Thursday, January 27, 2011

True Grit - Movie Review

lll 1/2

Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper and Dakin Matthews.
Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen.

I loves me a well-crafted Western as much as the next feller, and this one fits the bill. Can't say it's Best Picture material, but it's fine innertainment nonetheless.

Hailee Steinfeld is yer heroine here, a 14-year-old girl full o pluck and resolve out to find the man who killed her pa. She's a resourceful tyke, and she sets out to find the meanest marshal she can to hire. She sets her sights on the drunken Rooster Cogburn.

Cogburn is played by Jeff Bridges, who drawls so deep, there's plenty of clever dialogue we miss because he's too hard to understand. I really had to strain. When they show this in Australia or England, the locals will want subtitles for Bridges's lines. But when he gets upset, that one-eyed stare can be chilling.

I never saw the 1969 version, seen pieces, so I didn't have that distracting thing most might, of thinking what Bridges is doing different from Wayne, what Matt Damon's doing different from Glen Campbell, and so forth. I dug Bridges, his deep drawl notwithstanding. Damon was also really good as LaBeouf, at times comical in his bravado but still one you root for when he discovers his true integrity. LaBeouf sees Maddie as a brat when they meet, and she sees him as a buffoon, but mutal respect and understanding is earned.

Then there's Hailee Steinfeld as Maddie, a true find in casting. She's nominated for Best Supporting Actress but she's in every scene.

Twere I to have any other beef with the film, it'd be the denouement. That may be the way the book ends but I thought better choices were there.

Hollywood used to love the Western, and since we only get about one a year, I'd like to see more. Maybe with the financial success of this, we will. But I hope this doesn't mean High Noon and The Searchers remakes are in the works. There's plenty of pulp material to mine from Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey and Elmore Leonard.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Other Guys - DVD Review


Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, Lindsay Sloane, Natalie Zea, Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans Jr.
Directed by Adam McKay.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson star as the quintessential action-buddy cops. With great disregard for public property and their own safety, they chase those bad guys down and get the photo op. They're the envy of the department. They blast the tunes and spout the one-liners.

They're gone by the end of the first act. Oh, where's the rest of the movie supposed to go?

We follow the B Team, the "other guys" of the title. Will Ferrell is the nerdy one who loves paperwork. Mark Wahlberg is his tightly-wound partner who might be a great cop were he not so overzealous. Ferrell and Wahlberg are fine, but I actually got more entertainment out of the supporting cast, like Michael Keaton as the precinct captain who holds a surprise second job, or Steve Coogan as the weasily CEO at the center of an investigation.

P.S. The closing credits seem to have been lifted from a documentary about the financial crisis, as we get all these stats and figures about TARP and CEO salaries and whatnot.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The King's Speech - Movie Review

lll 3/4

Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall and Jennifer Ehle.
Directed by Tom Hooper.

It may feel like award-bait, but that doesn't mean it isn't really good. Plenty of films aim for award-bait and miss. (Remember The Shipping News?) They must first and always be high quality entertainment, and this suceeds mainly on Colin Firth's remarkable central performance.

We first see Albert the Duke of York (Firth) give a disastrous radio speech in 1925, then fast-forward a few years to where his wife (Helena Bonham Carter, as crisp and subdued here as she is wild in Harry Potter) has sought the help of unorthodox speech therapist Lional Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Seems that Albert (Bertie to his family) has been plagued with a stutter his whole life.

When Bertie's elder brother leaves the throne, Bertie is now King George VI, and in this era of radio, and rising Nazi Germany, the U.K. needs a leader who can speak.

It's essentially a buddy film, but Firth, who was great last year in A Single Man, steps it up here. I can imagine many ways where this could have gone wrong but it never does.

