Friday, March 25, 2011

'Win Win'

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

Writer: Tom McCarthy
Director: Tom McCarthy
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Burt Young, Bobby Cannavale, Alex Shaffer,
Jeffrey Tambor, Melanie Lynskey, David Thompson, Margo Martindale

"Win Win" is the kind of small movie that sneaks up on your and before you know it your eyes are glued to the screen. Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan are two treasures who might be the best actors at playing normal, everyday people. "Win Win" is written and directed by sometime character actor and wonderful writer Tom McCarthy. He also wrote two gems in "The Station Agent" and "The Visitor". Now "Win Win" is not as great at those two movies but McCarthy has a way with writing touching and compelling stories.

"Win Win" tells the story of part time lawyer and part time high school wrestling coach Mike Flaherty and his wife Jackie. Mike takes small cases that don't add up to much and his family is hit by tough economic times. He has two young daughters to support and his wrestling team hasn't won a match yet. Mike takes the case of senior citizen Leo, played by legendary Burt Young. Leo can't find his daughter and is about to be put in a home when Mike intervenes to take him in. Leo's grandson shows up, abandoned by his mother, and stays with Mike and Jackie. The boy turns out to be a wrestler and is lost without a home but he might turn around Mike's team's fortunes.

This all sounds like a movie full of cliches with no surprises and the same old sports movie. The great thing about "Win Win" is that it is really not a sports drama or a wrestling movie. If you don't like wrestling you do not have to stay away. This is a touching, funny and rousing drama about ordinary people. Paul Giamatti is not the usual handsome leading man but I love him more than most leading men. He is always charming, funny and real, a person you would love to be friends with. Amy Ryan burst on to the scene with an excellent performance in one of the most powerful movies of the past decade "Gone Baby Gone". She has become an amazing actress and here, like Giamatti, she is very likable and her Jackie is tough but tender. I love Amy Ryan because when I always see her I get a huge smile on my face. She lights up the screen and with her and Giamatti you never see them acting.

The supporting cast is wonderful with a very funny performance by Bobby Cannavale as Mike's friend. You also have the great Burt Young, who I always miss, Melanie Lynskey and the always reliable Jeffrey Tambor. There are also two real and solid performances by two young actors. The most important is the performance of Alex Shaffer who plays the grandson Kyle. McCarthy got a real wrestler instead of a real actor but Shaffer gives a realistic and fine performance, he is never wooden or stiff. There is also a nice performance by David Thompson who plays a awkward looking wrestler who is always on the bench. He reminds me of Daniel Stern in "Breaking Away" and he is very funny.

Again "Win Win" is not first and foremost a wrestling movie, it is a family drama that just happens to have wrestling as it's focus for Kyle and Mike. The writing is very natural and not forced and I really cared for all the characters. The movie has big laughs and it has two of my favorite actors right now in Giamatti and Ryan. The movie is touching, real and it never gets dark or too heavy. It unfolds like real life and I believed every second of it. The characters are not pulled around by the plot and it , "Sideways" and "Barney's Version" he has become my favorite leading man, not just a character actor. Also Tom McCarthy has not written a weak movie yet and I look forward to and hope he writes a movie once a year. "Win Win" will have you cheering and totally involved in what is so far the best movie of 2011.

P.S. Ladies, am I the only one who thinks Paul Giamatti appeals to women because of his sense of humor and likableness? Just asking.


'Paul' (R) (rental)

Writers: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost
Director: Greg Mottola
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, John Carroll Lynch, David Koechner, Jessie Plemmons, Jane Lynch, Jeffrey Tambor,
Bill Hader

"Paul" could have been very special instead of being very hit and miss as it turns out to be. There is some special talent involved here including two great comic actors and writers. There is also one of my favorite recent directors taking genre films and making them above and beyond what they should be. This talent has it's moments and there are a few laughs but not as many as I expected and sometimes the movie skids to a halt and is unfunny. Now I did smile a lot and I love some of the pop culture references.

"Paul" tells the story of best friends Graeme and Clive who come to America to go on a road trip to all the alien landing sites. They suddenly see an explosion on the road and run into an alien named Paul. This meeting between the friends and Paul should have been funnier, I didn't laugh at all. The movie picks up when the boys and Paul run away from FBI agents and run into a Christian woman. The funniest segments have nothing really to do with Paul. They belong to Kristen Wiig as the Christian woman who when she learns how to swear sets up the best running gag. There is great voice work by Seth Rogen as Paul and Jason Bateman is as always good as an FBI agent.

