Saturday, July 31, 2010


I have become less forgiving of film and television that presents its yuks and laughs at the expense of others.  Bullying.  It is a pervasive problem in schools across America and it is a sickening concept.  We walked out of Norbit several years ago, not because it was a terrible movie, which it was, but because it was a brutal portrayal of the bullying of a young child.  Perhaps in drama, on-screen bullying is more forgiving as it adds to the drama of the event; but when presented for the sake of comedy, it is not for my taste.

In Dinner for Schmucks, we are given a film that I feel is much different that what the crowds will be expecting.  The entire tone and flow of the film is not really demonstrated in the trailer and I think people will be surprised at how events play out. 

The film is a remake of the 1998 French film, Le Diner de Cons, and Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell play our leads, with Rudd as Tim, a businessman who is trying to claw his way up the corporate ladder.  Carrell plays Barry, the Schmuck to Rudd's straight man.  Barry has an interesting hobby in that he practices amateur taxidermy and stuffs and dresses dead mice into dioramas that he builds.  His hobby is one of the most fascinating aspects of the film, and while it plays for laughs, his creations are quite beautiful and fascinating.

You have probably guessed that I didn't love this film.  In fact, I give it my just better than mediocre 3 horns of 5.  I think the trailer looked much funnier than the film actually is, and I think we may have the Director, Jay Roach, to blame.

Roach brought us such favorites as Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Meet the Parents.  With each sequel in these series, the movies have gotten progressively worse, up to and including the awful looking trailer for Little Fockers, the third movie in the the Meet the Parents series.  The trailer for Little Fockers disheartens me especially because MEET THE PARENTS has always been a family favorite and creating sub par sequels waters down the whole package.  His role as producer in the cluster bomb of a flick, Bruno, tells me that he will sacrifice anything in the name of funny, and I think that is what we have here.  Too much of this movie is about the making fun of others, and not enough about the catharsis that comes about when the underdogs actually pull it off, and "save the day".
There is a great supporting cast in this flick, and while each has their moments, the entire flick plays better when thinking about it as a series of skits, rather as a full flow-through movie. 

Zach Galifianakis plays Barry's boss Thurman and he plays this role differently than Alan from THE HANGOVER Alan, but funny in a unique way.  To this end, I think I enjoyed Thurman the most as a character, becasue this was a new perspective to a fresh actor who we have only started to enjoy.  I actually am not crazy about the early look at DUE DATE which pits Galifianakis with Robert Downey Jr., in a film directed by The Hangover's Todd Phillips....why, you may ask?  Because his character in Due Date looks like a similar role to Alan.  I enjoy seeing actors I like, spreading their wings a bit and expanding their talent base.

Jermaine Clement also was funny in the brief scenes he is in as the artist Kieran, but again, these are a sequence of skits that play individually decent but do little to help the movie as a whole flow.

I liked bits of this film. Carrell and Rudd each had shining moments, but given their track record, their bars are set pretty high.  This movie does not come close to the enjoyment level of Anchorman, 40-Year Old Virgin, or even I Love You, Man or Get Smart.  I think the "villains" of this flick, the corporate leaders at the financial firm where Rudd works, the group of guys who host the "Dinner for Schmucks," aren't punished enough for mistreating people as they do, nor the complete disregard for the feelings of others.  The catharsis isn't sufficient, so rather than leave feeling that just desserts have been served, you just feel like these guys are a bunch of A-holes.

What a shining spot in this mess, Stephanie Szostak, who plays Julie, Tim's girlfriend.  She is French (I think) and she is lovely.  She has a pretty short resume and I think that although she has fairly brief screen time, that she will take the best in show in most people's opinions for this flick.

Kristen Schaal and Lucy Punch are both hilarious in their roles, Schaal as Susana, Tim's assistant and Punch as Darla, a stalker who just won't give up on Tim.  Both are hilarious and highlights of this otherwise disjointed presentation.

I think sitting here, thinking about the movie, it seems funnier than it was.  In fact, I don't know if a second viewing will give me a greater appreciation.  I will tell you, that I stand by that as a series of skits, it may pass as acceptable.  As a whole feature, it doesn't succeed.  The relationship between Barry and Tim is unbelievable and that lack of believability kept me caring less about everything.  If only Barry would have been just a little more believable and less cartoonish, I would have felt better about it all, I think.

3 out of 5 horns from the Reel Rhino.  See it if you'll get a few laughs, but it falls short of being a wholly enjoyable picture.  I am going to see THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT tonight and I hope that it brings more satisfaction than DINNER WITH SCHMUCKS.

