Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Eagle - DVD Review


Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong, Tahar Rahim, Denis O'Hare and Dakin Matthews. Directed by Kevin Macdonald.

A not-terrible sword-and-sandals flick that suffers from a meandering middle. Channing Tatum (GI Joe) is the studly Roman warrior who saves a Briton slave (Jamie Bell) from getting killed. When he's commissioned to go to Britain to see what happened to the ninth legion, which disappeared, he takes his Briton slave with him. (Last year's Centurion, starring Matthew Fassbender, was based on the same true story).

Not too long after they've crossed the wall, they get captured and the tables are turned. The slave is now master. Will he kill his former master or help him on his quest anyway? What do you think?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Red Riding Hood - DVD Review

l 1/2

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Max Irons, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas and Julie Christie. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke.

I didn't mind Twilight, really. I kinda like them. But when I watched this movie, I thought of all the people who hate Twilight and thought "I get it."

The best thing about this movie is the opening credits. The camera sweeps over snowy mountains and through rich forests before we settle on the village that'll be the center of this story. I think it's in Europe, but most of the accents are American. Then Gary Oldman shows up with a German twinge and I got really confused.

The movie features a young woman desired by two different young men, but instead of one being a werewolf, we only know that one of them might be a werewolf. This werewolf is killing villagers, and they don't know who it could be.

The movie gets points for employing Gary Oldman and a Battlestar Galactica alum. It loses points for the ridiculously heavy-handed manner in which it hands 'Red Herring' signs on possible suspects. One character stops just short of saying "Hey I might be the werewolf! Suspect me!"

This is a horror movie is squarely aimed at junior-high girls, and I see no reason for anyone outside of that demographic to see it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II - Movie Review


Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Warwick Davis, Bonnie Wright, Tom Felton, John Hurt, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Robbie Coltrane, Ciaran Hinds, David Thewlis, Matthew Lewis, Julie Walters, Mark Williams and David Bradley.
Directed by David Yates.

Well, it's finally over. The final showdown comes between Harry Potter and Tom Riddle. It is very much a cathartic, full-circle experience. We've seen the kids grow up, we've seen the teachers teach, we've seen Voldemort's army grow. We've had good guys and bad die along the way.

It's a good send-off, if not great. The main young three - Radcliffe as determined Harry, Grint as sidekick Ron, Watson as precocious Hermione - have grown into real actors with decent futures all, should they want them. One would hope acting off of Maggie Smith and Gary Oldman would reap benefits.

When last we left our heroes (and I wish I'd watched Part I right before I'd seen this; my bet is they're more effective seen as one 4 1/2 hour whole), Dobby the House Elf was dead and they still had a few Horcruxes to destroy in order to beat Voldemort. If you haven't read the books, rest assured a giant showdown is coming, and plenty of characters who've been along for the ride will be dead by the end.

The acting trophy has to go to Alan Rickman as Snape. His true intentions finally get revealed, and it's a great scene by him when it happens.

I have read the books, and I'll just say my biggest complaint might be that it felt too rushed. Would have liked it to be twenty minutes longer to do justice to those scenes or those characters.

Sucker Punch - DVD Review

l 1/2

Starring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Scott Glenn and Jon Hamm.
Directed by Zack Snyder.

Imagine a movie based on a non-existent video game based on a non-existent graphic novel based on a series of music videos featuring young women in sexy clothes striking sexy poses while pretending to fight samurai and dragons, and all under the pretense of female empowerment. Actually, you don't need to imagine it, but such a movie exists and is called Sucker Punch.

I actually like Zack Snyder as a director; this "story" just indulges his worst instincts: the slo-mo speed-ups during fights, the montage of images to skim over weakness in narrative, the pulsing never-subtle soundtrack, the excuse for all the teen girls to dress like porn stars.

On the reality level, we have a Shutter Island-esque insane asylum, albeit with all beautiful young women. The protagonist, Baby Doll (Emily Browning), has been committed here by her stepfather, who murdered her sister and blamed it on her so he could get their inheritance. Baby Doll copes by escaping into fantasy, and she envisions she's really in some sort of Chicago-Moulin Rouge performance hall. Then when a mysterious man (Scott Glenn, because why not?) gives her a quest - a very Zelda-like quest - and promises freedom, she upps the fantasy again. When she goes to "dance" for clients, in her head, she's at a new battle, whether it's at a WWI front, or against those previously mentioned dragons, and in each battle, she's to find one more item that the mysterious man had rattled off for her.