2010 Academy Award Nominations

Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

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

Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Biutiful, Mexico
Dogtooth, Greece
In a Better World, Denmark
Incendies, Canada
Outside the Law, Algeria

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Inside Job
Waste Land

127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Another Year
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part I
The King's Speech
True Grit

Black Swan
The King's Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King's Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Black Swan
The Fighter
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network

Barney's Version
The Way Back
The Wolfman

Toy Story 3
Tron: Legacy
True Grit

The King's Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part I
Iron Man 2

How to Train Your Dragon
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network

"Coming Home", Country Strong
"I See the Light", Tangled
"If I Rise", 127 Hours
"We Belong Together", Toy Story 3

Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ebert Presents At the Movies

Christy Lemire (Associated Press) and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky ( are your new critics. No "two thumbs up" or "two thumbs down" in the first episode.

No Strings Attached - Lemire Down / Vishy Up - Lemire felt like it fell apart toward the end, Vishy thought it was better than most rom-coms, cliches notwithstanding.

The Company Men - Lemire Down / Vishy Up - Lemire felt the characters never broke out of their two-dimensional setups. Vishy found it an interesting commentary on unemployment.

The Way Back - Lemire Down / Vishy Up - Lemire found it a slog. Vishy likes long, gritty epics.

The Green Hornet - Lemire Down / Vishy Up - Lemire found Seth Rogen doing his same old schtick and hated the 3D. Vishy liked the visual creativity and the direction, and liked the Rogen/Chou chemistry.

The Dilemma - Lemire Down / Vishy Up - Lemire said none of the comedy worked. Vishy said it's being billed as a comedy but it's actually a depressing drama, and he liked that. He thought Channing Tatum stole the show.

As Christy summed it up "I hated everything, he loved everything." Very interesting show. It's on PBS so there are no pesky commercials. The two critics do have good chemistry, and while I bristled at the original announcement of 24-year-old Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, he's instantly more credible than Ben Lyons. I'll give him the same benefit of the doubt I would have hoped others would've given me if I'd gotten the job. Ebert writes for the show, and I gather he'll have guest voices read his essays. This week Werner Herzog read his essay on 1967's My Dog Tulip. They'll also have Classic Film spotlights, and Kim Morgan did it for 1949's The Third Man. I appreciated it but at the time thought "How many people watching this show have not seen The Third Man?" I can't imagine the number is high.

NBC's Harry's Law - TV Review

I could not buy into this David E. Kelley show, and I'd say the main reason was that with every Kelley law show he makes, the lawyer arguments get weaker and weaker. When Kathy Bates makes a closing argument, I groan at what this show is asking me to swallow. Makes the Ally McBeal gang sound like they're arguing before the Supreme Court. I'd rather see Kathy Bates close this shop and do more cameos on The Office. I'm also rooting for Nate Corddry to find the right vehicle. It's not for lack of trying with creative people (be it this or Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip or his occasional contributions to The Daily Show).

2010 Razzies Award Nominations

The Bounty Hunter
The Last Airbender
Sex & the City 2
Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Vampires Suck

Jack Black, Gulliver's Travels
Gerard Butler, The Bounty Hunter
Ashton Kutcher, Killers and Valentine's Day
Taylor Lautner, Twlight Saga: Eclipse and Valentine's Day
Robert Pattinson, Remember Me and Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Jennifer Aniston, The Bounty Hunter and The Switch
Miley Cyrus, The Last Song
The Four Gal Pals, Sex & the City 2
Megan Fox, Jonah Hex
Kristen Stewart, Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Billy Ray Cyrus, The Spy Next Door
George Lopez, The Spy Next Door and Valentine's Day
Dev Patel, The Last Airbender
Jackson Rathbone, The Last Airbender and Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Rob Schneider, Grown Ups

Jessica Alba, Little Fockers, Machete and Valentine's Day
Cher, Burlesque
Liza Minelli, Sex & the City 2
Nicola Peltz, The Last Airbender
Barbra Streisand, Little Fockers

J. Friedberg & A. Seltzer, Vampires Suck
Michael Patrick King, Sex & the City 2
M. Night Shyamalan, The Last Airbender
David Slade, Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Sylvester Stallone, The Expendables

The Last Airbender
Little Fockers
Sex & the City 2
Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Vampires Suck

Cats & Dogs 2 3-D
Clash of the Titans 3-D
The Last Airbender 3-D
Nutcracker 3-D
Saw 3-D

