Saturday, December 11, 2010

Due Date **1/2

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan

Rated R (for language, drug use and sexual content)

Directed by Todd Phillips

Screenplay by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel and Todd Phillips

* * 1/2

A Wild Ride

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03: Actor Robert Downey Jr and Zach Galifianakis attend the 'Due Date' Premiere at The Empire Cinema, Leicester Square on November 3, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
With any comedy where the main character is shadowed by a wildly annoying person, there is a fine line between irritating moviegoers and making them laugh. “Due Date” walks the line alright. It has its wobbly moments, but overall accomplishes the feat of balancing the crazy with the funny.

This is mostly due to Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis.
They are compelling separately, but together create such an odd couple, hard to look away from. When the storyline is based almost solely on two characters, they’d better be compelling!

Downey is Peter Highman, a straight-laced businessman with a temper and Galifianakis is Ethan Tremblay/Chase, a wanna-be actor, whose idiosyncrasies keep him from fitting into any one mold.

From the moment Ethan crashes into his life, he causes Peter nothing but trouble upon trouble upon trouble. All Peter cares about is getting home to LA in time to see his wife give birth to their first child. An unfortunate turn of events (i.e. Ethan) leaves him without any transportation across the country. Ethan and his dog Sonny are Peter's only hope to get back to his wife.

Ethan’s wackiness, plus his childish and at times, uncouth behavior, would drive any person out of their right mind. Despite this, he does have a heart and the “serious” moments of the film are carried off as well as they are because of the dead-on acting skills of Downey and Galifianakis.

Watch it for a good laugh.
Watch it to see an unlikely pair mix together rather well. Just don’t expect anything less than total insanity and ridiculousness!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

“Yeah 3x:” Chris Brown’s Ticket Back to the Top?

Chris Brown released his catchy radio single “Yeah 3x” about a month ago from his album “F.A.M.E.” and it just might be his comeback after TRI (The Rihanna Incident). It’s your generic shake-it-on-the-dance-floor hit, with a pumping electro beat and lyrics that tell you to “put your hands in the air.” It may not be too different from the other club hits on the radio, but maybe fitting in is just what he needs.

The music video is squeaky clean. Not only does the opening include little kids, one actually announces his arrival, “Hey, it’s Chris Brown!” followed by cheers from all the surrounding children; a bit unrealistic. I don’t think many six-year-olds would cheer at the sound of Brown’s name (if they even know who he is.)

On the plus side, the video features 30 seconds of some amazing female dancers. Shockingly, unlike so many videos today, the girls aren’t wearing next to nothing and dancing suggestively. They have on black trousers, white tank tops and suspenders, and their moves are a mix of modern dance and hip hop; the focus is on technique, not on showing skin. Brown unleashes his thrilling, gravity-defying dance moves while keeping the whole video PG. The video is blessedly free of a lot of grinding and gyrating and the scenes are pretty innocent. Brown’s wardrobe is preppy and clean-cut to the max. He’s on his best behavior, no doubt!

This leads me to wonder, is it ok to like Chris Brown again after what conspired on that fateful night with Rihanna? Can you separate the music from the musician? Is it a crime to be a huge Rihanna fan...but also groove along to Brown's tunes? His talent was obvious, in both singing and dancing, from the moment he swept onto the scene in 2005. Do we look at him as a person who has hopefully learned from his mistakes? Or continue to banish his songs from our iPods? It remains to be seen whether fans will forgive and forget or if this very public incident will forever tarnish his name.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Morning Glory ***1/2

Starring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Wilson

Rated PG-13 for some sexual content including dialogue, language and brief drug references

Directed by Roger Michell

Written by Aline Brosh McKenna

* * * 1/2

Morning Glory

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 07: Actress Rachel McAdams attends the New York Premiere of 'Morning Glory' at Ziegfeld Theatre on November 7, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
"Morning Glory" has a relatively simple story line, setting and script, but the strength of the characters and actors are what bring it to vivid life. Becky Fuller is your typical girl with a dream, completely devoted to her job as producer of a morning news show. There are thousands of real-life Becky’s crowding up every major city across the country. She is a pro at what she does and is on the cusp of a huge promotion when she is instead canned in a major way. Cue the laborious and incredibly persistent job search.

