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Method is a thriller about Rebecca, an actress played by Elizabeth Hurley, who is starring in a movie about a non-fictional 19th century serial killer who lured rich men to her house and killed them for their money. Her co-star is Jake, Rebecca's ex-boyfriend whose wife, Bethany, is jealous of Rebecca and keeps a close eye on Jake.
Rebecca's mother/agent gets an idea to have Rebecca live on the set -- the house where the murders take place -- so that she can "get into character." While Rebecca is living on set, she begins to have hallucinations of the murderer. There's some implication that this is in part because she's not taking her medication. Most of the movie consists of the serial killer movie -- not as it's being filmed, but as it plays in finished form, which is odd because it keeps switching back and forth between the serial killer movie and "reality," when the movie isn't finished yet. Several people get killed, but in the end, it's so confusing that I don't know what's real and what's a hallucination/dream, who's really dead, and who really did the killing. (4/10)
Surviving Christmas (2004)
I get the feeling that those involved in making "Surviving Christmas" didn't put much thought into the movie. The characters are so inconsistent and the plot makes so little sense that the movie played like a rough draft of a script thrown together with little but the one-liner concept of a rich guy paying a family to let him spend Christmas with them.
Ben Affleck portrays Drew Latham, the typical Hollywood image of a wealthy, egotistical advertising executive who buys his way through life. His girlfriend, Missy, leaves him shortly before Christmas because she's disgusted that Drew wanted to take her to Fiji for Christmas, which she calls "the family holiday," and the fact that Drew has never introduced her to his family. We later find out that Drew's father left when he was 4 years old, and his mother is dead, so it's a mystery why he doesn't just say that he has no family, rather than allow his girlfriend to believe that he doesn't care about his family.
Out of fear of being alone on Christmas, Drew tracks down Missy's shrink (why? I have no idea), who suggests he do a forgiveness ritual at his childhood home. When he meets the family living in his childhood home, the Valcos, Drew offers them $250,000 to pretend to be his family, so he can relive his fond childhood memories. He gets angry when he later finds out that they have an adult daughter, Alicia (Christina Applegate), because he "doesn't have a sister," and even goes so far as to write a script for the family to follow so that they act more like his "real" family. None of this makes any sense once Drew reveals that he grew up with no family but his mother.
Also inexplicable is the character of Alicia, who is annoyed that her family accepted Drew's money, and refuses to play along with his fantasy. But for no good reason, she suddenly starts to like Drew, and in a matter of minutes goes from hating his guts to acting like his girlfriend. Drew is such a complete jerk throughout the movie that even his sad story about the lonely Christmases of his childhood evokes no sympathy; I almost wish he had finished with, "Just kidding! The real reason I don't see my family is that they all have restraining orders against me!" (2/10)
New York Minute (2004)
I am stupider for having seen this movie
Since I get unlimited rentals from Netflix, I often mix in some stupid movies, sometimes because I feel like watching a lighter movie that doesn't require any thinking, and sometimes just out of morbid curiosity. It was the latter that compelled me to rent "New York Minute" starring the Olsen twins.
"New York Minute" has gotten universally bad reviews from critics, but I considered that the mere fact that the movie starred Mary-Kate and Ashley invited ridicule from people who haven't even seen it. Despite a traumatic experience in my teenage years, when I was repeatedly forced to watch "It Takes Two" (an Olsen twins version of "The Parent Trap") by some kids I frequently babysat, I gave this one a chance. To my surprise, it was even stupider than it looked. Even stupider than the critics led me to believe. Even stupider than "It Takes Two." So stupid that I hardly know where to begin The interchangeable Olsen twins play, you guessed it, twin sisters. Although they are identical in appearance, they have completely opposite personalities: Jane is the conservative, overachieving twin, while Roxy is a messy, truant punk. Eugene Levy plays a truancy officer who's obsessed with catching Roxy.
Jane and Roxy are both taking a trip into the city -- Jane to deliver a speech for a scholarship contest, and Roxy to go to a concert -- and a predictable case of mistaken identity leads to both twins getting kicked off the train. While they're at the train station, FBI agents descend on a guy trying to hand off what turns out to be a computer chip with pirated music (leading one to wonder why they didn't just e-mail the files or something), causing him to slip said chip into Roxy's purse, resulting in a Chinese-wannabe limo driver chasing the twins through NYC to recover the chip.
During the bizarre chase, Jane accepts a ride from the limo driver because she can't wait 3 hours for the next train, even though she has more than 6 hours to get to her speech. Then Roxy tosses the important chip onto a tray of food, which the dog proceeds to eat. At one point, the twins end up in a sewer, but the scary black people-turned-nice at House of Bling give them multiple free makeovers (despite Jane's tight schedule to get to her speech, she takes the time to try on half a dozen outfits and dance around in each one) and a cab to drive. Meanwhile, the truancy officer commandeers and subsequently wrecks a tourist couple's RV to chase down Roxy, but then gets promoted for busting the pirated music ring.
