Archive for June, 2009

Movie Review – The Hangover

June 24, 2009

The HangoverThe Hangover is the story of a bucks night gone wrong, and the three men who awake to find their hotel room trashed, themselves in various states of disarray and the groom missing. From there, they are forced to piece together the events of an evening that was so good they should never forget it…except of course they can’t remember a thing.

The movie has been a surprise hit, raking in top dollar at the box office and earning grudging praise from the critics. Grudging, because, in theory it shouldn’t work anywhere near as well as it does. Four male stereotypes (the alpha male, the creepy guy, the guy with the controlling girlfriend and the cautious groom)…in Vegas…booze and drugs and strippers…wild antics and frat boy laughs – we’ve all seen this before, right? One of the people I went to see this with said going in that it looked like an updated version Dude, Where’s My Car, and in honesty the comparison isn’t unfair. It’s a story about hapless, somewhat like-able fuck-ups who have got themselves into some real trouble and can’t remember where they parked the car (among other things).

But this is a vastly superior effort to that – a movie that features a witty, often hilarious script and showcases some brilliant interplay between its relatively unknown but superbly cast leading actors. Rising star Bradley Cooper is great as the group’s cool front man, disenchanted with married life and bored with his job, pushing the action forward as he seeks to relive old glories with a big night on the town. Ed Helms acquits himself well as the pussy whipped Dentist with a point to prove, a role that could easily have fallen into cliché without the right touch – and Zach Galifinakis is a standout as Alan, the groom’s creepy, loner, soon to be brother in law who is looking to engage in some genuine male bonding for perhaps the first time in his life.

The key to this movie is relatability, to both the characters and the situation, and whilst it is fair to say that nobody would have been involved in a night that has gotten quite so out of control, those of us who have woken up in a strange house with a live chicken, covered in bruises and no recollection of the night before probably experienced a pang of recognition at one or two points. Director Todd Phillips (Old School) seems to have a gift for this kind of comedy, once again putting strange characters in extraordinary situations and yet somehow managing to make them seem familiar.

The humor is constant – a machine gun approach to comedy where they fire so many bullets at you that something is bound to hit. Some of the jokes are fairly low brow, as you could expect – but others are surprisingly sophisticated. The awkward speech from Alan on the rooftop before the big night out was hilarious, but it also spoke volumes about the strange phenomenon of male bonding and on reflection gave us an insight into the character’s sad and pretty lonely world. A subtle little hint at character depth, all whilst pushing the plot forward and keeping a smile on everybody’s face – great writing from the suddenly hot team of Jon Lucas & Scott Moore, who whiffed with previous efforts such as Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, but have connected solidly here.

A strong supporting cast keeps things interesting – Heather Graham as the stripper looking to marry up, Ken Jeong as Mr Chow in a fantastic portrayal of camp Vegas gangsterism, Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambour as the father of the bride who has obviously had his own share of Vegas experiences, and a great cameo from Mike Tyson as himself, a man who can probably sympathize with some bad decision making on a big night out.

This is a fun, funny movie that ticks along at a fast pace, and sits happily alongside other modern classics of the genre such as Wedding Crashers, Superbad and Knocked Up. Sure, the movie may be shallow, with little in the way of redeeming social merit…but the performances are great and there are plenty of laughs throughout. Well worth seeing.

Rating – 8/10

Random Quote: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…. Except for Herpes. That shit will come back with you.

Random Actor You’ll Recognise From Somewhere Else: Rob Riggle from the Colbert Report does a fine job as a Las Vegas patrolman who’s police car is stolen by the lads.

Previous Movie Review – Sunshine Cleaning


The Fighter Shaping Up

June 22, 2009

It’s been a long road for the Mickey Ward biopic – The Fighter. Matt Damon was initially attached and then pulled out. Brad Pitt was then attached and also pulled out. The Wrestler Director Aronofsky was replaced, the story got a re-write…for a long time there it seemed like this one wouldn’t be made.

