I was thinking about number two through most of this film.
Actually, when faced with rom-coms so trite and cliche I often find myself thinking about the movie I one day hope to create with all my fabulous review blog money (amount of money earned from this blog by me to date: -$0.32) which involves a lot of hot girls, fast cars, and machine guns. You can’t see every movie that comes out of the sewage overflow known as Hollywood without picking up a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t (incidentally, any representatives of the sewage overflown known as Hollywood interested in my current project (working title: Hot Girls in Fast Cars with Machine Guns) should contact me immediately).
Let’s talk a minute about Kevin Hart. I don’t have anything against the man. I enjoyed him in Ride Along and generally think he is funny. However ubiquitous does not accurately capture how much we are seeing him in movies these days. He is in freaking everything and yet seems to always play the same character (fast talking egotistical hustler who’s not as smart as he thinks he is). It looks like Hollywood has settled on the go to guy for the African American funny dude but the fact is like Ghost Pepper Sauce a little goes a long way. His one and only character is in serious danger of wearing out its welcome. If, on the off chance you are reading this post Kevin you need to branch out before you get totally type cast. Do a drama. On the other hand this film made a boatload of money so maybe I should just shut up on my career advice.
So this movie managed to bury the needles on both the cliche-o-meter and the crap-o-meter (lots of scatological jokes in this review. Given what I just saw last night I think this is a good example of life imitating art). It was like the producers of the film read every review I have ever written and used a sophisticated computer algorithm to calculate exactly what grinds my gears the most in a bad film and then included every single one of them like a top 10 tribute. Since I have no life let’s go ahead and list most of them, shall we?
Ever wonder just how amazing Walt Disney was? Well now Disney is here to show you!
It is fair to say I see more than the average amount of movies and that after a while they all tend to blur together like cats in a tree shredder (I joke, I joke. I really do love cats. The finest moment image, by the way, is one my my favorite new shirts recently added to the funny t-shirt collection. Awesome). However, it is a bad sign when I saw this movie the night before last yet when I sat down to write this literally had to look up what movies were playing in order to jog my memory as to what movie I had seen.
Not to say this movie is bad. Like most Disney movies it is extremely competent and accomplishes its goals of tugging your heartstrings and showing how cool and likable the founder of their company was. However, every move on the screen seems clearly calculated to accomplish these goals and in the end the cliche and almost robotic nature of the film greatly lessened the impact. I definitely felt emotions at times but at the end of the film I could almost hear the flushing sound as my brain evaluated the experience and determined that the memory was not worthy of taking up too many brain cells. Fun, interesting, and well executed but at the end of the day eminently forgettable.
I think the forgettable nature of the film is exacerbated by the fact that there is no climax to this film. It glosses over Act One with a simple expository scene, lands comfortably in Act Two like a sea lion flopping on the beach, and proceeds to wallow there for the entirety of the film. The movie ended at what seemed the appropriate moment but the story advanced at a plodding pace, grinding forward inexorably towards the end we already knew was coming and counting on the talents of the cast to keep the audience engaged.
That being said the talent of the cast was considerable. I am a big fan of Tom Hanks and he inhabited his role like he planned to retire there. Emma Thompson was brilliant as P.L. Travers and the rest of the cast nailed down their roles admirably. Directory John Lee Hancock did the Blind Side, but on the other hand he did Snow White and the Huntsman so I can’t tell if the good parts of this film stem from his direction or if the strength of the cast carried the entire film.
The story is of writer P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson-Brave, Love Actually, Nanny McPhee) being cajoled into selling her rights to Mary Poppins to Walt Disney (Tom Hanks-Saving Private Ryan, Forest Gump, Big). Honestly that’s the story in a nutshell. Mrs. Travers doesn’t want to see her beloved Mary Poppins get turned into a farcical cartoon and is withholding the rights until she is comfortable with the script. Meanwhile a second story is being told through flashbacks about her as a young girl in Australia with her father (Colin Farrell-Total Recall, In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths). He has a drinking problem but dotes on his daughter. Mrs. Travers keeps flashing back to her childhood and it becomes apparently pretty quickly that the book was written about her experience as a child with a nanny.
Walt hooks her up with a talented writer (Bradley Whitford-Cabin in the Woods, Scent of a Woman, Billy Madison) and two songwriters (B.J. Novak-the Office, Inglorious Basterds, Knocked Up (he was in that? I don’t remember him there) and Jason Schartzeman-Rushmore, I Heart Huckabees, Fantastic Mr. Fox). She universally dumps on everything they hope to create and is in all ways a real pain to work with. Walt does whatever he can to make her sweet but to little avail.
Meanwhile she develops a friendship with her driver Ralph (Paul Giamatti-Saving Private Ryan, Private Parts, Rock of Ages) while the story of her childhood advances to the inevitable conclusion, the death of her father (as an aside, talk about plucking low hanging fruit. Getting an emotional response from people by showing the death of a little girl’s father is akin to watching me get rejected by introducing me to a girl I like. This part felt pretty heavy handed). Mrs. Travers finally has enough and flies home to England, only to have Walt Disney show up at her door . They finally make a connection and she signs over the rights. The film then ends in the most exciting way possible, watching Mrs. Travers and the entire cast in a theater watching their movie. The end.
I’m not saying this film should have ended with a car chase and an explosion (although that might have been nice. How about Mrs. Travers turns out to be a Terminator sent back in time by Skynet to kill Walt Disney? Talk about blowing a few brain fuses in the audience) but I was definitely feeling the lack of a true denouement. The whole thing kind of rolled along the tracks and into the station right on time. Oh well.
Like I said, you can’t really do much better for a cast. Everyone was dead on, especially Tom Hanks. Three stars. The story was interesting, and if reasonably accurate I know feel like I have a better understanding of cinema icon Walt Disney. Now instead of seeing Disney as a soulless media conglomerate bent on world domination I see them as a soulless media conglomerate bent on world domination founded by a really nice guy. One star. The early 60’s doesn’t suffer from the burning personal hatred that the Summer of Love receives from me and I thought as a period piece it was extremely well executed. Plus I love all the cars. One star. The filming in particular helped capture the times, so I will award another for the camera work. One star. In general worthy of my time and money. Two stars. Total: eight stars.
The black hole.
Like I said before, the lack of an ending leaves you nodding your head and saying “Yep, that was a movie and it’s over now”. One black hole. Pacing was sluggish and were I less engaged in the story downright boring. Again, car chases are not required but something mid movie to liven things up would have gone well appreciated given that this film runs a whopping 125 minutes. One black hole. Total: two black holes.
So a grand total of six stars. Like I said, not bad. You won’t feel like you wasted your time. If you are a fan of Disneyland or any of the Disney movies you will probably get a lot out of it. Oh, yeah, I guess fans of Mary Poppins should go. Never saw the movie myself. Too much singing and dancing makes me want to punch people. However this film was pretty much made to watch on your home screen so feel free to skip the theater experience and just use the media streaming option of your choice. Date movie? Maybe, but honestly this film really feels more like the film you take your mom to see. By the way Mom if you are reading this you should go see this movie. Bathroom break? Pretty much any of the script writing scenes that do not directly involve Walt Disney are mostly development filler. Towards the end there is another scene where Mrs. Travers is chilling back in England waiting for the premier that could be missed too.
