Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love

Woody Allen has some greats, but this is not one of them. Unfortunately, with this talented cast of characters including Roberto Benini, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Paige, Jesse Eisenberg, Judy Davis, and Woody Allen – was not enough to make a good movie.  There were four different story lines – all of them loosely connected – but none of them related to each other in any worthwhile way.  In fact, the only story line remotely interesting was the Baldwin/Eisenberg/Paige story.  The others served as non sequitur tangents that filled the time and space with some trivial, less-than-interesting stories.  Each one started with curious promise, but were ultimately failures.


Allen successfully told the Baldwin/Eisenberg/Paige story in an inventive, exciting way. I would have like to have seen more of Baldwin act as a seen/unseen moral compass. Somehow, Allen seamlessly placed an entire walking and talking, yet imaginary, Alec Baldwin into the lives of these young Americans living in Rome. Loved it.

Another well-done feat was placing all the stories in different time lines.  One story, involving a newly married couple starting out in Rome, had a story that ran the course of a day.  At the same time, it parallels another story, the young Americans living in Rome, that covers several weeks. The transition from story to story, despite the time leaps, was flawless.

Those were refreshing techniques in story-telling, but the actual stories themselves lacked substance. Overall, the movie was barely charming, easy enough to watch, but pretty forgetful. Not that funny either. Allen uses quite a bit of slap-stick humor that I can’t say was successful. Given the number of movies that Allen churns out, they can’t all work. This one does not. I do not recommend you spend any money watching it in the theaters… $5

If you heart To Rome With Love

Recommendations from Yolkie:
Happenstance

Melinda and Melinda
Paris, Je T’aime

Harry Potter & the Deathlier Hallows

Harry Potter died in his sleep. People say that is the most desirable way to go. I think that is because the dying person is under no obligation to put up a good fight. Putting up a good fight sounds like a painful endeavor. Putting up a good fight also implies a person must ultimately succumb to the inevitable. No one would say, Harry Potter put up a pretty good fight against that serial rapist, and as a result of pretty good fight he avoided being raped. No. The correct conclusion based on that diction is, Harry Potter put up a pretty good fight, gouged the rapist’s eye, clawed at the rapist’s cheek, bit the rapist’s hand, but ultimately sustained severe anal injuries as a result of his brutal rape-attack. If a person is attacked in their sleep they are not even consciously aware a pretty good fight is warranted. They cannot be held responsible for suffocating or being maimed or shot through a pillow. It is difficult to determine whether dying in your sleep is a cowardly act or not. Certainly wishing so is cowardly. There is also the matter of pooping in the pants following. But that is a matter of all dying – cowardly or brave. Amy Winehouse died in the most desirable way as far as I can tell. So much joy was pumping through her veins her fucking heart exploded.

The point is Harry Potter has a message and that is it doesn’t matter how much power a person possesses. Doesn’t matter how much suffering they have endured, how many loved ones have been sacrificed. It doesn’t matter if you are chosen or unchosen. It doesn’t matter if there is magic in your life or not. You will still end up a gross old schmuck with modest clothes and ugly sideburns. You will still end up with a big, fat wife and cowardly children. You will end up on a train platform with your equally unimpressive friends crying tears onto the heads of their retarded children. Harry Potter ultimately embraces what is ordinary and pathetic and boring at the core of human existence. And that is what makes Harry truly heroic. Anyone can seem heroic chopping heads and battling wizards and slinging dwarfs and waving his flaccid wand around. But only Harry Potter can make achieving the very average, the very center of the curve, seem like an immensely difficult and heroic act . . . $5

If you heart Harry Potter and the Deathlier Hallows:

Recommendations by Cheet Cheet
Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away
Timur Bekmambetov’s Night Watch
Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy

Samuel L. Jackson’s African Cats

Awh shit say whut? Yo Afrikan Kats is bawler yo! Theez Lionz and Cheatas and Leotards and shit is just like real people! First a all, this girl lion, called Nilla or something, had a babygirl she called Mara. She gotz that from fucking this ugly mothafuckin lion called The Fangs. The Fangs was fucking all kinds of bitches in his hey day like I think about nine of them, I sort a lost count. That wuz pretty pimp cuz they were all sisters too, twins! So it wuz kinky as shit! Pretty kinky orgy going down in those high bushes.

