Sunday, September 19, 2010

What' up Netflix!

Happy-Go-Lucky- 4 stars- In a career spanning four decades, Mike Leigh has proven himself a master of character development and dialog. He gained critical acclaim in the mid-90s with “Secrets & Lies” about the emotional impact of class, race, and sexuality in London. I remember the first film of his I saw was “Meantime” starring Tim Roth and Gary Oldman. I remember being mesmerized by these two men living lives I couldn’t imagine. Leigh showcased the hardships of growing up poor without passing judgment or making a political statement. He allows his characters to live and breath on their own with his camera lens a mere observer to their lives.

In “Happy-Go-Lucky”, we are introduced to the world of Poppy (well deserved Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins); a cheerful and charismatic primary school teacher. She skips through life, unable to regulate the thoughts coming out of her mouth and always on the lookout for a good laugh. Some of the best scenes take place during her weekly driving lessons with Scott (prolific English actor Eddie Marsan); as she slowly peels back the layers of his abrasive personality until he crumbles before her eyes. Poppy is unaware of the effects she has on people, or maybe more truthfully, is unconcerned with how she effects people. She moves to the beat of her own drummer and if you don’t like it you can leave. What I loved so much was how everyone can identify with a character or some aspect of the film. We are all looking for the same things and make the same mistakes along the way. Sally Hawkins is a revelation. Listening to Leigh talk about the casting process I don’t envy his casting director. He wants to find someone who already imbibes some of the major qualities of the character; then he encourages them to express themselves to the fullest limit. A must see.
Hot Tub Time Machine- 3 stars- The best part of “Hot Tub” is trying to pick out the 80s movie references that pass silently by in the background. A kid muttering “I want my two dollars” had me in tears. Crispin Glover as the one armed bellhop may know something about time travel from his own experience in “Back to the Future”. I will also watch anything with John Cusack in it; I don’t care what it is. Director Steve Pink also made the homage to college kids everywhere “Accepted” (I gave it 4 stars). Here, he creates a mediocre movie that entertains on nostalgia alone.

Sad sack Lou’s (Rob Corddry) suicide attempt succeeds only in bringing the old gang from high school back together: Nick a former rock wannabe (Craig Robinson in an hilarious performance), Adam (John Cusack) who is self obsessed and lonely, and his geek nephew Jacob(Clark Duke of “Kick Ass”). Off they go to try and cheer each other up to the same ski resort they partied at 20 years ago. Unfortunately, the place has fallen on hard times (“Look at all the cats!”). In a bit of movie ridiculousness, their hot tub lights up and transports them back to 1986 and the height of their “coolness”. It’s fun to see Cusack relive the world and films that made him famous in the first place and Duke does a great job of explaining time travel and trying to keep the adult children in line. I wish I had seen it in a group; perhaps it would have been better. Still, it’s a good rental and a nice trip down memory lane, even if those memories are covered in leg warmers and scrunchies.

Date Night- 1 star- I don’t even want to talk about it but I have to. Ugh. I prefer its German title: “Gangster fur eine Nacht”. That sounds like a movie I want to see! Director Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum”) tries his hand at more adult fare while keeping the training wheels on. Adults are not interested in the same antics as children, I promise you. Steve Carrell and Tina Fey’s Phil and Claire are the most bumbling duo who should be sterilized to prevent them reproducing any further. Finally taking some time out for themselves, they head into the city to enjoy dinner at a fancy new restaurant. When they can’t get a table, they take the reservation of a couple who have not shown up (a reoccurring joke based on this falls flat every time). Next thing you know, they are being escorted into the ally by a couple of thugs (don’t worry, they go willingly) and held at gun point. Seems the reservation they took was for a couple of low level criminals being hunted by the mob. Still with me? The funniest thing that happened all movie was when one of the gangsters (Common I think. I really want to see him in that new Queen Latifah movie. He is my new Taye Diggs. Sorry, I got off track…). Anyway, one of the gangsters turns his gun sideways to make a point and Carrell yells out “Kill shot! His gun is turned sideways! That’s a kill shot!” That was funny. It annoys the ever loving daylights out of my when I see an actor turn their gun sideways. Where was the weapons expert that day? Dear Hollywood: NO ONE WHO KNOWS GUNS WOULD DO THAT. IT COULD JAM. IT ALSO WEAKENS YOUR ACCURACY. A TRAINED MONKEY (not to mention the cops, military personnel, and marksmen you have doing this action) WOULD NEVER DO THIS IN REAL LIFE. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, STOP. Also, please do not see this movie.

PS- Dear Marky Mark, I really respect you as an actor now. I know the sides they must have sent you for “Date Night” were hilarious; your scenes were some of the better. However, please read the rest of the script. This was not good. I’m not even going to get into “The Other Guys” yet. Just, please go back to what your good at: Scarring the shit out of me.
***You can also check out my reviews for "The Extra Man" and "Devil" in theatres now.***

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