaks, and a sky with three moons. Will Ferrell's dim-bulb shtick can be funny in pieces, but I was too distracted by him and McBride in this world. They just don't belong here.

Funniest part of the movie? Matt Lauer.

----

THE PROPOSAL (**1/2) - Starring Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Betty White, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Malin Akerman, Oscar Nunez, Denis O'Hare, Aasif Mandvi and Michael Nouri.
Directed by Anne Fletcher.

Formula? Yes. Funny? Sometimes. Bullock and Reynolds are likeable enough leads as the boss/secretary team that fake an engagement to help boss-lady not get deported to Canada. At first they hate each other but halfway through the movie, we get that magic moment...

Anyways, the movie's comic MVP is Betty White as the 89-year-old grandmother who just wants to see her grandson get married before she dies, but there are also funny smaller roles for Oscar Nunez (The Office) and Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

'Whatever' Stinks


WHATEVER WORKS
(DVD Review)

*1/2

Starring Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Michael McKean, Henry Cavill and Ed Begley Jr.
Directed by Woody Allen.

Ever watch Curb Your Enthusiasm? Larry David plays a warm, fuzzy, benevolent older man whose optimistic look on life only brings joy to those around him.

At least in comparison to Boris Yelnikoff, the character he plays here.

To say Boris is cynical is to say Jeffrey Dahmer had peculiar tastes. Boris is supposedly a brilliant physicist, but he's so convinced of his intellectual superiority that he has no patience for all other human beings, i.e. people he perceives as less intelligent as himself. Woody Allen's whiny ever-shrinking worldview is on display, and David doesn't quite have the acting talent to pull this character off. A guy this miserable would probably be doing the world a favor if one of his suicide attempts would succeed.

But since this is Woody Allen's world, a beautiful girl one-third his age gets a crush on him. Melanie (Evan Rachel Wood) is a homeless girl that Boris takes in and she's so dumb that she takes his insults in stride, and they get married. Huh. Boris teaches her the finer things in life: how to not use cliches in speech, how there is no God and no point to life and that we're all a big cesspool of molecules smashing against each other with no purpose or meaning, and how she should wash her hands for the appropriate amount of time.

One reliable element of Allen's movies is there's always an actor or two who has a blast, and Patricia Clarkson, as Melanie's Southern mama, is the performer here who stands out.

Rated PG-13, though there is a scene at an art show with male and female frontal nudity in the photos on the wall.

Final Summer 2009 Box-Office Numbers

1. Transformers 2 - $402.11 million
2. Harry Potter & Half-Blood Prince - $301.58
3. Up - $292.98
4. The Hangover - $276.77
5. Star Trek - $257.73
6. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - $196.36
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine - $179.88
8. Night at the Museum 2 - $177.24
9. The Proposal - $163.95
10. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - $150.17
11. Angels & Demons - $133.38
12. Terminator Salvation - $125.32
13. Inglorious Basterds - $119.6
14. G-Force - $118.72
15. District 9 - $115.65
16. Public Enemies - $97.1
17. Julie & Julia - $93.49
18. The Ugly Truth - $88.92
19. The Final Destination - $66.25
20. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 - $65.45

21. The Time Traveler's Wife - $63.04
22. Bruno - $60.05
23. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past - $55.25
24. Funny People - $51.86
25. Land of the Lost - $49.44
26. My Sister's Keeper - $49.2
27. Year One - $43.34
28. Drag Me to Hell - $42.1
29. Orphan - $41.6
30. Halloween II - $33.1

Needless to say, Transformers 3, Harry Potter 7, Hangover 2, Star Trek 2, Ice Age 4, Wolverine 2, and Halloween 3 are all coming. And next summer we get Iron Man 2, Shrek 4, Sex & the City 2, Twilight 3, Toy Story 3, Predator 3, Cats & Dogs 2, Meet the Parents 3, Step Up 3, Friday the 13th 2, and Resident Evil 4.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Friday's Box Office

