Saturday, October 31, 2009

Movie Review - Psycho (1960)

Starring Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Martin Balsam
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

For the past several years on Halloween, I've made it a tradition to watch my favorite movie of all time -- Psycho. Viewing after viewing, it holds up for me. I still think it's chilling even after watching it close to twenty times (if not more...likely more...I wrote at least two papers on it in college and I know multiple viewings were had for each paper).

Anyway, I'm just going to watch the movie and randomly write down thoughts. Warning: there be spoilers ahead.

00:00:06 - From the opening string orchestra "Main Titles," I'm hooked...and on edge. Creepy music, to be sure. And the simplistic Saul Bass title designs are spot on for the music.

00:02:00 - I've always loved the opening zoom-in shot. Panning over Phoenix, Arizona, right into the window at a cheap motel at "Two-Forty-Three P.M."

00:06:00 - "I'll lick the stamps." An incredibly cheesy line. This whole post-coitus scene of Sam and Marion is very B-movie, but I've always found it very believable. Janet Leigh makes her frustration over the relationship come through.

00:06:38 - There's Hitch!

00:10:48 - Love the shot that starts with Marion, zooms to the money on the bed, then zooms to her suitcase. The camera's forwarding on the plot here, telling us exactly what she's doing.

00:11:30 - First shot of Marion in a mirror -- I wrote a paper on this motif in college...something about the mirror showing her true deceitful self and a manifestation of guilt...likely a bunch of crap, but I remember it got me an 'A-'.

00:19:00 - "You can do anything you have a mind to...being a woman, you will."

00:25:00 - I never noticed this before, but the freakishly eerie grin Marion smirks here totally mirrors Norman's grin in the final scene. And there's a voiceover in both scenes as well. Always fun when you notice something new like this...

00:34:40 - First shot of the stuffed birds. Once again, another paper topic...Norman's inability to take flight from his mother/his psychotic mind. More bs...

00:36:30 - "Well, a boy's best friend is his mother." Creepy line reading from Perkins and a great facial reaction from Leigh. This whole scene starts as calmly as possible and gets so intensely creepy by the end.

00:42:00 - "We all go a little mad sometimes."

00:46:15 - I remember watching this movie for the first time in my early teens (Hitchcock was always allowed in the household regardless of the MPAA rating) and being shocked by the shower scene...even though I knew it was coming (I had been to Universal Studios and seen the Hitchcock show there, you see). The quick cuts at the beginning; the long cut while we see the killer sneak up on the shower; the quick cuts again at the end; following the bloody water to the drain; the spiraling out on Marion's eye as the water drips down her nose; the pan from the bathroom floor to the newspaper hiding the stolen money to the Bates' home. The music. All of it -- Chill-inducing. I can't imagine what it must've been like to watch this in 1960.

00:49:45 - Norman running down to the shower, seeing Marion dead, clutching his hand to his mouth, knocking down the bird picture (another symbolic image I wrote in my paper...it's gotta mean something, right? Everything means something if you want it to.).

00:59:45 - The last time I watched this, I noticed the lengthy amount of time spent on the clean-up scene after Marion's death (it takes nearly ten minutes until he pushes that car into the moat). The meticulousness that the audience sees Norman go through. We almost feel bad for the guy...cleaning up after "his mother's" mess...I mean, at this point, if we were watching it for the first time, we would have no idea that he was the killer.

1:00:00 - And, at the hour mark, we switch our allegiance from Marion to Marion's sister, Lila.

1:01:00 - Welcome creepy private eye Arbogast (Martin Balsam) to the scene! You're going to die in my least favorite shot from the movie very soon...

1:15:30 - I love the shot of Arbogast walking up to the Bates home. The way it's lit gets me everytime.

1:16:59 - And my least favorite shot in the film -- Arbogast "tumbling" down the stairs. I will say, it oddly kind of grew on me with this viewing, though. Didn't dislike it nearly as much as I previously had.

1:25:30 - Another long shot...a great shot of Norman walking up the stairs, a pan to the door, then the camera rises up to be an overhead view of the stairs as Norman carries his mother to the basement. Love it...

1:34:30 - Once again, love the shot of Lila, this time, approaching the house. Sure, it's daylight, but it's still a creepy shot.

1:38:00 - I can't help but think that every single thing that we see in Norman's mother's room has to mean something. One of these days, I'll decipher it...

1:40:30 - Another scene that never ceases to freak me out. Lila going into the secret room in the basement, hitting the single hanging lightbulb, Norman with his frightening smile. Good God, it's good. Chills again.

1:41:30 - Yes, this scene with the psychiatrist seems to be out of place, but I have grown to enjoy it. Learning the psychosis behind the madman...

1:47:00 - This last shot...this one long shot zooming in on Norman as his mother's voiceover plays...the way he looks up at the end. Scary shit.

It doesn't get better than this. Perfectly paced, wonderfully acted, exquisitely shot. While there may be one or two nitpicky things I could say about the flick, Psycho is undoubtedly my favorite movie I have ever seen. Until next Halloween...

The RyMickey Rating: A

Friday, October 30, 2009

Movie Review - Repulsion (1965)

Starring Catherine Deneuve
Directed by Roman Polanski

First off...awesome poster to the left. Make fun of my Polish kinfolk all you want, but that's a kick-ass poster we made there.

Unfortunately, the awesome Polish poster is all this movie has going for it. This is one of those insanely weird art-house movies that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Sometimes that weird stuff works, but here, it doesn't fully achieve its goal.

The lovely Catherine Deneuve is Carol. The twenty-something lives in an apartment London with her older sister who happens to be dating a married man whom Carol doesn't care for. In the middle of the night, Carol hears her sister having sex with the boyfriend and finds herself sickened by the act. The very act of kissing her (sort of) boyfriend Colin turns her off. It's obvious that something's not 100% right mentally with Carol and when her sister goes away on vacation, Carol's world begins to fall apart. She locks herself in the apartment and begins imagining (or is she?) herself getting raped and abused by men. Fun stuff, huh?

I understand that director Polanski's goal was to lull us at the beginning and ratchet up the tension as the film goes on. However, literally nothing happens in the first hour of this movie. Sure, the audience realizes that Carol's nutty and not exactly socially adept, but I don't need an hour to figure that out. Admittedly, the final 45 minutes, and, in particular the last 25 or so certainly interested me. I was also intrigued by the ending -- I was moderately surprised by the way the film concludes. Not that it's a shocker by any means (nor is it supposed to be), but I didn't expect it to end the way it did.

I've seen a few of Polanski's films at this point and while I may not have liked them all, I've been interested to a certain extent in all of them. He definitely knows how to visually set up shots in quite a beautiful way. That being said, I don't want to be bored for an hour in order to get only a moderate payoff in the end.