The whole exercise is empty, a style-over-substance assault on the senses. It never felt like anything was genuinely at stake, and I found myself wondering if it would end with Baby Doll waking up at the beginning of the movie to say "Oh, it was ALL a dream." Spoiler alert - that's not how it ends - but I don't know if the impact would've been any worse. I just wonder why, now that Snyder had clawed his way up the Hollywood ranks by making movies out of other people's properties (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen, Owls of Ga'Hoole) that THIS is the original story he's been wanting to tell. Really?

Weekend Box Office

1. Captain America - $65.83 million - 1 wk (Par)
. . . 3715 screens / $17,719 per screen
2. Harry Potter 7 Pt. 2 - $48.07 ($274.18) - 2 wks (WB) -71.6%
. . . 4375 / $10,986
3. Friends with Benefits - $18.5 - 1 wk (SG)
. . . 2926 / $6323
4. Transformers 3 - $12 ($325.79) - 4 wks (Par) -43.7%
. . . 3375 / $3556
5. Horrible Bosses - $11.72 ($82.4) - 3 wks (NL) -34.1%
. . . 3104 / $3776
6. Zookeeper - $8.7 ($59.2) - 3 wks (Sony) -29.4%
. . . 3215 / $2706
7. Cars 2 - $5.73 ($176.45) - 5 wks (BV) -31.9%
. . . 2668 / $2146
8. Winnie the Pooh - $5.14 ($17.57) - 2 wks (BV) -34.6%
. . . 2405 / $2138
9. Bad Teacher - $2.6 ($94.36) - 5 wks (Sony) -49.5%
. . . 2034 / $1278
10. Midnight in Paris - $1.9 ($44.88) - 10 wks (SPC) +1.2%
. . . 621 / $3058

Further down the list, Thor passed $180 million, Bridesmaids passed $163, Kung Fu Panda 2 passed $160, Super 8 passed $124, and X-Men: First Class passed $144.

Marvel and Paramount have to be thrilled with Captain America opening as well as it did, buried in the middle of July amongst all these other special-effects blockbusters. Green Lantern's fizzling out at $113 million, for instance.

Harry's 71% drop in Week 2 would be noteworthy if their Week 1 hadn't been so huge. It's easily going to be the highest grosser of the summer, and therefore the year. I don't see another movie crossing the $300 million mark, so Harry will make up for WB's losses with Green Lantern, and with Transformers, Captain America, Thor and Super 8, Paramount has a lot to crow about.

Considering that Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have never opened a movie, I don't know who could have hoped Friends with Benefits to open to more.

Midnight in Paris keeps chugging along. I haven't seen an inflation adjuster anywhere, but it is technically Woody Allen's highest-grossing movie.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Captain America - Movie Review

lll 1/2

Starring Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke and Natalie Dormer. Directed by Joe Johnston.

I don't want to overhype this, because it doesn't transcend the superhero genre, but it does beautifully exactly what it's supposed to do. Marvel movies have really stepped up their game.

When I was a kid, I considered the Captain in the big three with Spiderman and Hulk as far as Marvel characters went. Sure, there was X-Men and Iron Man and Daredevil and Fantastic Four and Thor, but really, Spidey, Hulk and the Cap were the Superman and Batman of Marvel.

Glad to see the Captain finally get his due and have it done right. It keeps to the character's WWII roots, and if X-Men: First Class was a throwback to 1960's James Bond movies, then Captain America at times feels like an Indiana Jones sequel.

Chris Evans hits all the right notes as Steve Rogers, a little guy who really wants to fight for his country. His size and health problems prevent him from enlisting, but he catches the eye of a scientist looking for the perfect candidate for an experiment. Not sure how they did the effects of Evans being so small, but I didn't see the seams.

Rogers gets injected with special serum that makes him bigger, stronger, faster, the perfect fighting machine. Now he's ready to take on the Hitler and the Nazis, til he and the US army discover they're up against an even bigger threat - Johan Schmidt and the Hydra.

Johnston directed The Rocketeer, and the same old-school magic comes through here. Supporting cast makes the most of their roles, from the dry wit of Tommy Lee Jones to the beats Stanley Tucci takes with his lines. Hugo Weaving could play Schmidt in his sleep, but he doesn't. He makes Red Skull/Schmidt a worthy, scary opponent.

Stay til the end of the credits.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles - DVD Review

ll 1/2

Starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Pena, Bridget Moynahan, Ramon Rodriguez, Ne-Yo, Lucas Till and Jim Parrack.
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman.

My teens liked it, so it pretty much does its job of trying to be a PG-13 Black Hawk Down about an alien invasion.

