Friday, April 11, 2008

Movie Review: "Smart People"

Who's in It: Dennis William Quaid, Thomas Haden Church, Sarah Jessica Parker and Ellen Philpotts Page

What It's About: Widowed professor tries to sell his book. Widowed professor flirts with former student, now his doctor. Widowed professor's loser adopted brother moves in to be his chaffeur. Widowed professor's daughter does a lot of things that aren't really important to the plot. In fact, not much happens that feels very relevant to anything.

What I Was Expecting: First time director. First time writer. Good cast. Trailer looked amusing.

What I Got: A disjointed mess. This film jumps around like you wouldn't believe. I threw out 3 of the storylines above and I can think of another 4 or 5 that they tried to squeeze in a 95 minute film. Some storylines are only hinted at in a scene or two and never addressed again (i.e., Sarah Jessica Parker's relationship problem). It seems to realize that the drama isn't all that dramatic and the humor isn't all that funny. So, when there's not much going on and it's not really going anywhere, they show us Church's bare ass. Audience chuckles. And here's the odd thing. The film is never boring even though it's never all that interesting. None of the plots and subplots are ever fleshed out into a real story. In fact, the film gives you the impression that there is a terrific 2 1/2 hour film sitting on a cutting room floor somewhere. I didn't like this movie as is, but if I hear about a much longer Director's Cut, I will definitely check it out.

Grade: D+

Oscar Potential: Zero. But it is the kind of film that the costumes subtly tell you a lot about the characters, but not the kind of costumes the Academy pays attention to.

Five Random Thoughts:

  1. I can't help but wonder how much this film is hurt by the presence of Ellen Page. Her performance is just fine, but I think with the success of "Juno", the film was re-edited to beef up her part, when her part wasn't all that necessary to begin with.
  2. I have zero idea what the time frame of the film is, it appears to be over the course of months, but Sarah Jessica Parker, who gets pregnant at the beginning of the film, never shows.
  3. In reverse of the Ellen Page scenario, the part of her brother, I imagine, was probably a bigger part. It seems as if there was a stronger story with the son who writes poetry and the dad who is an English Lit professor. They don't go too deep into it.
  4. There is one great moment in the film towards the end. Church instructs Quaid to tell Parker, "I'm sorry. I love you." When Quaid finally says it, it's said as just one sentence, "I'm sorry I love you." It says volumes about the Quaid character at that moment and is about the only subtle moment in the film. It shows his guilt over being such a pain in the ass. As if to say, "I'm sorry to do this to you. I know being in your life will make you miserable at times, but as long as I'm there, I won't be miserable too." And they did it in 5 words.
  5. Quaid's performance is all over the place. Sometimes great, as in the line just described. Sometimes you wonder if he's playing some sort of crazy recluse, Maybe he is, but it doesn't quite fit.

Trailer Park:

Blindness – If this film is half as good as the trailer looks, it could very well upend the Oscars this year because it's about as non-Oscar as you get. The director of "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener" does this film about a woman (Julianne Moore) who fakes being inflicted with a virus that causes blindness, a virus that inflicts her entire town in one night, in order to take care of her husband (Mark Ruffalo). The dramatic potential is huge as the people who can see are shipped off to safety from the virus. The blind are left to fend for themselves. The book it's based on is by a Pulitzer Prize winner who is known for his allegorical work, so it's potential to be something really deep, and given the director, it probably is.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Movie Review: "The Bank Job"

Who's in It: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows and Daniel Mays (who I recognized from Atonement, but spent the whole movie wondering where I knew him from.)

What It's About: The title pretty much says it all.

What I Was Expecting: Given that it's Jason Statham, I was assuming that it was going to be a heist film version of "Transporter".

What I Got: Something very unlike the "Transporter" films. In fact, there's only one fight scene in the whole film and it seems totally out of place when it happens. The movie is actually a surprise. It's well acted. It's never obvious. It's not perfect by a long shot. But very good and never boring. There's a long scene in which the police learn a bank robbery is occurring, but only have a vague idea what part of London in which it's taking place. And how our "heroes" manage to escape is truly inspired and unexpected. A few too many sideplots. I could have done without the undercover agent in Trinidad. I don't know how much of the film really happened, but it would be hilarious if it did happen that way.

Grade: B

Oscar Potential: None. The art direction isn't bad though.

Five Random Thoughts:

  1. There are several stories going on at the beginning. Stay with it. They all tie in together.

  2. Holy crap. Jason Statham can act!

  3. Lots of actors you recognize but can't quite place. Ignore it and go to imdb later.

  4. Stay for epilogue. There's an amusing title card at the end. For those who don't plan on seeing the movie, highlight between the arrows. >>>The names of the people in this film have been changed to protect the guilty.<<<<< It's a shame there wasn't more of that humor in the film itself.

Trailer Park:

Shutter – I know with every fiber of my being that this film will be crap, but man, did that trailer give me the creeps.

Ruins - I've been hearing rumors that this one is really well done. Have to wait and see. Creepy trailer.

Forbidden Kingdom - This movie is either going to really suck or it's going to get a huge following. This trailer kinda made me think the latter.

