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The Monuments Men (2014)
Great story, not a great movie
An all-star cast. Great story. Obviously well acted. I admire George Clooney more every day. He is on my top five list of people I would love to have dinner with----though I suspect he and I would argue a lot. Kudos to George for making this story into a film. It should be admired. There was one problem. This was not a great movie.
The Monuments Men is an drama about some middle aged men being drafted into a World War II platoon to save great works of art threatened by Hitler and the Nazis. Think Space Cowboys (2000) meets Stripes without as much charm and humor.
My expectations were unfortunately huge for this film. It had been hyped more than Susan Rice pushed the " Innocence of Muslims" for causing the Benghazi massacre. The trailers have all the funny and interesting scenes. The rest is really a dramatic documentary, and for that, it has great value. TMG just walked out of the film feeling, "okay, nice film, let's get dinner." Don't get me wrong. The film and its story are monumental .literally. But great movies are a different thing. This just was not a great movie.
I might have easily tolerated an another hour of this film, perhaps going into greater detail of the Nazi stealing machine or more behind the scenes action to save it---even the politics to make it happen. I was thinking more like Charlie Wilson's War (2007). I would have gladly traded two hours of the wasted time in The Wolf of Wall Street for more education on great works of world art.
The one great moral question this film posed was the value of human life versus the value of historic works of art. Clooney, as art warrior Frank Stokes, states unequivocally near the end that saving the artwork was worth men's lives. I am not sure I am convinced. I think his statement that the men who died would have felt their effort was noble and just to fight evil like the Nazi's was worth it, ...but their lives for canvas with paint and carved marble? TMG thinks human life is more scared and valuable. Reasonable efforts? Sure. But there will be more great artists and more great works made. Saving the past is hugely important, but not at the cost of my Dad's life (who survived WWII) or that of my son or daughter. This was a point well made in this film by the Army leaders who had already seen way too many young men and women die. They were not going to risk more lives to save pictures. I think their viewpoint may have been too dismissed in the film.
Go see this film. Support what it stands for. Take your children. Educate them on the meaning of guts, bravery, principals, evil, culture and goodness. Just don't expect a great movie. But thanks George. TMG does appreciate the effort.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
A 25 day film shoot and low budget came at a price.
I know many folks will just freak out at TMG's relatively low rating for this movie. After all, TMG is a huge Matthew McConaughey fan. What he had to do to prepare for this role makes me admire him all the more. The story line is great. McConaughey's personal performance is off the charts awesome. There are lots of good messages in this film. So what is the problem? It is a movie. This is rare occasion I would say "a book would be better."
McConaughey plays electrician and part time bull rider Ron Woodroof who comes down with AIDS. Ron is not gay, but likely contracted the disease through unprotected sex or drug use. The revelation blows his mind and his friends away. Lacking effective treatment in 1985, he forms a "Buyers Club" to import drugs from Mexico and around the world that show promise to at least mitigate AIDs symptoms. He is a modestly successful hustler at this effort. Access to experimental drugs, not approved b the FDA in the United States perhaps helped some, but at what costs of false promises? It also threatened the tradition medical research community and government law enforcement. I admired the David versus Goliath theme. I treasure any small guy that stands up to big government. But a 25 day film shoot and low budget came at a price.
TMG always says the measure of a film has to be whether after the credits go up, can you honestly say you enjoyed it. "Enjoy" takes many forms. A film might make your laugh; another make you jump for joy; inspire you; thrill you; educate you; frighten you; or make you cry and deepen your humanity. The latter is where this film came close .it just missed. I walked out of this film feeling bad and no better for having seen it. Joy Lynn and I argued about this for hours. I just need to feel something more when I walk out of a film. No way would I sit through Dallas Buyers Club a second time.
How could this film have been better? A little comic relief for one. A little less stereotyping perhaps. (Not all guys who drink beer and enjoy rodeo are homophobic.) A little more balance perhaps. I did not buy into a successful, research doctor as hot as Jenifer Garner falling for a red neck, bigot with AIDS.
So my heartfelt apologies to Matthew for a performance of a lifetime for which he truly deserves and Oscar. ( I also feel his performance in Mud (2012) deserved and Oscar along with the film). A nod as well to Jared Leto for his performance as "Rayon" a cross dressing gay, trans-gender wannabe. Leto was more than convincing and reached my heart and my compassion. I still suggest this story would be better as a book instead.
Lone Survivor (2013)
Riveting! Best of the year
Riveting. Best film of the year. Best war tribute since Saving Private Ryan (1998). This movie will grind your humanity to the core and keep you cringing in your seat as you experience the reality of war with no lines, no clear rules of engagement, no clear outcomes
just the clarity of life and death. If you don't applaud, cry and hug a soldier after seeing this film, you may not be human.
Last night was pretty full. I read part of Robert Gates book, Duty and then attended the funeral of a good friend named John— a WWII hero. I saw John's purple heart, his bronze star. You don't get those things for sitting on the sidelines in college philosophy class. John survived to raise many fine children and inspire others. My Dad the same. No combat decorations for my Dad but the jungles of New Guinea were not exactly a day in the basement playing Xbox and eating pizza. My conclusion. War sucks big time. It may be necessary, but everyone from the President on down better be on board 180%. We don't put young men and women in harms way unless we are in extreme jeopardy of life and liberty. Because some men survive. Some do not. The survivors carry their fallen comrades for life, one way or another.
