“My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” Review

January 10, 2013 |  by  |  movies, reviews  |  No Comments

There could not be a more “nothing film” made in 2010.  Alyssa Milano stars in what is sure to be the most forgettable movie you will accidentally stumble across on Wednesday afternoon cable TV.  I am actually stunned that I managed to make it all the way to the end credits.

Milano plays a young divorcee who juggles two vanilla guys until she thinks that she may be in love with both at the same time.  The miniscule drama of it all builds to thud of underwhelming disappointment as she ends up picking one over the other.  For the life of me, I can’t remember which one — and I just watched it 7 minutes ago!

There is nothing really terrible about this film aside from its stunning mediocrity.  It is the cinematic equivalent of eating a rice cake.

ONE AND A HALF STARS My Girlfriends Boyfriend Review

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“Extraordinary Measures” Review

January 10, 2013 |  by  |  movies, reviews  |  No Comments

Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser star in what feels like a 1980′s made-for-tv movie.  “Extraordinary Measures” is a dull “saving kids lives” melodrama — based on a true story, although quite surely embellished.  It reeks of cheese.  I am quite sure that the reality of it all was far less “Hollywood”.

Fraser plays the father trying to save his children from Pompe disease.  Ford plays the rebellious doctor who doesn’t wait for government approval before testing.  The two of them “fight the system” in order to discover the cure.  You can follow the paint-by-numbers plot all the way to the finish line.

The acting is mailed in.  The screenplay never has the guts to confront the real issues of universal health care, insurance scams and government control of drug prices.  No, instead, this lame duck of a movie is purely made for house-moms who are sitting home on a Wednesday afternoon in desperate need of a replacement for Oprah, who is showing another re-run.

ONE AND A HALF STARS Extraordinary Measures Review

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“Get Him to the Greek” Review

January 10, 2013 |  by  |  movies, reviews  |  No Comments

The spin-off flick from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” needed, at the very least, to equal its predecessor in terms of laughs.  It does not.  It falls woefully short, delivering a miserable comedy that takes us on a guided tour of loneliness, alcoholism, abuse of fame and greed.  Doesn’t that sound hilarious?

Russell Brand has a certain charisma that makes him mildly amusing even when he isn’t trying.  He does the best he can with this lame material.  Jonah Hill continues his obscene overexposure with his 20th film in the last 4 years!  Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs steals a few scenes as a crazy record executive.  Rose Byrne steals the entire movie with a few classic scenes as Jackie Q, the coked-up ex-girlfriend pop-star.

On the surface, the cast seems capable of making this a successful venture.  Unfortunately, the script is abysmal.  The mood is dreary and morose.  The film drags on endlessly as we crawl to the final credits.  I felt rather depressed watching the film — which was probably not the intent.  The only moment that gave me belly laughs was the Easter egg of Rose Byrne singing “Ring Round My Rosie”.

TWO STARS Get Him to the Greek Review

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“Stone” Review

January 10, 2013 |  by  |  movies, reviews  |  No Comments

The four main characters in this morose tale are either despicable or dull or both.  I have to say that the premise and the cast had me very eager to see this movie.  How could they go wrong?  The trailer was intense and I had this penned in as one of the best films of the year.  I was sadly wrong.  Rather, “Stone” is a plodding drama that never really gets to the pinnacle of a meaningful point.

The central plot revolves around a parole officer preparing a hearing for a convicted felon.  His report will assuredly sway the parole board one way or the other.  However, the parole officer may be swayed by the felon’s wife — who saunters her way into the proceedings with her feminine charms.

I will grant that the cast are all very good.  Robert De Niro can be this good in his sleep.  Ed Norton rarely, if ever, disappoints.  And Milla Jovovich holds her own splendidly with the hall of fame talent on show.  I can’t really fault the actors for their efforts… merely their choice in screenplays.

It is the writing and direction that lets this film down.  “Stone” is as heavy as it’s title would suggest.  Downbeat and dreary.  I felt like I’d walked a mile in freezing rain after watching it.  Everything points towards a dramatic conclusion with revelations of moral conflict and introspection.  Instead, the film lands with a thud — revealing nothing of great importance about the situation or the characters.

It is watchable because of the performances and the initial half an hour… but one can’t help but be disappointed by the slow, drab crawl to the finish line.

