Friday, April 30, 2010

Bad Night

Date Night
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Steve Carell, Tina Fey,  Taraji P. Henson, Mark Wahlberg
Date release: 4/09/10
Viewed in theaters: 4/28/10

If not for Carell and Fey, I would have passed this movie up, but because of the comedic pairing and fresh (though a low fresh) rating at Rotten Tomatoes, I decided to see Date Night. Carell and Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, a married couple with two young kids who live in New Jersey. They've realized they've become very boring, always having the same routine, so to spice things up a little, Phil takes Claire to a new fancy restaurant in New York. Of course they can't get a table because they don't have reservations, so they take the reservation for a couple by the name of Tripplehorn who don't respond when the hostess is calling for them. These two goons show up and demand that they give them the flash drive they stole from their boss or else they're going to kill them. The Fosters try to explain the little mix-up, but the goons don't believe them. After escaping from them, they go to the police, but find out the goons are also police, so with a little help from Walhberg's character, who's some high tech specialist, they try to find the real Tripplehorns so they can get the flash drive from them and return it to the two guys who are trying to get it.

As you can probably imagine, the movie is filled with plenty of crazy hi-jinx, and as crazy as some of them were, I felt they weren't crazy enough, as, say, the shenanigans they get into in Adventures in Baby-Sitting. I also didn't understand the whole deal with the flash drive. It had damaging evidence that had to do with the mayor (I think), but I didn't understand what the Tripplehornes and the two goons had to do with it. They probably explained it when I was checking my Facebook on my phone, lol.

I wouldn't say this was an awful movie, it did have some laughs, but it could have been a lot better. Carell and Fey have been in better movies. I would recommend waiting for it to come out on DVD if you do want to see it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What would Brian Boitano do?

South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
Director: Trey Parker
Cast: Kyle Broflowski, Stan Marsh, Eric Cartman, Kenny McCormick
Released: 6/30/99
Viewed in theaters: 7/9/99

Oscar nominations:
Best Original Song - "Blame Canada" (lost to "You'll Be in My Heart" from Tarzan)

What do you get when you put four foul-mouthed young boys who are trying to save their Canadian idols Terrance and Phillip from being executed, the United States and Canada at war with each other, and Satan and Saddam Hussein (who voices himself according to the credits!) as lovers rising from Hell to take over the world? Just possibly one of the funniest movies and one of the best musicals (yes, it's also a musical!) you will ever see.

You know, South Park has been on so long (they recently had their 200th episode during their 14th season), that it's almost weird to think the movie came out only after two and a half seasons. And what made me really notice how old the movie is was when they announced a special announcement from the POTUS and it was Bill Clinton telling his fellow Americans that the U.S. was now at war with Canada after they had bombed the Baldwins! It's been awhile since I've seen any of the earlier episodes, so I can't remember if the boys were cussing like Russell Crowe on any given day of the week like they do now or if the R-rated Canadian foreign film Asses of Fire was their first introduction to the f-bomb. Or perhaps continuity doesn't really matter in a cartoon.

The best part about the SP movie is that it's a satire of itself. The film starts off with the four main characters (and the adorable Ike - seriously, how can an animated kid with an egg-shaped flapping head and two beady eyes be so gosh darn cute? "Ky-wul! Ice cweem! Choc-wet!" Awww!) going to see T&P's flick, but since it's been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America, they have to bribe a homeless man to pretend to be their guardian. Of course with lines like, "Terrance, you're a pig %!#*er!" and the oh-so-catchy song, "Shut Your #*%(ing Face, Uncle #*(!a!" ("You're an uncle #*!#er I must say! Well, you #(%*ed your uncle yesterday!") the boys come out of the theater swearing left and right. Now I'm sure when this movie came out, there were probably some dumb parents out there who thought it was all right to take their kids to see it since it was a cartoon and didn't notice it was Rated R. (Hey, there are a lot of stupid people out there!) and I'm sure those people left the theater just as the residents of South Park left during Asses of Fire.

