Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Screw the format.

Sure, I could write about this movie in two sentences; heck, I could review it in one: Avatar is underacted, over-directed, and completely lacking in subtlety.

But why stop there?

I’m certainly not saying I hated this movie. Lords know I was prepared to, but it was actually pretty entertaining, pretty good-looking—and I do enjoy the occasional popcorn movie chunk-o-cheez. And this IS a chunk-o-cheez: how about that OTT commanding officer? The Plucky, Undeveloped Latina Character Who We All Know is Going to Die a Hero? Stock stuff. And in keeping with the current blockbuster trend, just like the last over-hyped effects-laden pre-proclaimed megahit, Avatar ends in a Transformer battle (one-sided though this one is). Hey, at least Sigourney Weaver isn’t shooting the Aliens this time—heck, she IS one of the aliens! It’s not enough, and neither is even her performance; it’s obvious from Avatar’s first moments: the script and the acting need polishing.

What is polished—and all that anyone seems to really care about—are the visuals. “You’ve GOT to see Avatar on IMAX 3-D,” everyone drools. I’d prefer to have seen it in standard Real-D, where I don’t recall encountering the ghost images I saw with the huge blue-and-green IMAX glasses—which are perhaps why I was distracted enough to actually pay attention to the film as a whole.

Amazing CGI does not a good movie make—it’s but one component. Kudos to the tech team, because for most of the film, the CGI visuals are indeed just swell. They cannot, however, save Avatar from being the overwrought, over-hyped mess it is. Why does James Cameron spend so little time on the subtle, human moments, and then linger so voyeuristically long over the obvious, bombastic stuff (we get the point, already!)? The answer is simple: because he can. He’s distracted by the pricey, shiny computer graphics as well.

My challenge to Cameron is this: figure out the story you’re trying to tell (as near as I can tell, he’s going for a non-musical version of Disney’s Pocahontas), and do it with a tenth of the budget. Seriously. I think the challenge of focusing on bare-bones storytelling economics would force this filmmaker—as it has with countless others over the history of cinema—to hone in on his message, ease up on the excessiveness, and focus on art rather than pyrotechnics.

Of course, a tiny budget can also result in a sci-fi suckfest like “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” but I have more faith in Cameron than that.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

I think the most fascinating thing about this movie must be the backstory-- what events transpired to film this script that keeps Jason Lee's character hospitalized throughout the film, leaving the 'monks with a brand-new dweebie guardian?

That being said, naughty singing chipmunks are funny.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Up in the Air

You may have heard of the website that tells you at what point in the movie it's safest to take a potty break; I propose the same kind of thing to tell you when to walk out of a film for maximum enjoyment.

In this case, for your best chance of loving this as a fun comedy, I suggest you grab your jacket about an hour and a half in, during the wedding reception (you are welcome).


The inevitable casting of the great Morgan Freeman as the great Nelson Mandela results in a film that's hard to criticize.

I was enjoying the whole thing so much I forgot to try.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

It's been yeeeaaars, but finally Disney's made another traditionally-animated film, & I'm glad they're back.

Lots of laughs, lots of fun-- my only complaint is the use of Randy Newman for the music (almost always the worst part of a Pixar film).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Road

Like a zombie movie without zombies (mostly, except a little, sorta), nor any sense of joy.

Makes a PERFECT companion film to "Precious," in that both are relentlessly depressing, with only the thinnest possible veneer of hope at the long-awaited end.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Me and Orson Welles

If you've ever wanted to say, "Zac Ephron plays Me in the movie," I guess this is your chance.

That aside, we've got quite a funny movie here overall, and a possibly award-worthy performance by Christian McKay as Orson Welles.

The Blind Side

The can-this-poor-child-be saved genre meets the football film, and the marriage of the two somehow manages to be quite amusing.

This film is also quite unusual in two ways: it's both the rare watchable Sandra Bullock film, and the even rarer case of the real people inspiring a movie being (mostly) better-looking than the actors portraying them!


