Archive for January, 2012

Boys and Girls

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , on January 30, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jennifer Burrows and Ryan Walker meet as two young teenagers aboard an airplane trip and quickly find out that they both have different views on life. Several years later, Ryan is mascot to his high school, while Jennifer is elected Homecoming Queen of hers. During the halftime ceremony between the two schools, Ryan is chased by the rival mascots and loses his mascot head, only to find it run over by Jennifer’s ceremonial car. Jennifer later finds Ryan and tries to console him about his costume. The two, again realize they are too different and do not get along as friends, part ways once more.

A year later finds both Ryan and Jennifer students at UC Berkeley. Ryan is in a steady, structured relationship with his high school sweetheart, Betty and Jennifer is in a wild, spontaneous, sex-crazed relationship with a musician. Ryan meets his roommate Hunter (aka Steve), who uses deception and lies as a way to meet women. Jennifer moves in with her best friend Amy after her breakup with her musician boyfriend. Jennifer and Ryan randomly encounter each other through circumstance with Ryan at one point, even dating Amy. Not reciprocating his feelings, Amy has Jennifer “breakup” with Ryan for her. Their friendship blossoms through this and the two start slowly enjoying each others company. Jennifer is a Latin major who is witty, literary, and an independent free-spirit. Ryan majors in structural engineering who is deliberate, serious, and requires planning in life. They take walks, console each other over break-ups, and gradually become best friends. Jennifer even talks Ryan into dating again, as he starts seeing a girl named Megan.

One night, in a cynical mood towards love, Jennifer breaks down and Ryan tries to console her. To their equal surprise, the two make love. Afraid of commitment, Jennifer’s response is to run away from continued intimacy and to remain friends. Ryan is hurt by her response that sleeping together was a mistake. Realizing he finally loves Jennifer, he breaks up with Megan and withdraws himself to his studies. As months pass, Jennifer graduates UC Berkeley and readies herself to travel Italy. After not seeing Ryan for some time, she encounters him at a hilltop overseeing the Golden Gate Bridge. Ryan confesses his real feelings towards her and the two try to absolve the tension, but realizing she does not feel the same, Ryan leaves her to her thoughts and wishes her well in Italy.

On the shuttle to the airport, Jennifer passes the same hilltop where the two used to spend time together and realize she indeed loves Ryan. She immediately races back to her apartment and finds Amy frantically getting dressed to greet her. Hunter, or Steve at this point, confidently strolls out of Amy’s bedroom and tells Jennifer that Ryan is heading back on a plane to Los Angeles. While waiting for departure, Ryan hears Jennifer confess her love for him in Latin. After a brief convincing and feeling the wrath of a flight attendant, the two rekindle their romance where they first met—on an airplane flight.

REVIEW:

There was a time when Freddie Prinze, Jr. movies were the hottest thing around, no matter how good or bad they were. For some reason, I actually enjoyed these films, too. I think it has something to do with them being based on my age group. For instance this film, Boys and Girls, is based on college coeds, which I was at the time of its release.

Now, as you can garner from the title, this is all about the difference between boys and girls, right? Well, if you’re thinking that, then you’re somewhat right. It is more about the difference between two totally opposite people who somehow find an attraction toward each other, first through friendship, then, through the course of time, they start a relationship.

There really isn’t much to this film, except for watching how their relationship grows. However, it is the supporting cast that really shines in my eyes. First off, there is Jason Biggs. In a departure role for him, of sorts, he is actually the “cool” guy…or so we think. The other support comes from Amanda Detmer, the roommate, who apparently harbors some feelings for her best friend. As you can guess, these two end up together in the end, after meeting for the first time. Don’t ask me how they had never met before then, it made no sense to me, either.

With the exception ofMallrats, I think this is the best I’ve seen Claire Forlani look. On the flip side, though, I think she needs to work on her acting a little bit. It almost seems as if she regressed in the 6 yrs between the two films.

Freddie Prinze, Jr. is usually the cool, jock type, but seeing him as the nerdy guy was a nice change. I wasn’t sure how it would work at first, but he pulled it off. I dare say this may his best role since Down to You.

This is one of those cute date flicks that is likely to be forgotten 5 minutes after you watch it. That doesn’t mean it is bad, but it does mean that it could have been better. I won’t say that you shouldn’t watch it, because it is worth a viewing or two, but for me, the better Prinze flick is She’s All That. Still, with Valentine’s Day coming up, maybe you should consider this as something to watch with you beloved.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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Friends with Benefits

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , on January 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jamie (Mila Kunis) is an Executive Recruiter for a leading job agency in New York City and Dylan (Justin Timberlake) works as an art director for a small internet company in Los Angeles. Jamie has the task of trying to recruit Dylan to interview for a job with GQ magazine and begin working in New York City. Dylan comes to New York and after interviewing for the position learns from Jamie that he has been given an offer to work for GQ. At first Dylan is hesitant to accept and move from Los Angeles to New York, but in an effort to get Dylan to accept the job Jamie spends the evening taking him around the city trying to sell him on the opportunity and the city.

After a fun night together exploring the city Dylan agrees to take the job. The next day Jamie presents Dylan with the contract to sign so she can land her commission for recruiting him. Not knowing anyone else in the city he and Jamie quickly develop a friendship. One night, while hanging out at Jamie’s apartment watching a romantic comedy, they get on the topic of sex and relationships. They come to the conclusion that sex should not come with so many emotional attachments. Both feeling the need for a physical connection they agree to have sex without emotion or commitment involved. After several trysts together Jamie comes to the realization that this isn’t really what she wants, and she would like to start dating again and informs Dylan that they need to stop.

