Meet the Fockers

January 6th, 2005

The much anticipated Meet the Fockers is out and is bringing down the house in box office revenue. The only thing that I cannot understand is why. The movie's predecessor, Meet the Parents has quickly become a smalltime favorite amongst adults and their older children. How could the movie made to follow be anything short of classic? Well, I will tell you how in one word: plot.

What did Meet the Parents lack? A plot.
What did Meet the Fockers have? A plot.

Therein lies your difference between good and bad in this series. Do not get me wrong, I was laughing hysterically last night....for about 33.33333333% of the movie. It started strong. Writers relied on what had made them successful in the first film and that was off the cuff, quirky humor. Robert DeNiro's strict persona as Jack Byrnes pointing out all of the faults in his to-be son-in-law Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller). I don't think I need to recap Meet the Parents. Odds are, you've seen it.

Though I was excited when I first heard they were going to make Meet the Fockers, previews and commercials told me what I could really expect. It was not for lack of funny moments in the previews, obviously they try to show you the parts you'll want to see, but rather there was some uneasy feeling I had from them. I simply had a sense that this movie would not be good. Call it "movie-watcher intuition". (I do a good job of leaving any expectations at the door on my way into a theater, so I do not think this negative premonition had any affect on my opinion of the film.)

It was a good move bringing in Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand as the Fockers. Before I went to see this I was told that Hoffman nailed his part. I will say that I agree. He was great. My only complaint was that this role had him too similar to his character from one of my favorite movies (CONfidence).

If you have seen the movie, I felt it turned south as the scene changed to the restaurant at which the Fockers were throwing the party for Greg and Pam. It was here that the plot began to emerge from beneath the laughs. Sure there was a giggle or two beyond this point, but they were not nearly as hearty as those prior. I found the end of the movie dragged. They were tying loose ends from two movies. It was at the end of Meet the Fockers that we would see some conflict resolution. Funny is not resolution, funny is the conflict itself.

In Meet the Parents, Jack Byrnes uses his ex-CIA tactics to find out information about Greg and nearly tears his family apart. This same gimmick was used in Meet the Fockers, though this time it was something that was far more serious and this time he came even closer to disbanding the Byrnes family.

Why does a sequel need to follow the same path as it's predecessor? Why can you not make a movie as a continuation of characters and have new situations arise? Maybe it is too risky. Why fix it if it ain't broke? as the saying goes.

Last night I not only met the Fockers, I also met disappointment. Pass on this.

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

January 4th, 2005

I could hardly contain my desire to see this movie. Before its release I would watch the trailer roughly once a week just to keep myself appetized. I usually get my movie reviews up a day or two post, this review is coming nearly a week later. The only thing I can see as a reason it has taken me so long to get around to this one is that the movie is a difficult one to wrap your feelings around. Thoroughly confused yet?

I really liked Life Aquatic. I thought it was funny, and entertaining. It was a very unique story.

To fully enjoy this movie, please do the following: Do not compare this to any other Wes Anderson movie. There were reviews stating that in Life Aquatic Wes Anderson tried to out-Wes Anderson himself. I disagree with that perspective. I think what we see is a more true picture of Anderson. His earlier projects were collaborative efforts with Luke and/or Owen Wilson. Though Owen Wilson appears in Life Aquatic, he does not receive any writing credits.

I will admit that I went into Life Aquatic expecting to see another Bottle Rocket or Rushmore or another Royal Tenenbaums. I found at one or two points in the movie I was forcing laughter. When I realized I was doing this, I took a step back and came up with the information listed in the previous paragraph. When I had the new point of view, I focused only on Life Aquatic. I enjoyed this movie for what it was, not for how it compared to anything that came before it.

One thing that bothered me throughout the movie was the relationship between the characters played by Cate Blanchett (Jane) and Bill Murray (Steve). Jane comes to Steve as a reporter trying to write a story no one wants to read. She self-funds her trip just to get to know the man she has admired for so many years. What we never find out is why. I have my own theory on the situation, but am more than willing to listen (read) other opinions.

If you will go in with a clear head and give Wes Anderson a clean slate and a chance, I believe he will impress you. He certainly did impress me.

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Saved!

January 4th, 2005

Saved!Good girl Mary (Jena Malone) and her best friend Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) are at the top of the food chain at American Eagle Christian High School. But all that is about to change in this "subversively funny" (USA Today) teen comedy about hype, hypocrisy and high school. Also starring Macaulay Culkin and Patrick Fugit, Saved! is a "boldly hilarious satire" (Rolling Stone)!

A point to which a few of you can attest, teen comedies do not usually do much for me. The plot lines are usually weak and the movies are based more upon which 14 year old girl can best try to make us feel like we belong in jail. Saved! was not the typical teen comedy. It was smarter; there was more to it. There was a story behind it deeper than the nerdy girl who could end up being a knockout if she would only get contacts.