Mickey Ward

But it now looks like things are starting to fall into place. When Christian Bale signed up alongside long time attached Mark Wahlberg last month to star in the film, the movie took a giant leap toward getting made. Since then it has been announced that David O. Russell is taking on the Directing role, and recently Oscar nominated Actress Melissa Leo began negotiations to play the role of Mother to Wahlberg and Bale’s characters. All in all, it looks like The Fighter is finally shaping up, with filming set to begin in July.

As a fan of both boxing and the movies, I say let’s get it on.

For those not familiar with Mickey Ward’s work, he is a recently retired (2003) blue collar boxer from Massachusetts who was known for his enormous heart and refusal to quit. His hard nosed determination and deference towards defence made for thrilling fights, and amongst the boxing fraternity he became something of a cult figure.

Even so, Ward toiled in relative obscurity for much of his career, and did not achieve mainstream success until his three fight series with Arturo Gatti. (For those who have never seen this guy fight, it doesn’t get any better than Round 9 of his first fight with Gatti – a staggeringly good round in one of the greatest fights in boxing history).

The movie will focus on the relationship between Ward (played by Wahlberg) and his half brother Dicky Eklund (Bale), a mid-level professional fighter (who once went the distance against Sugar Ray Leonard) who had to overcome his own battles with drugs and alcohol to help train Mickey to in-ring success.

The questions I really want answered though – how well will Wahlberg be able to handle the fight scenes? And who is going to play the part of Ward’s arch-nemesis, Arturo Gatti?

The Round-Up

June 19, 2009

The pick of this week’s internet rumors, rumblings and total fabrications. A famous hat pops back up on the radar, the remakes keep on coming, the Rounders boys take a seat back at the table (sort of) and Tom Cruise may be mending fences with Paramount in order to take another Mission Impossible.

Indiana Jones and the Next Big Hit

Shia Le Beouf announced in a recent interview with the BBC that Steven Spielberg had just finished a first draft for the next movie in the Indiana Jones franchise – big news for Indy fans, whether you liked the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls movie or not. Check out the full interview here.

Rounders Writer’s Cash In Some More Chips

Looks like the writing team that brought us Rounders is set to bring another poker story to the big screen, with their story about online casino’s in Costa Rica being picked up by Paramount, and with Leonardo Di Caprio (and his production company) attached. Ain’t it Cool have the details.

The Remakes Are Getting Stranger…

Bride of Frankenstein is this week’s favorite unlikely rumored remake, with Director Neil Burger being the man tagged to get the project rolling. Turns out this is only one of several Monster flicks Universal are pushing at the moment, with the Wolf Man set for release soon, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon also set to go into development. Hokey 1950’s style horror…here we come!

Mission Impossible Now Very Probable

In a move that surprised many, considering the nature of his departure from the studio after a 14 year relationship, Tom Cruise looks to have made amends with Paramount, and is getting set for another addition to the Mission Impossible franchise, under the guidance of JJ Abrams.

Red Dawn Moving Forward

Red Dawn is starting to shape up, and has the latest on some key announcements. Writer Tony Gilroy (the guy who did the Bourne series) has been hired to pen the re-make of the 1980’s classic (Go Wolverines!).

Some key casting announcements as well – Josh Peck has been hired to play the role of Matt Eckert (the role oringinally played by Charlie Sheen), whilst Adriann Palicki will play Toni (the role first played by Jennifer Grey). Don Bradley is still set to direct what should be a very, very interesting update.

Top Three Denzel Washington Performances

June 17, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 123 is due to hit the big screens soon, and we’re getting you ready by dedicating a podium to Denzel Washington.

Honourable mentions for this list include; Inside Man, Crimson Tide and American Gangster. And it was very, very tough for me to leave He Got Game off this list as well. Great character, great performance, great flick.  

Denzel Devil in a blue dress

 3. Devil in a Blue Dress – Easy Rawlins

Based on the novel by Walter Mosley (if you haven’t read this book then do yourselves a favor and hit the book store ASAP), Denzel Washington plays the lead character, Easy Rawlins – an out of work  WWII veteran who accepts a job from a shady underworld figure to find a missing woman. The story twists and turns from there, and features undertones of race and class politics, but it is the outstanding performance from Washington that lifts moves this film from within the confines of the well established private eye genre and into one of the best movies of 1995. Don Cheadle is perfect as Easy’s accomplice Mouse, a cold blooded killer with a gift for violence, and the interactions between the two capture to mood of the book perfectly. Easy Rawlins is heroic, flawed, noble and untrustworthy all at the same time – a complex, layered character with a great deal of depth, and Denzel nails the brief perfectly. Not his biggest hit at the box office, but an outstanding performance from Denzel nonetheless.