Jennifer Aniston & Gerard Butler, The Bounty Hunter
Josh Brolin's face & Megan Fox's accent, Jonah Hex
Everyone, The Last Airbender
Everyone, Sex & the City 2
Everyone, Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Clash of the Titans
The Last Airbender
Sex & the City 2
Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Vampires Suck

I think the Razzies have jumped the shark. Probably jumped it a year or two or three ago. I saw plenty of movies worse than Twilight Saga: Eclipse, but no matter how good or bad Breaking Dawn is, it will be nominated for everything next year. Why? It seems motivated by internet traffic bait. No nomination for Cop Out? Repo Men? When in Rome? Legion? MacGruber? Only one for Grown Ups?

I do applaud the scorn heaped upon Sex & the City 2, anything touched by Friedberg & Seltzer, and the Bad 3-D category. I didn't hate The last Airbender as much as most people, and it may have been because I saw it in 2-D. But I did see Clash in 3-D and it was awful.

Drew McWeeny washes his hands of Kevin Smith

HitFix's Drew McWeeny didn't care for Kevin Smith's Red State and especially didn't care for his distribution stunt after the screening.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday's Box Office

Here's the numbers for January 21.

1. No Strings Attached - $7.31 million - 1 day
2. The Green Hornet - $5.1 ($50.44) - 8 days
3. The Dilemma - $3.03 ($26.67) - 8 days
4. The King's Speech - $2.14 ($51.59) - 57 days
5. True Grit - $2.11 ($132.75) - 31 days
6. Black Swan - $1.76 ($79.14) - 50 days
7. Little Fockers - $1.24 ($138.03) - 31 days
8. The Fighter - $1.23 ($69.75) - 43 days
9. Tron Legacy - $.93 ($160.49) - 36 days
10. Yogi Bear - $.74 ($85.57) - 36 days
11. Tangled - $.64 ($183.91) - 59 days
12. Season of the Witch - $.635 ($20.53) - 15 days
13. Country Strong - $.63 ($15.39) - 31 days
14. The Way Back - $.38 - 1 day

The Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher sex-buddies comedy looks like it should hit $20 million over the weekend. The Green Hornet's drop is about what's expected, but it's in danger of not hitting the magic $100 million domestic mark.

The Way Back opened on fewer screens but still has a weak per-screen average. The King's Speech, True Grit, Black Swan and The Fighter are all benefitting from Oscar buzz and strong word-of-mouth.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Animal Kingdom - DVD Review


Starring Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, James Frecheville and Sullivan Stapleton.
Directed by David Michod.

This Aussie crime thriller stands out by taking the genre and moving things along in ways we don't expect. It's as though the makers wanted to cross Goodfellas with Shotgun Stories. There are characters who brim with menace but manage to keep control, while there are others who seem benign reveal their true colors and capabilities later.

Overall I liked it, but it does suffer from the miscasting of its central character J. As played by newcomer James Frecheville, J is a sulking stiff. Where it needed a young Ray Liotta or Al Pacino at its core, instead we get an actor in over his head. He's surrounded by talanted people who tend to make up for it.

The movie opens with J learning his mother has died from a heroine overdose. He must then go live with his grandmother and three uncles. He knows they make their money from armed robbery, and he knows he needs to keep his mouth shut, but the cops (who have their own corrupt tendencies) are closing in on them.

Jacki Weaver will likely get a Best Supporting Actress nomination for this, and I agree. She bares her teeth late in the movie, but when she does, that pleasant smile we've been seeing has a whole new meaning.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Easy A - DVD Review

lll 1/4

Starring Emma Stone, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Cam Gigandet, Dan Byrd, Lisa Kudrow, Penn Badgeley, Malcolm McDowell and Aly Michalka.
Directed by Will Gluck.

Emma Stone has rendered a Lindsay Lohan comeback unnecessary. Ms. Stone exudes all the charm and nuance Ms. Lohan did in her Freaky Friday/Mean Girls heyday, and yet Ms. Stone seems to have her heads on her shoulders. May Ms. Stone not blow this opportunity.

