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Movie review : When in Rome

When in Rome
When in Rome
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I like Kristen Bell; she is a doll. When in Rome is charming fluff to pleasantly fill an hour and make you want to believe in magic. Maybe. Ignore the plot holes and try to just have fun.

The film sweeps along at a swift clip with hardly any filler. Bell and Josh Duhamel have a nice, easygoing chemistry. The silly suitors (including one surprise casting) get down with their bad selves as enjoyable irritants. The Wizard of Oz ending was sappy but cute: “And without you, Dorothy, I would never have found the courage/heart/brains to become a better person.”

Duhamel’s buddy Puck is also a hoot in his off-kilter supporting role. Let’s hope he finds a woman who appreciates Wookies.

I would have liked more scenes in Rome. Most of the film is in New York, and that was a let down. New York City – pish – done that. At least recent rom-com Leap Year treated us to a fine Irish panorama. I wanted more Rome.

Thoughtful use of the Guggenheim, though.

When in Rome earns a solid B for light hearted, silly fun with a ‘different’ romantic premise. It’s not trying to make a statement or pretend to be something deep. The audience laughed a lot, and so did I.

Ingredients: love-struck suitor fun, amiable romantic antics, wedding chuckles. Add a pinch of art discussion and one Roman statue of Venus. Mix well with attractive leads. Serve warm, with a side of laughter.

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Okay, duty done: let’s get down to what really needs to happen: Getting Veronica Mars back. Please? Any producers listening?

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What did you think about When in Rome? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

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Movie review : Extraordinary Measures

Extraordinary Measures
Extraordinary Measures
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This was a major disappointment, sad to say. The sick children were perky and adorable, and it was neat to watch Harrison Ford play a crotchety misogynist. And…that’s about it. B- and rent the DVD if you must.

Here is the screenplay, in a nutshell:

Investors: Do it our way if you want the money. Bwahaha.

Father: My kids! My sick kids!

Investors: So your kids are sick, so what? We need to make this profitable; also you represent a conflict of interest.

Harrison Ford: I love rock n roll. So put another dime in the jukebox, baby.

Lab Techs: Sir, there’s a problem with the quantum polarity generator in the graviton field! We need to align the variances in the isolinear emitter of the multidimensional subspace amplifiers!

Father: Did you know my kids are sick and really cute?

Everyone: [Together] Awwwww. Hugs and bunnies and pooping rainbows!

Harrison Ford: I hate all you people.

Brendan Fraser: I thought I saw a mummy around here somewhere.

[Fadeout]

What did you think about Extraordinary Measures? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : The Tooth Fairy

Tooth Fairy
Tooth Fairy
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[ No Spoilers ]

It’s no secret: I love kids movies. To be more precise I love kids movies that have good humor, good acting and deliver a message without being silly about it. That being said, “I loved Tooth Fairy.”

There are a lot of comedies that aren’t funny. Take for instance Funny People which had funny people in the movie but they didn’t do much that was funny. The Tooth has lots of hilarious scenes. I mean throwing your head back and laughing out loud scenes. And that was the reaction from most of the audience which was predominantly adults. I’m sure that kids would find it even more hilarious.

Dwayne Johnson – The Rock – is great. I’ve seen a lot of his movies and some of them suck. Take the remake of Escape From Witch Mountain. Huge suckage but that wasn’t necessarily his fault. It was just a lame story and had pathetic production values. There’s none of that in Tooth Fairy.

Probably the most important skill that Dwayne Johnson has is his ability to act with kids. He had a lot of one-on-one time with the two kids – Lily and Randy – in this movie and did very well. And they weren’t easy scenes either. They required both parties to perform well, which is something that many adult actors can’t pull off when working with kids. My theory is that the adult has to make the kid feel comfortable. Which is something that Johnson must be adept at.

Of course the core of any good movie is in the telling of a good story. Yes, the story is predictable. It’s a kids movie. What else would you expect? However the story doesn’t go exactly in the direction that you might expect. What I liked most was that when the characters decided to really work at something they didn’t succeed right away. There were failures to overcome. In many stories once the characters become determined to accomplish something they do so. Which is simplistic because life just isn’t that way. I think this shows kids a valuable lesson in that they must continue to believe in themselves and not be afraid to change tactics when trying to accomplish something.

As someone who grew up watching Billy Crystal movies it was so nice to see him back at his best. He doesn’t work much anymore but he still has the gift. His role here is reminiscent of his role in Princess Bride but as a happier character. If you like Billy then by all means see this movie.

