22 January 2006

30-Recond Recaps

I also saw a bunch of crappy movies. Here's a quick rundown.

Fever Pitch
FANATICAL Boston Red Sox fan, Ben (Jimmy Fallon) has to choose between his beloved baseball team and Drew Barrymore. [I'm no baseball fan, but I say pick the Red Sox!] The film is rather enjoyable -- for girls AND boys. Jimmy Fallon & Drew Barrymore are actually quite tolerable, and that's saying a lot.

Beauty Shop
This movie is about a train wreck. I'm talking like derailed, killed a bus full of diasabled children on their way to serve lunch to the homeless, which resulted in a brush fire kind of train wreck. Just because you were nominated for an Oscar or an Emmy [Yeah, I'm talking to you Dana "Queen Latifah" Owens & Keisha "Knight" Pulliam] doesn't mean you can star in a crappy spin-off about a hair salon full of opinonated black women without consequence.
Your saving grace: Djimon Hounsou.

The Skeleton Key
Young hospice aid, Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson) accepts a position with a creepy couple in the bayou and agrees to live in their creepy house.

21 January 2006

Holiday Movie Review

Anyone from Hawaii knows that there are only four things to do when you're home for the holidays: go eat, mall, shopping or movies -- brah. For me, this post-college break was no exception. Although it's taken me awhile to get out of winter holiday hibernation, here are my quick thoughts on this year's batch of winter wonders.

The Family Stone
Don’t be fooled by that cheeky little movie poster with the ring finger, or that mildly humorous scene where Diane Keaton slips on some spilled casserole. Resist the adorableness of Sarah Jessica Parker dancing to Maxine Nightingale’s catchy “Right Back Where We Started From.” The Family Stone is NOT a romantic comedy. Yes, there’s romance. Yes, there’s comedy. But, there’s also terminal illness, homophobia, poignant black and white photos, and lots of tears. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the movie. I just want to make sure you’re not misled.

The Family Stone would be more accurately described as an engaging family portrait rather than a movie. If you think of it as a movie, then you’re going to expect a gripping story. I can’t really explain why I enjoyed the movie. It’s on the verge of being a holiday movie cliché with all the pretty snow, the seemingly big, tight-knit traditional family filled with not-so-traditional characters, the secret illness, the homage to a holiday movie classic (Meet Me in St. Louis), and of the course the good old, “People aren’t always what they seem” trick. Despite the clichés, I think the movie’s worth a viewing. The interaction between the various characters is inexplicably engaging. It’s like sitting at a bus stop and watching a frazzled mom yell at her rowdy kids. Normally, such a scene would not be so appealing, but since you got time to a kill, the exchange presents a nice little diversion. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll wish you were somewhere else. It’s just like going home for the holidays! Most people will tell you it’s not worth seeing. I say: check it out. Just be sure to go in with low expectations.

Memoirs of a Geisha
Long before Gwen Stefani and her “Harajuku” girls, the hottest and most prestigious role for women in Japan [besides being married to a really rich guy] was that of the Geisha. Memoirs of a Geisha chronicles the rise of blue-eyed, Sayuri [Zhang Ziyi] as one of Japan’s premiere Geisha. Sold to a Geisha house at a young age, Sayuri’s life is wrought with challenges: her sister becomes a young prostitute; she ticks off one of the hottest Geishas of the moment, Hatsumomo [Gong Li], and is consequently made a servant girl; she’s only desired by old guys or guys with facial disfigurement; and to top it all off, despite having grown up with a cute little Japanese accent, develops a distractingly Chinese twang that makes everything she says sound like it came out of a fortune cookie [I know I sound harsh, but I’m getting tired of interchangeable Asians. For a movie that is as culturally specific as Memoirs, I think it’s important to recognize the distinct difference between a Japanese and Chinese accent. I mean, you won’t every see Gerard Depardieu playing King Henry VIII – unless it involves Whoopi Goldberg or imaginary characters. In my opinion, they should have just filmed the movie in Japanese and subtitled it.]

Anyway, Sayuri endures all hardships and eventually pursues a demanding career as a Geisha under the tutelage of the mysterious, yet discreetly self-serving, Mameha (Michelle Yeoh), all in the hopes of getting closer to the Chairman (Ken Watanabe, who looks better bald) because he once bought her a snow cone. I’m serious. Sayuri DEDICATES herself to the Chairman all because of a little shave ice. [This is why kids should not take candy from strangers! They might fall in love with them, and then dedicate the rest of their life to getting one step closer to their sugar daddy.]

I know that there’s a lot of criticism of the film’s cultural accuracy, but seriously, I think cultural accuracy went out the window when they let their characters speak with a Chinese accent [Let it be clear, I’m not hating on the Chinese actresses, just their accents]. If you aren’t as selectively obsessive as I am, and can get beyond the whole Chinese accent thing, you will find a visually captivating film, scored by the legendary John Williams [He even rocks some Taiko drums!]. Essentially, director Rob Marshall created a really cool music video. If anything, the film leaves you wanting to read the book. I say rent it on the chance that there will be an option to watch the film dubbed in Japanese.

