Friday, April 29, 2011

The Tourist - DVD Review


Starring Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton and Steven Berkoff.
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

This is the kind of tale I could see Alfred Hitchcock batting out of the park with Fred MacMurray and Adila Valli in 1943. Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie seem like a dream paring, and yet their chemistry never ignites, and the movie floats along like a series of "movie star" shots on different soundstages and exotic locales.

Depp plays Frank, an American math teacher on holiday in Venice to recover from a broken heart. I never believed Depp was a math teacher, and even his being an American strained credulity. Jolie is Elise, a British spy, but she didn't seem to get much more direction than "Look marvelous, darling!" She meets up with him on a train in hopes that those spying on her will believe Frank to be her lover named Alexander, a thief who's made off with 744 million pounds. He is a decoy.

The director von Donnersmarck was behind the excellent The Lives of Others, but he is the wrong man for the job here. The pacing starts slow and never picks up. It's not funny so it can't be called a comedy. What little action there is goes through the motions. The stringed soundtrack is relentless. There were times I felt like I was watching the serious parts of a 1970s fish-out-of-water comedy starring Dean Jones.

But at least Timothy Dalton has fun.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Summer 2011 Box Office Predictions

Looking back at last year, I underestimated Karate Kid, Grown Ups, The Last Airbender, and animation (Toy Story 3, Shrek 4, and Despicable Me all doing better than I thought); overestimated Knight & Day, The A-Team, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Sex & the City 2, and Predators; and was about dead-on for Eclipse, Inception, The Other Guys, and Salt. Fairly close on titles like Prince of Persia, The Expendables, Eat Pray Love, Dinner for Schmucks. Thought Robin Hood would be a bigger bomb than it was.

So looking ahead, here's where I see this summer shaking down.

1. HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 - $330 million - The final Harry Potter adventure will go out as maybe the biggest. Supposed to be non-stop action, plenty of characters die, and a capper's put on the WB cashcow of the past decade.

2. KUNG FU PANDA 2 - $305 million - Animation's huge, and I see this one being the biggest of the offerings. It's colorful, it's got a great voice cast, the first one's fondly remembered.

3. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON - $280 million - I'm baffled why Transformers 2 did so well, but hey, the third one can't be worse, and I don't think it will suffer too much from the loss of Megan Fox.

4. CARS 2 - $260 million - Pixar can do no wrong, but doing a sequel to one of the weaker titles at least gives me pause. Should sell a lot of toys over it. I'm sure I'll like it; I'd just rather see The Incredibles 2, if a Pixar sequel must happen.

5. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES - $252 million - I think the overlong third installment sucked some of the winds out of the franchise sail, but I can see this getting some new life with a new director and no mopey Bloom/Knightley subplot we have to follow.

6. THOR - $172 million - Thor will benefit from launching the summer, but it will also be hurt by what I think will be a huge opening from Fast Five the week before. I can't help but notice it's the first non-sequel on my list, and yet it's going to be the fourth film where someone from S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up after the end credits.

7. COWBOYS & ALIENS - $160 million - I have faith in director Jon Favreau. I read the source material and it wasn't very good, but I can tell from the previews that Favs has changed just about everything about it beyond the basic concept. Looking forward to see James Bond and Indiana Jones fight aliens in the Wild West. (What, no zombies?)

8. THE HANGOVER PART II - $150 million - I think it'll be big, but not as big as the first one. It's pretty much the same plot of the first one but set in Thailand, and there's been more news surrounding the tattoo-artist cameo in this movie than any cameo role in history.

9. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS - $145 million - This prequel doesn't have any name stars, per se, but the marketing campaign has been ramping up nicely and it has the June 3 weekend to itself. I like that they're being set in the 1960's, when the X-Men comics actually started.

10. SUPER 8 - $135 million - This family film looks quite Spielbergian, and I'm guessing it's going to capture the family-film imagination the same way The Karate Kid did last year.

11. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - $130 million - James Franco's star has faded a bit, but the trailer is really well-done. I can see excitement ramping up for this as it gets closer.

12. CAPTAIN AMERICA - $128 million - The first Avenger will about break even in the US, do okay overseas, and even though I liked the trailer, I don't see this outdoing Hulk. But it's good that the Cap'n gets his own movie before joining Iron Man and company in The Avengers next year.