Anyway Nilla was taking Mari down to the mud flap to drink and this alligator roze up like, “what’s up muthafuckas?! You know how I do down at this watering ho!” And they was like, “Oh shit!!” So The Fangs had to step up, be like, “I’ll smoke you nigga. Big, mothafuckin Jabroni scrub mothafucka.” And eventually the gator wuz like, “yo you prolly all taste like shit anyway – face!”

Meanwhile this otha cat called Cali was like, “Damn! I gotta get a piece a that!” So he had hella posse and he rolled up all heavy and shit, “The Fangs, you Bogarting all tha punani playa.” And then he tried a rape those bitches. And then he made this mean-ass face and tha music got all evil and shit. And The Fangs bounced like, “Oh shit, I don’t even know who those bitches are, peace out!!” And girl lionz had to step up and rectify that shit nigga. Like, “Ya’ll think you can eat our babies? R Babies? Foot in yr asses!” But then Nilla got killed yo. And I cried like, “What?!” and threw my popcorn on the floor like word up you know what I saying.

Anyhow part 2 and Cali eventually does eat all their babies and basically fucks all of The Fang’s old ladies. He was dancing hella sweat. And after that he was pimpin North Side, South Side, like pay up, pay up niggas. Eventually Mara was let back into the pride, she just had to let Cali fuck her. That’s how that nigga rollz.

Anyhow the shit mos def amazing about Afrika’s Kats is about when you think about those niggas who went out to film this shit yo. I mean they got everythang!! Niggas had these crash close-ups of The Fangs ballz yo. You be like, were you under hiz ballz player? How’d you get that nutsack shot? Or this one scene where Cali is boning down player on all a The Fang’s hos and Cali wuz like, “Scuse me one second” and he went to take a shit, he was hella mud butt! And I wuz like damn! You mothafuckas waited in the high grass and shit and snakes like 9 hourz so you could a get Cali taking a shit – you crazy!

And how did they know their names?!! Like theez lionz they got names like Kalifa and Rodney and Marmet and all that, son. These niggas got deep into the bush on this 1. And the narrator seemed bawler yo. I think he wuz that nigga in Deep Blue C that got ate!! Yo takeaway point is if you liked The Lion King you should def. watch this shit hear. It’s basically the live-action sequel . . . $5

If you heart Samuel L. Jackson’s African Cats:

Recommendations by Gun-Ray
What’s Up, Tiger Lily?
The Adventures of Milo and Otis
The Lion King

Justin Lin’s Fast Five

I have discovered the key to watching and enjoying the fast and furious series is to go in with no expectations.  Because I had no expectations going in, it blew them away. Of course, I was comparing to the previous Fast and Furious, and this was head and shoulders above those, but that’s not terribly hard.   Granted you absolutely have to maintain suspension of disbelief, as tiny cars overturn giant armored buses and haul enormously heavy steel encased safes across miles of city road, but if you believe that Vin Diesel and Paul Walker somehow have the capability of doing that without accidentally killing anyone, then you’re set.

Justin Lin has come a long way from Better Luck Tomorrow.  This movie is jam packed with nitrous filled  large moving vehicles inexorably and inevitably crashing into each other at explosively high speeds, hot girls being able to drive AND tune up/tear down vehicles and master incredibly complex military-grade software and beefy big guys slamming on brakes and getting into fights.  Oh yeah, and tons of gun fights with ridiculously large weapons.  In rio.  In other words, it’s a teenage boy’s wet dream.  But, it’s actually also strangely enjoyable for many of those not in that particular target demographic.

You know, one thing I was surprised about was the lack of high speed car chases that were in the other films.  And yes, in order to do research and prepare myself for the movie, I watched the first two movies.  I realized afterwards it would have been helpful to at least watch fast and furious (number 4) in the series as well.  It’s not 100% necessary, but it helps in terms of understanding the background of the story.  And know the characters.  Cuz fast five is all about the all-star cast getting together for a dumber, more violent. ghetto-er version of Ocean Eleven-style heist in Rio de Janiero, with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker as the George Clooney and Brad Pitt characters respectively.  Yeah, it wasn’t so believable to me either.  They even have the pair of dumb squabbling brothers who liked to do more of the technical stuff.

