Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reel Insight 16 and Matineecast 21

 This week I was a guest on the Lammy Award winning Matineecast.  The Mad Hatter from The Dark of the Matinee and I discussed The Town and did our top 5 cops and robbers movies.  Check it out on itunes.

And of course, Rachel and I discussed Sigourney Weaver, the return of some good TV, and had a lot of fun.  Check out Episode 16 of Reel Insight.

Snow Cake - Alan Rickman plays Alex, a guy just released from prison who picks up Vivienne hitchhiking.  They're hit rapidly by a tractor trailer and Vivienne is killed.  Alex feels incredibly guilty for the accident and goes to see her mother.  Sigourney Weaver plays Linda, an autistic woman who lives alone, and loves snow, and won't allow people into her kitchen.  It's Weaver's best performance in ages, and very much outside her norm.  She's innocent, but hyper, and stong-willed and requires routine, but she plays it really well.  The straightforward nature of her character allows her to see the death of Vivienne as a practical and not emotional thing. 

Heartbreakers - I didn't expect to like this, but it's funny and the acting is good.  Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt are a mom and daughter con team.  Weaver marries men, and then Hewitt seduces them and Weaver divorces them, getting a nice divorce settlement.  They're smart and savvy about setting up the cons, looking pretty far ahead.  Hewitt wants to go off on her own after one last con, but of course, she falls for a guy and the con doesn't go quite as she expects. 

Aliens - I had only seen snippets of the Alien series because I'm not a big fan of horror, but I am a fan of sci-fi and was assured that this second in the series is less horror and more thriller/sci-fi.  And they're right, it's awesome.  It doesn't have the best dialogue (other that "Get away from her you bitch") and the fight scenes are pretty great.  Particularly for it's time, terrific film.

The Year of Living Dangerously - I had heard that Linda Hunt won a best supporting Oscar for her performance as photographer, Billy, in this Mel Gibson movie from the early 80s.  Gibson stars as an Australian journalist in Indonesia in 1965 investigating the corruption and power struggles going on there.  He meets Weaver, a British woman who is about to be transferred back to London - so of course they believe everyone who isn't Indonesian living in Indonesia at this time is a spy (and we're never really sure whether she is or not).  Billy fights for the real story to be told - about the starvation and poverty, and is killed for his efforts.  Terrific flick.  

Jeffrey - Not so great movie about a gay man (Stephen Weber) who decides to give up sex because it's become too dangerous (with AIDS).  Of course, then he meets the love of his life. Patrick Stewart and Bryan Batt play a gay couple struggling with some of the same issues, but flamboyantly.  It's not a great movie, but it's not bad either.  Weaver plays an evangelist of some variety - hard to tell if she's bad or good, but she tries to help Jeffrey.  

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Release: The Town

I saw The Town a few days ago, and my review has been slow in coming because I'm not exactly sure what to say.  It was better than I expected based on the trailer, which didn't reveal too much.  It was face paced, but had good characters, and character development.  There were a few moments where they telegraphed things that would obviously become important - the things that might give away the bank robbers' identities, like tattoos or voices.  Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, and two guys I didn't know and were never really identified are friends from the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston.  They're carrying on the family business of crime by robbing armored cars and banks.  At their most recent heist, they take Rebecca Hall hostage for a little while and then let her go.  Except for Renner, they're not particularly violent guys, just seem to feel this compulsion to rob.  Jon Hamm is the FBI agent, along with Titus Welliver (a "that guy" from lots of TV shows, currently "The Good Wife") investigating all the robberies in the area.  They manage to figure out how they're all connected to these guys (unclear how they deduced this - movie cops are really smart), and then have to watch them to get enough evidence. 
Affleck is put in charge of figuring out if Rebecca Hall can identify them, and they start dating, since she obviously can't identify him.  Of course, falling for her makes Affleck rethink his criminal ways, and he tells Renner he'll only do one more job, which he doesn't want to do because the FBI agents have "brought the heat down".  Of course, things don't go well on the last job but they get away after a pretty great car chase through the windy Boston streets. This is where other heist movies tend to end with someone getting shot and either the rest being led away in handcuffs or escaping.  However, The Town adds a pretty great final act. 
Affleck's incarcerated father (Chris Cooper) used to work for "The Florist" - brilliantly played by Pete Postlethwaite.  Now he wants Affleck and his crew to rob Fenway Park.  The details in the final heist are complicated and it doesn't end well for just about anyone, but it's probably the best finale of a heist film I've seen in ages.  They made it bigger, without making it more complicated than a simple heist.  Overall, I enjoyed the movie, particularly Affleck's acting and directing.  Jon Hamm does a good job, but he's the least developed character of the bunch.  I guess that's one of the failings of even good heist movies, you have to make either the cops or robbers the good guys and give them the storyline.  The love story is left on the side of the movie, and looses some of the believability when she helps them in the end.  However, it doesn't bring the story down.  Enjoy my discussion of The Town on an upcoming episode of "The Matineecast"!!!   4 of 5 stars/lambs

