It isn’t easy being green—Ryan Reynolds plays the Green Lantern (alongside Mark Strong and Blake Lively)
1. Ryan Reynolds is hot—He can wear a green body suit like no one else.
2. Ryan Reynolds is likeable—He’s appealing in almost every film he’s in, good or bad. And what a smile and jaw line.
3. Ryan Reynolds is usually the best thing about a mediocre movie—He, along with other charmers like Sandra Bullock and Betty White, is what makes a movie like The Proposal (2009) bearable to watch.
4. Ryan Reynolds needs a new agent—No doubt he’s earned a lot of green playing the roles he does. But what about acting in a film he can actually be proud of?
I first started to notice Reynolds might be more than just a pretty face (though the juries still out) after watching Smokin’ Aces, a film packed with wasted talent (like Jeremy Piven), decent performances and an abundance of violence (standard Joe Carnahan who also directed Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane). Reynolds, sporting facial hair and a 109-minute pensive stare, displays more range in this film as FBI agent, Richard Messner, assigned to help protect an informant magician from execution by a mob boss’s assassins than many of his performances put together.
Me to Mr. Reynolds… Take a cue from that other tall and handsome Ryan [Gosling]. You’ve played the hard-body, bad-ass (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), the not-so-obvious heartthrob (The Proposal), the likable cheat (Adventureland) and the sidekick hero ( Blade: Trinity). But what about the drug-addicted inner city teacher (like Gosling in Half Nelson)? Or the awkwardly shy, small-town northerner (again, Gosling, in Lars and the Real Girl)? I’m sure playing Hal Gordon in Green Lantern (2011) seemed like a good idea at the time (as my friend, Andy, always says when something doesn’t go as well as expected). The script had to be lacking when it was placed in Reynolds’s hands. My expectations weren’t very high for the film but gosh, is it bad.
Mostly because I like Reynolds and I’d love to see him branch out into more risky, robust roles, I am trying to distract from the fact that the Green Lantern was easily one of the worst super hero movies I have ever watched. It was painful to see great actors like Peter Saarsgard, Angela Bassett, Mark Strong and Tim Robbins wasted in such a disjointed film. Many of the scenes flowed so unnaturally, I often wondered how the characters got from one plot point to the next. Even the flawless CGI couldn’t make up for an unaccountable narrative and the sparkless romance between Blake Lively as love interest, Carol Ferris, and the green man himself. For most of the movie I couldn’t tell if they were friends, past lovers or had had a one-night stand. I joke when I suggest it probably wasn’t easy for Reynolds to play the Green Lantern as I am sure the price tag and the cachet of playing a superhero were enticement enough. Still, I wonder… Green Lantern scored a whopping 39 points on metacritic.com and I give all the credit for that score to Reynolds. I would have turned the movie off after the first 20 minutes if it weren’t for him. Now… can we talk about Seth Rogen as The Green Hornet… ?
2011-12 Season TV Reviews (starring Hank Azaria, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, Alec Baldwin, Whitney Cummings, Kat Dennings, Ashton Kutcher, Jon Cryer and NOT Charlie Sheen)
I’ve been away a while and instead of reviewing a movie, or movies, I decided to take a stab at the 2011 Fall TV Series and the new or continuing shows. There are so many great film actors on TV now, I want to see them on the smaller screen. But often, the smaller screen carries with it, laugh tracks, one-liners and less than clever writing. Let’s see how they fair.
The one thing all of the shows I have listed here have in common – weak supporting characters – except in the case of Up All Night with Maya Rudolph, Saturday Night Live (with its talented cast of comedians) and Two and a Half Men with the same cast and characters (except Charlie Sheen) as in previous years.
So… here are my mini reviews. I capitalize the names of the shows that I really liked. As you can see, that’s just two so far.
