Friday, July 31, 2009

Movie Review - (500) Days of Summer

Starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Directed by Marc Webb

In a summer of shitty blockbuster action movies, it's pleasant to get to watch a nice romance about people (close to) my age. Unfortunately, (500) Days of Summer is a movie where some really good parts don't add up to an entirely cohesive whole.

I could tell you a summary of the movie, but it's essentially boy meets girl, boy falls in love, girl crushes his heart (as women always do). There's really not much else to it, but the film is buoyed by two decent performances by its stars. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Angels in the Outfield, man! Remember that movie?) is Tom and he's got the forlorn act down pat. I believed him in this movie...I felt like he was a real guy. I felt like I would be just like him were I in his situation. His role worked for me. The same could be said for Zooey Deschanel's Summer. She felt like just as much of a "real" person to me. In a movie that's essentially an ode to misbegotten love (I'm not ruining anything there...they spill those beans in the first minute), Summer needed to be someone that the audience could pine over and Summer is just that. The relationship between Summer and Tom felt right, felt real, and felt meaningful.

The actors are certainly helped by the direction of Marc Webb who does some very creative things (with the help of the writers, for sure). Split screens and fantasy sequences don't always work out well in movies, but in (500) Days, they didn't seem forced or showy. In fact, there were two scenes in this movie that are favorites of anything I've seen this year. One involves a split screen where the left side reveals what Tom thinks is going to happen when he reunites with Summer, while the right side reveals what actually happens. Call me a sucker, but I thought it was ingenious. And there's a fantasy sequence where, after his first night with Summer, Tom dances through a park to Hall & Oates's "You Make My Dreams Come True" (one of my favorite songs) that is priceless (despite the fact that they spoiled it in the trailer...let's not even get into that though, because the trailer spoiled a lot here in this flick).

Add to that, this movie had a narrator...I'm a sucker for narration...I don't know why, but movies that start and end with narration always win me over a bit (see the recent revisited review of The Hudsucker Proxy).

But the fact that I can pick out scenes I loved without liking the movie as a whole is the inherent problem. And while there weren't any scenes I out-and-out hated, there were some problematic issues for me. For starters, I'm tired of movies where the younger sibling of a main character ends up being the voice of reason for their older sibling. It doesn't happen...or at least it never happened to me (no offense to my brothers). Secondly, Tom's job at the greeting card company rang totally untrue...not untrue that he would've worked there, but everything they talked about there relating to his work felt entirely fake. Every greeting card they showed felt like a joke to me...I kept asking myself how this crappy card company stayed in business. Thirdly, the quirky friend of the main character thing...I mean, it's okay, but it's kind of a tired cliché by now. The friends in this movie were fine but they added nothing to the story whatsoever.

I realize that the three issues above are kind of petty, but they're just three minor reasons why the movie didn't gel together the way it should have. I think that my fellow moviegoer hit the nail on the head when she asked the question, "Am I supposed to feel bad for Tom?" and my other fellow moviegoer said, "No, because Summer told him that she didn't want a relationship to begin with." So, the whole movie is pushing you to feel bad for the guy, but subliminally, you're thinking to yourself, "He set himself up for this failed relationship." Sure, it sucks, but he should've known better.

Give me time to think about it and I might explore my problems with the flick some more (I still need to digest the movie a bit...the pitfalls of trying to post a review immediately after I see the movie, I guess). Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad movie by any means and I'm giving it a rating that falls just below the "recommended" category for me. I really do feel like the relationship between these two characters felt real and I very much liked the way it was shot, but I just feel like it could've been so much better for some reason.

The RyMickey Rating: C

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Year in Movies

Update...I've got a 3rd movie to add to my B+ list which makes me happy...although I would've never guessed that my top two movies of the year would've been horror flicks.

A *** 0/63 = 0%
None

A- *** 1/63 = 1.59%

B+ *** 3/63 = 4.76%

B *** 6/63 = 9.52%

B- *** 4/63 = 6.35%

C+ *** 6/63 = 9.52%

C *** 7/63 = 11.11%

C- *** 5/63 = 7.94%

D+ *** 7/63 = 11.11%

D *** 10/63 = 15.87%

D- *** 7/63 = 11.11%

F *** 7/63 = 11.11%

I would say that anything C+ or above would be something that I would recommend people to see. Therefore, based on the above ratings, I would say that of the movies I've seen, I would say that 20 movies -- or 31.74% -- would be worth your watching. Down a little bit from my last Year in Movies post, but still not awful. And, if I'm being really honest, most of those movies in the 'C' section are worth your watching, too, but since I consider them only average, I figured I should only "recommend" things that are above average.

Movie Review - Miss March (2009)

Starring Quite Possibly the Worst Cast Assembled for a Movie This Year
Written and Directed by Two Members of Quite Possibly the Worst Cast Assembled for a Movie This Year

How a movie this bad gets made and released on the big screen is beyond me.

I'm not gonna even bother with a review, so sorry if you even remotely care about reading about this shitfest of a movie.

Just when I thought movies couldn't get worse than Transformers and Year One, along comes this.

The RyMickey Rating: F

Movie Review - Jonas Brothers: The Concert Experience (2009)

Starring the Jonas Brothers
Directed by Bruce Hendricks

If ever there was a movie not made for me, this is it. I mean, at least The Hannah Montana Movie had a story wrapped around Miley Cyrus's songs. But this is just a concert with a few (obviously staged) real-life moments. I know nothing about the Jonas Brothers except for the fact that my ten year-old cousin doesn't even like them, so I knew I wasn't getting dragged to the theater by her to see this one.

There's really nothing to say. I mean, I guess the concert footage was shot nice (Let's not discuss the simply ridiculous "music video" type scene in Central Park with the one guy playing a white piano and another guy playing a tambourine while wearing a bright red bow tie...ugh...). If you liked the Jonas Brothers, I'm sure you'd love it. I don't get the massive fan screaming over any artist and I never will (although I guess I'll see a bunch of middle aged women screaming over Paul McCartney when I see him this upcoming weekend). Although all the songs they sang sounded exactly the same to me, I enjoyed the fact that they used some electrified violins and cellos and other various strings in their songs. Yeah...I'll go with that as my one compliment to their music.

Anyway, it's tough to rate a movie that holds no appeal to you at all...I'll go with the grade below, although I have absolutely no desire to see a second of the movie ever again. This was made for a select group of people and I'm not part of that group at all.

The RyMickey Rating: D

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Movie Review - Passengers (2008)

Starring Anne Hathaway, Patrick Wilson, Dianne Wiest, David Morse, Andre Braugher, and Clea DuVall
Written by Ronnie Christensen
Directed by Rodrigo García

Anne Hathaway Crush Alert! I'm not gonna even discuss my Anne Hathaway Attainability Theory (not that it's much of a theory), so instead let's focus on this movie that no one's ever heard of before. This flick lasted for a whopping week at our theater last year...I was away on vacation, came back, and it was already gone.