Jamie meets Parker (Bryan Greenberg) and they begin dating. After five dates they consummate their relationship but the next morning Parker leaves and informs Jamie he really wasn’t looking for anything more. Furious, Jamie tells Parker off, assuring the end of their relationship. Trying to be sympathetic and to help Jamie get over the pain of the situation Dylan suggests she come with him to California over the July 4th weekend while he visits his family. Jamie is very hesitant, but agrees after much persistence from Dylan. They fly to California where Jamie meets his sister Annie (Jenna Elfman) and father (Richard Jenkins). While in California emotional feelings for each other begin to form and they share a passionate kiss, which leads to a night of close intimacy unlike any they had shared before. However the next day Jamie overhears a conversation between Annie and Dylan indicating he has no real feelings for her. Hurt, she flies back to New York. A few days later Dylan returns to New York trying to reconcile his friendship with Jamie and find out why she has been ignoring him. He finally finds Jamie and she informs him she overheard everything he said and has no interest in maintaining any kind of a friendship with him.

Soon after this Jamie discovers that Dylan may be leaving the GQ position for another job, which would affect her commission. She confronts Dylan about this which leads to another argument. Both begin to do some soul searching trying to come to terms with their feelings about their relationship. Jamie spends time with her mother (Patricia Clarkson), while Dylan discusses it with his sister over the phone. His sister informs him that their father, who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, will be flying to New York and he needs to be picked up at the airport. While eating at the airport with his father, his father, in a moment of Alzheimer’s-induced confusion, incorrectly recognizes a passerby as a woman from his past. Dylan asks him about this woman, and his father, upon regaining his lucidity, says that she was a woman he met in the Navy, that she was the love of his life, and regrets decisions he made in his youth to let her go.

Dylan realizes how he feels about Jamie and after a talk with his friend and coworker, Tommy (Woody Harrelson), decides to go after her. He calls Jamie’s mother to set up an excuse to get Jamie to go to Grand Central Station thinking she will be picking her mother up and arranges to have a flash mob scene set up to surprise Jamie at Grand Central. When the moment comes he catches up with Jamie and tells her how he really feels. Surprised and happy by this turn of events Jamie tells him to kiss her. After sharing a kiss Dylan suggests it is time they go on their first real date. They go to the café across the street, and although they attempt to keep the date casual and relaxed, the film ends with them in a sensual embrace and passionate kiss

REVIEW:

Back in college, I had a couple of exes who became “friends with benefits”, but the emotional baggage that apparently comes with that never reared its ugly head. Probably because it had done that during out time in a relationship, I would wager.

Friends with Benefits takes us back to the world of meaningless sex with no strings that another film, No Strings Attached, brought us to. Please note, that while these films have similarities, most notably the premise and starring one of the leads from Black Swan and two of main characters from That 70’s Show, they are totally different.

We start with out two leads experiencing the end of their respective relationships. Fast forward a little bit and they meet in NYC where Mila Kunis’ character, Jamie, is trying to get Justin Timberlake’s character, Dylan, to sign on as layout designer (or something along those lines) for GQ magazine.

To help him with his decision, she decides to show him the “non-tourist” version of New York (which somehow still  shows all the typical tourist sites, such as Central Park.) They end up at a party at her place, and after everyone is gone, they watch her favorite romantic comedy. While watching, they realize how cheesy and cliche’ it is.

Somehow, they get into a discussion about sex and how it ruins things, which leads to them having sex after agreeing to not get attached. For most of the film, they manage to keep this going without getting all tied up in emotions and whatnot, then the ill-fated trip to his parents’ happens and by accident Jamie overhears a conversation Dylan has with his sister. This leads to the film’s downfall, as everything it had worked so hard to overcome is suddenly rendered null and void, as it becomes nothing more than a generic romantic comedy from that point on.

A review I was listening to the other day, about this film, said that Kunis and Timberlake has no chemistry. I’m not so sure I agree with that, but I was sort of uncomfortable watching them together. I can’t put my finger on it, but something was weird. Perhaps they actually did have sex at one time (lucky bastard!!!), and this just made it weird?

Keeping on the topic of our leads, Timberlake is still trying to find that one picture that can launch him into leading man material. This just isn’t it. Sure, he does a good job, but let’s face it, no one is watching this for him, save for his die-hard female fans. The guy is very talented, especially in terms of comedy, but this isn’t the stepping stone he needs to get to the next level, in my opinion.

Kunis, has done better with roles such as this. I don’t know, at times it seems as if she wasn’t really there, and then others she seemed like she was giving it everything she had. I may be alone is seeing that, which is fine, but that’s how I saw it and my belief is that she could have given more of a steady performance here. It may have even helped out in the end.

Woody Harrelson and Jenna Elfman make nice appearances, but neither is really much to speak of, save for knowing that Elfman is still alive and Harrelson is playing a gay man (who is a sports editor, btw).

