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All reviews - Movies (42) - TV Shows (3)

A solidly okay film

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 February 2015 11:38 (A review of It Could Happen to You)

I ignored 'It Could Happen to You' for over 20 years due to lack of interest; I'm not really into most romantic comedies (and I've never been that big a fan of Nicolas Cage).

I finally watched the movie one night on Netflix, though, and it was... fine. Not spectacular, but not terrible. Cage's character comes across as a bit of a "Gary Stu" (or whatever you call male Mary Sues). And, as always, Rosie Perez's voice requires some getting used to (she REALLY turns up the grating here, though I suppose in this case it "works" for her role).

The story is pleasant, and I liked the New York City setting.

The film takes awhile to pick up (I almost gave up on it after the first 10 or 15 minutes), but, ultimately, it's a harmless time-waster -- and will probably appeal to those who enjoy romantic, "fairy tale ending" types of movies. (5/10)


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Garbage

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 February 2015 11:36 (A review of The Interview)

I watched 'The Interview' for two reasons: partly to see what all of the hype was about, and partly because I've read up and watched a few documentaries on North Korea. So -- even though I'm no Seth Rogen fan -- I was mildly curious to see how Rogen portrayed "the hermit kingdom" in his film.

I honestly regret wasting my time on such a terrible movie, which is without a doubt one of the WORST that I've seen in my well-over-30 years.

To begin with, the "North Korea" scenes were predictably stupid and painfully unfunny. Worse were the d*ck "jokes" that occurred seemingly EVERY. OTHER. LINE. (I really did NOT need to hear about James Franco's "smelling like guacamole", thank you very much. Did 12-year-olds write this?)

Then there were the so-called characters: I won't even bother with the "Kim Jong-un" character, but Seth Rogen's (I neither remember nor care what his name was supposed to be) was horrible and James Franco's was far worse, to the point of being INSUFFERABLE! I never had much of an opinion one way or the other about Franco before watching this, but whatever opinion of him that I *did* have has... considerably lowered after seeing him in 'The Interview'.

The only things I found even remotely funny about this poor excuse for a movie (and that's very, very remotely), were Franco's reaction to the kid outside of the "grocery store" (which was cheap humor, but I'll admit I briefly snickered) and the use of "Winds of Change" at the end (but late 1980's and early 1990's songs often amuse me for nostalgic reasons, so no real accomplishment there).

In a word: avoid! (1/10)


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Unlikable protagonist

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 February 2015 11:34 (A review of Girl Most Likely)

'Girl Most Likely' was another stinker that I stumbled across on Netflix one night (I've streamed my fair share of those). I was dubious right away going into the movie, because the film description on Netflix states the conflict of our "admirable" heroine, Imogene (Kristen Wiig): an adult woman who FAKES A SUICIDE to get her ex's attention after he breaks up with her, and I... didn't really want to watch a movie about such a person. Still, I watched 'Girl Most Likely' anyway -- perhaps because Matt Dillon has a role, and (while I haven't cared for about 95% of his film choices since the late 1990's) I do like Dillon as an actor.

Well, Dillon's okay, I guess, in 'Girl Most Likely', although his role in the movie isn't even close to his best (I blame bad writing; his character is sort of ridiculous and rather pointless). Annette Bening also appears in the film, playing Wiig's "eccentric" mother in a predictably wacky and over-the-top performance. The only other cast member I'm really familiar with is Natasha Lyonne, who has a small role as the love interest of Imogene's brother (Lyonne didn't annoy in this role, but she didn't exactly blow me away, either).

Most of the movie belongs to Wiig and her character "Imogene." And I found it difficult if not impossible to like or even care much about Imogene. I suppose she could have been worse; I never quite felt the urge to put my fist through the screen. But (not surprisingly, given the film description) the character came across as whiny, cutesy, and self-oriented throughout most of the movie. Even as her character "grew", my opinion of Imogene did not. I just... didn't care anymore.

Imogene failed to win me over, and, thus, I didn't really like 'Girl Most Likely'.