Thanks for reading. I was going to go see Grudge Match tonight and spew all over it (looks horrible) but then my best friend told me that American Hustle features Amy Adams nude so I’ve had to reevaluate my priorities. I only hope that is enough to overcome my intense dislike of the ’70s. Look for my review tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @nerdkungfu, and if you feel the need to express yourself with regards to this film or my review feel free to do so here. Just don’t mention fake Louis Vuitton bags, which is what 90% of the comments I get do. If you have an off topic question (6’5″, 235lbs SWM) or suggestion feel free to email me at email@example.com. Talk to you tomorrow. Happy New Year!
I guess the honeymoon for the marriage between Disney and Pixar is officially over. You know how it is. When a couple first gets together the husband lets the wife pick the restaurant, choose the shade of white for the living room, and drive the car once in a while but after a year or two he’s decided the best place for her is barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen while he smokes cigars, watches football, and makes movies with princesses in them.
(If any of you want to speculate on the nature of my own relationships based on that last statement, chances are that you would be at the same time completely right and completely wrong. Game Over image is from the Funny T-shirt category)
Not to say that Frozen is bad. It has a number of mixed messages (which are at times at odds with each other) but is pretty to look at and has a lot of singing (more on that later). If you gave the writers the assignment of creating a kid film with as many princesses and collectable toys in it as possible I’d say they did an admirable job. This is going to end up one of those reviews where I am at odds with the masses of legitimate reviews, but something about this film just left me cold (haw!).
For one thing, is there an occupation in the Disney world for a cute young girl other than princess? I mean, surely the housekeeper and peasant women at some point were hot teenage girls who had a magical romance where they fell in love and procreated without the benefit of a palace and ballroom. I laughed at the end of Wreck it Ralph when Vanellope turned out to be a princess but honestly it is to the point of being a creepy, psychotic obsession. It’s like a middle aged single man who has a massive ceramic clown collection.
Another thing that bugged me was a couple of the messages. Sure, there was a great one about sisterhood and standing by your family, but the youngest of the two princesses sole stated goal in life was to fall in love and get married. Not exactly empowering. Definitely not the accepting of your own nature message that was so great in Wreck it. Is it possible that there might be a teenage girl in a Disney film who wants to go to college and accomplish something other than fall in love, or maybe just smoke a lot of pot and become the worlds best twerker?
That’s not totally fair. There was a good message about acceptance in this one as well, and the importance of not being a closeted shut in. A lot of it felt recycled from other films however and this really wasn’t the vehicle to carpool these messages to work.
There were some things that did bug me in definable ways. The trolls, for one thing. A more blatant ploy for selling toys you will not find, and they were truly annoying (as well as unnecessary). Yes, I know this film is for the kiddiewinks and I am an ass for even reviewing it, but a good kids film should entertain all ages. I could see WIR once a week and enjoy it. Anyway, the trolls sucked. What did they look like, you ask? Take a troll doll, squish the aspect ratio down vertically about 20%, and color them green. Done.
Finally, the singing. You know how in the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast there are classic songs that work themselves into the movie seamlessly and you can hear them even now and not only know what film they were from but exactly what scene? I’m a dude of massive machismo and even I can recognize Be Our Guest and tell you exactly what was happening while it was being sung (truth be told, put a gun to my head and I could probably recite most of the lyrics. No amount of coercion will get me to actually sing it, however), or Under the Sea. No danger of that here. Instead of songs that enhance the film the music is forced into the film with the subtlety and painlessness of a garden hose catheter and are mostly the characters singing their dialog instead of speaking it. I honestly can’t remember one of them. They all blur together into a mediocre montage. The people singing them didn’t impress me with their pipes either, although to be honest I am not much of a musical talent myself unless playing the radio counts. I just know what I like.
The story. It starts off with Princess Anna (Kristen Bell-Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Veronica Mars, When in Rome) waking up her older sister Ilsa (Idina Menzel-Rent, Beowulf, Enchanted) so they can play. Ilsa has magical cold power for some reason and can manifest ice and show. While playing she accidentally shoots Anna in the head and freezes her brain. Her father and mother the king and queen take her to the local trolls, who look like rocks until they unroll themselves. The head troll (Ciarán Hinds-There Will Be Blood, the Road to Perdition, the Woman in Black) cures her and also erases her memory of Ilsa’s powers for some reason (?). Ilsa has to shut out Anna and hide in her room trying to control her power.
Skip forward a couple years and the king and queen are “lost at sea” (cough cough dead cough cough. Have fun explaining that to your kindergartener). Ilsa and Anna live almost alone in the shut down palace until Ilsa comes of age and is made queen. She still can barely control her power and has to wear gloves all the time. At the coronation party Anna meets Hans (Santino Fontana-Jersey Shore Gone Wild, Submissions Only, Nancy Please), a handsome prince. They hit it off and ask Ilsa for permission to marry after knowing each other for like two hours (another great message for your kids). She wisely denies permission but Anna argues. During the course of the argument Anna gets a glove and Ilsa unleashes her power, freezing over the countryside.
Ilsa runs off into the cold and creates a pretty spectacular ice palace. Anna goes after her and leaves Hans in charge. In the woods she meets up with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff-Taking Woodstock, the Conspirator, C.O.G.), a professional ice seller who is now in need of employment. She hires him to help her get to her sister. Along the way they meet up with a living snowman Ilsa created named Olaf (Josh Gad-Jobs, Love and Other Drugs, 21) who is along for the comedy relief. They get to Ilsa but she ejects them with the help of a terrifying snow monster she also created.
Hans leads an expedition to find Anna and capture Ilsa (the whole country is frozen over and everyone is bummed) and mixes it up with the snow monster. Two dudes sent along by a two big bad duke (Alan Tudyk-Firefly, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Wreck it Ralph) try to kill Ilsa and she defends herself. During the course of the fight Anna gets ice zapped in the heart. Kristoff takes her to see Trolli who says only an act of true love will save her. They rush back to the palace where Hans has Ilsa locked up and he turns out to be a power hungry jerk (why is it chicks always dig the bad boys?). Conflict ensues, Ilsa learns an important message about the power of true love and sisterhood, and Anna finds her heart is elsewhere.
I don’t know. This is one of those films that in my opinion the total value does not equal the sum of all its parts. It has the elements needed. A princess or two. Check. Cute sidekick characters. Check. A hunky romance. Check. A bad guy who is not too threatening. Check. Singing. Check. Some magical visuals. Check. I have seen other reviewers call this one another Disney classic but honestly I don’t see it. It’s good but not amazing. A couple years from now it will be just another one on the pile. I don’t think they will be remastering and rereleasing it 25 years from now. Of course with kids films I skip the star/black hole thing and just go with how the kids in the audience react, and to be honestly they all seemed to be loving it. From that perspective this film is nigh flawless and perfect to help your kid kill a couple more hours of his or her childhood. I just don’t think you the adult will be as entranced.
