Random Factoid #456

27 10 2010

It’s October 27!  Do you know what that means?

Well, it’s time for me to start listening to Christmas music!  I’m starting to reload it onto my iPod, and I’m so excited.  Nothing gets me in a good mood like listening to Christmas music in October.

And what do I start with?  “All I Want for Christmas Is You” from “Love Actually,” of course.  It makes me so happy, and I predict I’ll have to sit down and watch the whole movie soon.  That and “Elf,” my two favorite Christmas movies.

Maybe this year I’ll finally watch the Christmas classics like “White Christmas.”  Maybe…

(Thanks to NBC/Universal for blocking embedding on the video from the movie.)





Random Factoid #446

17 10 2010

Hollywood has an interesting dilemma on its hands.

It’s hardly news to anyone who follows film news that the trailer for Ron Howard’s “The Dilemma” has come under heavy fire for using a phrase that might be offensive to some.  For those who didn’t see the trailer attached to “The Social Network,” here it is:

“Electric cars are gay. I mean, not homosexual, but my-parents-are-chaperoning-the-dance gay.”

Within a week, the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) was demanding that the trailer be removed from theaters.  This came as a shock to the studio, according to The Los Angeles Times, who “not only tested the trailer with rank-and-file moviegoers but also submitted it to a number of gay rights watchdog groups. According to Universal, no one complained.”

I’ll admit that I was a little surprised to hear the word in a trailer at a PG-13 movie, but considering all the jokes I had heard in R-rated movies, I wasn’t shocked.  I’ve read plenty of satire and seen plenty of comedic movies and plays to know that writers have to have no mercy if they must resort to insulting.  Everyone is fair game, although sometimes there are some low blows.  Compared to the some of the pejoratives thrown around in R-rated movies nowadays, the joke from “The Dilemma” falls somewhere between a low blow and mild name-calling.

I guess the biggest thing about the whole dilemma here is the fact that this is a trailer, not a movie.  People who might be offended by the word could avoid a movie that used it if they were well-informed; they could get totally blindsided by it when the trailer just plays before another movie they want to see.  The fact that GLAAD is insisting that Universal take the joke out of the movie seems a little ridiculous.  It’s not just that I’m a huge proponent of free speech, but they are picking the wrong movie to go after if they want to make a serious change in the way writers toss around terms describing homosexuals.

If their long-term goal is to get the word out of the vernacular as a synonym for stupid, they should have gone full throttle on the offensive against “The Hangover.”  Yes, the word gay has come to take on a despicable meaning, but so has lame.  How many times do we use that word and not realize that it is making fun of mentally challenged people?  And there’s never any uproar when you hear lame used in a movie.

But the fact that Vaughn’s line acknowledges that they don’t mean to make homosexuals the butt of the joke should make this a little bit less of a hot-button issue.  It’s wrong that the other context exists, but it’s a heck of a lot better than just throwing the word out there and making fun of homosexuals.  Compared to “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and the banter between Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen calling each other gay based on things that they like, this is child’s play.

Of course, I have to take into account the recent suicides linked to homophobic bullying.  This trailer could send the wrong message to those willing to interpret the nature of the joke in a certain way.  The suicides have lent the joke some very dark undertones, ones that weren’t intended to be there, but now they are very present.  Given the nature of the times, perhaps it is for the better that the line was removed.  The unfortunate events cannot be changed, but Universal may have played a part in preventing some further grief and distress.

Had these events not occurred, I would be in support of keeping the joke in the trailer and in the film because it would be hypocritical to grant one group immunity from comedic effects.

As Patrick Goldstein of The Los Angeles Times said, “Comedy is a lot like free speech — sometimes you have to hold your nose to support it. If you don’t stick up for the flimsiest kind of humor, then you can’t protect the most important kind either.”  This whole situation is a hard one to take a stance on, but there is a way to handle this that can preserve the integrity of all people and comedy.

I mean no disrespect towards GLAAD or Universal with this post, and I hope that I have treated this sensitive subject with the care and respect it is due.  I have nothing but sympathy towards all those affected by the suicides, and I sincerely regret any pain that the trailer for “The Dilemma” might have caused.  In these sensitive times, I hope I have provided a commentary based in reason and a response not heightened by the hysteria of the current events.





