Ok this is my lame attempt to suck up to Disney, I’ll be completely upfront about that. But those of you who have read the site for the last 11 years, know that I’m generally a sucker for the teen film. I had a really bad, tasteless joke, but I’ll refrain. I actually like Miley, can’t stand Billy Ray though. But anyway, I love Disney’s little marketing scheme to pump up opening weekend traffic by promising surprise pop-ins by the stars of the movie. Of course they won’t come to DC, but you never know. You could be at the GT Theater getting your $10 Chicken Tenders, while you are waiting for your order you eyes wonder to the front doors and all of a sudden, bam! You see a limo pull up and it could be MIley or someone else from the cast. It’s all part of Disney’s new Opening Weekend Surprise program, in which moviegoers who show up to the theatre for a 2009 Walt Disney Pictures film during its national opening weekend could be treated to a truly magical Disney experience. This might include surprise in-theater appearances by talent from the film, live performances and more. Moviegoers won’t know in advance which cities, theaters or show times will be selecte
Sunshine Cleaning, which opened wide this weekend, is a quirky, entertaining dramedy that mines the same kind of vibe that propelled Little Miss Sunshine to hit status. It’s about pursuing a dream even though it would have appeared that it was too late. It features a very familiar performance from Alan Arkin as Joe, the eccentric father to sisters Rose [Amy Adams] and Norah [Emily Blunt], and grandfather to Rose’s equally eccentric young son, Oscar [Jason Spevak].
Rose works for a home cleaning company [a kind of maids-on-wheels gig], but was once the captain of the cheerleading squad and girlfriend of the quarterback. She’s still the girlfriend of the quarterback, Mac [Steve Zahn], a married police detective], but that’s the only thing her life has in common with her younger self. This is not where she thought she’d be – something that being invited to a baby shower for a former fellow cheerleader drives home.
Norah was probably the class clown until she dropped out and began a series of wage-slave jobs. Where Norah is responsible and maybe more than a bit worn down, Norah still acts like she’s in high school. We meet her as she gets fired from yet another job.
When Mac suggests that Rose get involved the lucrative crime scene cleanup game, she takes the idea and runs with it – dragging Norah along with her. Working together has opposite effects on the sisters: Rose really gets into it, learning everything she can about the job – and excelling at it [plus, she believes it makes things better in some small way]; Norah, who really needs a handler at all times, is easily distracted and not really interested – a combination that brings about some really bad results. Since Rose needs the money to get Oscar into a private school, where he can get the kind of attention an eccentric kid like him needs, this drives a huge wedge between her and Norah. Meanwhile, Joe is trying various get-rich-quick schemes with little to no success.
Sunshine Cleaning is not the next Little Miss Sunshine, but that’s okay. It is a witty dramedy that gives us interesting characters who react to their circumstances in very real ways. The script, by Megan Holley, is rich enough in terms of both characters and situation that it feels real and we can easily relate to them. Director Christine Jeffs draws a solid performance from her cast, but I doubt that Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are even capable of turning a bad performance. Where Jeffs’ skill shows, is in her work with young Jason Spevak. Oscar could have been just another precocious kid, but he’s not – in a world of precocious kid actors, Spevak is intriguingly fresh. He cloaks his character’s intelligence within his eccentricities in a way that really does make Oscar unique.
If Sunshine Cleaning doesn’t quite hit all the heights to which it aspires, it still has enough wit and intelligence and warmth to balance its darker moments [and there are a number of them, right from the fade in]. It is a solid, entertaining film.
The original cast of The Fast and the Furious reunites for this fourth film in the series – and it does exactly what it says on the label. Under the leadership of director Justin Lin, who also directed the Tokyo Drift instalment of the series, we get a car movie that will please fans of the previous movies.
The plot – Paul Walker’s FBI Agent O’Connor and Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretta are after a drug kingpin named Braga for their own reasons – is merely a device to let cars race [and, occasionally crash, smash or blow up]; guys brawl and women to wear skimpy clothing. It’s not Oscar® bait; neither is it indie art. It’s a popcorn movie of the most obvious order.
The races and various other stunts are different enough to feel fresh and get your adrenaline rushing. The stars – Walker, Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster – perform about as woodenly as they ever have, but that doesn’t matter. The villains [John Ortiz’s Campos, and Laz Alonso’s Fenix Rising] get the benefit of being portrayed by able character actors and chew the scenery admirably.
Fast & Furious is one of those movies that are just well enough made to work for its target audience. It’s nothing to write home about, but if you’re looking for a car/brawl/explosion movie with skimpily clad women, this is your movie. It probably won’t matter if you forget it mere seconds after you leave the theater.
