Movie Madness

My movie reviews and rants at your fingertips.

Monthly Archives: June 2010

Knight and Day

This movie would have made a killing if it had come out before Tom’s infamous couch jumping. Now, it looks like its prospects are too complex to measure. Knight and Day is classic Tom Cruise, the one we all loved from the nineties. This is a big summer movie; one that reminds me of the simpler blockbuster days. Back when movies with big budgets focused more on the characters than the spectacle. Like The Mummy remake or a new favorite of mine, Midnight Run, the action is second to the story.

            Knight and Day starts off one step ahead of us. We learn things as Cameron Diaz does. This creates a bit of wonder for us and a lot of questions for her. After boarding a plane to attend her sister’s wedding, June (Diaz) meets a charming man named Roy Miller (Cruise). Shortly after their meeting, their plane crashes, putting both of them on the run. Roy is trying to protect a new energy source and its inventor, but the government wants it and him. Diaz gets pulled in every direction trying to figure out what is what, only making their escapes either kidnapping or rescuing.

            The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of humor is this movie. The trailer leads you to believe that this is an action comedy, but it fact there is very little comedy in it. There are a few bits here and there; most of them by Diaz, but Cruise shows humility by not taking himself too seriously this time around. In a post-Les Grosman world, straying too far from another career-changer will hurt Cruise’s long term goals. Here he shows a glimmer of something that he hasn’t shown before, but nothing drastic. Regardless, it is great to see Tom in a big tent-pole film again. His chemistry with Diaz really sells this movie when other parts get stretched too thin. If you enjoy Tom Cruise in action mode, give this a try and you won’t be disappointed. 3 out of 5 stars.

Please Give

The opening credits of this film is jarring. Not in a shocking way, per se, but certainly throws you off of what you expect. After seeing the movie, I believe this was wise. It prepares you for a story that is shockingly realistic, but also a bit off.

            Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt play a married couple who buy furniture from recently deceased and resell it at their vintage furniture store. She is having trouble dealing with the guilt of her lifestyle, so tries to compensate by reaching out those less fortunate, giving them the attention her daughter deserves. The couple has bought the apartment next to theirs and is waiting for the tenant to die so they can knock out a wall and expand their place. This is how we get to know the tenant’s daughters, played by Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall.

What follows is more of a character study than a plot driven film. We see each character as they all deal with the obstacles in their lives. Rebecca Hall and Catherine Keener are given the most attention though, and suitably so. They both have the most going on in and the most to contend with. Unlike many British actors, Hall does a strong American accent. Her character and her quiet beauty make her the best part of the film.

With bits of comedy and tragic humor along the way, this dramedy has the heart to convey things realistically. The characters feel like they come from a real place as opposed to someone’s imagination. A solid summer indie for those in need of a film with substance. 3 out of 5 stars.

Toy Story 3

The first Toy Story is my favorite animated film of all time. After seeing the second one many times over the years, I have come to have high expectations for the franchise. Third time around, the freshness is still there. The quality of Toy Story 3 makes this franchise one of the most consistent film trilogies of all time.

            This time around, Andy is preparing for college and the toys left are in a state of limbo. Are they going to be thrown out? Maybe put in the attic? He wouldn’t take them to college would he? After a mistaken sorting process, the toys end up at a daycare. What follows closely resembles a Steve McQueen movie. There is a great deal of The Great Escape in how the remainder of the film plays.

            This is definitely more mature than the first two films. The subject matter is considerably darker than the first two and the violence is more than you would expect. But it still is a solid PG movie. I would say this movie suffers from the same issue Iron Man 2 had: though the recent film is very good, the original is slightly better. It isn’t a bad thing; it’s just hard to duplicate an industry changing masterpiece that comes out of nowhere. As for the 3-D aspect of it, it’s a crapshoot really. There is few, if any, 3-D moments and only benefits the movie slightly. Regardless of its pitfalls, it’s a great film. 4 out of 5 stars.

Jonah Hex

When a movie is written by the team of Neveldine & Taylor, you don’t expect much intelligence. In Jonah Hex, everyone drops the ball.

            Josh Brolin plays Jonah, a scarred bounty hunter who can talk to the dead. Malkovich (Quentin Turnbull) is the reason for Hex’s lifestyle, having killed Hex’s family as an act of revenge. Megan Fox pops up here and there as a prostitute.

            The story follows Jonah Hex as he attempts to kill Turnbull, who was already presumed dead, and stop him before he destroys Washington D.C. on the nation’s centennial birthday.

            The supporting cast is filled with actors I was surprised and disappointed to see in this movie. All the actors in this film have done better work, so can we quickly forget about this stinker and move on. Will Arnett (Arrested Development’s Gob Bluth), Michael Shannon (Bug, Revolutionary Road), and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey’s Anatomy, Watchmen) all have brief scenes, all of them wasted.

            I went into this movie hoping that the negative reviews were a bit exaggerated. I didn’t have that luck. This movie is over before it gets started, but long after we care. Being one of the people anxiously waiting to see Megan Fox’s potential, I’ll have to wait a little bit longer. This movie B.O. wise is dead on delivery. Toy Story 3 grossed $110 million last weekend. This stinker grossed around $5. MacGruber did that and never broke $10 million, so there you go. If only…1 out of 5 stars (which is for Arnett, Shannon, and Fox)

The A-Team

Joe Carnahan came out of nowhere when his film Narc caught everyone’s attention. After some issues with making MI:3, he surprised us again with Smoking Aces. Now he is back with an 80’s film update. It isn’t the best film of the year, but it certainly is a solid popcorn movie. Unfortunately, the combined recent successes of the principal cast won’t make this a blockbuster, having grossed only half of its budget in two weeks. Hopefully international sales will save this from being a black-eye to Fox.

