Monday, June 29, 2009

The Changeling

MUST-SEE: (Clint Eastwood) Readers forgive me, I saw this film months ago and let it slip under the rug of priorities last fall. But that slip should not be taken as a sign that this film was anything short of brilliance. Clint Eastwood directs a story by J. Michael Straczynski that illustrates a mother's love for her son and a corrupt government's self-dug grave. Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins, a single, working mother who loses her son and given a replacement to glorify the LAPD's apt problem solving skills. What the greater public doesn't realize is that she is also given a scolding to adopt the new child as her previous, because he is obviously not the same boy. As the audience, you are left thinking, WHAT?! Outlandish. Tragic. Impossible. But, the reality hits hard that our government acted this way, and our women were treated this way. Cocky, boisterous personalities are revealed for their insecurities and short-comings. Foolishness is shed in a new light. Even though it's been almost a year since I have seen this flick, I remember being touched by this exact sense: that something so horrid could have been passed (or attempted to pass) as normalcy. This truly frightening story that was one woman's reality. It's every parent's nightmare, but it's also a universal threat of what we (as a people) almost were, but thanks to one outspoken pastor (played by John Malkovich), we aren't. Eastwood flawlessly illustrates the worst of human nature and the best of our country's morale, and holds your heart in the palm of his hand while doing so. Don't miss this one. Jolie is a gem--well-deserved of her nod. Malkovich is powerful. And the story is true. (Enter, chills).

Yes Man

WORTH-IT: (Peyton Reed) From the director of The Break Up comes a Jim Carrey film that one hundred percent mocks Liar Liar, but one hundred percent entertains, again. I cannot emphasize how much this movie is like it's 1997 predecessor, but I also love that even with that complete unoriginality, it absolutely entertains. Carrey has been on a field trip doing serious films to balance out his Ace reputation (no doubt), but for his truest fans, Yes Man brings back the over-enunciating funny man that we knew and loved. Accompanied by Zooey Deschanel and Bradley Cooper, this is the story of a soon-to-be-recluse stepping out of his comfort zone to get over his ex and start living life again. With the help of a long-lost friend (John Michael Higgins) he adopts a program where all he can do to anything is say, "yes!" So, in the spirit of any Carrey personality, it's immediately taken to the extreme and too literally, setting him off on a journey of love, a promotion, new friendships, and then, eventually, jail. Between nights of too many red bulls and spontaneous trips across the country, lessons are hard-learned and relationships are tested. I am sure you can guess whether or not he makes a full recover and all is well, but I wouldn't want to spoil a movie you haven't pretty much already seen (in 1997). The bottom line here, is that if you run across this film, it's hilarious and you're in for a laugh and a much-needed dose of Carrey-humor, and who can resist Deschanel singing? But don't feel like you have to rush out to watch it. It's a treat, but it's not a treasure.

Last Chance Harvey

WORTH-IT: (Joel Hopkins) Now here is a story for the masses. An unusual love story of two adults, late in life and way past cliche. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson play Harvey and Kate, introduced by chance in Heathrow Airport and inevitably akin. Nominated for 2 Golden Globes this story is refreshing, comedic and heartfelt, unlike the romantic comedies of its time. Harvey, an outcast in his own family, on the verge of losing his job, and facing a scary realization that he might actually be all alone meets Kate. She is a spinster who hangs with her mother and take surveys in the airport. Both intolerant of daily bullshit, but subconsciously yearning for something more than what they've made, their chance meeting takes them from making fun of each other to endless conversation and chemistry. Two of Hollywood's most congenial characters merge here, taking with them immediate fans in the hearts of their audience. The film goes by fast, meets all expectations and leaves you with a smile on your face and sparkle in your eye (most likely from a tear). No regrets from watching, although you must know there are also no big performances or life-changing story lines. It's simple life brought to the big screen, and it's in just that candor that the charm of the film wins out.

