Friday, February 26, 2010

DVD Round up: Comedies

Having close access to movie rentals is just one of those things that makes life a tiny bit eacier if you're a movie lover from a small town. I expect to have quite a few DVD reviews in the next few weeks thanks to a new Blockbuster kiosk only 2 minutes from my place. I've seen one I enjoyed more than I thought I would and one I enjoyed less than I expected.

Couples Retreat is a comedy with a stellar cast that actually uses them to great advantage, even if the story is very contrived, it still comes out ahead with very funny moments. The Invention of Lying also has a terrific cast, many all-star cameos, but uses a one-trick pony and explores it beyond all necessity.

Couples Retreat stars Vince Vaughn, Malin Ackerman, Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Faizon Love, and Kali Hawk as the couples who go on retreat. They're all starting from a different point in their marriage. Bateman/Bell have been trying to conceive a child but want to figure out if they should keep going by going to this couples therapy retreat. Vaughn and Ackerman are hoping for the honeymoon they never had due to early kids and jobs. Favreau and Davis are planning a divorce but keeping it secret until their daughter goes to college. And Love/Hawk have only been dating 2 weeks (she's 20 and his old and fat). The trademark rapid dialogue Vaughn brings to all his movies, but is in terrific company with Favreau and Bateman. The women more than hold their own by managing to avoid the stereotypical "wife" characters as fun rather than shrew. There's quite a bit of really funny bits, mostly with the various requirements the therapy puts them through. The small roles of the therapists played by John Michael Higgins, Ken Jeong, Charlotte Cornwall and Amy Hill. They're some of the more ridiculous therapists I've ever seen, but of course make all the couples look more closely at their relationships. The other people running the retreat are also sources of laughs, though definitely the low-brow variety. My only major problem with the movie was the odd pairings. Most of the couples are more than 10 years different in age (an exception is Favreau/Davis who were actually the most interesting couple). It just took away from the idea that these marriages had been going on very long or that this group of people would all be friends - a completely unexplained plot point. Still, funny if you enjoy the Vaughn/Favreau humor. 3 of 5 stars/lambs.

The Invention of Lying is also funny if you enjoy Ricky Gervais brand of humor. Jennifer Garner, Tina Fey and Rob Lowe do offer some assistance in diversifying the humor, but it's basically Gervais all the way. They live in a world where its not possible to lie or pretend or do anything that isn't true or real. So movies are just a person dramatically reading actual historical stories. Every statement someone says is assumed to be the absolute truth. One day Gervais develops the ability to lie and takes full advantage of it. He can get away with it because every just assumes everything everyone says is true, so when he tells a woman that they must have sex or the world will end, she believes him without question. The crux of the story comes when Gervais mother is dying and to relieve her fear, he makes up a story about the afterlife being a wonderful place. Several people overhear him (including Jason Bateman as her doctor) and Gervais makes up all this rules about a man in the sky who causes all the good and bad in the world and that everyone will get a mansion after death. The whole thing causes problems, and he still finds that he can't make Jennifer Garner fall in love with him even by lying. It's entertaining for the first 25 minutes or so, and then becomes a satire (or mockery) of religion that wasn't particularly funny. 2 of 5 stars/lambs

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Heath Ledger's last film: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

With all the hype that was originally surrounding Heath Ledger's last film (he died before filming was complete) I was really excited to see it. Then when it wasn't given a wide release and had trouble finding a distributor, I was worried that the movie wouldn't be worthy of Ledger's talent. Most actors don't make one successful movie right after another, so it wouldn't be fair to add the weight of it being his last film to it being the movie he made right after The Dark Knight and won the Oscar, and sadly The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus isn't a movie that will go down in history as topping The Dark Knight but definitely be remembered both as Ledger's last film and because it's a wackadoodle fantasy movie that I'm sure will find a following once people get a chance to see it.

Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) owns a traveling show staffed by his daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), Anton (Andrew Garfield) and Percy (Verne Troyer). They try to get people to enter the Imaginarium mirror which seems to be linked to a trance Dr. Parnassus goes into and provides the entrant with a world of whatever their imagination creates. That's the basic premise. Dr. Parnassus is immortal thanks to a deal with the devil (Mr. Nick - Tom Waits) but part of that deal will give away his daughter. They run into a stranger hanging from a bridge and attempt to save his life. He awakes with no memory of who he is (Heath Ledger) and joins their troupe and becomes incredibly good at drawing people in and they make money. It turns out Tony (Ledger) isn't such a great guy, and eventually gets in trouble in the Imaginarium, but it all ends well for the characters you like, but it's a trippy journey to get there.

I think the story was improved by the changes they were forced to make due to Ledger's untimely death. Whenever Tony enters the Imaginarium he is another vision of himself played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and in the longest sequence by Colin Farrell. However, the changes are not ignored, but incorporated into the story and make sense and add to the fantasy imagination created. It's a really great technique that makes the Imaginarium even more powerful (and less malevolent than it seems at the beginning). Overall, I enjoyed the movie, though the trippy sequences were a little more like nightmare scenarios than imagination. And I would definitely say that the movie was overlooked for the make-up visual effects awards (though perhaps it wasn't eligible for this year anyway). 3 of 5 stars/lambs

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lamb Devours the Oscars: Best Achievement in Makeup

I was privileged to be assigned to this category last year, so I've done my research and you can see the background here at last year's post. It's a fairly recent award and it looks like my rule of thumb for who gets nominated has nearly held up this year as well. Last year I said "Usually only 3 movies are nominated, often one of the best Picture nominees, a major movie, and then something random." I was only off by saying a best Picture nominee rather than a period piece, which Benjamin Button was both last year. This year the nominees are: The Young Victoria (period piece), Star Trek (a very big movie, with other nominations for visual effects and sound), and Il Divo (the random choice if ever there was one). Here are my individual comments on each movie from a perspective of makeup.

The Young Victoria tells the story of Britain's Queen Victoria from just before her ascension through the beginning of her reign and marriage. She reigned from 1837 to 1901, the longest of any female monarch in global history. This means, the make-up must be appropriate for the 19th century. In addition, it seems that the Academy has lumped hair design into the category for makeup. The two nominees for Young Victoria, Jenny Shircore and John Henry Gordon, are both listed (on IMDB) as hair stylists/designers, and Ms. Shircore is listed as the makeup designer. She also won the Oscar for Elizabeth. Lumping them together makes sense to me if you think of it as all of the things done to a character that are not costumes be one award. The makeup throughout the movie made Emily Blunt look young, fresh, and regal, and the hair styles of all the characters put them into a recognizable time period. Victoria has to battle between the influences of British politicians and German/Belgian relatives and politicians. The hair styles, while perhaps not perfectly accurate, did make it easy to visually distinguish between the two without being too strange. Given that Benjamin Button won last year, and this is a good movie overall, I expect this to win the Oscar. You can read my full review of the movie here.

Star Trek could give Victoria a run for the money if the Academy loves sci-fi as much as I do. The nominees are Barney Burman (prosthetic makeup designer), Mindy Hall (makeup), and Joel Harlow (prosthetic makeup supervisor). All are first time nominees, but have tons of movies to their credit. I would give them the award for the sole reason that I had no idea Eric Bana was even in the movie thanks to the insane amount of prosthetic make up that made him into a very Trek-appropriate bad guy. Also, their challenge of making beloved characters come to life in different actors at a younger age while still trying to make them seem like they belong in 2009 rather than 1970. There were lots of other "species" of characters throughout the movie that fit in seamlessly, which is a huge credit to the make-up department. So while I do think Victoria will take the award given the Academy's recent history of period pieces, they have a split history of giving the award to incredible prosthetic work so don't count Star Trek out.

