Movie Reviews – “Eagle Eye”

Contacted by a stranger, Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan are now considered “activated,” which means they have to complete a series of tasks in order to help the greater good and see their loved ones again. This absurd plot has some well written dialogue and is convincingly acted by the lead and main support cast. I was impressed, I have to say, even though I was continuously thinking “that could never happen.”

- The Acting – Shia LaBeouf rises to the occasion to show audiences a multidimensional character. Not only does he kick some bad guy booty but he also sheds some believable tears. He’s showing real promise especially under the wing of veteran Steven Spielberg. Michelle Monaghan’s “Rachel” is a divorcee with a son. Called to action while out with girlfriends, she’s motivated by the threat of her son being killed. Monaghan is gorgeous (a little too much if you ask me because by the end she’s still got perfect make up on and her hair isn’t flat – amazing how that happens, huh?) as well as genuine.

- Billy Bob Thornton - He adds a lot to the movie (and admittedly I am not a Billy Bob fan) but I liked him here. As the head of the FBI, he doesn’t deliver the conventional formulaic one liners. He has funny lines and delivers them without us laughing at how ridiculous he sounds.

- They Don’t Do it All on Their Own – You know in a movie and Mr. Bob Smith is randomly picked to help with the county’s largest heist, hostage situation, disarming a Presidential assassin, etc and he accomplishes the task unaided and without dying?! Well that doesn’t happen in “Eagle Eye.” Without whoever is on the other end of LaBeouf’s and Monaghan’s phones these two would be in for it. But because the voice controls the traffic lights, arranges for transportations, makes sure they have directions, and other helpful hints, these two actually have a chance at getting to their secret destination.

- The Action – And there’s A LOT of it. Cars flip, explode, cranes move on their own, there’s jumping onto barges, jumping out of buildings onto busy metro tracks, and more. Most of the scenes require a stretch of the imagination, but they are well shot.

- Some Unanswered Questions - The voice on the phone at first refers to Monaghan’s character as “the female” and not by name. LaBeouf’s character makes a point to distinguish how odd that is, yet we never find out why.

- A lot of Innocent People Die – This is another movie pet peeve of mine, where there are just an extraordinary amount of random people who die because of car chases, planes flying through tunnels or bombs intended for someone else. “Eagle Eye” is no exception to that. A lot of those innocent victims are cops in this movie (I’m not saying the movie makers are doing that on purpose or anything – I think it just happened that way), but cop cars are launched in the air left and right, getting rolled over, you name it.

- Can Shoot a Gun – Another pet peeve to add to the list is movie character who have no experience with guns shoot them with accuracy. Even small guns give a lot of kickback and it’s very hard to control. So in movies when people just pick up guns and know how to use them and shoot their intended target and don’t get knocked on their butts, I laugh (quietly and to myself). But it takes any sort of realism out of the situation.

- The Action – As mentioned above, there’s a lot of it and with a cast of great actors, some of their talent goes to waste because they’re constantly shushed by the concentration it takes to shoot a moving vehicle, jump out of a car, evade the enemy, and other “look but don’t speak” conditions.

Unique Qualities:
- The Characters – LaBeouf’s character could just be your everyday 20 something year old slacker, rebellious guy, but he’s not. Monaghan’s character could just be another “feeling guilty” single mom, but she’s not. Thorton’s character could be as cliché as CSI Miami’s David Caruso, but he’s not.

In the end, I found myself wondering “What crazy, outrageous thing could happen next?” as opposed to “Wow, I wonder where this story is going.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but “Eagle Eye” did leave a little to be desired with its lack of a cohesive, semi-plausible plot.

Are the stunts outrageous? Is there a real plot to this film? What did you think?

“Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.
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“My Best Friends Girl” – Movie Review

“Good Luck Chuck” meet “How to Loose a Guy in 10 Days” – you two will get along and make a baby and call it “My Best Friend’s Girl.” “Girl” stars Dane Cook, Kate Hudson and Jason Biggs playing the same characters as every other movie we’ve seen them in. Yes, it’s funny, in a very vulgar way, I confess I laughed, but the rest of the film is uninspiring and pretty insulting to women. There are overly romantic, could-never-happen-in-real-life moments as well as bland dialogue with the exception of some jokes. Overall, this is really a wait until its on cable type of movie.

