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That's My Boy (2012)
Adam Sandler's raunchiest movie
Fun, funny, and raunchy. This is the dirtiest film Adam Sandler has ever made. And I'm not some idiot who likes every Adam Sandler movie.* This movie has lots of laughs. At the advanced screening, people were laughing so loudly that I sometimes couldn't hear the next line. If you like immature, silly movies (like Sandler's most popular work), then this is a great movie. This is the kind of film that Adam Sandler has always been capable of making even though he chose to take a break so he could work on movies to watch with his wife and kids. Adam Sandler's character Donny Berger is a lovable sleazeball, exactly what you've seen in the trailers. Andy Samberg is the straight man in the routine. This movie has some great casting of young talents (Eva Amurri, Leighton Meester) and veterans (James Caan, Tony Orlando). I hate pointless cameos, and this movie had a couple. Erin Andrews's 8 seconds of screen time were completely pointless. However, I loved every second of Ian Zeiring and Alan Thicke. If I'd have never watched football, I would have completely believed that Rex Ryan was a professional actor. He's a natural, but I could have done without the wink-at-the-camera football references that pander at sports fans. I don't want to spoil the plot, but you can expect lots of sex jokes and surprising moments. Also, because Donny was an 80's kid who basically never grew up, this movie has lots of funny 80's references. But it never felt like rehashed material from the Wedding Singer. Bottom line: If you like crude sexual humor and you go into this movie with an open mind, you're going to have a great time.
*I like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. I thought Mr. Deeds was mediocre. 50 First Dates was very disappointing (about 2 jokes in that movie). I refused to watch Jack and Jill.
The Queen (2006)
a wonderful lesson in humanity
This film follows Elizabeth II, queen of the United Kingdom, and Tony Blair at the time of Princess Diana's death. Elizabeth, played by Helen Mirren, is a rich character. The goal of the director was not to praise or to condemn the queen or her actions. What this film achieves is much greater than making you love or hate Elizabeth. Instead, this film leads you to consider the fact that every celebrity you see on television, every stranger you see on the street, and every friend or enemy you've found in life is simply human. Every one of them has committed some sin at some point in life, and yet every one of them has suffered. Every human is imperfect, yet we all deserve some sympathy at some point.
Elizabeth, like many famous people, is someone whom we have all seen on television many times. Some people envy or even despise her for her easy life. True, I would prefer to be born into great wealth than great poverty, but one is being naive if one believes that queens never struggle. In this film, we see that Elizabeth tries very hard to do what is right, but she suffers when many people are outraged by her actions. Like all of us (but on a much greater scale), the queen struggles with the old adage that states, "You can't please all the people all the time."
Does the incredible weight of the queen's struggles put her on a pedestal high above us, her flawed subjects who fail to understand the difficulties of her existence? Not at all. On the contrary, this film shows us that Elizabeth has just as much trouble understanding her subjects as they have understanding her. Thus, the queen's flaws equal the flaws of the commoners. Ultimately, the lesson is that the queen is simply human. Like the rest of us, she tries to do what is right but often fails. Like all of us, she is flawed.
Iron Man (2008)
not perfect but excels at the hard stuff
If you like comic book movies, go see Iron Man. It's not my favorite, but it's pretty good. For people who didn't enjoy Batman or Spider-man, seeing this movie would be pointless.
Note to parents: This movie is not as psychologically dark as Batman Begins nor does it have the random gross-out violence of Tim Burton's Batman films. If your child can handle the violence of the first Spider-man film, Iron Man is no worse.
Reading the rest of my review is only necessary for the few people who really can't make up their minds...
Many great comic book movies have outstanding villains, but the baddie in this movie was nothing special. Although certainly evil and menacing, the villain was not very colorful. Nor did he have the entertaining backstory or motivations possessed by many great villains. His history and motivations were quite cut-and-dry.
Robert Downey Jr. was the best thing about this film. It's difficult to play a character who is selfish but still likable; Downey Jr. makes it look easy. His Tony Stark is a wealthy, impulsive, boozing, womanizing, fun-loving bachelor who happens to also be an engineering genius. Kudos to the writers for the excellent development of this character.
The supporting cast is good, although Gwyneth Paltrow (as Pepper Potts) is merely adequate. I'm not saying there was anything wrong with her performance, but I believe other actresses could have probably played the Pepper Potts character just as well. I felt that she had weak chemistry with Downey Jr., which is probably the result of their relationship being poorly written. I think the writers couldn't agree on whether Pepper's relationship with Tony should be like Miss Moneypenny with James Bond or more like the early stages of a serious romance. Either way, the scenes shared by Pepper and Tony were disappointing and boring.
Director Jon Favreau has an excellent sense of timing. He sucks in the viewer by throwing in danger or humor at precisely the right moments (and often without warning). The humor in this movie was perhaps the best of any comic book movie I've seen. Almost every joke was funny. More importantly, the jokes never made the characters look cheesy, nor did the jokes feel forced.
