Jack and Jill   (Adam Sandler, Al Pacino)
 
Adam Sandler was never really a great sketch comic – his characters on SNL were always just different levels of goofy, so it’s not like we should have expected his new Jack and Jill to be any kind of return to form... It’s Sandler wearing make-up and a dress.   Sandler’s Jill is hideous to look at and obnoxious to listen to.  The occasional tear doesn’t make her endearing; it just makes us sympathize with Jack.  That’s not what we’re supposed to do though, since this movie shoehorns in a “value of family” message to try and make us leave the theater smiling...  If there’s anything good about Jack and Jill, it’s Al Pacino hamming it up as an eccentric over-the-top version of himself.  Perhaps the finest actor of his generation is the funniest thing in an Adam Sandler movie. Go figure.   (Kept Checking My Watch)

 

Jarhead   (Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx)
You couldn't do this, and you probably wouldn't want to.  OK, maybe you could, but I'm playing the odds and going along with the whole "The Few, The Proud, The Marines" thing and guessing you wouldn't want to go through boot camp or endure life in the desert during Operations Desert Shield and Storm.  Jarhead is a frank look at what life was like for the Marines then.   We see reality-- the brutal training with its real risks, a wall of shame of girlfriends and wives who have been unfaithful.... and the boredom. There's really not a lot for a group of young men to do when they're living in the desert, on guard, waiting for a war to start.    (Tremendous)

Journey To The Center Of The Earth   (Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson)
"There’s something kind of quaint about a 3-D movie based loosely on a classic sci-fi novel being out in theaters this summer.  That’s not a knock – it’s a compliment.  It’s hokey, it’s old-fashioned, it’s family-friendly, and it’s also quite a bit of fun... The deliberate pacing should make this easy for kids to watch and enjoy.  And parents can take heart that it’s a pretty harmless movie.  There’s not a dirty word uttered (when you think you hear one, it’s a joke), and even when there are giant monsters, we don’t get treated to a fecal matter joke like other recent movies have felt a need to throw in."    (Tremendous)

 



Julie & Julia    (Amy Adams, Meryl Streep)
"It’s like a female version of The Godfather Part 2.  Two of the better actresses working today appear in the same movie, but their scenes are set decades apart, so we never see them together.  Instead, we watch how two lives in separate times can be so similar and how one can cast a heavy shadow over another.  Director/writer Nora Ephron (who’s given us some of the very best chick flicks) takes each of their stories and serves them to us in just the right doses.  She goes back and forth to show how each of their quests changes their lives and their relationships.  It’s fascinating to see how these journeys of self-discovery can affect those around them:  not just in the home but in their social circles.    (Tremendous)

 


Juno   (Ellen Page, Michael Cera)
Some have said Juno is on its way to being this year’s Little Miss Sunshine or Napoleon Dynamite.  And for the first ten minutes, I thought to myself, this movie is trying real hard to be this year’s Little Miss Sunshine or Napoleon Dynamite.  But I’ll be damned if Juno’s quirky charms, as annoying as they were at first, didn’t eventually win me over.  Juno is a smart teenager who did a dumb thing—she got pregnant.  She’s smart enough to know the best thing for the baby is to give it up.  She’s also smart enough to know one good way to deal with such a sad situation is with humor.  Finally, though, we get some reminders she can do dumb things—and she does a couple that keep this dramedy moving along.   (Tremendous) 


 Just Friends    (Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart)
I guess I'm "just friends" with this movie. There's nothing too wrong with it. It follows the themes of some classic romantic comedies, but to paraphrase Amy Smart and some girls and boys we all remember, I just don't like it that way.    (It Is What It Is)
         


Just Go With It    (Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston) The movie’s title sure is asking a lot of us...   Sandler's set himself up as a successful, rich plastic surgeon – and notorious lothario.  Sandler has the tough choice of whether or not to be with Jennifer Aniston or Brooklyn Decker.  And this is not played for absurdist laughs.  We’re supposed to “just go with it” and buy that the star of Little Nicky and The Waterboy can pull that off...   Through his years of womanizing, we’re supposed to believe he somehow never noticed Katherine before they had to pretend to be married.  Like a female Clark Kent, her glasses kept him from noticing she looks like – well, Jennifer Aniston.  He’s a plastic surgeon who has done thousands of breast operations, yet until she goes swimming, he never noticed she’s built like – well, Jennifer Aniston.    (Kept Checking My Watch)

 

 

Just Wright  (Queen Latifah, Common) This movie isn’t too hard.  It isn’t too soft.  But something about Just Wright isn’t right either.  The drama is never intense enough to have you concerned about the characters.  It’s never funny enough to be considered a romantic comedy... Queen Latifah is a beautiful woman, but because of her size, she isn’t always thought of as a sex symbol like some of her glamorous colleagues..  But does the movie have to be afraid to say that’s why McKnight falls for her gorgeous friend first?.. if Leslie isn’t going to show us her insecurities, how can the audience ever doubt things will turn out just right?...  Just Wright is really just… there.   (Kept Checking My Watch)

 



Justin Bieber: Never Say Never  
"Never Say Never’s marketing campaign will have you believe this is the story of a kid who’s paid his dues and no matter what the odds against him were, he never gave up.  This is actually the story of how one can use the social networking world of 2011 to achieve optimum success... We’re watching a kid who found his success through YouTube and tweeted his way into the hearts of millions.  His first album came out in 2009, and he’s already headlining the Garden!...  but Bieber never actually sits in front of a camera and tells his own story.  Justin’s employees and fans speak for him, and of course, they’re preaching to the choir.  One can’t help but wonder if Justin has anything to say about his own success – or if maybe somebody’s hiding something."     (It Is What It Is)

 

