Friday, June 25, 2010


'Cyrus' (R) (3 1/2 stars)

Writers and Directors: Mark and Jay Duplass
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh, Tim Guinee

"Cyrus" is one of my favorite kind of comedies and I completely loved it! I haven't laughed this loud and this long at a comedy in ages. I usually smile or chuckle to myself when I find something funny but when I laugh out loud in a theatre it is very rare. "Cyrus" is also a very deep and unsettling movie that is easily one of the best written movies of the year. The makers of the movie, the Duplass brothers usually specialize in what they call "mumblecore" movies and I find that style annoying. A few years back they made a movie called "Baghead" that was supposed to be a horror spoof and I found it to be pretentious and obnoxious. This time they have great actors and a more polished and mature screenplay. John C. Reilly is one of our best actors and he is amazing here as John. John has been divorced from his wife, played by my sweetheart Catherine Keener, for seven years. He goes to a party with his ex wife so he can find a girl. John meets Molly who is played by Marisa Tomei. Marissa Tomei is very good here and I swear she gets more beautiful as she ages. Molly has a 21 year old son Cyrus played by Jonah Hill. John and Molly get closer and even talk about him moving in with her. What transpires between the three is very awkward for all especially when the son still stays at home. John and Molly start to get closer and John finds out that Cyrus seems to appear a little mentally off balance. The first half hour of this movie is very smart, funny and endearing. Then the movie gets a little deeper and blacker and some interesting issues are brought up. John thinks Cyrus is trying to break him and Molly up in very sneaky and evil ways. The movie in the last half hour gets twisted and returns to being even more hilarious.

This is not a mean spirited comedy just made to provide cheap laughs. This is actually a very deep movie that delves into relationships and love. John C. Reilly is outstanding here and he is one of our finest under the radar actors. He delivers a line in here that is a funny line but the way he says it I couldn't stop laughing well after the movie was over on just that one line. It is the biggest laugh out of any comedy this year. Jonah Hill is becoming a very likable and dependable actor. He is very good here playing the most difficult character to grasp. Reilly and Hill should be remembered at award time but they won't so they will get Snavely award nominations. The two have great chemistry together and have a great give and take. Marissa Tomei is also very good here playing a sweet but sometimes clueless woman. This is a very black comedy that sneaks in some dramatic tension which makes it a special comedy in my opinion. I loved it, want to see it once again for the acting and then once again for the dialogue and delivery of it. This is a beautiful, strange, dark and hilarious movie that even contains some pain but in a funny way. It is easily one of the best movies of the year!

'Grown Ups'

'Grown Ups' (PG-13) (Rental)

Writers: Adam Sandler and Fred Wolf
Director: Dennis Dugan
Starring: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Rob Schneider, Maria Bello, Blake Clark, Steve Buscemi, Colin Quinn

According to the critics "Grown Ups" is supposed to be a bad movie but that is why my blog site is called regular moviegoer. If I was a real critic I probably would say this movie is smug, unfunny, tasteless and cloying. This site specializes in giving perspective for an audience that just likes to have fun. I had a big smile on my face throughout and I had some fun with this movie. I can't say it is a great comedy and one of the funniest movies you will see but it is fun. A lot of the jokes fall flat but all the men in this film are my age and I kind of identified with the characters. The movie is actually geared towards more my age. There are much worse movies out there this summer than this one. This could have been a lot more hilarious and even classic but it is much better than say the awful "Couple's Retreat". The movie is like a Little Chill for men who refuse to grow up. It is about a group of men who played basketball together in grade school and won a championship. They all find out that their coach has passed away so they all get together for a weekend in a cabin and bring along their families. Sandler is a Hollywood agent with stuck up kids, Schneider is married to a much older woman and so on. The movie gets crowded when a lot more characters are added. This short changes Chris Rock and Kevin James from getting some bigger and funnier moments. Also some of the jokes are pretty mean and tasteless but so what. I smiled a lot and I actually laughed quite a bit. Also Rob Schneider is extremely annoying to me and I hate his movies and his cameos. The fact that I really liked Schneider here and he didn't annoy me is a very good thing so I had that going for me. I like Sandler a lot and he just simply wants to entertain us. His movies are at least a step up from most Hollywood crap lately. "Grown Ups" is not very funny but it is a nice summer splash with very likable people. If you were at home late at night and you were flipping through the channels and came upon this it wouldn't be bad to stop and watch.

P.S. Any movie with a Steve Buscemi cameo can't be all bad. Buscemi is in "Grown Ups" and he is very hilarious! Any movie with Steve Buscemi pretty much gets an automatic 2 stars from me even if it is bad.

