Monday, November 28, 2011

Crazy Stupid Love - DVD Review

lll 1/2

Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon, Analeigh Tipton, Jonah Bobo, John Carroll Lynch, Beth Littleford and Josh Groban.
Directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa.

This "romantic comedy" has more going for it than most. It has a great cast, it has multiple storylines that we don't mind juggling until it comes together in one whole, and it has moments of genuine emotion.

Steve Carell plays Cal, a suburban dad whose wife suddenly asks for a divorce. Turns out she slept with a co-worker. Cal's been out of the dating scene for 25 years, so he goes to bars and gets drunk and makes a fool of himself until ladies-man Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes pity on him and gives him the Pygmalion treatment.

Everyone here is good. In fact, I thought Marisa Tomei had the biggest laugh of the movie. Okay, Kevin Bacon is wasted. It's as though he saw the cast and said, "I don't care how small my part is. I'm doing this for the good of the Six Degrees game."

P.S. Annoying product-placement watch: One guy says, "Sorry I was late; I had to pick something up at Macy's" and holds up the bag for the camera.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Box Office

For the weekend of November 25-27.
1. Breaking Dawn - $42 million ($221.3) - 2 wks (Sum) -69.6%
. . . 4066 screens / $10,330 per screen
2. The Muppets - $29.5 ($42) - 1 wk (BV)
. . . 3440 / $8576
3. Happy Feet Two - $13.4 ($43.77) - 2 wks (WB) -36.9%
. . . 3606 / $3716
4. Arthur Christmas - $12.7 ($17) - 1 wk (Sony)
. . . 3376 / $3762
5. Hugo - $11.35 ($15.38) - 1 wk (Par)
. . . 1277 / $8888
6. Jack & Jill - $10.3 ($57.42) - 3 wks (Sony) -12.3%
. . . 3029 / $3400
7. Immortals - $8.8 ($68.63) - 3 wks (Rel) -28.8%
. . . 2677 / $3287
8. Puss in Boots - $7.45 ($135.36) - 5 wks (DW) -31%
. . . 3005 / $2479
9. Tower Heist - $7.32 ($65.38) - 4 wks (U) +3.1%
. . . 2474 / $2960
10. The Descendants - $7.2 ($10.74) - 2 wks (FS) +505%
. . . 433 / $16,628
11. J. Edgar - $4.95 ($28.82) - 3 wks (WB) -16.5%
. . . 1947 / $2542
12. My Week with Marilyn - $1.77 ($2.08) - 1 wk (Wein)
. . . 244 / $7266

The Artist and A Dangerous Method did well on 4 screens apiece.

Thanksgiving weekend is a time for disappointing openers to redeem themselves. Witness the low drop-off for most of the titles.

If Hugo had opened on 1800 screens, it would've been third. On just 1277, it was on-par in per-screen averages with The Muppets.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Breaking Dawn part 1 - Movie Review


Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellen Lutz, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Anna Kendrick, Maggie Grace, Sarah Clarke and Michael Sheen.
Directed by Bill Condon.

I really don't mind the Twilight movies. I find them enjoyable enough to see with my wife. But we're supposed to be building toward an epic showdown and this is easily, handily, by far the worst one in the series.

Let's start with the acting. Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner have not, to put it politely, improved. Lautner in particular reveals he doesn't really know how to act when he keep his shirt on the whole time. The supporting cast varies with their skills. Most of the Cullens are good at what they do, and Anna Kendrick's a good sport for still popping up, but the scenes with Lautner talking to his fellow werewolves is on part with something you'd see on Canadian TV.

Let's look now at some of the approaches to the story. Where I knew we were doomed was the third time that we're watching Bella brood and another folk-pop song starts playing. Other times the scene may have been suspenseful, but the soundtrack said mournful-melodrama.

There's also the problem with breaking up a book into two parts. The pacing for this is all wrong. Act 1 is the wedding and honeymoon, Act 2 is the pregnancy, and Act 3 is supposed to be a werewolf-vampire showdown that doesn't really pay off.

