Too few laughs… Too little heart…
You’ll probably recognize Simon Pegg from the extremely popular zombie flick, “Shaun of the Dead” and, by comparison, his disappointing cop movie spoof, “Hot Fuzz”. Here, he teams up with director David Schwimmer (of “Friends” fame) in a blisteringly average comedy about a loser guy named Dennis, desperate to win back the girl of his dreams (Thandie Newton), who he once left at the alter while she was pregnant with his child.
The plot pits him against her new boyfriend, a successful American business man who runs marathons for charity. So naturally, Dennis has to run the marathon to prove his superiority and to show the girl that he has changed to become a better man.
“Run Fatboy Run” cannot decide what it really wants to be. It tries to balance slapstick comedy and heartfelt sincerity – a blend that is very difficult to achieve. As is the case here, that particular blend usually results in too few laughs and too little heart.
It also makes a pretty fatal mistake in that it desperately wants us to root for Dennis to win the girl back… which is strange when you consider that he is a deadbeat dad, completely unreliable and unsuccessful at everything he does, who left her at the altar while pregnant. His competition, played by Hank Azaria, is a nice, successful, good looking guy who doesn’t have any apparent flaws.
It doesn’t make any sense… But hey… this is the movies. We always have to root for the underdog, right? Well, I found that hard to get past. In my opinion, Dennis doesn’t deserve the girl.
The performances are all solid. Pegg, Newton and Azaria do the best that can be expected in a film like this. The supporting cast members do a lot of scene stealing and provide some amusing moments.
Listen, “Run Fatboy Run” isn’t a bad movie… merely a forgettable one. Sure, it delivers a handful of mild chuckles and a belly laugh or two…. But it isn’t enough to merit a recommendation. The script has too many flat patches and the tone can’t ever figure out what it wants to be. It’s best to save your money and wait until it hits cable TV in a year or so.
If you want to see a far better collaboration between Schwimmer and Pegg, check out a hidden gem from 2007 called, “Big Nothing” – a hilarious crime caper that hits all the right notes.
Seven Names. Seven Strangers. One Secret.
Will Smith soars in this admittedly manipulative film that sometimes strains the limits of believability — and it is that performance that elevates “Seven Pounds” beyond its rightful position.
Smith has always been a fabulous movie star without yet becoming a great actor. This is the first time his emotions have carried a film… and he manages to navigate that road with nuance and command. It is his best work to date.
He plays a man who has clearly dealt with tragedy in his life. Wrecked with, and motivated by guilt, he sets about affecting the lives of other people. His intentions may, at first, be unclear. However, to the experienced viewer, those intentions will become clear long before the “secret” is revealed on screen.
The film becomes a tad heavy handed and, in other hands, could have dwindled into overt melodrama. Instead, Will Smith crafts a fully realized character, broken and empty — a character we can care about and empathize with.
I don’t want to deal too much with plot points so as to avoid spoiling what twists there are. Yet, rest assured that this is a tear-inducing story with heavy moral questions and emotionally impactful performances. It is well worth seeking out.
“Can I order a big bowl of shame, please!”
There are strong elements of “Lost in Translation” to be found in this hidden gem called, “Shanghai Kiss”. In all honesty, this is a film that wouldn’t have seen the light of day without the presence of Hayden Panettiere — the radiant, young, all-American blonde from the hit TV-show, “Heroes”. Her recent explosion in popularity with the male half of the country helps this movie get some play on DVD — a DVD that makes the wise decision to feature her on the cover more prominently than the actual star of the film.
That star is Asian actor, Ken Leung, who plays Liam — a man who lives in L.A., seemingly adrift in life, penniless and without prospects. He is spending a lot of time with a 16-year old high-school girl called Adelaide (Panettiere). Their relationship is platonic… although it flirts with being romantic. She is in love with him. He keeps his distance, very aware of the consequences should he give into temptation. For now, he drives her to and from school… They do laundry together… It seems very much a friendship that will bloom into something more on the day that she turns 18.
One day, he gets the call that his Grandmother has passed away in Shanghai — a relative he has never even met. Nevertheless, she has left him her house, valued at half a million. So, in order to sell the house, he ventures off to China — a country he feels very little connection to.
The connections to the aforementioned “Lost in Translation” are somewhat clear — a forbidden love and a journey to an unfamiliar Asian metropolis. There are even some scenes that seem to have fallen right out of Sofia Coppola’s camera.
Once in Shanghai, Liam tries to deal with the house situation during the day while cavorting around town at night. However, each night, Adelaide calls, further complicating his emotions. He is torn between the women he casually sleeps with and the true feelings he has for the girl he cannot be with. This conflict, along with other familial conflicts, lies at the heart of his discontent. After meeting a girl named Micki (Kelly Hu) in Shanghai, he is torn between the cold, harsh reality of Los Angeles and the warm inviting arms of his ancestral roots.