The writers and lead actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have written two of the best spoofs of the past decades in "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz". The director, Greg Mottola, took a standard genre movie like "Adventureland" and turned it into greatness and my pick as best movie of 2007. He also directed the best high school movie of the past decades in "Superbad" making a raunchy movie into a classic. These are all great talents who have done better but maybe I am being too critical. I did laugh a few times but I wanted to have more fun. There are smart pop culture references that will go way over younger viewer's heads. "Paul" has some laughs and great acting but it left me a little disappointed.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

'Jane Eyre'

'Jane Eyre' (2011) (PG-13) (3 stars)

Writer: Moira Buffini based on Charlotte Bronte novel
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Warsikowska, Micheal Fassbender, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins, Jamie Bell,
Simon McBurney, Valentina Cervi

The novel "Jane Eyre" has a heartbreaking and very passionate love story. The 2011 movie adaptation honors that love story with two great performances and a sure handed direction. It is a classic love story that smolders with intensity in a film that looks bleak and that is it's power. I didn't fully embrace this movie but I admired it and I thought the love story and chemistry between it's two leads was perfect.

"Jane Eyre" tells the story of Jane who was raised in a sad and bleak house by a woman who abused Jane mentally. Jane was also physically abused at times in the boarding school she resided in. In a powerful scene she makes friends with an abused girl and sees her die right before her eyes. Jane is sent to be a governess for a cold and pained Mr. Rochester. They strike up a friendship that turns into pure love, Jane has finally found love and attention. Their love is tested because it is frowned upon and through certain circumstances she has to leave. Everyone who has read this story knows what it's about. I haven't read the book but I could probably guess that to it's readers it has to be a powerful love story.

The film may be too cold in spots but I love it's cinematography and the haunting way it is always dark, cloudy and filmed in damp, cold settings. The director Cary Fukunaga takes great care in building this love story and the final third where Jane falls in love with a servant played by Jamie Bell adds great drama. Fukunaga is a talented director, his first movie was the impressive "Sin Nombre". Like Nombre though I felt the movie needed more depth. The love story here is passionate but the movie can also leave you cold and depressed.

Mia Warsikowska is wonderful as Jane and this talented young actress announces her leading lady status with this performance. She had been solid in "Alice in Wonderland" in the lead role but she shows more here because it is a more dificult role and she is up to it. You will hear a lot about Michael Fassbender very soon and he gives another great performance here. He has been on the cusp of greatness with his acting in "Inglorious Basterds" and was excellent in the powerful indie drama "Fish Tank". Fassbender is building a great career here so far and it won't be long before he makes a big Hollywood splash and becomes a hearthrob. He has all the goods and his chemistry with Warsikowska is great in what is a difficult relationship. These are two wonderful actors in a timeless love story that is solid.

Friday, March 18, 2011

'The Lincoln Lawyer'

'The Lincoln Lawyer' (R) (3 stars)

Writer: John Romano based on novel by Michael Connelly
Director: Brad Furman
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy,
Bob Gunton, John Leguizamo, Michael Pena, Frances Fisher, Josh Lucas, Micahel Pare,
Trace Adkins, Bryan Cranston, Shea Whigham

"The Lincoln Lawyer" is a great game of cat and mouse between a slick lawyer and his client who may be guilty. The movie is based on a famous novel by Michael Connelly and I have not read it. Connelly must have created some wonderful characters because there are a lot of cool ones in the movie and the cast is amazing! If you want a crackling good mystery and legal thriller and you love great character actors you will eat this up. Matthew McConaughey plays Mick Haller, a slick defense lawyer who gets sleazy clients off for murder and other crimes. Though there was one case where he failed at defending a man who claimed he was innocent. He is a very flashy, cocky and confident lawyer and McConaughey, in his best role in years, nails him down perfectly.

Mick is given a case that involves a young, rich professional named Louis who is being charged with assaulting a young woman he met in a club. He claims his innocence to Mick, telling him that the girl was a prostitute, lured him to her place where he was attacked by someone. Mick gathers his private detective played by William H. Macy and tries to find out if his client is really innocent. Another case comes up that is tied in to Louis that also involves Mick. Mick tried to defend someone from a murder charge and that man was found guilty. Louis's name comes up in that case and Mick starts to have doubts about his new client. Mick also is dealing with his ex wife, played by Marisa Tomei, and two cops who are trying to investigate his ties to Louis.