Maybe when Michael Sheen's vampires re-enter the scene in Breaking Dawn Part 2 it'll all make sense. But if Bill Condon's directing that one too, I have very little hope.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday's Box Office 11/23/11

For November 23.

1. Breaking Dawn - $12.5 million ($171.48) - 6 days
2. The Muppets - $6.6 - 1 day
3. Happy Feet Two - $2.92 ($28.32) - 6 days
4. Arthur Christmas - $2.4 - 1 day
5. Jack & Jill - $1.93 ($45.23) - 13 days
6. Immortals - $1.81 ($57.91) - 13 days
7. Hugo - $1.67 - 1 day
8. Puss in Boots - $1.64 ($126.62) - 27 days
9. J. Edgar - $.84 ($22.9) - 20 days

Breaking Dawn continues to rule them all. The Muppets has a decent opening and should do well throughout the weekend. In Hugo's defense, it's on one-third of the screens as Arthur Christmas, but it's still a disappointing showing for both.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dark Knight Rises tidbits, etc.

- Empire magazine has more behind-the-scenes info on The Dark Knight Rises, but the most surprising revelation is that it picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. The first six minutes will also air in front of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in IMAX theaters.

- Reese Witherspoon will star in Wish List. Written by Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger (Kung Fu Panda 2), it's about a child who makes ten wishes on a single coin. Unbeknownst to her, the coin never reached the bottom of the magical well. Then 25 years later, the coin jostles free and reaches the ground, and all ten wishes are granted in her adult life.

- ABC has cancelled Pan Am and Man Up.

- Wyatt Knight, who played Tommy in the Porky's movies, has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Family members said he'd been suffering from stage 4 non-Hodgkins lymphoma and decided he was tired of the pain. He was 56.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Terri - DVD Review


Starring Jacob Wysocki, John C. Reilly, Bridger Zadina, Creed Bratton and Olivia Crocicchia.
Directed by Azazel Jacobs.

This tiny slice-of-life high-school com-dram has its own small rewards. First is Jacob Wysocki's unique protagonist Terri, who feels much more real than any Glee-k. It conveys nicely the general depressing teen routine of the outcast, with glimpses of hope and insight.

Terri is an overweight student who has to deal with a demented uncle at home and typical bullies at school. He develops a friendship with a cute girl after she's ostracized by her crowd, and he also has an enthusiastic guidance counselor/principal (John C. Reilly) who wants to be down and connect with the kids. It's not done in a condesecnding way; it's done in a believably unhip way.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Emperor's New Groove quotes

"Why do we ever have that lever?"

"No touchy."

"Ah, how shall I do it? Oh, I know. I'll turn him into a flea, a harmless, little flea, and then I'll put that flea in a box, and then I'll put that box inside of another box, and then I'll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives...I'll smash it with a hammer! It's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say! Or, to save on postage, I'll just poison him with this. "

"Reason number two... look what I can do!"

"It's called a 'cruel irony,' like my dependence on you."

"For the last time, we did not order a giant trampouline!"

"Um, I turned into a cow.  Can I go home?"
"You're excused.  Anyone else?"

"Kronk! Why did I think you could do this? This one simple thing! It's like I'm talking to a monkey.  A really, really big stupid monkey named Kronk!"

We bought a VHS copy the other day. Now if I can find a Robin Hood on VHS, I'll be content with our collection.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Breaking Dawn record #1

For Friday November 18.

1. Breaking Dawn Pt I - $72 million - 1 day
2. Happy Feet 2 - $5.9 - 1 day
3. Immortals - $3.82 ($44.55) - 8 days
4. Jack & Jill - $3.5 ($32.53) - 8 days
5. Puss in Boots - $3.42 ($115) - 22 days
6. Tower Heist - $2.1 ($48.6) - 15 days
7. J. Edgar - $1.81 ($16.61) - 10 days
8. A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas - $.92 ($26.35) - 15 days

That's right. $72 million in one day for the latest Twilight movie. Expect $150 million for the weekend, over $300 million domestic, over $600 million worldwide.

