Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Me and Orson Welles

If you've ever been curious about the actor Orson Welles, this is a good movie for you. Actor Christian McKay chews the scenery like you imagine only Orson Welles would or could do. He even looks like him, and displays that arrogance that Orson was so famous for. Unfortunately, that's the only reason I can think of to see this film.

Zac Efron plays a would-be actor, still in high school, but he plays the part a bit older than that. He's always interesting to watch post-HSM, but he really doesn't have much to do. The plot winds around Orson's production of Hamlet on stage in New York, and it's like watching several trains all headed in the same direction: toward each other. And Efron's character is the viewer, admiring his talent but wincing whenever he's addressed by the Genius.

But in a static setting, on a static set, with nothing much happening except to watch Orson go off with girls stage left or stage right, it's boring. Terribly.

Best to go watch one of Orson Welles' movies, and get a real sense for what he could do. Thumb's down.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia is too long a movie, longer than its title, with a juvenile, predictable plot and very thin characters. Still, there's a lot to be said for the movie. I actually liked it a lot.

The movie opens with the king adopting an orphan boy, a boy who seems to vault over the houses in the street to escape the king's guards. The boy grows up to be Jake Gyllenhaal's character, Dastan, the third of the king's sons. However, when Dastan is believed to have killed their beloved father, he becomes a fugitive.

It gets a little more complicated than that when he discovers a magic dagger that can reverse time for one minute. One minute doesn't seem like a lot, but if used correctly, it could certainly save a life or two. However, the princess whose city-state he and his brothers had just conquered has other plans for the dagger.

Dastan seems to have street smarts, but doesn't pick up on the fact that his uncle is played by Sir Ben Kingsley, and is obviously the bad guy. I mean, c'mon. Everybody in the theatre knew it.

The sets are gorgeous, the stunts are amazing. Gyllenhaal obviously did a lot of his own work in that regard. And there are some interesting characters thrown into the mix, although, as I said earlier, their characters are paper-thin. Award-winning Alfred Molina is no more than a bit of comedy here, but he does forward the plot a bit. I don't know where they found Gemma Arterton as Dastan's love interest, the princess, but she is truly amazing. Hopefully we'll see her again soon.

It's a beautiful picture with a lot of predictability and silliness, but you'll probably like it like I did. The movie is much better than the trailers, which I found dumb and confusing. Thumb's up for Prince of Persia.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The Losers

The Losers is, well, mostly a loser of a movie. The cast is on the 'B' side, although one of the members really holds it all together in a John-Wayne way: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Clay), lately and notable in The Watchmen. However, he can't save the silliness and massive confusion of this movie.

A military task force is betrayed and left for dead while on a mission in South America, and vow to take out whomever did this to them. In the meantime, Aisha (Zoe Saldana), an independent operative, offers them a way to exact revenge.

That's about all I can make of the plot. There's a lot I just didn't get about it.

The silliness starts with a royal battle in Clay's hotel room in Colombia, with Aisha and Clay throwing each other all over the room. We're supposed to interpret this violence as foreplay. That's quite a stretch. It's a fun battle, especially when they walk away from a burning building. But you can't tell me that ultra-thin Saldana can even sit on ultra-big Morgan.

Usually reliable Chris Evans (Fantastic Four, Push) is just a fool here, but is occasionally amusing. The rest of the cast disappears in the action scenes, some of which are spectacular, particularly at the end.

Pass on The Losers. Thumb's down.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Kick-Ass is one of the most fun, imaginative movies of the year.

Aaron, a nerdy high school student, tells his friends he can't figure out why anyone in the real world has never announced that they're going to be a superhero. His friends point out correctly that no one has super powers, but that doesn't stop Aaron. He buys a suit online, and goes out with the idea of stopping evil, even though he has no super powers, like Spider-Man or Superman, or money or training, like Batman.

His exploits draw out others in reaction, one a Mafia-type mobman and the other a trained super-hero, the latter a la Batman.

It's obvious to say there are many funny moments in this film, but there are also many cringe-worthy moments as well, especially when Kick-Ass gets his ass kicked. There's some great casting here: Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy, a Batman-lookalike who has been trying to bring down the Mafia for years. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who has a nasal view of things, as the son of the mafia guy, a kid who wouldn't mind being a superhero as well, or, failing that, the next leader of his dad's gang, is brilliant in this pivoltal role. But the real keeper, and surprise, is young Chloe Moretz, as Cage's daughter, aka Hit-Girl. She's the one with the real "powers" here, and she swears like a sailor, which only adds to the humor.

The movie successfully combines comic book action and wisdom with reality. This is no kiddie film, however: there is violence and some torture scenes. Be prepared for an adult film with humor, action and pathos.

It's a feel-good movie with some great talent. Thumb's up.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) are two women who have been together some 20-something years, and they have two children to show for it. They live a routine, make that boring life together, and their kids are so sick of their constant parenting. Little do the two women know that the kids, 15 and 18, are scheming to find out who their sperm donor father is. They go about meeting Paul (Mark Ruffalo) on the sly, and try to learn a bit about him.

Paul from the very start is very appealing to them. He's calm, affable, not like their high-strung, meddlesome parents. The trouble ensues, though, when Paul gets more involved with the family, at some point not in a good way.

I really liked this film, despite the negative issues I've heard about from the lesbian community. I think their issues are valid. In its defense, I think the film showed a lot of issues that real couples deal with. What is a partnership. What is a marriage. And what do you do with your kids when they stop taking your advice.

As you can imagine, Bening and Moore are just super in their roles, and it's amazing how they let the camera play over their 50's-ish wrinkles and freckles. Mark Ruffalo is just about perfect as Paul, the guy who's kind of mellow, but maybe that's only because he's never had a family to deal with. The kids are very good, too, particularly Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Alice in Wonderland).

At the end, it's all about the kids, what's good for them, something Jules and Nic know all about and Paul has yet to discover.

Thumb's up.