The film is based on real life account of Marcus Luttrell in "Operation Red Wings" in Afghanistan 2005. The operation tasked four members of SEAL Team 10 to kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. They are poorly supported with communications more faulty than a Comcast cable box. These were regular young guys with girlfriends and a life at home and everything to live for. Americas best young men. Then they encounter and old man, a young child and several goat herders at the wrong place at the wrong time. Now everyone's life is in jeopardy. Suddenly duty, hour, country, right, wrong and basic human instincts to survive get very confused. Another great film, Casualties of War (1989) came to mind.
I do not recommend this film for the weak of heart or for parents of current soldiers. Horrors of war should left off the table for some folks. This is not a film for the under 14 crowd. But every politician and wimp in this country that thinks political tricks and traffic jams are more important than our soldiers and ambassadors from Benghazi to Bagram should be strapped in a seat and forced to watch this film for or five times.
God Bless America tonight. God bless these self described "hard-bodied, hairy- chested,rootin'- tootin' shootin', parachutin' demolition double-cap crimpin' frogman." You have to have that type of attitude and sense of humor to face what they face. Remember that and say a prayer for them next time you take a free walk in your local park. And go see this film. Not up to it? Contribute a few hundred dollars to The Wounded Warriors Project.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Over the top T & A
A TMG rating of 6.0 is being generous with an emphasis on this movie could have, and should have, been a whole lot better. How? Listen to an editor and cut about 1.3 hours of pure crap and meaningless scenes from the film. Tossing a pile of hundred dollar bills on top of naked women is funny and outrageous once, but unless you are the guy getting to do it, it is one and done. After twenty scenes of butt, booze and debauchery on film, you pretty much start thinking of just a good beer, a brat and reading the Wall Street Journal.
This film was Wall Street (1987) on Geckko steroids and quaaludes. It was less about the corruption or inner workings of Wall Street and much more just about unbridled Hedonism. It was a more The Hangover Part III (2013) outtakes meets Catch me if You Can (2002). Basically, it was a cheap film with bad writing, marginal acting with lots of cash, drugs and T & A---not meaning tax and accounting.
The only real bright spot was the always fun and ingenious acting of Matthew McConaughey. His role was priceless, but all too short.
This mostly misguided attempt to make an epic was as badly executed as DiCaprio and Scorsese's effort in Gangs of New York (2002)---a film that made my pet squirrel fall asleep on a pile of acorns. If you have not seen this film yet, skip it. Go home. Have a quaalude yourself. Pull out a Penthouse magazine and throw some dollar bills in the air. You will pretty much get the same experience. And if not overly obvious, don't take your kids or Mom to this one.
The Counselor (2013)
Movie is pure trash
While Brad Pitt proves he can act marvelously in his sleep, he is the only redeeming quality in this otherwise worthless piece of trash film. The only purpose of the film I could come up with was a medium for Cameron Diaz to once again prove she is the sluttiest woman in Hollywood. Job well done.
This film starts out contorted and totally disjointed. It makes no sense in the beginning, the middle or the end. The opening scene is totally ridiculous and only explained by Michael Fassbender paying off writer Cormac McCarthy big time. I guess it just foreshadowed we were all going to be going down big time before the movie was over.
Director Ridley Scott obviously forgot to lay off the cocaine while directing. I cannot even imagine what the plot or storyline was supposed to be. There is no likable character. There are no laughs. There is no suspense. You just get plenty of sweaty Mexicans and gore. The message? Lay off drugs whether practicing law or directing a film.
What is really weird is this film was billed as a "thriller." The only "thrills" were the action between Penelope Cruz' legs and Cameron Diaz and the windshield of a sports car. But frankly, the way Diaz pulled it off and the way Bardem later described the encounter might make any straight guy consider going gay.
Everyone in my theater got up and shook their head or wanted their money back. I have had a better time draining my dogs anal glands or playing around on the Obama Care website—all three of these experiences will leave you feeling pretty disgusted.
The Internship (2013)
A few laughs, slightly cute and little more. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn can do this bit with no script and half asleep. I am pretty sure they did. This movie has few ad placements other than the usual Apple Mac computer promo spots. The fact is, this movie IS a paid advertisement for GOOGLE, by GOOGLE and certainly paid for by GOOGLE, with a few dollars thrown in by the University of Phoenix. I hope this is not a road map of crappy, cheap comedies to come.
Boneheaded, forty-something watch salesmen Nick (Wilson) and Billy (Billy) lose their jobs and apply for a competitive internship competition at GOOGLE with a flocks of 20 year old super nerds. Back to School (1986) with Rodney Dangerfield this movie is not. I believe the set up but I don't believe that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn have not a single gray hair at their ages. Both need to start taking parts their own age.