So I tried to determine why I didn't like it more. Part of it, I believe, is that Black Hawk Down was based on a true story. It had a very you-are-there feel to it, to being in the middle of a historic moment. This is one day in the life of a military group dealing with creatures from outer space.

BHD was also a series of characters building to one great whole. This one centers on Aaron Eckhart, and while I like the guy, I was never compelled by his central story, and for some reason, he gives all his lines with that gravelling intense whisper, even during his big inspire-the-troops speech. And anytime he commanded a soldier to go off by himself and secure this perimeter or that tower, we knew that soldier was toast.

I appreciate that the aliens weren't another variation on the multi-tentacled exoskeleton xenomorph. I liked that they wore armor too. It's just that they looked like unsellable droids that Jawas left in the back room. We'd better win; we've been invaded by nerds.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Random Entertainment News 7/19/11

- Tom Cruise will play Jack Reacher in One Shot, based on Lee Child's best-selling book series. In the books, Jack is 6'5" and 250 lbs. Christopher McQuarrie will direct. Afterwards, Cruise will star in the sci-fi actioner Oblivion for director Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy).

- Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) is in talks to play the King to Julia Roberts's Queen in Tarsem Singh's Snow White, starring Lily Collins.

- Kevin Costner will play Leonardo DiCaprio's villainous right-hand man in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, a spaghetti western about a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) seeking revenge and to free his family.

- Dennis Quaid is the latest to join the cast of What to Expect When You're Expecting, an ensemble rom-com about pregnancy. It stars Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Chace Crawford, Brooklyn Decker (Just Go with It) and Matthew Morrison (Glee).

- Producer Don Murphy (Transformers 3) is planning a live-action Captain Planet movie.

- Robert Redford will play a Vietnam-Era radical still on the run in The Company You Keep, co-starring Shia LaBeouf as a reporter who finds him.

- Bill Moseley (The Devil's Rejects), Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson), Scott Eastwood (Gran Torino) and Richard Riehle (Office Space) are among those cast in the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D movie. Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface, will make a cameo appearance.

- Stephen Dillane (The Hours) and Carice van Houten (Valkyrie) have been cast as Stannis Baratheon and his witch-priestess Melisandre in the second season of HBO's Game of Thrones. Stannis is the younger brother of the late King Robert and rightful heir to the throne (if you ignore Daenerys's claim).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend Box Office

1. Harry Potter 8 - $168.55 million - 1 wk (WB)
. . . 4375 screens / $38,526 per screen
2. Transformers 3 - $21.25 ($302.8) - 3 wks (Par) -54.9%
. . . 3917 / $5425
3. Horrible Bosses - $17.63 ($60) - 2 wks (NL) -37.7%
. . . 3134 / $5625
4. Zookeeper - $12.3 ($42.35) - 2 wks (Sony) -38.7%
. . . 3482 / $3532
5. Cars 2 - $8.34 ($165.33) - 4 wks (BV) -45.1%
. . . 3249 / $2568
6. Winnie the Pooh - $8 - 1 wk (BV)
. . . 2405 / $3326
7. Bad Teacher - $5.2 ($88.51) - 4 wks (Sony) -41.7%
. . . 2659 / $1956
8. Larry Crowne - $2.57 ($31.63) - 3 wks (U) -56.7%
. . . 2287 / $1125
9. Super 8 - $1.93 ($122.24) - 6 wks (Par) -60.2%
. . . 1459 / $1319
10. Midnight in Paris - $1.89 ($41.79) - 9 wks (SPC) -28.2%
. . . 706 / $2678
11. Bridesmaids - $1.68 ($161.29) - 10 wks (U) -36%
. . . 872 / $1930
12. Mr. Popper's Penguins - $1.35 ($61.46) - 5 wks (Fox) -57.2%
. . . 1002 / $1347

In limited release, the documetaries Tabloid and The Undefeated did okay. I thought Zookeeper was one of those movies that looked bad to me but was going to be big anyway, like Yogi Bear. But no, it's not doing well.

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part II had the biggest 3-day opening ever.

Just Go With It - DVD Review

l 1/2

Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Brooklyn Decker, Nick Swardson, Dave Matthews, Bailee Madison, Griffin Gluck, Dan Patrick and Kevin Nealon.
Directed by Dennis Dugan.

I used to be a Sandler fan. And I still hold out hope each time that his next movie will be genuinely funny. Although I would usually wait until The Waterboy or The Wedding Singer to hit the $1 theater, I still had a good time seeing them. But he's been more miss than hit lately, and truly lately, it's been getting bad. And if I see Dennis Dugan's directing, I just have no faith.