That said, it did have a number of redeeming factors that were maybe a notch better in this version of the elaborate heist.  First of all, eye-candy.  Paul Walker and Tyrese….HOLLAH!!!  I’m not a Vin Diesel/the Rock type of gal myself, but if you’re into that, there’s a lot of that action goin on too.  Secondly Vin Diesel and the Rock square it off, which to me, was the best part of the movie.  I always kinda thought they were the same person, and to see them duke it out on the big screen was just kind of trippy honestly.  I kept saying to myself, wait which one is winning now?  They’re both just so big!  Like Vin Diesel’s arms are like tree trunks, but then standing next each other gives you an idea of exactly how MASSIVE the rock is.  Gianormous.

So in other words, if you can ignore the obvious inconsistencies with the laws of physics, plot holes, predictable story-line and 2-dimensional characters, and focus just on the incredible action-packed sequences and on-screen eye candy, it can be an enjoyable experience and in all honesty, probably one of the better action films for the summer….$5

Recommendations from …:
Oceans Eleven
Fast and Furious Series
Bourne Identity

P.S. In addition to making sure you watch Fast and Furious 1, 2, and 4 before watching Fast Five, I recommend staying through the credits if you do watch Fast Five.  I don’t necessarily know if it’s worth it per the press about it being a big surprise, but it’ll probably help if you ever plan on watching Fast Six.

Hanna

Hanna kicks ass!  Well, the movie was pretty good, but literally, seriously, scary little kid.  Saorise Ronan does an admirable job portraying an albino-esque girl who has essentially been raised by her dad in the wilderness and taught how to survive in a coming of age type of film amidst government conspiracy.  Can I say, I really like Saorise Ronan.  What a talented little girl.  She was good in Atonement too.

Anyhow, besides the predictable social errors Hanna makes while trying to reintegrate into society, a ploy that has been done numerous times in the past that serve as a kind of comic relief to the concept of a killer adolescent girl, Hanna, the movie has a pretty zingy soundtrack and a fairly good pace.

I also love Cate Blanchett in pretty much any role she does.  Whether it be this hard-as-nails, mannish Southern bitch, or as the regal Queen of England learning how to rule, I always am astounded by how well she does with what she has.  Eric Bana was also alright.  It’s hard for me to assess because it seems he always has to play this emotionless, accented, detached character, but he does have a nice scene of swimming half naked across what seems like the Arctic Ocean.

Hanna was fun, enjoyable, forgettable…$5

Recommendations from …:
Salt
Bourne Identity
Tarzan

The Town

I remember seeing the trailer for this and being excited for exactly one thing: Don Draper layin down da law.  The other thing I remember is the theater’s collective groan (or maybe just mine) when the trailer revealed the movie’s central twist: “Affleck kidnappin his own gf!  She dunno nuffin bout hiz dark, dark crimez0rz!  He so conflictedsss!”  Yeah, well, at least the movie didn’t try to retread this big reveal.  That is probably the biggest accomplishment of this movie!

Nudity = we get to see a lot of Affleck’s manly torso, but no Don Draper.  I would think in a movie with a contemporary setting, the moviemakers would finally get Draper out of that monkey suit and into a bikini thong—sadly he rarely leaves his flak jacket.  Most memorably for Affleck, he does a pull-up and his superhuman abs are perfectly lit to emphasize his tortured soul.  I think he’s preparing for the second of three heists.  I could be wrong. The three were very distinct, but all the drama-rama going on between them mushed together for me.  Sorry, that was outside the scope of this section.  Point is Affleck’s rippedness is the main skin attraction here.  The above photo is pretty much the biggest spoiler for this movie.  The pretty gf of the movie eventually gets laid by Affleck’s machine body, but… was she even naked?  I don’t even remember side boob.   She looked like the lead lady from Gone Baby Gone – Director Affleck has got a type fo sho.  No Amy Ryan brilliant sexiness/nastiness here though.  The blondie in the rightmost box of the poster vies for that spot, but she ain’t nowhere near.  Oh yeah, I think we do see her boobs.  At least a nasty naked back.

