Sunday, April 6, 2008

I Love John Krasinski...I Mean, Leatherheads is Cool!

Before I get into the review, I should mention something: I may not be the most reliable critic for this movie. The fact is that John Krasinski is my soulmate. I mean, we haven’t talked about it or anything, but I’m pretty sure if we met, he would agree. So, obviously, the movie could be two hours of him tying his shoes and I’d love it. Which is not to say that you should discount my enjoyment of Leatherheads, but you know, I’m kinda in love with one of the stars.

So now that that’s out of the way, on to the movie. It’s actually good -- mainly because both George Clooney and John Krasinski are ridiculously charming. Clooney plays Dodge Connelly, an over-the-hill pro football player in the nascent years of the sport. Krasinski plays Carter Rutherford, a college football player / war hero that Connelly convinces to join his team in an effort to legitimize the professional league.

All of this would be peachy, except that there needs to be a love interest to make the movie fun, and for some reason, they decided to cast Renee Zellweger as newspaper reporter Lexie Littleton. I didn’t hate her as much as I anticipated; Zellweger can definitely keep up with the zippy dialogue, and she has the annoyed eye-roll down pat. But there’s something wrong with her face and her voice was really grating. Which is especially noticeable in Leatherheads, since her male co-stars both have the most wonderful voices that ever existed.

Anyway, while Dodge and Carter drum up enthusiasm for the professional football league, Lexie snoops around trying to uncover the truth behind Carter’s war heroism. Obviously a love triangle emerges and, astonishingly, Lexie doesn’t spend much time agonizing over who she wants. I need to point out again just how charming Krasinski is in this role -- it’s a little unbelievable that Lexie has no interest in him at all, but maybe Zellweger couldn’t see clearly out of her squinty, squinty eyes.

The main thing to say about the movie stylistically is that Clooney, who also directed, tried to pattern Leatherheads off of old-school screwball comedies – think It Happened One Night or Bringing Up Baby. This means lost of fast talking and word play. For example when a man tells Renee Zellweger he didn’t come here to be insulted, she archly asks him, “Well, where do you normally go?” And though sadly, Krasinski has less to do in this department than Clooney or Zellweger, all three of the leads know how to keep pace and deliver a zinger.

Too bad Leatherheads is two hours long and it drags a bit as the larger, external events start to take their toll on the characters. But the dialogue is really fun and the movie looks lovely, with lots of warm golden hues in the costumes and sets. So, yeah, it’s a good movie. It could have been great with a little more time in the editing booth and a little less…you know, Renee Zellweger. However, as the characters in Leatherheads find out, you can’t always have it all.

Final note: The casting of Renee Zellweger is just the most recent in a string of female lead problems in the movies lately. (See: Hillary Swank in PS: I Love You, Kate Bosworth in 21, or Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses.) Are there no good, young actresses in Hollywood? Was Rachel McAdams busy? Because, seriously, until this issue is addressed, I think she needs to be on call at all times. She’s charming and cute and smart. Let her have all the lead roles in romantic comedies…at least in Lindsay Lohan gets back on her feet. Ha! Just kidding.

Friday, April 4, 2008

No need to run to see Fat Boy

Run, Fat Boy, Run stars Simon Pegg whose previously leading roles came in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, both great movies. But not only did Pegg star in those movies, he also co-wrote them with director, Edgar Wright. Considering previous awesomeness, Run, Fat Boy, Run should be a great movie as Pegg stars in and co-wrote the picture. Too bad the director this time is David Schwimmer (Ross? Really?) and Pegg’s writing partner was Michael Ian Black. Judging from this result, apparently Edgar Wright’s role in the previous movies was winnowing down the number of stereotypical and annoying sidekicks.