Romantic comedies are not my favorite genre, but I don’t hate them the way most guys do. The thing about this film, though, is that it started out to not be part of that genre. I was loving the direction is was headed, and all the sex really sold the premise (even if they did everything they could to not show a naked Mila Kunis). However, the last 30 minutes or so, as I said before, ruined it for me. That being said, in comparison to No Strings Attached, I think I would pick this one, based solely on the fact that it doesn’t get all whiny and overemotional 10 minutes in like that did. Do I recommend it? Yes, but it is with trepidation that I do so. You may or may not like this, depending on your preference and attitude toward romantic comedies and such.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

My Soul to Take

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

My Soul to take (Originally titled “25/8”) tells the story of Abel Plenkov, a serial killer dubbed ‘The Riverton Ripper.’ After killing his wife and trying to hunt down his children, Abel was shot by police officers. While being driven to the hospital, he regains consciousness and crashes the Ambulance, vowing to return and murder the 7 children born on the night he was killed. The ‘Riverton 7’ Are Adam (Bug), who is the mentally unstable son of Abel Plenkov, Alex, Bug’s best friend who lives with an abusive Stepfather, Brandon, the school bully and jock, Brittany, a girl chased after by Bug and Brandon, Jerome, a blind student, Penelope, a jesus freak who has strange premonitions of the murders, and Jay, a student that crosses the bridge out of town.

At school, there is a social hierarchy which is led by ‘Fang’, Bug’s sister. Brandon acts as the muscle and terrorizes the students, and Fang controls areas of the school and punishes anyone that defies her. As the movie follows Bug, we see his friendship with Alex, and how Alex is trying to teach him to be a man, repeating that he should ‘Fake being tough, Fake it good.’ We learn of his obsession with death, (Namely the Californian Condor, which he makes a costume of) his migraines and his lapses into different characters, some of which are the Riverton 7, some of which are more scared or confident versions of himself, revealing that he suffers from schizophrenia. At one point he sees a terrified Jay, drowning in the bathroom mirror, and in an eavesdropped conversation, Bug finds out he has been in institutions and Fang says he has killed before.

On the 16th Anniversary of the ripper’s death, Jay is killed brutally by a man dressed in a costume, which was used by the kids to scare the populace. The man ambushes him on the bridge, kills him and throws him into the river. Later on, Penelope is also murdered after praying with one of her teen friends about her baby, which belongs to Brandon. When Jay’s body is found, the policemen who apprehended the original Riverton Ripper fear the worst, and as school ends, Brandon approaches Brittany. He tries to charm her into having sex with him, and she eventually runs into the woods, as he chases. Soon she comes across the burnt out ambulance where the Ripper died, and finds Penelope’s body. Brandon finds it as well and Brittany accuses him of murdering Penelope, and calls the police. Soon he runs into the woods to escape the police, and Brittany runs to escape him. He calls Brittany and breaks down, only to hear the Ripper’s voice on the other end, and he is soon killed.

Brittany is killed soon after in a similar fashion, and Bug is seen in the woods burying his Californian Condor. Soon he returns home to his Aunt and sister for his birthday presents. Fang gives him a wooden rocking horse, which was made by his father the night he went insane. As Fang learns of the death of 4 of the Riverton 7, she has an argument with her Aunt, which eventually leads to violence directed at Bug. Since birth, Bug had been sheltered by his Aunt, and never learned the truth behind the ripper or his father, and i as she flies into a rage, Fang tells him the truth as a flashback shows the horrible night 16 years ago. Fang then smashes her room to pieces to get rid of the memory, and Bug smashes the toy horse. As all four bodies are found, suspicion soon falls on Bug, whose phone was found on Brittany’s body. He begins to fall into insanity, and returns to his room where he finds Alex. Bug reveals that in a note Penelope gave him, it said there are two possibilities for the Riverton murders. The first is that Abel Plenkov never died in the crash, and has returned for vengeance, or that he did die and his soul has possessed one of the Riverton 7. Meaning wither Bug, Alex or Jerome is the killer. Alex reveals that he had killed his stepfather in an accident, and breaks down.

Bug goes to get him some water, and finds the Ripper’s knife in the bathroom, with a vision of Penelope in the mirror. He hears noises downstairs, soon finding his dead Aunt and a policeman ready to apprehend him, as all evidence points towards Bug (He was in the woods, his phone was on Brittany and he was the only one in the house when his Aunt died) As he is about to be arrested, the Ripper runs in from behind and kill the officer. Bug then fights with the Ripper, hitting him over the head with a bowl. Then, as the Ripper is about to kill him, he hears a noise upstairs, swears and runs to Bug’s room. Bug follows him, and sees blood on the windowsill, and blood on the closet door. He finds a dying Jerome in the closet, who tells him he was stabbed by the Ripper when he was on the roof, and was hiding. As he passes away he passes on some knowledge of who the killer is and tells Bug he is a hero. Alex then climbs through the window, saying he heard police officers and thought that they were after him, so he ran and came back.

Bug tells him about the struggle and the murders and Alex responds by telling him that he is diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and that what happened might not be what Bug saw. Bug soon notices that Alex has blood on his ear, the same place that he hit the Ripper on the head with the bowl. He then figures out that in the time that Alex was ‘hiding’ he could’ve easily planted the knife, killed Jerome, his Aunt and the police officer, and he ran upstairs when he heard Jerome, afraid he would give him away. Alex is then possessed by Abel Plenkov, and tries to bargain with Bug. Soon they fight and Bug stabs Alex in the chest, who then returns to his former self, noting ‘It had to be this way.’

Bug goes outside, waiting to be arrested, but is instead greeted like a hero, who stopped the vicious Riverton Ripper. In the epilogue, Alex was charged with the murders of his Stepfather, Bug’s Aunt, A police officer and 5 of the Riverton 7, while he is hailed as a hero. While he didn’t think it was right, he says “I’ll fake it for them, and I’ll fake it good. Alex wouldn’t have it any other way.”