Until later, take care!


Sunday, July 25, 2010

CYRUS and The Evolution of the Mumblecorp Movement

I am seemingly on a kick of reviewing single-word title movies, which would make for a shorter review also, if I was any other guy!  I actually hope to keep this one short, but I quite a bit to say.

CYRUS is written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass...the Duplass Brothers, as they have been known for nearly a decade in independent film circles, but more recently we the general movie going public have been exposed to them.  They come from the mumblecorp crew of filmmaking, which according to Wikipedia, has been active since 2002. 

Mumblecorp is, from what I have seen, movies that feature short bursts of peoples lives, exactly as they are living them.  You are given the vantage point of the fly on the wall would.  The characters are real, the situations are real, and the movies pull you in because you relate and even possibly have gone through something similar in your life (you just aren't as good looking or as witty and were paid way less than the actors were!).  In addition, the movies are typically low budget and very-DIY. 

I read filmmaking magazines and script writing journals and I follow the blogs online.  I have seen the Duplass Brothers' names bounced around through increasingly more mainstream circles for the last four years. 

Mark has a lead role, as Pete, on a very funny FX show called The League.  From this mumblecorp crew, he is showing his bones as an actor as well as a writer/director and his work both in front of the camera and behind in their early pictures certainly have made this versatile guy very marketable.  Other 'corp features he has written and directed include THE PUFFY CHAIR and BAGHEAD.  The Puffy Chair is available on watch instantly, as is HUMPDAY, a 2009 Lynn Shelton directed film.  Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard play Ben and Andrew, long-time heterosexual best friends who agree, while boozed, to have sex with each other for a film project, called....yep: HUMPDAY.  This isn't even mentioning that Duplass's Ben is married, to Lynn Shelton's character, Monica.  Yeah, it's pretty complex and yeah, Joshua Leonard...that's the Blair Witch Project's Joshua.  Where has he been? Yikes.  The movie is not nearly as sexually orientated as it may sound and it serves as more of a look at the crisis-of-faith moments that normal people endure.  I attribute the watchability to the mumblecorp approach.  It feels like real life.  You care for these characters and right up to the very end, you will be asking: "Are they gonna do it?".

Well all that said, I am a fan of this posse of filmmakers.  The DIY approach is good...the films have a grainy appearance that makes them more enduring, but add some $$$$$$ into the mix, and it's a whole new ballgame.

I would very much qualify Cyrus as a mumblecorp film....except it is the first STUDIO PICTURE by this crew.  It was financed by Scott Free Productions, being the Brothers Scott....Ridley and Tony.  Fox Searchlight distributed.  I read an interview with Mark Duplass where he was asked if working for the studios changed anything for him.  He said resoundingly YES!  The best part about it....more money!  The worst part about can't just pick up your camera and all becomes much more complex.  There are call sheets and unions and scheduling.  The bigger the budget, usually, the bigger the problems.  Duplass raved on how easy the transition was, and while having craft services make the lunches and catering the breaks was nice; I think they missed having the parents of the crew cook family dinners for everyone. 

A bigger budget does have an upside in that you no longer need to fill roles with friends and family and you actually get a shot at a "big-budget" cast.  The earlier films are great, though, and the casts of unknowns in the other films gives them a texture that big budget features are often lacking.  Fortunately, Cyrus fills the characters out with perfect choices for each part. 

CYRUS tells the tale of John, played by John C. Reilly, as a divorcee, who finds out that his ex-wife Jaime (Catherine Keener) is about to get married to Tim (Matt Walsh).  Jaime and John are still friends and when Jaime catches John in a very awkward moment, she drops the bomb on him that she is getting remarried.  Jaime decides that she is going to get him motivated to go out and meet a gal.

Smash-cut to a hipster party, where John sticks out like the un-hip thumb that he is.  In a great turn, he meets Marisa Tomei's Molly, who when she flirts with John, he drops the killer line: "But I'm like Shrek....what are you doing in the forest?"  It was funny and actually spoiled by the trailer, so I don't feel bad sharing it here.

John and Molly make quick friends and then quick lovers.  John is troubled because in the few, brief overnighters they have shared at John's house, Molly slips out after John falls asleep.  She denies that there is anything weird going on and in a great move, John stalk-follows her home when she leaves.  He falls asleep in his car outside of her house.  When he wakes up, he goes up to the front of the house, where he has his first encounter with the titular character, Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill.

