New Releases for the Week of May 6, 2011


May 6, 2011

Thor gets ready to lay the hammer down on a bad guy.

THOR

(Paramount/Marvel) Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Colm Feore, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Stevenson, Jaimie Alexander, Clark Gregg. Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Thor, the God of Thunder and son of Odin is a mighty warrior but an arrogant one. His arrogance unwittingly triggers hostilities between the Gods and the Giants who have been in an uneasy peace for centuries. For his actions, Odin banishes his son to live on Earth and to learn a little humility, which isn’t easy for a God living on Earth but there you go.

See the trailer, clips, a featurette, promos and an interview here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard. 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Action

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence)

I Am

(Paladin) Tom Shadyac, Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn. After a devastating cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly permanently, director Shadyac (auteur of the Ace Ventura movies among others) re-examines himself and his place in the universe, deciding to make a movie about it which might just make up for Ace Ventura, karma-wise.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR

In a Better World

(Sony Classics) Mikael Persbrandt, William Johnk Nielsen, Trine Dyrholm, Markus Rygaard. An idealistic doctor who splits time between his home in Denmark and an African refugee camp must choose between revenge and forgiveness. At home his son is undergoing the same choice, albeit in a far different situation. This was the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film earlier this year.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for violent and disturbing content some involving preteens, and for language)

Jumping the Broom

(TriStar) Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Mike Epps, Loretta Devine. It seems like it would be a simple thing; two young people coming together in matrimony, in beautiful Martha’s Vineyard no less. However their families – one well-to-do, the other blue collar – are at each other’s throats. Not exactly the seeds for a happy nuptial, right?

See the trailer, clips, interviews and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Urban Romantic Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual content)

POM Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold

(Sony Classics) Morgan Spurlock, Ben Silverman, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader. Gadfly Spurlock (he of Super Size Me) takes on his own industry this time – and product placement therein as he documents his attempts to have his film entirely financed by product placement. Along the way he gives us a glimpse of how the movie industry works – and how pervasive advertising is in our lives.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: PG-13 (for some language and sexual material)

Potiche

(Music Box) Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard. Set in the 1970s, the trophy wife of a wealthy French industrialist proves to be better at running his company than he is when he is convalescing from a heart attack, setting the stage for this French war between the sexes. I saw this previously at the Florida Film Festival and reviewed it here.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rating: R (for some sexuality)

Something Borrowed

(Warner Brothers) Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield, John Krasinski. Rachel and Darcy are best friends; Rachel is the maid of honor for Darcy, who is about to marry the man that Rachel has had a crush on since law school. When Rachel sleeps with Darcy’s husband-to-be after a night of too much drinking, their little circle of friends are in for a game of “change partners!”

See the trailer, clips, featurettes and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including dialogue, and some drug material)

My Best Friend’s Girl


My Best Friend's Girl

A case of beauty and the beast.

(Lionsgate) Dane Cook, Kate Hudson, Jason Biggs, Alec Baldwin, Lizzy Caplan, Diora Baird, Riki Lindholme, Faye Grant, Mini Anden, Hilary Pringle. Directed by Howard Deutch

From time to time when a romantic relationship is ended by one of the parties involved, it isn’t because of infidelity or abuse; it’s because the person ending the relationship thinks he or she can do better. When we are the ones being dumped, we fervently hope that they find out quickly how good they really had it.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if you had someone help that particular education process along. Enter Tank Turner (Cook), customer service drone by day and relationship rescuer by night. He is hired by various guys who have been given their walking papers to date their exes and show them as bad a time as humanly possible so that they will run screaming out the door – and hopefully, back into the arms of the guys they just dumped.

Tank is exceedingly good at what he does – the date from hell thing, anyway or what his roommate calls “emotional terrorism.” He even has a list of ten obnoxious things he does to more effectively drive home the message that there are far worse guys out there than the loser she just left (and they are obviously losers, otherwise they wouldn’t have to pay someone to be worse than they are). Like anyone who knows how to drive a woman away, he also knows what is irresistible to them and so Tank does okay in the seduction department.

Tank’s roommate is his childhood friend Dustin (Biggs) who’s been going out with Alexis (Hudson) for a very long time. He REALLY wants to be with her forever, but for whatever reason she won’t commit to him. When she decides that she wants to end the relationship and explore other options, Dustin decides to utilize Tank’s service.

This wouldn’t be a romantic comedy if Tank didn’t wind up falling in love with Alexis, as she does with him. This really pisses off Dustin as you might imagine, who tosses Tank out on his ass, leaving Tank to commiserate with his father (Baldwin), a college professor who shows that the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree when it comes to his attitudes towards women.

I could go on about what happens next but you get the picture. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this is leading and it takes either a high developed sense of curiosity or a particularly well-developed sense of self-loathing to care.

I don’t mind raunchiness, even for its own sake – it works well in movies like The Hangover and Hot Tub Time Machine. There needs to be either a commitment to just keep pushing the envelope, or some sort of semblance of charm to make it work, however; just recycling dick jokes, urination and vomit gags or judicious use of profanity aren’t enough to carry a movie.

Kate Hudson is a charming actress who not only resembles her mother but is actually tackling roles that her mom excelled at some 25 years ago; it seems criminal to me that she hasn’t really gotten the kind of part that would elevate her career, but quite frankly in the stampede to write the next Judd Apatow comedy I think there aren’t a lot of good roles for women being written and those that are get offered to a select group of actresses first.

There are a lot of online critics who regard Dane Cook with the same wary suspicion that one might regard a pit bull dripping foam from his jaws, but I’m not one of them. I like his standup routines and although I’m willing to admit his film career has been wildly uneven thus far, I’ve actually enjoyed his work in Dan in Real Life and Waiting. This won’t go down in history as one of his shining moments, but he does the best he can with a part that’s really unplayable.