Kyle's mom is outraged when she finds out the movie is the source of the boys' foul language (just as I'm sure many parents were outraged by this movie!) and blames Canada for releasing the movie and has Terrence and Phillip arrested when they appear on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Oh, and can I just say I love how you can differentiate the Canadians from the Americans with their flapping heads and beady eyes and the way they say "aboot!" Actually, the way the show makes fun of Canada is always hilarious - "You're watching the Canadian channel - the only channel in Canada!" or "There's only one road in Canada!" Or how about when Ike's Canadian birthparents gave him up because they couldn't handle the Cola Wars? LMAO!

Meanwhile, in typical South Park fashion, Kenny dies after a George Clooney-voiced doctor tells him, "Son, we've got some bad news for you. We accidentally replaced your heart with a baked potato and you have three seconds to live." Poor Kenny ends up in Hell where Saddam Hussein has taken residence after he was attacked by a pack of wild dogs. Saddam and Satan are lovers, but while Satan is the sensitive one and wants to have heartfelt chats, all Saddam cares about is sex. It's pretty funny (and surprising!) when you feel sorry for the devil. All he wants to do is visit the world "up there where babies burp and flowers bloom."

Like I've mentioned before, I haven't seen the earlier episodes in a very long time, but I think the movie is the first (and probably only) time we ever see Kenny's face and hear him unmuffled when he says, "Goodbye, you guys." (My friends and I "awwwed" at that scene!) Oh, and I did some research (on Wikipedia) and had no idea Kyle had a curly red 'fro. Hmm, a redhead and a Jew! No wonder Cartman hates Kyle so much! It's always so weird when they show the boys without their hats (well, except Cartman).

I've already mentioned this is a musical and the songs (though dirty) are quite catchy! "Blame Canada" was nominated for an Oscar, but I think it should have been "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" just because it's my favorite. ("What would Brian Boitano do if he were here today? I'm sure he'd kick an ass or two, that's what Brian Boitano do!") My other favorite songs include "Mountain Town" (which is ripped off from the song Belle sings in Beauty and the Beast; I love it!) ("Thank God we live in a quiet, little, redneck, podunk, white-trash, kick-ass USA!"): "Uncle F*#%a"; "It's Easy, Mmmkay" ("You don't have to spend your life addicted to smack; homeless on the street giving handjobs for crack!"); "Up There" (which is ripped off from the song Ariel sings in The Little Mermaid); "Blame Canada" ("It seems that everything's gone wrong since Canada came along - they're not even a real country anyway!"); "I'm Super, Thanks for Asking" ("Bombs are flying, people are dying, babies are crying, politicians are lying too. Cancer is killing, Texaco's spilling, the whole world's gone to hell, but how are you? I'm SUPER! Thanks for asking!"); and "La Resistance" ("You see the distance flames; they bellow in the night. You fight in all your names for what we know is right.")

I share my viewing experience of seeing South Park at the theaters:

This movie came out two years before they started giving out Oscars for animated films and while I doubt it would have won had they started giving them out in 2000, do you think it would have been nominated? Toy Story 2 and Tarzan would have been nominated for sure, but would South Park made the third spot? That would have been sweet - super sweet!

I absolutely love this movie, but you have to have the right kind of sense of humor to like it because they make fun of everybody. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the show, but please, if you're a kid or you have a kid or know a kid, don't let them see this movie because it is definitely not appropriate for kids! Hehe, I read somewhere that it has the most cussing in an animated movie. Well, DUH! LOVE this movie! One of my ten favorites from 1999.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Defending Julia

Erin Brockovich
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Julia Roberts, Albery Finney, Aaron Eckhart
Released: 3/17/00
Viewed in theaters: 3/21/00

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to Gladiator)
Best Director - Steven Soderbergh (lost to....himself for Traffic - heh)
Best Actress - Julia Roberts (won)
Best Supporting Actor - Albert Finney (lost to Benicio Del Toro for Traffic)
Best Original Screenplay - Susannah Grant (lost to Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous)

I know it's a popular opinion to hate on Julia Robert's Oscar win for this film and I know she induces a lot of eye rolling when she makes it all about herself at awards shows (hey, I was rolling my eyes right along with all of you when she proclaimed "I LOVE MY LIFE!!!" right before presenting Denzel with his second Oscar, (but I did laugh when she told the conductor to put his stick down during her own speech)) and while I don't think she's done anything great or memorable since Erin Brockovich, I do think she deserved to win the Oscar that year. Yes, it was totally predictable she was going to win (even EW said her probability of winning was 100%) and her superstar status also probably helped, but I don't think you can deny that this is her best role to date.

