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A waste of time, resources and Rufus Sewell
A mindnumbingly insulting concept and terminally boring execution. A snoozefest. How they managed that with the gorgeous Rufus Sewell, I don't know (obviously, they made poor use of him). The folks who thought this was a good flick apparently don't care how dumb the script or the concept get as long as they get their action scenes. At least I didn't waste money on this at the theater -- but I did have to sit through it when it played on HBO and I lost control of the remote. AAAAAGH! I felt like I was losing IQ points just having it on.
Sewell is the only guy in this film who put a decent amount of effort into his acting, and he was sadly wasted here (I hope they paid him a bundle for this, because he sure can't put it into his portfolio of hits). In revenge and to clear my mental palate, I made my TV companion watch Dangerous Beauty with me the moment this abortion ended (Beauty is not only a much better film, but Sewell got a much better role).
If I could give this loser a ZERO, I would, because it deserves that. Don't bother with this unless you really prefer being mindless (and in that case, don't brag about it).
Trouble with the Curve (2012)
A role Eastwood should've tackled 20 years ago, not now
Caught this one tonight on HBO. I'm usually appreciative of Eastwood's efforts, so I kept waiting for this to improve ... but it didn't. I might've liked it more if Clint hadn't looked more like Amy Adams's grandfather instead of her father and Justin Timberlake hadn't looked at least 10 years too young for her. I had real trouble believing the men in their respective roles.
Adams was fine, though; I'm usually not a fan of hers (she's been way too perky for my taste in too many roles), but she hit just the right note in this role, highly believable as a woman holding her own at work and in the world, fending off asshats who resent competent women in the office and in her private life. Hard to believe, but I watched the rest of the film after the first 20 minutes for her, not for Clintwood. Who'd have thunk it? Otherwise, baseball fans would probably dig it, but it wasn't my cup of tea. Take a pass.
Simply Irresistible (1999)
A great movie for foodies -- and girls' night
Note: possible marginal spoilers here, but not many.
Okay, let's just get this out of the way first: if you're a guy who's not a foodie and hates dancing, romantic comedy and magical realism, you probably should go watch ESPN instead. Everyone else, listen up: this one's underrated. Sure's it's a ball of fluff, but a very enjoyable one with no pretensions. The protagonists are sympathetic, and the side characters get some pretty funny lines at times. Every time this comes on the tube, I find myself watching it again, and I'm never sorry -- it hooks you. However, I do end up wanting vanilla orchids and those damned caramel eclairs every single time!!! That's the only unfortunate trade-off, especially for foodies. But it's worth the suffering (you can search for the eclair recipe later, folks).
The first thing that tempted me to watch this film is that it features a few actors whose work I love, Patricia Clarkson being at the top of the list. I was prepared not to like Sarah Michelle Gellar in this, considering how many duds and screamers she's been in, but she was marvelously understated here, as was Sean Patrick Flannery, whom I generally like but who's been known to ham it up too much in other flicks. Not here: he's bewildered through the first half of the film after he eats Amanda's food for the first time, which is totally understandable if you love food and quite charming, actually, considering what a heel he is when the film opens. He's such a GUY throughout, especially when he gets scared after their cooking scene together! Very accurate there. And still, food and love can conquer all if he gives them a chance (no, I won't tell you -- you'll have to watch). I do love the dance scenes, though.
Clarkson and Dylan Baker make the most of what they're given, especially regarding the eclairs. Clever woman, that Lois! Gawd, I love Clarkson in rom-com. Those two are insanely funny together, especially in the elevator scene. And the dining room scenes during the big dinner are hysterical (literally, at one point). Everything resolves strangely enough by the end of the flick, which is what you'd expect with magical realism; and the mysterious crab and Shawn Colvin's cover of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" is a nice touch. Perfect.
Advice: don't think too hard when you watch this, and have some caramel-covered eclairs or cream puffs on hand when you watch, and you won't be sorry. It's not Casablanca, but it's a lot of fun.
In short, skip it
This was one of those 3 a.m. choices when nothing else was on that I now wish I'd avoided in favor of a static test pattern. Here's a quick summary up front: Good locations, bad screenplay, awful dialogue, wretched accents, horrid acting. Given all that, the locations just couldn't make up for everything else. What crap! Never thought Ioan Gruffudd would be a pain to listen to, but he was -- not that anyone else's speech was exactly balm to the ears. I don't mind accents as long as they're authentic and enunciation is good. Whoever thought Richard Roxburgh and Rhys Wakefield were the saving graces of the film must have been hallucinating on illegal substances, because that was SO NOT the case if you saw it straight, as I did. Perhaps the only way to watch this is with the sound and captioning off and just think of it as a series of clips from a National Geographic feature. Otherwise, it wasn't worth the money wasted on this production. I sure hope Ioan Gruffudd laughed all the way to the bank, because this thing sure doesn't belong in his greatest-hits portfolio. Awful, awful, awful. I'd give this a zero if it weren't for the location shots. Spare yourself and watch a rerun of The Abyss or Avatar instead.