(That said, I suppose the scenes with Imogene and brother, who I believe was supposed to have Asperger's Syndrome, were OKAY.)

'Girl Most Likely' was also yet another movie that put me to sleep -- although "fortunately" only for about 15 minutes in this case, so I was able to watch the last few scenes. Not that I much cared. (2/10)


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I'm over it

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 February 2015 11:32 (A review of Get Over It)

Not that I went into this silly teen movie expecting much, but 'Get Over It' turned out to be stupider than I thought and (unlike a handful of other teen flicks of its time) not even stupid in an entertaining way. Actually, I fell asleep before the ending; I didn't bother going back later to see what I missed of 'Get Over It', because I didn't care.

I won't even bother writing about the "plot" (something about kids putting on a Shakespeare play, and teen romance. Oh, and Martin Short appears as the director of the Shakespeare production; he's as irritating as ever.)

The only reason I'm granting the movie an extra half-star is because I once interviewed its director (Tommy O'Haver, who fared much better with his later film 'An American Crime' -- which, other than involving teenagers, is about as different from this one as you can get) and because the Wondermints' song "Arnaldo Said" randomly played during some basketball scene, which made me snicker. (3/10)


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An unexpected gem

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 February 2015 11:31 (A review of Everybody's Fine)

'Everybody's Fine' is yet another movie that I'd never heard of before coming across it on Netflix -- and even then, it didn't catch my attention right away. The first few times I scrolled past the film, I didn't bother to even read the plot summary, much less hit "play" (the movie's title seemed kind of generic; and while I wouldn't place any of the cast on my "least favorite actors" list, I don't exactly make a point to follow any of their careers, either).

However, one night I was in the mood for a "traveling"/road trip movie -- and this one seemed to fit the bill, so I decided to give it a try.

I expected something average -- maybe good-yet-forgettable at best (which, incidentally, seemed to be the consensus of most critics about 'Everybody's Fine'; what do critics know, anyway?), but for whatever reason, this little film really worked for me!

Robert DeNiro (an actor I tend to find over-rated) is genuinely great here as Frank -- a recently widowed senior citizen with some fairly significant health problems, whose four grown children are scheduled to visit him one weekend at his home in upstate New York. After all four of his kids back out of the visit, Frank feels disappointed; but he simply decides to visit his children instead (in New York City, Chicago, Denver, and Las Vegas). Most of 'Everybody's Fine' centers around Frank's journey, and the secrets and surprises that are uncovered along the way.

The movie isn't perfect (in particular, the final scenes might feel a tiny bit "sentimental"; and why did Frank suddenly begin to narrate when he returned to New York City?). Overall, though, there's a lot to like about 'Everybody's Fine': the performances (this is actually my favorite role of DeNiro's; the supporting actors all give solid performances, as well, including Brendan Sexton III -- who's effective in his very small role since he made me hate him, but does he ALWAYS have to play a thug?); the music (the soundtrack doesn't go overboard, and I liked the songs that are used -- including the Paul McCartney tune at the end, which McCartney wrote specifically for this movie -- as well as the score); and the train scenes (Amtrak is featured prominently, which is an easy way to score points with me!). I can even say that the film made me want to call my parents just to say hello (which I would have and *should* have done, except it was about 3 am when I finished watching).

In time, perhaps I'll lower my rating (maybe I just watched at the right moment); but based on my first viewing, 'Everybody's Fine' was a very pleasant surprise -- possibly the film I've enjoyed most of the ones I've streamed in 2015. As far as I'm concerned, the movie is worthy of a 9/10.


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A little TOO depressing, but Adrien Brody is good

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 February 2015 11:30 (A review of Detachment)

Think of the most depressing movie that you've ever seen, and multiply the grim factor times a million. I guarantee you, the result would STILL look like "The Mickey Mouse Club" in comparison to 'Detachment'.