What I think makes it a great performance is that she plays a real, everyday woman. Yes, obviously Erin Brockovich is a real person (who is actually from Lawrence, Kansas, not Wichita like the movie says!) but Roberts tends to play characters with cool, glamorous jobs who wear beautiful clothes and who are super intelligent - basically characters nobody can relate to. However, with Erin, she's playing a single mother with barely any money in her bank account who struggling to find work. Now maybe not everybody has it that bad, but I'm sure more people can relate to that type of character than the other ones Julia plays.

As you probably know, since I'm assuming most people have already seen the movie, Erin Brockovich exposed a plant that had contaminated a neighborhood's water supply and won her clients beacoup d'argent. Her story is pretty amazing considering she had no real job skills and acquired the job at the law firm by demanding her lawyer give her one for after he lost the case against the doctor who ran into her car and injured her neck and he agrees because he feels guilty they lost the case and she has three children to feed. There's a bit of a clash between them at the beginning because she has no sense of style for the workplace and says whatever is on her mind (many things which would have gotten her fired in the real world!)

Finney plays her boss, Ed Masry and Eckhart plays her new next door neighbor love interest. He's kind of a prick because he makes Erin choose between her job and him since she's so busy with the case and doesn't have time to be with him. His character wasn't very fleshed out, so I'm assuming this was a character they put in just for the movie. Even though they break up they seem to be friendly at the end.

Julia Roberts plays Erin Brockovich with humor and passion and you believe she really cares about the cause and people she's fighting for. I will tell you right now I'm not a huge Julia Roberts fan, but I will always agree with her Oscar win for this role.

2000 was a great year for Steven Soderbergh: two of his movies were nominated for Best Picture, he was twice nominated for Best Director (a feat that's only been done once before - correct me if I'm wrong, please!) and won and one of his movies acquired the Best Actress statue while the other acquired the Best Supporting Actor award.

A solid movie that's still enjoyable after multiple viewings.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Learning to Fly

How To Train Your Dragon
Directors: Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
Voice Talent: Jay Baruchel, Gerald Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson
Released: 3/26/10
Viewed in theaters: 3/31/10

*Small spoilers in review!*

When it comes to Pixar vs. DreamWorks, I am always on Team Pixar, but this is easily DreamWork's best work in years. I thought the trailers for it looked really cute and that made me want to see it, but what actually got me motivated to go to the theaters was the 98% fresh rating it received at Rotten Tomatoes. I went to a screening at nine in the evening so I could avoid all the little kiddies kicking my seat or crying. Because I saw it so late and because I saw it in 3-D, I had to shell out a bit more money, but that was okay. It was definitely worth it. (Although, honestly, the movie would have been just as great in 2-D).

The plot is simple: Hiccup is a scrawny young viking lad who only wants to please his father by killing a dragon which is a sort of a rite of passage in the town where they live. He builds a contraption to take down a rare breed of dragon (I can't remember the name) NIGHT FURY! that nobody has ever taken down and is deemed to be very dangerous. He does manage to capture it, but he can't bring himself to kill it. While Hiccup is taking dragon-slaying classes with the other kids in the village, he's also slowing building a bond with the black dragon who he dubs Toothless and learns that dragons are just like pets (in fact Toothless's facial features reminded me of a cat's) who like to be scratched and petted and are playful. Toothless was so adorable too.

There's a reason why dragons are misunderstood, but I don't want to give anything away, but let's just say it involves one giant ass dragon! I mean, this thing was so massive, I have no idea how it could even fly!

