Entries tagged with “Robert Downey”.


Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting and waiting some more for laughs to arrive. Will they ever come?

I can’t recall if it was Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert who came up with ‘beware three or more writers rule’, but he was very wise.

The rules is simple: if a screenplay has three or more people listed in the credit, you’ve got an early warning sign it’s going to be a bad movie. Well, Due Date has four people credited as writers. Four writers, including director Todd Phillips, who should be ashamed for bringing this project to fruition.

Then again, there’s no excuse for talented actors like Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis to get involved with a script this bad unless they are illiterate or really hard up for cash.

The premise of the film is pretty simple: it’s Planes, Trains & Automobiles with some wacky plot twists and a cute dog thrown in for good measure (cute dogs are Hollywood’s catnip for guffaws). Whereas PT&A was fresh and funny, this film is stale and barely amusing.

If you saw the trailer, save your money. You’ve seen the best parts of the film. If you’re a diehard Downey, Jr. or Galifianakis fan, wait for the video. If moviegoers waste good hard-earned cash on claptrap like this, Hollywood will keep serving us more.

It’s time to send a message. I’ve done my part.

I feel like watching Planes, Trains & Automobiles again.

 

Careful Analysis Pays Dividends For You

My Careful Analysis Pays Dividends For You

Four movies for your two eyes, two ears.

“Burn After Reading”– You need to manage your expectations on this one, people. It’s being marketed as a comedy. If you walk in, sit down, fold your arms and say “O.K., clown-boys, make me laugh!” you won’t enjoy this movie as much as you should. Yes, there are some laughs in “Burn”.  Some laughs. But mostly it’s a quirky character-driven intricately plotted web of intrigue, vanity and stupidity. 

This is the latest offering from Joel & Ethan Coen (who some call “The Coen Brothers”, I call them “Those Kooky Coen Kids”). They’re hot off the Oscar-heavy success of “No Country For Old Men” and here they definitely toss a change up from the heavy drama of that jewel.

I’ll eagerly to see anything the Coens make, after all they’ve made some of the most interesting and enjoyable films of recent times:  “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, “Miller’s Crossing”, “The Big Leboski”, “Fargo”, “Raising Arizona”, “Blood Simple”, “Barton Fink” and more).

In “Burn After Reading”, you’ve got star power galore with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich. You’ve got nepotism with Frances McDormand playing a lead (she’s the wife of Joel Coen, but she’s always terrific and probably doesn’t need the inside connection). You’ve got great character actors in Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins and J.K. Simmons. You’ve got a free-wheeling story that just keeps spinning inter-connected plot lines and catapults the story along to a conclusion that is fulfilling, believable and as arbitrary as life itself.

I did miss Roger Deakins, who has been the director of photography for just about all the later Coen films. “Burn” does not have the cinematic grandeur and camera movement as previous Coen flicks, but it does keep you moving and guessing and enjoying the ride, so what the hell, enjoy your time off Mr. Deakins… but please come back soon. I miss you.

“Tropic Thunder”– There’s a reason this film is doing some serious box office business: it does what a comedy is supposed to do, give your lungs a healthy workout. This is one seriously funny movie.

But even if it wasn’t funny, it’s a pretty good action-adventure film thanks to some beautiful cinematography by two time Oscar winner John Toll and excellent directing by Ben Stiller.

Stiller co-wrote this yukfest with actor Justin Theroux and the incomparable Ethan Coen (moonlighting while Joel slept with wife Frances).

The premise of the movie is the making of a big budget movie based on a  best selling book about the Vietnam War called “Tropic Thunder”.  

The main attraction is Robert Downey, Jr., playing 5-time Oscar-winning Australian actor Kirk Lazarus. Kirk is the ultimate method actor so for the role of an African-American sergeant, he has a controversial skin- tinting procedure. Downey plays it to the hilt as brother fighting for The Man. But a white dude playing black does not play well with fellow actor Alpa Chino, who really is black, played superbly by Brandon T. Jackson. 

This is the year of Robert Downey, Jr. With this role and playing the lead in “Iron Man”, he stars in two of the best movies of the year, with another promising one (“The Soloist”) on the horizon.

Ben Stiller gobbles his scenes as the Sly Stallone-like mega-action-fading-star Tugg Speedman. His obsequious agent is ably played by Matthew McConaughey (who amazingly plays the entire role shirted).

Jack Black plays a drug addicted co-star who’s made his fame in a series of successful ‘fart films’ (can you say “Eddie Murphy”?) and now wants to be taken seriously as an ACTOR

And the big buzz of the film is Tom Cruise playing an obnoxiously overbearing ball-busting studio head. Cruise has great make-up, rage and screen presence, and you can tell he loved every minute of playing this outrageous jerk.