This film portrays GOOGLE as the breeding ground for world class nerds and lost romantics. Okay, at least it is truthful. One philosophy I found most provocative is that on the GOOGLE campus, all the food and lunches are free. However, it is a major violation at GOOGLE to take any food home. In other words, you only get food if, and while, you are working. For a bunch of bleeding heart liberals from California, this message seems about as anti-immigrant, anti- welfare as one can get. On the other hand, perhaps it is a message of communism–work for us and do as we say and we shall feed you. Stray and you shall starve. It seems strange because GOOGLE is the poster child of capitalism in America. Come up with a cool idea and make a few hundred billion dollars. But then the masses must kiss your ring and bow art your door. Worse, if you want to work there you are forced to engage in many circus like stunts and court jester antics—hardly a self esteem building exercise for the low esteem "Noogles." There are lots of mixed messages in between the all too rare guffaws in this film.
I suggest googling "laughs" and see what turns up instead.
The Purge (2013)
Avoid the urge...to purge !
The only thing relevant about this movie is that after seeing it YOU will want to purge
and perhaps ask for your money back. The first big clue you have that this movie is a huge rip-off and of zero worth is that it was made by the producers of Paranormal Activity. The next is that whatever the screwball message of this film, you can be certain it was anti- Christian, anti-Republican, anti-Capitalism, anti-White, anti-Success and racist beyond belief. The fact that it was made by a bunch of elite, white, rich people from Hollywood is just a nuance they don't want you to notice.
The movie is so far fetched that Direct James Mather sets the scene in 2022. We are expected to believe that the U.S. Government has then been taken over by super smart folks who think they know better than anyone else. They allow killing without recourse for 12 hours once a year. This new U.S. Government thinks it can purge the country of those that don't believe the way it does, and that the way to peace and a civil society is to let thugs vent once a year by killing their neighbors. So far-fetched because you quickly realize with the NSA and the IRS and radical Muslims allowed to kill with no recourse, this isn't 2022, this is the Obama Administration! (Small matter I suppose that such a low budget film could not even afford cars that looked like 2022 models to even try to fool you.)
The after movie conversation turned quickly from what was the message in the film, to who did the writers want you to hate the most. For me that was easy—the film distributor of course! Film school 101 is you must have at least one likable character in a movie. Ethan Hawke plays the Dad, James Sandin as a detestable security exec who cares more about his sales bonus than raising his kids. Wife Mary simply looks like she is preoccupied by a bad case of hemorrhoids. Daughter Zoey is a clueless, oversexed teen and son Charlie plays the role of a unisex moron who occasionally could be mistaken for an ill-trained Pomeranian. Who wants to save this family or care if they all die? In this film, you are simply hoping they all get killed off quickly so you can get home and lock your own door and be safe. Unfortunately, you realize your phone is tapped, the IRS is out to get you, and the President has buddies in the Muslim brotherhood who patrol streets looking for white people to kill. The only real solace you can find is in the nightly news when the U.S top National Security adviser assures you not to worry "it is just a film." Yes indeed, perhaps it is time to purge?
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
An Oscar for Ed Norton!
Short Review: Sam is a Khaki Scout (boy scout) in a 1965 New England outpost or island or some such magical little spit of land and time where boys were really boys and girls really ran away from home with Samsonite luggage. Sam is an awkward kid at camp and is certainly the junior version of Corporal Willie Santiago from A Few Good Men (1992). Sam escapes before given a boy scout code red but his former buddies certainly try to make up for it while hunting him down.
Suzy is a burnt out romantic tween just dying for someone who is honest in her life. Sam and Suzy hatch an escape and the little New England isle is turned upside down trying to find them and bring them back from their new found lagoon of paradise and innocence to the dirty real world they so wanted to escape. Sam Suzy communicate texting style in a world before cell phones and email. They use hand written notes. So their actions are all contemplative and direct, ...and as impulsive as the world in 1965 allowed given such slow communication.
It all sounds benign enough. However, the script is amazingly imaginative and funny. Sam is an odd duck. Suzy is a wild bird. They work well together. The acting is superlative and Ed Norton deserves and Oscar nomination at the least. The under 21 crowd may not have the life, historical or emotional experience to "get it"---everyone else will. This is an awesome date movie. It is sweet. It is endearing. It is funny and it is great storytelling. It only lacks huge social impact which is why TMG does not give it a 10.0. This movie is too good to spoil for you by a longer review. Go see it.
The Campaign (2012)
Very funny, vulgar and outlandish stuff.
Clearly an all-star cast in a very funny comedy. I laughed considerably. This film takes hundreds of cliché political campaign material and weaves it into a good story.
Very funny,... but nothing really surprising. Motion picture comedy is a very tough business. Will Ferrel delivers exactly what you would expect. He plays four term congressman, Cam Brady, from Hammond, North Carolina. His character is a cross between Ron Burgundy and Ricky Bobby with a dash of his Saturday Night Live parody of George Bush thrown in. Sudeikis plays more the straight man as his campaign manager. Lithgow and Aykroyd are conniving rich corporate power brokers clearly based upon Randolph and Mortimer Duke from Trading Places (1983). Galifianakis show up as a rich boy wimp put up to give Brady a run for his office. The antics though are right out of the nightly news in Washington from Bill Clinton to Anthony Weiner.
It is all very funny, vulgar and outlandish stuff. Unfortunately, the writers cross the line when they infuse highly offensive language into the mouths of little children. Comedically, it is not funny and very unnecessary. Hollywood cannot help itself. But I laughed allot and laughter is a good thing so I still gave it a 8.0 rating.