“Shanghai Kiss” is a terrific little movie with a few minor flaws. For the most part, the script is witty and engaging — but, every now and then, it feels like forced exposition. It occasionally ventures into the dreaded “valuable life lessons” tone that can come across as fake. Still, the vast majority of the screenplay is fresh and entertaining.
The performances are all superb. Leung is an original — conveying a nice blend of goofy and sincere at all times. With this effort, he proves that he deserves more leading roles.
Hayden Panettiere is a burst of energy every time the camera points her way. The lighting guys can probably have the day off when she shows up on set. The first time I can remember seeing her was in “Ally McBeal”… and it was immediately clear that she had star quality. It is no different in “Heroes” and in this movie. Hayden is here to stay.
Kelly Hu also has some quality minutes here. This is the first evidence I’ve seen that she can act her way past the “token Asian hottie” tag that has followed her in recent roles.
All in all, this is a film with laughs, drama and romance. It deserves an audience on DVD and should rank as pleasant surprise to all those who give it a shot.
There have been some dreadful poker movies in recent years… Some low budget clunkers… Some big budget flops. However, the genre has sunk to new lows with “Deal” — an absolutely abysmal movie crammed with every poker cliché and falsely dramatic moment one can imagine.
I thought Eric Bana’s “Lucky You” was about as bad as it could get, but even that monstrosity cannot complete with this unmitigated Burt Reynolds disaster. This film is littered with big name poker pros, who embarrass themselves at every opportunity. It is more predictable than the next tick on a clock. Anyone who knows anything about the game will cringe constantly as “Deal” repeatedly makes poker look like a cheesy cock-measuring contest. Even Shannon Elizabeth’s oddly brief appearance fails to add inches to the result.
This straight to DVD bomb is another failed entry in the poker genre. Watching “Rounders” or “Cincinnati Kid” for the 100th time is a far better choice.
Jamal is one question away from winning 20 million rupees.
How did he do it?
A) He cheated.
B) He’s lucky.
C) He’s a genius.
D) It is written.
Danny Boyle is, at best, an inconsistent director who always shows flare and unrestrained energy in his films. However, he is not always successful in creating coherent and gripping cinematic stories. He can often be very messy.
That being said, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a shining example of how certain screenplays can come alive in the hands of the right director. This film benefits greatly from the relentless rat-a-tat-tat energy that Boyle exudes in every scene. It feels like a film infused with adrenaline.
Luckily the screenplay, based on the popular novel Q & A, is tight enough to harness the total package into a truly enjoyable and fascinating journey. It is hard not to enjoy a film packed with so much inspiration, determination, passion and hope. Virtually everyone in the audience will love something about this film.
Jamal is a young man who emerges from the slums of Mumbai along with his brother, Salim, and their mutual friend, Latika. Jamal loves Latika dearly, but keeps losing her in the tumultuous lives they lead. After run-ins with all the wrong sorts of people and a nasty split from his wayward brother, Jamal is left desperately trying to find his long lost love. His idea — to try his luck on the most popular TV show in India, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”
The film intercuts scenes from Jamal’s life with his appearance on the show and the police interrogation he must endure after reaching the final question. After all, how does an uneducated Mumbai slumdog make it that far on Millionaire?
This film is an unquestioned crowd pleaser — bursting at the seams with hope, faith and love. “Slumdog Millionaire” should be at the very top of your must-see list in 2008. It will assuredly make my year-end Top 10 List and should absolutely merit Oscar consideration.
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. If you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”
I wish I had a special set of skills that would send shivers down the spines of bad guys. It must be nice to be able to walk into a den of muscular thugs knowing that you can take them all down with the speed of Jason Bourne and the ease of James Bond. That is essentially what Brian Mills (Neeson) must do to retrieve his 17-year-old daughter, Kim (Grace), after she is abducted by the notorious Albanian sex slave traders during her vacation in Paris.
The film’s opening scenes tell us that Mills is an ex-government agent, a “preventer” he calls himself when explaining his past. He prevented bad things from happening. He has an infinite attention to details. He is devoted to his daughter, who lives with his ex wife and her new, extremely wealthy husband.
When Kim takes a trip to Paris with her best friend, Amanda, she makes the mistake of befriending the wrong man — a man who immediately calls his nefarious employers and makes them aware of the girls’ location.
While hiding from the abductors, Kim speaks with her father, allowing him to gain vital clues to the kidnappers’ identities and whereabouts. And so, with the French authorities claiming Mills has less than 96 hours to find her, the hunt begins.
Now, “Taken” has many things going for it… First and foremost, the premise, despite some familiar notes, is irresistibly riveting. The plot may be simple, but it is packed with inherent tension. Also, the performances in the lead roles are emotionally charged. Neeson is terrific as the coldly determined father. Grace bounces with ease from blissfully naive to intensely terrified.
