22 December 2009

Biggest Disappointments of 2009

As is the case every year, some movies surprise and some movies disappoint. I posted earlier my favorite movies of the year. So, I decided that I would dedicate some time to those few films that were not worth my time, or anyone's.

Public Enemies-Why? This movie was so disappointing that I don't even know where to begin. After a killer trailer, I was too stoked to see it. With Michael Mann directing, two of the hottest actors in Depp and Bale, this looked too good to be true. And it was. Both actors seemed unispired and it seemed as though they phoned in their lines. The direction was alright. Mann knows how to have a shoot-out. The music was atrocious. All in all, a very sad attempt at a very cool story.

Paranormal Activity-Why? I know I seem to be in the minority here. I was not impressed by this overly hyped re-imaging of the superior Blair Witch Project. It started out good, got moving great, but ended terribly. The actual last scene was made more preposterous when I found out that it was Steven Spielberg's idea. This has to be my wife's most disappointing film of the year. All she wanted was to be scared, and she wasn't.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen-Why? It was bigger, louder, and stupider than the original. The first one focused on making it seem "real." This one focused on making it loud and obnoxious. They sacrificed storyline for action. They sacrificed character development for action. They sacrificed action for more action. This was as big of a let down as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. All action, so point.

Seven Pounds-Why? Will Smith is solid. He really does not make bad movies, especially lately. (Hancock is not as bad as some think, just too short.). This movie was just terrible. Onvce you understand what is going on, I could not wait for it to end. I know that this movie came out in 2008, but I saw it January 1. It was my first movie of the year. It put a bad taste in my mouth for the year. One that was luckily taken away by Taken a few weeks later.

Golden Globe Thoughts

Here is what I see:

Best Drama-Inglorious and Avatar are shockers. Hurt Locker is one of the best movies I have seen all year. Up in the Air is good, but the hype has it too high. It is not great. No shock with Precious.

Best Comedy/Musical-(500) Days is the critics choice. No shock with The Hangover, it had to be there. I am surprised that The Proposal is not. It's Complicated and Nine are in the 30% range on Rottentomatoes, so, don't think they have a snowball's chance in hell. Julie & Julia, no shock there, it has Streep.

As for the acting, I am shocked to see Meryl Streep double nominated against herself. Too many Indie film acting nominations. What does that say about the films that are nominated? They are great films, but the acting is not great? Robert Downey? Really? Sherlock?

No shockers in the Directing.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is the only one out there in the Animated. No Christmas Carol? Planet 51? I mean, come on.

TV-I can tell you will win.

Drama-Mad Men
Comedy-Glee or Modern Family, probably Glee
Actor Drama-Simon Baker or Jon Hamm
Actor Comdey-Alec Baldwin
Actress Drama-Julianna Marguiles
Actress Comedy-Edie Falco might upset Tina Fey, might
Supporting Actor-Lithgow might upset Piven, probably will happen
Supporting Actress-Jane Lynch or Adams. Too close to call.

No idea on the Mini-Series crap.

There you have it. I took this way too far, but that is what I do.

Best Films of 2009

Since no one is reading this anymore, because I haven't posted in almost a year, I thought that I would write a Best Of list for the hell of it. I will try to go back and write full reviews of these films first thing next year.

It is hard for me to put them in order because so many of them cannot be compared to one another. It is hard to compare The Hangover to Big Fan. Both are great films, but they are not the same type. So, in the order I saw them, here we go:

Taken-Why? This is a no-nonsense action movie that makes no apologies for what it is. In the preview, they tell you the whole plot. There is nothing to hide, no deep meaning, and thank God, no annoying plot twists. Liam Neeson does exactly what he says he will do in the trailer, and we get invited along for the ride.

State of Play-Why? This movie is based on a 6-Hour British Mini-Series just like Traffic. The story is deep, involved, and twisty in all the right ways. It is the best suspense/thriller I have seen in a while. The cast is stellar and everyone, including BenAffleck, brought their "A Game."

Star Trek-Why? I am no Trekkie. I tried one year in college to become one, but I guess that is too hard to do. I could not make it through the first season of The Next Generation. I have only seen First Contact and Nemesis. Like I said, no Trekkie. The preview to this, and the knowledge that J.J. Abrahms is at the helm, made me see this. This made Star Trek cool to me, and to a younger generation without bastardizing the original series. It kept continuity, according to the fanbase, and think that is important. Bond was rebooted, so they took liberties. Star Trek has been reborn in the old body. I am by no means a Trekkie now, but I am looking forward to seeing where they plan to go next.

