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Eat Pray Love (2010)

Maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic. It’s just the world that is and the only real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.

— Elizabeth Gilbert

I haven’t heard glowing remarks for Ryan Murphy latest directorial effort, Eat Pray Love, based on the best-selling novel. I was in the mood to see fluffy romantic comedy, because I was having a crappy day. Well, the movie did not put me in a better mood.

Julia Roberts plays a travel writer named Elizabeth Gilbert. She travels to the most gorgeous places in the world, but she doesn’t have the best life. Her husband, Stephen (Billy Crudup) is very unsure about what he wants to do with his life. It causes conflict with the two, because Elizabeth wants to have kids, but she sees that will never be the case. At a party, Stephen holds Delia’s(Viola Davis) baby like hold a big bag of poop.

Liz have an epiphany when she is reminded of the words from a wise man from one of the places she visited, Bali, Ketut (Hadi Subiyanto) that she will have a major change and that she will come back to find herself. Liz decides to leave her husband, but she winds up in the arms of a vegetarian actor, David (James Franco). Their relationship is on the fast track, but Liz reminds herself that she has either been with a guy or breaking up with a guy.

She wants to take a vacation for a year to find herself and find inner peace. Her loved ones think that she is a fool for doing such a thing. She wants to visit Italy to find comfort with herself, India to reconcile her mind and body and finally Bali to fulfill Ketut’s prediction for her.

I thought that the movie was going to be like Under the Tuscan Sun where a woman is in a crossroads in her life and she is trying to find herself. I get that what was Ryan Murphy’s intention, but it did not translate well on-screen to me. I saw glimmers of it here and there, but not that much to keep me interested in the story.

There is something about Julia Roberts that bothers me. I don’t know if it’s the way her face looks, those three veins protruding out of her forehand that freaks me out.

You have a solid cast with Richard Jenkins as Richard, a man from Texas trying to have a solace in an ashram or Javier Bardem as a businessman who is trying to woo Liz. The story was rushed is some ways and dragged on in others. I kept thinking throughout the movie, when will it be over? It was over two hours long. It felt like five.

Judgment: There was a choice of watching the theatrical or the director’s cut, I thought why bother with the director’s cut.

Rating: 4.5/10

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world… and then we fucked up the endgame.

— Charlie Wilson

When I was working out recently on the stationary bike, I heard on CNN that Charlie Wilson, the Congressman that almost single-handedly ended the conflict between Afghanistan and Russia died recently at the age of 77. I have never seen the big screen adaptation of this story, Charlie Wilson’s War until now. Philip Seymour Hoffman was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the FBI agent who was part of the trio that put an end to the Cold War. It is a fascinating bit of history trapped in an uninteresting narrative.

Based on the book by George Crile, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director Mike Nichols transports us to the Cold War era circa 1980 where the Soviets invaded Afghanistan a year before. The unlikely hero of this story is a skirt-chasing, booze-swilling Texas Congressman Charles Wilson (Tom Hanks). He overhears the plight of the Afghani people during a wild house party seeing a news report by Dan Rather. The Afghanis feel that the Americans are not listening to their cries for the necessary weapons to defeat the Soviets.

Charlie wants to do something about the covert conflict without inciting World War III. He tries to raise funds for the conflict, but nobody could do anything. America has a wait-and-see approach to when the Soviets run out of supplies to finally do something.

By sheer happenstance, Charlie gets a call from a wealthy oil heiress who tries to do something thing with the conflict, Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts). She urges Charlie to go to Pakistan to see the Afghani refugee camps there after a roll in the hay for old time’s sake. Charlie books a trip to Pakistan with his trusty executive assistant, Bonnie Bach (Amy Adams) at his side.

Charlie meets the refugees that shared with him horror stories that the Soviets would do. Defectors would be run over by military tanks, children had limbs blown off from field bombs that looked like toys or the Soviets would slit the throats of children while the parents watched in horror.

Charlie wants to have the countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to supply enough weapons to stop the Soviet helicopters. He enlists the help of a CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to help put together a task force to get the necessary weapons for the Afghanis to combat the Soviets.