Let the games begin! Or so most would think...I am sure that most people who see this mainstream, semi-wide release will expect something far different than what this movie delivers on.  There is not a till the death battle with something terrible lurking at every turn like you would get trying to bring the Montagues and Capulets together.  This is a subtle film that does have its fair share of mental warfare, but at a much more realistic level. 

Everything that happens in this film is 100% believable, except the haters out there who deny the possibility that a Marissa Tomei would ever fall for a John C. Reilly....hey folks, The Reel Rhino is a Shrek, as well, and I got me a Fiona! I hate that people fixate on whether or not people would actually ever date based on appearance.  We heard the same garbage for Sidney Lumet's Until The Devil Knows You're Dead when Tomei was married to Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character.  Where were the complaints when Tomei was falling for a very haggard and beaten Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler? I guess because she played a stripper there, it was alright?  Enough about that, but people should be more open minded to the strong arm of the love bug, even when we know it is a work of fiction.

The majority of this movie deals with Cyrus, Molly's 21 year old son, who was home schooled and has never lived anywhere other than at home.  He lives at home, he was home schooled, he calls his mother Molly, and he proclaims them as best friends.  All of this is not that big of a problem, unless you only have one friend, and it is your mother. 

The journey of this movie has John dropped into this dynamic like an A-Bomb.  It seems at the outset that John and Molly are made for each other, but perhaps the relationship between John and Cyrus just wasn't meant to be.  It is blatantly obvious that the relationship between Cyrus and his mother is bizarre.  The filmmakers never lend it to a sexual inappropriate level, which I commend.  It is so easy to get laughs from weird sex stuff.  Oedipus is present, but it is more like Oedipus just really, really liked his mom, instead of "liked-her" liked her. 

This is much more of a drama, then a comedy, and it plays well.  Hell, it plays GREAT!  There are funny moments...some really funny moments!  Much of the success, whether in drama or in laughs, is due to Reilly and Hill's portrayals of their characters.  Jonah Hill showed us in Get Him To The Greek that he does have some acting chops.  Folks thought he would always be the goofy fat kid we met in Superbad or perhaps even earlier in Campus Ladies (if you haven't seen this, TRACK IT DOWN!)  Jonah Hill can act.  I believe that he will be a powerhouse as both a comedic and dramatic actor as time goes on.  And my calling him the "goofy fat kid," well Jonah, I hope you don't take offense.  The Reel Rhino tips the scales just this side of the weight of a real rhino....I empathize, not sympathize! Hill has a good head for picking parts.  He passed on the comedic side-kick role in Transformers 2 and he has gone with much more meaningful parts.  Let's just hope he continues with such smarts and chops.

I love the mumblecorp method of showing you a slice of real life and I think it is 100% effective here.  Yes, the slice of life you see is filled with slightly eccentric characters, but it plays like real life nonetheless.

Reel Rhino gives this 4.5 out of 5 horns.  Cyrus is a great movie to watch because it is different from most movies out there today.  This was released limited-wide in 454 theaters, most likely because of the art house feel, but it's gross to date is well over $6 million and I think as word of mouth spreads, the box office for this will grow. 

Speaking of word of mouth, please share the blog with friends, and you can do so now by using the share buttons beneath this post.  Spread the word on Reel Rhino and spread the word on Cyrus. 

By the way...Inception beat Salt this weekend, $43.5 mil to $36.5 million...go Chris Nolan! Congratulations again on a fine film!  Inception is currently at 86% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and is holding fast at #3 on the IMDB Top 250 with over 70,000 votes cast! That is something and I think that we will remember Inception for a long, long time.

Until next time...take care!


Reel Rhino Review: SALT

I braved the storm that struck Kansas City today to share with you yet another movie going experience.  Today's film: Phillip Noyce's SALT

It was a bittersweet trip to the theater today.  Earlier this summer I had made plans to attend this year's gathering of the geeks in San Diego.  It wasn't in the cards for ol' Rhino and instead, as I write this, I am watching G4's live coverage of the Con.  San Diego Comic-Con is a gathering of all things great.  G4 is doing a great job covering the event, offering 4-hours of live coverage from the Con floor with its Attack of the Show staff, including the glorious geek Oliva Munn with Kevin Pereira and their merry band of roving reporters.  Say what you will, but these guys are hip and SDCC is THE PLACE TO BE!  Watching this coverage, let me share with you my favorite QUOTE OF THE CON: "The smell of Comic-Con is the scent of everyone getting excited at the same turns you on!" as spoken by a Wonder Woman costume clad gal from the backseat of the G4 mobile studio.  See you next year San Diego!