13. THE GREEN LANTERN - $125 million - I thought the trailer looked awful, but there are a lot of geeks still excited for this. I really don't know what to make of this.

14. THE HELP - $110 million - Where is the break-out chick flick? I guess it'll be this, as it's a beloved best-seller. So was Eat Pray Love, and it did alright despite the reviews.

15. THE ZOOKEEPER - $106 million - The umpteenth talking-animal movie, but it has Kevin James, and he's pretty reliable box-office as long as he's not co-starring with Vince Vaughn.

16. THE CHANGE-UP - $96 million - The R-rated body-switching movie looks like it'll have some legitimate laughs. I'm not sure Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds are different enough.

17. PRIEST - $82 million - I see it opening big, not huge, and then fading lightning-quick.

18. BRIDESMAIDS - $75 million - Opens same day as Priest, could be the What Happens in Vegas of 2011.

19. LARRY CROWNE - $74 million - Tom Hanks in a summer movie should do better than this, but the trailer currently plays flat.

20. MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS - $70 million - Jim Carrey in a classic comedy should do well, but not like the Jim Carrey of old.

Dark Horses:

Crazy Stupid Love - It will depend on the reviews.

Horrible Bosses - It could be that this one succeeds where The Change-Up fails.

Predicted Bombs:

Smurfs - Putting the blue guys in a live-action/CG film worked so well for Rocky & Bullwinkle.

Bad Teacher - I don't think Cameron Diaz can carry a film. Too bad drive-ins don't exist anymore; this could double-feature with Waiting for Superman.

30 Minutes or Less - Jesse Eisenberg's good karma is negated by Danny McBride's bad karma.

Other big titles this summer:
Something Borrowed
Judy Moody
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Fright Night
Spy Kids 4
Final Destination 5
Friends with Benefits
Conan the Barbarian
Jumping the Broom
Monte Carlo
The Whistleblower
Our Idiot Brother

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Love & Other Drugs - DVD Review


Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht, Judy Greer, Jill Clayburgh, George Segal and Kate Jennings Grant. Directed by Edward Zwick.

This is one schitzophrenic movie.

Part of it is a biting comedy about the oversatuation of drug salesmen, pushing these neat new products like Zoloft and Viagra on to doctors. Part of it is a sex comedy about two twisted souls who run into each other at the right time, and they vow not to fall in love as they keep sleeping together. Then we also must venture into the melodramatic when we learn our heroine has Parkinson's.

So what we have all possibilites for three different movies, and maybe each would be good on its own, but meshed together, it doesn't work. Whenever Jake & Anne start to get serious and all of a sudden Josh Gad wanders through, I can practically hear the needle scratch across the record.

Hard to say which elements were strongest. How good could this movie have been if it had focussed on the Viagra stuff? Or the Parkinsons stuff? Or the "Friends with Benefits" stuff? It's like a chocolate-sushi-salsa milkshake. All fine flavors, but mixed together? Kinda gross.

Game Change casting

HBO is continuing to cast its planned adaptation of Game Change, the Heilemann/Halperin bestseller about the 2008 presidential primaries and general election. So far only people associated with the McCain campaign have been cast, including Ed Harris as John McCain and Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin.

I'm a little worried that Danny Strong is writing the adaptation. Game Change, I thought, was a pretty fair insightful look at the 2008 craziness. I'm worried he will just turn into a Democrats-are-heroes/Republicans-are-villains the same way he almost ruined Recount. About two-thirds of the book dealt with Hillary-Obama.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Best & Worst in Disney Parents

Since most Disney animated movies feature broken homes, I figured I would look at how parents actually fare in Disney movies.


1. 101 DALMATIANS - Pongo & Perdita are awesome parents and the only ones where the parents are the heroes/protagonists of the story. After all of their children are kidnapped, they stop at nothing to get them back, and they rescue/adopt a bunch of orphaned puppies as well. They also both live.

2. MEET THE ROBINSONS - He may start out as an orphan, but in going to the future, he learns his friend is actually his future son and that he's going to be adopted by loving parents and make a pretty good husband/father down the road.

3. HERCULES - The Zeus/Hera team are portrayed as a positive bunch, and while helpless from Olympus, they keep track of Herc, who was adopted by another loving pair. Even though he learns he's a god, in the end he'd rather stay on Earth and live down the street from the two he calls Mom and Dad.

