Entries tagged with “Rachel McAdams”.

Some film guru once stated that there are two types of movies: those stories about the human condition (timeless tales), and those that show you something you could never see otherwise (special effects extravaganzas).

Right now, you can see two prime examples of these movie types, each a standout in its particular weight class. For the human condition genre, we have the always scrappy Woody Allen weighing in with one of his best films of the past few decades: Midnight in Paris. And in the opposite corner, representing state of the art heavyweight special effects and 3-D whizbangery, Mr. over-the-top perennial heavyweight Michael Bay and his Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Both are worth seeing for different reasons.

Woody directs humans in a human story.

I am a fan of the timeless tale human condition genre, and the simple premise of Midnight in Paris is one with real sticking power. Owen Wilson plays Gil, a successful Hollywood screenwriter who is miserable with his lot in life. He loves Paris, rainy nights and the romantic dream of writing the great novel. He yearns to be like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cole Porter and the posse of 1920’s artistic ex-pats who made Paris their home and playground. Gil is engaged to Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, a woman who was born into the finer things of life. Her parents are in Paris to help the couple make their wedding plans. Inez and her folks represent conformity, pragmatism, be-happy-with-what-you’ve-got-and-get-your-head-outta-the-cloudsism. They are the cold boot of reality kicking upside Gil’s silly romantic notions-filled head.

One night, Gil is alone on a contemplative stroll through the Paris streets. A clock strikes midnight, and a 1920’s auto rolls up and stops. The back door opens and Gil sees people in 1920’s dress slurping cocktails and laughing gayly. They invite him to join, and he does.

Off Gil goes to live it up with his heroes: Ernest, F. Scott, Zelda, Cole, Gertrude, Salvador, Pablo and more. He lives magically in his ideal period, the man out of time who finally finds his time. After a wild night, he is back to modern times and his modern life and modern problems. Like a junkie, once he’s had a taste of his pleasure-filled escape, he returns again and again to his midnight strolls that transport him back to his romanticized time.

Along the way, he falls in love– never a good idea for time travelers. And the happy couple have their own physics bending adventure with ironic and illuminating outcomes.

I’ll say no more than this is a charming, magical and lasting movie that uses imagination and the human condition as special effects to make a simple, yet profound point. And Owen Wilson is certainly not the Owen Wilson we saw in Marley & Me. Thank God.

Chalk one up for the Woodman and the human condition timeless tale with a dash of magic thrown in for good measure. This is a terrific film.

Michael directs human props in a special effects story.

Which brings us to Transformers: Dark of the Moon. But before I get started, let me disclose my prejudices right up front.
1. I’m not a Michael Bay fan. His commercial work was great, his features work overblown.
2. I’m not a fan of big stupid special effects movies. For the most part, the stories are lame and the effects don’t stick in my memory banks.
3. I’m not a big fan of Shia LaBeouf. The guy doesn’t have much gravitas, soul, screen presence. He can act, but he’s like diluted vanilla.
4. Don’t much care for Transformers. This could be a result of having stepped on too many of the damn things when our kids played with them– a time when Transformers littered our house ready to transform from toys into implements of painful death.
5. I think most 3-D movies are gimmicks not worthy of the upcharge for the silly glasses required to view them

All these prejudices aside, I’m glad I saw this film. It was the coolest 3-D movie I’ve ever seen, and Michael Bay has some amazing camerawork. In a weird way, what makes Bay obnoxious in two dimensions makes him pretty spectacular in three. It’s like icing on top of frosting that somehow works for a visual feast worth attending.

The plot? Well, yeah, there’s a plot: an alien spacecraft crashes on the moon, N.A.S.A. alerts the White House and the next thing you know, J.F.K. initiates the space program to get a man on the moon to investigate before the Ruskies do. We all thought the moon mission was for pride, but it was to investigate the crashed alien spacecraft– why must our leaders always deceive us?

Yada blah blah yada and here we are in the present or near future and Autobots are helping our government and evil Decepticons (nasty Transformers who need a good talking to so that they’ll maybe straighten up and fly right!) want to take over our planet and the key to the whole shebang are some special rods that were on that spacecraft that crashed into the moon and well, Yada blah blah yada.