It’s not all bad. Run, Fat Boy, Run is generally funny as follows Pegg’s Dennis’ attempts to get his life on track after running out on his preggers fiancé, Libby, (Thandi Newtown) on their wedding day. He works as a security guard at a lingerie store, constantly locks himself out of his apartment and deals with his rotund landlord, a man who’s very unhappy that Dennis can never seem to pay his rent. The only bright spot in Dennis’ life is his son, Jake…that is until Libby starts dating Whit, played by a seriously buff Hank Azaria.

Whit turns out to be charming, rich and magnanimous too, as he runs marathons for charity. So, Dennis does the obvious thing and…starts running marathons? Couldn’t he have just decided to get hot and rich instead? It seems less painful. But this raises a confusing point for me: Hank Azaria was really hot in this movie. Like, really hot. Disconcertingly so. Doesn’t he know he’s a cartoon character voice? He’s Chief Wiggum/ Apu/ Sea Captain! None of those people are hot. Hank Azaria is, apparently. And it was disturbing.

Anyway, as the movie turns to Dennis’ training, it starts to drag. There are only so many times it’s funny to watch a fat guy on a scooter swat Pegg’s pasty legs with a spatula. Sounds funny? Right, it is -- just that once. But, Dennis trains, Whit turns out to be a jerk, and things end well, but not too treacley, I suppose. There are just too many background characters and not enough Nick Frost, who’s really the only sidekick Simon Pegg will ever need in my book. In the end, not a great movie, but, hey, much better than I expected from this guy -->

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Horton Hears an AWESOME

I’m trying to think of ways to be snarky about this movie, but I really can’t. It’s just so, so good. And gorgeous to look at. There are scenes in the movie that made me want to ask the projectionist to pause so I could just sit and stare at the screen for a few minutes.

The basic story, for those of you who skipped 2nd grade, is that Horton the elephant, voiced by Jim Carrey, hears a sound come from a spec floating through his idyllic jungle home. Horton discovers that the spec is actually home to tiny Whoville. Horton makes friends with the Mayor of Whoville (Steve Carrell) and, being the lovely creature that he is, decides to take the spec, now resting on a flower, somewhere safe.

This is threatening apparently to a purple kangaroo that lives in the jungle. Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) tells Horton to get rid of the spec and when he won’t, all sorts of awful things happen. Like Kangaroo hiring a vulture named Vlad to go after Horton and destroy the spec. Vlad is voiced by Will Arnett and I don’t think I need to tell you how awesome that is. I do need to warn you though, that the parts where the spec is in jeopardy are really scary. Like this movie is so lovely, I could not handle the intense scenes where parts of this wonderful world were in danger. So clearly, I'm a wimp

But, anyway, Will Arnett is not the lone awesome background character: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Amy Poehler also have supporting roles and the whole movie is narrated by Charles Osgood. It all adds up to greatness. And if you don’t believe me, watch this clip. Then go watch Horton Hears a Who. It will wash your brain out after you make the mistake of seeing 27 Dresses.

James Marsden...Not Just a Pretty Face

Okay, so I fully expected, upon plopping my fifty cents on the counter for this movie, that I would get a completely mockable romantic comedy that included all the clichés – initial hate, mistaken identity, miscommunications, lead character in love with someone else, broken hearts, and finally, a frantic race to declare love at the last.possible.second! I love me a terrible romantic comedy – it is so rife with unintended humor. Alas, my quarter and five nickels (that’s right!) did not get me my horrible rom-com. Despite the fact that this movie included ALL of the above clichés AND Katherine Heigl, it was actually pretty good. Sigh. Here are some of the reasons why:

James Marsden: Of course. He made this whole movie work. He’s like what Harry Connick Jr. was trying to do, but Marsden was ACTUALLY charming and cute. He did sport the same outfit throughout the entire movie, but wardrobe was clearly going for the struggling-writer angle, and we all know they only wear button down shirts with a gray undershirt. Their hands were tied! (See right: So cute, as he laughs and takes pictures of Heigl to advance his career!)