I was also tremendously aware of the desaturated palette used by director, Pierre Morel. It is a nice touch that highlights the seedy underbelly of the typically romanticized French capital.
Unfortunately, “Taken” has too many flaws to rank as a must-see movie. Some of the action gets repetitive. How many times can you watch Liam Neeson win a fist fight?
Some of the supporting performances are weak too. Famke Janssen isn’t given much to do, but she doesn’t do anything significant with her character in the limited screen time she has. The bad guys are also very two dimensional and dwindle into clichéd caricatures on too many occasions.
Nevertheless, “Taken” deserves to be seen. It is a taut thriller that, despite playing predominantly by the numbers, manages to elicit nail-biting excitement and genuine tension. It feels a little like a combination of Harrison Ford’s 1988 film, “Frantic” and Val Kilmer’s 2004 film, “Spartan”. If you enjoyed both of those movies, then this is definitely for you.
There is a parable told half way through this film that sums up my views on the entire project. The message of that parable… We are posed many questions in life, to which there are no obvious answers. Why are we given questions with no answers? Well, there is no answer to that either.
At times during the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man”, I thought I was in for another tremendously bizarre and entertaining film along the lines of their many classics like “Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski”, “Raising Arizona” & “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”. Unfortunately, it doesn;t quite pan out that way. This effort peters out to a flat, dry desert of nothingness. It left me with a totally empty heart, mind and soul. It was shockingly insignificant when compared with their other work.
I enjoyed some of the performances, and quite a few scenes worked as individual moments. As a whole, the film is pretty forgettable and will not be one that I would enjoy revisiting down the road.
This is a meat and potatoes movie. Slab of beef. Boiled spuds. No veg. No condiments. No gravy. This is man food at its most primitive. It promises only that. It delivers only that. And damn… it was fuckin’ tasty!
A Roman soldier is left for dead after an ambush leaves his legion decimated. He and a few others flee back to their homeland. But it isn’t going to be easy. A huntress, part wolf they say, is tracking them through forests, over mountains and across rivers. She has her heart set on absolute vengeance because Romans massacred her family when she was a child.
The film is directed by a very talented Neil Marshall, who was the mastermind behind “The Descent” — one of the ten best films of 2006. Yet again, he shows brilliance with spectacular visuals and a knack of choreographing action sequences that don’t get lost in a chaotic mess of edits and distractions. “Centurion” looks fantastic. I was taken aback by the stunning landscape shots on display. He uses the sweeping helicopter shot quite often, but always to great effect.
I also want to point out the animalistic performance by Olga Kurylenko. She is truly epic here. I was rooting for her character all the way. And that is not a given. This film doesn’t really dictate who to cheer for. It leaves it open for debate.
“Centurion” doesn’t reach beyond its grasp. It is visually grand, viciously brutal and ultimately simple. It is a chase film that stops every few minutes to show us another decapitation. The “squirty-blood” special-effects crew member was certainly paid some overtime on this film.
Zombies are always bad guys. Nazi’s are always bad guys. Now blend the two together and have them terrorize a group of young hotties who are vacationing in a snowy wilderness. That was the preposterous pitch that someone had to make to investors in order to get this film made. And someone said yes to that?!
This Norwegian film is as silly as it sounds. Lots of gory fun and cheap laughs. It also features one of the most beautiful women in the world, Jenny Skavlan, in an all too brief appearance. The make up and effects are all nicely done. And most importantly, it never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously.
“Dead Snow” also has one of the best tag-lines I have ever encountered… “Ein! Zwei! Die!”
It isn’t great, but it works on the most basic level as 90 minutes of forgettable entertainment.
Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman and William H. Macy in a heist flick? Sign me up!
It sounds like one of the sure-fire hits of any given year. So how did this film slip quietly onto DVD shelves without so much as a whimper? Admittedly, it is not the great film it promises to be… But it doesn’t deserve to be ignored.
To call it a heist flick is to do a disservice to heist flicks. It has no basis in any kind of believable reality whatsoever. Instead, “The Maiden Heist” is a goofy comedy that features an art theft as its central plot point. Walken, Freeman and Macy play three long-time museum security guards who are each very attached to a piece in the gallery. When they hear that the exhibition is moving to Denmark, they hatch a scheme to steal the three works of art and replace them with replicas.
Now, I am not going to claim that this is their best work. The three legendary actors will not be listing this effort at the top of their résumés. However, I enjoyed the silly ride. I liked the quirky characters. I loved the interactions between them. Sure, it feels a lot like TV sit-com humor — cheap and cheerful. What’s so wrong with that?
It won’t make it into DVD collections, but I think most people will get a kick out of it.