Monthly Archives: July 2010

Review: Helen

In real life you don’t want to hang out with someone who’s a drag, so why sit through an entire movie focused on a woman and her misery? It’s one thing to check out a drama in which the main character has an actual problem at hand, but in Helen, the titular character’s issue is confined to her head and not just because she’s suffering with a mental illness. The gravity of her situation is never relayed clearly making it impossible to sympathize with her situation. Helen never seems sympathetic, she seems unjustifiably sad and selfish.

From the outside, Helen (Ashley Judd) seems to have it all. She’s a successful college music professor and lives in a beautiful home with her daughter, Julie (Alexia Fast), and loving second husband, David (Goran Visnjic). But inside she’s harboring a secret and when that secret surfaces, her life unravels. An overwhelming case of depression quickly escalates from short panic attacks to a condition that consumes her every waking moment. She can’t sleep, she can’t teach, she can’t function in the least. Finally David takes her to a hospital where the seriousness of her state is finally revealed. A doctor explains to David, “Your wife is not unhappy, Mr. Leonard. Your wife is ill.”

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On the Red Carpet with Jay Roach and His Schmucks

Let’s say you were invited to a dinner, but not just any dinner. This is a dinner for idiots and at the conclusion of the meal, you’d have to stand up in front of the entire party and give a presentation to prove the superiority of your idiocy. What would you do?

Stephanie Szostak would resort to her ability to magically raise the corner of her lip with an invisible string. Lucy Punch would take it up a notch and do a little something that would involve her whole body. “I might demonstrate how extremely flexible I am and do some weird contortionist body shapes,” she revealed. “Eating with my feet, through my arms, over my head.” Larry Wilmore would take his show in a completely different direction, “I am going to anti-schmuck it. That’s how I become the schmuckiest cleverest schmuck. They think I’m going to do something schmucky, but then I fool them and I don’t do anything.”

It’s a good thing none of them play a schmuck in Dinner for Schmucks because none of that could compare to a woman who has a conversation with a lobster, a blind swordsman, a ventriloquist with a flirty puppet or a guy who spends his time with a live vulture.

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Review: Dinner for Schmucks

When studios are delivering buddy comedy after buddy comedy, each one better bring a little something new to the table on top of pouring on the humor. Dinner for Schmucks serves up big time when it comes to novelty; it’s the humor that’s on the sour side.

Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd) is doing pretty well for himself. He drives a Porsche and lives in a gorgeous apartment with his loving girlfriend, but being a sixth floor analyst for Fender Financial just isn’t good enough. He wants to be on the seventh floor with the big boys. Tim actually gets his chance after a gutsy play for a vacant spot, but before the seventh floor office can officially be his, he must participate in a company tradition, a dinner for idiots. Each analyst must bring a guest and at the end of the night, the one whose lunacy is the most entertaining, wins.

That’s where Barry Speck (Steve Carell) comes in. Just when Tim’s conscience is about to compel him to ditch the dinner thing completely, Tim literally runs into Barry. It doesn’t take long for Tim to determine Barry, an IRS employee and mouse taxidermist, is certifiably insane and the perfect candidate for dinner. The problem is, Barry’s also a leech and attaches himself to Tim for the days leading up to the dinner. During that time Barry manages to chase away Tim’s girlfriend, trash his apartment, invite his crazy ex back into his life and have Tim audited.

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Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek Get Low

Who doesn’t love attending events held in their honor? It all starts with baby namings, Brisses or Christenings and then it’s onto birthday parties, graduations and weddings, so why isn’t it the same for funerals? Of course the tradition is to hold the funeral after the individual has passed, but what happens if that person wants to come full circle and be part of their exit ceremony just as they were when they entered this world and during all the milestones they hit as they trudged through it?

Well, that’s exactly what Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) of Get Low is thinking, but sadly it’s not in a very celebratory manner. Bush is the town hermit, his rickety old cabin in the woods a prime target for stone-throwing kids looking for a quick thrill. There are heaps of rumors floating around about Bush that he’s committed every offense possible from killing another man to dealing with the devil. Bush may have a dark past, but that picture isn’t nearly as gloomy as the town has painted it.

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Defending Bad Movies: Fired Up

There are so many raunchy, sex-driven teen comedies out there, most of which are pure garbage. Miss March? Ridiculous. The whole straight-to-DVD American Pieseries? Junk. I Love You Beth Cooper? I shudder at the title alone. But Fired Up? What was so terrible about that one? In fact, I think it’s quite good. The film is downright hilarious, it has some heart and is entertaining through and through.

It stars Nicholas D’Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen as Shawn and Nick, two jocks so obsessed with the ladies, they opt to ditch football camp for cheerleading camp. They convince their high school squad, The Tigers, they’re committed solely for athletic purposes, but they’ve got another plan in mind; hook up with as many ladies as possible before ditching and attending an epic football party. Problem is, not only does Nick develop a little crush on the head cheerleader, Carly (Sarah Roemer), but both guys find themselves getting into the whole cheer thing.

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Review: Ramona And Beezus

People of all ages talk about Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona books fondly, but that still doesn’t classify the series as one for all ages. The stories are for children, and adults just remember them tenderly and enjoy sharing them with their kids; that doesn’t mean the book-to-film adaptation needs to directly appeal to older crowds as well. If only the filmmakers would have ditched such a deliberate attempt at making Ramona and Beezus adult-friendly, perhaps the film would have been as successful as the source material.

Ramona and Beezus is a mash up of Cleary’s beloved books about a little girl and her big sister. The series begins with the character at age four, but the film stars Joey King as a 9-year-old Ramona Quimby with her sister Beezus (Selena Gomez) a teen in high school. They love each other, but Beezus often admits sometimes she just can’t stand her troublemaker of a little sister. Most kids Ramona’s age create their fair share of problems, but Ramona’s wild imagination gets way out of hand a little too often.

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Defending Bad Movies: Georgia Rule

Regardless of whether or not you think she deserves what she’s getting, Lindsay Lohan must be feeling pretty rotten these days and I can’t help but to feel a little sympathetic, even if it’s just the slightest bit. So, in honor of Lohan’s downfall, while everyone else is knocking the once promising actress, I’m going to give her a little credit. In fact, I’ll do so for a film that not only marked the starting point of her demise, but one that got universally panned as well, Georgia Rule.

The film stars Lohan as Rachel Wilcox, a rotten city kid who’s sent to spend the summer with her grandmother, Georgia (Jane Fonda), in hopes it’ll straighten her out. Rachel’s mother, Lilly (Felicity Huffman), may let her get away with misbehaving at home, but at Georgia’s Idaho abode, things are different and Rachel must abide by “Georgia Rule.” When Rachel isn’t getting her mouth washed out with soap, she’s either working at the vet Simon’s (Dermot Mulroney) office or trying to corrupt the local golden boy Harlan (Garrett Hedlund). Rachel manages to squeeze by committing only a handful of atrocities until one of her stories takes things a bit too far. When Rachel tells Simon her mother’s boyfriend molested her, he tells Georgia who tells Rachel’s mother who returns to Idaho to straighten things out during which the harbored frustrations between three generations boil over.

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