But even if the quality's going down, his movies keep making over $100 million. When he stretches himself with other writers/directors (Funny People, Reign Over Me, Spanglish, Punch-Drunk Love) it never makes as much. So as a cold-hard capitalist, Sandler knows what's he's doing, even if it means the movies' quality will be questionable.

So this time around, Sandler plays Danny, a single plastic surgeon who gets a lot of one-night stands out of pretending to be an unhappily married man. Then one day he meets Palmer, a model - I mean, schoolteacher - who really does it for him. She can tell when he's lying. The problem with that is after that first night, she's incredibly gullible and can't tell when he's lying. So it kills the initial hook of her character.

When Palmer finds his prop wedding ring, he reverts to his usual lie about a horrible wife he's about to divorce. Well, his girlfriend wants to meet her. So Danny asks his friend/co-worker Kate (Jennifer Aniston) to pretend to be this wife. The lie, naturally, snowballs when Palmer learns Kate, and therefore Danny, has kids. Now Kate's kids are brought in to pretend Danny's their father.

So the lies grow and become more and more unbelievable, but Palmer swallows them all. Somehow they all go to Hawaii (even though the magic of green-screen shows they weren't really in Hawaii), and at the 55 minute mark, Kate meets her old high-school nemesis (Nicole Kidman). And the lies continue.

It never really elevates. The easiest joke is always used. For example, at least twice, Danny gets hit in the crotch. It has the other usual Sandler trappings (product placement, former SNL buddies, an Allen Covert appearance), and it's all to lazy minimal effect. At least when Sandler's been in rom-com mode, especially with Drew Barrymore, the romantic part's been sweet. Here, I believed Danny and Kate were buddies, but the part where they fell in love seemingly got skipped. I guess it was when Danny first saw Kate in a bikini. What a message.

When Harry Potter was over...

The alarm went off in the theater during the end credits for our showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. I did this on my iPhone after we went outside. My understanding is a man went up into the projectionist area with a lighter and a duct-taped device, and he was trying to blow up the theater.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau - DVD Review

ll 1/2

Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Terence Stamp and Michael Kelly. Directed by George Nolfi.

Pretty sure I saw a Twilight Zone episode with the same plot. I'm guessing since it's based on a Philip K. Dick story I'm right. Not going to look it up. I'm assuming right here and now I am correct.

Matt Damon is David Norris, a Congressman from Brooklyn who may or may not run for the Senate. He runs into a beautiful girl named Alyse (Emily Blunt) and they have instant chemistry. But some guys in fedoras don't like them hooking up. Why? "It's not part of the plan."

By one guy in a fedora not intervening at the right moment, David by chance meets her again. This simply won't do. And when David accidentally sees the men at work, these "adjusters", they catch him and they realiz they have no choice but to tell him the truth about their existence. But it comes with a warning. If he tells anyone else the truth, they'll wipe his memory. And he's forbidden to see Alyse again.

So who are these guys? Angels? Aliens? Why is so critical to "the plan" that David and Alyse stay apart? By the end, all is explained, if not satisfactorily. (I get the explanation; I just found it anti-climactic).

I enjoyed most of it. I've noticed many of these PKD movies are "guys on the run who know too much" (Minority Report, Paycheck...). It's just that the farther into the movie, the less interesting it becomes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Random Entertainment News 7/13/11

- Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Christian Slater, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Holt McCallany will star in an action thriller for director Walter Hill. Based on the book "Bullet to the Head," it's about a hitman and cop teaming up for revenge after two gruesome murders throw them together.

- Matthew Fassbender (X-Men: First Class) is joining At Swim-Two-Birds, about a 19-year-old playwright who starts seeing his fictional creation interactioning with real people in his life. Brenda Gleeson will direct and co-star. It also stars Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy and Gabriel Byrne.

- Johnny Depp might play Paul Revere in an upcoming movie. He also has plans to star in the big-screen adaptation of The Night Stalker. Depp also has The Lone Ranger and Dark Shadows on his plate, as well as, possibly, Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

- Tobey Maguire has dropped out of The Paperboy, and John Cusack has replaced him. He'd play a death-row inmate that a woman (Nicole Kidman) and two brothers (Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey) are trying to save. Lee Daniels (Precious) writes and directs.

- Walton Goggins (Justified) will play Ohio congressman Wells A. Hutchins in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln biopic, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field.

- Ted Danson has joined the cast of CBS's CSI, replacing the departing Laurence Fishburne.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happythankyoumoreplease - DVD Review


Starring Josh Radnour, Malin Akerman, Kata Mara, Zoe Kazan, Tony Hale, Richard Jenkins, Michael Algieri, Pablo Schreiber and Peter Scanavino. Directed by Josh Radnour.

