Friday, May 29, 2009

What Happened Last Night? I Have Such A Hangover.

Two days before his wedding, Doug (Justin Bartha) and three friends drive to Las Vegas for a wild and memorable stag party. In fact, when the three groomsmen wake up the next morning, they can't remember a thing; nor can they find Doug. With little time to spare , the three hazy pals try to re-trace their steps and find Doug so they can get him back to Los Angeles in time to walk down the aisle in The Hangover

Two days before he ties the knot with his rich and gorgeous fiancee, blandly affable Doug (Bartha) takes off for a brief Las Vegas sojourn with three groomsmen: His two best buddies -- Phil (Bradley Cooper), a cynical and sardonic high school teacher, and Stu (Ed Helms), a dentist usually kept on a tight leash by his nagging girlfriend (a truly monstrous Rachel Harris) -- and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Doug's future brother-in-law, a lumpy lunk who's all too eager to befriend and belong. Even with odd-man-out Alan along for the ride, the bachelor-partiers enjoy a wild night of booze-fueled revelry in Sin City. The next morning, however, three of them awaken in their posh hotel suite with only the haziest of memories about the previous evening's events, and no explanation at all for the snarling tiger in their bathroom and the crying baby in their closet. Worse, they have no earthly idea what happened to the inexplicably missing Doug. Their journey brings them in contact with, among others, Taser-wielding cops, angry Asian gamblers, a perky stripper (Heather Graham) with newly forged ties to Stu, and an unexpectedly angry but not infinitely patient Mike Tyson. Early on, it's revealed that the revelers weren't merely drunk, they were drugged while cutting an antic swath through the Vegas night world. Oddly enough, that's just enough to anchor the pic in something like real-world logic, even as the plot takes ever more outlandish twists and turns. In fact, it's tempting to read The Hangover as a wild-and-crazy spin on a scenario that would have been entirely suitable for a deadly serious '40s film noir. The humor is unapologetically raunchy -- a closing-credits photo montage includes some borderline NC-17 naughtiness -- and sporadically brutal. Helmer Phillips sustains an overall tone of anything-goes swagger that he neatly subverts with steadily mounting desperation and ego-deflating humiliations. Throughout it all, however, Cooper, Helms and even Galifianakis (whose character comes closest to caricature) remain sufficiently disciplined to refrain from going too far over the top. Bartha does well in a thankless role, but he's simply not visible long enough to make as much impact. On the other hand, Ken Jeong makes the absolute most of his limited screen time as an effete antagonist whose mincing trash talk likely will be quoted extensively by the pic's fans. Jokey references to "Rain Man" and "A Beautiful Mind" are amusing, but not nearly as funny as the pic's self-aware reference to the cliched notion that there's nothing as hilarious as a pratfall by a fat man. I loved Fat Jesus. A comedy that's funny and naughty. This is a franchise. Mike Tyson has a career in movies!



Cooper is terrific (and can deliver a line) and frankly, it is clear that director Phillips has a wonderful light touch. The character of Alan could have been Jack Black obnoxious but instead, it is a gently-tuned highlighted performance. Helms is ideally cast and Mike Tyson is hysterical. Also along for the noticeably well-shot (by Lawrence Sher) raucous ride is Heather Graham as a sweetly disposed pole dancer whom Helms has apparently married, and Ken Jeong as the certifiably unhinged, vengeance-seeking Mr. Chow. With Doug off screen most of the time, Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis must carry the story, and all three actors do strong work playing different male archetypes, remaining sympathetic no matter how foolishly they behave. Helms articulates Stu’s henpecked timidity without reducing the character to a one-note wimp. And although Galifianakis has the toughest job of the three leads, he makes Alan more than just a stereotypical weirdo-loner, turning him into a truly pathetic and vulnerable man-child. Without revealing any spoilers, suffice it to say that The Hangover gets excellent comic mileage from unexpected plot twists, which sometimes demands hairpin tonal shifts or peculiar celebrity cameos. Still, the filmmakers keep the proceedings mostly grounded in reality so that the stranger revelations still feel anchored in believable human interactions. The screenplay by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore is perfect, with all the question marks effectively answered. Part of the film’s strength is making it all seem charming rather than horrifying and here it works perfectly. The best summer comedy so far. This gets a 4 on my "Go See" scale.

The Hangover That Happens In Vegas, Doesn't Stay In Vegas

Today Hollywood gives us one type of comedy, smash mouth and raunchy. There isn't anything wrong with this type of so called comedy if it makes you laugh. In "The Hangover" we get "In The FACE" raunchy. The hangover is one of those buddy type films that just misses the mark, the friends are so different from each other that you wonder if that is what attracted them to each other? On the eve of his wedding to Tracy Garner (Sasha Barrese) Doug Billings (Justin Bartha) will be treated to a party to beat all parties. It is the standard male ritual that the bachelor should have his send off in style, so Doug knows that trying to talk his friends out of this Vegas party is useless, especially his friend Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper) who is the wild one of the group. Also coming along is Dr. Stu Price (Ed Helms) who is only a dentist, as his friends are more than happy to point out. The one odd ball tagging along is Tracy's brother Alan (Zach Galifianakis) who will be, at times the weirdest, and at others the sanest.

Of course things don't go according to plan, and in a party where four adult men are drinking, nothing ever goes according to plan, here though they fall apart right from the start. Phil has the receptionist change their room from a two bedroom suite to a huge villa, Stu who is brow beaten by his girlfriend has to keep calling her, so that his story of going to Napa Valley won't fall apart. Alan disappears to go pick up a few things and when he returns it's with drink so that they can do the standard male ritual make a toast to their friend. What they don't know is that Alan has added a little something to the liquor, and this is where their night goes completely wrong. We of course don't see first hand what happens, we get slow revelations as the trio look for their buddy Doug.

The next morning when they wake up the room is a mess, Stu is worried because they have his credit card, Alan goes to the bathroom and finds a tiger in there, Phil wakes up with the mother of all headaches, when they decide to just leave, they notice that their friend Doug is missing. Of course the joke wouldn't be complete if it wasn't for the surprise they find in the closet, a baby boy, Alan takes charge of the baby and these are some of the funnier scenes in the movie. The three decide to try to find where Doug is and here we get the standard slow revelation of just what happened to the friends the night before. They notice a hospital band on Phil's wrist so they decide of course to start there. Included in this visit to the hospital is a little bit of gross out humor that I for one didn't need to see. This visit to the hospital reveal that the group had been to a wedding, after the Dr. tells them - in one of the funniest lines in the whole movie - where to find the chapel, the friends go there and find out that one of them is now married. This leads to of course going to the home of Jade (Heather Graham) who is not only the newlywed wife but is also a stripper. Each clue takes them one step closer to finding Doug, when the friends are at Jade's house the police break in and arrest the trio, they had stolen a squad car the night before, and they make a deal with the two officers, Franklin (Rob Riggle) and Garden (Cleo King) to participate in a stun gun class for some students. This is by far the funniest scenes in the movie, one by one the three are shot with the stun gun, here is where officer Franklin refers to Alan as Fat Jesus. The oddest character is Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) who played craps with the friends and was basically kidnapped and held in the trunk of their car, when he escapes, he brings his henchmen back to confront the trio of friends, telling them they have his eighty thousand dollars and he has their friend Doug. Chow wants his money so the trio decide that Alan's plan to count the cards on the black jack table is their only hope, winning enough money to rescue their friend they drive out to the desert to find that the Doug (Mike Epps) that Chow has isn't their friend after all, but a drug dealer. Mike Tyson makes one of the films best cameos seen in along time, I think Tyson has found himself a new career, one where the only one he can hurt is himself. Mike a word of advice on your new endeavor... Stay away from films like this.

Of course the friends find Doug, he was almost right over their heads the whole time, Stu and Jade come to an understanding about their wedding and Stu asks if he can come visit her again for a real date. The wedding goes on without a hitch, Phil and his wife are their, Alan and Stu, who confronts his girlfriend and tells her that this what ever this is, isn't working for him. The final scene is one of revelation to the friends as well as the viewers, Alan finds a digital camera that shows pictures of the friends as they go from drunk stupor to just plan stupid.

I give The Hangover a 1 and on my avoidance scale a 2, unless you like jokes about drugs, body parts and excrement, this is a movie that you can avoid until you yourself are bored silly and want to just laugh. Otherwise you will be better off to just avoid this movie all together.

The Hangover is rated R for Pervasive Language, Sexual Content Including Nudity and some Drug Material
Running time is 1 hr. 39 mins.

