Sunday, January 30, 2011


KIMBALIANO is a friend by circumstance.  Firstly, she is the elder Sis to one of my all-time best friends, who I met while in college.  I would say via this route, I have known her for seventeen years.  For my day job, I also happen to work in a related field to KIMBALIANO, although in a different part of the country.  While we haven't had the chance to work together directly, we both have friends of friends who we have each worked with in our careers.  This long-winded tale is leading me here: THANK YOU KIMBALIANO...I am glad to have a trusted, film-loving friend out there, keeping us posted on the really important stuff!

Well, the awards were announced last night, and it's always exciting to see which movies I've managed to see while in Utah, and which ones I will have to look out for once I get home. With 118 different movies showing (half of which are in competition), there just isn't enough time to see them all - I managed to fit in 17 of them this past week, not too shabby.

Another movie I think will have a very wide appeal, in addition to LIKE CRAZY and PERFECT SENSE ~see last post~, is THE GUARD.  It is a hysterical Irish movie about a small town, corrupt Irish cop wrapped up into an FBI investigation of an international drug ring. Brendan Gleeson plays the Irish cop and Don Cheadle the uptight FBI agent, and their interaction is classic odd couple. Very very funny and very very inappropriate. A fun time, all around.  The film is written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, brother to Martin McDonagh.  Martin gave us In Bruges in 2008, also starring Brenden Gleeson (as well as a Golden Globe winning turn by Colin Farrell), and it is a fantastic movie.  Perhaps brother John has some of the same sensibilities, but at the very least, give it a try.  Keep an eye out in this as well for MARK know, the Andy Garcia doppelganger?  He is in pretty much everything these days, or so it seems.  I think the only person in more forms of media right now is JAMES FRANCO (Now that guy really is in EVERYTHING!).

Another one of my favorite movies, which ended up winning the Alfred P. Sloan Prize (given to a film which is about science or technology, or has a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character) and also a Special Jury Prize was a movie called ANOTHER EARTH. I loved this movie - it's a very minimal movie about an MIT bound girl, Rhoda, who is distracted while driving when another earth, a mirror planet, appears in the sky. She veers into another lane and kills a woman and her son. After a four year stint in jail, she feels the urge to meet the husband who survived. It's a beautifully well acted film, with the sci-fi appearance of another earth serving more as a backdrop to the human story.

Now for the winners - Here at Sundance, the awards are selected by a panel of jurors (a selection of folks from the film industry). There is also an Audience Award given out (we get ballots at the film to vote). On occasion, a really special film wins both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, like PUSH did a couple years ago (which was later released as a little film called PRECIOUS). This year I was happy to see LIKE CRAZY take home the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. I didn't see CIRCUMSTANCE - the audience award winner, so I'll be keeping my eyes out for it. Also, a shout out to BRICK NOVAX, which won the Jury Prize in Short Film making. (BRICK NOVAX on Reel Rhino - also, note the updated and correct spelling).  The full list of awards:

Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic:
Like Crazy

Grand Jury Prize, Documentary:
How To Die In Oregon

World Cinema Jury Prize, Dramatic:
Happy, Happy

World Cinema Jury Prize, Documentary:
Hell and Back Again

Dramatic Audience Award:

Documentary Audience Award:

World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award:

World Cinema Documentary Audience Award:

The Best of NEXT Audience Award:

Directing Award, Dramatic:
Martha Marcy May Marlene, directed by Sean Durkin

Directing Award, Documentary:
Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, directed by Jon Foy

World Cinema Directing Award, Dramatic:
Tyrannosaur, directed by Paddy Considine

World Cinema Directing Award, Documentary:
Project Nim, directed by James Marsh

Waldo Scott Screenwriting Award:
Another Happy Day

World Cinema Screenwriting Award:

Documentary Editing Award:
If a Tree Falls

World Cinema Documentary Editing Award:
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

Excellence in Cinematography Award, Dramatic:

Excellence in Cinematography Award, Documentary:
The Redemption of General Butt Naked

World Cinema Cinematography Award, Dramatic:
All Your Dead Ones

World Cinema Cinematography Award, Documentary:
Hell and Back Again

Special Jury Prize: Dramatic (Acting):
Felicity Jones for “Like Crazy”

Special Jury Prize: Dramatic:
Another Earth

Special Jury Prize: Documentary:
Being Elmo

World Cinema Special Jury Prize: Documentary
Position Among The Stars

World Cinema Special Jury Prize: Dramatic
Tyrannosaur, for acting

Alfred P. Sloan Prize
Another Earth, directed by Mike Cahill

Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award:
Cherien Dabis

The Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking:
Brick Novax pt 1 and 2, Director and Screenwriter: Matt Piedmont

The Jury Prize in International Short Filmmaking :
Deeper Than Yesterday, Director and Screenwriter: Ariel Kleiman

The Shorts Jury Honorable Mentions in Short Filmmaking to:
Choke, Director and Screenwriter: Michelle Latimer
Diarchy, Director and Screenwriter: Ferdinando Cito Filmomarino)es.
The External World, Director and Screenwriter: David O’Reilly
The Legend of Beaver Dam, Director: Jerome Sable; Screenwriters: Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion
Out of Reach, Director and Screenwriter: Jakub Stozek
Protoparticles, Director and Screenwriter: Chema García Ibarra

For the official press release regarding the winners...visit HERE  I'm sad to have the festival over, but there were some great independent movies this year. Keep your eyes out for them and thanks to The Reel Rhino for letting me share my thoughts!!