There are a few interesting things to note. The downtown set of Hammond, North Carolina clearly seems to be the reconstructed set from Back to the Future (1985). I kept wondering why? Who cares I guess. Chris Mathews makes several cameos as himself without once saying how he has chill up his leg for Cam Brady, but we know he clearly does.
College kids and the 20-30 something crowd will love this film. TMG is a few years over that but I think Ferrel is a comedic genius. It is not suitable for young teens so let me rant "Stupid parents out there: Do not send or take your under 15 kids to see this movie." It is rated R for a reason.
Rock of Ages (2012)
A fun Friday nite date movie.
Not at all what I expected. A bit corny (most musicals are at times) and oddly constructed, it was still a fairly good time. I would have preferred more rock and roll, more Cruise and less goofball girl from Oklahoma trying to make it in LA. The Cruise critics are all off base though. Cruise was superb and his singing was pretty impressive.
This film will be better on stage than the movie was. Musicals always are. I give the writers and director great kudos for trying to do something a bit different. But different does not always make for greatness. This film, unless adapted for the stage, will soon be forgotten. The storyline itself was older than the hills. Young hot girl from Midwest takes bus to LA to become a singer, waits tables and gets her heart broken. The side story of the Bourbon Ballroom (where most of movie is set) run by burn out Alec Baldwin and his "buddy" Russell Brand was amusing but more of a Saturday nite live skit. Paul Gimatti lent an aura of legitimate drama and skilled acting as rock legend, Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) manager. The whole character of Cruise was sort of a fun cross breeding of Elvis, Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent. Oh if there is a rock and roll heaven someday! Novelty lookout: Look for the very brief cameo of REO Speedwagon's lead singer, Kevin Cronin in the fan rope line near the end of the film!
This is a fun Friday nite date movie, but certainly no Oscar.
Dark Shadows (2012)
Fun. Funny. Very retro feel of Dracula and Austin Powers.
Fun. Funny. Very retro. Depp doing Depp at his best! And surprisingly a genuinely sound storyline.
If you were born too late to enjoy the spoofy, silly but a little bit creepy late 60's daytime soap opera on which this film is based, you are probably too busy seeing The Avengers for the third time this month. This movie is not for you. But it could be. TMG thinks this film can play to all generations if they give it a chance. Most will not. Too bad.
To a sharp eye, this movie has many elements of Edward Scissorhands (1990). Scissorhands was the movie that has defined Depp's career, perfected his quirky mannerisms and solidified his creative acting style. It is in the TMG Movie Hall of Fame. Dark Shadows won't make the Hall of Fame, but it is a solid reprise nonetheless.
What is appealing is that the screenwriters mixed a dumb soap opera with genuine comedy largely built around a vampire (always popular) with the modern day surprises after being buried for 200 years (196 to be exact). It has that Austin Powers fun about it. Pfeifer and Green added the sultry and hot spice while Jackie Earle Haley (remember Little Children from 1990?) added a touch of creepy authenticity (a bit Marty Feldman like from Young Frankenstein (1974) for a very mild, spooky feel.
My real disappointment, perhaps more of a concern, is for little Chloe Moretz. Chloe is a hugely talented young girl but playing a "whore child" may be fearfully predictive of what trouble lies ahead for her in real life. She needs to do play some softer roles and quit hanging around amoral types like Nic Cage. (Kick Ass 2010) Simply adding "Grace" as your middle stage name is not going to help. Mark TMG words, Chloe will be the next Hollywood tragedy at her current rate.
Give Dark Shadows a try. It is really a light comedy and truly entertaining.
The Avengers (2012)
Saturday morning cartoon fare at best.
7.0 you say? Yep, at best this was decent Saturday morning cartoon fare. High schoolers and college kids will love it...and have in huge numbers. But as a guy frozen in a 60's time warp much like Austin Powers, I can simply say "It's just not my thing, baby."
The movie is carried by the personality of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark aka The Iron Man. This is no surprise. Downey is naturally funny and amazingly quirky while still being attractive. By contrast, Chris Evans comes off a bit like Chris Mintz-Plasse showing up at your fraternity rugby party.
The best acting award goes to Powers Boothe. (He has done other notable work but I always harken way back to 1980 and The Guyana tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones). No one else in this film acted much in the real sense of the concept. They more or less played themselves.
If you saw Thor (2011), Iron Man II (2010) or Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) you have pretty much already seen The Avengers. It was all the film they had left on the cutting room floor just taped back together along with some elements of the Incredible Hulk (2008) reincarnated Ruffalonian style. That is pretty much it. This film is a bit like going back through your favorite scrapbooks. It is nice to reminisce and relive the past, but you are not going to see anything new.
The Hunger Games (2012)
Disturbing and irresponsible
Despite great acting performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson, there is no excuse for this book or this movie. Watching children kill each other for adults twisted pleasure? Yeah, sure. That's a cool thing. The only twisted things missing from this film were Nicolas Cage and Adam Sandler. This film is simply a new and depraved version of The Truman Show (1998). Show a pair of woman's boobs in a film and get an R rating. Show kids slitting each others throats and PG-13 is good enough. We certainly don't want the bully's at the local junior high to miss this one.