4. DUMBO - Mr. Jumbo is never seen (maybe sold to another circus?) but our Fantine of an elephant cared enough to name their son Jumbo Jr. She is fiercely protective of him and after suffering some injustice, she is redeemed and given the best seat on the train. Fortunately Dumbo has Timothy to look out for him while Mom's in jail.

5. PINOCCHIO - Single father desperately wants a child and gets his wish, and he does all the good-dad things he should, like sending him to school. Not his fault the Blue Fairy didn't start him off as flesh or made his conscience an external bug instead of an internal force. When his son goes missing he sets out to find him. Darn whale hinders him, but it works out in the end.

THE LADY & THE TRAMP - Darling and Jim Dear are pretty good to Lady.
LILO & STITCH - Older sister strives to be that positive parental figure for Lilo.
PETER PAN - Wendy's parents did well, judging on the way she handles Wonderland.
MULAN - Good parents, but Dad's ready to battle with one leg. She saves his life by going instead.
THE JUNGLE BOOK - Akela and his wife realize they can't keep their adoptive son Mowgli safe anymore so they sacrifice and send him to the human village.
THE LION KING - Mom and Dad have been raising him right. Too bad his uncle's evil.
THE PRINCESS & THE FROG - Mama's still there, and strong for Tiana after Daddy dies during the war. Although the single Big Daddy to his little princess feels like a parody of the patriarchal tradition of the other Disney princesses.


1. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME - Judge Frollo semi-accidentally kills Quasi's mother and is two seconds away from killing the baby when the priest talks him out of it. So the Judge raises Quasi as his own but never grows to feel affection for him. He uses him to help him find the gypsy hiding place so he can enact genocide, and if not for an old cracked gargoyle that couldn't support his weight, Frollo would've killed Quasi as an adult.

2. SNOW WHITE & THE SEVEN DWARFS - Snow's father was a poor judge of character, but we never see him. It's unclear how old Snow was when the Evil Queen became her stepmother, but as soon as Snow gets too pretty, the Queen wants her dead. When the Huntsman fails her, she sets out to murder her herself. (But why the "true love's kiss" loophole?)

3. CINDERELLA - Same story. Unseen dad marries horrible woman, and then he's MIA, so Cindy's raised as a servant. Stepmother despises her when compared to her own daughters, who aren't shaping up to be pillars of society. Rather than try ingratiating herself with Cindy once it's clear the Prince likes her, she tries to block Cindy from ever seeing him again. Good thing Cindy's friends with a bunch of smart mice and birds.

4. TANGLED - The only other Disney movie where the bad guy raises the protagonist from babyhood. Here she needs Rapunzel's hair to stay young, and there's never any hint she genuinely cares for Rapunzel; more like she memorizes her likes and keeps her placated. Her greed for youth is her downfall, and the movie is redeemed by loving parents who get to reunite with their long-lost daughter in the end.

5. THE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE - However old Kuzco was when his parents died, they apparently didn't have much influence. We gather that most of his childhood he was raised by Izma, who spoiled him rotten while using him to get whatever she wants. Once he fires her, she sets out to kill him. It takes a nuclear family to open Kuzco's eyes to his selfish ways.

THE LITTLE MERMAID - If you don't obey me, I'll smash all your stuff!
BAMBI - Mom dies, and Dad's a cold figure who doesn't much believe in comforting children.
ALADDIN - If straight-to-video counted, Aladdin's bio-dad would make my worst list, but he doesn't show up til Aladdin 3. Meanwhile Jasmine's dad seems to trust everyone, including the evil guy.

Hanna - Movie Review

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Love You Philip Morris - DVD Review


Starring Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro.
Directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa.

Jim Carrey plays Steven Russell, con-man extraordinaire. It's based on true events, and while I'd wager what actually happened is much different than what we see, what we do see is a fun, zippy love story.

Steven is a gay man and once his wife (Leslie Mann) learns the truth, he leaves her to live the good life. Trouble is, Steven's not a rich man so he engages in identity theft to maintain the lifestyle. Once he gets caught he goes to prison, and there he meets Philip Morris (Ewan McGregor). Now Ewan isn't asked to do much in the movie besides be the cute love interest, but there's an earnest aw-shucksness to him where we can understand why Steven would be attracted to him.