No, humblest thanks to you, KIMBALIANO!  The Reel Rhino will be back later this week with a review of THE MECHANIC and keep an eye out soon for KIMBALIANO's return as a Reel Rhino regular: INDIE GAL!

Till later, take care...and enjoy this creepy Red State poster...MARCH 16th...I can hardly wait!


MOVIE DAY: And Don't Call Me Shirley!

DISCLAIMER: I sat down to write this as a straight review.  For some movies, I think this is extremely difficult to impossile given the effect said films have had on the world.  AIRPLANE! is one of these films.  What results below is something inbetween a straight review and the gushing of a nostaligic fanboy with a bit of rambling.  But hey, it's my blog and I'll do what I want to!  RR

In 1980, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker collaborated both in the writing and the directing of the mother of all spoof films.  That is not to say that Casino Royale, Dr. Strangelove, and even the Pink Panther series didn't predate AIRPLANE! and didn't have elements of spoofiness.  These other entires, which are all features of extreme enjoyment...are all rooted to some extent in a story that lives and breathes in the real world.

Perhaps the only parallel I can draw for Airplane! in my meager filmgoing life, is that of Mel Brooks.  His films have always been unique in their own right and perhaps are the grandmama to the this whole spoof genre...but Brooks is certainly deserved of his own post.  For now, to the ample breast of the mother...(teeheeheee).

AIRPLANE! began a legacy of spoofing that was born of the disaster films of the 60's and 70's.  Airport, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno...all the craziest aspects of these films, rolled into a film with some of the wackiest dialogue and original comedy in the history of film. 

The cast was sublime and while not a perfectly crisp bit of filmmaking, what it lacks in finesse and refinement is makes up for in physical comedy and suberbly delivered zingers that to this day maintain their sting and bite!

This film defies explaination...I tried, failed, and erased my summation of the plot, as it sounded too ridiculous.  There are many aspects of drama, romance, and terror that could really root this thing in reality like those other films I mentioned above...but it doesn't...not even a little bit.

At no time during a screening of this film will the viewer mistake it for anything that is to be taken seriously.  From the classic opening scene discussion of the merits of parking in the red versus the white zone, this movie grabs you and doesn't let go!

The story is really of no consequence, but it is essentially a zany romance wrapped in a wacky disaster adventure.  Ted Stiker, our hero, is chasing his love, stewardess Elaine Dickinson, into the skies.  She tells him moments before the fateful flight towards Chicago begins, that she is through dealing with his shit and she is leaving him.  Plus, he as a drinking problem :-)

See, any of that above paragraph could be the premise for a drama, romance, etc...but there is not one bit of sound story-telling that matters one bit here.  From Elaine and Ted's meeting to the tune of STAYIN' ALIVE to the intensely hilarious antics of Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, and the rest of the ground support flight controllers...yes, Johnny, even you!...nothing at all matters in terms of sense, because every single line and scene stands on it own.  It would be like a loosely constructed series of skits on just all works.

Can I tell you also, that the co-pilot, Roger Murdock, is AWESOME!  I think Kareem, while perhaps a little wooden in his acting, makes some fantastic cameos...AIRPLANE! for starters and then his bit in FLETCH.  Roger Murdock, finally breaking character: [breaking character] 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.

Like I said, the dialogue is both classic and hilarious....

Roger Murdock: Flight 2-0-9'er, you are cleared for take-off.
Captain Oveur: Roger!
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Tower voice: L.A. departure frequency, 123 point 9'er.
Captain Oveur: Roger!
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Victor Basta: Request vector, over.
Captain Oveur: What?
Tower voice: Flight 2-0-9'er cleared for vector 324.
Roger Murdock: We have clearance, Clarence.
Captain Oveur: Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?
Tower voice: Tower's radio clearance, over!
Captain Oveur: That's Clarence Oveur. Over.
Tower voice: Over.
Captain Oveur: Roger.
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Tower voice: Roger, over!
Roger Murdock: What?
Captain Oveur: Huh?
Victor Basta: Who?


Speaking Jive with June Cleaver!

So much that makes this film can NOT be encapsulated in a blog post.  This is a film that demands to be seen!

Rumack: Captain, how soon can you land?
Captain Oveur: I can't tell.
Rumack: You can tell me. I'm a doctor.
Captain Oveur: No. I mean I'm just not sure.
Rumack: Well, can't you take a guess?
Captain Oveur: Well, not for another two hours.
Rumack: You can't take a guess for another two hours?

I am grateful to see AIRPLANE! on the big screen!  I might pass on Airplane! 2: The Sequel, and hope instead that they shoot for Stropes or Animal House, or something with a little more drawing power (and legit laughs).

