Friday, May 4, 2012

21 Jump Street

WORTH IT: I am just going to come out and say it--Yes, this movie is hilarious. The trailer teases a highly anticipated laugh-fest, but I know I am not alone when I say that always tends to make me a bit weary of a cheesy, raunchy, overall let-down. So let me just save you that neuro-effort and say that it really is actually funny.

The story is simple--two bottom-of-the-rung cops get sent back to high school, undercover, to bring down a synthetic drug ring. An insult to the original? With a wink, I'll say no way...and hope that's enough to make you watch it.

With flying colors, I give my stamp of approval to an endearing combination of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Not only do they make a believable duo (and Tatum is just not that hard to look at), but the chemistry that exists between their lines snatches laughs at every level with almost every line. I think I actually slapped my knee a few times. It's probably a lot to do with the fact that Hill is an Oscar-nominated Actor now, so you know he wouldn't just take any script. And not to mention there are so many fun people packed into this flick that you really shouldn't miss out on the fun.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

MUST-SEE: There's no point in denying the possibility of a movie failing to please when it involves two adorable Brits and fishing as a way to illustrate overcoming the impossible. So I won't. It was fabulous.

A feel-good movie that's overdue in theaters (probably since you saw Director Lasse Hallstrom's previous happy flicks, Hachi, Chocolat or Something to Talk About) introduces us to Miss
Chetwood-Tolbert and Dr. Jones--two quirky, witty and irresistibly innocent individuals completely unaware that they're looking for a happier life. Keenly played by Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor, they're intertwined via a project to introduce salmon fishing into the Yemen. Theoretically, it's impossible, and the feat undeniably teaches our protagonists a little something about faith, hope and camaraderie.

The story is light, tender and just funny enough to appeal to any audience. From beginning to end, nothing left me unsatisfied, confused or comparing it to something else. Truly, it's been awhile since a movie left me feeling so good, and I definitely want to make sure you get to experience it too.

Friday, May 27, 2011


MUST-SEE: (Mike Mills) There is no better advice than to see a film with no prior expectations. Just that mindset led me into Beginners with a simple and curious intelligence and in turn, wrapped me up in a snuggly blanket of emotion, love and tenderness so complex that it simultaneously left me hurting and happy. The story is that of a budding relationship between father and son, only occurring much later in both of their lives and not until the father has come out of the closet. His ability to love and speak about love, and therefore teach love, erupts from within deeply altering his son’s life as he’d tried to live it. That familial love story mirrors many variations on the emotion throughout the film, touching any viewer with a genuinely good story. Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer have instant chemistry, easily believable as a quirky pair just getting to know each other, despite an already existent and unconditional love. Writer/Director Mike Mills writes this one to cheer and inspire and leave you feeling enlightened in love—no matter your politics, it’s a guaranteed treat.

Trivia! Did you know Mike Mills is married to one of my filmmaking idols, Miss Miranda July?!

Look for the review in Insite Atlanta's June issue!


MUST-SEE: (written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Lee) It’s a tough thing to do these days, making a horror film that actually leaves a mark beyond the theater. We’re doing good to get a legit scare every few years, but a rare film makes it into your mind for longer than the time it takes to sleep through the night. Somehow, Aussie filmmakers and long time friends James Wan and Leigh Whannell have found a way to capture that essence, initially with their first film, 2004’s Saw, and now with a new deliverance of terror in Insidious. It’s the story of a young family, parented by Rose Byrnes and Patrick Wilson, settling into a new house with three children. Aside from the expected stress of starting over, strange things start to happen around the house. The alarm goes off in the middle of the night, stuff keeps getting moved around, their oldest son falls into an unexplained coma and strange sounds get picked up on the baby monitor. Eeriness slowly envelops both the house and the film, and you find yourself on the edge of your seat, awaiting a good jump or a deep shudder. Both come, but don’t think you’ll be able to predict it. The writer-director team aces the scare tactic, leaving you terrified to stay in your seat and anxious to get the lights back on. It’s what we’ve been waiting for in the realm of scary films, a completely unique story, one creep enough to send you home checking your surroundings and certainly leaving its mark. Don’t miss it, but don’t see this alone. Oh... and check out Insite Atlanta's online archives to see my interview with the masterminds behind the mayhem (March issue).

Mad About WHO

There's a small group of us out there who grew up loving that show... and then Helen Hunt became a movie star and Paul Reiser (unless you're on the comedy circuit) disappeared... Well, he came back with a bang, but his return ran about as fast as the speed of the sound of that bang. Alas, here's my conversation with him... Click the title, Mad About WHO, to read the article published in Insite Magazine.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: Christmas not just for Kindred Spirits

You better hope you’ve been good this year, especially if you’re spending Christmas in Finland.

