New Releases for the Week of November 15, 2013


The Best Man Holiday

THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY     

(Universal) Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Regina Hall, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Harold Perrineau, Monica Calhoun, Melissa de Souza. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee

A group of college friends determine to reunite over the holidays in New York. Years after the hi-jinx that ensued at the wedding, they’ve moved on with their lives – some together, some not, However once they all get into the same state, old rivalries and relationships flare up yet again and threaten to make this a Christmas to remember.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday night)

Genre: Urban Holiday Comedy

Rating: R (for language, sexual content and brief nudity)

Aftermath

(Menemsha) Maciej Stuhr, Ireneusz Czop, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Danuta Szarflarska. A Pole who has been living in Chicago for many years returns home to visit his younger brother. He discovers that his brother has been shunned and threatened by his neighbors. As he digs into the mysterious affair, he discovers a terrible secret that the town has been keeping and that he and his brother are part of. This is playing at the Enzian as part of the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: NR

The Attack

(Cohen Media Group) Ali Suliman, Evgenia Dodena, Reymond Amsalem, Dvir Benedek. A surgeon in Tel Aviv of Palestinian descent has fully assimilated into Israeli society. When a suicide bomber detonates in a restaurant, he is one of those on the front lines taking care of the wounded. When he discovers his wife is among the fatalities, he is devastated but it becomes far worse when it becomes clear that she is suspected of being the bomber. Now he must take a journey into the dark side of his homeland to discover the truth about his wife. In doing so he will discover that he must question everything about his faith, his life and his dreams. This is playing at the Enzian as part of the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for some violent images, language and brief sexuality)

Dallas Buyers Club

(Focus) Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn. Ron Woodruff was a party hearty Texas cowboy in the ‘80s who like many in that era found his lifestyle catching up to him – he was diagnosed with AIDS. In 1985, that was a death sentence. Not satisfied to lay down and die, he fought to get alternative treatments, both legal and not so much. Traveling the world, he embraces and becomes embraced by elements of society he once would have disdained and establishes a buying club meant to get the drugs desperately needed by the dying into their hands.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Life Drama

Rating: R (for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use)

The Europa Report

(Magnet) Michael Nyqvist, Sharlto Copley, Embeth Davidtz, Daniel Wu. An manned expedition to Europa, a moon of Jupiter which scientists currently believe is the most likely place in the solar system to harbor life outside of Earth, loses contact with mission control. Their struggle to complete their mission will lead to the decision whether the increase of knowledge is worth the cost of human life. This was previously reviewed in Cinema365 here.

See the trailer and a link to stream the full movie at Amazon here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller

Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action and peril)

Great Expectations

(Main Street/Lionsgate) Jeremy Irvine, Holliday Grainger, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes. This is a lush new version of the classic Charles Dickens novel brought to life by one of the greatest living directors, Mike Newell. A young impoverished boy is lifted from the cruel streets of 19th century London and brought into a life of wealth and privilege, but this act of charity is not without its drawbacks.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Period Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for some violence including disturbing images) 

Hava Nagila: The Movie

(International Film Circuit) Harry Belafonte, Leonard Nimoy, Connie Frances, Regina Spektor. The story of the iconic Hebrew folk song is examined with performances throughout the years by well-known stars. This is playing at the Enzian as part of the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR

Ram Leela

(Eros International) Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Richa Chadda, Supriya
Pathak
. The courtship of two young people from feuding families has consequences. Loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, the movie’s released has been temporarily blocked as the title in Hindi refers to the god Rama and the vulgarity, violence and sex in the movie was insulting to Hindus. However, the producers are free to release it here and indeed they have, making this a rare Bollywood film that opens in the United States before it does in India.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

When Comedy Went to School

(International Film Circuit) Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, Jerry Stiller, Mort Sahl. Once upon a time the Catskill Mountains and the resorts therein were premium vacation destinations for the Eastern Seaboard. Many of the resorts had nightclubs where stand-up comedians were routinely booked. This area became known as the Borscht belt as many comedians – primarily Jewish – honed their skills here and went on to become superstars. This is playing at the Enzian as part of the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR

Zaytoun

(Strand) Stephen Dorff, Abdallah El Akal, Ali Suliman, Alice Taglioni. During the 1982 Lebanese Civil War, an Israeli fighter pilot is shot down and taken prisoner by a Palestinian refugee camp nearby. Although initially hating him, the young boy assigned to guard him yearns to see the homeland of his parents and is willing to make a deal; he’ll help the pilot escape in exchange for being taken to Israel so that he might plant an olive tree. Despite their mutual distrust, they form an unlikely friendship. This is playing at the Orlando Science Center as part of the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: War Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and language)

New Releases for the Week of August 3, 2012


August 3, 2012

TOTAL RECALL

(Columbia) Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy, Will Yun Lee, Bokeem Woodbine, Ethan Hawke. Directed by Len Wiseman

A man goes into a shop to buy two weeks worth of memories and discovers that he is not who he thinks he is. In a dystopian future, he races to find out who he really is despite being hunted down by government storm troopers and his own wife, who is trying to kill him. Sounds like the divorce is going to be real final. Not precisely a remake of the 1990 film but one that intends at least to be more true to the original Phillip K. Dick novella “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.”

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: PG-13 (for intense scenes of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language)

Beasts of the Southern Wild

(Fox Searchlight) Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly, Lowell Landes. A young girl in an isolated Louisiana community cut off from the rest of the world by a gigantic levee deals with her father’s potentially mortal illness, believing that nature is in balance with the rest of the universe. When a terrifying storm changes that perception, the girl believes that putting the world back into balance will save her town from sinking into the bayou and cure her father. A huge hit at Sundance earlier this year.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material including child imperilment, some disturbing images, language and brief sensuality)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

(20th Century Fox) Zachary Gordon, Steve Zahn, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris. Greg Heffley and Rowley Jefferson, the middle school misfits of the first three movies, find themselves embarking on what promises to be what they were most terrified of. The Worst. Summer. Ever.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Family Comedy

Rating: PG (for some rude humor)

Red Lights

(Millennium) Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen. A veteran team of paranormal debunkers take on Simon Silver, a legendary psychic who has come out of retirement after 30 years with an agenda that remains unclear. They see to prove that this charismatic showman is nothing but a fraud – and wind up taking on much more than they could have bargained for.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: R (for language and some sexual content)

New Releases for the Week of March 25, 2011


March 25, 2011

Beautiful girls at war - Zach Snyder knows what makes teenage boys drool.

SUCKER PUNCH

(Warner Brothers) Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish, Jamie Chung, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, Scott Glenn, Jon Hamm, Oscar Isaac. Directed by Zach Snyder

A young girl is sent to an asylum against her will and discovers that in a few short days she will be lobotomized. She and a group of her friends mean to escape, but there seems to be no way. They enter a dream world where the keys to their salvation may lie.

See the trailer, interviews, a featurette and an animated short here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

(20th Century Fox) Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris, Devon Bostick, Zachary Gordon. As Greg enters the 7th grade, he and his nemesis (his brother Rodrick) are thrust together by their parents in a misguided attempt to force the brothers to bond. Superglue couldn’t bond these guys together.

See the trailer, interviews and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Family Comedy

Rating: PG (for some mild rude humor and mischief)

The Fifth Quarter

(Rocky Mountain) Ryan Merriman, Aidan Quinn, Andie MacDowell, Andrea Powell. Star Wake Forest football player Jon Abbate dedicates his season to his younger brother, who passed away tragically in a car crash. The rest of the team is inspired by Jon’s dedication and devotion and the team makes one of the most memorable turnarounds in college football history.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Sports Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for some thematic elements)

Happythankyoumoreplease

(Anchor Bay) Josh Radnor, Malin Ackerman, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan. When an aspiring writer finds an orphaned boy on a subway platform and agrees to care for him for a couple of days, his life is turned upside-down as is that of his friends.  This friendship with a young boy however may bring to him a new level of maturity as he begins to see life with a different perspective.

