Friday, April 30, 2010

I am the target audience for this movie.....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Travel porn as a movie genre - and no, it's not that type of porn

At a certain point in my movie life, due in great part to my partner in crime, I started labeling certain movies as "travel porn". These movies fall into two categories. First is where a person or persons travels somewhere, possibly foreign and completely out of their element. They interact with the people, places, food, architecture and find life transformed. They discover a new life or a new life discovers them if you want to be philosophical about it. Romance or sex can definitely be part of the recipe too. The second is movies that so completely capture ideas (true or not) about a place and time that the viewer may become whimsical and starry eyed about living in those places. Here is a list of our favorites for your consideration:

-"Under the Tuscan Sun" - recently divorced and bitter Diane Lane buys a home in the Tuscan region of Italy. In a testament to the breeziness of this movie, she does a whole 30 seconds of calculations on how much she can afford to pay after renovations (to be done in her words by "the descendants of Roman gods") and living expenses. If the typical American home buyer had this skill, we could have avoided the whole housing crisis probably.

-"A Good Year" - phone throwing manly-man Russell Crowe keeps this from being an all chick-flick list as a nasty, evil, greedy stock broker in London who leaves it all behind for a life of "eating, drinking, sleeping and shagging" in France.

-"The Holiday" - online vacation home swapping service leads to life fulfillment for English Kate Winslet and L.A. girl Cameron Diaz

-"Saving Grace" - small English village populated by quirky characters (as if there are any others in small English villages) helps a widow save her finances and home by growing and selling the best pot in the world. Notable performance by Craig Ferguson pre Late Late Show.

-"Tea with Mussolini" - based on the life of filmmaker Franco Zeffireli this is a coming of age story with fantastic performances by Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Cher. Yes, Cher and I say that with no sarcasm or irony. You'll just have to see it.

-"Ladies in Lavender" - Judi Dench and Maggie Smith again. Snapshot of life in seaside England prior to WWII with two sisters sheltering a young man who washes up on shore after a boating accident. I know this description may sound really boring but it's not.

-"Raman Girl" - willowy, wispy Brittany Murphy follows her boyfriend to Tokyo and it turns out he is not so hot on the idea. She sticks around though conquers the language barrier and the heart of a grumpy master Ramen chef. This is the last Murphy movie I saw and although it was typical of her roles, it sure makes me miss what she brought to the screen.

- Ok, I see that the choices are skewing, recent, European and not very daring(vanilla travel porn if you will). These are honorable mentions that may round out the list a bit:
-"Enchanted April"
-"Lost in Translation
-"Nowhere in Africa"
-"Out of Africa"
-"The English Patient" (you don't have to point out post WWII Italy is not exactly a vacation)
-"The Beach"
-"Sweet Home Alabama" ( nobody says it has to be foreign and as the movie points out,"you - should need a passport to travel down here").
-"Eurotrip" - complete mocking parody of every tired European stereotype but it does make me laugh a lot.
"The Darjeeling Limited"

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekend DVD Roundup part duex - The Blind Side

I don't have too much to say about " The Blind Side" . Sandra Bullock looses herself in the role of Leigh Ann Touhy who practically adopts a young African American teenager and takes him off the path to becoming a sad statistic and puts him on one to success. She does this through a shock and awe campaign of southern charm and sassy attitude ( having a boatload of money doesn't hurt). Her character looms so large in the movie as to eclipse everyone else even Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) who you would have thought would be the center of the story. I like many others was taken in by Bullock's performance but for all of the attention "The Blind Side" received it was a pretty lightweight movie.

Weekend DVD Roundup- The Lovely Bones

As a fan of Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bone", I have been reading negative reviews of the movie with dismay for months. I made what was probably a mistake and read even more reviews on sites like IMDB after watching "The Lovely Bones" this weekend. The idea repeated in review after review goes something like this : Peter Jackson has gutted the story and left viewers with mostly an empty CGI shell. What can I say, I get it but very much fell for this movie. I can't imagine the number of choices that must be made when adapting a book into a movie. The pull to include as much as possible bumping up against the reality that you have to edit, edit, and then edit some more.

In the story of Susie Salmon, her tragic murder and afterlife Jackson has chosen to make a sparse story that gives you, if not all of the details from the book, then at least the feeling of Susie watching her family from a distance and exerting subtle influence. We get what could almost be described as vignettes of her family's life in the wake of her death. She is meant to be moving on but is constantly drawn back by their grief and desire for justice.

One element I'm surprised to find missing from all of the negative reviews is praise for the great performances. Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon is the literal and figurative voice of the movie. Her narration perfectly captures the sweet sadness that runs through the book and her portrayal of Susie before the murder is so endearing as to drive home even more the tragedy of what is to come. As a counterpoint to her role is Stanely Tucci as her killer. Without going overboard he perfectly portrays the idea of the nightmare you don't realize is living next door. I for one am glad his role is a bit subdued. I've tired of movies portraying serial killer's every motivation, fetish and macabre details of the crimes. I'll admit the under use of Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz is a mystery to me. Susan Sarandon deserves notice as Susie's grandmother, a woman after my own heart tackles life's challenges with a drink firmly in hand.

I probably could not change the minds of those who feel Peter Jackson has ruined a beloved book but decided I could enjoy the movie that is and not worry so much about the one that could have been.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What did I think of "Avatar" on DVD you might ask? To explain this I am going to tell you about the Fleurburger which is served at Fleur de Lys in Las Vegas ( Mandalay Bay to be exact) and costs a whopping $5000.00. It is as you can see in the above picture a sight to see once plated and it has plenty of bells and whistles like fole gras and a brioche truffle bun. However when reduced to it's basic elements it is just a very expensive burger (not even any cheese!) . In the end, with the visual tricks and effects reduced to my 37" Vizio HDTV, "Avatar" is just a very expensive ($280 million) movie that takes "Dances With Wolves" and "The New World" themes and gives them a sci-fi twist.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Finally got around to watching "Black Dynamite" and just in time because my friend Joe was about to revoke my membership in the cool kid's club. Not much I can say really that has not already been said about this all too funny spoof of the 70's blaxploitation genre. Everything you are looking for is here - character names like Cream Corn and Afrodite, lots of over the cliff exploding cars, good lovin' , purposely bad production values and a killer confrontation on Kung Fu Island. The best though is saved for the end when "the man" is finally revealed in a fight scene you must see to believe. So jump into this movie with a cry of "Not the orphans" and I promise it will go down smooth like Anaconda Malt Liquor.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekend DVD roundup

The DVD choices this weekend were definitely a study in contrasts with "Young Victoria" a PG movie with G rated tendencies and "Crazy Heart" about a washed up country singer whose life has went the way of the most depressing country songs.

Emily Blunt does a decent and admirable job as the young future Queen of England. The movie mostly covers her teen years when she bore the burden of being the only heir and was in essence a living chess piece in a political game between those jockeying to be the power behind the throne. Maybe I have been too influenced by "The Tudors" and the Elizabeth movies because despite their manipulations, even the worst characters in "Young Victoria" are so subdued as to be, let's see, Victorian. There is a sort of two word explanation - constitutional monarchy. Unlike some of her predecessors Victoria (to my dismay) does not have the power to even once imprison or execute anyone. That along with there not even being a hint of behind the scene dalliances (a nice way of saying sex) made this a blah experience at times.

"Crazy Heart" had a lot of hype to live up to with all of the praise during the awards season and Jeff Bridges best actor Oscar win. Bridges plays the aptly named Bad Blake who despite a promising country music career is close to hitting rock bottom when the movie opens. He plays gigs in bowling alleys, drinks non stop and probably wakes up most mornings next to an aging groupie he does not even remember. Bridges flawlessly abandons vanity and lets his body show every indignity this type of lifestyle would bring to someone his age. The movie charts his doomed relationship with Jean, a journalist played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and an eventual rise back to professional success and sobriety. I am a huge fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal but in this role I wonder what direction she was given or personal choices she was making, Her character is so vague that at the end of the movie, I could not have really have explained why she became involved with Bad so quickly or why she doesn't give him a second chance. My most pointed criticism is for a last minute ploy that is supposed to drive home that Bad does not have many chances left. This comes in the form of him loosing Jean's young son in a public place. It's done in a clumsy and not very realistic way that smacks of "after school special" and is totally unneeded. We got the "he's an alcoholic" point the first three times he threw up in a trash can or toilet. My verdict is that Jeff Bridges was incredible at what he did but the movie itself was flawed by formula plotting.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The House of Yes