It’s funny – kind of: I really like Kate Hudson and Dane Cook and I like them together, but man, I wish they had done a different movie. The potential is there for them to make a great flick together. I like “How to Loose a Guy…” and I REALLY like “Mr. Brooks” where Cook doesn’t play the usual comedic lead, he actually acts, seriously and is pretty good at it. This pair does have chemistry too, so hopefully they will try again, just with a better story.

Alec Baldwin – This was a pleasant surprise. Although, I could have done without his description of a certain escapade with his secretary the night before. He’s a talented comedic actor and brings a different element to the film. Portraying Cook’s character’s father, his character gives the audience an insight into the behavior of Dane Cook’s character.

The story – It’s cliché, it’s been done a handful of times and it’s just unoriginal. The end isn’t a surprise, and neither are the events that lead to it. The only surprises are the words each actor says and the ridiculous stunts Dane Cook pulls to push women away.

The Dialogue – Boring, only funny because of the shock, offensive, etc.

Unique Qualities:

I’m not sure if I would even recommend this film for video. Sorry. I love Kate Hudson, she’s cute and funny! Dane Cook’s standup it terrific, wonderful social commentary! Jason Biggs is vulnerably adorable in every thing he makes. Alec Baldwin is a comedic genius on 30 Rock. So it doesn’t make sense why this movie sucked so badly. I’m terribly disappointed and once this posting is up I’m going to forget I even saw this movie.

What did you guys think of it? Was it really that funny and I’m just loosing my sense of humor or something?
“Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.
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Movie Reviews – “Burn After Reading”

I saw “Burn After Reading” before “No Country for Old Men” (I know, it’s a shame it took so long) but seeing “No Country” helped explain some of the aspects of “Reading” that caught me off gaurd. The Cohen Brothers certainly have an imagination, don’t they? “Reading” is a goofy tale acted out by some of our favorite serious actors and I just love that, ya know. This hilarious ensemble flick is as good as they come these days with talented crew from the editing room to the extras. Beware though, all is not funny in the world of Cohen, but the surprises make a second trip to the theater to see “Burn After Reading” worth the extra money.

The Cohen Brothers – I think I’m an official fan. They are great with humor and violence as well as catching you off gaurd (I wonder if one brother is more violent/funny than the other?). There is always a certain off balance aspect to their films too, making them so distinctive.

The laughs – There’s a lot of them, some that aren’t in the trailers either. Go figure!

The cast – Brad Pitt’s hair is great, well, and, yeah, so is he. He doesn’t say a whole lot but it doesn’t matter, he’s still a big personality in this tale. George Clooney is the most complex character – happily married/cheating on his wife, wants to please everyone/chronic liar, creative & can built things/destroying his life. His is the most interesting storyline. This is possibly the most angry role for John Malkovich that I’ve ever seen, yet somehow still hilarious like when he stands up to his boss and in shock and pissed off confusion and blurts out “WHAT THE (BLEEP) IS GOING ON HERE?”, which ends up being the theme of the movie. Tilda Swinton plays cold and sexy very well and leaves the question “Why is Malkovich’s character married to her in the first place? She’s kind of a (“b” word).” And Frances McDormand, our leading lady who could lead any comedy with her wide eyed banter. She’s sweet and likable and very funny. She makes head slapping mistakes without the obvious and squeamish mishaps seen in movies like “Meet the Parents.”

The Surprises – Have I mentioned how much I love when huge plot lines AREN’T revealed in the trailers? And I wonder how many times I’ve said “surprises” in this review.

The Ending – It ends with head of Malkovich’s CIA department stating something to the effect of “I don’t know what just happened,” which is what the movie feels like by the end.

The chair – there is a devise introduced briefly in the middle of the movie and it just throws the whole pace of the movie off. It’s so random, that I remained bewildered for the rest of the movie and completely changed the good way I was feeling about it (it later redeems itself, but at that moment and for a few after, I was completely put off by it.)

The F Bomb – Again, the overuse of the “f word” gets annoying by the time the credits roll.