Monday, September 20, 2010

HBO Movie: Temple Grandin

When Temple Grandin cleaned up at the Emmys a few weeks ago, I was intrigued about Claire Danes' biopic.  While I haven't seen all the other nominees in the categories they won, this is one of the best movies I've seen this year.  There aren't many movies where you just sit there when the credits start playing, thinking about what you've just seen and most of those include a tragic death or world-saving battle.  So it was all the more remarkable when it happened at the end of a movie about a still-living autistic woman who redesigned slaughter houses.   Claire Danes plays Grandin, from her early college days through graduate school in the late 1960s and 1970s.  She was diagnosed with autism as a toddler when she hadn't spoken by age 4, and her mother (played by Emmy winner Julia Ormond) fought like crazy to keep her daughter around and prevent her from losing out on a "normal life" - her mantra is something like "different, but not less". 
Claire Danes with the real Temple Grandin
We meet Grandin when she's arrived for the summer at her aunt's cattle ranch before going on to college (an idea that scares the crap out of her because there are so many people she doesn't understand and who don't understand her).  Catherine O'Hara is her understanding aunt who tries to help her figure out how to approach college.  One day when they're inoculating the cattle, Temple see this machine that holds the cattle still, calming them before their shot.  She realizes this could work for her too - the calming effect of a hug without actually having to touch another person.  When she arrives at college, with her own "hug machine", the university says no way (they think it has something to do with sex) until she does a scientific study showing that it helps most people feel calm, not just her. 
This sets her on a path of scientific inquiry - because she "sees in pictures" abstract thought is something really difficult (like learning a language or creative writing).  But the absolutes of science appeal to her nature and disposition, particularly because of the autism.  She continues after college at the University of Arizona studying animal husbandry and life sciences.  She is in a stockyard when she starts wondering why some cattle moo louder than others, and starts studying their behavior.  Because she can relate images together, she pieces together reasons for different cattle behavior, like moving in curves and not wanting to walk downhill.  She can relate to what scares them because she's particularly sensitive to sights, sounds, and textures.  She tricks her way into the stockyard for her masters thesis, and when she graduates she's asked to re-design a cattle "dip" (where they dip the cattle in a debugging liquid).  The old designs had a high mortality rate (from drowning) and would take more time and more people to run them than the design Temple creates which plays to cattle's own behaviors.  She finds a way to make cattle willing to enter the dip because they feel safe.  Ultimately, she figures out how to do the same for slaughterhouses, creating humane ways to herd the cattle right up until the moment they die.  Throughout all her schooling, her high school science teacher, David Strathairn, supports her vision, describing every step of her journey as "another door to walk through".  Visualizing walking through a door helps Temple actually do the next step in her career. 
The movie helps us get into the mind of Temple by showing some of the constant pictures she sees, and how they might relate.  It does a good job explaining her place on the autistic spectrum without having lots and lots of monologue.  She's actually quite aware of her own issues with the world, which is where the movie comes to an end - when she realizes she's a terrific candidate to educate the world about what it means to live with autism.  I'm not doing the movie justice, but you'll have to take my word that it's not cheesy, it's not cliched, it doesn't oversimplify her life too much, and yet, it still tugs on your heartstrings and gives your outlook on life a boost.  5 of 5 stars/lambs

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Reel Insight Episode 15 - Edward Norton

Episode 15 is ready!  Edward Norton has done some of my favorite movies, and I actually own several of them.  However, his stinkers are unbelievably bad.  Enjoy our discussion.