But, back to the matter at hand...Sadly, it was easy to be distracted as SALT did not live up to my expectations as a summer tentpole release.  I often am chided for being too easily entertained.  I think that my proclivity for liking even the most questionable of flicks harrows back to my desire to one day be a filmmaker.  I see in movies the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a flick.  I stay for the credits and hope that one day, I will see my name scroll down the big screen.  It is for this reason that I am easily entertained, but also the reason that I can be disappointed in movies that SHOULD be better than they are.  A big-budget flick with Angelina Jolie in the titular role, and co-starring  Schriber and Chiwetel Ejiofor...this is a movie that is designed to be and SHOULD BE better than it is...I expected a higher caliber of movie from this group.

Directed by Phillip Noyce, who has a semi-successful, but slightly aged, track record with Patriot Games, A Clear and Present Danger, The Bone Collector, and most recently, Catch a Fire.  Perhaps SALT was given to Noyce because of his success with 1980's and 1990's action?  This tale pits us in the midst of a retro 1980's-like Cold War controversy that puts the US in danger of kicking up "Cold War II."  What better enemy than the Commies, right? scary!  In the 80's version of Red Dawn, it was was scary as hell!  Here, it is more laughable than frightening.   The concept of this movie was good, the timing and delivery seemed off.

SALT was written by Kurt Wimmer who has decent lineage of respectable dramatic action-ish fare, including Sphere, The Recruit, Law Abiding Citizen, and one of my favorites, Equilibrium.

I'll do this a little out of order, but let me take a second to recommend highly to you, Equilibrium.  It stars Christian Bale and Taye Diggs, with supporting roles by Sean Bean, Emily Watson, and William Fitchner.  Wimmer both wrote and directed this, and while it suffered theatrically from drawing a direct comparison to The Matrix and drawing on its story in a roundabout way from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.  The movie is an excellent entry into the action-sci-fi genre and Wimmer's 'Gun Kata' martial art is nothing short of amazing!  See Equilibrium, you won't be disappointed.

Back to my current disappointment, though, Salt lacked charm and Jolie came off as cold throughout the movie.  Perhaps that was the intention, but because of her metaphorical personality development, I never came to care for her, or for any of the characters for that matter.

Evelyn Salt is a CIA agent who is accused of being an undercover Russian operative at the outset of events.  Told completely through here eyes, the story unfolds to the viewer as a series of hardships that she endures and she fights to clear her name and "save the day."  You are never really drawn in to feel for her and instead you just observe.  So even when she is in peril early in the film, your primary concern as a viewer is: "Okay, so how is she going to get out of this, so we can transition to the next stage of this things?"

This movie gives us an interesting look at Jolie in two separate presentations, in terms of of her actual appearance.  One as a bleach blond and one as a jet black hair bad ass, leather clad heroine...I wonder what Brad thinks...ahh, who cares! I'm not a huge Jolie fan, but her looks were interesting, just not enough to carry this flick.

I give this flick a 3 out of 5 horn rating. 

Mediocre movies get the 2.5 to 3.5 range, and while I didn't dislike this movie, I wasn't call myself overly interested.  The flick is left open-ended for a sequel, but I can't imagine it will garner the success that would further call for a sequel.  I saw on several posts folks were comparing Jolie in this picture to Jason Bourne.  I disagree.  I severely disagree...Evelyn Salt is no Jason Bourne.  I would rather see Jolie pick up the Tomb Raider franchise to continue with this series.  Who am I, though, but a humble movie-goer.  Heed my review...go see it, but like Rapunzel, let down your expectations a little bit.  It will likely play better at the movie theater than in your home, for the fight scenes set-pieces will be better viewed on the big screen...even though the really impressive moments in this flick are way too few and far between.

If you opt out, maybe catch Equilibrium instead! That'll be much more worth your time.

Reel Rhino Horn Score: 3 out of 5 horns

That is all for now, but I will be catching something tomorrow, perhaps The Duplass Brothers' Cyrus, perhaps the foreign flick THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE WEIRD, which is playing at the Screenland.

You know that whatever it is you see, I'll be here to tell you what I think!  Till next time...take care!  

P.S. ~ Can we chalk "Who is Salt" among the worst taglines ever?  I think we can.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reel Rhino Review: INCEPTION (~update~)

(Note: After seeing the film a second time today, there are a variety of topics I wanted to touch on...this is the update to my original post...)