"The Lincoln Lawyer" reminds me of a good John Grisham novel but I like this movie much better than most of the Grisham movie adaptations. The characters are all well written and this has to be one of my favorite casts in a movie in such a long time.
All the performances are wonderful and each character, even the very small ones, are all memorable. There is Tomei as the ex wife and lately she has been on fire. There is the legendary William H. Macy as the detective who gets all the big laughs. Whenever Macy is in a movie and shows up I get a huge smile on my face. Also excellent are John Leguizamo, Josh Lucas, Ryan Phillippe and Bryan Cranston who is becoming like Macy is now, a legend. There is also a very welcome return to the screen by 80's cult icon Michael Pare and a turn by Trace Adkins that should get noticed and get him more film offers.

The movie is a lot of fun, well written and thought out and the twists and turns are all believable and smart. When a television show like "Law and Order:SVU", which is my favorite, gives you episodes so much better than most big screen courtroom thrillers you have to step up your game. This movie does it and I think McConaughey is brilliant here making us believe his transformation from slick, cool lawyer to scared, frustrated, played like a fool lawyer. After seeing this movie I remembered again how much of a magnetic star McConaughey is. So what you have here is a fun night at the movies on a Saturday, date movie that delivers all the goods. I loved the story and I had a field day with all the wonderful characters and actors.


'Limitless' (PG-13) (3 stars)

Writer: Leslie Dixon based on novel by Alan Glynn
Director: Neil Burger
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert Deniro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, Andrew Howard,
Robert John Burke, Johnny Whitworth

"Limitless", like the drug the story is based on, goes through your system so fast you don't realize how preposterous it all is. Once you crash down and leave the theatre you might forget most of it but you know you had a lot of fun! "Limitless" stars fast rising Hollywood actor Bradley Cooper as Eddie Morra, a down on his luck loser who is trying to write the great American novel and has no job. His ex brother-in-law gives Eddie this new drug that will revitalize his brain. This drug makes Eddie see things more clearly and a lot happens to Eddie when he takes the pill. Of course he becomes addicted and somehow finds a new hidden stash of the drug. Not only is math more useful but Eddie writes a book in four days and suddenly can speak multiple languages and also becomes a stock market and business genius and guru. Like with other drugs Eddie realizes there are freaky side effects and the movie is great with it's visual effects. The camera speeds up and the picture freezes and the movie seems to want to be a mini "Inception".

If you think Eddie will become rich and successful after using the drug and there will be no problems don't see this movie. Eddie learns that there are others interested in this drug and him. First there is a meeting set up with a powerful business owner Carl Van Loon played by Deniro. Eddie also gets mixed up with a scary loan shark played delightfully by Andrew Howard. There is also an on and off again girlfriend played by Abbie Cornish in a thankless and waste of a role. The movie starts out brilliantly and really sucks us into the story. Bradley Cooper is a great lead actor and he gets us interested in Eddie and the story. Who wouldn't want to take a drug that would make them a new person and successful and rich ? In an ironic way I do love that the movie becomes a moral lesson not to do any type of drugs. It might be a rush at first but there are dangers and you will crash down to reality quickly.

Robert Deniro is pretty good here if at times it feels like he is making a cameo in the movie. I am just glad he is not mugging on camera in a humiliating comedy with penis jokes. Bradley Cooper deserves to be a star because he can hold a movie together even when it gets violent and very unbelievable. There is a lot in this movie that couldn't realistically happen in real life no matter how powerful the drug is. The movie gets busy with a lot of chase scenes and action and sometimes it becomes too much. You just have to sit back, enjoy the ride and not think too much. The movie is fast paced, exciting and a lot of fun when pretty much every movie in 2011 so far have been dull and painful. This movie is like taking a sip of an energy drink, it gets you buzzed and then in the end you realize you have been suckered in. When you leave the theatre you shake your head in disbelief but you know you had fun.

