Archive for March 1st, 2010

01
Mar
10

Movie Review: Valentine’s Day

WATCH Hollywood cram a holiday into 2 hours…

Starring Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Carter Jenkins, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, Bryce Robinson, and Taylor Swift. Directed by Garry Marshall

24 hours of love and loss in Los Angeles. And yes, the entire cast is used.

Since there is no real plot to the story, and I guess you could argue that love really has no plot, let me give the rundown: The day begins with Reed Bennett (Kutcher) proposing to his live-in career-minded girlfriend Morley (Alba). With a “Yes” he’s triumphant and heads out to the shop for the busiest day of the year with his business partner and friend, Alphonso (Lopez).

Julia Fitzpatrick (Garner) wakes up after a night of great lovemaking with her boyfriend Harrison. Harrison is getting ready to go to a conference up in San Fran. Julia is a teacher while Harrison is a –supposedly- divorced cardiologist.

Also enjoying last night were Jason (Grace) and Liz (Hathaway). Liz is late for her job as a temp working at a Talent agency for Paula Thomas (Latifah) and rushes out to get on her bike when she gets a phone call from her other job, which is being an adult entertainment operator. Jason works in the mail room of a company and has only known Liz for 2 weeks.

Kelvin Moore (Foxx) is the number two sportscaster for a local station and he’s given a task by his producer, Susan (Bates): he has to do a “Man on the Street” Valentine’s Day segment. With some protest, and because it’s a slow news day, he relents and goes to do the piece.

Speaking of sports, quarterback Sean Jackson (Dane) has some problems with his career. His agent Kara (Biel) is torn between figuring a way for him to get out of the situation he’s in and keep her Anti-Valentine’s Day party going.

On a 14-hour flight back to L.A., Captain Kate Hazeltine (Julia Roberts) is napping on the shoulder of Holden (Cooper). Kate has one day, Valentine’s, to see her son before she’s shipped back to duty in the Middle East. Holden is a smart, savvy professional who isn’t a big fan of the holiday but builds a connection with Kate.

High school track star Willy (Lautner) and his dance team girlfriend Felicia (Swift) are in love, so much so that he gave her a giant, white teddy bear. Meanwhile, Alex (Jenkins) and Grace (Emma Roberts) are dealing with the pressures of “doing the do” for the first time.

And love isn’t just for teens and adults. Edgar (Elizondo) and Estelle (MacLaine) are a little bit away from renewing their vows, but Estelle has a secret. Incidentally so does their grandson Edison (Robinson).

I think that covers everyone. Are you confused?

What happens next is how all these lives run parallel, intersect and somehow make it through the heartwarming and heartbreak of Valentine’s. Morley confesses to Reed that she’s more into her career than him. Julia books a plane ticket to San Fran to be with Harrison, not knowing he’s in Brentwood with his wife and kid. Jason debates what to do about Liz for Valentine’s Day while Liz deals with the keeping her phone sex operator job a secret. Kelvin doesn’t want to do the “Man on the Street” bit and winds up befriending Kara. Sean doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Alex has a misadventure professing his love for Grace; he stands in her room naked, strumming a guitar and waiting for her when Grace’s mom walks in on him. Estelle finally tells Edgar that years ago she had an affair on him with his business partner.

And so goes the stories of the L.A. lovelorn. The movie covers the entire day’s events, with occasional narration from Romeo Midnight (Paul Williams).

What else can I say about the movie? Well, they found a way to squeeze everything you like, and a lot of what you don’t, about Valentine’s Day into 2 hours. And with one of the largest ensemble casts I can think of in a while that’s no small task, so I’ll give them that credit.

I can say that there are some good performances in here but with so many stories going on, it’s difficult for me to ascertain who was better than whom. I’m half-and-half with romantic movies so aside from the sickening saccharine of the first hour, the rest of the movie went pretty smoothly. I give credit to giving the tribulations of love a reality I seldom see in other films.

And what’s the moral to the story? Sometimes love is staring at you all along and sometimes, it’s your best friend. Loving somebody is about loving all of them; the small things as well as the big. Sometimes people should have the courage to stop others when they see something as being wrong. Love hurts and love heals.

