The Matador – A Movie Review

I have to tell you, this movie was a breath of fresh air.  I’ve always been a Pierce Brosnan fan, but even I had to admit he tended to play the same type of character.  Cool under pressure.  Suave.  Debonair.  Always straddling the line between hero and anti-hero.  And while I’ve never considered Brosnan an exceptional actor, I certainly appreciated the charm and magnanimity he oozes through the silver screen.

Well, I’m happy to admit that with The Matador, we have all of Brosnan’s positive attributes, but this time, the man is playing against type, and he’s doing it expertly.  Oh sure, he’s still a lady-killer, but this time it’s sometimes literal as he is a paid assassin knocking off corporate types.  Brosnan is sometimes suave and calculating, but he’s also sometimes cracking up and buckling under the pressure from a lifetime of taking lives.  Eccentric is an understatement for Brosnan’s character, Julian Noble.  It is truly a pleasure to watch Brosnan go out on a limb and succeed in playing an imperfect and memorable character.

Greg Kinnear plays an unlikely friend of Brosnan as the two happen to bump into each other and become chums in Mexico City.  Kinnear is a down on his luck businessman, and after many lies on Brosnan’s part, the two finally bond.  In fact, when Brosnan finds himself in trouble, it is Kinnear and his vanilla life that Brosnan goes running to for help.

A truly quirky film, I cannot recommend The Matador enough.  It has the sort of dark comedy aspects of a Grosse Pointe Blank, yet at times there existed truly deep characterization and somewhat dramatic moments.  On top of that, the camera angles, locations, and overall style are a joy.

Give this one a shot (no pun intended).  You’ll never see Brosnan the same way again.

Proof – A Movie Review

This particular movie sent me through myriad emotions.  For instance, I love Anthony Hopkins and have been a Jake Gyllenhaal fan since Donnie Darko, so their specific performances I very much enjoyed.

Gwyneth Paltrow has always been kind of hit and miss for me, and, as par for the course, she was hit and miss for me in this film as well. 

Let me give you a quick summary of the film without spoiling anything.  Hopkins plays a man who was at one time a preeminent mathematician.  He completed his greatest work all before the age of 26 and since then has slowly been suffering from mental problems.  As an old man, his daughter, played by Paltrow, is forced to care for him, dropping out of college in order to do so.

Hopkins dies before the film even starts but we’re treated to him through many difference scenarios in which I will not go into.  However, one of his students played by Gyllenhaal takes it upon himself to search through Hopkins’ old notes for any slivers of lucidity.  He does indeed find a notebook filled with the work of a certifiable genius, but when Paltrow claims the work is hers, things get very interesting.

Hope Davis plays Paltrow’s sister and believes Paltrow is suffering from the same dementia that plagued her father.  Paltrow doesn’t know what to believe, nor does Gyllenhaal. 

This story is wrought with emotional edginess.  In fact, at times it became very uncomfortable as Paltrow and Davis’ characters yelled and screamed at each other as completely opposite siblings.  Moreover, Paltrow spent a great part of the movie being quite unlikable.  While I appreciate her effort at playing against type, it still didn’t totally work for me.

However, that being said, I did have a nice time watching the movie, especially because, as with A Beautiful Mind and Good Will Hunting, I never thought a film utilizing mathematics as a plot device would pique my interest.  I recommend giving this film a try.

The Break-Up – A Movie Review

I’ve argued in the past that I believe Jennifer Aniston could be a very good actress if only she’d start taking meatier roles like she once did with The Good Girl.  I really feel like the last several movies I’ve seen with her have been the same character over and over.  She’s become like the Tom Cruise of female actors-a victim of her own popularity.  Granted, I get that America wants to see her the same way in every movie, I understand she’s a lock for big box office, but I still don’t like it.