1. Paranormal Activity - $7.6 million ($48.08) - 29 days
2. Saw VI - $7 - 1 day
3. Where the Wild Things Are - $4.36 ($43.9) - 8 days
4. Law Abiding Citizen - $4.1 ($31.71) - 8 days
5. Couples Retreat - $3.65 ($70.77) - 15 days
6. The Stepfather - $2.21 ($16.05) - 8 days
7. The Vampire's Assistant - $2.2 - 1 day
8. Astro Boy - $1.8 - 1 day
9. Cloudy with Meatballs - $1.4 ($111) - 36 days
10. Zombieland - $1.33 ($64.33) - 22 days
11. Amelia - $1.3 - 1 day

Paranormal's buzz continues to build, and it should continue strong through Halloween. The Saw franchise is finally showing signs of weakness, though with a potential $18 million opening weekend, most studios would be thrilled to have a cheap sixth installment in a franchise with such "weakness." Kids' movies didn't fare well. Wild Things is having a steep drop, Astro Boy's a big dud, and Vampire's Assistant may show that we're getting oversaturated with vampires, although I think it's more a case of its target audience deciding they'd rather wait for New Moon.

DVD reviews (Terra, Bloom, Management)

BATTLE FOR TERRA (*1/2) - Starring the voices of Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, Brian Cox, James Garner, Chris Evans, Dennis Quaid, Danny Glover, Amanda Peet, Justin Long, David Cross, Mark Hamill, Ron Perlman, Danny Trejo, Beverly D'Angelo and Rosanna Arquette.
Directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas.

Sober video game about the last surviving humans coming to a peaceful planet and trying to take over by force. It felt like a commercial for how much environmentalists despise the military. Animation (and emotions) weren't much better than Star Wars: Clone Wars.

----

THE BROTHERS BLOOM (**1/2) - Starring Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Maximilian Schell and Robbie Coltrane.
Directed by Rian Johnson.

One of those movies where there are so many cons going on that once the truth is revealed, it didn't carry any weight. It's entertaining for the most part thanks to Rachel Weisz as the quirky heiress two con brothers set their sites on, but you know, in this economy, with banks and corporations and politicians handing around billions to each other, watching two con men prey on honest people isn't that cutesy.

----

MANAGEMENT (**) - Starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson, Fred Ward, Margo Martindale and Tzi Ma.
Directed by Stephen Belber.

This stalker comedy can only be buoyed so far by the charms of Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn. By the second half I stopped caring. Zahn plays a geek at a motel who comes on to cute single patron Aniston, and he doesn't take no for an answer. But she's just screwed up enough that she starts to fall for him a little as she keeps trying to push him away.

Paranormal Activity - Movie Review


****

Starring Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston.
Directed by Oren Peli.

Let's get the Blair Witch Project out of the way. These movie have in common three things.

1.) Extremely low budget horror films.
2.) Done documentary style.
3.) Out-of-nowhere box-office successes.

But I remember coming out of Blair Witch thinking it wasn't that big a deal, and why didn't I think of it first. But that last image stayed with me for days. But really, it's not that scary.

This movie is. See it in a theater with girls ready to scream. This movie strips horror down to its bare essentials, and it's almost an essay on what makes scary movies work in the first place.

Two twenty-somethings get a hi-def camera to record some spooky happenings that have been occuring in their house. Turns out the girl thinks she's being haunted by... something... and they want proof. At first the nights yield nothing, then they capture a door opening and closing when there was no wind to make it so. As we get further in, the spookiness, the tension, builds up, until that final night where the whole audience is on the edge of their seat.

This movie was made three years ago and bought by a studio with the intent of remaking it with a bigger budget and bigger names, but when the right powers-that-be saw the original themselves and foudn themselves spooked, this little thriller got its own release. It's a great backstory, but that only means so much if the movie sucks. This is probably the most effective spooky movie I've seen since The Others.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past - DVD Review


**

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas, Breckin Meyer, Lacey Chabert, Emma Stone, Robert Forster and Anne Archer.
Directed by Mark Waters.