Can't say enough good things about this episode
Very slight spoiler.
There are people who really dislike singing episodes on a non-singing show -- and I'm one of them. Imagine my surprise, then, when *this* episode worked. It wasn't at all what I expected. First, the plot fully justified the singing 'dream sequences': the team struggles to save Callie and the baby, and the nearly-dead Callie sings while she dreams/hallucinates as a witness to her own life and death. Second, the songs were well chosen for the plot line, they had been used on the show before for their topical lyrics, most of the actors on the show can at least hold a tune, and some (like Sara Ramirez, around whose character the episode's plot revolved) can really belt one out (and she should -- she's sung on Broadway). Third, the writers were wise to center all of this around Callie: putting Ramirez in the center was the key, because she had three songs to everyone else's one each, and she tied everything together. It made complete sense that way. I was major wowed, as I hadn't expected much going in.
Because of this episode, I can't say that ALL singing episodes are a bad idea -- but I will insist that most still don't work, because the writers and show runners don't usually try this hard to make everything work naturally, nor do they succeed. This succeeded, and it's the exception that proves the rule. And I say this as someone who never liked the singing episode on Buffy, which most folks seem to consider some kind of standard for singing episodes (I don't -- hated it completely). "Song Beneath The Song" now becomes the gold standard. And those of you who didn't like it don't like singing episodes at all anyway, as I didn't. The difference here is that I gave this one a chance, and the writers and music editors came through.
Hawthorne: Just Between Friends (2011)
Awful. Just absolutely, bloodymindedly AWFUL!
Spoiler alert! Well, you can stop being optimistic for a turnaround in this show: ain't happening. Six episodes in, HawthoRNe has plummeted into tacky, turgid soap opera. And really bad, really stupid soap opera at that. Honestly, watching this last episode I just waned to slap Christina (and the writers) hard enough to bounce her/them across the county. Grown woman, only a few weeks after losing her baby, finds out she can't have any more kids and then deliberately sabotages her remaining relationship with her brand-new husband by not leaving a party on time and going home like she should -- and instead stays behind to have a make-out session with the one guy she should break contact with for everyone's sake. Idiot, or what??! And not a *nanosecond* of this was remotely credible. DAMN, but I'm tired of scripts that make intelligent women look like they suddenly became severely retarded over a man. Must be guys writing this crap. I see absolutely no reason for the lead character to fall for the Marc Anthony character -- other than the convenience of the writers. SHOVE IT, already: I'm never watching this show again. Not even at midnight when there's nothing else on. I'll give my library card a workout instead. Enough!!!!!
Love N' Dancing (2009)
Skip it: the romance and plot are weak, and the dancing's strictly for WCS devotees
... and I dance East Coast Swing, a simplified take on Lindy Hop, which is the real thing (West Coast borrows a few moves from East Coast/Lindy and blues dance but is actually too Hollywood in its choreography and too close to the Hustle -- FEH!), so of course the dancing fell short for me. Real swing is what you dance to Count Basie, Duke Ellington, or Benny Goodman, or even contemporary big bands. My saying so will no doubt steam the West Coast fans in the audience, but hey, dance history is what it is (look up Frankie Manning and Hellzapoppin' on Wikipedia if you want to know where it all came from). Besides, the dance scenes would have fallen short anyway, for reasons cited below. But I digress.
I started off really wanting to like this movie. Honest. After all, I found the male lead appealing at first, and I'd enjoyed other dance films such as Strictly Ballroom, Center Stage, Take The Lead, and Tango Bar (I even tolerated Shall We Dance fairly well, given my usually complete disdain for Richard Gere). But no: the non-dance part of this storyline was so weak it made me cringe. OFTEN. Billy Zane was slightly less obnoxious than usual, so that was something, but not enough to offset the fact that Amy Smart seemed to be sleepwalking through the whole thing. The writing was awful. Their fight scene at home, for example, seemed sudden and oh, so contrived. So did the upset at their friends' wedding. Fake, fake, fake. You could see the consequences telegraphed a mile away. And the dance competition was even **more** Hollywood over-the-top than West Coast usually is. Mehhh. They learned ALL the wrong things from ballroom competitions.
Worst of all, Amy Smart never looked like she was really getting the hang of the sense of elasticity or stretch that underlies all variations of swing -- or that she was enjoying any of it, even a little bit. If you hate dancing that much, why do a dance movie?? Don't tell me she really liked it, because you sure couldn't tell from her performance in this film. I could barely sit through it. The actual dancing by others, however, like some ballroom competitions I've seen, was expert yet mechanical. Soulless despite all the plastic smiles, sequins, and flash moves. Wasn't **anybody** really getting into it? It's like they were still showing off but all just too cool to really show they like it. Nuts!!! I've seen much more fun and energy generated by amateurs at Lindy competitions on college campuses than I saw anywhere in this film. And I kept wanting to see real Lindy Hop, so that spoiled the rest of it for me.