Down in the Valley - Well, Edward Norton has proven that he can play CRAZY.  Down in the Valley is his turn as a really strange guy who thinks he's a cowboy in modern day LA.  He meets Evan Rachel Wood while pumping her gas, and she invites him to the beach for the day.  He goes - strange mid-western/southern accent (from "south dakota) and cowboy hat intact.  They fall for each other (though he's obviously 20 years older) and start sleeping together and dating.  He lives alone in an apartment and plays pretend cowboy games with his guns in the apartment.  He doesn't have a car so for a date he pretends to "borrow" a horse from a friend.  He's delusional, but his story holds up pretty well for an 18-year old girl.  Her little brother, one of the Cuilkin boys, also falls for his shtick.   However, her "father" (not sure if he's her foster father or biological father), who is a sheriff, knows Ed's up to no good.  They eventually figure out Ed's full of crap, but he still thinks Wood is in love with him, but he accidentally shoots her when he's trying to get her to leave with him.  He kidnaps the brother and whole thing ends in a shootout with the dad (exactly like what Norton practiced in his apartment).  It's a really strange movie without any good scenes or dialogue, and the nearly 20-year age gap between the leads was just creepy, but wasn't  mentioned at all.  Yes, Norton is charming enough to believe she'd fall for him in the first place, and creepy enough that others might not trust him, but it's not enough to save a disastrous movie.

Pride and Glory - Not good.  Norton plays the son of a multi-generational NYPD family.  Jon Voight, his father, assigns him to investigate the murder of 4 cops from his brother's (Colin Farrell) squad.  Farrell is the dirty cop who turns out to have gotten his guys killed.  Really gratuitous violence, and Norton has a few moments of goodness, but more terrible.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

30 Days of Crazy Blog-a-thon: Crazy People

This is part of Blog Cabins 30 Days of Crazy.  Check them all out here.

Crazy People is not a complicated movie, just charming and funny.  It's about telling the truth, and crazy people do it better than most.  Dudley Moore plays Emory, an ad man who has had it with making his living by telling lies.  He no longer sees advertising as spinning the truth or talking up a product.  His partner, Stephen (Paul Reiser - whatever happened to him?) is pretty sure Emory has gone off the deep end when he presents an ad for Jaguar with a tagline that says "For men who'd like hand jobs from beautiful women they hardly know."   He wants to say what everyone's already thinking. 
Emory is admitted to a fancy psychiatric facility, where the patients (inmates?) are playing volleyball, without the ball.  The cast of patients is what makes this movie - David Paymer (That Guy from dozens of movies, my fav being one of the brothers from City Slickers) plays George who has only said "hello" for the past 20 years.  Daryl Hannah is Kathy, whose mental disorder is never made clear except that she has been there a long time for depression.  She hits on Emory and they become friends.  The rest of the patients aren't actors I recognized, though their individual IMDB pages say that most of them are still working in various projects.  Emory fits right in, but meanwhile, his crazy truth telling ads were accidentally published ("Metamucil - it helps you go to the toilet.  If you don't use it, you'll get cancer and die") and cause huge returns.  His boss (the late J.T. Walsh in all his evil glory) decides they have to go get Emory to keep it up for all their clients.  Emory doesn't want to leave, and the other patients rally around him to help get the ads out. 