Writing recently about "Happy Tears" gave me pause to think about my trajectory as a Parker Posey fan which began in the mid 90's with "Party Girl". Unfortunately the indie cult status of "Party Girl" means it has a very very very long wait on They might as well admit that it will never ship. However today "The House of Yes" arrived in the mail. This is a brilliant, wicked film that might suffer from the accusation of being pretentious with it's over indulged, privileged characters and lightning fast witty dialogue. The story is that Marty Pascel (Josh Hamilton) has made the unbelievable blunder of bringing his mousey girlfriend (Tori Spelling) home to meet his wealthy, dysfunctional family on the very night they will all be virtually trapped together by a hurricane. The driving force of the family and the movie as a whole is Parker Posey as Marty's sister, Jackie-O. She in step with the weather outside is pretty much an evil, brilliant, psychotic (with the pills to prove it) bitch in a little black dress. An unhealthy obsession with Jackie Onassis and Marty are icing on the cake. Worse yet for the poor girlfriend, once back in the fold, Marty does very little to discourage Jackie-O and ultimately joins in her twisted games. Nothing ends well here unless you see the world through Jackie-O's eyes that is.

I looked for the perfect clip to post. One that might capture the absolute dark comedy and give you permission to laugh through the discomfort. I found one that contains perhaps my favorite line of dialogue ever - "If people are going to start telling the truth around here, I'm going to bed".
If your experience with Parker Posey is one of "You've Got Mail" and "Scream 3" or worse yet "Superman Returns", I suggest taking a trip back to the 90's to see how she earned the title queen of the indies.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 upper decker?

When I first saw this I groaned but the 2cd time I paid attention and ....laughed. As a "fake" movie trailer like say those used in "Tropic Thunder" this looks pretty good, but can it sustain the humor for a full length movie? SNL skit movies have a checkered past. For every "Wayne's World" you have a "It's Pat" or "Stuart Saves His Family"......

Monday, April 12, 2010

The universe and my own unique inability to waste time has been keeping me out of the theater lately; so I have been watching some old favorites when I have the chance. Today that chance came in the form of 2002's "Dummy" on IFC. I love movies populated by geeks, freaks and losers and "Dummy" definitely fits the bill. Adrien Brody plays Steven, our lovable but completely inept hero who living with his parents and jobless decides to pursue his secret dream of ventriloquism. Brody does a fantastic job inhabiting this awkward guy and also bringing to life his alter ego, the dummy. Of course, it always helps to throw a clunky pair of glasses on the good looking guy a'la Clark Kent. Great performances also by Illeana Douglas as Steven's sister who lives at home too, blames everybody else for her problems, but realizes she's too old to be asking, "Mom can I please borrow the car today".

Some of my biggest praise though goes to Milla Jovovich. She is Fangora (Fanny), Steven's loud obnoxious punk wannabe friend. Think of the person who talks too loud in public and drops the F bomb. You know, the person who might make you regret the eco-friendly decision to use public transportation. I don't think I have enjoyed her so much in a movie besides maybe my first encounter in "The Fifith Element". I hope maybe there is less 3D action zombie movies in her future and maybe something more like "Dummy"

In the end it all works out for our geeks, freaks and losers. Steven in some self medication works out his issues via the dummy and lands his love interest(Vera Farmiga). Fangora channels her anger through punk klezmar music. I don't think I can describe it; so check out this YouTube clip (
Even Steven's sister lets go of her excuses and seems to find her footing. That's the magic of movies because let's face as interesting as characters like these are in movies, knowing them in the real world can be a bitch.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Friday night, we here at the MockingMovies household were in a movie-less funk with nothing to watch. Thank God, for Comcast giving us the option to spend too much money and watch movies that are still playing in theaters. The preview for "Happy Tears' presented what appeared to be a run of the mill dysfunctional family "dramedy" starring Rip Torn, Demi Moore, Parker Posey(this sold me on the movie) and Ellen Barkin. I have been a consummate fan of Parker Posey through her reign as the queen of the indies during the 90's and in her more conventional fare ("You've Got Mail" and "Scream 3"), and I had a feeling that she would raise this movie above the ordinary. I was not disappointed. There is so much going on here that is not hinted at in the trailer.
Moore and Posey are sisters who have to return home to take care of their father ( Rip Torn) who is beginning to suffer from dementia. The family dynamic is quickly set up with Moore being the older, responsible sister who takes care of and shelters her younger, quirky, needy sister. Rip Torn walks the fine line between being the dark comedy offered by his dementia and the more weighty prospect of becoming a burden on his daughters. All of this is the run of the mill part I referred to before. The unexpected comes in the form of trippy fantasy sequences Posey's characters lapses into when confronted with anything remotely challenging and the fantastic Ellen Barkin. Barkin is a drugged up homeless woman and possible prostitute who having hit rock bottom appears to have moved into Rip Torn's house under the guise of being his nurse. The running joke is that spends the entire movie with a stethoscope around her neck.

