Old posts

Midnight in Paris

Posted by on May 29, 2011 | 22,702 comments
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I will admit that I am a Woody Allen fan.  That being said, Midnight in Paris is a terrific film.  It combines the charm and humor of Hannah and Her Sisters with the twists and fun of Purple Rose of Cairo. The lead character, Gil (played by Owen Wilson), is on a trip to Paris with his fiancee and her family.  She is materialistic and cynical, and he is a sentimental romantic who is obsessed with the idea of Paris in the ’20s.  In a drunken, magic moment, he is transported to that time, and is immersed in the world of Hemingway, Dali, Fitzgerald, and Stein.

Wilson is surprisingly good.  He is wonderfully understated, letting the cast of crazies around him flourish.  And as with so many of Woody Allen’s best movies, the crazies on the periphery are the ones that make the movie shine.  Michael Sheen is hilarious playing Paul, a boorish friend of his fiancee who insists on sharing his perspective on every piece of art that they come across.  And Corey Stoll, who plays Hemingway is laugh-out-loud brilliant.  He plays his role with over-the-top bravado, and his every day banter is straight out of The Old Man and the Sea.

Finally, the backdrop is the other star of the film.  If you’ve ever been to Paris, or dreamed of going to Paris, Allen captures it beautifully.  Frequently the scenes are shot at night, and in the rain, just as the sentimental Gil prefers his Paris.

Grade:  A-

Bridesmaids

Posted by on May 16, 2011 | 8,695 comments
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This movie is thoroughly hilarious from beginning to end.  Kristen Wiig plays a down-on-her-luck baker from Milwaukee.  Her bakery has failed, she is with a loser guy, and the only apartment she can afford is a room with a creepy brother and sister. Every time she thinks she hits rock bottom, the bottom drops farther.  And with each drop, this movie gets more and more funny.  To top it off, she is asked to be the Maid of Honor in her best friend’s wedding – a role that brings her, and the rest of the wedding party, to their knees.

Wiig proves two things with this movie.   First, she is one of the funniest humans on earth right now. Period.  You may have already thought that from her work on SNL.  But second, and more surprising to me, she proves that she can carry a movie as a leading actress.  When she is on the screen, it always works.  From her slapstick comedy, to the poignant scenes where she bottoms out.  She is a star by every definition of the word.

However, this is not a one woman show.  Maya Rudolph solidly plays the bride who tries to be understanding while also trying to hold together her wedding.  The other bridesmaids were brilliant.  There was the perfect-in-every-way bridesmaid, played by Rose Byrne, who does everything she can to out-maneuver Wiig for the role of Maid of Honor.  In one scene Byrne and Wiig try to “out toast” each other to prove their worthiness to the bride – it is an absolutely brilliantly funny scene.  And then there is the chubby, crass bridesmaid played by Melissa McCarthy.  She crudely delivers a classic wedding fish-out-of-water character (she could not look more out of place at the upscale wedding dress store).  And even McCarthy shows depth in her acting by coming to Wiig’s help when no one else will.

Wiig has stated publicly, that this is NOT a chick flick.  She’s right – it is more aptly categorized as a really, really good comedy.

Grade:  B+

Thor

Posted by on May 8, 2011 | 4,272 comments
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I had no interest in seeing Thor.  But, then I saw critic after critic give it a positive review.  I should have trusted my original instincts.  Scandinavian-inspired Gods traveling through wormholes?  How could it miss?    Fairly badly actually.  It wasn’t terrible, just blah.  Chris Hemsworth was quite strong, literally and figuratively, as Thor.  He brings a real energy and magnetism to the role.  The other characters however, turn the movie into a Saturday morning cartoon, at best.  The goofy arch enemy who rules “Iceland” had about as much depth as a bad guy from a Power Rangers episode.  And when Thor’s four fighting buddies were on the screen, they were reminiscint of General Zod’s henchman from Superman II, and not in a good way.