So worth seeing sure. Maybe my dissatisfaction stems from my cold, dead heart but in truth there are plenty of kids films that I love. Date movie? Absofreakinglutley. If you don’t have kids but have a chick you are trying to thaw (haw! again) you can’t pick a better film. Bathroom break? Nothing really jumps out as being truly necessary or unnecessary. Maybe the scene at the trading post?
Thanks for reading. I still have Oldboy to write up but for some reason am not that motivated to work on it. I’ll try to get it done tomorrow. I double dog dare you to follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Who wants to be my 200th follower? If you have a comment on this film or my review post it here, and if you have an off topic question or suggestion feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great night.
It’s been a little slow in the movie department lately, and I have been looking for something to blog about that doesn’t take five hours to do (those movie reviews aren’t just spewed from my brain stem stream of consciousness style in spite of how they may appear. I actually do think about them and believe it or not watch the film itself). I had a lot of fun recapping the assorted TOS episodes when I did my best and worst lists, and thought I could do something for all of them.
So what I plan to do is go through each episode in turn and talk about my thoughts on it and what it meant to me in my childhood. Also if any relevant thoughts as it relates to current events or things in my personal life crop up I will be sure to share them. I know you are fascinated. Also since this blog kind or runs backwards I will be doing them from last to first, so we start off with Episode 79 Turnabout Intruder.
This is the last episode of the dreaded season 3 and was originally scheduled to be aired on the day Eisenhower died. It tells the story of a crazy woman (Sandra Smith) who blames her gender for her failing to achieve command of a star ship and uses an alien device to trade bodies with Kirk. She then lives up to every negative stereotype with regards to women by bungling things up majorly, including her attempt to kill Kirk in her former body.
Little did I know that this episode would be my introduction to gender politics, a subject that would haunt me for many years. In art school the main focus of our department was marginalization and gender issues and most of my teachers, grad students, and peers did not have a lot of kind words for the hapless Y chromosome. Ironically by being one of three straight white males in the entire program I was more marginalized than anyone else, but had I suggested that at the time I would have gone through my own male-to-female transformation with the help of a belt sander.
The payback I would suffer for being born male was destined to continue for the rest of my life, as exhibited by the way I am treated by the women I date. There is no way they aren’t all in some conspiracy to make me suffer as much as possible. (You Lost me at Hello, the phrase I’m pretty sure all women are thinking when they first meet me, comes from the Funny T-Shirt category BTW)
I’m kind of torn as to whether this story can be counted as a success or failure in the name of women’s liberation. The female personality failed as captain in Kirks body, which implies that it is actually the strength of character that makes for a command officer, not gender. However she manages to exhibit every negative helpless female stereotype during the course of it, and the fact is TOS was pretty short on female commanding officers (for the record I think the highest ranked female was Lt. Uhura) in general. TNG made up for it (sort of). A less enlightened viewer might say that the inherent strength of Kirk as the male comes from his lifetime of experience as a man, not the few days he spent as a woman. Also I’m going to call shenanigans on the fact that I sincerely doubt a true epicurean such as Kirk would pass up on the opportunity to have sex with himself.
Speaking of male-to-female transformation my good friend A. just complete hers and is recovering nicely. Congratulations!
That’s pretty much it. Tomorrow is All our Yesterdays, an episode that confused the hell out of me as a kid.
Blue is the word to describe it.
Before I get into this review I have a question. The first thing we saw when the opening credits starting rolling were the words “Sony Pictures Classics”. Is it fair to call a movie out for a month a classic? Is it automatically a classic just because it’s a Woody Allen film? Does that mean Zelig is a classic? I don’t think that one will make anyone’s top 1,000 classic movies. The hubris of it just struck me as the film opened. I’m sure there is some corporate reason (i.e. Sony Pictures Classics is a separate entity from Sony Pictures, etc.) but it might seem a little less cocky if they had gone with “Sony Pictures” and added the word classics for the DVD release.
It is the mark of a great artist that he or she never falls into the trap of recreating past success over and over again. In other words, a truly creative soul creates something new every time. I start with this statement to help me get my head around the fact that this movie is truly a bummer, and based upon the fact that Woody Allen’s last two movies that I saw were kind of upbeat I was really caught off guard. The two movies I saw recently were Match Point and Midnight in Paris, both of which kind of had upbeat endings.
Woody Allen is a master of characters, and more importantly in casting. I don’t know what bug crawled into his ear to cast Andrew Dice Clay as a serious blue collar laborer but having seen it I have to say brilliant move. In fact all of his castings are great, with Kate Blanchett as the neurotic upper class socialite, Alec Baldwin as her cheating, thieving husband, and Sally Hawkins as her put upon working class adopted sister. Each person seemed perfect for the role they were given.
And yet it’s the characters where this film most fall apart, at least contextually. This film was supposed to be Woody Allen doing a film set in San Francisco and while his location scouts did a great job picking out scenic Bay Area spots I can say having lived here for the last 12 or so years all of his “San Francisco” characters are New York characters that happen to be filmed in San Francisco. The working class characters are all pretty clearly New Jersey transplants. The dentist character came from I-don’t-know-where (maybe 1958?) and the love interest lacked all kinds of depth (that might have been a conscious decision by Woody, but it’s hard to tell). About half the film takes part in flashbacks to New York and honestly I couldn’t see any difference in any of the people in any way. He might as well just had the whole thing happen in New York and saved on his travel budget.
While I’m sure the subtle character differences will not even be noticed by 99% of the non-Bay Area movie goers as a part of that 1% I found it de-immersive and distracting. On the other hand, maybe I’m just being overly sensitive.
Anyway, the movie. It’s the story of Jasmine (Cate Blanchett-LOTR, Hanna, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), a formerly wealthy snobby NYC housewife and social climber who finds herself destitute after her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin-30 Rock, Rock of Ages, the Departted) is caught by the FBI cheating people and hangs himself in a prison cell. She flies to San Francisco to stay with her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins-Happy-Go-Lucky, Layer Cake, Never Let Me Go) and her two boys. Turns out Hal managed to rip off Ginger and her now ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay-the Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Pretty In Pink, Dice Rules) for their life savings. He’s bitter but she doesn’t blame Jasmine. Ginger has a new boyfriend auto mechanic Chilli (Bobby Cannavale-Parker, the Station Agent, Win Win) who wants to move in with Ginger but has to put his plans on hold when Jasmine takes up the space.
