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My review of this eighties throwback movie is now posted. Beware of flying body parts!

Read my review now by clicking here.

Jonah Hill and Russell Brand star in "Get Him to the Greek" a film from Universal Pictures.

Read my review of this new comedy by clicking here.  I do not apologize for loving this movie.  I laughed so hard I cried.

Steve Carell (The Office) and Tina Fey (30 Rock & Saturday Night Live) star in this clean comedy about a couple from the burbs who gets more than they bargained for on their "Date Night" to the City.

Rated PG13

Directed by Shawn Levy

Starring Steve Carell, Tiny Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Jimmi Simpson

Heidi Illustrious Rating: 4/5

Word of Warning: Good clean fun. Reminiscent of a comedy from the late 80s or early 90s, “Date Night” doesn’t rely on the type of “shock comedy” that has become so popular, making this one okay for the older kids, but best for a date night.

The Foster family lives an ordinary life in New Jersey. Phil (Steve Carell) is a tax attorney and Claire (Tina Fey) is a real estate agent. They have two kids, a nice house in the suburbs, and they have one date night per week that involves going to a local steakhouse and talking about their kids.

When he learns of a friend’s impending divorce, Phil decides he and Claire need to spice it up a bit, so he takes her on a special date night to the City. However, when the couple steals a table reservation that isn’t theirs, they get involved in a bit more excitement than either bargained for.

The storyline doesn’t make a lot of sense, but together Carell and Fey are comic genius. And despite the nonsensical nature of the plot, the two actors are truly believable as Phil and Claire Foster; neither comedian goes overboard in their portrayal of this average couple from the burbs. It’s the stuff that happens to Phil and Claire that make this a funny movie, and the dialogue between the two is very clever.  

The commercial for “Date Night” has been comparing it to “The Hangover,” but this is not a good comparison. Although both films are very funny, this one doesn’t rely on shock comedy, but rather dialogue, chemistry and physical comedy.

With the rise of such movies as “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “The Hangover” I had started to believe Hollywood had lost the ability to make a straight up, old-fashion kind of comedy, but “Date Night” renews my confidence. Perhaps the menstruation jokes and toilet humor so popular of late, was just a fleeting trend? Probably not, but “Date Night” is a refreshing return to comedy that won’t make you squirm in your seat, but is still funny and relatable.

This movie isn’t groundbreaking, and they gave away many of the funniest scenes in the previews for “Date Night” but still, it will make you laugh. I think this movie is worth full price, and running time of only 88 minutes you can afford to get a babysitter for a couple hours and take your honey on a real movie date night. Just don’t steal anyone’s reservation.

**Also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.

Sam Worthington as Perseus from Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' epic action adventure 'The Clash of the Titans,' distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Photo by Jay Maidment

Rated PG13

Directed by Louis Leterrier

Starring Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Alexa Davalos, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Flemyng

Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 3.75/5

Word of Warning: It’s not going to cause you to burst a vessel in your brain from over thinking, but it’s an entertaining flick. This one was made to be 2D and quickly upgraded to 3D when they realized it was so popular. It wasn’t done well so don’t even bother to see it in 3D.

I’ll be honest. I review movies because I like to write about movies and I have a lot of opinions about all kinds of things, including movies. I don’t have a fancy film degree that gives me superior credence as a critic.

Often I go with my gut and my reviews are frequently influenced by my mood on the day I saw the movie. I can be unbiased, and I try to present that in my reviews, but my knee-jerk response to a movie is mostly influenced by attitude and mood. “Clash of the Titans” is no exception.

I had extremely low expectation for this movie. I wouldn’t have seen it at all, except that there was nothing better at the theater, so I thought I was settling. The movie is a remake of the 1981 classic of the same name, and like its predecessor it is loosely based on the Greek myth of Perseus, the son of Zeus and a human woman. 

The movie starts with a narrated story of the Gods, explaining how Zeus (Liam Neeson) became the King of the Gods and how his brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) was tricked into becoming the God of the Underworld. Zeus needs the prayers of the people in order to continue his reign, yet the people of Greece have grown proud and restless.

When a fisherman finds a coffin floating far out at sea he discovers a live baby inside and raises the boy as his own. He names the boy Perseus. When the Perseus is in his early twenties, he and his family witness the destruction of the statue of Zeus. The King of Argos ordered the demolition of the statue, an act of war against the Gods. The people soon learn that when the Gods go to war, they play dirty.

