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Bottle Shock (2008)
Bottle Shock is shockingly bad
Bottle Shock is a Lifetime movie that thinks it's much more. Except that even Lifetime movies, while clichéd, try harder to please the audience. The movie is full of one-dimensional characters, such as Joe, the young, female, free-spirited "intern" to the wine-making business who has a steadfastly cheerful demeanor whether she's breaking hearts, hanging out at the local bar, or dishing about her favorite subject, wine. You see in the 1970s, in California, hippies were blonde and they were happy, especially when they were making wine. Everything in this movie is a cliché, from the 1970s clothing to the soundtrack, which dictates the emotion we're supposed to feel in each scene, in case the spare dialog and the one-dimensional acting isn't enough to clue us in. One of the more laughable aspects of the movie is the set. The lovingly photographed wine country of Napa Valley suddenly becomes the wine fields in France-- just add a couple of cows, an old man in a beret, and accordion to the soundtrack. The producers obviously had to skimp somewhere in order to afford to pay Dennis Farina, Bill Pullman, and Alan Rickman, each of whom must have thought they were signing onto a better movie. Morale of the story: Many Lifetime movies are also based on true stories, but at least you know what you're getting when you start to watch one.
The Break-Up (2006)
More likable than I expected
About halfway through this movie, I started to wonder why it has gotten such mediocre, even bad, reviews. I think perhaps it's because expectations of a one-laugh-after-another comedy are not fulfilled. The movie is heavier than I think people expect. It's bittersweet-- these two people obviously feel deeply about each other, but can't work out their problems-- and it's also a bit of a dark comedy, I think. I have to admit that it was a little exhausting watching the constant fighting. Vince Vaughn, while hysterically funny at times, came off as strident, yelling perhaps a bit too much. Where did all this anger come from? Jennifer Aniston, I thought, gave a great performance. She seemed relaxed and, while she didn't toss off the one-liners here-- she was more the straight man to Vaughn's funny guy-- she seemed more real to me, more human than I've seen her be in other movies. So while this movie is flawed perhaps, it definitely goes beyond the stereotypical romantic comedy. These are two people who we can at least relate to. Nothing completely unrealistic and over-the-top happens as in most romantic comedies. Over all, I was pleasantly surprised.
Friends with Money (2006)
Gets points for originality and pace
Friends with Money may not have an intensely dramatic plot or a lot of action, but it manages to draw you in anyway. Ultimately what I came away from this movie with is a sense of everyday relationships-- marriage and friendship-- and the compromises they require. I really didn't want this movie to end, maybe that's why I was disappointed with the ending. Seeing Jennifer Aniston in bed with a slovenly, overweight character just wasn't believable to me, but I did like the clever twist re: the character's financial situation. But overall, I believed the characters, and I loved the way the director reveals that what people believe about their friends' marriages can be so off. What I found refreshing about this movie is it was a more intimate look at relationships than we're used to seeing in Hollywood.
Broken Flowers (2005)
Sometimes the past is better left alone
While I liked this movie because of its refreshing lack of Hollywood clichés, Bill Murray's acting, or rather, lack of acting, left me a little frustrated. When he's out on the road on his "journey," his lack of expression works because he has situations and dialog to play with. Just by itself, i.e., at the beginning of the movie when he hangs out in his house, his non-responsive, blank stare feels a little forced to me and it doesn't illuminate his feelings about his breakup at all. Maybe that's the point, but in any case, while this movie was a little too slow-paced at times, overall it is very effective because it is so true to life. Answering the question "What if you showed up on a stranger's doorstep out of the blue?," it captures the uneasiness of approaching the unknown, of being out of your own element, and of crossing over into another person's intimate space. Sometimes this intrusion is welcomed, sometimes not, but as Murray enters into another's imperfect, damaged world, we're faced with the disconnect between the reality of middle-aged lives and the promise of youth. Overall I would recommend Broken Flowers, even though the ending is somewhat unsatisfying. An argument could be made that it's true to the theme of the movie, but sometimes a Hollywood ending in which all the loose ends is wrapped up with a bow is a good thing.
Johnny Depp no Gene Wilder
This movie was going along pretty well, until, that is, Johnny Depp enters the picture. I just don't know why Tim Burton allowed him to give this horrible performance. First of all, his perfectly white teeth: very creepy. They looked like dentures. Okay, I understand where the idea came from: his father was a dentist and he was forced to wear head gear during his childhood, which, looks more like a torture instrument, but okay, fine. But they were creepy, and not in a good way. Plus how did Wonka go from a fairly normal-seeming kid, albeit wearing giant headgear, to this bizarre, make-up wearing guy with a Lord Fauntleroy haircut and Michael Jackson-like lipstick? And did anyone else notice that he sounded just like Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie? Same inflection in his voice. I like the photography in the movie; I liked the fact that the movie explained Willy Wonka a bit more, and the flashbacks were well-done, but the other negatives were the fact that the gold ticket winners were exact replicas of the originals, so that there was nothing original there, and the Oompa Loompas, oh, no! Almost unwatchable. The same man multiplied appearing in leather or pleather outfits of various colors, singing practically unsustainable songs to explain the moral of whatever happens to each child. I think the movie had potential but it just veered off course horribly.
Girls Will Be Girls (2003)
This movie is very, very funny. It may not be for everyone, but I loved it. The great thing is the premise: it stars three drag queens whose male identity is never acknowledged, so in effect they are women in the movie. The main character, Evie, is an over-the-hill has-been, who starred in really bad "B" movies, like "Asteroid," and marginal TV show appearances; then there's her roommate who Evie treats as her maid, who longs for a baby but has a sordid past; and finally, there's the ingenue of the bunch, an overweight mid-western wanna-be actress who dreams of being discovered in Schwabb's Drugstore "just like Tina Turner."
There are just so many funny lines; there are a few times the movie almost goes too far, but it's just so over the top that you don't really get offended. It's kind of like a John Waters movie, but the toilet humor isn't as gross!