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas in Austin Texas has is the little theater that could. It’s become an Internationally known movie theater and a must see stop for anyone visiting town which is quickly becoming a haven for the Hollywood hipsters to hang out. This is in large part due to the folks at Ain’t It Cool News and the hot new South By SouthWest conference, that, apparently I’m not cool enough to give credentials too. But that’s another story. After a few recent bad movie going experiences here in DC, I was ready to get a movie executive on the horn and vent, who better to talk to then the CEO of the Alamo John Martin – especially since they are expanding and opening their 2nd theater, here in Virginia.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about your role at the Alamo Drafthouse?
As chief executive officer my role has been that of: Overseer of creative DNA for the Alamos, promoter of specialty events with celebrities, ambassador for independent filmmakers, and creator of expansion opportunities for Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas in new markets.
I have big plans for Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas over the next 12 months and beyond. Alamo will expand beyond its home state of Texas for the first time this fall by opening an eight-screen theatre in Virginia and will continue growth in Texas with three theatres – two franchisee-owned locations in McAllen and San Antonio, set to open by the end of 2009, and one corporate-owned location in Austin opening early next year. I am also in the process of qualifying potential franchisees for a theatre in San Marcos, Texas for an early 2010 opening. Also, in addition to continuing Alamo’s commitment to first-run blockbusters as well as independent films, I plan to unveil a number of programs designed to appeal to a wider variety of guests.
This week all of the movie executives are meeting in Vegas, partying, golfing and toasting each other on their box office success at the annual Movie Theater Owners event ShoWest. I was planning on attending but at the last minute real life interfered. This week I was able to catch up with Paul Dergarabedian the box office analyst at of one of the first film sites on the web Hollywood.com (although we did beat them to the punch a few years earlier, they’ve always had money and a great domain – man if I could turn back the clock). The interview we talked a bit about the history of Hollywood.com, where the film industry is and other stuff. Check out the interview, it’s good.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about your role at Hollywood.com?
I track and analyze of box-office data and trends as well as publishing a new blog called Hollywood on the Run (http://ontherun.hollywood.com/). The blog includes my musings on entertainment trends and also original video content that I produce myself.
The first thing you need to know about Director/Producer R.W. Goodwin is that he is the man who directed all the season finale episodes of the first 5 seasons of one of my favorite shows of all time – The X-Files for which he received four Emmy Nominations for Outstanding Drama Series and won Three Golden Globe Awards. So of course I had a love fest going on (and he produced the series Tru Calling). The 2nd thing you need to know is that he is really open and talkative, you ask one question and he’ll go on for a few minutes. The third thing you need to know is that he recently directed and produced a weird (in a good way) little sci-fi film called Alien Tresspass. The movie is a throwback and homage to 50s sci-fi films, starring Will and Grace’s – Eric McCormack. Everything from the sets, to the special effects, to the acting style is straight out of the 50s.
For a few minutes I actually believed the marketing campaign that this was some long lost 50’s sci-fi classic that was recently discovered. Hey, I never watched a second of Will and Grace so I didn’t know who Eric was. The movie is a combination of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Blob and the Day The Earth Stood Still put into a blender. The fourth thing you need to know is this is a pretty long and involved interview that starts a bit abruptly…
I think I’m a Masochist [when referring to my brief 3 year attempt at producing a tv show]
I finally laid off of producing television series because it was becoming too much of a drag and I was working with a lot of people I didn’t like. A friend said producing television is like waking up every morning being chased by Coyotes.
I was going to start this review off by talking about how tough it is to review a movie that’s technically brilliant but bland as heck then I was going to go into this whole rant about how I’m not a snob, but in reality I am, but I’m poor so I have to keep my natural snobbishness in check. With that said, as a general rule, I don’t like most American animated films. I don’t like most of the stuff from Pixar, Dreamworks, etc. I understand the technical wizardry involved in creating the material, appreciate the story and directing quality but I always find the facial features to be too perfect, plastic, and the reliance on Hollywood Star voices distracting (except Shrek where it works). Now this new emphasis on 3D animation, I just don’t know. I loved and connected with Coraline because the 3D really sucked me into the story. In Monsters Vs. Aliens 3D, it had the opposite effect. I kept thinking, this is kind of cool, but is it really adding anything to the story? The answer is no and it was a bit distracting.
