Friday, March 25, 2011

CERTIFIED COPY: The Film Babble Blog Review

CERTIFIED COPY (Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 2009)

This dialogue driven French drama has been validly compared to My DINNER WITH ANDRE, and the BEFORE SUNRISE/BEFORE SUNSET films, but it’s at its most alluring when the characters stop talking and stare off into space.

You can really get lost in the moments where Juliette Binoche and William Shimell as a couple who has just met – she an antiques dealer; he a famous writer and – hesitate before their next spoken words, and try to decide which versions of themselves they want to pursue being next.

Taking place in Tuscany during one confusing yet compelling day, we follow Binoche and Shimell as they drive to the village of Lucignano, having elaborately intertwined conversations about existentialism filtered through the lenses of art. Shimell is touring promoting his book, also entitled “Certified Copy” (or its French title “Copie Conforme”), which deals with originals and copies of art being equal.

Binoche has some issues with Shimell’s theories, but when they are mistaken for a married couple by a café owner (Gianna Giachetti), she goes with it, and before you know it their repartee is even more layered as they are now conversing as man and wife.

Directed by acclaimed Iranian film maker Kiarostami, this film flows lucidly with many scenes featuring unbroken shots that keep us successfully inside the pair’s often conflicting yet magnetic mind-sets.

As 2 people who fall naturalistically into the odd patterns of fabricating a 15 year relationship convincingly complete with ongoing issues and damaged passion, Binoche and Shimell work wonders with this emotionally fragile material.

It’s often Binoche’s movie, as her close-ups dominate and her character’s thrust is the crux of this cinematic biscuit. Shimell is harder to put a finger on, as he appears at times to just be along for the ride, but we effectively feel his concerns when trying to keep up with the undefined whims of this weird yet intoxicating woman.

The ending came abruptly for me as I had happily settled into the immersive mood of the film, and wouldn’t have minded if it went up on a bit longer.

I can’t remember the last time that happened to me at the movies.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

LIMITLESS: The Film Babble Blog Review

Now playing mostly at multiplexes:
LIMITLESS (Dir. Neil Burger, 2011)
“Obviously, I’ve miscalculated a few things” says protagonist Bradley Cooper in a tight spot in this shiny new thriller that is currently #1 at the U.S. box office.

The film itself miscalculates more than a few things in its haste, but for a considerable chunk of its running time there’s some inventive camera work, and a plethora of intriguing possibilities.Cooper (who co-executive produced) , despite having a book deal, is a down and out writer living in a crappy New York apartment unable to write a single word. It doesn’t help matters that his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) dumps him, and he’s behind in paying his rent, so when he runs into the slimy Johnny Whitworth, as his ex-brother-in-law, he doesn’t turn down a new drug called NZT that Whitworth says allows him 100% access to his brain.

NZT completely changes Cooper and almost immediately he finishes his book, learns every language, becomes a financial wizard, gets his girlfriend back, etc. He calls himself “enhanced Eddie.” Unfortunately Whitworth is mysteriously murdered, and there’s a strange man (Tomas Arana billed only as “Man in Tan Coat”) who appears to be following Cooper menacingly.

You don’t have to have read “Flowers For Algernon” or its film adaptation CHARLY to know that Cooper is going to crash and that his world could completely crumble around him. Robert De Niro enters the scene as an intimidating Wall Street mogul who wants to employ Cooper in presumably the film’s bid for a bit of gruff gravitas. A bit of De Niro’s patented indifference is what we get instead.

Some of the movie’s mis-steps after its strong set-up involve a Russian loan shark (Andrew Howard) who gets addicted to the drug himself, a merger in jeopardy with an ailing Richard Bekins who obviously is a victim of the drug as well, and the murder of a woman Cooper slept with during a crazy night he can’t remember.

Cooper, taking a break from his usual roles as an arrogant douche, is an effective leading man and his performance is note perfect even as the material falters. He is destined for much better things, and I’m not talking about THE HANGOVER PART 2.

You’ll root for Cooper even in the boring set piece fight finale with Howard’s thugs from central casting – one of the many generic elements that sink this overblown cinematic ship.

There are just too many strands here that don’t add up. Anna Friel as Cooper’s sickly ex-wife shows up for a scene of exposition then is never mentioned again, and the film also forgets Cornish for long stretches.