2. The Hurricane – Rubin Carter

The Hurricane is the story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a professional boxer and middleweight contender, who was wrongly imprisoned for murder in the 1960’s. The heart of the movie however lies in Washington’s enthralling portrayal of one man’s unrelenting courage in the face of oppression, and the fight against injustice that eventually became known to the rest of the world. The movie focuses mainly on the emotional and mental anguish Carter undergoes in jail, and it’s a journey which Washington guides us through with heartfelt aplomb. He is raw and gritty in this, at times bordering on desperate as he tries to keep hope alive in a place completely devoid of the concept. The movie itself may have had its problems with some one dimensional supporting characters and at times comes across as a little corny – but it is a tour de force performance from Washington that keeps it firmly on track, and makes for an engaging film. The look on Washington’s face as his character is sentenced to life in prison was worth the price of admission alone.

1. Malcolm X – Malcolm X

The stand out effort of Washington’s career thus far, in which he plays the title character, Malcolm X, who’s life we follow from his troubled childhood, to small time hustler, to inmate, to religious convert, to spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, to outcast, to figure for change and finally, to victim of assassination. Director Spike Lee operates on a grand scale here in terms of both chronology (the film spans several decades) and length (at an intimidating 200minutes). Washington meanwhile runs the full gamut of character emotions, reckless in his early life; persuasive and confrontational during his period as a political orator, and wizened, deliberate and thoughtful toward the end. In this one film he shows the sort of range most actors don’t manage throughout an entire career, and he is absolutely convincing and believable throughout. An amazing performance – and he was straight up robbed for the best Actor award in the Oscars as well (it went to Al Pacino for Scent of A Woman…right man, wrong time).

Previous Podium – Top Three Cameos By Sports Stars

Movie Review – Sunshine Cleaning

June 15, 2009

sunshine cleaningSunshine Cleaning is the story of Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams), a cash strapped single mother who comes up with a plan to start her own crime scene bio-hazard removal business in order to pay for her troubled son’s private tuition. It’s another tale of modern family dysfunction from Christine Jeffs  (the woman who brought us Little Miss Sunshine) and whilst this movie may not quite have the charm that movie did, it does feature some outstanding performances by a relatable and likeable cast.

Amy Adams is brilliant in the lead role, playing Rose with the right mix of sweetness and positivity, yet always with a hint of melancholy just beneath the surface. The single mum who is having an affair with a married man, and is doing her best to keep faith in herself despite the growing realization that all the hopes and dreams she had as a successful and popular high school cheerleader will never come to fruition. Firmly entrenched in the mundane doldrums of low paid, pride humbling work and yet still with a flicker of hope that things can turn around.

Emily Blunt also turns in a solid effort as Norah, Rose’s depressed, screw up sister – the irresponsible yin to Rose’s duty bound yang, and Alan Arkin adds some much needed comic relief as the family patriarch who is always working on the next big idea to find a way to pay the bills. Each of these characters have their own problems to face. They are filled with flaws, self doubt and loathing – and yet, just like in life, it is those qualities that make them believable and likeable.

I quite liked the understated sub-plot of the growing attraction between Rose and Winston, the one armed cleaning supplies merchant, but I thought the quasi romance between Norah and Lynn was a bit forced and ill-defined. They also never took advantage of a real opportunity to deliver some great insight via the nature of their work – the crime scene clean up angle is a fantastic hook, and whilst they touched on their capacity to interact with people at profound and important times of their lives, it’s not a subject matter they ever really explored (outside of some hand holding of some poor old woman who’s husband had just committed suicide).