If you're contemplating seeing this film, it helps to know that "Precious" is the main character's name, and not an adjective describing the movie itself.

If the latter were the case, the proper title would be "Depressing."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pirate Radio

The visuals do a great job keeping up with the frenetic music, and there's a lot of fun to be had--but after things start to go under, the recovery is not quite a full one.
Either way, I'd call the soundtrack album a must.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Started out mildly amusing, ended making me wish I'd never walked into the theater in the first place.

The way I figure it, these four very talented people really wanted to work together, now, without any consideration as to whether they actually had any material worth presenting.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Good Hair

Chris Rock turns documentarian to awesome, hilarious effect in this in-depth look at black women's hair.

I learned a lot, I laughed a lot, & I hope there's a lot more within Rock where that came from.


The movie's not exactly undead, but it's definitely not full of life.

No story resolution here-- the whole point is zombie bashing: repetitive zombie bashing.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Then Invention of Lying

Novel concept-- a world before lying, and how one of us from THIS world could manipulate our own fate amid such innocence.

Could've been funnier that it was, but wouldn't have been as funny at all without the world's first liar inventing "the man who lives in the sky"--shocking fun!


The future spin on telecommuting--you sit in your home pod while your younger, hotter (and possibly even darker & more opposite-sexy) robo-doppelgänger heads into work for you!

I'd be happier if I could be off traveling, rather than having to still concentrate remotely on the office.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

It's raining Spam©--Hallelujah!

Amen for a non-Pixar, non-Dreamworks animated flick that kicks tail & then some--if this kind of beautiful animation & sharp writing is going to be typical of Sony Pictures Imageworks, I'll be eager to see what's next.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore examines the world around us: mortgage companies getting bailed out while homeowners get kicked out; companies secretly taking out life insurance policies on their "peasant" employees; in general, Life Since Reagan.

Starts out strong & funny and keeps plugging along, until at some point the depression soaks right through you.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Informant

"The Informant!"-- the exclamation point in the title (along with the kazooey score) pounds the point home that this is a comedy, A COMEDY!

Without such invaluable clues, it would be natural to mistake this as the perfect opportunity for a nap.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

White on Rice

The title may falsely suggest a sociological examination of dating habits, but this is a full-on mainstream comedy: sort of a "How Jimmy's Family Got Their Groove Back."

Silly, funny, sometimes shocking, and definitely worth the drive.


Friday, September 18, 2009


In a post-apocolyptic world, little burlap guys run from a nonstop series of crashes, booms and blasts.

That's the beginning, that's the end-- and the middle is not interesting, either.


There's a very interesting concept here, a story I'd like to see resolved.

But not nearly enough to have to actually sit through this entire picture.


This movie is funny-- TV sitcom funny.

Which is to say, there's not enough here to support a full-length feature.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cold Souls

It would certainly be easy to call this film an unfunny, uninteresting failure of an exercise in cinematic masturbation.

So that's exactly what I shall call it.

The Cove

The man responsible for "Flipper" and the popularity of performing dolphins has dedicated the last 40 years to rescuing the animals from their sad fates, and "The Cove" documents his Ocean's 11-style operation to expose the gruesome deadly operation that kills thousands of dolphins a year in Taiji, Japan.

The government's coverup is as disturbing as the blood-red water & the screaming, and I hope this dramatic documentary has the effect its makers seek.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Taking Woodstock

I suppose the real Woodstock may well have left its attendees the same way I felt on my way out of "Taking Woodstock."

That is to say, happy & somewhat content, but in a fog as to exactly what just happened and what it was all about.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Inglorious Basterds

There is the constant torrent of movies that make one want to pound out sarcastic vitriol (note this blog), and the more rare flick that makes one want to be immersed in studying great cinema.

My one-word review of
Inglorious Basterds: perfect.