Matthew McConaughey is a black hole of humor, a southern himbo there to flash his pearly whites, flex his pecs, work that drawl, and cash out in lame movie after lame movie. It's amazing now how after his big break in A Time to Kill, he was being compared by some to a young Paul Newman. Here, this follows the Dickens formula of a cad getting an awakening at how shallow he is. Lacey Chabert provides the most laughs - both of them - as a stressed-out bride-to-be, but there's enough talent in the supporting cast to make it watchable.

Jigsaw returns again once more


SAW VI (**) - Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Mark Rolston, Peter Outerbridge, Shawnee Smith, Samantha Lemole, George Newbern and Darius McCrary.
Directed by Kevin Greutart.

Finally, a slasher flick that could be played at the next DNC convention. The opening sequence pits two bankers - aka "predatory lenders" - against each other where only one can live. Then the main story features the president of a health insurance company who proudly finds excuses to ditch clients once they have actual health problems. Unfortunately for him, one client he ditched was John "Jigsaw" Kramer. Even though Jigsaw died three movies ago, his disease is spreading.

The first Saw movie was a good freaky little hardcore horror flick with a cool twist ending. The Saw movies have evolved, not even trying to be scary, just gory, with victims we don't really care about, and each movie provides flashbacks to show how everything is connected, as though the whole thing has been one giant master plan by Jigsaw this whole time. This movie had a better twist ending than Saw V, but it was tedious in the middle and weirdly preachy, since Jigsaw started breaking his own rules a couple movies ago.

When we get through Saw I and II, we see that Jigsaw had a code. He never killed anyone. He just set them up to die if they chose wrongly, but somewhere back there he started creating traps where it's impossible for all involved to get out alive. Here the most egregious departures are set up, where at least seven people will die regardless of the actions of anyone. It's just a matter of which seven. And needless to say, more than seven people are dead by the end of this. But that's okay, because of bankers and insurance employees, they all deserve to die. And that janitor. Oh, but he smoked, so he deserved to die.

But Jigsaw's work is now being carried out by Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) as we learned in Saw IV's twist ending, and Hoffman is taking a little too much enjoyment in the suffering of others. Not to mention the police are getting closer to figuring out who might really be behind the continued killings.

The producers have already announced that Saw VIII will be the final chapter. I wonder how money they plan to throw at Cary Elwes to return as Dr. Gordon, the man who had to cut off his foot in the first Saw.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Weekend Box Office

1. Where the Wild Things Are - $32.7 million - 1 wk (WB)
3735 screens / $8754 per screen
2. Law Abiding Citizen - $21.04 - 1 wk (Ove)
2890 / $7280
3. Paranormal Activity - $19.62 ($33.17) - 4 wks (Par) +148.3%
760 / $25,813
4. Couples Retreat - $17.23 ($62.62) - 2 wks (U) -49.8%
3009 / $5725
5. The Stepfather - $11.58 - 1 wk (SG)
2734 / $4236
6. Cloudy with Meatballs - $8.02 ($108.2) - 5 wks (Sony) -30.4%
3037 / $2640
7. Zombieland - $7.62 ($60.64) - 3 wks (Sony) -48.5%
3171 / $2402
8. Toy Story 1 & 2 in 3D - $3.02 ($28.55) - 3 wks (BV) -61.2%
1489 / $2026
9. Surrogates - $1.92 ($36.33) - 4 wks (BV) -55.1%
2326 / $824
10. The Invention of Lying - $1.91 ($15.5) - 3 wks (WB) -42.9%
1624 / $1175
11. Whip It - $1.51 ($11.36) - 3 wks (FS) -46.7%
1482 / $1017
12. Capitalism: A Love Story - $1.46 ($11.62) - 4 wks (Ove) -44.7%
991 / $1469

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hunger Games: The Movie

Lionsgate has purchased the rights to Suzanne Collins' best-seller. It's the first part of a planned trilogy, and while it's aimed at young adults, I found it a good, basic entertaining thriller about teens forced to fight to the death for the amusement of the ruling class.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Two Thumbs Up for Wild Things


Actually Ebert still owns the copyright on thumbs, so the new guys on At the Movies - Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott - give it two "See It"s. But that's not as easy to quote in a commercial.