For all its stylish flourishes (I can definitely say it’s a cool looking movie), the film sure doesn’t use 100% of its brain.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

MADE IN DAGENHAM: The Film Babble Blog Review

MADE IN DAGENHAM (Dir. Nigel Cole, 2010)

With her awkward body language and floppy brunette bangs framing a face dominated by an overbite, Sally Hawkins is quite an unlikely movie star.

In her first major role since her acclaimed turn in Mike Leigh’s HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, Hawkins plays a fictional strike leader in a story based on the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968.

As the character is an amalgam of a number of different women involved in the factory protest, it’s readily apparent how fictionalized this film is.

Reading the real record of events leaves me with a bad aftertaste. It’s one thing to embellish, but what went down would have more impact if it was less loosely adapted for standard feel-good formatting.

That said, it’s a competently told tale with dead on ‘60s décor, and it contains some ace acting – along with Hawkins there’s the lovably gruff Bob Hoskins as a Union Steward, Geraldine James as Hawkins’ best friend, Richard Schiff (Toby from The West Wing) as a bad guy Ford executive, and Miranda Richardson as Secretary of State Barbara Castle.

But for all its heartfelt passion about the movement fighting for equal pay for women, it’s strangely stiff with several unnecessary scenes that make it feel stretched thin.

Still, the extremely affable Hawkins has a handful of affecting emotional moments that lift the material, and make me rate it slightly higher than I would without them, so audiences may be willing to warm to her plucky determination.

That is if they can make it through the often crazy thick accents - blimey, it seems like British movies more and more need subtitles like every other foreign film.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Aasif Mandvi Serves Up TODAY'S SPECIAL

TODAY SPECIAL (Dir. David Kaplan, 2009)

The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi gets his first leading role in this light yet lovable comedy about a frustrated New York City chef who is inspired to revitalize his father’s failing Indian restaurant.

When told by his boss (Dean Winters) that his cooking doesn’t turn him on (“where’s my boner?” is Winters’s exact words), Mandvi quits his sous chef job at an upscale bistro and decides to go to Paris in hopes of apprenticing with a master chef.

The ill health of Mandvi’s father (Harish Patel) changes his plans, and he finds himself running the run down Tandoori Palace, where the greasy cuisine of the highly unsanitary chef (Ajay Naidu) has been reliably running off patrons.

Mandvi tries to take control of the kitchen resulting in Naidu storming off, so he turns to a worldly cabdriver (Bollywood star Naseeruddin Shah)who happens to be a gourmet chef full of fortune cookie wisdom.

Mandvi jokes that Shah lifts his advice - like “the man who measures life, never knows his own measure” - actually from fortune cookies, and Shah admits that he does in one of many smile-inducing if not laugh-out-loud funny moments.

To flesh out this foodie-centric tale of a chef getting his groove back by way of the magic of the masala, there’s the spunky Jess Weixler as the love interest, Madhur Jaffrey as Mandvi’s mother, and in a small part, Kevin Corrigan as the supportive wise-cracking best friend.

While there’s nothing new about the scenario of our protagonist in the underdog world of indie film – he’s a man weary of failing in his career, not living up to the memory of his dead brother in his parent’s eyes, and not finding the right mate – Mandvi inhabits the character with a convincing soul and a humility that is thoroughly endearing.

Adapted from Mandvi’s award winning play “Sakrina’s restaurant”, TODAY'S SPECIAL isn’t very imaginatively filmed and has a very predictable formula, but it’s a film with a lot of heart, and one that’s cute – not too cutesy.

I enjoyed it as it bopped from scene to scene with a sprightly soundtrack full of Indian standards and tracks from the indie rock band Goldspot.

With this and Ed Helms’ winning role in the just released CEDAR RAPIDS, it’s nice to see Daily Show correspondents making good movie-wise.

TODAY'S SPECIAL is now playing exclusively in the Triangle at the Colony Theater in Raleigh. Check the theater’s website for show-times.

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PAUL: The Film Babble Blog Review

PAUL (Dir. Greg Mottola, 2011)

STARMAN meets SUPERBAD in this sci fi comedy that has Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the comic duo from SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, aiding and abetting an extraterrestrial fugitive voiced by Seth Rogen.

Pegg and Frost, who also co-wrote the screenplay, are a couple of British geeks on an American vacation that kicks off with a visit to Comic-Con in San Diego before making a road trip to alien landmarks from Area 51 in Nevada to Roswell, New Mexico.

There’s a FANBOYS vibe going on as the pair are starstruck at meeting fictional fantasy novelist Adam Shadowchild (Jeffrey Tambor), whose name is a running gag throughout the film – the joke being that only hardcore nerds know who he is.

