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Qantas In-Flight Movie Blitz! May 22, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Reviews.
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I need to get this one out quickly because all of the movies are fading fast from my memory.  On my trip to China a couple of months ago I saw 2 movies on the flight there and 2 on the way back.  Keep in mind that I was under the influence of anti-anxiety medication for all 4 films.

Thanks to Qantas for having such a terrific collection of reasonably new films, even in economy.  I’ll let all the safety issues slide this time.

The Switch (2010)

Huge fan of Jason Bateman (largely because of Arrested Development) but not much of a fan of Jennifer Aniston.  Unfortunately, the Aniston factor overrode the Bateman factor on this film about a dude (Bateman) who switched the sperm sample used for the artificial insemination of his best friend (Aniston).

This was a strange film.  The main problem is that while it’s an interesting idea, there’s just nothing fresh about it.  Its biggest sin is that it’s supposed to be a comedy but it’s not particularly funny.  Damn you, Aniston.

1.75 stars out of 5

Conviction (2010)

This was one of those inspirational true stories starring Hilary Swank.  She plays Betty Ann Waters, a remarkable woman who went to law school and became a lawyer just so she could prove her brother’s innocence.  That’s dedication for you.

While Conviction was good, anchored by the usual strong performance by Swank and also by Sam Rockwell as her brother Kenneth, it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.  It was dramatic but occasionally slow, heartfelt but occasionally melodramatic.  Good but not great.

3.25 stars out of 5

SPOILERS: By the way, this was not mentioned in the film, but Kenneth Waters actually fell off a wall and died just 6 months after his release from prison (where he spent around 20 years).  That’s just so brutal I’m lost for words.

Tamara Drewe (2010)

I recently checked out the comic book from which this film was based, and I must say I found it a little boring.  The film, on the other hand, was a surprising delight.  It’s one of those well-made little films that explores human nature.  It stars Gemma Arterton as the titular character, who returns home to a small village in England to sell the house she inherited from her deceased mother.

I guess a part of the reason I liked the film was because Tamara is a journalist and the film is set around a writers’ retreat, which provided many opportunities for clever humour.  It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but Tamara Drewe was probably the best film out of the 4.

3.5 stars out of 5

Morning Glory (2010)

This was a coming-of-age film about the morning television industry and the crazy stuff that goes on behind the scenes.  I really like Rachel McAdams and she does a great job here as the young up-and-comer on the show ‘DayBreak’.  Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton are also both very good as the anchors.

It’s a charming film because of the characters and performances but unfortunately not as enjoyable as I thought it would be.  Even though there haven’t been very many films with the same subject matter, I somehow felt like I had seen it all before.  Perhaps all such films have the same formula?  Or perhaps I’m just not really into the world of morning TV?

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Just Go With It (2011) May 6, 2011

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It seems like it was so long ago that I was an Adam Sandler fan.  I loved his crazy, stupid movies.  No matter what anyone says about them, they were (for the most part) hilarious and unique in that Sandler-esque kind of way.

These days, frankly, Sandler’s movies suck.  They’ve become predictable, formulaic, and not very funny.  I feel like he is undergoing some kind of mid-life crisis, for some reason always trying to make his films have a proper storyline and some kind of message about life.  That’s not his forte.

And so it was with reservations that I went to see Just Go With It, a ‘romantic comedy’ about a plastic surgeon who pretends he is married to lure chicks, kind of like that episode of Seinfeld where George gave it a go.  And just like George in that episode, the scheme backfires when he meets the woman of his dreams (Andy Roddick’s SI model wife Brooklyn Decker), and must now continue to pretend he is temporarily ‘married’ by getting his assistant (Jennifer Aniston) to act as his wife.

You don’t need me to tell you where this movie heads and how it ends up.

As I mentioned above, Sandler doesn’t make good movies anymore (his best efforts these days are, I would say, ‘average’ at best).  Jennifer Aniston almost never makes watchable movies.  Throw the two together and it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Fortunately for them, there were a few good moments in Just Go With It, but none of them involved Sandler or Aniston.  The real stars of the film were Bailee Madison (who plays Aniston’s quirky daughter) and Nick Swardson (who is more hit and miss but has some good moments as Sandler’s cousin).  And Brooklyn Decker was surprisingly adequate as the fake love interest, demonstrating not only that she can act but also that she possesses decent comedic timing.  There’s also a supporting role with Nicole Kidman that I didn’t know about, but she wasn’t as funny as she could or should have been.

But ultimately, Just Go With It is probably exactly what you’d expect it to be — two big stars, an initially interesting premise, a predictable plot and a few good jokes, but far too many bad ones.  Potentially worthy as a DVD rental on a rainy night if you are in the right mood, but otherwise don’t waste your money.

2.25 stars out of 5

10 Worst Films of 2010! January 17, 2011

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Now you’ve seen my top 10 films of 2010, it’s time to go through the worst.  And there were plenty.

As per the best films’ list, the movie must have been released in Australia at the cinema or on DVD in the year of 2010.  You can click on the movie title for my full review.

Here goes, in descending order.

