Sunday, June 28, 2009

Love Realized Too Late Doesn't Work

Set in Paris in the years before World War I, Chéri paints a picture of the romance between young Chéri (Rupert Friend) and retired courtesan Léa (Michelle Pfeiffer). Chéri’s mother (Kathy Bates), a rival of Léa, plots to separate the pair by arranging a marriage between her son and Edmée (Felicity Jones).

Lea de Lonval (Pfeiffer) is one of the wealthiest women in Paris, but probably not the happiest. Her career as a courtesan — the early 20th-century equivalent of a high-priced call girl — made love a luxury she couldn't afford. But that career is in its waning days, and Lea has regrets to go with her wrinkles. She also has longings, of which the much younger Chéri (Friend) is all too aware. The son of Lea's longtime, well-heeled rival Madame Peloux (Bates), Chéri is as carefree as Lea is worldly. The chemistry between them is palpable, and their relationship quickly evolves from one that's amenable to dining outdoors to one that requires drawn curtains.  Based on stories by Colette, Chéri reunites Pfeiffer, screenwriter Christopher Hampton and director Stephen Frears, who worked together on "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988). Frears has a feel for character-based stories, from "My Beautiful Laundrette" (1985) to "The Queen" (2006). Ultimately, Chéri is about two people and their struggle with a restrictive society. Set in a gorgeous re-creation of pre-World War I France, it concerns a beautiful young man who refuses to grow up and his much older lover, who knows she is past her prime. Chéri, whose given name is Fred, is a spoiled dandy, pampered and neglected by his mother, Charlotte, a well-to-do ex-courtesan. For six years -- at Charlotte's request -- her former competitor, Lea, has instructed Chéri in the pleasures of the flesh, preparing him for his eventual arranged marriage. The pair have been careful to keep their feelings in check, in view of their inevitable separation. It's not until Chéri marries a lovely 18-year-old that they realize they are incapable of happiness apart. She leaves town and takes a new young lover who is handsome but gauche. He finds his new bride unsatisfactory. Lea and Chéri dance a waltz of reconciliation, but their time is running out. 

Director Stephen Frears has adapted his film from two novels by the celebrated French writer Colette, who observed her characters' emotions with microscopic vividness, and he does her full justice. The look is elegant, the script urbane, the grasp of a rigid social milieu assured. He has cast the film with a sharpshooter's eye. Michelle Pfeiffer's Lea remains beautiful, certainly, but she is a fabulous bouquet that is just off its bloom. She brings a great dignity and delicacy to the role, allowing us to intuit Lea's emotions from the angle of a glance, the subtle, insinuating inflection of a word or phrase. Pfeiffer — a three-time Oscar nominee who has maintained a relatively low profile in recent years — portrays Lea as a woman with the courage to make tough choices, but not necessarily the strength to live with the consequences. It's a complex performance — intriguingly balanced between the ethereal and the earthy, and sympathetic without being maudlin. In a role that might have gone to Orlando Bloom a few years ago, Friend is at once dashing and slightly aloof — a perfect approach to a character whose attitudes were shaped by a privileged upbringing. Rupert Friend as Chéri perfectly fits Colette's description: "not strictly feminine but a trifle prettier than one could have wished." He is as spoiled as a cat in his early scenes, and when he understands too late what he has lost, his pain is nicely underplayed. Kathy Bates is sly and underhanded as Charlotte, ever on the alert to other women's aging as she holds court among her old rivals. "Isn't it lovely", she pointedly asks Lea, "how one's neck holds perfume when the skin goes slack?" Bates is excellent as the bubbly Peloux. As the characters age, the social and political conditions change, and the players do their best to adapt. Chéri, a beautiful ornament without substance, faces the hardest challenge in finding his way through a new world that values actions above feelings. Chéri may be too leisurely paced for the "Fast & Furious" and "Terminator Salvation" crowd. But if you're in the mood for a warm bath rather than a quick shower, you might find this bittersweet period piece quite moving. Chéri is a sad, intelligent film about coming of age late in life, looking in the mirror and wondering, "What happened?" The characters inhabit a world of grand hotels, opium dens, top hats and ebony carriages, but when the film is done we understand that they are no different from us. Insecurity, heartbreak and regret are timeless, and "Chéri" evokes them gorgeously. This one gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

A Search For A Friend Leads To New Discoveries

In Ice Age : Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Manny and Ellie are expecting their first baby, while Sid the sloth tries an unconventional way of starting a family that gets him into trouble. With all this talk of babies, Diego might be losing his saber-toothed edge, but a journey to save Sid may just turn the whole group into heroes. In addition to all that adventure, it wouldn’t be an Ice Age film if Scrat weren’t on a desperate hunt for an acorn, but he might get distracted by a shapely female squirrel.

With appreciably greater emphasis on action than its predecessors, and clever use of 3-D trickery to enhance storytelling as well as offer spectacle, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs could prove the third time really is the charm by expanding an already sizable audience for a popular toon franchise. Fox may have taken a risk by positioning this latest series entry in the middle of summer season -- both "Ice Age" (2002) and "Ice Age: The Meltdown" (2006) were March releases -- but the gamble should pay off with beaucoup cold cash. Once again, the plot is propelled by the extended family led by Manny (voiced by Ray Romano), the lovably neurotic woolly mammoth, who looms large in an Ice Age environment that, in this latest adventure, appears to have recovered nicely from the "Meltdown" of the previous pic. This time out, Manny is so busy attending to Ellie (Queen Latifah), his very pregnant mate, that he lacks sufficient time and energy to deal with the personal crises of two other returning "herd" members: Diego (Denis Leary), the saber-toothed tiger who now fears he's losing his edge after being domesticated; and Sid (John Leguizamo), the rambunctiously goofy sloth who yearns for respect and, if he's really lucky, his own family ties. Eager to find someone, anyone, who'll look up to him, Sid adopts three baby dinosaurs hatched from eggs he's found. Trouble is, those eggs were the spawn of an enormous Mommy Dino who emerges from her stomping grounds -- an underground realm where supposedly extinct creatures are alive and well -- to retrieve her offspring. She also takes Sid back down with her, causing Manny, Ellie, Diego and Ellie's two precocious possum "brothers" -- Eddie (Josh Peck) and Crash (Seann William Scott) -- to follow. Once the familiar characters are below ground, traipsing across a prehistoric landscape that appears equal parts "The Lost World," "King Kong" and "The Land Before Time," director Carlos Saldanha adds another colorful figure to the franchise's steadily expanding cast of characters: Buck, a swashbuckling weasel voiced by Simon Pegg.

Long locked in an ongoing life-or-death struggle with a humongous albino dinosaur, Buck is more than just a tad mad. Simon Pegg's vine-swinging weasel with the leafy eye-patch is comical and lively as he guides the group through the underground prehistoric jungle home of the hungry dinosaurs, where they traverse the Chasm of Death, the Plates of Woe and the treacherous Lava Falls. But that makes him all the more fun to watch during a series of exciting search-and-rescue sequences that are every bit as exciting as anything in any live-action pic on view in megaplexes this summer. Even during those stretches where the pace isn't breakneck and the escapes aren't hairsbreadth, "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" impresses with vibrant CGI imagery and animation by the wizards at Blue Sky Studios. The addition of 3-D adds even more depth and detail to the mix, along with allowing the aud to enjoy the amusing illusion of snouts, paw, claws and beaks extending off the screen. As was the case in the two earlier "Ice Age" toons, the vocal casting is excellent across the board. Romano and Leary are again standouts with their individual styles of sarcasm, but other returnees -- including executive producer Chris Wedge as Scrat, the hyperactive rat/squirrel who this time finds something even more attractive than that elusive acorn -- also are up to their usual high level. Unlike many other contempo toons, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is short on jokey pop-culture references aimed at grown-ups more than than small fry. But there is at least one funny allusion to "The Flintstones," and playful use of the old Lou Rawls standard, "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," as everything from tango to comic counterpoint. There's something here for the kids and grownups and with addition of some new characters, this franchise doesn't show any signs of ending any time soon. This gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

Ice Age Movie Is One For The Whole Family

Hollywood has been slowly changing its animated format to entice the whole family into spending the afternoon together in the theatre. They have been subtly adding more and more adult themes to their animated movies. The stories have been getting darker (Coraline) for some time now. The plots have been filled with even more sadder stories (Up) then ever before. In "Ice Age 3 Dawn Of The Dinosaurs" we get a pregnant character and we get newly found love. Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) are preparing for the birth of their first child, Manny has created a "safe" playground for their baby when it is born. He freaks out at any hint of the babies impending birth. Meanwhile Scrat (Chris Wedge) has also found a new interest beside the ever elusive acorn nut. Scratte (Karen Disher) is a female squirrel that has taken an interest in the acorn and she and Scrat seem to duel it out until they are left hanging from the root of a plant over an abyss and Scrat saves Srattes life. Diego (Denis Leary) has been feeling blue as of late, he can't even chase down his dinner, a Gazelle (Bill Hader) out runs him and then makes fun of Diego when he gets winded. Meanwhile Sid (John Leguizamo) has found three eggs that he decides he will care for, unknown to him or anyone else the eggs are from the nest of a T-Rex, who tracks them back to where Sid has taken them.

