About Me

Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning

This independent film has more in common with Little Miss Sunshine than just Alan Arkin. There are the quirky characters; a wacky, dysfunctional family whose members love and can't do without each other even as they drive each other crazy; a precocious kid -- and a van that figures prominently in the story. But, this story is much more drama than comedy, whereas Little Miss Sunshine was the reverse.

Rose (Amy Adams) is rock-solid as a former cheerleader whose glory days are long past. She's a single mom to a young boy who's constantly in trouble. She's involved with a married man (Steve Zahn) who is clearly not planning to leave his wife. And, she tries to eke out a living by cleaning houses.

And, she's the successful sister.

Emily Blunt plays the younger, troubled, irresponsible sister who keeps getting fired from waitressing jobs. But when Rose gets wind of a serious money-making opportunity, she enlists the help of her reluctant sister, and the two start a business specializing in cleaning up crime scenes. Along the way, the sisters will be forced to confront -- each in their own way -- the memory of their mother who has been missing from their lives since they were young.

Parts of the movie are a bit heavy-handed and manipulative. And, this reviewer was disappointed that the fate of one important character is never addressed -- even after the film has led you to believe he and one of the main characters are falling for each other. Still, there's enough about this movie -- primarily its endearing cast -- to recommend it. See it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Love You, Man

No one plays an affable, adorable, yet slightly clueless, guy better than Paul Rudd. In this winning bromance, he's Peter Klaven, fiance to Zooey (Rashida Jones -- Jim's ex-girlfriend from the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin in The Office and daughter of Quincy Jones and The Mod Squad's Peggy Lipton). Zooey has dozens of close girlfriends and quickly puts together her line-up of bridesmaids for the big day. Yet, Peter has no fellas to serve as his groomsmen. His gay brother (for a pleasant change, not the stereotypical queeny kind -- funny though that can be), played by Andy Samberg, is better at male friendships than Peter.

Even their father (the dad from Juno) considers the gay son to be his best friend. Peter can't even get his own dad to respect him. Yet, he's so darn good-natured about it. He takes his family's ribbing in stride.

Peter sets off on a quest to find what a girl might call a BFF. After a few funny misfires, he happens upon Sydney (Jason Segel), a beer-swillin', motorcycle-ridin', skirt-chasin', trash-talkin' man's man. Would this guy -- who spends most of his time in his man cave -- really want to hang out with someone so inept he leaves the cave one day, saying, "That was some sweet, sweet hangin'."? That's after he answers a question with, "Totally. Totes, magoats."

As it turns out, yes. Peter is so endearingly clumsy in trying to make a best friend out of him, that you can't help but cheer him on.

There's never any doubt about where this platonic love story is headed, but that doesn't make the trip any less enjoyable. Should you spend money on I Love You, Man? Totes, magoats. See it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Two Lovers

The drama opens with what can't even be described as a half-hearted suicide attempt. We'll call it a quarter-hearted one. After Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix) is "rescued," he schleps home in his soaking wet clothes. His parents aren't surprised; Leonard has tried this before. They just tell him to get ready for the dinner guests they're expecting any minute. Ho hum, just another day in this crazy household.

But Leonard isn't even the craziest character in this flick. That honor goes to Michelle, (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is a stunning, yet drug-addled, woman engaged in an affair with her married boss. Leonard falls instantly for her. Beauty can mask a multitude of red flags, I suppose.

But, there's an equally beautiful young woman -- Sandra (Vinessa Shaw) -- who's got a thing for Leonard. Inexplicably. He can't shake her, no matter how many times he forgets to call or stands her up. And, his parents are determined that she's the one for him ... I'd want him out of my house, too.

So, once the threesome involved in this love triangle is introduced, nothing much happens over the course of the next nearly two hours. Leonard pursues Michelle, although she's involved with a married man. Sandra pursues Leonard, although he's an absentee boyfriend, at best.