I've liked Emma since Zombieland, and here she is in her own John Hughes homage of a movie with as solid a defining role that compares favorably to Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, Winona Ryder in Heathers, and Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles.

This movie is very self-aware, to the point there's one too many references to teen cliches, but ultimately it doesn't matter. It's a modern spin on The Scarlet Letter, a book the kids at this high school are studying (and I inwardly cheered each time they bashed the Demi Moore version), when Olive (Emma Stone) decides to do a closeted-gay friend a favor and pretends to have sex with him. He becomes popular and so does she. Soon insecure guys are coming out of the woodwork to ask her to pretend to have sex with them too. This makes Olive the target of scorn from the Christian Caricature Club. I don't remember the group's real name but we only see people this Jesus-freaky when portrayed by Hollywood.

Olive is a great character, but the movie is buoyed by its colorful supporting cast. Among the winners are Stanley Tucci & Patricia Clarkson as Olive's hippie-perfect parents, Thomas Haden Church as the cool teacher, and Malcolm MacDowell as the serious principal.

Eastwood to direct Beyonce

William A. Wellman directed Janet Gaynor in 1937, George Cukor directed Judy Garland in 1954, Frank Pierson directed Barbra Streisand in 1976, and now Clint Eastwood is going to direct Beyonce in A Star Is Born.

I'm assuming this is going to be after he directs Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench and Josh Lucas in J. Edgar.

The Last Exorcism - DVD Review

ll 1/2

Starring Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr and Louis Herthem.
Directed by Daniel Stamm.

The faux-documentary style is in danger of being overdone in the horror genre. With Blair Witch, Cloverfield, Quarantine and the Paranormal Activity movies, what else is there? Well, there's the exorcism movie!

This one isn't as well-covered as most as far as feeling like a found-footage experience, but it does lend itself to some decent thrills. It centers on Rev. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a preacher who realized in private he doesn't really believe in God, but he continues to the preach the word and do "exorcisms" because the money's good and he figures his exorcisms are safer than of the con-men of others. But then he meets a girl who may be in need of a real one.

I really enjoyed the build of this, but then the ending, which I knew was coming but hoping it wasn't, fizzles as a climax.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work - DVD Review


Directed by Ricki Stern & Anne Sundberg.

This follows a year in the life of Joan Rivers. It's the year she was the subject of a Comedy Central roast and won Celebrity Apprentice. She's a living legend. She also has this desperate need to stay in the spotlight. It can be scary.

We first see her without make-up, and she looks nothing like what we know is Joan Rivers. She bravely exposes herself to the filmmakers her insecurities, her hang-ups, everything is laid bare. I watch the scenes from the Comedy Central roast and think how far they've fallen from the Dean Martin-Don Rickles days, but still felt that pang when Greg Giraldo took the mike. We find out one day she's fired her manager of forty years. Why?

This movie illustrates how addictive fame is to some people, and they must always - ALWAYS - find a way to stay in that spotlight, at whatever the cost. I don't think that was the intention of the film, but that's the lesson I learned. It's nice to be anonymous. I'd rather be rich and anonymous, but what can I do?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Top Ten Films of 2010

First I should mention I have not yet had a chance to see True Grit or The King's Speech, but of the 118 titles in 2010 I've thus far seen, these were my favorites:

Honorable Mentions:

BLACK SWAN - Frenetic, suspenseful examination of a ballerina slowly losing her mind as she studies for the dual role of the Swan Queen. It's an electrifying performance from Luke Skywalker's mom, and yet with its disturbing imagery, it's not a movie I'd recommend to very many people.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO - Noomi Rapace embodies one of the more interesting female protagonists to come along in a while in this Swedish murder mystery.