This was supposed to be a comedy of errors about the mostly unlikely of people that would be instrumental for the greatest covert operation in US History, but I was mostly uninterested with the path to end the Cold War. Having two hours of weapons jargon thrown at you would make you bored off your tits. What the fuck is going on? What the hell are you talking about? Why should I care about every minute detail?

Hoffman was very good as the nonsense CIA agent that is not afraid to tell somebody to fuck themselves. They were glorious moments. The rest of the movie I could have done without. This movie is tedious to watch. I didn’t care about this boozehound trying to be a hero or the Dallas reject with the “angular face”. The Sorkin dialogue was nice, but I thought it tried to be a comedy about dramatic events.

Judgment: I was largely disappointed with this film. I wish this movie was documentary instead.

Rating: **1/2

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Terry, I can’t predict the future. I pay professionals to do that, and even they get it wrong sometimes.

— Reuben

After the massive success of the first movie, Soderburgh and company came back together for Ocean’s Twelve. This setting and story are dramatically different from the glitz and glamour from the first incarnation. Instead of the bright lights of the Las Vegas, the Eleven are focused their attention on Europe. I think that this was a mistake, because it hurt the caper aspect of the story.

When the Eleven successful pilfered Terry Benedict out of his $150 million dollars at the ending of the first movie, (spoiler alert) the beginning show how the gang was doing during the three and a half since the heist. Most of them spent some or all of their $13 million dollars cut.

They get a rude awakening when Benedict tracks them all down wherever they were hiding. He offers them a chance to correct their mistakes by stealing his money. Benedict gives them two weeks to return the money with interest, which is roughly $200 million dollars, or he will kill them.

The gang has a pow-wow to discuss how they could get the money is that short amount of time. They decide to go to Amsterdam to meet up with Matsui (Robbie Coltrane), who gives them an assignment to steal the world’s oldest stock certificate from 1602 worth $2.5 million Euros.

When they do, they realize that a famous cat burglar named “The Night Fox” (Vincent Cassel) got the stock first. Not only that, but the team realizes that The Night Fox made the call to Benedict that ratted them out.

The Night Fox issues a challenge to the Ocean’s Eleven to steal a Coronation Faberge Egg from exhibit in Paris. They want to beat The Night Fox at their own game. Eleven becomes Twelve when they enlist the help of Roman (Eddie Izzard) to help pull off the switch-a-roo.

This movie as a whole is not well executed. The dialogue was not up to par. The scenes dragged on way too long. I was bored to tears. The movie looks grainy. The interaction with the members felt clunky and stagy. There wasn’t the synergy from the first outing. I was disappointed with this movie, especially the last thirty that fell off the tracks.

Judgment: This is one of the instances that the sequel is not better than the original.

Rating: **1/2

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

You guys are pros. The best. I’m sure you can make it out of the casino. Of course, lest we forget, once you’re out the front door, you’re still in the middle of the fucking desert!

— Reuben

Breaking away from his trademark quirky sensibility, Steven Soderbergh remade the 1960s Rat Pack classic heist film, Ocean’s Eleven. Instead of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammie Davis, Jr., the main leads are George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Quite a departure. Soderbergh has some success with mainstream movies; I think that his subsequent Ocean’s trilogy exposed himself more to the mainstream consciousness.

Re-channeling his Out of Sight persona, George Clooney plays the titular Danny Ocean that is recently paroled after four years. When he is released, he goes to old stomping grounds to reconnect with his former crewmembers, travel across the country to reconnect with the poker teacher to the stars, Rusty (Pitt).

Ocean’s plan is to steal “x” amount dollars from three casinos, the Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand all of them owned Las Vegas casino owner, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). He would need a large crew at least a dozen to pull off the multiple cons needed to pull off the heist.

Seeing that they need a way inside the way, Danny and Rusty pay a visit to a former casino owner that was wronged by Benedict and knows the ins and outs of the security system, Reuben (Elliott Gould). After he is in, the rest of the crew is assembled like Frank (Bernie Mac), two drivers the twins, Virgil and Turk (Casey Affleck, Scott Caan), electronic expert Livingston (Eddie Jemison), explosives Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), a “grease man” Yen (Shaobo Qin), Saul (Carl Reiner) and last but not least, master of disguise, Linus (Damon).

