Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project: 7.5 out of 10.
Full disclosure: I've always loved Rickles. He's the best of the insult comics, and I love insult comics. Rickles is damn funny, and I love funny.
Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project is a great little documentary by John Landis. You know you're going to have a good time when the doc opens with a Harry Dean Stanton singing "Old Blue". We then hear from Clint Eastwood, Robert DeNiro, Richard Lewis, Sarah Silverman, Bob Newhart, Christopher Guest, Sidney Poitier, Martin Scorsese, Bob Saget and countless others, but the real star is Mr. Warmth, Don Rickles.
There's lots of Rickles at The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts and on The Tonight Show and on stage in Vegas. He's insulting, cruel and obnoxious. As Chris Rock puts it, "Being funny is like being a pretty girl - you get away with a lot of shit."
Yes Man: 6 out of 10.
I think Jim Carrey is now making the same movie over and over again. They have these silly and simple premises, such as "Jim Carrey can't tell a lie" or "Jim Carrey says yes to everything", and then hilarity ensues.
Ok, it's not quite hilarity, but there is this guy:
That's Murray Hewitt from Flight of the Conchords, a character I just adore. In Yes Man, Murray Hewitt goes by the name Norman but it's pretty much the same character. It's also the funniest character in this thing. If you see it, see it for Murray.
Changeling: 6.6 out of 10.
Clint Eastwood has made several better films than this, but even if Changeling doesn't measure up to Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby and his other superior movies, it's still a great deal better than most of the slop out there.
Angelina Jolie plays the primary role well, and although it's a bit long, it's an interesting story. I'm just glad Clint will be making films into his 80s. The man is still at the top of his game.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona: 7 out of 10.
There was a time when I could bank on Woody Allen for one smart comedy a year. You could set your watch by his consistency. These days, he's hit and miss, but Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a hit.
It's light and easy. It's easy and easy on the eyes. Not only is it set in lovely Spain, but there are three actresses providing both eye candy and solid acting chops. They are Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson and Penélope Cruz.
For the ladies, Javier Bardem's character is far too cool for school. No wonder he scored with all three aforementioned beauts.
Passchendaele: 4 out of 10.
When I wrote about the Passchendaele trailer back in March of 2008, I mentioned how much I was looking forward to seeing the film. The most expensive Canadian film project of all time about the 10th Battalion, CEF in the First World War at the Battle of Passchendaele was precisely the kind of film I could get behind. I so wanted it to be good.
There's better acting and more integrity in this one minute Part of Our Heritage commercial. Unfortunately, I'm not kidding.
Let me preface the rest of this review by saying I take absolutely no joy in trashing this pic. I honestly have never wanted to like a movie more. I'm fervently proud of this country and our efforts in the World Wars, and I've been looking for more Canadian films about WWI. In this case, with this budget and subject matter, even okay isn't good enough, and Passchendaele wasn't okay. It was embarrassing.
Most of the movie takes place in Alberta and not the battlefield. There it's plot convenience after plot convenience, and laughably bad acting. Most of that bad acting comes from Train 48's Joe Dinicol. Hey Paul! When you're putting together the most expensive Canadian movie ever made, let's not give such a key role to a guy from Train 48. See how well Gil Bellows did in his small role? That's the kind of acting we needed out of David Mann.
Then there's the silly little things, like David Mann's sister being kicked out of nursing because her father fought for the Germans while David is allowed to actually fight for Canada in the war. And what's with that silliness with Michael Dunne getting Sarah Mann through her morphine addiction in one rough night? And did that mean British recruitment officer really have to follow Dunne all the way to Belgium? And what was with all that talk about horses and rivers? Such melodrama!
**Spoiler Alert** And then there's my least favourite scene in this movie. It just so happens to be the climatic scene where Paul Gross' character brings back David Mann from the German trenches on a crucifix. Don't ask me why Mann ran into the German trenches in the first place, I'm still trying to piece that together, or why he ended up on a crucifix, just trust me that he did. This was Gross' movie, and he wrote it to ensure he could strike one helluva Jesus Christ Pose for the grand finale. It was the key scene and it was sickening. Is that seriously the best we can do?