REVIEW: Hot Tub Time Machine

2 09 2010

Walkmans and legwarmers and tracksuits, oh my!

It’s a blast back to the ’80s in “Hot Tub Time Machine,” the raunchy romp that defies the laws of physics.  A sort of irreverent “Back to the Future,” the movie has no science to back up what is happening.  Then again, do you expect much to back up the premise that a hot tub could transport a group of four drunk guys 25 years into the past?

Thanks to the bubbling portal, the four losers in 2010 get a chance to be their younger, cooler selves in 1986 (with the exception of Clark Duke’s gaming Jacob, who has yet to be born).  In their hangover logic, they decided that they need to do exactly as they did when they lived the weekend the first time.  For some of them, it means promiscuous escapades; for others, it means taking punches.

For those of us who didn’t live through the decade, for better or for worse, the movie still manages to be funny.  It’s not some giant ’80s inside joke; there are some nods to “Back to the Future,” both through situations and the perfectly cast Crispin Glover as a creepy bellhop, but they don’t make the movie any less accessible for those who haven’t seen it.  There’s plenty of universal humor that anyone can laugh at – provided they check their maturity at the door.

The bulk of the comedy comes courtesy of Craig Robinson, who plays Nick, the guy whipped by his unfaithful wife to the point that he takes her last name.  Robinson has been gold on “The Office” for several years now and has done many memorable supporting roles, often times being a highlight of those movies.  If “Hot Tub Time Machine” isn’t enough of a testament to his comedic talent to give him a headlining role over Chris Rock (or any other tired comedian, for that matter), there is truly no justice in the world.

Everyone else is good too, just no one on the level of Robinson.  Most of the jokes centered around John Cusack come at the expense of his own fame in the ’80s.  The woebegone Lou, played by Rob Corddry, is the most crass of the bunch, which guarantees a few laughs.  Duke’s Jacob is great for those of who didn’t live in the decade as he gapes in amazement at the social climate.  And then there’s Chevy Chase as the hot tub repairman, who is just plain creepy.

But the movie’s best facet (and the one that will make it stand out among recent comedies) is its willingness to forget teaching a lesson and just have fun.  It doesn’t pretend to have scrupulous morals; really, it doesn’t pretend to have any morals at all.  “Hot Tub Time Machine” is four guys having fun, and for once, Hollywood’s rules don’t spoil it.  B+ /





Random Factoid #396

28 08 2010

How’s this for an exciting proposition?  This according to Cinematical

Would you go out to the movies more if you got something out of it? I mean other than the movie, of course. Say you also got a free Scott Pilgrim t-shirt for seeing “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World?” Or the complete graphic novel collection if you saw it a certain number of times? Or some other Universal Studios-related swag for seeing Pilgrim and “Charlie St. Cloud” and “Nanny McPhee Returns?” These are some incentive ideas related to a proposal by (former Cinematical writer) Chris Thilk at Ad Age that Hollywood studios reward moviegoers based on their check-ins on location-based social network apps like Miso and GetGlue. And of course Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook.

It’s an interesting suggestion, though there is the problem of fake check ins. You can easily put yourself into a location you’re not in or say you’re watching a movie you’re not. For studios to trust the concept, these apps would require some means to prove you’re telling the truth.

I am a huge fan of this idea because it rewards me for doing two things I do very normally – social network and go to the movies.  I don’t movie hop or watch pirated movies because I respect filmmakers, and I wouldn’t use the system to cheat the studios.  I’d treat it like I treat the Regal Crown Club or AMC MovieWatcher programs.

My suggestion: perhaps to verify that the people actually see the movies, they could put a code in the pre-show entertainment or on the theater door that would allow them to be checked in.  Or maybe in the ending credits to make sure that they stay the whole movie.

What do you think, bloggers?  I expect a resounding yes because we all go to the movies so often.





Oscar Moment: “The Town”

18 08 2010

Since posting my September preview, comments have poured in speculating about Ben Affleck’s latest directorial venture, “The Town.”  Most people have compared it to his first film, “Gone Baby Gone.”  But is that a good thing?