Roll on Summer...roll it along, keep those movies comin' all night long!

I have been counting down the days to Inception for a long time. I have consumed Christopher Nolan for years. He hooked me with Memento and has yet to disappoint. That says a lot for a director and there are few others that can lay that claim. I even love Insomnia, which is partly nostalgia for me since I spent around six years of my life unable to sleep.

For Inception, I have been involved with the debates over whether this movie would be James Bond, The Matrix, or Dark City...and thank you Christopher Nolan, for you have given us a piece of each of them and combined it into something great.

We already know that America bought of this writing, the weekend take is $60.4 million with the closest competitor Despicable Me at $32.7 million. I am sad to report that The Sorcerer's Apprentice did relatively poorly and in nearly a week in the theater, has managed to pull in a meager $24.5 million. See my previous post but it seems that I am sentenced to spend my life as a Sorcerer's Apprentice apologist! I will tell you that with some quick math, I was able to figure my two IMAX trips to the theaters means that I am 0.00000465% responsible for the big take.  Your welcome Mr. Nolan!  But speaking of America as a whole buying in...INCEPTION IS CURRENTLY (as of this writing) RANKED #3 ON IMDB!!! Wow!

Inception is Christopher Nolan's seventh feature length directorial effort and serves as the 'tweener before “Untitled Chris Nolan/Batman 3” starts rolling much like The Prestige did between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Of Nolan's seven features, only Insomnia and his first flick (Following) are unranked on IMDB (but still both are still rated in the 7's). Of everything he Nolan has done, there isn't a single work you can select and call even mediocre! BOTTOM LINE: Christopher Nolan has his stuff together.

Christopher along with his brother Jonathan, or Jonah, as he is known are in the company of such names as Coen and Wachowski as far as great sibling pairs that create genuine masterpieces! Steven, Pam...if you are reading this, maybe we could hook up on a project, see if together we have the filmmaking touch that apart we don't seem to have tapped? Let me know, we'll do lunch!

What I failed to mention on my first writing, was how beautiful this film is presented! Wally Pfister has been Nolan's Cinematographer since Memento and they have worked every project together since. They have done things with IMAX technology that is literally jaw dropping. With Nolan directing and Pfister as DP, you are taken to places that feel real. I have never been to Beijing at night, but in the Dark Knight we stood atop a skyscraper and gazed over the city with Bruce Wayne. In Inception, there is no difference....beautiful city scenes including Buenos Aires and Paris, both of which were stunning. And that is the real world. The dream worlds were just as vivid and more eye popping because you see things that look real, but you know they cannot be.

The story in Inception follows Leonardo DiCaprio's Cobb, who is an expert in a (insert smooth DiCaprio voice here) "very specific kind of security." Cobb and his team infiltrate and steal secrets from the dreams of their marks. They are hired by corporations or anyone that needs information and they are the best. Cobb's team consists first of just Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), but they quickly add to their cadre, including Ariadne (Ellen Page), Eames (Tom Hardy), Yusef (Dileep Rao), and Saito (Ken Watanabe). I will say I loved Tom Hardy's performance and that Tom Berenger, yep...Mr. Jake Taylor himself, plays a great cameo role as Uncle Peter to the primary mark, Robert Fischer Jr., played by Cillian Murphy. A variety of other recognizable players will be seen in this soon to be classic, including Sir Michael Caine, a Nolan staple from his last few films.

Of note, you must have realized that I have failed to mention Marion Cotillard, who plays a prominent role in this movie, but I don't want to reveal to much about her character. That she is in it is apparent from the trailers and the posters, but we will leave it at she is as striking as ever and you will learn the rest when you check out the flick.

Speaking frankly about the beauty of this film, one must recognize that Nolan is a master at shooting action. He and Pfister take capturing gun play to the next level and their Matrix-like fight scenes are well choreographed and visually stunning. He shoots a chase scene early in the film that is as visceral as any I have seen with several moments during the sequence truely leaving me wincing back in my seat.

Ariadne represents the greenery of the flick...the newbie to the concept of dream sharing. She is brought in as an architect, the member of the team who constructs the world of the dream. My friend Mike W brings up a great point in that her role was far under realized. Nolan does a great job of showing the intricacies of the concept of intruding into the dreams of others, but given Ariadne's newness, we don't ever get to see how she adapts to such a radical concept, but instead, we just see her as she is introduced, and then shortly after, it is like she has been doing this for years.