REVIEW:

Can you belive this was released in 3D? Even worse…people actually paid to see it. First off, My Soul to Take was not originally meant to be in that medium, but because Hollywood has decided they’re not making enough money from the movies nowadays, they brought 3D in so  they can jack up the prices without raising any eyebrows. This results in many films that were originally filmed in started definition being converted to 3D at the last minute. Needless to say, the end result is not so great.

That actually isn’t the worst part of this film, though. The story about some schizophrenic serial killer whose soul is somehow split into 7 premature kids somehow didn’t quite resonate with me, especially since they never found the body.

I don’t believe I’ve ever come a cross a more formulaic, predictable film in my life. I will say, though, that the final twist I didn’t see coming, which is one of the good things it has going for it.

I’m not going to beat around the bush. The critics said this film sucked, audiences didn’t go see it, and now I am putting my two cents in by saying it is a true waste of time. The best scene of the film is the condor book report. That isn’t to say there isn’t promise here, but along the way somewhere something wrong…horribly wrong and caused this to be one of those films you should avoid like the plague.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Adjustment Bureau

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2006, Congressman David Norris runs a promising but unsuccessful campaign for United States Senate. While rehearsing his concession speech in a hotel bathroom, Norris meets a woman hiding in a stall. The two share a pleasant conversation, ultimately leading to a kiss. Inspired, Norris delivers a candid speech that is well-received, making him a favorite for the 2010 Senate race.

Some months later, Norris is preparing to start his first day at a new job. At a park near Norris’s house, Harry Mitchell receives an assignment from Richardson, his boss: ensure Norris spills his coffee by 7:05 AM; shortly thereafter Mitchell falls asleep while waiting and misses Norris, who boards his bus. He encounters Elise, the woman from the bathroom, who writes down her phone number on a card and gives it to Norris. When Norris arrives at work, he finds his boss and campaign manager, Charlie Traynor, in suspended animation and is being examined by unfamiliar men in suits. David attempts to escape and the men give chase. Norris is incapacitated and taken to a warehouse to meet Richardson and his men.

Richardson explains he and his men are from the Adjustment Bureau. The job of the Bureau’s “caseworkers” is to ensure people’s lives proceed as determined by “the plan”, a complex document Richardson attributes to “the Chairman”.[7][8] Charlie is fine and will not remember his adjustment, and Norris is warned that if he talks about the Bureau he will be “reset”—akin to being lobotomized. Richardson informs David that he is not meant to meet Elise again. He burns the card containing her phone number and tells David to forget her.

For the next three years David rides the same bus downtown, hoping to see Elise. He finally encounters her and they reconnect. The Bureau tries to stop him from building his relationship with her by causing their schedules to separate them again. David races across town, fighting the Bureau’s abilities to “control his choices” to ensure he will meet Elise. During the chase the Bureau uses ordinary doorways to travel instantly to locations many blocks away.

Richardson discovers that David and Elise “were meant to be together in an earlier version of the plan”, and Harry speculates on whether or not the plan is always correct. David and Elise spend an evening at a party, connecting when David tells her he became a politician after the loss of his mother and brother. They spend the night together, cementing their bond the next morning.

The Bureau has Thompson take authority regarding David’s adjustment. He takes Norris to a warehouse, where David argues he has the right to choose his own path. Thompson says that they gave humanity free will after the height of the Roman Empire, but humanity then brought the Dark Ages down upon itself. The Bureau took control again and created the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. When free will was returned around 1910 it resulted in two world wars and the near destruction of the planet with a nuclear conflict. Thompson releases him, and he runs to Elise’s performance at her dance studio. Thompson follows, and tells him that if he stays with Elise, he will ruin his political future as President of the United States and also ruin Elise’s future as a world-famous dancer and choreographer; with David, Elise will be limited to teaching dance to children. To make a point, he uses his adjustment power to cause Elise to sprain her ankle. With his future in jeopardy and faced with sabotaging Elise’s future as well, David abandons her at the hospital.

Eleven months later, David runs for election again and sees an announcement of Elise’s imminent wedding. Harry, feeling guilty for earlier events, contacts David via secret meetings in the rain and near water. David learns from Harry that the Bureau’s weakness is water, allowing them to meet without the Bureau finding out. Harry reveals that Thompson exaggerated the negative consequences of David and Elise’s relationship, and he teaches David to use the doors so he may stop Elise’s wedding. He gives David his hat, empowering Norris to use the doors. David finds Elise in the bathroom of the courthouse where she is to be wed. Furious and hurt after his earlier desertion, Elise is shocked when David reveals the Bureau’s existence to her and shows her how he travels through doors. They are pursued across New York City. When David and Elise find themselves at the base of the Statue of Liberty, Norris decides to find the Chairman. Elise wavers briefly but then follows David across.

They go through the door to the Bureau headquarters. Eventually, they are trapped on a rooftop above New York, with Bureau members closing in. They declare their love for each other and embrace in a passionate kiss before David can be reset. When they let go of each other, the Bureau members are all gone. Thompson is abruptly on scene but is interrupted by Harry, who shows him a new, revised plan from the Chairman for David and Elise. After commending both of them for showing such devotion to each other, Harry takes his hat back and tells David and Elise they are free to “take the stairs”. The film concludes with David and Elise walking through the streets accompanied by a voice-over from Harry, speculating that the Chairman’s larger plan may be to get humanity back to a point where they can write their own plans

REVIEW:

If ever there was a case for a film not being what you expect, then The Adjustment Bureau is it. Judging from the trailers, one would expect this to be something akin to typical spy faire of today, only that isn’t the case. In actuality, there is a sci-fi thriller element going on here that really puts an interesting twist on things and captivates the audience, but is that enough to make this a good film?