As to AMC Theaters, orchastrating this re-release...I appreciate what AMC theaters is doing, but in a nutshell, I don't think they know exactly what they are doing just yet.  Certainly the BACK TO THE FUTURE re-release was well timed and well received, but if AMC wants this program to be successful (which I certainly am hoping for to keep these classic flicks playing on the big screens!), they better figure out how to do this!!  People need to be able to DEMAND the films they want AND have some kind of warning (AKA advertising) that the flicks are coming.  I was one of 25 or 30 in the theater for the Saturday showing of AIRPLANE!...should have been a sell-out on a cold and wet Saturday in January...that is a real shame.

Let me not go further without paying tribute to Leslie Nielsen, the straight-faced funny man for all time, playing the role of the hapless Dr. Rumack here.  I would say definitively that Nielsen's best work was with the Police Squad!, but this is up there as well.  He played Frank Drebon like an off-tune trombone and it sounded glorious.  Hell, we even loved that murderous bastard O.J. in this series.  Norberg was great comic relief within a great comic series and I hate that he sullies these gems with his presence.  I guess I can always go back and watch the original Police Squad! if I want an O.J.-less look at this great role.  It seems like Nielsen attached himself to some great properties that had "!" at the end of the title.  Just glancing through his career to put this together today, I say with convicition that his film life is worthy of a much closer inspection and I hope to stumble across a BIO special on him or maybe one day even see a biopic on him....who would play him though?  As a spoof king, nobody could run slapstick with a staright face like he...I regret only that towards the end, he got roped into some terrible films not worth the celluloid they were shot on...Superhero Movie and Scary Movie 4 jump to mind.  R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen, died 2010 at the age of 84.

This kind of transistions nicely into the current state of the spoof, which I think it is safe to say it is in shambles.  There have been some moderate successes through the years and in 2000 came a glimmer of hope by the name of SCARY MOVIE
Between then and now, though, there has been a mixed bag of crap with a few decent tries.  Most recently, the steaming piles put out by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer only impress me in so much that somehow a) these guys are allowed to make movies and b) somehow these stinkers turn a profit.  Evil begets said Cornelius in The Fifth Element.  I wonder if shit begets shit.  Take a look at these guys filmography and one would have to say that it is proof enough!  Disaster Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, etc...The only decent flick I have seen from this crew has been the latest offering, Vampires Suck.  Perhaps only the absolute ease of which one can skewer all things Twilight, did this flick arouse a few laughs in me.

Friedberg and Seltzer are credited with writing the 1996 Leslie Nielsen vehicle SPY HARD.  They both had a hand in writing the original Scary Movie, but the success of that film SEEMED to be very much due to the Wayans Brothers.  Same with the second, but then a strange thing happened...David Zucker, he who has hallowed standing as one of the creators of AIRPLANE!, was responsible for the lesser movies in the SCARY MOVIE series, #3 and #4.  Both were crap.

And while my who point here has gotten muddled, I offer this as my round-up thesis: It takes a casserole mix of awesomeness and awfulness to make any spoof film work.  When it happens, and rarely does it happen, it can be great.

Such was AIRPLANE! and I am glad we have it.  The official REEL RHINO rating is a 4 of 5 HORNS.  This movie is not perfect, but it is a damn good time! 

Until next time, take care!


PS: Airplane! is playing again Tuesday, Feb. 1st, 2011 at AMC Theaters at 7:00pm.  Don't miss it!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


The Reel Rhino in real life is a Crime Scene Investigator.  Crime happened, which is why the odd hour of this post.  Due to my extremely tired state, I regret to say, there will only be the pictures provided by KIMBALIANO.  And for now, I cut right to the chase...

KIMBALIANO: Hello! It's the beginning of day 7 here at Sundance and I'm currently waiting in the volunteer line for my 11th movie of the festival! (THE GUARD, supposed to be quite good, and already purchased by Sony Pictures) Here's a couple I have liked that you should look out for:

LIKE CRAZY - what a lovely movie this was! The long distance love story of Jacob (an American) and Anna (a Brit), separated by immigration red tape after Anna violates her visa to stay in the US an additional summer. Their love is infectious and believable and I adored this movie. So did Paramount Pictures, who've purchased it for $4 million. I've heard rumors of a March release date, so keep your eyes open. As a side note, Jennifer Lawrence - Sundance alum who was just nominated for Winter's Bone, plays a small supporting role in this film.

1st in Line for the Volunteer Entrance for
Perfect Sense
My other love of the fest so far has been PERFECT SENSE. Not because I have an obsessive crush on Ewan McGregor (which I do) or that he's a little bit naked in the film (which, ladies, he is) but because this is an amazing, emotional movie. It's the story of a couple (played by Ewan and Eva Green) who fall in love while a strange pandemic breaks out around the world. It starts with an overwhelming moment of loss and grief, then an unexplainable loss of smell. Eventually the entire world is effected. As this strange illness unfolds the human reaction, both on a global level and in the intimate details of the couple's relationship, are presented. The not-knowing in this movie will make you uncomfortable, but the story is too compelling not to watch. It hasn't been picked up yet, but I really hope it does. On a sad note - Ewan did not make it to the festival for the Q and A, but did film a video, which has been posted on the Sundance website.

As with most Sundance movies, these two don't exactly wrap themselves up in a pretty bow at the end, but that's what I find most enjoyable about them.