The Hangover-Why? Simple, it is hilarious! When I first saw the trailer to this film, I could not wait to see it. I stalked all kinds of websites trying to get a code to see it for free. At last, i was successful. It was worth every minute of my effort. From start to finish, this movie had me laughing. All the actors were great, but Zach Galafanakis was extraordinary. He stole every scene he was in. I loved him in Out Cold and even more here. A sequel is inevitable, but there is so much they could do and so many places they could go. Crude? Absolutely. But even my Mom enjoyed it.

Up-Why? It is hard not to like a Pixar film. This one is the most melancholy film I have seen in years, maybe ever. It is not necessarily the saddest, but it is no happy-happy movie. It is much more serious. I recently watched this for the second time, and I cried. I do not remember crying the first time, but I did the second. I think I might cry more the third, but that time it will be on Blu-Ray.

The Proposal-Why? This movie looked funny in the previews. That was misleading. This movie was hilarious. Again, it is beginning to sound like a theme, but the acting was through the roof. The cast was perfect. Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock played so well off each other. Bettie White was perfect. From start to finish, this was very funny. The story was a unique take on a romantic comedy, and I appreciated that. I recently saw this for a second time, and I laughed just as hard this time as I did the first time.

The Hurt Locker-Why? This movie starts with a suspenseful bomb defusing, and never lets up. Throughout the remaining two hours, you are kept on the edge of your seat. I loved the acting and directing. It is hard to believe it was directed by the same woman that directed Point Break. As we follow the bomb tech crew through Iraq, you feel like you are there, and feel what they feel. They are just trying to get through their tour, and we are hoping they do.

Big Fan-Why? Patton Oswalt was amazing. That is why this movie worked. It was all him. Well, the writing didn't hurt. From the same writer as last year's critical baby The Wrestler, the story is phenomenal, gripping, and sad. The downfall of this film is the directing. I think that a better, more seasoned director would have made this movie what it was struggling to be. It was a first time director. Still, one of my top 5 films of the year.

The Informant!-Why? Who wold have thought corporate price fixing could be funny and entertaining? I sure didn't. This movie was hilarious in both the classic sense and the dark sense. Matt Damon put in a job of a lifetime. He made this movie what it was. The supporting cast was great, too.

Zombieland-Why? Where to start on this movie is the hard part. This movie was absolutely hilarious. It was about killing zombies and finding Twinkies. Somehow, that was funny for 90 minutes. I loved the directing and art direction of this film. Woody Harrelson was great, as was the cameo. A sequel will probably happen, and I will not wait so long to see it. As far as entertaining, this movie might be the best of the year in that department.

Up in the Air-Why? It has nothing to do with it being filmed here in St. Louis. It is just a good movie. Period. I think it pales in comparison to the director's last two great films, Juno and Thank You For Smoking, yet, this one hits home. Sadly, I think that is why all the critics are loving it. It is about corporate downsizing in a bad economy. It seems that the art imitating life aspect will help in the award season. I enjoyed it a lot, but I do not think it is the "best" film I have seen all year.

Avatar-Why? Two words: James Cameron. It has been 12 years since Titanic set all the box office records. It has also been 12 years since Mr. Cameron has given us a movie to enjoy. This movie does not disappoint visually. It was worth all the hype. The story has been told before. The script left something to be desired. The acting did what they could with the material presented to them. The movie as a whole is not just a movie, it is an event. I paid $12.50 to see it last night at 7:00pm at a digital projection 3D presentation. My only regret about that, it wasn't offered in IMAX. Totally a breathtaking film as far as the visuals go. I do not know how you can conceive such an idea. It was amazing! At 162 minutes, I was never bored.

So there you have it. I have yet to see Inglorious Basterds and Precious. Those are the two I think might need to join this list.

12 January 2009

Gran Torino

Gran Film

When Clint Eastwood makes a movie, I watch it. When Clint Eastwood is in the movie, it is bonus points. Ever since Mystic River, I have been borderline-obsessed with his films. I have gone back and watched many of his older films, and have many sitting on the shelf that I am trying to get to. So, when I first heard that he was directing and starring in Gran Torino, I couldn’t wait. It finally opened wide this weekend and made it to St. Louis. So, with my two favorite movie watchers* with me, I went.