“Gone Baby Gone” has a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but the only traction it gained during awards season was for Amy Ryan’s powerful supporting performance.  There are a few assorted nods to Ben Affleck’s skill on his first film, but nothing distinguishing him in a category with every other movie.  It’s worth noting that while Ryan was a critics’ association favorite, she didn’t win the Globe, SAG, or Oscar.

So are we just looking at one impressive performance from “The Town” to keep it in contention?  It has a nice cast including Golden Globe winner Jon Hamm, Golden Globe nominee Rebecca Hall, Oscar nominees Jeremy Renner and Pete Postlethwhaite, Oscar winner Chris Cooper, and Affleck himself (oh, and Blake Lively for looks).

I’d say if there were a potentially nomination-worthy performance from the bunch, it would probably be from either Hamm for crossing over from the small screen well or Renner for another good work.  If the Academy really loves him and wants to make him a marquee name, another nomination would surely help.  Nominations in consecutive years aren’t uncommon and really telling of Academy tastes.  Over the past decade, the only people to have pulled it off are Penelope Cruz, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Renee Zellweger, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Johnny Depp.  Only the latter doesn’t have a nice golden statue resting on their mantle.

But I think the biggest question about “The Town” is the one no one can answer as of yet because no one has seen it.  Is it a bona fide Best Picture contender?

Really, the trailer is a muddled mess and just watching it did not sell me on this being one of the ten best movies of the year.  We are resting on the laurels of the people involved to call it an awards prospect.  Would I be writing this if the movie were directed by Antoine Fuqua and starred Matthew Morrison from “Glee?”

Here are my reservations about calling this a contender for the big prize.  We’ve seen studios roll out Oscar hopefuls in September, seeing if they gain enough footing in the awards race.  They reserve the big guns for November and December, and any movie that disappoints in those release slots dooms the studio.  So these mixed-bag candidates often find a home in early fall.  Usually, the movies are either action or drama with the starpower on (and perhaps off) the screen to generate buzz provided that the movie is any good.

These movies generally don’t fare well.  Here are those movies, listed for your convenience by year:

2009

  • Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant” with Matt Damon received fairly warm reviews.  It only musters two Golden Globe nominations. (released by Warner Bros.)

2008

  • Ridley Scott’s “Body of Lies” starring Oscar winner Russell Crowe and nominee Leonardo DiCaprio receives middling reviews, clearly disappointing the high expectations associated with such names. (released by Warner Bros.)
  • “Flash of Genius” starring Greg Kinnear makes virtually no money, receives average reviews, and can’t even get a campaign push. (released by Universal)
  • Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna” receives terrible reviews and no awards come its way.  Maybe it was the 160 minute runtime… (released by Touchstone)

2007

  • “American Gangster,” released at the very beginning of November, has huge expectations with Ridley Scott as director and Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe pitted against each other.  Box office was great, reviews were pretty good, but the buzz just didn’t sustain.  Despite receiving nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor and the Golden Globes, the only attention it received after that was for Ruby Dee, who won the SAG and was nominated for an Oscar. (released by Universal)
  • “Rendition,” an ensemble drama about the Middle East starring Oscar winners Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin, and Reese Witherspoon as well as nominee Jake Gylenhaal, can’t even clear $10 million at the box office.  And with mixed reviews, that kind of cash doesn’t fly. (released by New Line)
  • “We Own the Night” with Mark Wahlberg and Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix doesn’t ignite the box office or excite the critics.  It did not have an awards season. (released by Sony)
  • “The Kingdom,” a thriller with Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner set in Saudi Arabia, didn’t perform well with either critics or audiences.  No awards followed.  (released by Universal)
  • “3:10 to Yuma,” a remake of a popular 1950s Western with Oscar winner Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, does very well with critics and average with audiences.  It received a surprise Best Ensemble nod from the SAG and was discussed as a potential surprise Best Picture nominee.  Ultimately, it only wound up with two technical nominations. (released by Lionsgate)

In tone, “The Town” appears to resemble “Body of Lies,” “The Kingdom,” and “American Gangster” more than any others listed above.  Only the latter of those had any success in awards season.  Affleck’s latest and “The American,” George Clooney’s latest that I’ll discuss in next week’s column, are the two September wild cards.

