A Tyler Perry-produced version of "Meet The Parents"? Sure, why not?… MoreA Tyler Perry-produced version of "Meet The Parents"? Sure, why not? Wade (Craig Robinson of "The Office" and "Hot Tub Time Machine") is heading up to the Hamptons to meet his girlfriend's family and to propose marriage. The girlfriend's dad is Judge Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier), a control freak who feels that Wade is a big loser. Wade must somehow prove to the dad that he's not a loser and is indeed fit for his daughter's hand in marriage, but with the rest of the Peeples family throwing monkey wrenches into the works, it's going to be difficult.
No, I wasn't being flippant when I said this was Tyler Perry's "Meet The Parents". Much like the interaction between Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller, it's the relationship between David Alan Grier and Craig Robinson that's the focus. The other characters may have a moment or two, but for the most part remain in the background. Of course, what Peeples has over Meet the Parents is that David Alan Grier is actually funny compared to Robert DeNiro. Like Bob Hope or even Chevy Chase, Grier plays his part simultaneously straight and winking at the camera. Grier is so adept at deadpan that some might mistake his performance as overly dramatic and unnecessarily heavy. I can assure you this is not the case. Apart from that particular performance, Peeples is your typical dumb summer comedy. Being dumb isn't necessarily bad for a movie like this, as long as it provides laughs or at the least entertainment. I laughed at times, and for the most part was entertained, and so this film was a success in that aspect.
The first "post-Avengers" film from Marvel Studios (another Thor movie… MoreThe first "post-Avengers" film from Marvel Studios (another Thor movie is on the way later this year, as well as another Hugh Jackman "Wolverine" picture) features Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) dealing with the events of New York City, in which the Avengers repelled an alien invasion. Stark was so traumatized by the events that even the mere mention of the words "New York" sends him into a panic attack. He finds comfort in designing new iron man suits (of which there are many), but girlfriend Pepper Potts (Paltrow) can only be ignored for so long. Suddenly, there is a new threat to the world in the form of Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a terrorist of "Bane"-like proportions. Mandarin seems to control an army of super-powered soldiers who can generate some sort of intense thermal heat within their bodies (their powers include super-strength, speed and regeneration). It's quite an intense challenge, to say the least.
If there's one thing these Iron Man films have in common, it's that Tony Stark has been more interesting outside of the armor than in it, and the build up to the big, computer-effects driven fight scenes is more entertaining the the fight scenes themselves. This, perhaps more than anything, exemplifies "Iron Man 3", where the climactic battle is a little underwhelming when compared to the journey to that point. Well, there's another thing these Iron Man films have in common (so it's two things), and that's humor. This might be the funniest and fun-est of the three films, and there are several "wtf" moments where it's clear this film doesn't take itself very seriously (as opposed to something like, I don't know... "The Dark Knight Rises"). And really, I have to think Mandarin is a little jab at Bane, and the Dark Knight Rises in general. Look, you liked Iron Man and Iron Man 2, you will probably like Iron Man 3. There aren't any major deviations from the others. It's a good, fun action movie.
In 1962, the film version of the popular musical "West Side Story" won… MoreIn 1962, the film version of the popular musical "West Side Story" won not one, not two, but ten academy awards. The American Film Institute placed it second on it's list of the greatest film Musicals of all Time, right after "Singin' In the Rain" (and above The Wizard of Oz). Obviously a film of this caliber doesn't need me or my praise, but I will share my opinion regardless. The premise of the film (and I assume of the stage version) is simple: what if Romeo and Juliet took place in modern (1961) New York, and instead of rival families separating the two lovers, it was rival gangs? The Jets vs. the Sharks, Americans vs. Puerto Ricans, white vs. hispanic, the barriers separating the two factions are distinct and seemingly uncrossable. So Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) find themselves falling in love at first sight when they meet at a dance, oblivious to the world around them. I'm sure the film version has technical advantages over the stage version, and the "first meeting" scene is a perfect example of this. It's a great piece of direction and artistry, undeniable artistry. Whatever your feelings about singing, prancing gang members, it would be impossible to ignore the artistry of the film on display. Add to this musical numbers that have entered into the cultural lexicon, and you have a near flawless film.