Right after stereotypical rednecks (David Koechner and Jesse Plemons) harass Pegg and Frost at a U.F.O. themed diner, our protagonists meet Paul – the CGI crafted little green man from another planet.

“He looks too obvious!” Frost protests, but our snarky title character explains that it’s because pop culture has been inundated with his image in case an encounter occurs.

It turns out Paul, a pot-smoking heavy-drinking party animal of an alien, has escaped from his 60 year imprisonment at Area 51 and is on the run from a government agent (Jason Bateman playing it perfectly straight), so Pegg and Frost’s rented RV becomes his vehicle to an undisclosed location for a spaceship pick-up.

Kristen Wiig, in one of her better performances, jumps on board the RV as a half blind trailer park manager who gets converted from her crazy Christian mind set by the outspoken E.T. and is chased by her father (John Carroll Lynch). Also on the chase are SNL’s Bill Hader and the creepy Joe Lo Truglio as clueless FBI agents.

Every sci fi movie ever seems to be referenced in “Paul”. Lines are lifted from STAR WARS, locations from Star Trek to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS are visited, and then there’s the presence of Sigourney Weaver as “The Big Guy” – Bateman’s boss who will stop at nothing to recapture Paul.

It’s a film for sci fi nerds by sci fi nerds. It’s sloppy and choppy, but it has so many legitimate laughs in it that I didn’t care that it didn’t come close to the visually stylish Edgar Wright films that Pegg and Frost cut their teeth on.

PAUL is fast-paced foul-mouthed fun with an infectious silly tone that never lets up. Although you can see many of the gags coming, they’re still funny when they land thanks to the playful platform provided by Pegg, Frost, Rogen, and director Greg Mottola.

Though I don’t consider myself a STAR WARS fanatic, Trekkie, or sci-fi junkie to any extreme, my inner star-child was greatly amused by these alien antics.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

CEDAR RAPIDS Gets Ed Helms Out Of The Office

CEDAR RAPIDS (Dir. Miguel Arteta)

This new comedy is only playing in Raleigh at the Regal North Hills Stadium 14, and it’s in one of their smallest theaters. That’s a shame because it’s a winning film that’s as charming as it is lovably crude, wonderfully carried by Ed Helms (The Office, THE HANGOVER).

The straight-laced and extremely dorky Helms is a small town insurance salesman whose boss (Stephen Root) sees as the “kid who was going places, but then…didn’t.”

When hot shot salesman Thomas Lennon (The State, Reno 911) dies from auto-erotic asphyxiation, Helms is sent in his place to the annual insurance industry convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Helms, who amusingly is having a fling with his much older former elementary school teacher (a sly Sigourney Weaver), is nervous about going, especially since he’s never left his home town or been on an airplane before.

Upon leaving, Root warns Helms to stay away from John C. Reilly as a sleazy possible client poacher, and, yep, that’s who he turns out having to room with at the hotel.

Luckily his other room-mate is the more sincere Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Clay Davis from The Wire) who uses snappy phrases like L.A.C. (Loud And Clear) and “and at the end of the day that’s N.T.S. – that’s Not Too Shabby.”

There’s also the surprisingly appealing performance by Anne Heche as another convention veteran who ferociously flirts with Helms.

So our hapless hero Helms’ goal is to win the coveted 2 Diamonds Award by schmoozing insurance association president Kurtwood Smith (most likely best known as the dad on That ‘70s Show, but I prefer to think of him as the villain in the first ROBOCOP).

But Relliy’s partying antics, the temptation of Heche, and a brewing bribery scandal may thwart Helm’s path to victory.

There are a lot of laughs in CEDAR RAPIDS, most of the clever character based variety that was so missing from the raunchy-for-the-sake-of-raunch of the recent Farrelly Brothers flick “Hall Pass”.

In fact, there have been few comedy films lately that feel like they have real empathy for the people on the screen. Helms gives us a guy whose naivety we initially laugh at, but come to laugh with as the film goes on.

He comes off like a big kid, but not like man-children in the films of Judd Apatow, he’s more about the wide-eyed giddy feeling of learning things for the first time.

In this movie that giddiness is hilariously endearing, and at the end of the day that’s N.T.S.

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Monday, March 14, 2011



(Dir. Costa Botes, 2011)

The best documentaries teach you something surprising about a subject that you’ve lived with a long time. In this exemplary doc, the subject here is Jelly Bellys – the jelly bean candies that come in a large assortment of flavors.

