Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reviews Of Mediocre-To-Decent Movies

So the big news is, there's a solid 20 minutes of Anne Hathaway nudity in Love & Other Drugs. It's ridiculous. Her breasts had about as much screentime as Hank Azaria. Twenty minutes is a rough estimate since, uh, I wasn't exactly paying close attention to my watch during the scenes, but man alive, ol' Anne sure has some spicy material for the next entry in her Princess diary. Jake Gyllenhaal matches her nudity cheek for cheek, so don't worry ladies, there's some eye candy for you too. Two things: firstly, Anne and Jake are reunited after Brokeback Mountain. Did you also completely forget she was in that movie? Hell, she even gets topless in that one too. It's almost like there was some other relationship in Brokeback that grabbed all the attention. Secondly, Hathaway is but one of many lovely women (including personal favourite Judy Greer!) who Gyllenhaal beds throughout the film. Now obviously, Gyllenhaal's character is pretty pleased about this turn of events, but I think he oversold the happiness. Here was the expression he wore on his face during every sex scene:

Controversial. Anyway, yeah, the movie. Not great. It's the story of a mid-1990's pharmaceutical rep who basically bangs his way into becoming one of Pfizer's top salesmen, and along the way he falls for a free spirit with early-onset Parkinson's. Note: Hathaway isn't an actual free spirit, but rather that cliched brand of Hollywood Female Free Spirit that immediately domesticates herself upon entering a relationship since deep down, gosh darnit, all she wants is true love. You can tell when her character officially flips the switch when in one scene, her wardrobe suddenly goes from eclectic to the white cashmere sweater o'doom.

L&OD is directed by Ed Zwick, who has yet to make a solid movie in his life. Courage Under Fire, Blood Diamond, Last Samurai, Glory, Legends Of The Fall --- they're all in the same bin of generally okay, but rather than actually good. This film falls into the same category. I don't want to say that a movie about a Parkinson's sufferer has a shaky premise, but the plot lopes back and forth from a romantic comedy to a very poor man's Social Network-esque recent period piece about the rise of a major business (Gyllenhaal's sales rival even looks like the Winklevoss twins) to a wacky sex comedy with a load of Viagra jokes to a weepie about a couple forced apart by one of the partners' serious illness. The last scene, where Hathaway and Gyllenhaal have their big romantic confrontation, is one of the worst movie scenes I've witnessed in some time. The dialogue is a mash of Jerry Maguire cliches, the edits between the two characters' reaction shots don't match and it's just two minutes of total shittiness. Zwick's been making movies for 30 years, so I can't figure out how he submitted such an amateurish sequence.

In summation, there's not much here. It's almost like Zwick went to his leads and said, "Guys, I just saw the rough cut, and this thing is a mess. Would you mind if we went back and threw in a bunch of nudity, since otherwise we....whoa!" He reacted since Gyllenhaal and Hathaway both suddenly torn their clothes off in one swift motion, ready to go. What troopers.

Four Anne Hathaway notes....

* She is a solid catch-all selection for the "she looks kind of like..." game we all play about people we know, but with the twist that she doesn't usually look like one person, but rather a combination of two people. It's like the Joker's Smilex poison in the Michael Keaton Batman movie --- tainted lipstick alone won't kill you, but tainted lipstick and hairspray will. But, thankfully, comparing looks is much less murderous. For instance, Hathaway looks like a cross between my friends Caitlin and Kat, who are friends themselves so this comparison will actually be relevant to them. Hathaway also looks like the result of what would happen if Community's Gillian Jacobs and Alison Brie were morphed into one person. So if you're ever having a Jacobs/Brie looks debate (as my buddy Trev and I recently did; I was on Team Brie), Hathaway is an excellent middle ground.

* She is a fantastic SNL host. I'm ready to induct Hathaway into the pantheon after just two hosting gigs. Good impressionist, clearly up for anything, fits right in with the rest of the cast and even sings. She's basically the female Timberlake, except just lacking in iconic sketches to really put her over the top.

* Attractive, which comes in handy when you're getting naked in every other film. The key to Hathaway's attractiveness is that she's plausibly good-looking; you probably know a woman that looks as good or better than Anne Hathaway. She isn't some absurdly hot creature like Megan Fox who gives off a vibe that she's a concoction of makeup and lighting effects. There's no effort made to hide the fact that when Hathaway smiles, her face suddenly gets really wrinkly. Like, "she'll be playing character parts by her late 30's" wrinkly. It's all the more endearing, however, since this is what normal people look like! I cannot believe a recent comment in a Bill Simmons chat about how he attended a wedding where Hathaway was also a guest, and "nobody hit on her the whole night." What? Simmons spins it into a theory about how famous people pass a point of no return where only other famous or rich people have the guts to approach them. My only theory is that when Simmons said 'wedding,' he really meant 'commitment ceremony.' NOBODY hit on ANNE HATHAWAY? Every single guy at that wedding should be ashamed of himself.

* Hosting the Oscars alongside James Franco. Huh? Speaking of which....


