Monday, June 27, 2011



Rated: PG-13

Stars: Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway
Director: Jeremy Leven
Genre: Drama/romance

Assessment: GEM!

Any movie that can lift you out of the hypnotic, auto-pilot state of your everyday existence and show you a world where there is greater depth of living and loving, and do it in a thoroughly captivating manner, is one that I will rave about! Don Juan DeMarco is such a film.

A young man (Johnny Depp) wearing a cape and a mask is convinced that he is the legendary Don Juan, "the world's greatest lover." He has made love to over fifteen hundred women. But he ends up in a psychiatric hospital following an apparent suicide attempt because the only woman he has ever really love has rejected him. He is under the care of Dr. Jack Mickler, (Marlon Brando) who is under pressure to start medicating the guy because the dude is obviously delusional. But not so fast...the patient regales his psychiatrist with tales of growing up in Mexico, where he made love for the first time at age 16, avenged his father's death in a sword fight, and later ended up in an Arabian sultan's harem where he took on a "service" oriented role.

Fascinated by the young man's sincerity, (as he charms the pants off of the female employees of the facility) Mickler falls under his patient's spell, and comes to believe that he may actually be who he claims to be.

Don Juan tells his doctor that there are only four questions in life:

What is sacred?
Of what is the spirit made?
What is worth living for?
What is worth dying for?

The answer to each of these questions is: "ONLY LOVE."

The tail begins to wag the dog, and Dr. Mickler soon finds his spirit rejuvenated. He goes home to his wife, Marilyn, (Faye Dunaway) and says: "We've surrendered our lives to the momentum of mediocrity. What happened to the celestial fire that used to light our way?"

He also says: "GODDAMN, YOU'RE A GREAT BROAD, REALLY!" This is classic Brando, so reminiscent of his character in Last Tango In Paris that I wondered if there wasn't some subtle tongue-in-cheek parody of that role going on here, especially when he takes a piece of gum out of his mouth and disposes of it, another deja vu moment from the aforementioned film. (Am I the only one who notices these things?) Or maybe it's just that Marlon Brando, with all his idiosyncrasies, could never truly be anything other than himself. (Even in his blimped- out state of 300 pounds, or whatever he was for this movie.)

Don Juan DeMarco got a PG-13 rating when it came out, but there are as many bare naked ladies flitting about (and delightfully so) as there were in Eyes Wide Shut! Probably would have received an R by today's standards.

In the end, the fundamental question of Don Juan DeMarco isn't whether Depp's character really is who he thinks he is--but rather, are any of us really who WE think we are?

Monday, June 13, 2011


Rated: PG-13

Stars: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates

Written and directed by Woody Allen

Genre: Romantic comedy

It's all about finding one's place.

Gil, (Owen Wilson) a Hollywood "hack" screenwriter who aspires to be a novelist, has come to Paris with his fiancee and her parents. The parents are on a business trip. His material girl, Inez, (Rachel McAdams) is all about shopping. Gil--an incurable romantic--has a fantasy about living in the City of Light during the golden age of the twenties, where he could rub elbows with the legendary artists and writers of the Lost Generation. He talks about chucking Hollywood and moving to Paris. Neither Inez--who thinks he's gone off the deep end-- nor her stuffy parents, understand him.

Gil ends up walking the streets alone at night, and at the stroke of midnight, a vintage Peugeot pulls up and he is ushered into the vehicle to join a group of revelers inside. In short order it becomes apparent that he has entered a time warp, as he in turn meets F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and a host of other literary and artistic figures. He even gets the opportunity to have his novel-in-progress critiqued by Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates). Then there is Adriana, (Marion Cotillard) an alluring flapper who may be stealing his heart.

Midnight In Paris is peppered with Woody Allen's trademark philosophical musings about life and death, as it meanders through the winding streets of the city and of time--arriving at a small, yet comforting epiphany (if you've spent most of your life wondering why life isn't very satisfying) about why it's imperative for us to BE HERE NOW.

A charmingly quirky movie, Midnight In Paris is much like the Parisians themselves. They won't wear white tennis sneakers on the city streets, as if that were some kind of major fashion gaffe, but then, they don't mind if you bring your dog into the cafe and let him sit at the table with you while you dine.