Carrey's performance is all over the map here, and I don't mean that in a bad way. Some of Steven's cons are farcical, but there also need to be moments of genuine emotion, and Carrey pulls it off. It's the most interesting Carrey performance in years.

It reminded me a few times of Catch Me If You Can, between the cons and Steven being on the run, as Steven breaks out of prison over and over to reunite with Philip.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Penn, Gosling, Brolin in talks for 'Gangster'

Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin are in talks to star in Gangster Squad, about a secret force within the LAPD in the 1940's that focussed on organized crime, particularly Mickey Cohen.

Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) will direct.

Personally I love the idea of this project. They don't make enough noir films.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

HBO's Game of Thrones - TV Review

Once I heard this series had been greenlit, I decided to read the George R.R. Martin books. I knew it was based on a series that wasn't complete, but that's never stopped me before (curse you, Robert Jordan! and bless you, Brandon Sanderson!)

I burned through the four books in about three months. It's a rich, deep, dark fantasy world where good guys can lose and bad guys can change, and the magic is perpheral to the court politics. I've only seen the first episode, but it's lived up to my expectations about as well as a TV show possibly could.

Great casting for the most part. Sean Bean as the solemn Eddard Stark, Mark Addy as the drunken king Robert, Peter Dinklage as the sardonic Tyrion, Emilia Clarke as the fragile (for now) Daenerys, all are about how I pictured the characters as I read. Now quite sold on Lena Headey as Cersei yet, but we'll see. Can't wait for Episode 2.

Dogtooth - DVD Review


Starring Christos Stergioglou and Michelle Valley.
Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos.

It's been over a week since I caught this on Netflix Streaming (yay, Netflix!) and I still haven't figured out what I think about it. My first impression, as the credits rolled, was that I disliked it. It was a movie with a premise but no plot, where we watched things unfold but nothing really happens, where we have one decision but no repercussions for the events that transpire.

And yet, days later, it swims around in my head, daring me to make conclusions. It cannot be so easily dismissed. Like Glenn Close in bunny-killing mode, it will not be ignored.

It takes place almost entirely at a home, a home with a mother and father and their three grown children. We do see the father leave the house, go to work, meet up with a female security guard whom he brings home so that she might have sex with his son. The children, it seems, have never left the house. Ever. They are home-taught, and for some bizarre reason, their parents teach them the wrong names for objects. They only watch videos they've made of themselves. They're taught that cats are deadly.

There's a perversely dark humor about it all. Why would parents do this to their children? There are no answers. We only see an example if such parents existed. It's a parable of over-domineering parents who can control their children however they like, but eventually news from the outside must leak in and make the children question assumed truths.

It's as though a Micheal Haneke film and a Todd Solondz film had a child. I can't in good conscience recommend it to anyone except the type of person who'd be excited by my previous sentence.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend Box Office

For the weekend of April 15-17.

1. Rio - $40 million - 1 wk (Fox)
3826 screens / $10,455 per screen
2. Scream 4 - $19.28 - 1 wk (Dim)
3305 / $5833
3. Hop - $11.17 ($82.61) - 3 wks (U) -47.6%
3608 / $3095
4. Soul Surfer - $7.4 ($20) - 2 wks (Tri) -30.2%
2214 / $3342
5. Hanna - $7.33 ($23.33) - 2 wks (Foc) -40.8%
2545 / $2879
6. Arthur - $6.94 ($22.35) - 2 wks (WB) -43.2%
3276 / $2118
7. Insidious - $6.86 ($35.98) - 3 wks (FD) -26.8%
2233 / $3071
8. Source Code - $6.3 ($36.99) - 3 wks (Sum) -27.2%
2557 / $2464
9. The Conspirator - $3.92 - 1 wk (RA)
707 / $5550
10. Your Highness - $3.9 ($15.95) - 2 wks (U) -58.4%
2772 / $1405
11. Limitless - $3.79 ($69.72) - 5 wks (Rel) -30.5%
1885 / $2013
12. The Lincoln Lawyer - $3 ($50.57) - 5 wks (LG) -29.9%
1702 / $1763
13. Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 - $2.15 ($48.19) - 4 wks (Fox) -54.9%
1849 / $1163
14. Atlas Shrugged Pt 1 - $1.68 - 1 wk (RM)
300 / $5590

Animation and horror - the story of 2011. Rio joins Rango, Hop and Gnomeo & Juliet for being a decent performer, and Scream 4, while lower than the studio had hoped, still some legs in it, and Insidious has great word-of-mouth keeping it alive. A sequel seems guaranteed at this point.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hail, Modern Family!