When the T-Rex grabs her babies, she also grabs Sid, when the T-Rex walks off with Sid his friends decide that they can't just sit back and let Sid be eaten, so they follow the tracks into an underground cavern and make a wild discovery , dinosaurs have been living under them. Right away they are forced to run when they are chased by a fierce creature, they are saved by the best new character in cartoons so far this year. Buck, (Simon Pegg) is a shifty one eyed weasel, who the group don't really know if they can trust yet. Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck) make friends with Buck right away and are ready to follow him from the start, when he saves Manny and Diego from a carnivorous plant the group agrees to let him lead them to find Sid. The new area is filled with peril, so many dinosaurs are after the group, and it is filled with dangerous areas at every turn. Buck tells the group that a mean dinosaur was responsible for taking his eye, and Buck spends his days hunting down Rudy to get his revenge.

Although Sid is in danger of being eaten he is still trying to raise "His" babies, while the T-Rex is feeding them meat, Sid tries to give them broccoli that they turn their noses to. The mother T-Rex saves Sid from the rampage of Rudy by bringing him into a cave to hide while Rudy hunts. The trip is almost brought to a halt when Ellie goes into labor, Diego defends her from a pack of small meat eating dinosaurs while Manny makes his way to them, Sid is left alone and is floating on a sea of lava when he is rescued by Buck, Crash and Eddie. The reunion comes when the group returns to where Ellie has given birth, and then they are forced to deal with Rudy when he comes out, they are saved by the mother T-Rex and when they leave Manny invites Buck to come with them, hearing Rudy's roar Buck decides that he wants to stay. They return to where they started the journey introducing Peaches to the world of snow and ice.

Even though this is an animated movie, it's themes are more adult based, some parents may feel this is a good way to teach their children about child birth and some may not, most children may not even pay attention to that aspect anyway. This is probable one of the better Ice Age movies out of the three. It has something for everyone, not to mention Simon Pegg, a fellow Brit.

I give Ice Age 3 Dawn Of The Dinosaurs a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0, while everyone is standing in line forTransformers tickets take the family to see this very enjoyable movie. The kid in you will enjoy the story as it reflects the friendships that can be made no matter who you are.

Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs is rated PG for Mild Humor and Peril
Running time is 1 hr. 27 mins.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shyamalan's Last Chance At Redemption?

Although I saw Transformers : Revenge of the Fallen early at the IMAX I chose to see it again at a regular theatre yesterday where I saw the above trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's upcoming movie, The Last Airbender. The live action adaptation of the cartoon Avatar : The Last Airbender may finally be Shymalan's chance to win back fans. 

After gaining recognition with his dramatic directing style in 1999, he put the suspense back in suspenseful thrillers. His breakout movie was "The Sixth Sense" (how many of you were like "WTF!?!). Next was "Unbreakable". Wildly accepted by comic book fans worldwide, but not so much by anyone else ( I loved it). Next, things started to go downhill with "Signs" (Come on! Aliens afraid of water?). From there things got worse and worse with "The Village", "Lady In The Water", and "The Happening" (OMG! What were you thinking?), but I have to say that I really got excited about this trailer.

The story follows the adventures of Aang, a ten year old successor to a long line of Avatars, who must put his childhood ways aside and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations just as the cartoon does. This almost 2 min trailer really got me going and then thinking..."Could this be the one? The movie that puts M. Night Shyamalan back on top?" I dunno, but I must say that I'm looking forward to seeing this movie.

Fact VS. Fiction The Truth About Dillinger

Hollywood has taken liberties before when they turned infamous men or woman into silver screen villains. They also have been known to stretch the truth a little bit as well, but in Michael Mann's "Dillinger" they stretch the truth until it becomes implausible and in some cases flip it around to fit the movie. If you read my review of Dillinger you know I loved the movie for what it was meant to do, entertain the audience.

The first thing that drew my attention was the ballgame that the police were listening to on the radio when Dillinger walked into the station on the morning he was killed. It is the 1932 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs. Game 1 was played on September 28th 1932 the last game in a Yankees sweep was played on October 02nd. Dillinger was killed as he exited the Biograph theatre on July 22 1934, so tell me how could the police be listening to a game that was played nine months prior?

The second thing is the opening sequence of the prison escape, it has been proven that Dillinger was behind the guns being smuggled into the prison but that's where truth stops and Hollywood fact begins. Dillinger was NOT present at the escape, he was locked up in a jail far far away.

The Third thing that the movie "misrepresents" is the shootout between Melvin Purvis and "Pretty Boy" Floyd. The movie has Melvin Purvis Shooting Floyd in the back as he flees into an apple orchard, again prior to the killing of Dillinger. The truth is Floyd was killed on October 22nd 1934 in East Liverpool, Ohio after a shootout with several police officers and F.B.I. agents, including Melvin Purvis and Herman Hollis, who is rumored to have fired the fatal shot. Thats three months AFTER Dillinger's death.

The Fourth thing is the infamous shoot out at the Little Bohemia Lodge near Rhinelander, Wisconsin, on April 20th, in the movie Michael Mann shows the Bureau of Investigation obtain information from a wounded member of Dillinger's gang through torture, in reality they obtained this information from lodge owner Emil Wanatka. Mann has Melvin Purvis shoot Baby Face Nelson dead in a field, after they got word of the gang hold up in a rustic cabin. Dillingers whole gang is shot and killed in these scenes. The truth is that Baby Face Nelson died in his bed after a shoot out in the small town of Barrington out side of Chicago with several law enforcement officers that included Herman Hollis and Samuel Cowley on November 27th 1934. Four months AFTER Dillinger was killed. Melvin Purvis was NOT on the scene.

It is understandable that Hollywood needs to fit certain aspects of a movie together, in a certain order, the scene where Melvin Purvis shoots "Pretty Boy" Floyd was meant to be an introduction to the Purvis character, Mann needed to show us just how cold blooded Purvis could be, and this one scene clearly gave us that idea.

Don't let these slight errors stop you from going to see this movie, Johnny Depp is a very good Dillinger, who doesn't like Johnny Depp anyway? Christian Bale is very believable as a haunted Melvin Purvis, the cameo's include some of Hollywood's up and coming stars, Channing Tatum is in one of those blink and you miss him scenes, but who cares he's hot. I do recommend Dillinger, it is a very intense movie and captures the era of Prohibition gangsters very well, the sets are remarkable and the details are amazing, Michael Mann should be considered as a front runner for the Best Director Oscar. Dillinger is the best film of 2009. So far.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Revenge Is Sweet!

The battle for Earth has ended but the battle for the universe has just begun. After returning to Cybertron, Starscream assumes command of the Decepticons, and has decided to return to Earth with force. The Autobots believing that peace was possible finds out that Megatron's dead body has been stolen from the US Military by Skorpinox and revives him using his own spark. Now Megatron is back seeking revenge and with Starscream and more Decepticon reinforcements on the way, the Autobots with reinforcements of their own, may have more to deal with then meets the eye in Transformers : Revenge of the Fallen.

