Friday, December 31, 2010

My Worst Ten Films of 2010

I still want to catch a few reportedly good movies (True Grit, for one) before I do my Top Ten list, but I feel safe to do this one.

First I should mention I had no desire to see such alleged stinkers as Leap Year, The Spy Next Door, The Tooth Fairy, Dear John, Remember Me, Our Family Wedding, The Last Song, Why Did I Get Married Too, Death at a Funeral, Boogie Woogie, Furry Vengeance, Love Ranch, Life During Wartime, Cats & Dogs 2, Step Up 3, Middle Men, Twelve, Lottery Ticket, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Legendary, Alpha & Omega, You Again, Chain Letter, Hatchet 2, Life As We Know It, I Spit on Your Grave, Skyline, Little Fockers, and you'd have to pay me a large sum of money to sit through The Human Centipede, on ClearPlay.

Dishonorable Mentions:

AFTER.LIFE - Half-hour Twilight Zone concept stretched out to 90 minutes, with Christina Ricci on the slab at the morgue. Her mortician (Liam Neeson) insists she's dead and only he can talk to her, but is that really the case? It's a bad sign if you can watch the first ten minutes and the last ten minutes and not really miss anything.

CLASH OF THE TITANS 3D - Maybe the 2D version isn't too bad, but the 3D version was one of the ugliest renditions I've seen since the glasses had one red lens and one blue. It only underlined everything I wasn't enjoying about this remake. Shouldn't Perseus be in the love with the princess he's trying to save? Shouldn't Perseus's men, dying left and right, beat him until he agrees to use the gifts the gods have given him? Since when does Zeus have more in common with Jehovah than Jupiter?

MARMADUKE - CGI talking animals is no longer cute or original or novel for a movie to take such a gimmick and rest on its laurels. Buuut at least my six-year-old liked it.

SAW 3D - The weakest installment of an ever-weakening franchise finally ends four chapters after the main villain died. Costas Mandylor's Hoffman was nowhere near as interesting as Tobin Bell's Jigsaw. About time the game's over.

ST. JOHN OF LAS VEGAS - Steve Buscemi's all dressed up with nowhere to go in an alleged comedy with no real plot or laughs. Just Buscemi wandering around in the desert.

VAMPIRES SUCK - Friedberg & Seltzer are getting better, which means this spoof movie just lands in my Dishonorable Mentions instead of my Worst Ten list. Maybe someday they'll figure out the Zucker magic, but I highly doubt it.

WHEN IN ROME - Girl meets boy, girl suddenly has four stalkers magically obsessed with her. The Pepe le Pew movie has written itself. It'll make you never want to see Jon Heder or Dax Shepard act again, and sad that this is how Academy-Award winner Anjelica Huston needs to pay her bills.

And now...

.... The Worst Ten


10. THE KILLER INSIDE ME - Repugnant character study of a deputy sheriff in the 1950's who discovers his inner psychopath and finds he enjoys killing women by beating them to death. The goal seems to be punishing the audience for watching it.

9. 44 INCH CHEST - Some talented actors from across the pond, among them Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Tom Wilkinson and John Hurt, spin their wheels in a movie where 95% takes place in one room, where no characters are revealed to be deeper than when we first meet them, and where everything's about the same at the end of the movie as it was at the beginning, minus one decision.

8. VALENTINE'S DAY - All-star cast attempts to be the U.S. version of Love Actually and fails miserably. So many characters that nothing sticks, nothing surprises, no insight, no actual laughs happen. It's like watching a game of Telephone played by Hallmark executives. I'm glad everyone got their paydays for such easy work.

7. LEGION - Dull thriller where God's decided to wipe out the human race, starting with a diner in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately for the handful that survive, one angel has decided to fight for them. If you've seen the preview, you've seen the movie.

6. JONAH HEX - Whatever good idea might have been on the page at the beginning of the filmmaking process was left on the bloodied cutting-room floor, leaving us a 73-minute movie full of holes. Josh Brolin does his best Heath Ledger-as-Ennis impression behind burnt-face makeup, and John Malkovich pulls out stock mustache-twirling as the bad guy who must be hunted down. Makes Wild Wild West look like Silverado.

5. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET - Egregiously unoriginal reboot of a classic franchise. Jackie Earle Haley is fine as Freddy Krueger, and that's about the only bright spot. If you're going to do a remake, try to at least do something creative with it.

4. SEX & THE CITY 2 - Two and a half hours of shallow, middle-aged Barbie dolls waltzing through Abu Dhabi without a care in the world. It's the big-budget soulless blockbuster of the year, the female equivalent of Transformers 2.

3. REPO MEN - I have a hard time deciding which was worse. This, or Repo: The Genetic Opera. RTGO was going for Rocky Horror territory and missed the mark by a gruesome mile. This seems like it should be better, but the logic of the laws in this future make no sense. To release a movie like this, in this economy, goes beyond being a bad idea. It also has the honor of featuring the worst twist-ending of the year. The best thing about this movie? Rolling the closing credits to "Dream a Little Dream."

2. COP OUT - Bruce Willis looks bored and Tracy Morgan looks lost in this mish-mash of 1980's cop-buddy cliches. Is it homage? Is it parody? Can't tell. Regardless, Kevin Smith isn't an action director, and unfortunately he's directing someone else's screenplay, one that lacks witty dialogue or a reason to care. The lesson to remember is that some 1980's cop-buddy cliches were lame and don't deserve to be recycled. But I would say the greater misfortune of this movie existing is that Kevin Smith is convinced it's good and will burn bridges with anyone who claims otherwise.

... and now, my least favorite movie of 2010 ...

1. GROWN UPS - Lazy gathering of SNL buddies who slap together an excuse to hang out together and make millions doing so. But at least David Spade falls face-first in poop. Hardy har har. I am pretty sure this is Adam Sandler's worst movie. At least Little Nicky had a story in mind. Really, what was the point of this?

Legend of the Guardians: The owls of Ga'Hoole - DVD Review


ll 1/2

Starring the voices of Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush, Hugo Weaving, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, David Wenham, Anthony LaPaglia, Sam Neill, Richard Roxbergh and Emily Barclay.
Directed by Zack Snyder.


It's tremendously gorgeous and lovingly created. It'd like to be this generation's Watership Down or Secret of NIMH, but there are a few elements that prevent it from doing so. First, this is based on a book series, and reading books, it's easier to keep characters apart in your head. Here the photorealisitc animation means we have a bunch of owls and it's not always easy to tell them apart, therefore making it harder to empathize with the right ones. Secondly, the story itself isn't that original.

It centers on Soren (Jim Sturgess, who sounds just like Elijah Wood's Frodo), an owl kidnapped to be trained to be "pure" due to his species. So we have child slavery and Nazi imagery in the first few minutes. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but you're going to lose young kids there, and then older kids will dismiss where it goes from there. Soren escapes and seeks out the Guardians, a legendary group that fight for owl justice. Then you have a showdown between the good owls and the bad owls.

I'm glad I saw it for the visuals alone, but it's more of a curiosity, not a modern classic. And my 13-year-old daughter had the same problems.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - DVD Review


lll

Starring Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach, Austin Pendleton, Vanessa Ferlito and Jason Clarke.
Directed by Oliver Stone.


The 1987 movie holds up surprisingly well, and this sequel is a pretty decent, timely follow-up to how a handful of greedy people can ruin the lives of millions. Shia LaBeouf, he who risks overexposure between Indiana Jones 4 and the Transformers franchise, does well here, playing a hotshot Wall Street type named Jake who actually has a pet project he believes in - green energy. He's also really good at what he does; he makes money.

This one hits some of the same stanzas as the first one, but Gekko is different. Still wily and untrustworthy, but he acts as a mentor to Jake, whom he learns will be his son-in-law.

The movie does an amusing job of making it look like the 2008 financial collapse was the responsibility of a handful of old men with pocket-watches in a room with finely varnished furniture. It also shows how another handful of men were able to make millions off short-selling and then buying stock in those companies whom the government bailed out.

I kept thinking about how math geniuses at Harvard don't invent tangible things; they get into Wall Street. They make millions of dollars off of nothing but credit defaults swaps and derivatives and market manipulation. But that's neither here nor there.

Stone is back to form here. He's had some indulgent projects recently (Alexander, anyone?) but the narrative is smooth and the editing is swift without feeling choppy. And it's an absolute pleasure to see Douglas revisit his Gekko role.

The American - DVD Poster


ll 1/2

Starring George Clooney, Paolo Bonacelli, Violante Placido and Irina Bjorklund.
Directed by Anton Corbijn.

Very, very watchable, but ultimately doesn't add up to much.

George Clooney is a gruff American assassin who has his life threatened in Sweden. He flees to Italy to hide out while the heat dies down, but his contact gives him one last assignment. All of this is conveying minimally. Not much dialogue, very little explained. We're outsiders watching events unfold.

This has all the feel of a foreign film that just happens to mostly be in English and with George Clooney as its star. Clooney is subdued, measured, careful, focussed. But the movie is a Keyser Soze. It ends, and then *poof*, it's gone. I can see many people really digging this, and I can see many others exclaiming, "Well, that was a waste of time!"

