Saturday, June 05, 2010

Leap Year

And we go on to another light comedy, Leap Year, a comedy that is so predictable, we could write the beginning, the middle, and indeed, the end.. Leap Year, of course, is the 29th of February, an event that occurs once every four years, and, as such, allows such extraordinary events as the woman asking a man to marry her.

Or so thinks Anna (Amy Adams). When her boyfriend doesn't propose to her before he leaves on a business trip, she comes up with the idea that she could do this herself. The only problem is, she has to get to Dublin -- Ireland, not California -- in two days. But in doing so, she meets all kinds of problems, more than Ulysses did during his 10 years of trying to return home. She eventually meets an innkeeper who helps her cross ireland to get to her boyfriend.

There really is only one reason to see this film: the two actors, Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. We know Amy Adams (or at least we think we do), and if you get tired of the dialogue -- usually her dialogue -- you can always stare at one of the most beautiful redheads in Hollywood. Matthew Goode is usually a dapper personality, but not so here, and perhaps that was the appeal of this role. He plays a jerk most times, but you eventually find out about that heart o' gold. Irish gold.

A friend recommended this film to me after watching it on an international airline flight. You don't need good sound for such movies, as their simplicity is what's needed and wanted. There are two main characters. Maybe a third, if you count Anna's Louis Vuitton suitcase. You do have all that wonderful Irish countryside scenery. And a bit of Irish beliefs thrown in, just a touch for the soup.

It's simple, it's predictable, there are only two reasons to watch this film. And even then, if you have a more serious use for your time, don't.

Thumb's down.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

It's Complicated

Okay, it isn't that complicated. Jane (Meryl Streep) has been divorced from Jake (Alec Baldwin) for 10 years, but they meet at their son's graduation from college and feel that old attraction. In the meantime, however, Jane is attracted to her architect, Adam (Steve Martin). Whom would you choose?

Alec Baldwin is a master at comedy, and he's got that low, sexy voice to go with it. Yes, his body is slowly expanding, much like that oil slick we're hearing about every day, but he oozes charm. However, drawbacks may include the fact that he's cheating on his (much younger) wife. Just like he cheated on Jane a decade ago. Plus, at times he's a complete idiot.

Unfortunately, other than the three things I just mentioned (Streep, Baldwin, and Martin), there isn't much to recommend this comedy. The physical comedy, for the most part, just doesn't work. All that works is that these marvelous over-50 actors (well, except for Baldwin, who's in his forties playing fifties) chewing up some scenery. But the scenery just isn't written well enough or is interesting enough.

Pass unless you just have to see what these three are doing nowadays, and I wouldn't blame you.

Thumb's down.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Messenger

There are stories about war, and there are excellent stories about Iraq. The Messenger is both.

The Messenger, however, is not a story about soldiers in Iraq, territory that The Hurt Locker covered. This story concerns one soldier who came home, who survived although many of his team members did not, and is enlisted into a team to give the bad news to family members who are waiting for their sons and daughters and spouses to come home.

On the face of it, it seems to be an easy assignment. Ben Foster, as the young staff sergeant who only has 3 months left in the Army, however, isn't sure he wants anything to do with anything the Army offers, as he feels totally disoriented upon arriving home, even though he's been tagged as a hero. And his pairing with the captain in charge of the detail, portrayed by Woody Harrelson, is not to his liking. But the two find a way to get the job done.

But a hard job it is. I understand that the two actors had no idea what to expect when they walked into every notification scenario. What we see in their reaction rings true.

This is an unusual but brutal take on the cost of war, and is as successful in its mission, and message, as The Hurt Locker. It's stunning. I needn't tell you how good Harrelson is; he is setting new records with the variety and breadth of roles he takes on. But Foster is one of our young great actors -- witness 3:10 to Yuma. Keep an eye on him.

Thumb's up.

Extraordinary Measures

Extraordinary Measures is based on a true story of a couple who have two children with a debilitating spinal disease similar to M.S. In the story, they hunt down a researcher and partner with him to help him solve the mystery of the disease before their children die.

I really enjoyed this movie for several reasons. First, there was nothing simple about finding that cure. There is no cure, and the movie is quite blunt about that. But the enzyme that was eventually developed would help their children, and others, mostly infants. Stumbling block after block is shown, and solutions are sought, realistically.

I also like the fact that Harrison Ford finally plays his real age. He plays the curmudgeonly genius scientist who figures it out, but pushes everyone else away from him. And Brendan Fraser plays the father who, as a businessman, finds a way to fund his research. Although Ford was fine, Fraser is the best I've ever seen him. He has that eagerness that makes you want to play along with him, but the emotion to pull off the fact that this father felt the time-bomb of his children's lives ticking away.

It's a tearjerker to be sure, but a good one. Thumb's up.

Robin Hood

In this re-imagining of the legend of Robin Hood, Robert Lochsley participates in many historic events, some of which never really happened in his lifetime. But don't let that get in your way.

The latest of Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe movies is great fun, as long as you pretend you never opened a history book. This version is pre-Robin Hood, before the legend, and we get a nice look at the Crusades, which couldn't have been pleasant for anyone. It's nice to finally see a version that shows Richard the Lionheart for what he really was, that is, not the savior of England, but a rather ruthless warmonger who fought his entire life. It's amazing that history portrays him as a charismatic king who had great loyalty among his men.

But then again, King John isn't any better as the monarch who stayed home and really pillaged his own people in order to keep his kingdom afloat financially. And in true Ridley Scott way, we see the nuts and bolts of this in the English countryside.

Giving this venue some heart and character, Cate Blanchett plays a plucky Maid Marion, whose husband went off to war 10 years ago, days after they were married, and never came back.

This isn't the Robin Hood of your parents or even your grandparents. Robin does not take from the rich and give to the poor, but he is a voice for the downtrodden, those taxed without representation. And he's not merry, although he does have a band of men; he rarely cracks a smile.

I like the fact that Ridley Scott's movie shows Robin Hood as an archer. I read that one out of every five men in Europe died of an arrow in the Middle Ages. After seeing this movie, I'm surprised it wasn't more.

Thumb's up for a fine action movie.