Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Water for Elephants - Movie Review

ll 1/2

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz and Hal Holbrook.
Directed by Francis Lawrence.

From casting alone, we know what we're going to get, and we're not disappointed, or dazzled.

We get a nice bookend from Hal Holbrook, an old man at the circus. He remembers back to a time in 1931, where a great tragedy ruined the Benzini Brothers circus. And we're back in '31, and Holbrook's character is now played by Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame. Some geeks find it mandatory to hate Pattinson; I thought he was fine here.

He falls in love with the horse trainer (Reese Witherspoon), who happens to be married to the ringmaster (Christoph Waltz). I was hoping the movie would give the ringmaster shades of humanity, but we learn fairly early he has a habit of throwing employees off the train at night. It beats paying them, and if they die, well, so what. Oh, and he's cruel to animals!

Seriously, if you're the cruel boss, and you've married a gorgeous woman at least ten years younger than you, would you keep inviting that hunk over for dinner who's even younger than she is?

There is a period sweetness to it, though. It's one of those where I'm glad I saw it at the $2 theater instead of first-run, and I imagine the book is better.

Black Death - DVD Review


Starring Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice van Houten, John Lynch, Tim McInnery, Kimberely Nixon, David Warner and Andy Nyman.
Directed by Christopher Smith.

This low-budget horror flick snuck up on me. I like Sean Bean, and I watched it because it had him, and there wound up being more to it than I originally thought.

During the time of the bubonic plague, word spreads of a village that is untouched by death. Naturally this must mean it's a town of witches, so Sean Bean leads a suspicious crew on a trk to this village, and we just know it isn't going to turn out too well for the villagers when they get there. Helping them on their way is a young monk (Eddie Redmayne) who's always wanted to see more of the world. Poor, pure-hearted boy.

The movie does wind up going to some places I didn't expect, a delightful surprise from a movie that seemed like it was going to paint by numbers. It's grim and gory, but worth it for fans of the genre.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kaboom - DVD Review

l 1/2

Starring Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett, Chris Zylka, Juno Temple and Kelly Lynch. Directed by Gregg Araki.

A hedonistic bisexual college student has a strange recurring dream. It may or may not have something to do with the end of the world, and he tries to talk about it while sleeping with one girl he doesn't necessarily like and day-dreaming of his straight roommate. Eventually, finally, we get that third-act twist that doesn't undermine the whole movie so much as confirms that, yes, you've been wasting your time. It looks like it was made for about $50,000. Reminded me a lot of those ultracheap Nick Stahl movies that used to hit VOD after a weekend in theaters. I usually admire economic filmmaking but this should quickly fade into obscurity.

Summer TV Reviews

TNT's FALLING SKIES - It learns from V's mistakes. We see the aliens true form in the first few minutes, and the shows centers on freedom-fighters, indigenous people just trying to make life hard enough for the aliens so they'll decide it's not worth it and leave. I wish it could take a couple cast members from V, but the recognizable ones (Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton) are all good here.

ABC's COMBAT HOSPITAL - It's better than Off the Map, and I liked seeing Elias Koteas as the mentor. Not good enough to crack my regular viewing rotation, but I'd be happy for the show if it survived.

ABC's 101 WAYS TO LEAVE A GAME SHOW - Imagine Fear Factor, but where if you answer trivia questions, you don't have to do the stunts; the ones who get the questions wrong must be punished for their ignorance. It's the perfect mean cousin to Wipeout, where the host can't help but laugh at the losers who realize they're about to plunge from a high place when they miss the answer. I laughed too.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Green Lantern - Movie Review


Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Saarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett and Jay O. Sanders. Directed by Martin Campbell.

This is another one of those movies where I can say it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but it is by no means good. In fact it's quite silly.

We start off with the mythology. The universe has been divided into 3600 sectors. Each sector gets its own Green Lantern, a space cop, a being that can wear a green ring that manifests into reality anything the ring-bearer can imagine. They use these rings to fight evil and keep the intergalactic peace. Green is the power of Will.

But then a being uses the color yellow, the power of Fear, to fight against the universe. He escapes from his prison, frying three Green Lanterns in the process. He grows with each kill, until he's this tentacled space cloud, making his way through the galaxies toward Oa, the central planet of the universe, headquarters of the Green Lanterns.