Yeah, there’s a plot and there’s some talented actors trapped in the plot: John Turturro, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and Dr. McDreamy himself. Shia LeBeouf has him a hot new girlfriend, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Michael Bay is more than happy to show us why she’s a star in the Victoria’s Secret catalog. The script does not develop her character any further than commentary from all perspectives that she’s a hottie. It doesn’t really matter, the humans serve only one purpose in this film: give some puny scale against which the mighty Transformers might dominate and intimidate.

And that’s where this film shines. The effects work is stunning. The 3-D shot composition, especially in master shots with tiny humans in foreground and massive Transformer and breathtaking vistas in background are what make this film worth forking over the extra bucks for the glasses.

If you cheap out and see the film in 2-D, be warned– you’ll only be magnifying the silliness of this affair.

The movie clocks in at over two and a half hours. It could have easily lost a half hour or forty-five minutes, but when you’re guorging yourself, what’s some extra cheese?

All in all, this film is worth sitting through for the amusement park adventure of the spectacular destruction of Chicago and some famous landmarks. Don’t expect much more than that, and you’ll enjoy your long, noisy ride.

Imagine you’ve spent a distinguished career as a respected journalist, and you finally get a shot to appear in a feature film alongside Bob Schieffer and Chris Matthews and HARRISON FORD!

You’d be thinking, I’m golden, I got me some cinematic gold dust to sprinkle on my career.

Unfortunately, the movie is a miserable mess called Morning Glory, the dreaded romantic comedy that has neither believable romance or laughable comedy. Yes, it’s that catnip called a date movie that every male attends knowing in the back of his mind that it will be disappointing, but holding optimistic hope that he may be fooled.

No such luck here. This sucker never gets airborne.

The plot is this: a perky producer played by Rachel McAdams is fired from her job working for a morning show in New Jersey. She’s down, she’s out, even her mom loses faith in her dream. Wah wah wahhhhhh.

But you can’t keep a dreamer down. No, she gets an interview with the lowest ranked morning show on a national network– staffed with a dysfunctional crew and egomaniacal anchors, including an ex-Miss Arizona beauty queen played by Diane Keaton. Rachel gets hired as executive producer by boss man Jeff Goldblum. Hooray for the goodness and dreaming!

The perky producer begins shaking things up. She fires one anchor (leaving Diane Keaton in her role) and hires a new anchor, a curmudgeonly legendary newsman who has a network contract that says he HAS to take any job offered. This guy is played by a sleepwalking Harrison Ford.

Now imagine what sort of wacky hijinks might ensue with a lightweight female anchor (Keaton) and a heavyweight newsman anchor (Ford) who despise each other. I guarantee anything you imagined is better and funnier than what writer Aline Brosh McKenna imagined in her screenplay.

The entire film is plodding, poorly directed and paced by Roger Michell, and ultimately as satisfying as having a popcorn kernel wedged between two teeth. I had that dreaded condition during my screening and it did distract me a bit from the pain of viewing this hateful little film.

The scene with Morley, Bob, Chris and Harrison is one in which the pompous newsman is on a bender and out with his newsmen pals, and his perky producer comes to make him behave.

A pity Morley Safer had to be a part of such an embarrassing mess. He may want to go to a war zone to make himself feel better and atone for appearing in Morning Glory.

As for you, considered yourself fairly warned.

We’re talkin’ movies, babe. Big honking blockbustery movies. The kind of movies that make sitting in the dark with a bunch of total strangers worthwhile and not as sleazy as it sounds.

I once heard there are two types of movies. One type is character-driven stories; timeless tales of the human condition that most people will empathize with and plug into on an emotional level. The film Up in The Air is one of the best character-driven movies in a long time.

Type two are visually-driven tales; movies that are eye candy that take you places where reality cannot. These movies are less about character and more about creating worlds of wonder.

You can have facial hair but your Avatar will be naturally clean-shaven. Sweet!

Right now you can treat your eyeballs to a couple first rate visual wonders: Avatar set in the year 2154 and Sherlock Holmes circa 1891. Movie magic creates the world of the past and worlds of the future, and all you have to do is sit, watch and claw popcorn into your cakehole.