FREE AGENTS (NBC)
Watch it here
Free Agents stars Hank Azaria as Alex and Kathryn Hahn as Helen, two coworkers who have lost their partners and look to each other for comfort in ways neither is ready for. They are characters we can identify with and after one episode, I want to know more about them and how their relationship will evolve. Despite the dramatic premise, the writers find humor in these two characters’ everyday lives. There is no laugh track or live audience (thank goodness). Everything out of their mouths is not just a punch line. The supporting characters are less interesting and a little clichéd, but it doesn’t take away from the show’s core, Alex and Helen. I look forward to watching the next few episodes to see how things progress with these two modern, smart and likable characters.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (NBC)
Watch it here
The 37th season of SNL began with host Alec Baldwin and musical guest, Radiohead. I am a fan of both. I laughed many times during the shows 1.5 hour run. Baldwin continues to make us yuk it up with near perfect comic timing. So many of the skits made me chuckle but my favorite was the Top Gun 25th Anniversary DVD release with the “original” 1980s screen tests. Baldwin plays a very funny Al Pacino and of course, the rest of the cast plays everyone from Tony Danza to Cyndi Lauper auditioning for roles in the now classic Top Gun film. Steve Martin shows up for Baldwin’s monologue to “harass” Baldwin for beating his hosting record (this is Baldwin’s 16th time hosting). Seth Rogen also makes an appearance with Martin though I am not sure why his presence here, as a drug test verifier, was particularly funny. Still… SNL is off to a good start this season. I am looking forward to next week’s guffaws.
Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Watch it here
We’ve all been waiting to see how the writers of Two and a Half Men starring Jon Cryer as Alan Harper and Ashton Kutcher as Walden Schmidt would successfully recreate the chemistry between Charlie Sheen and Cryer. I personally had little hope and perhaps, that is why I actually enjoyed the season premiere. As I was telling my mother, an avid fan of past seasons, I think the show could potentially continue in popularity with little critical praise due to Kutcher’s general appeal. I’m not sure you couldn’t just stand Kutcher in front of a camera, have him smile and crack a few one-liners and not find a substantial fan base. This is not to say Kutcher isn’t a comedic talent. He is funny, charming and highly likable. Cryer is also good in his role as Alan. This show is the one show on my list that benefits from its supporting cast who all contribute to the shows success and why Sheen probably won’t be missed after a few more episodes. Good news for the show. Bad news for ol’ Charlie.
2 Broke Girls (CBS)
Watch it here
What a disappointment, and I really like Kat Dennings. I was also a devoted fan of the HBO series, Sex and the City. So what happened here? Michael Patrick King (executive producer of this show and formerly SITC) infuses none of the magic of SITC into this new show. The show is plagued by an awful laugh track and there is nothing very interesting or funny about two waitresses – Dennings as Max and Beth Behrs as Caroline – who become friends and roommates while working at a seedy diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I am glad to see Garrett Morris, formerly of SNL, again in a supporting sitcom role (how does this man keep getting work?) But my real beef with the show is the scene in the NYC subway. I haven’t seen graffiti on a subway car in about 10 years (maybe more) but there it is on a window just behind Dennings as she rides the subway to Manhattan. Why do movies and TV shows continue to paint NYC as the crime-ridden, grime-filled city of yesteryear (and my childhood)? Ok, the city is still grungy but graffiti can no longer be a NYC subway set piece… and neither can grumpy waitresses or down and out heiresses. I might give this show 1-2 more episodes to get better because of Dennings… oh, and Morris.
Up All Night (NBC)
Watch it here
How do you take a great comedic cast and ruin it? Put them in a show like Up All Night, a yuppie, pat-on-the-back to all new parents that use to be cool 20-somethings. Here’s the cast – Christina Applegate as Reagan, Will Arnett as her husband, Chris, Maya Rudolph as self-absorbed talk show host, Ava, and Nick Cannon (I knew I recognized him!) as Calvin (he works on Ava’s show). What went wrong?
It’s not the actors actually. It’s the writing. Or the premise. Or something. The idea that two grownups with a child would be concerned about what their new hipster neighbors think about them is a little far-fetched. I have yet to meet any parents in the age group of these two characters today that don’t think they’re kids are the center of the universe. Yet the whole episode revolves around Reagan and Chris trying to seem as cool as their new neighbors appear to be. Huh? Rudolph is always good whether she’s goofing as a character on SNL or playing a more serious role in Away We Go (2009, Dir. Sam Mendes). As for Cannon, he stole the scenes he was in, in my opinion. Not sure what that says about Applegate and Arnett.
Watch it here
Whitney Cummings as Whitney (title character) and Chris D’Elia as her live-in boyfriend, Alex, are just fine and likable as the requisite modern couple. Again, my problem is with the supporting characters, the friends these two characters would be unlikely to have off-camera. I do actually like Rhea Seehorn as Roxanne, one of Whitney’s friends, but you can catch a better version of her character played by Christa Miller as Ellie Torres in one of my favorite returning shows, Cougar Town (ABC). Still, I like these new bitter single women on TV today that don’t seem to care what anyone thinks about them, are smart, opinionated and impolite. But why is there always an annoying, sexist, proud-of-his-farts male character in the mix in today’s movies and TV shows? In reality, Mark, played by Dan O’Brien would have few friends and certainly wouldn’t be hanging out with this crowd. I’m looking for this show to get smarter and funnier or I probably won’t watch after episode 3. But I like the heart, and the fact that Whitney is a woman with some reservations about marriage and her boyfriend loves her enough to wait until she’s ready. I think that’s worth tuning in for.