Turns out the Green Lanterns answers to the Ancients, nine immortal Mr. Magoos sitting in a Jedi-council circle atop 100-foot-tall high-chairs. They just sit there and crankily dispense "wisdom" when the Lanterns need their help. The leader of the Lanterns is Sinestro (Mark Strong), whom I've only known as a bad guy, but he's a good guy here. Okay, well, if Spider-Man can do movie after movie without turning Dr. Connors into the Lizard, I guess Sinestro can be a good guy here.

Anyway, the Lantern in Earth's sector gets mortally wounded by the evil space cloud (named Parallax) and crash-lands off the US coast. The way a new Lantern is chosen is up to the ring, so the ring sends out a green ball of energy to find the next in line, and it's supposed to be someone without fear. Also for the first time in history, it's a human, so who will the ring pick?

A cocky pilot named Hal Jordan, played by Ryan Reynolds, who's always seemed like a slight upgrade from Jason Lee to me. Hal is one of those mavericky maverick pilots that other people like to be stern with. Shoehorned in there, in the most awkward groan-worthy way, we learn Hal has daddy issues, as his dad was a pilot who died in a plane crash. Seriously. Screenplay malpractice here.

Sooo the ring picks Hal, and before he knows it, it's flying him to Oa, where he meets the other Lanterns and goes through some training. But it's like really hard and stuff, so he quits and goes back to Earth. I do believe I am giving that section of the movie justice.

And you know, that's really the part of the movie where I started to check out. Granted, the daddy-issues scenes were painful, but at least they were brief. Now that we're getting deeper into what the Lanterns can really do, we find out that they don't have that much imagination. There's never a creation, from Hal or any other Lantern, where I thought that was clever.

In supporting roles, Peter Saarsgaard has a lot of fun as Dr. Hector Hammond, who gets morphed into a bloated servant of Parallax after he gets infested by a little piece of it. I wish Hammond had been the main villain instead of the sub-villain to the space cloud. Pay attention, future comic book movies. When your choice for Main Villain is between a good actor and a giant CGI smoky octopus, go with the good actor.

Blake Lively's the blandest female interest since Kate Bosworth's Lois Lane. Tim Robbins get in a little smarm as a senator, but he and especially Angela Bassett don't have much to do. Seriously, after seeing Bassett in this and Rene Russo as a glorified extra in Thor, I feel like I should take up a fund. "Please donate to the 'Actresses Over 50 Deserve Bigger Parts' fund. Not all of them have to go to Meryl Streep."

Is it open for a sequel? Of course. I'm sure there's an outline somewhere that has Sinestro betray the Lanterns after getting seduced by the color yellow. I'm more curious if DC's going to try to go the Justice League route the same way Marvel has the Avengers coming. I can't really see Christian Bale's Batman, Henry Cavill's Superman and Ryan Reynolds's Green Lantern hooking up. For one thing, Hal's personality is closer to the Flash than the incarnations of GL I'm familiar with.

It's not Catwoman-level bad. I would just hope if you're going to spend this much money on a movie, you'd try to have a little more imagination.

The Company Men - DVD Review


Starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Rosemary Dewitt, Craig T. Nelson and Eamonn Walker.
Directed by John Wells.

Most people have been laid off or fired in their life, and it can be painful, one of the most stressful things that can happen to a person. It's interesting that this movie decided to focus on wealthier, white-collar workers, but that's the story they're telling and they're sticking to it. So more power to them.

Ben Affleck plays a regional sales manager who's cocky about his golf score, secure in his job because of his friendship with his boss (Tommy Lee Jones), the #2 man at GTX, a transportation manufacturing company. While #2 is away on business, the #1 CEO decides to do a round of layoffs to spike his stock options, and Affleck is among those let go. Then he gets a rude awakening as to just how bad the economy is.

The scene that stuck out for me was one where Jones is meeting a handful of others who are getting ready to do more layoffs. They make sure they're covering legally, but Jones asks "What about ethically?" and the room looks at him like he's speaking a foreign language.

How much is enough? Well, the CEO may have enough money to swim in a la Scrooge McDuck, and he doesn't give a second thought to the thousands of workers whose lives he's destroying to get it. But this is really more about coping, about the turmoil of this new economy.