There was an opportunity here to do something special to honour our war heroes. Instead, Paul Gross made a boring, moronic, poorly acted piece of melodramatic bullshit.
We deserve so much better than this.
Smart People: 4 out of 10.
Smart People is a pretentious piece of crap. At 95 minutes, I thought it would never end.
The voice Dennis Quaid puts on to seem pompous is so annoying, I wanted to kick his ass, but not in an engaging, effective way. He was just bugging the shit out of me.
True story: when this movie was coming to theatres, the producers asked me to attend a media preview so I'd blog about it. I looked at the cast, thought it was pretty good, and agreed to attend. In what I now deem as a miracle, the tickets arrived three days after the viewing. This had never happened before, and hasn't happened since. This event, more than any other in the past ten years, has me wondering if there might just be a good Lord above. They say He works in mysterious ways...
Toronto Stories: 6 out of 10.
Last December, the PR folks behind this Canadian indie film contacted me and asked me to help promote it. They sent me the DVD to review, but in typical Canadian indie film promotion fashion, the DVD had no audio.
I let my contact know my DVD had no audio, and she apologized, but I'll be damned if I ever received a replacement. They got their entry, but they never got their review. I didn't see the movie until this weekend when it appeared on TMN.
It was neat seeing Toronto playing itself, and it wasn't a bad little movie, but it's nothing to write home about. I suppose you'd write home about it if you wrote home about local flicks that aren't half bad. I might write home about the fact "Toronto Stories was shot in the four corners of the city, from the Don Valley and Cabbagetown to Kensington Market, from St. Clair and Vaughan to the back-alleys of the downtown core and majestic Union Station."
Step Brothers: 6.5 out of 10.
Roger Ebert, your job is safe. This movie reviewing thing is hard. I recently watched a Coen Brothers film I had high hopes for, thought it was okay and punished it with a 6.5 out of 10 rating. Then, I watched this Adam McKay movie I thought would suck hard, and I was pleasantly surprised. The end result? Both Step Brothers and Burn After Reading ended up with the same grade.
I know, it doesn't make sense, does it? Maybe it's because the genres are so different? Maybe it's because of my sky high hopes for one and my gutter low hopes for the other? Like I said, this isn't easy.
Maybe it was my awesome mood, or maybe it was the cheap drugs, but I laughed loud and often during Step Brothers and if you have a problem with that, join the club. I no longer trust my own judgement.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall: 6 out of 10.
The most surprising thing about Forgetting Sarah Marshall is that Seth Rogen isn't in it. Seriously, Seth Rogen doesn't appear on screen in this film for a single moment. He's not on the screen and he's not in the credits. Seth Rogen is not in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
But don't worry, there are appearances by Bill Hader, Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd. It is a Judd Apatow flick, after all.
It's kinda funny. I was told it was going to be funnier. Still, it's a better comedy than the past few laugh-less dogs I've seen, but it's still not the comedy I'm looking for. My search continues...
Burn After Reading: 6.5 out of 10.
I'm on holidays. I'm still in the city, because I've got a couple of important slo-pitch playoff games to play tonight and my priorities are in order, so my wife and I decided to watch this Coen brothers film we missed last year.
Generally speaking, I love Coen brothers flicks. "No Country for Old Men", "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", "The Big Lebowski", "Fargo", "Miller's Crossing", and "Raising Arizona" are personal favourites. Their direction is consistently awesome, but "Burn After Reading" isn't a home run.
It's possible my disappointment is a result of the aforementioned excellence, as I expect to be amazed by everything Ethan and Joel Coen direct. It certainly didn't stink, but it was a little slower and less intriguing than usual. It was just okay, and for the Coen brothers, that's not good enough.
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