“The Departed,” a cop drama like “The Town,” won Best Picture in 2006, and Warner Bros. wants to remind us of that.  With a name like Martin Scorsese behind the movie, though, all buzz is instantly legitimate.  There is no speculation like there is for a Ben Affleck movie.

So, folks, are we looking at a fall flop?  Or a contender?

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Supporting Actor (Jeremy Renner)

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jon Hamm), Best Adapted Screenplay





What To Look Forward To in … September 2010

15 08 2010

Weird to think that the circle is complete and I’m back doing my second September preview post!  All strangeness aside, we have emerged from a summer that many people loathed.  Now it’s up to fall, which begins in September, to redeem the year.  With the big film festivals beginning, it’s time for the Oscar hopefuls to hit the stage and make it or break it.

September 1/3

Getting a head start on the weekend is Anton Corbjin’s “The American,” starring George Clooney.  The director has only one other film under his belt, “Control,” which received enough raves that it’s sitting comfortably on my DVR.  Nevertheless, it’s George Clooney’s only movie of awards season 2010, so that makes it worth seeing.  Added bonus is the trailer gives very little of the plot away.

Apparently Robert Rodriguez didn’t get the memo that more is more when it comes to having old people in action movies, as August’s “The Expendables” bloated cast translated into cash.  But “Machete,” with Danny Trejo as the titular swordslinger along with Steven Seagal (tragically overlooked by Sly), Cheech Marin, and Robert DeNiro, still looks pretty fun.  Plus, there’s Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, and America’s favorite jail bait, Lindsay Lohan!

Going the Distance” finds a home in September for Labor Day weekend after August just seemed a little too crowded.

Americans remake foreign movies all the time, but “A Woman A Gun and A Noodle Shop” switches it up on us and remakes an American movie.  The source: The Coen Brothers’ “Blood Simple.”  Should be interesting…

September 10

Haven’t we seen enough “Resident Evil” in the last 8 years?  In case we haven’t, “Resident Evil: Afterlife” is here.  I will give the marketing executives credit for the trailer: they get that people can tell phony 3D from real 3D, and they are selling the fact that this is real 3D.

The prospects don’t look much better off the beaten path, either.  “The Virginity Hit” just looks like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” for the YouTube era.

September 15/17

Emma Stone’s “Easy A” looks to make “The Scarlet Letter” much more enjoyable for the juniors at my school who have to read it (I was not among those).  Hopefully this can make a star out of Stone, best known as Jules from “Superbad.”

I have absolutely no idea what to make of the trailer for “The Town” or “Never Let Me Go.”  But with a cast including the likes of Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, and Ben Affleck for the former, which opens in wide release this weekend, I’m definitely in.  Ditto for the latter which opens in limited release on Wednesday and stars Oscar nominees Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley.

“Devil” looks kind of freaky … but I’m wondering how many viewers Universal lost for this movie after “The Last Airbender” was so poorly received.  Maybe selling the movie based on M. Night Shyamalan wasn’t the best idea…

The weekend also brings Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut, “Jack Goes Boating,” starring he and Oscar nominee Amy Ryan.  It’s a very quirky, melancholy-looking romance.  Hoffman would.

Hey, look, another talking animal movie!  I’ll give “Alpha and Omega” the fact that it has the slight distinction of being Dennis Hopper’s last movie.  Don’t cry; he wouldn’t want us to.

September 22/24

I’m interested in “You Again” because it’s a different kind of high school movie – one where all the students are out of school.  Forced to be around each other, old high school rivals duke it out.  And Betty White watches.  What could be better?

Is “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” a zeitgeist-tapping look at our economy?  Or just Oliver Stone trying to reclaim his glory days?  Carey Mulligan is in it … good reason for me to see it.

Ryan Reynolds inside a coffin for an entire movie?  Will it work?  I want to see “Buried” if for no other reason than to see how they pull it off.

Wednesday sees the latest film from prolific director Woody Allen, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.”  It has a great ensemble cast, but it didn’t get the greatest reviews at Cannes.  We’ll see how this goes.