Finally, the random selection, Il Divo. This movie was release in Italy in 2008, and made the various film festival circuits winning some awards, mostly for acting. It did win the Italian version of the Oscars in this category however. In fact, the two nominees for this movie are the most nominated of the bunch. Vittorio Sodano (prosthetic make up designer) and Aldo Signoretti (key hair stylist) were nominated together for Apocalypto, and Signoretti was nominated for Moulin Rouge as well. Since I doubt many people saw this (it had a limited release last April in addition to the film festivals), I'll summarize it. It's a story about the former Prime Minister in Italy, Guilio Andreotti, who was accused of ties to the mafia and negative ties with the Vatican, and basically follows him and his family through various accusations from his political opponents of murdering people who got in his way. The movie won the Jury Prize at Cannes, but having seen the movie I have no idea why it was nominated in this category. All the people look fairly normal, though given the titles of the nominees, I presume several are wearing prosthetic pieces. Nothing particularly interesting struck me, so I highly doubt this movie has any chance of winning.

If I had to give the odds of winning, I'd say Victoria has about a 70% chance of winning, with Star Trek at 29%, and simply by virtue of being nominated, Il Divo has 1% chance. I hope this helps you fill out your Oscar Ballot!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief (Review)

There are not so many fantastic movies out this time of the year. I usually rely on romantic comedies and children's fare. Sometimes you do find something that's unusual enough to make you really enjoy the experience. Now I haven't read the books, so I have no loyalty to the original material, though I'll probably check it out now.

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is a high school student with serious reading disorders and attention problems. He's struggled, and his best friend Grover, helps him get by. He's always had an affinity for water, but is basically just trying to get by. However, all this goes awry when he's attacked in a museum by a monster-type creature who demands the lighting bolt back. It seems that Percy is the son of a mortal woman AND the Greek God of the Seas, Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). Poseidon's brother, Zeus (Sean Bean), wields a lightening bolt that has been stolen, and Zeus blames his half-mortal nephew. However, everyone in the god-like world would love to be able to steal the lightening bolt too, hence the museum monster known as a Fury. Percy escapes, learns the details of his conception and powers and is taken to a camp (pursued by a minotaur of course) for demi-gods and finds out his best friend Grover is actually his protector and a Satyr (half man/half goat) and his teacher (Pierce Brosnen) is actually a centaur (though how he crams his horse body into a wheelchair was only the first of an odd line of things you're forced to ignore). Percy's mother, who has known all along that her son is a demi-god, is captured by Hades, the third brother, and trapped her in the underworld. Percy, Grover, and another demi-god warrior Annabeth, decide to go get her back, and find the lightening bolt so Zeus won't start a war with his brothers (which I think means the humans would all be destroyed). Their adventures bring all kinds of Greek mythological creatures as well as creatures from the Iliad and the Odyssey to get in their way including a fairly bad-ass Uma Thurman as Medusa. Overall, it's a really fun story to watch, both for kids and adults who enjoy the Greek myths. I would definitely keep watching this series if they keep making them out of the many future books. My only complaint is that very little is unpredictable, particularly considering its a really imaginative story. But then again, it's a kids movie based on a kids book, so I shouldn't complain. 3.5 of 5 stars/lambs

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Two newish releases and two DVDs: The Good, the Bad, and the Meh...

A week of vacation thankfully brings lots of movie viewing, not much of high quality though. I saw Valentine's Day and Crazy Heart in theaters, and Post Grad and The Boys are Back on DVD. I'll start with the good, and then you can skip down to the others you're actually interested in.