After giving the above paragraph further thought, I think it is fair to say that had we seen more of the adaptation of Ariadne, much as we saw Neo first learn "What is the Matrix," then we would have run out of time or at least been looking at a two parter. I am sure that some of what Nolan would have liked to done, couldn't be fit into the constraints of a single feature. To that same end, there is a fair amount of expositional dialogue. By a lesser story teller, this would be seen as a crutch and I would argue with Nolan, that this isn't so. Nolan had such a volume of material and content that was completely foreign to the viewer. I think that the straight 'here's how it is' talk is a necessary evil that keeps the levels of complexity from bleeding together in an incomprehensible mess. I am sure it apparent that I loved this film...if it's not, let me pause to say that again here.

I really don't want to get too much into the story because of how great it is to see this unfold on-screen. In fact, my only real complaint is that we knew too much going into the movie thanks to the trailers and all the coverage the film received before the release. To that end, this movie is about dreaming. Inception does successfully what Nightmare on Elm Street and other dreaming type really never can see the seams between reality and the dreams. BUT, we saw so many of the dream-state scenes in the trailers. When a scene starts in the movie, you recognize it as something that is a dream because of the setting. I would have rather not had this information going in.

There are some very complex story arcs and it becomes hard to follows for only fleeting moments throughout. Just when you feel like you are slipping down the rabbit hole, Nolan throws you a rope and you are able to successfully navigate the complexity that is presented. This is very close to a perfect movie.

I loved this film.

A final note will be a tip of the hat to HANS ZIMMER, the wiz behind some of the best scores of all time. The score to Inception, including that bellowing Lost-ish horn, were as foreboding during the movie as they were during the trailer.

I recommend seeing it soon and then seeing it again. This is a movie that has much to absorb and a second viewing will help to take it all in.

I, surprisingly, give this a resounding 5 OF 5 HORNS, it isn't my first perfect 5 on the year, but it is my favorite so far. Actually, a second look through the Reel Rhino archives revealed to me that this is in fact my 3rd perfect 5 ~ An Education with Carey Mulligan; Toy Story 3, and now INCEPTION. While I also loved those other 2 flicks, this definitely is the best of the year to date!

I mentioned the goodly Mike W up above, he had me laughing when we were "sparring" about the flick and he made the comment: "However, we were robbed of experiencing this concept through fresh eyes as Ellen Page's character development took a backseat to terribly directed fight scenes on Hoth." Whether or not I liked the snowy James Bond For Your Eyes Only dream scenes, Mike's comment literally made me "LOL". Thanks Mike....and for all our debate, I may have numbers of flicks per year my back, but I always will give the benefit of the doubt to an Emmy winning producer who whether he admits it or not loves summer blockbusters, even if he just loves to hate them!

I had the good fortune to visit NYC this past week and saw the deluge of advertising for Inception, including this gem I caught from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. I'm sure they spent a bundle, but I have no fear that they will make it all back and then some.

I think that's all for now...I'm headed out to catch INCEPTION again...5 of 5 from THE REEL RHINO. I will catch you again soon and thanks to the new followers this week. It's good to have you!

Till next time...Reel Rhino

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Reel Rhino Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Nic Cage. 

Now that's a guy who deserves his own sentence.  Hell, he deserves his own paragraph!  Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad; the one thing you can expect for sure is some kind of a show.  Cage's ascends to the Nic Cage of old in THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE...a Disney flick from National Treasure series director Jon Turtletaub and produced by action-adventure guru Jerry Bruckheimer. 

Cage's regalia in this flick (see above) is a whole other topic.  Let me say at the outset of this, I actually LIKED this flick.  In fact, in the surprise of the season, The Reel Rhino has given The Sorcerer's Apprentice a shocking 4.5 of 5 horns!!  I went into this feeling Jay Baruchel would never be able to hold his own in the title role, assuming this would be the big, bad hero role as well.  I was wrong...he plays the lovable, reluctant hero to Michael Cera-ian proportions!  Not that Michael Cera has really excelled as a hero (save for later this summer as Scott Pilgrim), frankly, I just thought Cera-ian sounded cool!

The Sorcerer's Apprentice is every bit of what a summer flick should be! It has great CGI effects, a decent story line, and a great cast!  Every cheeseball line in the trailer comes out 100 times better in the actual movie.  Jon Turteltaub paces this nicely and the dialogue is much more succinct than some of the choppiness and awkwardness of the trailer. 