Chris Cooper is another worker, high up in the company, but he's getting near 60 and has many expenses. When he gets axed, he sees just how rough the business world is. Why hire a middle-aged family man when you can hire a single 25-year-old who'll work 80 hours a week for half the pay?

The acting in the end is what won me over. And since a co-worker of mine got laid off just last week, I'm kinda raw and a bit cynical about corporate America right now. For many, though, the ending won't be as neatly wrapped as it is here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Rite - DVD Review


Starring Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Ciaran Hinds, Alice Braga, Toby Jones and Rutger Hauer. Directed by Mikael Hafstrom.

I like the occassional gothic demonic flick, even when I don't like them that much. They usually have elements I can cling to and revel in. This had nothing. It took forever to set up, and the third act had nothing unique or original about it. The script's not great, but the central problem is Colin O'Donaghue is utterly dull as the lead, a black hole of charisma. Not only can Anthony Hopkins not save it, he can't even make it passable.

Random Entertainment News - 6/22/11

- While Tarsem's Snow White movie (with Julia Roberts) has cast actual little-people actors like Danny Woodburn as the seven dwarfs, Snow White & the Huntsman sounds like it's going the Lord of the Rings route, as Ian McShane has been cast as the leader of the seven dwarfs in that film. Snow White & the Huntsman also stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron and Sam Claflin.

- Woody Allen's next movie, The Bop Decameron, will film in Italy. Allen will appear in this film alongside Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Judy Davis, Greta Gerwig and Judy Davis. It will open in 2012.

- Jamie Foxx is officially the lead in Quentin Tarantino's spaghetti-southern Django Unchained, about a freed slave who seeks to free his wife from an evil plantation owner, to be played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson co-star.

- Terry O'Quinn will join his former Lost co-star Daniel Dae Kim on several episodes of CBS's Hawaii Five-0 next season.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Midnight in Paris - Movie Review


Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, Corey Stall, Carla Bruni, Adrien Brody, Tom Hiddleston, Alison Pill, Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy. Directed by Woody Allen.

It's nice to see Woody Allen back in fine form. He had me the first minute where we just get images of Paris, reminiscent of the opening of Manhattan. We see the famous and the alleys and the stairwells and the parks. Then we get Gil (Owen Wilson), a screenwriter vacationing in Paris with his fiancee (Rachel McAdams). She can't wait to get back to Malibu. He's in love with the city and would love to move there. He aspires to quit screenwriting to become a novelist, and hey, all the great American novelists spent some time in Paris.

Since this is an Allen film, we know he's going to be attracted to someone else, and that eventually comes, but in an unexpected way. Let's just say that he winds up meeting some of his idols. The standout for me, and the one that got the biggest laughs was Corey Stoll (Law & Order: LA) as Ernest Hemingway. It was one of those performances where he left me wanting more and I wished his part had been bigger.

Owen Wilson, it turns out, is the perfect stand-in for the typical Woody character. I wouldn't mind seeing them collaborate again.

I'm happy Woody's rediscovered his whimsy, and it's movies like this that demonstrate why so many name actors agree to be in his films. It might turn out to be like this. Other stand-outs include Marion Cottilard as the Frenchwoman who captures Gil's eye, and Michael Sheen as a pedantic friend-in-law Gil would just as soon ditch.

Random Entertainment News 6/19/11

- Evangeline Lilly (Lost) has joined the cast of The Hobbit for director Peter Jackson. She'll be playing a woodland elf. Also, Barry Humphries, best known as Dame Edna, will play the Goblin King, with the same motion-capture Andy Serkis uses as Gollum.

- Billy Bob Thornton will direct and star in the ensemble drama Jayne Mansfield's Car, co-starring Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, John Hurt and Robert Patrick.

- Thor Freudenethal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) will direct Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters, sequel to The Lightning Thief. Logan Lerman will return as Percy.

- Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin will star in Labor Day for director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air). It's a coming-of-age drama about a mother and son who give a stranger a ride, and that stranger turns out to be an escaped convict.

- Universal Pictures has staked out July 3, 2013, as the release date for Despicable Me 2.