When he discovers the truth about who he really is, Perseus (Sam Worthington, of “Avatar” fame) becomes entangled in the war between the Gods and the humans. He must find a way to kill the Kraken, the Gods’ biggest weapon against the humans. It’s the only way to save the people of Greece from obliteration.

Perseus and his band of warriors, who look like a tribe of unwashed hippies, dreadlocks and all, set out on a mission to find the Stygain Witches. The witches hold the secret of how to kill the Krakan. The warriors meet up with all sorts of exciting and frightening creatures along the way, and each battle reveals a little more of who Perseus is and who he could become.

Sam Worthington is the leading man in this adventure story and I think he may have a big Hollywood career in front of him. The handsome 33-year-old is already well known in Australia, but he’ll need to prove to American audiences that he can act beyond the serious warrior character he has played in both “Avatar” and “Clash of the Titans.” 

This isn’t movie-of-the-year, but the graphics are first rate and the storyline is larger than life, so I’d recommend seeing “Clash of the Titans” on the big screen. Thankfully, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and at times it borders on campy – since when did the Greeks have British and Australian accents? My recommendation is to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

**Also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.

Green Zone

Rated R

Directed by Paul Greengrass

Starring Matt Damon, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear and a handful of real-life military men

Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 2.5/5

Word of Warning: The viewer may suffer from “Greengrass sickness” (a.k.a. motion sickness).

This Saturday, March 20, 2010, will mark seven years of US troop involvement in Iraq. “Green Zone” takes place exactly seven years ago, during the initial invasion of the country. Matt Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller. He and his men have been given the job of finding Weapons of Mass Destruction, better known as WMDs.

The military on the ground in Iraq has been told there is an informant who has revealed numerous locations where they will discover storehouses of WMDs, but as Miller and his men inspect site after site and come up empty handed, Miller begins to question the legitimacy of the intelligence.

When Miller openly questions the validity of the intelligence in a briefing he is shut down by his superiors but his inquiry catches the eye a CIA man named Brown (Brendan Gleeson). Brown has also been questioning the intelligence about WMDs, and expects it was intended to send the American’s on a wild goose chase. In a seemingly downright unrealistic move Brown recruits Miller to seek out the truth.

Greg Kinnear plays Clark Poundstone, the non-military government official who appears to be linked to the intelligence that in question. Amy Ryan plays the Wall Street Journal journalist who is covering the WMD story. 

The main problem with this movie is the fact that we all know the outcome. There were no WMDs in Iraq. Our troops were on a wild goose chase. Since there is little character development and we know the ending, the movie lacks significant suspense.

There are some tense moments in “Green Zone,” and I enjoyed the screenwriter’s addition of an Iraqi civilian recruited by Miller to help translate. But overall, this movie is missing something. Perhaps it’s relevancy. The subject matter of the film is no longer top of mind for most Americans. I’m not suggesting that it isn’t historically relevant, or that we can’t learn from our mistakes, but it’s just not timely. 

I have no doubt some will walk away from this movie believing it is a true story. Even though we now know the truth about WMDs in Iraq, and we know there were big lies and cover ups leading up to the war in Iraq, the actual storyline of “Green Zone” is a total work of fiction.

If the “Green Zone” had come out five years ago, perhaps it would feel more germane; as it is, I felt a little disconnected and at times a little bored. I’d suggest waiting until this one comes to DVD.

Interesting note: The move stars a handful of real Iraq veterans and some soldiers who are still enlisted. This is a good way to save money; you don’t have to spend time teaching a bunch of Hollywood extras how to properly hold a gun.

Warning to those who suffer from Greengrass sickness, a.k.a motion sickness: The “green” in “Green Zone” stands for the color I turn while watching Paul Greengrass’ crazy, jostling camera work. I had the same problem during the Bourne movies. In the action scenes, this style of direction tends to be confusing; I can’t decipher what is going on in the scene. I realize this what Greengass is known for, but I am definitely not a fan. 

 

Hollywood Sign

Now that the Golden Globe nominees have been announced, I am inspired to blog about my disappointment in this year’s movie award season. I’ve never been a fan of the Golden Globes. I feel it’s the dumb kid brother to the more grown up and classy Academy Awards.

That being said, this year the Academy has decided to dumb down too. They’ve decided to amend the Best Picture category to include ten nominees instead of the standard five. Yes, ten. That’s 1-0. Ridiculous? Most definitely. Most years it is hard to find five movies good enough to qualify for the category.