            A-Team starts by telling briefly the back-story of the team: how they met, their connection, etc. Then flash forward 8 years to where they are stationed in Iraq, waiting for the next mission. What turns out as them going outside the chain of command ends up a framing for a murder.

The casting has everyone sticking to their strengths. Liam Neeson (Col. Hannibal Smith) is the leader of the team, the pseudo-father figure of the men. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson steps into the role popularized by Mr. T. Everyone seems to be cast based on their previous roles. The biggest surprise is Patrick Wilson (Lynch). I’ve been a big fan of his since Phantom of the Opera. Here he fully embraces the villain role, showing depth I hadn’t seen in him before.

The movie is big and fast, the 2 hours go by without much complaint. It almost goes by too fast. The perfect cameo by another “Lynch” at the end sets it up for a sequel. It may never happen, but these characters are ones I’m willing to revisit in the future. The chief complaint is that some of the plans are shown unfolding as they are being explained. I felt this was a bit of a time cheat and made me feel like they dumbed it down for the audience, which wasn’t necessary because the plot is clear. A summer movie to enjoy, 3 out of 5 stars.

City Island

Every year, the independent film community has a few comedy gems that come out of nowhere and surprise people. This year, City Island is in that group. With a cast from all types of backgrounds, the comedy states its intentions early on. And it succeeds exactly where it wants to.

The film follows a family, each with their own secrets. Vincent (Andy Garcia) is a Corrections Officer who secretly wants to be an actor. His wife (Julianna Marguiles), son (Ezra Miller), and daugther (played by Garcia’s actual daughter Dominik Garcia-Lorido) make up the rest of his convincing family. Their family dinner at the beginning of the film shows everyone is very New York (Bronx specifically) and a pleasant dinner quickly dissolves into a shouting match.  Things only get more complicated when Vince brings home Tony (Steven Strait), his illegitimate child just released on a provisional parole. Through Tony is how we see this family, warts and all.

I had cautious but high expectations for this film. Thankfully, the film met them. Steven Strait was extremely impressive. The script allowed the actors room to flesh things out. The on-location filming elevated the setting to a more palpable atmosphere. Definitely a fun movie to watch. 4 out of 5 stars.

When in Rome

**Off the Beaten Path #4**

Every since Veronica Mars, I’ve been in love with Kristen Bell. Though not every project she has done has been a winner, I stick around because I’ve enjoyed them. When When in Rome was released, the critics and most everyone else hated it. I on the other hand, loved it. I went into the movie fresh and I’m all the more happy for that.

Bell plays Beth, a workaholic curator who finds her sister is getting married. During the wedding in Rome, she stumbles upon a fountain. When someone throws a coin in the fountain, they are destined to find love. What Beth does is take some coins instead, leaving the lives connected to those coins enraptured by her. So begins the film’s story. Dax Sheppard, Danny Devito, Will Arnett, and Jon Heder all become obsessed with her, following her everywhere. All the while, she has met a man she might actually want to spend the rest of her life with (Josh Duhamel).

Rom-com clichés rear their head quite often, but like Made of Honor, the cast elevates the film above its holes. Bell and Duhamel have a great chemistry. I laughed during this film more than a lot of recent comedies. I look forward to owning this on blu-ray. 3.5 stars out of 5.

Get Him to the Greek

Finally, a movie worthy of Russell Brand’s style. Taking his Aldous Snow character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, we see his life after. Jonah Hill, though not reprising his FSM role, plays a man who must deliver the uncontrollable Aldous Snow to The Greek Theater in 3 days for an anniversary concert. Instead of being a simple endeavour, Hill’s Aaron is met with obstacles at every corner. Though meant to be a rated R comedy, I found something oddly heartwarming about it.

The cast is great. Elizabeth Moss and P. Diddy more than hold their own. In fact, Diddy has some of the best moments in the whole movie. Though this wasn’t a laugh out loud movie for me, I did smile and chuckle at most of the gags. I enjoyed it more to see the camaraderie between Hill and Brand. Both play their parts well, which allows them to take chances. The movie succeeds more as a movie about an unlikely friendship than as a comedy. It succeeds as a comedy too, but it seemed it should be interpreted in a bigger arena. All the cameos only seem to make it feel more like a morality tale or urban legend, but again in a good way. All in all, a good movie with some talented actors. 3 out of 5 stars.

Breach

**Off the beaten path #3-on DVD now**

            When I first watched Breach shortly after it came out on DVD years ago, I didn’t really watch it. I simply let it play in the background, not giving it the attention it deserved. After having Ryan Phillippe surprising me in MacGruber, I started to reevaluate his earlier films. Stop-loss and Cruel Intentions being my favorites, I chose to dive deeper into his filmography. I watched this just yesterday, and it sucked me in.

            This is an espionage film for the intellectual. There are no fancy gadgets, just working people. It is the true story of a FBI agent who has been selling secrets for years. The film opens with the actual press conference after his arrest and then jumps back to how he was brought down. Phillippe plays the hungry Eric O’Neill, a man itching to become an agent. Chris Cooper plays the man he is supposed to bring down.

            Don’t let the simple plotline or concept fool you. This film was so intense, that I had trouble taking my eyes off of the screen. The two men play cat-and-mouse so well you find yourself trying to remember how it happened in real life. Fortunately for me, I went in fresh (the best way to see a movie). The movie was pitch-perfect. The pacing and acting (and all other aspects) bring their A-game. Nothing is forced, allowing a deliberate build that peaks just at the breaking point.

            It’s eerie how this takes place the first few months of 2001. The idea that he was selling secrets so close to the events of September 11, 2001 only elevates the tension. A brilliant movie with brilliant acting (including Laura Linney) that satisfies. 4.5 out of 5 stars.