Film Review: Alexander (dir by Oliver Stone)


Before I really get into talking about Oliver Stone’s 2004 film, Alexander, I should acknowledge that there’s about four different version of Alexander floating around.

There’s the widely ridiculed theatrical version, which was released in 2004 and which got terrible reviews in the United States, though it was apparently a bit more popular in Europe.  This version of Alexander was a notorious box office bomb and Oliver Stone’s career has never quite recovered from it.  Though Stone’s still making movies, it’s been a while since he’s really been taken as seriously as you might expect a two-time Oscar winner to be taken.  The box office and critical failure of Alexander is a big reason for that.

There’s also the Director’s Cut of Alexander, which is slightly shorter than the version that was released into theaters and which apparently emphasizes the action scenes more than the original film did.  For an Oscar-winning director to release a director’s cut that’s actually shorter than the version that he originally sent into theaters is rare and it shows that the film’s subject matter was one that Stone was still trying to figure out how to deal with.

There is also the “Final Unrated Cut,” which lasts 3 hours and 45 minutes and which Stone described as being the Cecil B. DeMille-version of the story.  At the time the Final Unrated Cut was released in 2007, Stone announced that he had put everything back into the movie and that we were finally able to see the version of the story that he wanted to tell.

However, Stone apparently still left some stuff out because, in 2009, we got the Final Cut, which goes on for 206 minutes and which, once again, apparently includes everything that Stone wanted to put in the original cut of the film.  The Final Cut has actually received some positive reviews from critic who were not impressed by the previous three versions of Alexander.

For the record, I saw the Director’s Cut.  This is the second of the Alexanders, the one that runs 167 minutes.  Some day, I’ll watch the four hour version and I’ll compare the two films.  But for now, I’m reviewing the 167-minute version of Alexander.

Anyway, Alexander is a biopic of Alexander The Great, the Macedonian ruler who took over a good deal of the known world before mysteriously dying at the age of 32.  The film jumps back and forth in time, from an elderly Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins, going about as overboard as one can go while playing an ancient Greek historian) narrating the story of Alexander’s life to Alexander (Colin Farrell) conquering his enemies to scenes of Alexander’s mother (Angelina Jolie) and one-eyed father (Val Kilmer) shaping Alexander’s outlook on the world.  Along the way, we discover that Alexander was driven to succeed and forever lived in the shadow of his father.  We also discover that he may have been in love with his general, Hephaistion (Jared Leto), even though he married Roxane (Rosario Dawson, who gets to do an elaborate dance).  We also discover that no battle in the ancient world could begin before Alexander gave a long speech and that all of the Macedonians spoke with thick Irish accents.  Stone has said that the Irish accents were meant to signify that the Macedonians were working-class.  Other people say that, because Colin Farrell’s accent was so thick, the rest of the cast had to imitate him so he wouldn’t sound out-of-place.

And here’s the thing — yes, Alexander is a big, messy film that is often incoherent.  Yes, the cast is full of talented actors, every single one of which has been thoroughly miscast.  Yes, it’s next to impossible to keep track of who is fighting who and yes, it’s distracting as Hell that all of the Macedonians have Irish accents and that Angelina Jolie uses an Eastern European accent that’s so thick that it almost becomes a parody of itself.  All of these things are true and yet, I was never bored with the director’s cut.  The sets were huge, the costumes were beautiful, and the cast was eccentric enough to be interesting.  Val Kilmer, Angelina Jolie, and Anthony Hopkins all go overboard, chewing every piece of scenery that they can get their hands on.  Colin Farrell alternates between being determined and being wild-eyed.  Jared Leto allows his piercing stare to do most of his acting.  Even Christopher Plummer shows up, playing Aristole with a North Atlantic accent.  No one appears to be acting in the same film and strangely, it works.  The ancient world was chaotic and the combination of everyone’s different acting styles with Stone’s frantic direction actually manages to capture some of that chaos.

Oliver Stone apparently spent years trying to bring his vision of Alexander’s life to the big screen.  Watching the film, it’s a classic example of a director becoming so obsessed with a story that they ultimately forgot why they wanted to tell it in the first place.  Stone tosses everything he can at the cinematic wall, just to see what will stick.  Is Alexander a tyrant or a misunderstood humanist?  Is he a murderer or a noble warrior?  Is he in love with Hephaistion or has his borderline incestuous relationship with his mother left him incapable of trusting anyone enough to love them?  The film doesn’t seem to know who Alexander actually was but it’s so desperate to try to find an answer among all of the endless battle scenes and lengthy speeches that it becomes undeniably compelling to watch.  If nothing else, Alexander gives us the rare chance to see an Oliver Stone film in which Stone himself doesn’t seem to quite know what point it is that he’s trying to make.