More reviews soon, for Pan Am (ABC) and The New Girl (Fox) which has been curiously reserved for Dish Network online viewers only for the first 8 days post-premiere. Humph!
I gave The Company Men (2010, dir. John Wells) three stars on Netflix because although I like the film and find it relevant, the plot was a little too predictable. I wish the filmmakers had taken a little more risk with their audience and not deliver the requisite “happy” ending.
The film begins with a major company downsizing that includes Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck). Cut to Walker, home too early on a workday. As a man use to doing well (his salary was $160k), he takes the layoff hard.
His wife, Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt), is actually very understanding and accommodating to the situation and while Walker is looking for work and his time unemployed goes from weeks to months, she is the one that really deals with their reality. Walker takes a while to realize he needs to adjust his expectations and just put food on the table. He eventually takes a job working for Maggie’s contractor brother, Jack (Kevin Costner), and finds some solace in manual labor.
The other two men to be downsized soon after Walker are Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones). Woodward, a high-level manager who has been with the company since his days on the factory floor, has a wife who is more concerned with appearances than her husband’s declining self-worth. McClary, top tier executive and old friend to “CEO” James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson), is the man with a conscience who won’t agree to further downsizing to increase company profits and stock prices (in lieu of cutting executive bonuses, et al.). On the day McClary loses his job, he walks in the door of his mansion and just as his wife is walking down the steps, leaves her, his home and that life, everything his former position had afforded him.
I think the film starts off well and the performances are great, just what you would expect from a film with this cast. Affleck’s character goes through a particularly difficult time looking for work. I think anyone who has been affected similarly in this economy will relate to what he goes through. He feels like a failure and this rings true. Where the film loses me is with Cooper and Jones’s characters. Though the characters are believable, I would have liked to see the filmmakers show a little more of the interactions with their families. Affleck is really the only character we see with his wife and children. Cooper and Jones’s characters aren’t as developed and therefore, feel a bit cliché. Perhaps the filmmakers felt more people would relate to Affleck than his superiors so they opted to gloss over those characters. Affleck’s character is someone we can all relate to and I haven’t seen many films that focus on the hardships of the upper middle class in this recession. So I was glad to take a peek into his world.
When we first meet Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) a successful actor, he seems just a little more than bored with the perks of his stardom. Then along comes Cleo (Elle Fanning), his 11 year old daughter who visited periodically until one day, her mother decides to drop her off with Johnny for an extended stay. The father and daughter bond and soon, Johnny realizes how empty his partying lifestyle has left him and that with Cleo, his life has meaning and he is “somewhere.”
Somewhere (2010, dir. Sofia Coppola) is cut like a Robert Altman film, with very long takes. There is a lot of lingering on character expressions and contemplation. You feel as if you could be watching Sofia’s thesis film and there is no post-production editing equipment available.
You might be thinking the film is a little boring and perhaps too minimalist. The average filmgoer might want a little more drama and action but I think the direction is pitch perfect. The film is a true reflection of the life of its characters and you come to know them, their lives and their struggles through the very silences in the film. Sofia is well on her way to joining the ranks of auteurs like Altman with only a few films under her belt.
What can I say about Kick-Ass (2010, dir. Matthew Vaughn)? Well… it kicked as*! Need I say more?
I rarely sit through movies these days. It’s simply too easy to get up for more food and drink, or to use the restroom. This is, of course, when watching at home. Kick-Ass is available on DVD as well as Netflix Instant. I’m a BIG Netflix Instant viewer and I watched, and watched, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The story of a would-be superhero, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), and his accidental involvement with real mob boss, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), as well as “real” superheroes Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) and her dad, Damon Macready/Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage), is heartwarming, fun and yes, engaging.
The movie starts with Dave’s voiceover pronouncing his averageness. His friends are funnier. Girls don’t acknowledge his existence. He longs not for recognition as much as change. He simply wants to stop the bullies but winds up being an integral part of taking down a powerful kingpin.
There is plenty to sympathize with in Dave’s “averageness.” There is humor and a real human element to this story. The subplot involving Hit-Girl and Big Daddy plants the overall story in reality. Revenge is the theme and you can almost believe that a father would raise his daughter for the sole purpose of getting even. But I digress. The story is about Dave and his desire to be noticed, to matter, to get the girl and to, yes, be somebody. I’m not going to say much more and spoil the story. The writers of Kick-Ass do a good job of creating likable characters with substance. You want to believe in them and in the end, you cheer for them. Isn’t a superhero just a benevolent character with superhuman powers? Or in this case, the superheroes have no powers at all except an extreme will to make things right. Now this is a movie I can relate to.
You don’t need me to tell you 127 Hours (2010, dir. Danny Boyle) is a good movie. The hoopla is indeed warranted. The true-life survival story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), an adventurer and individualist, is both amazing and humbling. While canyoning alone near Moab, Utah, Ralston’s arm is trapped under a boulder leading him to take desperate measures to save his own life.
Danny Boyle, who also directed Trainspotting (1996) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008), continues to use his frenetic directing style. Because much of the film is Ralston talking to us via his own video camera, I expected a slower, more somber film. But Boyle manages to keep it exciting and suspenseful as we learn about Ralston’s upbringing and his regrets. It’s powerful stuff. Boyle chooses some great music for the soundtrack. I particularly like the use of Bill Wither’s “Lovely Day” in the most unexpected scene. It brought back memories of my own childhood.
I know there are probably a lot of people that have heard how difficult is it to watch certain scenes in the film considering what Ralston eventually has to do in order to survive. Admittedly, I closed my eyes a few times in expectation of the worst. But in the end, Boyle manages to make the scenes watchable, even for the most squeamish.
Franco’s performance is very good. I don’t know if I wholeheartedly agree with the award nominations and wins he’s received. I think I’ve actually seen him show more range in other films. It also crossed my mind if I would have chosen him for this role. I guess I just don’t see Franco as the outdoorsy-type but part of being an actor and a giving a good performance is convincing the viewer that you are indeed the character you are portraying. Franco does this successfully, and is always easy to watch.
If you haven’t already done so, watching 127 Hours is a favorable way to spend an available 94 minutes.
Live at the Tribeca Film Festival: Review of Spotlight film Puncture starring Chris Evans, Vinessa Shaw and Jesse L. Martin
I volunteered for the Tribeca Film Festival last month and was awarded two free vouchers to use to see a film. Last few years, I haven’t paid for any film I really liked. Monogamy (dir. Dana Adam Shapiro, 2010) with Rashida Jones and Chris Messina was whiny and predictable. Wonderful World (dir. Joshua Goldin, 2009) with Sanaa Lathan and Matthew Broderick was considerably better but still, nothing to rave about. Both Monogamy and Wonderful World made it into the theatres about a year after their festival debut. I don’t think either did very well critically or at the box office.
I did get to see Soul Kitchen (dir. Fatih Akin, in German and Greek, 2009) as a TFF volunteer last year and that film was a lot of fun. About a German-Greek chef struggling to keep his restaurant afloat, it’s filled with humor and plot twists. Catch it on Netflix Instant available at the time of this review, or rent it, if you get the chance.
This year, I used my vouchers to see Puncture (dirs. Adam and Mark Kassen, 2011), a Spotlight film at the festival starring Chris Evans and Jesse L. Martin, and took my friend, Jeff. I had gotten to see a few scenes during a test screening, right before the festival premiere with Evans, Martin, et al. in attendance. Obviously, I was intrigued and deservedly so. The film is first-rate as are the performances. If and when it comes to the theaters, I recommend you purchase a ticket.
Puncture is based on the real life legal battle of lawyers, Mike Weiss (Evans) and his partner, Paul Danziger (M. Kassen) against a powerful medical supply juggernaut to get a safer, retracting needle into hospitals. Infected needles prick thousands of healthcare providers yearly. When a nurse (Shaw) accidentally pricks herself trying to sedate a drug addict in the ER, she contracts HIV and her case is passed to Weiss and Danzinger. Then they meet the ornery but heartfelt inventor of the retractable needle, Jeffrey Dancort (Marshall Bell) who has already tried to approach hospitals to buy his life-saving needle design. No hospital will go against the corrupt, corporate medical supplier contracted to supply the cheaper plastic needles already in use despite the benefits to healthcare workers. The story is very much in the same vein as Erin Brokovich except while Weiss is a brilliant lawyer, he is also an eccentric, tattooed drug addict. His personal struggles in conjunction with his passionate fight to get Dancort’s needle into hospitals is what makes this story atypical and that much more interesting. I was happily surprised by how good this little film is and saddened to learn about yet another true-life example of corporate greed. But it’s always rewarding to see the little guys win.