The story follows Balthazar, played by Cage, who is a former apprentice to Merlin...yes that Merlin, along with two other Sorcerer's who were also Merlin's apprentices. The other two included Alfred Molina, who turns up as the main baddie, Horvath and Monica Bellucci as Veronica, Cage's love interest. Molina is dapper as ever, dressed to the nines and his lines delivered with wicked intonations. Bellucci spends most of the movie trapped in a nesting doll, holding captive Morgana....Merlin's original enemy and the sorceress who hopes to accomplish THE RISING, or the raising of all morgana sorcerers. Enter Jay Baruchel, who Cage learns via ancient test, is the LAST MERLINIAN. The Last Merlinian is the only one who can stop Morgana...that is if he can learn to be a sorcerer before it is too late.
The story is set in NY.  I was in Manhattan on Tuesday as a tourist and I had just visited most of the filming locations, by accident, of course.  This is a beautifully shot movie in terms of crisp clear views of the city with nice wide shots showing off the city. It is unique to see the battles raging in the streets of Manhattan as opposed to the forests around Hogwarts.  To that end, this film about Sorcery suffers from the same problem that all movies with wizards, witches, and warlocks suffers....most of the battles become the sum of two people throwing fire balls at one and other.  Some of the sight gags for the sorcery does raise the bar to the Harry Potter level, but it is still a tough nut to crack.  I guess expecting much more would be like expecting Rocky to break out Tae Kwon Do when fighting Clubber's just not going to happen. 

Let me not forget to mention Teresa Palmer who plays Becky...David's love interest.  Baruchel has quite a streak going here.  He got to date Alice Eve in She's Out of My League and in this, Teresa Palmer's Becky is almost a straight ringer for Alice Eve.  These are some sharp looking gals and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Baruchel was doubling as casting director!  I guess this is a fantasy movie, though....just kidding are a sharp looking guy and twice as cool!  I am a fan...and I mean that in a totally hetero way.

Yep, I'll give you a moment to savor all of this...4.5 of 5 from the Reel Rhino.

Drink it in.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Will M Night Ever Get the Magic Back?

First things first...a special tip of the hat to the ladies at FDC....yep, that's Family Dental Care here in Kansas City, MO.  Dr. Fisher and crew are followers of the Reel Rhino so I given them a special nod here.  I would say the movie review could arguably be more important in a movie blog...but not so with M. Night's fizzle of a flick.  Hello FDC...I'll see you again in January!!  Feel free to drop me a hello at the comments below!

Wow! I have never wished for a keyboard to start typing as much as during the duration of M. Night Shyamalan's THE LAST AIRBENDER.  This is based on the Nickelodeon property AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER.  The protagonist is Aang, who is of course, the last of the Airbenders.  He is is known more broadly in the world of the film as the AVATAR.  But nooooo...James Cameron can sleep easy because it isn't's ahhhh-Va-tar.  As if you just had dinner on Park Avenue and your mink stole is draped over your shoulders and that fella at your side is wearing a monocle.  That is how you would say Ahhh-VA-tar in this world.  I don't even mean that as a joke....that's how they say it.

If you remember, last summer the first ads for this, it actually was called Avatar: The Last Airbender.  I guess they didn't want to confuse Cameron's work with their masterpiece.  At this point, I think Shyamalan would have benefited from the confusion.

I am not a Shyamalan apologist by any means, but I am a huge fan of THE LADY IN THE WATER.  I love that movie to the point that I think some day I will do a blog post dedicated just to it.  Love it!  (See also: Michael Bamberger - The Man Who Heard Voices -- a GREAT book ~ yes...I do read as well).  I was also super duper stoked for The Happening and I think we all remember how that ended.  Badly.  There was no excuse for The Happening, but given Night's sterling track record in the past, I forgave The Happening, looked past the poor reviews for Airbender, and I went in with an open mind.

My open mind was met with an extremely...EXTREMELY...lackluster film.  There was much net debate about the race choices for the characters.  The animated series features a drawn cast that is said to be predominately Asian.  Some have posted that the roles in Night's film were mis-cast and skewed towards Caucasian actors.  Yes, Dev Patel and Cliff Curtis are among those non-white actors here, but the argument was primarily Katara and Sokka, the side-kicks to Avatar, who are played by Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone (also known as Jasper Hale from Twilight....are you done screeching yet?).  Here is my take on the race issue: white, non-white, purple, red, or blue....I would have taken anyone who in fact could act, regardless of where they were from or what they looked like.

I can't tell if it was cheesy dialogue or poor editing that led to some of the worst moments, but my God...there were some real botched exchanges.  One character asks another: "Do you think that we should do this?"  The reply: "Yes"  Every word of that exchange was heavily enunciated and drawn out...even worse, at one point, Katara is expressing to Aang the need to hustle up and get the hell out of dodge.... it played like this:

Katara: Aang....