The Drive from Park City to SLC

And I couldn't finish this post without a shout out to the Oscar's! ALL of the nominated documentaries showed at Sundance last year - plus BLUE VALENTINE, THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, and WINTER'S BONE were from last year's Fest! (Winter's Bone actually won the Dramatic Prize last year - I did catch it then, and while it's masterfully acted and presented, it's a very slow, character driven movie and wasn't one of my favorites). Hurrah for Sundance and good luck to all these independent films come ceremony time!

THANKS KIMBALIANO!!  Keep the great stuff comin'!!!
And now for a few kind words from THE KID IN THE HELMET!  He will be my movie going partner for the KANSAS CITY Premiere of RED STATE...only if...
For those of you who don't know me I am a huge Kevin Smith fan (the origins and many tales of this love are far too long to tell here but will make a good blog posting of their own). In fact I get my screen name from a very obscure moment in the already obscure Clerks: The Animated Series. So I have been following Red State for years now, dating back to when it was an untitled horror movie that Kevin was tossing around in his head and occasionally mentioning at q&a's. Kevin has had a passion for many projects that have fallen by the wayside for a litany of reasons (see: Superman Lives, Fletch Won, The Green Hornet) so when it appeared that this film would be too dark and heartless to find funding let alone a distributor I prepared myself for the fact that I might never seen my favorite writer/director stretch into a new genre. But here we sit a day after the film premiered at Sundance and Kevin announce he would self distribute under the banner of SModcast Pictures and take the film on a road tour before an eventual theatrical release. Quite the journey for this little picture that could and I couldn't be more excited that it's coming to my beloved hometown at the Midland Theater.

I tell you all that to tell you this. My wife is pregnant with our first child and she is due on March 15. Red State shows at the Midland on March 12. I'm going to take the risk of purchasing a ticket in the hopes that my unborn child shares the same love for Silent Bob as her father and will quietly stay nestled inside her mother until her father has seen the movie he has been following since before he met her mother. That said if she decides that day is the day I will happily sell/forfeit my ticket to Rhino and allow him to take someone who will appreciate the opportunity. And worst case scenario I will leave mid-flick if necessary. But I can promise you this: baby Jill will never hear the end of it :- ) So what if I have seen Kevin live 4 times and shaken his hand, not to mention I can see the flick again in October (at a much cheaper price)'s Red State damn it!

Good stuff all around KID!  I know that Jillian will have her Papa's back and we will see Red State in all its glory!!

Stay tuned for more from Sundance from the always wonderful KIMBALIANO!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


My hero of the week continues to be KIMBALIANO!!  This is our second entry into reporting on her foray through Sundance.  For this week, Salt Lake City, UT and the surrounding area is hands-down the film going capitol of the world!

KIMBALIANO: Hello from Sundance, Day 5! The weather continues to be beautiful (at around 9:00pm Mountain Time, it is 34 degrees and clear) - much better than the foot of snow which fells a couple years ago!!  Tomorrow (Tuesday) looks to have a high around forty and a low near thirty.

Yesterday was my first volunteer shift - taking tickets, changing posters, cleaning the theatre. It's a great way to experience the Festival, in a behind the scenes way. And for every four hours you volunteer, you get one free ticket to see a movie. Plus, volunteering occasionally provides movie star interaction! For example, Isabelle Rossellini was at our theatre Sunday - she had a documentary short about her love of animals (ANIMALS DISTRACT ME). I didn't get to see the short, but heard it was adorable. After the short ran, she walked right up to me to ask me a question - I replied "The women's restrooms are on the far side of the concession stand". I'm totally counting that as hobnobbing with the stars.

I did get to see a couple of movies Sunday, both of which were quintessential Sundance. The first was Pariah, the story of a young, lesbian teen living in Brooklyn, trying to balance her life with her friends and her parents - changing from her tomboy clothes to more feminine outfits on the bus ride between the two. I thought it started slow, but dang if I wasn't sniffling by the end. There's some buzz it could win the US Dramatic Competition, and while it was good, I hope there's something stronger out there.

The second movie I saw was 100% sad. It was a subtitled Cuban movie called "Ticket to Paradise". It centered around group of discarded, runaway, and homeless teenagers in Havana. They ponder a life changing decision in an attempt to gain admittance to a hospital, where clean beds and daily meals are provided. The movie claims to be based on true events, and the decisions these teens make - feel forced to make - are heartbreaking. So not an upper, but wonderfully acted and honestly presented. It's in contention for the World Dramatic Prize, and I think it has a chance.

I start my second volunteer shift in about an hour. Then the mad dash to see Perfect Sense in Park City will follow. had a trailer which makes it look like a love story, but everything I've read references some kind of worldwide pandemic, so I'm not sure what exactly I'm signed up for. Still, I'll watch anything with Ewan in it. Cross your fingers that I make it.  (REEL RHINO - I have heard it described as an end of days, sci-fi, love story...sounds all right by me!  I hope you get in!!)