Rachel McAdams brings such frenetic energy to the character of Becky. She’s pretty but not glamorous, confident in her job but a total klutz anywhere else, always fumbling with her phone and banging into furniture.

She manages to get a job on a network morning show that is in a bad state. She is hired by Jerry Barnes, played with understated humor by Jeff Goldblum, to be executive producer of “Daybreak,” which has less viewers than staff members. The magic that follows must be watched to experience the full effect of the trifecta of Diane Keaton, Harrison Ford and McAdams. All three bring such class and seriousness to the story that viewers can feel their every up and down.

Keating is Colleen Peck, the bitter but spunky long-time morning co-anchor. Ford is the weathered, gruff hard news anchor who has won every journalism award under the sun and now finds himself down on his luck. He is cornered into a co-anchor position opposite Colleen and he fights it with every fiber, refusing to budge and lower his high journalistic standards. McAdams is the ringleader, youngest and freshest face among the whole bunch, trying to manage the many egos and maybe just keep the show afloat before the network shuts them down for good.

Ford and Keating look and sound better than ever and together they are unexpectedly comical. The story isn’t a romance or a drama or a comedy, it’s a melody of classic characters polished and put together with a sweet twist.

“Morning Glory” accomplishes everything a film like “Post Grad” failed miserably at: the romantic drama is light, the storyline is strong, the characters are multi-layered and even endearing, never cringe-worthy. It’s the kind of film that might slip under the radar, pegged as fluff, rather than substance. In fact it’s the perfect balance between the two, substance with a dollop of fluff on the side.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Easy A ***1/2

Starring Emma Stone, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Amanda Bynes, Alyson Michalka and Penn Badgley

Rated PG-13
(for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material)

Directed by Will Gluck

Written by Bert V. Royal

* * * 1/2

A Red-Letter Flick

Cast Member Emma Stone attends the premiere of the motion picture romantic comedy Easy A , at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on September 13, 2010. UPI/Jim Ruymen Photo via Newscom

Emma Stone is on her way to being a bona fide star. Vogue magazine has dubbed her the next Sandra Bullock. She has perfect comedic timing and is totally believable as both the invisible nerd and the salacious school harlot. “Easy A” manages to be smart without trying too hard and it’s laugh-out-loud funny thanks to Stone’s slapstick humor and some quirky, spicy writing.

Stone plays Olive, a quick-witted teen who doesn’t always make the best social decisions. While recanting her first sexual experience to her obnoxious best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka), the school’s deeply religious abstinence-promoter Marianne overhears and promptly spreads it throughout the school. The twist: Olive is lying to Rhiannon. Her virginity is still very much intact.

What unfolds next is silly, yes, but incredibly entertaining. As Olive herself fuels the fire of her reputation, she goes from being the invisible girl to the ostracized, infamous school whore. She likens her situation to the character Hester Prynn in “The Scarlet Letter,” which her English class is reading. A nasty rumor often spreads at the speed of light. The film is a study on how quick people are to believe it and demonize the subject, before ever determining if it is based in truth.

Stone is an absolute joy to watch, whether she is parading around the school hallways in Ray Bans, her corset-top emblazoned with a bright red A or singing at the top of her lungs to Natasha Bedingfield’s “Pocketful of Sunshine.”

The supporting cast features a variety of comedic gems including Lisa Kudrow, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci. Kudrow and Church play teachers and Clarkson and Tucci are Olive’s laid back, super cool parents. Amanda Bynes is deliciously funny as Marianne and Penn Badgley is also delicious as Woodchuck Todd, the only student who is indifferent to the rumors.

Keep an eye on Miss Stone. Her turn as leading lady proves she has the raw talent to stake her claim in Hollywood.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Ken Wantanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine

Rated PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action throughout)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Written by Christopher Nolan

* * * * *

Famous poet Edgar Allan Poe once wrote, “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”

“Inception” explores this idea with heart-pounding, mind-blowing vigor, literally turning our idea of reality upside down.