Monday, December 27, 2010

Agora - DVD Review

lll

Starring Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac, Rupert Evans and Michael Lonsdale.
Directed by Alejandro Amenabar.


Usually when we get Roman Empire movies, the Christians are the good guys, and then a few centuries later when the Catholic Church grows in power, the Christians are the bad guys. This movie takes place right about in that period of time where the balance of power shifts, where the underdogs/martyrs get control and a little revenge. It's interesting and a little daring, and it revolves around the destruction of the Library of Alexandria in 391 AD.

The Romans still rule, and the Christians have been increasing in power, but the Roman pagans/atheists/ Jupiter-worshippers still think they can push them around. When they draw some swords to put them in their places, they get a rude awakening of just how many Christians there are, and how they're done turning cheeks.

In the middle of this conflict is Hypathia (Rachel Weisz), an atheist who doesn't really care about religion, she cares about science. She's on the cusp of larger discoveries, but what incalculable knowledge was lost when the Library burned. The movie's chief argument seems to be that if Christianity hadn't come along, the world's scientific knowledge would be about 1000 years ahead of where it is now.

This is not done in a preachy or condescending manner. The movie does well with its low budget, and it feels similar to the swords-and-sandals epics of the 1960's, those ones that also could have several slow spots.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Cyrus - DVD Review


lll

Starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei and Catherine Keener.
Directed by Jay & Mark Duplass.


I suppose this is a comedy, but it doesn't contain belly laughs. There's an underlying sadness to it and definite creepiness. Change the last ten minutes to everyone getting killed and this is a horror movie. As is, that creepiness, that off-kilter realism keeps this interesting, and that is primarily due to Jonah Hill as the title character of Cyrus.

Jonah Hill's been the fat clown in a few comedies (Superbad, Funny People, Get Him to the Greek, etc.) but he's usually assertive. Here he's passive-aggressive. Cyrus loves his mother, played by Marisa Tomei, to a degree that would seem inappropriate to outsiders. One such outsider is John (John C. Reilly), a recent divorcee who takes a shine to Cyrus's mom at a party. John and Cyrus are civil, they dance around each other, but it doesn't take long for John to figure out that Cyrus has a 3-D chess game in motion to make sure John does not become a permanent fixture in their lives.

I can imagine this could have easily been made into a loud, obvious pratfall-laden comedy starring Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey. But the veteran mumblecore directors Jay & Mark Duplass keep it simple, keeping everything off-balance to where we don't know what's going to happen. It feels like the quiet, level-headed manipulative Cyrus could snap at any moment. The camera tends to zoom in or out on people's faces at odd times. Where should my focus go? Should I be on the edge of my seat?

The ending seemed a little easy, but I liked seeing this different side of Jonah Hill.

Top Ten in TV 2010

I have not watched this year's seasons of HBO's True Blood or Boardwalk Empire. But I hear good things.

Stuff I liked:

The scenery of CBS's The Amazing Race, master manipulator Russell getting to the finals again on CBS's Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, likeable dim-bulb Fabio on the otherwise unpleasant CBS's Survivor: Nicaragua, the smartest men in the room with body-language experts Simon Baker on CBS's The Mentalist and Tim Roth on FOX's Lie to Me, the perservering Dundler Mifflinites of NBC's The Office, the love for Simon Cowell on his last year of FOX's American Idol, the gawky baby-giraffe of a model Ann on CW's America's Next Top Model, the enigmatic Michael Imperioli on ABC's Detroit 1-8-7, Patricia Heaton's exasperated mom in ABC's The Middle, the line-reads of Scott Caan on CBS's Hawaii Five-0, the strong second season of STARZ's Party Down, the mournful post-Rita season of SHO's Dexter, the round-table segments under Jake Tapper's brief tenure on ABC's This Week, the fresh talent of Jay Pharaoh on NBC's Saturday Night Live, the sportswriters spouting on ESPN's Around the Horn, and the 2010 midterm election coverage by Fox News and CNN.

Honorable Mentions:

ROBOT CHICKEN STAR WARS EPISODE III (CN) - Absolutely hilarious.

DEXTER (SHOWTIME) - It wouldn't be able to top the Trinity Killer season, but the mournful aftermath fifth season gave Dexter some serious consequences, and Michael C. Hall's performance was able to hit new levels as the formerly emotionless monster deals with true grief.

... and my top ten are ...

10. CABLE NEWS COMEDY - I specifically identify The Daily Show (Comedy Central) and Red Eye (Fox News). Jon Stewart continues to be the master referee (even if he insists he's on the sidelines) and he's fair enough for a left-leaning host, and then there's right-wing comedian Greg Gutfeld hosting his middle-of-the-night party with unique guests and hilarious deadpan ombudsman Andy Levy. I DVR both and watch at least a couple episodes a week of each.

9. THE TUDORS (SHOW) - The final season was a crowning one, where Henry VIII realizes too late that killing all his old advisors just means more untrustworthy ones will pop up in their places. I've watched the series since the beginning, and it's the role of Jonathan Rhys Meyers' career. His Henry was vain, impetuous, ruthless, and had the will to change the course of history forever.

8. THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS) - Funniest show on TV that still employs a laugh-track. Loving how they're rounding out the cast with geeky girlfriends for Sheldon and Howard.

7. THE GOOD WIFE (CBS) - The perfect combination of weekly procedural and backstage politics. I like that Alan Cumming's been given more to do as Peter's lawyer Eli Gold, I like the clever guest-casting (Michael J. Fox was great), and I like that each week we don't know what Alicia's going to do.

6. BETTER OFF TED (ABC) - This brilliant, brilliant office-place comedy deserved far better than ABC schedulers gave it.

5. MODERN FAMILY & COUGAR TOWN (ABC) - Both shows are still just as funny in their second seasons, if not more so.

4. COMMUNITY (NBC) - No show is more consistently funny. There've been many episodes from either where I've watched them a second time before deleting them from the DVR. I love the genre-poking, the theme episodes (like the action-movie parody embodied by a campus-wide paintball war), and especially Abed (Danny Pudi), the film student who's like an alien observing life on Earth.

3. JUSTIFIED (FX) - Timothy Olyphant's Raylen Givens is the coolest casual crime-fighter since Magnum P.I. The Kentucky atmosphere is rich, and it plays a nice balance between encapsuled cases with plenty of subplots that work throughout the season. I especially enjoyed the one when Olyphant's old Deadwood co-star W. Earl Brown showed up as a hostage-taking career convict. Emmy needs to remember this show next year.

2. AMC - Three of the best show on TV are on this channel. First is BREAKING BAD, which raises the stakes every season to where the tension becomes unbearable. I love how Bryan Cranston's Mr. White switches back and forth between family man Walt and hardened drug-dealer Heisenberg. Then there's MAD MEN, where the characters had another year of growth and the new ad agency is finding their financial situation as precarious as their old one. Finally there's THE WALKING DEAD, an addictive drama that has one of those premises where I can't believe it hasn't been done until now. Zombies walk the Earth and we follow the handful of survivors wondering what next. Andrew Lincoln (Love Actually) is a nice steel-eyed protagonist in his sheriff's uniform, and I'm also enjoying veteran actor Jeffrey DeMunn in a role he can be remembered for.

1. LOST (ABC) - Oh, how I'll miss you. Sad to know we'll ever again check in with Locke, Ben, Hurley, Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Sun & Jin, Desmond, Sayid, Crazy Claire, etc. I liked the flash-sideways world as this self-created purgatory where time doesn't exist, giving the chance for the core group to all reunite.

Worst Ten in TV 2010

Stuff I dislike:

Any of those iCarly/Wizards of Waverly Place shows.

Dishonorable Mentions:

JIM GRAY on THE DECISION (ESPN) - I recognize LeBron James's ill-conceived talents-traveling announcement was itself bad TV. But I single out Gray because up until now, I was supposed to believe he was some kind of sports reporter. Consider that soul sold.

OUTSOURCED (NBC) - I've seen about seven episodes and it still never became funny. I wouldn't have given it a second look except I actually work with a call-center in India. My boss tells me how they portray India is pretty inaccurate.

GRAVITY (STARZ) - A "comedy" about suicide-attempters. Yeah, so there's that...

... and the worst ten are ...

10. MSNBC's MID-TERM ELECTION NIGHT COVERAGE - I could easily put Fox News here for coddling presidential hopefuls Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich. I could easily put CNN here for their increased changes to ever-diminishing returns. But when it came to the big-news night of the year - election - both did a great job. Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier anchored on FNC and kept things flowing, CNN had endless talking-heads to give their spin on things but were never boring. MSNBC decided to let five liberals - Olbermann, Maddow, Matthews, O'Donnell and Olby's favorite bobble-head guest Eugene Robinson - anchor. (What? Did Schultz lose a bet?) They brought out the worst in each other. I felt sorry for poor Chuck Todd they went to every once in a while to give them numbers. Todd's a real journalist. The rest treated it like they were in a sports bar after the home-team lost.