At that point the stage is more or less set for the combined slow motion mental break down with the very, very typical reverse Beverly Hillbillies “rich person learns how to survive with the rest of us dregs of humanity” (a plot premise that somehow always kind of infuriates me). She meets a perfect man to be her next husband (I can’t figure out his credit. IMDB fail) but he dumps her when he figures out she has been lying to him about her past. Ginger has an affair with a guy she met at a party (Louis C.K.-Louis, Down to Earth, Pootie Tang). Jasmine tries to connect with her estranged son Danny (Alden Ehrenreich-Stoker, Tetro, Beautiful Creatures). I don’t want to spoil this film for anyone but if you didn’t read the first two paragraphs of this review don’t be expecting to feel good on the way out the door.
Brilliant casting. I especially liked Dice Man. Two stars. Woody Allen is in the business of creating characters, and he does a wonderful job with Jasmine. Two stars. I managed to find a reason to connect with and care about all the main characters (except for Jasmine’s boyfriend. He was kind of a non-entity). One star. The story of Hal and his business failings were delivered in a series of non-linear flashbacks that I really thought clever and very well done. Two stars. Brilliant job with the makeup for Kate. Sometimes she looked stunning and sometimes she looked like a bag lady. Brilliant. One star. About as clever and sophisticated as one expects from a Woody Allen film. One star. Total: nine stars.
The black holes.
The whole thing about doing a film set in San Francisco but populating it with all New York personalities grated. One black hole. A couple of the characters didn’t do much and kind of annoyed. I thought Jasmine’s son Danny was a particularly whiny bitch. One black hole. The film felt about 10 minutes too short. I was still waiting for the denouement when the credits started rolling. One black hole. At the end of the film I was left with a weighty “What was the point?” feeling. The movie was good but really what message was being delivered? That being broke and having a nervous breakdown sucks even for beautiful women? That a good man is hard to find? That we all sow the seeds of our own self destruction? All of these seem a little trite and prosaic for a Woody Allen film. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to really see the point, but that is how I left the theater. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
(Well Adjusted image courtesy of the Funny t-shirt category)
A grand total of five stars. A credible score, and well worth watching if you have hit your action and explosion saturation point (if you haven’t this movie might drag for you). Not his best work (I know I’m alone in this but I still love Sleeper) but if I weren’t distracted by the whole San Francisco/character thing I probably would have enjoyed it a great deal more. Date movie? I will give that question a tentative yes. If she identifies you with Chilli than you will gain credit for being a blue collar honest dude. If she identifies you with Hal the frozen legions of Frosty the Snowman will have conquered Hell before you see her naked (unless you are as rich as Hal was, but in that case why are you even taking her to a movie?). Bathroom break? Most of the scenes are pretty good by themselves, and it’s hard to identify one that is not kind of critical to the plot. Most of the flashbacks are really important and come without warning. I’d say hold it. It’s only 98 minutes.
Thanks for reading. I have tickets to see Riddick in about two hours so look for that tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Feel free to post any comments on this review or the movie here, and if you have off topic questions or suggestions email them to email@example.com. Talk to you soon.
This may come as something of a surprise to any regular reader but the fact is in spite of my incessant bitching about the sewage outflow that passes for Hollywood mainstream movies I am a fan of film. Movies are my escape from reality into worlds of wonder and excitement. I love theaters, and find the whole cinema experience magical. I even love popcorn.
Even bad movies have their place in my heart. A bad film gives me perspective, and occasionally takes the audience in a hilarious new direction that the writer and director never saw coming. Those films are the crown jewel of bad films, but even the mediocrely bad films can at least claim Bedazzler rhinestone status.
The point is it’s extremely rare that I come across a film that for all its merits or detractions feels like a complete waste of my time. Unfortunately Turbo has fallen onto that rare precipice. It is hard to put my finger on what makes it feel so worthless, but that is the ethereal nature of such films. It is easy to pick out the details that make a great film great or a bad film bad, but when faced with a truly worthless film it seems like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal is the rule of the day (Heisenberg image courtesy of the Funny T-Shirt category).
This film tanked as hard as a film can and is causing the bookkeepers at Dreamworks a huge number of problems (such as their printers can’t print pink slips fast enough). If anyone at Dreamworks is still puzzled by that failure in spite of a massive marketing campaign I have a few thoughts that may help solve the mystery:
1. The movie is about a SNAIL THAT WINS THE INDY 500! The tragic assumptions made here is that kids really are that stupid. Kids are inexperienced and ignorant, but for the most part they tend to be pretty quick on things they understand. The idea that snails are slow and race cars are fast is a concept absorbed by kids by kindergarten age. Thinking back to my own childhood (chronologically a long time ago, but mentally shorter than most of my acquaintances would assume) I really think presented with a movie concept like that I would find it pretty stupid. I see this as a sign of secret contempt for the audience on the part of the studio.
2. The main character is a SNAIL! Look, I know the Little Mermaid opened the door for invertebrate cartoon characters, but every kid knows that snails are gross slugs with shells and leave icky trails where ever they go. As a kid I can remember going outside after a rain storm and almost throwing up after accidentally stepping on a snail. I honestly can’t think of a worse kids character than a gastropod, unless they wanted to do a film about a cute, cuddly family of parasitic worms (and honestly I think I would by one of those plushy’s for my kid before a snail).
3. Kind of tying into the last point, when a kid sees a movie he or she wants to be one of the main characters. Girls want to be Ariel and boys want to be Woody or Buzz Lightyear. If there is a kid out there who dreams of being a snail I foresee major self esteem issues in his or her future.
4. All those issues that I just listed go tenfold for the parents who have to sit through this dross. Creators of kids film sometimes forget that there are adults who are forced to watch these films with the kids and if the film is painfully stupid or gross then they are very likely to just bust out a Incredibles DVD and call it an afternoon.
I am going to stop harping on Ryan Reynolds. Two bombs back to back is tough for anyone to take, and even I get tired of clubbing baby seals after a while. Honestly there is very little you can do to hold a voice over actor responsible for a films performance. Either they are truly brilliant (Mark Hamill) or at least average. Unless he or she has some kind of speech impediment there isn’t much you can do to screw up. I keep waiting for Ryan to do something amazing to help make up for the Green Lantern, but instead I think I am just going to stop out of pity.
On the other hand with his looks and fame he can probably score with more hot chicks in a week than I will in my lifetime, and he still has a ton of money (broke again this week. Top Ramen city for me!). Suck it Ryan Reynolds!
The story. Turbo (Ryan Reynolds-R.I.P.D., Safe House, the Change Up) is a garden snail who dreams of going fast. He got the idea by watching footage of Indy racer Guy Gagne (Bill Hader-Superbad, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) on a TV in the garage next door. His brother Chet (Paul Giamatti-Saving Private Ryan, Rock of Ages, the Ides of March) advises him to keep on working in the humble tomato factory but his dreams power him on. He falls into an intake manifold and he gets injected with nitrous oxide, making him glow blue and be super fast (as well as develop a radio, headlights, backup lights, and other car paraphernalia). He gets caught by local Mexican stereotype Tito (Michael Pena-End of Watch, Shooter, 30 Minutes or Less) and entered into the snail races. He discovers his power and wins big.