Unique Qualities:
It is undeniably a story never heard or seen before and one of the most important characteristics of a “good movie” is originality. “Reading” certainly steps up to the plate. It’s a “need to see it twice” kind of movie simply because of the surprises. Personally, they threw me off and I wasn’t able to laugh at that time because I was recovering from the shock.

In the end, yes it’s violent, yes it’s hilarious and how can anyone not check out a movie with such an incredible cast with such reputable writers and directors? In comparison to a lot of the other movies that are out right now, this one is better than most and ranks in my top 3 of current films.

Do you think the surprises are too over the top? Did they catch you off guard like they did me? Comment, please, even if it doesn’t answer those questions :)
“Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.
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Great Movie Remakes

The “remake” is an interesting entity. It can either be a great revival of an old classic or it can be a total disgrace to a wonderful film. Either way, remakes allow the creative people involved to update or refresh appealing storylines and plots. Some argue that there’s no creativity in remakes and I can understand that point of view, however, it does take major innovative thinking to revive old films and make them relevant for today’s movie goers.

Some of the Good Ones:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) – Modernized with a darker look into Willy Wonka’s life, Tim Burton recreates the chocolate waterfall, the gum that tastes like dinner, Oompa-Loompas, sorting animals, and all the memorable iconic items from the original movie without making a duplicate film. What more could you ask for? The original 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” stared Gene Wilder.

Dawn of the Dead (2004) – With the basic plot same as the original, survivors of a zombie attack hold up in a mall. This recent version takes on a more video game feel than its predecessor welcoming a classic screamer flick into the modern age. The original was released in 1978 and is considered one of the best horror films ever made.

The Departed (2006) - A remake of a Hong Kong movie, Departed, with good reason (a cast staring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg, directed by Martin Scorsese), won Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards in 2007. The Hong Kong original “Internal Affairs” was released in 2002.

I am Legend (2007) - In general, the story is the same as the two original movies, Robert Neville is the only man (he knows of) immune to a disease turning everyone into zombies. The details, such as setting up manikins and the zombies being deformed with see-through skin differ from the other films, but the fight to survive a daily deadly enemy and battling the loneliness are still the main storylines. The first movie, 1964’s “The Last Man on Earth,” was an Italian film starring Vincent Price and the 1971 version “The Omega Man” starred Charlton Heston.

The Italian Job (2003) - It’s noted that this particular remake differs greatly from the original with the exception of the mini cooper. Both films have more of a romanticized view of the crime world in the respective cities they are set in. The original released in 1969 was poorly received in America, with the remake being the bigger success of the two.

King Kong (2005) - A monumental film based on an even more monumental film. There’s just something about King Kong that’s larger than life. Even if critics didn’t reflect too positively on the film and even if box office numbers were low, there is nothing larger than “King Kong.” The original released in 1933 made huge waves in the special effects field, especially for that era.

The Manchurian Candidate (2004) - Revered by a lot of critics as a terrific reimagining, this version holds true to the founding idea that manipulation and brainwashing are influencing this particular political race. However, the modern version doesn’t leave the audience wondering about brainwashing, it’s outright with it, but is mysterious with other conspiracy strategies. Originally a movie in 1962 starring Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey had communists at the core instead of the right wing versus the left in the updated version.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001) - Another reimagining with roots grounded into the main theme of multiple Las Vegas casino heists, this crime caper flick offers an all star cast (just as the first movie did), but, most notably offers a very different ending than the original. Fun and frolic ensue in this updated Rat Pack movie making it my personal favorite on the list. The 1960’s version starred the Rat Pack who on occasion got to showcase their singing (and lady charming) abilities.

Planet of the Apes (2001) - Receiving mostly negative reviews when it premiered in 2001, this remake was a disappointment, but lands on the "Good" list because it is such a known remake. Part of that disappointment had to be from recreating an already iconic film. Again, the endings differ between the remake and the first film, but the remake stuck more to the book that the movies were based on. The original in 1968 starred Charlton Heston and was a ground breaking film for its use of makeup and other special effects.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) - A bloody musical based on a theatrical musical based on a play based on an old movie based on an urban legend – with that type of history it’s no wonder Benjamin Barker and cronies turn out so odd. This version of the film is almost completely different in that the original was not a musical and the lead character (named Tod Slaughter) was a villain, not a broken man with revenge in his heart. Both films were positively received by critics and audiences. The original film was released in 1936.