The film starts with the meteoric rise of a promising young politician, played by Matt Damon. It seems as if he has the election locked up, then we all of a sudden see this guy who has this look about him, like he’s pissed about something. I assumed he was just someone who was wronged in the past, but I was wrong. Anyway, he gets a call and the next thing we know stuff starts spiraling out of control and he loses the election.

While he is in the bathroom practicing his concession speech, he meets a young woman, played by Emily Blunt, who gives him some advice all politicians should follow, which results in the funniest, truthful, and eye-opening lines of the film.

This chance meeting actually was not supposed to happen, let alone the two meeting again on the bs sometime later. It is because of this that the Adjustment Bureau reveal themselves and what they do, which make sure everything and everyone’s life goes according to “the plan”. If this wasn’t enough, they take the young woman’s number, burn it, and basically forbid them from seeing each other. Needless to say, that doesn’t work, but the rest of the film is spent in this chess match, of sorts, between the two factions. A battle of sorts between the Bureau and the free will of mankind.

I love this story. It really makes you wonder if there are mysterious guys out there controlling and adjusting everything about our lives. It would certainly explain how some people suddenly have changes of heart or don’t show up for a meeting, etc.

Speaking of the Adjustment Bureau guys, they sort of reminded me of the watcher guys from Fringe, especially with the old man hats they all wore. I would say that this may have been done on purpose, but this isn’t an original idea, but is based on a short story, which I haven’t read…yet.

They have this labeled as a romantic action thriller. Two things about that. First, I didn’t even know that was a category and second, I’m not so sure you can say that the romance is enough to categorize it anymore than you can with almost any other action flick. Yes, it is there, but does it really warrant being part of the subgenre?

One thing I liked about this film is how they let Emily Blunt’s character have her individuality and spunk, but she was still the proverbial damsel in distress. Not to sound misogynistic, but it seems like in every film nowadays the female lead is so busy trying to up the guy that it has become as tiresome as some say the damsel in distress was at one time. Could this be the start of us coming around full circle? I sure hope so!

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt master their roles, but it is the chemistry between the two that really stands out in my mind. Too often nowadays do we get on-screen couples that might as well be a couple of over paid wet blankets up there. Damon and Blunt seems as if they really were falling for each other, and it is that sort of believability that can make or break a film like this.

John Slattery, of Mad Men fame, proves that he can step out of his comfort zone of the suit and tie world…wait, he was still in a suit and tie, ok…um, where was I going with this. Ah! He adds his name to the list of actors from that show who have shown they are true talents, a list that does not include the overrated January Jones, but that’s a topic for some other time.

Terence Stamp is…well, he’s Terence Stamp.  As per his usual, he’s creepy and evil, yet dignified, respected, and distinguished. We’ve come to expect this and nothing less from him.

Newcomer Anthony Mackie makes quite the impression in this fairly major role as the member of the Bureau he seems to have a soft spot either for mankind, or Damon, for most of the film we’re not sure, but it is revealed at a later point of the film why he is like he is.

The chairman is never seen, but they make him out to be some sort of omnipotent being. I read some message boards on this film, you know the kind where people over-analyze every little aspect of movies, and they speculated that the chairman is God and the bureau are angels. Another posters said the same thing, bt on the other side of the spectrum, saying that he was the devil, and they were demons. One guy even went so far as to go into the whole turning the knob left and all that mumbo jumbo. It was enough to give me a headache and remind me why I don’t go into such lunatic rantings over a film.

Still, it would have been nice to have seen the chairman, bt on the other hand, his presence there was like a mysterious powerful cloud hanging over everything. I can go either way on that topic. A few people have joked that Ben Affleck should have been the chairman.

Not really being a fan of Matt Damon films, it was really a long shot that I was going to like this one, but the sci-fi element, coupled with Emily Blunt made this worth watching. To be honest, it is the titular characters that really make this film one to see.  I was enthralled in this film almost from the minute it started and think you will be as well. Give it a shot, you may be pleasantly surprised!

4 out of 5 stars

You Again

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens in 2002 with Marni (Kristen Bell), an acne-riddled high school senior at Ridgefield High School, with glasses and braces, making a video about how much she hates high school, and reveals how she is tormented and bullied by other girls, specifically Joanna (Odette Yustman), who made Marni’s high school life miserable. She adds that her protective older brother, Will, (James Wolk), was very popular as a handsome basketball player. However, at a very important basketball game, Joanna pushes the mascot (Marni), who runs into Will, resulting in a loss of the game.

Years later, in 2010, however, she is a successful public relations executive, recently promoted to a job in New York. When she flies home to her older brother’s wedding, she discovers her brother Will is about to marry Joanna, who bullied and tormented her throughout high school. When Marni meets Joanna for the first time in eight years, Joanna seems to not recognize her. Marni is also upset to see that Joanna fits in very well with the family. The plot thickens when her mother Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis) meets up with Joanna’s aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver), Gail’s former best friend who pushed her into a pool at their senior prom. Ramona is now a successful, wealthy woman who owns several hotels and a private plane.