TWO STARS Stone Review

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“Cyrus” Review

January 10, 2013 |  by  |  movies, reviews  |  No Comments

Sometimes a movie starts off brilliantly, only to wander aimlessly in the 2nd or 3rd act as if it had no idea where to go.  Such is the case with “Cyrus” — a dark comedy that forgets to fully commit to its premise.

The consistently brilliant John C. Reilly plays John, a depressed loser who is talked into going to party by his ex-wife.  The goal is to shake him out of his self-loathing, self-pitying cycle and meet some girls.  Unfortunately, his efforts at flirting are painful to watch and it looks as if the night will end empty-handed.  Nevertheless, he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei), who does all the hard work for him.  She instigates the conversation and seems to be charmed by his “uncool” nature.  The night ends well.

Soon, John and Molly are involved in a burgeoning relationship… with one massive complication.  Cyrus is Molly’s 22 year-old live-at-home son, played creepily by Jonah Hill.  The mother-son relationship is odd, to say the least.  They appear to be far too close, and John is obviously quite uncomfortable with the situation.  It all leads to a tense confrontation between the new boyfriend and the fully grown son.  Which one is going to get the girl???

The first half of the film is intriguing.  I fully expected it to develop into a riotous comedy or a nail-biting drama… or both.  Instead, “Cyrus” is neither.  It just gets watered down in a sea of earnestness and cheap sentiment.  I really wanted this film to go for it like gangbusters.  Get cruel!  Get warped!  Get brave!  Do something resembling anything!!!  Nope… when it is all said and done, “Cyrus” passes through with all the bluster of a silent fart.


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“Dinner for Schmucks” Review

January 10, 2013 |  by  |  movies, reviews  |  No Comments

To use modern text-ology, “Dinner for Schmucks” is a WTF movie.  I can’t count the number of times I thought “WTF” while watching it.  It is as if the writers and director just decided to go for every possible gag, no matter how bizarre.  And I have to admit that I laughed out loud quite a few times…  But not enough.

High powered businessmen gather regularly for a special dinner where they are required to bring an extraordinary guest.  To clarify — they have to bring an idiot for them all to make fun of and laugh at.  Paul Rudd plays an ambitious young exec who knows it is a morally shady thing to do, but feels obligated to join in.  He has an odd encounter with Steve Carell, who happens to be a perfect candidate for the upcoming dinner.  You see, he collects dead mice and arranges them in scenery as a form of art.  He also has his fair share of other oddball behavior.

The movie has successful aspects.  I am thinking primarily of the brilliant Jermaine Clement (HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords”) as the crazy artistic “genius” who pops up from time to time.  Of course I enjoyed Carell, who is just one of those actors whose face can cause a giggle without a single muscle twitch.  And there are some scenes that work so well that a belly laugh is in order.

But on the whole, “Dinner for Schmucks” isn’t quite the riot you would expect.  There are too many moments where one gets the impression that everyone is trying too hard.  Paul Rudd is also a little tiresome playing the same character he always plays — himself.  And once again… Paul Rudd as Paul Rudd!  AHAHAHAHA… UGH.  I got bored with the film about half way through and it never regained my interest as it played its way to a paint-by-numbers conclusion.  Next!

TWO AND A HALF STARS Dinner for Schmucks Review

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“I’m Still Here” Review

January 10, 2013 |  by  |  movies, reviews  |  No Comments

I really regret not seeing this film before it was revealed as a hoax.  I was one who believed in the meltdown.  I was 90% sure that Joaquin Phoenix was gone for good — forever lost to a bizarre schizophrenic episode.  Is it really that hard to believe that a Hollywood star could go through something like that?  I would have enjoyed seeing the film under that illusion.  Perhaps the effect would have been different.

Anyway — we all know the truth now.  That truth shifts “I’m Still Here” from documentary to a standard fiction film.  It shifts my focus from the real-life subject of the lens (Phoenix) to the skill of the storytelling and the performances.  It must be judged in a very different way.

I have to say that I think the film suffers from the truth.  The emotional impact is infinitely lessened by it.  There is no actor to care about.  There is no lost soul.  No lost career.  No true loss of any kind.  It is all farce.  All that leaves the film slightly hollow… merely an experiment in long term fraud.

