Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sex and what City?: I'll pass and review The Soloist this weekend

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios.

I seriously considered reviewing Sex and the City 2 film for my blog, but after some thought, I'm going to stay home and watch The Soloist.

A devotee of the TV series, Sex and the City has surprised me multiple times with its wit, humor and - dare I say - depth. I didn't start out with a very good impression of the series or the movie, but having watched the DVDs of both I can say that they all bring something meaningful to the table.

So when I heard that another film was coming out, I had my doubts, but having avoided the first film in theatres only to have it charm me later with its biting commentary on the ridiculousness of the wedding industry in the U.S., maybe I should cut this one a break. Watching the girls do their version of a road trip movie might be fun.

That was before I saw the full-length trailer.

Sorry folks, but I'm a Mr. Big fan who (SPOILER ALERTS FROM HERE ON OUT) is the man that Carrie marries at the end of the first movie. I liked Aidan as a character but it was clear from the first go-round he and Carrie were never going to make it for the long haul. I didn't buy the fourth season DVD set because I didn't feel like rewatching them go through their SECOND go-round. So when I saw Aidan in the trailer, it stopped me dead in my tracks. How many times are we going to beat this dead horse? The do I want Big do I not want him...get real people. Even worse, am I really going to spend $10.50 to watch Charlotte complain about having children after she spent six seasons talking about wanting children?

We have come to the end of the line. While I don't typically judge a movie by its cover, I do when it comes to either paying for it in theatres or waiting to rent it later when it comes out on DVD in three months. And from the synopsis I've read, Aidan is just the tip of the iceberg - now, we don't even have the city anymore, the notorious "5th star" of the show. At a running time of just over two hours, apparently the audience only gets a brief glimpse of NYC. As the wonderful A.O. Scott says in his review, "Is Manhattan really that over?"

It's as if we had a cake that was made beautifully, then the movie was the icing. Now this seems to be dumping the cake and the icing, rolling it in fudge, and dumping champagne all over it until the cake itself is barely recognizable.

The girls finally get all they want - and now they are not even happy with that. They want more - but that doesn't mean I do or audiences in general do.

But I invite you all to prove me wrong - if anyone can give me a convincing argument to see the film then I'll happily go - and conversely, if you are going to see it, let me know if my fears are justified.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

DVD Spotlight: Bringing Down the House, can't you color me blind?

Image courtesy of Touchstone Home Entertainment and downloaded here:

I've been on a Steve Martin kick ever since watching "It's Complicated", so I decided to try something from the not-too-distant past: the 2003 comedy "Bringing Down the House" by Touchstone Pictures.

Being someone who likes Queen Latifah and Steve Martin, it seemed like an odd combination but possibly one of those unlikely sparks that will make a film something special.

Well homeslices, this film didn't quite shizzle my nizzle, dig?

It wasn't an awful movie but that's not to say it was a good movie either. The amount of incredibly outdated racial jokes were pretty shocking, considering this movie was filmed in 2003 - not exactly ancient history. It simultaneously manages to offend both black people and white people: the black community is a bunch of partying, drinking convicts and the whites are all country club racist yuppies. Though this particular vein of the film is thin and manages to be tempered by Queen Latifah's good nature and the presence of a budding mixed race romance - it still exists.

There are some fun moments, mostly supplied by Latifah, who plays Charlene, a smart savvy woman who breaks out of jail after doin' time for a crime she didn't commit. When she shows up at Peter's Sanderson's (Steve Martin) door, who had been IMing her sight unseen and thinks a romance is about to begin, he doesn't even try for one second to reconcile the woman he met online to the woman at his doorstep.

Sweet, funny Steve sadly gets absolutely nothing to do with his bland as unbuttered toast role as Peter. He's the straight man while Charlene runs the show, which is fine if you like Latifah, as I do, but not so much if you are hoping for a balanced chemistry between the actors. In fact, beyond a small, almost indiscernible spark of mild respect for one another, you wonder how on earth these two ever hit it off in the first place online. Eugene Levy as Howie is brilliant and though he gets less screen time than Peter, he steals every scene he's in as the love-struck stuffed shirt who thinks of Charlene as a "Coco goddess." In fact, I wonder if it would've been a better film if Steve and Eugene had switched roles...