The movie was at its best when it was on earth, away from the weak characters and CGI overkill.  Thor interacting with human mortals, trying to sort out what to do with his new situation was sort of fun.  Even his romance with Natalie Portman worked.  Speaking of Portman, this was an odd role choice for her.  It seemed more suited for a heavyweight actress like Megan Fox than it did Portman.  But maybe Portman saw something special in this movie that I didn’t.  Apparently most other critics did.

Grade:   C+

Win Win

Posted by on April 30, 2011 | 10,293 comments
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Every once in a while there comes along a so-called “small” movie that is so good, so poignant, and so real, that it transcends it own size.  Think Little Miss Sunshine.  Well, Win Win is one of those films.  This is the story of Mike Flaherty (played by Paul Giamatti), a discouraged small town lawyer, who is also the high school wrestling coach on the side.  Through a series of events, he and his wife end up taking into their house and their lives, a runaway high school kid – the grandson of one of his clients.  This disarmingly sweet kid also happens to be one of the best wrestlers in the country.  But this isn’t a wrestling movie, just as Little Miss Sunshine wasn’t a movie about Beauty Pageants.  It is a film about real people with real flaws trying to figure out what the right thing to do is.  And its about how there are many ways to define “family”.

There is not a flawed acting performance in this film.  Giamatti is his usual brilliant self.  Amy Ryan, who plays his wife, is so good that you wish she had a larger role in the film.  And Alex Shaffer, who plays the boy, manages to be incredibly believable, different, and lovable at the same time.  The supporting cast is arguably even stronger than the leads.  Mike’s two assistant coaches are played to perfection by Jeffrey Tambor and Bobby Cannavale.  Anyone who has ever been involved with youth sports will fully appreciate Cannavale’s take as the I-dont-know-much-about-coaching-but-am-really-excited-to just-wear-the-cool-coaching-uniform-and-yell-stuff-from-the-bench kind of coach.  And then there is the understated but wonderful performance by Burt Young (remember him from Rocky?) as the boy’s grandfather.

If there were a mid-year Academy Awards, Win Win would be a leading contender.  It’s that good.

Grade:   A

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Posted by on April 19, 2011 | 10,486 comments
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This is an incredibly creative, enjoyable, and thought-provoking documentary.  Morgan Spurlock (most famous for his 2004 film ”Super Size Me”) sets out to make a movie entirely funded by product placement.  And the movie he is funding is, ironically, the movie you are watching.  If that sounds a bit complicated, it is.  And it works wonderfully.  He sets out to show the complex silliness of product placement and co-marketing between brands and movies.  He “pitches” his idea to real people in the industry, and gets reactions back that are both hilarious and revealing.   Spurlock does a wonderful job of revealing this world while never coming off as mean-spirited or preachy.  He treats his audience (both on screen and off) with the respect they deserve.  And in the process we get to enjoy, and learn, from this wonderful film-maker, and his Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

Grade:   A-

Worst Trilogies of all Time

Posted by on April 16, 2011 | 10,413 comments
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Bad sequels are understandable.  The first film was good enough (or popular enough) to warrant a second film.  But for various reasons, the second film is weak.  But in these instances, it takes a strong ego (or stupidity) to go ahead and make a third film.  Yet this happens time and time again.  So we decided to take a crack at listing the five worst trilogies of all time.

Here is how we approached picking the list.  First, we wanted to stay true to pure trilogies, so we avoided any movie “series” that went beyond three.  Second, we chose to ignore any purely ” children’s trilogies (i.e. “The Care Bears”).  Finally, we evaluated the trilogies based on the quality of the “whole” of the three films.  For example, it might be possible that one of the three films is pretty good, but the other two than likely stink.  Or maybe all three are pretty bad.

So with that, here are the worst trilogies of all time:

 

The “Oh God” Trilogy – When the first one came out, people wondered how George Burns would play God.  We found out that he would play him pretty much like, well, George Burns.  The other acting titan in the first film was John Denver.  But even he couldn’t handle making the second or third movies.  By the way, they are considering making fourth Oh God starring Betty White…Oh God.