What in less-talented hands could easily have been a Lifetime movie of the week material here becomes a work which is at turns hilarious & gripping, and well-done throughout.

Worth driving way out of the way to see--which is what you'll likely have to do.

Friday, August 28, 2009

New York

Bollywood gets quite serious & thoughtful--without losing any style--as it contemplates being brown in the U.S. post-9/11, with one take on how a non-terrorist may become a terrorist.

And of course, dependably as always, all of the white actors are just plain awful.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Love Aaj Kal

Couple doesn't fully realize what they had until they end it and move to separate continents.

At least they threw a hella cool breakup party first!

District 9

Wow, what a steaming heap of poo that was-- so does every pseudo-stab at allegory on hate and xenophobia get a free pass, no matter how lame in the attempt?

And to add insult upon insult--why the Transformer, WHY?!?

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Hot twins, cocaine, bloodbaths, dancers in condom hats, and unprotected premarital sex--yup, just another day in Bollywood!

Lots of style, even a little substance in there somewhere, and at a mere 135 minutes, it's short enough to be a good starter film for the uninitiated.

Friday, August 21, 2009

In the Loop

Some people think a "comedy" full of British accents is hilarious, especially with the incongruity of Tony Soprano in there someplace, threatening to crap on someone's desk ("Ha Ha Ha!").

After hanging out through three-quarters of this mess eagerly awaiting the possible last-minute surfacing of a plot, a character to give a damn about, a laugh, a "hmm" moment, or a snippet of dialogue more clever than a string of f-bombs, we chose to be out of the loop.

RiffTrax LIVE: Plan 9 from Outer Space

A one-night Fathom Event broadcast featuring the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on stage lampooning Ed Wood's anti-masterpiece, this had everyone present howling from start to finish.

I wish they'd do a film a week.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Goods

This is direct-to-DVD kind of stuff.

The kind of release that would come free with the purchase of a six-pack.


Before being dragged to this CGI rodent fest, I was convinced that a movie about guinea pig spies could be nothing but execrable.

I was most disappointed to be proven correct.

Julie and Julia

The truth as I see it: the worse the movie, the more fun the blog.

Julie & Julia was fun from beginning to end--and thus a real bore to write about.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Paper Heart

As the movie soldiers on, the questions pile up: who is this woman, is she receiving help, what is the whole point, and would ANYONE care without the involvement of Michael Cera?

I say no, but I still kinda enjoyed the puppets and (even more so) Yi's brief vocal impersonation of Cera.

Friday, August 14, 2009


The most fun & cute (I am meaning this in a good way) Miyazaki film in years, I loved every minute of this and will watch it again.

The only problem I had with Disney's otherwise-excellent dub of Ponyo is the use of Betty White, whose voice is so instantly-recognizable that it effectively distracts the viewer from the film's action.

Friday, August 7, 2009

500 Days of Summer

Summer is hot & overpowering & life-changing--but of course, not here to stay.

It's fleeting, but well worth seeing--a movie this well-written, directed & acted is a rare thing (and a great thing) to see.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

What happened to the whole mystery of the Half-Blood Prince?

What happened to a cogent narrative that could be followed without previous exposure to the books & movies?

Funny People

Not all that funny at all, even the best bits were so much better in the preview.

That gives me an idea: releasing movie DVDs in a "Preview Editor's Cut" edition.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Hurt Locker

For Army explosives teams in Iraq, IEDs leave damage back home as well as in the field.

It would be funny to call this film a bomb, but quite the opposite is true.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Do politicians who speak out--and legislate--against homosexuality deserve to retain ownership of their hypocritical closet space?

There's a lot to be said here for the "no, not so much" side of the argument--with several laughs (and maybe a few gasps & tears) along the way.

Summer Hours (L'Heure D'Ete)

The Kid called the movie "very French," and then asked what the whole point was.

I told him to work backwards: the movie does not have to have a point, as it is French.