Meanwhile Tito’s brother Angelo (Luis Guzman-Carlito’s Way, Boogie Nights, the Last Stand) has a taco stand (really?) that is in dire need of more customers. Tito comes up with the idea of entering Turbo into the Indy 500 based on the tried and true principal that if something is not specifically outlawed than it must be legal (for the record, the rules for vehicles entered into F1 competitions are extremely specific and exacting. Also just because something is not illegal does not make it allowed. I doubt there is a specific rule against having sex with a train car coupling but I really wouldn’t want to explain that to a judge). He cajoles the rest of the stereotypes in the crappy strip mall his brother shares into coming up with the entry fee.
Honestly, if you have a brain you know how this goes. Gagne turns out to be a secret jerk. Turbo enters the race. I am not going to spoil the film by giving away the ending but if you thought it might be interesting to see a film that highlights the concepts of a noble effort that still fails a la Rocky or the Bad News Bears prepare to be disappointed.
I don’t do stars and black holes for kids movies but instead judge it by the kids in the audience. Unfortunately the theater I saw it in was kind of a ghost town with not a kid in sight so I am going to have to channel my inner child and say that I thought the film was visually stimulating enough for a toddler but otherwise too dumb for anyone old enough to speak in sentences. A kid might enjoy this film but it will not stand out as a cherished childhood memory. Parents bringing kids to this film should pack extra gauze for when their brains start dribbling out their ears.
Thanks for reading. I’m headed to Las Vegas Tuesday morning and while out there will try to see and review Elysium, but really won’t have a lot of time. If you are going to the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention please stop by my t-shirt booth and say hi (6’5″, dark hair, goatee, strong dislike of the JJ Abrams Trek films). If you don’t feel like telling me what kind of an idiot I am to my face feel free to post comments here regarding this film or my review. Off topic questions or suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can always follow me on Twitter for the 2-4 Tweets I do per week (I suck at social media). Talk to you soon.
…and Four Big Funerals.
During the course of seeing and reviewing so many movies over the last four years I believe I have managed to develop an appreciation for films outside of my preferred genres. Chick flicks are no longer as alien to me as the actual women who watch them and I am secure enough in my own manhood to watch and enjoy a good “feel good” movie without feeling like my man parts are being absorbed back into my body. I believe this has given me the perspective to fairly judge a good chick flick from a bad one.
Thus I hope you trust me in that my dislike of this film does not stem from my massively overpowering machismo but rather from the fact that is is a crap movie. It is essentially a mediocre Three’s Company episode stretched out into 89 minutes and padded with some big name actors. For some bizarre reason they opted to go for an R rating with cuss words and one (granted, highly appreciated) nude scene. For the life of me I can’t figure out the logic behind that. The target demographic for this film appears to be sexagenarian women (possibly with Alzheimer’s, although I don’t know if that part was intentional) and I couldn’t imagine a group more likely to be offended by the occasional (and fully superfluous) F bomb.
More than anything this movie reminded me of the stupendously bad New Years Eve, even more so because it starred Robert De Niro and Katherine Heigl (I am a De Niro fan, and actually like Katherine a lot. I think she is a talented actress and is shockingly hot. She just seems attracted to bad movie scripts like a fly to a pest strip). It had the same issues of multiple stories involving grossly underdeveloped characters, coma inducing plots, motivations that made it seem like the entire cast were all Barbie dolls being played with by the worlds stupidest giant little girl, and happy endings pulled from the darkest nether regions of the writers ass. I have no problem with happy endings (a fact that may come as a shock to many of my friends) but having everyone just forgive each other in the last 10 minutes like someone pumped the room full of aerosol Ecstasy bugs.
This isn’t the sort of bad that has me transform into a critic werewolf and shred it from stem to stern (Werewolf image courtesy of the Funny T Shirt category). It is more the type of bad that has me wishing they would let me watch these films prior to the final cut and listen to my advice (while the producers and director were all wearing a dog shock collar that I controlled). The acting was actually very good from everyone (with this cast I don’t know how you could get a bad performance), there were a few funny moments, and the one nude scene was like opening a Christmas present that you thought was going to be more socks but turned out to be a really hot nude scene. If this had been a made for TV movie it would have been perfectly adequate.
Before I go on I’d like to say that while the acting was really good there isn’t a single character in this film I didn’t hate with the burning passion of 10,000 suns. Each one was more annoying than the last. Even the hot women I wanted to see suffer horribly. They collectively had the believability and likability of used car salesman who moonlights as a cannibal serial killer (hmm. Interesting movie idea…). If the film had found a reason to call in an airstrike on the wedding itself I would have called this the best movie of 2013.
The story. Ellie (Diane Keaton-the Godfather, Murphy Brown, Annie Hall) returns to her former home (accompanied by a monolog that sticks around just long enough to really annoy but then disappears forever. Kind of a lose/win) for her adopted sons wedding. There she interrupts her ex husband Don (Robert Di Niro-Goodfellas, the Godfather, Meet the Parents) in the middle of an intimate act with his long term girlfriend Bebe (Susan Sarandon-Thelma and Louise, Dead Man Walking, the Rocky Horror Picture Show). He is an unlikable dirt bag. Anyway, their kids Lyla (Katherine Heigl-One for the Money, New Years Eve, Knocked Up), Jared (Topher Grace-Spider Man 3, Predators, the Giant Mechanical Man (?)), and adopted son Alejandro (Ben Barnes-the Chronicles of Narnia, Dorian Grey, Easy Virtue) show up with their assorted sub plots. Lyla is a bitchy lawyer who can’t have babies and is going through a divorce (but doesn’t drink and is vomiting in what could be one of the lamest in movie spoilers ever), Jared is a hot 29 year old doctor virgin (remember when believability was a crucial element to a plot point? The writers of this film don’t). Alejandro (Al) is getting married to a super hot girl (Amanda Seyfried-Les Miserables, In Time, Mamma Mia) whose parents are rich (sort of) racist WASPs (although technically they are Catholic).
Meanwhile Al’s birth mother Madonna (Patricia Rae-Maria Full of Grace, Swim Fan, Detachment) is a hard core Catholic (oh, I see what they did with her name. Not as clever as they thought it was IMO) who views divorce as a cardinal sin so Al has to get his parents to pretend they are married much to the dismay of Bebe. She arrives with Al’s super hot sister Nuria (Ana Ayora-Marley & Me, In the Presence of Evil, Meddling Mom) who wants to get laid while in America and targets Jared.
Ugh. The plot threads twist and intertwine in a way that would embarrass a soap opera writer. Jared decides that now is the perfect time to lose his virginity just as Ellie convinces Nuria that she needs to be romanced (involving poetry, apparently). Ellie and Don hook back up for no apparent reason. Turns out Ellie cheated on Don first but Don also cheated on Ellie with Bebe. Missy’s mom Muffin (no joke. Christine Ebersole-One Life to Live, Mac and Me, Amadeus) is a lesbian and her husband is the guy Ellie cheated with. Bebe and Ellie were best friends before. Jared finally gets with Nuria while Al and Missy elope and Lyla reconnects with her husband in the last ten minutes. Gah. My brain hurts just trying to recall all this garbage.