Crazy Heart was really terrific. Jeff Bridges is definitely going to win his long-deserved Oscar and in my opinion totally deserves it. I really liked this movie, though my movie-viewing partner wasn't convinced. Bridges plays Bad Blake, a semi-washed up, boozy, greasy, charming, talented country musician. He's playing in Santa Fe, and as a favor to the piano player he agrees to an interview by the local music reporter, Maggie Gyllenhaal. Since he puts the moves on everything, he flirts with Gyllenhaal, who seems attracted to him, but is smart enough to know what a one-night stand she'd be. She also has a young son she's concerned about leaving for long. However, Bad Blake is incredibly charming beyond his former star status and she succumbs. However, Blake has to keep touring as he's mostly broke. His former protegee, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) asks him to open his show, and to write some new material for him to record. They obviously have a tumultuous relationship, but Farrell does a good job seeming sincere in his admiration for his former mentor. This is definitely a cliched movie about what happens to an alcoholic while he attempts to hit bottom, and the people who love him and watch him go down trying not to go with him (Gyllenhall does the best job I've ever seen of the woman in these type of movies - she stays strong and only gives him the single chance he deserves to change his ways and then she leaves). However, because Bridges is so charismatic and charming, I loved watching every minute he was on the screen. And finally, the music is absolutely fantastic. In general, I don't care for watching long scenes where a pretend character sings the pretend songs that made him famous that he sings forever (Walk the Line and Ray were different because I already knew the music and it was the representation of the real artist that was interesting). However, probably because these songs were written or produced or influenced by an actual amazing musician, T-Bone Burnett, the music is a joy to hear and watch performed by Jeff Bridges, Colin Farrell and unknown others. It's great music. There's a line from Bad Blake in the movie that goes something like: "All the great songs sound like you've heard them before" and that basically describes the music. They're good because they resemble the greatest songs of country music. I really liked this movie, 4.5 stars/lambs (missing the .5 for being really cliched about addiction and famous people).

However, Valentine's Day just barely lived up to the hype created around it. While there were some story lines I really enjoyed - Julia Roberts and Bradly Cooper, both on the airplane and on the ground; Anne Hathaway as an adult entertainment provider (by phone) and Topher Grace; and Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner as friends and the final scene of the movie. The others were either boring, terrible acting, or both. I hated Taylor Swift every time she was on screen (she's a terrific musician, but NOT an actor), and you could see Taylor Lautner (not an oscar-contender himself) cringing in all their scenes together. The other teenage couple were just boring in their attempt to have sex on Valentine's day. And the Mcpair of Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane were just boring, cute but boring. Jessica Biel's story line about hating Valentine's Day came across more pathetic than empowered, but her relationship with Jamie Foxx was interesting. This ensemble rom-com is MUCH better than last year's He's Just Not that Into You", but it's not as perfect as the casting would suggest. Removing some of the stories and increasing the depth of others would have made for the perfect Valentine's Day treat. 3 of 5 lambs/stars

So you've had the Good and the Meh for this post. There's not much to say about the bad, particularly Post Grad which I actually fast forwarded because NOTHING happened and it was incredibly boring. The cast is pretty impressive with Alexis Bledel, Zach Gilford (I love Friday Night Lights so I'll forgive him this attempt to hit the big screen), Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch and J.K. Simmons. Sadly, Bledel graduates from college, has trouble getting a job, is too arrogant to take anything that will make money and lives with her parents. Gilford is in love with Bledel and doesn't want to go to law school until she loves him too, but his dad, Simmons, is forcing him out. Keaton is crazy and Lynch is funny, but that's the entire movie. 1 lamb/star

The Boys are Back is slightly better, just not great. Clive Owen plays a recently widowed sports reporter father in Australia who has to figure out how to raise his 5-year old son. However, he's also got a 14-year old son from a previous marriage that he realizes he's abandoned. His attempts to be a working father are heart felt and well intentioned, but of course don't work. This movie has been done in other place and in other ways where child-rearing is left to the children and the dad's theory of no rules always back fires. The actor who plays Owen's older son Harry, George MacKay, could have been Ron Weasley if he'd been older when they started. Totally looks the part so I had trouble taking his angst seriously. However, it's not terrible, just Meh. 2.5 of 5 lambs/stars

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dear John: Nicholas Sparks latest movie

I'll admit it: The Notebook is one of my favorite movies. However, the newest movie adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel is not quite up to par, and in this instance, I blame the film maker rather than the material. I haven't read any of Sparks' books except The Notebook, but that was years before the movie was made. However, I've seen and enjoyed 4 (yes 4) of the movies made from his books. Since they're all basically the same premise, I'll just give you the details of each in the order I enjoyed them and why.