That being said… I find it amazing how Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck pull this year-long stunt off.  It is, not only, an exercise in filmmaking but in media manipulation.  The performance is extraordinary — solidifying Phoenix as one of the premium talents in the industry.  The film is not particularly skillful in any way.  Affleck’s involvement is more impressive organizationally and ideologically than in his directorial capacity.

I have to say that I think the film would be far more impressive had it been truthful.  The subject matter would have carried the weight of the project.  As it stands, that emotional weight is absent and the skill of the film is not sufficient enough to matter that much.  “I’m Still Here” is only a curiosity and a mildly interesting exercise in mass deception.

TWO AND A HALF STARS Im Still Here Review

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“Date Night” Review

January 10, 2013 |  by  |  movies, reviews  |  No Comments

“Date Night” is a frantic romantic comedy that features a couple who are already married.  There is no meet-cute.  There is no awkward stumbling through the early stages of the relationship.  There is no predictable happily-ever-after ending.  It is a refreshing change.  Steve Carell and Tina Fey fit well together. They are both gifted comedic actors that turn a ludicrous plot into an entertaining ride.

A case of mistaken identity on their traditional “Date Night” leads to an action packed evening of espionage, heists and car chases.  The highly implausible sequence of events leads to consistently amusing consequences — making this one of the better comedies of 2010.

There is not too much to say about a film as silly as this one.  It is a safe bet for a DVD rental.  Almost everyone will like it to some degree.

THREE STARS Date Night Review

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“A Call Girl” Review

January 10, 2013 |  by  |  movies, reviews  |  No Comments

“A Call Girl” (aka “Slovenka” or “Slovenian Girl”) is a difficult film to watch.  It is a cold eastern-European story of a hardened woman who turns tricks to support a lifestyle that would usually be beyond her means.  She goes to school.  She is buying her own apartment.  It isn’t the ideal life, but it gives her a sense of independence and progress.  Unfortunately, her choices are taking their toll.  She is clearly detached from real emotions… perhaps numb as a method of self-preservation.  She is trading happiness for security.

Unfortunately, due to a hotel rendezvous with a politician, who keels over and dies before they can do business, she makes the national headlines as a mystery call-girl.  The country is searching for her with a vague description.  Even worse, the people who find her first are not at all interested in justice.  They are interested in blackmailing her unless she agrees to “protection” — the polite word for pimping.

The story also involves her strained relationships with family, friends and ex-boyfriends.  Nothing in this girl’s life is easy.  It is an ultimately sad movie about the harsh realities of life without money in the eastern block.  The central performance is magnificent.  Nina Ivanisin gives us a truly wonderful effort here.  I believed every gesture… every glance.  She is the reason a viewer can make it through the grim story.  She makes us care.

THREE STARS A Call Girl Review

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“Machete” Review

January 10, 2013 |  by  |  movies, reviews  |  No Comments

Listen, “Machete” is a stupid movie.  Even Robert Rodriguez would have to admit that.  Even its biggest fan would begrudgingly concede that the story is dumber than a bag of hammers.  This film is simply a celebration of exploitation flicks.  Instead of blacksploitation, we get Mexsploitation.  “Machete” is wall to wall with tits and knives and blood and stunts and one-liners.  It is ridiculous and proud.

To try explaining the plot is like trying to explain the tune of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  What’s the point?  You just have to experience it for yourself.  Danny Trejo cuts people up and bangs hotties like Jessica Alba, Electra Avellan, Lindsay Lohan and Michelle Rodriguez.  That is all you need to know.  The only question when evaluating this film is whether or not you enjoyed all the insanity on a visceral level or not.

I am guilty of enjoying the film to some degree.  I laughed at the movie and I laughed at myself for watching the movie.  I am not above the cheap thrills of gratuitous nudity.  I can appreciate the artistic merit of a machete slicing massacre from time to time.  If the film had been nothing but cheap thrills, I may have liked it a little more.  However, it actually has the “cohones” to try and say something meaningful about the state of affairs in the United States today — about border control and slave labor.  The film probably doesn’t earn the right to discuss matters like that, despite having legitimate points.

I enjoyed my time with “Machete”.  I doubt that I will ever want to watch it again.  When it surfaces on cable TV, I might just peek up for the naughty bits.  Agh, who am I kidding… I will be recording the naughty bits and playing them on a loop.   Mmm…  Lindsay Lohan’s naughty bits.

THREE STARS Machete Review

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