9. HEROES (NBC) - I'm glad this show was put of its misery. The carn-evil could have developed into something, but week after week I just kept thinking how HBO's Carnivale was better, and that I cared less and less about these characters. I bailed on it after Adrian Pasdar left the show. Season 1 was great, and it went downhill from there. I don't know what happened in the last episode. As far as I know, they didn't save the cheerleader, didn't save the world, Sylar became President, and it was all Suresh's dream. Don't care.

8. NAONKA ON SURVIVOR: NICARAGUA (CBS) - There are dozens of reality shows that I don't watch, but of the ones I do, she was the worst contestant. Nothing worse than a bully, but that her victim was a one-legged girl made her a truly hissable villain. Top it off with her selfishly indulging in the reward hours before she quit, and you have one of those one-of-a-kind people who has a lot of growing up to do. There in the middle I put off watching for two or three episodes until I knew her position in the tribe was tenuous. And to think, she's a teacher!

7. THE SUPPORTING CAST OF $#*! MY DAD SAYS (CBS) - William Shatner demonstrates his talents by almost saving many episodes, but this deep into a show, it's clear the rest of the cast just isn't going to get there. The writing does them no favors, but MadTV vets Will Sasso and Nicole Sullivan are too cartoony, and Justin Sadowski looks like he's biting his tongue half the time to keep from cracking up.

6. SKATING WITH THE STARS (ABC) - Tries to copy Dancing with the Stars in every way and falls short to embarrassing degrees. Good thing it flopped; I shudder to think whatever ripoffs they would have attempted had it worked.

5. KELLI GIDDISH - First there was PAST LIFE (FOX), where reincarnation gets the procedural treatment, with no hint of fun that this premise should have. She played the generic blonde lead detective who flirted with the generic hunk lead detective while they were talking about who killed who in a previous life. This one only lasted a couple episodes. Then she got the lead in CHASE on NBC, where she showed no charisma as a butt-kicking US marshal who chases the fugitive-of-the-week.

4. FRED ARMISEN's OBAMA on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (NBC) - Hey, Lorne Michaels. Listen, you have Jay Pharaoh in your cast now, who has the potential to be your best Afr-Am cast member since Chris Rock. He has a killer Obama impression. Meanwhile Armisen's Obama is getting worse and worse. You took Dubya away from Will Forte to give to Jason Sudeikis with no problem; the least you could do is give Obama to Pharaoh. Please. Oh, and Armisen, for cheating on your bride Elisabeth Moss with cast member Abby Elliott, that makes you scummier than ... New Jersey!

3. BIG LAKE (COMEDY CENTRAL) - Painfully unfunny show about a former Wall Street broker who lost everything and moves back in with his parents. Not even Chris Parnell could save it.

2. JAY LENO (NBC) - It's not just Jay Leno; it's everything around him. The decision to force Jay to retire early was a mistake, and we know now Jay never intended to stick with that. The decision to put on The Jay Leno Show five nights a week was a mistake. The idea of bumping back The Tonight Show was a mistake. Essentially forcing Conan out to keep Jay was a mistake. And Jay's ratings are as low as Conan's now. But I'm looking forward to the inevitable HBO movie about it all.

1. COMEDY CENTRAL EXECUTIVES - This channel has no problem blasting everyone else, but they showed themselves as cowards and hypocrites when they censored South Park episode 201 to death over drawing the prophet Mohammed. I understand depicting him is offensive to Muslims, but Jesus taking a dump on the American flag is offensive to Christians and they had no problem showing that. Why no problem? They understand Timothy McVeigh and his ilk are the wackjob exceptions to Christians. So what does that say about how they view Muslims?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tron Legacy - Movie Review


lll in IMAX/3D

ll1/2 otherwise

Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen, James Frain, Beau Garrett and Cillian Murphy.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski.


Overall I liked my experience. I've seen IMAX movies before and 3D movies before, but I've never seen an IMAX 3D movie before, and visually this was a pretty decent movie to see in such a format. We had our previews (yes, if money wasn't an issue, I'd be curious to see Born to Be Wild in IMAX/3D) and finally settled in for the movie.

Kevin Flynn, hero of the 1982 Tron, has disappeared in 1989, leaving behind a young son Sam. Sam Flynn is now 27, primary shareholder in his father's company Encom, but he's too busy riding fast motorcycles and stealing his own company's software to make much of a difference. Suffice to say, the plot mechanics fall into place to get Sam into the Grid, the digital world where programs are forced to fight to the death, just like his dad did all those years ago.

Sam eventually finds Kevin, and that's when we learn that the tyrant here is Clu, a program Kevin Flynn wrote himself. Since programs look like the users who write them, Clu looks like a young Jeff Bridges. Sad to say the digital recreation here isn't as effective as say, the youthfied Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button. Clu looked no more real than any character Jim Carrey ran into in Christmas Carol 3D.

There are two highlights to the film. The visuals are impressive. The action sequences are thrilling. The other highlight is Michael Sheen as David Bowie in A Clockwork Orange, a huckster program named Castor who can get anyone anything they need. I did also like Olivia Wilde as Quorra, an apprentice program of Kevin's.

There are several plot holes and logic jumps the movie makes, particularly toward the end. It's as though one screenwriter had it in his head what the answers are, but then the script got handed off to someone else who had no idea what the answers were and figured someone else might explain it later.

2010 SAG Award Nominations

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Jesse Eisenberg, Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Annette Bening, Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Hilary Swank, Conviction

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, THe King’s Speech
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, Black Swan
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire
The Closer
Dexter
The Good Wife
Mad Men

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
30 Rock
Glee
Hot in Cleveland
Modern Family
The Office

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
John Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie, House

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Glenn Close, Damages
Mariska Hargitay, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
Julianna Margulies, the Good Wife
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Steve Carrel, The Office
Chris Colfer, Glee
Ed O’Neill, Modern Family

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Jane Lynch, Glee
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Betty White, Hot in Cleveland

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
John Goodman, You Don’t Know Jack
Al Pacino, You Don’t Know Jack
Dennis Quaid, The Special Relationship
Edgar Ramirez, Carlos
Patrick Stewart, Macbeth

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Claire Danes, Temple Grandin
Catherine O’Hara, Temple Grandin
Julia Ormond, Temple Grandin
Winona Ryder, When Love Is Not Enough
Susan Sarandon, You Don’t Know Jack

Eat Pray Love - DVD Review


ll

Starring Julia Roberts, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Javier Bardem, Viola Davis and Billy Crudup.
Directed by Ryan Murphy.


In the first scene, Julia Roberts is getting her palm read by a guru in Bali. He lets her know she will have two marriages, one long and one short. She asks which one her current marriage is. If the question must be asked, then the answer is already known.

On one hand, it's nice to watch a movie with exotic locations and a solid supporting cast. On the other hand, must the trek be so sententious, with a lead so unrelatable? It's a self-discovery travelogue for millionaires who can't be troubled with depressing things like "families." I can't imagine the best-selling book on which this was based was so chokingly smug.

Yes, if I was a millionaire with no wife and kids, taking some sort of journey like this might be appealing. Would I feel differently if this was centered on a guy, say Leonardo DiCaprio dumping perfectly fine wife Ginnifer Goodwin and then sleeping with struggling actress Rosemary DeWitt, eating a lot in Italy, gaining wisdom from prayer-circle attendee Melissa Leo, then finding what might be real love with Paz Vega?

Um, no, I don't think so. May they never adapt The Secret for the big-screen.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - DVD Review




lll 1/2

Starring Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube and Peter Haber.
Directed by Niels Adren Oplev.

I read the book, then saw the movie. Since the book was so fresh on my mind, I can say it's a pretty fatihful adaptation, skimming on some details to tighten up the story to stay under two and a half hours.

It's the adventures of Blomkvist and Salander, the best Swedish detective duo of the decade. Take out the word "Swedish" and that sentence is still true.

Mikael Blomkvist is a recently disgraced journalist, convicted of libel, who now has some time on his hands. He is summoned by Henrik Vanger, who happens to be the aging CEO of one of the country's largest companies. His niece disappeared 40 years ago, and he'd like a fresh set of eyes to see if he can't solve the mystery once and for all. His niece also happens to be Blomkvist's former babysitter.

Lisbeth Salander is a hacker, hired to do a background check on Blomkvist for the job. After she clears him, their stories run separately for a while, but she's mirrored Blomkvist's computer and gets intrigued by the mystery as well. Eventually they join forces.

Noomi Rapace is a revelation as Salander. She has a quiet ferociousness about her. She's moody, intelligent, quiet, angry, curious, the most complex female protagonist to come along in a while. She's that way in the book, and Rapace does her more than justice.

The US remake's coming with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, but don't let that dissuade you from seeing this version.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Centurion- DVD Review


ll

Starring Matthew Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko and Ulrich Thomsen.
Directed by Neil Marshall.


A sword-and-sandals adventure that doesn't add up to much, but it easily could have been worse.

