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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I loved this movie. I want everyone I know to see this movie. I want people I don't know to see this movie. I want this movie to be nominated for and then win a bunch of awards. It could happen ... but people will have to see it first. And, there's been very little marketing for this tiny jewel. I don't know why.

Submarine has a lot of similarities to another movie I loved, The Squid and The Whale. But by comparing it to that fine film, I don't want to take anything away from Submarine's originality.

On its surface, it's a funny, painful coming-of-age story about an awkward Welsh teenager with delusions of grandeur. (He imagines himself as the star of his own movie, and -- in a hilarious sequence -- imagines his own death, including grieving classmates, candlelight vigils and news coverage.) But as the title suggests, there's a lot more going on below the surface.

Craig Roberts is charming -- and carries the movie -- in the role of Oliver Tate. His parents' marriage appears to be falling apart, and he takes it upon himself to intervene and keep them together. It's a lot for one 15-year-old boy to handle. Especially when he has a new, somewhat ambivalent girlfriend who turns out to have troubles of her own. And, he's trying to keep the bullies at bay.

Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor play the parents, who are mostly ambivalent toward each other. Paddy Considine is a great comic foil as a mulleted New Age guru who's somehow drawn the attention of Mrs. Tate.

Oliver is an unlikely anti-hero we can't help but root for. He's one of the most memorable characters I've seen on screen all year. Do not miss this one. See it!


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits was just the fun, funny, well-made romcom I needed on a miserably hot July afternoon. And, it removed the bad taste in my mouth leftover from another alleged romcom I saw this week -- Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Much has already been made of the magical chemistry between the two gorgeous leads. If you were lucky enough to catch Lester Holt's TODAY show interview with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, then you know their chemistry extends beyond the big screen. They do more than look good together. They have fun together.

The movie's premise should be obvious from the name ... although Lester (a grown-up, more handsome, Urkel, if e'er there was one) acted like he wasn't sure what "friends with benefits" could possibly mean.

Dylan (JT) and Jamie (Kunis) have each been dumped -- in hilarious scenes -- by their respective mates. They've been accused of being emotionally unavailable and emotionally damaged. They meet when Jamie (a headhunter) recruits an L.A.-loving Dylan to be the art director at GQ in New York. Since Dylan doesn't know anyone else in town, he and Jamie start having lunch, getting together for beers and watching romantic comedies together.

Neither is romantically interested in the other, they swear (on a Bible app on Jamie's iPad) so they should be able to get together for no-strings-attached sex. We know this isn't a sustainable plan, even as they try to convince themselves it's perfect. Complications ensue.

The supporting players are almost all uniformly great. Even those who have just one scene (Andy Samberg and Emma Stone) are memorable. Patricia Clarkson is perfect as Jamie's irresponsible, sexually liberated mom. Woody Harrelson plays against type as a macho, gay sports editor at GQ. ("I'm strictly dickly," he tells Dylan.)

I could've done without a miscast Jenna Elfman as Dylan's big sister, but then again, I can always do without Jenna Elfman.

But, I shall not pick nits. The movie and its leads are a pure delight. I'm hoping Timberlake and Kunis will team up again. I'd like to see them become a latter day Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. See it!

Friends with Benefits

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Page One: Inside The New York Times

If you're a reader of newspapers (the old-fashioned, print variety) and have shaken your head -- or your fist -- over the ever-shrinking daily paper, you'll likely be devastated to see what the state of journalism looks like to the reporters who bring us the news.

The New York Times is (or was, depending on where you stand) the gold standard of news organizations. This documentary makes the point that The Times was even where other papers got their news. A story would run in The Times one day, and other newspapers would run that story, or a version of it, the day after. The Times has defined what news is for as long as most of us can remember. We never imagined that it would be otherwise.

Neither did the people who work there.

In intense interviews with Times reporters (mostly those on the media desk), other journalists, bloggers and media professors, we see up-close how swift and shocking the downfall of print journalism has been to the very people in the thick of it. People who dreamed of nothing but some day getting to write for The Times have now been canned by The Times.

Their poignant struggle to remain relevant is captured in this well-made documentary. Former crack addict-turned-reporter David Carr is first among equals. Editor Bill Keller is a thoughtful, intelligent dreamboat. See it.

Page One: Inside the New York Times

Monday, July 11, 2011

Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses is a great movie that made me laugh out loud and remember, with anger and bitterness, my own worst boss. The characters played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston are horrible, to be sure. But, they've got nothin' on "Frieda."

Frieda’s doughy face, ample figure and pathetic fashion sense endeared her to me. The mousy woman in the ill-fitting '80s power suit (although this was 20 years hence) with the suntan pantyhose and thick eyeglasses ("trifocals," she told me) looked so harmless. She looked like she had gotten ahead in spite of her wardrobe.

I reasoned that she’d have to be seriously smart to overcompensate for the wardrobe malfunctions. And, the more I saw of her, the more I realized her wardrobe didn’t reveal someone who was unconcerned with her image. It revealed someone so woefully out of touch that she believed the navy blazer and skirt ensemble conveyed "polished executive." It’s as if she were stuck in a time warp, not to mention stuck – literally – in a too-tight suit.

The time warp has added significance for me now. In one of our "one-on-ones," Frieda flung this zinger at me: "If you didn’t understand what I said to you earlier, I cannot travel back in time to make you understand."

Frieda didn't miss a chance to critique me. She once asked, "Why do you begin your e-mails with a name and then a colon? You should begin with a name and then a comma – or better yet a friendly 'Hi' or 'Hello there.'" Apparently, my e-mails were too professional for her.

"The type size in your e-mails is too big," she told me once. I apologized and reduced it from 11 point back to 10 point. I wanted to ask if Frieda was OK with Arial – or if she preferred Times New Roman.

Morale in this group was dreadfully low. Frieda was asked to bring it up. She stood before all of us at a group meeting to unveil her plan to boost our spirits. I watched with perverse pleasure as the woman who had made me miserable turned ashen. Her neck got splotchy, and I delighted in her obvious nervousness. (Why had she bragged to me about her Toastmasters public-speaking award?)

She rambled on, and I even took notes on the gibberish because I wanted an accurate account of it later. She actually said that she had formed "teams, subteams and teams within teams" to "drive out" the morale-boosting plan. Subteams and teams within teams … now there's a sure-fire way to make your workforce happy.

Until I met Frieda, I thought having a positive attitude, a solid work ethic and getting results  would lead to some level of success. Frieda demonstrated that some people can be successful without having any of those things. Frieda's talents were limited to an uncanny ability to suck up and a willingness to build a fortress around her own incompetent boss and reign hell down on anyone who might get wind of the incompetence.

And, if I myself could travel back in time, I wouldn't make any assumptions about Frieda based on her utter lack of style. I'd judge her instead on her utter lack of common sense and dearth of any discernible talent.
Oh, and you should see the movie.

 Horrible Bosses