Sunday, February 28, 2010

Talk Radio (1988)

I wanted to like this more than I did. It had some really good writing and some great acting, but the movie was just good, not great.

Barry Champlain (Eric Bogosian) is a loud mouthed, annoying and downright mean late night talk radio host who enjoys calling out his listeners and the greater Dallas area citizens for who they truly are. They, in turn, do not wish to hear it. People love to hate him, at least, that's how he sees it. His boss, Dan (Alec Baldwin), has just informed him there are plans in motion to make Barry's show nationally syndicated. He is torn about whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing. He calls on the comfort of both old and new friends to get him through the transition.

Loosely based on the life of Alan Berg, Bogosian plays Barry as a self-obsessed person who cannot fathom his success. He just talks. There was one great monologue towards the end of the movie that reiterates this notion. This movie was just good. In the end, nothing really stood out about it. Working in media, I was hoping it would speak more to me than it did. It was a good movie, so I do recommend it, but don't expect anything great.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Invention of Lying (2009)

It's Ricky Gervais written, directed and acted, do I really need to say more. This movie uses his type of comedy to its fullest and it's really funny.

Gervais is Mark Bellison, a shlubbish screenwriter who doesn't really have any success at it. He lives in a world where lying just does not exist. People are incapable of lying. As Mark has no luck with women, he's just gotten fired and is about to be evicted, he's goes to the bank to get what little money he has out of his account. Then, something clicks in his brain and he says the world's first lie. This leads to more success and a chance to get close to Anna (Jennifer Garner). Through a series of unfortunate events, the movie takes an ideological turn for the worse...and the hilarious.

This movie can definitely draw comparisons to Monty Python's Life of Brian. However, Gervais still keeps the humor all of his own. It's witty, biting and smart. Garner was great as she had to keep playing it straight the whole time. Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Louis CK and a few other cameos kept the movie's tone and helped make it more enjoyable. I recommend this movie to comedy fans.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Big Fan (2009)

The insanity of sports fandom comes to a head with this movie. This dark dramedy is helped a lot by the presence of a lesser known actor. A big name would not have been able to pull this off.

Patton Oswalt plays Paul. He's a thirtysomething who still lives at home with his mother and has a job that barely gives him enough money to put gas in his car. He's also a HUGE Giants fan. Him and his best friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) tailgate at the games and watch them from the parking lot. Devotion knows no bounds, except ticket prices. One weeknight, the two see their favorite Giant, Quantrell Bishop, out on the town. They follow him to a strip club where, through some misunderstandings, Bishop pummels the crap out of Paul. After being laid up, Paul is questioned from all sides but doesn't give out answers. He's not sure if he should punish the man who did this to him because that would hurt the team that he loves. The public's on one side, his family's on the other, and he's stuck in the middle.

Oswalt was great. I was surprised as I'm sure everyone was who saw this. He had enough comedy and drama in the role to bring a sense of realism to the movie. You felt torn because he felt torn. What also helped is that this feels like it could really happen. There are superfans out there who are nuts for athletes and their teams. Might be hard to find, but go and watch this movie.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (2009)

Call this "The Penis Monologues." Not my quote, but true nonetheless. John Krasinski's directorial debut was disappointing to say the least, even with the talent involved in this movie.

Sara (Julianne Nicholson) is a doctoral or graduate student who is trying to do an experiment on men and what makes them tick. All of the subjects are interviewed on their relationship ability. In particular, the questions revolve around sex and family. This experiment may have been pushed into existence by a recent break up with an unfaithful Ryan (John Krasinski). It has left her with a lot of questions, especially after Ryan's explanation was either too specific or too vague, depending on how you look at it. The hideousness in the title comes from either the inside or outside of these subjects on a case-by-case basis.