Matthew Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) is our hero here, a Roman soldier, member of the Ninth column that famously disappeared in 140 AD. (Another movie is coming out next year tackling the same subject). When the majority of them are slaughtered from a sneak attack, it focusses on the few who survive, and when they learn their general is still alive and captured, they must sneak into enemy ranks to set him free.

It has decent action here and there. A good section of this movie is a chase, and I kept thinking how much better Apocalypto did it. It wasn't bad for a time-killer but I wouldn't recommend anyone go out of their way to see it.

Restrepo - DVD Review

lll 1/2

Directed by Tom Hetherington & Sebastian Junger.

Very solid documentary that just sits us in the middle of the action of what it's like for US troops out in Afghanistan. It's inspiring, frustrating, genuine.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed - DVD Review

lll

Starring Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan.
Directed by J Blakeson.


This movie starts on the right foot. We watch two men go to hardware stores, review blueprints, hammer, drill, assemble, drive from here to there. They install locks on two doors, set up a bed, nod to each other that they're ready.

Next, they're wearing ski masks and gloved. They're throwing a struggling body into a van, a woman, writhing and squealing. They haul her into the apartment where they've been working. They handcuff her to the bed. Professional, efficient, silent while she squirms.

Alice Creed is the kidnap victim, and the two men have a job to do. What we have now is a three-person play, a bare-bones build-up of suspense for a ransom drop we just know isn't going to go smoothly. Eventually we get to know Vic (Eddie Marsan), the older more dangerous one, and Danny (Martin Compston), the younger more sensitive one.

There are a couple good twists in here, and the director has a good eye for pacing. Nice to see a movie that really could go any direction, down to the final few minutes.

My thoughts on Globes

BEST MOTION PICTURE - DRAMA
Black Swan (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
The Fighter (Paramount Pictures)
Inception (Warner Bros. Pictures)
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company)
The Social Network (Sony Pictures)


I've only seen Inception and Social Network, and I'm great with both of those. If Black Swan, The Fighter and The King's Speech are all better than 127 Hours, then great! I thought True Grit might be able to sneak in. So far so good.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE - DRAMA
Halle Berry - Frankie & Alice
Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine


No glaring omissions here, looks good...

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE - DRAMA
Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
Colin Firth - The King’s Speech
James Franco - 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling - Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg - The Fighter


As expected...

BEST MOTION PICTURE - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Pictures)
Burlesque (Screen Gems)
The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features)
Red (Summit Entertainment)
The Tourist (Sony Pictures)


And here's where the Globes are a complete joke. I haven't seen Burlesque or The Tourist, but I've read the reviews. Why nominate those when they could've nominated Scott Pilgrim vs. the World or even Date Night? Heck, any comedy that remotely got a handful of laughs would've been better. This is where it's clear the HFCA just wanted to make sure Cher and Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie all knew they were invited to the party.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Anne Hathaway - Love and Other Drugs
Angelina Jolie - The Tourist
Julianne Moore - The Kids Are All Right
Emma Stone - Easy A


Not a bad list, considering. Ignoring Jolie, since every review I've read says she has zero chemistry with Depp.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Johnny Depp - Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp - The Tourist
Paul Giamatti - Barney’s Version
Jake Gyllenhaal - Love and Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey - Casino Jack


Depp twice? They didn't want to nominate Robert Downey Jr. for Due Date? Not saying he deserves it for Due Date, just that HFCA likes to nominate people they want to hang out with.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Despicable Me (Universal Pictures)
How to Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks Animation)
The Illusionist (Sony Pictures Classics)
Tangled (Walt Disney Pictures)
Toy Story 3 (Disney•Pixar)


Fine and good. Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon might both make my top ten list.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Biutiful (Mexico /Spain)
The Concert (France)
The Edge (Russia)
I Am Love (Italy)
In a Better World (Denmark)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
Amy Adams - The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter - The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis - Black Swan
Melissa Leo - The Fighter
Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
Christian Bale - The Fighter
Michael Douglas - Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
Jeremy Renner - The Town
Geoffrey Rush - The King’s Speech


Loving that Bale finally found a role to get him award recogntion, his work in The Machinist and Rescue Dawn notwithstanding. Also glad that Renner's work in The Town is not being forgotten.

BEST DIRECTOR - MOTION PICTURE
Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
David Fincher - The Social Network
Tom Hooper - The King’s Speech
Christopher Nolan - Inception
David O. Russell - The Fighter

BEST SCREENPLAY - MOTION PICTURE
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy - 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg - The Kids Are All Right
Christopher Nolan - Inception
David Seidler - The King’s Speech
Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE - MOTION PICTURE
Alexander Desplat - The King’s Speech
Danny Elfman - Alice in Wonderland
A.R. Rahman - 127 Hours
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network
Hans Zimmer - Inception

BEST ORIGINAL SONG - MOTION PICTURE
"Bound to You"; Music by Samuel Dixon, Lyrics by Christina Aguilera, Sia Furler - Burlesque
"Coming Home"; Music & Lyrics by Bob DiPiero, Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey, Troy Verges - Country Strong
"I See the Light"; Music by Alan Menkin, Lyrics by Glenn Slater - Tangled
"There's a Place for Us"; Music & Lyrics by Carrie Underwood, David Hodges, Hillary Lindsey - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
"You Haven't Seen the Last of Me"; Music & Lyrics by Dianne Warren - Burlesque


No real thoughts on any of these. They're either expected or unsurprising.

BEST TELEVISION SERIES - DRAMA
"Boardwalk Empire" (HBO)
"Dexter" (Showtime)
"The Good Wife" (CBS)
"Mad Men" (AMC)
"The Walking Dead" (AMC)


Haven't seen Boardwalk Empire but the other four are good shows.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES - DRAMA
Juliana Margulies - "The Good Wife"
Elizabeth Moss - "Mad Men"
Piper Perabo - "Covert Affairs"
Katie Segal - "Sons of Anarchy"
Kyra Sedgwick - "The Closer"


Piper Perabo? Really?

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES - DRAMA
Steve Buscemi - "Boardwalk Empire"
Bryan Cranston - "Breaking Bad"
Michael C. Hall - "Dexter"
Jon Hamm - "Mad Men"
Hugh Laurie - "House"


Hard to argue with any of these.

BEST TELEVISION SERIES - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
"30 Rock" (NBC)
"The Big Bang Theory" (CBS)
"The Big C" (Showtime)
"Glee" (FOX)
"Modern Family" (ABC)
"Nurse Jackie" (Showtime)


Okay, I've seen one episode each of The Big C and Nurse Jackie and was not impressed. And NBC has three other shows on Thursday (Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office) that are funnier than 30 Rock. Happy for Big Bang Theory, Modern Family and Glee, though I don't watch Glee anymore.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Toni Collette - "United States of Tara"
Edie Falco - "Nurse Jackie"
Tina Fey - "30 Rock"
Laura Linney - "The Big C"
Lea Michele - "Glee"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Alec Baldwin - "30 Rock"
Steve Carell - "The Office"
Thomas Jane - "Hung"
Matthew Morrison - "Glee"
Jim Parsons - "The Big Bang Theory"


No Ed O'Neill?

BEST MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
"Carlos" (The Sundance Channel)
"The Pacific" (HBO)
"Pillars of the Earth" (Starz)
"Temple Grandin" (HBO)
"You Don't Know Jack" (HBO)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Hayley Atwell - "Pillars of the Earth"
Claire Danes - "Temple Grandin"
Judi Dench - "Return to Cranford"
Romola Garai - "Emma"
Jennifer Love Hewitt - "The Client List"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Idris Elba - "Luther"
Ian McShane - "Pillars of the Earth"
Al Pacino - "You Don't Know Jack"
Dennis Quaid - "The Special Relationship"
Edgar Ramirez - "Carlos"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Hope Davis - "The Special Relationship"
Jane Lynch - "Glee"
Kelly MacDonald - "Boardwalk Empire"
Julia Styles - "Dexter"
Sofia Vergara - "Modern Family"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Scott Caan - "Hawaii 5-0"
Chris Colfer - "Glee"
Chris Noth - "The Good Wife"
Eric Stonestreet - "Modern Family"
David Strathairn - "Temple Grandin"


I like the Scott Caan nom.