I lost so much respect for “Legend of the Guardians” when the filmmakers attempted to convince me that their movie about talking owls was comparable to “The Lord of the Rings.”  Talk about a stretch…

What are YOU looking forward to in September?  Planning on going to the movies at all?  Or just clearing out your DVR…





Origins: Cut the Crap Movie Reviews

15 07 2010

Today’s post in “The Origins Project” spotlights Aiden R of “Cut the Crap Movie Reviews.” His site does the bare-bones minimum, but it is by no means lazy.  He does just what the title of his blog implies, that is, to cut the crap.  Reading his reviews is like talking to a friend about a movie, and I respect his honest opinions no matter if I agree or not.  His style of writing reviews has influenced me more than any other blogger, and it’s something that others have taken note of, as shown by his LAMMY for Best Movie Reviewer this year.

What movie began your love affair with cinema?

Whenever I would visit my uncles as a kid, there were only two topics of conversation: baseball and movies. As much as I loved playing baseball, I learned early on that watching it for hours on end in front of a TV is about as fun as solitary confinement. With that figured out, I turned to movies, started watching like gangbusters, fell in love with ’em and haven’t turned back since. Movies are universal, what’s not to love?

When did you start blogging?

May of ’09.

Why did you start blogging?

Started a new job, was bored to tears for the first two weeks so I found myself cruising around Rotten Tomatoes for most of my days. Eventually it hit me that I’d seen a crap load of movies, had time to burn and an English degree that’s been collecting dust since ’08. So I started up the site that very day, gave it a catchy name and decided that I was gonna review every last movie I’ve ever seen on a daily basis until I’ve gone through ’em all. As they say, the rest is history and it’s made for an awfully interesting conversation piece at all these swank cocktail parties I go to.

What has kept you going?

Death threats. Well, that and all the people who read and comment on my foul-mouthed ramblings.

Has there been a particular person (or people) that has helped you along the way?

My girlfriend, Audrey, is a freakin’ trooper when it comes to watching all the nonsense I clog up my Netflix queue with and she’s been the head of my fan club since the get-go. All the folks at The LAMB have been amazing, too. Would love to give them all shout-outs, but there’s a lot of ’em and they’re all the bomb in my book.

What’s the best part of being a blogger? The worst?

The Best Part: The drugs and money were good for a while, but it’s great to able to have this as an escape of sorts and finally be able to channel a life’s worth of useless movie knowledge into something productive. It’s opened a lot of doors, my writing’s improved and I’m super proud of the whole damn thing.

The Worst Part: Good GOD is it time consuming. I don’t mind watching movies for the sake of writing reviews because it’s a great excuse to discover movies I keep meaning to get around to, but writing every day can be a grating experience at times. It doesn’t outweigh the positives of blogging whatsoever, but the urge to veg out can be a hard one to suppress some days.

Has blogging increased or diminished your passion for movies?

Increased it like whoa. Wish I had started doing this in college when I actually had more free time than I knew what to do with. Damn real world…

What’s your proudest moment as a blogger?

Waking up the morning before my birthday and seeing that my review for Where the Wild Things Are made the WordPress front page was effing huge for me. But recently being voted the Best Movie Reviewer of ’09 by my peers at The Large Association of Movie Blogs was the big kahuna. That’s the kind of stuff that keeps me writing.

What advice would you give to someone looking to follow their passion? To someone starting a blog of their own?

Find something you’re passionate about – really passionate about – and just do it. Embrace the community that revolves around your topic, don’t overwork yourself to the point where it stops being fun and starts being a chore and, most importantly, be yourself when you write. In the words of Quentin Tarantino when asked what advice he had for aspiring filmmakers, “Make a f***ing kickass movie!” Don’t wait around for someone to open the door you, bust that bitch down yourself and show the world what you’ve got. Life’s too short to wait around for opportunities to present themselves.





REVIEW: Green Zone

30 06 2010

Let’s just clear up the misconceptions from the get-go: I won’t be reviewing “Green Zone” as if it were the fourth installment of the Bourne series. Just because it’s a reunion of Matt Damon with director Paul Greengrass does not mean that they are going to keep making shades of the same movie. Assuming so would mean that you see no difference between “Taxi Driver” and “Goodfellas” – both were directed by Martin Scorsese and starred Robert DeNiro.

