Reviews written by registered user
|510 reviews in total|
Love is great when it works. But what happens when it stops working,
when the love is gone? Blue Valentine takes an honest look at a love
that has failed, a marriage fallen to pieces. When we meet Dean and
Cindy it is immediately obvious that their relationship is strained at
best, toxic at worst. Their young daughter Frankie seems happily
oblivious to the tension in the home. Dean dotes on his daughter,
playing the role of the ever-loving father. Cindy is more distant,
obviously frustrated with her lot in life. Dean might think things are
OK as they are. Cindy clearly does not. She wants something else. Maybe
she wants what she once had. Maybe she longs for something she never
had. She takes out her frustrations on Dean. He of course doesn't take
too kindly to this, he thinks he's a perfectly good husband. The
relationship frays to the point of breaking apart. A marriage crumbles.
This all sounds like it could make for a very depressing film and at times that is very much the vibe. But the film relieves the tension by telling its story in nonlinear fashion. We start with the relationship's death. But as that story plays itself out we continually flashback to the relationship's birth. We see Cindy and Dean meet and fall in love. And we begin to understand how in the end it could have all gone so wrong. How did they fall out of love? It's much easier to understand once you see how they fell in love in the first place. Director Derek Cianfrance does a fine job of putting all the pieces together, presenting his story in a very satisfying fashion. Had the story been presented chronologically by the end it would have been just too depressing to bear. And knowing the very specific problems that are to come later shines an entirely new light on the flashback sequences. You understand why this relationship which seems so perfect is actually doomed. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams do excellent work throughout, portraying the blissful young lovers and their bickering older selves. You would probably say that Dean is the more sympathetic of the two characters, though he is certainly not without his faults. Cindy at times is a little too cold to embrace, a woman who is brutally honest with her assessment of her situation. Dean doesn't appreciate that brutality, there are moments the audience won't either. This film doesn't try to sell the notion that love is always grand, that love conquers all. Sometimes love hurts. And sometimes love fails. Blue Valentine tells that story. Certainly not the most enjoyable story to see portrayed. But definitely a compelling story, wonderfully performed by Gosling and Williams and put together expertly by Cianfrance. Love may have failed but the film succeeds.
It's all fun and games until somebody loses a testicle. Well actually
it's still all fun and games even after such an unfortunate incident.
Extract is a movie where the laughs keep on coming. It's another
workplace comedy from Mike Judge whose earlier Office Space achieved
cult classic status. Extract is just as deserving of such status. What
goes on in Jason Bateman's extract factory is just as funny as anything
that went on in Ron Livingston's office. Bateman plays Joel, owner of
Reynold's Extract. He's looking to cash out, sell the company and enjoy
an early retirement. Things are looking good for his business but life
at home has its problems, Joel is stuck in a completely sexless
marriage. The frustration there is really getting to him. His friend
Dean has a unique suggestion for solving that problem, the type of
suggestion that could only come from a guy who does a lot of drugs. But
before we get to that there is the missing testicle. Not Joel's
thankfully, but one of his workers, Step, who loses it in a quite
unfortunate workplace accident. From here things start to unravel for
Joel, both professionally and personally, in quite hilarious fashion.
Initially Step is rather serene about his injury but he's soon goaded into suing Joel's company. Who's doing the goading? Cindy, the hottest little con artist you'll ever see. She sees dollar signs and she soon has both Step and the unwitting Joel wrapped around her finger. Cindy causes chaos for Joel, both at work and at home. The movie takes some rather bizarre, but very amusing, turns. The plot is a little silly to be sure but the plot only really serves to set up the jokes. And the jokes work throughout. This is a very funny movie. Bateman is more or less the straight man, all the action swirls around him. But he has his funny moments too. And the rest of the cast absolutely nails it. Mila Kunis as Cindy and Clifton Collins Jr. as Step are excellent. Kristen Wiig is a little underused in playing Joel's wife but every opportunity she does get she makes the most of. Dustin Milligan plays the world's dumbest gigolo and David Koechner the world's most annoying neighbor. Both are very funny, especially Koechner as he plays a guy who is just totally oblivious to how annoying he is. There's also J.K. Simmons bringing some dry wit to the role of factory manager Brian. And absolutely stealing the show is...Ben Affleck? Yes, Judge has given Affleck the chance to remind the world that he can be really, really funny. And Ben hits it out of the park, he's simply perfect in his portrayal of Dean, Joel's friend, bartender and wannabe drug dealer. Dean is an idea man, he's got lots of ideas, all of them terrible. To say that Dean's advice leads Joel down the wrong path would be an understatement. But it's a hilarious path. All kinds of shenanigans take place in this movie. Workplace shenanigans. Relationship shenanigans. And Judge, helped by his outstanding cast, makes it all work. Extract has not come to be as beloved as Office Space. It's not a cult classic. It is a hidden gem.