My grade: B

01
Mar
10

Movie Review: The Book of Eli

A Bible, an iPod, and the post-apocalyptic power of prayer…

Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, and Jennifer Beals. Directed by the Hughes Brothers.

I was not expecting the amount of Christian allegory this movie had. Think “The Road” with a copy of King James being toted around.

It’s post-apocalyptic America and just like the movie “The Road,” we the audience have no clue as to what happened. Apparently, a big FLASH occurred and a good chunk of society became blind. Those not blind walk around wearing sunglasses all the time. Some electronics (e.g. an iPod) work but since there’s no running electricity or water there’s not much of a use for any of it.

Washington is Eli and Eli’s coming or rather going west to some unnamed destination. When we first meet him he checks out an abandoned shack, stocks up on supplies, trades in for a new pair of boots, and listens to his iPod (at least digital music makes it into the future). The next day Eli is confronted by a gang of road hijackers and in a fight sequence paying homage to the House of Blue Leaves’ silhouetted fight scene from “Kill Bill Vol. 1” Leaving no one alive but a woman acting as a decoy for the gang let me quote another Tarantino flick, “From Duck ‘til Dawn,” in saying that he’s a “mean mother-f’n servant of God.”

Eli makes his way into a Western-looking town ran by Carnegie (Oldman). Carnegie is a good ole boy and big fish in a small pond, ruling over the small town from the upper floor of a bar. He sends out his minion of thugs to bring back books, looking for the One Book to rule them all (one book to find them and in the darkness bind them…) Eli comes to town and Carnegie is so impressed with him that he lets him stay the night to mull over the decision to work for him. Eli isn’t interested in that because he’s heading west for his own reasons. Carnegie isn’t the type of guy who takes an answer he doesn’t already give to someone and when he finds that Eli has a book, THE BIBLE, he orders Eli to hand it over or be killed. Eli isn’t much for either happening and makes his way out of town.

Solara (Kunis) is so impressed by Eli, or maybe just intrigued, that she tags along with him. She was born after whatever happened and like most of the rest of society, doesn’t know how to read. Eli tries to get rid of her but the two become traveling partners as he further attempts to head west. She finds that he’s been walking around, trying to head west, for 31 years. But the who, what, where, when, why, and how of his life is kept secret. As they’re on the run from Carnegie and his gang they have a few misadventures before they make it to the ocean and the Promised Land (of Alcatraz Island).

The movie started out okay, then went bad, kept being bad, got a little bit better, got more interesting, had a great twist, and then went dumb, all in that order. It felt like Washington was walking around a “digitally” created apocalypse and it shows. Also, the use of sepia and gray filters did not feel completely even. The Hughes Brothers should have really checked out “The Road” or at least Hillcoat’s “The Proposition,” or maybe even “The Road Warrior” and come up with compelling gangmembers. Something.

The movie comes with two twists. The first twist works WELL and I really liked it. Carnegie has his ass handed to him and this veritable King Nothing watches as his empire dismantles. My problem was with plot twist number two, which is that Eli is BLIND. I’m sorry, my suspension of disbelief became shot to hell on that idea. The Hughes Brothers may have tried implying it in a few scenes but very rarely, if ever, did Washington’s character seem to be even remotely blind. Having sight and reading the book with regards to Plot Point #1 would’ve worked just fine; instituting Plot Point #2 but not entirely backing it up through the entire production is just bad filmmaking.

And finally the amount of heavy-handed Christianity in the film seemed a bit much. If not for language and violence this film bordered on being something that could’ve been shown on, or produced by, the Trinity Broadcasting Network. I’ll probably catch some flack for this because I usually praise the use of spirituality in a movie but this movie reeks of Christianity in every frame. Society as a whole is “lost” and the Bible leads the way. Eli is following the Word of God to deliver the book west. Carnegie is the Devil wanting to use the Scripture for his own purposes…

Watch for Tom Waits (yep he made it to the apocalypse, too) as Engineer in Carnegie’s town and Malcolm McDowell as Lombardi, a librarian.

My grade: C