Home

50 First Dates

1 Comment

****

My shirt size is medium husky.

I am surprised how much I like this movie. For instance, it stars Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore and Rob Schneider. 50 First Dates comes at an interesting point in Adam Sandler’s career. He is a bigger star than when his classics Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore came out, and his “I can act” role in Punch-Drunk Love has no follow up to this point. This seems like his version of a role that required good acting and some emotion. Most of the surrounding cast, including Rob Schneider’s local Hawaiian Ula and Sean “Samwise Gamgee” Astin’s protective brother Doug, play for silly Sandler style laughs. But it’s cute. And Adam Sandler’s Henry Roth is not his typical likeable loser. He is a successful slut with a good job as a veterinarian at a Hawaiian aquarium, and Sandler relies on his man-boy charm far less here. Good for him. His effort really pays off as it adds an emotional depth that rarely appears in his films.

Drew Barrymore as Lucy, with a pineapple. © Sony Pictures 2004.

Drew Barrymore as Lucy, with a pineapple. © Sony Pictures 2004.

Drew Barrymore has an interesting role as Lucy, a woman whose trauma has left her unable to form new memories. Thus she wakes up every morning believing it to be the day of her accident, her father’s birthday. She could play this as an angel, but she does not. She plays it with happiness, but also with anger, experience and an impressive ability to will herself into loving someone in less than 18 hours. I do not often like Barrymore’s performances and avoid her romantic comedies. Ditto for Sandler’s romantic travesties. But this is one I should not have avoided.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

1 Comment

She’s taking a shit. Nathalie is watching her back.

That is an example of the lack of touch and the unintentional comedy that pervades this awful movie. It really is just a * movie with the extra half for all the big laughs. I could go on for an hour covering all the things wrong with this low budget, pro-environment, vanity project, but here are three scenes that cannot be ignored.

Rod high-fiving a co-worker at his billion dollar software sales company, © 2010 Moviehead Prods.

Rod high-fiving a co-worker at his billion dollar software sales company, © 2010 Moviehead Prods.

1. There is a fundamental lack of logic in this film. Here is some math: Rod–Alan Bagh–has a client on the phone when he asks, “what will it take to make this deal?” Upon hearing a number, Rod then knocks off HALF the price. Right before the above high five he tells us that he made a million dollar sale. So he just undercut his buyer by one million dollars! The next time we see Rod’s workplace the president informs them that the company will be sold for one billion dollars. From what I have seen, that buyer got a steal!

Nathalie and Rod in a "club", © Moviehead Pics.

Nathalie and Rod in a “club”, © Moviehead Pics.

2. The most important part of the story is the romantic relationship that forms spontaneously between Rod and Nathalie–Whitney Moore. The oddest part is how Nathalie seems like an attractive, articulate, non-sociopath, so I do not see how she can be with Rod. The oddest scene they have is something of a music video with someone singing an original song called “Hanging Out With My Family” as our two lovebirds enjoy a dance in front of a green screen and then in front of the guy singing the song all by himself in an empty restaurant. Best lyric of the song—Young ladies are doin’ their make-up, and the brothers can’t wait to hook up. Remember, this is a song about a family bbq.

Death by bird!

Death by bird!

3. As you can see, in this late scene there are some terrible CGI birds, a former marine and some unlucky passengers of a double decker tour bus that was touring…I have no idea where. And why does it look like it is from England? I have no idea where the heroes are at this point, or why they end up back at the coast after…after I have no idea how many hours, days, weeks or months. Just wow. Watch this flaming car wreck as it gets hit by a train.

The Skulls II

Leave a comment

**

I loved you like a sister, and it hurts me that you have to turn on me like this, as the apartment is in my name, I think its best for you to go by tomorrow.

Ashley Tesoro (Ali) showing off her bruise, © Universal Home Entertainment 2002.

Ashley Tesoro (Ali) showing off her bruise, © Universal Home Entertainment 2002.

This is not as good as the original. The music is worse. The story is a little worse. The actors are not nearly as famous. The production values are about the same. And, the one improvement is that the love interest looks better. That love interest is a classic “cake eater,” as the main character Ryan Summers–Robin Dunne–alleges in a batch of rough housing that leads to him accidentally kick her in the eye. Honestly, it looked like an elbow, but they said it was a foot. The above beautiful, black-eyed babe is Ali, played by Ashley Tesoro. She has not had the career of Leslie Bibb, but at least she looks more attractive than Bibb did in The Skulls. That concludes the improvements from the original.