Finnish legend claims that Santa Claus lives in the northernmost region of Finland, tucked away in the mountains of Korvatunturi, or Lapland. Where, exactly, is a mystery, but thanks to Finnish Director Jalmari Helander, we’ve got a pretty educated (and, well yes, fictionalized) guess as to how. In his recent Christmas thriller, Rare Exports, he introduces us to this exact small, remote town north of the Arctic Circle filled with infinite snow and mystical reindeers. Here, an American-led team is excavating the local mountain, until they discover mysterious sawdust scraps and a large mass of ice deep within the rock. Tension emerges stemming from moral-based rules that are immediately laid down, but the men are never fully explained the contents deep within the mountain, a secret that’s been buried for many years, and scarier than any of the children (naughty or nice) could imagine. It’s the original Santa Claus. Don’t think for a second that there is a snow-white beard or a red and white coat to go along with the creature that they’re calling by that familiar name. The thing that they’re about to dig up carries images more in line with demons. Think horns, pointy teeth, boiling cauldrons, whips and lashes. Coal should be the least of these kids’ worries.

It’s not a far cry from Finnish folklore of Saint Nicholas that parallels Germanic mythology where Odin was a god of inspired mental activity. He knew when you were angry, enraged, or thinking “naughty” thoughts (clearly the modern song leaves out a few lyrics). He was accompanied by several creatures that kept him informed of what the people in the world were up to… hint hint, like an elf on the shelf. Physically, the similarities get even more oddly comparable. Odin often wore a long beard and a hat. He carried a staff and a cloth sack. Sounding familiar? Both Saint Nick and Odin traveled on flying animals and gave gifts to good children. And although nowadays, the image of Saint Nicholas is kind and warm, his roots suggest more than a creative idea as Helander’s twisted inspiration.

Rare Exports is a distorted fairy tale somewhere between the Coca-Cola Santa and the god of the dead. Somewhere. If you’re ho-hum about watching the same Christmas movie over and over, take your hum bug to a new level and entertain your holiday with the weirdest story you’ll see for a while. It’s creepy and thrilling, outlandish and fantastical, and despite a rushed and cheesy ending, the film stays deep in your thoughts long after your de-trim the tree. The ending seems rushed and ill fitting, but overall special effects make it realistic. Simplicity in plot and execution make it believable and candid. And, as with any good film from The Netherlands, a sense of grotesque and oddity make it something so far removed from our American traditions that it can be anything but ignored. Expect to grip your seat, laugh out loud and raise your eyebrows, but don’t expect to be getting what you want this Christmas.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Morning Glory

MUST-SEE: (Roger Michell) If there was ever any doubt that Rachel McAdams was America’s new sweetheart, Morning Glory bids it farewell forever. She plays Becky Fuller, an energetic, hopeful and undeniably adorable new executive producer, taking the reigns of a dying morning show to desperately try and breathe life back into its dysfunctional, yet lovable, TV family. She struggles to balance the stress of work with the threat of losing her reputation, at the same time doing her best to fall in love (with “smokin’” Patrick Wilson, no less). And not only does she run the show, she does it alongside movie powerhouses Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford.

Keaton plays morning show favorite Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) and her new (disgruntled) co-host, is Harrison Ford playing Mike Pomeroy. Keaton’s Peck does anything she can to stay on top (including practicing a diva attitude) while Ford’s Pomeroy is less than enthusiastic about his new gig and not abashed to show it. Egos collide for a comical moshpit of monosyllabic news bits and cheesy community coverage, everyone fighting the battle of news versus entertainment.

It’s any executive producer’s nightmare—left third in command behind egotistical anchors, but somehow Fuller steers the chaos into something worth saving. McAdams is funny and real, irresistible as the lead and powerful enough to carry this film up and over its conflict, leaving its story melting in our hearts forever. You’ll leave wanting to follow your own dreams, and kick up your heels doing it. Romantic comedy pro Roger Michell pulls out all the stops for this roller coaster ride of cuteness that just escapes a chic flick label and instead takes its place in a long line of soon-to-be classics we’ll be watching again and again.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Other Guys