None of it makes sense. There's not enough of a back story given to make us understand the characters' motivations. Sandra tells Leonard at one point that she wants to take care of him. So, she's the nurturing type. Surely, she could find a worthier man to nurture. Skip it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hating Julia

There's a new Julia Roberts clunker being hyped now, and the barrage of TV commercials and movie previews about it has reminded me how much I hate her. And, I really hate her.

I hate that she is the highest-paid actress in the world, especially since her acting skills are nearly non-existent. I ain't sayin' she ain't purty. But, purty qualifies her to be a model -- not an actress. And, certainly not one who commands $20 million per film.

I hate her ego -- so outsized in proportion to her talent. Remember when she won a best actress Oscar for Erin Brockovich (a movie I am proud to say I have never seen)? She demanded more air time than was allotted. And, when the esteemed Oscar conductor (and Oscar-winning composer) Bill Conti lifted his baton to cue the orchestra, she shushed him by saying, "Hey mister, don't be so quick with that stick. I may never be up here again."

Well, we can hope.

I hate that she demands the spotlight, even when it's not her turn. For example, she presented Denzel Washington's best actor Oscar to him. When she opened the envelope -- before announcing who the Oscar would go to -- she squealed, "Ooooo, I love my life!" I'm like, "Julia, just announce the winner, hug him, hand him his statue and step aside."

I hate that her bratty niece (I don't know that she's a brat; I'm just assuming) is following in Aunt Julia's famous-despite-no-talent footsteps. And, I will hate it when Phinnaeus, Hazel and her third kid -- who has a normal name -- follow their mom into the biz.

I hate Pretty Woman. I hate that she starred in it, thus ensuring that she'll forever be referred to as "Pretty Woman Julia Roberts" by the fawning entertainment press.

I suspect she broke Lyle Lovett's heart, and I hate her for that, too. While others were wondering why she would marry him, I was wondering how he could stoop to marry her.

So, the new movie looks to be a spy caper/romantic dramedy along the lines of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. I like co-star Clive Owen, but not enough to sit through a movie in which Julia Roberts gets so much screen time. I began boycotting her movies about a decade ago (I know, I know -- my staying away isn't going to hurt her, but still.) Rarely have I ventured to any Julia Roberts movie since then. I only go after being assured that her screen time is minimal. Yet, even then, I'm disappointed. Everything she's in is bad. Charlie Wilson's War, for instance. Just a stinker, despite Philip Seymour Hoffman's delightful performance.

So, when the new movie -- I haven't paid enough attention to even know the name of it -- opens, I'll be saving myself the $10. I wish the masses would join me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Praying with Lior

If you missed it tonight at the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival, then seek it out on DVD. This touching documentary tells the story of Lior Liebling, a boy on the verge of his Bar Mitzvah who also happens to have Down syndrome.

Lior prays with a fervor that his faith community admires and may even envy. His father worries that his much-anticipated Bar Mitzvah may be the most meaningful event to happen to him -- for years. No parent wants to think his beloved child might peak at 13.

You're likely to fall in love the entire Liebling family, although the clear star here is Lior. There's the compassionate older brother, Yoni, who takes loving care of Lior. There's the cute, but cranky, baby sister who complains that she should get the most attention, since she's the youngest. Lior's father is as strong, gentle and loving as any I've seen. His stepmother sweetly demands the best from him. She worries that he may rely too heavily on being the cute kid. As his Bar Mitzvah approaches, she longs for him to retain the cuteness as he grows into a man. And, there's a host of people in their faith community who cheer Lior on, spiritually and in every other way.

And, there is the memory of his mother, who died of cancer when Lior was six. As his Bar Mitzvah approaches, Lior confides in the filmmaker how profoundly sad he is that his mother won't be there on the most important day of his life.

Yoni says at one point that he isn't sure if there is a God, but if there is, Lior has a closer relationship with Him than anyone he knows. After seeing this movie, I think I agree. See it.

P.S. Props to my friend, Shaun, who endured my sobbing beside him tonight while pretending not to notice.