And it cannot go unmentioned that Ashley Judd does a good job with her part even though she doesn’t have much of a role. I didn’t even know that she was in the movie until she was introduced. Putting talented actors in minor roles really helps bring the grade up for this film. The same can be said for the ageless Julie Andrews and Stephen Merchant – The Office. Both are perfect for their roles.

What did you think about Tooth Fairy? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Legion

Legion
Legion
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Legion. Big sigh. I wanted so much more.

It’s about Revelations, sorta, and that is a really big deal in Christian mythology. Four horsemen, the holy host, avenging angels. The legions of God, right? Thus the title? We got boils and locusts. And…strangely enough, zombies.

So the world ends by God Matrixing people into flesh eating zombies? Whut?

Where were all the angels? The wrath of the Almighty? Why does this movie devolve into a languid morass of exposition, recycled Terminator plotlines and lackluster zombies? Even for a zombie movie, this is uninspired drivel. There is one cool moment with a creepy ice cream man, and the nice old evil dead lady offered a promising tease.

And then? A whole lot of nothing, paired with a random cast of morons to get picked off before you gave a turd. Turd. Yes, that is what this movie was. It makes me mad. It makes me want to go back and see Daybreakers again, which was a GOOD monster movie, to flush the disappointment of Legion out of my system.

B- for okay production values and fine work by Paul Bettany as Archangel Michael. Bettany conveys power and majesty, even wingless and armed with automatic rifles (again, whut?), in this sad excuse for a horror-action event. His scenes with Archangel Gabriel are pretty good. More of that would have been nice.

Finally, the denouement was plain old dumb: “I gave him what he wanted.” Fail. I am all testy now. Testy, huh, like Old Testament testy.

Perhaps some other writer will try to mine this rich field again and give us a blockbuster film about God giving up on mankind, with all the philosophical resonances, mankind’s struggle, the horror of angels wielding death brands and smiting humanity the forsaken.

What did you think about Legion? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones
The Lovely Bones
[ No spoilers ]
The Lovely Bones..Ted Bundy meets What Dreams May Come. I read the book..loved it…then saw the movie…loved it also. The nearly full theater applauded at the end of the movie which is always a good sign.
I came home eager to read the latest reviews. I knew there were three possibilities:
  1. those who read the book, saw the movie and felt betrayed
  2. those who didn’t read the book, but gathered from the trailers that it was going to be a supernatural slasher/thriller and disappointed that it was neither
  3. Then folks like me who read the book, knew what to expect, and was very forgiving for a few plot holes because it was such a pretty movie
I was completely engaged throughout the movie, never felt that one point or another was being beat to death, was impressed with the acting, especially impressed with Rose McIver, her character went from age 11 to 20 and she pulled it off beautifully, not with a change in hair and makeup, but with her attitude. Stanley Tucci was Oscar worthy, one of the creepiest villains ever.
Marky Mark Wahlberg fortunately didn’t have to do much but look sad and angry, same for Rachel Weisz. Saoirse Ronan was perfect for the role of the murdered teenager. We saw her as an innocent young girl, waiting for that first kiss, then as an angry confused murder victim wanting to exact revenge on her killer. But finding that it was more important to help her earth-bound family cope with her death.
Peter Jackson did a beautiful job of not only allowing us to feel her wide range of emotions but to see the emotions through some pretty spectacular landscapes straight out of a Maxfield Parrish painting. Even the cold desolate landscapes revealing her anger showing us the dead corn field and crumbling gazebo were breathtaking.
My only complaint: Susan Sarandon should have been given a much larger role, she was fantastic.

What did you think about The Lovely Bones? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli
The Book of Eli

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[ No Spoilers ]

If you’re a Denzel Washington fan then worst case scenario is you’ll just barely enjoy this film. More than likely you’ll enjoy it a lot. Maybe even love it.

What will probably be the determining factor in what most people think of this film is how well they take to the style that it is filmed in. The lighting is always stark and washed out. It’s almost looks like it was filmed in black and white. The lighting isn’t just for some stylistic impression. It’s that way because this takes place after a nuclear war.

I personally loved the style and cinematography that was used. Very dramatic, and it sets the mood well for the story that is being told.

As for the story: immediately after the film I would have given it a solid 8-out-of-10. But after thinking about it more and more, I find myself liking the movie more. Usually it’s the other way around. So good work on putting together something that gave us a nice revelation at the end that hardly anyone will see coming. Yeah, you’re going to want to steer clear of any spoilers for this film. If someone starts to tell you how it ends, then just stick a knife through their throat. That’s what Eli would do. 🙂 That being said – now that I know what’s what – I’m looking forward to seeing this movie again on DVD.