The Notebook stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as Noah and Allie, who fall in love even though he's a poor local boy and she's a posh city girl. Her mother secretly keeps them apart by holding back all the letters Noah writes when they separate. Allie falls in love with another, James Marsden, and agrees to marry him. Noah works to fulfill his dreams of renovating an old plantation house, and when his picture appears in the paper, Allie has doubts that her love has disappeared. They reunite, and all is well. The terrific chemistry between them, and the beautiful scenery in the North Carolina coastal areas make the film a joy to watch and romantic. Also, there's quite a twist at the end that's easy to see coming, but still heartwarming, and played by marvelous actors.

Next comes Dear John, starring Channing Tatem and Amanda Seyfried in the same roles as The Notebook, posh, educated city girl, and local boy in the army. They fall in love over the two weeks he's on leave, and then write letters for what should be his last year of service. However, 9/11 gets in the way, and he re-enlists, and she decides she can't wait for him forever. She sends him a "dear John" aka break-up letter (ironically, his name is John), and he is devastated. Of course they ultimately find each other again years later. The best part of this movie is the various subplots, particularly John's father played brilliantly by Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins. He's a single dad who has never been able to communicate with his son. It's only meeting Seyfried that John understands his dad has Asperger's Syndrome and they begin to work towards a better relationship. Since this is a new release, I'll give it the 2.5 of 5 stars/lambs

A Walk to Remember varies only slightly from the rough boy/posh girl relationship. This time they're in high school, and she has leukemia and doesn't really care what people think of the odd ways she dresses or talks. Shane West is a popular kid forced to hang out with her while doing the musical. West and Mandy Moore do good job convincing us they're falling in love. It's sad just like all the others, though as it doesn't end happily, it's more of a tear-jerker than just a romantic movie.

Finally, Nights in Rodanthe is a grown-up offering from Sparks. Diane Lane plays a divorced woman who agrees to housesit a Bed and Breakfast on the North Carolina coast for a friend one weekend. Only one guest is expected: Richard Gere, a single doctor coming to seek forgiveness from a local family after he failed to save their mother. Lane and Gere get stranded at the house when a hurricane approaches, and of course, they too fall in love. Gere finds forgiveness won't come from the family, but finding love is better. He goes to work with his son in Latin America, writing letters to Lane, promising to return. It also doesn't end well, and for that reason, it's my least favorite.

So, what do most Sparks movies have in common? 1. Socially unequal couples fall in love in very short periods of time. 2. Though socially diverse, they are both very literate and enjoy sending letters. 3. Bad things will occur to keep the couple apart, but sometimes it all ends well. 4. All are fun to watch.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Young Victoria and Emma

L.P. Hartley, a British author, started one of his books with the sentence: "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." I think this is why many people enjoy both traveling and watching movies set in a previous period. It's interesting to see both the similarities between today's life and how they lived their lives in the past. The other thing I can appreciate is that every telling of a past story comes from the mind of a person living today, so that must influence the final product they create. Unless it's meant to be a historical story, only representing facts and actual recorded conversations, I think it's okay to take liberties with historical precision to tell a good story. I think this is part of why I enjoyed Inglorious Basterds so much. Tarantino took the elements of history, but told his own story. He never represented it as a lesson in history, but perhaps a glimpse at the infinite possibilities of story telling.