Just how enormous is the scale of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? Big enough that the movie has a prologue set in the year 17,000 B.C. Big enough that the film's opening setpiece, in which the good robots (i.e. the Autobots) suss out a bad robot (i.e. a Decepticon) in their midst in modern-day Shanghai, is awesome enough to make practically any other summer spectacular wish they could have it for their climactic finish. The spectacular Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a triumph of the producers' creed: Pound the senses, simulate emotion and milk the golden calf of the familiar like a mechanical farmhand. Fanboys who have fallen for the publicity blitz will leave the multiplex dazed, confused and drooling. This is a bigger, longer and uncut companion to the surprise hit of 2007. Reluctant teen hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) leaves for college with a sheepish farewell to his parents (Kevin Dunn and the amusing Julie White); his sexy mechanic girlfriend, Mikaela (Megan Fox in the mandatory cut-off jeans); and Bumblebee, the yellow sports car that transformed into a robotic protector when shape-shifting Decepticons unleashed hell on Earth. But even with the evil Megatron now rusting at the bottom of the ocean, the Decepticons are regrouping under a resurrected leader called the Fallen, who knows that Sam's recurring hallucinations are the key to finding a buried energy source. Sam's life in the dorm with hacker conspiracy buff Leo (Ramon Rodriguez) is crammed with cutesy allusions to movie archetypes, from "Gremlins" and "Rain Man" to a robotic hottie that's a nod to "Terminator 3." Meanwhile, all-too-appropriate quotes from popcorn classics get barked through the dogged Bumblebee's radio. Director Michael Bay has a diabolical knack for repackaging old cheese, but his machine-driven mayhem sets a new standard. The head of the good alien Autobots is still Optimus Prime, the 18-wheeler with a major Christ complex, but he's sidelined for much of the movie by a wrong-headed U.S. national security drone (John Benjamin Hickey) who represents Obama but acts like Bush. Optimus is still trying to convince his erstwhile earthling pal Sam Witwicky to assist him in saving the universe, but Sam has other things on his mind: he's heading East to attend college and he's trying to get up the nerve to tell his girlfriend Mikaela Banes that he loves her. The amply endowed Fox does a lot of leaning forward and pouting. Sam again gets dragged into the ongoing alien feud when a stray piece of the all-powerful AllSpark, the Transformers' power source, ends up in his college backpack. After Sam enlists Leo, Mikaela and disgraced agent Simmons (John Turturro) to join the friendly Autobots in repelling the Decepticon resurgence, we're surrounded by cyclonic-but-bloodless destruction of World War proportions. There are three major bad alien robots this time: the revived Megatron (c'mon, you didn't really think he was gone, did you?), his Decepticon leadership rival Starscream and a devilish bucket of bolts named the Fallen who is the boss of both. Not happy just to destroy Earth, the Fallen is also plotting to blot out the sun, too, apparently in payback for something the cavemen did to him. The bad bots also have a host of mechanical insects and beasties at their beck and call, including a panther that looks like it snacks on pit bulls. There are multitudinous Autobot additions, too, most of them played for comic relief. The most bizarre are Mudflap and Skips (Voiced by Tom Kenny)AKA The Twins, a pair of over-excited Chevys that sound like they've listened to too many rap videos.

The comedy is what keeps Transformers 2 from turning into one colossal pileup of the monster trucks. Whether it's Sam's parents fretting about their rose bushes and their Paris vacation in the midst of global calamity, or his paranoid college roommate reluctantly tagging along for the ride, the biological factor helps keep all the metal from melting down. Best of all in the laughs department is John Turturro, whose Seymour Simmons was the bureaucratic troublemaker in the first film but who wears two caps this time, jester and hero. There's a lamentable amount of flannel in the film, which needlessly runs close to 2 1/2 hours, but people who love bent metal, toys and noise will get all they crave. What saves Fallen, aside from La Beouf's undeniable charisma (he's a natural born star, that kid), is that Bay continues to tamp down his worst instincts as an action filmmaker. The movie may be nonsense, but it's dazzling, visually striking nonsense, be it a free-for-all battle between a badly outnumbered Optimus Prime and a squad of baddies in the forest; a sequence in which a giant mass of shiny ball bearings coalesces into a robot; or the sight of a gigantic Decepticon comprised of construction cranes climbing one of Egypt's Great Pyramids, the ancient stone crumbling beneath its weight. How and why a robot is running around Egypt is one of the problems with Fallen, which often seems to intentionally take good ideas -- like the concept of a vintage fighter jet at the Smithsonian as a slumbering Decepticon -- and then do the least interesting things imaginable with them, such as sending it in search of a key unwisely named the matrix. Apart from the lame romantic and comic interludes, the plot of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is fast-paced, and as realistic as its "battle of the junkyards" premise can get. The action, which veers from Shanghai to Paris to a ruin-strewn desert somewhere between Egypt and Jordan, takes place on a colossal scale, with what looks like entire geographic zones laid waste. It's easy to pick apart Bay's directing style: a short attention span with dramatic issues, a tendency to lean too heavily on pyrotechnics and volume, gung-ho politics, etc. But Bay's vision—his sense of composition and editing—works even when his scenes don't. His pounding pacing in the action scenes is flawless, even when the screen is awash with motion too blurry to decipher. And he finds the details that give his imagery real bite, like the contrails from a jet as it takes off from an aircraft carrier. Or a helicopter that shears the top from a palm tree as it crashes, its pilot slamming into the windshield. The combination of animation, special effects and CGI is so adroit that the Transformers not only appear organic, but develop recognizable personalities. More substance would have been nice, but in the thick of the summer movie season, sometimes that is all you need.Whether you like warring robots or not, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen makes the third part of the trilogy something to look forward to. A heart pounding 4 on my "Go See" scale.

Transformers Revenge Of Fallen Is More Than Meets The Eye

Hollywood has many so called gifted directors, Ron Howard, Mel Gibson, and Francis Ford Coppola all come to mind. Michael Bay does not have the resume of these major Hollywood players. What he has given us in the past are many loud movies with little story or plot but with lots of action, explosions and his trade mark panning of the camera. In "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen" we do get a much better movie, not only do we get the action this type of movie is destined to give us, but we get insight that the first Transformers neglected to give us.

The battle for Earth has ended, the Autobots have defeated the Decepticons, Optimus Prime has brought new Autobots to Earth in order to find and destroy any hidden Decepticons still hiding on Earth. Optimus and his group have joined forces with a new United States Military unit nick named NEST. The opening sequence is action packed as the Autobots and NEST track an unknown Decepticon to Asia. The battle starts on the docks but is soon out in the streets, Optimus gets the Decepticon but is given a warning that The Fallen will return. Starscream who had assumed command of the Decepticons, when the Decepticons believed their leader Megatron had been destroyed. Now Starscream has decided to return to Earth with reinforcements. They recapture the shard that is Megatrons life force and bring him back to life. Returning to their home planet, The fallen has told them that they don't need the Allspark anymore that the human Sam Witwicky has the knowledge of the hidden power source in his brain, Megatron says he will get it if he has to peel the skin from the boy himself.

Of course we get the obligatory sadness of young Sam going off to college, his parents, Ron (Kevin Dunn) and Judy (Julie White) are scared and honored that their son is going to college, when Sam finds a shard of the Allspark he is given an insight into the history of the Autobots. Sam is pursued by Decepticons of all kinds, even ones that appear human. Sam gives his girlfriend Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) the shard to for safe keeping and she is pursued by Decepticons herself. Sam meets Leo (Ramon Rodriguez) his roommate who will become a sort of partner in Sam's quest to find the power of the Autobots before The Fallen can. The power of the Autobots is strong enough to destroy the Earths sun, so its a matter of survival for all of humankind that Sam succeeds.

The battle sequences are in your face, the Decepticons, who have been shot to Earth in a sort of cocoon are forming groups to hunt and kill Sam, The Autobots themselves are grouping together to defend Sam, several new Autobots have been called to earth by Optimus, Mudflap and Skids are a set of urban twins of one sort or another. They are youngsters who don't really understand the dire need to rescue Sam. The group of three who flee the college decide to find a computer website owner who claims to have knowledge of the Autobots, this man turns out to be Agent Simmons (John Turturro) and when he learns that Sam has the information that the Decepticons are searching for they decide to go find an older robot, they journey to The Smithsonian and meet Jetfire who teleports them to Egypt where he claims the door way where the Autobots hid The Matrix of power. This is what Sam needs, to not only stop the Decepticons but to bring one of the Autobots back to life, one who gave his life in order to defend Sam's.