You can get a fix of Avatar in vanilla 2D flat screen, resplendent depth of field wonderment 3D or in your face 3D IMAX. I slipped on the glasses and did 3D. I suggest you at least do 3D since this film is a quantum leap forward in CGI technology and you may as well get the full effect (no, there aren’t any extreme 3D tricks like bullets coming at your head).

On the plus side, this movie is like the Lord of The Rings movies: must-sees to see what computers can do to replicate vivid imaginations. Avatar is a visual smorgasbord and your eyeballs will feast ’til they puke.

There is a story here. It’s plodding and predictable; a mash-up of genre cliches that will give you a constant sense of deja vu and make you feel guilty about man’s intrinsic inhumanity toward fellow man. (Sigh.) I napped in places and still felt the movie was dragging and need some chainsaw editing. The music was a waste of musicians. The score is featherweight with no sticking power at all.

But I forgive Avatar its sins because the visuals on Pandora, where the freakishly tall blue peoplish things called Na’vi live, are spectacular. James Cameron spent six forevers making this film, inventing a lot of the technology that enabled these incredible images, so I’ve got to give the dude his due– it’s eye candy that’s orgasmic for the optic nerves. This film weighs in at almost three hours, so drink some strong coffee, slip on the 3D glasses, watch one-dimensional characters and see how cool technology is in the year 2154. Great advancements have been made everywhere, except in wheelchair design (what’s the deal, science, where’s the love?).

Sherlock with a six pack? Sir Arthur must be spinning.

Another pretty impressive eye candy display is Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. It’s not the Sherlock that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created, this is a testosterone-amped Sherlock who’s James Bond-ishly played by Robert Downey Jr. He’s intellectual, yes, but he’s also kick-ass physical. Sherlock’s got an ex-lover played by the lovely Rachel McAdams. She’s done him wrong but he still pines for her. Can he trust her?. I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ to nobody.

Sherlock’s proverbial sidekick, Dr. Watson, is no doddering old fart here– he’s Jude Law, hardly the dumpy, frumpy Watson we’ve grown up with.

Now, you’d think this movie would be a character-driven tale, after all you have a couple of the most famous characters ever created trying to foil evilniks. But no, it’s more of a visually-driven film. And that’s not a horrible thing. The re-imagined characters are fun and interesting and that’s fine by me.

The computers worked overtime to create a stunning 1891 London. The effects are seamless, the art direction meticulous, sumptuous and filling. Oh, Guy Ritchie does his Guy Ritchie camera tricks, the wah-wah over-cranked slo-mo shots here and there, but fortunately he doesn’t beat the horse dead.

This Sherlock is a fun action flick with plenty of chases and fights and thrills. It’s a romp, and Hans Zimmer’s score is terrificly eclectic and fun.

Robert Downey Jr. is great, as usual, and Jude Law brings his A-game. It’s a movie well-worth seeing, just don’t expect it to be the Sherlock you know and love. For Pete’s sake, even his pipe’s changed!

No special effects, explosions or fights-- but can it entertain?

The last must-see movie is Up In The Air, a film of modern day timeless human connections with no big CGI work or explosions, fights or chases. This movie is my favorite of the bunch.

Not to belittle the other two films, but frankly, there wasn’t much that stuck with me after I left the theatre. Oh, we had a good time in the dark, but it wasn’t a lasting relationship. Just disposable images. But Up In The Air, this is the real deal, a terrific story of fresh interesting characters and a timeless explorations of the human condition.

Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking) has a wonderful natural touch with human stories. In this one, George Clooney is a road warrior who specializes in downsizing corporate America. He’s a very busy boy. He is a cynical philosopher king who believes in traveling light, physically and emotionally. By and by he falls for Vera Farmiga and he mentors Anna Kendrick in the art of the hatchet. The screenplay is textured, nuanced and wise. If you expect this to be a comedy you will be disappointed. It’s amusing, compelling and seductively romantic. Most of all, it’s a movie that makes you think about life and living.

And that’s the kind of movie that endures beyond movie making techniques for me.