War of the Worlds (2005) - Wikipedia states that the 2005 version isn’t an actual remake, but when reading a description of the 1953 movie, the main themes are definitely the same. Taking “mass destruction, fleeing masses of refugees, the failure of humans to stop the invasion, and the final death of the Martians from bacterial infection” from the H.G. Wells story, Steven Spielberg takes the audience on a fight to survive - “I don’t know what to do” thrill ride. Some differences between the two films are the locations and the main characters. Both films were hugely successful and were relevant to “war” situations around the time of their debut.

And the Bad:
Yes, we must (briefly) discuss some of the bad remakes that have been created in recent years.

When a Stranger Calls (2006) - Staring Camilla Belle, the remake is considered bad and it differs from the original in that the source of the scary calls is revealed too soon (and by that I mean it’s revealed in the trailers). The original was released in 1979.

The Wicker Man (2006) - Again, a remake of an already very highly regarded film – it only sets things up for disappointment. The original was released in 1973.

Bad News Bears (2005) - This film held pretty closely to the original but was still a box office strikeout (pun intended). The original was released in 1976.

The Fog (2005) - Veering far from the course of the original, the scare factor just wasn’t so clear for this remake. The original was released in 1980.

House of Wax (2005) - Gore for gore’s sake (and Paris Hilton) although wax figurines will always be a little creepy, this was a bomb of a movie. The original was released in 1953.

School for Scoundrels (2006) - Two different endings - guess which one was better (and British)? The original, “School for Scoundrels or How to Win Without Actually Cheating,” was released in 1960.

The Time Machine (2002) - This love story version received not ALL bad reviews, but seemed to be more sappy-ish than time travel wonder-ish. The original was released in 1960.

“Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.
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Summer Movie Wrap Up

Labor Day has come and gone and that means the summer movie season is at an official end. This was a terrific season full of incredible blockbusters defying records left and right. This summer’s box office total came in at $4.2 billion, according to Media by Numbers, which is up slightly from last year. Some of the top performing films included "The Dark Knight," "Iron Man," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," "Hancock," and "Wall E." This is an interesting mix of movies. The top two both broke box office records placing them at #1 and #2 of the 2008 total gross charts. We also got to see the long awaited Indiana Jones sequel.

Out of the top 10 summer movies, 4 were based on comic books (last year there were only 3 in the top 10). The top 10 was also comprised of 3 comedies – 2007 had 4. There were 2 fully animated films this summer compared to 3 during 2007. And let’s not forget the family friendly films (those rated PG or G) – 2008 brought us 3 something-for-everyone flicks.

So, who in Hollywood ended up with the biggest sand castles (the most sand on their beach)? Surprisingly, Paramount, who is not the studio for the Dark Knight. Paramount did however produce/distribute three, count them THREE, of the top 10 grossing summer movies: Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

A couple actors faired particularly well by gracing the silver screen in two summer hits each. Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark himself, appeared in both Iron Man and Tropic Thunder (although not technically a top grossing summer movie because it’s only been out for three weeks, but it is definitely a memorable 2008 summer movie). But Morgan Freeman deserves the honorable mentions award for appearing in both the Dark Knight and Wanted (2 of the top 10 grossing films this summer)!

Some of the movies that flopped this summer include The Love Guru, Speed Racer, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, The Happening, The X Files, and The Clone Wars, just to name a few.

After an invigorating summer of fun films, the fall and holiday movie season is upon us, which means its time to get serious, Oscar serious. Let’s see how the holiday movies do up against Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne - let those box office games begin.

“Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.

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"Hamlet 2" Movie Review

One would think that a musical based on a Shakespearian play in which most the characters die at the end would be, in a word, impossible. But that would just be plain pessimistic according to Dana Marschz a high school drama teacher in Tucson, AZ and the main character of “Hamlet 2” the movie and the play. Played by British funnyman Steve Coogan (also seen in this summer’s “Tropic Thunder”), Marschz is an enthusiastic thespian just trying to inspire his students and make ends meet at home (one effort for saving money – roller skating to work). Hamlet 2 offers a cast full of comedic actors as well as some funny and touching moments that aren’t quite up to the “Waiting for Guffman” level but bring a modern take on ye ol’ theater and inspirational movie.