So why is Hollywood doing this? Well, they do like to pat themselves on the back, just look at how many awards shows exist. There are the two most famous, the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, but then there Sundance, Cannes, the Independent Spirit Awards, the MTV Movie Awards, and a plethora of film festivals throughout the country. I know of no other industry who gives themselves such a vast array of parties and award ceremonies.

I believe there are two main reasons the Academy decided to expand the Best Picture category. First, they want to boost the ratings. If people hear that their favorite movie has been nominated they will be more likely to watch the Oscars to see if their favorite wins. So no doubt, with ten nominees, the Academy will be able to reach a much larger audience of potential viewers.

Secondly, the movie industry wants to make more money. Many of us will go a film if it has been nominated for Best Picture. My husband and I are fairly religious about doing this, and we usually manage to see all the Best Picture nominees in the theater. Now we go to a lot of movies, so getting to five specific films isn’t terribly difficult, but ten is going to be much harder. We have decided we aren’t even going to try.

So take that, you arrogant members of the Academy! We aren’t falling for your tricks.

Invictus

Rated PG13

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Marguerite Wheatley, Tony Kgoroge, Patrick Mofokeng, Matt Stern, Julian Lewis Jones, Adjoa Andoh 

Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 4/5

Word of Warning: None

In my opinion, “Invictus” is one of the best movies of the year. Probably not Best Picture, but since ten films are being nominated in the category this year, it will likely be in the mix.

Based on true events, this film tells the story of newly elected South African President Nelson Mandela’s endeavor to unite his bitterly divided nation over the sport of rugby. During the years of apartheid, the South Africa National rugby team, the Springboks, were seen as the white’s team. Black South Africans either rooted for other rugby teams, including England’s team, or they preferred soccer.

Mandela was officially inaugurated President of South Africa on May 10, 1994. South Africa was to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup, but the team was doing poorly. This movie tells the story of how President Mandela used his power to help the Springboks create a better team and in turn, united the country, both black and white, behind the team in their attempt to make a run for the World Cup.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, upon the request of Morgan Freeman, the movie isn’t a directorial standout. As far as direction and cinematography it is straightforward, with many predictable scenes. However, despite the rather conventional filmmaking it is a solid movie with good performances.

Morgan Freeman will likely receive a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of the international recognized Nelson Mandela. He is able to captures Mandela’s quiet, yet undeniably powerful personality. Matt Damon plays Springbok team captain Francois Pienaar, who is portrayed in the movie as becoming increasingly aware of the part his team is playing in uniting South Africa’s white and black communities. Damon does a fine job, though his South African accent is a bit sketchy at different times during the movie.

As a side note, “Invictus” is the name of a poem by English poet William Ernest Henley that inspired Nelson Mandela during his 27 year imprisonment. Mandela uses the poem to motivate team captain Pienaar in the months leading up to the World Cup. 

At its core, “Invictus” is a really good underdog sports story, with lots of rugby action and pep talks sprinkled throughout the two hour and 14 minute movie. My one complaint about “Invictus” was the musical score. I know, as does everyone, this movie is about more than just a sport, and I didn’t need the overly sappy soundtrack pounding this into my head.

Ultimately, my take away from this film is that sports can bring people together. Religion and skin color may tear us a part, but if you want to unite a nation, nothing works better than a team sport. Just look at the Olympics; Americans never feel more patriotic and nationalistic than during the Summer and Winter Olympics. Perhaps the answer to our differences isn’t more politics, its more sports. 

RachelGettingMarriedI just had one of those “wow I’m glad I didn’t go to the theater to see that movie” moments. “Rachel Getting Married” is the indie flick from that snagged Anne Hathaway an Oscar best-actress nomination in 2008.

She did fine, but after seeing this movie, I’m glad she didn’t win, because I was not blown away by her performance.

This is a movie about a girl name Kym (Anne Hathaway), who has been in and out of rehab for ten years. Her sister, Rachel, is getting married at their family’s Connecticut home (think, “Father of the Bride,” only not funny).

Kym has left her sober living house in order to attend the wedding, but her sister isn’t especially glad to see her. In fact, her sister given the honor of maid-of-honor to a friend, a position usually reserved for a sibling.

As the story unfolds we become painfully aware of the major skeletons in this family’s closet, and all the problems are directly related to Kym’s issues with addiction. It’s a glimpse into the lives of rich people with problems, a topic that is sometimes fascinating, but in this case just didn’t capture my interest. 

The wedding in the movie is just plain weird. There’s an odd mixture of music and dancing and basically I just wanted to go home, except that I was at home because we’d rented this one. 