'Solitary Man'

'Solitary Man' (R) (3 stars)

Writer: Brian Koppelman
Directors: Brian Koppelman and David Levien
Starring: Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Mary Louise Parker, Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Danny Devito, Jenna Fischer

Michael Douglas has had an amazing and diverse career. He is sometimes criminally under rated as an actor. He had his 70's period producing fine movies like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and acted in masterpieces like "The China Syndrome". He made a huge comeback in the mid 80's after some flops with the extremely fun "Romancing the Stone". He then made his controversial potboilers like "Fatal Attraction" and "Basic Instinct" and also his first acting Oscar win for "Wall Street". He has a grace, confidence and every man appeal to him that makes him a cherished star. He is not afraid to play shallow and flawed men like he does in the very good movie "Solitary Man". Douglas plays Ben Kalman, a car magnate who has gotten in trouble with financial scandals and romantic infidelity. He has an ex wife played by Susan Sarandon, an estranged daughter played by Jenna Fischer ( The Office) and a girlfriend played by Mary Louise Parker. The woman he is dating has a daughter who is about to go to a college for an interview. The girlfriend wants him to take her daughter to the school since he has connections. They go on the trip and as soon as they get there Ben gets in a fight with a college student. Ben is pretty much an arrogant and not to nice man who is a complete womanizer. He will have to do some soul searching as he visits his old college home.

This is not a great movie but it has a well written screenplay and one of Douglas's best performances of his career. It reminds me of Paul Newman's work in "Nobody's Fool". It is a joy to watch Douglas act and he has great support and a wonderful few scenes with friend Danny Devito. Jesse Eisenberg plays a student who tags along Ben and shows the daughter the campus. Eisenberg is building a stellar career and I love his work. He was wonderful in last year's best movie "Adventureland" and he is again solid here. Jenna Fischer is very good in "The Office" but I think she has what it takes to build a nice film career. She handles drama very well here and shows her range well. I always love watching Mary Louise Parker and also Imogen Poots makes a nice debut and is very beautiful. This movie should be watched just for watching how smooth and great Michael Douglas can be. This is a very good character study with a performance by a man who is now mastering character roles. When you watch Michael Douglas you realize what a presence he has and what a true movie star he is.

'Jonah Hex'

'Jonah Hex' (PG-13) (1 star)

Writers: Mark Nelvedine and Brian Taylor
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Starring: Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malcovich, Will Arnett, Michael Fassbender, Aidan Quinn

"Jonah Hex" is one of those comic books adaptations that give comic book adaptations a bad name. This movie is one of the most boring and joyless movies I have seen since "Killers" a while back. Boy does this summer movie season suck! The movie is simply a revenge tale and hyped up Western that is wall to wall shootouts and nothing else. There are no characters we care about, no laughs or any logic to the action scenes. Josh Brolin is a very good actor and he tries here but there is only so much you can do with badly written crap. Megan Fox continues to be a bad actress and I don't get her appeal but then I am not a horny ten year old boy. I give the movie 1 star for Brolin and Megan Fox's eyes which are beautiful. Oh and John Malcovich appears and is slumming it here as the man who killed Jonah's family. The movie opens with narration and comic book cartoon scenes. After 45 minutes of shootings and terrible one liners I wished the movie went back to cartoon form. The movie is dark, boring and very unnecessary. I couldn't wait to leave and then I fell asleep and then I thought about how much time I had after this movie to see a movie that had to be better than this. Actually watching an Ernest movie or a Pauly Shore movie would be better than this turkey.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

'Knight and Day'

'Knight and Day' (PG-13) (3 stars)

Writers: Scott Frank, Laeta Kalogridis and James Mangold
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano

"Knight and Day" accomplishes what "The A Team" wishes it could have, create a dumb action movie that actually succeeds in being dumb fun. The problem with the "A Team" creators was that they had a dumb property, thought they were being clever by being complicated and wound up being dumb asses. The plot in "Knight and Day" is so simple that we are not confused by anything because there really isn't even a plot. Tom Cruise is a spy who bumps into Cameron Diaz, they get on a plane and bad guys try to kill them on plane. When they get off Cruise drugs Diaz and then she wakes up in her apartment. They bump into each other again and they get involved with a drug dealer and FBI agents on their trail. The FBI say that Cruise is dangerous and mentally unstable. What is Cruise's mission? To protect a scientist who made something really powerful but I really don't understand why and what it does. Roger Ebert taught me when I was young what he learned from Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock explained that something that the good and bad guys are after and stirs the plot is called a "McGuffin". The device in this movie is the McGuffin. You really can't explain what it is but everybody sure wants it! A movie like this does not depend on it's plot, something the makers of "A Team" should have figured out. This movie depends on star power and it has two of the biggest stars at the top of their game. I didn't care about the plot, I just loved seeing Cruise and Diaz strut their stuff.