- There've been many indications that JJ Abrams will not have Star Trek 2 ready for its current June 2012 release date and so Paramount is looking at other possible tentpole projects that could be done in time for next summer. One is GI Joe 2. Another is World War Z, which takes place ten years after a zombie uprising was successfully stopped. It'll star Brad Pitt, Ed Harris, Matthew Fox and Mirelle Enos (The Killing).

- Vanessa Minnillo is in and Jill Wagner is out as cohost of ABC's Wipeout.

Weekend Box Office

For the weekend of June 17-19.

1. Green Lantern - $52.69 million - 1 wk (WB)
. . . 3816 screens / $13,806 per screen
2. Super 8 - $21.25 ($72.78) - 2 wks (Par) -40.1%
. . . 3408 / $6235
3. Mr. Popper's Penguins - $18.2 - 1 wk (Fox)
. . . 3339 / $5451
4. X-Men: First Class - $11.5 ($119.93) - 3 wks (Fox) -52.3%
. . . 3375 / $3407
5. The Hangover Part II - $9.64 ($232.67) - 4 wks (WB) -45.5%
. . . 3460 / $2785
6. Kung Fu Panda 2 - $8.7 ($143.34) - 4 wks (DW) -47.4%
. . . 3469 / $2508
7. Bridesmaids - $7.49 ($136.84) - 6 wks (U) -25.6%
. . . 2573 / $2910
8. Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - $6.24 ($220.34) - 5 wks (BV) -43%
. . . 2742 / $2274
9. Midnight in Paris - $5.24 ($21.8) - 5 wks (SPC) -10.2%
. . . 1038 / $5045
10. Judy Moody - $2.24 ($11.17) - 2 wks (Rel) -63%
. . . 2524 / $888
11. Thor - $1.15 ($176.11) - 7 wks (Par) -53%
. . . 875 / $1309
12. The Tree of Life - $1.12 ($3.85) - 4 wks (FS) +34.8%
. . . 114 / $9781

Green Lantern did well. It did its job. Considering the $350 million the studio spent on production and marketing, it'll need to be big overseas to make a profit. So weird that movies have come to this.

Jim Carrey's entering that Eddie Murphy phase, I guess. Carrey hamming it up with penguins for the kids equals a mediocre opening and likely quick drop in the weeks to come.

Happy for Super 8's decent week 2 showing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Emmy Ballot - Drama Nominations

Best Drama

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston, BREAKING BAD
Michael C. Hall, DEXTER
Andrew Lincoln, THE WALKING DEAD
Timothy Olyphant, JUSTIFIED

Best Actress
Khandi Alexander, TREME
Mirielle Enos, THE KILLING
Michelle Fairlay, GAME OF THRONES
Julianna Margulies, THE GOOD WIFE

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Cumming, THE GOOD WIFE
Peter Dinklage, GAME OF THRONES
Walton Goggins, JUSTIFIED

Best Supporting Actress
Christina Hendricks, MAD MEN
Margo Martindale, JUSTIFIED
Julia Stiles, DEXTER
Maisie Williams, GAME OF THRONES

My Emmy Ballot: Comedy Nominations

Best Comedy

Best Actor
Alec Baldwin, 30 ROCK
Steve Carell, THE OFFICE

Best Actress
Jane Adams, HUNG
Courtney Cox, COUGAR TOWN
Tina Fey, 30 ROCK
Patricia Heaton, THE MIDDLE

Best Supporting Actor
Donald Glover, COMMUNITY
Eric Stonestreet, MODERN FAMILY

Best Supporting Actress
Alison Brie, COMMUNITY
Yvette Nicole Brown, COMMUNITY
Jenna Fischer, THE OFFICE
Christa Miller, COUGAR TOWN

Thursday, June 16, 2011

TNT's Franklin & Bash - TV Review

Remember the Jim Belushi-Jerry O'Connell series The Defenders? This is a younger, more obnoxious version of that show.

The two leads should be likeable enough. There's TV guy Mark-Paul Gosselar of Saved By the Bell / NYPD Blue fame. There's movie guy Breckin Meyer of Clueless / Rat Race fame. But these are two cool cats who don't play by the rules, who use and abuse the legal system to exploit people and companies, twist the laws around for a quick buck, who can kick back and play guitar while tossing around ideas....