(PS. I'm not going to get to see Red State (and don't share your passion for Kevin Smith movies (sorry!)) but he made a bit of a splash yesterday when he started the auction for the rights to his movie, then sold it to himself for $20. He's apparently going to be distributing it himself - pretty clever way to garner some attention for Red State, I thought.)
REEL RHINO: I am a sad Rhino to hear you are not a fan of the ViewAskew Universe!  But I forgive you and remain your loyal movie buddy!  As a side note, this Friday, I will be picking up tickets to see RED STATE at the MIDLAND by AMC!!  I will be a fellow traveller to The Kid in the Helmet and we will have smiles plastered on our faces!  The only downside is the $50 to $60 price tag on the event.  This is okay by me for several reasons:
1. I will get to see RED STATE the way that Kevin intended.
2. The showing will feature a Q&A with Smith and at this point, rumored as well to include Michael Parks.
3. I will get to see an actual movie at the Midland, a former movie house of true glory, that has been reduced to an events/concert hall.
4. The Reel Rhino says YES to any unique movie going experience! 

A final word from KIMBALIANO: My view from the balcony at Rose Wagner (one of the Salt Lake City venues) during the Q and A for Pariah. The Sundance snowflake on the screen (and on all the promotional material) is made up of small icons representing a number of Sundance movies from the past.
A final word from KIMBALIANO: My view from the balcony at Rose Wagner (one of the Salt Lake City venues) during the Q and A for Pariah. The Sundance snowflake on the screen (and on all the promotional material) is made up of small icons representing a number of Sundance movies from the past.
Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center
(Stock Photo on a Summer Day)
REEL RHINO: Kimbaliano, you are a gem!  Keep having a blast and keep sharing your experiences, I love it and I just from yesterday alone, several folks are please that my filmic reach goes beyond Kansas City. 

For those curious about the awards process, in 2010 there were a total of thirty-three awards given from a total count of 60 film entries.  The awards from last year were as follows:

2010 Sundance Festival Awards
Audience Award: Dramatic - happythankyoumoreplease
Audience Award: Documentary - Waiting for Superman
Best of NEXT - Waiting for Superman
Directing Award Documentary - Waiting for Superman
Directing Award Dramatic - 3 Backyards
Excellence in Cinematography Award Dramatic - Obselidia
Excellence in Cinematography Award Documentary - The Oath
Editing Award Documentary - Joan Rivers—A Piece Of Work
Grand Jury Prize: Documentary - Restrepo
Grand Jury Prize: Drama - Winter's Bone
Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking - Born Sweet
Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking - Can We Talk?
Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking - Dock Ellis & The LSD No-No
Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking - How I Met Your Father
Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking - Quadrangle
Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking - Rob and Valentyna in Scotland
Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking - Young Love
Jury Prize International Short Filmmaking - The Six Dollar Fifty Man
Jury Prize Short Filmmaking - Drunk History: Douglass & Lincoln
Special Jury Prize Documentary - GASLAND
Special Jury Prize Dramatic - GASLAND
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award - Winter's Bone
World Cinema Audience Award Documentary - Waste Land
World Cinema Audience Award Dramatic - Contracorriente (Undertow)
World Cinema Cinematography Award Documentary - His & Hers
World Cinema Cinematography Award Dramatic - The Man Next Door
World Cinema Directing Award Documentary - Space Tourists
World Cinema Directing Award Dramatic - Southern District
World Cinema Documentary Editing Award - A Film Unfinished
World Cinema Jury Prize Documentary - The Red Chapel (Det Røde Kapel)
World Cinema Jury Prize Dramatic - Animal Kingdom
World Cinema Screenwriting Award - Southern District
World Cinema Special Jury Prize Documentary - Enemies of the People
World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Acting - Grown Up Movie Star

Until next word from KIMBALIANO, the Reel Rhino says thank you and good night!


Monday, January 24, 2011


BY: The Reel Rhino & The Kid in the Helmet

The Reel Rhino is very ready to eat crow, and I will do it with a smile (usually).  I had sworn off seeing NO STRINGS ATTACHED, primarily for the presence of everyone's favorite prankster: Aston Kolchak (see also, Hot Tub Time Machine).  Of course I mean Ashton Kutcher and I think it was in my bottom 10 post that I said he has potential, but he is just not there as a serious actor just yet.
I am eating crow...Ashton Kutcher did a damn fine job in this film, playing Adam, our lucky dog who gets signed on to have relationship-free sex at every available opportunity with Emma, played by Natalie Portman.  The premise is that Emma has a relationship phobia, but by no means does that mean that she isn't frisky for some funnin'.

NO STRINGS ATTACHED was better than expected. I thought Natalie Portman was funny and charming and by far the best part of the movie. I would have liked a little more back story on why she is so afraid of commitment. It seems forced and strange.  We maybe get a peak at the genesis of this paradigm in the final minutes of the film, but it was too late to keep us from scratching our heads throughout the first 4/5ths.

She says she becomes a different person when she is in a relationship but we see no evidence of that so when she meets a great guy it's hard to understand why she won't be more than sex-buddies with him. Ashton Kutcher is what Ashton Kutcher is...if you haven't liked him in past things you won't like him in this. But for a rom-com he does what a male lead needs to cute and funny.

Kevin Kline makes an appearance as Kutcher's dad and while the character he plays is pretty unlikeable it is just nice to see him on screen; can't remember the last time I saw him in a flick. The moments between Kutcher and his.2 buddies (Ludacris and Jake M. Johnson) are very funny and generally well written from both the perspective of comedy and also nailing how three best-friends would actually interact.