The Management Should Always Be This Helpful

Management is a romantic comedy that chronicles a chance meeting between Mike Cranshaw (Steve Zahn) and Sue Claussen (Jennifer Aniston). When Sue checks into the roadside motel owned by Mike's parents in Arizona, what starts with a bottle of wine "compliments of Management" soon evolves into a multi-layered, cross-country journey of two people looking for a sense of purpose. Mike, an aimless dreamer, bets it all on a trip to Sue's workplace in Maryland – only to find that she has no place for him in her carefully ordered life. Buttoned down and obsessed with making a difference in the world, Sue goes back to her yogurt mogul ex-boyfriend Jango (Woody Harrelson), who promises her a chance to head his charity operations. But, having found something worth fighting for, Mike pits his hopes against Sue's practicality, and the two embark on a twisted, bumpy, freeing journey to discover that their place in the world just might be together.

In Management, Zahn plays Mike, the night manager at his parents’ run-down roadside motel in Kingman, Arizona. Bored and uninspired, Mike passes the days watching TV and tending to chores around the motel, whether fixing an overflowing toilet in room 210, or sprucing up the breakfast bar in the lobby. He’s a grown man, rudderless in life’s ambitions until he meets Sue (Aniston) a traveling saleswoman who peddles cheap motel artwork and whose recent stop necessitates a stay at Mike’s motel. Emboldened by his behind-the-desk authority, Mike makes his move on Sue who is only mildly accepting out of courtesy. Here’s where things could have turned a bit creepy, and where a horror film would certainly take its sinister turn. After Sue leaves to head back home, Mike buys a one-way ticket to Baltimore and shows up unannounced at her office. Initially a bit disturbed by the visit, Sue eventually falls to Mike’s puppy dog charm and allows him to spend the weekend in her apartment. Sue must recognize the same disarming allure in Mike that we sense in Zahn. Handled by an actor any more menacing or less able to make us see the genuine concern and wide-eyed affection his character feels for someone he truly believes is his soul mate, the film would surely cross over into the realm of absurdity. But Zahn is so convincing we buy into his enchantment… hook, line, and sinker. Maybe it’s his boyish facial expressions or our own memories of childhood pursuits of those we couldn’t have, but regardless, we struggle right alongside Mike as his good-hearted charm and romantic wit begin to eventually whittle away at Sue’s tough external facade. Funny but not cloying, touching without being sappy, Management is an astute slice-of-life, a sympathetic character study, and an offbeat love story all rolled into one satisfying package. With a different tone and in less confident hands, the film could have easily turned into something creepy, insulting and distasteful. Indeed, Mike could very well be described as a stalker, chasing her across the country, parachuting from planes, and spying outside her home as a means of edging closer to her. What stops his actions from becoming deplorable is how well-meaning he is. Besides being harmless and, at times, socially inept, there is never a moment's doubt that Mike has fallen head over heels in love with Sue. Sue sees all of these things in him, and is unsure how to react. She knows Mike's behavior isn't typical adult conduct, but she can't help but be charmed by his unabashed ways. Her other option—punkish ex-boyfriend-turned-yogurt-entrepreneur Jango (Harrelson)—isn't exactly a prized piece, anyway.  Mike's and Sue's initial interplay is surprisingly affecting even under unusual circumstances, and their getting-to-know-you banter after he flies to Maryland to see her sparks with electricity. A scene where Mike wakes up after a night of sleeping on the floor and kisses a snoozing Sue on the forehead is unassuming and adorable in its quiet simplicity. The material turns a little broader in the second act, when Mike tracks Sue down again after she gets back together with Jango and moves to Washington. Woody Harrelson does what he's supposed to do in the thankless role of Jango, but he is so abrasive that the viewer recognizes right away that Sue shouldn't be with him. It takes her a while to figure this out herself, not because of a strained screenplay but because of the realities of her confused character. She may appear to have it all together, but, like Mike, she has her own sort of growing to do.

Aniston seems slightly miscast in her role. Not so much in how she handles her character (she’s actually quite good), but rather because Sue would be better served by an actress less strikingly attractive or perhaps a decade or so older. We might find it easier to buy into Sue’s attraction to Mike if she were played by a Catherine Keener or an Emily Blunt. Both certainly beautiful actresses, but they’re more capable of pulling off common or approachable. We have a little trouble buying into the fact that Sue would find anything attractive or appealing in Mike, but the bubbly chemistry between Aniston and Zahn makes everything work. We develop genuine care and concern for the characters -- a vital element for a romantic comedy to work. Steve Zahn carries the film as Mike, and one would be hard-pressed to come up with a previous character he has played that is as interesting and multidimensional as this one. Emanating a childlike wonder and earnestness without coming off as dumb or slow-witted, Zahn is irresistible as a man who doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, but does know that he wants Sue in it. A scene where he scatters the ashes of his mother and stuffs a handful in his pocket is humorous even as Zahn breaks your heart. The ability to amuse and touch at once is a rare gift, and Zahn performs this feat again and again. Management is an addictively charming little movie about loosening up and chasing your dreams. There are a lot of reasons why the film shouldn’t work, and it could have easily tipped over into slapstick silly or even stalker creepy. In fact, some of the film’s offbeat moments feel quirky for quirky’s sake and it works. This one sure worked for me. This gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

This Motels Management Takes Extra Care Of It's Guests

Small market movies have given us reason to laugh, cry and stand up and cheer, and they have gotten their reward as well. Slumdog Millionaire was last years Cinderella motion picture and went on to win several Academy Awards including Best Director and Best Motion Picture. Some movies are made just to entertain the audience they hit a cord in our lives and are then gone just as quickly. "Management" a quiet little gem delivers on this note.

Management chronicles the chance meeting of Mike Cranshaw (Steve Zahn) who is a loner type and works the over night shift at his parents motel. Trish (Margo Martindale) and Jerry (Fred Ward) run a small roadside motel in Arizona, and one day Sue Claussen (Jennifer Aniston), a traveling art saleswoman registers to stay there overnight. Mike is immediately drawn to her. Using the guise of free wine Mike drops by Sue's room, once inside he pretends that the motel usually gives wine to it's guest. Sue being a nicer person allows Mike to come in. Sue will regret this almost right away. The big mistake was in allowing Mike to touch her butt. She does this thinking that maybe he will just go, what he does is the last thing she expects. Then later she will do the last thing she would ever believe she was capable of doing.

The next morning as Sue is getting ready to leave she makes the biggest mistake of her life, one she won't regret for a few days, but one she will find was what she really wanted all along, she goes into the laundry room with Mike and passion ensues. Sue leaves for Maryland right after they are done, Mike who is now thunder struck decides that he has found the one true love of his life, he thinks that his life had been going nowhere working in a nowhere little motel and he is determined to follow her home and tell her he is in love with her. When he gets to Maryland he is a fish out of water, the one thing he thinks he can do is just be honest and tell Sue what she means to him. Arriving at her company Sue is surprised to see him, she tells him that he has to go back home, that she has no room for anyone in her life right now. Mike is crushed and asks her to just spend the day with him, and then he will leave. Sue who is obsessed with making her life count for something decides that she needs stability and turns to the one man she does think she can count on, Jango (Woody Harrelson) is an ex punk rocker turned Yogurt mogul who just happens to be her ex-boyfriend. Sue thinks the life she will have being a bride will allow her to concentrate on making a difference in other peoples lives. He has proposed to Sue and thinking that she will take control of his company, Sue accepts his proposal thinking this way she can do the most good for the most people.

Mike believing he has finally found the one woman that he just can't live without, comes to the understanding that just working at his parents motel he will just rot away in the slow daily routine that he forces himself to endure. Making the only choice that he feels he has left, for a shot at happiness Mike goes back to Maryland, unfortunately he finds out that Sue is now back with Jango, broken hearted and almost broke Mike takes a job in a Chinese restaurant, meeting Al (James Hiroyuki Liao) who tells Mike to go for it, to just tell Sue how he feels. He does this one night by singing Sue a song, right out side of her window, and this is the movies funniest scene, there are several but this is one that you will remember long after it is over. In another of the movies memorable scenes Mike skydives into Jango's pool and is rescued by Jango himself. Feeling insecure about Mike and Sue's relationship Jango pays a visit to the restaurant and tells Mike to leave Sue alone. Taking his advice to heart Mike feels his only option is to just head back to where he can be himself, home and the family that accepts him as he is. Going back home Mike feels that his life couldn't get any worse until Sue stops in again, he tells her that his parents have given him the motel and he wants to give it to her to fulfill one of her dreams, this is a touching moment and the two stars play it to the max. The ending is of course one we see from the start but it works because of the chemistry between Aniston & Zahn works so well, the smaller character roles work because they seem to fit right in, the sadness of the characters can be felt in their motions and words, this is hard to do, it's even harder to do right.

I give Management a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0, this is one of those slow down and enjoy movies, it is cute and enjoyable, go check into this little roadside motel and watch the sparks fly. Steve Zahn has been in several small movies and is quietly making a name for himself, though this movie won't contend for any Oscars it may be one of the more widely missed movie of 2009.

Management is rated R for Language
Running time is 1 hr. 33 mins.