They have pow-wow to lay out the foundation of this impossible feat. If they succeed, they stand to get 150 million dollars when the casinos are distracted from an upcoming fight between Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko that same day. In order to let the heist run slowly, they have to lay the groundwork like plant a device on the casino’s closed circuit camera, recreating the vault to practice, the daily routine of their mark.

While relaying the routine of Benedict, Linus thought it would be a good idea to enlist the help of Benedict’s main squeeze, Tess (Julia Roberts) who was also Danny’s ex-wife. Danny’s ulterior motive becomes clear that steals the money is not his only motivation. He wants to get Tess back.

The movie is slick and a little too polished. I had the same problem with this movie as I did with Spike Lee’s Inside Man. I don’t like it when a filmmaker talks down the audience. We don’t need to know every single detail that needed to be explained. When the heist was taking place, I didn’t believe that these people would be able to pull that off. The only person that I liked was Andy Garcia. He has a permanent stoic look on his face that works well with his dickish Terry Benedict.

Judgment: Have a good time with Ocean and the gang in this solid remake.

Rating: ****

Closer (2004)

closer

Where is this love? I can’t see it, I can’t touch it. I can’t feel it. I can hear it. I can hear some words, but I can’t do anything with your easy words.

— Alice

Patrick Marber adapted his play into the Mike Nichols’ directed feature, Closer. It takes an unflinching look at love, desire, deception, infidelity and happiness in relationships. It has been years since I have seen this movie. It still holds up. It’s a powerful narrative with some outstanding performances from Natalie Portman and Clive Owen who were nominated for Oscars for their portrayals.

The movie starts with the chance meeting on a London street when a New York transplant and former stripper, Alice (Portman) catches the eyes with an obituary writer, Dan (Jude Law), then she is struck by cab. While in the waiting room, the two begin to have a sweet flirtation that turns into something more.

A couple of months pass, Dan is the studio apartment of Anna’s (Julia Roberts) getting his picture done for the jacket of his book that is loosely based on Alice’s life. During their session, Dan flirts with the recently divorced woman and convinces himself that he loves her. He wants to see her, but he is in a relationship with Alice. Anna rebuffs Dan’s advances.

One night in retaliation, Dan corresponds on sex chat room with a dermatologist, Larry (Owen) pretending to be Anna. During the course of the session, Dan asks Larry to meet Anna at the local aquarium that he knows that she frequents for a quick shag at a nearby hotel.

Larry meets the real Anna at the aquarium where the miscommunication of the previous night leads to an unexpected romance between the two. The four players finally meet each other on the night of Anna’s photo exhibit, “Strangers.” They size each other up.

This movie deals with beginnings and ends. There is no boring middle. None of these four people wanted to be close to one another. They want to keep a safe distance from each other to string each other along to torture the other.

This movie is brutally honest to a fault. These damaged people are nasty to each other. It pommels you as a viewer that you have to look away from the screen to save yourself. The performances from Law and Roberts ring false. You don’t believe that these people were in aguish.

Judgment: A relationship movie that you shouldn’t see with the person that you are going to break up with.

Rating: ****

Pretty Woman (1990)

You and I are such similar creatures, Vivian. We both screw people for money.

— Edward Lewis

This is the first time that I saw Pretty Woman in its entirety on FLIX last night. I have seen bits a pieces of the movie over the years since in came out in 1990. This movie is loosely based on the themes of Pygmalion and Cinderella.

If you don’t know, the story is about Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), a hooker with a heart of gold meets a handsome, ruthless businessman, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) on Hollywood Blvd. Edward is visiting Los Angeles to acquire and breakup a business from James Morse (Ralph Bellamy) with the help of his prick of attorney Philip Stuckey (Jason Alexander).

Vivian is trying to earn enough money to pay for next month’s rent when her roommate, Kit De Luca (Laura San Giacomo) spent the money on nose candy.

Held up with each other at a ritzy penthouse suite, Edward pays Vivian a couple of thousand dollars to escort at various dinners and events. They fall in love.

Nothing groundreaking with this movie. I thought it was a solid movie.

I want to know one thing. Why was Philip Stuckey so jealous of the relationship between Edward and Vivian?

My judgment: An endlessly watchable chick flick. Seeing Richard Gere almost naked. Yummo!

My rating: ****

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