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 language)

The Great Buck Howard


The Great Buck Howard

Colin Hanks and Emily Blunt are blissfully ignorant that Steve Zahn just grabbed John Malkovich's privates.

(2008) Comedy (Magnolia) John Malkovich, Colin Hanks, Emily Blunt, Ricky Jay, Tom Hanks, Steve Zahn, Griffin Dunne, Debra Munk, Wallace Langham, Adam Scott, George Takei. Directed by Sean McGinley

Show biz is heroin. It gets into the system and stays there, mercilessly demanding the entire attention of the poor sap who gets addicted to it, until there is nothing left but a chewed-out husk. Once in awhile, it brings the seductive allure of success and acclaim, but more often than not, disappointment and obscurity.

Buck Howard (Malkovich) is a mentalist (don’t call him a magician unless you want to be chewed out and humiliated) who has 61 appearances on the Tonight Show – the real one, the one with Johnny Carson hosting, not the one with that Leno fellow. However, since his heyday Buck has fallen on hard times, taking his act to smaller and less glamorous venues, but with the never-say-die attitude of a true show biz trooper, cries out in every Podunk Berg he plies his trade in, “I love this town!!” followed by “I love you people!” Both are about as heartfelt as a 10-year-old saying he didn’t eat the cookies.

Howard is in need of a new road manager, and he gets one in the form of Troy Gable (Colin Hanks), who has left law school in search of something more meaningful, much to the dismay of his dad (Tom Hanks, Colin’s real-life pa). Troy quickly discovers that Buck’s unctuous charm is a mask that hides a bitter man who refuses to admit that his best days are behind him, yet is deeply afraid that it is so. He resolutely soldiers on, a relic in a time of extreme street magic and wacky comic magicians, wearing a tux and warbling “What the World Needs Now” in a say-singing manner at the piano. Once upon a time he would have felt right at home with Steve and Edie. Hell, maybe he did.

Buck realizes he needs to jump-start his career and decides to take on a stunt guaranteed to get attention; but at the moment of his triumph, it all comes crumbling down when the reporters in attendance leave to get on a bigger story – a minor traffic accident involving Jerry Springer.

But such is the netherworld that the has-been exists in, a purgatory of missed opportunities and that oh-so-close taste of the brass ring that is never completely swallowed. Yet Buck becomes hip in spite of himself and when a Vegas show opens up for him, the show biz Gods have an even crueler fate in store for him.

McGinley based the movie on his own experiences as road manager for the Amazing Kreskin years ago. Hopefully, Kreskin was nicer than Buck is; Malkovich plays him as a diva with anger management issues, fixing his minions with withering glares and outbursts of vitriol that would do Gordon Ramsay proud.

The younger Hanks goes for a kind of hangdog performance, making Troy both victim and enabler. His romance with publicist Valerie (Brennan) is sad and ultimately distracting, but it is his relationship with Buck that centers the movie. While you get the sense that Troy is meant for bigger and better things, Buck also senses it and in a sense, envies him – and in the end finds his own vicarious success through Troy.

The movie’s pacing is somewhat deliberate; those who like their jokes rapid-fire may find this annoying. For my part, I found it refreshing that the filmmakers chose to take their time and establish atmosphere and characters, allowing audiences access to the movie’s heart. To my way of thinking, that’s much more gratifying than being assaulted by one gag after another.

This is not glamorous in the least; it’s about the vast majority of those who go into show biz with some dream of success and wind up sorely disappointed. In Buck’s case, that success was there for awhile but like a fickle lover, moved on to the next flavor of the week, leaving Buck to wallow in memory trying to recapture something that never can be truly kept.

WHY RENT THIS: The movie has a real sense of fun and looks at a less glamorous side of the business. Hanks and Malkovich make a good team.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The movie takes it’s time which may not sit well with audiences used to much faster-paced comedies.