Broken City

Leave a comment

**½

Mark Wahlberg and his assistant Alona Tal, Broken City, © Regency Enterprises 2013.

Mark Wahlberg and his assistant Alona Tal, Broken City, © Regency Enterprises 2013.

Even with the talented Russell Crowe as mayor this mystery of municipal corruption flounders. Which is a shocker as it was directed by Allen Hughes.  Allen Hughes is one half of the “Hughes Brothers,” who brought us Dead Presidents, The Book of Eli, and my personal favorite, From Hell. Those were interesting movies that each dealt with the corruption of one system or another. This tries—and fails—to tackle corruption from both sides.

What do you call a police officer who shoots a rapist? What do you call a police officer who shoots and unarmed, acquitted suspect repeatedly? If that police officer did not look like Mark Wahlberg I believe that this would just be a movie about how evil all men are, but how women are pretty much okay.

I could spend time showing you how confusing it is, or you could just take my word for it. Here is the compromise: Wahlberg is not prosecuted for the murder he commits, and the mayor and commissioner like him, but make him quit. 7 years later the same mayor hires him to find out with whom the mayor’s wife–Catherine Zeta-Jones–is sleeping. But there are twists and turns and a murder and maybe Wahlberg is getting framed for it.  Even after the movie I’m not sure why the aide dies. I’m not sure where Wahlberg’s girlfriend goes after the two have a fight. And on and on…

If you are going to see this, there are two brights spots: Russell Crowe as mayor and Alona Tal as Anna Kendrick. Russell Crowe plays an mostly unlikable human being, but a great Republican. There are some wars you fight and some wars you walk away from. This isn’t the fighting kind. Even knowing that he was selling off public housing I might vote for him. He just was that good in the debates that I respect him—minus framing Wahlberg for murder. And I genuinely thought Alona Tal was Anna Kendrick for the first couple of scenes as Wahlberg’s assistant. She is too good for him and I hope she gets a chance to play a better role in the future.

Coriolanus

Leave a comment

Did you know that Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler made a movie called Coriolanus? I feel like most people do not. Did you know that Coriolanus is a play by Shakespeare? I certainly did not until I read the review for this in Entertainment Weekly. Generally, I have not learned of the works of William Shakespeare through EW. I expect to learn what TV shows have been renewed from EW.

Perhaps Coriolanus flew under people’s radar because Fiennes directed this Shakespearean drama, which meant that it had little funding for American advertisements. In fact the first American I recognized in this (since neither Fiennes, nor Butler, nor Brian Cox is American) is Jessica Chastain. This was her fourth largest role of the year—The Debt, The Help, and Tree of Life being the three larger roles. She was fine in this, but it seems that Virgilia, her character, has not that much to say.

Virgillia and the oft wounded Coriolanus in bed in Rome. © Hermetof Pictures

Virgillia and the oft wounded Caius Martius (Coriolanus) in bed in Rome. © Hermetof Pictures

The Help was a good, straight forward movie. The Tree of Life was a family drama in one of the rooms in that hotel in Inception where gravity vanished. This here was about as complicated as any Shakespearian work, and was probably as hard to update. Somehow the storyline and politics fit today, as there are still violent places in the world, where upheaval from within and without persist. The action seemed very realistic, as did the news coverage, as did the fickleness of the common folk and politicians alike. What I found difficult to stomach was all of the melodramatic shifts; actors had to fight their way out of lines that demanded abrupt changes in tone that reminded me of talented composers writing in a genre foreign to them.

Caius Martius and Aufidius, © Magma Films.

Caius Martius and Aufidius, © Magma Films.

That parallel works too for Fiennes’ Caius Martius and operating within society. His mother, Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia, has plans that outstripped his skills. This lead to a roller coaster of fame, reverence, adulation, exile, betrayal and tragedy. If viewed as a character study, it showed how a great, single minded warrior may be more frightening than a wizard. And how the military life and having an enemy can suit people more than applause from the public or from family. There were also quite a few great lines:

Caius Martius – He that will give good words to thee will flatter beneath abhorring. What would you have, you curs that like nor peace nor war? The one affrights you, the other makes you proud. He that trusts to you where he should find you lions, finds you hares; where foxes, geese. Who deserves greatness, deserves your hate.

And my favorite, from Aufidius–Gerard Butler –  He is a lion I am proud to hunt.

***½

May Preview

1 Comment

May is shaping up to be a “super” month! Ha ha, get it? Because the first movie I want to see is Iron Man 3.
1. Iron Man 3 — Tony Stark is back but that is less important than the epic re-teaming of Robert Downey Jr. and Shane Black. Black directs his second feature with Downey after their amazing team-up in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, the 5th best movie of 2005.

