Thursday, March 26, 2009


Take your classic boy gets girl--boy loses girl--boy gets girl back again plot and change it to boy gets BOY, etc., and you have the gist of I Love You, Man.

Paul Rudd gives an Oscar worthy performance as Peter, a mild-mannered real estate guy (he's trying to sell Lou Ferrigno's house) who enjoys hanging out with his fiance and watching chick flicks. He doesn't have any real male friends, and that's probably why. It wouldn't be a problem except he needs a best man for his wedding, and that sends him on a buddy search (man dates, no less).

Peter wants desperately to be just one of the guys, but he may have gotten shorted on his allotment of testosterone and can't seem to master the intricacies of male bonding. Enter Sidney, (Jason Segel) Peter's serendipitous new best friend and male "role model." Sidney is a devil-may-care type who pumps Peter for details about his sex life with wife to be Zoey (the hot Rashida Jones) and allows his dog named "Anwar Sadat" to relieve himself on the sidewalk, beach, or wherever without bothering to clean it up. People step in it (sometimes barefoot) and let loose with barrages of profanity (potty talk, we might say) and sometimes threatening behavior towards Sidney. It's an ongoing gag, and the funniest thing in the movie because the blue streaks are always creative and Sidney's counter behavior is unpredictably bizarre.

But Peter's tragicomic lameness is at the heart of this film--does he have it in him to be a "regular" booze swilling, chick ogling, trash talking guy--or is he trying to be something he's not? You can talk the talk, but that doesn't mean you can win your fantasy football league!

The plot, for the most part, is predictable--as is the ending. But I Love You, Man isn't about keeping us in suspense--it's about making us laugh...AND, along the way, ponder the meaning of what it is to be a "real" man. Speaking of which, Lou Ferrigno (the Incredible BULK) plays himself. That's typecasting.


TIMMY'S TIDBITS: Paul Rudd's original family name is "Rudnitzky." Before he got into acting, Rudd worked as a DJ for Bar Mitzvahs. (Haven't we ALL done that at one time or another?)

Jason Segel plays piano and is also a talented basketball player. Segel went to high school with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Dustin Hoffman as a romantic lead? Clark Gable must be saying, "There goes the neighborhood!" But yes, there IS on-screen magic between Hoffman's "Harvey" and Emma Thompson's "Kate," who finally collide-after several near misses--in a bar where each has come to take the edge off the crappy day they've just had.

Harvey, who creates jingles for commercials--but whose job is hanging by a thread--is in London to attend his daughter's wedding, which carries with it an encounter with his ex-wife and the next-in-line guy she's settled down with. Both his ex AND his daughter come off as real turds in the beginning--and that speaks to the level of estrangement that exists better than any flashbacks could. We immediately feel for Harvey, who seems like a decent but hapless sort who gets less respect than Rodney Dangerfield.

Kate is a lonely Londoner who is ripe for picking--even though romantic involvement is something she normally resists because, heaven forbid, it might make her feel like she's alive!
It appears that each of them might just have enough left in the tank for one more go at the romance game--IF they can survive the inevitable plot complications that are headed their way.

There's a cute little subplot involving Kate's seventy-something mom (or mum, we should say) and the sweaty new neighbor guy she's got the hots for...and mum's the word on the rest of this plot synopsis!

The music soundtrack by Dickon Hinchliffe (which can often make or break a film, in my opinion) is appropriately tender and sweet.

Last Chance Harvey hasn't gotten a whole lot of buzz, (but just like Elizabeth Perkins-- who thirty or forty years from now will be regarded as the Donna Reed of the 80's and 90's...she has that "certain something" that will be appreciated more by future generations) this movie will one day be thought of as one of the better representations of Hoffman's body of work.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA (playing at home where you absentmindedly stuck your gum onto the underside of your easy chair)

One of my favorite things to do is to find, among all the films that I see, ones that I truly love and feel a special connection with--then impart those feelings to the world in hopes that at least SOMEONE will be intrigued enough to see the film and, perhaps, develop that same kind of connection. You could say it's a mission of love, and my primary purpose in authoring this blog.
And that brings us to Love In The Time of Cholera, based on the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Young Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) has a powerful thing for the lovely Fermina Daza, (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) in this exquisite tale set against the backdrop of a cholera epidemic in South Ameerica on the cusp of the 20th century. Fermina is intrigued by Florentino's fascination with her, but her father doesn't want her to marry a lowly telegraph operator. Nonetheless, she accepts her lovestruck suitor's proposal with the statement: "I will marry you if you promise not to make me eat eggplant."

But a short time later, Fermina mysteriously changes her mind (a woman's perogative, as all men know) and Florentino is devastated. Florentino carries that torch...and carries it...even when Fermina marries a prominent doctor and seems to want no part of her former paramour.

