Monday, February 8, 2010

Leap Year

If “It’s Complicated” is the inverse of the typical way a movie in the romantic comedy genre goes “Leap Year” is textbook. There isn’t anything that is great about this movie. It’s not memorable. I watched this movie a week ago and don’t really remember much about it. I could probably successfully review a semi decent movie that I saw a year ago with great detail. Amy Adams stars as an American “stager” (Anna Brady), someone that rents furniture and televisions to stage real estate that is for sale for a small fee, who is in love with a doctor named Declan (Matthew Goode). Anna’s friend (Kaitlin Olson) sees Declan leaving a jewelry store in the city and the two jump to the conclusion that he must be proposing. When Anna gets to dinner that night, after having been fitted for a wedding dress earlier in the day, she is met with the gift of a nice set of ear rings. As soon as Declan gives Anna the gift he gets a text message, of something presumably disgusting like the inside of a colon, and has to rush off before leaving for Ireland. Prior to the dinner Anna meets with her father (John Lithgow) and informs him that she is going to be proposed to this evening, jokingly her father mentions that in Ireland on leap day a woman can propose to a man. After the devastation she receives at dinner she does some research of the folk lore and decides that she should go to Ireland and try and propose to Declan. After some bumps in the road she arrives in a small village where she meets Jeremy (Adam Scott) and he drives her to Dublin to propose to Declan. It’s pretty run of the mill from then on, normal things happen to Jeremy and Anna. You can probably deduce what happens after they arrive, it may vary a little from your standard equation but the answer is still the mean. I found some serious problems with the film, first there is never really any interaction between Anna and Jeremy that would spell love. I understand love at first sight, as a concept, but it clearly isn’t that between the two of them. There isn’t much talking, there love isn’t transcending languages or anything they just happen to be in love by the time that they reach Dublin after a two day trip. The movie builds Anna up as a high maintenance lady who carries around Louis Vuitton suitcases but is content with the ragged, pup owning, Jeremy that drives a beater in the movie. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone when you can easily watch a different terrible romantic comedy that you undoubtedly already have in your collection. If are an Amy Adams fan and are looking for a “Doubt” or “Julie and Julia” performance don’t get your hopes up, think more along the lines of “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” performance. Good viewing.

Boondock Saints II All Saints Day

“Boondock Saints” is one of my favorite cult classic movies, ever. The brothers return in the all newish “Boondock Saints II All Saints Day” to reign terror on crime in Boston. Sean Patrick Flannery (Connor MacManus) and Norman Reedus (Murphy MacManus) return as the protagonist, though perceived as an antagonist to some of the citizens of Boston. The movie’s first couple of scenes include a scene from “Scary Movie 83 million”, or whichever installment that movie is on at this point with some ridiculous over the top sexual joke and a good looking blonde walking on to screen. The brothers are living in their native Ireland with their father (Billy Connolly) when they learn of a murder of a priest using their very own signature kill style. This prompts them to return to Boston for justice. There isn’t really much to say about this movie, there aren’t any cool action scenes until the very end. They look for some organized crime bosses and the killer that is imitating them. At some points this movie feels like it is going to be a forensics style movie instead of an action vendetta style movie. It is quickly discovered that the imitator is probably shorter than the brothers and that there is only one of him instead of the two of them so it is clear the brothers didn’t kill the priest. There is a little bit of cool back story that we find out about their father when he was a child and his partner in crime for and the killing that he started. The movie has lots of terrible dialogue with lots of sexual references to Willam Defoe’s replacement named Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz). There is a little suspense between the original cops that were in on the cover up of the brothers in the first “Boondock Saints” that Eunice might find out they had helped conceal the brothers evasion of the law to Ireland. The movie is boring, I nearly left multiple times. The end is a little redeeming but also frustrating when you learn that there will be a third installment of this now trilogy, here’s to it being better than “All Saints Day”. Good viewing.

"The Blind Side"