See a group of New Yorkers in arrested development walk around with indie guitar licks on the soundtrack. Sounds like a deadly Sundance cliche. In many ways, this movie is, but there's some surprising enjoyable elements to it. Elements.

Story #1 revolves around an aspiring writer (How I Met Your Mother's Josh Radnour, in indie-Zack Braff mode) who finds a kid on the subway who apparently has no family and no place to go. So he brings him home with him, not really sure what to do. Why doesn't he just turn him over to the police so they can find his family/orphanage/wheever he belongs? I wasn't clear on that. Meanwhile he's falling for a bartender.

Story #2 follows a girl (Zoe Kazan) unlucky with guys who gets pregnant, and she isn't sure if her boyfriend will stay with her.

Story #3 is about a woman (Malin Akerman) with an auto-immune disorder who nevertheless is trying to tackle life with a good attitude. She gets used by one ex-flame while avoiding the nerdy guy (Tony Hale) at work. However there's more to the nerdy guy than she thinks.

The third story was the one that worked for me. The second one I never cared about, and the first one took me about an hour in before I cared what happened next. So on the positive side, it features the best acting yet from Malin Akerman (Watchmen), who's hairless the whole movie, and it gives Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Chuck) more to do than we've ever seen before. But it's buried in chatty relationship ensemble dramedy trappings we've seen many times before.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weekend Box Office

1. Transformers 3 - $47.03 million ($261) - 2 wks (Par) -52%
. . . 4088 screens / $11,503
2. Horrible Bosses - $28.1 - 1 wk (NL)
. . . 3040 / $9247
3. Zookeeper - $21 - 1 wk (Sony)
. . . 3482 / $6031
4. Cars 2 - $15.21 ($148.83) - 3 wks (BV) -42.1%
. . . 3990 / $3812
5. Bad Teacher - $9 ($78.76) - 3 wks (Sony) -38%
. . . 2962 / $3038
6. Larry Crowne - $6.26 ($26.53) - 2 wks (U) -52.2%
. . . 2976 / $2105
7. Super 8 - $4.83 ($118.06) - 5 wks (Par) -39.1%
. . . 2292 / $2105
8. Monte Carlo - $3.8 ($16.13) - 2 wks (Fox) -49%
. . . 2473 / $1537
9. Green Lantern - $3.13 ($109.71) - 4 wks (WB) -52.3%
. . . 2015 / $1551
10. Mr. Popper's Penguins - $2.85 ($57.75) - 4 wks (Fox) -48.5%
. . . 1996 / $1428
11. Bridesmaids - $2.76 ($158.19) - 9 wks (U) -24.2%
. . . 1102 / $2506
12. Midnight in Paris - $2.71 ($38.65) - 8 wks (SPC) -24.4%
. . . 819 / $3304
13. X-Men: First Class - $1.48 ($142.09) - 6 wks (Fox) -50%
. . . 847 / $1741
14. The Hangover Part II - $1.19 ($250.8) - 7 wks (WB) -50.5%
. . . 835 / $1419
15. Pirates of Caribbean 4 - $1.09 ($236.28) - 8 wks (BV) -50.4%
. . . 622 / $1748

Transformers 3's continued rule is no surprise, but Horrible Bosses has to be happy with getting $28 million to open under its shadow. Sony, meanwhile, has to be wondering if they should tried a different weekend for Zookeeper. It's doing Popper's Penguins numbers, and that's barely going to break even. $200 million is starting to look doubtful for a domestic cumulative for Cars 2, but it's doing great overseas, as in Transformers 3. Cars 2, TF 3, and Green Lantern all had about the same production budget; which one would you rather sink your money into? I think WB talk of a sequel for GL will fizzle out.

This is the summer of the R-rated comedy. Bridesmaids, Hangover II, Bad Teacher, Horrible Bosses... all turning profits. Will Friends with Benefits, The Change-Up, and 30 Minutes or Less be able to keep it going? We'll see.

Meanwhile the finale of Harry Potter opens next week, as well as the much more modest Winnie the Pooh.

Horrible Bosses - Movie Review


Starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Donald Sutherland, Julie Bowen, Wendell Peirce and Iaon Gruffudd.
Directed by Seth Gordon.

If The Hangover was Zack Galifianakis's introduction to the mainstream, then this movie will serve as Charlie Day's. He's primarily known as the guy from FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I've never watched that show, but this makes me want to put Season 1 in my Netflix queue. I mainly know him as the guy from Going the Distance. He and Jason Sudeikis served as the two best friends to Justin Long, which was fine and dandy but to not much effect. Here the two have more to work with and make the most of it, but I focus on Day because he gets the biggest laughs in the movie.