Movie Trailers - 11/19/11

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson in THE HUNGER GAMES
- I've read the book and it looks like a faithful adaptation.

Dwayne Johnson, Josh Hutcherson and Michael Caine in JOURNEY 2 THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND

- This semi-sequel to Journey of the Center of the Earth swaps out Brendan Fraser for The Rock, and it looks like a similar CG 3-D visual dessert buffet.

Julia Roberts, Lily Collins and Nathan Lane in MIRROR MIRROR

- While Snow White and the Huntsman is going for a more serious Lord of the Rings type feel, this is going the comedic route more in the vein of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland or even the live-action 101 Dalmatians. 

...and the Pixar gang returns with BRAVE

- Reminded me a lot of How to Train Your Dragon, but it's nice that Pixar's finally made a movie with a female protagonist.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tower Heist - Movie Review


Starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Michael Pena, Tea Leoni, Judd Hirsch and Gabourey Sidibe. Directed by Brett Ratner.

The heist movie can be a fun genre. Look at The Town, The Bank Job, Ocean's 11, Inside Man, or the brilliant opening sequence of The Dark Knight. There's the suspense of whether or not the plan will be executed as designed. Will they actually get away with it?

This movie makes itself relevant by centering on a Bernie Madoff-type mogul under house arrest in his penthouse suite. That he's played by Alan Alda is a stroke of genius. He's a kind old man who connects with everyone else. Of course he's successful. Why should we suspect he's achieved this through ill-gotten means?

Unfortunately for the hotel staff at which he resides, all of their pensions were lost in his Ponzi scheme. They were initally put there by Josh (Ben Stiller), the manager of the hotel. But he gets a tip that millions in cash may be hidden in the suite somewhere. Josh and some of the staff, with their knowledge of the hotel's security system, determine that can sneak in there and find it themselves.

But none of them are criminals, and that's a nice take on the genre. These are ordinary people driven to desperate measures. They need help. Josh enlists his old pre-school friend Slide (Eddie Murphy), now a career thief, to help train them on the art of stealing.

Murphy is the highlight of the movie and gives his funniest performance in about a decade. It's a return to form for him, and I hope he sticks with it. (I'm hoping A Thousand Words is his mute Liar Liar, but we'll see.)

There are some nice twists along the way, and most of the actors get their moments. Gabourey Sidibe's Jamaican accent is ill-advised, but I liked Matthew Broderick as a suicidal former Merrill Lynch employee now squatting in the building.

Brett Ratner's reviled industry-wide for his lack of skill, and I think part of that is because of his success. He's not bad, he's just workmanlike. His directing here is stronger in the comedic scenes than the action. The third-act finale might have been better had it been smaller. (Does it really need to happen during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?)

I will say somewhere along the way, some key story elements must have been edited out. There's one event that happened where we're informed it was part of the plan, and I had to think about it. "Wait a minute. How did they do it?" Like there was a plot device someone put a pin in so they could get to the section of the story and they never revisited it.

Contrivances aside, it's a decent comedy which made me chuckle a few times. Glad I saw it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Puss in Boots - Movie Review


Starring the voices of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zack Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris.  Directed by Chris Miller.

Shrek is nowhere in sight, and the movie is better off for it. I don't know if it's a sequel or a prequel, but it's nice to see Puss, the best thing about the Shrek sequels, get his own movie.

Antonio Banderas owns the movie as this feline Zorro. He's always staying one step ahead of the law, but he's reunited with his former friend Humpty Dumpty (Zack Galifianakis). Theres was a bitter falling-out, but with the aid of gato burglar Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), they aim for the big score: the magic beans that will grow the beanstalk to the Giant's castle in the sky.