...127 Hours is the first James Franco movie where Franco literally gets stoned. Aron Ralston (Franco) is an avid biker/hiker/outdoorsy guy who famously got stranded in the Utah desert with his arm caught between a boulder and a cave wall. Since this story got national attention for its sheer OMFGness, I'm not spoiling anything by saying that he takes rather extreme measures to free himself. The actual arm-hacking scene is surprisingly short and not 'too' graphic, and the rest of the film is basically Danny Boyle showing off director's tricks. It's not a bad film by any stretch, and it's actually quite gripping to see Ralston's escape strategies even when you know how he'll eventually have to get loose. But, Boyle's style works when he has a sprawling story like Slumdog Millionaire, where the scope of the picture almost demands a stylized treatment. When the story is just a guy in a cave for 80 minutes, one might want a bit more claustrophobia. Fortunately, Danny Boyle will get to redeem himself when he directs the upcoming '127 Ohers,' the sequel to The Blind Side.

Top 5 rejected options for that concluding joke...

5. "...when he directs the upcoming 127 Powers, the latest Austin Powers sequel. Austin Powers 4-126 will all be released within the next two years, one after the other. Hope you like dick jokes."
4. "...when he directs the upcoming 127 Orrs, an illustrated history of Parry Sound, Ontario."
3. "...when he directs the upcoming 127 Whores, the story of the most swingin' bordello in all of Manchester."
2. "...when he directs the upcoming 127 Ar's, the new Pirates of the Caribbean sequel."
1. "...when he directs the upcoming 120 Centaurs, an action movie based around Greek mythology."


RED is notable only because the climactic shootout was filmed in my old parking garage in Toronto. It's true! My beloved Toyota Echo proudly sat overnight in the same spot where Helen Mirren stood with the mounted machine gun. In fact, I'll bet those empty shell casings I found under my car were from her gun! (At least, I hope they were...since I fused them into a heart-shaped locket containing Mirren's picture.) I'll say something about living in Toronto, it's become much easier to spot which movies are filmed in the city. Not only did RED feature my old parking garage, but it also featured the "Chicago Fairmont" --- clearly the Royal York --- and Bruce Willis driving his limo down the Gardiner in front of TO's well-known skyline. Not to mention the climactic scene when Willis punches Karl Urban out of a helicopter and Urban is impaled on the top of the CN Tower, which is called the "Chicago Space Needle." Or when Willis and Morgan Freeman enjoy a Chicago Argonauts game.

Well, I'm out of jokes. The movie stunk. The worst part is, if any person goes into a video store in the next few years and asks for the Krzysztof Kieslowski masterpiece 'Red' (part of the Three Colours trilogy), the clueless clerk will surely hand him a copy of this movie instead. Thank god all video stores in the world might be bankrupt within the next 56 hours.

Mary-Louise Parker is also, for the record, definitely a few stages ahead of Hathaway on the old smile/wrinkle scale. MLP is approaching Teri Hatcher territory. You have to cut Parker some slack since she is 18 years older than Hathaway, though...and by the way, whoa, MLP is 46? Huh. (golf clap) I'll also cut both Parker and Hathaway some slack since the boulder in '127 Hours' had way more wrinkles than the both of them combined. Should've used some Head & Shoulders, boulder!....wait, is there a Head & Shoulders-brand face moisturizer? Let's pretend there is, lest that rhyme make no goddamned sense.


Remember when you were reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and were bored by that 60-70 page segment where Harry, Ron and Hermione literally sit around in the woods and bitch at each other? And remember when you thought that scene would be an insta-cut from the eventual film version? Well, I'll bet your 2007 self didn't count on Warner Brothers wanting to squeeze every last drop of cash from the Potter franchise and splitting 'Deathly Hallows' into two movies. Twice the screentime means that the forest sequence is included into DH1, and it's just as interminable to watch as it was to read. There's seriously a two-month gap in story time when they're just moping about, made all the more absurd by a) Harry figuring out a clue and then a few weeks passing before Hermione thinks of a follow-up that should've instantly come to her after hearing Harry's info and b) a Harry/Hermione dance sequence that serves less than zero purpose. Ooh, is this stoking a love triangle? No, because everyone on the goddamn earth knows that Hermione and Ron end up together! Why bother making up that scene, especially when we already saw a passionate kiss between Harry and his actual love Ginny Weasley* earlier in the movie? In short, the entire forest sequence once again came back to haunt us, and I'm sure it will be there to haunt us again when the Harry Potter franchise is reimagined in five years with a new director and cast. Oh wait, that's just the Spider-Man franchise. [/bitter]

* Bonnie Wright, the actress who plays Ginny, is...wait, let me check up IMDB...okay, she's turning 20 in two months, go ahead...Bonnie Wright, the actress who plays Ginny Weasley, is getting about 25 percent more attractive with each passing film. Well done, Harry! And well done to the casting directors for lucking into a young red-haired actress that seems to be turning normal, rather than into a freckled nightmare like some gingers. It would've taken a lot of steam out of Harry's victory if he'd ended up with the "It's A Fact!" girl from Kids In The Hall.

Forest sequence aside, HPATHD1 is about what you've come to expect from a David Yates-directed Potter movie. Competently well done, humourous bits involving the three kids that are oddly strained since only Rupert Grint has a modicum of comic timing, excellent special effects and overall a solid way to spend, yikes, two and a half hours. The last film is out next year, bringing an end to one of the longest and most average franchises in movie history. Maybe the Potter series really was unfilmable. Maybe it would've been better served as a TV series on HBO or something, preferably helmed by David Simon. "Where the boy at, Severus? Where the boy at?"

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