Alexander is a mess but there’s something fascinating about its chaos.  It’s a beautiful wreck and, as with all wrecks, it’s impossible to look away.

American Outlaws (2001, directed by Les Mayfield)


Returning to their hometown in Missouri in the days following the end of the Civil War, former Confederate guerrillas Jesse James (Colin Farrell) and Cole Younger (Scott Caan) are disgusted to discover that the railroad companies are trying to take over everyone’s land.  After Cole’s cousin and Jesse’s mother are killed by railway thugs, Jesse and Cole take revenge by forming the James/Younger Gang and robbing banks.  Soon, the members of the James/Younger Gang become folk heroes and the railroad company resorts to bringing in Alan Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton) to track the outlaws down.  However, even as they try to remain out of the clutches of Pinkerton’s men, there is growing dissension in the ranks of the James/Younger Gang.  Cole feels like Jesse doesn’t respect his opinions while Jesse is falling in love with Zee (Ali Larter) and it’s hard to court a girl when you’re constantly having to hide out from Alan Pinkertson.  Meanwhile, the other members of the gang wonder why their wanted posters never look as good as Jesse’s and Cole’s.

There have been many movies made about the James/Younger Gang and this is certainly one of them.  What sets this telling apart from other versions of this familiar tale is that American Outlaws is the feel-good version of the story.  Bob and Charley Ford are nowhere to be seen in American Outlaws and Jesse James doesn’t get shot in the back while straightening a picture.  This approach misses the point of what makes the legend of Jesse James so memorable in the first place.  Jesse James was the greatest outlaw in the west but he was ultimately taken down by a coward who shot him in the back.  Take out that part of the story and the story loses all of its power.  Jesse James just becomes another outlaw.

In real life, the James/Younger Gang were reportedly a rough group of outlaws who didn’t hesitate when it came to killing.  In American Outlaws, they come across more like a boy band with a side hustle robbing banks.  Jesse is the soulful leader, Cole is the rebel, and the other members of the gang are the interchangeable backup vocalists.  There’s been many good and even great films made about the James/Younger Game.  American Outlaws is not one of them.  For a good movie about the life and times of Jesse James and his associates, I would suggest checking out Walter Hill’s The Long Riders or Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Film Review: Dumbo (dir by Tim Burton)


Tim Burton’s remake of Dumbo actually wasn’t that bad.

I know!  I’m as shocked as anyone.  Usually, I’m against remakes on general principle and I’m certainly not a fan of the current trend of doing live-action versions of classic animated films.  (There’s a reason why I haven’t seen the new The Lion King.)  Dumbo is one of my favorites of the old Disney films, one that’s always brought tears to my mismatched eyes so I was naturally predisposed to be critical of the remake.  Add to that, I’m not particularly a huge fan of Tim Burton, a director who too often seems to be coasting on his reputation for being a visionary as opposed to actually being one.

And yet, I have to admit that I enjoyed this new version of Dumbo.  To call it a remake is actually a mistake.  It’s a reimagining, as I suppose any live action remake of an animated film about a flying elephant, a talking mouse, and a group of sarcastic crows would have to be.  So, the crows are gone, which is understandable as I doubt you could get away with a bird named “Jim Crow” today.  And sadly, Timothy the Mouse is gone.  He’s been replaced by several human characters, including Colin Farrell as a one-armed, former equestrian, Eva Green as a French trapeze artist, and Danny DeVito as the rough-around-the-edges but good-hearted ringmaster.  However, Dumbo’s still present and he’s still got the big ears.  He can still fly, as long as he’s holding a feather.

Dumbo’s only a CGI elephant but he’s still adorable.  Of course, I should be honest that I’ve always loved elephants.  I even rode one at Scarborough Fair once!  It was like a totally bumpy and somewhat uncomfortable ride but, at the same time, it was also totally cool because I was on top of an elephant!  The other thing I love about elephants is that elephants form real families.  They love each other.  They look out for each other.  They mourn their dead, which is one of many reasons why ivory poachers are some of the worst people in the world.  Elephants may not fly but there’s a sweetness to them that makes the story of Dumbo and his mother extra poignant, regardless of whether it’s animated, CGI, or live-action.  Anyway, the remake’s version of Dumbo is absolutely lovable, from the minute he reveals his ears to the triumphant moment when he soars through the circus tent.