This movie is a lot of fun, pure and simple fun. It is very dumb but there are some good one liners. The action is exciting but I had a slight problem and that was CGI effects. This movie could have been much better and a classic in the vein of "Romancing the Stone" if the movie had realistic action without jazzed up effects. Back in 1984 when the iconic "Romancing the Stone" came out CGI effects weren't around and the movie had simple romance, realistic action and pure comedy. That is a classic and "Knight and Day" needed more talk and less hyped up action. Don't get me wrong, there are some great chases and Cruise and Diaz look good being athletic. Tom Cruise has mercifully lightened up lately after being so boring and safe in Robert Redford's dull misfire "Lions For Lambs" and the last two "Mission Impossibles". I actually like this movie much more than those sequels. With this movie and "Tropic Thunder" we have the old smiling, loose and funny Tom Cruise. I think we underestimate the power of Cameron Diaz. She is tall, drop dead gorgeous and has one of the best smiles in the business. She is also very great at comedy and she is funny, daffy and charming. These two mega stars have smiles that light up the screen and it was a joy watching them work. I just wish they kissed more, made out a little and talked and then we would have a great movie. "Knight and Day" is a lot of fun, never boring and is a great date and popcorn movie. If Cruise and Diaz weren't in this movie it would have been a big failure. I was imagining Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl in these roles and I started to cringe. That is the difference between an A team like Cruise and Diaz and hacks like those other two. This is an action movie that delivers the goods and has two actors I could watch in almost anything. I hope they make another movie together.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

'Winter's Bone'

'Winter's Bone' (R) (3 stars)

Writers: Anne Rosellini and Debra Granik
Director: Debra Granik
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt, Sheryl Lee, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey

"Winter's Bone" is cold just like it's crisp and stark fall setting in the Ozarks. It is not an easy movie to embrace but I think that is why it is effective. The movie is gritty, cold, unfeeling but it contains an outstanding performance by an actress that makes us somehow care for her character. The movie is set in the Ozarks and Jennifer Lawrence plays a 17 year old girl living with her crazy mother and raising her siblings. They are poor, backwoods people and the father is a criminal who is being pursued by the law for skipping out on his bail. He put up their house for bail and if he doesn't show up to court their house will be taken away. The daughter wants to go look for him and what we have here is a unique film noir type detective movie where the girl tries to find out what happens to her father. She encounters family members and towns people who make the "Deliverance" people look like Disney characters. There is a code of silence among these people and if you break that, God help you. This is a cold, spare and unfeeling movie with violent scenes that are scary and feel real. Jennifer Lawrence is amazing as the girl and here we have another great actress to watch. She gives a natural performance that is just right, never makes a false note and is very effective. What I like a lot about this movie is that these are actors I have never seen before for the most part. That makes this eerily seem like we are watching a docu series and the people seem real and are very creepy and scary. One of the characters is a family member played by a great indie character actor, John Hawkes. You might not know the name but you will recognize him. He is an outstanding actor and he is so great here. He at first makes us fear him but as the movie's story unfolds he becomes something different and human, maybe caring. Lawrence and Hawkes are so great here they really need to be remembered at Oscar time. They will definitely get a few Snavely award nominations. The movie's settings are real, lived in and the location work is beautiful. The movie is well written, the cinematography is perfect and beautiful and the director has major talent.

Why don't I love this movie more? I think it needs two viewings, one at home. I felt there was something holding it back from greatness because I didn't feel a deep connection. It reminds me of a masterpiece called "Snow Angels" from a few years back and I feel this misses that movie's power. It is a very effective movie and I hope Hawkes gets more attention and I can't wait to see Debra Granik's next movie. It also has a performance by actress Jennifer Lawrence that announces a major new actress who just shot up to elite status.