Although Gail seems willing to put the past behind her, she still feels the need to “outdo” Ramona during their interactions together. On the other hand, Marni is unwilling to forget the things Joanna did to her in high school, unless she apologizes, and decides to try to let her brother know of Joanna’s bullying past. Her attempts to get Will alone for a conversation fail. When Marni tells Joanna that she knows who she really is, it is obvious that Joanna remembers Marni. She refuses to give Marni a meaningful apology, and treats her disrespectfully, leaving Marni convinced that Joanna has not changed. Meanwhile, Gail comes to Ramona’s hotel room for “closure” about anything bad between them that happened in the past. They appear to make up, but Ramona still seems not to be too fond of Gail.

One day on the street, Will and Marni’s grandmother Bunny (Betty White) meets a man named Tim (Kyle Bornheimer). Joanna reveals that they have dated, and Tim appears devastated when he hears that she’s marrying Will. Marni decides to bring Tim to the rehearsal dinner as part of her plan to stop the wedding. When it is time for guests to make a toast to the bride and groom, Tim unexpectedly jumps up to give his toast to Joanna. He reveals to a stunned wedding party that Joanna left him at the altar. Later, a video is presented (recovered by Marni) from their old high school time capsule. The video reveals Joanna as she was in high school: an alpha-female bully, with the footage showing proof of her tormenting Marni and pushing other students. Will unplugs the video projector before the video is complete and walks out, furious.

However, Marni is in trouble when everyone discovers that she was responsible for the video at the rehearsal dinner. Marni decides to talk with Joanna, hoping to reconcile, but Joanna is too furious and tells Marni “I thought we could start over.” Marni is now convinced that Joanna hasn’t changed, and walks away. Joanna then starts a fight with Marni, who fights back. Will walks in and witnesses the fight. He tells Joanna that he doesn’t care about her past, but is angry that she was not being honest with him. He then tells Marni that he is furious at her for going behind his back.

Meanwhile, Ramona and Gail argue after the rehearsal dinner, and Ramona accuses Gail of trying to ruin her life throughout high school. A catfight ensues, with both of them falling into the pool. Ramona reveals that she had a grudge with Gail, even when they were best friends, because she always competed with and outdid her, culminating with Gail taking the boy that Ramona wanted to the prom. Ramona stated that Gail was already a legendary head cheerleader and prom queen, and drama was supposed to be hers, yet Gail also defeated her with the auditions. She sarcastically thanks Gail for what she did, because it motivated her to become successful in life. Gail apologizes for being insensitive, but reveals that she is proud of Ramona, and that her loving family is her accomplishment. Ramona, remorseful of her actions, tells Gail that she was jealous of Gail’s happy family especially that her marriages didn’t work out, and feared that she was trying to take Joanna away from her. The two reconcile their friendship.

Later that night, Marni finds Joanna in the kitchen binging on junk food. She finally admits to Marni that she feels truly awful for bullying and tormenting her and feels like an awful person, and that she loves Will. Marni forgives her and promises to get them back together. The next day,during a jog, Marni apologizes to Will for her actions, saying she was only trying to protect him.

Joanna and Will reconcile in the family’s old tree house, but it collapses and injures both of them when Ben Olsen (Billy Unger) loosened the screws as a part of his plan in hiding the tree house. They are both forced to stay at a hospital, which delays the wedding. However, Marni puts together a makeshift wedding at the hospital, with the bride and groom bandaged, but properly dressed and able to walk down the aisle. Gail has a surprise for Ramona, it’s Richie Phillips(Patrick Duffy), the boy from high school that Ramona wanted to go to the prom with. Richie welcomes Ramona home and wants to be her date for the wedding, which makes Ramona very happy and they appear to start a relationship. Marni appears to start a relationship with Charlie (Sean Wing), her brother’s best friend who was always kind to her. Joanna introduces Marni’s grandmother Bunny to Helen Sullivan (Cloris Leachman). It is revealed that Helen and Bunny were enemies in high school when Helen stole a boy from her. However, Bunny gets her revenge when she cuts in on Helen’s dance and takes her partner.

During the credits, at the wedding reception, Marni presents her wedding gift to Will and Joanna, it’s Hall & Oates in person performing Will and Joanna’s favorite and special song,”Kiss on My List”! Everyone then joins Hall & Oates on stage

REVIEW:

For those that were bullies in high school, You Again should be a public service announcement in what goes around can come back to haunt you.

This film has been on my radar for some time, but I just haven’t had the chance to get to it until now.

The basic premise of this film is that the nerdy girl from high school became focused and went on to big things. Her brother, though, is getting married to her arch-enemy and high school bully, though he doesn’t know it. As it turns out, there is also some rivalry between her mother and the fiancée’s aunt stemming back to high school. Maybe it is something in the gene pool, because, as we see in the last scene, even the grandmothers had issues.

This isn’t the strongest story, but it is decent enough to keep the audience interested. Couple that with the ongoing developments of the protagonists high school sagas and of course Kristen Bell (who I’ve been in love with since Heroes and Forgetting Sarah Marshall).

As far as romantic comedies go, I’m not sure this is one. Yes, there is a guy she’s hopelessly in love with, but the film doesn’t revolve around her trying to win him. That being said, some of the film’s funniest moments stem from her trying to impress or not make a fool of herself in front of him.

Reviews of this film have been harsh, to say the least. One guy even went so far as to call it “the worst film ever made”. Ouch! Granted, it has its flaws, but I actually found myself enjoying this picture. The fact that it doesn’t try to be a chick flick, but rather just a comedy centered around women I think it what was most appealing.