The Young Victoria stars Emily Blunt in her first major role, and I have to say she carried the movie really well. She plays Britain's Queen Victoria from a young age, through her ascension, and the beginning of her reign and marriage. Victoria was the niece of William IV, and the only living descendant from his line. She was protected at a young age, she's shown in the movie being required to hold the hand of an adult whenever going up or down stairs - even when she was 17! Her mother was a German princess and closely related to the new King Leopold of Belgium, and so manipulated her daughter to favor her family over her duties to the British throne. However, her uncle's family, and his favored Prime Minister, Melbourne (played with an edge of smarmy by Paul Bettany) wanted to assure their continued power. She has been raised knowing she will be Queen, and thankfully is able to ascend when she becomes 18. There was a lot of fear the previous King would die before she reached 18, thus causing a "Regency" wherein her mother and the German/Belgian agenda was put in power. Once she attains power, as with Elizabeth I before her, she is urged to marry. Thankfully she was raised with enough self-possession to know that if she took the wrong man to marry, he might usurp her throne as much as any regent or other powerful influence - plus she'd have to sleep with him. The qualms of a young girl about marrying are as present in her performance as her fears as a monarch fearing for her throne. As was custom, she was introduced to her cousin Albert as a potential mate, also the nephew of King Leopold, which would cement England's help with Belgian rule. However, Victoria decides not to be pressured into making decisions about marriage, and they begin to write letters. Albert is completely smitten, though resents being a pawn in geopolitical machinations. Victoria also chooses to take advice from Lord Melbourne, often to the detriment of her popular image. As now, the people of England didn't care much for the monarch interfering with actual political decisions. However, back then, it had to do with the ladies in waiting of the queen, and the influence they could exert on behalf of their politically minded husbands. All of this is to explain that Victoria had a lot to navigate, all the while being only 18, 19 or 20. She does finally marry Albert, and even then has trouble finding a position for him to play. He's a Prince in his own right, but just because he marries the Queen does NOT make him king (as with the current Prince Phillip, husband to Queen Elizabeth II). They reigned together, ushering in the Victorian era which drastically improved science, public works progress, and expanded the British empire around the world. I thought it was an exceptional movie. The costumes seemed perfect, easily recognizable from the paintings and images of her that survive. The hairstyles were elaborate though not distracting, and overall made for a terrific period drama. At heart it's a love story, but it also is a feminist story celebrating the beginning of the reign of the longest serving female monarch in history. 3.5. of 5 stars.

The second period piece I enjoyed is the best version I've ever seen of Emma. While Clueless was a good adaptation, this period version starring Romola Garai (Atonement and Amazing Grace) and Johnny Lee Miller ("Eli Stone" and "Endgame") as Emma and Mr. Knightly. It's a 4 part mini-series on PBS that I'm certain will be on DVD soon. I've enjoyed the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma from the 1990s, but having seen the PBS version, I can safely say the older version is pretty crappy. Garai is a far more interesting character to watch, and embodies the spirit that all of Jane Austen's heroines possess, far better than Paltrow's performance of a bratty little girl fussing when she doesn't get her way. Johnny Lee Miller's foray into American TV was pretty great - I loved "Eli Stone" but he is terrific in the smaller British characters he's portrayed since. Michael Gambon also has a small part as Emma's curmudgeonly father. I highly recommend it if you're an Austen fan. All the details from the book, and much of the dialogue, are perfectly intact and brought to life with the same feeling as the book. 5 of 5 stars.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bad Romantic Comedies, not much worse