GREEN ZONE - Surprisingly effective fictionalization of the US invasion of Iraq. Matt Damon plays a soldier happy to serve his country but continually frustrated that their "intelligence" on where the WMDs are hidden is consistently incorrect. If only WikiLeaks had access to more of the 2001-2003 Pentagon paperwork, we might know more of how so many people got it wrong.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART I - The ultimate hammock movie of the series. It takes time to let our central three characters (Harry, Ron, Hermione) breathe and be real characters coping with some very big battles coming in the very near future.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT - But The Parents Are Screwed Up. Annette Bening gets her best part in years as one-half of a lesbian couple who feels threatened when her two children locate their sperm-donor and start to bond with him. It minorly suffers from too convenient of an ending.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 - A rare sequel that doesn't desecrate the original, even if it doesn't equal it. It does its job in providing the scares and suspense on a minimal budget.

RESTREPO - A solid "you are there" documentary that immerses the viewer in what it's like being a soldier in Afghanistan.

SALT - Ms. Jolie certainly knows how to kick some butt. Hat-tip to the most fun action movie of the summer.

SOLITARY MAN - Michael Douglas returns to form as a once-successful businessman who learns he may be dying, but rather than make things right, he goes on a selfish binge, cheating at his business, cheating on his wife, hitting on girls half his age. We root for the cad to find redemption, and it's a credit to Douglas we care at all, but its one flaw is the ambiguous ending. Sometimes I don't mind those, but here, I wanted the extra five seconds to show what happened, and THEN the credits can roll.

TANGLED - Disney animation is on the right track with this return to classic fairy-tale storytelling combined with the expected modernish humor. One would hope Disney would keep investing in stories like this and less on tripe like Chicken Little.

And now...

.... My Best Ten ...

10. THE FIGHTER - A boxing movie with realistic fighting, and a sibling story meatier than any actual fighting. Mark Wahlberg sits back and lets Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo take turns in career-bests for all three.

9. CATFISH - It's still unknown just how much of this is staged, and elements of it obviously are, but that doesn't take away from the fascinating story that unfolds. A young man in New York takes up an online correspondence with an eight-year-old girl and her family in Michigan, which leads to phone calls, but after several months he decides to stop by and surprise them. There is genuine suspense as to what he might actually find when he does, and the movie's an interesting expose about what is real online.

8. WINTER'S BONE - Jennifer Lawrence in a star-making performance about a teen girl in the Ozarks forced to grow up when her deadbeat daddy skips bail. She has to find him before the bank forecloses on their house. Since said daddy is involved in the local drug ring, odds aren't too good he's still alive. The measured stares between these hillbillies can be just as unnerving as well-dressed mobsters.

7. 127 HOURS - Danny Boyle's follow-up to Slumdog Millionaire is a vibrant celebration of life by focussing on one guy who almost lost his due to his own bad luck and stupidity. James Franco has rarely been better, and this basic one-man show is in good hands. *cough*

6. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD - The perfect movie for a youth culture overly drunk on video games, MP3 players, and up-to-the-second pop-culture updates. Had fun from beginning to end. It made me forgive Michael Cera for Year One. It deserves to garner a following on DVD. I'm still mortified - mortified, I say! - the Golden Globes didn't nominate it for Best Comedy.

5. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON - DreamWorks Animation's best film to date. It finds the heart of the story of a boy and his dragon. If it weren't for Pixar it'd be a shoo-in for Best Animated Film of any critics groups that rewards that category. I hope the planned sequel doesn't tarnish it.

4. THE SOCIAL NETWORK - It has delicious dialogue that just made me wish Aaron Sorkin put out more screenplays. It has breakthrough performance from Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield. It has flawless CGI with Armie Hammer playing a set of twins. It's exciting and alive, which seems unlikely from a movie that's basically about a lawsuit.

3. THE TOWN - Ben Affleck writes for and directs himself in his best paht in years, as a Bahston bank robbah. (Okay, I'll stop). He has a knack for pace, for action, for slow spots, for choreography, and letting his co-stars shine, especially Jeremy Renner as the hothead best friend, like an Irish Joe Pesci. The central love story may seem constrained, but it actually all winds up the way it should. And hey, he allowed the late Pete Postlethwaite to go out with a good character in a good movie.