This movie is really fun when Iron Man is kicking butt, but that only happens during a brief portion of the film.
Like some other comic book films (e.g. Spider-Man), this movie does a great job of showing the process through which our hero awkwardly tests his new powers, slowly sharpening his skills. Unfortunately, like those other films, we are supposed to believe that the bad guy immediately masters his powers without going through any sort of trial-and-error process.
didn't reach its potential
This movie was far from perfect. The characters were very static; I don't think anybody matured or learned a lesson. The writers didn't make Hayden Christensen's character as likable as they could/should have. The one really fun character was Griffin (played by Jamie Bell). He was a scene-stealing foil. As for the plot, many parts of the story will make you scratch your head and ask yourself, "Why would this character do something so stupid?" People who are easily bothered by such script issues might hate this film. However, people who can overlook these problems might find the film to be a fun, fantastic ride.
What did I like? The action and special effects were great overall, although there were a couple action scenes where unsteady camera-work made it annoyingly difficult to process what was happening. I really enjoyed how this film spent some time answering the question "What would you do if you suddenly discovered you had superpowers?" We see David Rice's initial shock, his awkward experiments with his abilities, his first kooky ideas of how to take advantage of his powers, and ultimately the many ways he learns to have as much fun as possible with his powers. The Spider-Man movie took a similar approach, but most other super-hero movies (e.g. The Fantastic Four) don't leave the viewer saying, "Wow, how fun! That's exactly what I would want to do!" Kudos to the writer for making teleportation look more fun than perhaps any other movie ever has. In conclusion, the characters (and their relationships with each other) are poorly developed. But the fantasy elements (exploration of the use of super powers) are wonderful.
A History of Violence (2005)
not appropriate for minors or the faint-hearted
Excellent casting. Excellent acting. I believe the script was more original than most films. There's drama, suspense, and action. A bit of a psychological element is very briefly thrown into the mix. Cronenburg could have more fully explored this psychological element, but he chose not to go that route. (I am neither praising nor attacking that decision.) The story is not hard to follow, but it does throw surprises at you from EARLY ON. Thus, I must advise that you read as little as possible about this film before watching it. Even reading the back of the DVD case will spoil some of the film's early plot. This film possesses a powerful ability to put you on the edge of your seat with anxious anticipation of what you *think* is going to happen next. If you read the back of the DVD case, it could hinder the director's ability to make you feel the right amount of tension.
I would highly recommend that minors not view this film. The violence is much more jarring and visually brutal than what you see in the Die Hard or Terminator series. I would instead compare the violence to the shots I've seen in some brutal gangster movies.
A movie has to have something special to get a "9" from me. This film wins due to an original script and its ability to put you on edge.
Romancing the Stone (1984)
fun flick. not a polished gem.
This film tries to do it all: adventure, comedy, and romance. Romancing the Stone succeeds, but Crocodile Dundee and other films have done it better.
Kathleen Turner stars as romance novelist Joan Wilder, a city girl who unintentionally finds herself stranded in the Colombian wilderness, miles away from modern communication and transportation. She encounters her opposite, a rugged outdoorsy soldier of fortune named Jack. Their clashing personalities are fun to watch. Of course, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom presented a similar relationship and did it better, but let's give Romancing the Stone credit for doing it first (by a few months).
Good cast. Danny DeVito is especially entertaining. I liked how Joan's experiences transform her character. Good plot premise. But parts of the script are a bit sloppy. The story moves forward at a good pace, but the progress of the story relies too often on "coincidences." (Imagine if you read a Superman story where every time Superman is about to catch the bad guy, a piece of kryptonite falls from the sky and knocks him unconscious.)
I was shocked that this film was nominated for best editing. In some getaway scenes, the editors apparently cut the part where the hiding party realizes that their pursuers have just arrived. The editors simply cut to the shot where the hiding party is attempting their escape. Fixing this problem would have extended the film's runtime by about 10 seconds. Also, there are some goofs involving stunt doubles, one of which could have been fixed by simply cutting the shot a second earlier.
I was disappointed that we never learn the history of the treasure or the map. Nor do we learn how or why Elaine's husband acquired the map or why he was in Colombia in the first place.
Despite its flaws, this movie is fun. Check it out if you enjoy adventure flicks.
Bottle Rocket (1996)
overlooked but quite charming
This tale of three aspiring thieves has as much heart as any Wes Anderson film. As usual, Anderson presents flawed characters for whom you will feel compassion. But this comedy does not attempt to make you cry. Filled with dry humor, this script was the first of three to have been co-written by Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson. If you are in the camp that prefers Rushmore and Royal Tenenbaums, you will find that this script feels more like those films than Anderson's more recent work.
Although this movie has a smaller budget than Anderson's other films, the director is able to put together a fun film. Anderson compiles one of his great soundtracks despite being unable to afford royalty-heavy songs.