The pacing can be a bit slow at times – I know I had to bite back the urge to shout out “hurry the fuck up!!” at the screen at one point (the kind of behavior which would have been frowned upon by the majority of cinema attendees on this particular evening I think), and at other times they seemed to be trying way too hard to come off as quirky (look – now the grandfather is trying to sell shrimp to restaurants! Haha!).

Sunshine Cleaning attempts to blend so many different elements together (this is a kind of character study with elements of comedy, drama and romance) that it ends with the movie lacking a cohesive identity. As a drama it falls a bit short. As a comedy, well, it just isn’t that funny. And whilst the film probably doesn’t quite live up to its intriguing premise, it is redeemed by some great performances from its lead actresses.

Rating – 6/10

Random Quote – (How did she die?) It was a sorta do-it-yourself thing.

Random Actor You’ll Recognise From Somewhere Else; Clifton Collins Jr (Tigerland, Traffic, Capote) plays Winston, the cleaning supplies merchant who guides Amy Adams through her first faltering steps in the industry.

Previous Movie Review – Terminator Salvation

The Round Up

June 11, 2009

The pick of this week’s internet rumors, rumblings and total fabrications. More remakes and reboots, no Arnie for Predator, Johnny Depp may have signed up to play Tonto, and are the wheels completely falling off the GI Joe movie? has an interview with Harold Ramis detailing all the latest on the Ghostbuster 3 movie. Looks like writing is underway, and a first draft might be complete soon. Nothing concrete, but plenty of optimism.

The Arnie casting rumor for the Predator reboot looks like it was a red herring, with Aint It Cool News pouring water on it with the direct word from Robert Rodriguez.

Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper are both rumored to be starters in the upcoming A-Team remake. Both are coming off big box office hits (Taken and The Hangover) and would be big pick ups for a film that still has a long way to go before proving to many fans that the whole idea isn’t a complete fiasco. has an interview with Jerry Bruckheimer regarding some upcoming projects – the long hyped Pirates of the Carribean 4 of course, but first there is going to be a Lone Ranger film with Johnny Depp attached to play Tonto

GI Joe – Rise of the Cobra hasn’t even got out of post production yet, and already it may be coming apart at the seams. Slashfilm has the lowdown on a disastrous test screening, and the latest on the rumor that the films director Stephen Sommers may have been let go.

Nikki Finke continues to track Transformers 2’s attempt at breaking box office records, with news that with two weeks still to go before release, 21% of all online tickets have already been sold. Unsurprisingly, the film looks to be huge with the under 25 crowd. And what about the story that Michael Bay could pull in over $75million for the effort?

Finally, for those who aren’t looking for a film based on action figures – a name and release date for Clint Eastwood’s Nelson Mandela biopic, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The film is titled Invictus and is adapted from the novel Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation, by John Carlin.

Top Three Movie Cameos By Sports Stars

June 11, 2009

The Mike Tyson cameo in The Hangover has inspired this weeks Podium – Top Three Sports Star Cameo’s, and we’ve got plenty of options to choose from.

Honorable mentions include; Dan Marino in Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Joe Frazier in Rocky, Lawrence Taylor in The Waterboy (mostly for the irony – at the end of a long unintelligible rant from Adam Sandler’s Bobby Boucher, LT nods and delivers the line “Gentlemen, which brings me to my next point – don’t smoke crack.” Funny stuff at the time, funnier still when you heard that two weeks before the films release he was arrested for buying $100 of fake crack from an undercover cop).

Cam Neely – Dumb and Dumber

Cam Neely had a reputation as a violent goon during his days as a right wing in the NHL, so the Farrelly Brothers cast well when they were looking around for somebody to play Sea Bass – the truck stop enforcer who takes a dislike to Harry Dunne, enjoys classy tastes in baseball caps and has a penchant for the occasional public toilet rendezvous.

Not the man you want bursting through your toilet stall

Not the man you want bursting through your toilet stall

Lance Armstrong – Dodgeball

The famous cyclist appears as himself, and meets Vince Vaughan’s character at an airport bar just as he is about to run out on his team before the finals. Lance hits him with the following; “Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that’s keeping you from the finals?”

