November 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (“Inception,” “The Dark Knight”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (“Inception”) and Jonathan Nolan (“The Dark Knight”)

While the critical community may scoff, director Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”) really does turn out truly smart blockbusters aimed at adults. Sure, the landscape of tentpole filmmaking is changing somewhat, with Marvel Studios leading the pack with their well-planed barrage of interconnected films that cross generational lines, but by and large the movie-going public sees big giant releases as fare for kids and teenagers. These movies aren’t made for grown-ups. But a Nolan film is different. Playing with the house money that the box office success of the mostly masterful “Dark Knight” lined his pockets with, Nolan has chosen to create massive science fiction-tinged event movies for adults after every adventure in Gotham City, from “The Prestige” to “Inception” and finally to his latest film, the impressive, mind-bending, heart-tugging—and sometimes frustrating—space and time epic “Interstellar.”

Decades after some unspoken of devastation overtook the people and governments of Earth, the planet begins dropping not-so-subtle hints that man’s time is nearing an end. Blight is destroying crops all over globe, with only corn resisting the destruction. Mankind has transitioned into survival mode, forcing natural explorers like Coop (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA pilot, to live life as a reluctant farmer. The same itch has been passed to his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), who struggles at school in the face of a curriculum that has retconned the moon landing as a tool to bankrupt the Soviet Union. When strange things begin happening in Murph’s room, such as books falling off the shelf in a pattern, she blames the events on a ghost. Initially dismissive, Coop takes interest when he notices the pattern Murph found is binary code containing coordinates. Coop and Murph take a drive to investigate and end up finding what’s left of NASA, and they need Coop to lead a deep space mission to save mankind.

Much has been said about Nolan’s tendency to have his characters’ dialogue filled with loads of exposition dumps, and “Interstellar” is no different. Tons of science—what to the average ear sounds at once authoritative and full of mumbo jumbo—is slung between Coop and his crew (including Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley and a wonderfully wry robot named TARS, voiced by Bill Irwin) in order to explain what’s going on to the audience time after time. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter. The vast majority of “Interstellar” is captivating, with the high water mark coming on a planet covered in waves where a nearby black hole warps the passage of time. Less successful is a long sequence on a remote planet featuring an unbilled guest star who’s twist can be seen coming light years away. By the time the movie powers through its “2001”-inspired climax, you’ll realize Nolan has done it again: created a near-masterpiece that will have you thinking about it for weeks to come.

Les Misérables

December 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway
Directed by: Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”)
Written by: William Nicholson (“Gladiator”)

Whether you jump on board for the most recent cinematic adaptation of “Les Misérables,” based on Victor Hugo’s 19th century novel, will all depend on two major decisions Oscar-winning filmmaker Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) made to separate it from other versions of the musical that have come before. Of those two choices, one will more than likely earn an actress her first Academy Award of her career. The other is a debauched experiment in the actual framework of the musical. It’s sure to have anyone sitting on the fence reconsider giving the genre another chance after what can only be described as a grandiloquent mistake.

In “Les Misérables,” Hugh Jackman stars as Jean Valjean, an ex-prisoner who finds a new meaning to his life when he agrees to take care of Cosette (Isabelle Allen as a child; Amanda Seyfried as a young woman). Cosette is the daughter of Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a worker at one of Valjean’s factories who is forced into a life of prostitution to pay her debts. Oscar winning actor Russell Crowe, who is completely miscast in this production, plays Javert, a police inspector who has long searched for Valjean for breaking parole years before.

Hooper’s first decision, which is likely to send actress Anne Hathaway to the podium for an Oscar come February, is having all the musical performances sung live. While most musicals shoot actors lip syncing their parts and dubbing them in post-production, allowing Hathaway and others to break from the normal practices and sing from within was the right call by Hooper. It is especially evident in Hathaway’s moving performance of “I Dreamed a Dream,” which captures the depth of the entire musical in a single powerful scene.