Sam and Agent Simmons have been able to call for help, of course a public telephone in Egypt is available to them so they can reach The U.S military, the nest team has been disbanded but they are still willing to travel across the globe to help Sam, Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) leads his unit into battle against a huge Decepticon called Devestator, USAF Tech Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson) is also along for the fight. The battle sequences are long some are drawn out others are over quickly, the original Autobots are all here so if you have a favorite (Bumblebee) you are sure to see them here.The story while not Academy Award good is still much better than the first movies, we actually get a decent plot this time around and if going into the movie you understand that you are going to see a movie with huge robots fighting it out you will love this movie. Some of the early battle scenes special effects looked blurry, I was fortunate enough to see this movie on the Imax screen so that may have been the reason, quick movements in the IMAX format tend to be blurry.

I give Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0, I loved this movie and a 3 may seem low but I gave the original movie a 1. This is THE action packed Summer movie that everyone will be standing in line for. Go see it and enjoy the heck out of it, I know I did.

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen is rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Sci - Fi Action Violence, Language, some Crude and Sexual Material and Brief Drug Material
Running time is 2 hrs. 24 mins.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Family Is There When Needed Most

Conceived as a marrow donor for her gravely ill sister, Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) has undergone countless surgeries and medical procedures in her short life. Though their older daughter's life has no doubt been prolonged, the unorthodox decision of Anna's parents has cracked the entire family's foundation. When Anna sues her parents for emancipation, it sets off a court case that threatens to destroy the family for good in My Sister's Keeper.

If you're going to make a weepy, there's no reason you can't make it with intelligence and insight as the makers of My Sister's Keeper have done. The audience manipulation -- if one wants to call it that -- comes from your understanding of these people and how this particular family operates in an atmosphere of love and mutual concern. The tragedy that forces its way into their midst is fought with tenacity, and the conflicts within the family are portrayed in such a manner that no one is a bad guy. A film about a child with leukemia understandably has a small theatrical audience. Indeed, Jodi Picoult's novel, on which Jeremy Leven and director Nick Cassavetes' screenplay is based, might seem more at home on television, where illness, doctors and hospitals somehow feel less alarming. But My Sister's Keeper does benefit from a big-screen treatment: It allows for nuances and takes time to focus this story of an illness on all the people it affects. The movie begins with a bit of misdirection when 11-year-old Anna (Breslin) sues her parents. It looks like you're headed into a fascinating legal drama dealing with a thorny ethical issue. Anna has always known she is a "donor child." When her parents, Sara (Cameron Diaz) and Brian (Jason Patric), discover their first daughter, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), has leukemia, they choose to conceive another child through genetic engineering who would be a perfect genetic match with Kate. Thus, Anna can donate blood or whatever else is necessary to keep her elder sister alive. The two girls love each other dearly, so Anna never complains. Then, 11 years into this routine, Kate's kidneys are failing and she'll need one of Anna's. Anna finally says no. She hires a big-shot lawyer (Alec Baldwin), whose face adorns billboards and buses all over Los Angeles, and goes to court seeking her "medical emancipation." But her mom, who gave up a law practice to care for her ailing daughter, will make a ferocious opponent. The movie isn't about a court battle. The film moves back and forth in time to show how decisions were made and how this illness impacts everyone, including older brother Jesse (Evan Ellingson), who at times feels overlooked because of his sisters' relay team in body parts. The movie reflects back on the joys and sorrows of a family and how love can be just as strong whether the answer is yes ... or no. The film takes time giving you the background on everyone, and that includes the judge (Joan Cusack) who will decide the issue and a fellow cancer patient, Taylor (Thomas Dekker) who becomes Kate's love interest. 

OK, maybe everything is a little too neat, too perfect. If you're going to be in a hospital, you would want David Thornton's Dr. Chance for your doctor. He's compassionate, honest, smart and -- this element veering into science fiction -- always available for consultation. You would want your mom to be running over everyone else's feelings in fighting for your life. You'd want a dad who continues to do his job -- as a fireman, no less! -- even though the illness marginalizes him within his own family. You'd want a brother and sister this loving, but would that ever happen? It's not surprising that Kate and Anna share a bond closer than most sisters. Though Kate is older, she relies on her little sister in every way, realizing that her very life depends on Anna. In flashbacks, through the stories of the various members of the family, we get glimpses into their personal and public lives. The two sisters endure endless medical procedures and hospital stays, which become integrated into the routine existence a close-knit family, pretending to live a normal life. A loving wife and devoted mother, Sara had left her career as an attorney to take care of her daughter, which is more than a full-time job. We feel sympathy for a woman who has become lost inside the single-minded caregiver, dedicated to one and only cause, prolonging Kate's life at all costs. The feature's male roles are not as well-defined as those of the females. Even so, Brian comes across as a solid, supportive husband, who's getting accustomed to being rendered powerless and passive by his wife's determination, which at times borders with the obsessive, forcing Sara to make illogical demands on him and the other children. There's a wonderful scene, in which Kate, toward the end of her life, wishes to spend the day on the beach, with her doctor's blessing but against her mother's wishes. The father obliges and arranges for a family picnic, while Sara throws a tantrum in public and threatens him with divorce. Hours later, Sara shows up at the beach and joins her family in a silent, powerful sequence that needs no words. The ugliness of the illness also is not depicted in great detail. Even though the vomiting is mostly offscreen it gets its point across as to how severe things can get. That the film does come by some of its tears honestly is a testament to the actors involved, including Patric as the selfless, quietly resilient dad; Diaz, whose performance improves in direct relation to her character's mood; Baldwin, offering dry comic relief as Anna's attorney; and Joan Cusack, quietly wrenching as a judge who proves sympathetic to both parties. Special mention must also be made of Vassilieva, who endures the ravages of onscreen cancer (nosebleeds, deathly pale makeup, the aforementioned vomiting) like a champ, and who as a result easily steals the film from the plucky, always engaging Breslin.

Diaz goes without any discernible makeup and even shaves her head at one point (so her daughter won't feel "ugly" following chemotherapy.) All the work pays off: This family feels like a family and not an ensemble thrown together in the casting process. When they gather around Kate's hospital bed, the whole things seems very real. Thus, the tears. There's crying and vomiting aplenty in My Sister's Keeper, and audiences may be forgiven the urge to respond in kind. Unsubtle, uneven and undeniably effective, this take-no-prisoners cancer weepie poses a fascinating moral quandary -- a girl fighting her parents for the right to control her body while her older sister wastes away from leukemia -- as a mere pretext for a full-scale assault on the viewer's tear ducts. To the extent that many will deem the assault highly successful. While this film is destined to make you shed a tear or two, there are some scenes that will make you laugh as well as to not make this a total heart-wrencher. This is definitely one that should not be missed, just make sure you bring plenty of tissue. You'll definitely need it. A tearjerking 5 on my "Go See" scale.

My Sisters Keeper Is More Than A Tear Jerker

Every year Hollywood makes so many movies that are not worth the effort to watch, so when they make one that is not only well crafted but touching, amusing and a generally moving picture, it is almost a pleasure to watch. Such is the case with "My Sister's Keeper" an emotionally charged family drama that will have you crying and laughing. Yes laughing, and done in a tasteful way.

Sara Fitzgerald (Cameron Diaz ) has one focus in life and that is saving her daughter Kate, (Sofia Vassilieva) no matter what, even sometimes going to such extremes that she neglects her other children. Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) was conceived to be a donor child for Kate. and Jessie Fitzgerald (Evan Ellingson) the eldest child who is basically ignored and left to fend for himself. Brian Fitzgerald (Jason Patrick) is the type of husband who has little say as to what goes on around him, he is forced to sit back and just say yes to every one of Sara's whims. He is a Los Angeles fire man and is well respected on the job, but at home he just follows Sara's every wish, even if it means jeopardizing young Anna's safety.

Anna has been forced to endure excruciatingly painful procedures, at risk to her own life and future, in the hopes that she can help cure Kate. As the day for a major operation gets closer Anna decides she can no longer just allow her family to use her body as nothing more than a recycling bin for organs. Anna wants to be able to live a normal life, one she knows she won't have if she continues to give up her organs. So knowing that her family is not ready to just hear her out, Anna hires herself an attorney. Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) knows whats it is like to not be in control of your own body, he has his own ailment and agrees to take Anna's case for her.