If these guys were real, I'd say, "Guys like these are what's ruining America." In fact I've noticed that about a lot of lawyer shows, especially the light-hearted ones. Delightful scamps like these are why we have 100,000 laws on the books, each to protect us from the dumb one that got exploited/twisted/abused before it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Other Woman - DVD Review

l 1/2

Starring Natalie Portman, Scott Cohen, Lisa Kudrow, Charlie Tahan, Lauren Ambrose and Anthony Rapp. Directed by Don Roos.

I've seen it a million times. Rich man leaves his wife for younger woman. But I don't know if I've ever seen a movie from the younger woman's point of view, right after she's become Wife #2. In some ways this is a public service announcement warning women thinking of sleeping with married men - the aftermath ain't all sunshine and roses.

These are selfish, wounded people, bouncing against each other. Portman plays Emilia. She slept with her married boss Jack (Scott Cohen), and later married him and had a baby with him. That baby only lived a few days, and now Emilia is an emotional shell, dealing with a manipulative stepson (Charlie Tahan), a vindictive first wife (Lisa Kudrow), and an increasingly distant husband.

This soap opera features several opprtunities for the three adults to lash at each other, usually in front of the kid, surely scarring him to become a sociopathic shark when he grows up.

This movie is the perfect punishment to show adulterers. Sure, it features some good acting, but what have I done to deserve this?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Super 8 - Movie Review

lll 1/2

Starring Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Ron Eldard, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Sasso, Noah Emmerich, Zach Mills and Glynn Turman.
Directed by JJ Abrams.

This movie is executively produced by Steven Spielberg, and it's like a loving tribute to his earlier work.

It's been a long time since we've had a summer special-effects movie center on kids coming of age, and have the relationships be believable, realistic, and the kids are natural actors. The movie does have an alien, but it's the B-story. The A-story is a group of kids in 1979 trying to make a zombie movie when they get interrupted by a giant train wreck.

I recognize the plot has several logistical problems, several points that don't quite make sense if you think about it long enough. I don't really care. I wanted to spend more time with Joe (Joel Courtney) and Alice (Elle Fanning), watch their puppy love develop.

And I should mention specifically that Fanning, Dakota's little sister, is tremendous here. There's a scene in this movie where I watched her and thought, "A star is born."

(One pet peeve: too many lens flares. We get streaks of blue-purple light from it and it was distracting.)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekend Box Office - 6/12/11

For the weekend of Jun 10-12.

1. Super 8 - $37 million - 1 wk (Par)
. . . 3379 screens / $10,950 per screen
2. X-Men: First Class - $25 ($98.89) - 2 wks (Fox) -54.6%
. . . 3692 / $6771
3. The Hangover Part II - $18.5 ($216.56) - 3 wks (WB) -41%
. . . 3675 / $5034
4. Kung Fu Panda 2 - $16.64 ($126.91) - 3 wks (DW) -30.4%
. . . 3929 / $4234
5. Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - $10.85 ($208.77) - 4 wks (BV) -39.6%
. . . 3433 / $3159
6. Bridesmaids - $10.15 ($123.9) - 5 wks (U) -15.7%
. . . 2922 / $3475
7. Judy Moody & the Not Bummer Summer - $6.27 - 1 wk (Rel)
. . . 2524 / $2483
8. Midnight in Paris - $6.15 ($14.23) - 4 wks (SPC) +121.9%
. . . 944 / $6511
9. Thor - $2.37 ($173.6) - 6 wks (Par) -44.2%
. . . 1782 / $1330
10. Fast Five - $1.71 ($205.08) - 7 wks (U) -45.9%
. . . 1329 / $1290
11. The Tree of Life - $.88 ($2.41) - 3 wks (FS) +41.5%
. . . 47 / $18,617

Super 8 did well, and with its $50 million budget, it'll be nicely profitable.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Dilemma - DVD Review


Starring Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, Channing Tatum and Queen Latifah. Directed by Ron Howard.

This movie is so uneven that it really needed a director skilled in dark comedy to navigate its waters. I think Barry Levinson or Danny DeVito would have been good. But the thing is, I would have thought beforehand that the director of Night Shift and The Paper could have done it. By the time it was done, though, my thoughts were on the director. What was he thinking?

