Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: "Hereafter"

This is posted over at OK.

If you’ve ever brought together two good friends from different spheres of your life together, only to be stunned at how bored and tedious things got when you all hung out, you know what it’s like to watch a Clint Eastwood-Matt Damon pairing.

It’s exacerbated by how much you like both parties on their own, and how hard you try to convince yourself something lively will come out of the pairing. You try to start a conversation.

You: “So, uh, Matt, you know Clint likes the Red Sox, too.”

Clint: “No I don’t.”

“Oh, well, Clint, Matt starred in a Western just like you used to!”

Matt: “Yeah, I did All the Pretty Horses, but that was a flop and I don’t really like to talk about it.”

You: “Riiight. Who’s up for some Parcheesi?”

After suffering through the solidly made but slumber-inducing Vindictus and Hereafter, it’s clear that the duo go together like peanut butter and jellyfish. While it may well be that the writing on both projects is at fault for the lack of any spark, it’s time to cut our losses and stage an intervention to break this pair up before they start gaining more bizarrely undeserved Oscar success and thinking they’re some sort of Scorsese/DiCaprio unit.

To get a feel for the movie, imagine Crash meets Meet Joe Black with an extra dose of unwatchable. The movie spins three equally uninteresting tales about death, alternating from one to the other before eventually smushing together all three in a forced finale that doesn’t so much tie up loose ends as it does fray them with a blowtorch.

Story one stars Cecile De France as a French newswoman who nearly dies when the tidal waves The Day After Tomorrow barges in on her vacation. Story two features Damon as an all-grown-up Haley Joel Osment whose psychic medium abilities prevent him from having sex with Bryce Dallas Howard. And then there’s a tale of a sullen British boy who struggles through foster care after the untimely departure of his twin brother.

Damon’s story is the closest to amusement the movie comes, if only due to his character’s omnipresent confused scowl and obsession with Charles Dickens. The man is so into C.Dick that he falls to sleep to his audio books. What I don’t get is why he needs those audio books, since he obviously has the power to speak to Dickens and have him personally read his beddy-bye stories.

There is symbolic poignance to those scenes, though. They serve as psychic symbolism for this movie’s eventual fate, as a DVD that doubles as a sleep aid.

Starring Matt Damon, Cecile De France, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jay Mohr. Written by Peter Morgan. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Rated PG-13. 110 minutes.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Clever Dude Wants To Punch Me In The Face

Read about his animosity here.

Movie Review: Life as We Know It

Life as We Know It isn’t so much a movie as it is a social experiment. It proves, through extensive mixture of film formulas, that you can make two people who absolutely hate each other fall madly in love with one another as long as you trap them in a house with a baby.

The movie may drag more than it entertains, but at least it’s aware of the universal truth that despite common wisdom, babies bring parents closer together rather than push them apart. Raising a child is like being thrown into an insane reality show in which contestants are faced with inhumane challenges to the body and soul, driven together in moments of constant crisis and chronic sleep deprivation. It’s somewhat like what drew Boston Rob and Amber together in Survivor.

Any reality show setup would be more convincing than the sloppy plotting that turns bitter enemies Holly (Katherine Heigl) and Eric (Josh Duhamel) into parents of their mutual best friends’ 1-year-old girl. Following a fatal car crash suffered by the infants’ parents, a lawyer tells the protagonists that they must live together in their deceased pals’ mansion and raise their child together.

This part of the film highlighted a little-known fact about last wills and testaments: Whatever you put in there, no matter how stupid and harmful to others, it becomes law. You can will your best friend to have to jump on one leg for 25 years after you die, and he has to do it. You can will the Air Force to conduct a bombing raid on the Moon, and they have to go through with it or answer to the Make a Wish Foundation. You can’t will the Cubs to win the World Series though, because some things are just impossible.

I nearly sobbed at the funeral scene, sullen in the knowledge that I’d spend the next 90-plus minutes watching a painfully forced romance emerge. You watch bickering turn into flirtation, which leads to hot-and-heavy glances, which turns into sex-signifying fade-outs followed by screaming matches drummed up by contrived late-film fights. Such are the ways of love when conducted by complete morons.

At least I got to enjoy the long-overdue comeuppance of Josh Lucas, who plays Sam, a pediatrician who has the hots for Heigl. In the 2 billion romantic comedies in which Lucas has starred, he’s been the roguish free spirit who managed to sweep the heroine off her feet, derailing her from a life of blissful boredom with the nice but boring guy.

Not this time, sucka. Sam is forced to stand by idly as the nice but boring guy who’s powerless to stop Duhamel from taking the entire movie to decide his hate for Holly is really love because of the evil magic cast over him by the baby.

If only Sam had seen Knocked Up, he would have realized that Heigl was susceptible to bad romances with baby daddies.

Starring Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas and Christina Hendricks. Written by Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson. Directed by Greg Berlanti. 113 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Movie review: The Social Network

This is posted over at OK.

If The Social Network is to be believed, Mark Zuckerberg is a truly remarkable individual. Not because he invented Facebook – or at least managed to swindle close friends and business associates into owning the company that has collected 500 million members make him worth $7 billion – but because he is the world’s first rich
@hole who is incapable of getting any chicks.

Word has it that Zuckerberg is furious that the movie is making him look like a shyster who stole others’ ideas and ran with them all the way to the bajillionaire’s club, but what he should be angry about is how the movie makes him appear to have as much game as Screech from Saved by the Bell. As played by Jesse Eisenberg, Zuckerberg is a tunnel-visioned, shrewd businessman and genius computer hacker who can’t even muster up the nerve to send a friend request to the unrequited love of his life
who drove him to make something of himself.

The flimsiness of the central character is the only fault I can find with the cyberninja drama, which tugs you along with Farmville-like addiction into its
torrent of backstabbing and betrayals.

Shocks and surprises abound in the brilliantly directed film by David Fincher, pepped up by Aaron Sorkin’s silky dialogue and a spine-tingling soundtrack by Trent Reznor:

*Justin Timberlake can not only act, but he’s so charismatic as Napster founder-turned Zuckerberg partner Sean Parker that he may earn an Oscar to go with his Grammys.

*A movie about people standing around yelling at each other and occasionally typing can be as riveting as Rocky 3. Did I stutter? Yep, that’s Rocky 3, the one with both Hulk Hogan AND Mr. T.

*A key to Facebook’s success was making Baylor students jealous of it. Baylor!

*Someone actually remembers what Friendster is.

The best aspect of the movie is just how delightfully trashy it is. There are more “oh no he di-in’t” moments than in an episode of Jersey Shore. Characters treat each other like verbal punching bags, and the scenes you’d expect to be the least engaging – those featuring Zuckerberg and his former business partners sitting around a table meeting with lawyers – are often the most engaging. This despite the fact that many of the other scenes feature Timberlake hosting parties where people do coke lines off of tummies of stripping co-eds while covering up just enough skin to keep the movie in the PG-13 range.

Eisenberg has just enough of a soft touch to keep his ruthless, obsessive character relatable, while also ensuring that Zuckerberg’s virginity will continue to remain intact. Which is nice, because if this movie is true, we really don’t want this guy reproducing, because little Zuckerbergs would undoubtedly be smart enough to create death-dealing robots who enslave humanity while showing your girlfriend photos of that party you swore you didn’t go to the other night.

Or at least steal the idea to make those robots from giant twin frat boys.

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. Written by Aaron Sorkin, based on a book by Ben Mezrich. Directed by David Fincher. 120 minutes. Rated PG-13.