Cobb (DiCaprio) is a master extractor. He implants ideas in people’s minds by reaching them in their dreams. One idea, say placed in the mind of a dictator or business mogul, can set in motion actions that change the whole world. Cobb is a man who can essentially control anyone around him, should he choose to.

But he is unhappy with his work, which keeps him away from his two children. Suddenly a powerful client lays down an offer he can’t refuse: if he completes the mission, he can return home to his family in peace, with no strings attached. This job just happens to be his grandest undertaking yet. Cobb puts together a dream team including architect student-genius Ariadne (Page), “thief” Eames (Hardy), and the guy who holds the whole dream sequence together, Arthur, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt. The target is young heir Robert Fisher, Jr. (Murphy).

To plant this idea in Fisher, Cobb and his crew must construct a dream so detailed and complex, that there is quite literally a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream. As the team goes deeper into each dream level, the harder it is to get back. The lines between reality and dream blur until one is undistinguishable from the other.

Page is perfect as Ariadne, the newest recruit, quickly drawn to this alternate reality where she can create the scenery. DiCaprio is completely compelling, a man full of inner torment after the death of his wife, Mal, played by the superior Cotillard.

The film will keep you in a leaning-forward-in-your-seat-and-clutching-the-hand rests kind of suspense. Guessing and analyzing until the very last minute, it’s the kind of film you have to see twice just to understand each incredible layer. The final kick will reach out and grab you. A masterpiece, a breathtaking look at the frontier of film to come, and in the midst of so many stale, brainless and boring films, “Inception” gives viewers a fresh take on reality, dreams, and the weight one person’s idea can have on the world.

* Question:* From the final scene, do you think it stops spinning?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Salt* *

Starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreibner, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Daniel Olbrychski

Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action)

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Written by Kurt Wimmer

* *

"Salt" is an action film, a spy thriller, and not much more.

Jolie plays CIA agent Evelyn Salt, a relatively cold, aggressive character that was originally written for a male role. As she runs from the government, accused of being a Russian spy, the audience is left wondering whether or not she is as innocent as she claims. While Jolie looks a bit out of place as CIA agent-Salt, all blonde bob and boxy suit, she is completely convincing as on-the-run Salt. Her hair is jet black, she kills quickly and without any emotion, and dons all black.

Liev Schriebner is Ted Winter, her closest friend in the CIA and the only one who seems to think she may be innocent. As bodies pile up in her wake, backed by a bleak setting and bleaker characters, Salt seems less a hero or desperate woman on the run trying to prove said innocence, but rather a reckless killer hard to root for.

The film is excessively violent, with a murky plot and Salt completes one unbelievable death defying stunt after another. In one scene, she sits in a cop SUV, knocks out the two officers on either side of her and grabs one of their taser guns to stun the driver. She then repeatedly shocks the driver until he accelerates at top speed smashing several police cars ahead. Then she tasers him to speed in reverse, slamming into more cars behind. Finally, she drives off a bridge into the traffic below. Salt simply climbs out of the totaled SUV and walks away, barely a hair out of place - she is also handcuffed the entire time.

"Salt" may be a wild ride, but it doesn’t live up to its name – it’s neither pungent nor witty. Instead it’s bland and unremarkable.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Ghost Writer * * * *

Starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall

Rated PG-13

Directed by Roman Polanski

Written by Robert Harris (novel and adaption)
and Roman Polanski (screenplay)

* * * *

60th Berlin International Film Festival - The Ghost Writer  Premiere

On an island off of Massachusetts, cloaked with heavy mists and driving rain, a British ghost writer, played by the quietly commanding Ewan McGregor, takes on his most lucrative book deal yet. He is aware the book’s subject, former British prime minister James Lang (Pierce Brosnan), is under investigation from the government. The Ghost Writer (his character is never named) also knows he is filling the shoes of the previous ghost writer, who died suddenly, laying the groundwork for all he is about to uncover.

While working with Lang, The Ghost Writer meets his personal assistant/mistress (Kim Cattrall) and his miserable, dark, political genius of a wife, Ruth Lang (Olivia Williams), who all live and work together in a bleak, solitary house by the beach. Beneath the surface of the uncomfortable household, with security officers at every corner, always watching, a storm is brewing. The Ghost tries to keep a professional distance from Lang and his crew, but he realizes there is something bigger at work behind the politician’s facade.

