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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


The title means "revenge," and you'll be about halfway into the movie before you'll see the act that one of the characters believes must be avenged.

The movie follows the lives of two couples: a husband -- a cop -- and his wife, who live in a bucolic village in Austria and a scuzzy ex-con and the Ukrainian hooker he's in love with. Tamara (the hooker) and Alex live in a seedy part of Vienna -- in a hotel that's operating as a brothel. The city/country settings couldn't be more different. And, the law-abiding couple couldn't be more different from the lowlife thug and his prostitute/girlfriend. But, the two worlds collide.

The lives of this foursome intersect in a most unexpected, unlikely way. To say any more would be to spoil the suspense. But, don't expect edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting suspense. It's subtler than that.

Once the couples have entered each other's lives, the movie goes from character study to psychological thriller. But, then it turns into something much deeper. And unexpected.

This little Austrian gem is now in limited release in the U.S. It won't be in theaters long. I urge you to seek it out. It's a wonder. See it!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Paper Heart

There are documentaries, there are mockumentaries (Christopher Guest is the master of that genre) and then there is this hybrid that leaves the audience wondering what part, if any of it, is true. Charlyne Yi -- an adorably rumpled stand-up comedian who claims not to believe in love -- is at the heart of this faux documentary. She sets out on a quest to find out if true love exists and, if so, what exactly it is.

Charlyne and a film crew head from L.A. to Nashville, Albuquerque, Toronto and Paris and find out ... (SPOILER ALERT!) nothing. She interviews people about their own love stories. (Are they "real" or actors? We're never sure.) Along the way, she seems to fake-fall in love with the actor Michael Cera.

I knew going into this movie that some critics complained that the line between fact and fiction here was just too fuzzy. But, I didn't know how cheated I'd feel after wasting my time and money. What a disappointment. Skip it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Perfect Getaway

Thrillers rarely win awards (Fatal Attraction and Misery being notable exceptions), and this movie is no Fatal Attraction. But of course, Milla Jovovich is no Glenn Close.

But, there's definitely a place -- especially on a sweltering August day -- for a B-grade thriller. And, this one does the trick. It's beautifully shot, to boot, which is an unexpected bonus in a B-movie.

Salaried critics have faulted the film for being too obvious, yet this critic -- call her obtuse -- never saw the twist coming. Which made it all the more jaw-dropping.

Jovovich and Steve Zahn play Cydney and Cliff, honeymooners looking for adventure on remote trails on Kauai. You might expect to see drugged-out bohemians in Hawaii, but Cydney and Cliff meet more than their fair share. Running into these kinds of kooks in the wilderness would give the rest of us pause, but -- in true B-movie fashion -- the newlyweds just move on down the trail, paying no attention to their misgivings.

Add to that the information now trickling out about another honeymoon couple in Hawaii being brutally murdered (and the suspects being a man and woman), and it seems especially ill-conceived for any of these fools to be out on the trails.

Could the killers be the tattoo'd, dreadlocked freaks who tried to bum a ride from Cydney and Cliff earlier? Or, might the killers be the peculiar couple who both have a particular agility with knives and other weaponry?

What great fun to find out. Take middling expectations and ... see it.

Julie & Julia

Meryl Streep proves yet again why she is the greatest actor (male or female) of our times. And, it's not just the distinctive voice she gets right. It's Julia Child's mannerisms and her sheer, contagious joy of good food that the actress brings to the role. Playing an icon can't be easy, but Streep is, not surprisingly, up to the challenge.

Amy Adams brings humanity to a character that could've easily been little more than a whining sad sack. We root for her Julie to finish this improbable, year-long project she has taken on.

Julie tells her husband she feels as if Julia is watching over her each time she's in her tiny kitchen, attempting her next, nearly impossible culinary feat. We should all be so lucky to have Mrs. Child as a patron saint.

The husbands in this movie are not merely incidental, supporting characters. They are full partners who eagerly encourage and abet their wives in their big endeavors.

This is one of the best movies of the summer and maybe of the year. A delicious treat. See it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

(500) Days of Summer

There was a time -- early in this romcom -- when I thought it might be a latter-day When Harry Met Sally ... It is not as funny or as endearing. But, it is a worthy effort, nonetheless.

A narrator tells us upfront this will not be a love story. It certainly isn't a typical one. And, the fact that Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) bond over their mutual love of The Smiths may hint that things aren't going to end happily for one or the other. After all, the band that gave the world "Girlfriend in a Coma" and "Cemetery Gates" isn't a conventional choice for a romcom soundtrack. (This movie's soundtrack is one of things it has going for it.)

Tom wanted to be an architect but now pens trite lines for a greeting card company. Summer, a new assistant at the company, seems utterly immune to the effect she has on men, which, of course, only adds to her appeal. Tom has it bad from the first time he sees her.

In a refreshing switch, Tom -- though every bit as adorable as Summer -- is the insecure, neurotic, obsessive suitor. He's convinced that she's the one, although she is equally convinced that true love is a myth. She tells him she doesn't want anything serious, even as she seems to be falling for him.

Although Summer is, according to the narrator, every man's dream, the movie belongs to Tom. So do our hearts. Gordon-Levitt imbues with him pain, angst, heart, vulnerability and charm to spare. To my mind, he's the irresistible one.

This movie cleverly moves back and forth in time to show us the wonder and wretchedness of falling in love, along with the attempts to sustain the magic of those first heady days. It may not be one for my own personal video library, but it's a well-done twist on a nearly worn-out genre. See it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Merry Gentleman

How can a movie be dull when the main character flees her abusive husband, moves to a big city and then witnesses a hit man (unbeknownst to her) about to commit suicide by jumping off a building? See The Merry Gentleman -- Michael Keaton's directorial debut -- and find out.

When Kate (Kelly Macdonald) screams at the sight of the man about to end it all, he's so startled that he trips backwards and lands safely on the roof of the building. He shows up at her place a few days later, and is so utterly charmless, we wonder why even an abused spouse would let him into her apartment, much less her life.

The camera lingers ... and lingers ... on scenes in which not much happens. Keaton says a handful of words during the entire movie, and sleepwalks through the scenes he does have. There are some detectives involved and one of them figures something out, although we're never sure how we did it. Nor do we care.

I slogged it out, simply because good reviews made me believe the slow pace would ultimately have a payoff. Not so much.

Kelly Macdonald is plenty good as the world-weary Kate. Would that she had better material. Avoid this big snooze of a movie. Skip it.