The RyMickey Rating: C-

Movie Review - He's Just Not That Into You (2009)

Starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connelly, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, and Justin Long
Directed by Ken Kwapis

Wow. Women are nuts. If this movie is an accurate portrayal of the way the fairer sex thinks, then I don't think I'll ever understand the gender. I mean, how hard is the concept of "If he's not calling you, he doesn't like you?" I don't think it's all that difficult, yet it apparently cannot be grasped.

There's a bunch of interweaving storylines here...Gigi (Gennifer Goodwin) is single and crazy -- completlely unintelligent in the ways of love. Half-stalkerish, half-sweet, but 100% nuts. Gigi is friends with Janine (Jennifer Connelly) who's married to Ben (Bradley Cooper) who's cheating on his wife with the younger Anna (Scarlett Johansson). Anna is friends with Mary (Drew Barrymore), but I'll be completely honest...I don't know why Drew Barrymore's in this movie because her character is completely and utterly pointless and could've been left on the cutting room floor. Anyway, Anna used to sleep with Conor (Kevin Connelly) who is friends with Alex (Justin Long) who offers relationship advice to Gigi [see...we've gone full circle.] There's also a storyline involving Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck concerning Affleck not wanting to marry Aniston even though they've been together for seven years, but it also could've been totally removed from the plot as it doesn't really relate to anything else.

Most of the actors here are fine. Bradley Cooper continues his string of good roles in crappy movies (The Hangover, All About Steve, New York, I Love You). I'd watch Jennifer Aniston in anything. Justin Long continues to show promise. Scarlett Johannson is fine (I can't believe I typed that). Even Ginnifer Goodwin whose character is godawful is able to at least make me not want to pull out my hair every time her nutcase Gigi is onscreen.

Still, the film is a failure. And it's not because of the actors. Or even the direction (it's nothing special ,but it's certainly adequate). It's just that it's way too long. Not a single storyline works. Every female character is completely unrelateable to the male writing this review. And Drew Barrymore is one of the worst actresses ever onscreen (Drew, just because you produce or direct something doesn't mean you have to be in it).

If you want a good movie with interweaving storylines about love, rent Love, Actually. Leave this one on the shelf.

The RyMickey Rating: D

Movie Review - Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Updated Post 10/30/09
So, based on my love for this one in theaters, I bought this. Unfortunately, on the small screen, Alison Lohman's performance seems much too big and silly. In theaters, it was larger than life and worked; on tv, it just seems a little too forced.

That being said, I still enjoy the film. The last 30 minutes are really quite good, and the last scene...still is amazing. The face at the end...of fear and sorrow...pretty damn cool. A slight adjustment to the original rating can be found below.


Original Post 5/29/09
Starring Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, David Paymer, and Adriana Barraza
Written by Sam and Ivan Raimi
Directed by Sam Raimi

I've never seen any of Sam Raimi's horror movies, but that's where he got his start -- cheesy comedic horror films made with a low budget. The guy goes on to direct all the Spider-Man movies (only succeeding in his first venture there, in my opinion, and I know it's not popular, but #'s 2 and 3 sucked), and now ventures back to his horror roots with a bigger budget.

I would've never thought that of the two movies opening the weekend of May 29 -- Up and Drag Me to Hell -- that I would have ever said that the latter of those two would be my favorite. But there is no question as to which one was the more enjoyable film for me to watch. In this movie-watching case, I'd rather go down to Hell, than Up into the sky. [Ouch...that was awful. You get what I was going for there? But that's just painful.]

I'm gonna let the tagline on the poster sum up the story:

Christine Brown has a good job, a great boyfriend, and a bright future. But in three days, she's going to hell.

Sounds like a blast, huh? And a blast it is. To add just a tad to that summary, Christine works at a bank and denies a decrepit old woman a loan. The woman is pissed and Christine soon realizes that she messed with the wrong chick. Hellbent on revenge, the old lady places a curse on Christine that, as we soon find out, may cause Christine to be dragged to hell (hence the title) in three days.

The thing that makes this movie great is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's not poking fun at the genre a la the Scream trilogy, but it does recognize that this is all a bunch of baloney. Movies like this are made for the sheer fun of it, and Raimi milks it for all it's worth.

Starting out with the old-time Universal Studios logo from the 60s/70s, Raimi already sets the stage that the film's gonna be a little old school. And it is. The fact that this film was only PG-13 made it infinitely better. Similar to Jaws or Poltergeist, it's the lack of blood and gore that makes this movie work. Now, don't get me wrong...there's definitely blood and gore, but none of it is over-the-top. Instead, the scares are simply built by the wonderful direction and script by Raimi and his brother. The build-up of tension is palpable. There's a seance scene that had my heart racing, and as I was walking out to my car, I was jittery in a good way.

Acting-wise the movie is absolutely far superior to most films of the genre. Alison Lohman as Christine is perhaps the worst (let's say "least best" instead of worst, shall we?) of the principal actors, but that's because she's also the only one really forced to play the stererotypical scared horror chick. However, she carries this movie...there are minutes upon minutes where it's only her (and invisible ghouls) onscreen and she holds the viewer's attention for sure. Justin Long isn't given much to do, but he makes the most out of every scene he's in, providing some of the movie's comedic one-liners, while at the same time acting like a grown-up (which is good to see, for once). Lorna Raver's old lady is amazingly eerie and frightening, and Adriana Barraza as the medium during the seance brings an uncharacteristically superb acting ability to a role we've all seen before (Barraza could've easily gone the kooky medium route, but she kicked the portrayal up a notch by avoiding that stereotype).

This is the thing...is this movie as good as, for example, Revolutionary Road or Rachel Getting Married? No. Those movies stimulated me on an intellectual level, while also being entertaining. Drag Me to Hell hits me on a purely visceral level...it's a scary movie that does its job and does its job incredibly well. Not all movies have to be about something...it's perfectly acceptable to simply be going for sheer entertainment.

Is it a masterpiece? No. But it's the best horror movie I've seen in ages, and the first horror movie that I think I've ever wanted to watch again in a theater. Who's up for another round of Drag Me to Hell? Any takers?

The RyMickey Rating: A- (5/29/09)
The RyMickey Rating: B+ (10/30/09)


Note: I'm going to add a mild spoiler in the comments...

A Year of Firsts

  • Saw my first two-man show (I think)
  • Drove to NYC for the first time (super exciting, I know)...no problems except for the next item on the list...
  • Bus terminal...enough said...ha ha ha...not really fitting to be on this list, but it's a memory, to be sure...