The Karate Kid    (Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan)  
Each Karate Kid’s target audience is about the same age of the kid in the title role... Don’t go to the new one for nostalgia, you won’t get it... The karate scenes are few and far between as director Harald Zwart attempts to teach us all patience... but a paying audience should demand more.   (Kids) likely won’t be able to sit still unless they’ve had proper training on keeping butts in seats.
 (It Is What It Is)

Kick Ass  (Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse)
A super hero movie that asks:  "What if real teenagers became super-heroes?"  They're probably right.... which is sad.  But you'll have too much fun to weep for the future right away.  This movie was so good, they should have called it "Tremendous."  
(Tremendous)


Kicking And Screaming   (Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall)

This is a toned-down Will Ferrell, starring in a sweet movie about youth soccer.  That might be disappointing to fans of Ferrell's more raunchy work in Old School or Anchorman.  But it's good news for parents looking to take kids to a funny movie.   (Tremendous)



The Kids Are All Right  (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore)
You might think this modern family is like TV’s Modern Family, but it does take a more serious turn – and when it does, it’s pretty gripping.  Until then, it’s pretty entertaining.  If there’s only one award to be given out, I’d be hard-pressed to choose whether Bening or Moore deserve it more.    (Tremendous)

King Kong (2005 Peter Jackson remake, Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody)

Instead of messing with Kong, Jackson enhanced it. He has the technology now to make Kong and the other animals of Skull Island look amazingly real, so he throws in new scenes to show them off... That's just part of the Skull Island portion of the movie, the third of the movie that earns Kong its recommendation. The dinosaurs are even better than Jurassic Park's...  Skull Island is the movie's second third. The other two thirds frankly aren't as good... While it's a nice tribute to the original to have the film take place in the 30s, it's annoying that the people speak as if they were in a 1930s movie. It makes them campy and cartoonish.  Kong himself is more convincing in this modern retelling, but the people aren't... Despite the problems with the first and last thirds, the thrills of the second make King Kong (Tremendous)

The King’s Speech   (Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush)
The Oscar darling is certainly worthy – it’s an overlooked bit of history, it’s well-acted and it’s even relatable (fear of public speaking!).    (Tremendous)

Kingdom Of Heaven   (Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson)
Believe it or not, a movie about the Crusades seems to be about religious tolerance and living together in peace... The problem is once we've established that, it's hard to pick sides when the fighting starts.  And boy, do they fight.  And fight.  And fight.  The climactic battle is big, bloody and spectacular (this is directed by Gladiator's Ridley Scott.  The fights here look just as good as they did in Gladiator).   But that battle just keeps going and eventually made me lose interest.  (It Is What It Is)



Kiss Kiss Bang Bang   (Robert Downey, Jr., Val Kilmer)
Back in the 80's, writer Shane Black invented the cop-buddy film with Lethal Weapon... He pretty much vanished from Hollywood in recent years, but he's back with a fantastic movie that plays with the type of film he's given credit for inventing. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has some of the moments we've seen over and over, but just as you're about to roll your eyes, narrator Robert Downey, Jr. lets you know he knows you've seen it before too.  "Too Hollywood."  (Tremendous)

Land Of The Dead (aka George Romero's Land Of The Dead)
If you don't like gross-out horror movies, no review is going to convince you.  But if you do, you will love this... Things aren't as simple anymore-- the zombies are starting to figure things out-- bright lights aren't distracting them anymore, and they're learning what guns are for.  Now they can inch closer to the city, and to Fiddler's Green, the towering haven where the rich live above them... Like the zombies, I have an admiration for brains.  In this case, Romero's.  I ate this movie up. (Tremendous)

Lakeview Terrace
   (Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson)
"If you saw the trailers, you know a lot of what happens next – which is too bad, because a lot of what happens next is pretty interesting. Thanks to Samuel L. Jackson, you still pay close attention to the movie and are afraid for the Mattsons...  Jackson never lets you forget Abel is the kind of guy who will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy his brothers."  (Tremendous)


Last Holiday   (Queen Latifah)
This time, Queen Latifah carries her movie-- a good, old-fashioned, feel-good story (in fact, it's a remake of a 1950 movie of the same name starring Alec Guinness).  She  plays a middle class retail clerk who learns she has only about three weeks to live. Instead of wasting her time at her dead-end job, she decides to live her dreams. It sounds like it could be depressing. Some of the commercials make it seem like a silly slapstick film. It's neither. It's a gentle and sweet story about making the most out of life.  (Tremendous)

The Last King Of Scotland   (Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy)
At one point , Ugandan dictator Idi Amin reassures the press that he's not a cannibal. He's not, but actor Forest Whitaker was clearly hungry when it came to Amin.  Whitaker saw a meaty role here and decided to just devour it. It's the best work this consistently good actor has ever done... Idi Amin is the type of leading role the very talented Whitaker has never had before. Whitaker is a good actor, but let's face it, with his size and unorthodox looks, a lot of lead parts won't always come his way. But as Idi Amin, he's nearly perfect.  (Tremendous)

The Last Kiss   (Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett)
How you feel about The Last Kiss may be determined by how close in age you are to the main characters.  Zach Braff, his friends and their girlfriends/spouses are all just about to turn 30, and all are facing different commitment/relationship issues... You won't like what Braff does, but you will like him. The Last Kiss is full of hook-ups and break-ups, but unlike Closer from last year, these are relatable characters who don't mean to do bad things. You understand what they're going through whether you've made a bad mistake yourself or just thought about it.  (Tremendous)

Leatherheads   (George Clooney, Renne Zelwegger)
It’s not quite football’s Bull Durham, but it could have been – and that’s enough to get it a recommendation.  In a 1920’s setting, (Clooney)  is very much an old school leading man from a different era– a movie star.  He pairs himself with a reporter played by Renee Zellweger, who herself is a formidable presence on the screen.  I’ve always admired her acting, but at the risk of sounding superficial, was never that into her looks.  Maybe it’s because she’s the only female with any screen time, but she stands out here, and is as much a glamorous old school movie star as Clooney – they’re a great couple you could picture in a black and white feature.  (Tremendous)