Marley & Me

WORTH-IT: (David Frankel) Based on the memoir by John Grogan, Marley and Me is the story of two young journalists making a life (and a family) in South Florida, accompanied and made more entertaining by the world's worst dog. What began as a test for potential parenthood turns into a life-long attempt to break a golden retriever with genetic defaults to misbehavior. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston find chemistry to play to John and his wife Jenny, bringing their girl/boy next door reputations to play the conservative and lovable Grogans. Where there is nothing tremendously special about this film (and no actual plot) who doesn't automatically appreciate the story of a family's love for it's pooch. Readers of the memoir know the writer is keen to recruit fans, telling his stories honestly and with genuine humor almost everyone can relate to at one point or another. And because his story is so normal, it's easy to get lost in the relationships. Just because we don't know them personally, they are real people and people who are going through one of life's most popular growth spurts. Know that you'll laugh a lot, but be ready for an emotional roller coaster. When it involves a four-legged family member, there are no doubt attachments made that are hard to break (and even harder to watch break). Fortunately, this no-plot film is a beautiful illustration of Grogan's work, and a light-hearted way to enjoy a couple hours. Don't expect Old Yeller (real-life can only offer so much!), but it's better than Air-Bud.

Friday, June 26, 2009

He's Just Not that Into You

ALMOST: (Ken Kwapis) Another film watched on the plane, this one guaranteed not as good elsewhere. Although a cute story - comical, light, honest - He's Just Not That Into You leaves a little to be desired. Packed with fun names, Aniston, Affleck, Barrymore, Johannsen, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Connelly, Justin Long, Ginnifer Goodwin, etc. etc., it's a playground for watching our girl-next-door favorites evoke flat, hormonal and otherwise typical people of the world. Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed watching this film. I was entertained by the hilarity of actually knowing people like the stereotypes they offered. The writing was funny. The lives were believable, and let's be honest, the point of this book/film is undeniable. Some people are clueless, and therefore, desperate, and by illustrating it for the world, it's also extremely funny. But what I am left with after the jokes and the aha! moments is a sense of nonchalance towards the futures of any characters besides Jen and Ben. ( I can't help it, I will always be invested in Jennifer Aniston's characters, because she is ultimately Rachel... forever) The other lines were simply flat, annoying after the meat of the movie was over, and I admitted that I really didn't know them, so I didn't feel more than slight sympathy for anyone. Yikes. Don't mean to be heartless, but after watching, you've got to admit, our writers never quite gave us a deep enough introduction into any one's lives for us to believe hearts were broken or lives were altered. Ginnifer Goodwin's chatty Gigi was the closest I came to "knowing" anyone, and therein lies the wonder of dialogue, but she lives alone in that category. She reign supreme, but at the fault of no one else--they simply weren't given anything to go with. So, catch this one if you're bored, need a laugh and have money and a couple hours to spend. Nothing special or fantastic, but sufficiently entertaining and just funny enough.

Gran Torino

WORTH-IT: (Clint Eastwood) It's hard to truly review a movie you saw while on a night-flight to Europe, because let's be honest, what wouldn't keep your interest when there is literally nothing else to do but watch the lucky ones sleep. But I think, think, that this movie would have been satisfying either way. First off, Clint Eastwood continually delivers fascinating plot and character development with his films and Gran Torino soundly acquiesces. We're faced with a new widower, Walt, living in a part of town recently overcome with Asian immigrants and violent gangs. A tough guy (duh, it's CE himself), he won't move away, won't make friends, and won't stop blaming the world for his unhappiness. Unfortunately, the world is out to prove its worth. The Lor family lives next door, a big family with several generations under one roof. Inevitably bonded by the intolerance of the gangs' violence, Walt and the Lors cross paths more than once, and more than Walt would like or welcomes. To us, the viewer, its clearly an act of gratitude and kinship on the Lors part, but to Walt, it's annoying, unnecessary and an infringement on his privacy and routine. But, ROUtines are made to be broken, and over the course of a two hour film, we see Walt's familiarity all switched up, a friendship between race ensue and an overall sense of morale and family succeed violence and hatred. At times it's painful to listen to Eastwood's raspy monotone (just talk normally, dude!), but I can't deny it shapes the movie's motif well. This plot summary is one of suspense and endearment, deliberate comedy and soft emotion. I can't spoil the resolution by going farther, but I can say that it's one for the books. Crossing lines in appropriate ways, this story reveals racism and prejudices in ways universally understandable. And, it does so with characters we've almost met before, seen before, and maybe empathize with. I wouldn't say this is a potential favorite movie, but simply a phenomenal story, well-told and accurately sensitized. If anything, it's a smack in the face for the extension of bad behavior. Expect violence, cursing and hate (hello it's about gangs and racism) but get through it and you'll witness a truly evocative telling of America's best and worst reputations.