The “Problem Child” Trilogy – This trilogy is bad from the beginning and doesn’t let up.  The slogan from the first movie’s poster reads: “Problem Child: He’s so bad that even the nuns refused to keep him”. Let the hilarity begin

The “Big Mama” Trilogy – I know a lot of people love these movies, but once you see Martin Lawrence in drag, is it really necessary to see it two more times?

The “Porky’s” Trilogy – The first movie definitely had its time and place, and is even a leader in the “horny high school boys peeping at girls in the shower” film genre.  But does anyone even remember that there were three Porky’s movies?  There is a reason for that.

The “Brady Bunch” Trilogy – Everyone wanted to see the first film.  Who would play these iconic characters from TV?  And the fact that it was 70s characters set in the present time was actually really funny and creative.  And as with most sequels, the second one added nothing and was unnecessary.  And then they made the third movie: “The Brady Bunch in the White House”. Wow.

Am I wrong?  Please let me know….And by the way, if they make a third “Sex in the City” film, that trilogy automatically jumps to the top of this list.

Trailer of the Week- April 10, 2011

Posted by on April 10, 2011 | 12,878 comments
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This Norwegian film has had limited release since last fall.  For those of you in the Minneapolis area, it is making its Minnesota debut this week at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival.  This movie looks like a lot of fun….

Insidious

Posted by on April 3, 2011 | 9,464 comments
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Holy #$@^ – this movie is scary!  Young family in new home that seems to be haunted.  So they move and that home is haunted, too.  Or is it?  Forget subtleties, this movie shows everything, and it really, really works.  Their son’s spirit becomes “lost”, and they bring in the experts to bring him back.  It’s sort of Paranormal Activity meets Poltergeist.  Director James Wan is brilliantly bold and ambitious in his approach to this film.  His use of ominous loud music, creepy lighting, and evil characters are all frightening and all work.  Even the opening credits gets it going, with screeching music accompanying the Insidious title.  So often horror movies are either cartoon like obvious slasher movies, or so subtle that you wonder why the characters are really scared.  This meshes the best of both – it shows a shocking amount of what is scaring the characters, yet still manages to be a scary on a psychological level, as well.

Grade:  B+

Paul

Posted by on March 21, 2011 | 19,958 comments
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Two guys are on a road trip and have a close encounter with an alien.  You think you’vs seen this movie a hundred times before, but you haven’t.  It’s ET, except instead of Drew Barrymore, you have two nerdy adult Brits, and instead of a child-like alien, you have a wise-ass adult alien.  The alien, played in voice by Seth Rogan, is trying to get home, and enlists the help of Graeme and Clive (played superbly by Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg and Nick Frost).  The storyline is predictable, but the banter and, yes, character development is really strong.  And this movie is down-right funny.  Graeme and Clive are lovable characters, and Seth Rogan’s alien is pretty much, well, Seth Rogan from most of his movies (think alien meets Pineapple Express).  And somehow it all works really well.  Then throw in some  really funny scenes (a comic convention in SanFrancisco) and funny cameos (Kristin Wiig as the daughter of an RV park owning, holy roller), and you have one enjoyable film.  It’s only real flaw was that it gets a bit heavy-handed when it dives into a whole science vs God diatribe.

 

Grade: B

Battle: Los Angeles

Posted by on March 14, 2011 | 12,179 comments
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Marines fighting aliens in Los Angeles – seems like a good summer blockbuster.  Unfortunately, it’s not summer, and this isn’t a blockbuster.  It’s lacking a decent script, any sort of believable character development, and above all, it’s lacking good alien scenes.  Watching this movie is like watching someone play Call of Duty for 2 straight hours – except the video game dialogue would be better.  As for the aliens, they aren’t really original looking at all, though their airplanes are kind of cool.  The one piece of redemption in this movie is Aaron Eckhart, who plays SSgt. Michael Nantz.  He plays the cliched marine leader who is on “just one last mission” before he retires.  While every line of his is predictable, he delivers them with a small level of believability.

I suppose Battle: Los Angeles is supposed to be an action movie.  Unfortunately, in the end, it feels more like a cheesy marine’s recruitment video that just happens to have alien’s in it.

Grade:  D+

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