FAMILY VALUES: There are some language issues, as well as a sexual and drug reference or two, but by and large acceptable for most teens.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Buck is depicted as appearing on MTV’s TRL show, which had been canceled between the time the movie was filmed and when it was released.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a small featurette on the Amazing Kreskin whose real-life exploits were the loose inspiration for Buck.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $900K on an unreported production budget; I’m thinking this probably lost a few bucks.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Skyline

A Perfect Getaway


A Perfect getaway

Steve Zahn wonders who put the "Kick Me" sign on his backpack.

(Rogue) Timothy Olyphant, Milla Jovovich, Steve Zahn, Kiele Sanchez, Chris Hemsworth, Marley Shelton, Anthony Ruivivar, Dale Dickey, Peter Navy Tuiasosopo. Directed by David Twohy

The trouble with people is that you can never be sure that they are who they seem to be. They may be volunteers for a charitable foundation that help starving children in Africa; they may also be a vicious serial killer.

Cliff Anderson (Zahn) is paid to come up with ideas like that. He’s a Hollywood screenwriter who is apparently successful; after all, he’s getting work. He is also getting married, to lovely Cydney (Jovovich). They decide to honeymoon, as many newly married couples do, in Hawaii. They also decide to go hiking down a mountain trail in Kauai that leads to a secluded beach to which no roads go. The only way to get there is to hoof it.

On the way to the trail they run into another couple, Cleo (Shelton) and Kale (Hemsworth), who apparently has some anger management issues. They briefly get into a tiff, but then Cliff drives off. Smart man.

While hiking down the trail, they run into yet another couple; ex-special forces operative Nick (Olyphant) and his Georgia peach of a girlfriend Gina (Sanchez). Cliff isn’t much of an outdoorsman and Nick seems to be a handy guy to have around in the jungle. Moreover, when he finds out that Cliff is a screenwriter, he gets a little starry-eyed, having some awesome ideas for a movie, not to mention that most of them are taken from his own experiences in Iraq. He even got the back of his skull blown off, to which Gina proudly drawls “Muh bay-abee is hahd ta key-ill.”

Of course, even in paradise there are cloudy days and the two couples are about to have one. They discover there was a vicious murder of a couple back in Honolulu, where both couples were just days before. Could Cleo and Kale, who have followed Cliff and Cydney onto the trail, be murderers? Or is one of the other couples the killers? Or maybe is someone unknown to them stalking them? And when will I stop asking rhetorical questions?

Director David Twohy has written and/or directed some pretty impressive films, including Pitch Black, Below and The Fugitive but he’s also had his share of missteps, such as The Chronicles of Riddick. This one falls in between.

The movie is well-cast. Zahn, who is usually cast in comedic second banana roles, plays this one straight and is much more effective. Jovovich, a veteran of genre movies, is not only easy on the eyes, she gets one of the better non-verbal moments in the movie when she has to make a life-or-death decision near the end of the movie. Her eyes are very expressive in the moment.

Olyphant is a much-underrated performer who has done some impressive work and he is again, perfectly cast here as a bit of a blowhard who, when the rubber hits the road, can definitely walk the walk. Olyphant makes the character not only believable but sympathetic.

There is a twist in this movie; some critics have praised it, others derided it. I’m in the latter group; I honestly believe that most veteran viewers, particularly those who like thrillers and suspense movies, should be able to guess it by the time the movie hits the halfway point. Also, the pacing is a bit on the slow side for the first two-thirds of the movie; once the reveal of the twist is made, it picks up steam considerably.

This is a throwback to the B-Movie thriller of the 80s and 90s, and that is not meant as an insult. It’s the kind of movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat, has just enough sex and gore to titillate and has an attractive cast that performs solidly enough that you care about their characters. This is solidly entertaining and makes for great dark night video viewing. Me, when I visit Hawaii (astonishingly enough, I’ve never been) I think I’ll pass on the isolated trail hiking and just take the tour bus instead.

WHY RENT THIS: The suspense is handled very nicely and the leads are awfully attractive.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The “twist” is not as leftfield as the filmmakers thought; most savvy viewers will figure it out well before it’s revealed.