When Lang is accused outright of committing war crimes by the British government, The Ghost starts to delve deeper into his past, his political connections and whether the previous ghost writer’s death was really a suicide.

Brosnan is sleek and slimy as the former prime minister and Williams is brilliant as Mrs. Lang, a woman who appears deeply unhappy, trapped in a life she did not plan for. Cattrall is one of the few non-British leading actors and while she struggles, sounding a bit like Samantha Jones with a fake English accent, she certainly looks the part of Lang’s sexy, composed assistant.

With an Alfred Hitchcock-like theme and slow purposeful scenes, Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer” is a deeply refreshing take on the mystery/thriller. Blissfully free of huge explosions, bad one-liners and a rushed plotline, the film will thrill fans of the old-Hollywood style mystery.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Remember Me * * *

'Remember Me' New York Premiere
Starring Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Tate Ellington, Ruby Jerins

Rated PG-13

Directed by Allen Coulter

Written by Will Fetters

* * *

“Remember Me” opens on a New York City subway in 1991 and continues ten years later with two young 21-year-olds, Ally Craig and Tyler Hawkins. Both have suffered through the tragic death of family members and after meeting, it doesn’t take long for them to tumble headlong into a heated romance.

Robert Pattinson is dark and brooding (something new and different) as Tyler, struggling with the death of his brother and the disconnect that exists within his family. Ally (Emilie de Ravin) is a breath of fresh air in the stale and meaningless life that he seems headed for. Chemistry between the tiny de Ravin and scruffy Pattinson is sexy and sweet.

Even though disaster darkens the past for both Ally and Tyler, it also looms ahead, completely unbeknownst to them. But living in the moment and feeling the pain as well as the pleasure makes them feel more alive than ever before.

Pattinson easily slips into the roll of grungy Tyler; it’s questionable whether he washes his hair throughout the filming of the entire movie. Despite Tyler’s filthy college apartment, rumpled wardrobe and questionable hygiene, Pattinson still oozes an irrepressible charm.

Pierce Brosnan is perfectly horrible as Tyler’s dirty rich lawyer father. He’s a man who hides behind his grand office and job title and who seems to care little for his brilliant daughter and drowning son.

Besides his dim-witted roommate Aidan, Tyler’s 11-year-old sister is his one beacon of happiness before meeting Ally. Caroline (Ruby Jerins) is an outcast in her own upper east side school, a freak for her dreamy personality and advanced drawing skills.

The ending of “Remember Me” is staggering and shockingly unexpected. The smaller picture of two families coping through grief suddenly explodes, bringing the tragedy they endure to a larger scale than anyone could have imagined.

“Remember Me” isn’t just a story about falling in love or dealing with grief or hating your family. It sends the message that, although we may be one small person in a vast world, our imprint will still be left behind; albeit a small one, but an impossibly important one.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Valentine's Day * *

Starring Julia Roberts, Ashton Kutcher, Taylor Swift, Taylor Lautner, Shirley MacLaine, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Patrick Dempsey, Jessica Alba, Queen Latifah, Bradley Cooper, Emma Roberts, Jamie Foxx

Rated PG-13

Directed By Gary Marshall

Written by Katherine Fugate

* *

For a film that will attract audiences solely with its A-list cast, “Valentine’s Day” delivers easy-to-follow plotlines and even a few twists at the end. The remainder is fairly predictable and sweet, but without much depth.

The cast includes everyone from Shirley MacLaine to McDreamy to Julia Roberts to Taylor Lautner, and that may be where “Valentine’s Day” hits the jackpot: with stars of all ages. Audiences young and old can find a plotline to relate to, as well as some silly and wacky ones to make them laugh.

The best storylines involve demure Julia Roberts and beguiling Bradley Cooper, plane passengers each heading for someone special. The younger actors, Emma Roberts, Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner, as well as Carter Jenkins, play two high school couples whose Valentine’s Day mishaps and banter provide for the funniest scenes. Ashton Kutcher is quite believable as an endearing, sometimes sickeningly romantic florist shop owner.