Draper action = he gets a couple classic Don moments in there: touching his watch just so, a line to motivate his troops into action, a quick look revealing his deep frustration with the situation but only seen by us, his only possible empathizers.  He does lay down some law eventually but we don’t get to party with him at all.  Remember that California vacation ep in Season 2?  Holy… Don got down.  Four chicks in some mod house in Santa Monica, infinity pool, smokin a joint with his one free pinky.  This season, season 4, Don is STILL gettin down, even when he doesn’t wanna anymore!  I guess that’s how it goes moving into movie work—John Hamm’s gotta do a coupla these straight parts before they give him something nice and nasty.

So here’s how the movie goes = heist, talking, heist, talking, heist, forced bittersweet sadness.  For those who didn’t like all the talking during the heists in Inception, this movie is not that.  No talking during the heists!  It’s all separate.  When dudes in Boston heist, they fuggin heist, no chit-chat.  The most “whoa-that’s some real shit” moment in the movie is the very beginning when a title card appears (perhaps with a deep ominous boooom?) stating that more bank robberies occur in Boston that any other city in da wooorld!  Nothing else in the movie really matched that realness.  Except Affleck abs.  Oh, and there’s this guy from The Hurt Locker who plays the only real emotions in this movie; I didn’t see The Hurt Locker but I’m pretty sure it’s the same character—real masculine aggression: you just can’t say where it comes from!  It’s hurt and shame; it’s fear and evolutionary RAGE!

I read an interview this morning with Mindy Kaling and the interviewer revealed that the producer of The Office discovered her after reading a play she co-wrote called “Matt and Ben,” all about how Damon and Affleck came to write “Good Will Hunting.”  She actually played Affleck on stage!  That should DEFINITELY be made into a real film starring Damon and Kaling.  Affleck could direct again, just how he likes it now.  The premise alone gets $8 from me.  As for this movie though, The Town, $5.

Recommendations from Joe Joe:

  • The Sting
  • Dead Again
  • “Brian and Stewie,” Season 8, Episode 17, Family Guy

Dear John

I know what you’re thinking cause I thought it too.  Here is how I got to seeing this movie.  I saw the trailer for it and I was like oh HELL no.  Then, I heard the song from the trailer on Pandora.  My ears perked up to this vaguely familiar, melancholy song – and I thought – hey, that’s a good song!  I had to listen to the song on repeat for a few days and then watch the trailer again.  That’s when I decided I actually needed to watch the movie.  And I’m glad I did.  Despite the horrendous preview (for my tastes), I sat through the movie, suspended by the good-looking actors and decent love story!  I do like to surprise myself from time to time, keeps me on my toes.

There are several crucial elements to this movie that makes it a good romance.  First of all, the leading lady, Amanda Seyfried, is a charming and intelligent young woman.  I can actually see why a stallion like Channing Tatum would fall madly in love with her in two weeks.  That’s the problem with many of these movies (eg The Notebook), I just don’t see what there is to love, but a pretty face.  Secondly, it’s not just about two lovebirds, but about other important relationships and priorities.  Channing Tatum’s father, played by Richard Jenkins, is a neurotic shut-in with autistic tendencies.  I appreciated the inclusion of people with disabilities with subltley and grace.  Fourth, I enjoyed the incorporation of 9/11 in the film.  I haven’t seen very many movies where the writer/director successfully includes an important, recent historic event.  Usually, it’s a complete distraction and utter failure (eg Benjamin Button).  But here, it fit well and flowed with the story.  I even enjoyed the moment it happened – a creative and subtle reenactment of the experience.  Maybe because it’s personal for me, but that’s almost exactly how I found out – on my way home from class in college.  Lastly, there’s an element of keepin it real that I like – I don’t wanna spoil anything, so I’ve got to limit it to that.  I think this movie is under-appreciated.  If you like romantic movies, go for it, watch Dear John… $5

If you like Dear John:

Recommendations from Yolkie:

Titantic
Ghost
Roman Holiday

Dinner for Schmucks

O Paul Rudd! You aren’t getting any younger. These days it seems you are always on the verge of getting engaged or becoming an eternal bachelor. You’re at risk of being typecast as that guy who girls barely want to marry if only you didn’t have one outstanding flaw. I do not particularly enjoy watching you in an ‘everyman’ sort of role. Not just because you are far too adorable. But also because you’re consistently overly naive, you behave in unpredictable/irrational ways, and you invite the worst possible outcomes to all situations. It isn’t that I mind seeing you run into problems – but those problems feel predetermined, overly coincidental, well – lucky. Which is why your characters are annoying. Because they only perform within the self-serving logic of the movie. What would happen if your characters did not bend in illogical ways to meet the needs of the script? There would be no Dinner for Schmucks I suppose. There would be no Jay Roach. No great losses.