Monday, June 21, 2010

'Toy Story 3'

'Toy Story 3' (G) (3 stars)

Writer: Michael Arndt
Director: Lee Unkrich
Starring the Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Michael Keaton, Jodi Benson, Laurie Metcalf, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, Ned Beatty

"Toy Story 3" lives up to the original two movie's spirit, warmth and charm. It is nowhere as good as the first two movies but it is better than most third movies and beats the hell out of the "Shrek" films. It is a joyful, warm, funny and endearing movie with a heartfelt and uplifting ending. It is exciting, still has most of the charm of the other movies and it will give you a huge smile coming out of the theatre. Little Andy has grown up and is about to go to college (Man I feel old!) and is about to leave his toys behind. They include Woody, Buzz Lightyear, the potato heads and a cowgirl. You know these toys from the first two movies so it is no time at all before they are back and you feel familiar with them. We love these toys and when we see them after so many years we get a big grin on our face. The toys are either going to be put in the attic or thrown away. They end up in a day care center and introduced to new toys that are just as funny and cool as the originals. The best part of the movie belongs to Barbie and her new acquaintance Ken voiced by the great Michael Keaton. Ken and Barbie are hilarious together and generate the biggest laughs. In my opinion Buzz is my favorite toy and Tim Allen is perfect again and the funniest joke belongs to Buzz and the crowd couldn't stop laughing. The movie has action and a lot of witty humor and at the end I was strangely touched and that is what the first two movies did to us and why they are classics. "Toy Story 3" is not as good as those first two, it is too busy and too cluttered sometimes, but it is a lot of fun and for a second sequel compared to others it is pleasure to sit through.

P.S. The state of family movies is garbage to me but with "Karate Kid" and "Toy Story 3" this summer so far so good.

Monday, June 14, 2010

' Snavely Classic: Night Shift' (82)'

'Night Shift' (82) (R) (3 1/2 stars)

Writers: Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton, Shelly Long, Richard Belzer, Kevin Costner, Clint Howard, Bobby DiCicco, Gina Hecht

"Night Shift" was one of the first legitimate big budget Hollywood directing jobs by Ron Howard. You could see that Howard had the potential to be a successful and smart director of crowd pleasing movies. It is a very adult themed movie for Howard and I think it is very funny. It also contains one of the best debut performances I have ever seen by an actor next to Eddie Murphy in "48 Hours". Michael Keaton made such a funny impact in this movie. He just takes the movie over, makes us laugh and also makes us want to follow him anywhere. The movie came out at a time when it seemed every other movie was about prostitution. This movie had a very unique and clever plot as two morgue attendants run a prostitution ring in the city morgue when one of the women complains that they are beat up and handled badly. Billy, played by Keaton, is new and Chuck is the saner and more responsible one. Henry Winkler plays Chuck and at the time Winkler was coming off his performance of the Fonz in "Happy Days". Winkler unfairly received bad notices from the critics for being boring and having no charisma. I couldn't disagree more for I found Winkler a perfect straight man to Keaton and a delightful departure from his tough guy persona as Fonzie. The chemistry is great between Winkler and Keaton and I love their give and take. The third part of the movie belongs to Shelly Long as one of the prostitutes. This is probably Long's only good movie she has been in and she is very sweet, funny and charming. What makes this movie a classic is the magic that Michael Keaton creates in this movie. He has some classic moments and he is always full of energy and on top of his game. When I first saw this movie I knew that Michael Keaton would become one of my favorite actors. At the time to me he was filling the void that was left in me when John Belushi died. "Night Shift" is a lot of fun, funny, vulgar and Micheal Keaton is brilliant. It showed that Howard could direct as he followed this with "Splash" and many more wonderful and classic movies. It also has a very young and funny Kevin Costner in a very small non speaking role. "Night Shift" is one of my favorite comedies of all time.

'The Karate Kid'

'The Karate Kid' (10) (PG) (3 1/2 stars)

Writer: Christopher Murphey
Director: Harold Zwart
Starring: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Wenwen Han

I love going to see movies and nothing makes me more happy then when a movie comes out of left field and surprises me. In 1984 I was 16 and I went to go see a movie from the director of "Rocky" called "The Karate Kid" with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. I thought it was going to be a dumb movie and what I found was a thrilling, funny and incredible, charming crowd pleaser. There haven't been many movies that I saw in a theatre where people went nuts and cheered. In the 80's there were only a handful including "My Bodyguard", "Rocky III", "Aliens" and "Karate Kid". That was a delightful surprise and when I found out they were remaking the original I was not happy. Well surprise, the new "Karate Kid" is a beautiful, touching and rousing time at the movies. This movie gives the term "family movie" a good name. Kids do not need to be pandered to, they are smart. I am sick of the dumb cartoons and "Tooth Fairy" type crap. This movie is smart enough to follow the original closely while just changing it a little to make it fresh. Changing the location to China was a master stroke for the scenery is beautiful and the movie feels lived in. I think the time was also right to give today's kids an update that is fun, has good lessons to learn (but not preachy)and makes them cheer. I can also see a lot of kids rushing out after this movie to learn karate.