Perhaps not yet confident enough to take risks, Anderson does not engage in the visual experimentation found in his other films. Although you might miss the liberal use of vivid colors found in all other Anderson films, I think the fantastic sets and props (such as the submarine or the helicopter in Life Aquatic) are best left out of this simpler, more realistic film.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
These jokes still work
You don't have to be a rock historian to know that the days of explicit rap were preceded by an era where rock musicians celebrated sex with song lyrics containing clever (and sometimes unintentionally hilarious) sexual metaphors and innuendo. That's why the songs in "This is Spinal Tap" can still make young audiences laugh.
This movie is made to look like a documentary which chronicles the tour of Spinal Tap, an aging rock band whose popularity is waning. The hilarious dialogue is often partially improvised. Much of the humor is built around the characters being totally oblivious to the ridiculousness of what they are saying or doing. If you've ever seen VH1's "Behind The Music," you will notice that this movie pokes fun at all the themes of the rockstar existence, except (surprisingly) drug use.
The humor is subtle compared to movies such as Wedding Crashers or almost any Martin Lawrence movie, wherein the characters are often telling jokes instead of unknowingly just being a joke. But for people who "get" subtle humor, Spinal Tap will have you rolling on the floor at times.
For the same brand of humor and much of the same cast, check out "Best in Show" and "Waiting for Guffman." Or for a hilarious mockumentary about a 1990's rap group, check out "Fear of a Black Hat."
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Let me warn you that the beginning of this film throws so many names at you that you might feel a bit lost. (We all know who Senator McCarthy is, but I bet you don't know the names and jobs of every person who worked at CBS in the 1950's.) Rest assured, if you watch this movie without distractions, you will figure out who is who.
Excellent casting and wonderful acting. David Strathairn has always been great. (Check out his work in Sneakers and The Bourne Ultimatum.) Here, this star gets the chance to shine as the lead character, newsman Edward R. Murrow. George Clooney is a bit too good-looking to play Murrow's producer, but he has the right chemistry on screen with Strathairn. Frank Langella (as CBS chief executive William Paley) has such a powerful presence that viewers immediately sense the intimidation that any CBS employee must have felt whenever they were in the same room as Paley. The tension between Paley and Murrow feels incredibly real.
Although modern actors play the parts of CBS employees, the movie's creators choose to show almost everyone else in authentic archival footage. Real footage of Congressional hearings and of television interviews is blended seamlessly into the film. No actor portrays Senator Joseph McCarthy; he is only seen in archival footage. I was impressed that the movie's creators were able to pull off what must have been a difficult task.
The film also succeeds at transporting viewers into the 1950's. The costumes, the hair, the sets, and the soundtrack are absolutely perfect. The use of music is right on the money.
Too many filmmakers feel that an "important" film has to be at least 2 hours long. Their inflated egos tell them that 90-minute runtimes are only appropriate for teen sex comedies. Too often, they try to fit too much history into a single movie. George Clooney and Grant Heslov do not make this mistake. This movie selects a very specific moment in U.S. history, tells the story very well, and then ends. Ninety minutes was all this movie needed.
I have no complaints about this movie and cannot find any flaws. However, I am not ranking it a "10" simply because I have to be profoundly moved by a drama to give it such a high score. I am glad the writers told the story as accurately as possible, but there are other true stories in history that are more entertaining.
Drillbit Taylor (2008)
not worth your money
Plot: Three high school freshmen are repeatedly harassed by two cruel bullies. The boys hire a bodyguard named Drillbit Taylor to protect them from the bullies. Unbeknownst to the boys, Drillbit is a homeless man, who has lied about his credentials.
I like the premise. It had potential. Unfortunately, this comedy only had a few good laughs. Unfunny dialogue and unfunny situations. Like Superbad, this movie was co-written by Seth Rogen. Unlike Superbad, this script was boring, full of holes, and not very funny.
Examples of plot holes: Neither the principal nor the parents take the kids seriously when they say they're being harassed by bullies. Even after one of the kids gets a black eye, apparently no adults ever notice. The bullies openly attack in crowded areas at school without ever being caught by the faculty. A man posing as a substitute teacher is able to walk into classrooms at random and start teaching without the real teacher ever walking in and saying, "Why the heck are you here?"
Owen Wilson plays Drillbit, and he brings a lot of charm to the character. He provides a few laughs, but his ability is limited by a mostly unfunny script. Actually, this film had some great casting. Leslie Mann is fantastic, and her chemistry with Wilson was so strong that I hope they get another chance to work together on a better film. The perfect actors were also chosen to play Wade's step-dad (a former bully/jock) and brain-dead stepbrothers.
Overall, this movie is not worth renting even if you usually like Seth Rogen or Owen Wilson. I know a couple 12-year-olds who loved this movie, and I do believe other kids of that age would enjoy it. For the rest of us, skip it.