Theatre Review - Oleanna

Oleanna
written by David Mamet
directed by Doug Hughes
When: Thursday, October 29, 2009
Where: John Golden Theatre (New York City)
What: Play, Drama, Two-Man Show, Professional Theater, Broadway

Spoilers abound ahead...

Going into David Mamet's Oleanna, I knew that it had something to do with sexual harassment and that it "gets people talking," supposedly leaving you questioning which character is "right" in the end. Unfortunately, to me, there's no question to me who was correct, and a huge reason for this certainty is that the female character here is tremendously flawed and absolutely unbelievable.

The play has no intermission, but is told in three acts. In Act One, we meet John, a college professor who is up for tenure. John, played by Bill Pullman, is nebbish and timid, while at the same time, when discussing his philosophies on higher education, incredibly smart, yet overly loquacious. We also meet Julia Stiles' Carol, one of his students who has come to John's office to refute her grade on a paper. She feels unintelligent and foolish, and is unfortunately burdened with some poor lines. This first act feels drawn out and I kept waiting for it to get to the point. When it ended, I really was left flat and wondering whether Stiles was to blame for awful line readings or whether she wasn't given good lines to begin with (I'm going with the latter).

Act Two is a few months later and we discover that Carol has lodged a complaint against John with the Tenure Committee at the university. She accuses him of sexual harassment, for at the end of act one, as Carol cries from frustration, John puts his hands on her shoulders. John tries to get Carol to explain her issues with him, but she keeps referring him to the report, mentioning a "group" she's joined, but not really telling him her own thoughts. There is a hugely drastic change between the Carol of Act One and the Carol of Act Two, and it didn't sit well with me at all.

In Act Three, the Tenure Committee has ruled in Carol's favor and John's tenure has been denied. It is incredibly obvious in this act that the roles have been reversed. From stage direction with Carol standing behind the professor's desk to dialog as Carol is constantly interrupting John (as opposed to the opposite in Act One), it's apparent that Carol is now in charge. The problem is that I couldn't believe that Carol became this completely different person. Yes, she's simply spouting her "group's" thoughts (it's obvious that she seems to be pressured into this by others), but I still could not fathom that this was the same person from Act One.

It's the character of Carol that ruins this play. I found a quote online that says Carol is Mamet's "most fully realized female character." Really? Really? If "fully realized" means the ability to change your personality without any rationale, then sure. Carol just feels flawed to me as a character and, since this is only a two-character play and the twists of the plot rely heavily on Carol, the play just doesn't work for me.

It's not the fault of Pullman, that's for sure. I wasn't sure what I thought of him in Act One, but as the play progressed, I grew to appreciate his portrayal of the character. That being said, if the play is supposed to be ambiguous at the end as far as who was right and who was wrong, Pullman makes me feel for him entirely. This guy didn't do a thing wrong, but in this age of political correctness, every little thing can be interpreted as fault.

As far as Stiles goes, I do think she's a talented actress. I truly enjoyed watching her strength onstage. I totally found myself looking at her even when Pullman was talking because I was enthralled with her facial reactions and physical movements. Still, I've explained my problems with the character and since Stiles couldn't rewrite the play, I'm gonna go with this being playwright Mamet's fault rather than Stiles'. That being said, was Stiles too strong of an actress to play the meek Carol of Act One? Maybe.

The play's name is taken from the folk song "Oleanna" which refers to a perfect American society. I'm sure that means something deep, but I'm just too tired to figure out what it means.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Movie Review - New York, I Love You (2009)

Starring Jacinda Barrett, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Hayden Christensen, Julie Christie, Bradley Cooper, Chris Cooper, Drea de Matteo, Andy Garcia, Ethan Hawke, Shia LaBeouf, Cloris Leachman, Robin Wright Penn, Natalie Portman, Christina Ricci, Qi Shu, Eli Wallach, and Anton Yelchin
Directed by 11 Directors of Varying Talent

I certainly haven't seen many short film collections, but it seems a difficult, unenviable task to assemble an anthology such as this. There's bound to be some works that are better than others and, when placed next to these intriguing shorts, all the other shorts pale in comparison. That's the case in New York, I Love You where you'll find three really good short films, but the other seven or so fall flat (or, at the very best, are simply adequate) and bog the film down.

Let's start with the good:
  • My favorite segment was by director Allen Hughes starring Bradley Cooper and Drea de Matteo as two lovers who are contemplating the ramifications of their one-night stand. The short jumps back and forth between the two actors as the story is told through a voiceover depicting their thoughts and flashbacks to their sensual night before.
  • Another winner was a segment starring Ethan Hawke and Qi Shu, directed by Yvan Attel. Hawke spends five minutes trying to bed married gal Shu whom he meets smoking on an NYC sidewalk. Little does he know that she's able to one-up him in the end. Later in the film, there's a segment starring Robin Wright Penn and Chris Cooper that appears to be very much the same story with the woman, Wright Penn, taking over Hawke's role. As I was watching it, I couldn't help but notice the similarity and I wondered to myself, why would they allow two shorts in this film to have such a similar storyline? Little did I know that they were directed by the same guy.
  • The only other segment that I really enjoyed was directed by Joshua Marston and stars Cloris Leachman and Eli Wallach as an elderly couple celebrating their anniversary by returning to a memorable NYC landmark for them. Quite funny and beautifully acted by the two folks.
Unfortunately, after that, everything starts to go downhill. The segment Natalie Portman directed about a young girl and her father was alright (and starred one of my first crushes, Jacinda Barrett -- "Real World"er turned actress), but it wasn't anything special. And the segment that Portman starred in about some odd relationship between a Yiddish woman and an Indian man was awful.

In fact, the first three segments of this movie (of which Portman's starring role occurred in the middle) were awful. Starting the movie with the reteaming of Jumper stars Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson was a huge mistake. Bilson's a beauty to look at, but she can't act and Christensen was horrendous. And short #3 about Orlando Bloom as a composer was not good, either.

I haven't even discussed the obnoxiously pretentious segment about remembering one's youth starring Julie Christie and Shia LaBouef. The way it was filmed, it felt like I was watching some really expensive perfume commercial. Ugh.

The acting was all over the place -- some good performances (both Coopers, Hawke, Leachman, and Wallach) and some awful ones (Christensen, Bilson, Andy Garcia, Anton Yelchin) -- as was the direction.

Despite the fact that there were some good segments here, it just didn't work for me. And it certainly didn't seem to showcase New York City to me at all. In fact, the city came off as kind of drab.