Aang: Yes....


KataraWeeeeeeee'vvvvveeee got toooooooo gooooooooo (slow motion dialogue implied)

Had they just shut up and rolled out, they'd of been on a flight to Rio by now!

Again, like I said, it is hard to tell if it was the acting or if the editing was the culprit.  M Night has been a master editor in the past.  Night has said that filming this movie was very much a tribute to his children and their love of the I understand his motivation.  But where was that NIGHT editing that scared us silly and kept us captivated in LADY, SIXTH SENSE, and SIGNS.  That master filmmaker must have been reading the film beats by having his kids watch the dailies.

I think M. Night Shyamalan is a wonderfully creative director.  I think Night will return at some point to just didn't happen here.

The editing issue was also evidence in some of the early fight scenes.  When the fire benders where fighting the earth benders early on, some of the yoga maneuver build-ups to the attack moves took what seemed like several minutes to complete.  If I was fighting a bender, to hell with bending back, I would have walked right up to them and popped them in the mouth while they were doing pilates to summon the elements as their talents allowed.

So yes...I have several issues with this movie. But I will do have something good to say.  When the fight scenes weren't involving the bending, they were done quite well.  The choreographers should very much be commended.  I guess some of this should be attributed to the cinematography and editing as well, so after swinging down to a 1 out of 5 horn rating....the Reel Rhino awards 1 horn for effort.  Final rating: 2 OUT OF 5 HORNS.

Any movie in which the good guy looks back after incapacitating one of the main baddies and says: "We could be friends." After you wipe away the tears, you might also look around for a barf bag (sorry I said barf bag...gag me with a spoon, man!).

I don't even want to get into some of the Star Wars parallels.  Several of the shots, most notably in the Water Benders village, were lifted straight from Lucas.  Also, good ol' Jackson Rathbone is both dressed, made-up like, and acts with the same talent that Anakin Skywalker aka Hayden Christensen showed the world in Episodes 2 and 3.  And perhaps worst of all, if Chewie were to really let himself go, grow a tail, and could fly, he would have been a dead ringer for Aang's pet whatever the hell it was.


It has been around 2 weeks since my last post and so I think The Reel Rhino Recap is in order:

6/25 - Knight and Day - 3.5 horns
Very watchable summer action romance comedy fare...Tom Cruises best role since Les Grossman since....well since who knows...

6/26 - Toy Story 3-D - 5 horns
A very near perfect animated feature from our friends at PIXAR.  Better than Up, maybe their best ever.  This is coming from a guy who had not seen TS 1 or TS 2 except for the 3-D re-releases this past October.

7/2 - Twilight: Eclipse - 3 horns
My favorite Twilight feature yet...which I guess isn't a rave review, since I was lukewarm on the first two as well.  Too many drawn out schlocky love talks...Oh and re: my above statement about goodie and baddie saying we should be friends, I guess I spoke too soon since (SPOILER: Jacob and Edward have a love-in, be-my-friend moment in this one).

7/3 - Winter's Bone - 4 horns
A great indie flick filmed in Missouri, about Missouri.  Even if I didn't live in Missouri, I would be raving on this one.  I will hit on this one again in Art House Rhino sometime soon.  Look for the lead gal (Jennifer Lawrence), the screenwriter/director (Debra Granik), and the film itself to be all abuzz come Oscar season.

Funny story...on Friday Night, I was dead set intent on going to see Winter's Bone rather than Twilight.  I was making a statement that Indies have their place and that we need to reward small GREAT pictures rather than blindly fire cash at blow out "Blockbusters" like Twilight.  I misread the start time on Winter's Bone, which all day around the office, I was saying in a nasally British like voice.  This made Winter's Bone seem either very pretentious or very much a porno flick.

Well I ended up having to SETTLE for Twilight.  As it turned out, Gil Birmingham, also known as Jacob's papa Billy Black, was visiting AMC Barrywoods on a promo for the hour in which I arrived at the theater.  I walked over among the shriek and screams just to check things out.  Given my affinity for following all things movie, I reached up and snapped a cell-phone shot to document this wonderful, knee-buckling experience.  Of course, being the Reel Rhino, I am not overly embarrassed to being tied to anything related to the movies, but, did I really need this:

Yep, that super tall dude snapping a cell-phone shot...that's the Reel Rhino.

Till next time...