The only similarity you might see between Damon and Greengrass’ latest collaboration and the Bourne trilogy is the shaky camera action. Directors usually shoot their movies in a similar style save that it fits, so there’s really no grounds for a comparison. Unless, of course, you like to relate potentially nauseating experiences.

Call it “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” for the Iraq Era, if you must find some movie to compare it to. Instead of having its heart rooted in the wholesome simplicity of small-town values, though, “Green Zone” is rooted in CNN cynicism. Damon’s Roy Miller is a captain leading the unit searching for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) who sees his duties as very black and white. Either the WMDs are at the site or they aren’t. But he is operating in a decidedly gray moral atmosphere, where war wages between the CIA and the Pentagon once the Iraqis are defeated.

The debate rages on how to incorporate the native people into the new regime in post-“Mission Accomplished” Iraq, yet Miller can’t stop thinking about the past. Questioning American motives at a time when the country is still trying to justify their invasion doesn’t make Miller very popular, and he is forced to wander slightly outside his boundaries to get the answers he wants. He doesn’t so much as go Sarah Palin-style rogue as he tracks down the truth, but he’s hunted as such.

Or maybe you should call it the anti-“The Kingdom,” Peter Berg’s 2007 film that presented a fictionalized version of the Riyadh compound bombing in Saudi Arabia. As Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, and Jason Bateman work to hunt down the terrorists who took innocent lives, you can’t help but feel a surge of confidence that our country is doing whatever is necessary to prevent the monstrosities of 9/11 from ever happening again. Unlike “The Kingdom,” we are meant to feel ashamed of our country in “Green Zone” for doing what it thought was the right thing, even if it might not have been for all the right reasons. All politics aside, it never feels good to be ashamed of your country. B- /





Shameless Advertisement #14 – Banks Lee & The Three Clicks

29 06 2010

I have to give this guy a shameless advertisement.  I’m calling it right now – this could be the next Julie Powell and “Julie & Julia.”

Banks Lee was featured in an article that ran on Yahoo’s frontpage on Friday, and I caught wind of his blogging project through that article.  Listen to his quest:

My name is Banks Lee, and I’m a big guy. Not obese, but still big. I’m 6’2″ and weigh roughly around 310 lbs. Why am I telling you this? Because I am not able to fit onto the new Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey attraction at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL.

But don’t worry. This blog is not to criticize Universal Orlando for not making the ride vehicles roomier. No, this blog is to chronicle my journey to get into shape and lose enough weight to be able to get on Forbidden Journey. Even when I achieve this goal, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop exercising or eating right.

The name “The Three Clicks” comes from a rule that Universal Studios has that the shoulder restraint has to click three times into the belt.

The whole project has a whole bunch of stuff that Americans love.  We love people losing weight.  “The Biggest Loser” is a hugely successful show and Jillian Michaels is a celebrity because it makes us feel good to see people transform their lives.  It gives us confidence that we can take off a lot of weight if we put ourselves to it.  And it involves “Harry Potter,” a literary phenomenon that pretty much everyone has read.  And if they haven’t read it, they’ve probably seen the movies.  It seems like a golden combination.

So go over to “Banks Lee & The Three Clicks” and support what could be an enormously popular quest to be fit.  Even if it doesn’t succeed or become a pop culture phenomenon in its own light, you’ll be helping someone become healthier.





The Comedy Flops of 2009

4 06 2010

I don’t often put much thought into what is written on DVD cases.  However, I saw a particularly interesting one on the cover of “Year One.”  Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald wrote:

“I double dare anyone not to laugh.”

So, I decided to take Mr. Rodriguez’s dare.  Easier done than said.  I think I laughed more in “Revolutionary Road” than I did in “Year One.”

A few weeks later, I found myself watching “Land of the Lost.”  On the DVD case for that instant classic, Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune said:

“Laugh-out-loud funny!”

I never LOLed, although I did chuckle a few times.  These weren’t mild laughs; they were a response to very uncomfortable situations that I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to.

We laugh off these two movies now like an age-old joke; they somehow have quickly come to be the quintessence of comedic failure.  But back in June 2009, “Year One” and “Land of the Lost” had massive expectations.  They were supposed to rake in the money while making audiences howl with laughter.  But as we all know, they both fell flat on their faces in both respects.