FAMILY VALUES: As you might expect, there is a good deal of violence and some sexuality, although nothing overt. There is one scene in which drug use is depicted also; I would expect mature older teens would do fine with this, but I’d hesitate for anyone younger.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Both Olyphant (Hitman) and Jovovich (the Resident Evil series) have both appeared in videogame adaptations.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Machete

New Releases for the Week of March 19, 2010


The Bounty Hunter

Gerard Butler & Jennifer Aniston wonder why the critics are shooting at them.

THE BOUNTY HUNTER

(Columbia) Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Christine Baranski, Dorian Missick, Joel Marsh Garland. Directed by Andy Tennant

Life is good for bounty hunter Milo Boyd. He’s finally getting a few breaks his way after years of being down and out and to top it all off, he gets the assignment of a lifetime – to bring his ex-wife to jail after she skips out on her bail. Nothing could make his heart gladder, until he discovers that she is on the run for her life after blowing the lid off of a murder cover-up and now he’s embroiled in her mess too. Ain’t love grand?

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including suggestive comments, language and some violence)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

(20th Century Fox) Zachary Gordon, Chloe Moretz, Steve Zahn, Devon Bostick. Of all the dangerous situations that humans can face, there is nothing more deadly, more soul-crushing, more demoralizing than…middle school. At least, that’s the way it seems to Greg Heffley, an imaginative and bright young boy who is trying to navigate the treacherous waters of that institution. This family comedy is based on the first book from the series of illustrated novels by Jeff Kinney.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG (for some rude humor and language)

Repo Men

(Universal) Jude Law, Forrest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, RZA. In the near future, prosthetic organs are widely available…if you an afford them. For those that can’t, there are payment plans but God help you if you miss your payments because the corporate bean counters will send the repo men after you to take back their property, and trust me you won’t find any mercy in them. Not even for one of their own, who finds himself on the run from his own co-workers – including his best friend since childhood who knows him better than anyone. He will have to use all his wits to take down the corporation…before his heart is repossessed.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and some sexuality/nudity)

Saint John of Las Vegas

(IndieVest) Steve Buscemi, Sarah Silverman, Romany Malco, Peter Dinklage. A compulsive gambler escapes the clutches of his disease and finds work as a claims adjustor for an auto insurance company in Albuquerque, salving his demons with lotto scratchers. When he is assigned to accompany the top fraud debunker for the company to investigate a dubious accident near Las Vegas, he sees an opportunity for promotion despite his misgivings about being so close to Sin City once again. With a romance developing into something potentially lasting and an assortment of freaks and geeks to navigate through, this may be a lot more than a tarnished saint could have bargained for.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language, and some nudity)

Sunshine Cleaning


Sunshine Cleaning

Mary Lynn Rajskub and Emily Blunt share an awkward moment on an elevator.

(Overture) Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Clifton Collins Jr., Jason Spevack, Paul Dooley, Eric Christian Olsen. Directed by Christine Jeffs

Life is a messy business, so you might as well get paid for cleaning up after it. At least, that’s the theory.

Rose (Adams) is a single mother struggling to make ends meet. She works as a maid in a low-rent New Mexico hotel, worries with a high-strung 7-year-old boy causing chaos in a public school that would just as soon see him drugged. She carries on an affair with Mac (Zahn) the high school quarterback who fathered her child then abandoned her to marry someone else.

It is Mac who gives her the idea to start up a new business when he mentions off-handedly that crime scene clean-up pays very well. With no idea what is involved in the disposal of blood, guts ‘n’ gore from a living space, she approaches the idea with moxie and spunk, roping her shiftless sister Norah (Blunt) into helping her out with the encouragement of her Dad (Arkin) who never met a get-rich-quick scheme he didn’t like – and that didn’t send him fleeing for the poorhouse.

Rose begins to feel that the job is a bit of a calling. Norah, who does her own thing (and it’s usually the wrong thing), becomes involved in the life of the daughter (Rajskub) of a client who had committed suicide, and in a somewhat awkward way as well. Norah is the polar opposite of the straitlaced, slightly anal Rose. Where one likes to plan, the other prefers spontaneity. Where one is ambitious, the other is a slacker. I’m sure you know which one is which.