All I know is that I've only teared at two trailers in my life. Saving Private Ryan, at the image of the mother on the porch, and the army men there to let her know that three of her sons ahve been killed, and Where the Wild Things Are, which reached deep into my childhood and gave it a pinch.

I really hope this movie lives up to its potential.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lymelife - DVD Review


**1/2

Starring Alec Baldwin, Kieran Culkin, Rory Culkin, Jill Hennessy, Emma Roberts, Timothy Hutton and Cynthia Nixon.
Directed by Derick Martini.

If you've seen The Ice Storm or watched CBS's Swingtown, you've seen this movie, but it is with a talented cast, so it at least has that going for it. I wanted to see this for the Culkin brothers - Kieran & Rory - both who've proven to be very talented young actors but who might not work enough since they don't look like models.

Rory Culkin is the younger brother in a 1979 family looking to move on up. It's filled with kids too mature and parents too arrested in their development to see what harm their actions can do.

The ending's a bit of a copout.

Fun with Zombies


ZOMBIELAND
(Movie Review)

***1/2

Starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer.

This might be the funniest zombie ever made. Yes, I put this just ahead of Shaun of the Dead.

Woody Harrelson (No Country for Old Men, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Natural Born Killers, White Men Can't Jump) gets his best role in years as Tallahassee, the man of the alligator-skin coat who's one of the last people on Earth, who derives perverse joy from killing zombies. He hooks up with Columbus (Adventureland's Jesse Eisenberg), a World-of-Warcraft junkie who has managed to survive by applying a rigid set of rules. (Rule #2 - Double Tap - Don't conserve bullets; shoot them a second time in the head to make sure they're really dead.)

Harrelson gets to kick-butt and take names. Eisenberg aims to out-drywit Michael Cera in his wooing of Emma Stone, and we get plenty of funny, gross sight-gags.

Films are films, but movies should be fun, dangit! And this is a fun movie.

Weekend Box Office

1 - Couples Retreat (U) $35.34 million - 1 wk
. 3,000 screens / $11,780 per screen
2 - Zombieland (Sony) $15 ($47.80) - 2 wks -39.4%
. 3,038 / $4,937
3 - Cloudy with Meatballs (Sony) $12 ($96.25) - 4 wks -24.1%
. 2,992 / $4,011
4 - Toy Story 1 & 2 in 3D (BV) $7.67 ($22.68) - 2 wks -38.6%
. 1,752 / $4,380
5 - Paranormal Activity (Par.) $7.07 ($8.28) - 3 wks +1,227.6%
. 160 / $44,163
6 - Surrogates (BV) $4.12 ($32.57) - 3 wks -43.2%
. 2,992 / $1,375

Vince Vaughn & company didn't have much competition with Couples Retreat, but Paranormal Activity is enjoying Blair Witch level success and should expand further next week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Who should be Rusty Griswold?

New Line's developing a fifth Vacation movie, this one focussing on grown-up Rusty Griswold taking his own family on vacation. Hijinks ensue. They want Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo to cameo as Grandpa and Grandma Griswold, but one of the traditions of the Vacation movies is that the Griswold children were always protrayed by different actors. Would any of them still be up to the task?

Anthony Michael Hall (VACATION) - After ruling the 1980's as The Geek, he buffed up, took more serious roles, and later enjoyed success on USA's The Dead Zone series. Most recently he played a newscaster in The Dark Knight. I think even if Hall could do it, the producers would want a bigger name.

Jason Lively (EUROPEAN VACATION) - Last movie he did was 1992's Maximum Force, an action dud with Sam J. Jones and Mickey Rooney. I see he also produced and directed a DVD in 2004 called Learn to Hip-Hop. He's out.

