Sunday, October 30, 2011

Win Win

When one thinks of Paul Giamatti, one instantly thinks of John Adams, the wildly successful mini-series on HBO, based on the book by David McCullough. Giamatti doesn't just look like John Adams, he IS John Adams.

Fast forward 200 years, John Adams stars in this comedy drama about a lawyer in New Jersey who's lawyerly life is not living up to what he had hoped it to be for him and his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan). He finds himself taking somewhat advantage of an older gentleman named Leo (Burt Young - Adrian's brother from Rocky) by becoming his guardian, then dumping him off in an assisted living facility and collecting the monthly cash. Then out of nowhere, Leo's grandson shows up to live with Leo.

Having nowhere to go for a few days until things can get settled, John Adams takes in Leo's teenage grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer), a child of few words. Trying to keep him busy, President Adams offers to take him to his moonlighting job, a high school where he is the wrestling coach. Kyle asks to wrestle with the team and the other coaches, Vigman (Jeffrey Tambor 0f Arrested Development), and Terry (Bobby Cannavale) realize they have a wrestling progeny on their hands.

But just as things are starting to look up for this wayward child, his drug-addicted and abusive mother Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) shows up to take him back with her to Ohio, and Kyle has no intentions of going back.

Directed by Thomas McCarthy, Win Win is rated R for language, and there really wasn't that much of it. And it wasn't used in vain like most movies. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long.

I liked Win Win. My wife watched this one with me, which is a novelty in itself. She said it was just okay and that the story line was a little slow. I'll give her that. But Win Win is one of those movies that gives you hope that good things can happen. And though not ragingly funny, the movie does have its moments.

I'll give Win Win 3.9 stars.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Unfaithfully Yours

I haven't reviewed an old black and white movie lately. So here you go. A relatively obscure one. Most people have heard of Casablanca and Gone With the Wind, but what about Unfaithfully Yours?

Unfaithfully Yours stars Rex Harrison as Sir Alfred De Carter, a world famous symphony conductor. After he returns from a stint in England, Sir Alfred learns that his brother-in-law August (Rudy Valee), whom has had asked to keep an eye on his wife Daphne (Linda Darnell), (and you thought the only Daphne was from Scooby-Doo), hired an investigator to follow her rather than to 'just keep an eye on her'. However, the private investigator has revealed that Mrs. Daphne has been spending much time with Sir Alfred's personal Secretary Anthony Windborn (Kurt Kreuger). Now Sir Alfred suspects his wife's infidelity.

Throughout the remainder of the movie, Sir Alfred envisions ways to commit the perfect crime - the murder of his wife for her transgressions. His fantasizes about this treachery during his conduction of his symphony's, which drive his wild ambition, which have the effect of much aggrandized performances which mesmerizes his audiences.

Now Sir Alfred must act out his fantasy and do the deed. But will he have the courage?

Unfaithfully Yours was made in 1948, and thus was not rated by the secret society known as the MPAA. The movie has some implied violence and some subtle sexual references, harmless by today's standards.

I really enjoyed this movie and at times could not discern fact from fiction. Rex Harrison becomes the mad infatuated conductor and pulls off his role with absolute brilliance.

I read a bit about the actors in the movie and found their real lives to be just as interesting, if not more, than the actual movie. Linda Darnell, who was a very beautiful woman, fell into alcoholism and depression. She had numerous affairs and marriages, including an affair with Mickey Rooney, and was extorted and threatened. She ended up dying at the age 41 in a house fire.

Rex Harrison, on the other hand, had 6 wives, 2 of whom committed suicide, and 1 died of leukemia.

I really like old "talkies" as my wife calls them. This one was no different. I'll give Unfaithfully Yours 4.1 stars.


The movie Paul is a culmination of science fiction, referencing popular movies, comics, books, nerd conventions, Area 51, and all other such nerdome, as experienced by British travelers Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost).

After attending the San Diego Comic Con, Graeme and Clive rent an RV (recreational vehicle for all you city-folk) and map out a course of extraterrestrial legends across the desert-Southwest of the United States that they plan to visit. As you would expect anywhere outside of New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles, America is inhabited by lunatic right-wing religious nuts carrying guns, wearing camouflage, and spitting on the floor. Clive and Graeme run into such characters and thus begin their flee from the law.

However, in this dramatic flight, they nearly literally run into Paul, an alien (Seth Rogen), with quite an attitute (like Seth Rogen) and a propensity for some of the finer vices of society, (like Seth Rogen).