- The cast – I love it when big name stars are ok with playing small rolls because making a movie good doesn’t always mean being the lead. For example, Catherine Keener as Mrs. Marschz puts on an understated portrayal of a fed up, slightly dramatic wife. Next is David Arquette in the quietest role of his career. I think he says maybe 3 lines, but that’s the genius in it. Our third star is the always hilarious Amy Poehler as a tiny, aggressive lady ready to fight for the first amendment and shows up when Hamlet 2 is threatened to be shut down due to offensive material. And last, my favorite, Elizabeth Shue who plays… Elizabeth Shue, jaded and happy to be out of the movie business.

- It’s a modern update done well – think cliché “teacher inspires the street kids” turned funny and slightly non-p.c.

- The play within the movie – Having a play within a movie just makes everything so much better. With the city of Tucson wanting to shut the play “Hamlet 2” down due to offensive material, as an audience member, you know it’s gotta be good. The play opens with a song about the most unsavory line in the movie and thus delivers the laughs you’ve been anticipating.

- The language – here is where Guffman and team step it up a notch, there’s no need for excessive f-bombs and such for laughs, but unfortunately, this is a vehicle used in Hamlet 2. And frankly, it’s a vehicle I’m a little tired of (not just in Hamlet 2).

- Some things just don’t make sense – like that the schoolboard is mad about the content of the play, but never mentions that students are taken out of class to go to Dave and Busters, or that a teacher is found half naked in a field coming off of acid. Riiight.

Unique Qualities:
The “inspiration” plays genuine – I am not one for seeing the same old tired movies, which is what I find occurs in most inspirational movies. However, Hamlet 2 is a nice modern update and the sincerity in the students as well as the teacher plays on the same level as the rest of the film. No one’s lives are drastically changed forever because of this one play, but they team together and get the job done motivating each other to the finish and learning a little something along the way.

In the end Hamlet 2 is a fun and light hearted comedy with a cast that really makes this ensemble film complete. It’s a unique twist on the inspirational teach flick and is definitely worth seeing (even if you wait for DVD).

What did you think of Hamlet 2? What the language a bit much? Does Coogan have a future here in America?

“Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.

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Pretty in Spectacles

In real life, a lot of women (and people in general) wear glasses (I’m one of them). However, in the movies, they aren’t that common. So after a lot of research, I found a few really good examples. To add to the cause of getting more glasses on actresses in movies I just want to say that if Harry Potter can make 8 movies wearing glasses, then any woman can too. Here’s the list of some of the great female movie characters who have already sported the everyday accessory!

Scarlett Johansson as Sondra Pransky in Scoop with the quirky look.

Julia Roberts as Kiki Harrison in America’s Sweethearts with the “girl next door” look.
Nia Vardalos as Toula Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Meg Ryan as Sally Albright in When Harry Met Sally with the classically uptight look.
Nicole Kidman as Silvia Broome in The Interpreter with the professional look.
Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada with the super chic look.

Uma Thurman as Jenny Johnson in My Super Ex Girlfriend.

Daryl Hannah as Annelle Dupuy Desoto in Steel Magnolias.
Tina Fey as Kate Holbrook in Baby Mama as the “Tina Fey” look.

Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde being Super Chic.

Jennifer Garner as Sandra in Pearl Harbor.
Tara Reid as Aline Cedrac in Alone in the Dark.
Lacey Chabert as Jenny in Daddy Day Care.
Kristin Davis as Charlotte York in Sex and the City with the modern uptight look.
Christine Taylor as Matilda Jeffries in Zoolander.
Amy Adams as Susan in Talladega Nights.
Hope Davis as Joyce Brabner in American Splendor with the loveable nerd look.
Michelle Pfeiffer as Claire Spencer in What Lies Beneath with the sexy librarian look.
Queen Latifah as Nina Brewster in Mad Money.

Did I leave anyone off? Are you ready for more women to sport some sexy RX shades in movies?

“Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.
Read more!