The Kid in the Helmet's Summary
It's a pretty enjoyable flick but there are a few "comedic" bits after "the end" of the movie that are kind of infuriating. I won't spoil it but they aren't funny, they often make no sense based on earlier events in the movie, and go as far to unredeem a previously redeemed character. I know that is too much analysis for a goofy rom-com but it just kind of irked me. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Reel Rhino's Summary
I too was entertained and while I agree with the unredeeming of the previously redeemed, I don't think it does nearly the damage Helmet indicates above.  I thought the comedy was well delivered and appropriate for a movie about guilt-free, relationship-free sex.  This is an R-rated movie and there were F-bombs aplenty and loads of sex-talk and anatomy discussions that would have Dr. Ruth feeling right at home!  Some of the humor is potty humor, but contrary to my complaints in the past, it found an appropriate home here.  But for all the decent laughs and (I can't believe I am going to say this) the decent acting, this film was good but not great.  If nothing else, there is a palpable chemistry between out two leads and it helps give the story some credibility.

Lake Bell had a great turn as a line producer on the TV show on which Adam works.  She is lovely and played just-off-center perfectly.  Two other treats were Greta Gerwig and Mindy Kaling as Portman's roomie and fellow staffers at the hospital where she works.  Both deliver lines in an exceedingly cute way and their addition helped to build a more full-bodied cast.  Check out Greta in a great indie flick called BAGHEAD, the product of mumblecorp and a film by Jay and Mark Duplass, both of whom are gaining speed as serious film makers.  Finally, Olivia Thurlby, plays Emma's sister, who is to be married.  The wedding serves as this added force reinforcing relationships that only serves to divide our hapless heroine all the more.

As THE KID says above, Kevin Kline was adequate.  I would have loved to see Sydney Pollack (R.I.P.) in this role, ala his character in MADE OF HONOR, but Kline held his own.

Look at that!  The Reel Rhino  comparing and contrasting too rom-coms....beware the coming of the apocalypse.

The Reel Rhino says 3.5 Horns of 5 and it fell just short of a four, perhaps due to my predispositions to the film in general and if you think I was wrong for my Kutcher comments, just breathe in the climactic final line in the pinnacle scene between Portman and Kutcher. I wasn't wrong to dog him, but I will say that Kutcher is making progress. But comparing Killers to NSA leaves only the conclusion that he would have to improve, as Killers was garbino!

I had written this film off entirely, and I was surprised. Pass the ketchup for the Crow. Also, I was surprised when I saw Ivan Reitman in a cameo role as director for the show where Adam works. Well it makes sense, as he was the DIRECTOR of the film! He is one of my old-time favorites and even though GHOSTBUSTERS is my all-time favorite #1 flick, I did also enjoy My Super Ex Girlfriend and Evolution, more recently. Both were somewhat cheesy, as is this film, but at least this is a hard R and we have the pleasure of catching a view of the top edge of Natalie Portman's bum (worry not all others, Kutcher's ass shows up in all its glory!)! Yes, I went there!

By The Reel Rhino and Kimbaliano
The Reel Rhino is so lucky to have a friend in Utah working as a Volunteer at The Sundace Film Festival, the yearly offering of new and great films from a wide range of filmmakers from up and comers to long established directors.

Sundance is a film festival in which movies are viewed, libations are consumed, and deals are made!  The deal is perhaps the most valuable aspect of SUNDANCE from the perspective of the filmmaker.  This is where you see the fruits of your work enjoyed and appreciated in the form of finding security in the form of a a distribution studio.

The great KIMBALIANO has taken up camp in the heart of SUNDANCE and she has already sent me some tidbits.  I expect a bit more of a flow of info to be coming your way soon, so stay tuned and if you like, SUBSCRIBE!  I would be glad to have you.

KIMBALIANO on the chance to meet again Ewan McGregor, one of her favorite actors: I'm really hoping to make it to the first showing (Perfect Sense) on Monday night, since it's most likely he'll be at that one over any of the other showings. It'll be tight since my volunteer shift ends late, so keep your fingers crossed for me. I only hope he remembers me from last time :) I'll have a later chance later in the week, but it won't be in Park City, so it's unlikely he'll be there.

I got a couple to see a couple of things today. Saw one of the Shorts programs, which was pretty entertaining. One of my favorites was called Brick Novak, done entirely in dioramas with barbie like dolls, but certainly none that you'd see in school. Very funny, and very inspired by 70s television - it even made me snort at one point. Apparently it's already been purchased by HBO and an extended version is currently running on "Funny or Die presents". Pretty clever, and good for some laughs if you can catch it.  You can see the general page for the short at:

Also got to see My Idiot Brother, starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and bunch of other folks you'd recognize. All of them were at the showing too, which is always cool. It came into the festival with a ton of buzz and tickets were scarce. I got in the volunteer line 1.5 hours early, and was still behind a number of folks. Sigh. I really wanted to love love love it, and overall, it was entertaining - but in the end, it was missing something. Really disappointing because it was well acted and I caught myself laughing during a bunch of it, but I walked out thinking "meh". There was just no umph to it.  