Read more: Nominations for the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards - ComingSoon.net http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=72368#ixzz186DraVFo

2010 Golden Globe Nominations

BEST MOTION PICTURE - DRAMA
Black Swan (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
The Fighter (Paramount Pictures)
Inception (Warner Bros. Pictures)
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company)
The Social Network (Sony Pictures)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE - DRAMA
Halle Berry - Frankie & Alice
Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE - DRAMA
Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
Colin Firth - The King’s Speech
James Franco - 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling - Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg - The Fighter

BEST MOTION PICTURE - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Pictures)
Burlesque (Screen Gems)
The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features)
Red (Summit Entertainment)
The Tourist (Sony Pictures)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Anne Hathaway - Love and Other Drugs
Angelina Jolie - The Tourist
Julianne Moore - The Kids Are All Right
Emma Stone - Easy A

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Johnny Depp - Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp - The Tourist
Paul Giamatti - Barney’s Version
Jake Gyllenhaal - Love and Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey - Casino Jack

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Despicable Me (Universal Pictures)
How to Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks Animation)
The Illusionist (Sony Pictures Classics)
Tangled (Walt Disney Pictures)
Toy Story 3 (Disney•Pixar)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Biutiful (Mexico /Spain)
The Concert (France)
The Edge (Russia)
I Am Love (Italy)
In a Better World (Denmark)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
Amy Adams - The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter - The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis - Black Swan
Melissa Leo - The Fighter
Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
Christian Bale - The Fighter
Michael Douglas - Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
Jeremy Renner - The Town
Geoffrey Rush - The King’s Speech

BEST DIRECTOR - MOTION PICTURE
Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
David Fincher - The Social Network
Tom Hooper - The King’s Speech
Christopher Nolan - Inception
David O. Russell - The Fighter

BEST SCREENPLAY - MOTION PICTURE
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy - 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg - The Kids Are All Right
Christopher Nolan - Inception
David Seidler - The King’s Speech
Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE - MOTION PICTURE
Alexander Desplat - The King’s Speech
Danny Elfman - Alice in Wonderland
A.R. Rahman - 127 Hours
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network
Hans Zimmer - Inception

BEST ORIGINAL SONG - MOTION PICTURE
"Bound to You"; Music by Samuel Dixon, Lyrics by Christina Aguilera, Sia Furler - Burlesque
"Coming Home"; Music & Lyrics by Bob DiPiero, Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey, Troy Verges - Country Strong
"I See the Light"; Music by Alan Menkin, Lyrics by Glenn Slater - Tangled
"There's a Place for Us"; Music & Lyrics by Carrie Underwood, David Hodges, Hillary Lindsey - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
"You Haven't Seen the Last of Me"; Music & Lyrics by Dianne Warren - Burlesque

BEST TELEVISION SERIES - DRAMA
"Boardwalk Empire" (HBO)
"Dexter" (Showtime)
"The Good Wife" (CBS)
"Mad Men" (AMC)
"The Walking Dead" (AMC)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES - DRAMA
Juliana Margulies - "The Good Wife"
Elizabeth Moss - "Mad Men"
Piper Perabo - "Covert Affairs"
Katie Segal - "Sons of Anarchy"
Kyra Sedgwick - "The Closer"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES - DRAMA
Steve Buscemi - "Boardwalk Empire"
Bryan Cranston - "Breaking Bad"
Michael C. Hall - "Dexter"
Jon Hamm - "Mad Men"
Hugh Laurie - "House"

BEST TELEVISION SERIES - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
"30 Rock" (NBC)
"The Big Bang Theory" (CBS)
"The Big C" (Showtime)
"Glee" (FOX)
"Modern Family" (ABC)
"Nurse Jackie" (Showtime)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Toni Collette - "United States of Tara"
Edie Falco - "Nurse Jackie"
Tina Fey - "30 Rock"
Laura Linney - "The Big C"
Lea Michele - "Glee"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Alec Baldwin - "30 Rock"
Steve Carell - "The Office"
Thomas Jane - "Hung"
Matthew Morrison - "Glee"
Jim Parsons - "The Big Bang Theory"

BEST MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
"Carlos" (The Sundance Channel)
"The Pacific" (HBO)
"Pillars of the Earth" (Starz)
"Temple Grandin" (HBO)
"You Don't Know Jack" (HBO)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Hayley Atwell - "Pillars of the Earth"
Claire Danes - "Temple Grandin"
Judi Dench - "Return to Cranford"
Romola Garai - "Emma"
Jennifer Love Hewitt - "The Client List"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Idris Elba - "Luther"
Ian McShane - "Pillars of the Earth"
Al Pacino - "You Don't Know Jack"
Dennis Quaid - "The Special Relationship"
Edgar Ramirez - "Carlos"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Hope Davis - "The Special Relationship"
Jane Lynch - "Glee"
Kelly MacDonald - "Boardwalk Empire"
Julia Styles - "Dexter"
Sofia Vergara - "Modern Family"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Scott Caan - "Hawaii 5-0"
Chris Colfer - "Glee"
Chris Noth - "The Good Wife"
Eric Stonestreet - "Modern Family"
David Strathairn - "Temple Grandin"

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Movie Review


ll 1/4

Starring Georgie Hendley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes and Will Poulter.
Directed by Michael Apted.


When I came out of it, I had it in my mind about on par with Prince Caspian, but as the days pass, it's receded on me. The Narnia film series isn't up to LOTR or Harry Potter standards, much as it may like to be, and this film is the weakest in the Narnia series to date, even though in my opinion it's one of the better books in the series.

Part of the problem is source material. CS Lewis was writing fiction for kids with strong Christian overtones, and his "for kids" style doesn't carry over as easily as Tolkein or Rowling. Dawn Treader on the big screen is rather episodic. There's also no clear villain. The antagonist is this green mist of evil. Not exactly as powerful as the White Witch. Tilda Swinton, who's always been by far the best actor in the series, comes back again for a cameo. The filmmakers also find a way to bring back Peter and Susan, even though they're not supposed to be here.

The acting is a problem. Georgie Hendley had a lot of charm as Lucy in the first movie, but her wide-eyed grinning at whatever magical incident is happening hasn't really progressed. For instance, I've always felt like in the Potter flicks, the acting of the kids has improved a little with each movie. Here, not really.

This movie's best quality is from casting Will Poulter as Eustace Scrubb, the spoiled cousin that joins Edmund and Lucy on this trip. At least when he's around, we have the promise that something lively may happen.

So if Narnia 4 gets greenlit - The Silver Chair - it only brings back Eustace, and that film should be in good hands, though I can't for the lfie of me remember anything about The Silver Chair and I read the whole series about five years ago. Maybe Walden Media can get Alfonso Cuaron or Mike Newell or David Yates to give a crack at directing it and see if they can't stop the slide of this series. I'd enjoy it if all seven could be made.

P.S. I was distracted the whole movie that Reepicheep was back, but not as voiced by Eddie Izzard. I could not figure it out until the closing credits. Well, it was Simon Pegg. Liam Neeson does return to voice Aslan, and if you haven't guessed that Aslan is Jesus, he lays a biiig hint at the end.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thor Movie Poster


From Yahoo Movies

Domestic Box-Office of 2010

Top domestic box-office performaers of 2010 so far.

1. Toy Story 3 - $415 million
2. Alice in Wonderland - $334.19 million
3. Iron Man 2 - $312.13 million
4. Twilight Saga: Eclipse - $300.53 million
5. Inception - $292.38 million
6. Despicable Me - $250 million
7. Harry Potter 7 Part 1 - $244.52 million
8. Shrek Forever After - $238.39 million
9. How to Train Your Dragon - $217.58 million
10. The Karate Kid - $176.59 million
11. Clash of the Titans - $163.21 million
12. Grown Ups - $162 million
13. Megamind - $136.61 million
14. The Last Airbender - $131.6 million
15. Shutter Island - $128.01 million

Five of the top fifteen are animated (and Tangled is on pace to catch Megamind).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Faster - Movie Review


lll

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino, Maggie Grace, Moon Goodblood, Tom Berenger, Mike Epps, Jennifer Carpenter, Xander Berkeley and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.
Directed by George Tillman Jr.


This is a straightforward revenge flick which felt closer to the 1970's style than recent Robert Rodrgiuez efforts. Dwayne Johnson is "Driver," a bulked-up tattooed man who's just finished serving ten years in prison. He is a man on a mission. He marches to his old car, which inexplicably starts on the first try. (I guess someone's been taking care of it.) He drives to a location. He marches into the building. He looks around the cubicle farm. He sees the guy he wants. He shoots him in the head.

This movie isn't kidding around. Soon after we meet Billy Bob Thornton as "Cop," investigating the case. Then for fun, a British Jake Gyllenhaal-type Oliver Jackson-Cohen shows up as "Killer." He's a hitman hired to kill Driver before he eliminates everyone on his revenge list.

Johnson, more bulked up than he's been in in years, is an unstoppable force here, and director Tillman (Notorious) gives the whole thing a gritty feel. The twist ending gives itself away halfway through the movie, and of the three main characters I never really cared for Killer, and yet I still enjoyed the journey, hoping somehow the Driver find redemption before the runaway train hits the end of the road.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Expendables - DVD Review


ll1/2

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, David Zayas, Charisma Carpenter, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Directed by Sylvester Stallone.


Is it cool seeing all these guys in the same movie? Sure! Then what?

It really is a great reminder just how shallow many of those old 1980's action movies are. What cliches can we wheel out? Cue the corporate mustache-twirler behind the South American military dictator. Does it matter though? Not really. Still fun.

I got a kick out of seeing Dolph Lundgren again. Not that I'm nostalgic for old Dolph. I saw Masters of the Universe recently and his acting was terrible. But I liked him here, liked watching him and little Jet Li fight. I liked watching Sly Stallone and Jason Statham hang out. I liked seeing Sly, Arnie and Bruce Willis in the same room, even if the scene was just one giant in-joke. I liked watching Mickey Rourke have fun talking smack to the group.