Fast forward to today, 2010, and the studios are praying they haven’t got another comedic dud on their hands.  Universal, who was responsible “Land of the Lost,” brings us “Get Him to the Greek” on June 4; Sony, guilty for “Year One,” gives us “Grown Ups” on June 25.  These studios would nothing more than to have their latest releases become the new “The Hangover,” a modest comedy which far exceeded anyones expectations.

There are reasons why “Year One” and “Land of the Lost” flopped, and both share a lot of the same missteps.  Allow me to elaborate…

Read the rest of this entry »





Oscar Moment: “Robin Hood”

18 04 2010

The lineup for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival was announced on Thursday, but we have known for several weeks now that “Robin Hood” would open the festival. While screening out of competition, it still deserves serious talk as an Oscar contender.

If “The Dark Knight” was part of the reason that the Oscars moved to ten nominees, then they are still looking for that popcorn flick with enough brain to atone for their horrifying omission.  “Robin Hood” could be that movie.

It’s directed by someone who has plenty of respect in the filmmaking community, Ridley Scott.  He has been nominated three times for Best Director and has helmed a movie that won Best Picture, “Gladiator.”  It’s hard not to take a look at “Robin Hood” and see a few similarities.

It clocks in at just under two and a half hours – big, long movies have scored with the Academy in the past.  The length lends it that sweeping epic feel that the Oscars tend to love.  Then again, so did “Kingdom of Heaven,” Scott’s 2005 drama about the Crusades that had huge expectations and failed to meet any of them.  In fact, since his last nomination for Best Director with “Black Hawk Down” in 2001, all of his movies have been considered Oscar contenders – and flopped.  “Body of Lies.”  “American Gangster.”  “A Good Year.”  Is “Robin Hood” the movie to put Scott back on the Oscar track or veer him further off of it?

He has certainly teamed up with Academy Award winner Russell Crowe enough times to know how to direct the star; keep in mind that Scott directed Crowe to his Oscar win.  And this cast is filled with plenty of other extraordinary acting talents, namely Cate Blanchett (winner of the 2004 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “The Aviator”) as Robin Hood’s female companion, Lady Marian.  He also has winner William Hurt and nominee Max Von Sydow in his arsenal – but is that enough?

For a blockbuster to be nominated for Best Picture, it has to be extremely well-written.  The screenwriter of “Robin Hood” is Brian Helgeland, who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1997 for his work on “LA Confidential.”  He also wrote the adaptation of “Mystic River” and received another nomination.  But he has also written some duds, including “The Postman” which won him a Razzie for Worst Screenplay.  It’s hard to draw conclusions from such a polar career.  What will we be getting with his latest?

I have to quote Sasha Stone from Awards Daily here because she put it so eloquently: “…’Robin Hood’ is going to be a movie for right now. Wall Street catastrophes and corporate-owned health care – it has never seemed more like a divided country between rich and poor. And, as history has shown us again and again, that never works very well for very long. The people can’t really tolerate it.”  And Universal is really playing this angle up, recognizing “real-life Robin Hoods” who selflessly give back to the community.  Anyone can nominate one of these people, and that person can win up to $10,000.

But I’m just not feeling the buzz around “Robin Hood,” something that I think it really needs.  Otherwise, it seems doomed to underwhelm – critically, financially, and in respect to awards.  I think the only certainty is contention in the technical categories; we’ll just have to wait another month to see what happens with the bigger categories.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Sound Mixing/Editing

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director (Ridley Scott), Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Best Actress (Cate Blanchett), Best Original Screenplay

So, do you think “Robin Hood” is going to go the path of “Gladiator” or “Kingdom of Heaven?”  Are we looking at a potential Best Picture nominee or merely another summer popcorn blockbuster?





REVIEW: Love Happens

10 03 2010

Ehh.

Love Happens” is an ehh movie.  There’s nothing that is horribly awful with it, but it doesn’t have anything going for it either.  And sometimes that is just as bad as a flat-out bomb.  The movie is so caught up in clichés that it’s impossible not to see the whole plot from the poster and trailer.  Imagine that.