Johnny Galecki (CHRISTMAS VACATION) - He's flying high now on CBS's The Big Bang Theory. I could see him doing it. Again, not a big enough name, methinks.

Ethan Embry (VEGAS VACATION) - I never did see this. I heard from friends it was terrible, so I skipped it. Embry did some impressive work on Showtime's Brotherhood and most recently had a supporting role on the big-screen with Eagle Eye. He's not aging well.

I'd say they try to get Ryan Reynolds or Matt Damon or Paul Rudd or Jason Bateman or Jason Segel... (Maybe Kevin James, if they say Rusty really let himself go?) But of the four Rusty alum, I'd like to see Galecki get the shot.

ABC's Cougar Town - TV Review

Courtney Cox throws herself into this with gusto in the same kind of painfully funny vein Lisa Kudrow did with the cancelled-too-soon The Comeback. Cox is a 40-year-old mother of a 17-year-old son who is adjusting to the dating scene, and why can't she go for younger men when her single male neighbor (Josh Hopkins) dates younger women all the time? Hopefully as this series progresses it won't tip the scales into just painful, but so far it's staying in my viewing rotation.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fighting - DVD Review

*1/2

Starring Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Luis Guzman, Zulay Henao and Brian White.
Directed by Dito Montiel.

It's not as melodramatic as Never Back Down, but it's not any more engrossing. Director Dito Montiel gives this a realistic feel, helped greatly by Terrence Howard (Iron Man) as the hustler/promoter of these back-room bare-knuckle fights for the entertainment of rich people. Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe) however is a blank slate to me. He's like a humorless Chris Evans. Therefore the longer the movie went on, the less I cared. I almost didn't finish it, and since I guessed exactly how each beat in the third act would go, it wouldn't have made a difference.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cloudy with Chance of Fun


Ugh, I feel dirty just writing that Shalit-esque title.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS
(Movie Review)

***

Starring the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Mr. T, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Bobb'e J. Thompson, Lauren Graham and Neil Patrick Harris.
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Ice Age 3 may have gotten more attention, but Cloudy is the better of Sony's animated movies this year.

Based on a popular kids' book, it's about a big dreamer who lives in the island city of Swallow Falls. The town specializes in sardine sales. As demand for their product shrinks, everyone starts losing their jobs and going hungry.

Meanwhile there's a big dreamer named Flynn who wants to change the world. Amazingly, his contraption to turn water into food works. Swallow Falls is saved. Or is it?

Plenty of good visuals gags with this one, and some good one-liners. I found myself especially entertained by Mr. T as the gung-ho policeman. I'd rank it about even with Monsters vs. Aliens.

ABC's forgettable 'Forgotten'

Procedural dramas have to have something really interesting about them to make my viewing rotation. Like The Mentalist. Simon Baker's a charming actor and it's a quirky character. The Forgotten doesn't really have much to distinguish it from any other cops show except that they're volunteers. They try to track down the identities of John & Jane Does. Sorry, Christian Slater. 0-2 in network primetime.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Easy Virtue - DVD Review

**1/2

Starring Jessica Biel, Colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Barnes, Kris Marshall, Kimberley Nixon and Pip Torrens.
Directed by Stephan Hopkins.

Jessica Biel is supposed to be a sore-thumb, but she still never quite worked for me as an American girl marrying into a well-to-do British family in the 1920's. The one that captured my attention was Colin Firth, the cynical yet easy-going patriarch of this dysfunctional clan. This comedy-of-manners still works better as a play.

(500) Days of Summer - Movie Review

****

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel.
Directed by Mark Webb.

I'm glad going into it I knew that they don't wind up together at the end. I was geared for it. It's had me reflect on a few things. For one thing it reminded me how good filmmaking can be. There were many good details here, as though Woody Allen was reborn as a non-pervy Angelino. It also made me think about my relationships.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Tom, our hero. He meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel), our heroine. But he likes her more than she likes him. We go back and forth within those 500 days, seeing the peaks and valleys. She eventually dumps him and screws him up, and I remember what it was like to be that guy. I felt that way for about a month after this girl dumped me, and even as I started dating other women, (She) would be in the back of my head. And then I met the One, the One who's been my wife for over 13 years and counting.

My wife was that girl too. She was dating a guy who liked her more than she liked him. She dumped him, and who knows what happened to him, but she knew she wouldn't be happy with him. And then she met Me. Her One.

Tom and Summer are likeable people, where even as it falls apart, we want both of them to be happy. Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel are charismatic enough actors that we root for them. But we ebb and flow with the characters, I couldn't help but think this is what more "romantic comedies" should be like. Director Mark Webb throws in great details here. I love that one of the walls in Tom's bedroom is a chalkboard. I loved the musical number thrown in to demonstrate how a guy feels the morning after, when the sun is just a little more shiney.

I have the Ghosts of Girlfriends Past DVD sitting on my desk, not yet watched. I didn't have much faith in it being good before, but somehow now after see (500), I think it's going to be that much more sucky.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

NBC's Heroes . . . meh

As cool as Robert Knepper's Samuel and his carnivals of freaks are, it made me wish they were actually showing up to rival Michael J. Anderson's Samson and company in a third season of HBO's Carnivale. Season 3 of Heroes so messed around with the continuity of the characters that I find I don't really care about any of them anymore. When it looked like Bennett was going to be drowned by Tracy in his own car, I was okay with it, and 'Company Man', with him as the focus, is the best episode in the series' history. He lived, though. Maybe most of the originals will be killed off or move away and the show can focus on new people showing up.

Mon-Tue TV Ratings

Monday

8/7
ABC - Dancing with the Stars hr 1 - 17.43 million viewers
CBS - How I Met Your Mother - 9.22
:30 --- Accidentally on Purpose - 8.99
NBC - Heroes hr 1 - 6.27
FOX - House hr 1 - 15.76
TheCW - One Tree Hill - 2.48

9/8
ABC - Dancing with the Stars hr 2 - 17.64
CBS - Two and a Half Men - 13.59
:30 --- The Big Bang Theory - 12.83
NBC - Heroes hr 2 - 5.77
FOX - House hr 2 - 17.25
TheCW - Gossip Girl - 2.09

10/9
ABC - Castle - 9.43
CBS - CSI: Miami - 13.73
NBC - The Jay Leno Show - 5.67

House won the night in the coveted 18-49 demographic category, but Dancing with the Stars had the most overall viewers. DWTS's premiere is down from last season.

Castle had poor audience retention from DWTS and scored only a 2.3 in the 18-49. To compare, the second hour of Heroes had a 2.7. Unless the show has a major spike in quality, I see this as its last season.

The Jay Leno Show meanwhile had its lowest ratings yet, and is probably now in the ratings realm it can expect.

Tuesday

8/7
ABC - Dancing with the Stars hr 1 - 14.14 million viewers
CBS - NCIS - 20.00
NBC - The Biggest Loser hr 1 - 6.94
FOX - Hell's Kitchen hr 1 - 6.65
TheCW - 90210 - 2.17

9/8
ABC - Dancing with the Stars hr 2 - 16.22
CBS - NCIS: Los Angeles - 18.32
NBC - The Biggest Loser hr 2 - 8.02
FOX - Hell's Kitchen hr 2 - 6.96
TheCW - Melrose Place - 1.45

10/9
ABC - The Forgotten - 9.53
CBS - The Good Wife - 13.72
NBC - The Jay Leno Show - 6.77

CBS rules again. NCIS had the ratings of the week so far, and NCIS: LA had decent viewer retention. The Good Wife held its own.

ABC saw DWTS decline from Monday's ratings, and The Forgotten was not as successful in retaining viewers. Looks like Christian Slater may have another series on his hands that won't last the year. (Although marketing-wise ABC never seemed to believe in this show.)