He plays Dale, a dental assistant with a nympho boss (Jennifer Aniston) who likes to do all sorts of wrong things over the bodies of her drugged-unconscious patients. Dale's happily engaged and doesn't want to endanger that, but his boss doesn't care; she likes sexually harrassing him on a daily basis.

Then there's Nick (Jason Bateman), who's the first to arrive and the last to leave his job, under the thumb of the company's menacing president, but he takes it all because he's been led to believe he's up for a promotion. When the promotion doesn't happen and threatens to quit, his boss (Kevin Spacey, most horrible of the bosses, and I mean that in a good way) lets him know he'll trash his reputation to ensure he'll never work in this town again.

Lastly there's Kurt (Sudeikis) who loves his job at a chemical company until his boos dies. The boss's cokehead son (Colin Farrell) becomes the new president and starts using company funds as his own piggy-bank.

None of the three feel they can quit, but eventually they come up with a plan thanks to "murder consultant" Dean 'M.F.' Jones (Jamie Foxx, in an effectively funny supporting role) - they decide they will kill each other's bosses. Naturally they suck at it.

The chemistry between the three leads is great, and there are several chuckles throughout the movie. It never broke into that magical realm where comedies become classics. It's funny enough that it's worth seeing. ("How's that for a pull quote, Abbott?")

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cedar Rapids - DVD Review


Starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Sigourney Weaver, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Stephen Root, Kurtwood Smith, Alia Shawkat, Rob Corddry, Mike O'Malley and Thomas Lennon. Directed by Miguel Arteta.

I'm surprised this didn't get a wider release when it came out. You'd think Ed Helms, of Hangover and Office fame, starring in a well-reviewed movie would've earned a wider rollout.

Helms has a genuine sweetness to him as an honest, naive insurance agent. He grew up in a small town, but for the first time he's venturing to the big city - Cedar Rapids - for an insurance convention. He's been warned to steer clear of Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), a bad influence from a rival agency. Naturally at the convention, they're made roommates at the hotel.

The ads made it look like Cedar Rapids might go to wild-and-crazy Hangover-esque debauchery levels, but it's a smaller film, and while Helms's life is turned upside-down on one trip, it's more about the country mouse trying to survive in the big city, with the tongue firmly in cheek that Cedar Rapids is a big city.

It's a good supporting cast too. I liked Sigourney Weaver as Helms's lover/former teacher, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. as the nerdy black agent who uses his knowledge of HBO's The Wire to intimidate white folks who rarely see black folks.

It's not a gut-busting movie; it's a smile-a-lot movie.

Random Entertainment News 7/8/11

- Ryan Kwanten (HBO's True Blood), Steve Zahn (HBO's Treme) and Peter Dinklage (HBO's Game of Thrones) will star in Knights of Badassdom, about a group of friends who participate in LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) when the guy playing a sorceror accidentally conjures a real succubus that starts killing everyone. Summer Glau (Firefly) and Danny Pudi (Community) co-star.

- Adam Sandler will voice Dracula in Hotel Transylvania, the next 3-D movie from Sony Pictures Animation (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs). Kevin James, David Spade, Andy Samberg, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon and Cee Lo Green will also provide voices.

- Speaking of Adam Sandler, what's the worst movie he's ever made? Grown Ups? Little Nicky? Well Jack & Jill opens in November and it may top them all.

- Spike Lee's in talks to direct the remake of Oldboy. The 2003 Korean film is a bout a man who's kidnapped and held for fifteen years without explanantion, then released with a gun and sent on a mission of revenge.

- Giovanni Ribisi has joined the cast of The Gangster Squad, based on true events of an "off the record" police squad that focussed on bringing down gangster Mickey Cohen in the 1940's. It stars Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Bryan Cranston, Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena.

- Gwendolyn Christie (The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus) will play Brienne and Natalie Dormer (The Tudors) will play Margaery Tyrell in the next season of HBO's Game of Thrones.

- The DC Comic universe is planning a reboot of all their titles, starting over with Issue #1 for each. Thus, there is a planned protest at this year's ComicCon.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I Am Number Four - DVD Review


Starring Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Argon, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand and Jake Abel. Directed by D.J. Caruso.

My guess is that the series of books this is based on reads well as a series of books. But some of the young-adult books, when translated to film, only highlight the other stories from where they're deriving.

This movie centers on John Smith, an alien hiding out as a high-schooler. Smith is played by Alex Pettyfer, one of those British models where I don't get why he's suddenly landing these leading man roles. He's not much more than a model here, and his accent's all over the place.