The movie plays with pop culture and fairy-tale expectations as them Shrek movies do, but it's not near as intrusive about it. The soundtrack features stirring southern guitar strings, rather than radio's biggest hits from five years ago. I would take Puss 2 over Shrek 5 any day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meek's Cutoff - DVD Review


Starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson and Rod Rondeaux. 
Directed by Kelly Reichardt.

This has all the trappings of a critically-praised low-budget indie, and I'm as big a fan of low-budget indies as the next guy. Good acting, beautiful cinematography, a stripped-down story. This does a very good job of conveying what it must feel like to be part of a pioneer wagon train in 1845. Tedious and repetitive, with long stretches where nothing happens.

The movie is from the viewpoint of the female characters. If only the men are talking, we can only hear as much as the closest woman can. They're all following their guide Stephen Meek, who claims to know a shortcut to Oregon, but it becomes quickly apparent he has no idea where they are.

This movie most reminded me of Gus Van Sant's Gerry, which was about two guys who get lost in the desert, and nothing really happens. I hated that movie. This one at least has more people.

Director Kelly Reichardt also worked with Michelle Williams on the equally minimalist Wendy & Lucy.  That movie conveyed the despair of being poor in a rich country and made me feel for its heroine. We never get close enough to anyone here to care.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bad Teacher - DVD Review


Starring Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch, John Michael Higgins, Phyllis Smith, Thomas Lennon, Molly Shannon and Eric Stonestreet.
Directed by Jake Kasdan.


I enjoy the popularity of that line from the trailer. It doesn't have much to do with anything else in the movie, except reveal a little of the character of the gym teacher (Jason Segel), who seems to be the only person in the movie who sees Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz) for what she really is. A spoiled, selfish, shallow woman who deep-down inside might have a little soul if the right guy came along.

She's not looking for the right guy; she's looking for the rich guy. Some man she can sink her hooks into so she can be one of those Hollywood wives who wear big hats and sunglasses and have her servants follow her with her shopping bags.

But Elizabeth can't seem to land that man. They tend to see through her before she's able to get to the wedding altar. She managed to smile and coast through her first year of teaching and had every intention of getting married and leaving, but when her fiance dumps her, she goes back to her old job, and she has no regard for her students.

But hey, the new substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) happens to be the heir of an expensive-watch empire. Elizabeth lays forth her plans - raise money to get breast enhancement surgery in order to land him.

This movie owes a lot to Bad Santa, but what's really interesting about this movie is the bad guy is the protagonist. Were this movie from the peppy good teacher's point of view, we'd see how evil Elizabeth is.

Diaz is great in the role, and Segel and Lucy Punch (as the good teacher) are solid as well. It's a pitch-black comedy that never goes the sentimental route. Maybe she'll grow up. No. No, she won't.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Movie Trailers 11/11/11

Eddie Murphy in A THOUSAND WORDS
- When I heard that Brian Robbins was directing it made me think it was going to be one of those skippable Eddie Murphy exercises in the Meet Dave / Just Imagine vein.  But I actually chuckled at some of the gags.  It has good potential.

Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth in SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN
- This actually looks pretty good, a serious Lord of the Rings style take on the legend.  Charlize Theron looks like she's having a lot of fun at the Evil Queen.  it was smart of Universal to get this preview out before Mirror Mirror (which opens three months earlier) got theirs.

Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds in SAFE HOUSE
- It's a very Tony Scott-looking thriller, and it looks like a reliable Denzel flick, the type that grosses about $75 million in the US and double that overseas.

Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh and Emma "Hermoine" Watson in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
- I've heard good things about the central performances of Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier.

Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard and Bryan Cranston in RED TAILS
- I really wanted to like this trailer, but other than some cool aerial footage, I have no faith than it being any better than Flyboys, but with black pilots.

...and then there's the Coraline of 2012 called PARANORMAN

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3 - Movie Review

** 1/2

Starring Lauren Bittner, Chris Smith, Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Katie Featherston and Sprague Grayden.
Directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman.