This leads to the ad business starting up in the psych center.  They create lots of ads, for all kinds of things, telling the truth, or a different creative view of the truth.  Unfortunately, Walsh assumes his company can do it too, and they show off their stupidity and satirize the advertising (and Hollywood machine) as a different kind of crazy who cannot figure out how to be honest.  The big climax comes when the head doctor makes a deal with Walsh to keep churning out crazy ads by keeping the crazy people locked up, but only if they get rid of Emory.  However, the patients are crazy, not dumb, and sabotage the whole thing.

You know from the beginning it will have a happy ending, and glossing over variations of crazy is part of the charm.  If they had more of a Gothika or Shutter Island set of crazy people, it just wouldn't work.  Actually dealing with mental illness isn't part of this movie, rather comparing soulless business men with heartfelt lay people is where all the humor and charm comes from.  Dudley Moore is terrific throughout.   Darryl Hannah is more bland than annoying, but as the only character who might actually be mentally ill, she brings a lot of credibility to the psych center aspect.  Overall, the ads are the stars of this movie - you can't actually believe any of them would make it into a magazine, but you know they're all correct in what they're saying.  Good movie, check it out on itunes.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lambcast, MILFcast, oh my!

 In case you haven't gotten enough of my voice this week, there are two more chances to fill the void.  Episode 38 of the Lambcast is now available.  I chatted with my partner in crime, Rachel, as well as the LAMB old guard Dylan, Nick, and Jason.  We discussed our most anticipated films for the rest of the year.  Check it out on itunes or listen below.   And in a last minute guest spot, I appeared on the MILFcast (also on itunes, Episode 6 or so).  Some new friends were made, possibly a marriage proposal, and lots of suggestive talk.  It was pretty funny.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Reel Insight Episode 14 - Keira Knightly

This week we got into the career of Keira Knightly. Not long, but lots to talk about. As usual, the movies I saw for the first time this week in preparation are reviewed below. I'd like to thank Mia Thuro for being such a fun guest host (not sure her scenes made the final cut, but she cracked me up!). If you have comments, questions, etc. please e-mail us at reelinsight at gmail [dot] com


Domino - This is the crazy story of Domino Harvey, a real-life female bounty hunter who raised hell, lived on the edge of a legal life, and died young.  Knightly plays her, with Mickey Rourke as her mentor bounty hunter.  He looks the best he has in a while - he looks a lot like he did in Sin City.  The first 40 minutes of this 128 minute romp is actually interesting - how she became a bounty hunter, what it means, the trouble she ultimately gets in (the movie is told with narration to an FBI agent through flashbacks).  However, after the main heist they get involved in on both the right and wrong side of the law goes totally awry the movie falls way off the rails.  When a movie does flashbacks, the whole thing has to link up in some way to the current frame.  And this doesn't quite make it there.  A good first 40 minutes almost makes up for a terrible finish, but not quite.  2 of 5 stars/lambs

Pure - This is a very sad story of a group of kids trying to survive their junkie parents in down and out circumstances in London.  A little boy, Paul, is trying to help his mom get off coke, after her best friend dies.  Of course her dealer comes and gets her high again so he runs off to try to find help, and finds Keira Knightly as a knocked up, teenage waitress who is at least willing to feed him.  It's basically just a sad movie, but Knightly is pretty good trying to be friends with this boy, while pretending her life will be okay even though they'll probably take this baby away too.  There were quite a few recognizable British actors making up the cast (her dealer, David Wenham, is the evil rancher in Australia, the cop trying to take him down is the dad in Billy Elliot).  Depressing, but a good movie, 3.5 of 5 stars/lambs

Saturday, September 11, 2010

George Clooney knows Jack

I haven't seen The American yet, but in a review it mentions that his name is Jack, and I was suddenly struck with "is he ALWAYS" named Jack.  No, obviously he's not - he's Danny Ocean, Ulysses Everett McGill, Ryan Bingham.  However, he HAS played a character named Jack 5 times now (including once on TV).  Which of his big screen Jacks is your favorite?