Apparently, though, the Brothers Weinstein saw things a little differently as they have sealed the deal on MY IDIOT BROTHER.  Perhaps star appeal and a little bit of history played in to this.  The cast is loaded with great folks!  The guarantee is $5 to $6 million and there is a $15 million approved for P&A and a wide-release clause to ensure that at least the star value will pay off, regardless of how it fairs critically or how well it is received by a wide-audience.  The hedged bet may also be due to the film makers behind this film being the same ones who gave us the indie darling, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.

I work tomorrow (Sunday, January 23rd, 2011), so I probably won't get to see anything (at least in it's entirety). 

A final note about the I type this entry, Kevin Smith is screening RED STATE for the first time.  At the conclusion of the screening, there will be a live auction for the right to distribute!  Vedy, vedy exciting!!  I love Kevin Smith's film making style and I am in the minority of COP OUT apologists.

For The Reel Rhino, The Kid in the Helmet, and Kimbaliano, until later, take care!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Reel Rhino Review: THE WAY BACK

The Way Back...what is this movie?  You are probably asking yourself that very question and rightfully so!  Where has the P&A for this film been?  I happened to stumble across a trailer online and I have had it posted for some time at the bottom of the blog, but there has been far too little pub for a weighty movie like this!  THE WAY BACK opened on only 650 screens this weekend, so it may be difficult to find it, but do so if you can because it is worth it.

Peter Weir is a 6-time Oscar nominated filmmaker.  His previous work includes Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and The Truman Show, the only two films besides The Way Back that Weir has done over the last 13 years.  He was most active in the 70's and 80's and gave us such films as The Mosquito Coast, Green Card, and Dead Poet's Society.  He is a talented director with a rich catalog and he again has done his part in creating a fine film.

The cast in film is top notch with Jim Sturgess leading the charge as Janusz, a Polish man who is sent to a Siberian Gulag to serve 20-years for spying, and as with many charges during times of war, it very much seems to be a hopped up and baseless charges.  Once in the Russian Gulag, he meets a random mix of folks and in very short order, a group forms that makes their escape.  The film only sticks around in the prison long enough to show you the terrible conditions, then the movie hits the road on an epic walking tour of the countryside that rivals even the long walk in Lord of the Rings. 

I have been a Jim Sturgess fan ever since ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.  In fact let me take a moment to plug Julie Taymor's 2007 re-imagining of some of The Beatles greatest songs in what was one of my favorites of that year.

The rest of the cast includes Mark Strong, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, and Saoirse Ronan.  Ronan in particular is truly a rising star.  From her Oscar nomination several years ago for Supporting Actress in ATONEMENT, she is spectacular.  I can't wait for HANNA this spring, in which she plays an assassin.  A star-studded film that is sure to be original and enjoyable.  Colin Farrell is decent as well.  I think since moving away from the cheese-ball action stuff of the early 2000's, Farrell has proven himself to be a very talented actor!  Don't believe me?  Check this flick out or even better, check out In Bruges, his Oscar nominated turn in 2008.

As for THE WAY BACK, it is based on the book by Ronald Downing: THE LONG WALK: THE TRUE STORY OF A TREK TO FREEDOM.  Downing had been told the story from Slavomir Rawicz and he acted as the ghost writer.  This book documents the escape of Rawicz (portrayed in the film by Sturgess as Janusz).  The story surrounds the escape of the prisoners in 1941 from the gulag and their subsequent 4000 MILE walk through the GOBI DESERT, through the HIMALAYAS, into the British controlled portion of India, over the course of 2 years.

The veracity of the book has been called into question over the years and many say it is just a bunch of anti-Russian propaganda.  Visit the Wikipedia page to get the "facts" on the matter, but I say this, regardless of the veracity, it all makes for a hell of a movie.  It doesn't have to be true to be cinematical.  Most of what we find compelling to watch has no truth to it whatsoever!

The Gobi desert scenes are masterfully shot and the make-up and costume work for these scenes are great.  Ed Harris is both emotionally and physically transformed through this film.  But it really is enjoyable across the board and his is just a sample of the fine acting within the beautiful cinematography that makes up this film.

Reel Rhino Oscar Nomination Predictions for this film:
Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography.

At the end of the day, go see this movie.  A 4.5 of 5 rating for the is 2 hours and 13 minutes and my only complaint that it is a bit too compressed at the end.  You get a feel that you are not being told everything that is of interest with regard to this journey and instead, the finale is a newsreel montage.  At least one additional scripted portion during the ending would have made this a better film.

More to come this weekend, I promise.  The Kid in the Helmet is working up some info on NO STRINGS ATTACHED, a film that the Reel Rhino will not be catching, most likely.  Also, I have a friend who touched down in Utah yesterday and I am hoping for updates from the trenches of the SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL.

Until later, take care!

The Reel Rhino

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Dilemma with The Dilemma

I saw The Dilemma today and I truly am faced with a dilemma myself.  This movie was moderately entertaining.  I, being the hapless moviegoer that I am, was entertained.  But like I mentioned in the last post on The Green Hornet, there was just something missing.

Let's talk about the good for starters.  Ron Howard has finally given us something worth watching, after his back to back steaming piles of pop-culture crap, Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code.  I have heard from others who read with greater regularity, that more often than not, the books are better than the films.  Perhaps that I read both Angels and Demons and DaVinci, I was predestined to dislike them. 