I’ll also admit that Vince Vaughn does the very same thing, yet it doesn’t bother me so much.  Is that a double standard?  Yeah, it probably is, but in my mind the main difference is that I like the fast-talking, joke-making Vince Vaughn and I don’t like the semi-whiny, always-the-victim Jennifer Aniston.  (I’m talking about the characters they play, mind you, not the actual people.  I have no idea what their true personalities are like.)

Anyway, let’s talk about The Break-Up.  Vaughn and Aniston stick to their typecasts and play the usual.  The story line is pretty simple-they meet and fall in love, buy a condo in Chicago together, break up over a lack of communication, and then the “laughs” ensue. 

Notice the quotes.

The quotes are there because other than a few truly gut-busting laughs, this movie was very, very stressful to watch.  Aniston and Vaughn spend much of it yelling at one another or doing things to upset the other.  It really had a lot of tension, more tension than I wanted from my comedy on a Saturday night. 

One thing that I love about this DVD is that to even get started you have to pick a side-are you with him, or are you with her?  That’s a nice touch, because I think you can’t help but pick a side as you watch this film.  Of course, my wife and I were siding with two different folks and we were having trouble convincing the other why they were wrong.

The supporting characters really made this film.  Jason Bateman (always gold) was barely recognizable, and that’s what I love about him.  Vaughn’s buddy Jon Favreau played Vaughn’s buddy in the film and the dynamic displayed in Swingers still exists.  Aniston’s brother in the film was truly hilarious, and Vaughn’s brothers were also very amusing.

So I guess the real question is if I would recommend this film to you?  Well, that depends.  If you’re a Vaughn or an Aniston fan, you dig their usual style of performance, and you don’t mind top-of-the-lung yelling, I think you’ll be pleased.  Otherwise, I might give this one a pass.

A Prairie Home Companion – A Movie Review

Movies like this one make me question my artistic integrity.  I mean, I comprehend the man who directed this film, Robert Altman, is a living legend.  I understand some of the biggest and most respected names in the entertainment business such as Streep, Jones, Kline, Keillor, Tomlin, and Reilly were more than willing to take smaller parts to be a part of it (I have no idea how Lindsay Lohan landed such a big role . . . maybe to try to bring in a younger market).  I know I’m supposed to totally love it. 

I just don’t.

I don’t love it.  Sure, I enjoyed the vintage Altman dialogue and pace, I loved watching the ensemble acting, I even felt myself “wowed” by Streep’s singing; however, I simply didn’t like the movie. 

That makes me sad.

It makes me sad because it means that somebody is missing a beat.  Either the movie missed a beat, or I missed a beat, and I don’t like those possibilities.  I wanted to like this movie, you see, I really, really wanted to like it. 

I just didn’t.

The movie is basically about a radio program filmed before a live audience in a massive theatre, a dinosaur concept in the age of television.  Unfortunately, this is the program’s very last night on air, though the audience doesn’t seem to know that nor do all the of the cast, it seemed.  Well, there are many, many different things going on backstage, none of which come anywhere near a plot.  I looked at my wife at one point and said, “Is this all improvisation?”

The actors were wonderful, the singing proved engaging, but the story simply didn’t add up.  If you’re into musicals and don’t mind a lack of a story with a definite beginning and ending, you may very well enjoy this movie.  Otherwise, you should probably give it a pass.

Mission: Impossible III – A Movie Review

You know, I have to tell you, I didn’t hate this movie.  I know Tom Cruise somehow went from being America’s favorite son to its most popular antichrist, but J.J. Abrams, the director of the film and creator of hit shows like Lost and Alias, managed to put together a pretty good little action movie.

And, please don’t fool yourself, that’s all M:i:III is-an action movie.  But, it’s exactly the kind of action movie I want to see.  There were moments when I literally couldn’t take my eyes off the screen because there was so much happening and my pulse pounded so hard.  Car chases, fight scenes, explosions, boom! bang! zoom! vroom!  Awesome stuff . . . if you’re into action movies.