Jack (no last name) - The American

Jack Geismer - The Good German

Jack Foley - Out of Sight

Jack Taylor - One Fine Day

Friday, September 10, 2010

DVD Roundup: Hot Tub Time Machine and Killers

There are a lot of movies that you're pretty sure won't be any good, but you watch them anyway - either because you like an actor (John Cusack) or you just can't believe a movie that bad was made (Killers).  Hot Tub Time Machine is exactly what you'd expect - this group of 3 guys (and one guy's nephew) want to relive one of their glory weekends from the 80s, so they go up to a resort that they loved.  It's all run-down, decrepit, and managed by a bitter one-armed guy (Crispin Glover).  They get drunk and get in the hot tub, and something magical happens (like in Pleasantville when they get drawn into the TV show) and suddenly they're back in the 80s getting to actually relive their best weekend.  They see all the "roads not taken" and some they never knew were options.  It's FULL of gross-out humor, vomit, sex, etc. that could possibly fit into one movie, but some of it is pretty funny, and Rob Corddry is an actor I don't ever need to see again - he's vile.  However, Craig Robinson is really funny and John Cusack sort of sits back and watches the fun.  Unlike a lot of "go into the past and back to the future"  movies they DO try to change the lives they're returning to.  Fairly unique, and slightly better than I expected.  3 of 5 lambs/stars

However, Killers was not as good as I expected, and was mostly just dullKatherine Heigl falls in love with Ashton Kutcher in Nice, France.  He's there for a job with the CIA, and decides to quit and form a normal life when he meets her.  Cut to 3 years later, he has a normal job, they have a normal house, and her parents (Catherine O'Hara and Tom Selleck) live nearby and drive him nuts.  Then he gets a call from an old handler and before he can figure out what's going on, the handler's dead and people are out to get Kutcher.  Everyone in his life becomes a potential killer, and then the rest of the movie is fight scene after fight scene of Kutcher trying to protect Heigl, her yelling at him, and their neighbors and colleagues trying to kill them both.  It was trying to redo Mr. and Mrs. Smith a FAR superior film, and fell way short of the mark.  Kutcher wasn't bad, and I'd actually see him in another pseudo-action movie, but Heigl was dreadful again - she REALLY needs to get better costume and hair designers for her movies.  They constantly make her look like a bimbo who happens to be brilliant and have a terrific job.  It's just ridiculous.  1.5 of 5 stars/lambs

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Guest Post: Films that take you back to School

Guest post by freelance blogger Camiele White:

It’s now the beginning of September --time for books, cranky teachers, and the gruel that passes as school lunch; for being pushed and ignored in the hallways, calculus homework, and detention. School drama and trauma is a common theme in film. In fact, thanks to the genius and hindsight of the late John Hughes, school dramadies have become their own subgenre. It’s in the spirit of the everlasting teenager that this blog is written --to pay homage to a genre of film that beckons students back to the hallowed halls of education.

It’s only fair that we split this into three distinct categories: primary school, high school, and college. There are those films that are perfect for the whole family --giving children the excitement of an uncertain future and parents the nostalgia of crayons and spelling words. On the other hand, there are those films that are made just for the 18 and overs that connect on a very visceral level. The proper thing to do would be to pick a film or two from each age group that sum up the lazy days of school.

Primary School
Matilda: One of the most beloved books by one of my all-time favourite authors, Roald Dahl, Matilda tells the story of a young girl who struggles with the weight of her intelligence in a world wrought with ignorant adults who use their size and their power to reign over the small and inexperienced. This film was an incredible peek inside the psyche of an elementary school child. I’ve always marvelled at the film’s simplicity and ability to manage the fine balance between “cutesy” and dark --a skill that was
crafted brilliantly by Dahl himself. Entering into this new  world of big excitement and big adventures, a world in which one is no longer the exception. Matilda was an outcast in her family, but at school she was a friend and a confidante. She had the power to uplift (literally) the hopes of each and every student that walked through the darkened halls of Crunchem. This film did for kids what I imagine Animal House (which we’ll explore a little later) did for college hopefuls: bring a bit of freakshow and fantasy to the uninitiated. 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: Though the first film of the Harry Potter franchise was, in my humble opinion, the weakest, one can’t miscount the film as a model of elementary school mystery. Yes, it was a film about wizards and witches. But there was an incredible sense of humanity and delicacy added to the film to bring it out of the darkness of witchcraft and into the lightness of a child’s imagination. Chris Columbus, known for his fluffy family films of the 90s, brought his keen eye for the whimsical and gave children the audacity to believe in magic again --something that had been a bit lacking in the films of the early new millennium. Harry, like Matilda, is coming from a home situation that is a wee bit less than comforting. In a world where you’re always ridiculed and locked away in a broom closet (or in this case, the cupboard under the stairs) Hogwarts was Harry’s only salvation. In these two films, it seems that school is being touted as a place of escapism where a child is encouraged to fully explore the precocious whims of his fancy. And isn’t that, my darlings, what elementary school was all about? Graham crackers and recess.