Rose has issues of her own, however. She has an inferiority complex stemming from her high school years, when she was the cheerleader and the belle of the ball. Ashamed of her lowly station in life, her new business is giving her self-confidence for the first time since her glory days. Attending a baby shower at which many of her former schoolmates will be in attendance becomes nearly as important to her as getting her son into a private school. This leads to a disaster that could spell the end of nearly every one of Rose’s dreams, as well as her relationship with her sister.

The producers of this film have another movie to their credit to which they are anxious to compare this one to: Little Miss Sunshine. Unfortunately, all the two films really have in common is their New Mexico setting, the word “Sunshine” in their titles and Alan Arkin. This is, I think, meant to be a black comedy. I’m not really sure. Something tells me that the filmmakers aren’t either.

That’s not to say that this movie isn’t without its charms. Adams is an accomplished actress who delivers a nicely layered performance. She is at once the mousy maid who has been smacked around overly much by life, the efficient and organized boss, the enthusiastic lover and the compassionate friend, not to mention the fiercely defensive mom. For my money, it’s some of the Oscar-nominated actress’ best work ever, although it was sadly overlooked.

Blunt is a talented actress in her own right as well, and she gives a solid performance in a role that is not written as well as Rose is. I got the impression at times that some of the things Norah does to screw up are done merely to advance the story along. They don’t seem terribly organic with the character that is not as brainless as her actions seem to make out she is.

Arkin delivers his usual fine work in a role that has come to define him pretty much over the last several years; the crotchety but eccentric dad/granddad. It’s a role he’s been playing for a couple of decades now (you can see the germs of it in Edward Scissorhands) and he does it better than anybody.

I tend to have a soft spot for movies that show a side of real life that we don’t often get to see portrayed onscreen. Truthfully, I never wondered who cleaned up a murder scene after the forensics team leaves the scene but obviously somebody must. Roger Ebert mused that there was a documentary in this movie somewhere and he’s right; unfortunately, there’s also a better movie in here as well.

I’m a big believer in the theory that characters should drive the actions, not the other way around. A good movie will take a set of characters, plop them into a situation and then see what they make of it. A movie that has to resort to having a stock idiot character in the mix is suffering from lazy writing and in almost every case will be flawed and not nearly as good as it could have been.

It’s too bad that the movie wasn’t better written because it has a lot going for it. I like the premise, I like the setting, I like the acting, heck I even like the gruesome crime scenes. This is a movie that swayed between being a black comedy and a slice-of-life drama and winds up somewhere in-between in a no man’s land of indecision. It’s worth seeing for the performances of the leads, but only just.

WHY RENT THIS: Adams, Blunt and Arkin give solid performances. A twisted slice of real life served up in New Mexico, where movies don’t film often enough.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Some of the imagery and subject matter is squirm-inducing. Norah is such a screw-up at times that you wonder if she was written that way just as a plot device.

FAMILY VALUES: Some very disturbing images not suitable for children; also there is a goodly amount of foul language as well as some drug use and sexuality.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: During the first two seasons of “The Office,” Adams played John Krasinski’s girlfriend. Blunt was Krasinski’s girlfriend in real life at the time of filming.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is a featurette on the realities of crime scene cleaning with some people who do the job in real life.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: I Love You, Man

Management


Just say "ohhhhhhhhm"

Just say "ohhhhhhhhm"

(Goldwyn) Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson, Fred Ward, Margo Martindale, Tzi Ma, James Hiroyuki Liao, Katie O’Grady, Gavin Bristol, Yolanda Suarez, Robert Zorn, Dominic Fumusa, Moreen Littrell. Directed by Stephen Belber.