FOX's Hell Kitchen's had the edge over NBC's Biggest Loser in the 18-49 demographic, but Loser had more total viewers. In fact, Kitchen had a higher 18-49 demo than The Good Wife.

TheCW's 90210 is holding on okay (for CW) but the Melrose Place reboot is a bust.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

30 Rock wins Best Comedy

I can't help but think 30 Rock keeps winning because Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin are big-time Democrats. I mean, 30 Rock is Night Court. Funny, yes, but The Office, Big Bang Theory and Better Off Ted are funnier. Night Court was funny in its day too but it still appropriately lost to shows like The Cosby Show and Cheers.

Cloudy gets $30 million

=======
Weekend Box Office
=======

1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - $30.1 million - 1 wk (Sony)
3119 screens / $9651 per screen
2. The Informant! - $10.55 - 1 wk (WB)
2505 / $4210
3. I Can Do Bad All By Myself - $10.06 ($37.93) - 2 wks (LG) -57.1%
2255 / $4461
4. Love Happens - $8.46 - 1 wk (U)
1898 / $4455
5. Jennifer's Body - $6.8 - 1 wk (Fox)
2702 / $2517
6. 9 - $5.46 ($22.79) - 2 wks (Foc) -49.2%
2060 / $2650
7. Inglourious Basterds - $3.6 ($109.9) - 5 wks (Wein) -41.3%
2519 / $1430
8. All About Steve - $3.4 ($26.68) - 3 wks (Fox) -39.7%
2159 / $1575
9. Sorority Row - $2.49 ($8.87) - 2 wks (Sum) -50.8%
2591 / $961
10. The Final Destination - $2.38 ($62.39) - 4 wks (NL) -57%
1805 / $1316
11. Whiteout - $2.06 ($8.48) - 2 wks (WB) - 2 wks (WB) -58.1%
2745 / $750

Sony Animation (Ice Age) has another hit with Meatballs, so while Disney/Pixar puts out the critical cream of the crop each year, DreamWorks Animation and Sony Animation have found ways to be players.

I think Megan Fox's already overexposed. In her first star vehicle (Jennifer's Body), audiences met her with apathy. But I think that it was also hurt by being another gory movie opening in the wake of Final Destination 4, Halloween II, Sorority Row, and Whiteout.

Inglourious Basterds is now the highest grossing movie in Quentin Tarantino's career.

Dance Flick - DVD Review


**

Starring Damon Wayans Jr., Shoshana Bush, Essence Atkins, Chris Elliott, Amy Sedaris, Affion Crockett, David Alan Grier and Keenan Ivory Wayans.
Directed by Damien Dante Wayans.

Parody movies have been done to death, and done so poorly by Seltzer-Friedberg (Date Movie, Meet the Spartans, etc.) that I question if the genre can ever be funny again. This movie made me a lugh a couple times, but for this style of comedy I need more than one of out twenty jokes to be funny to actually recommend it.

I liked that it had a story structure to it. Its main inspiration is Save the Last Dance, but it gets in shots at Stomp the Yard, Step Up, and many other youth-dance dramas. I laughed at the "Fame" number, which is a coming-out song ("Flame! I'm gonna be gay forever...") It had some good one-liners ("Why do porn stars pray? You know God just has his fingers in his ears going 'Lalalalala'!")

But when it can go for crude it will, and it pushes the boundaries of PG-13. But hey, if I had to watch one more Seltzer-Friedberg spoof or three more Wayans spoofs, I'd take the Wayans.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fall TV Comparisons

Fall 2008

22 new shows on the Big Five.

Only 4 of them have made it to a second season. CBS's The Mentalist and Gary Unmarried. FOX's Fringe. The CW's 90210.

Fall 2006

25 new shows on the Big Five. 11 of them got second seasons. 7 of them are still around. NBC's Sunday Night Football, 30 Rock, Heroes, and Friday Night Lights (now on DirecTV). ABC's Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters. Fox's Til Death.