High School
The Breakfast Club: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one of the films that came courtesy of the Brat Pack in the mid-80s (plus, my brother would hate me forever, as it’s one of his favourite films). For the better part of that decade, John Hughes had the film industry in a choke hold. No film summed up the highs and crushing lows of high school than The Breakfast Club. Chronicling the sit-in Saturday of the nerd, the prom queen, the jock, the outcast, and the rebel; there’s nothing more evocative of the high school daze than having to explore the inner workings of our peers as they walk the hallways. The most profound statement that the film makes, boldly and unequivocally, is that no matter your perceived identity, you are the only one who knows who and what you truly are. It’s a film that allows each viewer to remember a time when they were defined by the restrictions of the yearbook superlatives. As a beacon of the forever young film industry, I simply must tip my hat to Hughes for his incredible use of objective hindsight.

Fame: Forget High School Musical, you poor, uninitiated tweensters. This film is the real deal: song, dance, drama that just won’t quit. As one of my all time favourite films of any era, Fame broke the boundaries of understanding the inner workings of the ordinary teenager thrown into extraordinary circumstances. In the halls of the New York High School of Performing Arts, lives are changed and hearts are constantly broken. It’s at this high school that we see how the passion that runs through teenage veins is nothing to sniff at. Every moment is a chance to slice your place in history; every second you’re being analysed by the hardest critics in the world: your peers. If that weren’t stress enough, you have exert as much energy in your regular classes (math, English, etc.) as you do in your speciality (dance, singing, acting). This film tapped into something that is universal with all teenagers --the desire to live forever.

Animal House: I’d be the biggest idiot in the world if I didn’t at least mention one of the most influential films of all time, Animal House --truly the greatest college focused film to ever hit the big screen. John Landis, along with some of the most promising talent in film John Belushi, Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen, and Harold Ramis (as one of the principal writers), made their mark on cinema history by showing the raw, unadulterated nasty of the college years --some of the best of life. One of the most memorable scenes ever place on celluloid, the toga party where everyone, drunken and full of vigour, parties with the house band (the fictional Otis Day and the Knights). The song “Shout” became the official party song of any college frat throw down. It remains one of those songs that can easily start a party riot. Jumpstarting the “gross-out” comedy genre, Animal House did more than introduce the film industry to unabashed raunch, it gave the world a paragon of frat life and the craziness surrounding the most ridiculous four years of any young person’s life. If you’re looking for a symbol of college guts, gore, and grossness, you won’t find anything more elegant or articulate than Animal House as a beacon of the college experience.

This is in no way an exhaustive list; however, there are moments in each of these take me back to some good memories. Animal House, for example, touches me personally as, not a mirror image, but certainly a reminder of one of my most treasured memories in my freshman year at university: sitting in the lobby of one of the main dorms and singing familiar childhood songs until 7 am, then walking to the McDonald’s on campus for a Saturday breakfast. It’s moments like these that make up the best moments of my life.