The Legend of Zorro   (Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones)
Zorro is a workaholic.  Antonio Banderas is back as the swashbuckling hero of 1800's California, and this time he's dealing with real-life problems, the type that would plague him if he was the swashbuckling hero of 2005 America. His wife Elena, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones (ok, granted, that wouldn't be a problem) thinks he's spending too much time Zorro-ing and not enough time as a husband and father...  but The Legend Of Zorro still manages to be fun. You can't get too deep into the dissolution of a family when dad wears a sombrero, mask and swings from rooftops. (Tremendous)



Legend of the Guardians  (Kept Checking My Watch)
“Knock knock... Who’s there?... Who... Who who?... And now you can insert your own lame owl joke.  You’ll want to find something to laugh at if you sit through this pretentious, dark, humorless animated film from the director of Watchmen and 300.  This reviewer’s punchline to the knock knock joke:  “Who is this for?”  Who sat and watched the Zack Snyder’s grim and gritty Watchmen or ultra-violent 300 and thought:  “This guy should make a kid’s movie?”...  OK, there was one moment I laughed out loud, but given the seriousness of the 90 minutes before it, you know it wasn’t meant as a “wink wink” moment.  Soren is flying into battle, and he hears the Obi Wan Kenobi-like voice of his mentor:  “Use your gizzard, Soren.”  If you can’t have a character wink at the audience after a line like that, you take yourself way too seriously. (Kept Checking My Watch)



Letters From Iwo Jima

Letters From Iwo Jima  (Ken Watanabe)
The Japanese soldiers in Letters had to fight for a number of reasons:  they were honor-bound by their government to do so, it was expected of them, and let’s face it:  World War II probably had to be fought.  Fate made it so they had to fight us, if only to lose.  You watch Letters and you know why they lost... Letters gets the slight edge over Flags Of Our Fathers only because of its more unique history lesson.  Flags presented a sidebar to American history I didn’t know that much about, while Letters taught me a bit about a culture that seemed completely alien.  Taken together, they are an amazing achievement by Clint Eastwood.  (Tremendous)

License To Wed   (John Krasinksi, Mandy Moore)
"Together, they’re a chemistry-free couple going through the motions of a romantic comedy.  They’re also going through kind of the Pre-Cana from Hell with Robin Williams’ Reverend Frank testing their relationship before he’ll agree to marry them.  Williams too is going through his Patch Adams motions.   (It Is What It Is)

 

Life As We Know It   (Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel)

... just ludicrous.  For the first fifteen minutes of the movie, we see Holly, Messer and the soon-to-be departed interact and hang out with each other at your various parties and holiday gatherings.  As an audience, it’s hard to enjoy because we’ve seen the trailer and we know the hosts are going to leave their baby orphaned.  Holly and Messer saw each other after their one and only date – they’re at all these parties.  The parents see that Holly and Messer hate each other.   Why would they leave them their baby and at the same time, upend their friends’ lives?...  Charming people, some funny material – but let’s not forget – dead parents.  It’s hard to enjoy Life As We Know It when a Death puts such a pall over everything.  
(It Is What It Is)


Little Miss Sunshine   (Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Steve Carrell)
The funniest movie of the year begins with a woman picking up her suicidal brother from the hospital because he can't be trusted by himself. She brings him home to live with her family including a silent mopey teen, a heroin-snorting grandfather, a failed motivational speaker and a 7 year old beauty pageant contestant who's in way over her head.  (Repeating for emphasis:  comedy.)  These people are losers, but you can't help but like them as you watch what they endure... Hopefully the above descriptions haven't discouraged you from seeing this movie altogether, because it works its way to a very sweet and uplifting ending that reaffirms the idea of family.  (Tremendous)

The Longest Yard (2005 remake, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock)
So why remake an action/drama/comedy classic with Adam Sandler playing a part made famous by Burt Reynolds? Because it should have been a screwball comedy to begin with...  Fans of the original will have nothing against this movie-- it really doesn't mess with the original. The changes are subtle. People who have seen neither just have to decide if they want a more modern take or a classic one.  They can start with a movie about a guy named Paul "Wrecking" Crewe or Paul "Motley" Crewe.  (It Is What It Is)

Lord Of War   (Nicolas Cage, Ethan Hawke)
... is not an action movie.  Oh sure, there's gunfire and quite a bit of it.  But that'll happen in a movie about an international arms dealer.  It's world events told through his narration about his life of crime.  Think Goodfellas more than Con Air... This is about guns in the wrong hands.  If you're not into "message" movies, the message is simply guns are serious business.  The film opens with a slick montage set to classic rock, but the fun ends as soon as the first shot is fired.  The U.S. government doesn't come off great here, but then no government does.  The film may even be making the case that we have to have the arms we do-- because the other countries can get them so easily.   (Tremendous)

Lords Of Dogtown    (Emile Hirsch, Heath Ledger)
It's like watching an X-Box commercial. It never stops moving. The camera is all over the place, moving fast even when the Boyz aren't boarding. The hard rock keeps playing no matter what the guys are up to. There's part of the problem-- the skateboarding scenes are lively, but if the whole movie moves at the same fast pace, it's hard to appreciate the parts that are supposed to be fast paced. They're just eating lunch-- we don't need a video to go along with it. Settle down...  Then there's my real question:  Skateboarding?   (Kept Checking My Watch)

 

 