No big spoilers here: Charlene's name gets cleared and all is well, with Peter going back to his bland wife and Eugene getting the Coco goddess he so rightly deserved. There's something about an heiress and Peter's kids, but that's just filler. A part of me secretly wanted Peter to be able to make it with Charlene, but he's so damn boring that he really deserves to be with his equally boring wife, who makes such little impact on the film that I can't even recall her name. Basically, everyone gets what they deserve in the end.

One absolutely hilarious scene is the down-and-dirty girl fight that happens between Peter's venomous sister-in-law named Ashley (Missi Pyle) and Charlene. You don't often get full-fledged cat fights in films and this one is a doozy - it's also nice to see Ashley's self-righteous white butt get pummeled by a sista.

But in the end, blind eyes cannot be turned from the truly outrageous racial commentary that is meant with kind hearts but executed in very bad taste. If you like Latifah, rent it if there's nothing else in the hopper for movie night. If you are a die-hard Steve Martin fan, you can do better.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Let's get metal!

Image was downloaded from and is property of Marvel Comics and Paramount Pictures.

It was hard for me to view Iron Man 2 with an unbiased mindset. Having loved and adored the first film, so much so I actually shelled out the extra cash for the special edition metal DVD case copy, it was hard to not set the bar high for this film as well.

The beauty of the first Iron Man was that it was great fun and yet it sent a powerful message about militarized weapons, and that combination creates a repeatable, enjoyable experience. Also, the number of treats thrown in for Marvel comic fans (i.e. Stan Lee's cameo as Hugh Hefner) didn't hurt either. Iron Man 2 was still a lot of fun, but what it wanted fans to walk away with is anyone's guess.

Let's start with the positives. Robert Downey Jr. didn't skip a beat. It's like Tony Stark is a suit in his closet that he slides into when he needs to. He's still the swaggering anti-hero we've come to know and love, bursting onto the scene in a cheezy, Broadway-esque way that's more leer than sneer. What Downey is able to do with Stark, which is not always successful in sequels, is remain true to what the core of the character is while creating more depth; showing us more angles. Jon Favreau, who helmed the first movie, takes care not to let us forget that Stark was taken down in a terrorist camp, and that experience still haunts him.

Don Cheadle steps in as Rhodey in place of Terrance Howard, doing such a great job that we really don't miss Terrance at all (sorry man.) Gwyneth Paltrow takes another spin in the vertigo-inspiring heels of Pepper Potts, and the chemistry between her and Stark is just as vibrant and inspiring as the last - seeing their relationship deepen as she exhaustively tries to keep it all together is one of the reasons this film is worth seeing.

The other major reason to see this film is Mickey Rourke as Whiplash. He is crude, rude and just plain doesn't give a damn. He is the heartbeat for the minimal plot line that keeps the film going and his sheer lack of regard for what anyone thinks is scary as well as inspiring.

There are fun tidbits aplenty: the portable Iron man suit wrapped up in the red pimped-out suitcase was pretty freakin' cool, as is the usual slew of Marvel references that will beg the DVD viewer to stop, pause, and zoom in.

Now for the things that don't work: too many unnecessary rock 'em sock 'em fights, too little Nick Fury, and too much Sam Rockwell. A particularly entertaining scene where Stark gets wasted in his Iron Man suit at his lush home in California is cut short by Rhodey crashing the party in one of the extra suits Stark's got lying around and the ensuing fight proceeds to break everything. The scene is necessary but completely overblown (no pun intended.) Also, how does Rhodey know how to work the suit? Is he just that cool? Really, Favreau, I think we could've had a better plot transition here.

And uh, what happened to Nick Fury? Besides getting one of the best opening lines of any character ("Stark, I'll have to ask you to exit the donut") you don't get to see much of him. I'd take out at least three scenes with Hammer, the unctuous rival weapons manufacturer who talks...and talks...and talks. I was waiting for Whiplash to put him through a wall at some point, but no. I know the guy is not supposed to be likeable, but Rockwell, come on. Overacting much?

Overall, it's a fun ride,and for all you guys out there you even get to see Scarlett Johannson do some Kung Fu. As a standalone film, it stands out, but as a sequel, I wish it had the same clear sense of intention like the first film. In Tony we trust, but hey Favreau, for the next go-round let's get Fury on board for most of the film instead of only 20 percent?

Oh yeah, and don't forget to stick around after the credits. Just sayin'.