Enough said.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar – Airplane (Flying High)

Kareem Abdul Jabbar turns in a solid 6th man of the year effort here, appearing as pilot Roger Murdock. It is a secret identity that does little to fool young Timmy, who unfortunately relates his father’s belief that Kareem doesn’t play defence (a well documented complaint from critics throughout his career). “Roger Murdock” responds by getting on the offensive; “The hell I don’t. LISTEN KID. I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.” Later, when they are dragging him out of his seat, we see that he is in LA Lakers basketball shorts. Great comedy all around.

Previous Podium – Top Three Will Ferrell Movies

Movie Review – Terminator Salvation

June 9, 2009

Terminator Salvation1By the time I got around to seeing this movie, it had been so reviled by a majority of critics that my expectations were pretty low. Indeed, after reading some of the reviews I was thinking that if I was not pelted with a water balloon full of urine at any point during proceedings, I would probably be coming out ahead.

I’m pleased to say that didn’t happen, and it may just be due to the diminished expectations I had from this flick, but I thought it was solidly average. Not a great Action/Sci-Fi movie in the Aliens mould perhaps, but certainly better than Terminator 3, and for mine, a worthwhile addition to the franchise.

There are some plot holes here that you could drive a semi trailer through, and there is a definite tendency to put action over story in a number of places. Of course, nobody walked into this movie expecting to see Terms of Endearment. McG gives us story telling in the Michael Bay format (indeed, there are a couple of moments in the movie you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching Transformers), and it is fast, cool and eardrum shatteringly loud. It can also be gimmicky, and as a guiding principle, you can be fairly sure that character development will play second fiddle to good old fashioned ass-kickery in any given scene.

Christian Bale does a decent job as John Connor, mankind’s best, last hope in a world where all of Linda Hamilton’s fears from the second movie have become realized. The machines have taken over, and Skynet is in the midst of a crusade to destroy human life as we know it. Pitted against them is a determined yet curiously well armed coalition of resistance fighters, led by the always grim Michael Ironside.

Sam Worthington does a fine job in playing Marcus Wright, a convicted killer with more to him than meets the eye. Plenty of critics have claimed Worthington steals the show here, and whilst I wouldn’t go that far, he is the one driving the story forward for most of the time.  Moon Bloodgood meanwhile brings some sex appeal to the movie, but her character is driven more by the necessities of plot mechanics than any sense of realism.

As you would expect, there are some outstanding special effects here – explosions within explosions, buildings are collapsed, machines are incinerated at white hot temperatures and the gunplay is constant throughout. We also see a new wave of machines, terminators of all different shapes, size, model and make with the capability of hunting their prey over air, land or sea – the result of continuing experiments into what hunts humans the best (experiments that culminate with Big Arnie in the first Terminator movie I suppose).

For all its frenetic action, this movie is let down by some poor writing and whilst the acting is committed and believable, some of the dialogue is pretty suspect. The first two films in the Terminator franchise went a long way toward proving that this genre was capable of delivering solid story and character development amid the cacophony of explosions, and it is a disappointing that they didn’t achieve that this time around.

If you like fast paced action sequences however, and can appreciate a movie that is held together by some solid actors in spite of its obvious flaws, this movie may be for you. A solid effort – but not a home run.

Rating: 6/10

Random Quote: Two day old coyote. It’s better than three day old coyote.

Random Actor You’ll Recognize From Somewhere Else; Anton Yelchin, who was seen most recently as Chekov in the Star Trek reboot, does an outstanding job as Kyle Reese here, filling the enormous shoes of Michael Biehn admirably

Previous Movie Review – What Just Happened

The Round-Up

June 5, 2009

The pick of this week’s internet rumors, rumblings and total fabrications. Transformers 2 is looking at box office records, Bryan Singer may be trying to hook up with the X, Michael Douglas assures us sequels aren’t for wimps and the terrible movie ideas just keep on coming.

Transformers 2 tracking for record breaking opening

Nikki Finke is reporting that rival studios expect Paramount’s Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen to clear a staggering $175m over its June 24-28 five day opening weekend.  Nice money if you can get it.

Bryan Singer looking to return to the X Men franchise?

