Monthly Archives: May 2012
Here was a movie that did not let anyone or anything get by unscathed. American culture, ethnic and religious groups were among a plethora of other groups that got skewered in this latest creation of Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Hugo). Playing dictator Haffaz Aladeen of the oil rich African country Wadiya, his character was infused with stereotypical traits that have been portrayed in the news and other films. This comedy was stocked with politically incorrect, crude and offensive jokes. I felt guilty when I would laugh at some of them, though not all funny bits worked well. The thin plot had Aladeen coming to New York to speak before the United Nations. My guess on why the story was choppy would be the rewrites needed to stay relevant with actual world events. Parts of the story felt odd to me; for example, the relationship that took place between Sacha’s character and Anna Faris’ (Lost in Translation, The House Bunny) character Zoey. Realistically, the main purpose of the movie was to make the viewer laugh, which it was certainly doing with the audience around me. Just know going in that you will be bombarded nonstop with any and everything imaginable to try and make the scenes funny.
At every social gathering there usually is one person who is the know it all, has an opinion about everything. At least that has been my experience and the reason why I enjoyed this movie. Ben Stiller (Tower Heist, Tropic Thunder) as Roger Greenberg was one of those annoying individuals. He was quite good in this character, that was not a typical role for him. Without the stereotypical sight gags and humor from Ben, his Roger was someone you could hate. Recovering from a nervous breakdown, Roger agreed to fly out and house-sit while his brother and family went out of town. Available to help Roger was Florence Marr the family’s personal assistant, played by Greta Gerwig (no Strings Attached, Arthur). It didn’t take long before she became a target for Greenberg’s mood swings. As Roger tried to navigate the responsibilities needed, he attempted to reconnect with old friends who’s memories were different from his own. Since there was not much action in the story, this film will not appeal to everyone. The acting, however, was what moved the minimal plot; for every actor was strong in their character. If nothing else, my poor opinion of Ben Stiller after seeing his Tower Heist movie has improved after seeing this DVD.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
One could assume from the title we would be watching a female who still had some work to do; let us say, in her personal growth. However, the title could just as well been called movie in progress. This film was a perfect example of taking a decent idea and ruining it with poor execution. Eva Mendes (Hitch, The Other Guys) as Grace was a single mother, trying to make ends meet, while carrying on an affair with a married man. Her daughter Ansiedad, played by relative newcomer Cierra Ramierz, believed she could speed up her transformation from an angst ridden adolescent to adult woman by following a list of experiences. Think of it as a “bucket list” for teens. Eva who I have liked in the past, I only found annoying in this movie. I thought Cierra did an okay job of acting with the horrible script. Several of the scenes in this boring movie were not believable to me. It really was a mess, where I suspected the movie studio used focus groups to determine what should be added or deleted from the story line. Bouncing between moments of drama to scenes of attempted humor, the film makers really had no idea what teenagers were all about. If I were to use the pass/fail grading system, this poor movie would receive a fail grade.
1 1/2 stars
I wanted to hold off reviewing this movie, since I recently did Lars and the Real Girl. But when an actor consistently creates excellent roles, I want to see more of them after seeing one of their films. Ryan Gosling (Drive; Crazy, Stupid, Love) is who I am referring to and in this exceptional movie he does an incredible job as Dan Dunne. A motivating junior high school teacher during the day and a drug addict at night, Ryan’s performance was brilliant. Having known an individual addicted to crack cocaine, Mr. Gosling had the mannerisms, the nuances in perfect synch to what I remembered about this troubled person. Shareeka Epps (My Sould to Take, The Winning Season) as Drey showed some powerful acting as the student who discovered Mr. Dunne passed out in the bathroom. Instead of walking away or reporting it, she helped in reviving him. An unlikely friendship began between the two deficient characters. Now I know what you must be thinking: in this day and age a pairing of this kind would be highly suspect. Just go with it, because in this film it leads to some deep emotional turmoil. With a steady string of memorable performances, it appears Ryan Gosling can do no wrong and neither will you by watching this movie.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
I felt as if I had just been dropped out of the sky in the first few minutes of this unusual movie. With no explanation given; Peter Aitken, played by Christopher Denham (Shutter Island, Charlie Wilson’s War) and Lorna Michaelson, played by Nicole Vicius (500 Days of Summer, Last Days), were going through a prescribed set of directions before meeting Maggie, played by Brit Marling (Another Earth, The Recordist). The precautions were necessary because Maggie was from the future. I hesitate to explain why Peter and girlfriend Lorna wanted to meet this individual. The two were filmmakers who wanted to infiltrate Maggie and her followers; but at what cost? An interesting story that I found engaging, to the credit of Brit Marling who shared in the writing credits. I enjoyed her performance here as much as I did in her movie Another Earth–both off center, but with emotional depth. What pulled me into this movie were the scenes when the followers were assembled before Maggie. It felt creepy, watching individuals losing their identity. There were some scenes I did not understand and the ending felt rushed to me. When the movie was over, I was left trying to figure out what was real.