The movie stars Jaden Smith whose mother, played by the glorious Taraji P. Henson, gets transferred to China for work. The boy has to go to a new school where he sees a cute girl, the beautiful Wenwen Han, tries to meet her but then gets beaten up by very serious and mean kids. There is also a quiet and mysterious handy man in their apartment building played by Jackie Chan. It is a no brainer that Chan was picked to replace Pat Morita as the Miyagi type character. His character is more serious and sad but Chan gives his best all around performance of his career. I really could see serious award type talk for Chan here and I am not joking. Jaden Smith, like his father Will Smith, has what it takes to carry a movie. He is natural, charming, sweet and he gives us someone to cheer for. I see a lot of good things for this kid and not because of his father but because he is damn good. I love Taraji P. Henson as the mother who has one of the best smiles on film and she lights up the screen and I love her here also. There are great villains in this movie, great karate fights and a beautiful love story between Jaden and Wenwen. It is also a great movie about friendship for Chan and Smith have great chemistry and they create a warm and winning friendship. The movie can't create the same magic as the original one did for me. That being said, this movie will make you cheer, is fun, beautiful to look at and very touching. It is an extreme crowd pleaser like the original and is highly entertaining!

A side note: Will Smith is one of the producers and he hand picked this movie for his son. The movie had a huge opening weekend and out grossed "The A Team". Everything Will Smith touches turns to gold and that is why I think he is still the smartest man in Hollywood!

'The A Team'

'The A Team' (PG-13) (2 stars)

Writers: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom and Skip Woods
Director: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel, Gerard McRaney, Brian Bloom

I hated the television series "The A Team" when I was younger. I couldn't sit through more than a half hour of any episode so two episodes were enough. I expected the new "A Team" movie to be dumb and this movie is dumb but not in a good way. When a goofy summer action movie tries to get too complicated for it's own good it goes from dumb to delusional. Did I like the action sequences and the comedy aspects of this movie? No. The action is confusing and full of MTV cuts and is so full of edits that I couldn't follow what was going on in those scenes. Also the movie is not funny because I didn't laugh once, I maybe smiled two times. It is not a boring movie because there are a plethora of beautiful Hollywood people in it that are really good to look at. The pace is fast but why was I bored and wanting to leave? But you say Vince, it is supposed to be a dumb, silly popcorn movie and that would be good because I love those kinds of movies. The problem is I couldn't figure out why the movie thinks it has a story that is so clever and intricate. I did not find this movie the least bit entertaining. The movie should actually be dumbed down and I would have had more fun. I can't even tell you anything that happened in this movie without someone getting confused.

Now let's get to the acting. Liam Neeson looks strange and phones in his performance. "Rampage" Jackson has presence but the acting is awkward, Sharlto Copley is wasted especially after his great "District 9" performance. The movie never stands still to make us really give a crap about anybody. The only reason I can recommend that you see this is to watch some really hot movie stars. Now there are four very attractive people to watch here. Bradley Cooper is going to be a star and a successful leading man very soon. He has charisma, a very impressive body and he is charming. Jessica Biel is someone who is growing on me because I thought she was very good here and she also has an incredible body and is very good to look at. The bad guys are way more interesting than the heroes and they also look pretty. Patrick Wilson and Brian Bloom as the villains share with Biel the best scene in the movie. It is set in a car and it is a car full of pretty people. This movie is full of pretty people but I am sure that is not the movie's primary goal. "The A Team" is sloppy, dull and I feel like I wasted my time. Did I mention all the pretty people in it? I guess what I am saying is that the "The A Team" reaaly provides nothing worthwhile.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


'Killers' (PG-13) (1 star)

Writers: Bob DeRosa and Ted Griffin
Director: Robert Luketic
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Tom Selleck, Catherine O'Hara

"Killers" doesn't even have the common decency to film it's story in a real suburban setting. It starts off in an exotic locale but then shifts to the suburbs which looks like a cheap set. "Killers" really doesn't have a plot, it is just a bunch of shootouts surrounded by Kutcher and Heigl screaming at each other. The movie is just Ashton Kutcher, putting on some muscle, meeting Heigl's character who is on vacation getting over a breakup. She is there with her father and mother who are a bored looking Tom Selleck and an alcoholic Catherine O'Hara. O'Hara could have the juiciest part if the jokes for her didn't consist of an old vaudeville act. We know by the previews that Kutcher is actually a C.I.A. assassin. The two get close to each other as Kutcher tries to tell her he is a spy. Then he tries to tell her before the end of the vacation until she falls asleep. Ha! Ha! Now we are dealing with a bad sitcom with an idiot plot. They get married, move to the suburbs and that is when this fake little villa is found to be teamed with assassins. Who is hiring these people to knock them off? When you find out who it is it doesn't make any sense why they would hire people to kill Kutcher when the culprit is close to Heigl's character. She would be in danger of being shot also.