The RyMickey Rating: D+

Movie Review - Bright Star (2009)

Starring Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox, and Paul Schneider
Directed by Jane Campion

I had to look over the list of movies I had watched in 2009 to be sure, but I can wholeheartedly say that Bright Star is the most romantic movie of the year. Buoyed by four incredibly strong performances, director Jane Campion weaves a tale of passion without the least bit of luridness -- a relationship based on actual love rather than simply something physical.

Newcomer (to me, anyway) Abbie Cornish is Fanny Brawne, a seamstress/clothing designer, who, despite her young age, certainly has her own set of opinions and isn't afraid to make them known. This being the early 19th century, her opinions are not always greeted with enthusiasm from male counterparts, including Mr. Brown (Paul Schneider), an aspiring poet and friend of John Keats (Ben Whishaw), another aspiring poet, who both share a home with the Brawne family. Fanny and Keats soon embark on a romance that isn't greeted too fondly by those around them -- Mr. Brown feels that Fanny is stunting Keats' creativity, and Fanny's mother (Kerry Fox) believes that a poet cannot provide financial support for a spouse.

We've certainly seen this type of story depicted before and it's not that director Campion does anything over-the-top. In fact, it's the subdued style of the film that helps the four actors mentioned above stand out from the beautiful scenery. Still, despite the lack of camera trickery, the film is a joy to look at, with "nature" itself playing yet another character, echoing the emotions of the actors, which, while it sounds corny, works incredibly well.

Abbie Cornish is stellar here as Fanny. She creates a vulnerable young woman, unafraid to love, but well aware of the hurt that comes from that emotion. To me, crying and completely breaking down onscreen oftentimes can come off as corny and/or scream "OSCAR BAIT!", but the final ten minutes of this film are a showcase for Cornish's talent. Some excellent work on display, for sure.

And Cornish is balanced wonderfully by Ben Whishaw. Keats is perhaps an even tougher character to play here than Fanny. He needs to be intelligent, but doubtful of his talent. Romantic, but uncertain why anyone could love him. Wistful and dreamy, but grounded. He's a man full of contradictory emotions and Whishaw is, for lack of a better word, elegant here. He's absolutely subdued, but completely holds your attention.

And Cornish and Whishaw together -- what a couple! They work so well together and made every moment they shared completely believable. There wasn't a moment I doubted their characters' love for one another.

And I didn't even discuss the brilliantly mean Paul Schnieder (the only actor here I was actually familiar with) as Keats' friend and the kindly Kerry Fox as Fanny's mother. All the actors in this movie (even those I haven't mentioned) proved they deserve to be on the big screen. One of the best ensembles of the year.

So, with all this good, it's a shame that the movie moves along a little too slowly. I really can't think of any scene I would've even wanted Campion to have cut, but there were moments here and there where I was a little bored.

Still, this is an intelligent romance, filled with some beautiful poetry (stick around through the credits to hear Whishaw recite one of Keats' works over a lulling melody) and some great performances.

The RyMickey Rating: B+

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Movie Review - Event Horizon (1997)

Starring Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlin, and Joely Richardson
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

I watched this movie on video shortly after it came out in the late 90s and I remember that it put me on edge. Not scared, per se, but it filled me with nervousness.

Cut to over ten years later and I wonder what the hell I was thinking back then.

The year is 2047 and we're exploring the outer realms of our solar system. A ship named the Event Horizon has gone missing on the other side of Neptune and a recovery ship - the Lewis and Clark - captained by Laurence Fishburne is sent to look for them. Shortly after they find the Event Horizon and dock there, strange things start happening to the crew and everyone soon begins to realize that the ship itself may be alive.

The final act of the film is genuinely creepy. But it wasn't nearly as nerve-wracking as I remembered it...probably a bad thing that I had any recollection of the movie. Part of the problem is that the special effects are pretty awful. Even putting it in the context that it was made ten years ago, the effects are bad. And the actors are forced to deliver the most ridiculous lines. Just silly stuff.

Oh, well. I sometimes bring this movie up when I talk about movies that made me jumpy. At least I can now never talk about this movie again.

The RyMickey Rating: D+

Movie Review - Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

Starring Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Bruce McGill, Leslie Bibb, Regina Hall, and Viola Davis
Directed by F. Gary Gray

Nicely directed, but absolutely ludicrous is the way I'd describe Law Abiding Citizen. F. Gary Gray (who directed the underrated The Negotiator in the 90s and the moderately amusing The Italian Job in the aughts) keeps this flick moving along at a very brisk pace, but he is forced to work with a ridiculous script, silly dialogue, and he's unfortunately unable to get a good performance out of Jamie Foxx (then again, is anyone able to get a really good performance out of the overrated actor?).

Gerard Butler is Clyde Shelton and, at the start of the film, his wife and child have been brutally murdered. Two men are charged with their murder, but Philadelphia district attorney Nick Rice (Foxx) seals both of their convictions by using one of the men to testify against the other, thereby giving one of the murderers a death sentence and the other only a five-year prison term. Cut to ten years later and the prisoner on death row's lethal injection goes awry, causing him an incredibly painful death, and the murderer released from jail gets butchered in a ghastly manner. Who committed the crimes? Clyde, the emotionally shattered widow. Clyde's sent to prison, but he's not done his murderous spree. Even from behind bars, he's exacting revenge on those he feels let the one murderer walk free after five years.

First off, let's just say that the way Clyde manages to kill people is pretty damn cool. Unfortunately, all of these elaborate traps seem to rely on people being in the right place at the right time...it's as if he knew where people were conveniently going to be at 'x' hour and was able to plan his crimes around their time table. It's honestly a little too difficult to describe my issues with this issue without revealing too much of the plot, but everything felt a little Saw-esque in terms of the crimes he was committing (granted, I've only seen bits and pieces of Saw movies -- the final 20 minutes of nearly every one while waiting for them to end at the theater and I've seen the first one edited on tv)...elaborate killings that rely on people being right where the killer wants them to be. And the way that Clyde manages to do these things that's revealed in the final act of the film was just silly -- completely unbelievable that he would be able to get away with what he was doing. I guess there's only one solitary confinement cell in prisons...

Second, the dialog here is ridiculous. Everything seemed forced. Jamie Foxx's character was given some ludicrous things to say simply to advance the plot. Despite the fact that the film moved at a brisk pace, it felt like there were several scenes that simply could've been excised and it would've made no difference to the overall film.

As far as the acting goes, Foxx is lukewarm at best. I didn't believe him as a D.A. for a second. Butler is decent, although his American accent is incredibly weak (at least, I think he was playing an American...the accent went back and forth so many times, I'm unsure). Other than that, Butler is actually quite engaging onscreen. With this, The Ugly Truth, and Gamer this year, I find that he's able to rise above an average script and come out looking better than the overall movie itself. And I loved every second Viola Davis was in the flick as the mayor of Philadelphia. She brings a strength to the screen that's not too overpowering to be unbelievable. (That being said, the ridiculous cameo by the real mayor of Philly, Michael Nutter, made people laugh at a time when the audience really shouldn't have been laughing. Stupid move on the director's part there).