An Indepth Look At Mike Tyson, From The Man Himself

Love him or hate him, Mike Tyson is inarguably one of popular culture’s most fascinating figures. In this riveting documentary portrait of the controversial boxer, filmmaker and friend James Toback lets Tyson tell his own volatile story right here. This is Tyson.

No other sporting figure has ever been afforded so much screen time for self-revelation: just another instance of Iron Mike's one-of-a-kind status. It all started in a rough-and-tumble Brooklyn neighborhood, where Tyson was picked on and beaten up as a youngster. But when he turned his fear into anger, he realized that his fists had the ferocity to frighten everyone around him. As a teenager, Tyson moved upstate to live with trainer Cus D’Amato, who became the devoted and compassionate father figure he never had. This support helped Tyson develop the strength and focus needed to become a devastating champion inside the ring. But when D’Amato died, something inside Tyson died too, turning him into an even more dangerous monster outside of the ring. As Tyson speaks openly about the ups and downs in his tumultuous life--alternating between moments of sincere introspection and animalistic rage--Toback employs a split-screen approach to further emphasize his emotionally unstable nature. Mixed into this talking-head monologue is striking archival footage that shows Tyson in his prime, when he was one of the most feared and idolized athletes on the planet. Tyson is an appropriately subjective journey into the mind of a massively complicated man. Mike Tyson would be close to last on anyone's list of people requiring sympathy. For many years, beginning in the mid-1980s, the "Baddest Man on the Planet" held or contested the heavyweight boxing crown through physical prowess and intimidation. During a grudge match in 1997, he chewed off part of the ear of rival Evander Holyfield. Outside the ring, Tyson lived as if laws and social graces were designed for lesser beings. The law, at least, caught up with him: Tyson spent three years in jail in the early 1990s on a rape conviction. But there are always tales and tears behind the headlines, and here they are. Turns out that big, bad Mike, the man with fists of iron and a giant flame tattoo on his face, is deep down a misunderstood softie. He was bullied at school, taunted for keeping pet pigeons and generally treated like a dumb lisping lug from Brooklyn. He says he learned to fight because, "I'm just afraid of being treated that way again." Like a man in a 12-step program – he also spent time in rehab – the ex-champ confesses his sins in straight-to-camera testimonials. Toback, who normally deals in dramatic narratives of jocks, playboys and thugs, lets his subject speak at length, interspersed with archival and split-screen footage of the boxer in action. "I have to be honest, I'm a jerk sometimes," Tyson says, presenting himself as a man who just loves life too much for his own good. Convenient memory lapses and the strong aroma of self-interest taint his contrition. That ear-biting incident? "I blacked out." His reluctance to take "no" in bed? "I love saying `no' all the time when I'm making love." That stormy marriage to Robin Givens? "We were just kids." The estimated $300-to-$400 million in earnings he blew? "Old too soon, smart too late."Still, it's fascinating to hear Tyson speak. No one pretends that the documentary is objective appraisal – there are almost no commentators besides Tyson himself. Toback, himself a man of many avowed vices, is sympathetic without being naive. But he's also not inclined to go after Tyson, and his instincts are correct. With a subject this eager for self-immolation, it seems almost cruel to pile more logs on the fire. Toback fashions a sharp doc out of a blunt object.


Mike Tyson is thoughtful. Huh? The documentary movie Tyson reveals a Mike Tyson I can almost guarantee you haven't seen before. Hardly anyone thinks of former boxer Tyson as articulate and sincere. But director James Toback does and captures these qualities in a fascinating, sympathetic portrait. Tyson is a film of vast surprises. Many of us know Tyson as the bull of a fighter who bit part of Evander Holyfield's ear off, and lost a fight to Buster Douglas as more than a 40-1 favorite. Some view Tyson as a bum whom wife Robin Givens accused of abuse in a tv interview with Barbara Walters and who was imprisoned for rape (of Miss Black America contestant Desiree Washington). Most people have a negative image of Tyson. Toback sets out to at least qualify that -- and perhaps change it totally. He very well may have succeeded. The first thing that surprised me was that Tyson is much more articulate than I thought. He uses such words as "surreal," "erudites" (although he uses it as a noun not an adjective), "self-aggrandizing," "and "immature," and he uses the adverb "badly" correctly. Tyson misuses "fellatio," but nobody's perfect. A second surprise is Tyson's sincerity. Although we may have a nagging suspicion that we're not getting the full picture, Tyson's humility and accountability seem sincere. So too do his tears for mentor and father figure Cus D'Amato. A third surprise is that Tyson was a student of boxing. When he was a young fighter with D'Amato, night after night he watched footage of the great fighters of the past, studying their moves and strategies. We know that Ali used psychology both in the ring and out of it, but Tyson too was well aware of how to use it. How much of it is he using on us in the movie? Another surprise is Tyson's sensitivity. Obviously we know he had a dark side --callous brutality was often his calling card. The film's ugliest scene is footage of a press conference when Tyson screamed vulgar racist rages at a heckler. But the documentary shows a calmer side that heretofore basically has been hidden. Perhaps the biggest surprise is how accountable Tyson seems. He doesn't blame anybody else for his actions. He gives reasons -- not excuses -- about how immaturity, inexperience, background, and his demons at times ruled his life. Another surprise is that Tyson admits he always was afraid. Mike Tyson scared? I didn't realize that when he fought Holyfield, Tyson had been head-butted by Evander. In the second fight it drew blood. Tyson looked at the referee, got no reaction, then went "totally insane at that moment." On occasion Tyson is contradictory. He calls promoter Don King "wretched" and "reptilian." Then says he loved King. Which was it? Probably both. Mike Tyson is not a simple man. Director James Toback (The Gambler -- 1974), who has had his own demons, is able to humanize his galvanizing subject. He also employs some great fight footage, and uses a scene of Tyson walking on the beach by the ocean as Tyson quotes from Oscar Wilde's poem "The Ballad of Reading Gaol." It is a cheeky scene, but it works. Wilde and Tyson -- an odd couple, for sure. Has the feral, ferocious lion been domesticated? The movie gives us the lion in repose. His once-fierce growl is muted and softened. When people are asked what famous people they would like to have a meal with, they usually say something like, "Jesus and Colonel Sanders." After seeing this film, I'd like to spend some time with Mike Tyson. The best thing about the movie Tyson is that it rediscovers Tyson's humanity, which he and the media zoo had vanquished. Tyson once again is a member of the human race. You expect a knockout, but in the movie Tyson wins on style points. A 4 on my "Go See" scale.

Tyson The Man, Is More Than Just The Myth

Movies seldom give the viewer such a deep and personal look into the life of any one like we get in the documentary "Tyson" Written and directed by long time friend of the star, James Toback takes us on a journey through the mind of a man who is little more than a child. Tyson talks about how hard his life was growing up in New York, that he tries to be as honest as he is in the movie is refreshing, usually we get the "I was misunderstood" line, Tyson doesn't try to sugar coat anything. He tells of his youth where he meets gangsters, and how he helped them because he was small and he could get his hands into the pockets of the people they were robbing. Tyson tells of his addictions, and his being an alcoholic. Tyson tells us about his first manager Cus D'Amato, how Tyson feels that Cus saved his life. How the training that Cus put Mike through was what taught him self respect. Tyson talks openly about Cus, he fights back tears several times as his love for the one man in his life that didn't use him is brought out. These are amazing scenes, that the movie doesn't use enough of.

What the movie does use are fight sequences between Tyson and several of the fighters he has beaten in his career. Fights with Trevor Berbick, James 'Buster' Douglas and both fights between Tyson and Evander Holyfield, the one that Tyson lost is explained easily by Tysons lack of training. The fight scenes are sometimes as brutal to watch again as they once were to watch when Tyson was beating opponents in under three minutes. Tyson became a boxing machine in the ring only to see his self-confidence and inner demons take over his life outside the ring. The man that Cus developed was torn apart upon the death of the man whom Tyson looked at as his mentor and father. Tyson literally destroyed himself from the inside out. He met several woman and developed relationships with them, seeing an actress on television and being worth millions of dollars he thought he could pick up the phone and just have her, the relationship that did develop between Tyson and Robin Givens didn't last all that long, they married young, a fact that Tyson still blames for the breakup, a breakup that America watched with interest as Barbara Walters interviewed the couple one night on television.