The movie is just full of surprise neighbors popping out and trying to kill them. That is all the movie is, shocking violence even for a PG-13 rating and bad dialogue and screaming matches. There is not one funny moment, the action is clumsy and the movie has no ideal what it wants to be. Is this a comedy with abrupt killing and action scenes? Or is it an action, romantic comedy peppered with comedy? Because it is never funny for one second and it is never suspenseful. Director Robert Luketic can't do action scenes and the movie doesn't even try to be entertaining. It is lazy, insipid, boring, dull and needlessly violent. Then it does the the old saying the F word because you are allowed one for a PG-13 movie. The screenplay is one of the emptiest ones ever written for a feature length movie. I am getting sick of Katherine Heigl's screaming, daffy and annoying bad acting. She cuts down her only good movie, "Knocked Up" and then follows that up with three of the crappiest movies I have seen in ages. She is one note, over the top and should have saved her hysterics for her terrible television show "Grey's Anatomy". I have overcome my dislike over the years for Ben Affleck, Ryan O'Neal and Kiefer Sutherland so I am open to liking Heigl but she doesn't make it easy. Now I like Kutcher and I think he is under rated but his choice of movies is less than inspired. "Killers" is an empty, joyless and excruciating experience and I couldn't wait to leave the theatre!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

'Get Him To The Greek'

'Get Him To The Greek' (R) (3 stars)

Writers: Nicholas Stoller and Rodney Rothman
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Elisabeth Moss, Rose Byrne, Sean Combs, Colm Meaney

In what has been a terrible summer movie season all I have ever asked for was a simply entertaining and very funny Hollywood commercial movie. "Get Him to the Greek" proves that with the right talent it is not hard to make a good movie. I am not asking for the sun and the moon here, just a good movie. "Get Him to the Greek" might not be a classic comedy but there are parts that are screamingly funny. It also turns out to be a movie with heart and one of the best movies about friendship since "Superbad". There are also two very funny and solid performances by two actors that have announced their arrival. They are Jonah Hill who gives an easy going and charming performance. The other actor is Russell Brand who takes what could have been a caricature and turned him into a deep, multi layered character. Both actors work well off each other and they are both wonderful. The movie is kind of a spin off to "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" dealing with that movie's rock star character Aldous Snow played this time with more depth by Russell Brand. The other character played by Hill is a record company employee named Aaron whose girlfriend wants him to move to Seattle. His boss played by Sean Combs, in a very funny performance, assigns him to go get rock star Aldous Snow in England and fly him back to perform a ten year anniversary concert at the Greek theatre. He first has to bring Snow to the "Today" show for an interview. The problem is Aldous Snow is a big drug addict and drunk and it is going to be very hard to get him to that concert. Russell Brand gives an outstanding and very funny performance and he plays drunk and stoned brilliantly. If the rumor is correct that Brand will star in a remake of "Arthur" I actually look forward to it.

Jonah Hill does a great job playing the straight man but is also very funny by the way he reacts to Snow. I see Hill becoming as good as John Belushi and Chris Farley here because he can play all levels of funny and he shows heart also. There are many classic scenes including a priceless moment where Aaron keeps Snow from drinking liquor and smoking heroin. When they wind up on the "Today" show there is a very funny scene with Brand, Hill and Meredith Veira. As they both travel to the Greek there are a lot of vulgar situations and outrageous laughs that build. Some of the moments are very funny and others miss a little but the movie turns out to be more deep as it touches on issues of friendship and commitment. The movie doesn't become sappy or corny but the screenplay is more than just stupid jokes, there is a story here. Part of the depth is supplied by Aaron's and Snow's girlfriends. They are well written characters and not annoying like the "Sex and the City" women. An unrecognizable Rose Byrne (Damages) plays Snow's girlfriend and her performance is hilarious and brilliant. Aaron's girlfriend is played by promising actress Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and she is very good here as a straighter character and I see a good career ahead of her in movies. There is also a surprisingly flawless and perfect comic performance by Sean Combs. He almost runs off with the movie with his precise and hilarious deadpan delivery. Also any movie with my favorite character actor Colm Meaney in it is good just for him being in it. He plays Snow's father and there is some deep pain in their relationship. It also leads to a very funny fight and hotel trashing scene. So while this movie is not the greatest comedy you will see, the performances are great, the music is very good and there are some hilarious material here with a dash of heart. You also have star making performances by Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, two great female performances and a very impressive Sean Combs. See, it isn't so hard to make a good commercial Hollywood movie after all.