It has been well documented that President Ronald Reagan was a fan of Jelly Bellys (a facet which is nicely covered in this doc), but what’s not as well known that over 30 years ago, the inventor of the gourmet candy, the Los Angeles based businessman/sweets tycoon wannabe David Klein, sold the trademark, in an extremely questionable deal, just before it hit the big time.

Klein: “I regret the day I came up with them I really do…because it’s ruined my life.”

Klein’s story is told here by the man himself, his son Bert who narrates the bulk of the picture, as well as through a colorful array of photos, clips of Klein in the guise of “Mr. Gumdrop” or "Mr. Jelly Belly" hawking the product on shows like “The Mike Douglas Show”, and insightful interviews with family and colleagues (another celebrity fan of the candy – ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic even appears to put in his two cents).

Jelly Bellys took a while to take off (Klein: “I literally couldn’t give it away”) mainly because they were expensive ($3.50 a pound), but they, of course, were eventually embraced as the “first choice candy for the disco generation.”

Klein arguably revolutionized the candy industry, so it’s a sad turn of events that leaves him with no stake in the incredibly popular product he created.

It’s even sadder because of Klein’s lovably quirky manner (he would buy 100 balloons to individually hand out to kids when visiting Disneyland) and his insanely inventive ideas – after losing Jelly Bellys he created scores of candy (albeit well less successful) like “Gourmet Gumdrops”, “Triple Dipple” (3 flavored Candy Corn), “Candy Snot” (yes, some of these are disgusting), and “I Can’t Believe It’s So Sour” (the first sour flavored liquorish candy).

Obviously none of these were as successful as Jelly Bellys.

Klein’s son Bert, who became a successful animator for Disney, does a great job of relating this fascinating story of an American dream gone sour (sorry). That his father overcame depression (though some bitterness is evident in some of his sound-bites here) and still perseveres making candy (such as his daughter’s Roxanne’s “Sandy Candy”) is inspiring and terrifically touching.

You’ll never look at a Jelly Belly the same way again.

Special Features: 2 Commentaries with director Costa Botes on one, Bert & David Klein on the other, over 25 minutes of deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

SOMEWHERE Doesn't Go Anywhere

SOMEWHERE (Dir. Sofia Coppola, 2010)

"And I thought my life was meaningless!" - Moviegoer overheard coming out of this movie at the Colony Theater opening weekend.

Pampered movie star Stephen Dorff spends his days partying at the famous Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles nursing a broken arm after an unspecified on set stunt.

Dorff lays in bed drunk watching blonde twins poll dance in his hotel room, he drives a race car around a track over and over, he picks up various women; basically he is spiritually wasting away between press junkets.

Then his daughter (Elle Fanning) shows up and his life has meaning. Fanning is a precocious ballet dancing beauty whose face lights up when she sees her father – even though he’s obviously adrift.

There isn’t much of a plot beyond that. Dorff and Fanning drift along together though scenes of sunbathing at the hotel’s pool, playing the video game Rock Band, attending an Italian awards ceremony, and, well, just killing time.
As many of these scenes are without dialogue and have no tension, it’s easy to get lost in, and maybe be lured to sleep by, the spacey imagery.

Dorff plays a familiar yet uncompelling character - a bad boy actor slowly going to seed. At one point he has heavy makeup applied to his head for a shoot and he sits there motionless as the camera slowly pulls closer.

He has little reaction to seeing the finished old man makeup in the mirror in the next shot. It’s just another weird day as an actor in Hollywood.

I had little reaction myself to this movie. I got that Dorff is going through the motions, and that the film is an existential exercise, but unlike Coppolla’s LOST IN TRANSLATION which dealt with a similar situation (i.e. a movie star’s meaningless lifestyle) there’s barely anything to latch onto.

SOMEWHERE doesn’t go anywhere, and, but I know that’s probably the point.
Coppola has an arresting visual sensibility and definitely great taste in music (French alt rockers Phoenix provides the score with tracks by Bryan Ferry, T-Rex, The Strokes, and the Foo Fighters filling out the soundtrack), but the overall empty ambience just sits there.

What there is to take away from this airy tale of a celebrity and his offspring hanging out I really can’t figure. That it’s a very pretty yet unbearably dull experience is all I can muster.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Blu Ray/DVD Review: FOUR LIONS

This sharp satire was just released this week on Blu ray and DVD. It will also be available on Netflix Instant on April 7th.