Anna's day in court comes, Judge De Salvo (Joan Cusack) has lost a child of her own and is just returning to the court room herself, this case is an emotional one for her as well. Anna has to endure the emotions her decision has on her family in solitude, only Aunt Kelly (Heather Wahlquist ) completely understands what is going on. The movie is told with flashbacks that help us to understand the toll Cancer has, we also are allowed to catch glimpses of the moments in her life that helped Kate feel like a normal kid. We see as she meets and falls in love with Taylor Ambrose (Thomas Dekkar) and the emotions she feels when he dies. We can also see her heartbreak as she sits back and watches through a veil of tears as her family falls apart. The heartbreak isn't just about her own mortality, but for the frustration of those trying to fight for her life.

The movie is an emotional tearjerker from beginning to end, we can clearly see how the movie will end, but yet are still drawn in, the emotional drain that cancer has on a family is tremendous and the effects it has on the victim is at times heartbreaking and draining. Director Nick Cassavetes shows a nice touch in easing the emotionally draining moments with subtle comic relief, this helps stave off some of the tears. Two scenes will stay with you, the laughter the family shares after Sara shaves of her own hair because Kate feels ugly, the family visits one of those photography booths we all try to avoid, and the scene with the family spending one last day together at the beach.

I give My Sister's Keeper a 4 and on my avoidance scale a 0, I recommend this movie with all my heart, yes it is a movie that will have an emotional toll on you, but if you know someone who has had to endure the life changes that Cancer brings this movie is a wonderful tribute to the survivors of this terrible disease. The movie has just the right comedic touch to leave you feeling somewhat uplifted as well, this movie won't disappoint you, it may just surprise you at how wonderful some of today's younger actors really are.

My Sister's Keeper is rated PG-13 for Mature Thematic Content, some Disturbing Images, Sensuality, Language and Brief Teen Drinking
Running time is 1 hr. 46 mins.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dillinger : Public Enemy #1

In Public Enemies, no one can stop Dillinger and his gang. No jail can hold him. His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone—from his girlfriend Billie Frechette (Cotillard) to an American public who had no sympathy for the banks that had plunged the country into the Depression. But while the adventures of Dillinger’s gang—later including the sociopathic Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi)—thrilled many, Hoover (Billy Crudup) hit on the idea of exploiting the outlaw’s capture as a way to elevate his Bureau of Investigation into the national police force that became the FBI. He made Dillinger America’s first Public Enemy Number One and sent in Purvis, the dashing “Clark Gable of the FBI.’’ However, Dillinger and his gang outwitted and outgunned Purvis’ men in wild chases and shootouts.

One of my most anticipated movies for 2009 that doesn't feature a man with claws coming out of his hands or giants robots hanging with Shia LaBeouf is Public Enemies. I mean with Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and director Michael Mann all working together on a gangster drama, it's just gotta be quality, right? Tuesday night here in Chicago the World Premiere was held where my partner and I got to see the stars up close and personal, but was the movie worth the wait? You'll have to read on to find out...

I went to see the screening of Public Enemies, the new film by Micheal Mann starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. The movie is about the "public enemy era" of the 1930's during the great depression, and focuses on the famed gangster/bank robber John Dillinger, played by Depp, and the man sent to capture him Melvin Purvis, played by Bale. The movie also included a vague side story of how the FBI was formed into what it is today. The film starts off in 1933 with the prison break that Dillinger planned and executed, almost flawlessly. The movie starts with some action and bloodshed which in my opinion is always a good way to get the movie started. We then follow the newly acquired Dillinger gang to a hide away. At this point, Mann, introduces Pervis, while he is trying to apprehend a famed gangster "pretty boy" Floyd (a quick cameo by up and coming star Channing Tatum). After Purvis has done his job he is commissioned by J. Edger Hoover to head the man hunt for Dillinger. We also learn of the governments doubts about the FBI and J. Edger Hoover's involvement. The film continues to follow the chase for Dillinger, and his many exploits that include the famous photograph in which he puts his arm around the prosecuting attorney. His escape from jail with a gun he carved out of a bar of soap. It all ends outside the Biograph Theater where Purvis and his hired help shot and killed Dillinger in the alley next to the theater after this brothel associate gives him up in hopes to avoid deportation.


Micheal Mann has found his perfect blend of drama and action in this picture. As well as he combined his style of handy cam, and set shots. All and all, it was his best film yet. Johnny Depp gets more and more outstanding as an actor every film he makes. Christian Bale, is as he always is... awesome (did anybody else see Dark Knight or American Psycho?). There are tons of cameo's from stars that you'll recognize but can't think of their names off the top of your heads. I would be surprised if this film doesn't make it's run as a might contender for the best picture of the year in 2009. With such acting like this, I won't really need to see anything else this summer. This is definitely the one to beat as the best of the summer movies. This gets a 5 on my "Go See" scale, no doubt about it. 

A Public Enemy Worth Cheering For

Summer time at the movies usually means lots of explosions, car chases and lots of movies aimed at the younger audience. Sometimes though we get a movie that opens amidst all the hoopla that turns out to be the summers best. "Public Enemies" will be that film this summer. Public Enemies was filmed right here in Chicago by long time Chicago native Michael Mann and tells the story of the legendary Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger who became the F.B.I.'s public enemy number one.

It's the early part of the 1930's and the depression is rocking the country, a group of notorious outlaws are being hunted by a new department created by J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), leading the Chicago branch of what will later become the F.B.I. is Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) who is tasked with capturing America newest public enemy number one, John Dillinger (Johnny Depp). We first meet Purvis when he is chasing down another one of America's worst criminals, Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum), Purvis is cold and efficient in his duties, he offers Floyd the one chance to give up and when he refuses Purvis cold bloodily kills him. Dillinger's gang, that at the time included, Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff ), Pete Pierpont (David Wenham), and John Madala (Shawn Hatosy), Dillinger's mentor Walter Dietrich (James Russo) dies in one of the several daring prison escapes planned or attempted by Dillinger. This group was responsible for several daring day time bank robberies, Dillinger refused to take the customers money, just the banks, this was one of the reasons that Dillinger was endeared by the American public and his ruthlessness was what made him a target for every law man in the country.

Dillinger hid out among the people, he said that the he could hide out in the open only because he didn't do anything that would turn the people's opinion against him. Some of his friends, Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi) tried to enlist Dillinger in a kidnapping attempt, Dillinger refused because he believed that America didn't like kidnappers. Dillinger had no problem taking hostages in order to walk out of a bank, he did this in every job, the police usually wouldn't shoot at them if John Q. Public was standing in front of them. When Purvis was tasked with apprehending Dillinger he took the job to heart, he enlisted the aide of several tough law men from Dallas. Charles Winstead (Stephen Lang), Edwin Norris (Luce Rains) and (Matt Craven) were brought in after a daring attempt by Purvis and his outfit to capture Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) goes wrong and a member of Purvis unit is killed. Carter Baum (Rory Cochrane) was the long time partner of Melvin Purvis and he took it literally to heart when he was killed.

Attempt after attempt was made to capture Dillinger, after a day light bank robbery goes wrong, Dillinger is wounded and needs to hide out, the mob has turned against Dillinger and his fellow outlaws because the F.B.I. are making new laws that will have an effect on their businesses. Frank Nitti (Bill Camp) informs all of Dillinger's old friends including Gilbert Catena (Domenick Lombardozzi) who works for underboss Phil D'Andrea (John Ortiz) to cut off any one connected with Dillinger. A late night raid ends in the capture or death of every member of Dillinger's gang, this leaves him with no option but to return to Chicago to pick up the one girl who he has fallen in love with, Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) and Purvis knows this.