Loneliness can do funny things to you. It sucks away your self-confidence and makes you do crazy things, things you’d never do if you weren’t feeling that ache of having nobody in your life. Call it desperation if you will, but we definitely find ourselves reaching out for someone, anyone who we can hold onto in the night, even if it’s the absolutely wrong person. Once in a great while, that person who seems so wrong can turn out to be surprisingly right.

Mike (Zahn) doesn’t have a whole lot of what you’d call direction in his life. He works for his parents doing odd jobs and acting as night manager for the budget hotel they run in Kingman, Arizona. He has nobody in his life, whiling away his days eating Chinese food in a deserted restaurant, going to yoga classes and smoking like a chimney. His mother (Martindale) is very ill, and his father (Ward) is a Vietnam veteran who came back from the war emotionally shut down.

Into their lobby walks Sue Claussen (Aniston), a beautiful, elegant woman who sells art for corporate display. Mike is immediately smitten with her, and tries to win her with free wine (albeit free bad wine) that he delivers to her room. He’s awkward and a little bit creepy, but there’s something sweet about his awkwardness. When he remarks that he admires her butt, on a bit of a whim she allows him to touch her butt as long as he promises to leave her room immediately after.

Something about the incident sticks with her and when she’s about to check out, she seeks him out in the laundry room instead and the two wind up having passionate sex on the folding table. She heads back home to Baltimore, thinking that this strange entanglement is over.

Someone forgot to tell Mike, though, and he follows her to Baltimore. Instead of a one night stand, the two begin to find something more between them than just two people reaching out in the night. They begin an on-again, off-again long distance relationship (that is admittedly mostly off-again). After Mike’s mom dies, he finds out that Sue has moved to Aberdeen, Washington (the home of the late Kurt Cobain for trivia fanatics) to be with her punk rocker turned yogurt magnate ex-boyfriend Jango (Harrelson) who wants to marry her. Mike follows her there with nothing to lose, determined to see if love can triumph over need.

Writer-director Belber crafts a thoroughly sweet confection that is neither dazzling nor especially insightful, but then again it doesn’t really have to be. The leads are intensely likable, and you root for them to get together, despite all their hang-ups and emotional scars (Mike’s mom characterizes Sue as “a bit of a long-shot, in an emotionally annihilated way,” which is as eloquent a description as any. The film moves at a deliberate pace that doesn’t feel forced nor overly long.

Zahn always seems to play the sweet loser in most of his roles, and he does it to the hilt here. His Mike isn’t the sharpest knife in the butcher block, but what he lacks in smarts he makes up for in heart and determination. Aniston delivers another underrated performance, giving her character nuance and emotional depth. The one quibble I had was that she should have been a little bit frumpier in appearance; here she looks like a movie star, gorgeous and well-dressed. That doesn’t really fit well with the character.

Another thing to look for here is Fred Ward. He only has a few scenes as Mike’s dad, but he makes the most of them. I’ve always considered him to be a criminally underrated performer who should be getting more and better roles. He has a scene near the end of the movie with Zahn that he absolutely nails – it’s one of the best moments in the film.

This is essentially about two characters making a journey. In Mike’s case, he’s maturing into a man with an idea of who he is and what he wants to be, whereas for Sue she’s coming out of hiding from behind her causes and neuroses and able to appreciate herself for who she is, and allow herself to feel love and receive it.

You won’t get the kind of grand insights that you might be looking for in an independent film, but then again, why should every movie have to supply that? This is like a Krispy Kreme doughnut fresh from the oven; a lot of air and not a tremendous amount of substance and sure, you know it’s absolutely empty calories but my, oh my it tastes good and makes you feel warm inside.

WHY RENT THIS: The movie oozes charm and sweetness like a jelly doughnut. The leads are likable and just awkward enough to be sweet.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Jennifer Anniston is a bit too glamorous for her character. The ending is a mite too Hollywood for my tastes.

FAMILY VALUES: Not much at all to dissuade the kids from coming along. If they like “Friends” they’ll probably enjoy this.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Director Stephen Belber’s previous job was as a playwright.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: Nothing listed.

FINAL RATINGS: 6/10

TOMORROW: Battle in Seattle