If you want an introduction to WCS, I suppose this is as good as any; but if you were hoping for another Swing Kids (despite its inauthentic choreography) or Take The Lead, sit this one out -- it's not your kind of number, and it doesn't even have anyone like Antonio Banderas to save it. And Lindyhoppers should avoid it entirely. (It'll just annoy you too much. Better your should watch Frankie Manning clips on YouTube or video reruns from the Frankie 95 celebration. I'm just saying.)
PS -- I just noticed that Tom Molloy, the lead, also wrote the script. He has a lot to answer for, in that case.
The Kennedys (2011)
Makes you want to watch Thirteen Days instead
Underwhelming, overall. And the most underwhelming actors are Katie Holmes as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and Greg Kinnear as JFK. Their performances can best be described as limp. They suffer from comparisons to the real people, who had so much more spirit and charm. I'm old enough to remember JFK, Jackie, and Bobby, and there is nothing about the performances of Kinnear, Holmes, or Barry Pepper that remind me at all of the essences of these dynamic, charismatic people. This series utterly fails at capturing that sensibility. The frequently slipping accents don't help either. Tom Wilkinson, meanwhile, is gruffly hamming it up playing Joe Kennedy, Sr. -- sometimes as a generic tyrant, but more often as Tom Wilkinson Playing A Generic Tyrant (much as John Wayne in time simply portrayed Himself Playing A Cowboy/Sailor/Soldier). I didn't find any of the acting credible: one is constantly reminded that they *are* acting. Perhaps it's the director's fault; perhaps it's really everyone's fault.
Even for those who are too young to remember the Kennedy White House years, there have been enough films and documentaries about the Kennedys that this effort still suffers severely by comparison -- particularly when compared to Thirteen Days (to which I gave 9 stars). In the latter, Bruce Greenwood as JFK and Stephen Culp as Bobby Kennedy are not only far better actors than their counterparts in this series but are also more successful at evoking the real people they represent -- not because they have better accents that don't slip, though that helps, but because they did a better job of inhabiting their roles and paid more attention to making the story real than to making believable 'copies' of the actual people. The true test is that I got absorbed in the story and action and never once noticed that Greenwood, Culp and their collaborators *were* acting. Suspending disbelief was easy.
Not so with this series. It does what I never imagined anyone could do to the Kennedy story: it renders it boring. No wonder the History Channel turned it down. Skip this.
If I hadn't been at home nauseated, aching, and convalescing with literally NOTHING else on that I hadn't already seen when I (sort of) watched this, I wouldn't have made it past the first 15 minutes: those are bad enough to warn off anyone with any sense. I barely did even so (I swear this flick made me even more nauseated than I already was). Another reviewer was kinder when (s)he wrote that it wasn't that the actors were bad per se -- because most of them certainly were. Only John Rhys-Davies, who's done this kind of crap before, taken it seriously, and taken it to the bank, and Claire Forlani were making any kind of effort at all. Not the rest. Ron Perlman was hamming it up on autopilot, but at least his ham act wasn't half as objectionable to the ones put forth by Matthew Lillard and Ray Liotta, which were grossly annoying. Leelee Sobieski basically sleepwalked through this thing, reprising bad bits form her St. Joan effort of several years ago, and Jason Statham frowned and grunted his way through the film, whereas Burt Reynolds couldn't even bother to be conscious for it and stared his way through it all, projecting the most godawful monotone and excruciating boredom with the whole thing (remind me again: **WHY** does anybody consider this fossil an actor??!). Reynolds and Liotta delivered their absolute worst performances of all time in this wasted effort. What the whole mess deserves is a mercy killing. If this review process allowed me to give it a zero, I would.
Clash of the Titans (2010)
Usually in a mediocre sword and sandals outing, there are one or two elements that are bad enough to damn a film. Here, there's not one element that could salvage it. The sets are tacky and cheap. The dialogue is puerile, weak and stupid when not actually outright insulting to the viewer. The acting is wooden enough to give splinters. The script doesn't have enough for many of the main characters to do and completely wastes the rest of the cast. The writers deserve a firing squad: if you're going to deviate *this* much from actual mythology, it's forgivable only if you produce a better piece of art because of it. That didn't happen. Here, ***NOTHING*** works and the story is butchered to no purpose other than clueless impulse and ego. And the director deserves never to work again in film in this lifetime or any other, not even as a janitor.
If Sam Worthington really wanted to make a worthy version of this film for his kids' generation, he should have read that script much more carefully before agreeing to be in the film. This one is memorable only for its sheer awfulness. ZERO points to everyone concerned -- a complete waste of time and money. Give them all a kick in the shins and be done with it. UGH!!!