What else Hooper demands of his musical in a larger sense, however, is what ultimately takes ““Les Misérables” from an epic period drama into an indistinct collection of classic songs that would be better experienced listening to the film’s soundtrack. Instead of interspersing the musical numbers with dialogue, Hooper insists every word of the narrative be sung. By doing this, the intimacy, anger, or any number of other emotions the characters are supposed to share between each other is whittled down into awkward exchanges.

Despite the inevitable humming of the songs that will come after seeing the film, not much else will stick from “Les Misérables” aside from the beautiful technical aspects, including the costume design and art direction. For a narrative so swathed in raw emotion, however, Hathaway’s lone performance (and a memorable supporting role by theatrical actress Samantha Barks as Eponine) will make the only true connection.

The Dark Knight Rises

July 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”) and Jonathan Nolan (“The Dark Knight”)

In full scope, “The Dark Knight Rises,” the third and final installment of director Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, feels epic. From its majestic production value to its incredible IMAX-worthy set pieces, Gotham City has never looked so grandiose. Look beyond the technical and artistic achievements of this inevitable summer blockbuster and there are flaws. Despite the narrative’s overall maturation over the last seven years, Nolan has lost sight of just how 2005’s “Batman Begins” and 2008’s “The Dark Knight” successfully redefined the comic-book movie through intelligent design. Here, the bloated 165-minute superhero marathon is frustrating, especially with a script embracing a diluted story about the current financial crisis instead of actually entertaining moviegoers.

Picking up eight years after the last film ended, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has gone into exile after the death of Harvey Dent. Wayne’s retirement, however, is only temporary and Batman reemerges when a hulky mercenary known as Bane (Tom Hardy) marches into Gotham with plans to sever the city’s economic lifeline, thus causing civil unrest. As Bane, Hardy joins the cast with big clown shoes to fill after Heath Ledger won an Oscar posthumously for his role as the rageful Joker. Sadly, Bane is better suited for a pro-wrestling ring than as a substantial villain with real purpose. New to the franchise are Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman, although the name never comes up), a saucy jewel thief who fights alongside the caped crusader, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays rookie cop John Blake, the most interesting character of the DC Comics lot.

Where the Batman franchise goes post-Nolan remains to be seen, but whoever takes the reigns has a tough act to follow — even if this final chapter doesn’t necessarily reach its full potential.

One Day

August 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson
Directed by: Lone Scherfig (“An Education”)
Written by: David Nicholls (“When Did You Last See Your Father?”)

There are moments in every person’s life that set change in motion and help shape his or her personality and view on the world. These moments are often blindsiding, unpredictable, and happen when least expected. In the case of “One Day,” all of these events occur on the same date throughout a span of two decades.  Implausibility aside, “One Day” is a lumbering mess of a film that forces us to spend 20 years with characters we wouldn’t waste 20 minutes on.

Adapting his own book, author and screenwriter David Nicholls tells the story of a score-long friendship through the events of July 15th, or St. Swithin’s Day. After a botched sexual encounter, the awkward Emma (Anne Hathaway) and the confident Dexter (Jim Sturgess) vow to stay close friends. As Emma works odd jobs and settles with a painfully unfunny comedian named Ian (Rafe Spall), Dexter becomes the host of several awful TV shows and is universally disliked by audiences and eventually by Emma herself. Over time, their roles and fortunes slowly start to reverse and Dexter and Emma find themselves questioning if a relationship is the right thing to do, or if they are just meant to be friends.

Both of the lead characters in “One Day” are charmless people that are flat out annoying to be around. Hathaway, who offers a distractingly bad British accent, brings no charisma to the role of Emma. Part of the problem here is that Nicholls mistakes dry British wit for bitter griping. In glimpses of a scornful Emma working at a Tex-Mex restaurant, her sarcastic attempts at humor are not endearing (or funny), and she instead comes off as a complaining curmudgeon. Sturgess is convincing as the media-proclaimed “most annoying man on television,” which could either be a compliment or an insult. Dexter is not only introduced as selfish, narcissistic, and vain, but these off-putting characteristics are exacerbated by numerous substance addictions. As a result, audiences are presented with a pessimistic woman who is settling in life and a paper-thin, detestable party-boy. Somehow, we are expected to root for their happily ever after.

Since the frustrating narrative structure of the film checks in with Dexter and Emma on the same day every year, only snapshots of their lives are seen and as a result, much of the character development is happening off screen. Although events that serve as life-altering catalysts are shown, moviegoers only get to see the end product of incidents that happened at least one year prior, completely leaving out the work put in to get to that point. The structure also works against the film by only giving the viewer small chunks of screen time to let the relationship develop. It is hard to buy into this couple’s longing for each other when you only see small snippets of annual contact.

After beautifully crafting the thrice Academy Award-nominated 2009 film “An Education,” it is unfortunate that Danish director Lone Scherfig returned with such a shallow piece of melodrama. With its miscalculated humor and nonexistent charm, the years cannot go by fast enough as the underwhelming relationship between Emma and Dexter unfolds.

Alice in Wonderland

March 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by: Tim Burton (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”)
Written by: Linda Woolverton (“The Lion King”)

Director Tim Burton’s visual sensibility is once again at the forefront of another dark spectacle full of big ideas but ultimately hollow at its core. This time it’s “Alice in Wonderland,” a beautifully-realized take on the popular 19th century Lewis Carroll tale, which has been remade numerous times in the past 100 years.

In the newest version, “Alice” takes the best of what Burton does and buries it under an incoherent narrative by animated film screenwriter Linda Woolverton (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King”). It’s not so much that the magic or overall look has been squandered. The twisted tale of a Mad Hatter, a waist-coated white rabbit, and Cheshire Cat is quite stunning with the characters going through a computer-generated makeover. Burton’s version, however, must overcompensate on imagination when the sluggish story sucks all the adventure out of what could have been an epic reimaging of a beloved classic.

Fresh-face Australian actress Mia Wasikowska (“Defiance”) is entrusted with the role of the title character. In a sort of sequel to any of the preceding films, here Alice is actually returning to the fantasy world most people know from the trippy Disney film of 1951. In this adaptation, Alice is an unconventional 19-year-old who visits a place called Underland after she rejects a suitor who has asked for her hand in marriage.

Bothered by nightmares of her first journey down the rabbit hole (an event she hardly remembers), Alice stumbles yet again into a land where flowers talk, frogs are royal servants, and oversized facial features are signs power. Woolverton’s script even finds room for Carroll’s Jabberwocky, a monstrous character first introduced in his novel “Through the Looking Glass.”

Since her last visit, the vile and bulbous-headed Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) has taken over. Alice does her best impersonation of the kids from “The Chronicles of Narnia” to try to stop her and her loyal army. A prophetic scroll shown at the beginning of her second coming reveals Alice to be the one who will put an end to the queen’s reign. Most of the characters, however, think she is the “wrong Alice” and won’t be able to help.

Cast near-perfectly especially with Johnny Depp as the eccentric Mad Hatter, Crispin Glover as the sinister Knave of Hearts, and Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry lending their voices for the hooka-smoking Blue Caterpillar and the hypnotic Cheshire Cat respectively, “Alice” definitely transports us to the world we all new Burton could create. It’s unfortunate, however, that the digital enhancements outweigh a story that is more aware of its dreamlike marvels than before. Because Alice is older, that childlike sense of wonderment is absent. Woolverton (off with her head!) compounds the problem by fashioning a whimsical yet convoluted tale that often becomes dull and gaudy all at once.

Valentine’s Day

February 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx
Directed by: Garry Marshall (“Georgia Rule”)
Written by: Katherine Fugate (“The Prince and Me”)

Doing a shameless impersonation of director/writer Richard Curtis’ 2003 witty and warm romantic comedy “Love Actually,” the Hollywood-star-laden “Valentine’s Day” is a movie that’s all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Flashing an attractive cast of audience favorites including Julia Roberts (“Duplicity”), Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover”), and Taylor Lautner (“New Moon”) – among a laundry list of others – director Garry Marshall (“Georgia Rule”) takes a poorly-written multi-narrative penned by Katherine Fugate (“The Prince and Me”) and hauls it through the same cliché and predictable plot points usually reserved for this type of cinematic fluff. It’s no wonder sensitive women everywhere have to drag their significant others to the movies for date night. When a feature is as contrived as “Valentine’s Day,” not even a pajama party with Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, and Jessica Biel is reason enough for anyone to endure over two hours (and yes, it feels like it) of unbearable schmaltz.

Without going into too much detail with the storylines – which all somehow connect in the most absurd ways – “Valentine’s Day” spends much of its runtime with Ashton Kutcher on screen as Reed Bennett, the owner of a popular flower shop in L.A. who has just proposed to his girlfriend Morley (Alba) and is ready to settle down and start a family. But like all these sad-sack characters, love is not in the air for Reed and he is left all alone with only his employee (George Lopez) to help mend his broken heart.

More lovesick vignettes follow that are just as sparse on romance and narrative appeal. Jamie Foxx plays a sportscaster who hates V-Day, but is assigned to produce a story by his boss (Kathy Bates); Biel plays a publicist whose client (Eric Dane) is contemplating retirement from pro-football; Patrick Dempsey flexes his acting range to play a cheating cardiologist having an affair with Garner; Cooper and Roberts play strangers who meet on an airplane and make small talk; Bryce Robinson plays a kid in love; Emma Roberts and Carter Jenkins play teens in love; Topher Grace and Anne Hathaway play young adults in love; Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine play old people in love; and Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift dole out so much cuteness, you don’t know how the word “cute” even existed before this movie.

The “aww” moments are aplenty for moviegoers who don’t necessarily care about story, character or genuine heartfelt moments that don’t feel like they were mass produced like overstuffed Build-A-Bears. Like an open box of Walgreen’s chocolates in an office break room, gluttons for this type of cheap, faux-holiday filler will eat it up without much thought. For those who want their rom coms to have a bit more taste, it’s easy to pass on the flavorless eye candy.

Bride Wars

January 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Candice Bergen
Directed by: Gary Winick (“13 Going on 30”)
Written by: Greg DePaul (“Saving Silverman”), Casey Wilson (debut), June Diane Raphael (debut)

A guy would have to be completely insane to break up with someone like Kate Hudson or Anne Hathaway. What would have to possess him to actually end a relationship with two of the most beautiful and talented women working in Hollywood today?

Despite the incomprehensibility of the act, that’s where I am right now after watching the ladies’ new movie “Bride Wars.” Stop printing the invitations, put the ice sculpture in a big freezer, and cancel the stringed quartet. With Hudson and Hathaway hamming it up as Bridezillas, the bachelor pad is looking a lot more comfortable from this side of the aisle.

As best friends, Liv (Hudson) and Emma (Hathaway) have been dreaming of the perfect white wedding since they were little girls. It was at an early age when they knew a June wedding at the Plaza Hotel was what they’ve always wanted.

But when an employee working for Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen), the iconic wedding coordinator at the Plaza, accidentally books Liv and Emma’s wedding on the same day, the women’s claws come out as both refuse to be flexible with their arrangements.

Instead, in an array of misguided and cheaply-written jokes, Liv and Emma set out to sabotage each others weddings. In one instance, Emma pretends she is Liv’s fiancé and sends her desserts knowing she will eat them because she was once overweight. Liv goes as far as ruining the hue of Emma’s spray tan causing her skin turn the color of a pumpkin.

The childish and mostly unfunny attempts at humor continue back and forth until the big day when Liv and Emma have to realize their friendship means more to them than Vera Wang dresses and five-tier cakes. But by the time the lethargic characters are settled and everyone is back to their lovely selves, all you really want to do is throw back a couple more glasses of champagne and call it a night. Give me a “chick flick” about weddings any day of the week (I love “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Father of the Bride”), but don’t lose the wit while doing it.

Rachel Getting Married

October 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger
Directed by: Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs”)
Written by: Jenny Lumet (debut)

“Rachel Getting Married” is unlike any wedding I’ve ever been to and it’s an enjoyable event.

As the wedding videographer, er, director, Jonathan Demme (“The Manchurian Candidate”) decides to shoot the film as if we are part of his on-camera dysfunctional family. It’s an intimate and compelling way to tell a story especially when led with a strong and Oscar-worthy performance by Anne Hathaway.

In the film, Hathaway plays Kym, a young woman who takes a short break from rehab to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). It’s been a couple of months since Kym has been home, but it doesn’t take her long to clash with the rest of the bridal party and members of her family, many of which still hold strong feelings against Kym for causing a tragic event to happen because of her drug use.

Kym feels she is a “visiting sociopath” and her behavior proves her correct. Although the weekend is supposed to be all about the wedding, Kym lets her poisonous feelings take center stage and slowly cripples the rest of her family during her visit. As you start to see how much her family cares for and despises her all at the same time it is truly heartbreaking. Kym may be recovering from her addiction to drugs, but it’s not enough when her mental state is the same as when she first left. Her stubbornness simply makes her hard to love.

Her selfishness is evident during an incredibly long dinner scene where Rachel and her fiancé are receiving heartfelt best wishes from all their friends and family. You slowly start to see how everyone’s good-natured sentiments are going to lead to something disastrous: a toast from Kmy. It’s an uncomfortable thing to watch as she sucks the life out of the room with talk about drug dependency and what level she is at on her 12-step program.

With “Rachel Getting Married,” Demme has created a small wonder through a diverse family dynamic. As the film pulls you in psychologically, it almost seems voyeuristic watching everything unfold. Like last year’s “Margot at the Wedding,” characters seethe. Unlike the film, there is an underlying hope that family ties will prevail. It’s not nearly as depressing as “Margot,” and finds many other emotional avenues to burrow into your head.

Get Smart

June 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson
Directed by: Peter Segal (“The Longest Yard”)
Written by: Tom J. Astle (“Failure to Launch”) and Matt Ember (“Failure to Launch”)

Mel Brooks is an acquired taste, even more so in 2008.

Coming into the production of the film version of “Get Smart” as an advisor with fellow TV series writer Buck Henry, the duo attempt to inject some of the old show’s spirit into only the second feature of Tom Astle and Matt Ember’s screenwriting career.

While the dryness and silliness are there for the most part, some of the jokes sink fast on the big screen as people think back and wonder if “Blazing Saddles” is really as funny as every one says it is.

Brooks is a comedy auteur, and well he should be. No one was making films like “Young Frankenstein” and “Spaceballs” during their time and his enthusiasm for emulating peculiar characters in his own way was both creative and absurd. But now, the comedy feels worn out. It’s proved so in 2005’s “The Producers,” when the film wasn’t as well-received as the Broadway show or the 1968 film of the same name directed and written by Brooks.

In “Get Smart,” Brooks’ characters are revived for an adventure in the 21st century after the original show ended 38 years ago. Like other TV shows of that era that have also been updated for a new generation (“The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Bewitched,” “I Spy”), “Get Smart” has a rough time translating over.

Although cast well (Steve Carell is the perfect to replace Don Adams as secret agent Maxwell Smart), the script falters as it plays out more like an episode of “Mr. Bean” than a bumbling “James Bond.” It’s a nicely constructed cast with Anne Hathaway taking Barbara Feldon’s role as Agent 99 and an addition of Agent 23 played by the always suave Dwayne Johnson.

For something filled with so much deadpan humor, “Get Smart” gets more laughs than the reimagining of Steve Martin’s new “Pink Panther” shtick, but only gets as far as the dry wit takes it. In this case, slapstick and action sequences get most of the screen time and in turn ruins what the original show was all about.