WORTH IT: (Adam McKay) Detectives Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) have never been heroes. In fact, one thrives pushing paper and crunching numbers, and the other is famous for shooting Derek Jeter. Basically, these guys don’t just get ignored, they get tortured, and their tied to their desks while the big guns, Detectives Christopher Danson and P.K. Highsmith (Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) rake in glory with case after case. Total opposites and unmatched partners, Hoitz and Gamble finally stumble upon a case that may serve as their ticket back into a respectful reputation, if they can just find a way to do good without somehow screwing it up. The chemistry between Marky Mark and Will Ferrell is tremendous, delivering humor in all degrees and with almost every line. Be prepared to laugh out loud and chuckle to yourself in between. Sure, with every ridiculous movie there are some lame lines, forced comedy and hyperbolic scenarios, but overall, you’ll leave satisfied and cracking up. Enjoy an unlikely performance from Eva Mendez, an amusing one by Michael Keaton, and appearances by all those guys that are always in funny movies but whose names you never really learn. You’ll even learn more facts than you ever wanted to know about the catastrophic salaries of AIG employees if you stay through the credits. Bottom line – this film is easy to take, absolutely hilarious, action-packed and utterly ridiculous, all adding up to your perfect summer flick. It’s 107 minutes of comic bliss, proving that Director Adam McKay’s love fest with Ferrell might just be his smartest decision yet (Anchorman and Step Brothers).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Erin Brockovich

MUST-SEE: (Steven Soderbergh) Well, this is an oldie - yes... but if you know me at all, you know I have a long list of stuff I should have seen years ago. In my defense, this movie came out when I was too young to see Rated R movies, this one apparently too provocative (i.e. the way EB dresses).

But, alas, many years later... It came on television one rainy afternoon (and, let's be real - this one is always on television), and I settled in for what turned out to be a riveting and unforgettable story. That story is of the real-life Erin Brockovich - a single mom working for a local lawyer to pay off her legal fees from an accident case. Wearing mini skirts and low-cut tops, Brockovich struts through the corporate world, raising highbrows higher than her heels, but somehow making a reputation for herself that stretched beyond those hemlines. Given a menial task by her boss, she uncovers a multi-million dollar case against P&G. Apparently, their plants leaked fatal chemicals into the city's water system, exposing hundreds of families to life threatening diseases that would be carried through generations.

A true David versus Goliath fight, Brockovich claims a right-hand seat to steer the case for the benefit of the people, inspiring her own colleagues to fight for humanity. Its a story of love and loss and keeping your head up... as well as sacrifice and compromise. Brockovich puts it all on the line (family, love, reputation, her job) to reach a hand out to the people of this unfortunate town, proving that you can mix love and business.

I know most of the world has seen this flick, but for the minority out there - I encourage you to put it on your list. It's inspiring and fascinating, both a tremendous performance from Julia Roberts and a well-adapted screenplay. I wish movies were still this unique!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are

ALMOST WORTH IT: (Spike Jonze) It's the children's book come to life, but this go-round also aged and matured, almost cynical and sadly jaded. Yes, the imagination and wonderment that made the picture book is deeply explored in the film, but to a stronger point of melancholy nostalgia, rather than mystical escapism. If you're not familiar, the story is about Max, a little boy with few friends and lots of creative imagination. Always striving for attention from his family, he's used to finding ways to entertain himself despite the neglect - sending him on a journey to a land far, far away from everything. He washes up on the shore of a shattered forest, inhabited by a group of giant creatures of all shapes and personalities, who we can tell are suffering from emotional and physical unhappiness within their circle. Claiming to be king, the creatures rejoice in a leader who can bring light back into their community and as a result, vow to do whatever the new king says. Max delights in the new responsibility, which grants him acceptance, friendship and respect all at the same time. It's during his stay on the wild island that Max realizes what life is all about, particularly when your imagination can no longer solve all your problems. Sure, you can find joy by letting go and just having fun, but the reality is that there is more to life. It's about building and growing relationships with the people you love. It's about compromise and sacrificing things for the betterment of society. It's also a reminder that not everyone is happy all the time, and keeping your own spirit in perspective helps you help others.

The film tells that story well. The morale is candid and clear and the chemistry between a slew of phenomenal voices (Keener, Gandolfini, O'Hare, Whitaker and Paul Dano) and an intelligent script was entertaining, and in my opinion, the life force behind its success. The film is definitely not for children. It's filled with dark humor and sardonic thematics. It also covers heavy topics, leaving your heart and mind slightly downtrodden and oddly unsettled. I can't say that I am glad I saw it, or that you're missing out if you don't. It didn't leave an impression, other than a slight frown and lost hope. The storybook created a fantastic sense of imagination, both supporting flagrant make-believe and inspiring individuals to hold onto their innocence. The film, however, borders on belittling that theme - reminding us grown-ups that life is happening and that it mostly sucks, no matter where you "go" to escape it. Bottom line, this film was a literal bummer!