So, unfortunately, despite the fact that the story overall never bored me and the director kept the flick moving, the silliness of the plot, the corny dialogue ("He's got police costumes...and other things..."), and a less-than-average performance by one of the film's leads make this one that I can't recommend.

The RyMickey Rating: D+

Friday, October 23, 2009

Movie Review - Paranormal Activity (2009)

Starring Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat
Directed by Oren Peli

Don't believe what you've heard. There's absolutely nothing scary about this movie. I'm not saying the film is awful by any means, I'm just saying it's not scary.

Katie and Micah (how convenient that their character names are the same as the names of the actors) are a young couple who are experiencing some paranormal activity in their house -- bumps in the night, lights and faucets turning on, etc. It turns out that since she was young, Katie has always felt some kind of "presence" around her and it seems to be getting worse. Micah decides to buy a camera and set it up in the house to see if he can catch any of the supernatural activity at work. The film, in turn, is made up entirely of the footage from Micah's camera a la The Blair Witch Project.

I will admit that I enjoyed the final thirty minutes or so of this movie quite a bit, but the first hour was just so slow moving. Seeing a door close by itself or a light turn on or a chandelier shake just isn't scary and it certainly doesn't provide enough tension to sustain itself for sixty minutes. And therein lies the film's main problem -- it is unable to maintain or build suspense in that first hour. Granted, the final half hour had some moderately cool scenes and was actually moderately suspenseful. Scary? No. But kinda cool to watch. Still, as a whole, it just didn't quite work.

The acting was okay. Considering that it's mainly just two folks onscreen, I didn't really get tired of them (although you could play a drinking game and likely get very tipsy if you took a shot every time Katie said "Turn off the camera!"...good Lord, that was said at least 15 times). I appreciated that the camera wasn't super shaky like Cloverfield, but the steadiness of the camera also seemed oddly boring at times.

If you want to see a really eerie movie, go rent Drag Me to Hell.

The RyMickey Rating: C-

A Book a Week - Shutter Island

Book Forty of the Book-a-Week Quest

Shutter Island
by Dennis Lehane (2003)

If you've been to any movie in the past five months, you've probably seen the trailer for the movie version of this book. The flick was delayed 'til next year, but after seeing the trailer tens of times, I figured why not read the book.

It's the mid 1950s and patient Rachel Solando has disappeared from a psychiatric hospital located on Shutter Island. Two U.S. Marshals are called in to investigate the case. Little do the two marshals know that the island is home to some interesting and perhaps unethical treatments and they may be the hospital's next "experiments."

As a story, Shutter Island proved intriguing. It was a quick read, well-paced, and never really got boring. That being said, it just didn't work as a whole. Characters (with the exception of main character marshal Teddy Daniels) weren't really fleshed out. They were introduced and then disappeared -- providing one piece of information to solve the mystery and then quickly dismissed by the author. Add to that, some odd dream sequences featuring completely random stream of consciousness ramblings (which, at first, were kind of neat, but then just got old) and the book didn't quite click as a whole.

Not a bad read, by any means, but it really wasn't anything special either

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Movie Review - Zombieland (2009)

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Amber Heard
Directed by Ruben Fleischer

There's nothing wrong with having fun at a movie every now and then. Zombieland doesn't take itself too seriously, it doesn't overstay its welcome, and its simply a zippy movie about killing some undead creatures.

The story is short, sweet, and to-the-point -- the world has been overtaken by zombies and there appear to be only four human survivors left. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is the dorky twenty-something guy; Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is the take-no-prisoners gung-ho down-south good 'ole country boy zombie killer; and Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are devious sisters who seem to be only looking out for themselves. These four people meet, join forces (maybe), and travel cross-country in hopes of finding some zombie-less area of the US.

What I found neat about this film is that it's totally a commercial product -- this isn't an indie flick by any means -- but it really only had four characters in it the whole time. Sure, there's a really great cameo by a movie star, but it was just these four characters and their interactions that made up the movie. You don't see that much in big budget Hollywood productions and that made this stand out. Sure, they were killing a bunch of zombies, but there were only six speaking roles here. Unusual.

Of course, that's helped by the fact that three of the four actors here were actually good. Eisenberg was playing the same character he played in Adventureland (scroll down two blog posts for that one), but it worked here in this context. Harrelson was a hoot -- funny and surprisingly touching. Emma Stone is hot and a decent actress...can we make her a star? Unfortunately, little Abigail Breslin proves once again that she really isn't all that Oscar nomination for Little Miss Sunshine cracked her up to be.

What can I say? I laughed out loud. I actually jumped at a certain point. What more could I ask of from a horror-comedy hybrid?

The RyMickey Rating: B

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Year of Firsts

Ate/drank the following on my recent trip to Disney:

  • Escargot - Tasty...couldn't taste a thing other than the garlic it was cooked in
  • Lamb - Also tasty...I was told that this lamb didn't really taste like "normal" lamb...maybe that's why I liked it?
  • Fried green tomatoes - Once again, also enjoyable. Fry anything and it tastes good, right?
  • Margarita - Was fine, but not anything I need to drink again...
  • Artichokes - Not for me...
  • Bok Choy - Didn't taste enough of it to have a real opinion...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Movie Review - Adventureland (2009)

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wiig
Directed by Greg Mottola

I really wish I could've cared about anyone in this movie, but I couldn't. Not in the slightest. Any movie where all the characters pretty much sit around and smoke pot all day never really does a thing for me. Life's so bad, let's smoke pot. Life's so boring, let's smoke pot. Let's smoke pot and giggle a lot.

The simple story is that James (Jesse Eisenberg) just finished college and can't find a job. He goes to work at the local amusement park in his hometown and he meets Em (Kristen Stewart) and falls in love with her. She's an emotionless bore and he's not much better.

Everything about this movie was just humdrum -- the actors, the story, the cliché 80s music. Em's dating the married park maintenance guy at the same time she's going out with James, but she gets angry when James starts dating the hottie worker from the amusement park, Lisa P (Margarita Levieva of Spread fame). What gives her the right to be angry? Who cares? There's some scene at the end where people cry and then they fight and it's all so unimportant.

Ugh...I really disliked this one. I realize this is one of the worst reviews ever, but I just don't care enough to give a damn about it.

