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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Internet research (even hacking into other people's computers) and looking through stacks of old notebooks of negatives (even when looking for a killer) are just not that interesting to watch. And, a significant portion of this film's two-and-half-hour run time is dedicated to just those pursuits.

Those boring scenes are made to look even duller, when punctuated with squirm-inducing scenes of bondage and extreme, graphic and sexual violence. This film is either lulling you to sleep or making you wince, and there's not much in-between.

The actress who plays Lisbeth (the girl who has the dragon tattoo of the title) is perfectly cast. She's the right mix of tough street broad -- with multiple facial piercings, in addition to a ginormous tattoo -- and wounded soul. Her leading man, however, is much less than I had hoped for after reading the book.

Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist-turned-detective, was -- as conjured in my mind -- Harrison Ford (pre-Calista Flockhart) kind of hunky. A man's man and a ladies' man. The Blomkvist of the film is a pockmarked dweeb. (And, I am not knocking pockmarks. Ray Liotta and Tommy Lee Jones prove they can be sexy.)

The tale is almost impossibly complex. Much easier to keep up with on the page than on screen, it involves -- get ready -- journalism and a libel suit, a decades-old crime that may be a murder (or a disappearance), Nazis, torture, S&M, serial rapists/killers, cyber-sleuthing, the book of Leviticus, family business shenanigans, a girl with a mysterious and painful past and a love story. Good luck keeping up with all of it.

When I finished the book, which had been positively riveting in parts, I told friends that it went on about 100 pages too long. The Swedish movie adaptation had the opportunity to correct that and tighten up the story where tightening was needed. It failed. Skip it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Joneses

I was so taken with the premise of this movie -- it's an alleged comedy poking fun at conspicuous consumerism -- that I overlooked one obvious and insurmountable flaw: Demi Moore.

I'll give props to Demi for being such a hot babe at her (by Hollywood standards) advanced age. No such props for her acting ability.

Demi and David Duchovny (no comic genius himself) play actors hired to pose as husband and wife. Their "set" is an Ethan Allen-furnished McMansion, and they have two perfectly gorgeous teenage children (also actors) as accessories. They're paid to shill brand-name goods to the unsuspecting neighbors who are all taken with the good looks and material wealth of the Joneses.
The Chronic Critic was reminded of any number of Saturday Night Live sketches that start out funny and drag on too long. The Joneses begins with an interesting idea -- that marketing could become so insidious that our friends and neighbors are being paid to sell us stuff -- that falls flat about 20 minutes into the run time.

It's a comedy devoid of laughs that takes a misguided turn for the serious toward the end. What could've been an interesting character study (What made these people leave their lives behind to pose, full-time, as a model family?) is left untouched.

The moral of the story, I suppose, is that out-of-control consumerism is bad. The moral of my story is not to see a movie where Demi Moore is the lead actress. Skip it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Anyone reading this should immediately get on the interweb, check to see if Mother is playing in your city and, if it is, drop what you're doing and rush out to the next showing.

On the surface, this Korean film is a whodunit, but at its heart, it's about maternal love and just how far a mother may be willing to go to protect her son.

The son is a sweet, developmentally delayed adult who follows a young woman home from a bar one night. The next morning, the woman turns up dead. (The police officers are more excited than traumatized by the public display of her corpse. They can't remember the last time this sleepy town has experienced a homicide!) The son is soon charged with her murder. The mother knows he can't be capable of such brutality and sets out to prove him innocent and find the real killer.

She goes to unimaginable lengths in her attempt.

As with any good mystery, there are a few red herrings along the way to the finale. Even as these plausible suspects present themselves, this devoted-to-the-point-of-madness mother will not be dissuaded in her attempt to get justice for her son.

Also along the way are some wonderfully tense moments and unforgettable shots. The scene where mama hides in a closet while the guy she suspects is the real murderer makes whoopee with the local tramp may well become a cinematic classic. It may ultimately be dissected, frame by frame, like the shower scene in Psycho. Once the would-be killer and his lover fall asleep -- and mother tries to sneak out without waking them -- well, just wait ...

Suspenseful, beautifully shot and with an Oscar-caliber performance by Hye-ja Kim (as Mother), this one is not-be-be-missed. See it!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Prophet

Critics internationally are hailing A Prophet as an instant gangster classic and its director, Jacques Audiard, as a French Scorcese. I cannot add my tiny voice to the chorus.

Leading man, Tahar Rahim, is brilliant as a prisoner whose six-year incarceration the film follows. (And, at a bloated two-and-a-half hours, very little of those six years seems to be left out.) Tahar's character -- the film has so many superfluous characters that it's hard to recall any one's name -- is an Arab in a prison run by a Corsican gang. Apparently, that means he's f***ed.

He's propositioned in the shower on one of his first days in the slammer and summoned the next day by the head of the Corsican gang (a Godfather-like figure) and instructed to slit the throat of the guy who came on to him. He's given little choice in the matter.

Soon enough, he's the Godfather's beeatch, doing his dirty work and getting beaten up in the process. Apparently, because he's an Arab.

I'm sure there are some messages here about ethnic warfare, the nature of evil and what-have-you. But, I can't for the life of me figure out what they are, because the overly long movie is so convoluted and confusing.

I know I'm part of a tiny population of critics not to embrace this opus, but I say: Skip it!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine ... and Chloe

I saw two movies this weekend. Neither merits is own review, so I've combined them into one. Hot Tub Time Machine (an alleged comedy) and Chloe (an unintentional comedy) have nothing in common, other than that neither is good.

While there are a couple of laughs to be had in HTTM, the buddy movie that transports us back to the 1980s, it is mostly a retread of movies you've seen before that were done better the first time. Casting John Cusack in the lead was clever, but think of all the '80s idols who aren't here. And, it's hard to imagine C. Thomas Howell, Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall couldn't have cleared their calendars.

The generally reliable director, Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter, Felicia's Journey), doesn't intend the laughs in his psycho-sexual drama, but -- boy! -- are they there. Liam Neeson sleepwalks through the film, and Julianne Moore seems a little embarrassed to be part of it. They play a long-married couple who have grown bored with (him) or suspicious of (her) one another. Amanda Seyfried plays Chloe, the hooker hired by Moore's character to tempt her husband into cheating, and then tell Moore all about it. Everyone has sex with everyone else in this movie, and it's still dull.

If you've seen Fatal Attraction, then you've already seen a much better version of Chloe. Likewise, if you've seen The Hangover, you've seen a much better version of HTTM. Skip them.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I don't want to waste any more time than I already have on this turd, so I'll make this brief, and I'm not even going to spell-check it.

This movie should never have been made. It is a complete waste of Ben Stiller, and an utter disappointment coming from writer/director Noah Baumbauch, who so impressed this critic back in 2005 with The Squid and The Whale (my #1 movie that year).

Two depressed, social misfits sharing long, awkward conversations should not a movie make. The only funny bits were shown in the trailer and made this film seem like a comedy. Which it is not.

Avoid it. You're welcome. Skip it!