P.S. Abbie Cornish is an amazing new actress with a lot of talent and I was sad that her character here is the typical girlfriend role. The only importance she has here is in a chase scene that becomes violent. Also the movie is PG-13 but I was surprised by that because the movie can get violent and graphic. I wouldn't suggest taking a young child to this movie.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

'Take Me Home Tonight'

'Take Me Home Tonight' (R) (rental)

Writers: Jack and Jeff Filgo
Director: Michael Dowse
Starring: Topher Grace, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Anna Faris, Chris Pratt,
Demitri Martin, Michael Ian Black, Michael Biehn, Lucy Punch, Michelle Trachtenberg,
Bob Odenkirk, Angie Everhart

"Take Me Home Tonight: is a generic title for a movie and it fits because the movie has cliches and is sometimes really thin. There is nothing here that is fresh, new or exciting, it has been done before. Then why did I have a slight affection for a movie that I should have detested? First, I am a sucker for movies set in the 70's and 80's and this movie is not as bad as some of the other "American Graffiti" knock offs. I guess it is because I grew up during the 80's so there is nostalgia that gets to me even though the movie is unremarkable. The movie is just forgettable but there are some performances I liked. The movie is about that old nerdy high school kid who is now grown up and sees his high school crush as a young adult. We know all the moves here and what will happen. The man will lie to his crush that he has an important job when he really works at a video store. There will be a wild party where he will hook up with the girl and you know the rest.

I should dislike this movie but there is something here that is innocent and sweet and I really like Topher Grace. He does a very good job at getting us and his crush to like him. The high school crush is played by newcomer Teresa Palmer (Sorcerer's Apprentice) and she is pretty and charming here. I like seeing these two together and the strongest scenes are with just them. Also good here is Anna Faris who is totally subdued here and I like it, she was starting to annoy me with her same old schtick. Chris Pratt (TV's Parks and Recreation)is good as the typical arrogant, preppy bad guy though here he is not the rival of the hero for the crush. Also comedian Demitri Martin steals the movie with a very funny turn as a paraplegic. Someone needs to sign up Martin for his own movie! It was also good seeing Michael Biehn (Terminator) who for some reason never became the 80's heartthrob he should have been.

"Take Me Home Tonight" has the usual 80's soundtrack that if you guessed which songs would be in it you would pretty much be correct. There are a lot of dead spots and jokes that fall flat. There is a very bad and uncomfortable sex scene with Dan Fogler and Angie Everhart. I like Fogler in the movie but compared to Jonah Hill and Jack Black he is small time. The movie is extremely ordinary but I was never bored, I laughed a few times and I really liked Grace and Palmer. This would be a good movie to wait for on DVD and you could have a little 80's movies marathon. Pop in a few John Hughes movies that are way better, then "Hot Tub Time Machine". You have to start with "Take Me Home Tonight" as an appetizer and then watch better movies to see how it is really done. I had heard that the movie was bad so I didn't expect much and I was surprised I didn't hate it. I would take this innocent picture over atrocious, arrogant trash like Adam Sandler's "Just Go With It" any day.

P.S. "Take Me Home Tonight" is a movie that is centered around a big party. It is nowhere near as great as the classics like "Sixteen Candles", "Dazed and Confused" and "American Graffiti". There, I just added more great movies to your movie marathon.

Friday, March 11, 2011

'Battle: Los Angeles'

'Battle: Los Angeles (PG-13) (3 stars)

Writer: Chris Bertolini
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michael Pena, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan,
Ramon Rodriguez, Ne-Yo

The Aliens attack the earth movie is pretty much fool proof if you give the movie goers what they expect. You give them wall to wall action, intense battle scenes and cut the dialogue to a minimum. Then why have recent movies like this gotten it wrong? "Battle:Los Angeles is full of cliches, is ear splitting and very busy but I liked it. This web site is for movies like "Battle:Los Angeles". I could be really critical of it but I just wanted to have a little fun and I did. Some of the dialogue is pretty laughable but this movie knows it and instead of talking this movie just goes BAM! and BOOM! There is a scientist on television that explains why the aliens must be attacking and it is short and to the point without corny exposition. Then the movie starts rolling and never looks back.

This movie would not have worked as much for me if it didn't have the fine actor Aaron Eckhart in it. Aaron plays Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz who in a previous battle lost a few men and it has followed him ever since. As Los Angeles is being pelted with meteors the marines prepare to evacuate Los Angeles. What they find out is that not only are there meteors showering down but alien life forms are attacking. The aliens are menacing but don't look that awe inspiring but I love the action and battle scenes. This movie has battle sequences that are as good as some war movies. The dialogue can sometimes get corny but the movie mostly doesn't stop enough to get mired in bad story lines and dialogue. This movie just gets to the action and only stops for little moments of humanity.