FOUR LIONS (Dir. Christopher Morris, 2010)

On this film’s Blu ray and DVD box the word “funny” is printed 15 times as quoted by 15 different critics. Well, I’ll say up front that FOUR LIONS is indeed funny. It’s also odd, quirky, and just plain silly.

It’s a comedy about suicide bombers so for it to be all those things is quite a feat.

The film concerns the misadventures of a group of jihadists who live in Sheffield, England. One of the members, Nigel Lindsay as a Caucasian convert to the cause, bemoans the current state of affairs:

“These are real bad times…Islam is cracking up. We’ve got women talking back. We’ve got people playing stringed instruments. It’s the end of days.”

In preparation for the end times, Riz Ahmed as the team’s leader and Kayvan Novak (who won a Best British Performance Award for this film at the British Comedy Awards) travel to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan where there’s more comic clashing than actual training goes down.

Although Lindsay keeps spouting out about bombing a mosque, the “Lions” decide to target a London marathon in which they can dress in big puffy colorful costumes (such as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, an Ostrich, a Honey Monster, and a clown) that can conceal their explosives.

At first I cringed at the notion of Keystone terrorists, but the film’s likable tone and satirical take on misplaced ideology isn’t hateful – it sympathizes with these characters even as it has them blowing themselves up (that can’t really be a Spoiler!, can it?).

There’s a welcome Monty Python-esque feel to a lot of the material – it particularly reminds me of the ineffective political rhetoric and misguided actions of the People’s Front Of Judea (or the Judean Peoples Front?) in LIFE OF BRIAN.

Though it doesn’t have the balls as big as church bells that that classic Biblical parody does, FOUR LIONS makes a great game of hilariously exposing the same closed systems of thought (or maybe just extremist stupidity).

Special Features: “Bradford Interview” - a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film featurette, background material, deleted scenes, and storyboards.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

CASINO JACK: The Film Babble Blog Review

CASINO JACK (Dir. George Hickenloper, 2011)

In his portrayal of lobbyist/businessman/sleazebag Jack Abramoff, Kevin Spacey busts out a lot of celebrity impressions. He does Walter Matthau, Al Pacino, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton among others, but while his mimicry is dead on, his performance as Abramoff never quite convinces.

Especially if you’ve seen last year’s Alex Gibney directed documentary CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY which this film is based on.

Also since Spacey has played incredibly similar slick-talking salesman types roles in films like SWIMMING WITH SHARKS, THE BIG KAHUNA, and HURLYBURLY, he is unable to capture a distinct characterization here.

But it simply may be because Spacey is miscast.

An actor doesn’t have to resemble the real life person they are cast as in order to inhabit the part (witness Anthony Hopkins as Nixon, Johnny Depp as Ed Wood, or Warren Beatty as Bugsy Siegel to name a few), but Spacey is so far off that the whole project never gels.

Incidentally from much of the footage and photos in the documentary, it looks like Bob Saget would’ve been a better match.

CASINO JACK glosses over a lot of juicy information in charting the downfall of the man that Time Magazine called “the man who bought Washington D.C.” Abramoff’s shady dealings involving Chinese chop shops, Native-American casinos, cruise ships, and political fraud on a massive level are best covered by Gibney’s film, as crammed with unnecessary graphics as it is.

Here with Spacey living it up on the way down joined by a wonderfully scummy Jon Lovitz (one of the movie’s highlights) as a disbarred lawyer with mob connections, and Barry Pepper as Spacey’s associate partner-in-crime, there’s a creepy feeling that the film wants us to be on Abramoff’s side.

It’s well known that Abramoff was movie obsessed and often quoted classic films, but when Spacey delivers his impeccable impressions (that you just know that Abramoff could never come close to) it makes the man too likable and distracts from the seriousness of the man’s corrupt actions.

So in conclusion, if you want to see the story of the real Jack Abramoff – see Gibney’s dense yet fascinating doc CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY (available on Netflix Instant by the way).

But if you want a flashy Kevin Spacey showcase that over simplifies the historical record for the sake of cheap laughs then CASINO JACK is the one for you.

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU: The Film Babble Blog Review

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (Dir. George Nolfi, 2011)

As the youngest Congressman ever elected to the House of Representatives, Matt Damon can win over crowds just by flashing his blinding grin as this film’s opening montage of his senate campaign attests. But his bid for office is derailed when photos of an old college prank surface, and he ends up losing even in his home county.

Nevertheless Damon while preparing to deliver his concession still has reason to flash that grin as he has a “meet cute” with Emily Blunt funnily enough in a restroom at the Waldorf Astoria.