Acting was pretty damned good all around. Everyone seemed willing to give a lame script their best efforts and I applaud them for their work ethic. One star. The nude scene was like a much needed bathroom break on a long, long road trip. One star. The priest was played by Robin Williams and he was freaking brilliant (as usual). Had this film had the wit to focus more on him it would not have been such a crapfest. One star. Total: three stars.
The black holes.
Convoluted, twisty plot threads that annoyed the hell out of me and never gave the audience any one thing to really sink their teeth into. In addition each plot painfully predictable. Two black holes. Character motivation that was as believable as a homeless guy panhandling outside of a liqueur store trying to tell you he needs money for food. One black hole. The characters to a man and woman made me hate the human race (at least all the parts of it involved with the production of this film). As much as I am a fan of De Niro his character in particular had me chewing on my arm rest. Two black holes. A bonus black hole for the 29 year old virgin doctor. One black hole. None of the characters got even close to adequate development, leaving us with a bunch of people we are moderately familiar with and don’t give a damn about. One black hole. The curse words that helped this film earn it’s R rating felt forced and unnecessary. One black hole. Charging me money for a film I should be seeing on Lifetime mid afternoon when I stay home sick with the flu. One black hole. Total: nine black holes.
A grand total of six black holes. Anything redeeming here? Like I said, Robin Williams was funny and there were a few amusing moments. If your grandmother was a hippy in the 60’s and still talks like it she might think this amusing. I am not going to recommend this one for my mother. If you do want to see it this thing has NetFlix written all over it in giant neon letters. Date movie? If your date is a huge Love Boat and Thelma and Louise fan maybe. Should she suggest it agree since if she has the slightest shred of humanity she will feel guilty for subjecting you to this dross and will most likely give you compensatory sex. Bathroom break? Try to not miss any of the Robin Williams scenes but other than that go at any time. There is only one nude scene so once you are past that the opportunities are endless.
Thanks for reading. I have tickets to a late night showing of Iron Man tonight and am really excited. Having just watched this will only enhance my viewing experience so hopefully I will have a massive glowing review for you tomorrow morning. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have comments on this film I pity you as it means you have seen it but feel free to leave them at the bottom. Off topic questions and suggestions can be emailed to email@example.com. Talk to you soon.
I admit I expected to laugh more.
OK, I saw this film almost a week ago and have been putting off the writing of the review. Not that the movie was bad. In fact if it were bad I would have jumped right on it. Nothing cleanses the palate of a bad movie like vomiting the dark bile of your bitter soul all over it. No, the fact is this is the worst kind of movie for me to review in that it was so middle of the road mundane.
We are in a bit of a dry spell for movies at the moment. I just did Evil Dead (awesome) and already have my tickets for Iron Man 3, but as I look at Fandango I don’t see much I haven’t already seen or have any interest in. This weekend should be better with 42 and Scary Movie 5, both of which I am looking forward to, but right now I am having to grind through second stringers like this one.
OK, here it is. I am a fan of Tina Fey, and as such expected a clever, intelligent, and above all funny story. This film had the intelligence covered and was clever in that horrible New Yorker Magazine sort of way, but honestly while I have to acknowledge that sort of humor is technically funny (“the best kind of funny”) it just doesn’t get me laughing. Tina Fey on 30 Rock is really funny. Tina Fey as an actor in a character study film (which is precisely what this movie is) is entertaining-ish, but just not engaging.
I also don’t really give a damn about the admissions process of a school so uptight and pretentious it would be a pleasure to punch it collectively in the face. Sorry if you went to Princeton and think that having that special piece of paper adds value to your life but most of America would struggle to care less. (Collage image courtesy of the Funny T-Shirt category)
Let’s get this over with. Tina Fey (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, Mean Girls) plays Portia, an admissions officer at Princeton. It is established early on that Princeton is the hardest school to get into ever and rejects like 99.99% of its applicants. Her life is dull and mundane, with a lame live in boyfriend (Michael Sheen-Midnight in Paris, Frost/Nixon, Underworld)) and is the most boring couple ever. Anyway, as part of her job she has to run around to high schools encouraging students to apply. While traveling around she goes to a new hippy school where she meets the principal John (Paul Rudd-Role Models, the 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up). He is eager for her to meet one of his students (Nat Wolff-New Years Eve, Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding, Stuck in Love) who is something of a prodigy. He suspects the kid is Portia’s son given up for adoption. He tells her this and it kind of rocks her world. She heads home to find out her boyfriend is leaving her for a bitchy blond (Sonya Walger-All the Kings Men, Flash Forward, the Mind of the Married Man). She has a freak out session but eventually decides to do whatever she can to get her kid into Princeton. This puts her at odds with her boss Clarance (Wallace Shawn-The Princess Bride, Toy Story, Eureka) and a coworker Corinne (Gloria Reuben-Nick of Time, Timecop, Lincoln).
She goes through the process while trying to bond with the kid and dealing with her schools arduous admissions process. Meanwhile romance blooms between her and John while her mother (Lily Tomlin-I Heart Huckabees, the Magic School Bus, 9 to 5) does whatever she can to estrange their relationship. Drama and character development unfold, and the ending honestly surprised me a little by being not what I expected.
Tina Fey was indeed good if not what I expected. She can actually act. One star. The rest of the cast was also very good. One star. The ending wasn’t the usual Hollywood pap. One star. There was a funny trap door plot mechanic for the actual admissions process I found entertaining. One star. A reasonably complex and intelligent story. One star. Total: five stars.
The Black Holes:
As complex as the story was, there was a kind of weird predictability to it. Even the surprises didn’t really come as a surprise. One black hole. Like I said before, the intricacies of college admissions don’t really hold my interest and therefore the film seemed to drag quite a bit. One black hole. I’m not going to ding this film for not being as funny as I expected as that is on me. In truth by this time I should know not to expect anything. That’s the first step to disappointment. Expecting a comedy and getting a drama is my misinterpretation of the trailers. I really should only expect a film to not physically injure me, and therefore will only be disappointed once in a while. Total: two black holes.
So three stars total. Kind of a mundane score, but it’s honestly kind of a mundane movie. If it weren’t for the sets and cast this would be a Lifetime made for TV movie. If you are bored as hell and looking for something to do it won’t be a total waste of your time. Nothing will be lost if you wait for Netfilx. Date movie? Sure, why not? However, while this film will not hurt I don’t know if it will help you in your quest to see your date naked. Bathroom break? Towards the end there is a really long montage sequence of the admissions committee going over each student in turn and either accepting or rejecting them that kind of beats the point (we are dicks and are looking for the slightest reason to drop you) home for an extended period of time.
Thanks for reading. I am very hopeful for this weekends movies (again, mistake number one) so check back in a couple days. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu.com. Comments on this movie or my review can be left here at the bottom. Off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.