This alien is being chased by other aliens, ones with gills next to their noses, tattoes on their heads, and sharp teeth. Smith's guardian (Timothy Olyphant) tries to keep him safe, but there's only so much he can do. Smith eventually learns he has special powers, like super-strength and flashlights in his palms.

Not really sure why Olyphant agreed to this, but he's the best thing in the movie, getting his Obi-Wan Kenobi on. Otherwise it's already leaving my memory banks at a rapid pace.

P.S. I get the need for product placement in movies, but when the movie starts to feel like a commercial for the iPhone, I check out. One close-up is fine, but every time his iPhone rings, do we have to get a close-up of it ringing in his hand, directly facing the camera so we can admire the product in all its glory?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Cars 2 - Movie Review


Starring the voices of Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, John Turturro, Eddie Izzard, Tony Shalhoub, Bonnie Hunt, Jason Isaacs, Thomas Krestchmann, Cheech Marin, Vanessa Redgrave and John Ratzenberger. Directed by John Lasseter.

If the message of the first Cars movie was to slow down and appreciate the little things, that's been oblitherated here. Speed up! There are rocket-launching cars trying to kill you!

Cars has generally been considered the weakest title in the Pixar canon by critics, although it's more friendly for repeat viewing by little kids than, say, richer fare like Ratatouille or Wall-E. Now Cars 2 will have that dubious distinction, and while I liked it, it's not going to make my top ten, and Pixar movies usually do.

This movie has twin storylines. The first revolves around Lightning McQueen (Wilson), who agrees to enter a tri-country world-class race where the cars all run on Allinol, an all-natural fuel poised to replace gasoline. The second revolves around Mater (Cable Guy), who is mistaken for a spy and gets sucked into the world of automotive espionage. Turns out someone from Big Oil is trying to sabotage the race.

If this had been from DreamWorks or Blue Sky, it'd probably get higher marks than what it's getting. But it's Pixar and it's supposed to have more heart than this. Emphasis here is on action and humor, and this movie winds up being more about Mater than McQueen. When we get to the climax and McQueen finds out what's been going on, he stops short of yelling, "You mean there's this whole other movie that been going on?!"

It's cute. More on par with Rio than Rango in this year's Best Animated hunt. In fact, with what's coming, it may be the first Pixar movie to not get nominated for Best Animated Film since the category was created.

Sai my 5-year-old: "It was AWESOME! Except for the sad parts."

Kill the Irishman - DVD Review

ll 1/2

Starring Ray Stevenson, Vincent D'Onofrio, Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Linda Cardinelli, Tony Darrow, Fionnula Flannigan, Bob Gunton, Steven R. Schirripa, Vinnie Jones, Mike Starr, Paul Sorvino, Tony Lo Bianco, Laura Ramsey and Robert Davi.
Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh.

The first two minutes give off a Goodfellas vibe, which can be good or bad. It primed me for a history lesson, a mafia movie set in Cleveland. Cleveland? Yep. It's based on a true story, so I guess Cleveland really was rocked by this many car bombs in 1976.

Ray Stevenson (Punisher War Zone) isn't quite the charismatic lead I would hope for in something like this. He plays Danny Green, an Irish union leader who decided he wasn't going to put up with the Italian mobsters taking all the good union jobs.

There are several attempts on his life; the title comes from the urgency of the Italians to get this guy, and they get more desperate with each failed attempt.

It's fine. It's an okay mafia movie. I was surprised by how little it had for Christopher Walken to do, and Val Kilmer isn't much more than the cop who pops up every once in a while to let Danny know he's watching. We get appearances from Goodfellas' Paul Sorvino, Sopranos' Steven R. Schirripa, Miller's Crossing's Mike Starr, and so on.