Aaron Eckhart plays Dr. Burke Ryan, an author of a self-help book about grieving the loss of loved ones appropriately after his wife died in a car crash.  Anyone care to venture what’s actually going on?

If you guessed “the man who gives advice hasn’t taken his own,” you would be correct!  Burke is secretly a wreck, giving off a façade that he has it all together.  The only person that can call it is his father-in-law, played by a scary Martin Sheen.

So how does Jennifer Aniston play into the movie?  If you guessed “love interest with problems of her own,” you would be correct!  She plays Eloise, your typical beautiful girl who always falls for the wrong guy.  After the typical bad first impression of Burke, they begin casual flirtation and start to hang out.

Is there any romantic spark between Aniston and Harvey Dent?  Not in the slightest.  There is no chemistry between the two of them, and it doesn’t help that the story is so poorly written that it doesn’t allow for much affection at all.  I don’t hate Jennifer Aniston by any stretch of the imagination, but “Love Happens” gives me insight into the minds of the people that do.

Don’t let the title fool you.  “Love Happens” is not a movie about love; besides, there would have to be love shown.  This is a movie about overcoming grief, and in that regard, it isn’t terrible.  But it isn’t good enough to redeem the nearly two hours of my time that this movie ate up.  C- /





Oscar Moment: FINAL Predictions, 2009

1 02 2010

THE OSCAR NOMINATIONS ARE ANNOUNCED TOMORROW MORNING!

(deep breath)

I can barely contain myself!  The morning that I spend all year anticipating is tomorrow!  Last year, they gave me a nice sucker punch to the gut by denying “The Dark Knight” nominations for Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay.  Four years ago, the same happened to “Walk the Line.”

We often let the pain outweigh the good on nomination morning.  Remember than even if your favorite movie doesn’t get a nomination, life will go on.  The filmmakers made the movie to entertain and excite, not to win awards (despite what we might cynically think).

Without further ado, here are my final predictions for the names and movies Anne Hathaway will be calling out on Tuesday morning.  (NOTE: I’m going to limit my speculation as to who will win and try to keep it mostly about the nominations.)

Read the rest of this entry »





Oscar Moment: First Predictions!

1 12 2009

I’ve held off as long as I could on issuing my predictions, but now I simply cannot wait.  It is December and Oscar season is about to kick into high gear.

Don’t fret if you haven’t heard of some of these movies.  You will soon.  The National Board of Review, the first precursor that deserves to be taken seriously, issues its list this week.  Critics circles from all over the country will begin to put forth their lists, and then we get the Golden Globe nominations on December 17th.

So, without further ado, here’s my first stab at predictions.

Read the rest of this entry »





Oscar Moment: Screenplays

22 11 2009

NOTE: This “Oscar Moment” is a tad different from any of the prior ones.  Rather than focusing on a specific movie, this post focuses on a particular category – in this case, screenplays.

A part of the Oscar season that I particularly love is watching the studios promote their movies.  Thankfully, my friends over at Awards Daily do a fantastic job of monitoring the “For Your Consideration” ads that are placed in Variety and other indudstry magazines.  But as the Internet becomes bigger and more present in our lives, the studios have adjusted campaigns slightly over the past years.  Now, they have set up “For Your Consideration” websites designed to promote their movies to the voters but also provide a place for average moviegoers to learn more about the movies simultaneously.

A recent feature that most studios have graciously included on these sites is access to the screenplay of that movie in its entirety.  Personally, I find these a great way to learn about the different styles of moviemaking in the race.  Some movies draw heavily from their screenplay, others use it as merely a guideline.

Therefore, I feel it to be my duty to impart the knowledge of this treasure trove of movie gold to any interest moviegoer reading this blog.  Click on the links below and they will take you to the screenplay for that movie (I will update this page periodically with new screenplays when they become available).  Enjoy, because the race is just beginning!

NOMINEES for Best Screenpalay:

Click here to read the screenplay for “Precious.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “An Education.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “The Hurt Locker.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “Inglourious Basterds.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “A Serious Man.”

Other Screenplays:

Click here to read the screenplay for “A Single Man.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “Nine.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “It’s Complicated.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “The Informant!”

Click here to read the screenplay for “The Road.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “The Blind Side.”