I really like Aaron Eckhart who is always likable and he keeps this movie grounded and he stands out amidst the rubble and violence. This is a very violent movie but no more so than the first "Transformers" movie which this reminded me of. "Battle:Los Angeles" is a much better experience than recent alien invasion movies like the Tom Cruise "War of the Worlds" remake. That movie stopped many times for those bad, sappy father/son, family moments. "Battle"Los Angeles" has that too but it comes off brief and solid here. That is also thanks to another good performance by Michael Pena, a great character actor. "Battle:Los Angeles" is nowhere as great as something like "District 9" or James Cameron's "Aliens" but is much better than the vastly over rated "Independence Day". It is much better than it should be so grab some popcorn and experience a gritty thrill ride.

P.S. The movie is also extremely loud. Working in movie theatres in the past, we used to get notes to crank up the sound on certain action movies from the studio. If that is the case then why does it have to be that loud? It is probably pretty loud itself without further help. If it isn't that then I apologize to the studio, well sort of.

'Red Riding Hood'

'Red Riding Hood' (PG-13) (1 star)

Writer: David Leslie Johnson
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Julie Christie, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons,
Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas

There is a new wave of Fairy tale movies coming out in the next few years and I hope they learn a lesson from "Red Riding Hood". That is when dealing with such simple plots please learn how to pad the story with something well thought out. Here you have the major set up and then you have to sit through bad acting, bad dialogue and a very super dull love story. You have the story established in five minutes and then the rest of the way you have wolf attacks, a hammy Gary Oldman and then more wolf attacks and in between a corny love story.

The movie is simply a village is attacked by a wolf. Then they think they killed the wolf followed by Gary Oldman, channeling Vincent Price channeling Rod Steiger, telling them that actually the wolf is really one of the towns people. If you look real close at how the characters behave and look in the movie you can figure this out in five seconds.

You also have little Red Riding Hood who is actually in this movie not little and has things on her mind the original character was too young to even think of. There are two boys she is linked to and they are both cute I guess but oh so dull. She is forced into an arranged marriage to one boy but sneaks into the woods with the cuter boy to do you know what. The love scenes in this movie are like the "Twilight" ones, safe and not even as sexy as a half hour "Dora" cartoon. When Amanda Seyfried, who plays big Red, sees the wolf, hears it talking and then mutters "You Can Talk" I was the only one laughing in the theatre. That might be because I was in the theatre with ten people and eight were teenagers. You probably have now got the ideal I laughed a lot in a movie that is not a comedy.

If you are not a teenage girl 13-16 please don't even watch this on DVD and wait for the next "Twilight" movie which is Shakespeare compared to this. The movie has some beautiful and cool visual shots and Gary Oldman is the only one who has energy and he is a riot but that is it. It is just a lot of bad acting, unintentional laughs, a few wolf attacks and a really pathetic love story.

Friday, March 4, 2011


'Rango' (PG) (2 stars)

Writer: John Logan
Director: Gore Verbinski
Starring the Voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty, Abigail Breslin,
Timothy Olyphant, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone, Stephen Root,
Harry Dean Stanton

"Rango" is very colorful, never slows down, has ambition but somehow I just didn't get it. There weren't any characters that I loved like "Toy Story" and the movie ,when it was over, defeated me. There is so much noise, explosions and ugly looking creatures that after a while I submitted. The movie moves fast and I guess little kids will be distracted by the noise and color but are they going to go buy Rango dolls right away? I say that they won't know what hit them. There is also a lot of in jokes about old Westerns and I think it will go over their heads. Older kids might like the cool animation (the movie does look cool) and that it tries to be smart. Adults might dig the Western motif and in jokes but like me they might get a headache. I wish I could have loved this movie and maybe I will be in the minority but I thought the movie had no heart.