I find myself happy for actors who toil in small roles and general obscurity but eventually they get to do more recurring work. Jonathan Banks is one of those guys. He worked his way into a regular role as hitman Mike on AMC's Breaking Bad, and now he gets to play Ed O'Neill's brother. This was one small joy I got out of this week's episode. The highlighted plot thread had to be Cameron taking over the school production, with Cam's exploding aspirations, Mitchell biting his tongue, Manny perplexed as to why all the girls are more charmed by Luke... I love this show.

Your Highness - Movie Review

l 1/2

Starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux, Toby Jones, Damian Lewis and Charles Dance. Directed by David Gordon Green.

I picture Danny McBride walking through the halls of Hollywood, wondering what he should do for his next movie. He sees Rowan Atkinson accidentally leave his briefcase in a room, so Danny sneaks in and takes a peek. It's a script for a big-screen treatment of Blackadder. Danny takes the script and that night, cuts out all clever dialogue and replaces it with swear words and drug references, then changes some names, and voila! A new Danny McBride movie.

This R-rated Princess Bride wannabe does have solid production values. It has scope, scenery, well-done action, special effects, and it's all to dress up this turgid thing. Its main crime, the crime of any failed comedy, is that it's just not funny.

Danny plays Thadeus, the younger ne'er-do-well son of a fearsome king (Charles Dance, who acquits himself nicely). Thadeus is jealous of his warrior older brother Fabius (James Franco), who is constantly going on quests and returning to acclaim, parades and celebrations. Not that Thadeus ever makes any effort to learn how to use a sword or anything.

When Fabius's fiancee (Zooey Deschanel, with nothing to do) is kidnapped by an evil wizard, the king decides both sons will go on the quest to save her. They face betrayals, CGI-creatures, and more. They also pick up a mysterious warrior-woman (Natalie Portman) who has motives of her own.

I was a fan of Pineapple Express, and since it's basically the same team reassembled minus Seth Rogen, I had hopes for this (til I saw the preview). The movie lived up to the low expectations I had. At one point Thadeus grouses, "This quest sucks!" Yes, Thadeus, yes it does.

Fair Game - DVD Review

ll 1/4

Starring Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Sam Shepard, Noah Emmerich, Michael Kelly, Bruce McGill, David Andrews, Jessica Hecht, Ty Burrell, Sonya Davison and Adam LeFevre. Directed by Doug Liman.

The first hour of this movie is a tight political thriller, concise, almost on par with All the President's Men. There's a "you are there" sense of urgency to the action, and considering director Doug Liman broke into the mainstream with The Bourne Identity, that's no surprise.

It's about the true story of Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame. Wilson debunked a lead that said Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger. The White House ignored his report, went forward with it as fact, and used it as another justification for the Iraq War. Later, when Wilson went public with his criticism of the administration, Plame was outed as a CIA agent.

The first point where the movie tips its hand is at David Andrews (Graveyard Shift) as Scooter Libby. As soon as Andrews enters the room, we know he's the villain. Not just the antagonist, the Villain. Libby seems to determined to twist whatever intelligence has been gathered to suit his purpose (and by proxy Dick Cheney's), and as soon as they're proven wrong on WMD's, he decides to change the story with Joe Wilson by outing his wife. Mwa ha ha.

Once the outing happens, the movie shifts its drama from taut to melo. Sean Penn ceases to be Joe Wilson and turns back into liberal activist Sean Penn, spouting and shouting about the Bush Administration. Wouldn't surprise me if he improvised most of his lines in the final third. I thought the first hour had set up the audience nicely (Libby aside) to make its own decisions, but no, some points have to be hammered home with Olbermann-esque "How DARE you, sir!" bluster, cheapening it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Due Date - DVD Review


Starring Robert Downey Jr., Zack Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis and Danny McBride. Directed by Todd Phillips.

First of all, Planes Trains & Automobiles is a better, funnier movie, and these two movies share the same plot. But that doesn't mean this one doesn't have its share of laughs.