The RyMickey Rating: D

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Movie Review - Walt & El Grupo (2009)

Directed by Theodore Thomas

Everyone knows that I'm an unabashed Disney fan. I don't hide it. That being said, it may make me a little harsher on my favorite company than the normal filmgoer. Although this documentary wasn't released by the Disney company itself, it certainly assisted the filmmaker (the son of a former animator for the Disney company) in that it provided him pictures, documents, and animation for the film.

Nevertheless, this was an incredibly boring documentary that didn't work in the slightest as a full-length feature. Maybe if the filmmaker went the documentary short route, it could've worked, but as it stands now, it's a dud on arrival.

The film starts out rather promisingly. We learn that Walt's animators went on strike in the early 1940s and Walt was a wreck with the news. In the midst of the strike, the US government approaches Walt and asks him to travel to South America, learn about the culture, make some films for the government showcasing some Latin American countries, and, hopefully provide a little goodwill to push these countries to side with us instead of with Germany in WWII. When the movie focuses on Walt in South America, it falls apart.

Literally half of the movie is simply shots of documents, black-and-white pictures, or drawings. While the drawings were neat for this Disneyana fan to see, I don't need to see multiple shots of typewriters typing things. It was just horribly directed/assembled. There wasn't enough here for a two-hour movie.

Just boring beyond belief.

The RyMickey Rating: D-

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Movie Review - Betty Blue (37°2 le matin) (1986)

***Viewed as the Director's Cut version -- this version was released in 1991 overseas and in 2009 in the US***

Starring John-Hegues Anglade and Béatrice Dalle

Directed by Jean-Jacques Beiniex

I knew next to nothing about this movie going into it, only that it was three hours long and the short summary listed on a website said that it contained some explicit sex scenes. So, one's mind tends to overlook the three hour thing and simply sees the words "explicit" and "sex" together and figures it can't be all bad.

And, it shockingly wasn't all that bad. In fact, it was good. However, it was good for reasons that I cannot for the life of me explain.

There are a ton of things not to like about this movie (and I'm not including French lady's hairy armpits amongst them, although that is certainly something not to like). For starters, the film is three hours long, but not much happens. It's essentially the story of an odd-job maintenance guy named Zorg who meets a gal named Betty. They hit it off sexually which allows him to overlook the fact that she's literally crazy. I mean, with the exception of her big teeth, Betty was certainly hot and it's possible I would've overlooked her loony tendencies, too. They move around. Betty discovers Zorg writes in his free time. She tries to get his novel published without much luck. Betty thinks she becomes pregnant (hence the title -- 37°2 le matin -- which is apparently the temperature of a pregnant woman when she awakens). Sure, that may sound like a substantial amount of story, but remember that this movie is three hours. Still, I never once was bored here. Not once. I was utterly amazed at that.

The film also doesn't seem to be quite sure whether it's a comedy or a drama. There are scenes that are intentionally funny and almost slapsticky; there are dramatic scenes that play funny because of the ridiculousness of the actors or the script; and there are scenes that are purely dramatic. It doesn't quite know what it is. And yet, despite that, I enjoyed the movie.

There are flaws galore -- the actors were fine at times and then insanely bad at others; some shots were pretty and then others felt like they were from a tv movie; some of the musical score was lyrical and haunting and then sometimes it felt like they were from an ABC Afterschool Special. Yet, for some reason, I enjoyed this movie.

And it wasn't just because of the sex. Don't get me wrong -- there were some really erotic, sexually charged scenes here -- and not in that late night Skinemax way. The film opens with the two leads consummating their relationship and they don't really stop from there...yet, it never felt forced or manipulative. It felt natural (with the exception of one scene in particular where Betty strips a sleeping Zorg's clothes off and then begins to kiss his...well, I'll leave it to your imagination...suffice it to say, that was the only scene featuring nudity that felt forced and "explicit" which, I think, is a word that tends to have a negative connotation which is why I really don't want to use it to describe the sex scenes here). Béatrice Dalle was certainly beautiful to look upon, and, considering that she was nude in some way for probably a good sixty minutes out of the movie, that's a plus. There was more breast-grabbing in this movie than I have ever seen. But that's not the reason I liked it either.

That's the thing. I can't pinpoint why I liked this. And if you were to watch it and say it was awful, I couldn't disagree with you either...you'd be right. Yet, for some reason, this worked for me.

The RyMickey Rating: B

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Year in Movies

Nearly 150 movies so far this year...

5/5 *** 0/144 = 0%
None

4.5/5 *** 3/144 = 2.08%

4/5 *** 10/144 = 6.94%
3.5/5 *** 13/144 = 9.03%

2.5/5 *** 18/144 = 12.50%

2/5 *** 11/144 = 7.64%

1.5/5 *** 21/144 = 14.58%

1/5 *** 24/144 = 16.67%


0/5 *** 11/144 = 7.64%

I would say that anything 3/5 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 39 movies -- or 27.08% -- would be worth your watching. Once again, if I'm being really honest, most of those movies in the '2.5/5' section are worth your watching, too, but since I consider them only average, I figured I should only "recommend" things that are above average. If you include the 2.5's that percentage jumps to nearly 40%.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Movie Review - Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Starring Jared Leto, Ellen Burstyn, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connelly, and Christopher McDonald
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Simply put, one of the best films of the past decade. No doubt about it.

Top-notch acting here across the board. How Ellen Burstyn lost the Oscar to Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich is incomprehensible (and Roberts was quite good, but she's no match for Burstyn). The scene where she's watching the television in her apartment and the tv version of herself begins dancing around the drug-addled version of herself is frightening -- who knew a refrigerator could be so scary. Add to that, some great performances by Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly, along with a surprising turn from Marlon Wayans (buddy, if you've got the talent [and if this film is any indication, you do have the talent], why waste it in movies like Dance Flick?).

Darren Aronsofsky's direction is something special, too. This was my introduction to the guy and it immediately intrigued me. His utilization of quick cuts to symbolize the drug-induced highs that each of the four main characters experience was really unlike anything I had seen at the point of its release. It was new and visually stimulating -- just amazing. And while I don't think his two films released after this (The Fountain and The Wrestler) match the uniqueness on display here, he's a director that undoubtedly fascinates me and has me longing to see his next movie. [I have been told I should watch The Fountain again...and I will.]

The final 30 minutes of this film -- some of the most nerve-wracking and unnerving moments I've ever seen on film. As we jump back and forth between three storylines focusing on the four main characters, the tension just builds as eveything spirals completely out of control for everyone.

I hadn't seen this movie since 2001 and I wondered whether it would hold up so many years later. Had my tastes changed in nearly a decade? Well, I'm thrilled to say that this is still one of my favorite movies of all time. An amazing movie. Sad, disturbing, disheartening, depressing, but gripping and sensational. If you haven't seen it, watch it...if you have seen it, watch it again...