Sometimes finding one's place is as much about finding one's place in time as it is anything else. Midnight In Paris is time well spent with a bunch of fascinating characters who spring to life from the pages of history.

Grade: B +

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Rated: R

Stars: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Chris O'Dowd, Melissa McCarthy

Director: Paul Feig

Genre: Comedy

For Hollywood these days, gross-out translates to gross receipts at the box office. And every gross-out comedy appears to be trying to outdo the previous one. Even if the story line is halfway believable, the rules of this one-upmanship dictate that certain scenes have to be played over the top silly, outrageous, or cringe-worthy--because it's a contest, you see. What's remarkable about the Judd Apatow produced Bridesmaids is that it's a chick flick, written by women, but pulling no punches when it comes to raunch and bodily excretions emerging at inopportune times. Men have always secretly known (or probably hoped) that women were just as gutter-mouthed and sex minded as we are. Now we have Bridesmaids as exhibit "A."

There's no denying that the movie is bust-a-gut funny. The opening grabs you right off the bat, (think Kama-Sutra) and it's a wild ride from there on out. But some of the scenes play like over the top sketches from Saturday Night Live, where two of the film's stars-- Kristen Wiig (also the co-writer) and Maya Rudolph--cut their chops. The trouble with that is that from a believability standpoint, these movies are like musicals, where people are talking and going about their mundane lives--when suddenly an unseen orchestra starts playing and the characters break into song in the middle of some smelly garbage dump. Then everything reverts back to normal and we're not supposed to notice that something implausible has just occurred. Beneath it all, though, there's a sweet little story about feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and the true nature of friendship.

Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph) are best friends from way back. Lillian announces that she's getting married and wants Annie to be her maid of honor. But subsequent events bring out the worst in Annie. She's in a superficial sex-buddy relationship with this superficial dude (Jon Hamm) who, as they're lying there in bed, says stuff like, "I want you to leave but I don't know how to say it without sounding like a dick."

So maybe, underneath her outward expression of joy for Lillian, Annie is jealous of what her friend has. That jealousy rears its head in a bigtime rivalry (and spoof on the stereotypical cattiness of women) with Helen, (Rose Bryne) the groom's wealthy sister who is financing the lavish wedding and all its preparations. Annie is incensed that Helen is trying to claim best friend status with Lillian, and each tries to one up the other in a scene where they are mouthing platitudes to the lucky couple into a microphone...on and on and on...because each of them wants to have the last word. This scene (unlike most of the movie, thankfully) leaves one cringing and feeling embarrassed for both of them.

Annie reveals herself as mentally unstable when she gets boozed up and goes berserk on a plane flight, and gets hauled in by the authorities after an unscheduled landing, in what is the funniest scene in the film. But the next shot shows her driving down the highway, apparently turned loose with just a slap on the wrist for behavior that, in the real world, would get anyone in BIG time trouble. Reminds me a little of Sandra Bullock's character in All About Steve, who is obsessed with this news reporter and stalks him all over the country...and in the end we're supposed to believe she's not a psychopath--just misunderstood.

I guess I'd be remiss if I didn't describe some of the gross-out stuff, so you can decide for yourself if Bridesmaids is for you: The entourage of gals who will be maids at the wedding get struck by some apparent food poisoning. While one of them hangs her head over the toilet, another hops butt first onto the sink to gain some relief. Another gal rushes in and barfs on the hair of the one who is stationed over the toilet. Lillian runs out of a shop, desperately trying to find an unoccupied rest room. She doesn't make it, and has to take a dump right in the middle of the street--in the expensive wedding gown she was trying on.


Bridesmaids also disturbingly reminds a practical-minded guy like myself of how delusional people are--spending obscene amounts of money on an event which last for a few hours--as if they've accomplished something, when they haven't proven anything to the world yet about making it work over the long haul. Stay together for a couple years, THEN have a big celebration.

You've earned it.

GRADE : B (I'd be a traitor to my gender if I rated a chick flick any higher!)