I loved the first Paranormal Activity. I found it be perfectly paced and suspenseful, with a satisfying payoff. The second one wasn't as good, but it had some good jolts and jumps.

The law of diminishing returns applies here. Yes, it still has some good scares, but the pacing isn't as tight, and I found the middle section much more effective than the somewhat anti-climactic ending.

This one's a prequel, going back to the childhood of the two grown sisters who are the subjects of PA 1 & 2. For all the events that happen in this movie, I can only assume their memories were erased.

Katie and Christy have a stepdad who edits wedding videos for a living and set up video cameras around their house when things start going bump in the night. This movie does have several effective stretches where we're glued to the screen, wondering where our eyes should focus. What might jump out?

I suppose the franchise could figure out how to do a PA 4, but at this point, Katie and Christy have been done to death. Don't turn into the Saw franchise.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cinematically Speaking 11/8

Old Movie I Finally Saw

BADLANDS (1973) - I'd seen three Terrence Malick movies, and while I liked A New World okay, I wasn't wowed by it. Thin Red Line I found overrated, and then I found Tree of Life to be the most beautiful slideshow I'd ever seen, but it was a slideshow. Everyone loves Malick, so I decided I'd go back to the beginning and make sure I wasn't missing anything.

Well, from this movie, I can see why he's so beloved. It was really good, holds up really well. Martin Sheen is great as the young 1950's killer, polite to those he's shooting, with Sissy Spacek along as his naive, guileless girlfriend accomplice. I see where inspirations were drawn for True Romance and Kalifornia. Badlands is also Malick's most solid narrative accomplishment I've seen. Since it was his first movie, it looks like he's fallen more in love with cinematography and impressions and less so with cohesive narration. Now when I eventually rent Days of Heaven, my first Malick viewing will be complete. But yes, Badlands holds up just fine and is worth seeking out, whether you love or hate what he's putting out now.

The Academy Awards

I'm not heart-broken Brett Ratner's not producing the Awards now. I just wonder who they're going to get that Eddie Murphy's still comfortable working with. Each year I root for a good show, and last year, the gamble with James Franco and Anne Hathaway flopped when Franco worked stiff all night.

Brett Ratner out as Oscar producer

- Brett Ratner had been hired to produce the 2011 Academy Award show (held in 2012) and he'd snagged his Tower Heist star Eddie Murphy to be the host, but after an off-the-cuff "Rehearsal's for fags" remark, pressure grew for him to resign. And he did.

- Eric Bana (Funny People) will play Elvis Presley and Danny Huston (30 Days of Night) will play Richard Nixon in Elvis & Nixon, about the time the two met in the White House in December 1970. It'll be the directorial debut of actor Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Saw).

- Mimi Rogers (former Mrs. Tom Cruise) will play the mother of Ashton Kutcher (current Mr. Demi Moore) on CBS's Two and a Half Men. Haven't heard if A Few Good Men will be rerunning anywhere anytime soon.

HBO's Enlightened - TV Review

I watched the first four episodes. That's probably good enough. Laura Dern gives a highwire performance as a woman who's suffered a nervous breakdown, gone to a wellness center for three months, and has returned to her workplace with a new sunny attitude. But her sunniness is a forced thing, for if she runs into too many obstacles, she can crack. I recognize this character. I've felt like this character at times, trying to have a good attitude, even when life sucks. But it's one of those series where I feel like it's going to end with her committing suicide, with a big grin on her face.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - DVD Review


Starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Kevin R. McNally, Sam Claflin, Stephen Graham and Richard Griffiths.
Directed by Rob Marshall.

I would have been just fine to never again revisit the world of Jack Sparrow after the bloated At World's End, and now that On Stranger Tides is here, even with a shorter running time, a different director, the Bloom/Knightly subplot scuttled, two interesting new castmates (Cruz, McShane), maybe new life can be breathed into this franchise...

No, not really.

The joy I felt at Depp's new spin on the pirate genre is diminished and extinguished. I still hold that the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie is a blast, the second one's fine, and the third one wore out its welcome. The fourth one is some ways might be better than Part 3, but if I never really care what's going on, that can't really be true.