One thing I liked is that Downey's character has a mean streak to him. He's not a particularly nice guy, and so for him to be stuck with the man-child of Galifianakis, it's karmic retribution. Of course, as the journey continues, he begins to melt to this idiot.

I can't say I believed some of the emotional transitions. Part of that is that Galifianakis is playing a very similar fool to the one he played in The Hangover. Part of it is I can't help but go back to PT&A where their emotional climax was better earned.

So for what it is, it's fine. It was actually a little better than I thought it would be.

Client 9: The Rise & Fall of Eliot Spitzer - DVD Review

ll 1/2

Directed by Alex Gibney.

This feels like a spinoff to Inside Job. Spitzer had a small talking-head part in that movie where he addressed the financial corruption going on, and now here he is the center of his own documentary, the first half of which focusses on his righteous crusade against Wall Street shenanigans. Spitzer is portrayed as a hero, the Eliot Ness to the Capones of the banks.

But no matter how sympathetic the director is to his subject, there's no glossing over the fact that Spitzer busted prostitution rings, and then he himself participated in them. The movie tries to paint a conspiracy. Why was Spitzer taken down when other politicians have done it? We even get a tacky slideshow of Mark Sanford, Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, etc., etc.

It gives one the feeling that Spitzer could have run for president if he'd not (been caught) done it in the first place. Yes he made a lot of enemies, but especially when you get to the governor years, Spitzer's abrasive arrogance did him in more than anything. Maybe Spitzer could have done more to combat some of the economic shadiness that brought down the world in 2008. I doubt it.

On the technical front, I really like the slickness Gibney brings to his films. (He also directed Casino Jack & the United States of Money. He knows his corrupt political-finance topics.) I just wish Gibney had engaged in a little more scrutiny and a little less hero-worship in the central figure of this particular film.

Source Code - Movie Review

lll 1/4

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright. Directed by Duncan Jones.

Jake Gyllenhaal has been in some good movie throughout his career but rarely do the ones that rely sqaurely on his shoulders succeed, but this one does. He's a soldier named Colter who finds himself in an experiment called the Source Code. Turns out there was a terrorist attack that morning, but they were able to recover the last eight minutes of memory from one of the victim's brains. Colter is able to go back into those eight minutes, over and over, as the victim (Sean) trying to figure out who the bomber is. If he can do so, they believe he can stop a second attack from occuring.

It takes him a few tries to get the hang of it, and with each pass he grows more interesting in Christina (Michelle Monaghan), a colleague/possible love interest for Sean. What we have here then is a cross between Groundhog Day and Deja Vu.

I like the claustrophobia of being on the one train (saves them money too), and the way that the movie has two layers going. Yes "Sean" must find the bomber, but Colter is also trying to figure out how he got involved with this experiment in the first place.

The ending's a bit of a stretch, but I'll just trust that there's a quantum mechanist who can say "Yes it makes sense."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Starz's Camelot - TV Review

Meh. It tries to take the old legend and give it the pay-cable treatment, but even with Joseph Fiennes as a decidedly more scheming Merlin, there wasn't anything here to hook me. It felt a little too much like a CW-meets-Syfy effort. Especially with the period intrigue of Showtime's The Borgias and gritty fantasy HBO's Game of Thrones competing for viewers.

Hereafter - DVD Review


Starring Matt Damon, Cecile de France, Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard and George McLaren. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood's meditation on life after death was really heavy on the meditative part.

It starts with a brilliant tsunami sequence, in hindsight very realistic. A French woman is knocked unconscious swimming for safety and she sees the light, other beings, personal proof of life after death, but she doesn't know how to deal with the knowledge. Meanwhile there's a British boy desperately seeking answers after his brother is killed. Another meanwhile, there's an American (Matt Damon) who has the gift/curse of being able to communicate with the dead, but he does it in the method just like the phonies you see on infomercial or midnight radio.

The movie is oddly paced and while I won't say I was bored, there were pockets where it felt like it was trying to lull me into a trance. So when we have our storylines merge, I can't say I was satisfied. The "payoff" was more of a dreary shrug.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Inside Job - DVD Review

lll 1/2

Directed by Charles Ferguson.