You don't watch a movie like Sexual Predator for the plot which is a good thing because the plot is ludicrously stupid. You watch such a movie to see an attractive woman, in this case Angie Everhart, take off her clothes. Everhart of course looks fabulous so in that respect Sexual Predator has delivered on its promise. Unfortunately it delivers absolutely nothing else. The story is just absurdly terrible, stupidity piled upon stupidity, all capped off in the end with as stunningly stupid a conclusion as you could imagine. The acting in the movie is uniformly atrocious. Everhart turns in by far the best performance which tells you all you need to know. There is a reason after all she's starring in straight-to-video trashy B-movies, she's a lousy actress. But she's a heck of a lot better than Richard Grieco, her co-star in this film. He's simply wretched. And some of the supporting players, Kevin Fry most notably, are so bad you can't help but laugh at their painful line readings. This is a movie which starts out badly and almost impossibly keeps getting worse and worse. You know it's going to be trashy but some trashy movies at least have a little redeeming value. No such luck with this one. It's trashy and it's terrible, not a good combination there. You get the look at Everhart that you came for. But it would take a lot more than a few minutes of topless Angie to save this total turkey of a movie.
The Thing is a monster movie with a twist. The monster could be the guy
standing next to you. Or maybe the monster could even be you. The story
unfolds at an American research outpost in Antarctica. Some crazy
Norwegians show up, shooting at a dog. Before the Americans can
ascertain what is going on the Norwegians are dead. Soon everyone will
realize this dog is no dog at all. It's, for lack of a better term, a
thing. This thing can take the appearance of other creatures it
absorbs. It can become a perfect imitation of any living creature. So
now how much do you trust that guy standing next to you? Paranoia
overwhelms the group very quickly. This thing is, quite literally it
appears, eating the group alive.
Kurt Russell plays MacReady, the helicopter pilot who becomes the leader of the group as they try to stop the thing before it destroys them all. If they don't stop this thing in its tracks and it manages to make its way to civilized areas it will be the end of humankind. So some pressure on our little group then. MacReady is a take-charge kind of guy. But who's to say he's not a thing now? Certainly other members of the group have their doubts. Trust is a commodity in very short supply. Where the film fails a bit is in failing to really establish any characters beyond MacReady. A couple of them stand out because they're portrayed by actors we recognize, Wilford Brimley for example. But it's a largely faceless bunch, not a whole lot of personality in the group. And for a bunch of supposed scientists they're not the smartest group either.
The movie has some decent twists and turns, leaving you guessing along with the characters as they try to determine who's still human. It's an intriguing story but it certainly would have grabbed you more if you really identified with all of the characters. As it is there are too many guys whom you really wouldn't care about should the thing make a meal of them. Characters, and the story as a whole really, too often take a backseat to the gore which director John Carpenter piles on liberally. If you're looking for a gross-out movie you'll find few better. The creature effects are very well done but maybe a little too repulsive for some people's tastes. A little more story, a little less blood and guts, probably would have served the film well. It is a very compelling story. You just wish the filmmakers trusted that story enough to allow it to carry the film. The paranoia, the mistrust, there's so much great tension there potentially. But tension loses out in the quest for gory, scary moments. In a movie such as this you want to have some good frights. But you want the scares to enhance the story, not overwhelm it. The balance in this movie is just a little bit off. It's an interesting movie but there is definitely the sense more could have been done with such a fascinating concept.
Laurence Olivier is famous for being a great actor. Marilyn Monroe is
famous for being Marilyn Monroe. But Monroe had some acting chops too
and she shows them off to good effect in The Prince and the Showgirl.
While Olivier turns in an oddly wooden, unnatural performance Monroe
shines. OK, maybe playing a sexy showgirl wasn't a great stretch for
her. But she does so well with the role, a role which required her to
be more than just a sex object. Her character, Elsie, has to show some
smarts too as she keeps up with the film's political machinations. Of
course the political stuff is just a sideshow. The main attraction here
is watching the showgirl sweep the stuffy prince off his feet without
even really trying.