The plot of this centers around several powers that be pursuing the famed Fountain of Youth. Jack's still wanted for various charges, but now Barbosa (Rush) is working for the crown in seeking to obtain the fountain before those dreaded Spanish can get there. You also have the villainous Blackbeard (McShane) looking for it.

There's a mild romantic subplot between a missionary and a mermaid. Far less screen-time than if it'd been Bloom & Knightly, and the movie's better for it.

This made a billion dollars worldwide, so a fifth Pirates movie is inevitable. I'll probably treat that one the way I've treated this one. If I see it, I'll wait for the DVD.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Puss in Boots #1 again

For the weekend of Nov. 4-6.
1. Puss in Boots - $33.04 million ($75.51) - 2 wks (DW) -3.1%
. . . 3963 screens / $8336 per screen
2. Tower Heist - $25.08 - 1 wk (U)
. . . 3367 / $7450
3. A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas - $13.07 - 1 wk (WB)
. . . 2875 / $4544
4. Paranormal Activity 3 - $8.53 ($95.31) - 3 wks (Par) -53%
. . . 3286 / $2594
5. In Time - $7.7 ($24.21) - 2 wks (Fox) -36.1%
. . . 3127 / $2462
6. Footloose - $4.55 ($44.8) - 4 wks (Par) -17.3%
. . . 2811 / $1619
7. Real Steel - $3.41 ($78.75) - 5 wks (BV) -28.8%
. . . 2438 / $1397
8. The Rum Diary - $2.99 ($10.42) - 2 wks (FD) -41.8%
. . . 2292 / $1303
9. The Ides of March - $2 ($36.8) - 5 wks (Sony) -28.7%
. . . 1391 / $1438
10. Moneyball - $1.9 ($70.33) - 7 wks (Sony) -20.4%
. . . 1278 / $1487

An incredible second-week hold for DreamWorks's Puss in Boots helped it win the weekend.

Tower Heist, meanwhile, was a surprise underperformance. Maybe the Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy teaming would've been a bigger deal eight years ago, but Universal execs still have to be scratching their heads.

The third Harold & Kumar movie opened lower than their last one.

Opens Friday
JACK & JILL with Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino and Dana Carvey.
IMMORTALS with Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff and Freida Pinto.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Benecio Del Toro as Star Trek villain

Word has it JJ Abrams is set to offer Benecio Del Toro (The Wolfman, Traffic) the villain role in his next Star Trek movie. Details are kept under wraps, naturally, but Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho) and Chekhov (Anton Yelchin) are all expected to return.

Real Steel - Movie Review


Starring Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis and James Rebhorn. Directed by Shawn Levy.

Take a Wallace Beery movie, mix it in with some Stallone (primarily Rocky and Over the Top), and add fighting robots, and you've got Real Steel.

This movie works better than maybe it deserves to, but there's good reason for that. While, yes, it's ultimately about fighting robots, movies needs to have characters we care about, and the center of this movie is really about a father reconnecting with the son he abandoned as a baby.

Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a former pro-boxer who turned to robot-boxing after the human sport died off. He's a hustler though, a man at the end of his rope due to mounting debt and an inability to win. Then he learns his former girlfriend is dead, and their son, whom he hadn't seen since he was a baby, is about to get adopted by his girlfriend's sister. Charlie sees an opportunity. The uncle involved is rich, so Charlie gets a payoff. In return, he'll watch the boy for the summer while the aunt and uncle vacation in Italy for two months.

Charlie's not quick to grow sentimental, nor is the boy Max (played impressively by Dakota Goyo) willing to grant immediate forgiveness for Charlie's eleven years of absense. One day while scavenging through a junkyard they find Atom, a sparring robot that is still in decent shape. The kid believes he can fix him up to be a good fighter, and there may or may not be a little advanced A.I. in there. The movie's coy about it, and that's fine.