I went into THE DILEMMA with a clean slate.  I have enjoyed Ron Howard before and I knew that he was fully capable of redeeming himself.  This film is an exit from Howard's standard and I thought to myself that this could be a good thing.  To be honest, The Dilemma seems to have been completely competently directed, but my chief complaints come from that enigmatic something.  That aspect of a movie that makes it great, but seems to have eluded this offering.

(And also to be fair to Howard, in between the Dan Brown adaptations, he did give us 2008's Frost/Nixon, which did make my best of list for that year.)
Now if you read my last post on THE GREEN HORNET, you are familiar with what I mean here.  Lots of good stuff on screen, but a cloud of mediocrity looms that keeps the sun from fully shining on the film.  Speaking of no sun shining, THE DILEMMA is a bit darker than the preview lets on.  It's dark in a way that I like, and it played out in what could be a straight sequel to Vince Vaughn's previous film, the also dark relationship comedy THE BREAK UP (2006).

A struggling relationship is again the crux of the story, but this time it has been taken to the marital level.  Ronny Valentine (Vaughn) is very much in love with his girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly).  They are great friends with Ronny's best bud, Nick Brannen (Kevin James) and his wife Geneva (Winona Ryder).  The beginning of the film finds them all out having a great time.  During a swapped partner dance, Geneva pressures Ronny a bit about proposing to Beth before she decides to move on. 

Although there is no real pressure to pop the question, Ronny starts working on a proposal plan.  He visits the Botanical Gardens and while making his arrangements, he spots Geneva canoodling with some young buck, who we eventually learn is Rip, played by Channing Tatum.

Ronny's instinct is to tell Nick, but the opportunity doesn't arise right away.  He instead chooses to confront Beth, much to her surprise.

Beth quickly makes it clear that she is not going to let Ronny ruin her marriage and as expected, hijinxs ensue.

This movie hits its groove when the tension is highest, built up to staggering levels from the unsure and unsettling approach Ronny takes as he tries to do what he knows he should do, tell Nick.

All of this plays out as a huge business deal for Ronny and Nick is looming in the background.  They are partners in an engine design firm and have a prospective deal on the horizon with Chrysler, to be commissioned for designing a muscle car loud engine while integrating the set-up with a hybrid engine.  Nick has the brains behind the project, so matters are further complicated as his mental well-being needs to stay razor sharp and learning this life-changing news would clearly shatter him.

Queen Latifa has a great turn as Susan Warner, the project lead representing Chrysler in the deal.  Where the actual comedy may be lacking at some of points through the film, the Queen rocks her scenes and is a true gem in this stable of very able bodied comedic actors.

This is not a film in which the source of the comedy is apparent.  This film is dark and things barrel towards an uncomfortable ending that is not utterly surprising.  It is not a laugh at every turn romp, but in my opinion, the darker moments only serve to add to the film's overall enjoyment.  The humor comes springs from those feelings of dread and there is plenty to go around.

It is a serious film with a few laughs.  I guess my only complaint is that the film wasn't sure if it wanted to be a drama or a comedy and that diversity did not make the film stronger. Instead, this confusion of themes waters down ever so slightly the emotional impact the film ultimately delivers. 

As I said above, I think this film was missing something that could have made it great.  I guess I just can't tell you what it is.  I liked this movie, but did not love it.  It falls comfortably in the 3.5 of 5 Horn range from the Reel Rhino.

I recommend seeing this film.  It would play just fine on the small screen as well, but you know me, I love the show that is the big screen. 

As a side note, I caught THE GIRL WHO PLAYS WITH FIRE on Netflix Watch Instantly.  I must say it was wholly enjoyable and I think it was too harshly criticized when it played US theaters.  I think that THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST will be great as well.

I have openly criticized the Americanization of the GIRL series and I say that the originals are as riveting and enjoyable as anyone could hope for.  Yes, you do have to read while watching as they are subtitled Swedish spoken language films.  That said, in my Top 10 of 2010 post, I mentioned Fincher as my #2 fav director of the moment.  Davind Fincher is currently filming the American version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I hope it is great.  I think this is a wonderful series (albeit very, very, very dark) and to have the chance to see it again, even if for the wrong reasons, will be okay with me.  Let's hope Fincher stays true to the very dark material, but given his work with SEVEN and ZODIAC I really am not worried.  Here is hoping that Rooney Mara can step into Noomi Rapace's huge shoes as she has been twisted and wonderful.  Mara's resume has some horror, but Americanized horror doesn't touch the depths needed for The Girl series.

As a final note, I saw the full trailer for HALL PASS, the upcoming offering from The Farrelly Brothers.  It looked funny and has a great cast.  Here is hoping for something more like THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, DUMB AND DUMBER, or KINGPIN and less like HEARTBREAK KID or STUCK ON YOU.  Both of the latter weren't awful, but watching them, we knew that they weren't the Farrelly film vision that we had come to love.

I am out for now.  For this coming week's offering, I hope to catch THE WAY BACK and THE COMPANY MEN, with last on my list being NO STRINGS ATTACHED, the Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman romcom.  Portman seems to make it desirable to see but Kutcher cancels Portman and we are left with just a high chance for cheese.

Check out the trailer for Peter Weir's THE WAY BACK at the bottom of the page...

Till later, take care!

The Reel Rhino