The story unfolds in London in 1911 with dignitaries having arrived for the royal coronation. Olivier plays the Prince Regent of a fictional Eastern European nation. He rules until his son comes of age and takes the throne. His son may not want to wait, plotting with the Germans to overthrow dear old Dad. The British government is anxious to curry favor with the father, who sides with them rather than the Germans. While he is in London the prince's every whim will be catered to, he gets whatever he wants. And what he wants, after a quick backstage theater visit, is a one night stand with Elsie. She is invited to the embassy for what she believes to be a party but she's the only one attending this "party" with the prince. She's been brought there for one reason. But Elsie will have none of it, rebuffing the prince's clumsy pass. The night goes on, she starts to fall for him a bit...but then the prince's plan to get her drunk backfires as she passes out. When she wakes in the morning all heck will be breaking loose.
The following day, coronation day, is a whirlwind of activity. Elsie finds herself caught up in things way beyond the realm of a simple showgirl. But she more than holds her own. Can she repair the relationship between father and son, perhaps preventing a revolution, maybe even stopping a world war? And, more to the point since this is meant to be a romantic film, can she get the prince to fall in love with her? The movie never really sizzles. Monroe is more than game but Olivier comes across as a bit of a cold fish. The chemistry between the pair never entirely convinces. The story moves rather slowly. At times the story doesn't really move at all and it never quite manages to hit the emotional heights. But somehow the movie still manages to be reasonably entertaining. By sheer force of personality Monroe makes the film work. She charms you, makes you love her and, when it's called for, she definitely makes you laugh. Monroe spices up what otherwise could have been a very drab movie. She may not be royalty but the showgirl is undoubtedly the star which allows this movie to shine.
It is what it is. No Strings Attached is another formulaic romantic
comedy. OK, there's a bit of a twist in this one in that the couple
doesn't actually want any romance. They skip the love and go straight
to the sex, no strings attached indeed. There will be no feelings
involved. Wham bam thank you ma'am. Same time tomorrow? But golly gee,
these two just might start developing feelings for one another after
all. Who ever could have foreseen that? There's a sense of
inevitability about this movie from the very first minute. You know
where it's headed. The movie may be on a journey to an obvious
destination but at least it does a reasonably decent job of
entertaining you along the way.
Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman play the couple in question, Adam and Emma. Kutcher is never likely to win any major acting awards but he is serviceable in fare such as this. He's just a big lug, endearing enough. And it's important here that he be endearing because in this movie it's obvious from the start that it's his Adam, not Portman's Emma, who is more open to the idea of love. You need to feel for Adam as he goes through the movie's tried and true romantic comedy formula ups and downs. Kutcher pulls off what is required of him. Portman meanwhile shows off a different side. After the dark, ultra-serious Black Swan it's nice to see her able to just cut loose and have some fun. This movie is certainly not uproariously hilarious but it has its funny moments and Portman plays her part, showing some comic chops. And of course she shows her vulnerability too because the rom-com formula demands it.
The arc of their respective careers has shown Portman to be clearly the more talented of the two leads in this movie. But Kutcher holds his own, he and Portman make a good match. The chemistry isn't perfect, the sparks never really fly. The movie tries to be raunchy at times but never really commits to it, ultimately the whole thing is a bit tame. No cinematic masterpiece to be sure but there are enough good moments to carry the film to respectability. All in all it's pretty good fun. The very simple story is spiced up a bit by some interesting supporting characters. Kevin Kline is a hoot as Adam's dad, a total cad. Lake Bell draws some laughs as an incredibly socially awkward woman who pines for Adam. Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling and Chris Bridges (yes, 'Ludacris') are among the others who wander in and out of the movie to provide a laugh or two. There's also a largely unrecognizable Cary Elwes who sadly gets absolutely nothing to do, a bit of a waste his casting was. Of course, as with all movies of this genre, the whole thing really rests on the shoulders of the lead couple. It's their movie. And Kutcher and Portman do enough to both entertain you and actually make you care about their characters. No Strings Attached is not a movie that rises above its genre, it doesn't stand out in any meaningful way. But for what it is it's not half bad.