For some reason, I wasn’t impressed with the cast. I couldn’t wrap my mind around Jamie Lee Curtis being Kristen Bell’s mom, or that Kristen Bell was that nerdy, pimple faced creature in high school. Why couldn’t they have just found someone to play the younger version or her, and Odette Yustman, for that matter.

Strangely enough, though, Kristin Chenoweth, who may have been the best thing about the cast, would have been perfect for Bell’s mother or even a sister or aunt. I’m just saying.

Betty White. That is all, nothing more needs to be said. She’s Betty White. I will say, though, that I would have liked to have seen more of that confrontation with her and Cloris Leachman. Can you just imagine the comedic gold these two could create?

You Again is a fairly decent film, but you can rest assured it won’t be on anyone’s “best of” lists. This is one of those films that was decent, but that’s about as far as it goes. If you were to decide to watch it, chances are you’ll find yourself giggling here and there, but that’s about it. Do I recommend it? I am not really sure. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it, but there are much worse things out there to see.

3 out of 5 stars

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

When Greg (Zachary Gordon) and his family attend a party at a roller rink, he reunites with his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) and classmates Fregley (Grayson Russell) and Chirag (Karan Brar). He meets Holly Hills (Peyton List), who immediately becomes his love interest. Greg’s older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) tricks Greg into trying to skate with her and starts pursuading violent teenagers to enter the rink. Their mother (Rachael Harris) and father (Steve Zahn) misunderstand and humilate him by speaking to him on the speaker phone and carrying him off the rink.

Afterwards, Mom has noticed that the boys haven’t been getting along so she divises “Mom Bucks” to pay them if they spend time together where they can trade in for one real dollar, but this unwittingly makes thing worse. Meanwhile, Greg and Rowley try to make a funny YouTube video by Rowley lip-synching to “Tik Tok” by Kesha, unfortunately (despite Rowley at one point sitting on a tinfoil ball with spikes made by Manny) it proves to be awful, getting only 4 hits. After a talent show is advertised on TV, the brothers see this as a big opportunity – Rowley suggests that he and Greg perform magic tricks, but Greg rejects the idea whilst Rodrick sees this as his band’s big break.

On Sunday, the Heffley family goes to church but Greg is extremely reluctant to go inside, as a melted 3 Musketeers chocolate bar, intentionally placed on his seat by Rodrick, has stained his trousers. Greg’s mom uses her blouse to cover up the stain, but the cover-up backfires when Rodrick exposes Greg’s pants. The boys ultimately end up in a scuffle on the floor and as punishment, they are to spend a whole weekend together to bond, while their parents leave on to Rockin’ Rapids. Against his parents’ orders, Rodrick hosts a party at the house and locks Greg in the basement. Rowley comes to “save” Greg, but Rodrick locks him in the basement as well, until a call from their mother results in Rodrick letting the two out, in return for their silence on the matter.

The next day,the two get a call from their mom, informing them that Manny is sick and they are returning early from their trip. The house is trashed, and the boys only have an hour to clean it up and erase all evidence of the party before their parents arrive home. When they see that one of the partygoers wrote on the bathroom door in permanent marker, they replace the door with a different one. Afterwards, Greg realizes that the new door does not have a lock, while the old one did. When their mother notices this, she confronts both boys individually. Greg confesses, but in order to prevent Rodrick from getting angry at him (, Rodrick said earlier “deny everything!”), he says the party was only a band rehearsal, and the two escape punishment. Rodrick thinks Greg denied everything, and the brothers become friends.

The boys go out for a night of fun, getting smoothies and pranking unsuspecting people. However, one prank goes too far and Coach Malone chases them into a mall. They escape by tricking him and return home laughing, only to find that their father has inadvertently come across photos of the party. Greg is grounded for two weeks with no video games and he will be sent to Spag Union Military School in South Park,Canada, and Rodrick is grounded for a month and is not allowed to participate in the talent show and will be sent to a military school in Ohio, USA. Greg tries to apologize but Rodrick only says that they are no longer friends. Then the boys spend the weekend with their grandfather in his retirement home. Greg writes his feelings about Holly in his diary, which Rodrick gets a hold of and reads out loud waking Greg up. Rodrick then threatens to tell Holly and runs towards the lobby to do so. Greg chases after Rodrick in his underwear and manages to snatch away the diary. He runs to the bathroom, rips out the pages of the diary, and flushes them down the toilet. He discovers he is in the ladies’ bathroom, but manages to escape the mob of angry women who think he is a “peeping tom”. However, he finds that Rodrick caught everything on tape via security camera and threatens to show it to everyone sooner or later.

At the talent show a few nights later, Rowley’s performance is unable to take place, as his eight-year-old assistant Scotty gets stage fright. Greg’s mom says Greg will do the show with Rowley, but Greg refuses, saying that he will look humiliated. When Rodrick goes to his band, Greg follows and watches Rodrick’s band member, Bill Walter, kick him out of the band he created. Greg bargains with his mom to allow Rodrick to perform, if he will perform with Rowley, which his mom accepts. Rodrick thanks their mom, sees Greg, and nods at him for letting him play. The magic show is a hit with the audience and Holly meets Greg and Rowley backstage to tell him she loved their show. However, Patty Farrel says it was “pathetic”. Rodrick and his band perform but the crowd is not impressed until they see Greg’s mom dancing, and start to dance along. Greg is happy for finally having fixed the problems with his family.

