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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


What a dear movie this is.

Luckily, as with all Pixar's movies, it's aimed as much at adults as it is the typical Disney demographic. The animation is magical, of course. But, it's the story that won me over.

If you've seen the previews, then you know an old curmudgeon ties oodles of helium balloons to his house, and up he goes. You also know that a stowaway is on board -- a cute, plump, eager-to-please kid hoping to earn his last scouting badge ("Assisting the Elderly") in order to be promoted to the next rank.

What the previews didn't show was why old Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Ed Asner) became such a grump. He wasn't always so. The kid, Russell, has his own bittersweet back story, too. To reveal any more would spoil the sweet story Pixar has in store.

It's mostly light-hearted fun (except for when it's yanking at your heartstrings), but there are several scenes with some well-trained and mean attack dogs. My six-year-old nephew seemed unfazed by them, but a certain movie critic found them a little scary.

Since this is Disney, everyone learns a valuable lesson before it's all over -- including those of us in the audience. The summer blockbusters don't generally interest me, but Up made my spirits soar. See it!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Valentino: The Last Emperor

I don't think you have to be a fashionista or style watcher to enjoy this documentary about the life and career of designer Valentino. After all, I enjoyed it.

It's about equal parts love story, Project Runway and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Valentino may be a genius, but he has the temperament and prickliness that often accompanies it. Giancarlo -- his partner in business and love -- has fussed over him, suffered under him, tolerated him and adored him for 45 years. They quibble like the old, married couple they are, but it is evident throughout the film that each man couldn't make do without the other.

The movie follows Valentino and Giancarlo as they prepare for what seems to be the fashion show to end all fashion shows. Talk abounds of Valentino's potential retirement from a business (and an art form) he loves and helped create. Such talk is clearly upsetting to both men, yet they endure those questions from media and fans at every turn.

It's fascinating to watch Valentino sketch, drape and create one masterpiece after another. While Valentino attends to the clothes, Giancarlo attends to everything else. He conceived of and designed the set for the big extravaganza in Rome that may or may not be the swan song for the designer. The camera catches him whispering to Valentino as they enter an event to honor the more famous of the duo: "Don't forget to thank everyone for coming. Oh, and your secretary's son just graduated from college."

The rich, famous and impossibly thin people Valentino surrounds himself with are on parade here. Peeking in on such an extravagant life -- where the five pampered pugs live better than most humans do -- is a guilty pleasure. But, the filmmaker never lets us forget that this is, under all the glamor, snark and sequins, a deeply felt love story. See it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Goodbye Solo

Every year or so, an indie movie comes along that captures the hearts of nearly all the critics ... and leaves me baffled as to why. Lost in Translation and Junebug were just such movies.

Goodbye Solo is likely that movie for 2009.

According to www.rottentomatoes.com, 100 percent of critics agree that Goodbye Solo is one of the best movies of the year and that the writer/director is the new Scorsese or Tarantino. WTF?

The premise is promising enough. William, a world-weary, old man hires a cab to take him to the movies one night. He offers a hefty advance to the Senegalese cabbie (Solo) to drive him from Winston-Salem, N.C. to Blowing Rock two weeks hence -- on Oct. 20. Delightful Solo is a little suspicious of this surly fellow who wants a one-way ride to the mountains and isn't planning to meet anyone once he gets there. Solo wonders if he's planning to jump off the mountain. Bingo!

Solo's love of life is contagious, and he assumes he'll be able to talk this stranger out of killing himself over the next two weeks. And, he tries mightily.

But, William is one bitter old man. He softens occasionally under Solo's care, but then goes right back to being a cussing, angry son-of-a-gun. The movie could've been deeply affecting, if we ever found out why William is so bitter. But, that would apparently be too much to ask of co-writer/director Ramin Bahrani. William is given no back story at all. It's pretty hard to care about his character when we know so little about what makes him tick.

The lone good actor in the cast is Souleymane Sy Savane, who plays Solo. Every other character, from movie ticket takers to a pharmacist at a drive-thru, gives either a wooden delivery of his lines or an overly excited one.

I suppose Winston-Salem is supposed to look down-and-out, and it does. We see the same exterior shot of the fleabag motel William checks into while he awaits D-Day countless times. Even the director of My Name is Earl shows more varied shots of the hotel where Earl lives.

Just how sloppy is the film making? One actor calls Solo "Souleymane" (his real name!) Now, perhaps "Solo" is short for "Souleymane," but shouldn't that be made clear?

By the time Oct. 20 rolls around, I didn't much care if William followed through on his plan or not. I was ready to big him "goodbye" about 15 minutes into the film.

Slow, sloppy, unimaginatively shot and utterly lacking in human interest ... I see nothing redeeming about this movie. Skip it.