That's really what this movie's about and what it boils down to. Is it any better than a documentary would be about these guys hanging out for the day? Yeah. I'd like to see that doc too, but this had some decent action toward the end, amusing camraderie, and a thumping soundtrack. It's probably better than two-thirds of the movies these guys put out on their own.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - DVD Review


ll

Starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, Monica Bellucci, Omar Benson Miller and Alice Krige.
Directed by Jon Turteltaub.


My first criticism is with the marketing. Why did no commercial or no preview show the scene where the sorcerer's apprentice, Dave, makes the brooms and mops come to life? Even if that sequence is only five minutes of this 110-minute movie, that's your money shot! This movie would've opened a good 20% better if it had had that.

My second criticism has to go with the lazy formula being applied by the National Treasure team of actor Nicolas Cage, director Jon Turteltaub, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. It's not enough to have $150 million and some decent special-effects sequences. There needs to be more to the story. There needs to be a story worth the time of your audience.

Dave is played by Jay Barcuhel, he of comic-awkwardness fame from Tropic Thunder, She's Out of Your League, and How to Train Your Dragon. He applies those same gawky talents to this movie, a nerd who's suddenly given a magic ring by a 1000-year-old sorcerer named Balthazar (Nicolas Cage in paycheck mode). Turns out Dave is a descendant of Merlin, and the only one who can stop a 1000-year-old sorceress from escaping and destroying the world. Naturally.

Alfred Molina, Doc Ock himself, shows up as the evil sorcerer trying to free the sorceress, and plenty of CG-heavy magic battles ensue. It's one of those rare times a live dragon is boring.

National Board of Review awards

Best Film: The Social Network
Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network
Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Best Actress: Lesley Manville, Another Year
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Best Foreign Language Film: Of Gods and Men
Best Documentary: Waiting for “Superman”
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Best Ensemble Cast: The Town
Breakthrough Performance: Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Debut Directors: Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, Restrepo
Spotlight Award: Sylvain Chomet and Jacques Tati, The Illusionist
Best Original Screenplay: Chris Sparling, Buried
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Special Filmmaking Achievement Award: Sofia Coppola for writing, directing, and producing Somewhere
William K. Everson Film History Award: Leonard Maltin
NBR Freedom of Expression: Fair Game, Conviction, Howl
Production Design Award: Dante Ferretti, Shutter Island

Ten Best Films (in alphabetical order)
Another Year
The Fighter
Hereafter
Inception
The King’s Speech
Shutter Island
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Five Best Foreign-Language Films (in alphabetical order)
I Am Love
Incendies
Life Above All
Soul Kitchen
White Material

Five Best Documentaries (in alphabetical order)
A Film Unfinished
Inside Job
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Restrepo
The Tillman Story

Top Ten Independent Films: (in alphabetical order)
Animal Kingdom
Buried
Fish Tank
The Ghost Writer
Greenberg
Let Me In
Monsters
Please Give
Somewhere
Youth in Revolt

127 Hours - Movie Review


lll1/2

Starring James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Clemence Poesy, Treat Williams, Kate Burton and Lizzy Caplan.
Directed by Danny Boyle.


If you have a one-setting plot, then dang, it had better be good. Fortunately this story is in the hands of Academy-Award-winning director Danny Boyle.

This is the true story of Aron Rolston, the hiker who cut off his own arm after being trapped for five days in the canyons of southern Utah. James Franco is perfectly cast as the breezy risk-taker, a man with joie de vivre but little regard for consequences.

I really liked that it didn't rely on flashbacks to break up the monotony of being stuck in one place. It followed more of a stream of consciousness, of memories that brought him to his current state.

The arm-cutting scene is about three minutes, and yeah it's graphic, but ultimately it's a movie about overcoming adversity, and I like it more now that I'm a few days away from it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vampires Suck - DVD Review

l1/2

Starring Jenn Proske, Matt Lanter, Chris Riggi, Ken Jeong and Diedrich Bader.
Directed by Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer.


While I do rank Seltzer/Friedberg as being behind some of the decade's worst movies and killing the parody genre that Leslie Nielsen & David Zucker had mastered, allow me to damn them with faint praise in saying that this is probably their best movie to date.

I credit ripe source material - three Twilight movies - and the central performance of Jenn Proske, who nails all the twitchy, pensive notes of Kristen Stewart in Bella Swan mode.

Here Proske plays Becca Crane (get it?) in the town of Sporks (get it?) who instantly falls for the mysterious Edward Sullen (nudge nudge) while also not catching on to the crush held by Jacob White (poke poke, see what they did there?). The filmmakers get in references to True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Paranormal Activity, Gossip Girl, etc., etc. Not spot-on jokes about them; just references. Friedberg/Seltzer still suffer from what made their other movies suck. Re-enacting or referencing something in recent pop-culture should be the end goal in a spoof. There needs to be attitude with it, a twist, a Reason for a Joke to Be. It should twist a cliche in a way that we didn't realize it was a cliche until they punched through it.

I feel like every time I see one of these, I need to teach them about humor. There are signs here and there that they get it. There were more than a few jokes I predicted right before they happened (I bet Edward's going to ride a segueway... and there it is.) Some of the gags work, or more appropriately, more gags work here than they did in any of their previous efforts. Someday they might be worthy of Scary Movie 5.

But can we please have a moratorium of using the song "It's Raining Men" as a punchline?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I - Movie Review


lll1/4

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Rhys Ifans, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Brendan Gleeson, David O'Hara, Imelda Staunton, Tom Felton, David Thewlis, Timothy Spall, Bill Nighy, John Hurt and Michael Gambon.
Directed by David Yates.


It's a fitting penultimate installment in a great series. It's equivalent to the first two hours of The Return of the King, only to have the credits roll on that movie before any big battles.

Gone are the comforting walls of Hogwarts. After Dumbledore's death at the end of the last movie, the Order (aka the good guys) has gone deeper underground. Voldemort and his supporters have taken over the Ministry of Magic.

This movie is probably the only installment that takes its time to breathe with the characters. There's about 45 minutes when Harry, Ron and Hermione are hopping through the woods, staying hidden, trying to figure out where to go next. One of my favorite moments comes from a wordless scene with Harry and Hermione. Ron has disappeared after getting angry, and these two have been through so much, and Harry just takes Herminone's hand and the two quietly, awkwardly, intimately dance. For once, they're not two literary characters brought to life in a big-budget motion picture. They're two kids who grew up together, just two people connecting.

But this is a big-budget motion picture, and we get several money shots. It also sails through a lot of plot, giving only one line per about twenty characters who've had their turns at being prominent at different points in the series.

Another one of my favorites sequences comes from a new face. David O'Hara (Braveheart, The Tudors) plays Rumcorn, one of the bad guys in the Ministry of Magic, but after some poly-juice he's Harry Potter in disguise, and it was pretty interesting to watch O'Hara as Harry pretending not to be Harry.

This movie does end on a cliffhanger, and it promises quite the showdown for Part II, but this is a nice ramp-up for things to come.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

RIP Leslie Nielsen

He was 84, so we knew his time would come eventually, but due to complications from penumonia, Lt. Frank Drebin will not be back for a Naked Gun 4.

He was generally a straight man through most of his career (Forbidden Planet), but it was 1980's Airplane! where deadpan skills really came out. That led to the short-lived Police Squad, and then the Naked Gun trilogy.

And yet, I'll also never forget him as Barbra Streisand's would-be assailant in 1987's Nuts. That was not a role he would have ever been offered if The naked Gun had already come out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Extra Man - DVD Review


ll

Starring Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, Katie Holmes, John C. Reilly, Marian Seldes, Celia Weston, Alicia Goranson, Patti D'Arbanville, Dan Hedaya and John Pankow.
Directed by Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman.


Paul Dano is one of those over-mannered actors where I'm glad he hasn't achieve the Michael Cera fame level. I imagine the Dano backlash would be worse than the current Cera backlash. Dano's made his mark in indie darlings like Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood. Dano's quirks however have been becoming obvious. He needs a director to stretch him in different directions.

He's done no favors by landing in this dinner-theater revelling of eccentricity. When Kevin Kline bellows his first line, it jolted me. "Is he going to go the whole movie at this level?" Why yes. Yes, he is. And Dano can't be subtle when graced with the presense of such ham.

Kline is ever-so-watchable as the debonair yet prudish ladies man. When the quirk begins to irk comes well before John C. Reilly decides to speak and, Zeus forgive him, does the entire movie inexplicably speaking in falsetto. Falsetto, I say!

'Tis a bombastic, turbulent (albeit never dull) mess.

Frozen - DVD Review


ll

Starring Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore and Kevin Zegers.
Directed by Adam Green.


This is one of those low-budget screenplay experiments. Remember Open Water? Two divers stranded in the middle of the ocean? This is the same thing, an economical look at psychological tension. Three skiers get trapped on a ski-lift, in the freezing cold, with no one coming back to the slopes for several days. If they stay there, they'll freeze to death.