Sandra Bullock certainly wasn’t at the top of the list of people that I thought would be nominated and ultimately the person that I thought should win best actress at the actress but here we are. Bullock has been what Julia Roberts used to be, an overpaid actress, starring in forgettable, at best movies like “Miss Congeniality” and “Hope Floats”. Her newest role in “The Blind Side” is her at her very best and hopefully what we can expect from her upcoming titles. It was refreshing to see Bullock take off her gloves from run of the mill mindless romantic comedies to portray someone of meaning and do it quite well. “The Blind Side” is a true story about now NFL lineman Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) and his road from not having a place to stay to being a multi millionaire. Oher is rescued by a lady in Tennessee named Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock), who is married to a wealthy owner of a popular fast food chain named Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw), from what is functionally an ad hoc home where he sleeps on the couch of someone living in the ghetto that doesn’t have Oher’s best interests in mind. Oher has flunked out of all of the schools that he has been floated through in the foster care system in TN, and has now found himself landed in a wealthy up class private school. Having a hard time fitting in, Oher resorts back to his old ways of not participating in his school work, being anti social, and nearly flunking back out of school. One night after a basketball game Oher gets passed by the Touhy family, also with two children enrolled in the same school S.J. (Jae Head) and Collins (Lily Collins), when Leigh Ann convinces Sean that they should pick him up. Upon arrival at the Touhy residence that is in the mind of Oher a mansion he is welcomed by Leigh Anne in to the family. There are lots of layers to Oher that are peeled back as the movie goes on, a relationship grows between the Touhy family and Oher as time goes on. Oher goes on to play football for this high school and the bulk of the drama of this movie comes during his senior year of high school while he is trying to get his grades up to get in to a division I school. He ultimately decides that he will play football where the Touhy parents are Alma moderates at, Ole Miss U, and an NCAA investigation ensues. S.J. offers a lot of comedic relief in this movie consistently always playing a bully to the coaches from various high education institutions that come to try and win Oher’s commitment to their school. SJ looks for all sorts of ridiculous perks for his stamp of approval like the right to walk on the field with the teatm at home games. Leigh Anne really takes care of Oher buying him clothes, which is a challenge for his larger than most frame, feeding him, and eventually purchasing him a vehicle. Oher at first has a hard time learning the fundamentals of playing team football but with some help from Leigh Anne eventually picks up the purpose of the game ultimately leading to his success. This is a story full of happy endings, there are certainly times when we would be on the edge of our seats if this were a story of fiction but we know the ultimate outcome before the movie starts so there isn’t as much suspense. Quinton Aaron does a fantastic job portraying Oher, but this isn’t really a movie about Oher, often causing the time he is on screen to not be the focal point of the movie. What is this movie about? This movie is about a ritzy white lady from Suburbia America learning that there is more to life than money and fancy eateries. Bullock delivers the performance of her lifetime; she broke her mold and then rebuilt it. I hope that she is able to continue this in future movies. I think this is akin to Julia Roberts defining performance in “Erin Brokavich”, now the question is whether Bullock can keep it up in other performances. Everyone should see this movie, there were certainly some teary moments at the beginning of the movie but it teaches us all a valuable lesson that we should heed wisely. Good Viewing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

“The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” is a brilliantly beautiful movie filled with stilettos the size of a large cruise ship, 100 feet tall ladders, and a drunken, magical old man named Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer). The movie casts Parnassus as the role of God functionally, while the role of the Devil is played by Mr. Nicks (Tom Waits), who manipulates the people of Earth as pawns making them decide between good and evil. For an indeterminate amount of time, the two have been making wagers that are essentially races to see who first could make “X”, X being a variable, number of souls pick good or evil. They are then rewarded with whatever the prize is. In a particular wager, Parnassus puts up his lovely daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), as prize. Of course Parnassus doesn’t win this wager, or we wouldn’t have a movie. The terms were that on Birthday 16, Mr. Nicks would gain possession of the girl. We drop in on the story with Parnassus, Valentina, Anton (Andrew Garfield), and Percy (Verne Troyer) putting on a carnival-looking act trying to get people to pick good over evil. As Valentina’s 16th birthday approaches, Parnassus is approached by Mr. Nicks for another wager for more souls, which Parnassus is sure he will not be able to win. At this point we are introduced to Tony (Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Colin Ferrell, and Jude Law), who is the savior for Parnassus, or so he thinks. There are things that you find out about Tony as the story goes on: that may shed some light alternate to the view that is originally given of him. The way that the race works is simple, people are brought on stage on this traveling cart, and given the choice to let Parnassus control their imagination or not. If they decide to let Parnassus control their imagination we are taken inside of their head, where their wildest dreams and fantasies come true. Often times Tony enters in to their imagination with them, which is where the beauty of the movie really shines. At the point that you enter in to someone’s imagination you get to see beautiful sometimes vibrant and sometimes dark colored back drops that are larger than life. I won’t disclose too much more information about the race for souls or how the movie is resolved because it’s interesting to watch and see how everything unfolds. As you might have seen above Tony is played by a pretty amazing cast of actors, the reason that multiple actors play the same character is that Ledger died during the filming of this movie. As opposed to stop production they recast the part to the other three who play the part. I think that they do a great job giving each of the other three a fair amount of time on screen and not emphasizing too much to one actor. I think that in this particular instance, Law did the best job besides Ledger at portraying Tony. This movie is very hard to watch if you are a Ledger fan like I am, knowing that this is the very last that we will ever see from him. I wanted more Heath but understand that we couldn’t have more. My impression going in to this movie was that it would revolve around Tony, and it did for camera time but not story wise. The movie resolves itself in a very odd way at the end, but cosmically it all feels okay when it’s over. I would recommend this movie to every single person that has an imagination that imagines things at time that you can’t really materialize because director Terry Gilliam does a brilliant job of materializing what is inside all of us on the big screen. Also if you love any of the actors that play Tony, they all do so in a very interesting way and it is certainly worth watching for just that. The transitions from Ledger to one of the other actors portraying Tony are magnificent. I went to this movie with one of my best friends and there were a few moments that her and I discussed afterwards where it was a very long time before we realized that the transition had happened. Good Viewing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's Complicated