Adapted from a David Foster Wallace novel, Krasinski tried to wrap it all into a movie. While this makes me want to read the book, this movie left everything open-ended, and that was unfortunate. From Krasinski to Will Arnett to Christopher Meloni, the talent could have been used much more effectively. There was one great scene though involving Subject #42 "confronting" his father. I could watch that scene over and over. The rest of the movie, not so much.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sophie's Choice (1982)

One of the classic Meryl Streep movies that everyone is supposed to see if you want a great acting performance. I can't disagree with that.

Streep stars as Sophie, a Polish immigrant living in Brooklyn circa 1947. She lives in one of the 2nd level apartments of a boarding house with her boyfriend Nathan (Kevin Kline). We meet them after the newest tenant Stingo (Peter MacNichol) moves in to the big city from the south. The three of them quickly becomes friends and the almost inseparable, to the point where Nathan starts becoming suspicious of Stingo and Sophie. That's how Nathan gets when he drinks, jealous and violent. After every outburst though, the friends would easily patch things up. They all seem to have love for each other, how differently they tend to show it, but things are not as they seem. As the plot unravels, so do the individual stories of Sophie and Nathan. The term "Don't judge a book by its cover" comes to mind.

It's been said, and now I can agree with them, that this is Streep's finest hour. She carries the movie from start to finish and you really can feel for her in her blind love and hidden torment. It should also be said that Kline and MacNichol did a great job alongside Streep. The movie as a whole was a little long and had a few scenes that seemed unnecessary. Other than that, no complaints.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Black Dynamite (2009)

If my top 10 list for the year wasn't already complete, this would definitely jump in there. This was the funniest movie of 2009 for so many reasons.

Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is one bad ass dude, hellbent on bringing down the man. After his brother Jimmy is killed by the heads of a drug organization, Dynamite needs to get his revenge on the turkeys who committed the crime. He spares no expense and interrogates every witness or potential lead in his own way. He needs the answers. His old CIA and Vietnam partner O'Leary recruits Dynamite to get him CIA credentials once again. As he is pursuing the person who killed his brother, he finds out the problem goes beyond Jimmy. The drug kingpin is funneling a new drug into the community and worse, into the schools and orphanages. The drug: Smack. Growing up an orphan, Dynamite cannot stand this and now he's madder than ever.

This is a blaxploitation movie that sends up and parodies blaxploitation movies from the 70s. From the bad acting to the missed lines to the visual continuity errors to the bad fight sequences. When it screwed up, it did it on purpose and that made it so much funnier. White was unbelievably funny as the all-too-serious Black Dynamite and it just worked to perfection. Arsenio Hall, Cedric Yarbrough, Brian McKnight and Tommy Davidson all showed up in hilarious cameos as either pimps or pushers. I cannot recommend this movie enough.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day (2010)

This movie helps prove that the only movie to try and use the Love Actually style of storytelling successfully is Love Actually.

There are far too many storylines and characters to go through each of their plots individually, so I'll just get to a couple. Julia Roberts is a Army captain trying to get home and Bradley Cooper plays the guy sitting next to her. Ashton Kutcher just proposed to Jessica Alba. Topher Grace and Anne Hathaway just started dating, but there's a kink in their relationship. And Emma Roberts wants to have Each of the stories all started out good, but then take a turn. Most are pretty predictable, so just think about all the other romantic comedies you've seen and you have the rest of the plot to this film.

I really wanted to hate this movie but I just didn't. Man cred aside, I definitely did not like this movie by any means. It had its moments but they were few and far between. The Grace/Hathaway storyline was the best because it was the funniest. It helps prove that Topher Grace is the best at the awkward humor. Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg be damned, they can't match Grace's timing. George Lopez was also funny as Kutcher's best friend. The worst, by far, was the Taylors (Swift and Lautner). Not only can they not act but...they really can't act. Girls will probably like this, guys won't.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Notorious (2009)

This movie could and should have been a lot better. It might have helped if they told us enough stuff that most music or hip hop fans didn't already know.