It all comes together to create possibly the stupidest movie ever made. What's really sad about "New York Minute" is that it was supposed to be a vehicle to show that the Olsen Twins are serious actresses, but it ultimately just shows how undeserving they are of their fame and fortune. (1/10)
State and Main (2000)
I don't understand why all the critics loved it
There are plenty of movies I don't like, but what's notable about "State and Main," a movie about making a movie, is that it got universally good reviews from the critics. After I watch a movie, I like to read reviews of it -- especially ones that agree with me. This is particularly true of movies I hate, so after I watched State and Main, I looked for a negative review.
But I was unable to find any critics who hated this one. Some of them mentioned "inside jokes" about the movie business, implying that people like me aren't sophisticated enough to "get it," but I think that's a load of self-important crap. Ha ha -- they all had cell phones! Isn't that funny? The star of the movie was a prima donna. No way! I thought all movie stars were humble and cooperative. I have a feeling that some people found this movie funny only because they wanted to find it funny, because they think it's an "inside joke" and feel cool if they "get it" -- kind of like The Emporor's New Clothes.
Rebecca Pigeon, playing Ann, really annoyed me. I thought her acting was terrible, and I later found out that this horrible actress is the director's wife so he keeps putting her in his movies. (2/10)
Chasing Liberty (2004)
Predictable teen movie with an unlikable lead
I appreciate a good movie, but sometimes, I just don't feel like watching a serious, thought-provoking movie. Sometimes, I want to relax and watch a movie that won't make me think. Chasing Liberty is definitely in that category, except instead of being relaxing fluff, it was maddening.
Mandy Moore plays Anna, the President's 18-year-old daughter who just wants some freedom. She bitches to her father about the Secret Service ruining her social life, and begs him to let her attend a concert in Prague with only two Secret Service agents babysitting her. When she realizes that the concert is crawling with undercover agents, contrary to her father's promise, she decides to rebel and run away on her own.
She hitches a ride with a stranger on a motorcycle, Ben, who turns out to be yet another Secret Service agent. Mr. President orders the young male agent to watch Anna but not reveal his identity, so that she will think she's free. Fortunately, Anna is so full of herself that she thinks Ben follows her around just because he likes her, so she doesn't get suspicious. And what do you know? They fall in love.
The mostly predictable plot is standard for a teen movie, but the real problem with Chasing Liberty is that Anna is completely unlikable -- she comes off as a spoiled, selfish, irresponsible brat, and I just kept wanting to smack her. It's difficult to believe that Ben would fall in love with such an annoying little snot. (2/10)
13 Going on 30 (2004)
Surprisingly good, but the end falls flat
After her so-called friends humiliate her on her 13th birthday, Jenna Rink makes a wish to be "30 and flirty and thriving." The next morning, she wakes up as her 30-year-old self in an unfamiliar apartment with an unfamiliar man in the bathroom.
The premise of the movie is similar to that of "Big," but there are some important differences that really make 13 Going on 30 an entirely different concept. Jenna's transformation from 13 to 30 is actually more like a memory-loss plot. Although from her perspective she ages 17 years in one night, 17 years have actually passed -- she just can't remember anything after her 13th birthday.
The requisite hilarity ensues while Jenna tries to figure out how to act her new age, how to do her job, and of course who the strange man in her bathroom is, but some of the themes of the movie are surprisingly original and interesting. Jenna seeks out her childhood pal and admirer, Matt, and learns that she ditched him shortly after her fateful 13th birthday. Matt is less than thrilled to see Jenna again, as he had gotten over her rejection and moved on years ago, but as Jenna relentlessly pursues his friendship, she realizes what a great guy he was, and he begins to see in her the girl he loved so long ago.
Jenna also finds that, although her 30-year-old life initially seems like her dream come true, she had to compromise herself along the way, and was left with shallow friends, a meaningless relationship with a local celebrity, and a lonely existence, estranged from the friends and family she once loved. The idealistic 13-year-old is dismayed to find that her 30-year-old, "big-time magazine editor" self has alienated many of her neighbors and coworkers, and as the cheerful, innocent 13-year-old adjusts to adulthood, she tries to set things right along the way.
Unfortunately, the movie falls flat at the end. Since this type of light-hearted film calls for a happy ending, the plot takes some unlikely and inexplicable turns. The cop-out solution involves some magic (without giving too much away) that doesn't make any sense, even within the reality of the movie, and leaves a huge problem in a sub-plot forgotten and unresolved. (7/10)
The Punisher (2004)
Comic book to big screen transition doesn't quite work
"The Punisher" is Frank Castle, a retired FBI agent whose family reunion is crashed by assassins sent to avenge the death of Bobby Saint, killed in a sting orchestrated by an undercover Castle. When Bobby's parents, crime boss Howard and Livia Saint, learn that Castle was responsible for their son's demise, they "settle the score" by having Castle, his wife, son, parents, and extended family killed. Castle, however, miraculously survives the massacre, and once he recuperates, he sets out to get revenge on the Saints.