Amélie is a playful, whimsical film, very quirky. Maybe a little too
quirky for its own good. It has acquired a reputation as being among
the most charming and inspiring films ever. That is overselling things
quite a bit. Yes, the movie has its charms. It will probably leave you
with a smile on your face. But the truth is it's just a cute little
film, a pleasant diversion but really nothing more than that. Audrey
Tautou does an excellent job in portraying the title character, it's
easy to fall in love with Amélie Poulain. But this young woman will
frustrate you too. She sets out to do good, to bring happiness to
others. That's nice. But she goes about it in such a roundabout way,
nothing is ever straightforward. At times you really do wish the
character, and the film, would just get on with it. Amélie doing things
in her own very unique way is what gives the film much of its charm.
But there comes a point where it's all a bit much.
Amélie Poulain had a very sheltered childhood, she had no friends and unsurprisingly that has made her into a very socially awkward woman. She finds a man she might be interested in but is way too frightened to even introduce herself to him. Instead she concocts an elaborate scheme to make a tenuous connection with him. If there is one thing Amélie is good at it's concocting elaborate schemes. But will she ever overcome her fears and embrace the possibilities of love? Who knows? In the meantime she'll help others, spreading happiness the way only she can. The whole thing is very sweet, to the point the film almost drowns in sweetness. Tautou charms you all the way through but, charming though she is, she can't prevent the film from getting bogged down a bit. As Amélie's schemes play themselves out you get the sense the film is going in circles, not moving forward. It is a film of great imagination but imagination can only carry a film so far. There's not quite enough substance to pay off all the imagination. It all adds up to a reasonably entertaining, charming film. Not one of the most charming films ever, certainly not one of the most inspiring. But a film that should leave you feeling at the very least happy that you've seen it.
Humphrey Bogart plays an American who reluctantly gets mixed up with
resistance fighters in a French overseas territory during World War II.
Gee, where have we seen this before? As successful as Casablanca was
you can't blame a studio for wanting to churn out a Casablanca
imitation. But where Casablanca is undeniably a classic film To Have
and Have Not comes up somewhat short. The story is not as compelling,
the characters not as engaging. It's a decent film but in going so out
of its way to be like Casablanca in every respect this film can't help
but suffer in comparison. All the elements of Casablanca are here but
all those elements worked better in the earlier film.
This time rather than Morocco we're in Martinique. Bogart plays fishing-boat captain Harry Morgan. Before the client to whom Harry's been renting his boat can pay him complications ensue. And now Harry is mixed up in something he wants nothing to do with. Meanwhile a pretty young woman shows up and you just know she's going to complicate things further. Harry quite begrudgingly agrees to help the resistance fighters with their cockamamie plans. And meanwhile he falls in love with the young woman. Much of the film takes place in a nightclub with a piano player warbling away because, well because that's how they did it in Casablanca. Much as the Bogart-Bergman interactions made Casablanca spark to life here it is the chemistry between Bogart and young Lauren Bacall which perks things up. They make for a great couple but the movie which surrounds them lets them down somewhat. The story is just not all that interesting. So similar to Casablanca yet for whatever reason the story here just doesn't grab you the way it did back then. No romantic rival for Bogart here along the lines of the Paul Henreid character in Casablanca, that removes some tension this film could have dearly used. Could have used someone to fill a Claude Rains kind of role too. This movie is so focused in on Bogart and Bacall. This famous couple does a fine job but they could've used a little help. They have to carry pretty much the entire weight of this film on their shoulders. Their back and forth provides some great moments. But there are not enough great moments to make this a great movie.
Lincoln is a movie with a rather disappointing flaw: it's not actually
about Lincoln. This movie, which purports to tell the story of this
iconic man, is not about the man at all. It is a movie about the
process of getting an amendment through Congress. Two and a half hours
of that unsurprisingly leads to quite a bit of boredom. Abraham Lincoln
led such a fascinating life. None of that fascinating stuff makes it
into the movie. Instead Steven Spielberg focuses solely on the last
four months of Lincoln's life, focuses on just one of the many
accomplishments of this great President. Yes, the passage of the 13th
Amendment which abolished slavery is hugely important. But the story of
the amendment's passage is not nearly enough to sustain a movie of this
length. There has to be more to the story. A movie about the life of
Abraham Lincoln would never be boring, would never fail to captivate.
Unfortunately this is not that movie.