'Splice' (R) (Rental)

Writers: Antoinette Terry Bryant, Doug Taylor and Vincenzo Natali
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Caneac, Abigail Chu

"Splice comes oh so close to being a cult type classic horror movie. The movie is on it's way to being pure gold until an ending that lets the movie down. It has two of the smartest actors in movies today and a talented new director but in the end the movie just can't seal the deal. The movie stars two actors who are very smart and always pick worthy projects. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play two scientists who create a project for animal gene splicing of several species. To speed things up they add human DNA to the experiment and finally create a strange hybrid creature of animal and human. The creature grows from a lump to a strangely beautiful child with alien type eyes and a tail like an animal. The scientists have to take the creature that they name Dren and hide her in a cabin and raise her as she grows up. The movie is very intriguing in the first half and there is some humor as the scientists deal with the creature who exhibits growing pains and rebellion. She pretty much becomes a teenager and that's when the creature becomes restless and all hell breaks loose.

The acting by Brody and Polley is very impressive and solid as they do a good job playing this material straight. It is a risky plot that could come off as silly but director Vincenzo Natali does a good job creating suspense and thrills. The actors never go over the top and the material doesn't either at first. There are some priceless reaction shots from Brody during some intentionally funny moments as the scientists become parents so to speak. Now they are parents of a half animal, half human but parents the same. The last half hour though starts to lose it's footing as some unintentional laughs pop up. The movie loses it's suspenseful momentum and ends in a cheesy way that I predicted beforehand. There is no impact at the end or nothing to haunt you or make you think. The movie ends in silly chases and ridiculous near kills and battles. What could have been a solid and delightfully crazy monster movie ends with a whimper and an ordinary ending. It is half a good movie in search of a hard hitting ending.

P.S. I have gotten rid of my 2 1/2 star review that usually means that I found the movie a near miss. I have realized that it is a lame star rating and I have now replaced it with a (rental) suggestion. That means that it might be a good bet on DVD to rent and watch at home but not good enough to rush out and see it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

'Snavely Classic: Slapshot'

'Slapshot' (77) (R) (4 stars) (Highest Rating)

Writer: Nancy Dowd
Director: George Roy Hill
Starring: Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean, Strother Martin, Lindsay Crouse, Melinda Dillon, Brad Sullivan, Jennifer Warren

"Slaphot" is in my top five of the best sports movies ever made and also in my top 25funniest movies I have seen. Every sport has their signature movie that is the top of the heap. Golf has "Caddyshack", football has Robert Aldrich's "The Longest Yard", basketball has "White Men Can't Jump" and baseball has a lot of great movies to choose from. Hockey has "Slapshot" and I do apologize to all those "Youngblood" fans who love Swayze and Lowe in that hockey classic. "Slapshot is gloriously vulgar, hilarious and very shocking when I first sat down at 12 years old and watched it. My parents had taken me to "Animal House" before but this movie was so vulgar and nasty and so great I watched it over and over. The fact that a woman wrote something this vulgar is wonderful and nowadays I admire that immensely! Nancy Dowd was an ex wife of a Hockey player so I can see where she got her material. This is a wonderfully funny and very smart screenplay. Everyone knows the plot and everyone knows that the man who stars in it is the legendary Paul Newman. He plays player/coach Reggie Dunlap of the Charlestown Chiefs and it is one of his best characters. The supporting cast is wonderful and actually Lindsay Crouse to me gives an Oscar caliber performance as the wife of Ned Braden. Strother Martin is also a delight as the owner of the team but everyone knows The Hanson Brothers steal this movie. The introduction to them playing their first game is priceless and full of genius slapstick moments. There is also the capturing of what athletes really say on the ice, the crazy fights that happen and the movie just feels right. There is a classic scene where the Hansons have a fight before the game and they listen to the National Anthem. What they say to the referee as he yells at them is pure classic. The dialogue is so nasty that it just becomes funny for being so over the top. There are also classic lines that I have been quoting with friends for decades. They include one of my favorites as Player Dave Carlson gets into a huge fight and has to get his lip sewed up. That leads to the classic line readings of "But Dave was there, Dave's a killer" and finally someone has to say "Dave's a mess". I thought back to this dialogue as I saw the Blackhawk's Duncan Keith get his teeth shattered during a playoff game. The movie's ending is very unpredictable and it doesn't seem right at first but makes sense after all. I could never stop watching this movie over and over because it is hilarious every time I watch it. It is a classic comedy and sports movie that is one of the best written screenplays in both genres.