This movie is decidedly politically incorrect, raunchy, sophomoric and foul– so if you’re easily offended rent “The Sound of Music”, eat taffy and pray for a gentler world. But if you’re up for some good laughs and fun pyrotechnics, grab a chair and kiss a couple hours goodbye. It’s well worth the trip.

“Vicky Christina Barcelona” — Woody Allen is a machine who’s been churning out movies for 42 years. He earned his chops as a master of comedies, defiantly made a series of soberingly depressing dramas and has bobbed about with light dramas, comic capers and interesting character studies. This movie is one of his human stories.

Vicky is played by the beautiful Rebecca Hall. She’s a confident woman engaged to a Mr. Conformity in NYC. She is more pragmatist than poet. She believes she knows herself and her destiny.  She marches through life with firm footed certainty.

Christina is played by the luminous Scarlett Johansson. She’s a flighty insecure woman who is looking for love in all the wrong places but remains a hopeless romantic. She is open to possibilities and growth, unsure of every step she takes but knowing it will lead to something that could be better. She is an artist on her journey of discovery.

Vicky and Christina are enjoying a summer holiday in guess where– Barcelona (boy, the movie’s title gives away the entire story). They encounter an egocentric artist named Juan Antonio, wonderfully played by Javier Bardem (it’s hard to believe this is the same dude who lugged around the bovine-skull-crushing air gun in “No Country For Old Men”). He is on a hedonistic bender, on the rebound from a toxic relationship with his ex-wife, Maria Elena (played by Penelope Cruz).

Juan Anotonio proposes a threesome to Vicky and Christina. He loses that proposal, but gets involved with each beauty individually. He and Christina become an item, his unstable ex enters the scene, more things happen and then some other things happen, too.

I’ll say no more except this movie is a must-see for anyone who ponders the human condition and enjoys adult stories that make your brain contemplate life. Good on you, Woody.

“In Bruges”– You’ll have to rent this puppy, but go ahead and get it in your queue today. This tale of two hired killers in the Belgium resort Bruges is a fun romp well acted by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell (his performance here is almost good enough to wipe away the stench and sin of starring in “Alexander”). Ralph Fiennes is their irate boss back in the U.K., and as you probably guessed, there is a racist dwarf (sorry, little person). 

It was written and directed by celebrated Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. This is an impressive debut for an incredible talent. It’s beautifully shot with a hauntingly beautiful musical score. Don’t even get me started on the impressive work of the Best Boy.

Give it a go. You’ll love being In Bruges, and won’t soon forget the trip.

 

What movies are worth your precious Hamiltons?

What movies are worth your precious Hamiltons?

Hollywood’s upped the ante to $10 for viewing one of their precious little “movies.” Add $54 for a medium popcorn, medium beverage and a box of Milk Duds (“The Blockbuster Bellybuster Valu Combo”) and we’re talking a pretty pricey couple hours. I’ll scribble a few lines to tell you which movies I believe are worth seeing and which ones aren’t worth your Hamilton.

“Pineapple Express”– I suppose if one’s really baked this movie lives up to the hype. Then again, smoke enough goof and staring at a brick is pretty funny. I was not terribly amused by this film so I guess I was obviously too sober.

Oh, it’s got a few laughs and some fun bits, but this is hardly a great comedy or action movie. Clocking in at almost two hours, this film could certainly lose some unsightly celluloid. It gets hyper-violent at the end, but it’s not hyper-amusing as it goes on and on and on some more. Then goes on some more, and a little bit more for good measure.

The movie’s not awful, it’s just awfully disappointing. I wanted more laughs, more amusement. Apparently the idea and the script were created by Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg when they were 16 or so. It feels like it. Guess I’ m just not on the Seth Rogen bandwagon.

I have a little system I use to rate just how much I don’t like a movie. If in a week, someone said I could see the same movie for free, would I? No, not this one. Then how much would they have to pay me to see the movie? $5? $10? $15? $20?

Keep the bidding going on this one. Save your Hammie for something else.

“The Dark Knight”— Take that ten spot you banked not going to Pineapple Express and treat yourself to this big honking action/adventure extravaganza.

Yes, Heath Ledger’s as good as you’ve heard (shame he never heard the great reviews but his performance is probably a lock for an Oscar nomination). Yes, Christian Bale can raise some hell against people who aren’t his family members. And yes, Christopher Nolan succeeded in following up the high cinematic bar he set in “Batman Begins”.