The Lucky Ones   (Tim Robbins, Rachel McAdams)
"The lucky ones are anyone in the audience who likes drama about current events but doesn’t want it to be heavy-handed.... There are no lengthy talks about what we are or aren’t doing over there, nobody has a total mental breakdown, and the way people react to them is the way we’ve seen people react to vets they meet in their real life. Subsequent to seeing the film, I read that by design, they don’t even mention the word “Iraq” in the movie – and darned if that isn’t correct."   (Tremendous)



 

 

The Love Guru   (Mike Myers, Jessica Alba)
"I’m going to be rooting for Mike Myers because this comedy about a self-help guru is going to be a tough sell.  To Myers’ credit, he’s often followed his own inner guru when it comes to comedy.  He’s known his strength is characters, not playing a wise-cracking version of himself put into comedic situations.  That’s why Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, Dieter, Linda Richman and Wayne Campbell have endured.  He’s also trusted that if he thinks it’s funny, we might too.... He was right again.  This is funny.  (And yes, I may the only one who thought so back when this was written).  (Tremendous)

MacGruber    (Will Forte, Kristen Wiig)
The MacGruber SNL skits work because they're simple -- they make fun of MacGyver and everything blows up befor the skit gets too long.  MacGruber the movie doesn't know what to do after it blows things up, and it pretty much forgets that it's supposed to be a MacGyver parody.    (Kept Checking My Watch)


Martian Child   (John Cusack, Bobby Coleman)
Martian Child is a lot like its title character— it’s gentle, harmless and just a little off—even though deep down, he’s like any other kid...  Simply, it’s the story of John Cusack looking to adopt a child and forming an attachment to Dennis (Bobby Coleman), a 10-year-old who thinks he’s from Mars...  Martian Child the movie is a lot like "the other kids"—you can probably guess pretty much how the story will resolve itself.  There are things that will happen in any movie about a single father and an adopted child.  But along the way, there are some pleasant surprises that help this movie stand out.    (Tremendous)

Meet The Robinsons
Disney is promising us the next phase in CG animation with the Digital 3-D of Meet The Robinsons.  It’s definitely neat to watch and kind of fun to look around at a theater full of people wearing 3-D glasses, but aside from being computer animated as opposed to hand drawn, the experience is really still just a novelty.  Audiences won’t mind putting on funny glasses every once in awhile, but this is hardly the wave of the future.  Meet The Robinsons also isn’t a memorable enough movie to set off the wave of the future  It’s cute enough to be a fine way to pass an hour and a half, but it’s not a landmark in storytelling. 
(It Is What It Is)




Men in Black 3   (Will Smith, James Brolin)
It’s fitting that Men in Black 3 deals so much with time travel, because one can’t help but watch this third installment and think about how much has changed… and at moments get a little nostalgic... Men in Black 3 is indeed of its time – it’s in 3-D like any movie with “3” in the title has to be now.  Sonnenfeld throws in chases, great special effects, and gross-out alien effects.  But he still manages to make the film... well... kind of cute... yet I didn’t end up clamoring for Men in Black 4.  Men in Black 1 had its nice little moment in time.  Men in Black 3 has one too.
(Tremendous)  A link to my  full review is at my examiner page.  Click here please.








Michael Clayton    (George Clooney, Tilda Swinton)
Patience please, it will be worth it...  When I say Michael Clayton will hold your interest, that’d be both Michael Clayton the character and Michael Clayton the script.  Clooney does a great job with this guy—a talented but morally-conflicted lawyer who wonders if he’s on the right side of things.  As to the script (by writer and director Tony Gilroy, also responsible for two of the Bourne movies), it’s very layered and very interesting—but when all is said and done, it makes complete sense.  What starts with a car blowing up ends with one of the better closing credit ideas in a long time.   (Tremendous)


Michael Jackson:  This Is It   (Michael Jackson)
Whether he was performing, simply walking through a crowd or sitting in his thinking tree in that TV special from several years ago, you couldn’t look away from him.  Sadly, the gifted performer gave us few actual performances in the last few years and more train wreck moments than we can recount in this space.  But in This Is It, even though he may not have intended for us to see it, he finally gives us real performances.  He finally gives us something good to look at and reminds us of his considerable gifts... In the interviews he gave in the last several years, Jackson gave off the image of a mousy little boy and a victim to the world.  Fans of his music will love seeing him take charge:  telling a musician to wait for his cue, letting the sound engineer know the mix is too loud or explaining why there needs to be a long pause so that the music can “simmer.”  It’s a reminder he was a creative force.   (Tremendous)

Midnight In Paris  (Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams)
How good a writer is Woody Allen?  He can compose dialogue for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway and make it believable.  He risks entering Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure territory with a time traveler meets famous people storyline, but instead makes a classically charming Woody Allen movie.    (Tremendous)

 



A Mighty Heart   (Angelina Jolie,  Dan Futterman)
If you followed the sad story of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, you know how it ended—which could have ruined this mostly procedural drama about the hunt for his kidnappers.  However, we ignorant Americans really don’t know all that much about Pakistan or what it’s like to be a journalist there, so for those who want to learn, A Mighty Heart is fascinating...  It sounds very Lifetime-Movie-Of-The-Week, but its authenticity and a strong performance by Jolie keep it above that level.   (Tremendous)

Milk   (Sean Penn, James Franco)
"With all due respect to those who have fought and are still fighting the fight, onscreen at least – the first half of Milk seems familiar.  As a narrative, it plays out like any other movie about a civil rights champion...   The second half though gets a little more interesting.  If you’re on the fence about seeing it, there’s a big reason to go:  the acting, particularly Sean Penn’s.  The guy once famous for beating up photographers is totally believable as Harvey Milk.  Penn’s Milk is gentle, he’s effeminate, he’s slight, he’s not that sure of himself early on – and he’s totally believable."  (Tremendous)