Now if you’re not into action movies, this baby still has a saving grace-Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  He’s the bad guy of the flick, and when he’s on screen, he is baaaaaad, and I mean that in a good way.  The only problem is, he’s really not in the movie that much.  On the other hand, we (obviously) have lots and lots of Tommy boy.  And you know, here’s my thing with Tom-Tom, I don’t think he’s a terrible actor.  I mean, The Last Samurai is a fantastic, fantastic, fantastic movie.  I just think that Tom the man has gotten bigger than Tom the actor, and so we can no longer differentiate between the two.  I think that happens to the best of them.  Not that Cruise is the best of them by any means, but you get the point.

At any rate, as I watched M:i:III, I didn’t see Ethan Hunt, I only saw Tom Cruise.  There’s Tom jumping off a building.  There’s Tom being slammed into a car.  And so on.  But I didn’t have a problem with that, because I wanted to see an action movie and that’s what Tom and J.J. gave me. 

Unfortunately, I really enjoyed the first two thirds of M:i:III but I have to admit the last third truly fell into the venomous waters of cliché.  It just got kind of hokey and felt as though it betrayed everything it had been up to that point. 

Nonetheless, if you’re an action movie person, except for a few attempts at trying to find America’s next catch phrase and a tired ending, M:i:III is definitely worth a rent.

Cars – A Movie Review

I have to admit that when I saw the trailer for this film, I had absolutely no confidence in it whatsoever.  I simply didn’t think they could possibly come up with a compelling storyline based upon a world inhabited solely by living cars.

However, being the animation junkie I am, I still had to give it shot once it hit on DVD.  I’m happy to report that I could not have been more wrong.

I loved this film!  The animation was top-notch, though I never had any doubt as to that.  Even better, though, was the fact that it actually had a very engaging and heartwarming story!  Being the severely masculine tough guy that I am, I have no qualms revealing that the ending of the film actually brought the slightest amount of moisture to one of my eyes.  Thankfully, I have far too much machismo for that moisture to have evolved into a full-fledged tear.

I don’t have any children of my own, but I have to imagine that I would feel totally confident showing this to my kids.  I can’t think of a better movie for a youngster to learn from.  It’s been too long since I saw an entertaining film that reminded me how wonderful it is when people put others first.

You, Me and Dupree – A Movie Review

Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I’m a big Owen Wilson fan.  I really like more of his eccentric Zoolander, Royal Tenenbaums, and Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou stuff, but I also enjoy his good-buddy stuff like Wedding Crashers, I Spy, and Starsky and Hutch.

You, Me and Dupree definitely fits into the latter category with Wilson playing the thirty-something friend who refuses to grow up.  Of course, when Dupree hits an all-time low, just-married buddy Matt Dillon allows him to move in with he and his new wife played by Kate Hudson.

For the first half of the movie we get some pretty by-the-numbers stuff with typical loser-guy and responsible-guy humor.  However, the movie really begins to pick up speed toward the end and the Dupree character becomes much more rounded, and therefore engaging. 

By no stretch of the imagination would I say this film broke new ground, and though the first half was fairly mundane, Wilson saved the last act and thus left us feeling like we’d seen a pretty funny movie.

Little Miss Sunshine – A Movie Review

If you haven’t watched this movie, you have no idea what you are missing. 

The plot is rather simple: a father who is a failure at motivational speaking discovers that his daughter believes she has a great shot at winning the Little Miss Sunshine pageant.  Because of circumstances you’ll discover in the movie, the father, his wife, his wife’s brother (who recently attempted suicide, played by a surprisingly low-key Steve Carrel), his father (a drug user, but lovable nonetheless), his wife’s son (who has taken a vow of silence), and their young daughter load up in an old, decrepit van and make their way across the country, all in the hopes that they’ll be taking home the title of Little Miss Sunshine.

Of course, the family interaction is the heart of this movie, especially because we have several very complicated characters who only grow in their complexity as the movie progresses.  Sometimes this movie is gut-busting funny, sometimes it is heartbreaking, and that is what I love so much about it.

Again, I cannot recommend Little Miss Sunshine highly enough.