Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dan in Real Life

Somewhere in between Little Miss Sunshine and one of my all-time favorite films, Home for the Holidays, you'll find Dan in Real Life: a plunky little romantic comedy that makes great use of star Steve Carell's charming awkwardness.

Dan is a widower who takes his three headstrong daughters to spend Thanksgiving with his family in Rhode Island. The sprawling, rambunctious family inhabits one of those Kennedy-esque weathered coastal homes that probably costs in the upwards of $15 million, even though the family lounges around in flannel and drives beat-up cars. Hmmm.

Dan's family and the cozy house provide the backdrop for the mixed-up love plot of the film in which Dan meets a love interest, Marie, played by Juliette Binoche, at a bookstore in town, only to discover later that she is the girlfriend of his rowdy brother, Mitch.

And here's where things turn ugly. Because, you see, Mitch is played, incapably, by comedian Dane Cook. Notice I said "comedian" not "actor," because there are many things Dane Cook is (alcohol-soaked, off-putting and frat-boyish to name a few) but "actor" is not one of them. Watching this bloated boob paw at the lovely Juliette Binoche was like watching a rottweiler holding a kitten in its mouth. As if the French didn't already have enough reasons to hate us.

In spite of the horrible casting of Dane Cook and a few sitcom-style plot turns, the film still captures that magic quality of off-beat humanity. Steve Carell's daughter screaming "You are a murderer of love!" is one of the funniest moments I've seen in any film in a long time and you can't help but be charmed by Carell's awkward vulnerability. And every time Dan's parents, played by John Mahoney and Dianne Weist, came onto the screen, you wanted to sit between them with an afghan and a mug of cocoa. They literally warmed the screen with their very presence.

And then that horse's ass Dane Cook would stumble into the scene and with one nasaly word, all the magic would disappear. Please, Hollywood, stop casting non-actors into otherwise good films. If I'm not mistaken, I believe they're still playing Mariah Carey's Glitter on the first floor of hell. Let's end it there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

In Bruges



There, I'm done. I'm just a little surprised. You see, I thought Colin Farrel was taking one of those extended celebrity leaves for "exhaustion." You know, the kind where he's so exhausted that he has to spend a few years in a five-star palace in Arizona until he no longer pees Guinness and sweats crystal meth.

But then he shows up in a very decent little film, In Bruges. This is a movie you probably saw listed on the marquee at your theater and said to yourself, "In Brooges? In Broosh? In... oh hell, I'll just go see Spiderman 3 instead."

For those of you as geographically challenged as I, Bruges (soft "g", silent "s") is a city in Belgium. Now you can impress your friends at your next cocktail party. In the film, Colin Farrel plays part of a European hitman duo sent to Bruges to hide out after a botched hit. I won't spoil the plot but suffice it to say that Farrel's boss, played by the unctuous Ralph Fiennes, has other plans in mind for the two than just a holiday in Bruges.

What's good about In Bruges? It's not a clunky, overblown script. There's some great dialogue. There are moments of subtle, intelligent humor. There are moments of intense heartache. There is a midget.

What's bad about In Bruges? The biggest problem is that this film doesn't know what it wants to be. A dark comedy? A soft thriller? A tale of despair? It doesn't do justice to any of the three, which isn't to say that it wasn't enjoyable to watch. Even Colin Farrel, for all of his twitchy undercurrent of nerves/heroin hunger (allegedly) managed to turn in a touching performance.

My only other beef with the film was that watching the lovely Ralph Fiennes play a rough-edged cockney thug was rather like seeing the Queen wearing sweat pants and scarfing down a bag of Cheetos. It just didn't wash.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight

Standing in a ridiculously long line to get into the theater to watch Dark Knight, we spotted a grown man wearing full Joker face make-up. Given that it was 95-degrees out, I imagine he spent the rest of his day scrubbing melted make-up out of his upholstery. At least he could console himself with the knowledge that it was TOTALLY WORTH RUINING HIS CAR. This is the kind of sacrifice Dark Knight inspires in its fans. It’s comic book film-making at its very best.

The cast? Phenomenal. Thank god they ditched Katie Holmes, whose former performance as Rachel Dawes feels like a kid playing dress-up compared to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s cool composure. And while Gyllenhaal still resembles the sad girl you knew in high school who was always inking angry poems on her forearms, there is something magnetic about her doe-eyed wistfulness. I wasn’t as impressed with Aaron Eckhart’s good-boy turn as Harvey Dent but to be fair, the Dent role was probably the most thin and one-dimensional of the entire cast.