Millions   (Alex Etel,  Lewis McGibbon)
I don't know pounds from quid from euros.  And neither do the boys, who learn a lot about money as they have to hurry up and spend it.  (The film takes place as Great Britain is about to convert all money to euros.)   Watching the family handle this bag of money, you'll appreciate how money means different things to different people.    (Tremendous)

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous   (Sandra Bullock, Regina King)
You shouldn't expect CSI.  The actual Miss United States and show host William Shatner have been kidnapped, and they rely on Gracie to find them.  You'll figure the caper out soon, the movie will explain it to you, THEN Gracie will get it...  The scene that most insults intelligence:  a celebrity cameo at the end of a long scene.  I won't give it away but you KNOW the celebrity in question is going to show up at the end and takes way too long to get there.   (Kept Checking My Watch)



Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol   (Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner)
If you liked the first three movies in the series, it’s impossible not to like the new Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.  It has everything the others had – elaborate action scenes, big fights, breathtaking stunts – and Tom Cruise running as fast as he can...  The movie is literally a Tom Cruise Production starring Tom Cruise wearing sunglasses, Tom Cruise smiling at the camera, Tom Cruise being intense, Tom Cruise running fast and Tom Cruise doing a lot of his own stunts.  Like in the Mission: Impossible TV series there is a Mission: Impossible Team, but like in the other movies, they’re only there to support Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt.    It would be annoying if Cruise wasn’t so good at it.   (Tremendous)




Moneyball   (Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill)
The baseball drama Moneyball is indeed for all fans of the game, but it may be targeted specifically for a certain type of fan in the stands:  the guys who stay sitting the whole time, scribbling notes into the margins of their programs and doing all the math.  For them, Moneyball will be bliss... Yes, the first great baseball movie in a long time isn’t about a superstar player winning the big game under the bight lights.  It’s about statistics and a winning streak by, of all teams, the Oakland A’s.  And yet a lot of baseball fans are anxious to see it.  That actually makes sense in the modern sports world.  This is not necessarily the movie for guys who fantasize about playing baseball – it’s the movie for guys who play fantasy baseball.    (Tremendous)

  

Monster-In-Law   (Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda)
Fonda returns to the movies after more than a decade away, and she owns this movie... The movie should be a battle of two film divas from different eras. But J. Fo outclasses J. Lo way too much. It's not a fair fight.   (It Is What It Is)

Morning Glory  (Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford)
I’m glad it didn’t totally insult my full-time profession (producing the best morning news program in Rochester) and am also glad it didn’t try to pretend to be something it wasn’t.  It’s a light comedy that didn’t try and lecture us all on journalism.  Ford sometimes overacts as the grizzled veteran newsman, but he is very funny when he is seething with anger.   (It Is What It Is)

Munich    (Eric Bana, Daniel Craig)
People on both sides are taking a long, critical look at Munich, and given the subject matter, maybe they should. It's gutsy for Steven Spielberg-- hailed for his work with and for Holocaust survivors-- to make a movie about terrorism that doesn't take obvious sides.

Most of Munich though is a bit like a caper-movie with a different tone. Instead of an Ocean's Eleven-like jewelry heist, we have assassinations...  Of course, Munich is about much more than just a ragtag group of assassins on a mission, and that's why it has to come under more scrutiny. There's a point in many movies these days where a good movie becomes a questionable one. Munich, like those other movies, is about 20 minutes too long, and in those 20 minutes, Spielberg wants to get a point across...  Munich... is a flawed movie about flawed policies and flawed people.    (It Is What It Is)

Murderball  
Don't even think about calling it the Special Olympics.  It's the Paralympics, and if you call it the Special Olympics, the guys who play murderball will wheel right up to you, grab you where it hurts, and show you what they're all about. These are tough guys, wheelchairs or not.  "Murderball" is a nickname for full-contact quadriplegic rugby, which these guys play with all the intensity of any professional player. Yes, quadriplegic rugby is possible-- this documentary explains how it's possible and clears up public misconceptions about quardiplegics. It also shows a fascinating game and how a group of brave people cope with what life has dealt them.   (Tremendous)
 

Must Love Dogs    (Diane Lane, John Cusack)
Fans of Diane Lane and John Cusack-- and there are quite a few I've found-- will enjoy it. I've talked to many men who, like me, just love Diane Lane. She's never top-of-mind or on the cover of Maxim or even Entertainment Weekly, but you bring up her name, and you hear "Oh, I loooove Diane Lane." And around women? Bring up John Cusack and you get the same reaction. They're a good pairing. Good-looking enough that you can watch them, but not too famous that they're distracting.  So I'd say "Must Love Diane Lane/John Cusack/Romantic Comedies", and if that's you, you're fine.   (It Is What It Is)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nativity Story    (Keisha Castle Hughes, Oscar Isaac)
If all you’ve seen for years is children in the key parts using church aisles for desert, you’ll be reminded of some of the parts of the story you may not have thought of.  Full disclosure:  I haven’t been to church on Christmas in years, and when I did, I tended to zone out.  There are details of the story I guess I knew, but never really thought about.  Case in point:  Joseph and Mary were in love. 
Sometimes when you break out a Nativity set, you have trouble telling Joseph from the shepherds, but Oscar Isaac plays Joseph as a standout character.  He is possibly the hero of the story, a man doing the right thing, protecting his wife and facing his detractors with a lot of courage...  You probably would expect a Biblical movie to be preachy and to have an epic running time.  It is not unreasonably long, which I was thankful for.  I was also thankful I wasn’t preached to.    (Tremendous)



Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist   (Michael Cera, Kat Dennings)
"Sometimes, stuff ends up on your iPod that you don’t even remember putting on there.  It’s probably a deep track on a soundtrack or something that got moved over when you dubbed the entire album.  It’s the kind of song that makes you feel cool because you think you’ve discovered something.  Someday, the young talent involved will be stars.  Alright, alright… you get it.  I’d like to think director Peter Sollett will appreciate the musical analogies, as he’s put together one of the better comedies about rock and roll we’ve seen in a long time."   (Tremendous)