I Love You, Beth Cooper

Think of one of those old John Hughes high school comedy/romances.

Now picture it actually being somewhat funny.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Funny, funny, funny-- but not at all as funny as I'd hoped.

Best when letting twits mock themselves, worst when teetering too far into the territory of feeding people's negative stereotypes.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Michael Bay's return to the scene of the crime leaves little of Egypt--or Hasbro--standing.

Truly awful, but I did have some favorite parts: those few seconds when my earplugs allowed me to doze off just a bit.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sharks 3D

IN A WORLD where under-the-sea IMAX presentations seem to dominate, a new entry in the field must be extra special-- something this piece of detritus from Jean-Michel Cousteau is most certainly NOT.

The music is awful, the visuals muddy, the narration too sparse, AND in turtle-speak; I know the bar for IMAX films is kind of low, but this was just sad.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

2-Sentence Movie Reviews, Catch-Up Edition

Food, Inc.

The food we eat represents bad karma for us, the workers, the ‘nanimals & the environment.

This takes a couple of hours to explain; the actual solution to the problem merits a few quick lines before the credits.

Whatever Works

Through the magic of Woody Allen, professional f*wad Larry David gets with three women young enough to be his daughter—or granddaughter.

The mixture of laughs and lulls is complemented beautifully by a fine mélange of great acting and hackery.

The Proposal

The film supposedly stars the forced-together May-August couple Ryan Reynolds & Sandra Bullock, but I went to see awesome Decemberite Betty White.

I did not leave disappointed.

The Taking of Pelham 123

John Travolta is a deranged madman; Denzel must try to save the day.

Have you figured out how things end, yet?

My Sister’s Keeper

Abigail Breslin sues for the rights to her own body—or at least that’s what the preview promised.

The actual film was much more episodic, uninteresting, and predictable.

Year One

Jack Black & Michael Cera co-star in a Bible-meets-Bedrock flick that was not as good as I expected.

Which should give you a hint as to its true near-awfulness.

Land of the Lost

That damned Will Ferrell just can’t keep his shirt on, can he?!?

The best thing I can say is that at least those old geezers the Krofft brothers made a little pocket change.

The Hangover

This much-ballyhooed dirty pre-wedding bender movie was—SHOCKER—not nearly as good as it was hyped up to be.

And I think the world could have gone on without the naked guy with the fake accent that just sent filmdom back 20 years.

Away We Go

Sure, the young-couple-takes-road-trip-to-visit-family movie has done before—but I don’t think in a way that didn’t make me want to kill everyone on the screen!

Just half of them, this time.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

I’d call this better than the first one.

Don’t think that means I’m hoping for a part three, though.


It’s okay—fine—but certainly not as good as Wall-E or Kung Fu Panda.

Nor, I’ll add, is it as good as Ratatouille, or Bolt, or Meet the Robinsons, or—well, you get the point.

The Brothers Bloom

It’s fun watching two boys con a whole schoolyard of children.

They grow up within ten minutes, but their adult cons are pretty fun, too.

Star Trek

Could have been disastrous, especially with the part about bringing back the original Spock from the cheesy 60s TV show.

Happily, this is so good, the fact that there will be sequels is actually something to be welcomed.

Angels & Demons

Apparently Tom Hanks is plenty bankable, but no action star.

How else to explain that the best, most suspenseful & cool, sequences from the book were eviscerated for the film version?

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

More action, more roaring, more mutton chops.

And more sequels to come.


Disney has apparently decided to release a nature film every year on Earth Day.

It’s a BBC animal doc translated for the big screen, and it’s great fun!

The Soloist

Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. are Oscar-worthy as ever in based-on-a-true-story roles.

Another book to add to my reading list.

17 Again

Promised to be an awful film, and then actually kinda broke that promise.

Made me almost feel ashamed for judging Zac Ephron before I’d even seen any of his work.