This is the kind of movie that makes me gnash my teeth, not because it’s so bad but because it’s just good enough to tantalize me with the thought that it could have been better. It’s got a decent premise, a solid cast and a veteran director; what it doesn’t have is enough to fill in the gaps and keep the audience entertained the way the aforementioned movies did. There’s enough that I liked about My Best Friend’s Girl that I can recommend it to those who think Dane Cook RAWKS and to those who like raunchy sex comedies; to those who don’t like either you might want to think twice before renting this.

WHY RENT THIS: Hudson and Biggs aren’t bad actors and Alec Baldwin can make even a bad role seem better.  

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Decidedly un-funny and inescapably misogynistic, this movie is funnier in concept than it is in execution.

FAMILY VALUES: The raunch factor is fairly high with plenty of foul language, sexual suggestiveness and some nudity. Definitely not for the after-church crowd!

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In the scene where Cook grabs and squeezes Hudson’s behind, a stunt tush was used.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There are a whole lot of features ranging from Professor Turner’s system of rating girls to one on the usage of Boston as a location. If you are interested enough in the movie, you may find some of them notable.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Unknown White Male

Nine


Nine

As you can see, film directors really do have a God complex.

(Weinstein) Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, Stacey “Fergie” Ferguson, Ricky Tognazzi, Giuseppe Cederna, Elio Germano, Andrea di Stefano. Directed by Rob Marshall

The creative process is a tricky one. The moment you put pen to paper, image to film, something dies a little bit. It is not a pleasant process; it is violent sometimes, turning savagely on the artist.

Guido Contini (Day-Lewis) is one of the most acclaimed film directors in the world, certainly in the Italy of the mid-1960s. Referred to affectionately as “Maestro,” he has been on a bit of a cold streak of late, his last two movies having been as he put it “flops.” His latest, Italia, starring his regular leading lady Claudia Schaeffer (Kidman), is meant to put him back in the drivers’ seat. At least, his producer (Tognazzi) hopes so.

Guido, on the other hand, is falling apart both personally and professionally. He is suffering from an excruciating case of writer’s block and has been unable to write down a single word or idea about the movie with filming set to begin in only ten days. He is under enormous pressure from his producers, the studio and the press; after another banal press conference at his home base of Cinecitta Studios in Rome, he flees to a spa on the Italian coast. 

There his personal shortcomings begin to catch up to him. Guido is a charming womanizer; he married Luisa (Cotillard), his first leading lady and is having an affair with Carla (Cruz), who is also married. He confesses his anxieties to his friend and therapist of a sort Lilli (Dench) the costume designer. All of them show up at the spa, throwing his marriage into disarray – where it was heading anyway. He is having flashbacks of his late mother (Loren) and Saraghina (Ferguson), a prostitute he had known in his youth. To make matters even more complicated, an American reporter (Hudson) with a passion for his style makes it clear she wouldn’t mind sharing his bed. What’s an artiste to do?

Director Marshall won an Oscar for Best Picture for Chicago and no doubt the producers were hoping that lightning would strike twice. After all, this was a Tony-winning musical based on the great Italian director Federico Fellini’s masterpiece 8 1/2. Unfortunately, this musical simply doesn’t measure up to Chicago. Whereas Chicago didn’t take itself terribly seriously in many ways, Nine certainly does, full of sequences that take place in Guido’s tortured mind that come off as self-indulgent. Perhaps that is as well, since Guido clearly is guilty of that particular sin.

My issue is that if you’re going to have a musical, the music should be memorable, no? Unfortunately, there are no songs here that are going to make you rush out and buy the soundtrack. The closest number that comes to it is ”Be Italian” as sung by Fergie – who knew that she would be one of the best features of this movie – and even that number is sabotaged by an egregious misuse of sand. Clearly the movie would have benefitted from an Andrew Lloyd Weber who, for all his detractions, definitely knows how to write a song that will stick with you.

When the musical numbers are the weakest part of your musical, you know you’re in trouble. The movie is saved by the depiction of Fellini’s Rome, taking you back to an era of Vespas, skinny ties, sophisticated women in cocktail dresses and cool Ray-Bans on the faces of suave men. Also, any opportunity to see Sophia Loren is worth taking. Ms. Loren is in her seventies now, but she still grabs your attention every time she’s onscreen. Modern movie goddesses like Kidman and Cruz simply can’t compete.

Because the musical numbers take place in the sexually-obsessive Guido’s mind, most of the women are clad in lingerie during them. Normally I don’t object to that kind of thing but you eventually come to a point of overload and quite frankly while I admire Judi Dench as the great actress she is and believe she is a beautiful woman, seeing her in a bustier trailing a feather boa the length of a Winnebago behind her was just disconcerting.

Even so, I enjoyed myself somewhat despite the many failings of the movie, which I guess is damning it with faint praise. If the music had been better, perhaps Marshall might have had something here but quite frankly, he was sunk before he even rolled cameras. I think Guido might have understood that completely.

REASONS TO GO: Recreates Fellini’s Rome very nicely. Sophia Loren is the epitome of Italian glamour and worth seeing alone. Day-Lewis does a credible job in a role he probably shouldn’t have taken.

REASONS TO STAY: The musical numbers are not terribly memorable, despite all the glitz and lingerie. Too over-the-top in places.  

FAMILY VALUES: Lots of lingerie, incessant smoking and a lot of sexuality make this not a kid-friendly musical.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The late Raul Julia originated the role of Guido Contini on Broadway.

HOME OR THEATER: In order to more closely replicate the Broadway experience I recommend you see it on the big screen.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Final Destination 3