(to see the list click on ‘more…’)

(more…)

Movie Review: The Bounty Hunter (2010) April 14, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews.
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I was telling a friend the other day that when I watch a film, it usually inspires me to write.  Amazingly, The Bounty Hunter, an action romantic-comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, had the complete opposite effect on me.

The Bounty Hunter (directed by Andy Tennant and written by Sarah Thorp) actually has an interesting premise — Milo (Butler) is an ex-cop turned bounty hunter who has the task of bringing in his bail-jumping reporter ex-wife Nicole (Aniston).  There’s more to just that, of course, with several less-than-brilliant subplots, but the core of the film lies with the relationship between ex-husband and wife.

My main gripe with The Bounty Hunter is that it’s a film that thinks its so much funnier than it actually is.  It milks an originally interesting premise with a cheekiness that comes off as obnoxious; as though they had come up with the most intelligent idea ever and that everything that happens is just sooo hilarious, even though it was far from it.

And that’s the problem.  The movie had maybe a couple of good lines, but for the most part, the comedy felt incredibly stale, unoriginal, and unfunny.  Lame might be too strong a word, but it was certainly uninspiring.

Further, apart from the two leads, everyone else was reduced to caricature.  That wouldn’t have been such a huge thing with a film like this, but it does matter when the two central characters are so incredibly unlikable, especially Milo.  I’ve been a fan of Butler since 300, but honestly in this film he was just an annoying dick.  And Aniston (whom I’ve never really liked), may look nice in a figure-hugging dress, but her character Nicole exhibited zero charm.

In the end, it was just two annoying people getting at each other for 106 minutes.  And there are no prizes for guessing the ending, which, to be honest, was almost sickening to watch.

1 star out of 5

Movie Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009) November 7, 2009

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I had been wanting to watch the big screen adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s bestseller The Time Traveler’s Wife ever since I heard it was being made (it was actually optioned by Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt before the novel was even published).

It is such a beautiful book, taking a seemingly ridiculous, science-fictionesque premise to deliver a tragic love story that somehow works.  One of those rare stories that made the outrageous feel normal because the characters and what they felt for each other was so painfully real.

I’m glad to say that the film version, while not perfect by any means, is very good, capturing the essence of the relationship between Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana), a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to unintentionally and periodically time travel, and Claire Abshire (Rachel McAdams), the girl he was destined to fall in love with.

Of course, the success of a movie like this depends largely on the performances of the leads.  When I first heard that Eric Bana was cast as Henry, I was sceptical because he didn’t appear to fit the novel’s description.  But as I watched him, it became clear to me that he was spot on for the role.  He captures Henry’s love, pain and fear so well in a wonderfully controlled performance.  On the other hand, it doesn’t matter who Rachel McAdams plays.  She is so sweet, beautiful and classy that it’s not hard to believe anyone will fall madly in love with her.

However, a person’s enjoyment of the movie may well depend on how much they can accept the time travelling premise.  If you find the idea stupid, then it’s unlikely you’ll give the film much of a chance.  I think it’s quite possible for someone, especially if they haven’t read the book, to get a bit confused with all the travelling back and forth through time.  It’s easy to put up your hands and say ‘this is all too silly’ and let it overshadow the central love story.  On the other hand, if you can overlook some of the unexplained holes in the logic and just accept the premise (a pre-requisite for sci-fi films), then you may find yourself absorbed in Henry and Claire’s complex relationship.  For me personally, it was the type of film where the flaws become easier to forgive because it knows how to tug the heart strings.

Keeping in mind that the novel is 546 pages and spans a lifetime, the film adaptation is surprisingly short, clocking in at only 108 minutes.  This naturally means that the film lacks the full emotional depth of the novel (few films can match the novel in that regard anyway).  In condensing the book to fit the screen, characters were cut, roles were reduced and subplots were canned.  Nevertheless, I believe this actually worked in the film’s favour rather than against it.  It kept the focus solely on Claire and Henry’s relationship, and prevented the story from dragging on too long, which it did start to feel towards the final quarter.  It would have been very easy to make this a 2 hour 45 minute-plus movie, but I applaud the restraint from director Robert Schwentke (Flightplan) in keeping the running time manageable.  Trying to be truthful to the source material while keeping the film from being overlong can be a tough balance, but for the most part I think Schwentke and screenwriters Jeremy Leven (The Notebook) and Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost) did a decent job in the circumstances.

Perhaps I am a little biased because I’m a big fan of the two leads, but I believe  The Time Traveler’s Wife is a solid adaptation of a novel that was extremely difficult to adapt.  Those who are fans of the novel will likely either love it or hate it.  As for newcomers to this story, I’m not sure, but judging from the number of red, watery eyes I witnessed stepping out of the cinema (including my wife’s), my guess is that more people than not will be moved by it.

4 out of 5 stars!

[PS: I was surprised that the film relied mostly on make-up and not technology to show the aging process (which, after Benjamin Button, we know can do an extraordinary job).  Unfortunately this means the physical transformations of the characters are not as pronounced as they could have been.]
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