This one was reminiscent of the movie Fearless that I saw awhile ago with Jeff Daniels and Rosie Perez that, if memory serves me right, I loved (It also dealt with the survivor of a plane crash and how he dealt with the aftermath). Unfortunately, Passengers didn't really work at all.

Hathaway plays psychologist Claire Summers who is providing group therapy for the five survivors of a horrific plane crash. I love watching Hathaway onscreen (even in shit like Bride Wars) because I think she's a strong presence. However, she just wasn't believable as this intelligent psychologist...she had to spout some crappy psychobabble lines that would be difficult for anyone, but I just didn't buy her in the role. Anyway, back to the premise...Claire is intrigued with one patient in particular, Eric, who is oddly unaffected by the plane crash. There's sexual tension, the patient becomes the doctor, yada yada yada. When the five surviving passengers start disappearing, Claire begins to think that there's some elaborate scheme in place to cover up the airline's errors...and she may be right.

Unfortunately, this 90-minute film feels longer than that...it is just plodding and boring and it lays there on the screen like a lump. The writer and director bring nothing remotely exciting to the table. There's somewhat of a twist ending and it's just ridiculous. It doesn't make any sense and it makes the whole movie seem completely pointless. Even though I didn't like the flick, the twist made me dislike it even more.

The RyMickey Rating: D


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Movie Review - Nothing But the Truth (2008)

Starring Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Angela Bassett, Alan Alda, Vera Farmiga, David Schwimmer, and Noah Wyle
Written and Directed by Rod Lurie

Loosely based on true events, Washington, D.C., newspaper reporter Rachel Armstrong (Beckinsale) has just published a report revealing the name of a C.I.A. operative -- Erica Van Doren (Farmiga) -- whose findings were ignored by the President. Rachel's hope is that she is a catalyst behind exposing a major problem with the presidential administration who ordered airstrikes on Venezuela despite the fact that Van Doren said the Venezuelan government wasn't really doing anything wrong. Refusing to reveal her source that exposed Van Doren as a C.I.A. agent, Armstrong is held in contempt of court and is sent to prison.

This movie starts out quickly and doesn't really stop moving, which is rather surprising considering it's part-courtroom drama (which tend to plod along sometimes). Director and writer Rod Lurie doesn't really create a bum note in the flick. He creates a great fictional story based around the Valerie Plame incident of the early aughts. While it definitely takes sides in support of the newspaper worker, the movie (which could've been political) doesn't veer that way at all. And the ending...quite the surprise...

Kate Beckinsale is the best I've seen her (though her British accent wasn't quite suppressed), balancing both the gritty newspaper side and the maternal side of her character quite well. There's an incident that happens an hour into the movie that allows Beckinsale to go to another emotional level that I wasn't expecting. Matt Dillon and Noah Wyle are also quite good as dueling attorneys on the case. And Vera Farmiga, who helped make Orphan be a winner (and was so good in The Departed, too), also shines here. She has really become one of my favorite actresses working today, and I think it's time I start looking back over her oeuvre.

It's a shame that the producers -- the Yari Film Group -- went bankrupt prior to this flick's being released and weren't able to push it for Oscars last year the way it deserved to be pushed. In a year of weak Best Picture contenders, this should've at least been in the running.

The RyMickey Rating: A-

Movie Review - 12 Rounds (2009)

Starring John Cena
Written by Daniel Kunka
Directed by Renny Harlin

John Cena (some WWE wrestling "star" apparently...I've never watched any "professional wrestling" in my life) is New Orleans cop Danny Fisher who, a year ago, captured some criminal mastermind, but accidentally killed the crook's wife in the process (although, in reality, Danny didn't really kill the wife...someone else ran her over, so it really makes no sense why the bad guy's so pissed at the cop). It's a year later and the nutjob is out of jail and he wants revenge, kidnapping Danny's girlfriend and sending the cop on a series of "games" (12 rounds of games, if you will) in order to get his wife back.

The movie's just plain silly and goes on for way too long (and it's only a little over 100 minutes). After about the 5th game when Danny takes over a fire truck in order to get a bomb out of the city limits, wrecking upwards of 20 cars and motorcyles in the process, I was simply tired of watching it. There's no basis in reality here, and while I understand it's an action movie, some semblance of realism would've been nice.

I'm not gonna even discuss the acting chops of Cena, but there may be a reason why he has no other movies lined up for himself on the horizon (although, if I'm being completely honest, he wasn't even close to Brendan Fraser levels of bad...). Overall, it just seemed very tv-movie-esque...nobody really acted well, nothing really looked good, everything was just as bland as could be.

The RyMickey Rating: D

Movie Review (Revisited) - The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

So, I went and watched this movie last night at a movie theater. I actually grew to enjoy the movie a bit more (I already liked it having previously watched it just a few months prior). Below, you'll find my review that was posted back on May 10. Things that are bolded are my thoughts based on this second viewing.

***Available on DVD***
Starring Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Paul Newman
Written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, and Sam Raimi
Directed by Joel Coen (and Ethan Coen)

When the President of Hudsucker Industries kills himself, the board of directors, led by the conniving Sidney Mussburger (Newman), decides that in order to be able to purchase stock in the company at a low price, they need to hire a boob to run the company into the toilet for a little bit. Little did they know that their boob, a fresh out of college Norville Barnes (Robbins), has some ingenious plans dealing with toy production ("you know, for kids") that could prove very profitable for the company and may just foil Mussburger's scheme.

This is only the fifth Coen Brothers film that I had seen and up until this point I had only liked one (No Country for Old Men). I can now add The Hudsucker Proxy to the "like" column. A very Frank Capra-esque, 30s/40s style film, the movie has a genuine feel-good message peppered with quick pitter-patter dialogue between its leads. It certainly feels like the film could've come right out of another era. Nothing racy, raunchy, or explicit here...just the story of a man trying to make his way the best he can.

There were winning performances by Tim Robbins (who, despite the fact that I despise his politcal leanings with a passion, I genuinely like most of his work) and Paul Newman (then again, Paul Newman is always winning). My only problem with the film (and what keeps it out of the upper echelon of my grading rubric) is Jennifer Jason Leigh's performance as a fast-talking newspaper reporter who goes undercover at Hudsucker Industries to find out more about the newly appointed president. She was essentially copying Katharine Hepburn's mannerisms and dialect step-for-step, enunciation-for-enunciation. As the film is certainly a tribute to a bygone era, I'm sure the Coens wanted Leigh's role to be an homage to Hepburn (in some regard), but I just found her performance over-the-top and grating.