When I really have nothing say about a movie, this is the point where I would trot out my standard formula of giving you the tedious plot summary (TPS). I could tell you that it’s actually a good little chick flick (not a bad thing), disguised as a animated action film. How the story is about a woman named Susan Murphy/Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon) who is minutes from marrying her dream guy a small market weatherman when she’s hit by a Meteor that causes her to grow 50ft tall, she’s then captured and taken to a secret government facility where she meets her fellow monsters – a blob (Seth Rogen), a mad scientist cockroach (Hugh Laurie), The Missing Link – a fish man (Will Arnett) and a giant fury animal creature that’s even taller than Susan, Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson). The first part of this film is actually pretty depressing because it shows how poorly the Government is treating these “Monsters.” When the Aliens finally attack, I wanted the Monsters to join them.
The voice acting felt really forced and not natural at all. Or maybe it’s the opposite; that it was all so neutral that there didn’t seem to be any real emotion coming from the voices. I thought Reese was really bland and dry throughout most of the film – which is bad because the entire film hinges on her performance, she sounds bored. While the cast is good mix of A and B list actors none of them have real distinctive voices like an Eddie Murphy or Chris Rock or Billy Crystal so it wasn’t as distracting as it usually is. I didn’t even recognize Kiefer Southerland as (General W.R. Monger) and I almost always know his voice. Dammit.
It was weird seeing this movie the very first day I moved to Fl, I came out of the theater not knowing where I was and feeling a bit disoriented for a few minutes. The one thing 3D does, is you really do pay attention to everything on the screen I wasn’t watch checking at all. Hollywood is going overboard with animated films this year and it’s going to wear thin really quick. Monsters Vs. Alien isn’t a bad movie it’s just too generic to really get excited about.
Final Grade C
EM Review by
Originally Posted 3.29.09
The premise is simple: to stop and alien invader, the U.S. military releases its force of five captured monsters. The catch? It’s not as simple as they thought.
Although it took a veritable legion of writers [okay… five] to come up with the final script for Monsters vs. Aliens, like the group that pieced together Casablanca, these guys did good. Monsters vs. Aliens is the best 3-D CG B-movie monster mashup ever! [Okay… it’s the first 3-D CG B-movie monster mashup. Your point is…?]
It all begins when Susan Murphy [voiced by Reese Witherspoon] is hit by a meteor and grows to 49.5 feet tall. Before she knows it, she’s been abducted by the military and placed in a top-secret prison along with The Missing Link [Will Arnett], B.O.B. [Seth Rogen], Insectosaurus and Dr. Cockroach [Hugh Laurie] – who represent, in the same order, The 50-Foot Woman [Attack of the 50-Foot woman], The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Blob, Godzilla/Mothra and The Fly. The alien[s] in question would be Galaxhar [Rain Wilson], a bored, four-eyed purple [might be] people eater who is looking for a little excitement. The plural would be his clones…
The human element comes mainly from Susan, who’s engaged to a rather full-of-himself cable weatherman with ambition, Derek Dietl [Paul Rudd]. Unfortunately, Derek is also not happy with the new Susan. Stephen Colbert does a great job voicing an overconfident but easily confused President of the United States, and Kiefer Sutherland gives just the right amount of humanity to balance the extremely hawk-ish warden/guardian of the monsters’ prison, General Warren R. Monger. There’s even a wistful bit of philosophy from the “you can’t home again” school of thought.
Monsters vs. Aliens is a fast-paced, laugh-filled ride. For the second week in a row, I’ve seen a movie where the trailer, good as it is, does not contain the best bits in the movie. Not only that, but the 3-D is amazing – though there are only a very few blatant gags, including one just a few minutes in. It’s as though directors Conrad Vernon and Rob Letterman are telling us, “our 3-D could do lots these gimmicky gags, but we really don’t need to do that to tell our story.”
While the script might be a bit jokier than, say, the average Pixar film, there are character moments that would not be out of place in one – and the animation is, for the first time right up to the Pixar level. Then there’s that wonderful 3-D. It seems that each new 3-D film outdoes its most recent predecessor and that’s the way it is here. Part of the fun of seeing the screening I attended was in hearing the little kids in the audience gasp as the world of the movie drew them in. Even the mom next to me was entranced. Yes, MvsA works as an homage to B-movie monsters; as a coming of age story [Susan’s a late bloomer, eh?], and as a wild romp for the kids.
I thoroughly enjoyed Monsters vs. Aliens – and the audience gave it a standing ovation. Good thing I’d decided on my grade before they started standing [and blocking the screen while stuff happened onscreen during the credits…].