Gotham City looks gorgeously gloomy, ably played by the up and comer city of Chicago with some heavy make-up and dour disposition. The plot is intricate and the supporting cast superb. Aaron Eckhart is suave and de-boner (albeit a bit two-faced), Maggie Gyllenhaal delivers the goods along with Morgan Freeman playing the standard Morgan Freeman character–- the wise one who enlightens the way for heroes while dispensing sage advice. But the movie is owned by Ledger who scowls, grimaces, laughs diabolically behind make-up that wears away throughout the film (the classic symbolism for one losing his mojo). 

Perhaps the best performance belongs to Ledger’s tongue: darting, licking and smacking about like an animal struggling to be restrained. It’s a tongue performance for the ages.

Sure the movie could shed some weight at two and a half hours long, and some of the sub plots don’t work completely, and it just seems a waste to have an incredible talent like Gary Oldman play a milquetoast character like Gordon, but “the Dark Knight” is a hell of a ride and a visual spectacle throughout.  Pony up the Hamilton, pay some more if you’re able to see it in IMAX, but by all means see what the buzz is about.

“Iron Man”–  Another from the comic books, this is one of the best films of the year with great special effects, casting and performances all the way around. The script is tight. The first 20 minutes packs an incredible amount of background into an easily digested and fun to watch appetizer that sets up the hearty banquet ahead. From the opening frame on, the film catapults forward and keeps you interested, engaged and amused.  Sure, the climax is a bit strained, but what do you expect from comic book characters? Robert Downey, Jr. is terrific. Thank goodness he’s clean and sober because his talent would have been tragic to waste. Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard have Downey covered for a fun show that’s worth seeing at least once, if not twice. Director Jon Favreau kicked out the jams on this one. Strap on a seat and keep your arms inside the car.

“The Incredible Hulk”– Yet one more movie from the comics (makes me wonder if the Comic Book Store Guy from “The Simpsons” is running the studios these days).

This movie didn’t get its due. While not in the same league as “Iron Man” or “The Dark Knight”, this film is pretty damn good and worth seeing. Edward Norton does what Edward Norton always does: own every scene he’s in. His Bruce Banner is one conflicted cat, just don’t anger up his blood.

The problem is giving Norton a lightweight heroine in Liv Tyler. She disappears in the scenes they share.  The rest of the cast is O.K., Tim Roth serves a hefty dose of evil, and the story moves along at a healthy clip with some cool effects. Not a great film, but certainly worth seeing if it comes to a buck-a-rama near you. Definitely rent and watch when it’s out on DVD.

“Mamma Mia!”–  Yes, I am a heterosexual male and yes, I saw “Mamma Mia!”. In fact, I’ve seen it twice, once on the stage and now on the screen. I really liked the stage production, I really didn’t like the movie version. The reason is simple: the voices didn’t serve the musical. I think they let ABBA down (it’s never ever a good idea to let Abba down, people– ABBA must be served, it is a palindrome for Pete’s sake!).

Yes, Meryl Streep is a very talented actor, one of our best (can anyone cry better than Meryl cries?), but she is not a top drawer singing talent. Respectable, yes– she can carry a tune in a bucket. But phenomenal? Hardly. Her daughter, played by Amanda Seyfried, fares better in the singing department but she doesn’t bring much charisma or magic to the role. Pity, that.

As for the three papa bears in this Goldilocks tale, well, here’s where Mamma Mia! goes way off the tracks. Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Pierce Brosnan are likable enough but ill equipped to sing and dance. In fact, we all feel the shame when Pierce opens his mouth to warble. One wishes Daniel Craig as 007 would enter stage left, throttle him soundly and exit stage right.

Nope, the sad thing is this movie does a big disservice to the stage production. It forgets that a musical is about the music. Voices first, voices always.

Save your money for a first rate stage production of “Mamma Mia!”. This movie’s a letdown… and still it’s a blockbuster hit. Guess it shows what I know.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”– Take the two 800 pound gorillas of Hollywood, Lucas and Spielberg, add a proven bankable star (Harrison Ford) and a rising bankable star (Shia LeBeouf) in a franchise that’s grossed ten bazillion trillion dollars worldwide (Indiana Jones) and what have you got?

A terrible waste of a lot of talent.

The script’s goofy, the action ho hum and the adventure M.I.A. One can almost sense Spielberg yawning from behind the camera as he goes through the motions. This fourth installment of Indy should put him to rest, if there’s any justice. It’s already spawned a new expression for the venerable Jump the shark; in this case it’s called Nuke the fridge. 

Fonzie, thank Indy. You’re off the hook for the near future.

The set design of the ending scenes are obviously fake and cheesy. It’s hard to believe so many big names collaborated to make such a forgettable turd. Please don’t enable this people with your money– they may just do it again.

“Get Smart”… and skip “Get Smart”. It’s nothing like the TV show (which had a little something called ‘humor’, or ‘humour’ for British readers). What a waste of Steve Carell, time and money.