Monday, May 24, 2010

The drama, angst, anxiety and ambivalence caused by February 14th........

With about 25 highly recognizable names and interconnected story lines that orbit an upcoming holiday, "Valentine's Day" has been compared mostly negatively to 2003's "Love Actually".   "Love Actually" starred just about every British actor/actress I would expect average American movie goers to easily recognize, took place during the weeks before Christmas and chronicled the loves and losses of a group of Londoners. "Valentine's Day" is set in L.A. and you get the feeling of different "types" all bumping up against each other  (in cute ways of course, no "Crash" like edginess simmering in this large multi-ethnic L.A.).  The most outright accusation I can make of ripping off "Love Actually" is the presence of an overly serious adult like child who is struggling to express his feelings to a first love. He has the absent mother too and all of the cute bells and whistles that are expected. Not to antagonize a child actor, but I did find Thomas Sangster in "Love Actually" cuter and just a tad bit more precocious without going overboard. Most of the individual stories in "Valentine's Day" are fairly predictable. For example we have a "running through the airport" scene which I would love one day to see played out with the character tasered, facing charges and on a nefarious no fly list.  With that said, there are some charms. Anne Hathaway as a young woman juggling a temp job, a new boyfriend and a secret live as a phone sex operator made me laugh out loud a few times but I was a bit disappointed that the boyfriend (Topher Grace) immediately wanted to break up with her when he found out about the phone sex job. I can't be the only person who would think that was titillating and let's be honest, cool.  My final estimation is that if you are ever faced with just these two choices on movie night,  choose "Love Actually".  Now that will probably never happen; so rent "Love Actually" and wait for "Valentine's Day" to show up on cable. One more thing (spoiler alert), despite what the trailer may show, Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts' characters are not hooking up.......

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hasidic Jews smuggling Ecstasy? My interest is piqued...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Can't decide if I should cynically compare this to Dark City or The Forgotten

Monday, May 10, 2010

Weekend DVD Roundup- Two good movies to wash away the taste of bad romcom

"Leap Year" - First off, despite the beautiful Irish scenery, as the official gatekeeper of travel porn, I will not be adding this to the list.  Romcoms are often described as light and fluffy but here we will go with flimsy and paper-thin. In a short and shallow set up, we meet Anna  (Amy Adams) and her boyfriend. All you need to know about them is that she stages high-end apartments and he is a cardiologist. This tags her as the control freak obsessed with the little details that create perceived perfection. Not much to say about the boyfriend who will from this point forward be referred to as "the cardiologist" . He is rich, accomplished and needs the same in a mate. Like so many female movie characters before her Anna yearns for a marriage proposal as the final piece of the puzzle to "stage" her life. Said cardiologist is dragging his feet on this matter and disappoints one time too many. He is off to a conference in Dublin and she decides to follow him. We're fed a story about an Irish tradition where women propose to their boyfriends on leap day. This is supposed to supply urgency because she wants the romantic story this trip will supply. However she is so frantic I just wondered what bad things would happen if she proposed on, say, the day after leap day?  Would she have been breaking some Irish law against female empowerment?
 I won't bore you with too many details but bad weather lands her instead in what must be the Irish version of redneck land and at the mercy of Matthew Goode's grumpy innkeeper/taxi driver. He calls her "idjet"(idiot), she calls him jackass and they are off on the race to true love. I think "Leap Year" may have been better served with at least a PG13 rating. The two lovebirds could have expressed their early distaste for each other in some more colorful language and the sexual tension may have been amped up. Also don't worry about the cardiologist. He's left behind in Boston with enough of Anna's shallow female friends, that he'll be hooked up in no time.

"Uncertainty" - A first glance I feared this movie was saddled with too much of a film school project type plot. Take two characters, film them in two polar opposite stories but have the same themes resonate in both. Fortunately this turned out to be my favorite of the three weekend movies. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins (IMDB her because she looks so familiar and not at the same time) play a couple who have to decide whether to spend the 4th of July with her family or head to Manhattan looking for adventure. The Manhattan storyline turns into an over the top contrived action adventure movie while the family weekend is fraught with it's own emotional dangers. This is very purposeful and plays out the overriding theme. I see this as the dilemma that filmmakers must face : do you produce the big budget action movie that probably is full of plot holes or the more nuanced character drama. "Uncertainty" may not be for everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Levitt and Collins take up most of the screen time which can be a big burden but they rise to the task in excellent ways. 

"New York, I Love You" - Last but not least this movie is a companion piece to the 2006 movie "Paris, I Love You" with ten shorts populated by various "characters" in New York.  The cast of actors is really impressive -Natalie Portman, Shia LaBeouf, Orlando Bloom, Ethan Hawke, Andy Garcia, John Hurt, Christina Ricci, Robin Wright and so many others. The cast alone is reason enough to see this movie. In addition one of the more beautifully filmed sequences is a project produced by the late Anthony Minghella. The stories range from the funny, to the sad, to the trivial. It works for the most part but since it is meant to be a love story about a city, I would've liked to have seen more of that city. Too many scenes give a big city vibe but nothing that seemed iconic of New York.  It definitely peaked my interest enough that I am adding "Paris, I Love You" to my Blockbuster que.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Weekend DVD Roundup- 3 days late and 1 movie short - It's Complicated

 The set-up for "It's Complicated" seemed promising - middle aged woman (Meryl Streep) who thinks she has her post divorce life figured out finds herself "the other woman" when she starts an affair with her ex husband (Alec Baldwin). Meryl Streep does all things well including comedy and Alec Baldwin is the perfect fit for a character who is full of himself and conveniently self delusional. Throw in Steve Martin and John Krasinksi (who mines comic gold each week on "The Office") and I was expecting a diverting 120 minutes. Instead this movie irritated me continuously for 2 hours. What went wrong? I am going to cut the actors some slack and lay the blame at the feet of director and writer Nancy Meyers. She tends to write movies that have a thin veneer of neurotic self-entitlement. Sometimes it works or is at least tolerable as in "The Holiday" but here she lays it on a bit thick. Streep's Jane is the type of woman who has feng shui'd her life into submission, watches "The Hills" with her daughter, and makes ice cream when she can't sleep ( funny, all I get are bags under my eyes). Her romantic dilemma is a choice between two men - an architect who lost his wife to another man on a couples bike tour of Italy and the ex who lives under the twin threat of his younger wife's fascist ovulation schedule and a demon step-child. Cliché on top of cliché that eventually eclipses the acting.

Speaking of acting. What a waste to have Jim Krasinksi in this movie. His role as Jane's future son-in-law is to wince, shrug, smile and sigh. Note to Nancy Meyers, facial expressions and body language are only the beginning of emoting and not the final product.  Last note and then I will stop beating up on the movie, I promise. I don't know what Jane's three adult children are supposed to represent but they are harpy, over emotional and creepy in a Stepford sort of way. As a child of divorce I can tell you I would've ended up in therapy if anyone ever suggested snuggling in bed with my adult siblings as comfort from a divorce that happened ten years prior.