As a director, Tim Burton has always struggled with pacing.  Watching his films, you always dread the inevitable moment when he gets distracted by a red herring or a superfluous storyline because you know that, once it happens, the entire film is going to go off the rails.  Dumbo starts out slowly and it seems like forever before the baby elephant actually shows up.  Fortunately, once Dumbo does show up, Burton’s direction becomes much more focused.  The story stops meandering and, for once, Burton actually manages to maintain some sense of narrative momentum.

Visually, the film’s a feast for the eyes.  Even though it’s a live-action film, the sets and the costumes are all flamboyantly and colorfully over-the-top, giving the film the feeling of being a child’s imagination come to life.  I mean, when you’re making a film about a flying elephant, there’s no point in trying to go for gritty realism.  While the film does mention some real-world tragedies — Farrell lost his arm in World War I and his wife to Spanish Flu — Burton plays up the fantasy elements of the story.  He’s helped by Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton who both give cartoonishly broad performances.  Fortunately, they’re both good enough actors that they can get away with it.

So, the live-action reimagining of Dumbo is not that bad.  It has its slow spots and it really can’t match the emotional power of the original animated version.  But, with all that taken into consideration, it’s still an undeniably entertaining two hours.

Here’s The Trailer For Steve McQueen’s Widows!


Widows is one of those films that I’ve been looking forward to seeing since I first read about it.  Based on a BBC miniseries and featuring an amazingly talented cast, Widows is also director Steve McQueen’s first film since the Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave.

The film deals with four women whose husbands are all killed during a failed heist.  The widows, under the leadership of Viola Davis, join together to pull off the heist themselves.  That may not sound like a typical Oscar movie but Widows has got tremendous buzz.  Plus, you’ve got a cast that’s full of past Oscar nominees and winners (Viola Davis, Robert Duvall, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Liam Neeson) and actors who seem to be destined to be nominated some day (Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, Andre Holland, Carrie Coon, Garrett Dillahunt).  All in all, there’s a lot of reasons to get excited for this one!

Here’s the trailer:

The Austin Film Critics Association Has Announced Their Nominations!


moonlightThe Austin Film Critics Association announced their nominees for the best of 2016 earlier today!  So, let’s see what my fellow Texans selected:

Best Film:

Best Director:

Best Actor:

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Colin Farrell, The Lobster
  • Denzel Washington, Fences
  • Joel Edgerton, Loving
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Best Actress:

  • Amy Adams, Arrival
  • Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Ruth Negga, Loving

Best Supporting Actor:

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
  • Min-hee Kim, The Handmaiden
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Viola Davis, Fences

Best Original Screenplay:

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Eric Heisserer, Arrival
  • Luke Davies, Lion
  • Park Chan-wook, Jeong Seo-kyeong, The Handmaiden
  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
  • Whit Stillman, Love & Friendship

Best Cinematography:

Best Score:

Best Foreign-Language Film:

  • The Brand New Testament
  • Elle
  • The Handmaiden
  • Things to Come
  • Toni Erdmann

Best Documentary:

  • 13th
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • Tower
  • Weiner

Best Animated Film:

Best First Film:

  • The Birth of a Nation
  • The Edge of Seventeen
  • Krisha
  • Swiss Army Man
  • The Witch

The Robert R. “Bobby” McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award:

Best Austin Film:

  • Loving (dir. Jeff Nichols)
  • Midnight Special (dir. Jeff Nichols)
  • Slash (dir. Clay Liford)
  • Tower (dir. Keith Maitland)
  • Transpecos (dir. Greg Kwedar)

la-la-land-full-poster-image-691x1024

Here Are The 74th Annual Golden Globe Nominations!


Oscar season continued today with even more precursors announcing their picks for the best of 2016!  Perhaps most importantly, the 74th Annual Golden Globe nominations were announced today!  Even though they rarely match up 100%, the Golden Globe nominations are considered to be one of the best precursors for what will be nominated for an Oscar in January.

