Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Brothers (2001)

Synopsis: It’s basically 40 minutes of the brothers shooting hoops and complaining about how the sisters don’t understand them, and 20 minutes of the sisters sipping mimosas and griping about how the brothers aren't ready to settle down and start a real relationship. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “THE BROTHERS is a fresh and humorous look at four African-American ‘brothers’  - lifelong friends who band together to navigate the turbulent waters of love and sex on their way to healthy, happy and committed relationships.” 

What Did I Learn?: Ladies, if you want to seriously freak out your new boyfriend, tell him you once briefly dated his dad. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You know that no matter what happens, the brothers are gonna work it out.
Really?: Hmm…I’m pretty sure that if I were holed up in a bungalow with a friend, and his insane, gun-toting ex-girlfriend was outside, shooting holes in the house in order to exact some revenge, I would drop to the floor and phone the police. I would not venture outside and attempt to talk her into handing me the pistol. 

Rating: As a fan of character-driven comedies about dating and relationships (She’s The One, or The Brothers McMullen, for instance), I wanted to like The Brothers, but wow – it’s smug, trite, poorly written (funny how every conflict is soon resolved with both parties agreeing they’re partly at fault), and not terribly funny. I cannot recommend this movie. 4/10 stars. 

Would It Work For A Bad Movie Night?: Not really, but take a drink every time any one of the four men basically pat themselves on the back and announce just how wonderful they are.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Wood (1999)

Synopsis: Old buddies reminisce about the good old days of sexually harassing young women in the schoolyard. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Lots of guys have second thoughts about marriage. Three hours before his wedding, Roland (Taye Diggs) is having third, fourth and fifth thoughts. Good thing he’s got his best buddies Slim (Richard T. Jones) and Mike (Omar Epps) around to help sort those feelings out – and to remember their coming-of-age days in ‘The Wood’ (Inglewood, California)."

What Did I Learn?: If you want fresh-smelling breath for the high school dance, orange-flavoured Tic-Tacs are useless. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You want to remember what life was like Back in the Day….

Really?: 1) So wait – Mike punches gang-banger Stacey, and the latter not only shrugs it off several months later, but actually respects him for showing some heart? Isn’t it much more likely that Stacey would shoot Mike, or at least make his life a living hell for the rest of the school year? 2) Um….the grown-up Alicia looks nothing like her teenaged self. Somebody should have recast the role. 3) Let me get this straight: Mike grows up to be a writer – a WRITER – and he nevertheless offers a rambling, trite, and cringe-inducing wedding toast at the very end of the film? 

Rating: The Wood is a warm, often-funny, and highly relatable film about the pleasures and pains of growing up (it’s also filled with a lot of great music). Still, writer/director Rick Famuyima spends a bit too much time on flashbacks set in 1986-89, and not enough on character development – for instance, Roland isn’t the protagonist, but he’s the one getting married, and we have almost no idea how he got to this point in his life. 8/10 stars.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hollywoodland (2006)

Synopsis: Sleazy detective learns that Superman wasn’t such a super guy. 

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Based on the true story of Hollywood’s most notorious unsolved mystery, Hollywoodland is a tale of glamour, scandal, and corruption in 1950s Los Angeles. When George Reeves (Ben Affleck), star of TV’s Adventures of Superman, is found dead in his home, millions of fans are shocked by the circumstances of his death.” 

What Did I Learn?: It’s not a good idea to pick your kid up from school after you’ve downed half a bottle of Scotch. 


Really?: 1) Funny how Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) continues to work on the case even though the client tells him his services are no longer required. Oh wait – that happens all the time. 2) So…. Reeves probably offed himself because he came to the realization he wasn’t a very good actor? Was there a point to this movie? 

Rating: Set in Southern California at the end of the studio system, Hollywoodland brings to mind a number of other films, including Chinatown, LA Confidential, Sunset Boulevard and Auto Focus. Hollywoodland is basically a combination of two very different stories: it’s both a biopic of Reeves, which is quite good, and a film noir-ish investigation into his mysterious death. Overall, it’s a good movie that suffers from a rather lackluster ending (see: “Really?”) 8/10 stars.

Victor/Victoria (1982)

James Garner Movie #3

Synopsis: It’s two hours and 14 minutes of everyone agreeing that Julie Andrews in a tuxedo is the MOST SCANDALOUS THING, EVER!!  

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Portraying, of all things, a gay female impersonator, Julie Andrews gives the hottest performance of her career – as do her superb co-stars James Garner and Robert Preston.” 

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, everyone speaks English in Paris, France. [Wait, maybe I learned that from those Pink Panther movies]. 

Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” 2) So, why exactly is Labisse so gung-ho determined to ruin Count Grazinski’s career? He’s presented as a comic villain early in the movie, but this doesn’t really make a lot of sense. 

Rating: I wanted to like Victor/Victoria a bit more than I did; Julie Andrews delivers an outstanding performance as the title character, and she shares some great chemistry with both Garner and Preston, but it’s far too long, the story really starts to meander in the second act after King Marchand discovers the big secret, and much of the humour seems to consist of doors being slammed and people yelling and screaming at each other. 6/10 stars.

Tank (1984)

James Garner Movie #2

Synopsis: All-American army sergeant fights cooked small-town sheriff by, um… revving up his personally-owned Sherman tank, destroying the local jail, and becoming a fugitive from justice?! WTF?!?

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “James Garner stars in this unusual family drama of love, honor and loyalty, featuring Shirley Jones, GD Spradlin and Jenilee Harrison.” 

What Did I Learn?: If you see a law enforcement officer brutally assault a young woman for no good reason, your best course of action is to do nothing. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You know it isn't easy to stop a tank.
Really?: 1) See: “Synopsis.” Come to think of it, isn’t Sergeant Carey in the infantry? How would he know anything about tanks? And how could he legally get his hands on machine-gun rounds or shells for the turret? 2) I realize Sheriff Buelton is supposed to be a redneck rube, and maybe he might mistake “posse comitatus” for “pussy communist” the first time he hears the phrase, but it’s not believable as a running gag. 3) So, what’s the point of watching Carey slap around a corporal for beating his wife and kids, or inspecting the mess hall? How do those scenes advance the story? 

Rating: Tank is a highly implausible, but strangely watchable movie that feels more like two rather different films strung together: the first half is a disturbing drama of an innocent military family that gets victimized by an evil local dictator, while the second is basically Dukes of Hazzard slapstick and a whole lot of explosions and gunfire. Tank certainly isn’t Garner’s best outing, and I cannot recommend this movie. 4/10 stars. 

Would it Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Sure - take a drink every time Deputy Euclid (portrayed by the late James Cromwell, who made many better films) gets humiliated.