It's one of those "What would you do?" scenarios where I thought of several things the characters could do, but none of them ever seemed to occur to them. Also, throw in some hungry wolves circling on the ground below, and you have some contrivances that just made me worry they didn't stretch this out too long. It's not bad, but it's not good. I'm glad writer-director Adam Green didn't go the Gus Van Sant route and just have a ten-minute shot of the actors staring straight ahead while we listen to the mountain winds

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Kids Are All Right - DVD Review


lll 1/2

Starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson and Yaya DaCosta.
Directed by Lisa Cholodenko.


This might be just considered a good family comedy-drama, but the twist is that it's lesbian moms going through it. It winds up being an extra ingredient to the recipe that raises the interest quotient, but the movie still has to be good for the audience to care. Well, the movie is good.

Bening and Moore are Nic and Jules, a couple going through some mid-life growing pains as their 18-year-old daughter preps for leaving for college. Meanwhile their 15-year-old son is getting curious about his biological father, who was a sperm donor, and he tracks him down.

Turns out the guy lives in the same city as they do. He's Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an organic farmer, a heaven-sent so-Cal image of manliness, complete with motorcycle. This makes Nic & Jules uncomfortable at first, since the kids take a shining to him, but the moms come to warm to him in their own right.

Needless to say it gets messy, and the unspoken second half of the title of this movie is BUT THE ADULTS ARE SCREWED UP.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Winter's Bone - DVD Review


***1/2

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Garrett Dillahunt, Sheryl Lee and Lauren Sweetster.
Directed by Debra Granik.


Very good hillbilly noir about a teen girl named Ree (Jennifer Lawrence in an award-worthy performance) who sets out to find her pa after he jumps bail and signed over the family house as collateral. She has mere days to either find him, or find evidence of his death. It has the bleakness of Steinbeck with the palpable suspense of Lehane. I also really liked John Hawkes (Deadwood) playing a tougher character than he's usually allowed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ramona & Beezus - DVD Review

**1/2

Starring Joey King, Selena Gomez, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Duhamel and Sandra Oh.
Directed by Elizabeth Allen.


Perfectly acceptable rental for the kids. I grew up on Beverly Cleary's books and recognized many of the characters and personalities. Seeing them dramatized didn't really touch my nostalgia nerve, but Joey King embodied Ramona as best as any kid-actress I can imagine.

Trailer Watch

Season of the Witch

The greenscreen effects look really bad on the small screen, but I kinda like that the woman accused of being a witch actually has supernatural powers. This looks like it could spectacularly bad, but it could be genuinely entertaining too. The presense of Ron Perlman doesn't instantly guaranteee any level of quality. He was also in The Mutant Chronicles.

Little Fockers

Looks like it'll be the worst one yet. DeNiro, Stiller, Hoffman, Streisand, Wilson, Danner, Polo, and now Jessica Alba... All looks jumbled, thrown together.

Barney's Version

My main curiosity, oddly enough, is that this is the movie that got Rachelle LeFevre fired from Twilight: Eclipse. I'm not really sure what to make of this. I'm not a big fan of love stories that start out with one or both parties married to someone else, but Paul Giamatti is an interesting enough guy I'd be willing to go on the journey, if this got good reviews.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Morning Glory - Movie Review


**3/4

Starring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, John Pankow, Matt Malloy and Ty Burrell.
Directed by Roger Michell.


Rachel McAdams has that movie-star sparkle to her eye that makes me wonder why she doesn't work more. Here she plays the eternally perky Becky, a go-getter producer of a New Jersey morning-news show. After getting fired, she sends resumes everywhere and gets a break with IBS's Daybreak, the fourth-place national morning shows behind NBC's Today Show, ABC's Good Morning America, and "whatever that CBS show is."

Harrison Ford, in his best role in years, plays Mike Pomeroy, legendary evening newsman forced out by IBS. Now he's coasting on his contract fumes and Becky twists his arm to get him to come to Daybreak. THey clash. Mike refuses to play along with the entertaining fluffy side of a morning news program.

The movie has a few big laughs, but it works best when it focusses on the chipper Becky working on the gruff Mike. There's a romantic subplot in there for Becky, but it feels like a mandatory throw-in.

Many have compared this to Broadcast News, but it seems too different an animal to me to make any comparison fair. This movie is worried more about entertainment than news, and as such, it hits every predictable plot point exactly when you expect it to. I still liked it, but it's not going to stay in the system long. It was nice to just watch Ford, you know, act for once.

Megamind - Movie Review


***

Starring the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, David Cross, Brad Pitt and Ben Stiller.
Directed by Tom McGrath.


The superhero genre gets another tweaking, but this one fulfills the question I've wanted to see asked on-screen: What if the supervillain won?

Will Ferrell voices Megamind, a blue-headed alien sent to Earth as a baby, doomed to be a bad guy when his pod lands in the Metro City Prison yard. His nemesis is Metro Man, a lantern-jawed hero who always wins. But then one day, one of Megamind's outlandish schemes actually works. And with no hero to fight, what's a supervillain to do?

The movie has a lot of fun with the Superman back-story, and to remind us it's DreamWorks, the soundtrack's filled with 1980's tunes. It doesn't reach the soaring heights of How to Train Your Dragon and doesn't hold a candle to The Incredibles, but it's close to Despicable Me, and it definitely has its moments.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Grown Ups - DVD Review


*

Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Joyce Van Patten, Steve Buscemi and Colin Quinn.
Directed by Dennis Dugan.


I imagine Sandler, Rock, Spade and Schneider sitting around reminiscing about their SNL days together. Someone mentions they miss Chris Farley. Kevin James walks by. Sandler says, "Hey! My I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry co-star! Get in here." As they continue to crack open beer cans and make each other laugh, someone else says, "We should film this."

None of them warm to a documentary so Sandler finds a co-writer and slaps together an outline of old friends reuniting for a funeral. Now they can sit around and swap stories when it's not their turn on camera. They can spend three months living this way. They bring in decent actresses like Salma Hayek and Maria Bello and Maya Rudolph to hang out with them. Sometimes they do have to be on camera so they come with activities like fishing, swimming, and hold a big chunk of the movie at a waterpark.

They're having so much fun they find ways to invite over old friends like Colin Quinn and Tim Meadows. Now that they're deep into it, someone says they need to think about the trailer.

Sandler: Well, we've got the waterpark.
Schneider: We need some fart jokes.
James: How about a rope swing? I could do it, like I'm afraid to let go and I come back and hit a tree.
Sandler: That sounds funny.
Spade: I'll fall face-down into poop.
Rock: Classic, man.

There are some weight jokes with James, like a pool collapsing and a speedboat that can't tug him, even though he looks about 50 pounds lighter than Mike from Mike & Molly.

Seriously, beyond friends wanting to work together and a cynical grab for a dollar, what was the point to this movie?

NBC's Outsourced - TV Review

Still not funny. I've been giving it quite a chance as part of my Thursday recordings because I work with India, but it gets a lot wrong and primarily, it's not funny. I don't care about the characters. And why do they work during the day there if they're taking all these calls from America? I guess his department only takes calls in the middle of the US night.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Leaves of Grass - DVD Review


**1/2

Starring Edward Norton, Tim Blake Nelson, Keri Russell, Josh Pais, Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Melanie Lynskey, Maggie Siff and Ty Burrell.
Directed by Tim Blake Nelson.


This is a weird little comedy, in that writer/director Tim Blake Nelson doesn't seem sure what tone to take, or he's trying for tonal shifts that only directors like the Coen brothers can pull off.

Edward Norton plays indentical twin brothers. At first I was annoyed by the bumpkin brother Brady; Norton laid on the gol-durn accent awful thick-like but I got used to it after a while, and he was a very distinct character from the Ivy-League educated city brother Bill.

Bill gets word that Brady has been killed. Bill goes back to his hometown in Oklahoma to pay respects, only to learn that his brother's not really dead. Twas a ruse to get him down there. Brady needs Bill to rpetend to be him as an alibi. Turns out Brady's quite the accomplished weed grower/dealer, but he wants out of the business and needs Bill's help.

All of this is played for light-hearted enough comedy, but an hour in, people actually start getting killed, and the movie downshifts into genuine thriller territory. I won't say what note the movie ends on, but it hits a few more off-key ones until it gets there.

Susan Sarandon is wasted as the boys' mother, the youngest woman in a rest home. Richard Dreyfuss is amusing enough in an extended cameo as an upstanding businessman who's secretly quite the crime-lord (and upon reflection, very similar to his role in RED). It's an odd diversion of a movie, and Norton's performance carried me to the end, even if that end left me feeling hollow.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Oceans - DVD Review

**

Directed by Jacques Perrin & Jacques Cluzaud.

Pretty to look at, but never really comes together as a narrative. Felt like random sections of really good ocean footage where they told Pierce Brosnan, "Alright, narrate what you see."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben

It seems so soon to reboot the Spider-Man franchise, but what's done is done. We know director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) has cast Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) as Peter Parker, Emma Stone (Easy A) as Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) as Dr. Connors/The Lizard. Now according to Deadline.com, it appears he's sewn up Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben and might be able to get Sally Field as Aunt May.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sometimes...