Wait, scratch that: "My actions are not vengeance," says The Punisher. No, it's "punishment."
The Punisher is one of those movies where everyone keeps missing opportunities to kill one another. If the assassins who shot up the family reunion had any sense, they could have shot Castle in the head and been done with the whole thing 30 minutes into the movie. Instead, they half-kill him, and then walk away assuming he will die in the aftermath. But sure, that's how comic books work, and there wouldn't be a movie if the assassins were smart enough to make sure he was really dead.
Throughout the movie, though, the bad guys miss so many easy chances to kill Castle. After a few failed attempts, they send in their toughest hit-man, but oops, he forgets to bring a gun! Castle himself is a bit of a bonehead; with everyone thinking he's dead, he has the perfect opportunity to surprise his victims, but instead, he announces to the media that he's still alive, and just in case Howard Saint doesn't watch the news, Castle gives him a personal greeting. While he's making his lengthy preparations, he's a sitting duck in his apartment, where all the bad guys know he lives.
The actual punishment sequence is OK. The Punisher thinks of clever and cruel ways to punish Howard Saint and his minions, and kills a lot of people in creative ways. Unfortunately, the movie just drags along until the grand finale. The movie brings in some minor characters (three neighbors in Castle's apartment complex, and an insider in the Saints' operations), from the comic book, but they seem extraneous, and don't really contribute much to The Punisher's revenge, er, punishment. Ultimately, The Punisher's transition from comic book to big screen just doesn't quite work. (5/10)
I liked Harold and Kumar, but White Castle didn't thrill me
Unlike the many comedies where everyone is a one-dimensional racial caricature, the characters of Harold and Kumar are funny without being insulting. Harold, an Asian-American investment banker, and Kumar, his Indian-American slacker roommate, both play up and mock racial stereotypes. Although Harold is smart, timid, and hard-working, he likes to have fun on the weekends, and is obsessed with a Latin-American beauty in his apartment complex, to the disappointment of the president of the Princeton Asian Culture club. Kumar is also smart, but lazy; pressured by his father and brother to go to medical school and become a doctor, he has a different lifestyle in mind, and intentionally botches medical school interviews so he doesn't get accepted.
The plot of the movie is just as its title suggests: Harold and Kumar embark on a journey to satisfy their marijuana-induced munchies at White Castle. Although the characters are well-written, the situations they encounter are full of gross-out humor that's been done before, ridiculous situations that weren't funny enough to have a purpose, and drug humor that just doesn't appeal to me. One dream sequence, for example, has Kumar fall in love with and marry a large bag of marijuana; for some reason, many people thought this was hilarious, but I didn't find it particularly amusing. (5/10)
Little Black Book (2004)
Not bad, until the stupid ending
Most people can probably relate to the premise of Little Black Book. Hasn't everyone been tempted to look through someone's drawers or purse or web browser history to find out the uncensored truth? Stacy (Brittany Murphy), a talk show production assistant, gets an idea from a coworker's suggestion for a show topic: electronic "little black books" that hold the secrets to a significant other's past. Through an unlikely coincidence, Stacy's boyfriend, Derek, has left his "little black book" -- in this case, a Palm Pilot -- at home during a 2-week business trip, so Stacy takes a look, but what starts out as a sneak peek snowballs out of control as Stacy's curiosity leads her to dig deeper and deeper into Derek's past relationships.
I have to give Little Black Book some points for the clever "twist," even though it was predictable (did anyone think Stacy's actions could lead to anything but trouble?). Even better, it didn't end with everyone making up and going back to their lives as though the whole ordeal hadn't happened -- until the contrived "happy ending," which test audiences probably demanded, but I absolutely hated. (6/10)
Bringing Down the House (2003)
Racist, pointless, not funny
This is a stupid, pointless, racist movie, offensive to both blacks and whites. It all begins with Peter (Steve Martin) and Charlene (Queen Latifah) connecting in a legal chat room and deciding to meet. Peter, thinking Charlene is a thin blonde lawyer, is surprised to open his door and see an unrefined black convicted felon looking not for a date, but for free legal help. Peter is understandably angry about being deceived, and tries to get rid of her, but she refuses to leave.
It would have been simple enough for Peter to call the police and have her arrested, but she threatens to show his boss the e-mails they had exchanged. Presumably, Peter's boss and associates are so racist that they would fire him merely for associating with a black woman, so he agrees to help her. Most of the "comedic" moments come from Peter's desperate attempts to hide Charlene's presence from his racist boss, a neighbor (who's the boss's sister), an important client, and a WASPy ex-sister-in-law. For some reason, Peter can't simply explain that Charlene is trying to get legal assistance, so Peter pretends that she's his nanny, maid, and/or representative from a Baptist church. Although Charlene is generally rude, obnoxious, and selfish, she begins to grow on Peter (but not in a romantic way) and his two children, and Peter inexplicably ends up risking both his life and career to clear her name. The entire film makes little sense and isn't even funny. (3/10)