The inevitable comes when Dillinger is caught outside of the Biograph Theatre, Purvis who usually offered the gangsters he apprehended a chance to give up had no time to make Dillinger the offer. The death of one of America's biggest outlaws is dealt with in a classy way, Michael Mann never goes over board with the violence we get in your face reality but it isn't over the top in your face graphic. I do hate to give away the ending, but the good guys win. And along the way you the movies watcher wins as well, this is as entertaining a movie as you are likely to get all summer long. Long time Mann Cinematographer Dante Spinottie gives us just enough shots that give a reality to the violent story of the life and death of Dillinger. The one thing that will inger long after the movie is the subtle soundtrack that is persistant throughout the movie, the little news tidbits heard over the radio are also a very nice touch to showcase the era this movie is trying to capture.

I give Public Enemies a 4 and on my avoidance scale a 0, this movie has something for everyone, understand it is a violent movie, the life and times of the characters demands that it be held to truth and not fiction. I can not recommend this movie any more, GO see this fantasticly well crafted cat and mouse of a movie.

Public Enemies is rated R for Ganster Violence and soem Language
Running time is 2 hrs. 23 mins.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Every Family Has A Secret

Almost four decades after he wrote The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola returns to original screenwriting with this personal drama about an Argentine-Italian family. Tetro stars Vincent Gallo and newcomer Alden Ehrenreich.

In the first shot of “Tetro”—the first of many gorgeous images to come—a moth struggles toward a light bulb’s blazing filament. That’s the dynamic that drives Francis Ford Coppola’s extravagant, and eventually lurid, tale of a tortured family. Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich), a 17-year-old waiter on a cruise ship, stops by in Buenos Aires to search for his long-lost brother, Angelo (Vincent Gallo). He shows up at Angelo’s apartment which he shares with his girlfriend, Miranda (Maribel Verdu). Angelo, though, would rather be called Tetro, short for his family’s surname, Tetrocini. He has given up his passion for writing poetry and playwriting while bottling up the anger and sorrow that has scarred him in the past. He treats Bennie with hostility, yet, with the insistence of his girlfriend, he lets him stay at the apartment. Tetro’s bottled-up pain has something to do with the relationship between his father, Carlo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), a famous conductor now living in the United States. In an interesting turn of events, Bennie decides to type out Tetro’s unfinished play and add an ending behind his back. He sends the script to a famous critic named Alone (Carmen Maura), who loves it so much that she enters it into the Festival Patagonia which she runs on her own. Once Tetro discovers that Bennie submitted and altered the play, he’s forced to confront his troubled past, which won’t be spoiled here. Writer/director Francis Ford Coppola has crafted a very intricate, intelligent drama that gradually reveals more and more layers and revelations pertaining to character development through the use of flashbacks. There’s much more to Tetro and Bennie, for that matter, than meets the eye, which makes them increasingly interesting and complex characters even though they’re not particularly likable. Coppola shoots the present-day scenes in lush black-and-white while filming the flashback and some ballet sequences in bright colors. At times, the film’s tone feels uneven and distracting from the overall momentum as it gyrates between poignant drama, and absurdity or bizarreness à la David Lynch which will cause you to briefly scratch you head in bewilderment as if you were watching a strange dream. It’s interesting to observe the evolving dynamic between Bennie and Tetro as well how Tetro’s play---or art in general---reflects life itself and vice versa. Tetro manages to be visually arresting and intelligently crafted for the most part, but its slightly uneven tone diminishes its overall power to captivate and engross you thoroughly. It’s tempting to see aspects of the filmmaker’s own family in this saga, but literal resemblances are few and beside the point. What drives his screenplay is the fatal lure of mythic themes—blind passion, epic rivalry, parricide and shattering tragedy. Tetro turns out to be not one movie but, at the very least, two—a Fellini-esque (or Coppola-esque) concatenation of drama, dance and opera (with a nod to Alphonse Daudet), and a modest, appealing coming-of-age story that involves Maribel Verdú as Tetro’s girlfriend. When she speaks English she’s merely marvelous. In her native Spanish she is dazzling. This is an excellent effort by Coppola that should not be missed. A 3 on my "Go See" scale.

Coppola Breaths Life Into Tetro

To say that Francis Ford Coppola is a master at what he does is an understatement, the man has given his heart to all of his projects, some have been box office failures and some have been masterpieces. His Godfather pictures were a standard to live up to for a very long time, the man has given us several big stars, where would Al Pacino be if he had not starred as Michael Corleone? Now he brings us another young man to watch, Alden Ehrenreich will remind you of a young Leonardo DiCaprio. "Tetro" will appeal to most movie goers but may lack the action to get a wide audience and that is a shame, this is an almost perfect movie to watch.

17-year-old Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich) arrives in Buenos Aires to search for his older brother Tetro (Vincent Gallo), he has been in hiding for several years, it seems that Tetro gave up on the family and just went away on a sabbatical that never ended. The family had emigrated from Italy to Argentina, but with the great musical success of their father Carlo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), an acclaimed symphony conductor, the family moved from Argentina to New York and there is where every thing went amiss. What Bennie finds when he arrives at the apartment of Tetro and his girlfriend Miranda (Maribel Verdú) is not what he had hoped for or expected. Tetro is volatile to say the least, he is argumentative with everyone, he also wants to hide the fact that Bennie is his brother. Tetro tells Bennie he can stay with them until the ship Bennie works on is fixed.

Bennie likes to get involved in everything, Miranda shows him around town, Tetro is in a cast and can't really go out on long trips, Tetro is given small jobs at a play house taking care of the house lights, it seems that Tetro is a sort of writer himself, in his mind he is a great writer, that was until a critic, Alone (Carmen Maura) panned his work. Bennie finds some of Tetro's work and turns it into a play, the story is about the life of their family, Tetro is not pleased when he finds Bennie working on the story. When Bennie stages his play Alone calls for it to be entered in a festival that she is holding, Bennie thinks this is a great thing and talks Tetro into doing it.

This movie is well crafted and is shot in black and white, there are a few scenes shot in color and seem to be of dramatic moments in the characters lives, this makes the movie more formidable that if it was reversed. The ending twist is a little bit eerie but it does make the movie more understandable, it does move at a slow pace but the plot requires this to work, Coppola has brought back his magic and I for one love that.

I give Tetro a 3 and on my avoidance scale a 0 This movie will not be for everyone, the pace and the fact it is in black and white will turn some people away and that will be their loss. i can't recommend this movie any more, GO see this wonderful film.

Tetro is not rated
Running time is 2 hrs. 07 mins.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Black And Cera Take Us Through Year One

When a couple of lazy hunter-gatherers (Jack Black and Michael Cera) are banished from their primitive village, they set off on an epic journey through the ancient world in the comedy Year One.

An amiable stroll through biblical times featuring Jack Black and Michael Cera as exiled Neanderthals, Year One lacks seismic guffaws but elicits many mild smiles. This low-tech opus offers an ironic commentary on the utter idiocy of religious superstition and received knowledge, all the funnier for being delivered by world-class idiot Black. Still, the PG-13-rated, CG-free comedy may prove too tame to score big with target audiences Year One opens on a slapstick wild-boar chase in a primordial environment with few employment possibilities other than professional hunter or professional gatherer. Accident-prone hunter Zed (Black), having eaten the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge, is kicked out of his village. Reluctantly accompanied by nerdy gatherer Oh (Cera), Zed crosses over mountains (and several millennia) to arrive in time to witness Cain (David Cross) slay Abel (Paul Rudd, in a hilarious cameo) not once but several times, each new assault more "accidental" than the last. After enjoying a brief sleepover at Adam's (Ramis) and thwarting the human sacrifice of Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) by dad Abraham (Hank Azaria), the Neanderthal pair wind up in Sodom for the last half of the picture, trailing half the cast with them. Naming himself "the Chosen," Black's Zed keeps tearing down belief systems -- that the world ends over the next hill, that virgin sacrifices bring drought-relieving rain -- only to replace them with elaborately rationalized, purely ego-driven elevations of himself as the world's savior, until reality (or else the more sarcastic Oh) hauls him back from his delusions of grandeur. 