And this is where I found a huge difference in watching this movie in a theater and on DVD. On the smaller screen, Leigh's performance seemed way over-the-top, but on the big screen, her performance felt perfect. Yes, she was definitely giving homage to Kate Hepburn in the role, but it really worked this time for me.

Overall, though, this little film is certainly worth a rental if you haven't seen it.

The (Original) RyMickey Rating (5/10/09): B+
The (Revised) RyMickey Rating (7/28/09): A-

Edited to add: I'm a fan of music scores in films (my folks would always give me a hard time about this as I'd often mention the score when I'd talk about whether I liked or disliked a movie) and there's also a great one in this flick by Carter Burwell -- very fitting with the era they were trying to depict...

Movie Review - Luck (2009)

Starring Sanjay Dutt, Danny Denzongpa, Mithun Chakraborty, and Imran Khan
Written by Renzil D'Silva
Directed by Soham Shah

I'm not gonna really bother with this one because it wasn't all that good (and it's not as if anyone reading this will actually go and see this). The premise for something promising is there -- some seedy underworld bigwig brings together a group of 15 or so people from across the world who are known for being "lucky." He makes them all play a series of games which test their luck...those that are unlucky in the games will die.

A good premise, but an awful set-up and full of inconsistencies. People who seemingly died in one game are magically alive in the next. The amount of people that are actually alive for each game seems to change periodically. The action sequence at the end was ridiculous. It doesn't help that the director and editor both created a film that was incredibly jumpy and repetitive. It wasn't fun to watch, by any means.

The only thing saving this from awfulness (besides the moderately interesting premise) is the fact that the acting was generally okay (although it was absolutely nothing special and several in the cast were laughably over-the-top). This is the third Bollywood flick I've seen (and the second to feature Mithun Chakraborty), but the first "serious" one. It was nice to see a different type of film as the first two were slapsticky. This flick was bookended by what appeared to be two "music videos" and then was peppered with music montages throughout -- all of which were completely unnecessary.

The RyMickey Rating: D

Monday, July 27, 2009

Movie Review - The Ugly Truth (2009)

Starring Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler, Bree Turner, John Michael Higgins, and Cheryl Hines
Written by Nicole Eastman, Karen McCullah Lutz, and Kirsten Smith
Directed by Robert Luketic

***SPOILERS AHEAD...THEN AGAIN, IT'S NOT LIKE YOU CAN'T GUESS THE ENDING OF THIS ONE.***

A friend has a theory that women like to watch movies with characters crazier than them because it can make them feel better about themselves -- an "I'm better than her and if she can get a man, I can get a man" kind of mentality. While I haven't seen as many flicks as him this year, I think he may be on to something with that theory.

The same thing happens here -- Katherine Heigl plays Abby, a morning news show producer, who is ridiculously out-of-touch with men. The film starts out with her on a date that is so unbelievable it just set her character off on the wrong track. Anyway, the morning news show is floundering in the ratings and her boss hires misogynistic "relationship expert" Mike (Gerard Butler) to host a segment called "The Ugly Truth" on the show. Abby's unhappy because she thinks Mike's a jerk, but in order to show Abby that he knows what he's talking about, he helps the unlucky-in-love Abby snag a man. Abby falls in love with the guy, Mike get jealous...there's witty repartee leading to sexual tension between them...you don't need to be a genius to know what's going to happen.

And that's the problem with the flick. In the end, it follows every romantic comedy cliché in the book. There was no surprise...I was really hoping it wasn't going to end the way it did, but I should've known better. And Heigl's character is a mess. She's a smart executive, yet has no social skills while on a date, admitting to doing a background check and ridiculing her date for ordering bottled water instead of tap water? That was the one of the opening scenes with Heigl's character and it just set me off on the wrong foot with her.

However, despite my issues with the main character, everyone surrounding her is top notch. Gerard Butler is really funny. He's given some deliciously dirty, nasty, and inappropriate lines to spew and he does it perfectly. Add in a cute performance from Bree Turner as Abby's assistant, and two absolutely winning roles from Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins as the sexually frustrated morning show news anchors (who also happen to be married), and it's a shame that the main character couldn't have been more convincing. Still, it's these four actors mentioned in this paragraph that elevate this movie and make it much better than it deserves to be.

Unfortunately, what really brings the movie down the most is that I can't understand in the slightest why Abby and Mike would end up together in the end. What does she find attractive in him? I mean, I guess it's that he can love her for who she really is (that's what the movie wants us to think, anyway), but, without a doubt, he's a prick.

If I learned anything from this movie, it's that I'm too damn nice. I need to wrestle with chicks in jello in order to find true love, I guess...

The RyMickey Rating: C-

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Movie Review - Inkheart (2009)

Starring Brendan Fraser, Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany, Jim Broadbent, and Andy Serkis
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by Iain Softley

Why anyone gives Brendan Fraser jobs is beyond me. He is, without a doubt, the worst actor still getting starring roles today. Every line reading is atrocious. Every facial expression is a joke. And in this movie, he even makes Helen Mirren stoop to new lows acting-wise.

I should say off the bat that with the exception of biopics, the fantasy genre is one of my least favorite types of movies. Lord of the Rings...saw the first one and didn't need to see the others. The Princess Bride...never made it all the way through. I just don't like genre for some reason -- not a fan of the mysticism or something. So, unfortunately, Inkheart had trouble winning me over in the first place.

That being said, as a fantasy movie, the premise of Inkheart isn't all that bad. Fraser is Mo, a Silvertongue, which means when he reads stories aloud, a character from the book escapes the book into the "real world;" however, someone from the "real world" will be transported into the book as well. And that's the problem -- several years ago, Mo was unaware of his powers and, when reading a book named Inkheart to his young daughter and wife, his wife was transported into the book. For years, Mo has been searching for the out-of-print book so he can "read his wife out of it." Various book characters come and go, trying to either get back into the book or keep Mo from "reading them back into" the book. An interesting premise, but it ends up being not the least bit exciting.

As I said above, Fraser is awful and Mirren fares very poorly as Mo's eccentric aunt. Jim Broadbent as Inkheart's author and Andy Serkis as the villain are better, but the film does them no favors. The actors aren't helped by the fact that the film looks cheap and low-budget. The thing is, I'm sure they spent a decent amount of money on the flick, but there's really nothing to show for it.

It wasn't the worst thing I've ever seen, but there's nothing memorable here or worth watching.