Based on the play by Alexandre Dumas, "Camille" tells the story of… MoreBased on the play by Alexandre Dumas, "Camille" tells the story of Marguerite (Garbo), a woman who rises to the upper crust of parisian society through the many wealthy men she seduces. Her latest conquest, Baron de Varville, is perfectly content to keep his trophy in the manner to which she's accustomed, but he feels no more passion towards her than any other object he owns. Armand (Robert Taylor) has loved Marguerite from afar, but his lack of money at first leaves her cold. It takes a trip out to the country, to a little farm like the one she grew up on, for her to realize what he means to her and what love can be. Enter Armand's father (Lionel Barrymore). He tells Marguerite of just how harmful an influence she is for Armand and convinces her to leave him.
It's a tale of social politics and star-crossed lovers, very well done with classic performances (Greta Garbo was nominated for an academy award for her performance). A romantic tear-jerker, if you like that sort of thing.
In 1979, America was just beginning to see the effects of the women's… MoreIn 1979, America was just beginning to see the effects of the women's movement on the american family. There was a great amount of role reversal in the home, and the divorce rates had begun to skyrocket. In "Kramer vs. Kramer", we witness the collapse of a marriage that before, in a more typical movie, would see the man walking out on the woman, leaving her to support and raise their child alone, but now sees the woman leaving, as she feels unfulfilled in life and wants something better (there aren't necessarily any villains in this movie, only victims). Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) is the husband, climbing his way up the corporate ladder, making great business contacts while his family contacts languish. Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) is the wife, and the only reason she's stayed with him so long is her love for little Billy, their son. As the film opens, it's come to the point where her desperation and unhappiness have surpassed even the love for her son, and she's packing to leave. Ted arrives home, high on the news he may be made a V.P. at work, completely unaware of his wife's condition or their situation. "She's ruined one of the five best days of my life" he complains, after she's walked out on him (notice the emphasis is all on him). In the midst of all this selfishness, no one seems to notice that Billy has been virtually abandoned by both parents. No, he's no Oliver Twist: he has a home, he has food and clothing, and he wants for nothing, but the adults in his life, the people who are supposed to be foundation of his very person, are letting him down in a most cruel way. Being forced together, Ted and Billy must interact without the motherly intermediary present, and it's a learning experience for both father and son. Ted goes from ignoring his son and being largely dismissive to realizing just how valuable that child is to his existence, and how much that child depends on him for literally everything. It's only after the immensity of this "parenthood thing" dawns on Ted that Joanna comes back into the picture, and after a 18-month absence, sues Ted for custody of their son.
Perhaps it takes becoming a parent to truly realize the stakes of a movie like Kramer vs. Kramer. There are few things more powerful than the love a parent has for their child (I know I would without hesitation give my life for my daughter, and even a thought of some harm be-fouling her can put literal, physical tears in my eyes almost in an instant), and yet as parents, we are capable of so much destruction in these little lives. The extent to which we can emotionally cripple our own offspring is both shocking and horrifying. They're little people, very small physically, and sometimes it's easier to ignore them while focusing on our own needs, and not even realize what it is that we're doing until it's too late. Even though I've never gone through a divorce, I can empathize with the emotions this movie projects. Parenthood is perhaps the less glamourous of the 'big emotions' that make for movie material (Death and Romantic Love usually get all the glory), but parenthood is just as powerful, just as devastating as any other great mystery of life.
"The Place Beyond the Pines" is one of those frustrating movies that… More"The Place Beyond the Pines" is one of those frustrating movies that starts off so promising but eventually falls apart under the weight of its own ambition. Performances by Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn, Bradley Cooper, Emory Cohen and Ray Liotta are all top-notch, as is the directing by Derek Cianfrance, but it feels like Cianfrance wanted to make three movies all at once, and it turns into a never-ending saga of "Once Upon A Time in White Trash Carny Country".
