The Wedding Crashers – A Movie Review

Loved Vince Vaughn in Swingers.  Not so crazy about Vince Vaughn in The Lost World.  Loved Vince Vaughn in Old School.  Not so crazy about Vince Vaughn in Dodgeball.  Loved Vince Vaughn in Clay Pigeons.  Not so crazy about Vince Vaughn in Made.

Loved Owen Wilson in Zoolander.  Loved Owen Wilson in The Royal Tenenbaums.  Loved Owen Wilson in Meet the Parents.  Loved Owen Wilson in Starsky & Hutch.  I even loved Owen Wilson in I-Spy. (And for a certain someone, I’m sure I’d love Owen Wilson in Bottle Rocket if I ever managed to see it the whole way through…You know who you are.)

So, I guess the point is, I always love Owen Wilson; Vince Vaughn is sometimes hit or miss with me.

Put the two in a film together (starring opposite, not just guest appearances), and I’ve got to give the edge to Owen Wilson. 

Not so with The Wedding Crashers, my friend.  Not so…

Vince Vaughn stole the show, and that’s hard for me to admit. 

The Wedding Crashers is pretty much what you’d expect, and that’s okay with me.  I went to The Wedding Crashers wanting laughs, and that’s what I got.  It was a bit cruder than I was expecting, and hey, that’s okay with me also.  Anyone that really knows me knows that I don’t mind a bit of crude humor every once in a while. 

Wilson was hilarious, but the true star of this film was Vaughn.  Fast-talking, great physical comedy, took me back to his Swingers days.  If you want to laugh, check this film out.  Be mindful, however, it’s rated R for good reason.  Lots of F-bombs, brief flashes of nudity, and lots of sexual humor. 

But, it was funny.

Sin City – A Movie Review

I don’t know if I’m getting older or what, but movies like Sin City just don’t do it for me anymore.  I went into this movie thinking I was going to love it.  I mean, it’s based off a comic book, so right there I was pretty excited.  (Yes, I am an unrequited comic book lover.  Have been since the age of four.  Sue me.)  The commercials proved that it was a unique film in terms of visuals.  And it was.  Just one thing bothered me about the movie so much that I can’t bring myself to say, “I liked it.”

The violence.  This movie was about as masochistic as they come.  Yes, rarely did they show red blood.  It was more often than not stylized so that it appeared stark white against the black and white colors of the movie.  But, the beatings, the shootings, the ripping off of body parts, the sawing off of appendages, the ramming of blunt objects through heads, it just got to be too much for me.

I don’t want to sound like a pansy here, but the movie could have been awesome without all those things.  I keep hearing people say it’s a great throwback to the film noir style of decades past.  I have no recollection of people being shot and stabbed in the genitalia of those old films. 

The man who wrote the original graphic novels (a term for a fancy comic book) is Frank Miller.  He is largely considered a genius in the comic book world.  He redefined Batman in the mid-eighties, and the 1989 Batman was based largely off of his vision of the character.  And his comics are violent, for the most part.  But, the movie took it one step farther.

The acting wasn’t great, although I thought Mickey Rourke did a nice job.  I’m glad to see his career may be revived due to this film, like Travolta with Pulp Fiction.  The lines were supposed to be fragmented, which works great in the comics, but not so well in movies.  It’s hard to get the complexity of the character and the moment across with just three words per sentence for the better part of the entire film.  Rourke pulled it off, but I’m afraid that Willis (who I think is a great actor to watch, but not necessarily a great actor; I mean that as a compliment) and Del Toro didn’t.  I do have to say that the movie had a stellar cast.  I think everyone knew this was going to be a milestone in the film world.

The style of the movie was phenomenal.  It was primarily black and white with splashes of color here and there for symbolism or effect.  Very dark, very moody.  It nailed the heart of the comic in that respect.  It had lots of really cool shots and angles, lots of awesome sets, and the costumes (or lack thereof, in many cases) and make-up were top notch. 

So, if you can handle gratuitous violence and enjoy hyper-stylized movies, this is for you.  If you’re not one for lots of violence, guns, knives, razor wire, bombs, swords, and any other killing device you can imagine, this may not be a first choice for your Friday night. 