But you don’t really care about Gyllenhaal and Eckhart do you? You want to know about Heath Ledger. His Joker was just as brilliant as you’ve heard. A complicated mix of leering sociopathy and charm. Possibly the greatest villain we’ve encountered since Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter. I pity the person who will have to pick-up the helm from Ledger. Unless that person is Edward Norton in which case I will be totally psyched.

And while I’m still a little wary of Christian Bale and his muskrat teeth, he is winning me over as Batman. Although I did catch myself snickering here and there at the raspy, deep-voice he uses whenever he’s in the Batman costume. He’s Batman, not Marlboro Man, Bale.

Now onto director Christopher Nolan, who shall be heretofore known as “The Jesus Christ of Cinema.” I’ve said it before but if he directed me out of my driveway each morning, it would definitely win an Oscar. Nolan practically assaults the audience in Dark Knight with a non-stop barrage of violence, brutality and action. That level of action combined with the sub-stories of so many characters makes the film feel overloaded at times, but we were happy to be along for the ride.

Emerging from the theater back into daylight and reality, I felt dazed and wrung out, as if I’d ingested a gallon of Red Bull and crawled through an automatic car wash. But then I saw the nerd with white make-up dripping all over the carpet and I felt like all was right with the world again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Extras Series Finale

Dear Ricky Gervais,
It really pains me to write this. Really pains me. You have no idea. You see, I’ve been in love with you for a very long time. I adore everything you’ve ever written or acted in. So you can imagine how hard it is for me to break up with you. And no, I didn’t plan to do this through a letter, but face-to-face is more difficult given that you don’t even know I exist. And the fact that you’d probably issue a restraining order against me that bandied about the term “stalker” if we ever did meet.


I just watched the series finale episode to Extras, "The Extra Special Series Finale" and I’ve determined that we need to spend a little time apart. It’s not me, Ricky. It’s you.

You are a comedian, Ricky. You are a funny man. So to make me endure nearly two hours of mostly humorless, indulgent and sentimental tripe was just not fair. There is a reason that, say, Chris Rock has never been cast as Hamlet. We like our funny men to be funny. Seeing you mope through two hours of film was like going to a dry wedding. It was a total bummer.

Don’t get me wrong, you did have some moments of sublime humor and your castmates, particularly your hapless agent, were brilliant. And I did love the ending. But all in all it was a bit of a bummer. So we have to spend a little time apart Ricky. But don't worry, like any good stalker, I will be back.


Happy Birthday to the Motley Queue

Hmmm....52 weeks equals a year right? So since this post started my 52nd week of blogging, I guess that means the Motley Queue just started teething. Hurrah. Moving forward I'm going to dispense with logging the weeks for each review. Frankly, my math abilities don't extend that far.

Motley Queue

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Week 51: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

It should have come as no surprise to me that the movie with the longest title in history might actually BE the longest movie in history. Alas, with a 2.5 hour plus running time, you'll probably be saying to yourself the same thing we did, "Hey, I already know from the title that Jesse James gets assassinated. So why are we dragging this out for 2.5 hours?"

The answer? Because actually, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a pretty good movie, even though you know how it ends (HE DIES!) and even though Casey Affleck is in it. I think the Academy Awards might have been a tad generous in giving Affleck a nomination for his role as Robert Ford, but then I am reminded that in 2007, his competition included such cinematic masterpieces as Wild Hogs and Norbit. I won't even provide a link to those titles because you do not need to fill your brain with anything more on those two turds.

Back to the movie: maybe I'm a sucker for outlaws and westerns, but I thought this was a surprisingly good story. It has great moments of tension and the build-up to the assassination is terrific. What feels really strange about this movie is the narration throughout, which is obviously dialogue from a book, not dialogue for a movie. It was weird and clunky. Also, the ending of the movie, post-assassination, drags out FOREVER. It felt very much like the seven or eight endings to the last Lord of the Rings movie, minus the homo-erotic hobbits. Which, let's be honest, would have really perked things up a bit.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Motley Queue Congratulates Nicole Kidman

Congratulations, Nicole Kidman, on the birth of your daughter, Sunday Rose.