Article writer by day, renegade poet by night, Camiele White loves any and everything film. She chases only the original (or incredibly funny) and has been known to talk for hours about subjects that most people just don’t care about. Right now, she gets her jabberjaw jollies writing for Star Costumes. If you want to give her a buzz, she can be reached at cmlewhite at gmail [dot] com.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

30 dAyS oF CRAzY Blog-a-thon: The Dream Team

For part of the 30 dAyS oF cRAzY Blog-a-thon over at Blog Cabins, this movie represents some clinically crazy people.  And for a twist, the movie does a good job of representing actual insanity.  The year an actor makes it big - a new franchise, an Oscar, whatever - they also tend to make some totally out there movie.   Last year Sandra Bullock made All About Steve in addition to The Blind Side.  Back in 1989, Michael Keaton was the first big-screen Batman, creating the beginning of the comic book franchise phenomena.  However, the same year, he also made a comedy with Christopher Lloyd (post-Back to the Future), Peter Boyle (pre-"Everybody Loves Raymond"), and Stephen Furst.   The Dream Team is the story of 4 mental patients (schizophrenic, delusional, christ-fixation, and mute) who are taken to Yankee Stadium for a game, but during a pee-break in an alley, witness 2 dirty cops killing another cop.  Their doctor is beaten up, and they're left unattended.
At first, they realize they can do whatever they want - ignoring the fact that they're crazy.  Keaton, the delusional one, goes to find his old girlfriend, Lorraine Bracco, and realizes his life hasn't stood still while he was in the hospital.  Boyle (christ-fixation) ends up naked in a Baptist church preaching before being rescued by Lloyd (schizophrenic - thinks he's a doctor).  Then they realize they'll do better if they work together.  However, they don't really like each other - they fight, their issues get in the way of making a plan to save their doctor from the crooked cops (Phillip Bosco and James Remar) who want to finish the job.
One of the funniest scenes is the four of them under an old refrigerator box running across the street in the rain to the music of "Everybody walk the dinosaur".  With a little help from Bracco, the four of them manage to manipulate their problems and save the day.  The whole thing ends well, but the movie has a darker edge when each character bumps up against the limits of their own mental issues.  Overall funny, but is pretty dated now, though it's fun to see all of these actors from an earlier time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DVD Round-up: Jennifer Aniston

There's not a lot to say about these movies except that one is slightly better than the average romantic comedy (Management) and one is slightly better than the worse movie ever made (The Bounty Hunter).  The Bounty Hunter looked like it was going to be funny, but sadly, it was painful.  I would have settled for dull, but this was really really really bad.  Aniston plays a reporter trying to get ahead in her career and figures out how to expose some major crime, possibly by mafia (not made clear).  Her ex-husband,Gerard Butler, left the police and is now a bounty hunter.  When she skips a court appearance for a parking violation, he's sent to pick her up.  They fight like siblings and have no chemistry.  Aniston looks really fake, and wearing tight, short dresses makes her look plastic not sexy.  Butler has an unbelievably bad American accent (when it wasn't necessary that he be an American, he could have been Scottish and moved to the US, whatever).  They spend some time trying to escape the bad guys who want to kill her, and of course fall for each other again and expose the story.  Worst movie of 2010 so far.  1 lambs/stars

The second movie is from a few years ago, but I'm a sucker for Steve Zahn, and Jennifer Aniston happens to be in it too.  Zahn plays the son of a couple who own a motel.  He's their night-time management when Aniston checks in.  He uses some sad moves to get to know her ("Management would like to offer you a complimentary bottle of wine") but his moves kind of win her over.  She goes home and when he realizes what he's lost he goes after her, but she doesn't want to commit to a guy who lives in a corner room at a motel his parents own.  He goes home to rethink his life and still wants to be with her, but she's gone back with her old boyfriend (an insane Woody Harrelson).  Zahn decides to parachute into their pool to get her attention again.  While she would like to be with Zahn, she's preggers and needs to be with a steady guy.  Of course it ends well, but the details fairly unique.  It's a sweet little movie that just barely defies its rom-com roots.  3 lambs/stars