Fittingly for a movie that denies religious causality, the jokes themselves seldom have defined beginnings, middles or ends. Some gags have no payoff whatsoever (Oh, fatally wrapped in a huge yellow python, shows up unscathed in the next scene without explanation). Black's partner-friendly stylings pay off beautifully here: He and Cera bounce off each other brilliantly, Black's braggadocio neatly complementing Cera's sadsack understatement. But other casting choices in this overpopulated spoof seem like so much excess baggage. Apatow discovery Mintz-Plasse fails to rekindle his McLovin' magic as a tagalong Isaac. June Raphael, as brunette bombshell Maya, doesn't spark even negative magnetism -- unlike Juno Temple's ditzy Eema, who ultimately divests Oh of his teen-virgin status. Ramis has been ridiculing the sanctimony of pious religious epics at least as far back as his legendary mid-'70s SCTV lampoon of "Ben-Hur." Here, the helmer entertainingly skirts sacrilege with skits skewering a Sodomite high priest (a bejeweled Oliver Platt) and a colorful spin on Old Testament happenings including the reading of entrails ("To me, I see a happy face"). Despite its irreverence, the pic seems unlikely to pique interest by courting religious opposition. Unlike Kevin Smith's "Dogma," "Year One" so muddles its orthodoxy and telescopes its timeline as to make any protest seem more absurd than the film. By now, we know that Jack Black and Michael Cera are pretty much the same in every movie, but that's what gives the slightly underwhelming Year One its primary comic kick. Their anachronistic dialogue and mannerisms - all delivered while wearing loincloths and silly cave man wigs - are continually amusing. Director Harold Ramis, meanwhile, knows enough about comedy to keep things ticking over nicely. That said, there's something undeniably lazy and tossed off about Year One: everyone feels like they're cruising, rather than really firing up. It's reasonably entertaining (on DVD, I'd suggest, rather than at the cinema), but Year One is definitely not one for the ages. Novelty elements to watch for include a silent Aussie actress Gia Carides as the queen, Oliver Platt as the tubby shaman who likes oil rubbed on his hideously hairy belly by Michael Cera and a fiery inferno inside a giant bull's head where virgins are sacrificed to pressure the gods to grant rain. Abandoning restraint, Harold Ramis makes the most of his two leads in what turns out to be a series of sketches very loosely connected by a cotton line of a story. It's a bit of a mess, but that's what is intended. Besides, you have to admire his endurance; at his age (which is my age) this would have been a marathon of moviemaking in every sense. It's one of those that you laugh at then forget. It's entertaining for what it is and for that it gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

Year One Should Have Stayed In The Stone Age

Sometimes a movie comes along that makes you scratch your head, wondering why it was made, who thought that or even why a talented man like Harold Ramis would think that even one of the jokes in the movie would be funny. Such is the case with the new so called comedy "Year One" the tale of two men from the stone age who some how meet biblical characters and not only interact with them but become a part of their lives. a minor plot contrivance.

When the village fool, I mean hunter, Zed, (Jack Black) son of Zero eats from the forbidden fruit tree, he is forced out of the village. The slight Adam and Eve reference here, is made tongue in cheek style, the film doesn't make any other slight references, they beat us senseless with their ideas from here on in. Along for the ride is a gatherer, Oh (Michael Cera) who is at one point seen being strangled by a boa constrictor and another being attacked by a large predatory cat, then inexplicable after each scene, is next shown whining to Zed, if this was intended as a run on gag it is completely wasted because it is dropped after the second time. The two men travel the country looking to start another village of their own, Zed leaves behind the woman he loves, Maya (June Diane Raphael) and a sister, Eema (Juno Temple) who is the love interest of Oh. After Zed and Oh leave the village it is raided and many of its inhabitants taken as slaves to be sold in town, so yes Zed and Oh have many opportunities to save the female leads.

Along the way, walking the countryside, one that Oh thinks will end at a certain point leaving the duo to just fall off the planet, they meet Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd) then agree to go to the home of Cain's family, even though they watch in horror as he brains Abel to death, OVER AND OVER again. Here they are confronted by Cain's father (Harold Ramis) and later are forced to flee the village with Cain, who later sells the duo into slavery. They are purchased along with Eema and Maya of course, and along the way to their new destination they are saved from this fate by a band of royal guards led by Sargon (Vinnie Jones) they run into the desert when the guards attack, of course this leaves the two to wander the country to meet another biblical duo, Abraham (Hank Azaria) who is about to sacrifice his son Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), we are treated to several circumcision jokes before the two leave (run) from the town. Here the movie becomes as unbearable as humanly possible, the jokes are stale, how many gay jokes, fart jokes and circumcision jokes does it take to make a person want to leave, this movie will answer that question.

Of course the duo save the day, save the girls and become heroes, why or better yet how? Well lets just say its better to not ask, this movie has nothing going for it, the talents are wasted here, Michael Cera who is an up and coming star shouldn't attach himself to projects such as this one, as far as jack Black goes, well we are used to seeing him stumble his way through movies, and here he doesn't disappoint if you can even say that. He mutters his lines and acts as if he wants out of the picture, he isn't the only one, I wanted out of the screening too.

The one true highlight of the evening was seeing Harold Ramis being honored by TBS for his contribution to film making, not only as a star of such movies like Stripes and Ghostbusters but also for his writing, producing and directing. The man was greeted by applause from a full theatre after a short retrospective of his career was shown, he was given the life time achievement award and then spoke for a few minutes. Then the movie was shown, I for one wanted more of the retrospective and less of Year One.

I give Year One a 0 and on my avoidance scale a 4, I think I may create an even higher avoidance scale number for movies as bad as this one is. I can just tell you that in all honesty there is nothing that makes this movie worth seeing, let alone spending the money on it.

Year One is rated PG-13 for Crude and Sexual Content Throughout, Brief Strong language and Comic Violence
Running time is 1 hr. 40 mins.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Going Through With The Proposal

When high-powered book editor Margaret (Sandra Bullock) faces deportation to her native Canada, the quick-thinking exec declares that she’s actually engaged to her unsuspecting put-upon assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds), who she’s tormented for years. He agrees to participate in the charade, but with a few conditions of his own. The unlikely couple heads to Alaska to meet his quirky family (Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White) and the always-in-control city girl finds herself in one comedic fish-out-of-water situation after another. With an impromptu wedding in the works and an immigration official on their tails, Margaret and Andrew reluctantly vow to stick to the plan despite the precarious consequences in The Proposal

Diverting romantic antic about a sham engagement is sparked by the bright chemistry and comic timing of Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. The Proposal won't catch any bouquets for originality, but in terms of a bended-knee pitch for the affections of women (and some men)-- including Ryan Reynolds' boyish charms, a hip granny and even a beyond-adorable puppy -- this romantic comedy pretty much pulls out all the stops. Director Anne Fletcher is working from a script by Peter Chiarelli, but the story draws from so many sources the whole exercise has the feel of a committee effort. Bullock plays Margaret Tate, a book editor so tyrannical -- holy "The Devil Wears Prada," Batman -- that the message "It's here!" is instantly dispatched when she enters the office, as her minions hop to appear as busy as possible. Anticipating Margaret's needs is the job of her assistant Andrew (Reynolds), but he's thrown for a loop when Margaret -- a Canadian suddenly facing deportation -- tells him they must get married, a maneuver that will not only keep her in the U.S. but save his job. Andrew blackmails her right back with the threat of backing out, and before you know it, they're flying off to his hometown in Alaska to break the news to his family -- and throw an officious immigration agent (Denis O'Hare) off the scent. So "Green Card" segues into "Northern Exposure," as the starched, high-heeled Manhattan-dweller Margaret is exposed to Andrew's colorful clan, including his aloof father (Nelson), loving mom (Steenburgen) and wacky, about-to-turn-90 grandma (Betty White, still more than capable of stealing every scene she's in). Inevitably, a thaw begins between the assistant and the boss he dubbed "Satan's mistress" -- one helped along by seeing each other in various stages of undress, which is sure to elicit whoops from the appropriate demographics. For Reynolds, that will only bolster his romantic-comedy credentials, as he and Bullock deftly capture the requisite awkwardness of having to deceive those around them. 