At first I was afraid this was going to be another liberal polemic, one of those distorted Republicans-are-evil diatribes that Michael-Moore-wannabes churn out. It's narrated by Matt Damon and one of its first sympathetic talking-heads is left-wing boogeyman George Soros. But this movie has more on its mind. It's about explaining what happened, and it's beyond politics. A handful of really greedy, powerful men almost destroyed the world's economy, and they have yet to pay for it. In fact, they're keeping their millions and most of them are still doing the things that brought everything to a halt in 2008.

One thing this movie makes clear. These Wall Street brokers and bankers and traders aren't money-makers, they're money-takers. They come up with laws, lobby for them, get them, then exploit them to bend the market to their will and squeeze it for billions. But where do those billions come from? From the businesses, governments and individuals who are also investing.

And when it's over, it's also clear that nothing's really going to change. Tim Geitner's as guilty as Hank Paulson, and yet he's still in the Obama White House, and it's not like if a Republican gets elected, he's going to engage in financial reform. The chasm between the Top 1% and everyone else will grow, and another financial catastrophe will hit. It's just a matter of time.

Director Charles Ferguson stays off-screen, but he interviews some of the subjects, economic advisors, academics, culprits, and he can't hide his contempt when doing so. Picture when Jon Stewart interviewed Jim Kramer.

There are a couple details it skims over, like painting the economy as a utopia between the Great Depression and the Reagan Administration, but it's an entertaining, engaging, informative film.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How Do You Know - DVD Review


Starring Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson, Kathryn Hahn, Mark Linn-Baker, Tony Shalhoub and Lenny Venito.
Directed by James L. Brooks.

This is one of those rich-people-with-trifling-issues rom-coms more associated with Nancy Meyers than James L. Brooks. It's about people struggling to connect, but able cast and witty dialogue aside, it felt like it's written by someone who hasn't had actual human connection for a long time.

Reese Witherspoon plays a professional softball player who's about to learn she's been cut from her team. Owen Wilson plays a professional baseball player who makes $14 million a year who falls quickly for Reese, but he's trying to figure out how to be in a real relationship. Paul Rudd is a CEO who's about to learn his business is being investigated for securities fraud and that he might personally go to jail for it, even though he isn't sure what he did. Jack Nicholson plays his father, who also happens to be chairman at the same company.

Reese bounces back and forth between Owen and Paul, all the while each character seems to be waiting for the other to stop talking so they can talk about themselves and wonder aloud how to connect to people without ever doing so. Nothing about this movie ever feels real. I found Owen's huge well-furnished apartment more interesting. I could picture ten union workers furnishing it, putting everything in place, checking the lighting, measuring everything. The work they put in deserves to be in a better movie.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SHO's The Borgias - TV Review

The Borgias picks up right where Showtime's The Tudors left off. Actually, Henry VIII was an infant when this story gets started. In 1492, Rodriga Borgia conspired and succeeded in becoming Pope Alexander VI, arguably the most corrupt Pope in history. This is his story.

For one thing, it's great to see Jeremy Irons get his own series, and he doesn't twirl his mustache as the Pope. His Rodrigo is a schemer, a Machiavellian hypocrite of the highest order, but every once in a while he seems to wonder if he's really doing the right thing. Good. Even if the main character is evil, there still need to be elements about him that make me want to watch each week. It'll be fun to watch this series unfold.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Colbert & Fallon sing "Friday"

If you haven't seen Rebecca Black's "Friday" video, here it is. It's not very good, but for a 13-year-old's homemade video, it's fine, and I don't view it as any less annoying than any video put out by any Disney Channel teenage girl.

Then there's this epic remix by Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon. Brilliant!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Insidious - Movie Review


Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Ty Simkins and Leigh Whannell.
Directed by James Wan.

The writer and director of the original Saw have come together for a different type of horror movie, one co-produced by Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) and demonstrated that less can be more. What we have then is an old-fashioned haunted house movie that is more concerned with spooks than severed limbs.

The first hour or so of this movie is great. It has all the familiar trappings (creaking stairs, objects moving mysteriously) and the trappings work when done well. In a nod to Poltergeist, we eventually have a paranormal expert (Lin Shaye) show up to exorcise the dark beings surrounding this family. As the movie explains more and more what's going on, I grew less interested, and yet there was something trippy-wonderful about the way it turned "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" into a haunting tune.