2. TOY STORY 3 - The rare third installment that lives up to the first two. The characters have followed natural progression, and yet stasis, and find themselves in a prison-break movie. Lotso Huggin Bear is the best villain of the year. Pixar rules.

1. INCEPTION - Christopher Nolan can do no wrong in my book. He has ruled the second half of my decade. Inception is one of those deeply layered movies that's fun to dissect months after viewing. It's one of those infrequent opportunities where a studio will give a ton of money to an original idea.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tangled - Movie Review

lll 1/2

If Disney wanted to continue cranking out fairy-tale movies, and I think they'd be idiots not to, they've found the winning formula once more with Tangled, where Rapunzel gets all the classical notes right while never forgetting it's a comedy. Maybe it's the Pixar touch; maybe it's the desire to return to the Little Mermaid/Beauty & the Beast glory days by bringing back composer Alan Menken. The scope and depth of the animation is top-notch. Bottom line is it works.

Black Swan - Movie Review

lll 1/2

Visually impressive, unnerving journey of a ballerina slowly losing her mind while rehearsing to be the lead in Swan Lake. Natalie Portman gives a career-best performance, and yet there are several people I would warn away from seeing it due to its disturbing content. Like the family with four young kids who were in the third row.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

SHO's Episodes - TV Review

This one has promise, as I like the set-up. I don't know how long a series like this can go, but the first season should at least be good. A popular British TV series is being made into a US one, but oh, the compromises the producers must make! Watching a TV show about making a TV show can be tiresome, kinda like reading a book about an author. But if it's well done, hooray for the viewer. I'd watch a second episode. Matt LeBlanc seems to be a good sport.

SHO's Shameless - TV Review

This one I did not like. Unquestionably Emmy Rossum is going to have many great acting scenes as the oldest daughter of a poor family where the mom's dead and the dad's a useless drunk, but since almost all the kids engage in illegal activity to pay the bills, I don't think I really want to watch William H. Macy let his family down week after week. The poster makes it look like a wacky family, but it's actually more serious (preview for episode 2 shows he hits one of his kids). The reality is Macy would lose custody and these kids would be in foster care.

Catfish, I am Love, Case 39 - DVD Reviews

(llll) - It's still unknown just how much of this is staged, and elements of it obviously are, but that doesn't take away from the fascinating story that unfolds. A young man in New York takes up an online correspondence with an eight-year-old girl and her family in Michigan, which leads to phone calls, but after several months he decides to stop by. There is genuine suspense as to what he might actually find when he does, and the movie's an interesting expose about what is real online.


(ll) - Every once in a while I'll see a movie that critics love and throw on their Top Ten lists, and then I see it, and I'm baffled. Seriously? Cinematography hides many narrative sins in this drama about a wealthy Italian family. Tilda Swinton is very good here, doing all her dialogue in Italian with a Russian accent, but it's the type of movie where the camera lingers on a staircase, or follows the butler as he takes the soup from the kitchen to the dining room, or watches the wind blow through some grass for a few seconds. It means a movie with about an hour of story is stretched to two hours so we can have atmosphere. It also means we're an hour in before I said to my wife, "I think this is where the plot begins." Then the plot goes through some clumsy machinations, and while the soundtrack said we're ending on a triumphant note, my head said "That's it?" Maybe this was supposed to be homage to the Italian soap-opera style. If so, then I know I'm not missing out on anything for having never watched an Italian soap-opera.


(l1/2) - This sat on the shelf for almost four years. It took marketers that long to figure out how to fool just enough moviegoers into giving it a chance. Renee Zellweger, who was doing better four years ago than she is now, plays a social worker who rescues a girl from her seemingly abusive parents. Jodelle Ferland, the go-to spooky girl of movies like Silent Hill, at first seems a victim haunted by otherworldly forces. Eventually though the "eerie" truth comes out, but there are no scares here. It does have the usual jump-scare jolt attempts (aah! the phone suddenly rang!) but none of them work. It's amusing to watch a pre-hangover Bradley Cooper act like bees are coming out of his ear, but really, there's nothing here worth remembering beyond its general stupidity.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dinner for Schmucks - DVD Review


Starring Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Jemaine Clement, Zach Galifianakis, Bruce Greenwood, Stephanie Szostak, Lucy Punch, Ron Livingston, Kristen Schaal, Jeff Dunham, David Walliams and Larry Wilmore.
Directed by Jay Roach.