Fall 2002

32 new shows on the Big Six (when The WB and UPN hadn't merged into The CW yet.) 12 of them got second season. Only one, CBS's CSI: Miami, is still around.

So...

Fall 2009

There are 22 new shows, though one of them is NBC's The Jay Leno Show which gets five hours of primetime. So anywhere from 20% to 40% of the new shows may make it to a second season. Pretending that eight will get a second season and the other fourteen will be cancelled, what would be my guess?

NBC's Jay Leno Show
FOX's The Cleveland Show
CBS's NCIS: Los Angeles
NBC's Community
ABC's Modern Family
ABC's FlashForward
The CW's The Vampire Diaries
FOX's Glee

Which would leave:
ABC's V
CBS's The Good Wife
The CW's Melrose Place
CBS's Three Rivers
NBC's Trauma
ABC's Hank
ABC's Cougar Town
ABC's The Middle
CBS's Accidentally on Purpose
NBC's Mercy
ABC's The Forgotten
ABC's Eastwick
The CW's The Beautiful Life
FOX's Brothers

The Vampire Diaries / The Beautiful Life - TV reviews

The CW has a couple new shows, both aimed to about the same age group. One I think will succeed and one won't.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES - They are in what is maybe the toughest time-slot of the week. Thursdays at 8/7. It'll need to take on ABC's FlashForward, CBS's Survivor, FOX's Bones, and NBC's comedy line-up. But with The CW, anything above 3 million viewers is a hit show.

It's very much like Twilight: The Series. The acting and directing started to bug me before the end of the first episode. The actors all have that pose-acting thing going, almost soap-opera style. The camera always has to be close up on whoever has the line, and the cast had very mannered delivery. It feels particularly cutesy after watching True Blood, and while it has its detractors, Twilight has a more compelling lead actress.

For my wife it was the soundtrack. The song always swelled to be louder than the dialogue right before every commercial break.

THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE - Having seen the ratings, this thing's going to disappear in a few episodes. Maybe if they'd called it a remake of Models, Inc., to correspond with their sequel/reboots of 90210 and Melrose Place, it would have worked for them. As is, it's a shallow drama about the modeling world, with Sara Paxton as the stand-in wholesome girl keeping her principles in a competitive industry. I think having this follow America's Next Top Model hurts it, because the reality-show drama can be more entertaining than the scripted one right after it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wizards of Waverly Place

Not too long ago, I pulled into a JiffyLube because the sign out front said "Open bay." Once I was in, I saw the sign was a lie, but I was already there, so I figured, "I do need an oil change; it'll just take a little longer than I wanted."

There was a kid in the waiting room and on the TV, she was watching Wizards of Waverly Place. My 11-year-old loves those shows. Wizards, Suite Life, Hannah Montana, etc., etc.

After over an hour, my car wasn't done, and Kid's parents car wasn't done. After 2 1/2 episodes of Wizards I was ready to smash something. I can only take so much banality peppered with an insincere laugh track.

My brother blogged about the tweencoms that Disney and Nick churn out. They're like Laffy Taffys. They're not funny, but kids think they might be.

The Jay Leno Show - TV Review

So did Jay change some of his shtick now that he's moved to primetime? No.

It's the Tonight Show earlier. Slightly different set, two chairs instead of a desk, but that's pretty much it. It's the Tonight Show. Now he had quite the "get" by being Kanye West's first interview, who choked up when apologizing once again for his rude rant stealing Taylor Swift's spotlight.

I see NBC settling into averaging 6 million viewers a night, which will keep them in fourth place, but an ffordable fourth place, and I see Conan continue to lose his audience to David Letterman and Nightline.

But for its debut night, it was big.

For the 10/9 timeslot:

NBC - The Jay Leno Show - 17.66 million viewers
CBS - How I Met Your Mother (r) / Big Bang Theory (r) - 6.83 / 5.23
ABC - Dreamgirls - 4.31