Director Gary Marshall is no rookie to the genre of feel-good romantic comedies. He also directed films such as “Pretty Woman,” “The Princess Diaries,” and “The Other Sister.” While the film has a happy ending,it doesn’t leave the audience with any great revelations or Valentine’s Day quandaries. Almost every character finds love, except for two. Neither seem incredibly happy. Where are the single girls and guys living it up and content with being alone on Valentine’s Day?

“Valentine’s Day” is like a box of chocolates, pretty to look at, delicious at first bite (and second and third), but what’s left behind is a belly-ache and an unsatisfied feeling that's hard to place.

* *

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Avatar * * * * *

Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez, Joel Moore

Rated PG-13

Directed by James Cameron

Written by James Cameron

Premiere Of 20th Century Fox's "Avatar" - Arrivals

Escape to Pandora, where wondrous creatures and lush plant life exist, all lit from within by the web of energy that unites each organism. The Na‘vi people of planet Pandora have a profound connection to nature, worlds apart from the futuristic technology and weaponry of Earthlings. The Na‘vi way of life is simpler and yet more complex biologically than humans can imagine. James Cameron’s masterpiece is as captivating as it is immensely creative.

U.S. Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is sent to take on the job his dead twin brother was trained to fulfill: direct the body of an “avatar” modeled after the Na‘vi peoples. Unlike his brother though, Sully is confined to a wheelchair and he relishes the freedom of his avatar body immediately. At first his mission is to learn the secrets of the “savages,” and convince them to leave their land. The military corporation based in Pandora plans to tear apart that land, for directly beneath it lies a mineral worth millions of dollars. As Sully adjusts to his avatar body, he comes to understand the nature of the Na'vi way of life. He falls in love with their world, with their spirituality, with their connection to all living things…and with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the daughter of the tribe leader. Sully questions his own reality as his purpose in life takes on new meaning.

Stepping into the world of Avatar is equivocal to bathing in cool waters on a hot day. Experiencing the connection, love and strength within the Na‘vi people is a balm to the raw monotony of everyday life, where commercialism rules and spiritually and a deeper connection to nature often seem all but lost. A kind of virtual reality with the most engaging characters and an incandescent backdrop, “Avatar” is an astounding peek into the nature of our ways and the future of film.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Blind Side***

Starring Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Ray McKinnon, Jae Head, Lily Collins and Kathy Bates.

Rated PG-13

Directed by John Lee Hancock

Screenplay by John Lee Hancock

Based on the book written by Michael Lewis

* * *

The Blind Side is a peek into the true story of NFL offensive linebacker Michael Oher and the woman who changed his life. Based in Mississippi, Oher, or "Big Mike," is a lost, homeless teenager who finds home sweet home in a rather unlikely place. Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), an elite southerner with a big heart takes Oher (Quinton Aaron) under her wing and pushes him to do his best in school and on the football field.

Bullock fills the shoes of Leigh Anne Tuohy flawlessly. Just as she shows viewers her serious side in 2004's Crash, The Blind Side is a soulful, deep story of a mother who reaches across the boundaries of race and class to rescue a forlorn child and love him as one of her own. Bullock actually shadowed the real-life Leigh Anne Tuohy and her family, so she could portray her perfectly polished, blonde-coifed, pearl-sporting, uppercrust character as closely as possible.

Tim McGraw plays Mr. Tuohy, the supportive husband who seems content to let his wife wear the pants, and who supports all of her decisions, no matter how crazy they seem. Both McGraw and Bullock come from the south, so playing southern-bred characters isn't such a stretch.

The relatively unknown Quinton Aaron, who stars as Michael Oher, has a quiet role. Oher is portrayed as a gentle bear of a boy who, despite learning disabilities is intelligent and incredibly protective of his family. Kathy Bates is Miss Sue, Oher's tutor, who not only helps him in high school, but also follows him to college!

The film is sweet, endearing and inspiring. It focuses not just on football, but on the unique relationship between Mrs. Tuohy and Oher.