Except that you named your child after a day of the week and a shade of Mary Kay lipstick my grandma wore in 1951.

Kidman, we will assume this is the influence of all that botox going to your brain. Maybe it's time to lay off, huh? Just a smidge? Please stop before you give birth to Sunday Rose's sibling, Thursday Milkweed.

Week 50: Semi-Pro

Will Ferrell, you are back in my good graces again after that awful mess you made with the ice skating movie. No, Semi-Pro won't surprise you with anything resembling a plot. Nor will there be any unexpected body gags and too-tight costuming on Mr. Ferrell. But yes, you will have a few great laughs out of the movie thanks to Ferrell's one-liners and the dry commentary provided by the Flint Tropics sportscasters.

My big beef with this movie? It has a name, and it's Woody Harrelson. I can't stand that tool. I suggest you read chef/author Anthony Bourdain's treatise on why Woody Harrelson is the WORLD'S BIGGEST DOUCHEBAG if you don't know why.

And it didn't help that he spent the entire movie wearing the wig he wore in Kingpin. Seriously, Woody Harrelson? Was John C. Reilly busy? Can't we give Rainn Wilson a chance? How is this waste of vegan produce still getting roles? I almost fell out of my chair when Woody Harrelson got cast in No Country for Old Men. What a waste. I think the Academy should take away the Best Picture award for what we'll call "The Harrelson Clause of Film Ruination."
I'm gonna go eat a big, juicy meaty hamburger and comb my full head of hair now just to piss him off.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Week 50: Michael Clayton

Oh, George Clooney, you scamp. Here I was, set to vilify Motley Husband for slipping Michael Clayton into our queue. For no good reason, I was convinced this movie was dreadfully self-important like that hot mess, Syriana. Or a complete disappointment like The Good German. But Michael Clayton is good, Georgie. You’re back on your game, pal, with a thriller that was actually thrilling. Sure, I spent the first fifteen minutes of the film trying to figure out what subtle facial plastic surgery has rendered you looking about ten years younger [tiny face lift? Mini brow lift? It’s there. I just can’t pinpoint it].

George, I'm trying to say it was a totally captivating film. So captivating, I wonder how he did it…[cue dream sequence music here]

CLOONEY: Brad Pitt, it’s becoming tiresome just getting by on our looks, isn’t it?

PITT: A little, yes. But then again, my looks went away about five years ago. Lucky for me I snagged the title of “International Do-Gooder” right before they faded.

CLOONEY: Yes, you did, you sneaky bastard. Right about the time I fell on my handsome face with that Ocean’s 13 or 14 business. Which one are we on now?

PITT: I’m pretty sure it was Ocean’s 16 but who can tell? I’m too busy helping refugees and making beautiful, beautiful babies with my hot wife – er – life partner. Clooney, I seem to be developing a sweat here. Can you instruct your servants to form a human shade shield around me? This fan I fashioned out of thousand-dollar bills isn’t doing much.

CLOONEY: Maybe you want to sit to the left of my Academy Award. It’s rather large, provides a lot of shade.

PITT: Don’t try to flaunt your Oscar to me. I’m above awards, Clooney. I’m too busy feeding starving orphans in Myanamoor.

CLOONEY: Don’t you mean Myanmar?

PITT: I could buy and sell you, Clooney.


PITT: Let’s not turn on each other. And she's not my wife. Let’s have a sip of this $9,000 bottle of wine I found next to the Doritos in your pantry. We need to relax. It’s been at least forty-five minutes since our last massage.

CLOONEY: You’re right, you’re right. I think this solid gold chaise lounge is making me tense.

PITT: You should try mine, it’s made out of live Portuguese orphans. They’re very bendy. But let’s get back to your career, George. You need a hit, my friend.

CLOONEY: Maybe the next Ocean’s sequel will recapture the magic of the first one. Maybe we’ll replace Julia Roberts with that Miley Cyrus. Or we could replace Sammy Davis – I mean Don Cheadle -- with another, um, ethnic choice. How do you feel about Mexicans?

PITT: Hey, I have an idea. What if you actually just made a good movie?

CLOONEY: Pitt, you are a genius, my friend. Why didn’t I think of that? This calls for a celebration. Manservant! Fill the bathtub with caviar and champagne. Daddy’s gonna be baptized a movie star all over again.