The RyMickey Rating: D

Movie Review - Chandni Chowk to China (2009)

Starring Akshay Kumar, Gordon Liu, Mithun Chakraborty, and Deepika Padukone
Written by Rajat Arora
Directed by Nikhil Advani

My second Bollywood movie also happens to feature Akshay Kumar, the star of my prior Bollywood outing, Kambakkht Ishq. Unfortunately, Kumar is the exact same nutty person here as he was in Kambakkht. Granted, I'm just judging his career on two roles (which is really no different than how I'd judge any actor, FYI...), but he's incredibly annoying (reminiscent of Jim Carrey early on in his career) and having to deal with his over-the-top antics and thoroughly moronic facial expressions for two-and-a-half hours can wear thin. His exaggerated and overblown persona worked in Kambakkht because the whole movie was overblown and it didn't seem the least bit out of place, but in this flick, the humor doesn't really match up with the surprisingly good (although ridiculous) story.

Part slapstick comedy, part old-school martial arts flick, part James Bond-y/spy thriller, Chandni Chowk to China is the tale of lowly food stand worker Sidhu (Kumar) from Chandni Chowk, India, who is mistaken for the second coming of Chinese war hero Liu Sheuyn. The folks in a tiny Chinese village are being overrun by the nasty villain, Hojo (Gordon Liu), and they need their former warrior to help save them. Desperate, they ship Sidhu to China to assist in their plight. Along the way, Sidhu meets the lovely Sakhi (played by the gorgeous Deepika Paduhone) who is also traveling to China as part of her job as the star of a commercial for a Dance Dance Revolution type machine. But, if I'm being honest, nothing really happens with their meeting. However, it sets up the fact that Sakhi has a twin sister, Suzie, who has been missing for years. And, here's the twist...the twin sister is working for the evil villain Hojo under the name Meow Meow! And, as if that wasn't enough, Hojo is the man who killed Sakhi and Suzie's father when they were mere infants. So now, in addition to saving the village, you know that Sidhu is going to need to save Sakhi's sister and avenge her father's death, too.

As ridiculous as it sounds, the plot was fun. And the actors, with the exception of Kumar keep the mugging to the camera at a minimum. Gordon Liu who has appeared in numerous Chinese martial arts flicks is actually pretty damn good as the villain -- nasty, but not overdone. Deepika Paduhone is also somewhat impressive. She gives both her roles defining characteristics beyond the simple fact that her hair is different for each of them. The unfortunate thing is that all the actors in the film don't mesh with the "star" Akshay Kumar. It's as if he's in a different movie altogether.

Apparently this is only the third Bollywood movie made and produced with the participation of a Hollywood studio. Shot on location in India and Shanghai, the film looks great -- rich and textured in terms of how it was shot (kudos to the director). And, if I'm being completely honest, the 150-minute run time didn't seem exorbitant. There were minimal musical interludes here -- one or two instances of characters actually "singing" and several more "montage music segments" -- and they certainly didn't detract from the movie.

I really just wish that Akshay Kumar wasn't in this. In the hands of a less spastic actor (and/or a director who desired a less spastic actor), along with the removal of the slapsticky aspects of the script, this film would've been quite good (as opposed to the so-bad-it's-good Kambakkht Ishq). Still, with the exception of the star, I actually quite liked the movie and recommend it to certain folks interested in exploring Bollywood cinema.

The RyMickey Rating: C

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Book a Week - The Great Deluge


Book Thirty of the Book-A-Week Quest

The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
by Douglas Brinkley (2006)

I don't even know where to begin with this one. So many thoughts...angry thoughts running through my head. This will most certainly be just a stream of consciousness rant.

There's a good line at the end of the book in which Brinkley discusses the "lethal ineptitude" of former President George W. Bush, FEMA director Michael Brown, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco's reactions to the devastating Hurricane Katrina that touched down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in late August 2005. All of those folks, in one way or another, messed up...really, really badly. Whether it be Bush's seeming lack of compassion in the days following the event, or Chertoff and Brown's idiotic running of vastly important government agencies, or Blanco's timidness, or Nagin's utter stupidity, they all screwed up. Let's not even delve into the fact that for years local politicians had been taking money that was supposed to be allotted to improving the levee system of New Orleans and shuttling the funds off to various ridiculous frivolities.

To me, however, the biggest blame goes to Mr. Nagin. For the days leading up to the hurricane's landfall, Nagin simply wouldn't evacuate New Orleans. He was too worried that hotels would sue him for asking for a mandatory evacuation. Can you believe it? I sure can't. Add to that, he was telling his constituents that they would be fine. You've got this huge hurricane heading straight for your city (which is significantly below sea level) and everything's gonna be fine. While you're at it, Mr. Nagin, could you please keep those busses that you're going to be using in the case of an evacuation in a low-lying area so they'll get flooded, too? Oh, you did that? Thanks. Had Nagin taken the steps necessary to evacuate his townsfolk, I can't help but think things would've turned out better.

But, then again, the people of New Orleans voted the guy to a second term as mayor in 2006. So, instead of getting angry at Nagin, maybe I should get angry at the INSANE people in New Orleans. Those same insane people who didn't want to leave their town because it meant "so much to them." Those same insane people who turned into looters in the aftermath of the storm. Those same insane people who were shooting at rescue workers. These people were nuts! Sure, not all of them, and probably not even most of them, but a few bad eggs can spoil it for everyone, and that certainly seems to have been the case here.

Still, despite some of the New Orleanians' stupidity, they suffered horrifically. When the levees broke in the days following Katrina and they flooded low-lying areas, it was devastating. Can you imagine water being so high that if you were in a canoe, you would have to duck under traffic lights as you were riding? Just unfathomable to me. I can't picture having to rush up to my attic worrying that the water was going to rise TWO FLOORS and drown me. The scope of the devastation is just mind-boggling. Mind-boggling.

As a book itself, The Great Deluge is full of personal stories...too full, if you ask me. Brinkley could've trimmed the book down by about 200 pages and it would've been a much better read than the current 600+ page edition. Still, it was absolutely worth the read. It's shocking to me (and absolutely wrong) that I really had forgotten about this horrific event that happened just about four years ago. How is it that it's left my memory? An entire city ruined and it's merely and afterthought to me. And I know I'm not the only one. What does that say about me? And what does that say about a society and bureaucratic system that let a whole city down?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Movie Review - The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

Starring Virginia Madsen, Elias Koteas, and Kyle Gallner
Written by Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe
Directed by Peter Cornwell

The Campbell family is facing some tough times. Oldest son Matt (Gallner) is battling cancer and his treatments are expensive and far from home. In order to save on travel, Mom (Madsen) decides to rent a large house without telling her hubby. This just makes the already strained marriage become even more tense. But, let's be honest here, the parents' issues are an unnecessary, pointless subplot. Jumping back to the cancer-stricken son, Matt begins to see visions of horrific ghosts in the old house which, come to find out, used to be a funeral home at which the owner did some awful things to the dead bodies that would come across his path.

Honestly, the story itself was moderately entertaining and very unlike the typical modern "teen" horror flick in that it wasn't incredibly bloody and actually had somewhat of an intriguing premise -- ghost stories always interest me more than slasher flicks, and this was a decent ghost story. The fact that they throw the "based on a true story" into the mix, if anything, makes this more unbelievable than were it just a regular old horror flick. Still, an interesting premise, to be sure.