Rango, voiced well by Johnny Depp, is a chameleon who flies out of a car during a crash and winds up in an old town in the West. That set up in the beginning is eye popping and very creative but that was the last time I was in awe. The town is populated by characters you would see in an old John Wayne Western but this time they are rats and lizards. There is the crooked sheriff, town folk and a little girl rat. I did like the rat in "Ratatouille" (a much better movie) but the rats and lizards in this movie I didn't like. I guess there are certain rats that are cute and certain rats that are ugly and these rats are ugly. I guess rats are just like real people, hmmm. The visuals are pretty cool I guess but they are nowhere near the level of a "How To Train Your Dragon" or a "Legends of the Guardian", two better animated movies from 2010. The movie just rambles on and becomes a big blur. The last half hour is just non stop action that I couldn't follow. This movie is in the style of "Shrek" with it's humor but not as nearly funny.

I am not saying that this movie has to be cute but there is no charm here, no heart or depth. The film makers are throwing in these references to old Westerns and trying to make it smart but it didn't entertain me. I like the first 15 minutes and I loved the voice work of Depp and Ned Beatty but the only character that made an impression was Rango. That is good that the main character is memorable but the movie he is in is not. I didn't really laugh at all at anything except the first 15 minutes and I was more exhausted than entertained. I was disappointed in the Western satire and I was really shocked that I didn't find it funny or charming. "Rango" goes through the motions and creates too much clutter and noise. This is a trend now in animated movies that are not Pixar and it is kind of sad. Everything here falls flat and while not a bad movie, it is just extremely disappointing.

'The Adjustment Bureau'

'The Adjustment Bureau' (PG-13) (2 stars)

Writer: George Nolfi based on short story "The Adjustment Team" by Philip K. Dick
Director: George Nolfi
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, John Slattery, Anthony Mackie, Michael Kelly

"The Adjustment Bureau" has a great set up and premise but by the end I felt that premise fizzled and got old. This is a movie with major set up but lackluster execution. Lackluster in the romance department and also in the science fiction one. Matt Damon gives another solid performance as politician David Norris who is running for Governor of New York. His campaign goes up in flames when word gets out of David's violent past. In a weird meet cute David meets ballerina Elise, played by Emily Blunt, in a men's bathroom. Sparks do fly and they share a kiss when suddenly she runs off and David is kidnapped by four men in fedoras and suits. They explain to David that they adjust moments in his life so he can reach his goals and destiny without set backs. They tell him that him and Elise are not meant to be. David does not like this, he has fallen in love with Elise and he tries to escape. This is all a good set up and I was intrigued by how this team could adjust things at random. There is some exposition and it gets complicated but I was still into it.

I was waiting for something magical to happen, some big pay off but the movie to me is very flat. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are both good and have great chemistry but I felt that their characters were jerked around too much to give them any quiet moments. What we get is a two minute love scene montage and some kissing but there is no room to allow heat. The movie gets complicated, twists around and at some point I just got tired of it. I do not think the follow through on what the adjustment bureau does by the end is clear. I know it is science fiction and doesn't have to make huge sense but I got lost quickly. The movie then becomes just one long chase scene after chase scene. The couple do get to go through doors or I guess portals to jump from location to location. You would think that would have some creativity behind it but I thought it became tedious and laughable. David puts on one of the team's fedoras which gives him power to transport but it came off weird to me.

There have been many adaptations of Phillip K. Dick's science fiction novellas and stories but I am thinking this wasn't his best stuff. I mean you have my favorite science fiction movie "Blade Runner" and "Minority Report", two classics. I don't expect this movie to be their equals but I at least wanted to get into this movie and find something cool about it. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are very good, Anthony Mackie and John Slattery are good as two of the members of the adjustment team. I got to the point were I started to fidget, roll my eyes and wanted out. The love story doesn't create heat, the chase scenes are too many and by the end the movie didn't impress me. This is one of those movies you won't remember in a week. It is like too many movies today, no energy, excitement or follow through.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

'Hall Pass'

'Hall Pass' (R) (2 stars)

Writer: Pete Jones
Directors: Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate,
Richard Jenkins, Nicky Whelan, Stephen Merchant

The Farrelly Brothers started on such a hot streak with two classic comedies in "There's Something About Mary" and one of my favorites, the vastly under rated
"Kingpin". Those movies were brilliant, hilarious, vulgar without being ugly and were two of the funniest movies in the past three decades. I also liked to a lesser degree two of their fine comedies "Stuck On You" and "The Ringer". Ever since then they have lost that magic touch and their last few movies have been unfunny, vulgar without being inspired and weakly written. For example, in "Hall Pass" there are three gross out gags that stop the movie dead in it's tracks. They are not funny but actually just gross. I also think for a Farrelly Brothers movie this just holds back from delivering huge laughs and piles on too much sentiment. There was sentiment in "Mary" and "Kingpin" but it didn't feel tacked on. I also think Jason Sudeikis is all wrong for his role. He just seems too straight laced and unlikable for this role when a gentler presence like Ed Helms would be better. Movies like "The Hangover" are the new hip and funnier style of comedy and "Hall Pass" is too square for this style.