Same movie, different poster
I think we need two different movie rating scales in our society. The first would be for all the normal movies, with things like Argo at the top and and Jack and Jill at the bottom. The second would be exclusively for Jason Statham movies. You see, his movies kind of defy qualification when compared to other movies. They are usually awful, but weirdly fun and entertaining. Kind of like picking at a big scab. It hurts, and you know you are just going to bleed again and you will probably end up with a worse scar, but you just can’t help yourself.
On the Jason Statham scale of movie judging, Parker is not particularly good. Statham films are usually pretty thin on story, plot, character development, believable action, and acting challenges for Jason but this one is diaphanous to the point of invisibility. I can’t help but feel like this film was either written or directed by a bubble baby; someone who as never actually seen a movie but has had them described to them. I’d also say that the person doing the describing must come from France or some other country that has contempt for American culture as every bad American stereotype possible is trotted out and held up for ridicule.
That’s probably not fair. The screenplay writer also wrote Black Swan and worked on Carnivale (great series if you don’t mind stories getting shut down incomplete). The director did Ray and the Devil’s Advocate. Both of them seem qualified. Perhaps they watched a Stratham marathon as prep and realized that actually putting effort into this project would be an exercise in futility. Or maybe the studios have been studying Stratham films for a while and realize that a certain amount of suck equals box office success (if so, fail deluxe. Parker netted $7MM first weekend and cost $30MM to make).
The story. I’m going to do a quick one sentence summary to see if this sounds like any other Jason Statham movies: Jason Statham plays a criminal with a code of ethics who is betrayed by less moral criminals and spends the rest of the film seeking revenge with the aid of a super hot girl. Sounds like about 326% of them if you count all the movies he is likely to to do in the next ten years. The longer version is Jason plays Parker, an expert armed robber (or safe cracker, or martial artist, or something. There’s nothing in this film he’s not good at except Texan accents). He hires on with a crew of American stereotypes (bald sociopathic head villain (Michael Chiklis-Spirited Away, the Commish, the Shield), fat black sidekick (Wendell Pierce-Ray, Horrible Bosses, the Wire), the hillbilly white trash gadget expert (Clifton Collins, Jr.-Star Trek 2009, Tigerland, the Mindhunters), and the greasy mafia goomba (Michah Hauptman-Iron Man, A Bag of Hammers, S.W.A.T. Firefight). Geez, did they turn past the forth page of the Stereotype Spotters Handbook?). He was introduced to them by his girlfriends father Hurley (Nick Nolte-Cape Fear, the Thin Red Line, Warrior). His girlfriend (Emma Booth-Blood Creek, the Boys are Back, Introducing the Dwights) is some kind of trauma nurse or something. Anyway, the crew robs the Ohio State Fair (white trash stereotypse a go go) and uses a fire vehicle to escape. During the robbery Parker tells a bunch of witnesses his rules for robbing people, which if you have seen the trailer you know already.
Anyway, during the ride out the head villain offers Parker a chance at a bigger job. Parker bows out, so they shoot him to keep his part of the loot. Parker survives and walks out of the hospital with two bullet wounds, uses some trivial detective techniques (anyone watching this film notice how the entire plot would shrivel up and die if the bar owner Parker interrogates for 30 seconds said “Orlando” instead of “West Palm”, thus saving the life of his brother) to figure out where the next job is going to be. Once he arrives in West Palm Beach Florida he gets struggling real estate broker Leslie (Jennifer Lopez-Out of Sight, Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law) to help him find the crew. By the way, at this point in the movie my ears started to bleed listening to Jason Statham try to do a Texas accent. Bring ear plugs.
Leslie figures out that Jason isn’t from Texas (a three year old could have figured that out) and inserts herself into the plan for a cut. The bad guys are going to rob some jewelry using a fire truck (hey, if it was exciting the first time it has to be exciting the second time, right? Coming up with new plot devices is a pain). Jason, in spite of two bullet wounds, two stab wounds, and who knows what else manages to shoot, stab, and bludgeon his way to righteous revenge. (sorry if that was a bit of a spoiler, but if by this point in the movie you hadn’t figured out how the plot was going to go I’m surprised you can even read. Wicked Smart image courtesy of the Funny T-Shirts category).
The stars. In spite of being the movie equivalent of chewing on packing foam, I can’t deny there is something fun about Statham movies. One star. JLo is super easy on the eyes and managed to deliver the only credible performance in the film (although that might be greatly enhanced by the mediocrity of the rest of the cast). One star. The comic relief character (Leslie’s mom. Patti LuPone-the Heist, Driving Miss Daisy, Witness) was everything one could hope for in an action movie comic relief character: funny, appropriate, and brief. One star. If you are a fan of Jason Stathams monotone English character this film will fill your cup. One star. Total: four stars.
The black holes. All the problems associated with most Statham movies: weak story, one dimensional characters, and Jasons Terminator-like ability to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. Two black holes. Excitement through repetition. One black hole. Milking the stereotype cow dry. I understand that a lot of these films make their money in foreign markets and those markets like to laugh at Americans but if you are going to debut and hope to make money here consider your primary audience. As an American watching the filmakers make fun of Americans to make Chinese audiences laughs makes me want to find them and give them a wedgie that stretches up over the back of their head and covers their eyes (in high school that was called a “covered wagon”. Very painful). One black hole. A house of cards style plot that only seemed to advance through the most tenuous of random coincidences. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
A grand total of one black hole. Should you see this? I’m going to say yes for the same reason I say to a good friend “Smell this” after opening a bottle of rancid pickled eggs. There is definitely stuff to entertain you, and if your movie standards are low enough you should really enjoy it. However, if you are the type to punch your “smell this” friend then perhaps you should give it a pass. In spite of being an action film there isn’t anything I would say needs to be seen on a big screen so NetFlix the hell out of it. Date movie? Probably not. Nothing in here is likely to put your date off unless she is truly a delicate flower but her respect for you might suffer a bit when she sees your taste in film. Bathroom break? There isn’t much in here that is critical to your understanding of the plot, so take your pick. I’d say the scene where Leslie is running around showing Parker houses feels like a clip of Cribs inserted randomly into the film and could readily be missed.
Thanks for reading. I finally saw Lincoln and am working up a review for it. More to see soon. I’m also seeing a midnight showing of Warm Bodies and am excited about it. Looks cool. Feel free to post comments on this film or my review at the bottom of this page (if you don’t see a comment section click here). Off topic questions and questions can be emailed to email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Talk to you soon.
Cousin Nora reporting in for movie review #2—and also a theatre review for San Francisco Bay Area local folks. Last Wednesday, I went to see Flight at the New Parkway Theatre in Oakland with my friend Sr. Mary (yes, I hang out with nuns, especially hilarious and cool ones, like Mary, aka, “Sista”). Seeing this particular movie probably wasn’t such a great idea for Sr. Mary, since she was flying to Chicago the next day, but we both left the theater in awe of Denzel Washington and the recurring statement was, “That was a good movie.” So here are some thoughts about the movie and about the New Parkway, a “living room” theater complete with couches, food, and booze.