Night At The Museum    (Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino)
With nothing to work with, the star of There's Something About Mary and Along Came Polly is going to have to wait a little longer before he has a classic he can show off to his kids.  It's too bad, because the idea should be a good one, especially to a kid with an active imagination.  They do rather unoriginal things (the monkey steals keys, the diarama figures fight over space, a tiki head wants gum).  They and the special effects are the stars, forcing Stiller to do nothing but react.  And since he's reacting to uninteresting things, he returns in kind.    (Kept Checking My Watch) 

Nights in Rodanthe  (Diane Lane, Richard Gere)
Fans of the movies inspired by Nicholas Sparks’ novels... won’t be surprised by what they find... It’s a place where people always have wine with dinner, listen to jazz and sit on adirondack chairs by the water. It’s a world where people still write letters to each other by hand, and hear the voices of the writer as they read them. It’s a world where eventually one or both of the lead characters drawn to each other no matter how they fight it will have to scream at the other: “What are you afraid of?”  (It Is What It Is)

Norbit   (Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton)
The best “Eddie Murphy Movies” are the ones where he disappears behind layers of makeup and/or plays multiple roles.  The Nutty Professor is a charmer, and Coming To America is an absolute classic.  I’m even a fan of the underrated Bowfinger and Murphy’s performance as a nerdy wannabe actor.  I’d hoped Norbit could have ranked with those movies, and we could talk about an Eddie Murphy renaissance.  Norbit has some ok Eddie Murphy performances, but it’s not a very good movie.   (Kept Checking My Watch)




Observe and Report  (Seth Rogen, Ana Faris)
"If I may, I’ll quote myself from my Paul Blart: Mall Cop review referencing one of the few things I liked:  “It’s kind of funny that Paul took an oath as a security guard to ‘observe and report’ and he works a Segway very well – we needed more of that kind of law enforcement parody earlier on.” ... Boy, not only did writer/director Jody Hill and the usually likeable Seth Rogen give us a movie that sucks just as bad as Paul Blart, but one that’s kind of unsettling... if you feel like you’ve seen this before – you have and you haven’t.  But do yourself a favor and pretend you have.  (Kept Checking My Watch)

Obsessed   (Beyonce Knowles, Ali Larter) 
"Give Obsessed credit --  it knows it’s a rip-off of Fatal Attraction and other stalker-themed suspense thrillers, so it doesn’t waste any time setting things up for us.  In fact, within the first minute, I literally figured out exactly how the movie would end...   But you know what?  I kind of enjoyed Obsessed.  I laughed a lot.  I don’t know if that was the idea, so Beyonce and her staff may not be thrilled with this review."   (It Is What It is)

127 Hours   (James Franco)
Franco carries the movie himself with the performance that should have won him a Best Actor Oscar.  He takes us all kinds of places while acting out a harrowing experience.  Whatever I was supposed to get out of this movie spiritually ended up lost on me, but I can't help but be in awe of the acting and the movie's ability to keep me in suspense even when I know the limb is coming off.   (Tremendous)

The Other Boleyn Girl   (Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson)
"The idea of a movie with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson fighting over the same man would get a green light. Certainly a Woody Allen could turn it into some kind of comedic farce, and certainly the two have the dramatic chops to make it a Closer-type story that touches on the sometimes harsh realities of relationships in 2008.  But The Other Boleyn Girl raises the stakes – it throws in the King of England and a true-life juicy story that forever changed an entire country... It’s a juicy, juicy story alright, and if it wasn’t based on some historical fact, you’d think it was as ludicrous as any nighttime soap. Any member of the Church of England will tell you though the story has some real importance."   (Tremendous)

The Other Guys   (Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg)
Ferrell actually plays something different here -- instead of a clueless boob, he plays a guy who's actually competent but comes off as a clueless boob.  He and Wahlberg pull off some funny running gags and a few scenes that are priceless  (the best:  a game of "sexual telephone" if you will with Ferrell and his mother-in-law.  Trust me).   (Tremendous)


Our Family Wedding    (Forest Whitaker, Carlos Mencia)
Two cultures come together – but not with a bit of wit or originality.  Seriously, the best they could come up with was a grandma fainting at the site of her future black grandson-in-law.  Perhaps there’s no pleasing me, because if the bulk of the movie had played to stereotypes I would have blasted it for pandering... If we don’t see them embrace their own cultures, why should we believe the two fathers are so proud of their own?  The filmmakers would probably point to the overly long wedding itself – which is an explosion of poorly done slapstick, offensive stereotypes and loud reminders of everyone’s ethnicity.  It’s as if they forgot the racial comedy had no racial themes, so they crammed them all into the end.  (Kept Checking My Watch)

 


Our Idiot Brother    (Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks)
It’s nice to see a movie about an idiot where the idiot doesn’t cause actual harm through cruelty or where we’re making fun of someone’s disabilities.  Instead, we have a genuinely well-meaning guy who’s just too trusting and naïve for his own good (selling weed to a uniformed officer!)  I’d say I’d love to have these actresses (Emily Watson, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks) as my sisters, but that wouldn’t exactly be accurate.   (Tremendous)

 

 

 

Pan’s Labyrinth   
When you really think about it, Grimm’s Fairy Tales were pretty grim.  You had evil stepmothers poisoning innocent girls, wolves eating grandmothers, and little kids getting stuffed in ovens.  So now that you’re an adult, take your memories of those stories and add in the gory details.  Change the wolf into some kind of Gollum-like creature with eyes in his hands.  Then you’ve got the idea behind the fairy tale of Pan’s Labyrinth.  The words “fairy tale” are used a lot in the descriptions of  Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, but let me emphasize:  this is an R-rated movie and you should not take your kids.  It is very graphic and very gory.  You—now that you’re an adult—should go, because it is also very very good.
(Tremendous)

