Saturday, July 31, 2010


In the year 2010 the world is suddenly heating up from the inside out due to some sort of something happening with the sun. Because of this, lots of bad stuff’s happening to and on Earth’s crust. Things like ice caps melting and fissures appearing in the ground. Well, for some unknown reason, the shit really hits the fan in 2012 and this show we call life as we know it is suddenly and violently coming to a close. The G8 decides to save their best and brightest by putting them on giant boats, called arks no less, along with provisions and lots of animals. The way too obvious problem is that all those not so best and bright, not to mention millions from developing countries not in the G8, are pretty pissed about not being allowed on the boats.

Well, too stinking bad because 99% of you are going to die, but don’t worry viewers because one family that we’re supposed to care about makes it. A dysfunctional California family that’s recycled from hundreds of other movies is the center of the story and they struggle to make it to the ark, which they only know about because the father’s a limo driver and one of his clients was asked on board. Well, they make it on in the last seconds and, for a totally unknown reason that destroys what little scientific cred this movie had to begin with, the waters recede and life looks like maybe it can go somewhat back to normal. Oh, don’t worry your pretty little head about the billions of corpses and all the wiped out vegetation, life will be pretty much happily ever after because John Cusack and Amanda Peet survived.

German director Roland Emmerich has made a career out of giant scale popcorn movies, like the DeMille of our day, movies that are spectacle. Past examples on point are Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. I like spectacle, I really do, and I very much enjoy a good adventure movie, but there must be good writing or at the very least gripping performances to make the movie watchable. John Wayne’s movies may not have been full of the best stories or casts, but he did a damn fine job and cast even better actors around him like Jimmy Stewart and Robert Mitchum. My point is, you can’t just have some grand scope eye candy of a picture; you must also toss in some good acting and compelling script. This one has neither. If you want to watch some cool visuals, stick to the Discovery Channel.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010


In the not-to-distant future we humans have developed the technology to enter into the subconscious, or dream state rather, of another of our fellow humans. Simply by being connected as a group to this device, all those connected enter into the subconscious of the host person together and enjoy (or sometimes decidedly not enjoy) a shared experience. Several engineering firms make this technology available and, in typical capitalistic fashion, it gets used both for good and for the not-so-good. An employee for one of the big engineering firms in question, Cobb, is the best of the best; however, it was recently suspected that he may killed his wife and, so, now he’s on the run and can only use his skills for the black market version of the legit technology. As with any black market version of legit goods and services, the clientele generally wants something stronger and wants to use it for more nefarious objectives.

Enter Saito, a wealthy Japanese business man who seeks to use the technology to plant a desire in a competitors head, a process called inception apparently, that would make said competitor want to break up his, far too successful for Saito’s liking, business. Saito wants the very best, so he hires Cobb and asks Cobb to assemble a team of all-stars. Think of it like a heist movie, but the movie takes place primarily in the mind of an unknowing participant. Generally, the dream world works like the real world in terms of physics; however, if the host is significantly jarred in one part of the dream it screws with the physics of another part of the dream and, obviously, one is limited by time, as people don’t tend to sleep forever. This means it’s a heist movie where the, say, bank is going to suddenly disappear if they don’t finish their work on time and the bank might suddenly be upside down or on it’s side if the host falls over or gets flipped in another part of the dream. All the while Cobb is battling the demons he’s carrying around from the death of his wife. All of this combined makes the job very tough and the movie very tense.

Christopher Nolan is on one hell of a run. His movies are engaging, original and always produced at rich, quality levels. His movies are unique, well written, well shot, well acted and even well scored. From Memento to Dark Knight to The Prestige, he hasn’t missed the mark in years. In my opinion, Inception may be at the top of his list. As usual, Nolan made a movie that you don’t even have to understand to enjoy and every moment from first to last is gripping. Literally on the ride home my wife is saying, I wanna watch that again.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Flirting with Disaster

Flirting with Disaster is a mid-90’s comedy staring tons of people from Alan Alda to Patricia Arquette to Lily Tomlin and Mary Tyler Moore. It’s also the last truly independent style flick David O. Russell did before switching to bigger pictures like Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees. Flirting tells the story of the disastrous roadtrip Mel (played by Ben Stiller) takes to find his biological parents. He brings his wife and new baby, but also brings along a psychiatrist from the adoption agency who is willing to pay for it all if she can document it for a study she’s doing for her PhD. Along the way the meet several people who turn out not to actually be Mel’s parents, meet a couple of ATF agents who ask to come along for the ride and are intercepted by Mel’s incredibly tight strung New Yorker adoptive parents.