Ultimately, I respect the work of Frank Miller, and I respect all artists.  Considering he was a co-director of this film (which I think was awesome of the other co-director, Robert Rodriguez, to include him), I have to trust that he got it the way he wanted.  That’s all I ask of artists.  Do it your way, and let the public make its own decisions.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – A Movie Review

What can I say other than I loved this movie?  It’s quirky, it’s understated, it’s inadvertently hilarious, and it’s the opposite of most every other movie I’ve seen lately.  And that’s why I loved it.

This film is brought to you by Wes Anderson, the guy who gave us The Royal Tenenbaums (which was also an excellent film for the same reasons).  It stars a can’t-miss Bill Murray, a nearly-can’t-miss Owen Wilson, a gaining-respect-in-my-book Cate Blanchett, a can’t-miss-if-you-get-him Jeff Goldblum, a nice-change-of-pace William Dafoe, and a much- better-actress-than-I’ve-previously-given-her-credit-for Anjelica Huston.

This movie, for all its eccentricity, truly did touch an emotional cord with me.  At the heart of it we’ve got Steve Zissou, a man trying to bond with someone that may or not be his son, a man who can’t hold his marriage together, a man whose best friend was eaten by a jaguar shark that may or may not exist, a man whose once stellar documentary film career is waning, a man who has somehow become a pale shadow of his former self.  Pretty heavy stuff, isn’t it? 

Somehow these qualities don’t glare at you because of the overall underplayed hilarity of the film.  The sea life is animated in such a way that you’re never supposed to think for an instant that they’re real, the insides of the ship they sail on is purposefully supposed to look like a multi-layered set on a theatre stage, and, best of all, we’ve got a member of Zissou’s crew singing David Bowie songs throughout the film in Portuguese. 

Unlikely moments of somberness are met with over-the-top moments of action, all infused with mundane moments of life on an adventure paying homage to Jacques Cousteau.  I never would have thought these qualities had the makings of a superb comedy, and that’s why The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a rousing success.

Batman Begins – A Movie Review

I know this was a good movie because I went to see it with several friends and their wives, including mine, and the wives, including mine, loved it!

This was the Batman that every fanboy has longed to see.  He was intense, guilt-ridden, an expert fighter, truly frightening, and took what he did very seriously. 

The film dealt with the parts of Batman that the average person doesn’t know much about, which is why I know my wife and the other wives really loved it.  They never knew that Bruce Wayne was a man who had everything he loved taken from him at a young age by a common criminal.  They didn’t realize he blamed himself for the murder of his parents.  It was news to them that he fights a battle against the forces of evil nightly in order to make up for what he couldn’t do then.  He fights to make sure that what happened to him happens to no one else.  They enjoyed the explanation of how he obtains his equipment.  They were shown that he is a mortal man, not a super-man, using the cowardly psyche of the average criminal against them.  It allows us to witness him get hurt, really hurt, and it makes us pity him when we see his bruises, his cuts, his scars. 

This is Batman.  He is only a man to those who know his true identity, but a man who makes himself a force of nature to those he hunts through intelligence, discipline, and chicanery.

The movie succeeds in all the right ways.  Unlike the other Batman movies, we care about this Batman, we root for this Batman, we want to see this Batman on the screen, not the over the top villains of past films.  Batman is the star of this picture, not a mere challenge to the antagonist.

The uniform was plausible, the vehicle was probable, the plot was tight, the acting was superb (in nearly all cases), and the directing was magnificent.

In other words, see this film.  You won’t be sorry.

And remember, we fall down so that we may learn how to pick ourselves up.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – A Movie Review

Let me get this out in the open before I begin: I have never read a Harry Potter book.  Therefore, the sum of my Harry Potter knowledge is completely and utterly derived from the films I’ve watched and from what my wife, who is an avid fan, tells me. 

I’ve seen all the Harry Potter movies, and while I didn’t particularly care for the first two, I quite enjoyed the third installment.  I imagine this is because the tones were a bit darker and more mature, plus, who doesn’t love a werewolf? 

So, while I wasn’t overly anxious to see this fourth segment, I was mildly looking forward to it, which I think makes me as objective as anyone can be when it comes to Harry Potter. 

I was not disappointed with the film, nor did I feel I had wasted my money, but I was not overtly electrified either.  The film very rushed and jumbled, and while I never considered myself lost, I knew that there were rather integral portions of the story that were omitted for time’s sake.  My wife later went into great detail about those left out sections, confirming my suspicions. 