Paranormal Activity
This may be even better at home -- if you saw it in the theater, you got that nice buffer where you walked through the lobby, got to your car and drove home.  But it's highly effective to watch the horror on your TV, looking like a home movie -- and then shut out the lights immediately after.  (Tremendous)

Paranormal Activity 2   (Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland)
Which movie you think is scarier may depend on which one you see first.  They are practically the same in every way (although credit to 2, adding a baby and a dog to the mix makes you even more nervous for the victim family).  Heck, I need wikipedia to explain the narrative connection between the two movies.  Still, if things that go bump in the night scare you, they will always scare you, no matter how many times you hear them.  (Tremendous)


Paul Blart:  Mall Cop  (Kevin James, Jayma Mays)
"The title makes you hopeful you’ll get a movie with some big, dumb laughs. You want to see a guy who’s over-confident and takes his job way too seriously..  I can’t laugh at this guy. I’d be as big a jerk as the sales clerks who make fun of him.. I can’t laugh with him either because the movie isn’t very funny... This could have been the first movie about Black Friday to open on Black Friday.  Why not take advantage of the symmetry and the marketing opportunities and open then?  Oh yeah: because it stinks. And the good movies released at the same time would have Paul Blart: Mall Cop escorted from the building."
(Kept Checking My Watch)

The Perfect Game   (Clifton Collin, Jr.,  Cheech Marin)
"... is almost too perfect.  It’s a sports movie with very little tension, suspense or challenges for the young players.  Let’s put the emphasis on the young.  Our players are a group of Little Leaguers, and their peers are who the movie is made for.  If you’re going to take your kids to a movie and they’re just discovering baseball, then The Perfect Game is a fine choice for them... The other teams aren’t much of a challenge whatsoever.  For kids used to their baseball on a video game screen, it’s like coasting through on the easy setting.  Nobody could be on the edge of their seats watching this thing.  But it won’t send you running from your seat either. 
(It Is What It Is)

Pineapple Express   (Seth Rogen, James Franco)
"Stoners should have two new heroes this summer... Like Harold and Kumar, Dale and his drug-dealing friend Saul are stoned throughout the movie.  And like Harold and Kumar, they’re in what’s essentially a dumb stoner comedy.  But the dialogue is sharp, and the movie is as entertaining as listening to any dude with a high IQ start rambling.  You know when you hear lines like “Pandora’s out of the box and you can’t put her back in” that you’re dealing with guys who are writing what they know – but they are good writers... Potheads do tend to ramble once they get going, and sure enough, Pineapple Express is just a little too long.  It is essentially a one-joke movie that could have wrapped up about half an hour earlier."  
(It Is What It Is)

Pirate Radio   (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy)
It's kind of a variation of Good Morning, Vietnam -- but it's on water and they're not just fighting for free speech -- they're fighting for classic British rock.  A great ensemble leads a fun movie, that's ultimately a loving tribute to great music.  (Tremendous)



The Pink Panther 2   (Steve Martin, John Cleese)
"If I told you there’d be a movie starring a comedy dream team of Steve Martin, John Cleese and Lily Tomlin – and that it would be based on a concept by Blake Edwards and performed by Peter Sellers – you would have a right to be excited...  It’s amazing that the movie makers had the audacity to remake the classic to begin with and the arrogance to start the counter back at one."    
(Kept Checking My Watch)







Pirates!  Band of Misfits   (Hugh Grant, Jeremy Piven)
The makers of Pirates! Band of Misfits are a band of misfits indeed.   And they’ve done it again with this odd little pirate film. Chicken Run director Peter Lord’s new movie is the story of a pirate captain named… well.. “The Pirate Captain”, whose looting and pillaging is just a means to an end – he’s longing to be recognized by his peers and earn the coveted “Pirate of the Year” award... Even their names are different.  It’d be odd to be in a toy store and see dolls made of characters whose names in the credits actually read “The Albino Pirate,” The Pirate with Gout” and “The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate.”  The last one is a favorite running gag – a woman wearing a fake beard so she can be part of the crew.  Yet, the movie never spells that out for us.  We never see the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate without a beard. The film trusts that adults and kids will be smart enough to get the joke.   (Tremendous)




Pitch Perfect  (Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow)

Pitch Perfect was made by and for people who cringe at Glee and think a cappella singing is just plain goofy – but despite themselves, find themselves singing along.  It’s black humor with just a hint of affection.  Its spirit is summed up the A Cappella Tournament announcer played by John Michael Higgins who says these kids are about to learn “life doesn’t get better after high school.”...  And by movie’s end? Well, “nailed it” would be extreme and “pitch perfect” would be an exaggeration -- but it hits enough notes to let you a-ca-ppreciate it.     (It Is What It Is)

 

Planet 51   (Dwayne Johnson, Justin Long)
"Any good UFO story is going to involve a good conspiracy theory, where the characters and audience try to unearth questions about what’s “really going on here.” Sometimes we get answers, sometimes we don’t – and after seeing Planet 51 I’m left with questions myself.  Mainly: who do they think this is for?...  None of it is particularly original, which gives logic-minded adults opportunity to think about those unanswered questions: how is it everyone speaks English, all the signs are in English, yet no one can read the wrapper on Chuck’s Twix bar?"  (It Is What It Is) 



Precious, Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire  (Gabourey Sibide, Mo'Nique)
The less said about Precious in this review, because while I will still rank the movie as "Tremendous," the hype kind of ruined it for me.   By the time I saw it,  I knew just about everything that happens to this poor girl.  So while I would have been otherwise horrified otherwise, I wasn't.  I kind of got numb to it as the writers kept piling things on her.  Still, it's worthy of the acccolades it's getting, especially in the acting categories.   (Tremendous)


