Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Rated: R

Stars: Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks, Rashida Jones

Director: Jesse Peretz

Genre: Comedy

The only thing I suppose I have to complain about regarding Our Idiot Brother is that they made the sexy Rashida Jones (from The Office) into a really plain looking butch lesbian, but I guess something had to give with a bevy of other accomplished, easy-on-the-eyes actresses vying for screen time in this quirky, understated little film. It's as if Emily Mortimer, (Transsiberian, Lars and the Real Girl) Elizabeth Banks, (The 40 Year Old Virgin) and Zooey Deschanel, (500 Days of Summer, Yes Man) got together and said: Okay, if Rashida is going to be in this too, they're gonna have to tone her down ..'cause this thing is getting out of hand!

Paul Rudd stars as Ned, an overly trusting, pure-hearted organic farmer who is kind of a space-case--someone who speaks right off the top of his head without malice or (unfortunately) aforethought when many things would be better left unsaid. This has the unintended, but humorous effect of screwing up the lives and loves of his three sisters: Liz, (Mortimer) Miranda, (Banks) and Natalie (Deschanel). You see, Ned gets busted for selling pot to a UNIFORMED police officer who has "entrapment" written all over his face, but Ned thinks that the officer is just a really cool guy--hey, it happens...I could tell you stories from back in the day about some SERIOUSLY cool guys wearing uniforms, but...ahem...we won't get into that.

So when Ned is done with his stint in jail, he moves in--at various times--with each of his sisters. This is where the fun begins. Ned and Liz's young son, River, hit it off splendidly, as the child-like uncle is in his element when they're together. Then Ned stumbles into somewhere he's not supposed to be, and Liz's priggish filmmaker husband (Steve Coogan) is caught with his hand in a cookie jar he's not supposed to be dipping into--and, of course, Ned will innocently spill the beans, (to mix metaphors) because that's the gag-thread that runs through Our Idiot Brother.

In similar fashion, Ned manages to complicate the lives of Miranda--a manipulative writer for Vanity Fair-- and Natalie, the flaky bi-sexual partner of Cindy (Rashida Jones). Natalie, of course, is played by the DOE-EYED QUEEN OF SPOOKY/SPACE-CASE CHICK PORTRAYALS, Zooey Deschanel. I will admit that she is at least fifty percent the reason...okay...ninety-five percent the reason why I went to see this movie, as I may be her biggest fan. Anyway, it's easy to see that Ned and Natalie are related.

Our Idiot Brother flies close to the ground, and sometimes it feels like it's getting ready to break out and soar, but it never does--it cruises along just below the radar set to detect the raunchy, burst-out-loud-with-laughter comedies so prevalent these days, but that's what sets it apart.

Thin on plot, it's a character driven film, and these characters are absolutely nailed by the talented ensemble cast. We're talking new-age types who, in the process of trying to reconcile their base emotions with the ethereal values they aspire to, some pretty silly stuff comes out of their mouths. Of note is the performance by T.J. Miller as Ned's former girlfriend's new guy--he's so authentically "whatever, dude" that you can't help but have a grin on your face
whenever he's on screen.

What there is of a plot centers on Ned trying to get his golden retriever, named Willie Nelson, back from the unyielding former girlfriend and her beau. And what would a movie with a dog named Willie Nelson be without Willie Nelson's voice (the singer--not the dog) dropping in here and there to sing a few bars. Yeah, had to be there.

It's a sweet movie, with a feel-good ending, and you're left reflecting on who are the real idiots here after all?


Sunday, August 21, 2011


Rated: PG-13

Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano

Director: Jon Favreau

Genre: Western/Action-Adventure/Sci-fi

A bunch of dusty, stinky, tobacco juice spittin' cowboys taking on some invading extraterrestrials who are almost as SCARY looking as LADY GA GA! The premise is, of course, farcical. Or is it? There are ancient drawings on cave walls that look for all the world like aliens from the sky, so there's no reason why they wouldn't have been around in the old west of the nineteenth century to come around and hijack the cowpoke's gold and abduct their citizens. (Why they want either isn't exactly clear, except it is stated that gold is as rare to the aliens as it is to us. Maybe they perceived that someday, in 2011, the price of gold would soar because of a tanking economy, and they could come back and sell it to some of those pawn shops you see advertising on TV.)

Don't try to follow the logic, because Cowboys & Aliens is about bigger philosophical ideas.

Briefly: The outlaw Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of the desert, not remembering who he is or why he is there, but he's got this high-tech bracelet attached to his wrist, which he eventually figures out he can use to blast anybody who gets in his face too much. He rides into the dusty town of Absolution, where he has a run in with young Percy Dolarhyde, (Paul Dano) the smart-ass son of Colonel Dolarhyde, (Harrison Ford) the big cattle baron who runs the town. Percy and Lonergan both end up in the hoosegow, though, because the sheriff still wants to do his job. Percy's dad gets wind of it, and he and his boys ride into town, intent upon springing his son. Just when we're getting into how this showdown is going to play out, alien spacecraft come screaming out of the sky and start bombing the crap out of everything.

WHOA PARDNER! Now there's somethin' ya don't see everyday around these here parts! So Cowboys & Aliens, which up to this point had all the makings of a good spaghetti western, (thanks, in large part, to the dynamic music score from Harry Gregson Williams, paying homage to the great Ennio Morricone) goes through a major upheaval-- like when tectonic plates collide--and it becomes a story that, while certainly not original, is timeless and awe-inspiring. It's the story of constantly bickering, warring and feuding mankind banding together for the common good to do battle with an outside adversary. I don't care how many holes in the plot this movie may have...I still find its message to be as inspiring as all "git out." And I challenge anyone with a heart to sit there and not go WOO HOO (at least to themselves) when this ragtag band of cowboys, outlaws, and Native Americans comes thundering through the canyon on their horses, with that music pounding in your ears, hell-bent-for-leather to engage the creepy aliens who, seemingly, would be a superior force, but never underestimate the dog with his back to the wall. Speaking of dogs, there's a lovable one in Cowboys & Aliens--a kind of mascot as it were for OUR team, who will steal your heart.

I couldn't imagine anyone better than Daniel Craig as the tough as nails hero/anti-hero in this one. And Harrison Ford is as authentic as they come as the crusty old bastard Dolarhyde who first wants to roast Lonergan's behind, then becomes his ally.

Yes..I LIKE THIS MOVIE! So to all the other reviewers who picked and nitpicked this film know where you can kiss it.


Grade: A -