Gran Torino opens with Walt Kowalski, played by Clint Eastwood, standing at his wife’s funeral. He is a sour, scowling old man. His two sons Steve and Mitch are sitting in the pew complaining about how he is disapproving of their children’s dress. One grandson is wearing a Detroit Lions football jersey, and his granddaughter is wearing an outfit not fit for public, let alone a funeral. Next, we meet Father Janovich who gives the service. Father Janovich is also a persistent force in the film. Following the funeral, they all go back to the Kowalski house. Here we see that Walt’s grandchildren are scared of him, as are his children and their spouses. Walt is basically a crotchety old man that scowls and grumbles about everyone and everything.

To get away from it all, Walt and his dog Daisy go outside. This is where the story really begins. His neighbors are a Hmong family. The family consists of Tao and his older sister Sue that live with their mother and grandmother. They are celebrating the birth of a new child in the family. Walt makes his feelings of the foreigners clear. From this point, there are enough racial slurs to tide me over for some time. From this point on, most of the story focuses on Walt and his relationship that forms with the two children next door. Tao tries to steal Walt’s prized possession, his 1972 Gran Torino, to prove to his gang member cousin that he is not a spineless as they think. He fails when Walt catches him. The family is then dishonored by Tao’s actions, and he is sentenced by his family to help Walt for an undisclosed amount of time. In the mean time, Sue is walking home with a white guy, named as Trey, and runs into trouble with a different gang. Walt happens to be driving by, and helps the situation. Later, I found out that the white guy is Clint’s son Scott.

On the drive back home, Walt realizes that Sue is a good girl, and he digs the whole to start burying the hatchet. Also, Tao and Walt bond over tools. This puts the hatchet in the whole. After Tao is released from his punishment, he still helps Walt. This buries that proverbial hatchet. Now, Walt tries to make a man of Tao. He introduces him to talking like a man, via the local barber. He gets him a job working construction.

Finally, Walt realizes that the gang is a problem that Tao and Sue cannot over come themselves, and the neighborhood is not willing to take a stand against them. But, Walt being a Korean War veteran, he will.

Clint Eastwood knows what he is doing behind a camera. His use of light in a few key scenes was great. The score was good, and I thought it was by Clint who has done his own scores for awhile, but it was actually done by his son Kyle. As much as I loved this film, I think most of it had to do with the fact that I appreciate Clint Eastwood’s acting and directing. No other actor could have played Walt. Clint, also, had a rough time carrying the movie, since all the Hmong actors were almost unwatchable. I wonder if they filmed the movie in reverse order, since it seemed that they got worse. During one of the final scenes, I had to choke back a laugh at Tao. It was funny, but the scene was meant to be serious. Verdict: While I loved this film, my wife was only slightly entertained by it. If you like Clint Eastwood movies, you are going to see it anyway. With a running time under the two-hour mark, Gran Torino is worth the watch in theaters.

06 January 2009

Bedtime Stories

Well, this past weekend, my younger brother and his girlfriend came to visit his two older siblings. They wanted to go see Bedtime Stories, which I was glad to hear. That allowed me to talk my better half into seeing it. So, the four of us went to a theater that I do not usually attend. This was due to the fact that said brother and girlfriend are not early risers at the rest of us.

Bedtime Stories opens with a quick “fairy tale” about the history of the hotel. This is also the only time that Jonathan Pryce is seen on screen. He is the father of Skeeter and Wendy. He has his own hotel. But apparently he is not a good business man, and he gets bought out by Hilton-esque hotel baron Barry Nottingham, played by Harry Potter Alum Richard Griffiths. We then jump to current times.

Skeeter, played by Adam Sandler, is still working for the hotel chain even though he is still at the bottom of the corporate ladder. While attending the birthday party of his niece Bobbi, he is asked by his sister Wendy, Friends’ Courtney Cox, to watch Bobbi and her younger brother Patrick while she goes to Arizona to seek employment due to her school being shut down. Skeeter is to watch them at night, and Wendy’s friend and co-worker Jill, played by Keri Russell of Felicity fame, will take them to school and bring them home.

That night, Skeeter is asked to tell a story, as his own father used to do. The next day, the ending comes true. So, this gives Skeeter an idea. He tries to rig the stories’ endings. This backfires as he realizes that the children control the ending. It was entertaining to see how each ending was slightly twisted to make it believable. For instance, the first night it rains gumballs. The next day, while stopped under an overpass, it begins to “rain” gumballs. But as the scene backs out, you see that a gumball delivery truck is wrecked into the railing, spilling the gumballs into the rain down below.

In the meantime, his rival Kendall, played by Guy Pearce, is dating Barry’s daughter, Paris wannbe Violet. He is set to take over the newest hotel in the Nottingham chain; a job that Skeeter wants and deserves. After a slight oversight by Kendall, Skeeter and he are in a competition to come up the best them for the new hotel. So, as Skeeter tries to lure his niece and nephew into telling a story where he wins and has a great idea, Kendall and his fellow conspirator Aspen, played by Xena herself Lucy Lawless, find out where the new hotel is going, and exploit that.