The father/son story shifts to an underdog story, as the little robot manages to beat better, newer models thanks to his toughness and programming. The movie carried me along and made me care, even if the third act hits all the emotional buttons like a programmer. Its old-fashioned corniness still won me over.

Elijah as Maniac, RIP Andy Rooney, etc.

- Elijah Wood (Sin City) and Nora Arnezeder (Safe House) will star in a remake of the 1980 slasher film Maniac, to be directed by Franck Khalfoun (P2). Wood will play Frank, a serial killer who feels like he get a little bit of revenge on his abusive mother every time he kills a woman.

- Casting rumors: Kit Harington and Richard Madden, both of HBO's Game of Thrones, are reading for Arthur in Arthur & Lancelot. Joel Kinnamen (AMC's The Killing) is up for Lancelot. Meanwhile Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games), Aaron Paul (AMC's Breaking Bad), and Ben Foster (The Mechanic) are up for the role of Bruce Willis's son in Die Hard 5.

- Longtime 60 Minutes contributor Andy Rooney has died at age 92, just five weeks after his retirement.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jennifer Lopez as Carmen Sandiego?

- Jennifer Lopez will produce and possibly star in a big-screen live-action version of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego.

- Anthony LaPaglia, Misty Upham and RZA are the latest to join Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. They join Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dennis Christopher, Don Johnson, Laura Cayouette and Gerald McRaney.

- Everyone wants Gary Oldman. (They should; he's one of the best.) Warner Bros. wants him to play The Colonel in the live-action remake of Akira, to star Garrett Hedlund (Tron Legacy). They also want him to play Merlin in their planned Arthur & Lancelot movie. Oldman has Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opening later this year (for which he's getting Oscar buzz) and The Wettest County in the World, starring Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy, and then he'll be in The Dark Knight Rises this summer.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Super - DVD Review


Starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker, Linda Cardinelli and Nathan Fillion.
Directed by James Gunn.

"Shut up, crime!"

This lower-budget riff on ordinary people becoming superheroes has the misfortune of coming out the year after Kick-Ass. K.A. was slicker and more comic-booky, and while this one has its own goofy charms, and it goes to darker places, it's undone by its happy-face epilogue, and the fact that it's just not that funny.

Rainn Wilson (The Rocker) plays Frank, a loser with a hot wife (Liv Tyler) who loses her to the local drug-dealer (Kevin Bacon). When watching a superhero show on a Christian channel, Frank gets inspired to become a vigilante. This catches the eye of a local comic-book girl (Ellen Page).

Frank transforms into the Crimson Bolt. His weapon of choice - a wrench. He beats on thieves, pedophiles, and guys who butt in line.

The concept has promise, but Frank's not a very interesting protagonist. Maybe part of it is Rainn Wilson just isn't a leading man. There's also nothing believable about Ellen Page's character, who makes herself his sidekick Boltie and practically rapes him in one scene. Yes, Ellen Page forces herself on Rainn Wilson. In what bizarro universe...?!

Nathan Fillion's small role's the funniest thing in the movie.

The Tree of Life - DVD Review

Starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken and Sean Penn.
Directed by Terrence Malick.

There is no doubt Malick is a master of visual poetry. But 138 minutes of montages and scene fades doth not a movie make.

This very personal, ambitious work calls to mind Stanley Kubrick's 2001 as its closest comparison, but even Stanley got around to telling a story. Here we swim through a cubist flipbook of life for the three O'Brien boys in small-town 1950's Texas. Brad Pitt plays the domineering father; Jessica Chastain the angelic mother.

Malick shows his hand in the first few minutes. We gets beautiful shots of birds, wind, trees, blades of grass, shadows, children running, a woman smiling, whispered voice-overs, and it keeps going and going... I was grateful when it spins off into a 20-minute sequence of the Earth being formed, through the dinosaur age, until it all comes back to the O'Brien family. We get a couple scene of the oldest boy grown up, played by Sean Penn, but it's really more of a cameo.