Judy Greer: I’ve had a soft spot for Greer since Arrested Development (“Say good-bye to THESE!) but this role was an inspired bit of acting for her. She seemed constantly drunk/hungover/high, at one point slurring her words so badly I could barely make out what she was saying. Awesome.

All of the dresses: So sue me, the prairie girl get up made me laugh. Yes, I confess, sometimes my laughs are cheap! I’m sorry! I will go watch Good Luck Chuck as a penance, so I can remember what cheap laughs get you! (No, I won’t really do that. Please, don’t make me! PLEASE!) (see left: Kinda funny, right?)

What they did Wrong: Of course, it wasn’t all perfection. They hinted at redemption for the completely awful sister, who lied to her boyfriend (who also happened to be the guy Heigl was in love with) and who completely unforgivably cut up their dead mother’s wedding dress. I don’t need to see her straighten her life out. She is a horrible person, and she should never find love EVER AGAIN!

Not quite a Giant Face, but why is it staring at me like that?: Speaking of the sister, her face was disturbing. Especially for a character who is supposed to be so terrifically good looking. Malin Ackerman (unfortunate name too, as long as we’re going for low blows here) has too-tweezed eyebrows, a little pig nose, squinty eyes, and is overall not great looking. Also, the face parts of her face are squeezed onto the tiny bottom half, leaving her looking very disproportionate. I just didn’t buy her as the hot sister. (That picture is sorta flattering, making me look like I am just mean. I'm not, I promise. See it in a theater, then you'll see!)

Conclusion: My god, I would guilty pleasure buy this movie and hide it behind my Frank Capra Collection. Then, when people came over, I could be all “What? Oh yes, I really only enjoy the classics” and the minute they leave I could pull it out and watch it with popcorn and a goofy smile. I mean, I’m not GOING to do that- no, no, no. Definitely not. What was I saying? Um, yeah, it’s worth fifty cents.

Look! A themed, double review!

So it’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me and I’m sorry. But not as sorry as I am for seeing 10,000BC. In order to ease my pain, I’m making this edition of Rachel’s Reels into double review of both 10,000BC and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. This makes sense, really, as they’re both…historical pieces. Note the very broad definition of “historical” I’m using .

There are other similarities too. For instance, parts of Miss Pettigrew deals with the bombings of London at the start of WWII. This brings to mind something that was missing from 10,000BC: a great, giant, modern weapon that could have swept in, killing the entire cast and ending the damn movie. Death ray, robo-dinosaur, I’m not picky.

But let’s jump into the plots, shall we? Note the very broad definition of “plot” I’m using. 10,000BC is about a clan of ancient people who must adapt to a changing way of life. Apparently, their wooly mammoth food source is dying out or moving or something. So now the clan is going to have to transition from being hunters to being warriors.

Luckily there’s a prophecy that one of them is going to lead this charge. His name is D’leh. D’leh, like all of his comrades, has really bad hair and speaks not in contractions. And when he speaks, all formal like, he has a very strange accent. Now, I’m not going to pretend to know what cavemen sounded like, but I bet they didn’t talk like some Transylvanian morons who spent all their summer vacations in India. My point, and I want to say it’s hard to have a point when assessing this movie, is that our ancestors were not vampires from the Himalayas. They were apparently animal-lovers as D’leh rescues a saber-tooth tiger and mourns for the mistreatment of wooly mammoths. This is where a robo-dinosaur would have come in handy. You try to pet robo-raptor and he bites your face off. End of movie.