I'm generally not opposed to sad movies; in fact, I've enjoyed and appreciated many films that some might even label "depressing." However, I prefer sad movies with at least a GLIMMER of hope, or a touch of humor -- or SOMETHING besides just nonstop despair, scene after scene. There's very little hope or humor to balance the bleakness that permeates 'Detachment'.

Of course, the title alone hints that this isn't the most cheerful of movies; Adrien Brody's sad face on the poster is kind of a giveaway, as well. And I understand that the film's bleakness is intentional (and sort of the point).

However, the dark tone isn't the only reason that I didn't care much for
'Detachment'. While Brody's "documentary" style narration didn't bother me too much, I wasn't crazy about all of the "animated" scenes sprinkled throughout the film; one or two animated scenes might have been okay, but there are WAY too many of them, and they come across as rather amateur-ish. I was honestly surprised to read up on the movie and see that it was made by an acclaimed director (Tony Kaye) and not a recent film school graduate.

I also found it difficult to care much about the supporting characters. I suppose "Meredith" (the lonely high school student who develops an attraction to Mr. Barthes) kind of intrigued me, but I LOATHED what happened to her and how that scenario played out! "Erica" (the runaway who moves in with Henry) turned out to be less annoying than I expected, though I'm not sure that her character was necessary (and a couple of her scenes are a bit... dramatic).

As for Henry's teacher colleagues, I wasn't really invested in them, either, except for perhaps the teacher who felt invisible (played by Tim Blake Nelson; his character "Mr. Wiatt" could have used a bit more development, though, if the movie was going to bother showing him at all). Lucy Liu's "big scene" didn't strike me as believable, and Blythe Danner is just plain thankless.

(Though I will say that Danner and Marcia Gay Harden very much "look" their parts; Harden especially looks the role of the stern administrator who'd begin lectures with "You NEED to...")

If not for Adrien Brody's performance, I might have REALLY disliked this movie... or maybe even hated it. But Brody is excellent in his role as substitute teacher Henry Barthes; he makes the character sympathetic, yet realistic, and he's very believable and engaging in the role. Because he's so good in this, I actually WANTED to like 'Detachment' better than I did.

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for me to recommend 'Detachment' -- but at least Brody's performance is something of a saving grace. (4/10)


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Good film based on true but hard-to-believe story

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 February 2015 11:19 (A review of Compliance)

'Compliance' is another movie that I'd never heard of before watching it, starring actors I'm mostly unfamiliar with and based on a real-life incident that I knew nothing about. In other words, a very random choice for me to stream on Netflix. (Hey, at least I wasn't going in with any biases.)

If I didn't know the movie was based on a true story (which it tells us right off), I'd have undoubtedly called B.S. The reason being that almost all of the main characters behave in an EXTREMELY naive manner (to put it nicely -- or, as more blunt reviewers have put it, the characters in
'Compliance' are kind of stupid).

Basically, the story begins after a man calls a fast-food restaurant on the phone one day claiming to be a police officer. The guy talks at length to the restaurant manager (a middle-aged woman established in a few early scenes as rather insecure and intent on doing her job the "right" way, though she doesn't always succeed at this; the woman is played by Ann Dowd in the film's standout performance) and, in the process, informs her that a "19-year-old blonde girl" supposedly stole some money from a customer's purse. So the manager names a girl ("Becky") who just happens to fit the vague physical description given by the prank caller; of course, the caller plays right along. Per the so-called police officer's request, the manager pulls Becky aside into a back room. There, the manager, Becky, and some others briefly summoned to the room each proceed to obey the "officer's" increasingly bizarre demands (these scenes make up most of the film); eventually, it all leads to something... well, to something ugly.

All in all, while the story is indeed hard-to-believe, the film reveals that "Becky's" incident was far from the first of its kind. Based on what I read afterward, there were many such incidents in the 1990's and early 2000's. Apparently 'Compliance' is based on the case that lead to the caller's arrest; and it seems to be a fairly accurate version of the events that were reported in that particular case.