The RyMickey Rating: A

Movie Review - I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (2009)

Starring Matt Czuchry, Jesse Bradford, Geoff Stults, and Keri Lynn Pratt
Directed by Bob Gosse

Let me start with a few choice quotes (that contain some mild spoilers):
  • Soon after lothario Tucker Max (played by Matt Czuchry) sleeps with a deaf girl in the opening scene, his buddy Dan (Geoff Stults) utters the line, "So, you already screwed that mute girl last year, and now a deaf chick...you're two-thirds of the way to a Helen Keller!"
  • Tucker's caustic angry friend Drew (Jesse Bradford) to Dan, after Dan tries to get him to lie to his fiancé: "I'm not lying for you cretins. My moral compass doesn't point directly down my pants."
  • After Dan spends the night in jail after an awful strip club experience, Drew says to Tucker (who spent the night with a "small" stripper), "You couldn't sacrifice a midget vagina to help him."
That's what you're dealing with here...and, if I'm being honest, those lines were pretty damn funny in the context of the movie. The problem with the movie is that the character of Tucker Max (who really isn't a character, I guess, since this is based on real-life douchebag Tucker Max's sexual escapades) is so unappealing as a movie character that I didn't give a damn about the guy. Sure, they try to "sanitize" him in the end by giving him a nice speech at Dan's wedding, but he's still an asshole, and the speech comes off as ridiculous and out-of-place.

The best comparison I can make is that Tucker Max is like a college-age Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell. Everyone knows the guy's a dick, but the ladies love his smarmy demeanor and the guys want to hate him, but can't because they admire that he gets all the chicks. Somehow, despite the fact that Zack often hurt his friends, they always came back to him. Tucker Max is Zack Morris.

Fortunately, the film doesn't really focus on Tucker for a good portion of it. Instead, we concentrate on Dan and Drew, and Jesse Bradford's Drew was quite funny. Having just witnessed his fiancé cheating on him, Drew is done with women and his biting humor was quite enjoyable. He's saddled with a stupid storyline of falling in love with a stripper with a heart [are there any other strippers in movies?] and it's just so basic and rudimentary (as is most of the movie) that it falls flat.

The whole movie disappoints in that manner. The direction and set design is obviously from the school of straight-to-dvd. How this got a wide release, I'm not sure. It's not that it was godawful (I've seen much worse), but it just didn't look appealing in any way. The script is poor. There's a completely unnecessary scene at a bar that goes on for ten minutes that literally goes nowhere and does nothing to advance the plot in the slightest. The scene in the strip club is completely and utterly unappealing (then again, are strip clubs ever appealing in movies? I'm not quite sure I get the allure...I've never been, so maybe I shouldn't be ripping on it 'til I've tried it...which will never happen).

And then there's one of the worst scenes filmed this year. It involves farting, diarrhea, leaking toilets, and stained socks, and it's a scene that I never need to see again. Maybe if I was eight, I'd think jokes about fecal matter were funny...I'm not eight...

Still, not an awful movie when it doesn't focus on the egotistical Tucker Max, but there's really nothing here to recommend. From the get-go, we know that Tucker is a dick, but I almost want to say they didn't go far enough in showing his brutish ways. It's as if the screenwriter (Tucker Max himself) knew that a movie about Tucker couldn't work, so they needed to focus on Tucker's friends and then try and sterilize and sweeten the ladies' man in the end.

Go all out, or don't go at all.

The RyMickey Rating: D

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Movie Review - Fame (2009)

Starring Naturi Naughton, Kay Panabaker, Kherington Payne, Asher Book, Charles S. Dutton, Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth, and Kelsey Grammer
Directed by Kevin Tancharoen

There's some talented young actors here in this movie, but there's far too many of them in order to make this movie work. We follow a group of teenagers at a performing arts school in NYC from their freshman through senior years. The point is that we get to know these kids, care about their problems, learn about their dreams, and hope for their success in the end.

Unfortunately, the problem is that there are way too many kids here. The screenwriter spread everything too thin. We learn a tidbit about this kid, a nugget about another, but none of these kids are fully realized characters.

And that's unfortunate because there are some decent performances here. Naturi Naughton, who I thought was great in Notorious earlier this year, is quite a find. She can sing, she can act, and I look forward to seeing her in other things. Naughton plays Denise, a young classically trained pianist who really just longs to sing. Kay Panabaker is Jenny, an actress who is too shy for her own good. Asher Book is Marco, a singer with a great voice. These descriptions that I'm giving of these kids may seem overly simplified, but that's all we get to know about them. There's nothing there...and it's a shame. [In addition to some decent performances, there's also a really bad one from Kherington Payne who was apparently a dancer on "So You Think You Can Dance." She should stick to her day job because acting is not her thing.]

The director has an annoying tendency of juxtaposing two scenes against one another -- for example, the Asian girl is speaking to the principal at the same time the rapper is revealing the reason for his anger. The scenes really don't relate to one another, but they're played off of each other in a ridiculous manner.

And I'm not gonna even get into the first "musical" act of the film where all the kids in the cafeteria come together and spontaneously break into song. It would be one thing if the movie was a musical -- if the characters were supposed to break into song, okay...I'll suspend disbelief. However, this film isn't a musical. It's a movie with musical elements in it. It was a ridiculous scene and it started the movie off on a bum note.

The screenwriter and director did a disservice to the kids here. There may have been something here, but the writing is too bland and the direction is too tv-movie-ish to rise above the standard movie clichés.

The RyMickey Rating: D+

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Movie Review - Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)

Directed by Michael Moore

Forgive me, Ronald Reagan, for I have sinned.

This was my first Michael Moore film, and, let's be honest here, I came in with preconceived notions of the guy based solely on other's thoughts about him since I had yet to see any of his work. I realize that's not the best way to go about things, but politics riles up everyone and how could I not have heard what my fellow conservatives think about the guy.

In the end, Michael Moore proves that he's a grand manipulator -- incredibly adept at preaching to the democratic choir, but, at the same time, completely alienating any conservative that would watch the film by so unnecessarily negatively depicting Republican presidents while never saying a contradictory word about Dems Clinton and Obama. More on that in a bit.

The premise of Moore's film is simple -- Capitalism (an economic system of private ownership [thanks, dictionary.com]) is a bad thing. It allows the rich to get richer and forces the poor to stay poor. Now, while I'm not sure that I agree with that statement, I'm sure the recent bailout of banks and businesses has its roots in a failure in the tenets of capitalism. But, I can't see the greed and manipulation of business execs meaning that capitalism in and of itself is an utter debacle. Moore himself admits that the capitalist economic strategy was a success in the years following WWII, but says that during the Reagan years, people became increasingly greedy and top execs wanted everything they could get their hands on. Once again, I oddly don't disagree with Moore here. The notion of greed is certainly an inherent "flaw" (if you will) in a capitalistic nation. The big issue here is that Moore doesn't provide an answer in how to solve it.