"Hall Pass" is about two married couples, one with kids played by Owen Wilson and the very sweet and funny Jenna Fischer. The other couple is played by Sudeikis and the very funny and talented Christina Applegate. The men, like most men in these movies, think constantly about sex and do things like being caught gawking at women. The ladies decide to give their husbands a Hall Pass which means a week away from the responsibilities of marriage. Pretty much what happens in this movie is predictable, we know where it is going and there are no surprises. Is the movie funny? Well it has quite a few laughs but nothing laugh out loud funny, just chuckle worthy. There is a very funny scene as Wilson and Sudeikis get caught on camera saying vulgar things about their hosts at a party. There is a great supporting turn by the wonderful character actor Richard Jenkins as a sex mentor. There is also a sweet, charming character played by Nicky Whelan who Wilson gets involved with.

I liked Wilson, Applegate, Fischer and Jenkins and I liked the first half hour because the movie is set up well. I was excited in the beginning that the movie would let loose and get crazy but it never happened. The movie is sometimes vulgar but it is way too nice. I really don't go to a movie like this craving a moral lesson on marriage and how great monogamy is. First I am not a big supporter of the institution of marriage and I don't want to be preached at by a vulgar comedy when I should be laughing my ass off. The Farrellys need to get their mojo back to the time when they were vulgar but also very smart and they didn't turn their movie into a sentimental bore. Their two signature classics had rapid fire laughs, didn't slow down to preach and had the guts to let loose and feel no shame. When movies as merciless as "The Hangover" are ruling the movie world, it is time to go back to the drawing board and get dirty.

'Drive Angry 3D'

'Drive Angry 3D' (R) (1 star)

Writers: Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier
Director: Patrick Lussier
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, Billy Burke, William Fichtner, David Morse

If you are going to make a "Grindhouse" homage like "Drive Angry" tries to do you have got to make it fun. This homage has already been done by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez and it should be put to rest. Also you finally have a movie really shot in 3D and except for a few weapons coming at your head, the 3D effects are lackluster and there are very few of them. I mentioned in my Best and Worst of 2010 article how the 3D gimmick died in the early 80's. Well this reminded me of those terrible and cheesy movies. There is no imagination involved, the movie is boring, the acting bad and the effects are crappy.

I wish someone would tell Cage to lighten up and stop sleepwalking through his movie roles. He is so dead here and the only life injected from this movie comes from William Fichtner as "The Accountant" with his somewhat amusing one liners. The movie deals with Cage, sent from hell to find and kill the cult leader who killed his daughter and kidnapped his grand daughter. I love movies about cults and the cult depicted in this movie is laughable and no threat. I couldn't believe the scene where the cult members dance like they were stuck in a 70's Charles Manson movie.

I felt like I was trapped in a "Billy Jack" movie but actually those bad movies from the 70's at least were fun in a bad way. "Drive Angry" is not even fun and there was not one moment I enjoyed. This is just a bad movie without the goofy energy that most of the cult, grindhouse movies had. Amber Heard looks good as Cage's sexy accomplice and I always love seeing David Morse in a movie. The main problem with this movie is that if it is trying to be an over the top gore fest it is not really that gory. If it is trying to be an action movie with cool 3D effects it fails because the car chases are uninteresting and dull. Also if you are paying that extra 3D surcharge then the movie should have more than the maybe three cool 3D shots the movie has. I fidgeted a lot, was totally bored and I couldn't understand why the movie didn't go more wild and crazy. I think it is time for Nicolas Cage to quit on these action/fantasy movies and go back to what he does best, seriously act even if he has to go nuts once in a while.

P.S. A few weeks back I watched a bad but fast and amusing 70's car crash movie. It was "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" with Peter Fonda. There is also a great cult movie from the 70's called "White Line Fever" with Jan Michael Vincent. Those were movies that "Drive Angry" should have been like and that is how it is supposed to be done.