I think that the problem with contemporary “love” stories in Hollywood are that they all have the same plot line. A flow chart would look something like this; two people fall in love, something bad happens so they split up, and they get back together again. Whether “It’s Complicated” falls in to the category of love story, though I would argue that it does, is probably something that could be debated. “It’s Complicated” doesn’t fit this flow chart at all really. Up front I will point out that the trailer for this movie is quite deceiving, it makes the movie appear as a comedy about two previously married individuals that are both now remarried, only Baldwin’s character is remarried. This is a story about two people, Jake (Alec Baldwin) and Jane (Meryl Streep), who have been divorced for 10 years when we arrive in their tale. Jake is remarried to a younger woman, exponentially younger than his age, 58, who comes with some baggage to the tune of a 5 year old son named Pedro (Emjay Anthony) that is a lot for Jake to handle. As you can imagine someone that is the age of a grandpa playing dad gets complicated, pun intended. At their son’s graduation, Luke (Hunter Parrish-Weeds), Jake, and Jane hook up in a hotel in the Big Apple. Upon returning from Luke’s graduation they continue their escapades, getting caught in the act by someone close to the family and a big ordeal ensues. Jane, at the same time, begins to fall for her contractor, Adam (Steve Martin), and that changes the dynamics of the movie a bit. This is a movie about a narcissist, Jake, and an at times vulnerable ex-wife, Jane, finding out what life back together 10 years post divorce would entail. There are lots of funny little quirky things that happen in this movie, not different than many other romantic comedies, which really round things out quite a great deal. Some of the things that happen in this movie are predictable but the way that the two leads (Streep and Baldwin) interact with each other and with their children and significant others on screen really helps this movie out. I think that a fair amount of people that see this movie, the typical crowd that watch romantic comedies, will not be happy with the way things are resolved in the end. It doesn’t have an ending that fits a profile of any typical movie type. In the end of this is another romantic comedy, though better than most. I would recommend this movie to someone who would like a change up from the typical “He’s Just Not that In To You” or “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”, though there isn’t anything wrong with either of those movies. I think that Alec Baldwin is quite charming, as usual. Meryl Streep, is well Meryl Streep, she is unquestionably the greatest of our time and potentially ever. The way that she commands the camera while she is on screen is breathtaking. She has vulnerable moments and at moments appears as though she could be the next Commander In Chief of the United States Military. Don’t expect to see Streep in her best form for this movie, but still head and shoulders above the rest of the actresses you will see in nearly every movie this year. Having John Krasinski (The Office), Harley, play the fiancĂ© of the eldest daughter was fantastic. He always feels like just another one of the kids at times and a perfect outsider at others, though always appropriate for the events happening at the moment. I would probably give this movie 5 out of 5 stars for romantic comedies but a 3 out of 5 stars overall. Good Viewing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