Jamal Woolard stars as Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G. Growing up in New York, Biggie lived a relatively nice life on the hard streets. But the enticing nature of the neighborhood he lived in got to him. At an early age, he started selling drugs. As a teenager, he left high school for a life on the streets. Influenced by Kurtis Blow and others legendary rappers, he began writing down his thoughts as raps. After a stint in prison, Wallace set out to try and build a better life for his infant daughter through rap. That's how he met Sean Combs (Derek Luke). Combs promised to make him a star and that's exactly what he did. As Biggie's career grew, so did his metaphorical stature. His friendship with Tupac (Anthony Mackie) crumbled over, what the movie says, was a misunderstanding. It brought the East Coast vs West Coast feud to a whole new and tragic level.

If you know absolutely nothing about B.I.G. and Tupac, this might be the movie you want to watch. For me, I knew a lot of this information already. A 2002 documentary called Biggie and Tupac helped explain a lot of it. Also, the style was way too choppy. There were no real transitions. It was just this happened, then this, then this, then this, end. It kept me guessing if the previous scene was actually over or if I'd be brought back to it in some way. The acting was good for the most part, but the movie just didn't work for me.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Julie & Julia (2009)

For a chick flick, girl power type of movie, it wasn't that bad. I definitely was not going to stand in line for this at the theaters, but since it got sent to my house, I figured I'd give it a whirl.

The movie follows two plot lines at once. The one I consider to be the main one involves Julie Powell (Amy Adams). Julie is closing in on her 30th birthday and has a menial job with virtually no money to her name. Her friends are stuck up snobs with high paying careers while she works in a cubicle answering phones all day. After a "friend" writes a somewhat demeaning article about her, she decides to use her passion for writing and start a blog. She likes to cook, so she decides to do every recipe from the Julia Child cookbook in one year. There's the 2nd plot line, the life and times of Julia Child (Meryl Streep). It follows her love of her husband (Stanley Tucci) and her love of food, specifically French food. In the 1940s, it was almost unheard of for a woman to get into a French culinary institute, let alone an American woman. She got in and, while the head cook loved her, the headmistress hated her. She decided to strike out one her own and, with the help of some friends and acquaintances, try and release her own cookbook. Full circle, huh?

Streep's performance was pretty good, definitely Oscar nomination worthy. I've honestly seen better work from Adams. Her performance was just okay. The one that didn't get enough credit was Tucci as Child's unbelievably faithful and proud husband. I thought he was fantastic. This was not included in the 10 Best Picture nominees but I actually thought this was just as good as, if not better than The Blind Side.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Somewhat along the lines of Monsters Vs Aliens in the humor styling because it had a lot of sight gags and adult-based comedy involved. This was better though and the main reason was the directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who co-created the hilarious "Clone High" (look it up) for MTV in 2002.

In the town of Swallow Falls, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) is a guy who never grew up. He has constantly tried to fulfill his lifelong goal of inventing a useful product so everyone, especially daddy, will like him. Spray on shoes and a remote controlled TV (not what you think) among other things. One day, while trying to impress the townsfolk, Flint wants to show off his latest invention that turns water into food. When the machine goes haywire, it flies into the atmosphere. That's when it works and starts raining food. The national weather service sends a young reporter, Sam (Anna Faris), on a fool's errand to cover the events. She soon starts working with and encouraging Flint to make the machine better, and he starts to fall for her. However, the more food the machine pumps out, the more dangerous the consequences become.

The large scale of the imagery and story will appeal to children, but it's the writing the older crowd will love. There are moments where the jokes come rapid fire and you have to rewind because you were laughing at one thing and missing another. What also helped was the talent involved. Apart from Farris and Hader, you had the likes of Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris, James Caan, Bruce Campbell, Benjamin Bratt, Al Roker, Will Forte, Neil Flynn, Bobb'e J. Thompson, and the incomparable Mr. T. The only downside was that I wanted it to last longer. Watch this.