Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hugh Jackman Manages to Make the Oscars Even Worse

Hugh Jackman, manhood called. It wants you to turn in your man-card.

Seriously, I had no idea that Wolverine had lady-parts. Watching Jackman prance around the stage in his hideous "I think I'm hosting the Tony Awards" musical montage ruined the Oscars for me.

And let's be honest, he didn't have to do much to ruin them. I heard a news story last week about how the producers were determined to spice up the show this year to combat sagging ratings from last year. And, by spice, they clearly meant drag out every major award with bloated and ridiculous introductions.

Goldie Hawn: "Amy Adams, you are the most talented and godlike person who has ever walked the face of the earth. Humanity would fail were it not for the grace of your immaculate being. Amy Adams, I am going to sacrifice this human child before you on this stage just to honor how important you are to my life and to the future of planet Earth. Amy Adams, I have never married Kurt Russell because I have been waiting to become your wife. Marry me."

Beyond the horrible scripting was the boring, predictable filler, including A Look Back at Comedies of 2008. Seriously? That was the best you could come up with? God forbid you actually cut an hour out of this bloated awards show and actually get to the awards.

When will the producers of the Oscars learn that people tune into the Oscars for just three things?

1. To see what people are wearing. Note to Hollywood: we need less stylists making everyone look pretty/boring and we need more Tilda Swinton. Holy cats, she can wear some wackadoo duds.

2. To see who wins the awards. Not to see a musical montage from the soundtrack of Doubt. I repeat: NO ONE CARES. THE PEOPLE FROM DOUBT DON'T EVEN CARE.

3. To watch the uncomfortable interactions of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston. On that score, well-played Oscars.

The only bright spots of the telecast came from the more youthful and fresh interplay of duos like Tina Fey/Steve Martin and Seth Rogen/James Franco. Take note, Oscar producers, comedians + funny = enjoyable. Hugh Jackman + estrogen = misery.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Imagine a movie that's one part Karate Kid, one part The Matrix, and you have Wanted.

Wanted starts out with a black screen and small text giving us the back story. "1,000 years ago, a group of weavers formed a society of assassins..."

Hold the phone.

I kid you not. The fate of the world as we know it rests in the hands of sweater makers. How's that for gripping backstory? Weavers. Leather tanners I might believe, but weavers? Tee, hee. I still can't get over it. But wait, there's more...you see, a loom weaves out encrypted messages telling the weaver assassins who they must kill next. Go ahead, re-read that previous sentence. Take it all in. Death by textile. You might never look at your cotton t-shirts in the same way.

So it goes without saying that you need a fair suspension of disbelief to enjoy Wanted. And it's not an unenjoyable action film. It's a fairly non-stop assault of high testosterone action and violence, but there's nothing that will feel too new.

James McAvoy stars as the Karate Kid -- er -- Wesley Gibson, a miserable office drone who learns his father was the world's top assassin. He's drawn into the assassin's training ground in order to train to take down his father's killer.

His training involves a lot of bloody fighting montage scenes and a lot of slow-motion bullets whizzing Matrix-style around impossible angles. It also involves a lot of the surly assassin Fox, played by Angelina Jolie. I'd be pretty surly too if I hadn't eaten anything resembling food in the last six months. Seriously, did they have craft services on that set? Couldn't somebody at least maybe have spooned some broth into her mouth? She's still a knockout but girlfriend was looking pretty bony and haggard in this film.

If you're looking for pure action, you'll enjoy the movie, even if much of it so unrealistic and improbable, you'll find yourself giggling through it. James McAvoy was an interesting casting choice because he's completely against archetype for action hero. I think the boy can actually act, but he just didn't get much a chance to do it here. But hey, he does save humanity from a killer scarf maker, so no complaints.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A tale of two indies

Netflix recommendations, you are my best friend and my worst enemy. Let's compare our two most recent rentals, Outsourced and The Rage in Placid Lake.

Outsourced, which earned a 3.7 stars (out of 5) rating on Netflix, is a total waste of film. Who are the people giving it 3.7 stars? I would like to meet you, and at that meeting I will remove a cotton glove from my purse and smack you smartly across the face with it.

I'll be honest that I thought the premise of Outsourced sounded kinda fun: a yuppie US office worker is forced to go to India to train his replacement when his job is outsourced. It has a certain ironic appeal, no?

No, no, no. Nothing could save the film from the horrific acting of the lead, played by some C-list actor named Josh Hamilton, who's biggest screen credits come from Law & Order. Big surprise. The film devolves into a tepid romantic comedy involving the lead character falling in forbidden love with one of the Indian office workers. Oh no! Cross-cultural love? What a taboo! In 1977!

Did they overcome their cultural and religious differences in the end? I couldn't tell you. We didn't even bother to finish this turd. Please don't waste your time either.

Moving on to The Rage in Placid Lake, which was an absolutely delightful movie. It earned 4.0 stars on Netflix, which maybe is the new litmus test for what a movie needs to make it to my mailbox.

The Rage follows a kid named Placid Lake, played endearingly by the very talented Ben Lee, as he tries to overcome his "weirdness" to become a normal member of society in both life and love. Placid is a kid raised by distracted hippie parents who encourage him to express himself in creative ways, which ultimately leads him to become a persistent target of school bullies. After graduation, fed up with feeling like a weirdo, Placid decides to adopt the habits of a modern drone: wearing a suit and working for an insurance company.

The film is adorable. I just loved it. It was weird and offbeat and exactly what I want out of an indie movie. There were a ton of hysterically awkward scenes involving the nerdy sexual escapades of Placid and the outrageous sexual antics of his hippie parents. Hilarious.

In summary, I can't take another Outsourced. Yet at the same time, I'd hate to miss another Rage. So I'm torn. I guess for now, I'm officially putting Netflix Recommendations on probation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Some days you feel like being a movie snob. "No," you insist to your highbrow friends, "I can't say that I've ever spent an entire Saturday afternoon watching reruns of The Wedding Singer on TBS in my pajamas with a bag of Lays surgically attached to my mouth."

And then there are days when you just want to watch a movie like Stepbrothers. Starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as...you guessed it...stepbrothers, this is perfect, stupid humor. It's the movie that will one day replace reruns of The Wedding Singer on TBS, foreshadowing many lazy Saturday afternoons in your future.

The plot? Do you really care? Because there isn't much of one. Just that these two guys are total louts who are still living at home with the 'rents in their forties. Naturally, the parents conspire to get the boys out of the house and living on their own. Along the way, we're treated to plenty of physical comedy and even a very graphic scrotum-rubbing scene for good measure. It is, an ideal Will Ferrell vehicle. You won't be surprised by any of the humor, but you'll still enjoy it.

Some of the best moments of the film come from the unhappily married yet oversexed sister-in-law, Alice, who tries to bodily rape John C. Reilly at every opportunity. The duds in the film all come from the mother figure in the movie, played by Mary Steenburgen, who, it turns out, is just a terrible actor. I guess I never noticed it before, but she really stinks this thing up. I blame Ted Danson. And the fact that she appears to have ingested her last meal in 1987. Mary, consider a cheeseburger, please. It might help with that fraught/twittery thing you do.