Little new information comes out, we get a personal look from the man who has made a life for himself by beating people up, the tender moments he shares with his children are heart warming to see, it gives the viewer pause, Tyson isn't know for these tender moments, and if we got more of these, we could almost feel sorry for the man, his legend has made him into a person that you wouldn't want to meet alone at night, his ferocious temper is legendary, and the fight with Holyfield where he bites his ear off is just glossed over, like it was no big deal, his last loss is also glossed over, it was "I don't have it in me any more, I just needed to pay some bills" this is refreshing but did we really know he no longer cared about the one sport that made him the legend that he became. We know of his relationship with promoter and con man Don King, and its sweet justice to hear the vile names that Tyson calls the man, we get a few seconds about the woman that brought Tyson to his knees, Desiree Washington and the rape accusation that imprisoned Tyson for three years, he says that he didn't ever take anything from a woman that wasn't given to him. Tyson speaks candidly about all the woman and sex that he did have, he claims that on nights before fights he didn't take serious, he had sex to calm down. The only problem with this type of movie is that we get insight from one person, the views that we get are like mail order, its nothing like the truth. what we see on the screen isn't what we got in real life. Tyson was an animal in the ring and after years of living his drastic life style it was carried into his life outside the ring. I'm sure that some facts were distorted, to be more beneficial to Tyson, and that's to be expected. Don't expect fair and balanced, but also don't expect him to pull any punches he tells it his way and for me that's alright.

I give Tyson a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 1, there are other more fascinating movies to watch, grab this one when it comes around on DVD, it is well worth the time that it requires to watch, you will walk away with a better understanding of just how much determination it takes to stand in the ring toe to toe with another man that wants nothing more then to beat the snot out of you. That's just how gripping this movie is.

Tyson is rated R for Language Including Sexual References
Running time is 1 hr. 30 mins.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Departures...eh, That Should Be Departed

Departures follows Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved and who is suddenly left without a job. Daigo decides to move back to his old hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He answers a classified ad entitled Departures thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a "Nokanshi" or "encoffineer," a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. While his wife and others despise the job, Daigo takes a certain pride in his work and begins to perfect the art of “Nokanshi,” acting as a gentle gatekeeper between life and death, between the departed and the family of the departed. The film follows his profound and sometimes comical journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living.

In Departures, this year's Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, a cellist with daddy issues named Daigo (Motoki) loses his orchestral gig and lands a job preparing corpses for the ritual Japanese ceremony of encoffination. Like Sunshine Cleaning, this is a gentle comic tale of grisly employment opportunity in desperate times. Only Departures is tender and, at times, rather squishy. It's sure to squeeze the tear ducts of anyone who has lost a parent (hence that Oscar). But Motoki, a droll actor, gives Daigo's embrace of the ''normality'' of death a stubborn, touching dignity. Daigo, a sad-sack musician in his thirties who, after his symphony orchestra is dismantled for lack of audience interest, returns with his reluctant but pliant wife, Mika (Ryoko Hirosue), to live in his dead mother's house in a beautiful Japanese backwater. Responding to a newspaper ad inviting candidates for a job in "departures," Daigo concludes he's going into the travel business, only to find himself being trained by a monosyllabic undertaker (Tsutomu Yamazaki) to spruce up dead bodies in preparation for their journey to the hereafter. Initially disgusted by his pungent "clients" and by the stigma of working with the "unclean" dead, Daigo does a lousy job, which Takita then turns into a digression into the broad physical comedy for which Japan is famous—jarringly at odds with the movie's otherwise gentle tone. The encoffining ceremony is a somber and spiritual event, so it's surprising when within the first few minutes of the procedure that opens the movie, we get a bit of humor, which immediately allows you to let out a sigh of relief that this won't be a stuffy overly-serious drama about death, but one that's often light and entertaining as well. That opening scene will be revisited later from a different angle, but it's fascinating to see how the film evolves from a comedy about the awkwardness of the job to the story about Daigo having to deal with the stigma of performing a duty that most people around him don't understand or accept. Over the course of the film, we start to learn Daigo is so sullen on returning home, because his father walked out on him and his mother when he was a young boy; thirty years later, he can't even remember his father's face. In time, though, this remote, subliminally angry young man finds himself strangely moved by the stories of the dead and by the gratitude of the grieving relatives who gather to watch him spiff up their loved ones. Once Daigo becomes more comfortable with the procedure, he realizes how important his role is, and he clearly has a knack for it. Even when his normally supportive wife disapproves, he sticks by his guns to do the job, realizing that the only way to change the opinion of those around him are by having them experience the ceremony for themselves. Enlightenment and self-healing loom visibly on the horizon, but at just over two hours, Departures takes its sweet time setting them up, with much foreshadowing and flashbacks to the souring of Daigo's childhood.  

Motoki is quite a talented actor, able to muster the comical expressions and reactions required in earlier scenes where Daigo encounters his first dead body, a scene reminiscent of Sunshine Cleaning. Later, Motoki adds a true poignance to the scenes where he tries to come to terms with his father abandoning him as a boy. There are also lots of great characters around Daigo, from his eccentric boss who is obsessed with food and eating, his loving wife played by the adorable and delightful Ryoko Hirosue, and others who try to help Daigo work through the issues from his past. There is so much beauty inherent in the film, especially with the way Daigo's cello playing becomes a part of the driving force behind the film's emotional content. Director Yojiro Takita also uses the picturesque surrounding countryside and the changing seasons to create an environment for this layered story that deals with the death and loss of loved ones in such a unique way. Takita springs enough bracing little surprises to save the movie from rank sentimentality—the old undertaker, who claims to hate himself for scarfing down an enormous meat meal after every job well done, is the movie's liveliest character.  Personally, I would challenge anyone to watch this film without tearing up especially as things come together for Daigo and are resolved at the end. I was deeply moved when I saw it, even knowing where things were going, which is one of the reasons why Departures is the first movie of the year to receive my highest possible ranking of 5 on my "Go See" scale.

The Rite Of A Family Members Departure Is Touching To Watch

Most Foreign movies that screen here in the United States usually have all won one major award or another, The latest movie to do so and get a release in the States is, "Departures" this movie won several Japanese Academy Awards. It is a touching look at the rites of passage between this world and what ever awaits us on the other side. The movie touches you for several reasons, the most glaring is the fact that most people depend on the rites being performed on their loved ones, but look down on those who do the rites is just mind blowing.

Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) is a devoted cellist in an orchestra, he feels that he is just good enough to keep his job, that he goes out and buys a very expensive instrument. The owner dissolves the orchestra one night after a performance to a somewhat lackluster crowd. Now Daigo finds himself without a job. When he gets home that night he is lost, he has no idea what will happen now, his wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) is an easy going woman, but Daigo fears letting her down. When he proposes that they travel back to his childhood home and live, she agrees because she loves him and cares that he feels empowered. The next morning Daigo answers a classified ad entitled Departures, thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency, only to discover that the job is actually for a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. The owner of the establishment, Ikuei Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki) hires Daigo on the spot and takes an interest in him. He tells him that at first things mat seem hard, but the rites are necessary in order for the deceased to move on.

At first Daigo, does not like his job, especially after having to deal with a corpse that has been left alone for several days, but little by little Daigo comes to understand the importance of his job, and the rituals that he will perform. The process of preparing the corpse is shown in detail within the context of the story, and gently the audience is drawn into it as well. The undertaker handles the corpse with the utmost reverence and care, every touch of the deceased is done with care and perfect precision. It is a tender and beautiful act that will leave the viewer in tears. There is just enough comedic touches that you won't find yourself crying through the entire movie, the way that Daigo handles himself with his friends, who are slowly finding out just what kind of job he has, will leave you smiling. When his wife finds out she tells him that she wants him to quite, he can't do this and she leaves. The whole town thinks that the person who makes a living on the dead are mean spirited people, but when their family member passes on they are the first person that they call. When Daigo is forced to handle the departure of a long time friend, he takes extra special care to handle the departure, he cares deeply for the woman and wants her passing to be peaceful. The movie does have a few twists in it, they aren't glaring but a few can be seen coming from the start. There are a few other subplots that will all be tied up at the end, bringing everything full circle.

I give Departures a 4 and on my avoidance scale a 0, Departures is powerfully effective in making us realize how every moment is precious and we should not take things for granted. A touching movie with a message, one that is as gentle as the art of the actions themselves. This is a great movie that will make an impact on it's viewers, not only because death comes for everyone, but the movies ending, where Daigo finds his long lost father, only after death has claimed him is one scene that will remain in your hearts for a long time. It would be all too easy for material like this to lurch into sappy sentimentality, but the film tugs at the heartstrings without overtly manipulating its audience. I couldn't recommend this movie more, go and enjoy this very touching movie, let it lift your spirits.

Departures is rated PG-13 for Thematic Material
Running time is 2 hrs. 11 mins.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Never Piss Off An Old Lady. She May Just Put A Curse On You

In Drag Me To Hell, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is an ambitious L.A. loan officer with a charming boyfriend, professor Clay Dalton (Justin Long). Life is good until the mysterious Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) arrives at the bank to beg for an extension on her home loan. Should Christine follow her instincts and give the old woman a break? Or should she deny the extension to impress her boss, Mr. Jacks (David Paymer), and get a leg-up on a promotion? Christine fatefully chooses the latter, shaming Mrs. Ganush and dispossessing her of her home.