I just wish they done away with the mom/dad issues and I wish they had cast a better actress than Virginia Madsen in the mom role. I didn't like her in Sideways (for which she was nominated for an Oscar) and I don't think I've liked her in much of anything. She just always strikes me as one-note and whenever she tries to break out of the "one-note-ness," it always seems fake. The guy who played the father wasn't much better either. The kid who plays Matt, Kyle Gallner, fares much better. He hasn't appeared in many movies, but he was actually quite good.

While not perfect, The Haunting in Connecticut was one of the better horror flicks I've seen recently and may be worth your while if you're into this particular genre.

The RyMickey Rating: C

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Movie Review - Fired Up (2009)

Starring Nicholas D'Agosto, Eric Christian Olson, John Michael Higgins, and Philip Baker Hall
Written by Freedom Jones
Directed by Will Gluck

So, about ten minutes in, I already wanted to ring one of the main character's necks. Then, he overhears a series of dialogue that, quite possibly, could be the worst lines I've heard in a movie so far this year.

"You know how Martin Luther King had a dream? Well, I do, too -- to kick ass at cheer camp. And if that makes me shallow, then fine. Call me and Dr. King shallow."

"That doesn't make you shallow. That makes you real."

Those lines were followed shortly by the aforementioned douchebag main character saying "I love every bone in your body...especially mine," and I was ready to bail.

Then, somehow, I started to laugh. I don't understand why, but this movie began to elicit a few moderate chuckles and one or two actual loud laughs.

So, despite the fact that Eric Christian Olsen who plays the "cocky asshole ladies' man" (their words in the film...not mine) was nearly unwatchable at times as he and his football playing "bro" invade a cheer camp for three weeks to get with the ladies instead of going to their own football camp, there were enough laughs to not cause this movie to be a complete and utter failure. (Run-on sentence there, or what?)

Side Note: This film actually had one of the funniest (and ridiculously blatant) product placements I've seen in recent years. Good going, Staples!

Side Note 2: Favorite Line - Sure, right...mediocrity deserves applause. Why don't we go find a Ford Focus and applaud around it? (Have no idea if that makes any sense out of context, but it made me laugh quite a bit.)

The RyMickey Rating: D+

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Greatest Outdoor Game Ever Created?

After going to a shitty Phillies game today, sports was the last thing on my mind.

Begrudgingly, my brothers convinced me to head outside and play a game of volleyball. I obliged, and although I like volleyball, let's be honest here...it takes a few games in order to get your hands used to the nonstop impact. After one game, everyone was rubbing their wrists in pain, but, despite the incessant gnawing by mosquitos, no one wanted to retire inside.

And then, we decided to play quite possibly the greatest outdoor game ever created -- Newcomb. Although, let's be honest here, it definitely appears infinitely more awesome if you use this commonly used spelling variant-- Nuke 'Em.

Nuke 'Em was created by Clara Gregory Baer in 1895 as an "easier" version of volleyball for elementary school kids (History Lesson courtesy of wikipedia). But, as I'm sure my brothers and Hawaiian cousin would attest, "easier" does not necessarily mean less intense (as my brother's bruised knee will show). You play with a volleyball, but throw rather than hit the ball over the net.

There is definite need to be clever and one must take advantage of the ability to change the pace of the game at your will. Toss quickly, or make your opponents quiver nervously in anticipation of your move. Granted, I think the game works best with two players per team -- much more people and it would be too difficult to find the sweet "uncatchable" spot on the opposing players' side.

Sure, the Phils just blew a ten-game winning streak today, but my team's Nuke 'Em record stands undefeated. Who needs nice Old Geezer Jamie Moyer (or for that matter Misty May Treanor or Karch Kiraly) when you could have Old Man Me on your team? (That's right...I'm pulling out the obscure volleyball references now...)

Movie Review - G-Force 3D (2009)

Starring Bill Nighy, Will Arnett, and Zach Galifianakis
Featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Penélope Cruz, Jon Favreau, Tracy Morgan, and Steve Buscemi
Written by The Wibberleys
Directed by Hoyt Yeatman

What happens when your movie, which for the first 60 minutes is ridiculously dumb and can completely be summed up in a single sentence [FBI-trained guinea pigs try to stop an "evil villain" from taking over the world], throws you an ending out of left field that actually makes sense and somehow makes the movie end on a good note? How do you rate this movie which, while still insanely childish, actually created an intelligent ending?

And then, how do you rate the movie when its 3D aspects are the best 3D you've seen at your local cineplex? How much emphasis gets placed on the surprisingly good 3D effects?

That's the conundrum I'm in right now. G-Force isn't a good movie -- I think there were five "bathroom humor" jokes within the span of five minutes and nothing will turn me off of a movie quicker than ill-placed fart jokes. However, despite the fact that the ending was guessed by someone about 45 minutes in, the "twist" is actually pretty damn ingenious...especially for a kid's movie. While the nifty ending doesn't negate the rest of the awfulness, it certainly raises the bar a little bit.

Also, like I mentioned above, the 3D effects were actually quite good. Admittedly, we changed up our seating position for this 3D movie, choosing to sit in the front rather than in the back which may have made a significant impact in how the effects worked. That being said, the producers/directors decided to do something I hadn't seen in a 3D flick before...when you watch the movie, it's as if you're watching something in a widescreen format on your television. There are black bars at the top and bottom of the film. Periodically, throughout the movie, things will pop out above and below into the black bars, creating a 3D-ish effect. It actually worked really well and, in my opinion, was rather an ingenious way of creating the 3D effect. This is the first 3D movie I wouldn't have been disappointed in had I paid for it.

Still, despite the neat ending and good 3D, the flick was below average. Guinea pigs making pop culture references are not my idea of humor (Ha! That guinea pig made a Macguyver and Jamba Juice joke! Hilarity!). So, I still find myself in the conundrum of how to rate this. I'm going to go with the grade below because I truly did enjoy the ending and, like I said above, there's something to be said for this being the best 3D I've seen in a theatrical release yet.

The RyMickey Rating: C

Classic Movie Review - His Girl Friday (1940)

Starring Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, and Ralph Bellamy
Written by Charles Lederer
Directed by Howard Hawks

First off, let me say that the poster design on the right doesn't match the movie at all. The poster doesn't scream "comedy" to me...although, if I'm being completely honest, the movie itself didn't really scream "comedy" to me either.

Once again, similar to my recent viewing of City Lights, I saw this one in a theater on actual film. There's something to be said for watching old movies on actual film...it feels right, or something like that. I can't really describe it, but the flickering of the light and the moderate scratches on the print are what seeing movies in a theater is all about. That being said, I just wish that I actually liked this one.