What could be better than a group of high school kids at a Christian school deciding to show their classmates that being "saved" was not finding Jesus, but rather to begin to think for themselves?

I never thought I would ever be in a position to make a blog post with these few words: this movie was good largely due to the performance of Macaulay Culkin. He plays Roland, the brother of Mandy Moore's character. Paralyzed from the waste down and confined to his wheelchair, he is known to his friends as "Rolly". Through more than his nickname, Culkin brings the comic relief to a movie with a serious message.

Controversial? Yes.
Funny? Yes.
I liked it.

Buy Saved! $20.24

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Spanglish

December 27th, 2004

Spanglish stars Adam Sandler as head of a functional household, though married to the only dysfunctional part of the family. His wife, Téa Leoni, is hot...errrr I mean she decides to hire a nanny/housekeeper for the family. The job goes to a Hispanic woman (Paz Vega) who speaks no English. Somehow, the plot develops from there.

Am I the only one who has Sandler so type-cast and pigeon-holed into his slapstick comedy roles that I have a hard time taking him seriously? Sure Punch Drunk Love offered him in a serious role, but he was able to play someone so quirky that his personality fit with the character. In Spanglish he is simply a great guy; a world class chef, patient husband, and an example-setting father. There have been moments in his comedy-ridden past where Sandler has shown a softer side, so it is not completely foreign to see it more prominently here.

The movie was good. I saw it with my sisters, brother, and BooBoo. From what I can gather, both of my sisters liked it a lot. I have no report from the other two.

Rumors have flown surrounding the idea of Oscar nominations for Adam Sandler's work in Spanglish. Sorry Adam, these rumors trouble me. The acting in this movie was all done by Vega and the girl who plays her daughter (Shelbie Bruce). If you can watch Spanglish and see John Clasky and not Billy Madison, Sandler did a good job in the role, but his character was support. He was not lead, so Best Actor he should not be. Does that mean you should not see this movie? No. It was a touching movie, once you get past the loathsome feeling toward Leoni's character.

Spanglish was not my first choice of movies to see last night. I was not very excited to see it at all actually, but I saw it none the less. It was better than I had expected, but I hadn't expected much.

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Sideways

December 10th, 2004

Sideways is the story of a man, Jack (Thomas Hayden Church), who embarks on a trip with his to be Best-man Miles (Paul Giamatti). For the week prior to the wedding, Miles takes Jack to California's Wine Country for some last minute reflection and a lot of good wine. Both men are getting older and appear not to have too much of a future, which would explain the situations in which we find both men. The conflict arises when Miles finds out that Jack's motivation for their wonderful week away is to sew his last wild oat or two.

Based upon the way I have written that first part, I guess it is slightly disheartening to tell you how well I identified with the character played by Giamatti. A man who takes his own interests very seriously and maybe once or twice shuns other people as a result.

The movie was very real. That, however led to things I both liked and disliked about the movie. I laughed practically throughout when I had not expected to laugh much at all. I really did not to know what to expect to be honest. The scripting seemed much more casual as if dialogue was live and not written.

What surprised me was some adult material. It really caught me off guard. It seemed out of place and may have detracted from my overall feeling of the movie. That feeling was a very positive one regardless.

I do not think Thomas Hayden Church could act his way out of a hole in the ground...whatever that means. I will not expect him to win any prestigious awards for his role. He was, however ironic this may seem, perfect to play Jack. He was just the right mix of annoying and chauvinist for the part.

Paul Giamatti is one of the actors that I will go out of my to see perform (with the exception of "that" movie about an obnoxious radio personality who's name I will not mention). In some of my aimless digging around I have seen one or two opinions that list Giamatti as a potential nominee for Best Actor for this film. I do hate to do this, but I will disagree. He was fantastic, my only concern is that "Miles" may have been too flat.

I have taken a few moments of reflection on the movie as I tried to piece together my review. Each time a different part of the movie flashes through my mind and I cannot help but smile. There were a couple of dead spots in the plot when it dragged some, but it was not enough to ultimately bother me.

It was a very good movie. I saw it. I enjoyed it very much, though I did not love it. I think a second time through my opinion of the film would only improve. I will buy this DVD. You should see it. I hope you like it, too.

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Finding Neverland

November 27th, 2004

Johnny Depp is at it once again, this time as playwright Sir James Matthew Barrie. Finding Neverland is based upon actual events leading to the creation of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

If you have any ounce of imagination, I implore you to see this movie. If you have ever had a relationship in your life that you have considered special, one that has touched you in anyway, I feel it is in your best interest to see Finding Neverland. To say that I was moved by this movie would certainly be an understatement. But do not take my word for it, your Neverland is not my Neverland. Find out for yourself.

The bond formed between Depp and the four boys he meets in this film is truly magical. He teaches four children who are forced to grow up through a series of unfortunate events in their life that it is ok to be a kid. His message is simple, yet profound: all one needs to do is believe. To students of life, both young and old, that is an attainable lesson.