Florentino's attempted cure for his lovesickness is to run through a series of female conquests, (in scenes that hand us a healthy helping of feminine pulchritude) which eventually grows to the kind of numbers that would make any man envious (except, I suppose, Gene Simmons of Kiss). But even through all that, there is something of the monomaniacal in Florentino's obsession with Fermina, and he will wait forever, if need be, to fulfill his dream.

It must have been more than half way through the film before I realized that this lush romantic drama is also a comedy--what else would you call it when a cat pounces on your bare ass during a scene of lovemaking?

Directed by Mike Newell, with a haunting score from Antonio Pinto and original songs by Shakira. Also featuring Benjamin Bratt, Hector Elizondo, and John Leguizamo. Love In The Time of Cholera is a film for the ages about a love that survives the ages.


TIMMY'S TIDBITS: Javier Bardem hails from Spain and has starred in more than two dozen films in that country. It is reported that he does not know how to drive. (Neither does my girlfriend, but she THINKS she does.)

Giovanna Mezzogiorno wanted to be a ballerina and studied dancing for 13 years. She is a Scorpio, and has a tattoo of the scorpion zodiac sign on her ankle.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (now playing at home where your spouse is screaming at you--pretend you can't hear.)

Struggling musician Peter, (Jason Segel) who's writing a Dracula musical for puppets, gets dumped by his TV star girlfriend, Sarah (Kristen Bell) as he stands there naked and just out of the shower (unfortunate because, in my experience, if at least one of you is naked, things are usually going pretty well) in this raunchy comedy that will have you--if not laughing--at least smirking most of the way through.

Trying to get Sarah off his mind, Peter beds down with a bevy of acceptably attractive substitutes, but to no avail. He follows Sarah and her new rock star beau, Aldous Snow (played by Russell Brand as an over-the-top parody of your typical chemically addled prima donna rocker) to Hawaii. Peter drinks, follows Sarah around, and feels crappy until he hooks up with the exotic looking Rachel (Mila Kunas) the one woman who has the potential to turn him around.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the kind of flick where the actors and crew must have been breaking up and laughing their asses off after each take, and the gag reel that's one of the extras on the DVD is at least as much fun as the film itself. The laughs here aren't the gross-out kind of belly laughs, as in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle-- they're actually a bit more subtle and, dare we say, on a higher intelluctual plane. Still, there are plenty of F-bombs being tossed around, and there's some full frontal nudity...but it's MALE nudity, so out of disappointment I naturally had to deduct a few points for that.


THE NOTEBOOK (playing at home where you're ignoring the garbage that's up to the ceiling so you can watch this movie)

James Garner and Gena Rowlands portray the older couple we meet in the beginning for whom the story he reads to her from his notebook--shown in flashbacks to the forties--has some special meaning.

Noah (Ryan Gosling) is a cheeky teenager who courts the stunning Allie (Rachel McAdams) in a way that would be considered stalking by today's standards, but in pre-war America was thought of as the admirable trait of PERSERVERANCE. It's the oft-told poor boy-rich girl tale, and Allie's mom--the classic Mrs. Richbitch that we love to hate--does mean things to try to keep them apart.

The young lovers are separated, and when the war breaks out Allie falls for a wounded enlisted man she meets at the hospital where she's volunteering. He's good looking and, oh yeah, RICH-which makes Allie's material-mom jump for joy. But even as she accepts her new guy's proposal of marriage, Allie thinks fondly of Noah and wonders if she's doing the right thing. Will she take the money and run, or will first love conquer all? We don't find out until right near the end, and that keeps things interesting throughout.

An authentic sense of place--or in this case, era--scores points with me, and The Notebook captures the forties to a T, both visually and musically. From the novel by Nicholas Sparks, the movie contains a surprisingly passionate love scene for a PG-13 rated film (another plus).

However, there are several minutes of surperfluous and anti-climactic stuff at the end, which detracts from what could have been a perfectly poignant ending. Better to leave 'em at the most touching moment and let the audience infer the rest.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (now playing at home where you can lounge in your funky ripped underwear)

Vicky and Cristina are two sexy young Americans, on the loose in Barcelona for the summer in this Woody Allen offering that explores the "ins and outs" of seduction. Cristina (the lovely Scarlett Johansson) is a free and easy bohemian type, while Vicky (the equally lovely Rebecca Hall) exudes rationality, practicality, and common sense. At least at the beginning.

There are many ways to be seduced, not the least of which is the sound of Spanish guitars in the romantic milieu of Barcelona. Enter the ultra-persuasive Juan Antonio, (Javier Bardem) a smoldering artistic type who, upon meeting the two girls, unabashedly proposes that they join him for a threesome with the line: "Life is short, life is dull, life is full of pain." (Geez, I wish I'd thought of that when I was dating Barbara Jo Wilkerson!)