Monday, September 6, 2010

TV Review: Treme

It's rare that a show's opening credits can accurately portray what a TV show is about.  I've watched the first three episodes of the HBO series Treme (pronounced Treh-may).  The Treme is a neighborhood in New Orleans that borders the famous French Quarter, but is made up of several races, and is reputed to be the place where the roots of Jazz were planted and grew.  The show begins about 4 months after hurricane Katrina ravaged so much of New Orleans, driving people out of the city, giving everyone a story of survival or loss, and now a story of return.
John Goodman is an English professor at Tulane irate about the way the hurricane was covered in the news and then forgotten.  He rages against the destruction of the levees and the fault of the government.  He's married to Melissa Leo, an attorney trying to help find a man who was arrested just before Katrina, and thus completely lost in the penal system as prisoners (even those not yet arraigned) were farmed out to other precincts until things could get back to normal.  He's the brother of bar-owner Khandi Alexander.  Leo also defends two of our other stars -  Wendall Pierce and Steve Zahn, both of whom get in trouble in Episode 3 by cops so wound up by all the lack of order that they beat-down first and ask questions later.

Pierce is a trombone-playing hound dog who has children with several women and kind of hops between them trying to find a place to sleep, have sex, and then play his 'bone.  Zahn is a sort of bum who has righteous indignation about anyone who dares to see New Orleans as a cliche rather than the source of all great music.  He's a DJ, hotel worker, bum, who sleeps with restaurant owner Kim Dickens (Matt's mom from Friday Night Lights) who is trying to get off the ground again with her fancy restaurant.  The other main cast member is Clarke Peters (the other The Wire veteran with Pierce) who plays one of the old guard of the Treme, who leads one of the group of parade marchers, with full costume, creole music, etc.  He's quiet, but angry, and a few things evertually set him off - mostly the lack of dignity and respect that has happened since the hurricane - robbery, violence, and indecency.  You can see he's going to bring back the traditions lost during the hurricane when Mardi Gras comes around again, but that it might be a herculean effort.
It's a gritty show that will make you feel guilty for not doing more and feel overwhelmed that there is way too much for one person to do.  It will also make you realize that no matter what happens, real life WILL continue.  The music is terrific, along the lines of the opening credits, but new every time.  Elvis Costello is a recurring character (playing himself I think) along with lots of other music legends I can only identify because they show up in the credits, but if you love this kind of music, you can see your favorites perform I'm sure.  Never having been to New Orleans, I can vouch for it's authenticity, but I can say that the performances, the dialogue, and the settings feel authentic.  It definitely makes me want to go to New Orleans and see it for myself, even if as a tourist I should stick to the French Quarter.

Reel Insight Episode 13 - Sam Rockwell

This week we discuss some blog changes (I still welcome criticism of the new look!) and then of course the mediocre movies we watched this week.  Luckily Sam Rockwell has done some pretty great work and some pretty terrible work.  Check it out to see where we fell on certain movies.  As always, my reviews of movies I saw for the first time with Sam Rockwell are below.

Choke - This was possibly the worst movie I've ever seen.  Sam Rockwell plays a historical interpreter (i.e. tour guide at a historical town), who is also a really bad sex-addict.  There are scenes throughout the film when he recognizes a woman it cuts to a scene of them having sex - either him dreaming about it, or the real thing.  Particularly when he visits his mom (Angelica Huston) in a mental facility since he's slept with most of the staff.  He's trying to figure out more about his imaginary dad, but finally figures out he was stolen from a stroller as a kid and that's why his "mom" kept running from the law.  Kind of Raising Arizona  meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo nest - if it were any good.

Moon - One of the best movies I've seen in a while.  When it was finished, I wanted to start over again just to try to figure out the movie a bit more.  Sam Rockwell plays Sam, a single guy running a station that drills for energy on the Moon.  He's alone except for the machines he oversees, one with some intelligence named Gertie (voiced by Kevin Spacey).  He's out for an expedition on the surface of the moon to check on a machine and he's in an accident (or so we think) and then when he wakes up, there's ANOTHER Sam at the station, and things only get weirder from there.  I won't spoil it, but the trailers barely tell you anything.  See the movie - it's a terrific space/near-future/thriller/sci-fi amazement.