Be young at heart, hold on to your dreams, find your Neverland.

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The Incredibles

November 21st, 2004

The IncrediblesI always have a relatively high level of anticipation for the new Dreamworks and Pixar movies. The Incredibles from Pixar was no exception.

This movie was good...when you consider the following: you will not fall out of your seat with laughter, you will not be blown away with plot line, you will not walk out of the theater thinking this was the best movie you've ever seen.

Was this a wake up call for movie goers? Are Pixar creations no longer synonymous with cute kids movies that'll make you giggle? The Incredibles had some cute moments, it had some humor, though not in the supply one might expect. There seemed to be no appeal for children in this movie aside from the fact that it was a) animated and b) about super heroes. There were more adult themes and language used in this movie.

In talking to a friend (Doug) the other night, he told me this movie "was no Nemo." I told him that I long for the day when that is no longer an estimate of enjoyment in a Pixar film. Can't a movie be good or bad in it's own right? Why do they all need to be compared to Finding Nemo? Will we see one that good again from Pixar?

The Incredibles was good in it's own right. I will not deny that fact. I enjoyed it, though I did not love it. And no, it was no Nemo.

Each Pixar film is prefaced with a short film. The highlight of my movie going experience today was Boundin', not The Incredibles.

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I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

November 21st, 2004

Link: http://www.paramountclassics.com/illsleep/index2.html

I'll Sleep When I'm DeadDirected by Mike Hodges, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead is a psychological crime-drama that features an all-star cast including Clive Owen, Charlotte Rampling, and Malcolm McDowell and asks the question: what is the price of vengeance?

Ex-gangster Will Graham (Owen) thought he had gained back his soul by leaving the hard-boiled life of the criminal underworld behind him and taking on the life of a drifter. When he learns that his younger brother is found dead of a gruesome suicide, Will comes back to town and discovers that his death was motivated by a shocking event involving a local car dealer with a violent habit.

To get vengeance against the man responsible, Will must deal with the unfinished business of his old life which includes a feud with the local crime boss and lingering feelings for an old flame.

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead reunites Clive Owen with Director Mike Hodges. The two worked together on a film that I like a lot: Croupier. Both movies employ a narrative overlay from Owen that gives depth beyond the action.

This movie has the feel of many different genres, though never really settles into one category. All I can tell you is that if you like Clive Owen, independent movies, and/or intellectual thrillers you might want to make time for I'll Sleep When I'm Dead.

Buy I'll Sleep When I'm Dead $22.49

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Saw

November 19th, 2004

Went to see I Heart Huckabees last night and encountered technical difficulties so we had to opt for a different movie. After some deliberation we decided upon Saw (Cary Elwes, Danny Glover).

Scary movies are very difficult to pull off, in my opinion. To make a truly scary movie it takes more than sudden cut scenes and loud sounds during quiet moments. A good scary movie is one where you can lose yourself in your imagination; one where you can become engulfed in the movie.

I can say that when I got home last night, I was looking over my shoulder. That is the main thing I look for in a scary movie.

When we left the theater last night after the movie and tried to talk about the movie, I was unable to say whether or not I would recommend Saw. It wasn't until this morning that I was able to realize that I would. If you are a fan of scary movies and do not mind a little blood and gore in a film, then I think you should check out Saw. I will say that there was one point towards the end when it appeared that they were basically just going to end the movie and I was furious. I had questions and had no answers. This was going to be the weakest ending to a movie I had ever experienced. Ultimately I did get my answers, so this crisis was narrowly averted.

My only hang up with the film is one brought up by the friend I saw the movie with last night. It truly is sick that someone was able to come up with a story like that. That may have been the scariest part of the movie.

(Also, the more and more I think about it, there seems to be a significant relation to the movie Seven, starring Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, and Kevin Spacey.)

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The Polar Express

November 14th, 2004

From the first preview I saw for The Polar Express I have been on the fence over whether or not I wanted to see it. Regardless of what I had decided, I saw it today.

There is not much to report about this movie. That is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, I feel. The message of the movie was very good. It was an important one: belief in the Christmas spirit is what counts most. And that belief can be expanded beyond the holidays. The main character, a young boy, is a subscriber to the "seeing is believing" philosophy. His voyage on the Polar Express is to attempt to show him that sometimes you do not need to see to believe.

So there is the message. I do not feel as though I am divulging confidential material reserved for the few who've seen the movie.

What I did not like is that I felt as though there was too much built into the story to kill time. I like the idea behind the movie, I like the message they were trying to get across, I just think they used too much filler to get from start to finish.

I enjoy Christmas movies. It's always nice to see one to get you first into the holiday spirit. I am now into the holiday spirit thanks to The Polar Express. It is a good movie. I recommend you check it out.