The casting of the men would indicate light-hearted farce. Jennifer Connelly, though, means weepy drama. Winona Ryder can go either way and I'm just glad to see her get work.

The premise isn't some Three's Company escalation of misunderstandings. Vince Vaughn sees his best friend's wife is cheating on him, and it's not a mistake. No she's really cheating. But as layers get pulled back on the characters, we see there's more going on. There's pain and disappointment and hurt. But even through most of that, the tone tries to stay fluffy. "Hey, we got Vince Vaughn! It's a comedy!"

Another Vaughn-Com, The Break-Up, had similar problems. As their relationship soured, the movie grew less funny and more sad. I didn't like that movie either.

But I'll say this: I've never enjoyed Channing Tatum more. He showed genuine comic energy and timing.

It just hit me. This was as though Ron Howard was trying to make a Woody Allen movie.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Drive Angry - DVD Review

ll 1/4

Starring Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke, David Morse, Charlotte Ross and Tom Atkins. Directed by Patrick Lussier.

This is the slightly more attractive cousin of Ghost Rider. It embraces its absurdity better. It's by no means good; it's gleefully executed grindhouse drive-in junk food.

Nicolas Cage is Milton (get it?), a father who has escaped hell and now drives a fast car shooting up bad guys, and hot on his trail is a demon known only as The Accountant (William Fichtner). Milton's daughter was killed by a satanic cult and they plan to sacrifice his granddaughter. The plot's there as an excuse to set up several fellers to line up and get killed at interesting angles, preferrably so that blood and /or body parts can fly toward the screen (in 3-D!)

Cage's crazy performance matches his bleached hairpiece. Fichtner is the most fun to watch, an all-powerful guy who can maim with a finger. He has the cockiness of someone who, well, knows he's immortal standing in front of this here green-screen. Billy Burke is the cult leader, doing the pure-evil thing as a break from playing dear-old-dad in the Twilight movies. I should also point out David Morse shows up as an old friend named Webster. Could practically feel the screenwriter elbowing me in the ribs when his name's revealed.

Tons of bullets fly in this film, and they made ghastly splooshing sounds when they hit their targets and rip through flesh. The special-effects are hit-and-miss, some of it likely due to the 3D-ness. And now Cage has Ghost Rider 2 coming. What a world. But if crazy Cage sounds like your cup of tea, why the heck are drinking such tea? Try orange juice.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

X-Men: First Class - Movie Review

lll 1/2

Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt, Jason Flemyng, Zoe Kravitz and Matt Craven. Directed by Matthew Vaughn.

This is the fifth X-Men movie, and the best. I've held X2 as my favorite til now, but I think this one passes it.

This has a quick pace and jumps through many plot points, but it never feels rushed and it never feels like any of the many characters that matter are getting cheated. We're back in the 1960's, when Charles and Erik first meet, where Charles (James McAvoy) is a cocky but kind-hearted genetics genius, and Erik (Michael Fassbender) is a Count of Monte Cristo, hunting down the Nazis that killed his parents, culminating with Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) the man who point-blank shot his mother.

Schmidt is now Shaw, and his plans for world chaos are as ambitious as any Bond villain. Shaw also has some mutants working for him, so the future Professor X and Magneto are going to need help.

This is an origin film that in many ways doesn't feel like an origin film. There is some continuity issues with some of the X-Men movies, but then so what, let's call it a reboot.

I should also mention that McAvoy and Fassbender have great chemistry together. It's kinda nice to have an X-Men movie without Wolverine. I'm about as excited as where this plans to go as the Star Trek reboot.

P.S. Plenty of familiar faces pop up in small parts. I'm pretty sure I'm one of only dozens in the world who geeks out when Michael Ironside suddenly shows up.

Gulliver's Travels - DVD Review

l 1/2

Starring Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Chris O'Dowd, TJ Miller and Catherine Tate. Directed by Rob Letterman.

Jack Black... what can I say. I loved School of Rock, but lately it seems like he's picking projects where he does the same thing in different scenarios and it's just not funny anymore. Year One was an odious example, and this big-screen high-concept low-ambitioned comedy isn't much better.