Rosalind Russell is Hildy Johnson, a newspaper reporter who is tired of living the fast-paced life that her job requires of her. She decides that she's getting married to Bruce Baldwin whose slower-paced insurance sales business will allow her to settle down and have a nice calm living. As she enters her workplace to announce her departure, she runs into her ex-husband, Walter Burns, who (I believe) is the editor of the newspaper for which she worked. They bicker, as all divorced couples (who still love each other) do, and from the get-go, you know they're going to end up together in the end. The unfortunate thing is that I didn't really find their rat-a-tat quick dialogue to be anything exciting or funny. So things didn't start out on a great note.

There's a big story going on in the city at the moment involving the hanging of a possibly mentally incompetent criminal. Walter convinces Hildy to write "one last story" with the hope of showing the public that this accused man (who shot and killed a police officer) should not be hung due to his mental incapacities. Oddly enough, this is where the film gets good, but then also falls completely off track to me. It tries to balance this incredibly serious story with witty repartee and it never quite reaches an equilibrium for me.

Admittedly, Rosalind Russell is quite good. She is the grounding force in the middle of the movie when Cary Grant's character seemingly disappears...it felt like Grant's Walter was gone for the middle 40 minutes of this movie, only being "talked to" on the phone by Russell. It was almost as if Grant had another movie to film and could only be used on certain days by the director. And while Russell certainly held her own without him, she had to do so in that awkward "is-this-funny-or-is-this-serious" part of the film.

Yes, the film picks up the pace a little at the end, and Grant, who I disliked in many parts of the movie (he just fell too suave for what I'd picture a newspaper editor to be), actually steals the show a bit in the final scenes. But, unfortunately, this just felt like a movie that couldn't find its footing to me. The humor didn't fit with the serious undertones and vice-versa.

Oh, well. They can't all be winners. (Sorry to my reader, Anonymous...I know this is a favorite of yours!)

The RyMickey Rating: D

Monday, July 20, 2009

Movie Review - Hotel For Dogs (2009)

Starring Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Kyla Pratt, Don Cheadle, Lisa Kudrow, and Kevin Dillon
Written by Jeff Lowell, Bob Schooley, and Mark McCorkle
Directed by Thor Freudenthal

Andi and Bruce (Roberts and Austin) are a sister and brother who have moved around from foster home to foster home, settling in with the apparently kid-hating Lois for the time being. The siblings bring along Friday, their cute dog, but they need to keep him a secret (because, naturally, the foster mom dislikes pets). Through a series of events, Andi and Bruce come upon an old abandoned hotel that happens to house a few stray canines. Somehow without any money and without any adult knowledge, Andi, Bruce, and few friends (including the requisite fat kid -- because fat kids are funny! -- and the sassy [is there any other kind in movies?] black girl) create a unique haven for all these neglected pets.

The movie actually started out really promisingly. For the first 30 minutes (prior to them setting up the hotel), it was actually quite good. Emma Roberts and Jake Austin were actually really holding their own and keeping me interested, despite the simplicity of the plot. However, at around the 40 minute mark, there were three "stepping in poo" jokes within three minutes and that's when it started to fall apart. That was followed by a five-minute long detailing of how the kids were (literally) "potty-training" the dogs. It then ventures down the teen romance trail that so many of these movies do and it does so in a completely generic way. And maybe it's just because I'm not a "pet guy," but I couldn't really give a damn during the climax when (SPOILER) the dogs get taken away from the hotel by the authorities.

Still, I gotta be honest, I've seen much worse kid flicks. First-time director Freudenthal did nothing special, but the film actually looked much better than your average children's movie. Like I said above, Roberts was quite charming. I haven't seen her in anything before (although "Girl in Purple T-Shirt" in her aunt Julia's America's Sweethearts should've been a memorable role), but she should have a promising future in movies (just stay away from the horror genre, Emma). For the most part, the other kid actors also outperform the adults here, the latter of whom are all forced to play idiotic caricatures (I'm talking to you, Lisa Kudrow!).

You could definitely do worse if you're looking for a decent flick to watch with your kids/cousins/nieces/nephews/etc.

The RyMickey Rating: C

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Movie Review - The Unborn (2009)

Starring Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman, Meagan Good, and Carla Gugino
Written and Directed by David S. Goyer

Just don't watch this one.

Something about twins and Nazi experiments and Jewish rabbis performing exorcisms (isn't that an innately "Catholic" -- or at the very least, Christian -- thing?). All taking place in a poorly directed movie (seriously, the first 10 minutes of this one were possibly the worst directed opening 10 minutes of any movie I've seen this year...well, maybe not quite that bad, but close).

It's just not worth it. There's infinitely better horror flicks out there.

The RyMickey Rating: D-

The Year In Movies

So, I've been asked to look over my year so far in 2009 movies. I've created a list of all my grades -- laying it out, looking at the percentage of movies that fall under each grading categories. Fifty movies so far this year...let's see how things pan out. So, here it is...in order from Best to Worst...

A *** 0/50 = 0%
None

A- *** 1/50 = 2%

B+ *** 2/50 = 4%

B *** 6/50 = 12%

B- *** 4/50 = 8%

C+ *** 4/50 = 8%

C *** 5/50 = 10%

C- *** 4/50 = 8%

D+ *** 6/50 = 12%

D *** 6/50 = 12%

D- *** 6/50 = 12%

F *** 6/50 = 12%

I am actually quite surprised by how evenly my ratings are spread out after I go below B+. As I was building the list, I was actually quite pleased with the way the ratings panned out. At this stage in the game, looking at the list from Best to Worst, I think the ratings are right on target. I've been known to change a rating or two a week (or month) or so after I've watched a movie, but looking at the above, I'm quite pleased with the way things are rated now.

I would say that anything C+ or above would be something that I would recommend people to see. Therefore, based on the above ratings, I would say that of the fifty movies I've seen, I would say that 17 movies -- or 34% -- would be worth your watching. Not too bad at this point, but I've got a bunch of crappy movies from January through April left to watch...and August looks like a shitfest, too...ugh...

I'll update this around the first day of each month for the rest of the year...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Movie Review - Notorious (2009)

Starring Jamal Woodard, Derek Luke, Anthony Mackie, and Angela Bassett
Written by Reggie Rock Bythewood and Cheo Hodari Coker
Directed by George Tillman, Jr.

It's tough for me to get behind a movie that idolizes a drug dealer. Yes, he "rose above" the drug trade and decided to rap about his difficult life, but he still is known and revered for being part of the infamous East Coast/West Coast rivalry. The sole purpose of this movie is to appeal to youth and I'm not really sure that Christopher "Biggie" Wallace is someone that they should deify.