If you’ve been curious about “Rachel Getting Married,” and it’s sitting on your Netflix queue, let me save . Delete it – this isn’t a wedding you want to attend.

The Informant!

September 24, 2009 — 2 Comments

The Informant!

Rated R

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Starring Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey, Thomas F. Wilson

Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 2.5/5

Word of Warning: a bit of a snore fest.

The critics love this one, and I’m not quite sure why. Honestly, I was bored. Not quite to tears, but close. George Clooney is a producer on this movie, and it seems like everything he has a hand in, is starting to look and sound the same. Fast paced dialogue mixed with quirky music and even more peculiar characters. Usually this recipe turns out a decent film, but for some reason it just doesn’t work in “The Informant!”

Based loosely on true events, the movie tells the story of Mark Whitacre, President of the BioProducts Division of ADM (Archer Daniel Midlands) during the early 1990s. Whitacre, at the prompting of his wife, decides to help the FBI in an investigation into price fixing. Whitacre has first-hand experience of widespread price-fixing in the agriculture business, and helps the FBI spy on industry negotiations and conversations for nearly three years. 

There are a couple humorous moments, and Matt Damon’s portrayal of the brilliant, yet odd Mark Whitacre is well acted. However, something is off with this movie. I didn’t know the story of Whitacre prior to seeing “The Informant!” and by watching the previews I thought the story took place in the 1960s. The music doesn’t fit with the 1990s setting, and the headings that pop on the screen at various times during the movie also do not fit – it’s all rather distracting.

Director Steve Soderbergh, who also directed the “Oceans” films, seems to be aiming for the same type of vibe in “The Informant!” but I think he misses the mark. Whitacre isn’t a very likable character. He’s a bumbling fool, not a lovable bumbling fool. There was no one to root for in “The Informant!” It’s the simple story of a whistle blower who, as it turns out, isn’t that great of a guy.

Scott Bakula (“Quantum Leap”) and Joel McHale (“The Soup” and “Community”) are both entertaining as FBI agents working with Whitacre. And, as previously mentioned, Matt Damon, who gained 30 lbs for his role, is good as well. But in the end, I just didn’t care, and left the theater asking, “What was the point?”

“The Informant!” is mostly a snooze fest, and though it’s being called a “dark comedy,” it lacks a punch line. The exclamation point in the title of the movie is an assertion of excitement the story is unable to fulfill.

Generation Kill

We rented this HBO miniseries at the recommendation of an Army reservist who I interviewed for the newspaper last month. The reservist had just returned from his second yearlong tour in Iraq, and he told me “Generation Kill” was a favorite of many of the men he served with while stationed at Ballad Air Force base in Iraq. The men felt the miniseries represented a realistic and unbiased look at the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“Generation Kill” originally aired in 2008, on HBO. The series is based on a succession of articles entitled, “The Killer Elite,” by Evan Wright, published in Rolling Stone magazine in 2004. Evan Wright is reporter who had been embedded with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the United States Marine Corps during the initial invasion of Iraq.

The seven-part miniseries was filmed in Africa and with four parts directed by Susanna White and three directed by Simon Cellan Jones (both British television directors).  

We rented the series from Netflix and watched it over a several week period. Impressed by the young actors hired for these roles, as well as the writing, this miniseries definitely deserves a recommendation here at HeidiTown.

The audience is taken on a ride with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, a group of Marines rolling through Iraq in humvees, hoping to reach Baghdad in time to be part of the action. In the meantime, they work their way through the Iraqi countryside encountering good and bad guys along the route.

This isn’t a miniseries for everyone. It isn’t horribly violent, but it is raw. “Generation Kill” is unfiltered. In this miniseries we are privy to the way men, under enormous pressure, deal with the stress by telling jokes, mostly crude, off-color jokes; but this is partly why the series feels so real.

“Generation Kill” is a behind the scenes look at a war; a war that continues to take Americans lives every month, but whether you support the war, or are opposed to it, the stories told in this miniseries are those of heroes.  

Be sure to watch the bonus material at the end of the last DVD. There is an intriguing interview with Evan Wright and several of the Marines depicted in the miniseries, as well as some behind the scene footage. 

Note: Last month, one of the stars of “Generation Kill” was in Berthoud, Colorado. Jon Huertas, who played Sergeant Antonio Espera in the miniseries, served eight years in the US Air Force before heading to Hollywood. He is now a vocal supporter of the Puppies Behind Bars Dog Tags program, and flew in to attend and speak at the Dog Tags graduation ceremony held in Berthoud on August 29, 2009.