Sometimes I'll have one of those days. One of those days where I remember when I was younger when I had this dream or that dream about what I'd be when I grew up. I wonder how life would be different had I pursued one of those dreams with a little more effort.

I'll read a good book and wonder why I haven't been able to write that next one myself. I'll watch a good movie and think about the screenplays I've written but have never come close to being put in front of someone who could actually make a decision, or I'll watch a play and remember when I did theater and I see formers peers have moved on to great success.

I'll listen to talking heads on the news and wonder where I might have wound up had I stuck with journalism.

I suppose everyone wonders where they might have wound up had they made this choice or that choice different.

I know I never dreamt of being the technical manager for an outsourcing company but here I am.

What am I really? I am not someone defined by an occupation, otherwise I think I'd be a cypher, a face in a position, a name associated with a responsibility.

There are some dreams I've had that have come true. Most not, but all dreams vanish when we wake up. Maybe I woke up a little today, or maybe it's just one of those days where you get bad news and just wish you were on a different path right now, a path filled with more fulfilling accomplishments and less bad news.

We live online, but is anyone really here?

When in Rome - DVD Review


*1/2

Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Danny DeVito, Anjelica Huston, Alexis Dziena, Peggy Lipton, Bobby Moynihan, Kristen Schaal, Don Johnson, Keir O'Donnell and Lee Pace.
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson.


This movies starts out like a million rom-coms. Career gal Kristen Bell can't find a man, but she's going to her sister's wedding. She has a Meet Cute with the groom's best man. We know they'll wind up together at the end, but what narrative device will keep them apart for an hour?

Oh my, does this go off the rails in spectacular fashion. Bell goes out to a fountain where people throw in coins for love. Feeling cynical, Bell decides to take five coins out of the fountain. This magically turns four men into Pepe le Pews, and a frightening cartoonish bunch they are. Picture Arnett, Heder and Shepard at their most comically obnoxious, and you'll get the idea. DeVito's subdued by comparison.

The final nail in the "They Don't Make Em Like They Used To" coffin is the cast dance over the closing credits, by a cast that can't dance.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2 - Movie Review


***1/4

Starring Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Katie Featherston, Micah Slout and Molly Ephraim.
Directed by Tod Williams.


This one learned the lesson of what not to do from Blair Witch 2. It's faithful to the original, and even adds to the mythology. It also has some of the most genuine suspense of any movie this year.

This one is a prequel, taking place two months before the first one. After an apparent break-in, this family decides to install six security cameras throughout their house. I will warn that one of them never pays off. But with each changed shot, we look intently at every corner of the screen. "Something might happen here." Ands even when it does, it can provide a chill or a jolt.

My only complaint would be the pacing. This one slow-burns a little too slow, making the action in the final third feel a bit too rushed.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NBC's The Apprentice - 10/27

Too bad the ratings are so low. After a slow start, the non-celebrity Apprentice has picked up and is reminding me why the earlier seasons were successful. It has many potential winners with a handful of obnoxious candidates there to spice it up.

This week, the men were on a high after they not only beat the women, but crushed them in the last task. Granted, Clint called out David as a "plague" and a "virus" but the men won, so he gets to stick around. The women, meanwhile, need to pull together after rifts were further exposed under the now-fired Kelly.

Next challenge was theater-based. When Trump explains the challenge and asks the women who the project manager will be, no one says anything for three seconds, and then Lizza, the current low-woman on the totem pole, volunteers. Even though we learn she's never seen a musical play before. Steuart steps up for the men. (By the way, have you ever seen a worse way to spell Steuart?)

Priceless it was when Don Jr. came to check on the women's team, and Lizza let Brandy do the talking. She's already looking like toast. Meanwhile Stephanie boasts of having 30 years of music experience, and Poppy points out that Stephanie always claims to have the most experience of whatever the task is.

David, meanwhile, finally has a chance to shine. He comes through on the creative end and his teammates find newfound respect for them. He's still going to be a disaster next week, but...

The women's team loses, and primarily because they put no contact information in their materials for the judges. Now it looks like project manager Lizza is going to be the lamb before the slaughter, particularly since Mahsa and Stephanie have spent the entire task thinking about the pits they've been digging for Lizza. But then, the board room is an unpredictable place. While casually talking about last week's task, it comes out that Mahsa told the men before the board room how much they'd sold. Trump views that as very disloyal. Mahsa tries to defend herself by saying that Clint had told their sales amount first.

The men are already safely back at the suite, enjoying their success, watching events unfold on the TV. When Clint hears this, he storms back to the board room to call Mahsa a liar. Trump believes Clint more than Mahsa, and Mahsa the Abrasive One is fired.

Next week they mix up the teams. Currently I think Clint is the favorite to win this.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The final Saw


SAW 3D
aka SAW VII: THE FINAL CHAPTER

*1/2


Starring Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Sean Patrick Flanery, Tobin Bell, Chad Donella, Dean Armstrong, Gina Holden and Cary Elwes.
Directed by Kevin Greutert.


If you've seen the first six, you've seen the seventh. There's no real underlying mystery anymore, no hidden meaning, no fake-outs. Where the first one had a great surprise ending, each subsequent movie has been less successful in conveying the same final punch.

This was the same movie as Saw VI. One guy has to go through a series of rooms, given tasks he must complete or someone he knows will die in one of those contraptions. Most of the time he barely fails. Meanwhile Hoffman, who has twisted Jigsaw's mission far beyond what it originally was supposed to be, is keeping just ahead of the cops as he tried to hunt down Jill, Jigsaw's widow who almost killed him at the end of Saw VI.

The last few minutes has this wrap-up where yeah, it feels like the end, but it felt more like another episode where they threw a better conclusion on there to make it the real end.

The 3D didn’t hurt or enhance. Most of the time I forgot it was in 3D until a limb or a weapon came flying at the screen.

I appreciated Cary Elwes’s cameo to make it full circle, but it also made me realize how much weight he’s put on recently.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday's TV Ratings

From yesterday.

Channel - Title - Viewers (million) / 18-49 Demo

8/7
ABC - The Middle - 9.43 / 2.8
- - - - Better with You - 7.76 / 2.5
CBS - Survivor: Nicaragua - 12.13 / 3.6
NBC - Undercovers - 5.46 / 1.3
FOX - 2010 World Series Hr 1 - 15.63 / 4.7
CW - America's Next Top Model - 2.94 / 1.4

9/8
ABC - Modern Family - 13.07 / 5.1
- - - - Cougar Town - 8.26 / 3.3
CBS - Criminal Minds - 13.93 / 3.4
NBC - Law & Order: SVU (r) - 5.27 / 1.4
FOX - 2010 World Series Hr 2 - 13.63 / 4.5
CW - Hellcats - 2.17 / 1.0

10/9
ABC - The Whole Truth - 4.90 / 1.4
CBS - The Defenders - 10.02 / 2.2
NBC - Law & Order: LA (r) - 4.52 / 1.2

The 2010 World Series won the night in total viewers, and Modern Family won the night in the 18-49 demo. Undercovers is sinking fast. Any show that loses in the demo to a CW show should be nervous.

Sex & the City 2 - DVD Review


*

Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, John Corbett, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Alice Eve and Liza Minelli.
Directed by Michael Patrick King.


Jeez.

I have seen maybe two episodes of the series, and every once in a while I'll see a list on a magazine or website that calls S&TC one of the greatest comedies or Carrie Bradshaw one of the greatest TV characters or something. The first movie wasn't too bad; it played like five episodes in a row.

This movie too plays like five episodes in a row. Seriously, why do they keep making these almost 2-1/2 hours long? These five episodes are much worse than the previous five. Whatever appeal these characters had has been scrubbed away.

The movie spends the first hour - yes, hour - establishing what's been going on for two years and sets up for the four girls to get back to together for a luxurious trip to Abu Dhabi. Miranda's quit her job at a high-priced law firm, Charlotte's worried her husband might be a little too attracted to their new nanny, Samantha's still playing the Mighty Cougar role in her 50's, and Carrie's adjusting to married life with Mr. Big.

Trouble is, Carrie is the least likeable heroine on film in a while. I'd take any Katherine Heigl character over what Carrie has become. She's spoiled, self-centered, and whines about everything her husband does, even as every gesture he makes is one where he thinks it'll make her happy. When he suggests they take a couple days a week to "do their own thing" she asks: "Is this because I'm a b---- wife who nags you?" I'm sure several audience members yelled at the screen "Yes!"

There's a slo-mo shot of the four of them walking through the desert in their fabulous new clothes, and I thought to myself, "Where are they coming from?" This Abu Dhabi looks like Disneyland, and these four women are too shallow to see anything beyond the Arab-chic fashion they can wear. There's one scene where the four of them are singing "I Am Woman" at a luxurious karaoke bar and I remember going "Wait, how did they get here?" They've become four Marie Antoinettes.

This movie is about indulgence, expensive jewelry, and the latest shoes. It's the female equivalent of Transformers 2. Big, shiny, empty and dumb. I read one review that said it was like watching gay men playing with Barbie dolls for over two hours. That's apt.