The film was entertaining, but it seemed to lack a depth to the characters that was prevalent in the third film, you remember, the one with the werewolf.  There were incredible special effects, and the acting, what little was required, was sublime with highly esteemed adults and adequate teens. 

My fear is this: Harry Potter is going the route of a special effects carnival rather than focusing on what so many fans fell in love with immediately, which was, of course, the clear characterization and thorough narration.  I think the Goblet of Fire has begun that downward spiral.  However, it’s not too late.  Perhaps they can go back to what people love most about Harry Potter, and that his character.

On a side note, I’m very irritated with Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books.  Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but did she not sign a seven picture deal for all her books to be adapted to film, and didn’t she do this somewhere around the release of the third book?  Regardless of when the deal was made, it certainly happened before her last few books had come out, and they have been gargantuan in size.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to shy away from a big book, but if you know your books are going to be made into films BEFORE you write them, wouldn’t you feel some responsibility to the fans to make them short enough that they could be adapted to film without 75% of the book’s content being omitted?  I feel that if she signed the deal before the books were even written, she should make them manageable enough to be converted to film without the fans that do read the books being disappointed by the many cuts and the fans that don’t read the books having to fill in the gaps on their own.

The Legend of Zorro – A Movie Review

I greatly enjoyed the film The Mask of Zorro, so when I heard they were finally going to follow it up, I naturally became quite excited.

Soon the previews arrived, and I started to lose my enthusiasm a bit.  Okay, Zorro’s married now with a ten-year-old in the sequel.  Okay, I can handle that.  I’d like to be a family man myself one day.  But then I saw the clips of Catherine Zeta-Jones swashbuckling right alongside her hubby, and then I got worried.  I feared this would be the legend of Zorro, Zorro-Woman, and Zorro, the Boy wonder.

I’m afraid I was right.  They took an iconic character and essentially made him second fiddle to his wife and child.  They never don a costume of any sort, mind you, but they definitely took up far too much screen time, in my opinion.

In this film we have Zorro facing marital problems, and, as a result, he takes to drinking and becomes quite bitter, even whiney at times.  What were they thinking?  If I wanted that kind of stuff I’d turn on Dr. Phil!  (That is not an admission to watching Dr. Phil, by the way.)

What happened to the days of Zorro fighting the bad guys with the quick quips and the incredible acrobatics?  I mean, I realize this is 2006 and I’m all for the wife doing a little fencing, but this film is called The Legend of ZORRO!  Not the Legend of Zorro’s Family.

So, the beginning was great, the middle was tedious and convoluted, the ending was clichéd.  Note to Hollywood, I’m tired of Old West train brawls.  I think the last time I enjoyed an Old West train brawl was Back to the Future III.

Finally, I like Antonio Banderas.  I think he’s a perfect Zorro.  But, the guy’s been in Hollywood for how long now?  Seriously, his accent in this film is nearly incomprehensible.  I get it, he’s a Californian pre-Union days, but there were moments when I had no idea what he was saying.  It got to be an issue.

I wanted to like this film, I really did, but after all was said and done, I’m afraid I just couldn’t recommend it in good conscience.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin – A Movie Review

I’d heard a great deal of good things about this film starring former Daily Show star Steve Carell.  I won’t lie to you, it had its funny moments.  It had many funny moments. 

However, my biggest issue with this film was not its vulgarity, because face it, if you’re watching a film about a 40-year-old virgin and you’re shocked that there are bare breasts and loads of profanity, well, you just didn’t think this thing through, did you? 

My main problem with this movie is that it took SO long to go anywhere.  I felt as though I was forty by the time the story got rolling.  They knew they had a hit and I think they were hesitant to cut out any scenes because of that fact, but this thing came in at two hours and thirteen minutes.  That’s too long to watch a comedy about a character of any age.

Other than Carell, every character in this film was a typical stereotype played for laughs.  You’ve got the black guy, the pothead, the horny boss, the guy who can’t get over his girlfriend he dumped, the nymphomaniac, the single mom, the middle eastern salesmen, blah, blah, blah.  But, as I’ve said, I really did find Carell engaging and charismatic.  I believe he has a solid film career ahead of him.