2. Did I say super or great? Because next up is The Great Gatsby — Baz Luhrmann has never made a great movie, but his movies always look amazing. This is one to be watched on the big screen, and hopefully it will be great after all.

3. Star Trek Into Darkness — It’s f-in Star Trek done by J.J. Abrams with Benedict “Sherlock” Cumberbatch as the bad guy! I just wish my buddy Greger thought about this before choosing the date for his rehearsal dinner.

4. Fast 6 vs Hangover? In this battle of sequels, I recommend Fast & Furious Seis. Watching a giraffe lose its head will probably be as amusing on blu ray as in a movie theater, although comedies seem to work better in group settings than when watched alone or just with a friend. Still, it’s f-in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson re-teaming with the fast fellas! I bet they blow up London this time.

Danger!

I will not be watching the following:

1. Epic—it’s little fairies on leaves! With Pitbull. Why Mr. 305?! WHY?!
2. Before Midnight—didn’t see the first two, don’t want to see this one.

42

1 Comment

***½

Do you think that G-d is a baseball fan?

Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie together on a bus, © Legendary Pictures

Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie together on a bus, © Legendary Pictures

This movie did not know how to end. But it started great with Branch Rickey deciding to integrate baseball. It starts in 1945 and ends in 1947, but that was an important time. This scene tips the hat that throughout the movie will be dozens of recognizable faces attached to excellent performances. Soon we meet Jackie Robinson and his soon-to-be wife Rachel. While neither of the actors who played them, Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie, are familiar to me, they seem like future stars.

TR Knight, Toby Huss, and in profile Harrison Ford, © Legendary Pictures.

TR Knight, Toby Huss, and in profile Harrison Ford, © Legendary Pictures.

The familiar faces in that opening scene are: Harrison “Han Solo” Ford–the Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, T.R. “Grey’s Anatomy” Knight as a Dodgers’ employee and Toby “Fake Frank Sinatra on an episode of CSI” Huss as assistant manager Clyde Sukeforth. From that scene on I heard many reasons for Rickey’s desire to break the color barrier, but who knows which one was the truth. Rickey hires a black journalist whose path parallels Robinson’s, and Andre Holland does a charming job with it. That appears to be the first man to agree with Rickey, as his own employees disagree at the start. It was refreshing to see the gamut of people who react to Jackie Robinson, and what he meant for baseball and America.

John C. McGinley as Brooklyn play by play man Red Barber © Legendary Pictures

John C. McGinley as Brooklyn play by play man Red Barber © Legendary Pictures

The mostly indifferent: Christopher “Det. Stabler” Meloni–manager Leo Durocher, John C. “Dr. Cox” McGinley–radio announcer Red Barber, Brett “Dark Knight’s Congressman” Cullen–Montreal manager Clay Hopper. My favorite call from McGinley was for his Jackie Robinson’s first at bat, saying that “He is definitely a brunette.”

Alan Tudyk as the racist heckling manager, © Legendary.

Alan Tudyk as the racist heckling manager, © Legendary.

The vitriolic haters: Alan “Wash” Tudyk–Phillies manager Ben Chapman, Brad Beyer–pitcher Kirby Higbe, and many lesser known persons. Alan Tudyk’s performance was harrowing as he heckles Jackie Robinson to the point of anger and tears. His usage of racist slurs were more offensive than the entirety of Django Unchained. But as Branch Rickey said, Ben Chapman is doing us a favor. He made people sympathize with Jackie Robinson. In some ways Chapman’s role is that of the villain, but he mostly plays a racist manager.

Lucas Black and Chadwick Boseman in Cincinnati, © Warner Bros. Pictures.

Lucas Black and Chadwick Boseman in Cincinnati, © Warner Bros. Pictures.

The people who come round: Hamish Linklater–Ralph Branca, TV’s Jesse Luken as Eddie Stanky, Lucas Black’s Pee Wee Reese and most of the rest of the Dodgers, whom I thought I recognized, but it turns out that I did not. Oh well.

This is a movie that teaches us to hope for the future, that shows that hidden in the worst of America is the best of America. There is one particularly poignant scene in the South when a working class white approaches the Robinsons, who instantly fear him, but instead he comes to tell Jackie how there are lots of people rooting for him to succeed. It is a kind gesture and one as powerful as any overtly racist treatment Jackie receives. In this America is the hero and villain. This was an important movie and I hope that everyone watches it.

Older Entries