What ensues is an unpredictable love triangle. The heat is turned up further when Juan Antonio's spooky ex-wife, played convincingly by Penelope Cruz, re-enters the picture and turns the triangle into a quadrangle, with amusing complications.

Allen's dialogue is so distinctively "Woody" that one cannot totally avoid picturing the writer/director mouthing those words instead of his characters, which can really screw with your head when it's one of the beautiful women speaking!

One of the marks of a good movie is that you don't want it to end. I was thoroughly seduced by Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and I bet you will be too.


Grade: B+

TIMMY'S TIDBITS: Scarlett Johansson had been cast in the 2005 film Thumbsucker --but dropped out before filming started. (Unfortunate...there would have been something quite sexy about watching Scarlett sucking her thumb!)

A Scarlett quote: "I don't think human beings are monogamous by nature."

Penelope Cruz dated Tom Cruise for about three years. (Had they married, she wouldn't have had to change her name.)

Penelope likes to have stray cats around. After filming All The Pretty Horses in 2000, she became a vegetarian.

A Penelope quote: "Sometimes I think I'm an Italian trapped in a Spanish woman's body."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Liam Neeson, who's sort of an unassuming type in real life, stars as an ex-CIA badass who reluctantly allows his teenage daughter to go to Paris on a lark. She promptly gets abducted by some super sleazy Albanians who kidnap young girls and sell them into the sex-slave trade (and I thought most Albanians were sheep herders--what do I know?)
The daughter (Maggie Grace) is seventeen, but acts more like she's thirteen--just to get the point across to us that she's REALLY innocent.

Dad springs into action and becomes a one man wrecking crew, letting no one get in his way as he punches, kicks, karate chops, and shoots his way through a whole crapload of slimeballs in a feverish crusade to get his little darling back before her virtue is compromised.

It's all way over the top, almost to the point of being cartoonish--and the level of violence here should have earned this PG-13 film an R rating; however, our tolerance for that sort of thing is high. But take any genteel sort of flick, add a few images of the unclothed human body, and you've got an automatic R rating--which just goes to show how twisted our national sensitivities still are.

Having said all that, it's hard to resist rooting for "Super Dad," and this film is a non-stop adrenalin ride with lots of wild smash 'em up car chases, if that's your kind of thing. At the end of the movie I felt like a real badass myself, so I stuck my foot out and tripped an old guy who was shuffling toward the restroom with his walker.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


"Slumdog," which swept the major categories at the Academy Awards, fascinates on a number of levels. Is it a drama? Is it a fantasy? Is it a musical?


The editing, cinematography, and music (by M.I.A. and A.R. Rahman) all shine. Then there's the fresh-faced cast of unknowns from another land that seems to have captured America's fancy in true Beatle-esque fashion. Then we have the rags-to-riches plot.

Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is an orphan who, through an improbable twist of fate, finds himself a contestant on India's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Through a series of amazing coincidences, he has LIVED the answers to the questions that are being posed to him on the show. (This is where your "willing suspension of disbelief" will come in handy.) The momentum builds as Malik embarks on a harrowing damsel-in-distress search for his childhood friend while running afoul of the smarmy game show host and the authorities who aren't convinced he's legitimately coming up with the correct answers.

The film builds to a fist pumping climax that gave me goose bumps and made me feel the same way I felt the first time I saw Rocky. And frankly, with the current state of the economy and Rush Limbaugh bellowing that he wants Barack Obama to fail, we could use more films like this one that connect us with the indomitable human spirit.



Brad Pitt is Benjamin Button, a man who is born as an ugly 80 year old infant and then proceeds to grow younger and much better looking because, after all, it IS Brad Pitt. Trust me, seeing Brad Pitt's head on the body of a midget as Benjamin's metamorphosis unfolds is nearly worth the price of admission.

About two-thirds of the way through, it ocurred to me that this film was hauntingly reminiscent of Forrest Gump. Both Forrest and Benjamin travel around and have lots of unusual experiences; each has a love interest that involves an on again-off again relationship, and both films contain lots of homespun philosophy. I later learned that the screenplay for both films was written by the same guy, (Eric Roth) and high-fived myself for picking up on it before the fact.

The real sweetness of this film revolves around Benjamin's love interest (Cate Blanchett) who sarts the movie as a little girl, aging normally while Benjamin does his bass-ackwards thing, and it becomes evident that at some pivotal moment in time they are going to meet again and become lovers--which just goes to show that, as they say in comedy, timing is everything.