There is much to enjoy here and I would highly recommend "Happy Tears" .

Monday, April 5, 2010

Weekend DVD roundup

Jeff had not seen "Sherlock Holmes" so that was our rental for the weekend. No new thoughts really. After leaving the theater when I originally saw it I had tweeted that it was Tony Stark for the Victorian age with the only real chemistry being between Holmes and Watson ( my friend Joe summed it up as bromance). I enjoyed the visual tricks used to show Holmes as a genius driven to deduce ( much like Stark is driven to invent) whose mind is flooded with details he cannot filter. The Guy Ritchie manic style and a steampunk vibe made this a good theater experience. However, on a second viewing I realized it was a been there done that type of movie that I didn't need to add to my collection at home. l can't resist saying that I am glad the ex Mr. Madonna is making successful movies again and I say that as a fan of both Guy Ritchie and Madonna.

Call me old fashioned but can I have some good 2D storytelling please

I enjoyed "Resident Evil", hated number 2 and skipped 3. This looks like a money grabbing excuse to throw every imaginable object off the screen via 3D. I can't imagine there is much story here.....

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Our friends David and Michelle re introduced us last night to the concept of watching a movie so bad it's fun with the original 1959 "House on Haunted Hill". The all too familiar plot is that a sadistic millionaire(Vincent Price) and his equally evil, greedy wife are hosting a party at an infamous haunted house with a $10,000 reward for whoever survives the entire night locked in the house. Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart as his wife are fantastic. Price for some reason pronounces the word "party" as "partay" throughout the entire movie and Ohmart works a fierce blond glamour mullet ( I could not find this as a yet classified mullet; so I may have discovered a new one!). The movie moves bravely forward as the party guests drink enough to get sloppy drunk and scream a lot. Better yet the host gives them guns. Think of it as an early trial run of Tennessee's "guns in bars law". The "special effects" and I use that term loosely, are a sight to behold with the biggest effect being carried out with a dancing skeleton. Check this movie out definitely because with all said and done it is better than the dismal 1999 remake. Next week we might continue the trend and tackle, "Werewolf in the Girl's Dormitory".

Friday, April 2, 2010

Clash of the Titans Epic trailer - bargain bin movie? I'm afraid so...

With a title like this I had better have some reasons for really not liking "Clash of the Titans"; so here is my best attempt to list my disappointment:

-I wanted more Greek gods. The opportunities thrown away by not using even Hera are mind boggling ( to me).

-A messy miss mash of throw away characters. I never connected with Perseus whose angst should be driving the story. Andromeda is boring although I did enjoy her drunk father and drag queen like mother. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't "the end is near" prophet in Argos remind you of someone who was headed to Bannaroo and took a wrong turn?

-Clunky special effects. I am not an expert on this. When effects are done well, I know it and enjoy. When they're not I recognize that too. Large scale CGI like the Kraken looked good but smaller effects like Medusa didn't blend well. Worse yet, on the ferry ride to the underworld, Charon ( hope I have that right, anyway the guy guiding the ferry) looked practically animatronic.

-Too much action at the expense of story. I hardly felt we were in the theater for 118 minutes because one fast action sequence moved quickly to another with very little downtime. I need the downtime if not to connect to the characters, then to at least feel that I am watching real people act and not just a CGI fest.

Ok, there it is. I'm pinning my hopes on next week's "Kick-Ass" for a good movie experience.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

It's probably not fair to describe it this way but Jolie goes Bourne.

I'm digging this and it's time for her to return to dark, dangerous, sexy territory. There was "Wanted" but I found her roles in "A Mighty Heart" and "Changeling" a bit anemic. What do you think?