In retaliation, the old woman places the powerful curse of the Lamia on Christine, transforming her life into a living hell. Haunted by an evil spirit and misunderstood by a skeptical boyfriend, she seeks the aid of seer Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) to save her soul from eternal damnation. To help the shattered Christine return her life to normal, the psychic sets her on a frantic course to reverse the spell. As evil forces close in, Christine must face the unthinkable: how far will she go to break free of the curse? Director Sam Raimi returns to the horror genre with Drag Me To Hell, an original tale of a young woman's desperate quest to break an evil curse. For those who were worried that filmmaker Sam Raimi had become lost in the wilds of big-budget Hollywood, well, you can rest easy. To those who hold a very special fondness for Mr. Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, his latest film represents a powerfully welcome return to the horror genre -- and it's evident after only 10 minutes of Drag Me to Hell that Raimi still holds a lot of love for the horror genre. It is not only one of the most entertaining and accessible studio horror films of the past several years, it's proof that your horror flick doesn't have to be "hard R" to deliver the chills. This is a film indicative of a writer/director who is having FUN settling back into a comfortable old genre -- and for those who've been along for the ride from the early days, Drag Me to Hell is an absolute treat for the genre faithful. The story itself is classic Raimi, revolving around an evil curse that causes bad things to happen to normal people. Proceedings kick off in Pasadena, Calif. in 1969 and involve a young boy stealing a bracelet from a gypsy and the dire, hell-dragging consequences that follow. A crowd-pleasing pre-credit sequence, it perfectly sets the scene for what is to follow -- 90 minutes of unadulterated, uncompromising horror heaven. The film then cuts to the present day and follows the efforts of ambitious loan officer Christine Brown (Lohman) to earn a promotion at work. According to her boss, this will involve "making the tough decisions," and so when the elderly Mrs. Ganush comes in requesting help with the payments on her house, Christine flatly turns her down, then humiliates the woman as she begs for help. This is a mistake. The woman's long, dirty nails, thick Eastern European accent and malevolently evil eye single her out as a gypsy, and as everyone who has ever refused an offer of "lucky heather" knows, you shouldn't mess with gypsies. Ganush attacks Christine in the office, then later as she heads home for the day, and this is where the film really takes off. The sequence in and around Christine's car is a true horror tour-de-force. Raimi employs all his creative skills to craft a scene that's shocking, disturbing, terrifying and hilarious all at once. He makes a handkerchief threatening. He turns a stapler into a potentially deadly weapon. And he does things with teeth -- jagged teeth, missing teeth and even a set of aging dentures -- that had the audience going wild. The scene is signature Raimi, combining highly stylised horror with humour to create genuine spectacle that smashes you round the head like a sledgehammer. And if there's any criticism, it's that the film struggles to top the sequence from here-on-in. Raimi and Co. do their best, however, as Christine has now been hit by the deadly curse of the Lamia that will result in her being dragged through the demonic ringer. Cue a visit to a fortune teller and much soul-searching as our heroine has to decide how far she will go to break the gypsy curse, and some inspired action involving maggots, flies, and a talking goat that will live long in the memory. To reveal any more would be to ruin the many surprises that the filmmaker has up his sleeve, but suffice to say that a decade spent working in the mainstream universe of the Spider-Man movies hasn't diminished Raimi's capacity to deliver sick, twisted, macarbre celluloid. He's also nailed it in terms of cast. Lohman is a revelation as the woman whose life is turned into a living hell, her gradual descent into curse-induced madness extremely convincing, and her transformation from sweet loan officer to tough-talking, butt-kicking warrior a joy to behold. Justin Long and Dileep Rao lend fine support as the boyfriend and seer attempting to save her soul, but the real star of the show, and the woman who will give you nightmares long after the credits have rolled, is Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush. Whether mysteriously materialising on screen, violently attacking her prey, or embarking on yet another crazed gypsy tantrum, the film comes alive whenever she appears, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see her character become a true horror icon.

Indeed the only criticism I could level at it is a somewhat contrived plot device employed early on and then sign-posted throughout for the sake of the film's conclusion. It feels forced and clumsy and threatened to spoil my enjoyment of the film's finale, but that's a minor quibble with what is a major horror success. All too often films get labelled with the phrase "rollercoaster ride," but that sums up Drag Me to Hell in a nutshell. It's a visceral assault on the senses and will have you gasping for breath as the laughs and scares mount. Raimi directs with the confidence and flair of a genre master, while his cast attacks the material with such gusto that it's impossible not to be swept away by the kinetic energy of it all. The result is the most fun I've had in a theatre this year. A gypsy cursed 4 on my "Go See" scale.

I Love Raimi's Quirky Humor, So Go On And Drag Me To Hell

A good Horror movie can be pulse pounding, heart clenching, seat gripping and laugh inducing? It can be if it's written and directed by guru Sam Raimi. "Drag Me To Hell" is a stand out among the Hollywood remake, rehash and retread machine. Christine (Alison Lohman) who is a loan officer at Wilshire Pacific Bank, and is looking to seal the assistant manager position, is told by the manager Jim Jacks (David Paymer) that it it now between her and the new guy Stu Rubin (Reggie Lee) she is also told to make the 'hard' decisions in her job at the local bank to seal the promotion. An elderly and weathered gypsy woman, Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) is the unfortunate customer that just happens to come to Christine for help at the time she needs to prove herself. Christine tells Mrs. Ganush that the bank can not help her again, that she has gotten several extensions already and a third is out of the question. Thinking that Christine seems like a nice enough young lady, Mrs. Ganush gets on her knees to beg her for help, she is a proud woman and doing this shames her, Christine frightened that Mr. Jacks will see this she calls for security. Mrs. Ganush feeling that this act shames her, places a Lamia curse upon Christine. In three days she will be dragged into the depths of hell by an unspeakable evil force.
What follows is a suspenseful thriller, as Christine is beaten up by Mrs. Ganush, the scenes of the scuffle between the two in the parking garage will have you on the edge of your seat, it is both gripping and funny. As minutes pass Christine is stalked by the shadow of an evil spirit, than the spirit knocks her around, the curse will only take three days, a short span of time in which the victim is haunted by the Lamia. This three days will showcase events that are scary, disgusting and at times quite humorous. Christine's boyfriend, professor Clay Dalton (Justin Long) at first isn't sure what he believes, his love for Christine overcomes his doubts. When Christine goes to a medium, Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) he at first is so taken aback by what he sees that he tells Christine that she has to go. Clay is willing to do whatever he can, and when a blood sacrifice doesn't work, Rham Jas suggests Christine get ten thousand dollars for a seance, Clay pays Jas because he knows Christine can't.
The scenes during the seance are funny even though they are scary, the goat that is going to be used as a sacrifice ends up turning against the people and turning one of them into a vessel for the Lamia. Quickly running out of time, Christine must rage war against an unseen enemy, one that can strike at any moment. The twist that comes at the end is obvious, its like a sign is posted in every scene leading up to the end, this is usually a problem but here Sam and Ivan Raimi play our idea of whats going to happen against us. Rham Jas tells Christine that the Lamia isn't beaten but only driven back, that in the morning it will still come for her unless she makes a gift of the cursed item, we all believe we know who will get the item, and he does deserve it. Raimi never fails to get our pulse going, then he lightens things up by making us laugh only to turn around again and scare the hell out of us. Raimi's other trademarks of horror direction are also present here, there is lots of bodily fluids and slimy locations, tons of creepy-crawlies and the inevitable invasive close-ups and spiraling, zooming camera work. It's was also a very new and refreshing idea to have a strong female lead character in a horror movie that didn't just stand around and scream.
I give Drag Me To Hell a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0, this is the type of movie that all horror fans should line up to see, all the remakes will be around for awhile, until they are remade again. Go and see this fresh new look by the master in his field. With it's competent blend of thrills and laughs Drag Me To Hell is one of the most solidly entertaining films of the summer by the director who has become famous for his boldness.
Drag Me To Hell is rated PG-13 for Sequences of Horror Violence, Terror, Disturbing Images and Language
Running time is 1 hr. 39 mins.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Didn't Have To Be Conned To Like The Brothers Bloom

From their childhood in a long series of gloomy foster homes to their highflying lives as international con artists, Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) have shared everything. Bloom yearns for “an unwritten life”—a real adventure, one not dreamed up by his old brother. Eager to retire, Bloom agrees to take part in one last grand scam. He insinuates himself into the life of Penelope (Rachel Wiesz), a bored, single New Jersey heiress. When a genuine romance begins to blossom between them, he is reluctant to exploit her naiveté, but Penelope has already taken the bait: She impulsively joins Bloom, Stephen and their “associate,” a sexy Japanese explosives expert named Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), on an ocean liner to Greece. Penelope is convinced she’s happened upon the adventure of a lifetime and offers to bankroll a million dollar deal. As Stephen’s elaborate web of deceit pulls tighter, Bloom begins to wonder if his brother has devised the most dangerous con of his life in The Brothers Bloom.

Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo star as siblings, who have been working as conmen since they were children. There is a constant tug of war between them, with Bloom (Brody) desperate to get out of the game, while his brother Stephen (Ruffalo) drags him back. Like so many other films, The Brothers Bloom hinges on "one last job;" here, it is to steal millions from lonely, bored heiress Penelope (Rachel Weisz) while they pose as antique dealers. But Bloom falls in love with the charming Penelope, and the con gets even more complicated. Johnson's directorial debut, "Brick", was a critically aclaimed exercise in style, and The Brothers Bloom proves to be even better crafted. In both its gorgeous aesthetic and its witty script, this is a film that is incredibly modern while it remains in the spirit of classic con films such as "Paper Moon". Johnson has assembled a fantastic cast that more than holds their own. His three leads are great together, and he gets wonderful supporting work from Rinko Kikuchi as a nearly silent explosives expert and Robbie Coltrane as a Belgian who may or may not be on their side (and, in fact, may or may not be Belgian). There are plenty of twists and turns on this road, but this fun film proves there's joy in the journey. The Brothers Bloom, with its narration by Ricky Jay, plays like a modern fairy tale. Penelope is the princess, Bang-Bang is the court jester, Bloom is the romantic prince, and Stephen is the bitter troublemaker. Everyone involved brings a gleeful energy to the project that has turned some people off. Is The Brothers Bloom glib and even sometimes overly manic? Yes, but it's also overwhelmingly intelligent and, to this viewer, straight-up fun. It's the kind of film that arguably twists one or two too many times and may be a little self-consciously aware of its cleverness but I never cared while I was watching it. I just enjoyed every single frame. And then there's Weisz, giving another great performance. She's both luminescent in her beauty and displays crack comic timing. She's simply excellent. Brody and Ruffalo are very good too but Weisz walks off with the ultimate con – almost stealing the movie.  A nearly silent performance steals Rian Johnson's con-man comedy The Brothers Bloom; it's a heist that threatens to dwarf the heist in the movie itself. Rinko Kikuchi plays Bang Bang, an explosives expert who slinks through the movie almost wordlessly, lighting her cigarettes with a butane torch and looking elaborately disdainful. At one point, she peels an apple with deliberate care, then eats the peel. In cherry-red lipstick and dark glasses, she's a walking mystery. She just showed up one day, we're told of her character, and someday she'll just disappear; meanwhile, we can't take our eyes off her. Johnson's movie, like his previous one feels more like a series of inspired touches than a cohesive whole — and, like "Brick," it runs out of steam in its third act. But it's a stylish and often sprightly take on the con-man movie genre, filled with food for thought. 

They live in a timeless world without cellphones and with cravats and fedoras and piles of Magritte apples, blooming with bright colors (a scene of yellow cornflowers seems to outshine the sun) and swingy retro clothing. And the performances, if you can tear your eyes off Kikuchi, are a kick. Ruffalo turns in another take on his soulful smart guy; Brody's all loosey-goosey charm (watch how he plays a harmonica, with his eyes lazily sliding over it); Weisz make something poetic from her ditsy yet forthright character. "The perfect con is one in which each side gets what they wanted," muses Stephen. Audiences may not entirely get what they want from "The Brothers Bloom" — Johnson, in just his second feature, is still a talented filmmaker-in-progress — but it's a happy enough distraction. The film looks amazing too with its gorgeous settings, filmed with the beautiful eye of Steve Yedlin. Even if the great con of the movie becomes too much for you to take or the characters don't work for you, The Brothers Bloom looks absolutely amazing. This one gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale. 

The Perfect Con Makes The Brothers Bloom Magical

I love movies that make me second guess the plot, they come along ever so rarely, that at first I find myself doubting what is happening on the screen. The latest movie with a twist in a twist is "The Brothers Bloom," a movie about the most unlikable con men in along time. We're introduced, by a kind of whimsical narrator to the Brothers Bloom, as children in a town where everything is one this or one that. Stephen, the more inventive one of the duo devises his first con, that works only because he thought out each and every step. This entire section, about five to ten minutes, is brilliant, it's self-contained within itself and brings the kind of energy that is rarely seen in movies today. The Brothers Bloom are probably the best con men in the world, they spend their days swindling millionaires, with complex scenarios of lust and intrigue. Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) is the brains of the pair, he scripts out the plots in intricate details that his brother Bloom (Adrien Brody), who spends his time usually being killed in the schemes to rid the wealthy of their cash. The only problem is that Bloom isn't happy, he wants out of the life, but his love for Stephen has kept him coming back time and time again. After the last con comes to an end, Bloom decides he has had enough, he tells Stephen that he is out and that Stephen should just let him go.

Cut to the next step in Stephens plan, getting Bloom on board for his next great con, it seems that Stephen's sidekick Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi) has the ability to find just about any one she wants to. Stephen uses her to find Bloom, when he confronts Bloom, it is to tell him that he has the perfect con, his idea this time involves Bloom showing a beautiful and eccentric heiress the time of her life with a romantic adventure while they con her out of a large sum of money. Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz) is the heir to millions of dollars, she lives alone in a sprawling estate in New Jersey, collecting hobbies. At first Bloom is against the idea, he doesn't like the idea of swindling women, but Stephen, who has always been the stronger brother wears Bloom down.

The comedy touches in the movie bring an added touch to the con man movie that has been played out and is rather rusty. When Bloom first meets Penelope, she runs him over, then has an epileptic attack and drives off the road herself. Waking up in the hospital she asks Bloom to drive her home, he of course does and the game is afoot. Bloom mentions that he and his brother are antique dealers and they are traveling over seas for the next couple months, Penelope decides that she wants to join them and meets Bloom on the docks the next morning. Once on the steamer ship Penelope is confronted by The Belgian (Robbie Coltrane), who lets it slip that the Bloom brothers are much more than antique dealers. AS Penelope is walking to her room she is once again confronted by the Belgian and he tells her he has a plan to smuggle out a priceless bible if she can get the Bloom brothers to help him. What Stephen didn't count on was Penelope's inexhaustible sense of enthusiasm and her quick sense of learning the con game. Penelope gets herself out of situations that the brothers can't even fathom and she catches on to things so quickly, it's as though the mark has becomes the professional. She of course can do this because oh gosh that's part of the Stephens con. The con can be seen coming from a mile away, but it is still fun to watch it play out.

And yet, for all the story's twists and turns, its strengths are in the characters. Rachel Weisz is one of the movies bright spots, she can make a scene come alive, you can almost see that she had a blast making this film, it shows in the way she relished her characters' quirks. Adrien Brody and Rachel Weisz, play off each other wonderfully as an at-first awkward couple who get further romantically involved The one character that brings an edge to the movie is a certain nefarious figure known as Diamond Dog, (Maximilian Schell). The one fault I had lies in the last five minutes where it's tone abruptly changes for darker, more maniacal. There is a tribute of sorts to an earlier film by director Rian Johnson, this involves a great string of cameos in a bar scene early on with Nora Zehetner, Noah Segan, and Joseph Gordon Levitt all stars from the movie Brick. Clever indeed.

I give The Brothers Bloom a 4 and on my avoidance scale a 0, when all those summer blockbusters are sold out, sit back and enjoy a movie that you will enjoy as much as the fluff that will be showing all summer long. Take the family and relax, this is one movie that will have everyone talking about it for a long time.

The Brothers Bloom is rated PG-13 for Violence, some Sensuality and Brief Strong Language
Running time is 1 hr. 53 mins.

Sibling Rivalry Played Out On The Soccer Field

Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna play two brothers scraping by as laborers in rural Mexico , until one day a scout spies their friendly game of soccer and sign them on as star athletes for rival teams. They quickly learn that the high life of top players-fame, money, and beautiful women-has a dark side. And when their professional rivalry turns bitter and personal, the brothers see that they must reunite before they lose everything they once dreamed of in Rudo y Cursi.