Despite my generalized misgivings, I actually thought the film was decent. The biopic is probably my least favorite genre, and while this didn't break the mold, it wasn't boring which is my major issue with these types of films. Still, I went into this knowing not a whole lot about the life of Notorious B.I.G. and I came out (at the very least) interested in the guy, despite the fact that I will never download a song by him (or his friend-turned rival Tupac).

The film is helped by some good performances from the supporting cast. Naturi Naughton as Lil' Kim was the stand-out to me -- quite appealing, exuding sex appeal, while at the same time, holding her own against the larger-than-life "characters" onscreen. Derek Luke's Puff Daddy was a notch above his co-stars, as well, although a little spastic and jumpy (although, I simply took that as the way Puffy actually is). I also liked Angela Bassett as Biggie's mother -- Bassett is always a strong presence onscreen and it really was no different here. If anything, the performance I was most disappointed in was that of Jamal Woodard's Biggie. This was his first (and as of now, only) role, but something didn't click for me with his performance. Not that he ruined the film for me, but I just felt like he was overshadowed by some of his costars, and he should've been the one that towered over them.

The film is full of incredibly corny dialogue -- "We can't change the world unless we change ourselves" is just one example -- and this is especially evident towards the end. Try as I might, I just can't seem to shake the thought that the movie paints Biggie as this saintly figure who just wants to follow the "Why can't we all just get along" mantra which I find incredibly unbelievable. And it still boggles my mind that this guy who released one album prior to his death at age 24 (with another that was to be released mere days after his death) was such a major figure in the rap scene during the 90s.

Despite these problems, the film looked good, flowed well, and helped me "learn" about something/someone that I really knew nothing about in an enjoyable manner. And while rap is a genre of music that I'll never get and probably never like, this flick was certainly better than I ever expected it to be.

The RyMickey Rating: B-

Friday, July 17, 2009

Classic Movie Review - City Lights (1931)

Starring Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, and Harry Myers
Written and Directed by Charlie Chaplin

It's always a fun thing to discover a favorite movie...and I discovered a new favorite movie tonight in City Lights.

A beautiful story of a poor, homeless Tramp (Chaplin) who, while wandering around the city one day, falls in love at first sight with a Blind Flower Girl (Cherrill). Later that same night, The Tramp saves a drunk Eccentric Millionaire (Myers) from drowning himself. The Millionaire befriends The Tramp (but only when the Millionaire is drunk...when he's sober, he kicks the poor Tramp out on the street). Through a series of events, the Blind Flower Girl finds herself in need of money and The Tramp needs to find a way to help her out. Will he succeed? Will they fall in love? All we be revealed by the end.

Chaplin was something special in this. As the star, he was captivating onscreen. Completely charming, absolutely engaging, and incredibly humorous, it was a treat to watch his facial reactions and comedic physicality onscreen (physicality? Is that even a word?).

As a director, the film looked good. Sure, there was no movement of the camera (it stays in one place for each scene), but with the little bit of film history that I know, the cameras were much too big and clunky to move around much "back then." But, the film was still visually appealing and didn't feel like you were watching something as if it were on a stage (which, with the lack of camera movement, can sometimes be the case at least in what I've seen silent movie-wise).

As a writer, Chaplin has a knack for comedy, for sure. There's a boxing scene in this that, as my fellow filmgoer Anonymous said, should be shown on classic comedy clip reels. It's been a long time since I laughed so much that my eyes welled up with tears, but that happened here during that boxing scene. But, Chaplin doesn't just excel at comedy here...the love story between The Tramp and the Blind Flower Girl is amazingly touching and believable. And he's able to convey this with minimal title/dialogue cards popping up on the screen. I was actually slightly surprised by the limited usage of title cards. I've seen a decent amount of silent films and they all seemed to rely much more on the title cards than Chaplin needed to in this. This certainly jumps back to Chaplin as a director -- he was able to get nearly all of what he needed to convey out of his actors' movements and facial expressions.

I don't know what else to say. I really loved this movie. Before I went into this, I was telling myself that I liked Buster Keaton more than Charlie Chaplin in the Battle of the Silent Film Stars, but Chaplin definitely has skyrocketed to the lead with this flick.

The RyMickey Rating: A

Movie Review - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - The IMAX Experience (2009)

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, and John Turturro
Written by Morons
Directed by An Even Bigger Moron


My major complaint with the first Transformers movie was that the action scenes were so poorly directed that I couldn't understand what was going on. So, dumb that I am, I subjected myself to seeing the sequel on a giant IMAX screen where I couldn't even take in everything that was going on.

Then again, there wasn't much to take in story-wise. The large screen didn't prevent me from realizing that Michael Bay can't direct at all...Weird transitions, horribly shot action scenes, no sense of comedic timing, and a complete fetishistic way of filming women onscreen (If Megan Fox wasn't seen wearing next to nothing, she was seen running with her mouth wide open or pursing her lips).

Jumping off of that Megan Fox thing, the actors here are completely unnecessary. They add nothing to the plot. There's a Latino guy that's a main character in this movie that literally does nothing. He doesn't help anybody at any time, he doesn't hinder anybody at any time...he's seemingly there because the producers polled people after the first movie and the Latino crowd felt left out. That's the only logical explanation. Even Sam Witwicky (the main character) wouldn't really be necessary in this movie.

There's really nothing to say here except that I hated it...immensely. I don't really feel like writing anymore about it. Why do people think this is good? X-Men: Wolverine was like Shakespeare compared to this.

The RyMickey Rating: F

A Year of Firsts

Movie Edition

  • Saw my first Bollywood musical
  • Saw my first live-action Imax movie
  • Saw my first silent film in a movie theater

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Movie Review - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, and Jim Broadbent
Written by Steve Kloves
Directed by David Yates

The Potter movies have never been my cup of tea. My favorite (if you could even use that term) was Prisoner of Azkaban, and I didn't even think that one was better than average. I never made it through more than two of the books, either, so they hold no special place in my heart. So, I wasn't expecting a ton from this sixth movie. And, while it wasn't anything to necessarily rave about, it was definitely the best of the series.

Part of the reason for the winning nature of this flick is David Yates' direction and Bruno Delbonnel's cinematography. The film looks rich and decadent and there were some scenes that really did look beautiful. The muted tones and colors really create an eerie atmosphere, despite the fact that this seems to be the most lighthearted of all the Potter flicks.

It's that lighthearted nature that brings the movie down a bit. It's not that I didn't enjoy the high school melodramatic romances that are going on in this movie, but at 2 hours 45 minutes, I could've done with a ton less of the love triangle of Ron-Hermione-and some other chick. Once again, not like this aspect was bad, but it all just seems like filler...and then, when the really important stuff starts to happen, it feels like it's compacted within the last 20 minutes. Now, this could be what the book is like, too, but it doesn't make it good.