Our country is about to go to civil war because a Hispanic and a Black guy got in a fight and one got killed. The same people screaming their lungs out over this tragedy are handling $20 to 13 years old to go see this film and eat gummy bears. Go figure.
It is all disturbing and irresponsible. What's next? How about Holocaust survivor betting games? Better yet, infant molestation on video in the nursery? Sure. Tell me I am wrong here.
The Grey (2011)
Missing Taylor Lautner
Predictable. Over acted. A little corny at times. But TMG was willing to overlook the obvious flaws and just go along for the ride,
er uh wreck,
plane wreck. It kept my attention and knocked me out of my seat a few times. I am pretty certain Neeson put in his time on this film in between tennis games and trips to Quick Trip. Neeson could do twenty films like this in his sleep and make us his own dialogue as he goes. But again, I liked it. It was fun. No Oscar for Liam but no Razzie either.
The movie is total formula. A bunch of roughnecks from an oil rig board a plane out of the Alaska wilderness. The plane crashes. A few struggle to survive the cold, the snow, lack of food and certainly each other's obnoxious personalities and body odor. Then along comes Taylor Lautner .oops grey arctic wolves they just look like Lautner from leftover Twilight Saga clips. The wolves stalk and kill them one off one by one while the men (and I use that term loosely) infight over who is in charge. Many hard glares are exchanged and philosophic references made about well I have no idea really/ This is the kind of film that Richard Widmark and Richard Basehart would have starred had it been made in 1960. It was made to be rerun on rainy Saturday mornings.
If you like gritty stories of survival and disappointed the Twilight series has stalled, you may like this film. Try it.
The Sitter (2011)
Abusive of Children--Skip it!
Do not go see or support this film. TMG will not endorse any movie that sexually exploits children, and neither should you. I was looking for Adam Sandler or Nic Cage to show up in this film. A ten year old little girl using the F word is just over the line. It is inexcusable. Worse, it is so unnecessary. Next, Hollywood will be showing an eight year old performing sexual acts. This is not funny. I am pretty certain under many state laws it is not even legal to coach a ten year old to use vulgarities and reference sexual acts. The obvious, apparent exception being University Park, Pennsylvania.
Jonah Hill showed he can be a gifted actor if you saw Moneyball. He took a huge step backwards by showing he is still just a vulgar and obnoxious, fat boy. This is obvious from the first minute of the show when Hill is performing oral sex on a girl. The surprising thing is at least it was a girl. I don't think most Labradors would allow Hill to lick them. The movie just "goes down hill" from there. I will readily admit there is some funny content, but the net result is the moral equivalent of justifying Jerry Sandusky just because he was telling some really funny jokes in the shower.
There is an overtly pro gay point of view pushed. This is fine for adults. Not for children. Only adults should be allowed anywhere near this film. Adults can decide for themselves what they believe in. Using children to to promote gay messages is just wrong. We see this recently with little children being coached to ask gay questions to politicians. Oh come on! Does any gay, adult person of sound mind really think this is the way to advance their agenda? Exploit children? Children who cannot even fully comprehend what they are saying? It is pathetic.It would be just as wring to use children to promote a transcontinental pipeline or taxation of the rich. Leave the kids alone!....and leave this film in the can where it belongs.
New Year's Eve (2011)
A sure fire DVD seller for New Years
Sweet film. Nice. Full of heartfelt messages about things that really matter in life. It is totally predictable and a bit schmaltzy throughout, but it sort of works. There are no great belly laugh scenes but lots of amusing chuckles. With the cast and subject of New Years Eve in New York, this film was built for the DVD market of years to come. People will be renting it for parties for the next dozen or more new years parties. This is a good, feel good, movie. It is not great film making or a great story though.
There is no real plot or singular story line. The movie is a dozen or more vignettes of various stories and lives on New Years Eve in New York City. It is a night you can fall in love, fall back in love or realize who you really love. Why? It doesn't matter. It just is.
The pinnacle of the film comes about half way through when Hilary Swank gives an impromptu speech about the status of the ball drop on Times Square. Just hours before midnight the ball gets stuck. She explains it is a metaphor for life and how we all need to stop before it is all over and reassess what truly matters...or something like that. It tries to explain why we are seeing all these little stories of lives being born, old men dying, lovers quarreling and teens trying to grow up. It falls way short of a finely woven quilt of a story, but it will make you feel warm all over. Watch this film with your spouse or lover and then go out for schnapps and hot chocolate and sign a bit. It is okay with me. No Oscar nominations here though. Pfeiffer looks awesome though...she always has and always will.
Answers to Nothing (2011)
The title says it all!
TMG says titles to movies can often be telling. Answers to Nothing? Yeah? Well let me tell you. When I see a film, I want answers to at least one thing—like why I spent my time and money suffering through it. If you are too happy for the holidays and just feel good about life in general, then go see this film. It will turn you around quick. If I want to be this depressed, I can take a handful of Valium and watch reruns of Nancy Pelosi speeches.
Why so many movie producers and screen writers are just dying to load us all up with piles of depression, cynicism and angst is beyond me. It is the same affliction that hits many country western singers. If you are among the three, whacked out northern Vermonters who were inspired by Melancholia, by all means, take your friends at the Jack Kevorkian Society to see this film.