So, should Silence be worried?  Martin Scorsese’s latest acclaimed film was totally snubbed by the Golden Globes.  That could be an ominous sign for a film that everyone seems to respect but which is still going to be a far harder sell at the box office than either The Wolf of Wall Street or Hugo.

But again, it’s never an exact match between the Globes and the Oscars and the Academy can nominate up to ten films for best picture.  Though it would certainly be interesting (and kinda neat) if it happened, I somehow doubt that the Academy is going nominate Deadpool over Silence.

(For that matter, I doubt Simon Helberg is going to pick up an Oscar nomination for Florence Foster Jenkins.  Just a feeling…)

Below are the Golden Globe film nominations!

(For the TV nominations, why not check out the list over at Awards Watch?)

MOTION PICTURES

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
20th Century Women
Deadpool
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land
Sing Street

Best Motion Picture – Animated
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
Sing
Zootopia

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
Divines (France)
Elle (France)
Neruda (Chile)
The Salesman (Iran)
Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Amy Adams, Arrival
Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Lily Collins, Rules Don’t Apply
Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Colin Farrell, The Lobster
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Jonah Hill, War Dogs
Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Simon Helberg, Florence Foster Jenkins
Dev Patel, Lion
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

Best Director – Motion Picture
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Nocturnal Animals

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Arrival
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Gold,” Gold
“City of Stars,” La La Land
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana
“Faith,” Sing
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls

Moana

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #104: Phone Booth (dir by Joel Schumacher)


Phone_Booth_movie (1)

First released in 2003, Phone Booth is a good film.

Now, I know that you’re probably thinking, “Okay, that’s good, Lisa.  There were a lot of good films released in 2003.  I can’t think of any off the top of my head but let me go look on Wikipedia and I’m sure I can come back with a few dozen good films and…”

Well, before you go over to Wikipedia and do a search on 2003 in film (and I even included a direct link to make it easy for you because I like to be helpful), allow me to point something else out about Phone Booth.

Phone Booth is not only a good film but it’s a good film that was directed by Joel Schumacher!

That’s right!  There are several online film critics who will tell you that Joel Schumacher is one of the worst directors of all time and, to be honest, there’s actually a pretty good argument that can be made in support of that.  However, Schumacher did direct both The Lost Boys and Phone Booth.  So, he’s directed at least two good films and that’s two more than Uwe Boll.

In Phone Booth, Colin Farrell plays Stu, a slick publicist who has both a wife named Kelly (Radha Mitchell) and a girlfriend named Pam (Katie Holmes).  When Stu steps into the last remaining phone booth in New York City in order to call his girlfriend, he’s shocked when a pizza deliveryman shows up and attempts to give him a pizza.  No sooner has he gotten rid of the pizzaman (and, seriously, who turns down free pizza?), the phone rings.  Stu answers and is told by an unseen sniper (voice by Kiefer Sutherland) that, if he leaves the phone booth, he will be shot.  The sniper goes on to order Stu to tell the truth to both Kelly and Pam or to risk being shot as a consequence.

While all of this is going on, a group of prostitutes demand that Stu get out of the booth and let them use the phone.  When Stu refuses, their pimp approaches the booth and is promptly gunned down by the sniper.  Soon, under the assumption that Stu has a weapon, the police — led by Forest Whitaker — have surrounded the booth and are demanding that Stu step out.  The sniper, however, reminds Stu that he’ll be shot if he leaves the booth.

As a crowd of onlookers (including Pam and Kelly), police, and reporters surround the booth, Stu finds himself literally with no escape…

Telling the story in real time and keeping the film largely focused on Stu’s increasing desperation, Schumacher actually does a pretty good job with Phone Booth.  Colin Farrell gives a great performance, making Stu into a character who you like despite yourself.  While Kiefer Sutherland never appears onscreen, his sexy growl of a voice works wonders and he even manages to sell the point where his character starts to maniacally laugh.  Reportedly, screenwriter Larry Cohen came up with the idea for Phone Booth way back in the 1960s.  It took nearly 40 years for the film to be made but Schumacher, Farrell, and Sutherland made it more than worth the wait.

A Late Film Review: Winter’s Tale (dir by Akiva Goldsman)


Winter's_tale_(film)

I liked Winter’s Tale.

And I don’t care what anybody else says!