The film opens with a wonderful shot of Luke (Gosling) walking towards the tent of a carnival sideshow. His gig is motorcycle stunt driving, and he enters his bike into a steel cage with two other riders and they begin circling around at death-defying speeds. Afterwards, Luke is signing autographs and is paid a visit by an old flame (Eva Mendes). It turns out the one night stand from about a year ago has resulted in unexpected parenthood. Luke is all about the ladies, with his bleach blonde hair and a tattoo across his neck which reads "heartthrob", but he seems willing to give up a life on the road to settle down into fatherhood for his little baby son. When he learns he has a rival for the family's affection, he and his very dirty partner (Mendelsohn) take to robbing banks, ostensibly as a means of providing for the family, but it soon becomes clear that Luke gets that same "steel cage rush" from evading police. It's a dangerous game that leads him rushing headlong into officer Avery (Cooper), a rookie cop with poor decision skills. It doesn't help that he belongs to a quintessentially-movie corrupt police force. Avery has a conscience, sort of, and that makes him a liability to his superiors, in particular detective Deluca (Liotta). Avery seems to want to do the right thing, but he wants to make himself look good in the process and, ehhh... cut to many years later, and Avery's son and Luke's son are both seniors attending the same high school and getting high together. Neither of the kids is very interesting. Both seem bent on some form of self-destruction, and nobody seems happy. Nobody has any points to make and everyone just sort of fumbles towards some forgone conclusion. The end.
I felt the movie grew progressively less interesting and more predictable with each chapter, and the film's points (pre-determinism except when it's not, or something about your brain being genetically hard-wired to behave a certain way, that is, unless your daddy doesn't pay enough attention to you, then it's HIS fault) are dubious. The lesson here is "don't lie to your kid", but you probably should already know that anyway. It's sad, because "The Place Beyond the Pines" is great and glorious and epic in it's way, but the muddle of predictability the plot falls into towards the end leaves me feeling overall dissatisfied. A shame.
"Brewster's Millions" is a film that has been made three times. Once,… More"Brewster's Millions" is a film that has been made three times. Once, with Fatty Arbuckle in the 1920s, once with Richard Pryor in the 1980s (the one I remember from my childhood), and this here one from the 1940s. The numeric value of the inheritance has changed throughout the years (I'm sure if they made it today, Brewster would have to spend about a billion dollars), but the plot remains the same. Monty Brewster is broke, having in this instance just returned from WWII. The day he and his buddies arrive home, he receives word that he may already be a winner, of his uncle's inheritance, that is. Yes, Monty does get an inheritance, but in order to get the full $7 million, he must first spend $1 million (in just 2 months no less), the idea being that after being forced to spend all that money, he won't have any desire to waste the rest of it so wrecklessly. Did I mention he's not allowed to have any assets to show for all this spending? And he can't give it all away either. Oh, and he's not allowed to marry his poor, long-suffering fiance either. The rules keep piling up on Brewster, so that it's almost not worth the effort. "Brewster's Millions" is a farce, pure and simple. A purely ridiculous farce of a farce, where people run around doing ridiculous things. Brewster can hardly keep track of whether he's coming or going. To quote the theme song of the short-lived Comedy Central program, "The Benson Interruption", "it's funny, it's awkward, it's fawkward"
As "The Naked Spur" opens, Jimmy Stewart has met an old prospector up… MoreAs "The Naked Spur" opens, Jimmy Stewart has met an old prospector up in the hills and has hired him on to help track down a dangerous fugitive. This is all the set up required for this movie, as the film takes place wholly within these mountains and forests, and with the exception of the nameless indians who attack them, involves just five people. There's Stewart as Kemp, an amateur bounty hunter, out to get the money needed to buy back his ranch, Jesse the prospector (Millard Mitchell) and Roy the dishonorably discharged, indian-hunting soldier (Ralph Meeker). The three men have been thrown together by chance in order to bring Ben (Robert Ryan) back to justice, along with a young woman (Janet Leigh) Ben has snatched up along the way. Roy isn't very trustworthy, as his constant smiling demeanor lets us know. But it's the prisoner Ben who is the most fearsomely manipulative. He knows it's his neck that's going to be in the noose when they get back, and he tries everything in his power to squirm his way out of the rope they've got him in. The Naked Spur has more than a little in common with "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", only instead of gold, the treasure is the outlaw. Stewart is in his own way, as hard as Bogart from that film, but Stewart's character is offered a happy ending, if he so chooses to accept it. In that way, The Naked Spur tries to offer a more redeeming morality in the end, and it's not necessarily for the better.