For starters, there is no plot or storyline. You simply have a depressed guy named Ryan (Cook) in a loathsome affair trying to gather sperm for his wife Kate (Mitchell) to have a baby and deal with her own, tragic inadequacies. All around him are vignettes of people with atrocious insecurities, hangups and severe mental illness. Worse, you later learn Ryan is a mental health therapist treating one of them. You pretty much have a pyromaniac tending the fire department here. The most pointed line of the film is Ryan's estranged Dad advising him "In human relations, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths." I think he was quoting the Bible according to Tammy Faye & Jim Baker.
There was some hope because their is one subplot of a guy who kidnapped a young girl and an interesting twist that resolves that situation. There is one funny scene of Allegra (not allergy medicine, thought this young black gal is sort of allergic to everyone for awhile) doing an obsessive-compulsive thing trying to sugar her ice tea through a straw. But that is about it. There is a guy pretending to be a cop woven in here, but it makes no sense.
At the end, nothing is resolved and nothing is really answered. The writers should have stayed with the kidnapped little girl theme more. It had some promise. Nothing else did. I bet you anything a lot of mentally unstable people and a few manic, tree huggers around Boulder, Colorado or tripping down State Street in Madison, Wisconsin will proclaim this to be a great and inspirational film. Hence, my analysis will be proved correct.
The trailer says this film is about "choices that define us." Indeed. One might be choose to see a better film this holiday season.
A Very Awful Movie
Thirty minutes into this disgusting and stupid movie, all I could think is, "what next?" Every gross bodily function and vulgar reference had been made. Fun had already been poked at Jesus Christ. The only thing missing was Neal Patrick Harris showing up French kissing and pretending to be a straight guy. Oh, then hold on a minute.
This is not an age or generational thing. TMG will laugh at almost anything that is funny no matter how vulgar or irreverent. I did laugh hard a few times early in the movie. But once a film degenerates into masturbation scenes, drugging a two year old and singing F word laden lyrics to her, ---about all that is missing is something as horrific and unfunny as a guy like Dany Trejo ejaculating onto a Christmas tree. But then wait a minute... Yeah, it is that bad. TMG does not tolerate any film which depicts, makes fun of, or glorifies child abuse. I was frankly surprised to find that Nicolas Cage was not starring in or producing this film.
And then we have the cameo of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Now this, I was amazed at. How on earth do you edit in such a scene at the last moment to a movie about two perverts stealing a Christmas tree? The connection I made was that two perverts stealing a Christmas tree is what the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about. No? In the pleading words of John Goodman, "Am I wrong here?" It was the only message I could find in this movie.
I willingly confess to not having seen the earlier episodes of the Harold & Kumar franchise. I do not intend to either. I have read reports the earlier two, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) and Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008) are funnier and less crass, but such is hardly a ringing endorsement to waste two hours of your life or your money. This 3D fiasco in prime time will set you back $28.00 for you and your date. For $1.25 you can rent an even worse piece of trash on DVD like Bucky Larson by Adam Sandler.
And parents, don't be idiots and let your 2o year old college drop out take your thirteen year old to see this film. It is inappropriate for people of any age. Note: the 3.0 P factor is probably misleading. Men peeing on cars and throwing feces on car windows, not to mention closeup footage of a penis on a frozen pole (and more) probably deserves a P factor squared.
With so many good films out there to see, why waste your time or your money?
In Time (2011)
Time well spent!
This is a really cool idea for a film. A day in the future when the commodity of value is not cash or gold, it is time. Everyone gets to live to age 25. After that you have one year to live, or less. It all depends upon whether you use all your time credits or you earn more. Regardless, if you live to age 100, or longer, your body physically remains looking twenty five.
On the plus side is Justin Timberlake coming back and showing that his misstep in Bad Teacher (2011) was just one of those embarrassing Hollywood screw ups. Timberlake has real drama and acting talent and is definitely here for the long haul. (Too bad Elvis was never given such chances.) Timberlake gave us a glimpse of his depth last year in The Social Newtwork (2010) , but his talents were not fully developed for Friends with Benefits (2011).
The script starts with the eerie, sobering reminder, and all too familiar words, "We don't have time...we don't have time..." Think if today you had to buy everything with time, instead of bank credit or cash. Coffee costs four minutes. A bus ride costs an hour. A car costs two years. People can give or take time from each other. Just don't run out of time or you will die on the spot. If this were real, would you treasure and spend time more wisely? The real interesting question may be that time really is the currency we live by now, we just fail to see it that way. The simple fact is that you can earn countless piles of cash and gold in this world, but you really cannot buy time. Despite the wealthy in today's world sometimes being able to cheat a few years with better health care, we all are going to die in the same average years.
While the script is the superficial tale of Will Salas (Timberlake) and his Mom (Wilde) trying to pass time in a futuristic world, the messages of the film go far deeper. It is really a tale of class warfare. People who have time, like the mega "eonaire" Phillipe Weis (Katheiser) and his rich daughter Sylvia (Seyfried) and those who constantly struggle to keep time (or run out of it) like the Salas family. Will gets the chance to move up into a better time zone thanks to a man who has just decided that after a hundred years or so, he prefers to "time out." He leaves Will the prophetic warning "Don't waste my time." How Will chooses to spend his time, for himself or for the benefit of all, is now the story.