Plenty of talent behind this effort, so where does it go wrong?

Let's start with Steve Carell's Barry. Who or what is he? Most of the time he's clueless, just a naive idiot. Every once in a while though he has flashes of awareness. Usually a well-defined character will get laughs from acting in expected ways. Non sequitur behavior here is just off-putting.

Next is Paul Rudd, nice guy. The straight man role here would've benefitted if he were more of a schmuck, someone who might deserve his life to be destroyed a bit by Barry.

This movie is like a recipe full of delicious ingredients on their own but they don't mix well together. The best parts for me were with Jemaine Clement as a self-absorbed artist, and the dinner itself. Everything else was more like cluttered noise.

Side-note: Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Concords) was also the best thing about the otherwise terrible Gentlemen Broncos. I'm sensing a trend here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Box Office of 2010

Here's the tally.

Some things to note:

24 movies grossed over $100 million. True Grit will make it 25.

Of those 24, 6 were animated. 10 of the 20 were G or PG. 8 were PG-13. Two were R.

The highest-grossing R-rated movie of 2010 was Shutter Island at #17. Jackass 3-D is #20 and will likely be bumped out by Little Fockers and/or Tron Legacy in the next week or two.

7 of the top 10 grossers were remakes or sequels. The other three were Inception, Despicable Me and How to Train Your Dragon. The latter two now have sequels in the works.

In 2009, 6 of the top 10 were remakes or sequels. The other four were Avatar, Up, The Hangover and The Blind Side. Only one R-rated movie (Hangover) made the top 20.

In 2008, 5 of the top 10 were remakes or sequels. The other five were Iron Man, Hancock, Wall-E, Kung Fu Panda and Horton Hears a Who. Four of the top 20 were rated R. Sex & the City (#11), Gran Torino (#12), Slumdog Millionaire (#16), and Wanted (#18).

Devil - DVD Review

ll 3/4

Starring Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Geoffrey Arend, Bojana Nokovic, Jenny O'Hara, Bokeem Woodbine, Matt Craven and Jacob Vargas.
Directed by John Erick Dowdle.

After the bland, overexposed trailer, I did not have high hopes for this. I liked the opening sequence, flying upside-down over the city, but when the narration kicked in explaining the mythology of the devil of how he behaves, I started having Lady in the Water flashbacks in a bad way. I guess I'm just unfamiliar with the denomination where the devil takes human form and slowly torments his victims one by one before personally killing them.

But this is a horror movie aware that its audience has seen many horror movies and are familiar with the trappings. It therefore has fun with it.

Five people are trapped in an elevator and they start dying, with a strong likelihood that one of them is the devil in human form. It's simple and 80 minutes long. It does have a couple good scary images. Not a bad rental at all.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Fighter - Movie Review

lll 1/2

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo.
Directed by David O. Russell.

This movie triumphs in many areas, but the biggest is the acting showcase it provides. Christian Bale has long been one of the most versatile actors of his generation, but his work in movies like Rescue Dawn just never quite got the awards attention. Now here's one where he can shine. He's lost weight and made to look skeletal, pale, really burying himself of a former boxer turned crack-addict. Also duking it out are Amy Adams, in her toughest tough-gal role yet, and Melissa Leo, a mama bear who can't quite see when she does more harm than good.

It also succeeds in being a realistic boxing movie. By that I mean the choreography isn't elevated to this unworldy Rocky sequel where the fight would have been called off ten rounds before it actually is.

This movie's really more about family. Boxing's secondary. It's about older-brother screw-up Dicky (Bale) and younger brother Micky (Mark Wahlberg) who still might have a future. It's all filmed in Lowell, MA, with actors that look like real people, on locations that don't look like sound stages.