What did you think about The Book of Eli? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : The Spy Next Door

The Spy Next Door
The Spy Next Door

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[ No spoilers ]

This movie is exactly what you would expect of it. Classic Jackie Chan action and humor. If you’ve seen any of Jackie’s work before then you know what to expect.

Unfortunately there were no children in the theater when I saw the movie so it’s hard to tell how well they might like it. The older crowd did laugh quite a few times at the physical humor. Besides that there isn’t much going on.

What did you think about The Spy Next Door? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

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Movie review : The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

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You’ll certainly enjoy this movie if you’re a fan of Terry Gilliam’s visual style – which I am. I’m pretty sure this is Gilliam’s first major foray into CGI which is worth seeing regardless of the storyline. Even though there aren’t too many scenes that involve CGI. We do get plenty of Gilliam’s dirty, cluttered environments that are his signature.

The main plot in this movie is what happened during the filming. Heath Ledger passed away during principle filming leaving many scenes unfinished. Fortunately Gilliam found a very creative way to finish telling the story without Ledger by using three substitutes – Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell – who all in many ways play homage to Ledger. It seems that the only scenes left to film were those that took place inside the Imaginarium. Since Ledger’s character enters three different times they use a different substitute in each scene. And it works out fine.

What I don’t know is what scenes are missing from outside the Imaginarium. It certainly seems like there are at least a few missing scenes because the story doesn’t quite make sense. After watching the movie I’m left wondering why Ledger’s character is even in the film. I’m not sure if I’m missing something or if the film is missing something. Probably a combination of the two.

Wired Magazine has an interview with Terry Gilliam that is worth reading if you’re still on the fence about seeing the movie.

What did you think about Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Leap Year

Leap Year
Leap Year

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With its stunning on-location southwest Irish landscapes, Leap Year is a sweet treat for the eyes. The leads are easy on the oculars also.

We don’t get anything new here – our characters share in their disdain for each other, bickering their way from Dingle to Dublin, occasionally revealing emotional baggage while inwardly denying the building romantic attraction. Do they end up together? DO THEY? What do you think?

I’m okay with all this. It’s a romantic comedy. Most movies of this ilk trod such ground – it’s what we buy with our ticket. What makes something in this genre worthwhile is how the characters get there. Where we experienced utter FAIL last month with tired romcom Did You Hear About the Morgans, Leap Year is actually a pleasant 105-minute diversion.

Some of the humor works, in particular a running verbal gag about Anna’s suitcase, and a sweet beach scene with drunken Anna declaring Declan an irritable, beautiful lion. The director should have stuck with such story-based comedy, because the slapstick moments (a flying shoe, slipping in the mud, stepping in poo) are merely embarrassing.

[Spoiler-ey comment ahead, although, honestly, what else do you expect in a romantic comedy?]

By the time Anna returns home to Boston we feel her dismay in seeing her old life through newly adjusted eyes. This makes more real her snap decision to head back to Ireland and confront Declan. What she says to him is highly awkward – I was squirming through her speech – but earnestly heartfelt.

[No more spoilers]

Ireland herself steals most of the scenes, with endless rows of ancient stone walls lining narrow country roads, sheer ocean cliffs, romantic tumbling castles overlooking lush valleys, and quiet bed and breakfast inns tucked under statuesque trees.

Next best is Matthew Goode, a marvel at turning mediocre lines into something fresh and intriguing. Declan is a joy in his rudely insightful, gruff way, and has a knack for eye-rolling expressions of disdain. Goode carries this film, infusing delightful charm into his old boyo persona.

Amy Adams is serviceable, reprising Meg Ryan’s ebullient control-freak tendencies from When Harry Met Sally. Her Anna is a snotty yet likable Boston socialite, intent on getting exactly what she wants in the exact manner she envisions. How cute little Adams manages to totter around on those heels – on those roads – is a cinematic mystery.

Leap Year was light and enjoyable. Goode’s charm tugs this B movie into an actual B+. But be warned: you’ll leave the theater planning a trip to Dingle and the spectacular southwest Irish coast.

What did you think about Leap Year? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

Movie review : Daybreakers

Daybreakers
Daybreakers

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Do all angsty, brooding, attractive vampires have to be named Edward? Oh, wait, we also had Angel and Louis. Okay, strike that, but it’s still weirdly coincidental.

I saw this movie yesterday and have a lot to say about it. Still compiling my thoughts and will add a full review this weekend.

So far it gets an A from me for being stylish, intriguing and intelligent. The projectile blood and juvenile gore drags the score down from a potential A+.

What did you think about Daybreakers? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments below.

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