Black plays mail-room slacker Lemuel Gulliver, a guy going nowhere aspiring to nothing. One day he plagarizes some articles to impress a hot editor in his building, and she immediately sends him on a writing assignment to the Bermuda triangle. Naturally he gets caught in a whirlpool out there (with some inept green-screening, I might add) and land in Lilliput, an island where little people can instantly build contraptions to trap giants, as though one washes up on shore every year.

The likable-enough cast is trapped in this Blackian world of easy punchlines. The finale where everyone dances with Black as he sings "War" made me want to hide my face.

There is no aspiration here to make it a memorable movie. There's no ambition beyond lowbrow humor and making as many elementary kid as possible giggle when Gulliver pees to put out a palace fire.

P.S. Emily Blunt tried to get out of making this so she could be Black Cat in Iron Man 2. Poor thing.

Friday, June 3, 2011

OWN's Sons of Perdition

Directed by Tyler Measom & Jennilyn Mertin.

This documentary was in a film festival or two last year and had brief releases in theaters. It aired on OWN this week and I was able to record it and watch it.

It's the story of teenage boys who have escaped Colorado City, aka the "Crick", the compound run by fundamentalist Warren Jeffs. You can't help but feel for these boys as they unwind in the real world and try to figure out how to move forward without their families.

We get melancholy shots of polygamists working on their lands, and you can just feel the isolation and oppression of that environment. It's worth seeking out.

One thing I learned from Warren Jeffs: the Care Bears are evil.

A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy

Continuing to catch up on old Woody Allen titles.

This 1982 trifle from Woody is okay. It's about three couples spending the evening together and even if it had a benign title, we know that because it's Woody, not all the couples will remain faithful by the time the night is over. I was amused by setting it in the 1900's, where Woody's a Wright-brother-esque inventor, and I enjoyed Jose Ferrer as the pompous professor.

TV Season Finales - 30 Rock, Cougar Town, Chuck, etc.

30 ROCK - I tend to enjoy it while I watch it, but if it got cancelled, it wouldn't affect me. In fact, the series really seems to only have one more season in it.

AMERICAN IDOL - I quit watching around the top nine. Just didn't care. And as I'd read each week about who got voted off, it affirmed to me my apathy was justified. When is the last time the actual winner made a splash in the music world? Runner-ups (Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry, Adam Lambert) tend to have just as much success as winners. (Did Kris Allen ever do anything?) I do still have the finale on my DVR but don't know if I'll actually watch it.

SURVIVOR - Boston Rob played a masterful game, but the viewers suffered for it. When you know who's going to win and there are still twelve people playing, it's just painful. Rob lucked out by getting the younger useful-idiot tribe. Felt bad for the four or five players that didn't get any screentime in the live finale. Did enjoy Julie's speech to Rob about making sure he raises his daughter to never let a man take advantage of her the way he did with Natalie.

THE AMAZING RACE - I can't say my favorite team won. In fact of the final three teams, the sisters were who I wanted third. But that's what's great about this show. You never know when a bad taxi driver's going to cost you a million bucks.

THE GOOD WIFE - I figured Alicia and Peter were going to break up; after all, they keep emphasizing how Alicia and Will still have feeling for each other, and Will (Josh Charles) is in the opening credits, and Peter (Chris Noth) is always "special guest star." But I like that Cary (Matt Czuchry) is now going to be working for Peter, still on the opposite side of Lockhart/Gardner. It's a sign of a good season finale when I look forward to how the characters' decision will reverberate in the fall.

COUGAR TOWN - The cul-de-sac crew are best when things are kept light, and the bromance between Andy and Bobby is the best since Scrubs' JD & Turk. Also loved the Danny Pudi-Dan Byrd cross-cameos on each other's shows (especially since they're all different networks). But it's consistent for Grayson to want a kid, and does 42-year-old Jules really want another kid when her only son is in college? It means either Grayson and Jules have to split, or Jules gets pregnant.

CHUCK - I've enjoyed this show, but I'm glad it's only getting 13 more episodes to wrap it up. I feel like it's pretty much run its course. They've hinted at one giant conspiracy behind Fulcrum, Volkoff, the Intersect, EVERYTHING, and so we'll get this fall to learn what that is. After that, give it a good series finale and call it a day. But they need to find a way to get Jewel Staite a guest spot.