Fun with Dick & Jane
Due to some shady business shenanigans, corporate peon, Dick Harper (Jim Carrey) loses his cushy VP job when his employer goes bankrupt. In order to maintain the comfortable lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to, Dick & his wife, Jane (Tea Leoni) are forced to head back into the brutal job market. Unfortunately, due to the massive lay-off, they have an extremely difficult time finding a job that will cover their mortgage payments. What do Dick & Jane do in the face of such adversity? They decide to go Bonnie & Clyde and ruin the lives of other hard working people?

Jim Carrey & Tea Leoni are funny people. In fact, they’re quite funny in the film. That’s why it’s quite unfortunate, although not surprising, that the film fails on the whole. It just seems like they’re trying too hard. First, they try to pull off some political satire by modeling the Enron scandal, masterminded by CEO, Sam Samuels [Alec Baldwin], an annoying caricature of George W. Bush. Come on now. Anyone and their grandmother can make fun of the president. Making fun of George W. Bush is so 2002. Truth be told, the story line is not all that original [duh, it’s a remake], the supporting cast is unremarkable, and the truly comedic scenes are sporadic and few. Not worth a rental, unless you have a coupon. Wait until it hits the USA network.

The Producers
Infamous Broadway Producer, Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) and his pathetic account, Leo Bloom concoct a brilliant money making scheme to produce a surefire failure and avoid the notice of the IRS Step 1) Seduce a lot of little old ladies and have them back your new Broadway show “Cash” Step 2) Choose a terrifyingly horrific script about the greatness of Adolf Hitler Step 3) Produce the gayest production on Broadway 4) Have your show flop on opening night 5) Keep all the money 6) Escape the notice of the IRS

Okay, so as far as money making schemes go, the plan is pretty ridiculous, but as far as, comedy genius, it’s brilliant! First of all, if you’re not into musicals, you’ll probably find this movie really annoying. On the other hand, if you love musicals, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this crazy production. I found this musical version of the The Producers WAY more interesting than the original film. Most of my enjoyment can be attributed to the stellar cast. Will Ferrell does what he does best (crazy with a side of sincerity), only this time he does it with a German accent as writer/devoted Nazi, Franz Liebkind. Nathan Lane is the ham that he always is, but is quite entertaining as the skeezy producer. Matthew Broderick as was by far, my favorite, as the neurotic Leo Bloom. He’s so nerdy and crazy – adorable! My only casting complaint is Uma Thurman as the sexy, Swedish secretary, Ulla. Thurman first of all doesn’t have much of a singing voice, her dancing skills leave much to be desired, and frankly, she looks a little scary in her close-up shots. All she really have going for her is the blonde hair and her show girl legs. I think the film would have been much better off casting a no-name for the role of Ulla. I mean, it’s not like people are rushing to The Producers to see Uma Thurman. The Producers is a must see – unless you hate musicals or Mel Brooks. In that case, you must experience no joy in your life.

King Kong
You know the story. Big ape on a remote island falls in love with blonde actress (Naomi Watts). Heartless movie producer (Jack Black) captures the ape and takes it back to NYC to put him on exhibition. Ape escapes, finds aforementioned blondie, and takes her up to the Empire State Building. Sinister fighter planes circle the gorilla and girl. Then, bad, bad, bad things happen.

After Disney’s remake of Mighty Joe Young, I thought I had my fill of movies featuring tearinful endings and a gorilla that falls in love with blonde women. Apparently, I’m still into that rather specific genre, because I adored King Kong. Sure, the dialogue may get a little clunky and the tone of film is rather inconsistent as the movie fluctuates between a campy period piece, a drama, and a great action film. Despite such flaws, the film is still very entertaining. The action scenes, including an awesome fight scene between King Kong and a pack of T-Rexes, are dynamite. The romance in the film is palatable. Naomi Watts is quite endearing as the soulful, young starlet, Anne Darrow. You can kind of see why King Kong falls in love with her. The chemistry between Anne and screenwriter, Jack Driscoll, played by the curiously attractive, Adrian Bordy is cute, but is no match for the bond between Anne Darrow and King Kong. I’m such a sucker for animals that exhibit human characteristics, and you will too. It’s hard not to love King Kong. He’s like a cross between Russell Crow and Koko the ASL gorilla. I found Jack Black rather despicable, but I guess that’s intentional for his character. It’s just sort of hard to look at Jack Black without expecting that at any moment he could break into some air guitar, scratch his butt, or do something satanic.

The best part of the film takes place on Skull Island. It’s when director, Peter Jackson takes you to NYC that the movie gets a little clunky. The island stuff is lush and magical. NYC just seems cheesy in comparison. Jackson should stick to locales with lots of trees. I say that you should definitely check it out. It may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s undoubtedly entertaining. WARNING: You may pee in your pants. Children and adults that scare easily should be forewarned of the frightening native folk on Skull Island. Although highly stereotypical, they are possibly the scariest characters I’ve ever seen in my life.