The best thing the movie has going for it is undoubtedly the stellar performance of Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. Such a shame then that so much of the movie is spent away from the President, following others working on his behalf to get the amendment passed. This Lincoln movie desperately needs more Lincoln. It quickly becomes a movie more about political machinations than any sort of biography. And Congressional procedure does not make for a particularly interesting movie. Other actors, most notably Tommy Lee Jones as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, do their best. The movie is very well-acted, everyone in the enormous cast does a fine job. But you don't go into a movie titled Lincoln hoping to see some nice supporting performances. You go into it to see Lincoln. And the wonderful performance of Day-Lewis is largely wasted as there just isn't enough for him to do. The narrow focus of the film robs us of the opportunity to really see the story of this great man. Day-Lewis could have done so much with this role if given the chance to truly cover the breadth of Lincoln's life. A tremendous opportunity missed. In the end Spielberg has produced not a bad movie but surely a very frustrating one. You go into this movie hoping to really get to know Abraham Lincoln. You don't get to know him at all. Instead you learn more than you could ever want to know about how Congress works. There's a reason nobody makes movies about the House of Representatives.
You would be surprised if Quentin Tarantino ever made a truly bad
movie. But he has made a few which, though not bad, are somewhat
disappointing. Django Unchained is one of those. Honestly, this movie
is a bit of a mess. An intriguing mess, at times a very entertaining
mess. But still a mess. The movie gets away from Tarantino somewhat.
His grand vision for what he wanted the movie to be ultimately lets him
down. He couldn't let go of any of that vision, couldn't restrain
himself. He put it all up there on the screen. And it proved to be just
a little bit too much.
The movie takes place in the pre-Civil War South. It is a story about slavery and Tarantino spares nothing in portraying the awfulness and brutality associated with that particular Southern institution. The hero of the piece is freed slave Django, unchained as the film's title would suggest and free to seek vengeance. But for Django more important than seeking vengeance is finding, and freeing, his wife who remains a slave. He is aided by the rather odd German dentist Schultz who does not actually make his money in dentistry. Schultz has a rather different occupation, a rather bloody one. And he is very good at his job so the bodies pile up in a hurry. Schultz, the man responsible for freeing Django, takes the former slave under his wing. Django helps Schultz do his bloody work and eventually Schultz will help Django find his wife.
From its very intriguing beginning in which we meet the very mysterious Schultz the movie grabs your attention and certainly piques your interest. You desperately want to know who this mysterious man is, what he's up to. However once those questions are answered the movie begins to lose some momentum. It often feels as if the movie is just biding its time until it gets to the real story, the plot to free Django's wife. In the meantime things drag. There are a number of scenes which seem completely unnecessary. A little more focus would have done wonders for this movie. As it is things don't really perk up again until we finally, after much meandering, meet the despicable plantation owner Calvin Candie. This loathsome individual is the man who owns Django's wife. How do Django and Schultz plan to free her? It's quite the elaborate plan which, for the movie, is a bit unfortunate as it takes so much time to set the plan up. We now have the new character of Candie to interest us, and hating him is quite good fun, but again the movie struggles with pace. The big moments in this movie are big indeed. But there is too much dead space in between those big moments. At 165 minutes long this is a movie that is much too long for its own good. The crackling energy you expect to be running throughout a Tarantino film is missing. The director lost his way a bit.
So there is a twinge of disappointment with this movie. But that does not mean it is a bad movie. It clearly could have been better but as is it is certainly worth seeing. After seeing it once you may not want to see it again though, it is a somewhat distasteful movie. Tarantino is never one to shy away from violence and the gore in this one is off the charts, it's a real bloodbath. It's just too much, way over the top. In and around the spasms of violence there is a lot here to recommend the movie though. It's a good revenge story, you've got heroes worth rooting for and bad guys who are as bad as bad can be. The movie is generally very well acted. Jamie Foxx as Django and Christoph Waltz as Schultz make for a very good team. Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't entirely convince as the villainous Candie. It is as if DiCaprio is trying a little too hard to be evil, it comes off as being a bit forced. But in the moments when Candie is charming, and yes even this monster has his charms, DiCaprio seems much more comfortable. Notably fine work is turned in by Samuel L. Jackson playing Candie's loyal house slave Stephen. In his own way Stephen is perhaps more reprehensible than Candie and Jackson does a fine job of making that character his own. Tarantino fills out his cast well, supporting parts and little cameo roles all handled capably by a multitude of performers. All in all this is a movie with a lot of good pieces but there is the sense the pieces don't all fit together properly. Tarantino didn't make a bad movie. But he didn't make a great movie either.
|Page 9 of 51:||               |