Sunday, February 28, 2010

First off, I want to give permission to all of the Donnie Darko fans to dislike the The Box. Richard Kelley directed both and I have read some opinions online that offer up the premise that those who criticize The Box did not take time to understand it. I understood it all too well and did not like it.

The set up: Norma and Arthur Lewis ( Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) are enjoying a plain but calm 1970’s life with all of the required bad fashion and d├ęcor. Below the surface though there are economic fears as they struggle to make sure they can afford to send their son to the expensive private school where Norma is a teacher. Enter the box and Arlington Steward (Frank Langella)., a man who is described as charming even though he is literally missing half of his face. A box with a big red button is delivered in the middle of the night and the next day Arlington Steward shows up with a devilish offer. Push the button and you will receive 1 million dollars but someone you do not know will die., and like any good Mary Kay type salesman there is a promotional offer – a crisp new 100.00 dollar bill to keep either way. The whole dance with the devil scenario plays out and destroys any normalcy the Lewis family enjoyed.

One thing I love about the home movie viewing experience is that you can endlessly pause movies to make snacks, make a drink ( sadly the major theater chains don’t have bars) or argue with fellow viewers about how they are completely misunderstanding the movie. The reverse of this is when you are invested in finishing a movie but so over it that you impose the “no more pausing” rule…or even worse you fast-forward. The Box got the “no more pausing” rule invoked for about the last 30-45 minutes. In he end I felt I had watched what could have been a perfectly decent episode of the Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. A good and satisfying premise was saddled with a hour and a half of extra material and disconnected acting.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Were soccer players in the 70's really that unattractive?

I thought I would do a quick blurb on The Damned United because it is out on DVD now and is the type of movie that may be overlooked but shouldn't be. The chameleon like Michael Shean plays Brian Clough who for 44 days was manager of the Leeds United soccer team in England. I'm not a fan of soccer (you won't have to be to enjoy this movie either) and can't vouch for the complete accuracy of this story but this movie was brilliant. Brian Clough seems to have been a very complicated and contentious person. The story of how he went from a rising star to being fired after only 44 days is fascinating.Michael Shean has gained real acclaim playing real people as evidenced by The Queen and Frost/Nixon. He does the job beautifully here again. Not to be overlooked either is Timothy Spall who plays Clough's business partner and lifelong friend, andy yes Timothy Spall is the weasly evil Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter. You may wonder about my title. Well my only real reference to mondern soccer is an appreciation for the sexy David Beckham; so I was a bit rattled at how disheveled and even out of shape many of the players portrayed in the movie looked. Go ahead call me shallow.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My first reaction is, "Really? You just had to do it. First an A-Team remake and now this. None of my cheesy childhood pleasures are safe.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I want this family's gene pool...

I used my tag line facetiously because in this type of dramody (comedy/drama combo) the cast is always so good looking. The set up here is that Robert DeNiro finally plays old (think Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt) in the form of Frank Goode who sets out on a trip to visit each of his four adult children. This is spurred by a funny and yet sad beginning where they all cancel on a planned trip to which he has devoted quite a bit of preparation. Like so many movie travelers before him, he learns valuable lessons and hidden truths (read that with as much sincerity or sarcasm as you like).

I generally would recommend this movie if only because DiNero does such a good job playing the man of a bygone era. The sort who worked hard to provide financially but was disconnected from the emotional life of the family. His wife is dead and he is a bit adrift when he begins to suspect his children are never really comfortable opening up to him. Some specific details that are well done- he has the oldest answering machine imaginable, no cell phone, and assails strangers with pictures of his children. Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale and Drew Barrymore play the three children we do meet in vignette like scenes that are in my opinion too short. Although there are some funny moments there is sadness running through the movie because Frank's children are keeping a secret involving the unknown fate of the fourth who struggles with a hinted at drug problem. In the end the family is brought together and the DVD box describes this as "heart warming". I never really got there. Something was missing and "it" was made apparent by it's absence. Before I forget, Kate Beckinsale did a good enough job in this movie to be forgiven for the recent train wreck called White Out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bourne does Baghdad?

I was all in favor or a 4th Bourne movie but began to agree with opinions on line that another movie would just end up The Bourne Redundancy. Could it be that I just need to watch Green Zone and pretend it's Jason Bourne. Paul Greengrass directing ( he did Bourne 2 and 3), the story of a soldier defying his morally ambiguous over-lords, and ( the icing on the cake) a Moby song in the trailer. Me? I am sure I will be a fan and imagine we are in a place that there is a conspiracy movie about missing WMDs in Iraq.

Monday, February 22, 2010

James Cameron you may rule Hollywood but here you can suck it

Things I learned from BAFTA
1) A cardboard cut out would have been a better host.
2) Mickey Rourke rules. He went rouge in ways Sarah Palin can only imagine and delivered the line of the night, "Do you want it bareback or with a raincoat?"
3)Vanessa Redgrave can deliver a speech like no other and with the future king of England standing next to her who would cut her off.
4) Kristen Stewart must be playing Kristen Stewart in all of her movies. That shy awkward stuttering "thing" is really her. She won the rising star award which is voted on by the public. She seemed to be saying, "why did I win this? Oh wait I know, it's you crazed Twilight fans that now control my life"
5)People who win an award for costume design will always be wearing the worst outfit.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kick ass trailer for Kick Ass

This movie is generating a lot of buzz online. It's based on the latest comic book take on what would happen if real people put on dorky costumes and became vigilantes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shutter Island

The set up: Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo are federal marshals sent in 1954 to the dark and foreboding Shutter Island to investigate the near impossible disappearance of a patient from the island's asylum for the criminally insane. It soon becomes clear the staff is as suspect as the patients and that DiCaprio may actually be right when he jokingly says insanity is contagious.

The good? So much has here has been done right. The mystery quickly grows with so many possible explanations to pick from. Is it supernatural? Could the ghost Dicaprio's dead wife literally be helping him solve the mystery? A government conspiracy? Continuation of Nazi experiments?
There are some beautifully shot dream/hallucination scenes infused with drama and emotion by superb acting on the part of DiCaprio and Michelle Williams who plays his dead wife. The script is smart, clever with comments on the horrors of war and how the view of humanity was altered by assembly line like mass murder of the Holocaust. DiCaprio is the center of this drama in ways you will only realize at the end but the rest of the cast is equally adept.

The bad? I guess I should give the obligatory spoiler alert here...Half way through the movie I began to suspect where it was going to end and said a little prayer to the movie gods that it not be true. In the post Sixth Sense era, moviegoers have been, in my opinion, deluged with movies that abuse the "twist" ending. Often it is just lazy storytelling rather then a clever trick. It was not until later that I found out Shutter Island is based on a book; so my one big criticism does not really add up to too much. Rather than a conscious decision by Scorsese, the ending is consistent with the book. What is the twist? Don't worry I won't tell but let's just say that doctors on Shutter Island have some pretty progressive treatment methods.

One last note, when Brittany Murphy died, I saw someone online post, "who is going to play the crazy girls now?" I nominate Michelle Williams because in Shutter Island she plays crazy in ways that are scary good.