This thing did big numbers, so people obviously liked it.  I would have liked it much, much more if it’d gotten to the resolution about forty-three minutes sooner.

The Fantastic Four – A Movie Review

Let me begin by stating that while I am a self-admitted comic book fan, I am by no means a die-hard Fantastic Four fan.  I’ve always thought they were a neat team, but I’ve never really been interested in them or their comic. 

Okay, with that out of the way, I think we all understand that I am by no means as critical when it comes to the Fantastic Four as I would be with, say, Batman or the Flash. 

My wife and I went to see the Fantastic Four movie while on vacation from our summer vacation.  I had no expectations whatsoever and I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.  Here we had a film that was exactly what it should have been, a lighthearted movie about a family-like team of superheroes who banter and quibble as most families do.  It was a great deal of fun to see their powers showcased, and the film was nowhere near as campy or cheesy as I thought it would be from what I saw in the previews. 

Was this the dark psychodrama of Batman?  No.  Was this the film noir of Sin City?  Not in the least.  What it was, however, was a movie that was plain and simply put fun to watch.

Sorry if I’m upsetting all the Kirby and Lee fans out there who judge me to be committing Fantastic Four sacrilege, but I liked the movie.  Go check it out if you want to have some good old fashioned summer movie fun!

Cinderella Man – A Movie Review

When this film initially came out I thought it looked good, but it didn’t look good enough to spend my hard earned cash on.  I think this may have been the underlying problem when it came to this film’s promotion.  I now wish I’d trusted my instincts and gone to see this film on the big screen. 

Let me tell you this: If you decide to rent a movie soon, make it Cinderella Man.  I was blown away at the excellence of this film.  It’s the story of real life boxer James J. Braddock, a Depression era boxer who got a rare second chance at reaching the top of his profession.  James was a promising boxer in the late twenties, but when a string of losses occurred and the depression hit, he found he and his family living in a tiny apartment with no food and barely enough electricity.  But, James never gave up.  He kept his heart and his morals, and when his second chance came, he realized he wasn’t fighting for glory anymore, he was literally fighting for the milk his children so desperately needed to survive.  In his words, he now knew what he was fighting for.

Russell Crowe usually resembles something of a jerk in real life, but there is no denying this man is one of our greatest contemporary actors.  His Braddock is realistic and an everyman, and I dare all of you to resist cheering for him as he fights his way back to the top. 

Ron Howard, a man desperately underrated in my book, directs this film, and while it may not be well known amongst the masses of moviegoers, this film certainly deserves a best picture nomination, if not a win.

Renee Zellweger play Braddock’s wife, and she does an admirable job of it.  I had trouble buying her in this role, however.  She didn’t annoy me, but she just didn’t feel right.

Certainly the unsung hero of this film is Paul Giamatti who played Joe Gould, Braddock’s manager.  Like Braddock, he plays a man, a real man, and because he plays a real man with real ethics and loyalties, we can’t help but admire his heroicness.

The boxing scenes are realistic, not the sensationalized fair of Rocky, the tone of the Depression is spot on, and the acting and directing is superb.  This film will not disappoint.

Red Eye – A Movie Review

You know, I really didn’t have a problem with this movie.  It starts off with pretty standard dialogue, but that didn’t bother me so much as I knew it was simply working to establish character.  This is, of course, so that when a shift in character arrives later on it seems more surprising and threatening.  The rest of the film wasn’t necessarily ground breaking, but it was surely entertaining. 

Let me get to the heart of this review: Cillian Murphy.  This guy is why I enjoyed Red Eye so much.  He’s just downright creepy.  His performance is very subtle, very reserved, and that makes him all the more villainous.  I honestly think this fella has a tremendous career ahead of him.  And, to be fair, the film’s other star, Rachel McAdams, held her own with Murphy and I believe she too is well on her way to having an esteemed career. 

I hate to say this, it’s so insulting to the director, but for a Wes Craven film, this thing was top-notch.  Craven is kind of hit or miss for me.  On the one hand, he scared the crap out of me as a kid with A Nightmare on Elm Street.  But, on the other, he also brought us A Vampire in Brooklyn.  All that being said, thanks to Cillian Murphy and Rachel McAdams, Red Eye is quite an enjoyable, edge-of-the-seat thriller.  I’d definitely recommend renting it.