Each night the stories grow a little more absurd, but it is Disney. Along the way, Skeeter misinterprets some of the endings and the meanings. This allows for some hilarity to ensue. Again, since it is a Disney movie, Skeeter and Jill have to fall in love. That comes into play at the end.

Most of the budget would have had to go to special effects and sets required for the story sequences. That is too bad. While the concept of the story is not bad, the script was a bit too childish. There was little offered to the parents who were no-doubt in the audience with their children. As far as actual laughter, I laughed a few times. Not as much as I would have expected from an Adam Sandler film, but I did laugh more than my wife. She thought the funniest part in the film was the guy snoring behind us. Apparently, he was really tired; that is what he told the wife. Verdict: A rental is more than enough for this child film. If you choose to avoid it all together, that is also okay.

05 January 2009

Seven Pounds

Well, Seven Pounds is by far the worst Will Smith movie I have seen. The wife and I were discussing whether we were even going to see it after the bad reviews and sub-standard box office run it was having. After I looked back and realized that the last two years have started off with Will Smith movies, we decided to go for it. Bad idea. Luckily, we got up early, drove to the closest AMC, paid only $4 a piece, and got free popcorn with our Movie Watcher card. That is where the fun ended. I have strung spoilers throughout the following paragraphs to spare you watching this. If you feel you must see this film without knowing it all, you can go to the last paragraph for the final thoughts.

Spoilers Start:
Will Smith plays Ben Thomas, an IRS worker. It opens with Ben calling 9-1-1 and asking for an ambulance to his location for a suicide….his. Then, we go back. This is getting old. I am tired of this trend. It is no longer fun, thrilling, or surprising. It is boring, expected, and down right unoriginal.

1. Ben is seen calling and verbally abusing poor blind customer service agent Ezra, played by Woody Harrelson. After trying to make him cry, cuss, or hang-up, Ben hangs up.

2. Ben then goes to a hospital to meet Emily Posa, played by Rosario Dawson. She needs a heart transplant. He gets more involved with her. I will expand on this later.

3. While at the hospital, he sees a young boy that needs a bone marrow transplant.

4. Next we meet George, a hockey coach for Latinos. I am not sure what he needs medically, but Ben is able to help.

5. Ben then goes to meet with a social worker that he has a history with, Holly. We find out later, that she needed a kidney, and he donated his.

6. While in her office, he finds a lady that needs to get away from her abusive husband, but she can’t. Ben gives her is house.

7. To round out the seven, his brother, the actual IRS Agent Ben Thomas, needed a lung, and Will Smith’s Ben donated that.

Why would he do this you ask? Well, it turns out that while text messaging and driving, Will Smith’s Ben Thomas, whose actual name is Tim, wrecks into a van that flips and kills seven people, including his life. So why seven pounds? Because of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice! DUH! Who didn’t know that? That is part of the problem with this movie. Not enough people are going to get the reference. I didn’t at first until my wife said it was a Shakespeare reference, after she looked into it. I then remembered the Merchant of Venice. I have not read that play in years.

But, I will get back to the movie now. Emily is a sweet person who is way behind in her taxes and bill paying for her medical expenses. Well, Ben falls in love with her, and because he is an aero engineer, he is able to fix her antique press that no one can. That way, she can get back to making cards and invitations like she did before her heart started to give out.

On a fateful night, after sex, Ben goes to the hospital to ask the chances of Emily’s survival. He is told slim-to-none. He then calls his childhood friend Dan, played by Barry Pepper, and tells him it is time. Ben then goes back to his room and kills himself. We are then supposed to figure out that Dan is a lawyer and that he is in charge of making sure the right people get the right bodyparts. So, now, a man has selflessly sacrificed his life so you can live. Now, he will just be forgotten. The burden of that will never weigh on you. That is not selfless. That is selfish.

Spoilers Over:
This is the second joint venture with director Gabriele Maccino and Will Smith. The Pusuit of Happyness was infinitely better. This was writer Grant Nieport’s first major movie. Other than this, he had done a few episodes of 8 Simple Rules and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. He should stick to television. While it was nice to see Weeds’ Andy Milder in a movie, I would not recommend wasting the two hours on this film. To the wife's disappointment, no bomb went off to kill everybody. Verdict: Just read the spoilers I left up top and be done with it. That is why I do this: To save you money.