Although there's plenty of rustic scenery (with Massachusetts as a stand-in for Palin country), prolonging the buildup eventually leads to some tired and silly flourishes. Fletcher started out as a choreographer and even gives Bullock a chance to show off some amusing dance gyrations, but all that nifty footwork becomes a bit more frantic down the home stretch. By then, though, The Proposal has generated enough goodwill to get by -- and there's even a parting shot of White holding that fluffy, snow-colored puppy. In that respect, it's difficult not to admire a project that not only knows what's expected of it, but precisely what its assets are. Sandra Bullock is one of the most likable and skilled comedians in movies today, but she hasn't had a comedy hit since the first "Miss Congeniality" nine years ago. That's about to change with The Proposal, an engaging, well-crafted lark that proves "high concept" isn't necessarily a tired tactic. Bullock also is talented enough to play convincingly against her genial image here as the proverbial boss from hell. Starting the film as a borderline caricature of an unpleasant workaholic, Bullock convincingly peels back the layers of Margaret, revealing the pain behind her steely facade and the vulnerability that surfaces as she and Andrew get to know each other better amid the tense masquerade. By midpoint, we're actually rooting for this erstwhile office gargoyle. It helps immeasurably that Bullock has tremendous chemistry with Reynolds. The former TV actor and "Van Wilder" cutup has been getting a lot of work lately but hasn't quite broken through as a star. The Proposal should remedy that. He matches Bullock's comic timing note for note and conveys all of Andrew's frustration, exasperation and growing attraction to Margaret. The situations might be formulaic, but the teamwork of the two leads brings them to sparkling life. Full of the standard cliches (and it knows this), but Bullock and Reynolds' performances almost make you not even notice them. Highly recommened. This gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

A Proposal Of This Sort Is The Best Kind

Summer time is a time for major studios to release their films that are aimed at a younger audience, sometimes they throw in a movie or two that can be enjoyed by everyone. "The Proposal" is just that type of movie. It is a comedy aimed at everyone, this isn't a "chick flick" guys even you will enjoy this movie. It does have a few scenes that are cliche filled but they work here, and that is hard to pull off in today's movies. So many of them just rehash the same old story line, same old joke or same old ending, The Proposal, even though ends the way everyone knows it will is still clever and very funny.

Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) is the executive editor-in-chief of a book publishing company, who just happens to be a Canadian resident in New York, who finds out that INS wants to deport her back to Canada, knowing she will lose her job, forces her assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her, he agrees only on the condition he be made an editor of the book firm. She agrees reluctantly and they head off to immigration. When they get there they are questioned by an agent, Mr. Gilbertson (Denis O'Hare) who tells them if they are faking the wedding to get Margaret legal status Andrew will go to prison, and when Mr. Gilbertson tells them he plans to investigate them fully, the two are forced to spend the weekend with his parents in Alaska in order to convince Mr. Gilbertson of their intentions to wed.

Once in Alaska Margaret meets the entire Paxton family, Mom, Grace Paxton (Mary Steenburgen) dad, Joe Paxton (Craig T. Nelson) and even sweet ol' Grandma Annie (Betty White). The first thing she finds out is that Andrew's family owns most of the town and they live in a huge house on an island, the only way to get there is by boat, and she doesn't do water well. When Andrew announces their plans to wed, dad isn't all that thrilled, he doesn't like the fact Andrew left home for New York anyway. Mom and Grandma Annie can't be happier and tell them that the wedding can be held at the house. One event leads to another, the two sleep in the same room but Andrew sleeps on the floor, one day after working hard, Andrew thinking the women had gone into town stripes down for a shower, Margaret has also returned to the house for a shower as well, the two bump into each other and fall to the floor nude. This is one of the most funniest scenes in the movie, we know in advance the two will fall in love, the ending is cliche but not what we expect, one of the family calls Mr. Gilbertson and he flies to Alaska and offers Andrew a chance to come clean. Andrew tells him no that they plan on getting married. The one person you don't expect to get cold feet does, and confesses the scheme.

When Margaret heads back to New York it is expected that Andrew will follow her and we are not disappointed, he follows her back to the office and confesses his love for her, He then proposes to Margaret and they live happily ever after. The ending doesn't take anything from the movie we expect it and are glad to see it coming. Hollywood does it right sometimes and the chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds saves this film.

I give The Proposal a 3 and on my avoidance scale I give it a 0, guys you can take your sweetheart to this movie and not worry about falling asleep. It will make you laugh out loud, although the one scene with Grandma Annie and Margaret dancing around the fire should have been edited out, this film still works.

The Proposal is rated PG-13 for Sexual Content, Nudity and Language
Running time is 1 hr. 48 mins.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pretty Predictable...Imagine That

In Imagine That, Eddie Murphy stars as a successful financial executive who has more time for his blackberry than his seven-year-old daughter (Yara Shahidi). When he has a crisis of confidence and his career starts going down the drain, however, he finds the solution to all his problems in his daughter’s imaginary world.

Eddie Murphy's latest is exactly what everyone expects it to be; cliché and predictable, but in Imagine That, a family comedy about a workaholic Dad who finds that fatherhood is as rewarding as finance, it reminded me of how funny Eddie Murphy is without a fat suit or flatulence gags. Murphy is the buttoned-down Evan, a Denver securities analyst so preoccupied at the firm that he forgets to pick up Olivia, his 6-year-old daughter, on custody days. Yara Shahidi, wide-eyed and adorable, is Olivia. She brings out in Murphy what's been missing from films such as Norbit - spontaneous play. Shahidi's and Murphy's scenes together have such warmth, tenderness, and joy that they elevate this cookie-cutter comedy into homemade fun. Evan has two problems. One: Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church), his Native American colleague, is aiming to steal his clients. Two: Olivia, upset by the estrangement of her parents, will not surrender her security blanket at school, where she talks more with her imaginary friends than her real ones. Technically, it’s not that Evan is a bad father; he simply has other priorities than his 7-year-old daughter Olivia, played by newcomer Yara Shahidi (and, for that matter his estranged wife). Priorities like his Blackberry. And his stock portfolios. Befuddled by the responsibilities of fatherhood, Evan ignores Olivia, leaving her to be entertained by her security blanket and her imaginary friends. But when Olivia begins to tell Evan that her imaginary friends have some very strong opinions on which stocks he should buy and sell — opinions that turn out to be spectacularly correct and make Evan a superstar at work where he is being considered as the boss’s successor — Daddy suddenly loves playing make-believe. But is Evan’s sudden interest in Olivia one of paternal esteem or base profit motivation? Imagine That is the most enjoyable film Eddie Murphy has made in years and is certainly the best of his middling, family-friendly films. 

It’s been fascinating over the past few decades watching one of the country’s most foul-mouthed comedians morph into a kid-friendly standard bearer. Imagine That allows Murphy to play to his comic strengths without crossing the line into obnoxiousness. He sings and prances and makes funny faces throughout the film, as Evan’s apartment is transformed into a magical wood filled with princesses and fire-breathing dragons. Anyone who has ever played with children will relate. (Refreshingly, Imagine That forces its audience to do just that — imagine. There is no CGI trickery here. Olivia’s imaginary friends are, well, invisible.) In this gentle fantasy from director Karey Kirkpatrick (who wrote the screenplay for the recent Charlotte's Web), it may be that Olivia's imaginary friends are crack stock analysts. And that her security blanket is a "securities blanket" - a magic cloth accurately predicting market outcomes. Thankfully, the fantasy elements are implicit rather than explicit; the movie is not an inventory of special effects, like the recent Bedtime Stories. Thus the audience, like Evan, accepts what Olivia says on faith. Imagine That and its young female star have something in common: they are both adorable. The daddy/daughter sequences are wonderful, particularly a scene in which Evan teaches Olivia how to sing without really singing. The film works the best, produces the most laughs and tugs at our heartstrings the hardest when Murphy is alone with Shahidi engaging in delirious horseplay. The innocent, delectable girl more than holds her own beside Murphy’s crazy antics, giving a performance that is equally funny and enduring. She is an absolute delight without ever being cloying or excessively sweet. Much humor also comes from Thomas Haden Church, who plays Johnny Whitefeather, Evan’s chief rival at work, whose faux-Native American mumbo jumbo is a smokescreen for his ruthless competitive streak. True, the film’s feel-good, Beatles-saturated revelations are all-too-familiar — a workaholic dad who doesn’t spend enough time with his kid; the conundrum of choosing between a critical business meeting and a school production — but Imagine That builds such goodwill through its undemandingly pleasant fantasy and the charming, comic abilities of its stars, that much will be forgiven. This gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale. It's not the best out there right now, but Murphy and Shahidi make this what it is: cute and entertaining to watch.