What they didn't know is that Paul is also being pursued by Special Agent Lorenzo Zoil (Jason Bateman), Agent Haggard (Bill Hader), and Agent O'Reilly (Joe Lo Trulgio) under the direction of "The Big Guy" (Sigourney Weaver).

Along the way, the Brits run into one-eyed redneck Jesus girl named Ruth (Kristen Wiig) and her father Moses Buggs (John Carroll Lynch), of which Graeme strikes up a love interest (with Ruth, not her father).

All tensions culminate at the end with some good ole' fashion violence. The movie is strung together with some hysterical reference to science fiction pop culture (such as Star Wars). Check out the music being played in the country bar! Or the Han Solo reference, which is more subtle.

There are cameo appearances by Jeffrey Tambor, Bateman's castmate on the hysterically funny show Arrested Development, and the occasionally funny David Koechner.

Paul is Rated R for language, violence, drug use, sexual reference, and at times an inappropriate attack on religion, though interestingly, none of the other reviews mentioned that. But then again the other reviews probably came from liberal atheists out of New York and Los Angeles. The movie is about an hour and 45 minutes long.

I thought Paul was very funny at times, but dragged along at others. I agree with some reviews that the movie had a lot of potential and left it on the drawing board. Paul could have been absolutely hysterical, but unfortunately achieves only moderately funny.

I'll beam down 3.4 stars.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Eagle

The Eagle is a historical fiction about the disappearance of the 9th Legion of the Roman army. Historically true is that the legion advanced north of the Hadriatic wall in Britian, never to be seen again. The Eagle was an important symbol of the time and the legions would defend it to the end.

Despite his father being given up for dead, young Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum) requests to post in Britian near where his father would have been. Young Aquila proves himself a valuable warrior and eventually requests a mission to cross the wall and recover The Eagle, despite not knowing its whereabouts. He has the support of his uncle (Donald Sutherland) and is given a slave a British slave named Esca (Jamie Bell) to accompany him.

They set out for the north of Britian, an area now known as the Scottish Highlands and run into a rabble of people, where they fight and show their gallantry in hope of finding The Eagle. Does it still exist? If they do find it, can they actually return it to Rome?

The Eagle is Rated PG-13 for violence and some borish British acting and is just under 2 hours long.

Also staring in the movie are Mark Strong, Tahar Rahim, and Denis O'Hare - all extremely famous actors from the Highlands.

I kept my expectations for this movie low as I've seen some of Channing's other movies (Public Enemies, G.I. Joe, and The Dilemna). However, I actually enjoyed this movie. The storyline was interesting and with it spurred my interest in reading about the actual 9th Legion, some part of history that I was unaware.

Despite the lack of credible actors, I can give The Eagle 3.8 stars.

Real Steel

My wife won tickets to the see this movie, but actually had no interest in seeing in, so she offered the tickets to me and I took my good friend Duckman and we hauled off to White Marsh to see it. We got there a few minutes before it started, but much to our chagrin the only seats left were the ones right at the front where you have to stare straight up to see it. Ugh...

In the future, society has shunned the brutality of humans boxing each other, and instead shifted to boxing robots. Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is one of the premier boxing robot operators in the world, but certainly not the best. He has a brief encounter with world fame, but quickly falters and begins to wonder if the end of this career path is nearing.

Charlie eventually encounters eleven year old Max (Dakota Goyo) who latches on to him and Charlie humors him by helping him rebuild a relic shadow boxer named Atom and agrees to take him to matches.

Max quickly learns that he does not pocess the skills to operate Atom, but Charlie does. Thus begins their adventure to climb to the top of the boxing world.

So how did I like this movie? This movie was about as predictable as the alphabet. Several times I whispered to my friend what was going to happen next, and low and behold, it happened. He then predicted another scene. One of my Facebook friends, without even seeing the movie, summarized it by saying it is Transformers meets Rocky. Let me tell you, that's not too far from the truth.

Also staring in the movie are Evangeline Lilly, best known for Lost, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis, and James Rebhorn, who you'll remember as the headmaster in Scent of a Woman, and other such movies.

Real Steel is 127 minutes long and Rated PG-13 for violence, language, intense action, and severe predictability.

The movie was moderately average, and have I mentioned predictable? I'll give this movie 2.5 stars. Not bad for a free movie.
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