P.S. "Slapshot" is dedicated to the Blackhawks and their deep and wonderful team where everyone contributes to a win. The camaraderie and teamwork that is shown by the Charlestown Chiefs is the same unselfish play the Blackhawks use. That is why they are winners and the true example of team work over individual play.

'Sex and the City 2'

'Sex and the City 2' (R) (1 1/2 stars)

Writer and Director: Michael Patrick King
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Catrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, John Corbett

What a smug, arrogant, phony and terrible movie "Sex and the City 2" is! I am not a huge fan of the show. I liked the first year of the HBO series but grew tired after that and now I know why. There is only so much time you can spend with four selfish women before you can't take it anymore. The first "Sex and the City" was well written and actually fun and sane. I gave up on them on television but I enjoyed the movie for what it was and though overlong it was simply fun. I don't know what happened but this second film is so sluggish, annoying and ridiculous. I even think fans of the show and first movie will be a little disappointed. The movie and show are called "Sex and the City" so why would you spend a lot of time in this movie out of the city and in the desert for a stupid story. I knew after the opening where the ladies go to a gay marriage and see Liza Minelli butcher the Beyonce song "Single Ladies" we were in trouble. The four women are in some ways not happy in their lives. So when Samantha wants the group to go to the Middle East for a movie premiere she invites all of them. Carrie is not happy because since they bought a couch her husband just wants to sit home and watch television. In one of the stupidest scenes in the whole movie husband buys Carrie a big flat screen TV as a gift for them to watch movies together. She is mad because, get this, he could have bought her jewelry instead because the television is too impersonal. So she actually has the nerve to criticize his gift and substitute it for another material item like jewelry. This is the start of why these characters now seem to be selfish bitches. The television would be for both of them but jewelry is better for her even though she refuses to wear a wedding ring? If there is a third movie I hope he divorces her because everything she says to her husband revolves around her. None of the four women should ever be allowed to be married especially when the movie treats the husbands as background fodder. They never have an intelligent thing to say and they are treated like they don't exist. I couldn't take anymore of these smug characters after a while.

The movie gets worse when they travel to the Middle East. The movie gets very stupid, the women get more arrogant and obnoxious and the movie gets very sloppy. It is horribly written, the direction is some of the worst I have seen and the movie ends with a half hour of stupidity piled on top of stupidity. Kim Catrall is the only very good thing here and she is funny and I like her delivery of her lines. Kristin Davis does not give a good performance and like I said before the men don't register. Chris Noth is giving nothing to work with and John Corbett gives a smug performance. Also the Middle Eastern characters are shallowly written and embarrassing cliches and stereotypes. What "Sex and the City 2" has done is ruined what was a decent show and first movie and turned it into schlock. I couldn't stand one more minute with these arrogant, smug and obnoxious women. I think it is time to say goodbye to "Sex and the City" for good now.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

'Prince of Persia: Sands of Time'

'Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (PG-13) (2 stars)

Writers: Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard
Director: Mike Newell
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina, Ben Kingsley

"Prince of Persia", to me, is better than it should be for I am not a very big fan of the later adventure films like the terrible "Mummy" movies. Nowadays there has not been much that has impressed me with these modern day fantasy adventures. I had more of a response to the awesome "Tron Legacy" trailer than I did to this whole movie. Once you seen "Raiders of the Lost Ark" it is going to take more than just a goofy swashbuckler to impress me. Let's go with more recent movies and you can see that the bar has been raised. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, though over rated, have set the bar high. "Prince of Persia" is not a bad movie and it actually was better than I expected. Even with a miscast Gyllenhaal, a beautiful but empty Gemma Arterton and a time travel subplot that doesn't make sense this has it's moments. The movie is based on a video game series and that is why this movie may be too complicated for it's own good. I think it takes a few days to play the video game and this movie is too over stuffed for two hours. The plot is even too screwy to explain except that there is a prince, a princess and maybe two or three bad guys. I am impressed that Jake Gyllenhaal has put on some muscle but he doesn't belong in this movie. He is supposed to be of Arab descent but just looks like an American with a tan. He is more suited to dramas and maybe a cop movie or romantic comedy but a swashbuckler? The movie is owned by the beautiful scenery and locations and Alfred Molina's performance. The action is sometimes impressive but why do action adventures these days place the action in close ups? I can't follow the action when the camera is tight on the combatants. The director Mike Newell is not equipped for this movie. Even though he directed a Harry Potter movie, the director of "Four Weddings and a Funeral seems to be a smaller movie scale director. "Prince of Persia" is an agreeable time waster but totally forgettable.