The legion of X-Men fans who lamented Bryan Singer’s decision not to direct the third film of the franchise may be pleased to hear that Singer himself probably feels the same. Even better, in an interview with Total Film magazine, Singer expressed an interest in returning to the franchise, possibly to take the helm of the in-development Origins story of Magneto.

Greed is good again.

Michael Douglas is putting on the Armani again to reprise his role as Gordon Gekko in the sequel to Wall Street, and Nikki Finke has the scoop on what’s happening with the plot, and all the latest from the casting couch.

From the department of unnecessary reboots and remakes…

It appears Robot Chicken writer Dan Milano has become has signed on for the remake of the 1980’s robot with a heart movie, Short Circuit. So, number five is alive…again.

Robert Rodriguez is rumoured to have approached Arnold Schwarzenegger to be involved in his reboot of the Predator movie franchise. With both Arnie and Jesse Ventura going from the Predator movie to Government, you have to figure political wannabe’s everywhere are scrambling to get in on the act as well.

And it also looks like Tony Scott’s rumored remake of the cult classic “The Warriors” may be back on the cards – the story is to be set in LA (instead of NY), but will feature the same basic premise as the original, with a gang stuck in one location, trying to get home to another. Can you dig it, sucka?

And from the department of bad ideas…

The first picture to come from the deal between Universal and game company Hasbro looks like being Stretch Armstrong. Stretch, for those who don’t know, is a stretchable doll for kids. The other games currently in development are Monopoly, Candy Land, Clue (I never liked that Professor Plum – he always seemed smug to me), and of course, Battleship.

The picture book Where’s Wally? (Or Waldo depending on what part of the world you are from) is also now set to be turned into a film. No word yet on who will play Wally, Wilma, Woof or Wizard Whitebeard. Or, you know, what happened to the credibility to the film industry.

Top Three Will Ferrell Movies

June 4, 2009

With the new Will Ferrell movie, The Land of the Lost set to hit the big screens, we’re celebrating with a podium dedicated to the comedian. At his best, Will Ferrell is one of the funniest people alive. At his worst, well…you may have to watch something like Step Brothers. Can he return to form here? We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, honorable mentions for the top three list include; Semi Pro and Blades of Glory, and I thought he stole the show in brief appearances during Zoolander and Wedding Crashers.

3. Talledaga Nights – The Legend of Ricky Bobby

Ferrell throws himself into the role of fast driving, win-obsessed Ricky Bobby – a star on the Nascar race circuit. Carries the film through a series of increasingly improbable scenarios through sheer force of personality. He was ably supported by a cast that includes Gary Cole, Michael Clark-Duncan, Jane Lynch and Sacha Baron Cohen, but the best scenes in the movie for mine are the interchanges between Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who is fantastic as his buddy Cal Naughton Jr.

2. Stranger Than Fiction

A departure from the absurd here, with Will Ferrell showing his serious acting chops in a film that is both warm-hearted and smart. There’s a hint of his comedy prowess underneath his strait laced portrayal of IRS accountant Harold Crick, and a believable, easy flowing chemistry between himself and co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal. This film also features good performances from Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Queen Latifah (surprised me too) and a smaller role for one of my personal favourites – Arrested Development’s Buster – Tony Hale. Ferrell opened a few eyes with this one, hinting perhaps at more serious roles in the future. Don’t rule it out – it worked for Tom Hanks and to a lesser degree, Jim Carrey.

...and this is what's happening in your world, tonight.

...and this is what's happening in your world, tonight.

1. Anchorman – The Legend of Ron Burgundy;

One of the all time great comedy characters in one of the best comedy’s of the last ten years. Ferrell plays Burgundy with such earnest sincerity that it’s almost impossible not to laugh along as he leads his all-star news-team through the ups and downs of ratings battles and gender politics. This movie helped kick start the careers of Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and David Koechner. It also helped re-launch the career of Christina Applegate – not to mention some brilliant cameos from Vince Vaughan, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller and Seth Rogen. Just a cracking good film. You stay classy Mr Ferrell.

Previous Podium – Top Three Russell Crowe Performances