I've been re-reading some of my oldest posts to see if what I suspected was true: I like most movies. What I found out was that I usually just don't review movies I really dislike. They don't make enough of an impact if they're less than 2 stars or so. Also, I don't tend to go to movies that don't interest me - most horror movies and almost all scary thrillers (I won't be seeing Shutter Island in the theater). So like most bloggers, my opinion of movies is not always based on their intrinsic or historical value to cinema, but whether or not I enjoyed them. Usually I wouldn't bother reviewing either of these movies, but since I saw them so close together, I'll go ahead and add them to my list at the low end of the scale. I'm sure no one will be surprised that these weren't particularly good movies, one was a romantic comedy release in January and the other is a straight to DVD romantic comedy. I guess it also proves I'm a sucker for my favorite actors and a romantic comedy.
Leap Year
stars Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. Amy plays a real estate stager (she arranges apartments to improve their sellability) dating a doctor who hasn't bothered to propose after several years. He goes to Ireland for a conference, and she meets up with her dad (a disappointingly underused John Lithgow) who reminds her how her grandparents got engaged: On February 29, there's an Irish tradition that allows women to propose to their boyfriends. This was the first place the movie went off the rails for me - what is stopping women from proposing any day they want if that's what it takes. It's not like men aren't allowed to say no on Leap Day any more than other day so the pressure is the same. So Adams goes running off to Dublin, but is diverted to Wales, and takes a boat across to Dingle in Ireland. Second place this movie lost me - Dingle is on the opposite side of Ireland from Wales. Dublin is close to Wales, so how the heck did she end up in Dingle? Then she tries to get someone to drive her to Dublin, which is crazy. There's a huge airport in Shannon that would have been an hour drive rather than driving across the country to Dublin. I've been to Ireland and driven myself across it - less than 6 hours. It takes them 3 days! Anyway, Matthew Goode owns what looks like the ONLY building in Dingle and is losing it to a money collector so he agrees to drive Adams in exchange for a lot of money. The rest of Leap Year follows the standard path of most romantic comedies. Their personalities clash, to humorous effect. They lose their transportation and are forced to stay in one room at a hotel and sexual tension increases to humorous effect. And finally, she has to decide between her previous boyfriend and the new guy who has changed her life in just a few days. It was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, but unlikely I'll watch it again. Not worth the $10. 2 stars/5 stars.

An Accidental Husband is a direct to DVD movie with Uma Thurman, Colin Firth and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Thurman plays a radio love doctor who gives advice to Morgan's fiancee that convinces her to stop the wedding. To get back at Thurman, Morgan uses his tech savy friend to create a marriage license so when Thurman and her actual fiancee Firth go to get theirs, she finds out she's already married to Morgan (whom she's never met). Again, the standard fair of romantic comedies ensues. She ends up spending time with Morgan (a fireman from Astoria) trying to get the annulment papers signed and realizes he's a pretty great guy. Morgan meanwhile realizes his prank might have been a good idea as now he's married to a pretty great guy. Hijinks ensue and Firth gets to be the stand up guy (after all he's British) and lets Thurman out of their engagement. The one cliche that always bothers me in movies like these is the woman's hair. It's true in almost every romantic comedy of late - a tightly wound woman also ALWAYS wears her hair tied up, a bun or something that demonstrates visually how uptight she is. After the guy convinces her to relax and fall for the new guy suddenly she's wearing her hair down all the time. Now she's all flowy and relaxed, and so is her hair. Just an odd gimmick that I'm sick of watching. Note the change in the two leap year photos above. 2 stars/5 stars.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Good TV: Human Target

One of the many benefits to living on the Canadian border is Canadian television (CJOH and CTV for those who care). So far this has brought me full seasons of The Tudors (before the DVD release, but after the airing on Showtime), and allowed me to watch the shows that are shown opposite several others (they air CSI at 8pm, instead of 9, when I prefer Grey's or Fringe). This is what I like best, when they air a show on a better day, preferably an earlier day than it airs in the states. Right now, they air the new show "Human Target" on Monday nights, instead of Wednesday after Idol in the US. So I don't have to wait until Wednesday to see it. It stars Mark Valley (his father was my high school principal!) from "Fringe", and Chi McBride (recently from "Pushing Daisies"), and Jackie Earle Haley (seemingly attempting to remove the tarnish from his fantastic turn in Little Children). The three of them operate a body-guard for hire agency that runs just a little outside the law, not always, but sometimes (and I'm told is based on a comic book, though it's hard to tell). Valley plays Christopher Chance (one of his aliases) a former special forces military savant, and McBride is his straight-man side kick who makes things happen while Valley's in the field doing the action stuff. It has a small cast, though so far the guest stars have been lots of fun (Tricia Helfer - "BSG", Sean Maher - "Serenity") and speaks well for the future of the series. My only complaint is the opening credits. The design is terrific, but the music is awful, totally doesn't go with an action series at all. I like the series, and LOVE that I can watch it early (not sure why it matters, but it's fun to know I see it earlier than the rest of the States). I hope they keep it going for a while.