Rodrick drives Greg to school, as the boys have now forgiven each other. Rodrick also gives him a tape containing that “embarrassing moment” at Leisure Towers. The boys then create a new friendship, realizing it is fun to have a brother. Later, Greg and Rowely put the video of the talent contest on YouTube and calls it “Lame Band with Crazy Mom Dancing” which becomes an instant hit. Rodrick shouts that Greg is “so dead” and the film closes.

REVIEW:

Like many people, junior high was not exactly the best of times for me. Of course, it was nothing compared to the apparent living hell that Greg has to deal with in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.

This is the sequel to the surprise hit Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Apparently, these are very successful books and a third film is in production as I’m typing. I still haven’t read them, but I’ll get to that…eventually.

Picking up where the last film left off, everyone is now a year older, which means 7th grade. Before school starts, though, the family has an outing to the skating rink. Does anyone skate anymore? I’m just curious.

Anyway, in typical sibling rivalry, Greg and Rodrick do something to  each other which gets Greg nearly trampled by these headbanger looking skaters. All of a sudden, mom comes on and…well, let’s just say the moment of embarrassment was nearly unwatchable.

This whole film revolves around the relationship and rivalry between the two, culminating when it comes out about a party that was thrown when the parents were away.

I won’t criticize the story, as I didn’t feel like there was anything wrong with it. My issue with this film is more of a continuation of issues that were prevalent in the first film. First, there is Greg. Again, this kid is about as unlikable as one can get without being the antagonist. This time, though, he isn’t hating on Rowley (although not wanting to be in his magic act was pretty low, in my opinion), but somehow decides Chiraq, another of his friends who goes to India with his parents for a couple of weeks is invisible. Somehow he gets the whole school to go along with this, too. I hate to say this, but the bad things that happen to this kid almost could be construed to karma.

Rodrick is your typical douche big brother. He has a much bigger role this time around. Of course, since his name is in the title, he better, right? He is actually almost more likable than Greg, which is a shame since he’s supposed to be more of a bad guy. Like I said, I haven’t read the books, so I don’t know if they are actually written like this, so it they aren’t then new actors or writers are needed to save these characters.

The mom (who is quite the MILF, btw) is just too overprotective for her own good. I say that because it is obvious she is meant to be some kind of caricature of mothers, but good grief! Some of the things this woman does are just way too embarrassing.

One thing I can’t help but mention is how this flick seems to be on the same level as its predecessor. What I mean by that is that there has been no growth in th filmmaking. It is almost as if they were filmed at the same time with the same equipment and everything. The only thing that has aged is the cast. The old adage that some things get better with age doesn’t necessarily apply here, either.

Thankfully, this film doesn’t get all sappy and preachy the way so many family films have the tendency to do. Yes, there is a moralistic tone at the end, but it is more of a happy ending than anything else.

Like it’s predecessor, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is a surprisingly entertaining film, but is nothing to write home about. Sure, it is good family fun, but the obvious target audience for this is 4th graders (I’m estimating). I said that you’d be better served by watching an episode of Recess than watching the other film, but I won’t say that with this one. Just watch The Weekenders, instead. Seriously though, I can’t not recommend this, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Hollywood Canteen

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on January 25, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Two soldiers on sick leave spend three nights at the Hollywood Canteen before returning to active duty in the South Pacific. Slim Green (Hutton) is the millionth G.I. to enjoy the Canteen, and consequently wins a date with Joan Leslie. The other G.I., Sergeant Nolan, (Clark) gets to dance with Joan Crawford. Canteen founders Bette Davis and John Garfield give talks on the history of the Canteen. The soldiers enjoy a variety of musical numbers performed by a host of Hollywood stars.

REVIEW:

I’m a fan of old Hollywood, but for some reason, I had no idea that there was such an establishment as the Hollywood Canteen, a restaurant/nightclub for servicemen to enjoy during their shore leaves during the wars. The selling point of the place was that it was operated by celebrities. Can you imagine Bing Crosby cooking your burger, Jayne Mansfield bringing it you, and then as you leave saying goodbye to Lucille Ball, the hat check girl. That is what a night was like there, and this film Hollywood Canteen shows us what it was like.

Initially, I expected this to be some kind of variety package film, but it turns out that there actually a plot involving a soldier about to return to active duty, but before he ships out, he wants to meet Joan Leslie. One night, he makes a trip to the Canteen and impresses all the workers there so much that they make a call to her, make up some faux contest which lets him kiss Joan Leslie. From there on, the film spends its time on musical acts and the soldier’s infatuation with Joan Leslie, which does end up with the two of them starting a relationship.

The plot is a little flimsy and at times can be downright creepy, what with the whole stalking of Joan Leslie, for lack of a better term. At the same time, there are some quite sweet moments, especially with this soldier who can’t be more innocent and lovable.

I do belive this is the one film I’ve seen that doesn’t have an antagonist. No, there isn’t anything wrong with that, just an observation.

A key selling point of this film is the performances and cameos from old Hollywood stars, such as Bette Davis, Roy Rogers, Jane Wyman, the Andrews Sisters, Jack Benny, Barbara Stanwyck, Peter Lorre, and many others. Couple that with the touching story and one can have quite the rousing time watching this film. However, I do think that it went on a good 30 minutes or so too long, but that’s my personal opinion. Should you watch this? Yes, it is, but this is not the film for everyone. If you’re not into classic Hollywood, then you won’t be able to enjoy this film. Otherwise, kick back, relax, and enjoy!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars