Archive for February 26th, 2010

26
Feb
10

Movie Review: When in Rome

Vote for Jose.

Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Danny DeVito, and Anjelica Huston. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson.

Hey Kids! You wanna make your own romantic comedy? Follow along!

First off: you need a strong female character whose life is hectic, but organized. She must so in love with her career that she doesn’t have time to find love. Take Beth (Bell). She’s the youngest art curator at a museum. She hasn’t found a guy that she loves more than her career.

Okay, now we need a reason for this strong, independent female character to fall in love, so we’ll inject “societal pressure.” Beth’s ex-boyfriend Brady Sacks (Lee Pace) walks up to her and tells her that he has found the perfect match and he’s getting married! Also, she receives a phone call from her younger sister who tells Beth that she is getting married in Italy! Double-whammy!

Let’s enter the Suitor that Even the Audience Knows She’ll Fall in Love with: Nick (Josh Duhamel). Nick is socially awkward, charming, and a sports journalist to boot. He has a geek friend/editor and lives in the “bachelor pad.”

The two need to meet. In this case, one is a bridesmaid and the other a groomsman. Now we have the problem of filling an additional 80 minutes because while we know that Girl A has to get together with Guy B, they can’t be together until the end of the film (in network TV this can take YEARS). This problem is often best fixed using magic or some ancient legend/curse/etc. How about having the female character get drunk and go in the middle of the town square and pick out a few coins. No harm, no foul. Right?

The female character must return to her hectic life, completely oblivious to the coming consequences of what she did. In this case each coin is magically connected to a guy who tossed it into the fountain looking for love on a whim. There’s the street magician Lance (Heder). And Italian artist Antonio (Arnett). And narcissistic model Gale (Shepard). And finally a sausage distributor (DeVito). Each of these characters must be two-dimensional at most (so as not to “show up” the Suitor).

Now, you have to add chaos to the mix and fill in that 80-minute gap to keep Guy and Girl from being together until the very end. For this movie we’ll have each of the other “quirky” suitors show who they are and how magically infatuated with the Girl they are. The Magician tries pulling a “Houdini” in Beth’s apartment. The Model shows up at a restaurant Beth is eating at and presents his modeling portfolio to her as well as taking his shirt off in front of the entire restaurant. The Artist paints an 80-foot tall mural of her naked. The Sausage Distributor shows up at her work and asks for a personal tour.

Each of these characters must find a way to further keep Guy from being with Girl. This includes excessive deliveries of flowers to her as well as breaking up a date. But this isn’t enough. You must instill a seed of doubt in the Girl that she has found True Love. Beth finds out that the reason she has been followed by the others professing their love is because she plucked their coins out of the fountain. Is it possible that one of the coins belonged to Nick?

We’re not done just yet; there’s the “running” scene. This scene is pivotal because the Girl needs to know that the Guy will go to the ends of the Earth for her, and the Guy has to physically run to show that he’s willing to go the distance for her (literal and symbolic) and to show that he’s athletic. This MUST occur with some hint of danger (guy doesn’t make flight/performance/gala event/etc.) Nick must outrun inclemently bad weather (read: lightning strikes) to make it to the museum unveiling.

Guy makes it there and Girl confesses that she loves him and vice versa. Everyone is happy, all has reverted to normal. Almost. There is still that shred of doubt that true love is not completely true. Beth runs out on her wedding to Nick but finds that yes, true love has prevailed in the end (like you couldn’t see this happening?)

Some motion pictures are films. Some are movies. And others are video, which is where “When in Rome” will probably end up.

I thought it was enjoyable but in the realm of film, it’s like junk food: enjoy it now and forget that you ate it later. It’s not a bad movie per se and there were a few laughs but for the most part there are better romantic comedies (my date suggested “Never Been Kissed” as being WAY better than this). “When in Rome” is lighthearted fodder and you could probably do worse. My favorite scene was when Nick and Beth went out on a date to a restaurant where they were served in complete darkness.

Also of interest is the “Napoleon Dynamite” connection. Efren Ramirez, who played Pedro in “Napoleon Dynamite,” plays Lance’s assistant Jose who videotapes his tricks. Also the final bit of music, “The Promise,” was featured first in “Napoleon Dynamite.”

My grade: C+

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26
Feb
10

Movie Review: Edge of Darkness

It must be the “conspiracy” edge of darkness…

Starring Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic. Directed by Martin Campbell. Based on the British TV series of the same name created by Troy Kennedy-Martin

Dry, somewhat disjointed, but it picks up by the end.

Mel Gibson returns to headlining a film with this cinematic remake of the 1995 BBC TV series, “Edge of Darkness.” Gibson is Boston police detective Thomas Craven, a man who lives alone and on one particular weekend is waiting for his daughter Emma (Novakovic) to arrive. Emma goes to college and is a research assistant at a company called Northmoor. She doesn’t tell him exactly what she does except to say “I’m a glorified lab assistant.” Thomas is fine with that and things are going swimmingly until Emma pukes into an empty soup bowl and her nose begins bleeding. As they rush out of the house to go to the hospital a car pulls up and a guy in a mask shouts “CRAVEN!” before using a double-barreled shotgun to blast a hole through her chest. She flies backwards through the front door, the car peels off, and Thomas is left with his only daughter now dead.

Partners, friends, and other officers arrive on the scene and Craven is in a place he doesn’t want to be: the victim of a crime. His friend Whitehouse (Jay O. Sanders) tries to comfort him, saying that the Department will treat it as an “officer involved” incident. They expect him to take some time off for grieving purposes and they want to run through every file he has, spinning the idea that the gunman was aiming for Thomas instead of his daughter. Not believing that for a second, Craven goes out for answers with a side of vengeance.

Piece by piece we get to know Emma as Thomas gets to know the daughter he thought he knew. She worked for a company called Northmoor. At some point she became involved with a group of activists and had helped them get into, and out of, Northmoor. What Northmoor was doing and why, and how his daughter got involved in any of it, is the cloud of mystery Thomas is flying through.

Craven’s world is slowly dragged into the “conspiracy sphere”: bugged rooms, paranoid people, sharp dressed agents in SUV’s with tinted windows, etc (even though Mel starred in a film called “Conspiracy Theory,” he was relatively clueless in this one). Thomas traces a 9mm his daughter was carrying to her boyfriend Burnham (Shawn Roberts) who gives Thomas his daughter’s personal belongings duffle bag. Checking out her apartment he finds it broken into and her computer taken. Her best friend Melissa talks with him about Emma getting involved with the activists. She’s promptly killed after.

Enter Jedburgh (Winstone). He’s the guy that “stops people from connecting Point A to Point B,”; hired hitman, assassin, what-have-you. Jedburgh is brought in to keep tabs on Thomas Craven for Northmoor because Craven is the father of the girl considered a “security risk.” Thomas and Jedburgh meet, Jedburgh gives him an idea of who he is, Craven accepts this and continues doing what he does.

And finally the villain behind it all: Jack Bennett (Huston). Bennett is the head of Northmoor which not only keeps stock of items used for nuclear weaponry but its R&D division pumps money into the Massachusetts economy, and that’s just on paper. What the public doesn’t know and what we come to learn is that Northmoor is developing nuclear arms for foreign countries under their specs. Also, they gave “irradiated gas” to the activists and poisoned Emma Craven. Thomas is running out of options and against the clock as he tries putting the pieces together and exposing those who were complicit in his daughter’s death.

The movie is a long, slow train that heads for what could be called a “slambang” end. All the clues that are laid in front of us for the first hour slowly begin paying off and when the body count begins to rise, we see the “full extent of the conspiracy.” There are several twists and turns and by the end everyone dies. Everyone. (See also: “Hamlet,” “The Departed”)

Director Martin Campbell decided to re-adapt his 80’s British show in an American environment, choosing Boston because of its English and Irish influences. Campbell is known for previous drama/action movies such as “The Mask of Zorro,” and “Vertical Limit,” as well as the James Bond movies, “GoldenEye,” and “Casino Royale.” While “Edge of Darkness” does contain brutal realism within its violence (there are no pre-meditated vengeance camera shots) the acts are SUDDEN and the audience isn’t prepared, giving a sense of realism. Another plus for the movie is the fact that Campbell made Gibson’s character emote through most of the range of human emotions, even though his character is naïve (a Boston cop not knowing about conspiracy? Really?)

The major flaw for this film is the script. Watching it feels like someone edited the breathing room out of a TV show or rather constructed a film out of the best parts of one and structurally it’s apparent. According to reports the initial script had to be re-written to make it more “action oriented” and in doing so there’s a slapdash feeling to the pacing of scenes. The British sensibilities added to the story (the hitman confronting Craven, the voice of his daughter directing him to find justice) speak more to British films than American ones and could’ve been left out.

Can I honestly recommend this one? As long as you realize that it’s not the action packed movie advertised to you (nor is it really a psychological drama), you’re good to go. I would suggest matinee or the dollar theatre.

My grade: B-