Perhaps what's MOST curious about Benjamin Button is that several people are aware of his reverse aging, but aren't taking great pains to hide it from anyone, so don't you think that sooner or later the feds would get word of it--grab him, and lock him up so they could study him for the rest of his life? But then, there would go your movie. (And if the dog hadn't stopped to pee, he'd have caught the rabbit.) Philosophically speaking, if we all aged backwards, what a world it would be. YOUNG people with all the knowledge and wisdom of a lifetime...actually showing some respect for their elders!

I do believe that had it been a year when "Slumdog Mania" did not exist, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, nominated for a slew of academy awards but only garnering a few relatively minor Oscars, would have scored many more.

Timing is everything.


Monday, March 9, 2009

NIGHTS IN RODANTHE (Now playing in front of your filthy beer stained sofa)

Richard Gere and Diane Lane are together again in this romantic drama based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. Gere is a surgeon who needs to face the family of a woman who died unexpectantly on his operating table. Lane is a mother of two who's trying to decide whether to reunite with her estranged husband.

They meet at a remote bed and breakfast on the North Carolina coast, where each has presumably come to do some soul searching. But they're the only two people in the place, so the get drunk together. What do YOU think is going to happen? (The same thing that's going to happen with ANY random couple in the same situation--even if they have to put bags over each others' heads!) Yet, this supposedly is the formula for the start of a once in a lifetime romance.

Before I saw it, I'd heard that the movie has a crappy ending. That's why I waited for the DVD. Who wants to pay full theatre prices for a crappy ending? But, with an overly melodramatic plot, and unconvincing performances from the two stars, (in the bedroom scene, Lane looks about as turned on as if she were kissing her dog) the disappointment had set in long before the ending. And oh yeah--see if you don't think Richard Gere is looking more and more like Donald Trump with better hair.

Nights in Rodanthe does convey one inspiring message: Don't settle for less when you can (or think you can) have it all.



In a film set in postwar Germany, Kate Winslett bares her soul--and a lot more--in her Oscar winning performance as Hanna Schmitz, an ex-nazi concentration camp guard whose past comes back to bite her on the butt--which, by the way, is quite comely. Trying to do great acting with one's clothes off must just add to the pressure, and I think the academy voters must have recognized this. Either that or most of them were guys.

Hanna, a decidedly amoral character--not only for what she did at the camps but for her rationalizations about it much later--is in her mid thirties when she has an affair with 15 year old Michael Berg, a future law student who serendipitously becomes an observer when she later goes on trial for her past deeds. Michael has secret information that could make things go better for her, but will he reveal it to the judge? That's what you pay your inflated admission and popcorn prices to find out, buckaroo!

Lena Olin, a fine, underrated and underemployed actress who could carry a lot of films herself, has a small part near the end. And the late Sydney Pollack--a truly great, and, I think, underrated director, has his stamp on this one as co-producer.

The theme of The Reader is one that each of us has lived at some time or another: The conflict within ourselves to act out of conscience or out of fear.


Sunday, March 8, 2009


Quintessential girl next door Ginnifer Goodwin (who plays one of three wives vying for attention in the HBO series about modern day polygamy, Big Love ) cruises the local singles scene and gets slighted again by dudes who just don't seem to be that interested.

The film features numerous subplots about married and unmarried couples who don't really know themselves or the person they're with, yet still have the balls to hope that everything will work other words, JUST LIKE MOST OF US! And that's why we can all identify with this flick.

The big name cast includes Jennifer Anniston and Jennifer Connelly, (let's see, that's two Jennifers and one Ginnifer--reminding us of that unfortunate time in our nation's history when many expectant mothers' brains turned to mush) along with Scarlett Johansson and even Kris Kristofferson in a cameo role.

Johansson, who more and more seems to be teasing her male fans into coming back for more in hopes that one day she'll take it all off (but never will because she's too big of a star now) gets groped in her underwear in the film's steamiest scene.

Jennifer Connely, who DID take it off in at least one B movie I saw (early in her career) appears to have opted for some mammillary downsizing. As I recall, she looked HUGE then, but doesn't look that way now. Ironic that a girl with talent may still choose the implant route just to try to get noticed amongst all the competition. Then, when finally recognized for her ABILITIES, discards them like a pair of worn out sneakers. (Don't need THESE bodacious things hanging around anymore!) By the way ladies, you're mistaken when you think that all men are Neanderthals who just like BIG; when, in fact, what most men appreciate--first and foremost--is that it be GOD GIVEN. (Breast implants are like a Madonna stage show--no subtlety...just in your face sexuality.)

Anyway, He's Just Not That Into You attempts to answer the burning question: How can I tell if he/she really digs me, or if they're just using me for an electric blanket until something better comes along? The most poignant moment comes when Goodwin's character, Gigi, who wears her heart on her sleeve, waxes poetically about how keeping one's heart open will pay dividends down the road, despite the psychic pain of the moment.