I really did not mind that the future depicted in this film was not futuristic looking and all the cars were vintage 1970's models with updated lighting and electric sounding motors. It saved a huge budget rather than try to make the world look like it probably will in 2013 or so. And I think the point was that the future is really now.
As an entertaining film, my 7.5 rating is spot on. As a thought provoking experience, I might have given it a 10.0. After seeing this film, you should go out and visit with friends. Your own clock is ticking down. Are you really using it wisely? Unlike the time down clock on the arm of the people in this film, you never know when your time is about up.
This film...it's worth your time.
Puss in Boots (2011)
What 3D is made for!
Right off paw (as opposed to "off hand" ) I should note the title means a cat, literally in boots. I suppose that is obvious to most. But when I asked most adults it conjured up everything from cat food to a Saturday morning cartoon. But not a cat musketeer. This film is actually, but only very loosely, based upon the fairy tale Puss n Boots written at the close of the seventeenth century by Frenchman Charles Perrault (1628–1703). This film is sort of the 2011, The Three Musketeers film for children, only much better.
This film version blends a story of child hood pals Puss in Boots (Banderas) and egghead, Humpty Dumpty (Galifianakis) in pursuit of selfish dreams to capture the baby goose that lays golden eggs. Puss falls for Kitty Softpaws (Hayek) and the friendships between Puss, Humpty and Kitty all get a bit confused in pursuit of riches. The writers mix in (and mix up) bits of half a dozen other childhood fables from Jack and Jill to Jack and the Beanstalk. It is all clean great fun and funny for kids and adults along the way. There is a great fight and dance scene that few animated films can match. The PG rating was certainly garnered by the swords and violence, but there is really nothing to disturb even the most delicate of children's emotions. Any child old enough to watch television has seen far worse. My only concern was a brief reference by Jack to swearing off "murdering and thievery" as fun, but it may be time to move on. They might have left that worthless line out of the script. And why Jack and Jill had to be portrayed as anything but two nice kids going up a hill to fetch a pale of water might confuse a few kindergärtners.
The hoopla over the new 3D in films is really reserved for animated films like this. The 3D is truly amazing with animation while it adds little and is not nearly as impressive with most films. For animation, it is here to stay. Seeing a cat drink milk from a regular glass is funny and watching milk get spilt in slow 3D is captivating. Watch for the funny reference later in the film to "catnip for glaucoma"–an obvious cross reference to a funny scene of Galifianakis in last year's Due Date. Puss "in" boots or out of them, adults and kids alike will laugh and enjoy this adventure all the way through.
The Rum Diary (2011)
A big step up from Loathing in Vegas
The Rum Diary is a more grown up and intellectual approach to the life and writing of Hunter S. Thompson. its an alcohol induced bender into the struggle between journalism and corporate corruption in San Juan, Puerto Rico in the early 1960′s. While Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) was just a drug induced haze into a weekend of nothingness in Las Vegas. The styles are very similar. The substance is miles apart.
Depp plays the Thompson character named Kemp who takes an ill considered job as a writer for the failing newspaper run a guy named Lotterman (Jenkins). Lotterman gave up his journalistic ideals years ago just to survive and eek out a living in the cesspool of 1960′s San Juan. Kemp makes friends with a burnout writer named Moburg (Ribisi) and Sala, the news photographer (Rispoli). Kemp is then bribed to write good stories about an upcoming commercial resort being promoted by local kingpin developer named Sanderson (Eckhart). Does Kemp take the easy money and cash in on his limited morals and ethics, or expose the corruption?
It takes a long while to get there but along the way Kemp falls for Sanderson's young well kept girlfriend named Chenault (Heard). This set up is almost identical to the way Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) pulled in the young Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) and enticed him with Darien Taylor (Daryl Hannah) in the original Wall Street (1987). Kemp finally resolves to do the right thing despite always being drunk and hungover. But the point is? The real point probably died with Hunter Thompson assuming there really was one.
Tower Heist (2011)
Billy Ray Valentine is back..and looking good!
First and foremost, excellent all-star casting for a trivial little comedy film. I was thrilled to see Eddie Murphy back in action as well as my long time favorite Tea Leoni. When you add heavy weight starts like Alan Alda, Mathew Broderick and the one of the best actors of our time, Casey Affleck to the equation, it's the swiss watch of comedic timing. TMG has never been a big fan of Ben Stiller, but the guy makes tons of money for Hollywood producers. Charlie Sheen would have been perfect for the role. Stiller to me is the food equivalent to a great plate of liver and onions---millions swear by them but they are just not for me.
Josh Kovacs (Stiller) is the manager extraordinaire for an uber rich New York apartment building. (Think Michael J. Fox in For Love or Money back in 1993.) Arthur Shaw (Alda) is a Bernie Madoff type living in the Penthouse. Everyone entrusts their pensions and savings to Shaw until he is suddenly indicted and arrested by FBI agent Claire Denham (Leoni). Josh teams up with Charlie the desk clerk (Affleck) and the soon to be evicted Wall Street drop out Mr. Fitzhugh (Broderick) to get revenge on the unrepentant Arthur Shaw. Alda almost plays the character to the evil level of Richard Fuld of the former Lehman Brothers. (I am pretty sure Fuld is exactly what Satan himself looks and acts like---married of course to someone who looks and acts much like Nancy Pelosi....sorry TMG can never resist such temptation) The comedy is set.