They're inseparable, Rudo and Cursi, partly because they're brothers, partly because they're brilliant soccer players, partly because their hands are so firmly gripped around each other's throats. Rudo is sexier, flashier, slightly dimmer; naturally, he's a hotshot goal-scorer. Cursi -- older, married, scheming -- is, of course, the goalkeeper. Beto (Diego Luna) and Tato (Gael García Bernal) Verdusco are brothers who work at a banana plantation and also play soccer for the village team. Nicknamed “Tough” because of his personality and football style, Beto dreams of becoming a professional soccer player; Tato’s dream is to be a famous singer, and both share the dream of building a house for their mother, Elvira (Dolores Heredia). They have a change in luck when “Batuta,” a soccer talent scout, discovers them accidentally. Tato is the first to move to the big city where he becomes the star goal scorer for the prestigious Deportivo Amaranto (Amaranto Club). His baroque playing style earns him the nickname of “Corny”. Although Beto feels he has been betrayed and left behind, he soon travels to Mexico City to become the goalkeeper for Atlético Nopaleros (Nopaleros Team). At the peak of glory, they forget all animosity, although it does not last long. At the very real possibility of fulfilling all of their dreams, the siblings must face an innate rivalry as well as their own demons and limitations. Beto is a gambler and allows his addiction to drag him down; Tato is unable to recognize his true talents and squanders every opportunity by pursuing a false idea of celebrity and status. The dream seems to slip through their fingers. And it is at their worst moment that the brothers find forgiveness trying o help each other while casting headlong towards their individual destiny. When an agent (Guillermo Francella) comes to town and sees the locals play soccer, he's immediately drawn to the brothers. But he can only choose one player to take with him to Mexico City, and his choice is decided in a penalty kick. It's Tato. The two brothers continue fighting, but only Tato is going to Mexico City this time. Beto stays home in the village, gambling away whatever he has. Tato, who really aspires to be a singer, begins to find success as a soccer player. Before too long, he gets a nickname -- Cursi, which means corny -- and a contract to make a record and a video. He makes what is possibly the most idiotic video extant. He gets a fancy house and an SUV. And above all, he gets romance with a gorgeous TV personality and golddigger (Jessica Mas). He's enjoying the good life, and he sends for his brother to share some of it. Now Beto also begins to have a successful soccer career, and he too gets a nickname: Rudo. Rudo means tough, and Rudo is one tough goalie. Success means he can gamble to his heart's content, too. How wonderful that both boys have become so successful. How funny that mama's dream house will eventually be built by her son-in-law, a drug lord. Cursi has his hair streaked blonde and he sees himself as a superstar, but his soccer game begins to fall off. Nobody cares about his video, either. Rudo is doing too much coke and gambling too much to be any good at the game. His gambling debts will sink him, if his brother doesn't sink him on the soccer field first. 

Rudo y Cursi is very funny, although wildly politically incorrect. There's a running gag about mama, and how all the kids in the family have different fathers; Rudo and Cursi are both the butt of jokes for being such hicks from hicksville; everyone is mocked for his upward mobility, bad taste and moral elasticity. Rudo y Cursi is a rags-to-riches comedy written and directed by Carlos Cuaron, who also wrote "Y Tu, Mama Tambien". The film, which is a huge hit in Mexico, is lightweight and often very funny, but there's a cruel edge to the laughs that left this viewer vaguely uncomfortable at times, but it works. This very entertaining spanish movie gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

The Clash Between Two Brothers Makes Rudo Y Cursi Magical

Smaller independent movies can be interesting to watch, they are more free to express their ideas, when the movie is also a foreign movie it can be interesting on many levels. "Rudo y Cursi" is directed by Carlos Cuarón who gives us a wide range of emotions here, he has us laughing one minute and then we are about to cry the next. The story is about two brothers Tato (Gael García Bernal) and Beto (Diego Luna) both have a love of the sport soccer. beto is a goalkeeper and he feels he is the best around, Tato is a threat to just score, its all he knows how to do. One day after practice the brothers are approached by Batuta (Guillermo Francella), a talent scout. He isn't clear on what he is scouting for, either musicians or sport stars? He claims to be looking for both, but he's a double-talker. He's only there because the tire on his red convertible goes flat and he lacks a spare.

Though they're not young they're good players but Batuta can only take one with him, so he sets up a little competition between the brothers, Beto gets in the net and tells Tato to kick the ball to the right. What follows is funny even though we can see it coming, the one thinks he is kicking to his right when the other meant to his right. When Tato scores Batuta tells him to be waiting in the morning for him. When Tato gets there and Batuta isn't there Beto tells him tha the was suckered, as Tato is getting his stuff to leave along comes Batuta. he drives Tato to Mexico city telling him that he will owe Batuta fifteen percent, that he will make it as a star, Tato wants to be a singer and asks Batuta to help him with that. Later Batuta calls Beto and tells him to get to Mexico City as well, that the teams have opened their rosters again and he can get Beto on a team.

When Tato makes it on the team he is soon given the nickname Cursi, and when Beto makes his team it is clear that the two brothers will meet again on the field. The off the field antics of the brothers clash as well, Tato makes it rich right away, his manager movies him into a big house and of course Beto moves in with him. When the fancy, sexy TV star Maya (Jessica Mas), starts to pay attention to Cursi he spends money on her left and right, he quickly finds out that her love isn't real, he sees a program on the television that reveals she is sleeping with another player. I'm sure that the struggle of some of these players are as hard as it is shown, some are gifted and make it on the field and off, some others fall into the trap that Beto did, he got addicted to cocaine and to gambling. The situations that Beto finds himself in are of his own creation and when he has to throw the final game it is a choice he must make, we see that the game means everything to him, that he doesn't want to throw it, but his love for his brother is stronger and he agrees.

This movie works because it is in Spanish, the little quirks are funny and amusing, this isn't to say that American film makers don't capture this feeling, they do, it just comes across as more true and deeper here. When the two brothers are at their height of fame they are happy, when the sport lets them down it is only Tato that seems happy.

I give Rudo Y Cursi a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0, this is a smaller market movie that will hang around for a short while, it is being given a short run at some bigger chain theatres and if you want to see a very well done very clever film this is the one to see. If the movie that you want to see is sold out, and this summer offers plenty of big bang movies that will sell out, go and see this wonderful movie, you wont be disappointed.

Rudo Y Cursi is rated R for Pervasive Language, Sexual Content and Brief Drug Use
Running time is 1 hr. 43 mins.

Along For Every Little Step

Every Little Step explores the incredible journey of "A Chorus Line", from ambitious idea to international phenomenon. Through 15 years of continuous performances from the 70’s to 90’s and a revival beginning last year, "A Chorus Line" has touched generations around the world with stories so poignant, they could only have come from truth. The film compares and contrasts the original musical with the current revival. It investigates the societies in which they’ve debuted, and why the themes are so timeless and universal.

A film about dancers auditioning for a play about dancers auditioning for a play. The 2006 Broadway revival of "A Chorus Line" is the frame for this observant documentary. Hopefuls literally line up around the block to try out for the producers, many of whom have poignant memories of the original show and its creator, dancer/choreographer/director Michael Bennett. The setup has much in common with "American Idol's" recipe of hope and heartbreak. What puts this film on a higher level is the fact that the actors singing "Please, God, I need this job!" really do need the job. We follow the winnowing process from the first massive cattle call to the semifinalist elimination rounds, and there are heart-wrenching passages when veteran hoofers tilt their chins up and announce they know their day will come. They want the recognition we all want, and the film persuades you that almost every one of them deserves it. "A Chorus Line" was more than just a backstage musical, and Every Little Step, a terrific documentary by James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, is more than just a film about the 2006 revival of the show, which enjoyed a healthy Broadway run. The film is as much about the creation of the original show back in 1975 and the genius of the late Michael Bennett, who masterminded it, as it is about the newer version.  One night in January 1974, Bennett assembled 18 of his fellow Broadway gypsies in a Manhattan exercise room and encouraged them, with the help of a jug or two of wine, to tell their personal stories about why they were dancers. The recorded revelations about their upbringings, family lives, sources of inspiration and sexuality became the basis of A Chorus Line. As we learn in Every Little Step, quite a few of these gypsies' statements were lifted directly by lyricist Ed Kleban for his and Hamlisch's songs. The exuberant documentary Every Little Step revisits the genesis of the landmark show about the creation and delivery of a Broadway musical. It intercuts footage from the original production with the saga of about 3,000 dancers who auditioned for 19 spots in the 2006 revival. A Chorus Line then went through a workshop-development process with the cast. The film states this was the first time the workshop approach was used for a musical. Original co-choreographer Bob Avian, who directed the Broadway revival and is prominently featured in Every Little Step, proves to be a font of information about the show's history, casting, and Bennett. It's a mirrored labyrinth, this chronicle of dancers auditioning for roles in a musical about dancers auditioning for roles in a musical. While the unassuming film from James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo pays tribute to the late Michael Bennett, the show's original director, his is only one in the resonant chorus of voices and dancers sharing the hopes, fears, and moves that moved millions. There are electrifying performances from chorus liners past (Donna McKechnie, who originated the part of Cassie) and present (Jason Tam). Just as galvanic are reminiscences from composer Marvin Hamlisch, dancer Baayork Lee (Connie in the original cast), and, especially, choreographer-turned-director Bob Avian, who sets the film's emotional tone of bottomless empathy and enthusiasm. No glitz or highly edited voice-overs gussy up the portrayal of artists who brim with passion and are willing to do anything to pursue their dream. (The elimination process takes a year, and one performer is down to her last unemployment check by the time the final casting decisions are made.) The production itself mirrors the need to dance and the sacrifice it demands, and the film's directors excel at weaving in comments from the show's originator, Michael Bennett, who died in 1987. Each performer has a rich story, and the personalities pop as they go before the casting panel, in particular one dancer who brings the panel (and the audience, for that matter) to tears.