Well, he does say that the election of Obama showcased that we Americans were tired of the greed and that we wanted, what else but, "CHANGE!" I call bullshit on that -- Obama was not elected because his voters wanted to bring an end to capitalism...but that's what Moore implies. Moore never provides a solution to capitalism. He hints that socialism would be the way to go, but I don't think he once explains what socialism actually is. Instead, he manipulates his filmgoers by showing families being kicked out of their homes, George W. Bush as an idiotic fool, Ronald Reagan as nothing but an "actor," and the piéce de résistance -- Hurricane Katrina in the final shots of the film. I have no idea what Katrina has to do with capitalism, but it's a devious move on his part -- evoke the sadness from Katrina, blame the Republicans for that (which, should you read The Great Deluge, you'd realize was everyone's fault), and instill this conservative animosity in your moviegoing flock as they follow you blindly just because you show them something awful.

I mean, make sure that you gloss over the fact that it was under Clinton that two Treasury Secretaries began to allow the big banks to merge together...sure, you mention it, but then you go back to bashing Bush because that's what your people want to see from you.

Moore's gonna be a conundrum to me -- as a filmmaker, he created a decent film here. I liked the way he utilized old movie newsreels and music from Hitchcock's Vertigo to get his points across -- it made things fun. But, at the same time, he denounces an idea, yet provides no solution while also not showing the positive side of a capitalistic society.

I recently watched Outrage at the Newark Film Festival which was about whether or not gay politicians should be outed if they are "in the closet" and voting for anti-gay legislation. That film was certainly leaning to the left, but it also provided the right's point of view as well. It was as evenly balanced as I think you could get for a politically-charged film.

Moore doesn't provide an even balance here...it's just a platform for his beliefs. As a documentary that just doesn't cut it for me.

The RyMickey Rating: C-

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Movie Review - The Informant! (2009)

Starring Matt Damon and a Bunch of People Known for Comedy Playing Dramatic Characters!
Directed by Steven Soderbergh!

Let me start with something good! The score by Marvin Hamlisch is one of my favorites of the year! Clever, retro, and highly enjoyable! I purchased it soon after I watched the movie!

Now, when the score's the best part of your movie, there's a problem!

Inherently, this movie's not bad! In fact, in addition to the score, there's quite a bit that I liked here, but it just all doesn't come together and amount to anything I could care about!

Based on a true story, Matt Damon is Mark Whitacre, a biochemist working for Archer Daniels Midland, a company responsible for putting corn in stuff! He decides to blow the whistle on the company's price fixing tactics! In the end, however, his plan begins to backfire for reasons I won't reveal here!

Damon is pretty decent! He certainly kept my interest throughout the movie and provided some clever voice-over work! He's aided acting-wise by Scott "Quantum Leap" Bakula and Joel "The Soup!" McHale as his contacts in the FBI! Both of these guys were good, as was Melanie Lynskey (who was so touching in Away We Go) as Whitacre's doting wife who pushes her husband to spill the beans on his company's wrongdoings, unaware of the fact that her husband may not be the angel he portrays himself as!

I also must say that I appreciated Soderbergh's directing style here! It felt very low key, low budget, and old school! I liked the odd lighting, the set design, and the costuming! It was visually very appealing!

So why the heck was I bored out of my mind during the first ninety minutes of this movie?! Admittedly, the final thirty minutes featuring Whitacre's unraveling caught my interest, but it felt like this movie went on for an eternity prior to that! Despite really appreciating a lot about this movie, it didn't click with me in the slightest! I guess that falls onto the writers for not doing enough to hook me with the story! It's unfortunate because there's a lot to like about this movie, but having a good story is pretty damn important and the story here is weak!

Note: It would be remiss of me not to mention the exclamation point at the end of the movie title! As you see in my post above, I'm a fan of the fact that there's an exclamation point there!

The RyMickey Rating: D+ !

Movie Review - The Invention of Lying (2009)

Starring Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Rob Lowe, and Tina Fey
Directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson

I loved this movie.

That would be a lie.

In fact, I haven't been this frustrated with a movie in a bit (and I've seen some lousy ones lately). Unfortunately, I actually watched this one with paying patrons, so yelling at the screen was not an option.

Let me ask you this: If I am thinking something in my head -- a true, valid thought -- do I have to verbalize said thought in order for it to be true? Let's say that it's a sunny day. Must I say "It's a sunny day" in order for the notion of it being a sunny day to be true?

For the first twenty minutes or so of this movie, everyone says every single thing that's on their mind because, for some unknown reason, you must say what's on your mind in order for it to be true...as my brother said after the fact, it's as if everyone had verbal diarrhea. We're invited into this alternate reality in this movie in which lying hasn't been invented and everyone has to speak the truth...of course, you only spout what's on your mind when it serves a comedic purpose. Otherwise, you keep your mouth shut. And in addition to lying not being invented, couth and decorum haven't either [I may think this is a shittily written blog post, but I may not say it so as not to hurt someone's feelings...doesn't make it not true...NOTE: this is a shittily written blog post]. As the movie progresses, this notion of saying every single thing begins to fade away...mainly because the comedy portion of the movie is thrown out the window and we need to focus on both the romance between Mark (Ricky Gervais) and Anna (Jennifer Garner) and the denouncing of religion (which, admittedly, was the only intriguing part story-wise of the film). So, conveniently, there's no need to spout everything on your mind at this point. When Mark discovers that he can lie, he uses it to his advantage, both to attempt to get the girl and to eventually become a Jesus/Moses-type prophet who manages to convert the entire world onto his newfound notion of "religion." [NOTE: I realize I just said the same thing over and over again above, but I'm too lazy to go back and change it all.]

There's maybe an interesting premise here (although I'm not even sure of that), but it's all wasted. There's no comedy here. Gervais is a funny guy (watch the British version of The Office for proof), but he didn't even get a chuckle out of me here. Garner is okay, but nothing special. Side roles for Jonah Hill, Tina Fey, Louis C.K., and Jason Bateman are all wasted.

Another thing -- if everything everyone knew was truth and they had no reason to believe otherwise, there would be no debate about anything. However, we overhear a radio talk show where a debate is being held about Mark's personality...why would there be a debate as you would believe what you've heard because you know nothing else? There were a few other flaws, but I am trying to forget all aspects of this movie at this point because it's just not worth taking up brain space.

The RyMickey Rating: D-