The Producers  
I never did get to see Matthew Broderick on Broadway, but I did see his Ferris Bueller best friend Cameron (actor Alan Ruck) at the Auditorium Center. Now I've seen Broderick in the movie version of The Producers, and I can't believe I liked Cameron better.
In all fairness, the live experience of The Producers is more fun, and I bet even Broderick would agree with that....The concept, the recruiting of talent and the show itself do earn their huge laughs. The jokes are hysterical the first time you hear them regardless of the venue-- if it's this new film, fine. 
(It Is What It Is)

The Proposal   (Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds)
The idea behind The Proposal’s been done a few hundred times, so if it’s going to work it has to have the right people and the right setting.  And they got it half right.  The right people are Sandra Bullock’s Margaret and Ryan Reynolds’ Andrew...   Unfortunately, The Proposal makes the huge mistake of leaving the office environment and heading up to Alaska...  Instead of a workplace romance between two people who know each other so well, what we end up with is a diluted Sweet Home Alabama."   (It Is What It Is)

The Pursuit of Happyness   (Will Smith, Jaden Smith)
Chris Gardner, the stockbroker-in-training points out the founding fathers didn’t say we were all entitled to happiness; rather, we’re all free to pursue it.  Gardner pursues it, and boy, he gets no guarantees it’s going to work.  You will feel for this guy has he encounters obstacle after obstacle...  Some would say it’s foolhardy, but I would think anyone who watches The Pursuit of Happyness will find Gardner’s pursuit an inspiration... As the hard times keep piling up, the movie can be a little stifling.  If you’ve ever faced some hard financial times or been—ahem—laid off, you may relate and start thinking about worst-case scenarios.   (Tremendous)

 

Quantum of Solace  (Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko)
"Honestly, I’ve never understood the plot of a single James Bond movie, but for some reason, I get excited before each new one.  The action scenes, the dapper secret agent, the fights, the cool villains, the babes – they really seem like something any red-blooded American action movie fan should like.  No, you don’t have to understand everything about a Bond movie to enjoy it.  But if it’s fun, you can smile and overlook it.  When the bullets and fists are flying, you can.  When they aren’t, you look at the screen and wish Daniel Craig would give us a little wink to let us know he’s enjoying it."  (It Is What It Is)

RV   (Robin Williams, Cheryl Hines)
... perfectly captures what it's like to be on a long road trip with a father who thinks he's funny. (Kept Checking My Watch)

Red Eye   (Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy)
When you're in the confined space of an airplane, your entire life revolves around who's sitting next to you, whatever it is you're reading, when the beverage cart is going to come by and when you have to go to the bathroom.  The great idea behind Red Eye is that one passenger's life doesn't just revolve around those things, it depends on them... Red Eye is directed by horror legend Wes Craven, but this is a thriller that deals more with real life horrors... It's a great concept, but when the action is on the ground, it's a routine thriller.  (It Is What It Is)

 
Red Riding Hood     (Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman)
For the last few weeks at the movies, there have been some snickers in the audience during the Coming Attractions.  A dark forest, a menacing figure, attractive young adults, ominous music, and then, in all seriousness, up comes the movie’s title:  Red Riding Hood.   There are moments you feel a little silly  but if you can go with it, you’ll have fun...  some of us are more comfortable revisiting childhood memories than teenaged ones.  It’s not cool to act like a teeny-bopper girl and choose sides in “Team Blacksmith” or “Team Woodsman.”  But taking a beloved children’s story and subverting it?  That’s kind of cool.   (Tremendous)


Relilgulous   (Bill Maher, The idea of God)
"Comedian Richard Belzer, a frequent guest on Bill Maher’s Real Time, once had a great little gag after telling some religious-themed jokes.  “God… I kid God.  But that’s because I know God has a sense of hu...”  (He grabs his heart, falls over)...   Bill Maher’s subjects in the documentary Religulous often ask him:  “What if you’re wrong?”  After Religulous, he’d better hope God has a sense of humor... He’s a comedian, not a journalist – and he goes where the jokes are.  I laughed my proverbial ass off.  I sure hope God has a sense of hu…"  (Tremendous)

Revolutionary Road  (Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet)
You hate to use their Titanic history as a comparison, but the movie does ask a good question:  what if a dream couple like Jack and Rose both survived?  Can a storybook romance always last?   This is a dark suburban drama with two great leads, especially Kate Winslet as the too tired to care wife.
   (Tremendous)

The Rocker  (Rainn Wilson, Teddy Geiger)
"The Rocker is the new movie where the guy who plays Dwight on The Office is a former member of an ‘80s hair band trying to recapture his glory days... They could have called it Dwightsnake...  Or Great Dwight...  But they went with the generic The Rocker, which fits this hopelessly generic rock and roll comedy."   (Kept Checking My Watch)

Role Models   (Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott)
The movie is half good -- Paul Rudd's character and storyline is witty and well-written.  Scott's character and storyline are crude and crass. There's some good writing but it gets lost in the crassness, which is just unfunny.  The KISS references are outstanding though.   (It Is What It Is)


Running With Scissors   (Annette Bening, Joseph Cross)
Unfortunately for young Augusten Burroughs-- and for the movie-- his parents send him away to live with their therapist. It's unfortunate for him for the obvious reasons, and unfortunate for the movie because it means the two best characters aren't on camera for large chunks of time... Everyone in this movie, in fact, is a nutjob, and eventually, I just couldn't take it anymore. It's as if they're in competition to be the best wacko in the film... Running With Scissors is a true story, which means there was an outside world connected to the insanity of these people. It would have helped to see it. (Kept Checking My Watch)



Religulous   (Bill Maher, God)