Still, despite my issues with the (lack of) plot, there are some winning performances here. Michael Gambon as Dumbledore is a treat to watch. I also love Alan Rickman's Snape...so utterly nasty that you can't help but love him. The best performance here is from Jim Broadbent. His dim-witted Professor Slughorn is great...a treat whenever he's onscreen. All the kid actors (who aren't really kids anymore) have come a tremendously long way since the first flick, particularly Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. If anyone still needs to work on their acting chops, it's the title character. Mr. Radcliffe is perfectly adequate, but he's such a dud onscreen. This could be an innate problem with the character, but Radcliffe's Potter is just boring.

So, overall, I'm pleasantly surprised with this Potter flick. It's still nothing excellent, but I have hopes that director David Yates can continue the improvements he made in this sixth film in the upcoming two-part finale to the series.

The RyMickey Rating: B-

Movie Review - Kambakkht Ishq (2009)

Starring Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Aftab Shivdasani, Amrita Arora, Denise Richards, and Sylvester Stallone (!)
Written by Anvita Dutt Guptan, Ishita Moitra, and Sabbir Khan
Directed by Sabbir Khan


Now, this was my first Bollywood musical movie, so I have no way of comparing this to anything else, nor did have any sort of base level of expectations going into this one. In fact, going in to this, I knew almost next to nothing. The description on a website I looked at listed the flick as an action/adventure comedy/musical. And sure enough, it was all of them.

The story is incredibly simple, and, as is the norm in Bollywood flicks, it's drawn out to nearly 2 1/2 hours. Viraj is a stuntman who has made it big in Hollywood. His younger brother, Lucky, has just married Kamini, much to Viraj's chagrin. Also opposed to the wedding was Kamini's sister Simrita, an aspiring surgeon and part-time model/actress (only in the movies could this be a combination!). Simrita believes that men are only after one thing and one thing only -- sex -- and Viraj is somewhat turned on by this hardheaded woman. Simrita convinces her sister to withhold sex from her husband for three months to prove his love and the first half of the movie deals with Lucky's disappointment in this and Viraj's attempts to help his brother out. The second half of the movie focuses on the budding love/hate relationship between Viraj and Simrita. Will they or won't they fall in love? It's not hard to guess.

Honestly, I had a great time watching this movie. It's not any good, in the grand scheme of things, but it sure as hell doesn't take itself seriously...that's kind of difficult to do when five times throughout the film you break into huge song and dance numbers revealing characters' thoughts and desires. Sure, they were completely unnatural, but they were all well done and a blast to watch.

The movie looks good, too...you can tell that they spend money on these Bollywood productions. The scenes that took place in Venice, Italy, were actually kind of pretty to look at. Even the scenes that took place on the Universal Studios Hollywood lot with Viraj doing his stunts looked good, despite the fact that they looked fake (kind of an oxymoron there, but the fakeness didn't take away from the genuinely decent shots).

The problem here (and what will likely be the problem in any future Bollywood movies I see...which I plan to do) is that there is apparently no editor on these films. Seriously, this flick had no story or plot that couldn't have been wrapped up in 90 minutes...but I guess the excess is the point. In time, I may get tired of the ridiculousness, but at this stage in the game, I liked it.

And, I didn't even mention the most absurd part of the movie (SPOILERS AHEAD) -- the cameos by Sly Stallone and Denise Richards. Both play "pivotal" roles in the end scenes of the movie, with Sly himself literally saving the day at the end. It was a ridiculously bonkers, out-of-the-blue surprise that you couldn't help but laugh hysterically...but that was the point.

So, overall, is this a good movie? Nope, not in the slightest. But it absolutely falls into that Crank: High Voltage category -- the filmmakers knew they were making something completely off-the-wall and they went balls out doing it...and they succeeded in providing something entertaining for this reviewer.

NOTE: For anyone thinking of looking into seeing Bollywood flicks, this may be a good start. The film is incredibly "American" in terms of plot and it takes place, for the most part, in Hollywood. The dialogue is spoken in both English and Hindi (with subtitles), with characters jumping back and forth between the two languages. Admittedly, at first, this was a little odd, but you definitely get used to it in time.

The RyMickey Rating: B

Monday, July 13, 2009

Movie Review - I Love You, Beth Cooper (2009)

Starring Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, and Jack Carpenter
Written by Larry Doyle
Directed by Chris Columbus

When I was searching for the movie poster on the right (in which Hayden Panettiere's head looks oddly photoshopped onto someone else's body), there were images of a book of the same title that came up. Initially, I thought to myself, Hmmm...maybe I'll read the book. See how much better than the movie it is (it wouldn't have been too terribly hard, as you'll see). Then, I saw that the screenwriter of the film also wrote the book which means he obviously approved (in some way) of how this movie turned out. So, nix reading the book.

About thirty minutes into the movie, I said that whoever directed this really doesn't know how to direct comedy at all. Lines were falling flat. Awkward silences abounded. There wasn't a natural flow to the flick. Then, when the credits pop up and Chris Columbus's name appears, I was kind of shocked. I mean, this guy directed Home Alone (which, let me tell you, has aged pretty damn well) and a cult classic (of mine anyway) Adventures in Babysitting. He knows his way around comedy. Well, not in this one.

"Dorky guy" Denis (Rust) professes his love for "hot chick" Beth Cooper (Panettiere) during his valedictorian speech at high school graduation. Beth has a "cool, strong boyfriend" who ain't too happy about this and he decides to seek revenge by beating him up. Oooh...scary, I know. A few car chases, cow stampedes, and angry raccoons later, Beth realizes that Denis is a nice guy and maybe she should give him a chance. Did I give too much away? Sorry.

Anyway, if I'm being completely honest, the movie wasn't awful. There were several good lines and a few scenes that were actually kind of funny. Still, the characters were all one-note stereotypes (I failed to mention Denis's best friend Rich [Carpenter] who likes to quote movies and may or may not be gay...apparently that was supposed to be funny because it seemed like nearly half the jokes were him trying to tell people that he wasn't gay...Hilarity!). The acting (which could've maybe saved the weak plot) wasn't necessarily bad, but it was nothing to write home about. Panettiere, probably best known from tv's Heroes, ain't a movie star, that's for sure. And Paul Rust (who apparently will next be seen in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds) better enjoy his little bit of fame now.

If I'm being completely honest, this is the kind of movie that called for a little more raunchiness. Were this thing made in the 80s, the shower scene that occurred in this movie would've undoubtedly involved nudity. I'm not saying nudity would've been the cure (I'm actually not a huge fan of nudity for nudity's sake in movies...I'm actually on record somewhere on this blog or this one saying that), but the movie needed something more. Typically, I'm not a fan of tremendously risqué pics, but I walked out of this one feeling like it needed a little pick-me-up shot in the arm or something.


The RyMickey Rating: D