About the movie: Wow, Denzel rocked my world. I’ve never been one of those people who’ve thought Denzel super hot; now, I know this might surprise those of you who know me, but it’s true. But this movie converted me to a true Denzel fan. I’ve always appreciated his acting talents and especially enjoyed him in “Man on Fire,” partially because he protected Dakota Fanning, who looks like my niece. Anyhow, Denzel in Flight was monumental. The opening scene captures the movie very nicely: Denzel and hot chick wake up in an anonymous hotel room to a phone call from Denzel’s ex-wife, who’s asking for money. An otherwise cranky and clearly hung-over Denzel ogles his date’s assets (wink) as he argues with the ex-wife. You can see from the paraphernalia strewn about the room that Denzel and friend have had a wild night and, at this point, I wondered whether the chick was a prostitute. You can hear from the phone conversation that Denzel’s an airline pilot who’s about the take the wheel (joystick?) on a morning flight. Yikes. The next shot is of Denzel, cleaned up and looking like the movie star he is, as he walks down the hotel hallway in his pilot uniform. And so begins our ascent…and descent. Keeping the seat belt on for the entire performance is key. White knuckles will also ensue. (note-I stuck in the Airplane image from our collection of Funny T-Shirts. Sorry, I couldn’t resist-Dave)
If you have a fear of flying, don’t see this movie, unless your therapist recommends it as a way to deal with this fear. It’s no spoiler to tell you that, within the first 15 minutes of the movie, there’s a big ‘ol crash – and you’re privy to what happens in the cockpit and in the passenger area when a big ‘ol crash happens. Again, keeping on your seat belt is key. At this point, Sr. Mary and I brace in our crash positions, abandoning any thoughts of enjoying the Parkway’s food and beverage service until we land safely.
Basically, what happens is that the beginning of the movie sets up the fact that Denzel (just shorter to type than Washington) is a one-in-a-million pilot who’s also a raging alcoholic. I’m not giving anything away: The rest of the movie consists of watching Denzel self-destruct over and over again. Every time he reached for another drink, audience members audibly gasped. It was painful to watch. He meets a chick in the hospital who turns out to be a heroin addict and you think, “Oh, man, that’s exactly the wrong person for him to hook up with,” but she actually ends up being the sensible one. Denzel also has an old friend and a lawyer who figure out how they might get him out of the charges…and then there’s John Goodman, who’s more of an addiction accomplice. Goodman’s performance—especially the scene at the end of the movie—is classic, albeit a bit much. But it’s entertaining, for sure.
The whole movie leads up to the crucial episode where Denzel faces the investigatory board at the hearing that will determine his fate. I won’t spoil the ending, but I’ll say this: Denzel is absolutely brilliant throughout the movie. The way he’s able to portray the pilot is nothing less than genius. You feel sorry for him, but you also don’t because the dude has everything and throws it away because he’s too stubborn to sit through an AA meeting. I wanted him to go to prison and sober up. But he seems to think he can kick the habit on his own, but, wow, he’s a mess! The character rang true and had me thinking deep about addicts I’ve known, people who could be intelligent and successful and charming, but were no match for their addictions. This portrayal was painfully authentic and, even if the movie sucked, which it didn’t, it’d be worth it just to see Denzel act. In fact, I’m thinking I might go see it again, something I rarely do because there are always so many movies I want to see. Like in Man on Fire, Denzel’s character is haunting in that he’s simultaneously strong—make it downright bad-ass—but he’s also a hot mess. He’s like real people we all know—maybe even ourselves, to get deep about it. Like I said, this movie converted me into a Denzel fan and I might go back and see some other films just to watch him.
The ending does the performance justice and was well-written. I won’t spoil anything, so just go see it and let me know what you think. Watching that movie made me wonder: Would Denzel been a worse, better, or same pilot if he weren’t loaded? What do you think?
Now, for Bay Area folks, here are my thoughts on the New Parkway: It’s no surprise that it’s great. The Wednesday 2-for-1 special got Sr. Mary and me in the door for $6 total. But first, we had to find the door, which proved a challenge. The theatre is on 24th between Telegraph and Broadway (the Downtown YMCA’s on Broadway at that corner). We knew the theater was on that block, we both know Oakland very well, and yet we drove right past it. We discovered that there’s no sign on the outside of the building and, at night, it was hard to see that the building had spray-painted signage. We scored on a pretty good parking spot, but give yourself some time as parking in that area’s a bit scarce during times when the Y is open. Also, it’s pretty much a dark alley, so don’t leave anything in your car and bring a buddy with you. As for the theatre itself, there was good and bad: The interior signage was also not great, so we wandered into theater 2 thinking it was theater 1. Theater 2 seriously rocked. There were sets of living room arrangements around a big, square room with lots of comfy and retro-fun coaches, settees, and chairs. Some of the arrangements had shelving and all had tables for food and beverages. So we sat down and waited for our food.
The set-up is like the old Parkway, where you order food at the counter and they bring it to you, which is great because you don’t have to schlep your stuff yourself when you’re finding a seat. Anyhow, we sat down on this very groovy red sofa and waited for our stuff, marveling at the décor and set-up. We noted that we were the only people in the theater, but didn’t think much of it. Then our food came and the theater guy told us we were in the wrong theatre. See? Bad signage. So we went to theater 1, which wasn’t nearly as cool or well set up as theater 2. Theater 1 had two levels: The downstairs was set up with dining tables and chairs, with a row of movie theaters on the back of one wall. This room didn’t feel cozy or comfy and, if you were sitting there for the movie, you’d have to look up at the screen. We went upstairs, where the seating consisted mostly of big cushy office chairs with side tables. There were three tiers of seating and we opted for the furthest one back, soon discovering that a railing would block our views of the screen. So we moved down to the second tier, which had a better view, but the screen was below us. I thought this would be annoying, but it wasn’t, maybe because the movie was riveting from early on. The key for theater 1 would be to get there early to get the best seats.
All in all, the décor was funky and chic, just as you’d expect from this venue. The food was really good! I had a “Seinfeldian” salad, which wasn’t what I’d expected (I’m a salad connoisseur), but it was delicious with romaine, bleu cheese, cranberries (or some other dried fruit sweetness), carmelized walnuts, and balsamic. The portion was good and I think it was $7. Sr. Mary had two slices of pizza, one cheese and one with chicken apple sausage and something else I forget. She said they were both good, but the cheese was best. Again, the portions were generous and two slices were around $6 total. We didn’t order drinks—although beer and wine are available—but they had water with lemon available, which was nice. The crowd was fairly typical Oakland and the theater was actually pretty full on the top level. Like the old Parkway, before previews rolled, a staff member came out and greeted the audience, telling us about upcoming events. There weren’t any filmed announcements like the old owner/manager used to do. All in all, the New Parkway’s a great addition to downtown and I’ll definitely go back as often as possible.
Okay, thanks for listening and let me know what you think about Flight! I promised you my dating tips and haven’t forgotten, but wanted to write about this movie before I forgot details and impressions. Over and out for now.