The whole thing feels like one of those Euro flicks where everything goes wrong at every turn and the humor is found both in the characters and in the mayhem. It’s wackiness at every turn, in other words, and, as my wife put it, felt like a stepping-stone on Ben Stiller’s path to later similarly themed movies like Night at the Museum and Meet the Parents. While the style of comedy may be the same, the themes in Flirting are much more adult and, in my opinion, a little less ha-ha funny. This movie may not be great and, well, it’s not really my kind of comedy, but the performances are really fantastic and they make it very enjoyable to watch. That is, except for Stiller and Tea Leone (the psychiatrist) who are simply unbelievable and ridiculous. In fact, their whole storyline is ridiculous and not believable.

The seemingly bit players make this movie great. Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin are pitch perfect as a couple of acid-dealing artists. Mary Tyler Moore has never been better. Josh Brolin is great as the overly maternal ATF agent. But, to me, Richard Jenkins tops them all. He’s hilarious. He’s very uptight, but has an ‘epiphany’ part way through the movie when he inadvertently takes acid. His epiphany follows several scenes of hilarious freaking out. Imagine him panicking because he’s “seeing colors I don’t want to see.” Or him running around New Mexico in his underwear because he’s trying to “outchase the wind.” It’s great stuff. Long story short, if you like character movies with solid actors who are all reveling in being on a snowball rolling out of control, then this is your movie.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Only You

Only You is a 1994 romance by Norman Jewison about the apparent climax of life for one Miss Faith Corvatch. Ever since she was a kid she has been obsessed with finding a man, romance and her soulmate. In Faith's case, she believes her soulmate is a man she's never met named Damon Bradley. Why? Well, his name keeps coming up on Ouija boards, at fortune tellers and so on. Faith is now and adult, a school teacher and getting married to a boring ole podiatrist. A few days before her wedding, while she's trying on wedding gowns, she answers a call from a friend of her fiancee, wherein he tells her he can't make it to the wedding, best of luck, but he'll be in Italy. His name? Damon Bradley. She flips, literally starts having an emotional freak out and immediately grabs her best friend, goes to the airport and boards a plane for Italy. She's still in her gown.
She then finds, so she thinks, Damon Bradley. Problem is, just as she's about to take him to bed after falling head over heals for him, she discovers he's not Mr. Bradley at all. He's just some guy, played quite likabley by Robert Downey Jr, who heard her going on about Damon Bradley and impersonated him because he felt he was in love at first sight with Faith. The rest of the movie is him convincing her that he is the one and not this Damon guy. The podiatrist is never mentioned again, poor schmuck.
This movie was downright offensive. Faith is portrayed as a shallow, man crazy idiot. She gets literally hysterical trying to find this guy that's she's never met because, why, because she's a girl? Because girls are all dumbstruck googly eye'd saps whose hearts melt like butter on a hot sidewalk at the very mention of romance? Offensive. It's not that women can't be portrayed as softhearted romantics, but Faith has no subtlety whatsoever. Take Cher from Moonstruck or Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally and dial the subtlety back until you arrive at a 10-year-old fan in the late 80's at a New Kids on the Block concert. And what's worse is this is Jewison we're talking about who brought us such fantastic flicks as Moonstruck, The Heat of the Night, Fiddler on the Roof and, my favorite, The Statement. This movie sucked from start to finish. Skip it and go rent one of the many fantastic hits Jewison has created in the past and skip this major miss.

Knight and Day

Knight and Day is the newest work by director James Mangold, who, up until now, has put forth pretty much nothing but heavy, harsh dramas like Cop Land, Girl Interrupted, Walk the Line and the surprisingly very good Identity. If you haven't, you should see all of those movies. With Knight and Day, Mangold took a decidedly lighter route as he tells the story of the happenstance meeting of Roy Miller and June Havens. Roy is a highly trained, Bourne-esque secret agent and Havens is, well, a nobody, just a regular gal. A young man named Simon Feck, played to dorky perfection by Paul Dano, has developed the first perpetual energy source and Roy's partner wants to sell it to arms dealers and make bank. Roy feels it is his personal mission to stop this. Havens gets caught in the crossfire and Roy also takes it upon himself to make sure he meets his goal and protects Havens from any harm as well.
If you go in thinking this will be wonderfully tense Mangold work, don't, it's not and it's not meant to be. It's a spoof. It is totally lighthearted and doesn't take itself seriously for even a second. Cruise plays Roy like a mixture of all his prior action roles with just a dash of Brosnan's Bond. He's way too suave, way to skilled and just right. There's even a scene where Havens wakes up on the beach to Roy coming slo-mo out of the water holding giant fish he'd apparently caught while in there, all with ab's-a-glistening. This movie is not fantastic and it's certainly not a great script. But all of the primary players portray their characters very well and it's all 100% in the spirit of good fun. So, if you want a little bit of easy, enjoyable cinematic junk food, this may well be the one for you. If you want something a little more Cop Land, well, go rent Cop Land.