Josh and his band of blundering apartment staff need serious help in learning the craft of thievery. So Josh turns to a wisecracking, street numskull named Slide (Murphy) whom he recently saw being hauled off to jail. Murphy is pretty much in his reprise role of Billy Ray Valentine from Trading Places (1983). This is fine because TMG never got enough of Billy Ray and though it has been twenty eight years, Murphy still looks and acts the part. The rest is just pure fun. Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson could only have played the role better but both were busy these past few months campaigning for Herman Caine for President.
Is this the greatest comedy of the year? No. That title yet belongs to Bridesmaids. But go see Tower Heist tonight. You will laugh and enjoy the heist!
Footloose 2011 brings back home the Bacon!
A terrific remake on par with the original from 1984 with Kevin Bacon. TMG generally scorns remaking good films, but this one hits the mark. It helps greatly that newbie Kenny Wormald started dancing when he was only six years old. The story is exactly the same. So is most of the music. Dennis Quaid takes the role of the father-preacher held in the original by John Lithgow and does a decent job. So why does this film work so well again? The dancing is literally off the wall great. Visit ArtandJoyofMovies.com and listen to America's No.1 radio show on movies.
The Footloose story is loosely based upon the history of Elmore City, Oklahoma, not the fictional city of Bomont, Midwest Somewhere. While Elmore had banned dancing for 100 years until high school kids changed things in 1980, both 1984 and 2011 versions are based upon a ban arising from a tragic car accident after a party five years earlier. All said, the story plays second fiddle to the dancing and music. Great film? Maybe not. Great entertainment? You bet. TMG loved it!
The Big Year (2011)
Not a Big Year
An all star cast delivers a fairly bird brained movie. Slight amusing? Sure. A few laughs? Yes. But largely we are laughing at the dedicated (professional is a huge stretch) world of birding. These are people who could not play football, sing or debate in high school. Perhaps they had good ears and could whistle well? Who knows. Birding is a bit like stamp collecting, saw blade painting, or UFO chasing. Few people really do it. Few understand the allure, and some may find it just plain weird. Count TMG among the latter. Sorry. I am just being honest.
Wilson plays Kenny Bostick, the world record holder for spotting the most birds in one year. 732 to be exact. Brad Harris (Black) and Stu Preissler (Martin) decide to chase the record or what's called "doing" a "Big Year." We are taken on a whirlwind ride of beautiful landscapes and locales from Vail, Colorado to Attu Island, Alaska. We are treated to identifying birds ranging from the Great Spotted Woodpecker to the Snow Owl. We also get some great music thanks to the Trashman's 1964 hit Bird Dance Beat — but the song had much greater impact in Full Metal Jacket (1987). Beyond that, this film just coasts along like a red tailed hawk. Cute and semi-interesting, but not much more.
TMG wonders if there really are 10,000 bird species out there? I mean, to us maybe. But what about to the birds? Some distinctions are clear, but are they really a unique species? We humans all look different, however, we do not distinguish and call one a "long legged black-man," "a full-breasted redhead" or "yellow faced slant eye" or perhaps even a "lard- ass-ed, bald whitey." No. We simply find these to be distinguishing descriptors of the singular, human species. Funny to think animals might engage in "human spotting." Maybe they do.
The only real positive in the film was seeing Brian Dennehy in a decent role as Jack Black's dad. TMG says skip this film and maybe go out and watch a few birds yourself or go shoot a few. I can attest that my buddy Steve makes an incredible, "full bellied Kansan pheasant" rice stew.
The Thing (2011)
The Thing Trifecta Review
THE THING (2011) Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen. Who is he? Certainly no one yet or after this effort. They tried hard to stay to the story and the spirit of the film. It just fell short. TMG says greatness rarely strikes twice and never strikes three times. (Even in the Godfather series, everyone pretty well agrees The Godfather II was the best. Who really remembers Godfather III?) Some real star talent might have helped, but what this effort really needed was a more original script and sharper writing. The real mistake was trying to make this a prequel to the 1982 version. The 1982 film ended just right for a sequel. Why not just pick up there and really bring the film forward? A sequel is sure to follow so be on the lookout...people of the world....watch the skies.....they may be coming again!
THE THING (1982) Directed by John Carpenter. Technically, this is the third in the series if you want to watch in chronological order as the 2011 version is the prequel to this film. It is really worth watching. The acting is solid and story is captivating. Carpenter really took a 1951 classic and delivered upon the same spooky magic. I would rate it higher, but you really cannot be fair to other films and give a film of this genre much more than 7.0 rating. If you like old time alien films, you will enjoy this one. Watch it late at night with some friends!
THE THING from Another World (1951) Writing by Howard Hawks, Directed by Christian Nyby. By far the best of the series. Sure, by today's standard's of horror flick, a bit goofy and cornball, but this film is fun and spooky through and through. You have to just imagine at the height of the UFO craze, and this film certainly propelled it along, this movie really resonated with everyone. It is probably the second best 1950's era black and white alien film. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) still ranks in my book as No. 1.