Unfortunately, this movie is robo-dinosaurless, so D’leh must lead his buddies on an expedition to become warriors. Also to rescue their compatriots, including his girlfriend, who have been kidnapped by some Egyptians? Maybe? I don’t know. They build pyramids. And also have some very nifty red-sailed boats. Luckily for D’leh, all of the other ancient cultures he encounters also have prophecies about him and a surplus of people standing by to translate all of D’leh’s inspirational unity talk. They all band together and fight the pyramid-builders, freeing all the slaves and rescuing their friends. At some point in all the excitement, D’leh’s girlfriend dies…and then comes back to life, because D’leh made eye contact with a wooly mammoth? I don’t know?!?!?! Gah, I can’t handle this movie anymore…

Ahem. Miss Pettigrew, on the other hand, is both delightful and actually historical, not in the broad sense. Frances McDormand stars as Miss Pettigrew, sad, impoverished nanny who, after being fired yet again, poses as a social secretary for Amy Adams’ Delyshia LeFosse. Nice name. Anyway, Miss Pettigrew is at first astonished by Delyshia’s lifestyle, what the spending of the money and the having of multiple boyfriends, but eventually she gets swept along with the ride.

Unlike Delyshia, Miss Pettigrew never forgets who she is and is the one character in the whole movie who stands firm for what she knows is important. The reward for this good moral certitude is sadly, more poverty, as Delyshia sorts her life out, picks the right boyfriends and heads off for a new life in New York, presumably to escape the impending war that’s going to ravage London. Luckily Miss Pettigrew does score a date with Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds) and can speak with contractions and doesn’t have dreadlocks.

To recap, if you want to see a movie about a specific, real historical period, pick Miss Pettigrew. If you’re a severe masochist, go with 10,000 BC. If you hope Amy Adams doesn’t play frothy, bubbly breathy-voiced ingénues for the rest of her career, raise your hand. And if you want a robo-dinosaur, you’re out of luck.

Monday, March 31, 2008

21 Reasons not to see 21

1) It costs more than 50 cents.
2) It's based on a book, a nonfiction book, and while I haven't read the source material I spent a lot of time thinking I bet that didn't happen in the book.

3) Jim Sturgess is deprived of his British accent. (see totally cute and with a british accent cuter)

4) Supports the premise that a white male going to Harvard Medical School would ever be in the running for a full scholarship based on "standing out from the crowd"

5) Supports the illusion that anyone who looks remotely like Kate Bosworth would ever go to MIT. (see two equally unbelivable images below)

6) Kate Bosworth

7) Kate Bosworth's funny shaped head. (this picture doesn't even do justice to the bulging bulb in the back of her head)

8) Kate Bosworth's scarily visible rib cage. Yes I know you did your best to try and hide it but we saw it anyway.
9) Hiding your casino winnings in the drop ceiling of your dorm room. I would have sooner believed digging a hole for a shoebox. You are supposed to be smart.
10) The idea that playing repeatedly at the same casino when there are lots of other casinos to play at is a good way not to get caught. You are supposed to be smart.

11) "Smart" people not being smart.

12) Foolproof signals like crossing your arms behind your back? The crime signals in Mad Money made more sense.
13) They say "the best thing about Vegas is getting to be whoever you want" when everyone knows the best thing about Vegas is wandering down the street wasted at 2:00 in the afternoon carrying a two foot high Eiffel tower drink and high-fiving other people who are probably drunker than you are.

14) Lawrence Fishburn has a Giant Face.

15) Tries to push sympathy for casino "loss prevention" boss who beats people up because he is losing his job to computers. Tear. :'( If you change your rings to hit someone in the face, I am not going to feel sorry for you.

16) Talks about Newton's formulas.
17) Way way too much math.
18) Whiney nerdy friends who rain on the fun parade of their now confident friend.

19) Unnecessary dancing stripper scenes.

20) It will make you want to go to Vegas and no you aren't going to win any money. No, no you aren't going to win any money.

21) Kate Bosworth (eek her eyes are like a husky, so frightening)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Giant Faces Club


Queen Latifah: You're Cover Girl commercials say look at my face look at my face and we did. It's GIANT. Welcome.

Stephen Root: Milton Waddams. You are a great character actor. I hope some day you burn down my office building. I just hope the shade from your Giant face doesn't prevent the fire from truly catching.