The flying scenes were pretty incredible, but they would have been really amazing on an IMAX screen! This was my second 3-D movie (the first, of course, was Avatar) and while the 3-D was cool, I'm not really a huge fan of it. Honestly, I think the 3-D phenomenon is just a phase and it will pass in a few years. At least I hope so. I was more impressed with the actual animation than I was with the 3-D aspect of it: the ocean and the fur on the Viking's vests looked like real water and fur.

I knew I would cry while watching this film and I did. Actually, I cried more than I thought I would. I cried when (spoiler alert!) Hiccup's dad saves Toothless and tells Hiccup that he's proud to call him his son when just in a previous scene he was ashamed of him. Yeah, that got the waterworks going. Thank goodness the lobby of the movie theater was empty when I left because it's always embarrassing when my eyes are red from crying (especially from watching a cartoon!)

How To Train Your Dragon has a great chance of being nominated for a Best Animated Picture Oscar next year, but I'm pretty sure Toy Story 3 has that one locked up. I saw the trailer for that and I can't wait to see it. (I also got a little teary-eyed during it; yes, I am very sensitive!) Giving Oscars to animated films started in 2002 and here's how I would rank the nine movies that have won Oscars:

1. Up
2. Finding Nemo
3. Wall-E
4. Ratatouille
5. The Incredibles
6. Spirited Away
7. Shrek
8. Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
9. Happy Feet

I love 1-4, I like 5-7, I barely remember 8, and I hated 9. If I were to incorporate HTTYD, it would be #3 or 4 on that list. You don't have to be a kid to enjoy this movie!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dream On

Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx
Released: 12/25/06
Viewed in theaters: 1/04/07

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Hudson (won)
Best Supporting Actor - Eddie Murphy (lost to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine)
Best Art Direction (lost to Pan's Labyrinth)
Best Costume Design (lost to Marie Antoinette)
Best Sound Mixing (won)
Best Original Songs - "Listen", "Patience", and "Love You I Do" (lost to "I Need to Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth)

Dreamgirls could probably be best described as a music biopic musical. This was my second viewing of it and I had the same reaction to it as my first: I loved the first half, but after Jennifer Hudson's Effie belts out And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going, the film seems to lose its steam and drag on a bit. While the first half focuses more on Effie, the second half focuses more on Beyonce's Deena. I found Effie to be more interesting to watch and I felt for her character more than I did with Deena. Also, I realize it's a musical, but the second half just seemed to be song after song after they never came up for air from all the singing!

With the three young women who play the Dreamettes, you have the Broadway star, the ex-American Idol contestant who's known for her larger than life voice, and the R&B megastar, three people who probably wouldn't start a group together because all their sounds are so different. They work together well, though, and you believe them as a group (and understand why Effie is the lead singer at first!) Of course, once the group blows up and becomes more popular, their manager (Foxx) wants to make Deena the lead singer because she has the more commercial look and this does not make Effie happy.

"Bitch, I'll show you crazy!"

Wouldn't that be hilarious if Beyonce actually said that in this movie too? Like that could be her trademark quote or something, haha! Now as far as performances go, I usually give B a hard time because everyone knows she wants an Oscar. Oh, yes, she wants one. It's so obvious. Seriously, B, stop trying so hard and go home to your eighty thousand Grammys. However, having said that, I don't think she was bad in Dreamgirls like she was in, as say, Obsessed (but she was so bad it was so awesome in that movie). For her first movie, I thought Hudson did a good job. Do I think it warranted her the Oscar? Hmmm.. probably not. Let's face it: she only won it because of And I Am Telling You... (and she does sing the hell out of that song), but I feel as though that's like giving Penelope Cruz an Oscar because she spoke perfect Spanish in a film when that's her first language anyway, you know?

I thought Eddie Murphy was really good when his character was performing, then I remembered he had already had some singing experience with the one hit wonder from the '80s, Party All the Time, LOL. The best songs in the film are, of course, And I Am Telling You... and Listen, the single Beyonce sings in the second half of the film. That song was nominated for an Oscar and it would have been my choice to win, but I think having three songs in that category hurt the movie's chances because they all probably ended up canceling each other out. It is a beautiful song, though.

I was amused when I saw John Lithgow in a cameo; I'd never think I'd see him and Beyonce in the same scene together!