And that’s a good thing too because, critically, Winter’s Tale has been one of the most maligned movies of 2014.  It came out on Valentine’s Day, at the same time as Endless Love.  And the critics absolutely hated it!  For a while there, the online film community was taking bets on which one of the two Valentine’s Day releases would end up with the lowest score on Rotten Tomatoes.  And, though it was a close race, Winter’s Tale actually ended up with the lower score, coming in at 13% as opposed to Endless Love‘s 15%.

That’s right — according to most mainstream film critics, Winter’s Tale was actually worse than Endless Love.

Well, those critics were wrong.  That’s how I felt when I first saw Winter’s Tale and, after watching it a second time on HBO, that’s still how I feel.  Winter’s Tale is not a bad movie!

(Incidentally, Winter’s Tale has a 6.2 rating over at the imdb, which would seem to indicate that I’m not the only person who knows better than Peter Travers.)

Admittedly, the plot of Winter’s Tale does not make much logical sense but that’s kind of the point.  It’s a tale and tales are not about being realistic.  Tales are about emotion and the whole point of listening to or telling a tale is to inspire feelings. To truly appreciate Winter’s Tale, you have to understand that this is a fairy tale that happens to be set in the most mythical of American cities, New York.

Opening in 1895 and ending in 2014, Winter’s Tale tells the story of Peter Lake (Colin Farrell).  When Peter was an infant, his immigrant parents were refused entry into Manhattan because they both had tuberculosis.  So, they put Peter in a toy boat and dropped him into ocean and watched as the boat slowly floated towards America.

Jump forward 21 years and Peter has grown up to be a thief, working for a gangster named Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe).  What few people know is that Pearly is actually a demon who regularly visits his boss, Luicfer (played by Will “Yes, that Will Smith” Smith).  Pearly is immortal as long as he stays in New York City.

When Peter decides that he wants to leave Pearly’s gang, Pearly orders that Peter be killed.  However, while fleeing from the rest of the gang, Peter is rescued by a flying white horse.  While Peter’s first instinct is to fly the horse out of New York and spend the winter in Florida, he instead decides to rob one more mansion.  (It helps that the horse literally takes him to the mansion.)

While robbing the mansion, Peter meets Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a passionate and talented pianist who is dying of tuberculosis.  In what is literally a case of love at first sight, Peter forgets about robbing the mansion and instead has a cup of tea with Beverly.  They discuss their lives and Beverly tells Peter that everyone has a miracle inside of them and that everyone becomes a star after dying.

Soon, Peter and Beverly are a couple and Peter even manages to win over Beverly’s suspicious father, Isaac (William Hurt).  Peter and Beverly spend the winter at her family’s summer home.  Peter believes that his miracle is to save Beverly.  Meanwhile, an angry Pearly waits for his chance to get revenge…

Now, I will admit that there are some obvious flaws with Winter’s Tale.  Russell Crowe goes totally overboard, with his accent wildly going from Australian to New Yorkish to Scottish and back again.  Meanwhile, Will Smith is not necessarily a bad choice to play the devil and he actually gives a pretty good performance but it doesn’t chance the fact that, whenever he’s on screen, all you can think about is that he’s Will Smith and he’s playing the devil.

But, honestly, who cares?  This is an amazingly romantic film and Farrell and Findlay have a lot of chemistry.  When you see them together, you have no doubt that Peter and Beverly are meant to be together.  You care about them as a characters, even if you don’t always understand everything that’s happening around them.  Their love feels real and, when it comes to telling a love story, isn’t that the most important thing?

(Add to that, does any actor fall in love as convincingly as Colin Farrell?)

And the film itself is gorgeous!  From the costumes to the set design to Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography, the film is just beautiful to look at.  Undoubtedly, cynics would argue that the film is almost too glossy in its appearance but Winter’s Tale is not a film for cynics.  It’s a film for romantics.

So, yes,  I did like Winter’s Tale and I am not ashamed to admit it.

Trailer: Total Recall (Official)


Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 scifi classic, Total Recall, remains one of Arnold Schwarzenneger’s better films. The film was an adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novellete, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, and in 2012 it will once again go up on the big-screen as a Len Wiseman remake.