Blunt just happened to hiding from security in the men’s room stall because she crashed a wedding in case you are wondering.

They flirt then kiss, but don’t exchange names or phone numbers so when Damon is whisked away by his campaign manager (Michael Kelly), and Blunt is spotted by hotel security, fate seems to separate them.

Or that’s what “they” want Damon to think. Who are “they”, you ask? Why they’re the ones behind the scenes manipulating circumstances to influence human history.

They are men who wear classic suits and sport fedoras who will make you think of Mad Men especially since John Slattery is one of them.

When another member of the “intervention team” (as Slattery calls it), played by Anthony Mackie fails to divert Damon off his course to a meeting, things go askew.

Damon runs into Blunt on a bus and this time gets her digits, but then walks into an office of his frozen-in-time co-workers being scanned (or something) by, yep, the Adjustment Bureau.

In a huge shiny warehouse setting, Damon is told by Slattery and Mackie that he will be reset – that is, his mind will be erased if he tells anybody about them, and more importantly he can never be with Blunt.

Slattery burns the card with her phone number on it right in front of Damon to hammer home the point.

3 years pass and Damon is back on the campaign trail and lo and behold he sees Blunt on the street on the same bus route. The spark is still there as they chitchat while Slattery and crew surround them.

The film then becomes a series of elaborate chase scenes with brief exposition breaks. The men of the Bureau can use any door as a portal to a different place – but, only if they are wearing their fedoras. That and other nonsensical rules of the team tracking Damon are never satisfyingly explained, and the supposed plan they follow appears to be ultimately flexible.

Yet there is some fun to be had here. Damon and Blunt’s performances are top notch and at times it’s a treat to watch them run around through a well shot New York City.

Slattery and second half stealing Terrence Stamp bring gravitas to the convoluted material which is loosely based on a Phillip K. Dick short story from 1954.

The directorial debut of screenwriter George Nolfi (BOURNE ULTIMATUM, OCEAN'S 12, THE SENTINEL), THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU simply isn’t inventive enough to be a memorable mind bender a la INCEPTION. In other words you're not left with anything really to discuss or think about afterwards.

It strives to be a modern surreal take on a classic Hitchcockian thriller, but it’s more on the VANILLA SKY-side.

Stamp tells Damon that he never actually had free will – he only had the illusion of free will. Well, in this film, the illusion of intelligent entertainment is all we get.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

BEASTLY: The Film Babble Blog Review

BEASTLY (Dir. Daniel Barnz, 2011)

A week ago I had no idea who Alex Pettyfer is. Now I’ve seen 2 movies starring the bed headed pretty boy – the first being I AM NUMBER FOUR, and then this modernized take on the ancient fairy tale “Beauty And The Beast” aimed at the TWILIGHT teens – and no one else.

We meet the arrogant Pettyfer as he’s running for his New York city High School’s “Green Committee” on a platform based entirely on his looks.

Pettyfer decides to humiliate one of the uglies – a fellow student (a punk attired Mary-Kate Olsen!) who he calls a “self-mutilated, tattooed Frankenskank” (I only remember this phrase because it’s said more than once) by inviting her to a school dance when he already has a date (Dakota Johnson).

Olsen, who with no background given is a real witch, retaliates by casting a vicious spell on Pettyfer that leaves him bald, tattooed, and scarred beyond recognition. He will remain that way forever unless somebody tells him that they love him by the end of a year.

Pettyfer’s just as vain television anchorman father Peter Krause (Six Feet Under) can’t stand to live (or look at) with his deformed son so he banishes him to a Brooklyn townhouse with their Jamaican maid (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and a blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris).

Because of the dire charisma less acting, I was so thankful when Harris showed up. He’s intended to be the film’s one-liner spouting comic relief, but he functions as much more than that – he’s the only likable presence here.

So Pettyfer starts pining for a girl – Vanessa Hudgens (HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL) – he thinks can help him out of this predicament by at first stalking her, then implausibly getting her to move in to his townhouse in order to protect her from her junkie father’s dangerous drug dealer.

There is not a single surprise in this cutesy cringe-inducing piece of fluff. There’s no believable chemistry between the leads, and its moralizing is offensive as although Pettyfer is supposedly uglied up (in real life NYC his appearance wouldn’t get a second glance) he’s still an empty jerk with money who gets all that he wants in the end.

If nothing else I can now recognize Alex Pettyfer as a British model (he’s so not being cast for his acting chops) who stars in soon to be forgotten dumping ground movie season fodder.

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