Midnight Meat Train - My jaw dropped when they gave the title. Followed by hysterical laughter. Number of Clive Barker movies that were any good: ZERO. That Brooke Shields was the best they could get for a lead, says VOLUMES!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Movie Review: "Be Kind Rewind"

Who's in It: Jack Black, Mos Def and Danny Glover

What It's About: Two video store clerks recreate movies for customers after an accident erases all the tapes.

What I Was Expecting: Not much, to be honest. Sort of seemed like a one-joke film.

What I Got: A movie that knows it really only has one joke, so it tries to keep improving on the joke to some degree of success. The film takes a little too long to start telling the joke and goes on a little too long after the joke is done. But the ending did get to me a little bit. It's similar in tone and pace to last year's "Lars and the Real Girl". Jack Black is reigned in a bit from his usual manic self. He actually seems to be playing a part at first, but starts to stray towards the end. Mos Def gives a more genuine performance. Danny Glover reminds the audience that he can still deliver a good performance, even in a pimple of a part. The recreations of other movies are consistently funny and clever in how to reenact scenes on no-budget. Might have been more interesting to see a Kentucky Fried Movie style film of the two of them redoing more films.

Grade: C+

Oscar Potential: Zero, but art is not really what's being aimed for here.

Five Random Thoughts:

  1. The film opens with a LOUSY special effects shot as the camera swoops down into the town. It's very obvious the freeway isn't there and the cars frequently changing lanes aren't real.

  2. Mos Def should be hired more often. The range in doing Ford Prefect in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and this role here proves he has a lot of talent and, more importantly, pathos.

  3. Are Mos Def and Jack Black supposed to be slow or are they actually disabled?

  4. Why is Mia Farrow here? Are her children Danny Glover's?

5. The subplot involving Sigourney Weaver's character is not only pointless, but completely unrealistic. If what Def and Black are doing is copyright infringement, why do Bunny Theatre and Thumb Wars get away with it?

Trailer Park:

Never Back Down – Thankfully, the title is practically advertising that this is a film devoid of thought and should be avoided.

Run Fatboy Run - I was a little lost as to what this film was supposed to be about. I've read a plot synopsis and am even more confused. But it's got Simon Pegg and I'll go with it.

Get Smart - Lord, they need a new trailer.

Baby Mama - Tina Fey's new comedy comes out April 25, just before the summer movie season launches. A real shame. If they'd bumped it up a month, they could have ruled the box office for all of April and made $150 million. The trailer looks hilarious.

Sex and the City - I'm a fan of the show. I'll see it the first weekend. I just don't see how this will be little more than an elongated episode of the show. We will see.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Movie Review: "The Other Boleyn Girl"

Who's in It: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson and Eric Bana

What It's About: Anne and Mary Boleyn battle for the love of Henry VIII.

What I Was Expecting: Besides the historical inaccuracy of the previous statement, I really had no expectations. It was written by the same guy who wrote “The Queen” and “The King of Scotland”.

What I Got: Oh, Lord. Where do I start? Natalie Portman's back and forth between English aristocrat and Cockney accents? The mind-numbingly short scenes? The BIG laughs from the audience during scenes that should have been heartbreaking? (Note to wannabe filmmakers: incest in dramas shouldn't draw massive guffaws from the viewer.) The Portman comment pretty much speaks for itself. The brevity of the scenes was something that I noticed right off the bat. It was making me crazy to the point that about 10 minutes into the film, I actually started counting how many lines were in each scene. Here's a typical scene: Character #1 says something, usually a question. Character #2 responds with something significant to the plot. And...scene. For the curious, the longest scene I counted was 13 lines, during the trial of Anne Boleyn, and 12 of the lines were “GUILTY!”(sorry for spoiling the movie for those who slept through history class who didn't know Henry VII had 6 more wives after Anne.) As far as the laughs go, yeah, the incest scene really did not work. Anne's life was on the line and didn't see any other choice. She had just lost Henry's potential heir and needed to get pregnant fast. So why NOT turn to your brother? At that point, I started to wonder, “Is this MEANT to be funny?” I really don't think it was, but much like a lot of other dramatic moments in the film, it was met with much laughter. So if BAD movies make you break out in hysterics, this just might be the film for you.

Grade: D

Oscar Potential: Zero. Might even get some razzie consideration.

Five Random Thoughts:

  1. ADCD: Attention Deficit Costume Drama. It's like watching an adaptation of the Table of Contents of the Cliff's Notes of the book.

  2. I'm not sure if getting Portman or Johansson to go nude would've helped, but it sure as hell wouldn't have hurt.

  3. The best line during the film: the woman behind me during Anne's beheading, “You know, I think this might be a true story.” The woman was around 45.

  4. The second best line: Me to my wife as Anne is pouring a glass of water before climbing into bed with her brother, “Honey, I think you're gonna need something a lot stronger than that.”

  5. Funny how after Eric Bana's bed scene with Johansson, he actually looks bored in the film.

Trailer Park:

Made of Honor – I'm not all that big on the McDreamy chick flicks, but this one looks pretty funny.