'Compliance' isn't mind-blowing; it has its share of flaws. But for what it is (sort of a psychological thriller/true-crime movie), the story is handled pretty well (with a great performance by Dowd), and it might be worth a watch if you're into these types of films. (6/10)


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Abysmally-acted Lifetime fodder

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 February 2015 11:18 (A review of The Bling Ring)

For some reason, Netflix "recommended" this masterpiece to me. Even though I'd never heard of this 'Bling Ring' (a Lifetime movie), the Sofia Coppola movie of the same title, OR the real-life case that inspired both films -- per Netflix's recommendation I decided to give the Lifetime version a try first.

I wasn't expecting much -- and sure enough, 'The Bling Ring' delivers about what one might expect from a Lifetime movie about bratty, greedy teenagers who break into celebrities' houses and steal their belongings. One of these teens (the male lead) supposedly just wants to fit in, while his sociopathic female BFF (played by a young actress who I hope for her sake took some lessons after appearing in this) is obsessed with fame or somesuch. (There are a few other teens, too, but none really worth mentioning.)

Jennifer Grey of 'Dirty Dancing' fame plays the lead guy's mom; I'm sure she brags about this role.

I have to say, though -- I watched Sofia Coppola's 'Bling Ring' the day after I watched this one (why? I don't know. And did this story really need ONE movie, much less two?) As dumb and atrociously acted at times as the Lifetime version was, I honestly found it more entertaining than Coppola's film -- which was so boring, it put me to sleep! (3/10)


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Saccharine indie romance

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 February 2015 11:17 (A review of Barefoot)

If you like nauseatingly cute movies featuring charisma-free male leads (Scott Speedman, in this case) falling in love with (blech) "manic pixie dream girls" (Evan Rachel Wood gets the honor here), then 'Barefoot' might be your cup of tea.

I'm not really a fan of such movies myself, so -- while I'll admit that 'Barefoot' passes the time, I felt like I needed a dental appointment after I finished watching it.

At least Wood's character "Daisy" is basically nice -- for a grown woman who, inexplicably (given the film's oh-so-dramatic revelation), acts about 8 years old. Speedman, on the other hand, (I've already forgotten his character's name) is basically a jerk throughout the entire movie -- though I think we're supposed to "root" for him. (I didn't.)

As for the mental institution where these two characters meet -- it's undoubtedly the LEAST realistic one that I've ever seen portrayed onscreen. Actually, on the like-that-would-ever-really-happen scale, 'Barefoot' rates so high with these mental institution scenes that it's almost entertaining... but not entertaining enough to save this basically harmless, yet far too cutesy and implausible film. (4/10)


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Why did I watch this?

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 February 2015 11:16 (A review of The Babysitters)

I'm... not really sure why I watched 'The Babysitters' (and looking at the poster, I'm practically embarrassed to admit that I did). Maybe for the same reason that I occasionally watch Lifetime movies when I feel like devoting 90 minutes or so to something easy-to-follow and mindless.

'The Babysitters' isn't all that different from your typical Lifetime film -- meaning that, in this movie, the women are portrayed as more powerful and in control than the men. Only the women here are actually high-school girls -- who happen to run a call-girl service, which they operate under the guise of "baby-sitting". (Classy.)

The girls enjoy making money for awhile. Eventually, however, things start to go very wrong with their little business, causing their (vaguely creepy) supposedly 17-year-old founder/"madam" Shirley's life to spiral out of control. (Katherine Waterston, who plays Shirley, was well into her 20's when she filmed this movie, and... looks it.)

Meanwhile, almost all of the male characters in 'The Babysitters' are really sleazy -- with the possible exception of a brother of one of the call girls (his reward for attempting to protect his sister is a beat-down by some masked thugs in one particularly silly and hard-to-swallow scene).

At least Lifetime movies are (I think) *intentionally* mindless and formulaic in most cases; I don't believe that was the intent with 'The Babysitters'. I could be wrong, but I got the sense that the director was going for something "clever" or "mysterious". Maybe not. Mostly, I just found the movie pointless and dull.

I should have known not to expect much when I saw that John Leguizamo was the top-billed star. (2/10)


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