The revival's casting process offers a bit of American Idol-esque suspense as we follow several hopefuls (including Broadway veteran Charlotte D'Amboise) through the arduous auditions, callbacks and more callbacks that lasted over eight months in all. Whether talking about the original production's cast, the film version's cast, the Broadway revival's cast, or the cast of any production mounted anywhere in the world, these words from Every Little Step's press notes hold true: Their lives are interwoven with one of the world's greatest musicals, their hopes and dreams hanging in the balance. The documentary begins by surveying the lines of hundreds of performers who are waiting to audition for the revival. The first elimination comes when performers are screened for type and dancing technique. We see the joy resulting from a call back, and the anguish caused by elimination. Then, while following those who are still in the running, we learn about private lives and circumstances, see how two or three performers tackle one role, and come to understand the overwhelming need these artists have to find a platform for their talents. This is their story, and the story of the phenomenon known as "A Chorus Line." While I was watching Every Little Step, I was having a terrific time. I got caught up in the aspirations, dreams and disappointments of the dancers as they tried to secure a role in the musical. And I sat intrigued, listening to stories about the original production by those who had been there. You wind up rooting for specific performers, and very curious to know who will eventually be selected for which role and wind up on stage and in costume in "A Chorus Line". Every Little Step is an all access pass to the intimate behind-the-scenes process of casting and rehearsing a beloved Broadway musical. If you’re a fan of "A Chorus Line", you’ll love this movie. If you’re not familiar with the musical, you will be an instant fan. This one will be an instant classic and is a definite must-see. This gets a 4 on my "Go See" scale.

Watching Every Little Step Will Make You Cheer

Very few times do we get taken inside a process that we as outsiders have only heard about. When the filmmakers behind "Every Little Step" took the idea of doing a film of the smash Broadway hit A Chorus Line, they turned it into a documentary not only of the history of the musical itself, but the try out of thousands of young entertainers as they compete for thirty parts for the revival of the smash hit in 2006.

A Chorus Line documentary in and of itself makes sense, since it had such an impact on the history of Broadway. The interviews with Michael Bennett are touching and emotional all by themselves, but when directors Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern added the touching element of thousands of young hopefuls trying out for a part in his revival, he shows the audience just how hard it is to get noticed. We meet several young talented singers and dancers as they make their way to New York, they come from all over, traveling on bus, plane and driving. Some make it the day of the try out, others have been waiting for days. Every person who submitted a resume got a try out, three thousand young men and women came to New York, to stand in the rain for hours on end, just to get the chance to dance. Some get sent home after the first dance try outs, thousands at a crack don't make it past the first cut. Those that do just get to dance some more, then they get to dance some more. Then the second wave of cuts is made, here hundreds get whittled down to a small group of about fifty. These fifty have at least acquired their dream of getting in the door.

The one small problem up to this point is the writers of the play itself, James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, are hardly mentioned at all, and this film leads the viewers to automatically infer that Michael Bennett created A Chorus Line on the basis of his marathon audio taping session of dancers, from which the plays characters and content were derived. Of course Bennett receives and deserves the most praise for his contribution to the creation of what would become the biggest show on Broadway, but to leave out his collaborators, especially as important as Kirkwood, is shameful. Similarly, there are entertaining interview segments here with composer Marvin Hamlisch, who delightfully credits Marsha Mason with making a key suggestion to Bennett regarding the fate of the character Cassie, for me that is one of the film's most informative moments. Mason gets mentioned here for her little contribution but Edward Kleban, who wrote the lyrics for all the songs is never mentioned at all.

The most memorable moment comes during the footage of an audition for the role of Paul by Jason Tam, this footage is heartrending and very emotional, his performance is top notch and should be seen. The principals, especially director Bob Avian and his casting director, are on their best behavior because the cameras are running, what we hear about what goes on behind the scenes never materializes. Although watching the audition process for a musical about the audition process is gripping insight on its own, what makes this film work is that it really gives you a sense how challenging, and grueling a process this is for both sides.

Some of the movies funniest and heartwarming insight comes from Donna McKechnie, who was in the original musical, we see past cast members as they get involved in the new casting process, helping the young hopefuls learn the steps and their lines. Every one in the audience will have their own choices for the cast, and when the cast is selected, we see the joy this news brings to each new member of the "Line". What is glossed over is that the audition process can take several months, here it was like eight,all this to work for maybe six months while the musical runs. This fact doesn't seem to bother any one of the new cast, they are all overjoyed to just be working again.

I give Every Little Step a 4 and on my avoidance scale a 0, this small independent film will make you want to sing along. The emotional scenes of the original performances of Paul and Cassie are breathtaking, when we see these new performers add their own unique touch, we are once again inspired to believe in the power of the stage.

Every Little Step is rated PG-13 for some Strong Language Including Sexual References
Running time is 1 hr. 33 mins.

Friday, May 22, 2009

How Come My Museum Isn't This Much Fun?

When the Museum of Natural History is closed for upgrades and renovations, the museum pieces are moved into federal storage at the famous Washington Museums. Security guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) infiltrates the Smithsonian Institute in order to rescue Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Octavius (Steve Coogan), who have been shipped to the museum by mistake. The centrepiece of the film will be bringing to life the Smithsonian Institution, which houses the world's largest museum complex with more than 136 million items in its collections, ranging from the plane Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) flew on her non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic and Al Capone's rap sheet and mug shot to Dorothy's ruby red slippers, Fonzie's jacket from Happy Days and Archie Bunker's lounge chair from All in the Family in Night At The Museum : Battle For The Smithsonian.

When his plastic pals, the exhibits who come to life at New York's Museum of Natural History, are shipped off to the vaults of the Smithsonian Museum, former night guard Larry Daley (Stiller) heads off to try to save them. Finding himself up against a reanimated Egyptian ruler Kahmunrah (Azaria), he joins forces with irrepressible Amelia Earhart (Adams). Night at the Museum 2 is a fistful of family fun... brimming with amusing lines, great effects and a series of smart cameo performances. The original was a surprise hit when it was released a few years ago, and, smartly, the filmmakers have hardly altered the template at all, with pretty much all of the key characters returning for round two. If you remember the first movie, reluctant night security guard Larry Daley (Stiller) was rather surprised to find that when night fell, the exhibits at the museum came to life. Rather a shock - but good ol' Larry managed to sort things out (something to do with an Egyptian artifact) and ended up buddies with the fun-loving exhibits. Years later it is sequel time, and with the majority of the exhibits freighted off to the labyrinthine subbasements of the Smithsonian in Washington DC it is up to Larry - now a sort-of successful businessman - to try to save the day as even more exhibits start coming to life. This time round Robin Williams (as Teddy Roosevelt) and Ricky Gervais (as the museum manager) only get a couple of scenes. But the good news is that Luke Wilson and Steve Coogan (as miniature cowboy Jedediah and miniature Roman General Octavius respectively) are back and they are in the thick of the action. And while Night at the Museum 2 is a whole bunch of fun, part of its problem is that there are just too many characters flying around... Hank Azaria is spot-on as the evil lisping Pharaoh, while Amy Adams is spunky and sexy as Amelia Earhart. But also on hand are reanimated versions of General Custer (Bill Hader), Al Capone (Jon Bernthal), Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), Abe Lincoln (also Hank Azaria), Napoleon (Alain Chabat), a giant squid and a whole lot of other animals and exhibits.Yet when this movie heads into action overdrive it is spectacular... to the extent that poor old Ben Stiller sort of gets left behind in the mayhem. But worry not - it still amounts to great fun for all of the family. It might be broad, mainstream entertainment, but there are also moments to cherish (especially when Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch from The Muppets get rejected as not evil enough to join the Pharaoh's gang).There's even a nod to the indie comedy scene with a brief cameo from Jonah Hill (Superbad) as a Smithsonian security guard.

What really sparkles here are the special effects but sadly the script could have done with some more work. Kids are well served with slapstick hi-jinks and mild peril but there are too few laugh out loud moments to keep adults entertained. There’s something patronizing and apologetic about Ben Stiller’s performance that does annoy at times – and I’m a fan of his - but Ricky Gervais, Hank Azaria and Amy Adams revel in their roles and really do give their all. Washington and The Smithsonian are great locations for this sequel which is a nice twist on original movie, although there are so many ideas batted around here that it can’t help but feel a bit busy every now and again. Using works of art and sculptures as well as standard statue exhibits is a great idea and works well. Also, if you liked the monkey from the first film, he’s back… and he’s got a friend too. Over all this is enjoyable but forgettable stuff. Expect a three-quel. Highly entertaining. This gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.