2 2/3 stars
Though I lack Abstract art knowledge, preferring the Impressionist period, I found this documentary quite interesting to watch. I have looked at some abstract art pieces and found myself puzzled by them. What made these things suddenly become art? The focus of this film was 4 year old Maria Olmstead and the sensation she caused when her art work began selling for thousands of dollars. Imagine the surprise of the gallery patrons who were not aware of the artist’s young age. During the filming of this intriguing documentary by Amir Bar-Lev, the television show 60 Minutes did an investigative piece on Maria and her family. Questioning the authenticity of her artwork, could it really be called art if the artist could not explain the how and why of its creation? I appreciated the way Mr. Bar-Lev tried to stay neutral with his filming, letting the viewers come to their own conclusions. For me, I felt I was watching a mystery as the events were being presented in this DVD. Instead of adding any additional information, I will let you decide for yourself on whether Maria really was a prodigy. Now you will have to excuse me, I have to go look for my Etch A Sketch.
3 1/4 stars — DVD
The time really has come for those two boys to stop playing with the make-up and just put it away. I am referring to Johnny and Timmy. Johnny Depp (Finding Neverland, Alice in Wonderland) was Barnabas Collins, but he could have easily been one of his other characters from his past movies. Tim Burton, the director, made some poor choices when he directed this confused film. It flipped back and forth between being a comedy and a thriller, resulting in a lackluster update of the old television series. Angelique Bouchard, played by Eva Green (The Golden Compass, Casino Royale), placed a curse on Barnabas, turning him into a vampire; then had him buried alive for all eternity. When he unexpectedly was dug up 200 years later, he was determined to revive the family business with the present matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, played by Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns, Hairspray). I found the humor feeble with only a few funny parts–you may already have seen them in the trailer. Having Johnny’s character taking a stream of vomit in the face was not funny to me. As for Michelle, I thought she should have been used more, giving some heft to her weak character. My disappointment appeared to match the majority of baby boomers seated throughout the theater. As we were leaving our seats, I heard very few comments; only the disappointed sighs of people remembering how much they had enjoyed the TV show.
1 3/4 stars
Poor Thomas Bardo, played by Stephen Rea (V for Vendetta, The Crying Game) was jobless. Recently evicted and living in the streets, he was hit by a car driven by Brandi Boski, played by Mena Suvari (American Pie franchise, American Beauty). She had been drinking and was afraid to report the accident; so, she continued driving home with the bleeding Mr. Bardo hanging through her broken windshield. Imagine my surprise to find out that this part of the movie was based on a true story. What followed were a series of events that were part funny, part tragic in this unusual film. Stephen Rea was a perfect choice for the role, with his incredibly sad face and eyes. I was not totally convinced with Mena’s character as the caring nursing assistant who appeared to be heartless when it came to her poor, captive accident victim. Or maybe that was exactly the point the director intended–every good person had some bad in them. This was one of those odd films where one continued to watch it just to see what crazy thing would happen next. A curious movie that may not sit well with the average viewer. Several gross and bloody scenes.
2 1/2 stars — DVD
Have you ever wondered what took place when the conclave of cardinals met behind closed doors, to elect the next pope? I bet it was not a howling scream followed by running out of the room. That was exactly the reaction of Cardinal Melville, upon learning he was chosen to become Il Papa. The performance by Michel Piccoli (Boxes, Restless) was worthy of the role in this satire. With the dumbfounded cardinals at a loss on how to proceed, pressure was being added by the eager spectators waiting outside to see the newly elected pope. Just to be clear, the movie really did not focus on the Catholic church as much as it delved into Cardinal Melville’s fears about the responsibilities being placed on him. Though the scene of the cardinals playing volleyball to pass the time was amusing to me. But I think that was the problem with this film; it did not know whether to be a comedy or more of a drama. I felt the scenes were dragged out and found myself being bored more than a few times. The concept was a good idea; however, it was not executed well. As anxious as the mass of onlookers were to see the new pope, I was just as anxious waiting for the end of this film. Italian with English subtitles.
2 1/4 stars
A funny movie that captured the screwball comedy genre of the 1930’s and 40’s, I got a big kick from watching this DVD. The setting was the French Riviera where seated at the hotel bar was Irene, played by Audrey Tautou (The Da Vinci Code, Coco Before Chanel), celebrating her birthday. Her companion, a much older wealthy gentleman, had fallen asleep in their hotel room. You see, beautiful Irene was a gold digger. Spotting the well groomed Jean, played by Gad Elmaleh (Midnight in Paris, The Round Up), she believed she found a younger replacement for her aging boyfriend. Plus it did not hurt that Jean, a bartender at the hotel, brought her up to one of the swanky suites, pretending it was his place. From this point on, the movie took off on a madcap game with Irene and Jean as the contestants. I thought the chemistry between the two stars was flawless, along with Gad’s impressive comedic timing. There was something about his demeanor and facial expressions that reminded me of Buster Keaton. The film kept a steady level of zaniness and the reading of the subtitles was not an issue for me. It was a wonderful surprise to experience that old time Hollywood fun via France. French with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD