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Fading Gigolo (2013)
sorry no laughs
Murray Schwartz (Woody Allen) is forced to close his rare books store which his grandfather started. His dermatologist Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone) tells him that she and her girlfriend Selima (Sofía Vergara)want to experience a ménage à trois. He tries to pimp out his friend part-time florist Fioravante (John Turturro). Fioravante agrees to a tryout first with only Parker. Avigal (Vanessa Paradis) is the widow of a rabbi who cleans Murray's kid of lice. Murray convinces her to try out Fioravante. Dovi (Liev Schreiber) is in the local Jewish neighborhood watch Shomrim who is jealously in love with Avigal.
Comedy is subjective and I subjectively don't like it. I get where the jokes are suppose to come from but I didn't laugh. John Turturro hardly smiles and that gets tiresome. Woody is trying so hard that it borders on plagiarizing himself. None of these people are particularly likable. The only one is Avigal whose touching story almost works. The movie has a weird odd mixture that keeps it from being bland but it's just not funny.
The Stepfather (2009)
David Harris (Dylan Walsh) is the stepfather from hell. He kills his stepkids and new wife. It's not even be his first kills, and each time, he gets a new identity. His next target is Susan Harding (Sela Ward) and her kids. Six months later, her oldest son Michael (Penn Badgley) returns home after military school to find David living with the family. Michael's longtime girlfriend is Kelly Porter (Amber Heard), and he doesn't get along with his father Jay (Jon Tenney). David gets a job at Susan's friend Jackie Kerns (Paige Turco)'s realty company. Things work relatively well at first. When an elderly neighbor notices the resemblance between David and a police wanted sketch, David starts killing once again.
This is a relatively professionally made B-movie. Dylan Walsh does a good creepy guy while still has that leading man look. Sela Ward is protesting too much at all the evidence. These are cookie cutter characters and not really that well thought out. Penn Badgley is not the most likable actor. And for some reason, Amber Heard is always wearing a bikini. I'm not complaining but it becomes very noticeable. In the end, this movie lacks something compelling to interest me. There is no mystery since the stepfather is shown as a serial killer right away. The movie is mapped out right from the start. The family isn't likable enough to maintain rooting interest. This is professionally made but not much more than that.
Dark grungy beauty
The movie opens with Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) being sentenced to a gruesome punishment during the 18th century cheered on lustily by the crowd. He was born in the putrid 1738 Paris fish market, found in the pile of fish guts, and his mother sent to the gallows. He's put in the overcrowded orphanage where the other kids immediately try to kill him. He unnerves the other kids with his strange superior ability to smell. He is sold to the tannery at the age of 13. When he grows older, he is entranced by the smells of the city and the smell of the Plum Girl. He accidentally kills her leaving him with a desire to preserve the intoxicating scent of the girl. While delivering leather, he impresses perfumer Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman) who is now too old and out of touch. So much so that Baldini purchases the young man. Grenouille is obsessed with a way to replicate. Baldini tells him of the mysterious art of enfleurage found in Grasse. While walking on a country road, he is overtaken by the smell of Laura (Rachel Hurd-Wood). Her father is Antoine Richis (Alan Rickman).
This would be a great movie for smell-o-vision. The style is doing the next best thing. It is grungy, dark and ugly. The ugliness pushes the senses of the audience. Ben Whishaw is wonderfully creepy. He does a scary stone-faced intensity. His character is isolated. He's obsessed. This is the essence of the movie. It's about his obsession and his amoral pursuit of it. He brings no judgment to his life other than to satisfying the obsession. I would say the movie has a sexual sense if not for the fact that it is done in such a gruesome manner. This is a movie unlike most others. This movie is deliciously horrible.
Adam Resurrected (2008)
Compelling acting from Goldblum
Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum) is a charming patient at a mental institution for Holocaust survivors in 1961 Israel. His doctor Nathan Gross (Derek Jacobi) is confounded. He is infatuated with nurse Gina Grey (Ayelet Zurer). He is haunted by dogs and starts to hallucinate. He finds a boy acting like a dog under his bed. Before the war, Adam was a magician, all-around entertainer. He was liked by everybody including the Nazis until he was put into a concentration camp. The camp was run by Commandant Klein (Willem Dafoe) who recognized him. Adam survived by playing the part of the Commandant's "dog" while his family is killed off.
There is an interesting performance from Jeff Goldblum. However everything else is done with such lifelessness. Both the asylum and the concentration camp are locations of absurd lunacy. There is a rambling nature to the story. It is almost Kafkaesque. I wonder if there is too much time at the asylum. At its core, this must be a battle between Adam and Commandant Klein rather than Adam and the boy. The problem is that the movie spends too little time with Klein.
The Big Bounce (2004)
Lightweight use of Elmore Leonard
Jack Ryan (Owen Wilson) is a charming petty criminal starting anew in Hawaii. He gets fired from Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise)'s construction site after nailing supervisor Lou Harris (Vinnie Jones) with a bat. The construction is being protested by Hawaiian locals. Ritchie's flunky Bob Rogers Jr. (Charlie Sheen) warns him not to go back. District Judge Walter Crewes (Morgan Freeman) is not a fan of Ritchie. Frank Pizzarro (Gregory Sporleder) is his low life friend desperate for money. Richie's trophy girlfriend Nancy Hayes (Sara Foster) finds him fascinating and wants him in a scheme to steal $200k from Ritchie.
This movie tries so very hard to be light and breezy. It's taking the Hawaiian surf and sands too seriously. Owen Wilson is using all his boyish charm. Sara Foster is an amateur actor. She's not much more than a body that talks. Together the material becomes as light as a feature. There is no depth here. There is no tension. The danger doesn't feel dangerous. It's all sunshine and bikinis. The story and schemes meander in its leisurely time. The tone is so light that it is actually quite boring.
Up in the Air (2009)
Great character movie
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a professional hatchet man who fires people as a job. He is an expert flyer who gives lectures about how to pack for travel. He's good at his job and his most joyful goal is to attain ten million frequent flyer miles. He meets his perfect flying partner Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) at an airport bar. He deliberately avoids a personal life and his spartan apartment. His sister wants him to photograph a cutout of his niece and her fiancée at different places for their upcoming wedding. Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) is a new hire with a new way to fire people by telecommunication. Bingham is dismayed at the proposal. His boss Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman) forces him to show Keener the ropes.
Clooney and Farmiga have a fun cerebral chemistry. They flirt well together. It's too bad that they can't be on screen more often. Kendrick is great at playing the uptight cute girl. She has a good fun mentor relationship with Clooney. It has some funny moments. The best is when the three leads finally get together. Kendrick in that scene is hilarious. Jason Reitman deftly handles these three characters beautifully. I'm not as enamored with the wedding section. It comes after Kendrick having such great scenes and then she's gone. Farmiga is back but the wedding takes too much attention away from her. The movie reaches a high point with the three leads coming together. I think the movie should have kept up that pace and the wedding took some of the steam out.
same talkative young people
It's the last decade of the cold war and Barcelona has a lot of anti-Americanism. Ted Boynton (Taylor Nichols) is a stiff sales rep from Illinois working for an American company. His intrusive cousin US Navy officer Fred Boynton (Chris Eigeman) unexpectedly visit. They have a history of not getting along and different opinions. Ted insists on dating plain girls. Local friend Marta Ferrer (Mira Sorvino) brings them to a costume party and ends up sleeping with Fred. Fred makes up a story that Ted is a follower of Marquis de Sade. Ted eventually meets pretty trade show girl Montserrat Raventos (Tushka Bergen).
It's Whit Stillman's second movie and is not as compelling as his debut. The cousins are basically the kids from Metropolitan after a few years. They're smart, cosmopolitan, talkative and self-obsessed. The return of Nichols and Eigeman only helps in that sense of familiarity. The problem is that the first movie has the danger and excitement of an unknown future. This one just stumbles from one day to the next. There is nothing to truly drive the movie. The anti-Americanism theme seems to be more like background music that plays throughout the movie. It's an early Mira Sorvino film and she does fairly simple acting with a fake accent. There are some sly funny comedy in a meandering unengaging story.
The Other Guys (2010)
P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson) are the best action hero rock star cops in the NYPD. They get into outlandish chases for nothing arrests. Everybody loves them. Martin (Rob Riggle) and Fosse (Damon Wayans Jr.) are the jokers. Captain Gene Mauch (Michael Keaton) is in charge. Then there are the Other Guys. Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) is a naive paper pusher. His partner Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) is still trying to make up for shooting Derek Jeter. Gamble is eager to do paperwork for the heroes and Hoitz hates him for it. Highsmith and Danson finally kill themselves stupidly in a chase. Everybody wants to be the next hero cops. Hoitz forces Gamble to take on a high profile case. David Ershon (Steve Coogan) is an investment banker who lost $32 billion of Pamela Boardman (Anne Heche)'s fund. She demands that he replace the losses and he tries to go on the run. Gamble arrests Ershon on a scaffolding permit violation but a professional team takes him. On the personal side, Hoitz can't believe that Gamble is married to Sheila (Eva Mendes).
I would have loved a buddy cop movie with Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. This is just as good in a completely different way. Ferrell is hilarious and Wahlberg is the perfect angry foil. The fighting partners have great chemistry. The angrier Wahlberg gets, the funnier the movie gets. Adam McKay has a great sense of the ridiculous. The story is stupid. The setups are insane. The dialog is hilarious. There are some gut busting laughs.
Bus Stop (1956)
Beau is horribly annoying... Is kidnapping funny?
Rodeo cowboy Beauregard Decker (Don Murray) is a stubborn naive idiot. He takes the bus to Phoenix for the rodeo. His friend Virgil Blessing encourages him to talk to girls but he doesn't have much experience. In Phoenix, singer Chérie (Marilyn Monroe) at the Blue Dragon Cafe, who is aiming to go to Hollywood, is forced to hustle Virgil to pay for her drinks. Bo falls for her right away. She likes him but has no intention of marrying him or going back to Montana with him. He keeps ignorantly dragging her around expecting to get married. She tries to run away to Los Angeles but he literally ropes her like cattle and force her onto the bus to Montana.
This is dumb and dumber, the rom-com. I find Beau to be very annoying in his clueless childishness. First, he's a clingy stalker. Then he becomes a full blown kidnapper. I really feel sorry for Chérie. While I understand the attempt to out-dumb Marilyn Monroe, Beau needs to be a lovable dunce. To top it off, he also has that loud mouth and bad singing. Monroe is relatively good but I just hate him so much. I guess he's playing the fool but he fails to find the balance... any balance... any sense that there is a balance. He is all idiot and no likability.
Miami Vice (2006)
Moody noir from Mann
While working undercover, Miami-Dade police detectives Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Rico Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) get a frantic call from an old informant Alonzo Stevens (John Hawkes). He tells them that he's been compromised while working for the FBI investigating a huge Colombian drug cartel. FBI agent John Fujima (Ciarán Hinds) is in charge of the Joint Task Force. The duo pose as drug smugglers as they infiltrate the organization. The cartel is using the Aryan Brotherhood for distribution and muscle. Crockett begins a romance with the kingpin's girlfriend/adviser Isabella (Gong Li).
Michael Mann hasn't recreated the 80s cheese factor of the original TV series. He has created a moody noir with some violent action thrown in. It's not glossy but it wants to be. Whenever Farrell and Foxx are on the screen together, this movie wants to be a fun flashy action thriller. Mann keeps pulling it back to the hyper-realism that reminds me more of 'Collateral'. It is a lot of shaky cam work and stylized visuals. The story is not the most inventive but it delivers a dark grimy tone. I do wish the dialog could be snappier and not just about the attitude.