Weekend Box Office

1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon - $97.4 million ($162.12) - 1 wk (Par)
. . . 4013 screens / $24,271 per screen
2. Cars 2 - $25.11 ($116.04) - 2 wks (BV) -62%
. . . 4115 / $6103
3. Bad Teacher - $14.1 ($59.55) - 2 wks (Sony) -55.4%
. . . 3049 / $4624
4. Larry Crowne - $13 - 1 wk (U)
. . . 2973 / $4375
5. Monte Carlo - $7.6 - 1 wk (Fox)
. . . 2473 / $3073
6. Super 8 - $7.5 ($108.04) - 4 wks (Par) -37.6%
. . . 3088 / $2429
7. Green Lantern - $6.27 ($101.96) - 3 wks (WB) -65.2%
. . . 3280 / $1912
8. Mr. Popper's Penguins - $5.1 ($50.13) - 3 wks (Fox) -49.7%
. . . 2861 / $1783
9. Bridesmaids - $3.52 ($152.9) - 8 wks (U) -33.1%
. . . 1389 / $2535
10. Midnight in Paris - $3.44 ($33.64) - 7 wks (SPC) -17.6%
. . . 858 / $4007
11. X-Men: First Class - $2.9 ($138.61) - 5 wks (Fox) -56.6%
. . . 1602 / $1810
12. The Hangover II - $2.27 ($248.12) - 6 wks (WB) -59.3%
. . . 1568 / $1448
13. Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - $2.16 ($233.7) - 7 wks (BV) -56.3%
. . . 1473 / $1463
14. Kung Fu Panda 2 - $1.53 ($156.7) - 6 wks (DW) -63.5%
. . . 1281 / $1190
15. The Tree of Life - $1 ($7.5) - 6 wks (FS) -24.7%
. . . 228 / $4386

Further down, Thor passed $177 million, and thus justifies the greenlighting of Thor 2 for Summer 2013. Warner Bros. has said they're moving forward with Green Lantern 2, which makes no sense to me.

Transformers 3 should cross the magical $300 million domestic line, something no movie has yet done this year. But Pirates 4 just passed $1 billion wordlwide, so I don't think DIsney's too concerned about it domestically topping out at $250 mil.

Bridesmaids is now the highest-grossing movie ever produced by Judd Apatow.

Cars 2's steep drop indicates it won't be seeing the $200 million domestic mark, but I expect it'll be huge overseas.

Bad Teacher's turning out to be a quiet hit for Cameron Diaz.

Larry Crowne is the nail in the coffin of the notion that Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are still A-list movie stars. Or maybe no one wanted to spend their summer watching a midle-aged man get laid off, regardless of who embodied him.

Monte Carlo was cheap to make, but Fox must be disappointed Selena Gomez couldn't get more of her fans to come out. Should they have made more effort to point out that Glee's Cory Monteith is in it?

Midnight in Paris is on pace to become Woody Allen's highest-grosser of all time (if you don't adjust for inflation. His record is still the $40 million taken in by 1986's Hannah & Her Sisters.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Movie Review

ll 3/4

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Alan Tudyk, Ken Jeong, and the voices of Bill Cullen, Hugo Weaving and Leonard Nimoy. Directed by Michael Bay.

This movie makes the best use of 3-D by any non-animated film since Avatar; by comparison, the other previews in 3-D before this movie looked dark and fuzzy. I appreciate that if they're going to price-gouge, Michael Bay at least makes sure it looks good, it looks worth it.

Having said that, I should say that the first one got the mildest of thumbs-up from me and I absolutely hated the second one. The third one is as good as the first one, however you want to define that, and maybe a little bit better.

I liked the opening sequence with the "real" reason for the space race in the 1960's. I giggled when they brought in the real Buzz Aldrin to confirm to Optimus Prime that, yes, the real reason we went to the moon was to explore the crashed spaceship just over the horizon from where Neil planted the flag. I was amused by the different levels of success they had at mixing real footage with CGI of three different presidents. (JFK looks like he walked out of The Polar Express).

There's also a sequence toward the end (you've seen pieces in the trailer) where a group of humans, including Sam (Shia LaBeouf), are trapped in a building that has been cut in half. Academy-Award nominations are in order for the visual effects teams.

Now I don't miss Megan Fox in the least, but they didn't do a better job in writing the character for her replacement, as embodied by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. She was somehow an embassy worker turned special assistant at a high-end car dealership...? Maybe she had a rich dad that hooked her up; I don't know. Her character never really made sense to me, but there's not much asked of the actress other than to be pretty.

The two ghetto-jive autobots from TF2 are gone, and the semi-apology for them is spreading the outrageous accents around. They range from Cheech Marin-ish to befuddled British. There's great voice work from Bill Cullen as Optimus Prime and Leonard Nimoy as Optimus's thought-to-be-dead mentor Sentinel Prime. Maybe part of it is the writing. The machines get some of the best lines.

The humor is more miss than hit. It's goofy to where I think either writer Ehren Kruger and director Michael Bay are trying to create what they think will make 13-year-olds laugh, or they have genuinely immature senses of humor. But Bay knows how to do action, even if there are patches where the movie feels like a trailer of itself.

Loved Alan Tudyk. Hated Ken Jeong. The movie's about twenty minutes too long. The climactic battle, I was ready for it to wrap up, and then Patrick Dempsey does something to make it last longer, and my first thought was, "No! How much longer is this movie going to be?"

So I appreciated that it didn't stink up the joint the way TF2 did.