Though I will say you had two saving graces. Jermaine Clement as the over-sexed modern artist. And the taxidermy dioramas which are both moving and funny.

What am I forgetting? Zach Galifianakis can still do no wrong. Keep them coming. Oh Steve Carell. You are far superior at playing someone with a severe impairment (mentally handicapped, suicidal, virgin) than a plain Jane. Good job at not choosing to play the guy from Date Night again. We can all agree that didn’t work out for anyone . . . $5

Harald Zwart’s The Karate Kid

After I left you I remember feeling only slightly underwhelmed. I think your main problem was you cut an exceptional trailer and got my hopes up. After watching the extended trailer (the two-hour version) I thought, well that was nothing spectacular. Nothing disastrous. Nothing abusive or traumatizing. Nothing deceptive either. Everyone who was in the preview showed up for the movie. But nothing to discuss at a dinner party. Or so I thought. Upon putting my pen to this page I realized there were actually two very noteworthy elements of The Karate Kid.

The first to note is the only fight sequence involving Jackie Chan. O Jackie Chan beating up children! You’ve really hit a new level of self-respect. In China where packs of Kung fu-wielding children are roaming the cities, terrorizing helpless street vendors – it’s good to know a full-grown adult having decades of martial arts training can take a stand. I further applaud your employment of the bullying, “stop hitting yourself” technique. To watch an adult swing one child’s legs into other children faces and torsos in order to inflict the blows – it is really a masterwork of planning/execution.

The second fascinating element is the blond, Caucasian boy that Jaden Smith meets immediately upon moving to China. The boy had a name, lines. He helped Jaden with his luggage. But all other intentions for the character were obviously dropped. Did you drop him because he was white? As we all know there is one cross-section of the population tremendously underrepresented in American cinema today – white males. It seems very small and racist of you to reduce the primary white character to servitude (essentially Jaden’s bellhop) and cowardice (being a pussy when the Chinese bullies show up) and then eliminate him from the rest of the movie. You also provided few other opportunities for white males to be in the movie by setting it in Communist China. That was not in the spirit of the original John G. Avildsen’s The Karate Kid at all. Perhaps white males in martial arts movies – Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Ralph Macchio – is just a thing of the past. But I for one am offended by the presumption a white man cannot make it in a Yellow man’s world. They’ve done it before (Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai) and they can do it again. I am sure white martial artists will be up in arms about this . . . $5

Sir Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood

Sir Ridley Scott continues to baffle me. On one hand he made possibly the greatest film of all time – adapting Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner. He also made Alien, Thelma & Louise, and Gladiator – all films I consider extravagant and entertaining. Scott’s problem seems to be in between making his classics – he makes a whole lot of skunk turds – for ex. this year’s Robin Hood.

Okay, not all bad. Nothing he’s made is even close to the most terrible abortion of this year – The Wolfman. But still, he seems to be phoning in a substantial portion of them these days. One might be justified in asking, does he suffer from spells of brain damage? Does he have a recurring brain tumor we don’t know about? I don’t want to accuse a truly superb director of having made Hannibal and A Good Year and Robin Hood with clear consciousness . . . $5

District 9

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So I don’t quite get the hype.  I thought it was interesting, well done, the ending almost makes it worth it, but I still don’t think I would pay bucks to watch it in the theater unless the only other things playing were a Miley Cyrus movie and Blade XII: The beginning of the end and I really really needed to go watch a movie in the theater.

I tried watching this movie twice, the second time, when I actually sat through it was better, and I do admire the low-budget nature of the film.  The aliens were realistic and human-like in their actions, and the context of the story was also well thought out and interestingly depicted.  Also, the take on human rights, depicting aliens as sub-human and treating them as such in South Africa, a country know for their violent past in racial discrimination is a point not lost on me.  However, in the end, perhaps it’s because I’m not a huge fan of the shaky-camera, documentary-type of film, I wasn’t hugely taken in by the film.

Maybe it was a sleeper hit during the summer, but in my books, so-so….$5

If you heart District 9

Recommendations by …:
Blair Witch Project
Wall-e
Star Trek

Trailer: District 9

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