I am of the, potentially limited, school of thinking that Robert Downey Jr. is one of the two best actors of "our time". That being said, I watched this film and wasn't really in to it much, but watched it again and absolutely loved it. RDJ portrays Sherlock Holmes and does a very good job of it. The movie is witty, with some interesting theatrical tricks that haven't been explored in recent memory. Holmes is basically Horatio Caine (CSI Miami) meets James Bond, he is witty, can solve crime cases like they are going out of style, and he fights. The fight scenes are the theatrical trick that I can't recall being used before in that we get a slow motion, narrated (by Holmes himself) account of what is going to happen. Exactly where he is going to hit his opponent, as well as what impact that will have on him, and recovery time for that person. After the slow motion explanation of what is about to happen we get to see it in real time, and thank goodness for the slow-motion depiction of what happened because it is fast and mean. The movie itself has a great cast including Jude Law (Dr. John Watson), Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler), and Mark Strong (Lord Blackwell). The movie opens with a scene of Holmes in pursuit of the antagonist Lord Blackwell in the middle of an attempted murder, successfully catching him. The movie then flash forwards to Blackwell’s execution, from that point things get dicey for Holmes. Holmes is contacted by the love of his life Irene Adler to help her find a man. Adler has been enlisted by an unknown criminal to convince Holmes to do this. The movie feels a little abstract until the end when everything comes together. Holmes is a little too eccentric for even Watson. I thought that director Guy Ritchie did a great job of not making Watson seem like an after thought sidekick and he consistently trades blows with Holmes and keeps pace very nicely the entire time. Holmes however makes an ass of himself on a consistent basis, not really knowing what his place is in society. There are very cool sequences of explosions and large monolith style ships flying at you. It's hard to detail this movie too much because it is very much about what you see on screen and it is a mystery. This movie doesn't exist on any level other than a very shallow love story and the main mystery in the story so don't go in expecting layers of plot and underlying meanings to dialogue. It is however very cool to watch Holmes explains everything at the end of the movie and make it all come together. Also, interesting to watch Adler out smart Holmes on many different occasions, knowing that love often time clouds our thoughts. There are some very predictable things in the movie, but I think ultimately you are left guessing before Holmes unveils everything. I don't really know what my expectations of this movie were other than amazingness from RDJ, and he fulfilled that to some point. I don't think that it was worthy of his Globe for his role but it was good. You shouldn't expect RDJ from "The Soloist" or "A Scanner Darkly" but still great. Rachel McAdams time on screen is a bit limited for me, but she did a good job in her role. This movie is worth watching, maybe more than once so you can take everything in. The movie does a nice job of recreating industrial revolution England, from costumes, to smog, to buildings. My biggest problem with this movie is that we are left knowing that there will be another movie and it certainly didn't warrant a se/pre-qual for me. I fear that the studio has in mind that this movie will serve as a new "Pirates of the Caribbean" and I don’t think that Holmes will ever develop in to that, though I won't complain about more RDJ movies. Good viewing.

Up in the Air

"Up in the Air" is Jason Reitmans directorial follow up to "Juno" and screenplay writing follow up to "Thank you for Smoking" that follows Ryan Bingham(George Clooney) through different air ports and different business establishments around the country. Bingham works for a company that gets hired to fire people at other companies. Kind of ironic isn't it? Hiring for firing? Well anyways, he's very good at his job, and everything that entails. Bingham is kind of like most of us, he's comfortable in what he does, he feels safe, and he has a routine. Unlike most of us he is completely disconnected from most of the world. Bingham doesn't have a favorite television program that he catches every week, a favorite place to eat 5 blocks from his house, or buddies he plays poker with once a week. Bingham has a blackberry, and much like The Narrator (Fight Club-Ed Norton) he has 'single serving friends' on airplanes, and a suitcase full of dress clothes. As the movie goes on we are introduced to Binghams empty, bleak, deathly apartment in Omaha, NE. Bingham's boss Craig Gregory(Jason Bateman) is an interesting character also, he is Binghams friend but also his boss and does a very good job of balancing that role. Gregory was probably the idiot jock guy in high school, but somehow broke out of that mold and grew up to be somebody. He isn't very insightful, he really has one goal and that is to make money, which I mean who can blame him? Gregory introduces the wildcard Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) to Bingham as someone that he will need to train to do his current job, though not functionally replacing him. Natalie helps Bingham realize how disconnected he actually is from the world and that maybe it's time for him to reevaluate things. Bingham meets Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), a flight attendant, which he thinks he shares a lot of common interests with and ultimately falls for, in some capacity. They make a quite unusual arrangement, which gets diluted and called in to question at some point. As a small side not Danny McBride has a small role in this movie as Bingham’s future brother in law and is very good in that role, though quite limited. I found this movie really infatuating because a lot of focus is put on loyalty programs, though it has functionally nothing to do with the film. I think that people that master these programs like Ryan Bingham are fascinating and I strive to be like them in some way or another. Commitment to one brand is like a marriage, and a marriage is hard to make work when something sexier comes along. I have a friend that earns these coke points, though they are pretty much worthless, but if Pepsi comes out with a new drink that is amazing that guy is screwed. I wish that I could commit to a brand like that. This is certainly a coming of age story, a love story, and a life story. Ryan Bingham at times makes us envy everything about him and at others despise his existence. I think that I probably connected with the character a little better than most would because I pretty much envy him 100% of the time, but I don’t have the expectations that others will. It is unquestionably a story of friendship, the way that Keener and Bingham grow together as friends and coworkers is very dynamic. But at the end this is probably my pick for best picture, I have a hard time distinguishing between this and "The Hurt Locker" as best picture because they exists on completely different levels of movie viewing. Really anyone can watch this movie but that isn't true for "The Hurt Locker", you have to be able to watch that movie. I think that Clooney did an amazing job portraying one of Reitmans dark, witty characters. It's a fantastic movie, the plot, the storytelling are all very very good. Certainly worth watching. 4 and a half stars out of 5. Good viewing.