I know of Malick's tendencies and I was braced for a non-linear story, ready for an artist to expose his palette. But this is from an artist who knows he's an artist, who acts and thinks like an artist, and if we don't get it, well, I guess we're too bourgeois. He knows what story he's telling, but he makes it inscrutable. There are lasting images and impressions, and yes, he is very talented. But it's not as profound as he thinks it is, and large sections of it are boring. That is its ultimate crime. I wanted it to wash over me, but after a while, when it became clear this was all Malick had up his sleeve, it was laborious. Gorgeous shot after gorgeous shot, and yet, what is the sum of these parts?

I wanted to love this movie, to get swept up by it, but would it kill the director to just let two characters have a conversation, to have something happen and then have the next scene be the reaction to what just happened? It's the longest 138-minute movie I've ever seen.

CBS's Survivor - TV Review

Every season, one tribe never seems to learn the lesson. Keep your team happy. When you have clear division, you have to expect bottom-of-the-totem-pole members to flip. Cochran's been on the block the whole game; why wouldn't they expect him to flip?
I've been impressed with Coach's play this time around vs. Ozzy. Ozzy's cockiness will be his undoing; unless of course he just wins immunity the rest of the way. When the vote was revealed, and Jim called Cochran a coward, all that did cement to Coach's tribe that yeah, Cochran had been mistreated the whole time. I'm hoping now that it's happened, Cochran brings Dawn along.

Coach is in a pretty good position. I expect Jim, Ozzy and Whitney to be the next three to go, but I can also see Jim convincing some people to go ahead and get rid of Cochran since he can't be trusted.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ABC's Man Up! - TV Review

Could barely get through one episode. It's about three "men" but I believe the title is referring to what these three neutered man-children should do. Dan Fogler is the worst offender with his obnoxious overacting.  It's from Christopher Moynihan, who tends to co-star in his shows, but I thought his 100 Questions was funnier by comparison.  In a just universe, this will die an ignominious death, and Cougar Town will return to the airwaves that much sooner.

The Perfect Host - DVD Review

Starring David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford, Nathaniel Parker and Helen Reddy.
Directed by Nick Tomnay.
I give the two leads credit for keeping this movie as interesting as long as they do. It's a twisty, turny affair, a screenplay exercise disguished as a film, but I was on board before the whole thing collapsed under its own Shyamalanness.

Clayne Crawford plays John Taylor, a man who's just robbed a bank and needs a place to hide out. He finds Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce), a lonely single man about to throw a dinner party. Warwick buys John's cover story at first, that they share a mutual friend. But when his thin story falls apart, John takes Warwick hostage. Where it goes from there is a fun turn of events. For a while.

I liked Pierce doing everything he could to make Warwick surprising and yet make sense. By the end, that's impossible, but nice try.

P.S. Yes, that IS Helen Reddy ("I Am Woman") as Warwick's nosy neighbor.

New on DVD this week:

Cars 2

Water for Elephants

Random Movie Stuff - 9/1/11

- Albert Finney has joined the cast of the latest James Bond movie. Sam Mendes (American Beauty) will direct, and it stars Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes.

- Steve Buscemi's in talks to join Jim Carrey and Steve Carell in Burt Wonderstone. Buscemi would play Anton, partner to magician Burt Wonderstone (Carell) who decides to quit. This spins Burt into a crisis, and he must also deal with a rival magician (Carrey) out to dethrone him.

- Octavia Spencer (The Help) has joined the cast of (formerly titled) Lamb of God. It's the directorial debut for screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno), starring Julianne Hough (Footloose) as a conservative religious woman who loses her faith after a plane crash. She decides to move to las Vegas and live a life of sin, but in so doing, regains her faith. Russell Brand (arthur) co-stars.

- Ryan Gosling will star in Lawless, the next film from director Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life). It'll reunite Golsing with his Notebook co-star Rachel McAdams, as well as Cate Blanchett, Javier Bardem, Rooney Mara and Ben Affleck.