Espionage movies usually deal with state secrets and impeccably dressed spies; state secrets and dishevelled spies, or grim, dark corporate espionage. Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity harkens back to movies like Charade and North By Northwest, in which intelligence wit and charm are as important as guns. In fact, there are no guns in Duplicity.
Gilroy’s male and female leads – Ray Koval [Clive Owen] and Claire Stenwicke [Julia Roberts] – are, respectively, ex-MI6 and ex-CIA operatives now working in corporate espionage for two major companies and may [or may not] be trying to screw each other over as they try to figure out what major breakthrough might be about to make the news. The two corporations are run by old school titan of industry, Howard Tully [Tom Wilkinson] and Dick Garsik [Paul Giamatti], whose style is more piratical.
Duplicity demands a certain amount of attention to detail. The script is smart and filled with seeming double, triple and [potentially] quadruple-crosses. Literally none of the characters is stupid, and this time Gilroy pulls it off [unlike with Michael Clayton, where one brief moment of idiot plotting destroyed the whole film].
Owen and Roberts get to dish out some witty dialogue; develop a strange [and maybe false] relationship over the course of the film which is structured in both the past and the present – each arc developing chronologically until the very end, when there’s a revelation that makes sense even as it dumbfounds. Wilkinson and Giamatti give their usual excellent performances and Gilroy’s direction reminds of Stanley Donen [Charade]. He propels the film at a pace that only seems leisurely, and uses a four-way split screen to establish locations in much less time than might otherwise be needed.
The one thing about Duplicity that might have been better [and this is just a weird thought that I had during the closing credits] would be to have cast Giamatti and Wilkinson in each other’s roles. As it is, though, the film is grand, smart fun, and that makes it a winner.
Disney introduces Disneynature, its first new label in sixty years, with a truly unique promotion. For every paid admission over the course of the first of its premiere film, EARTH, Disneynature will plant a tree. If, say, ten million tickets are sold, then ten million trees will be planted [that’s a lot of carbon dioxide being converted to oxygen!].
Disney’s goal is to ensure that it plants trees in areas that conservationists have identified as important hot spots of biodiversity. Disney will oversee the planting of the trees in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, which is considered the most endangered rain forest in the world. Today, only 7 percent of the Atlantic Forest remains. Disney is committed to ensuring the trees are planted and cared for to provide the greatest long term benefit for the planet.
EARTH, which premieres on Earth Day – April 22, 2009 – follows the lives of three animal families. The film is narrated by the legendary James Earl Jones. If the trailer for EARTH is any indication, the film should be breathtakingly beautiful.
The trailer for I Love You, Man is one of the funnier trailers to hit theaters in the last year. Some of its gags are funny enough to serve as the best bits of most comedies. In I Love You, Man, they are but a taste [I haven’t laughed so hard at a movie since Superbad!].
The film creates a new Odd Couple for the 21st Century – Peter Klaven [Paul Rudd], a vaguely metrosexual real estate guy who is slight, uptight and definitely not outta sight; and Sydney Fife [Jason Segal], a big, gangly, good-natured goof whose good with investments but otherwise the slob to end all slobs. The set up, as explained in the trailer, is that Peter is getting to married to his girlfriend of eight months, Zooey Rice [Rashida Jones] – but he has no male friends and is, thus, shy one Best Man.
When Peter overhears Zooey’s best girlfriends – including Denise [Jaime Pressly], and Hailey [Sarah Burns] – wondering if maybe he’s not just a little weird, he decides to do something about it. A genuinely montage follows as Peter seeks advice from his gay brother, Robbie [Andy Samberg], on finding a friend. Cue the montage of his pitiful attempts to take his brother’s advice – a genuinely hilarious montage, I might add.
Then, at an open house to showcase Lou Ferrigno’s home, he meets the charmingly blunt Sydney and they click on that “bro” level immediately. The two bonds over the best fish tacos in town – and the music of Rush. Before you know it, the two are spending so much time together, that Zooey begins to feel left out.
I Love You, Man works on a number of levels: the bromance between Peter and Sydney; the romance between Peter and Zooey; the gross-out comedy with fart and vomit jokes; the genuine sweetness in the development of the relationships. The script [co-written by director John Hamburg] is clever and insightful and the various levels of humor seem to perfectly balance the moments of drama that arise naturally out of the characters and their situations, and Hamburg’s direction is so good that he makes it sing.
I have no idea who coined the term “bromance,” but it has come to be associated with the films of Judd Apatow. I Love You, Man is a terrific, non-Judd Apatow Judd Apatow movie.