Wiseman’s film looks to take the basic premise of Dick’s novellete and some of the changes made for the Verhoeven production. What looks to have been changed in this upcoming remake is the absence of Mars as the backdrop for the character Douglas Quaid who believes he is actually a secret agent working to free Mars from the tyrannical rule of one Cohagen. This time around the setting is instead a dystopian future Earth where the planet has been split into two super-factions the rule planet. There’s Euroamerica which combines the North American and European Union into one sovereign entity and it’s rival in New Shanghai which puts together the economic powerhouses of China and the nations of South East Asia.

It is in this new backdrop that Colin Farrell’s Quaid must run from the forces of Cohaagen (played by Bryan Cranston) and help the freedom fighters trying to change things for the better. The trailer itself shows less of the cheesy look of the Verhoeven film and instead goes for a much slicker art design that some people have called the Mass Effect-look. I must admit that the fully-armored forces chasing after Quaid look like Blue Suns mercenaries from that BioWare scifi rpg.

I will say that the trailer does a great job in referencing similar scenes and sequences from the original Verhoeven film while adding in new touches to give the film it’s very own unique look. For one of this summer season’s last films before fall season begins this one looks like a must-see.

Total Recall is set for an August 3, 2012 release date.

6 More Quickies With Lisa Marie: Beginners, Hall Pass, Horrible Bosses, Paul, Prom, and Terri


When I swore to myself that I would write a review of every new film I saw in 2011, I failed to take into consideration that 1) I see a lot of films, 2) I have a day job, and 3) I’m like Ms. ADHD.  So, as part of my effort to catch up, here’s 6 quickie reviews. 

Beginners (directed by Mike Mills)

Beginners opened with a lot of critical hype earlier this year and, though it’s not quite as great as it’s being made out to be, it still deserved the majority of that praise.  At the very least, I retain better memories of Beginners than I do this summer’s other similarly hyped film, A Better Life.  Ewan McGregor is an artist who struggles to come terms with the death of his gay father (Christopher Plummer) while falling in love with a French actress (Melanie Laurent).  The autobiographical film effortlessly shifts from flashbacks to Plummer’s life in-and-out of the closet to McGregor’s relationship with Laurent and the end result is a meditation on love, secrets, and life.  Most of the pre-release buzz dealt with Plummer’s performance but, honestly, Plummer is good but you never forget you’re watching Christopher Plummer and Goran Visnjic, who plays Plummer’s boyfriend, overacts.  The film really belongs to Ewan McGregor who gives one of his best performances in this film.  Seriously, does any actor fall in love as wonderfully as Ewan McGregor?

Hall Pass (directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly)

Best friends Owen Wilson and Jason Sudekis are given a “hall pass” (i.e., permission to cheat) by their spouses (Jenna Fischer and Cristina Applegate).  The film’s forgettable but seriously, guys, don’t go asking us for a hall pass, okay?  One interesting point is that this film was co-written by the guy who won the first season of Project Greenlight.  Remember that show? 

Horrible Bosses (directed by Set Gordon)

Jason Sudekis also appeared in another comedy this year and if Hall Pass is one of the year’s most forgettable comedies, than Horrible Bosses is one of the best.  Basically Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Sudekis are stuck working for horrible bosses (played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston) and they decide that the only way to handle the situation is to commit mass murder.  There’s a lot I could say about this film but chances are, you’ve already seen it.  Therefore, you already know that this is a rare dark comedy that actually has the guts to be truly dark.  You also know that the entire cast brings an almost heroic sincerity to their often bizarre roles with Charlie Day’s misunderstood sex offender as an obvious stand-out.  Probably the best advice that I can give in this review is to enjoy and appreciate this film while you can before the inevitable sequel comes out and screws up all these good memories.

Paul (directed by Greg Mottola)

I didn’t see Paul when it was first released in theaters because the trailer really made it look kinda awful.  However, I did eventually give it a shot OnDemand and I was pleasantly surprised.  Two English sci-fi fanboys (played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) are taking a road trip to visit all of the major UFO sites in the U.S.  This leads to them meeting an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who is being pursued by the typical guys in black suits.  Anyway, this is a predictable film and the balance between the serious and comedic is often a bit awkward.  However, it’s still a likable film and how can’t you enjoy watching Pegg and Frost?  They can make even the lamest of jokes hilarious.  Kristen Wiig steals the film as a fundamentalist who, upon being enlightened about the nature of the universe by Paul, embraces blasphemy with endearing enthusiasm.

Prom (directed by Joe Nussbaum)

No, I did not force Jeff to take me to see this when it was first released in theaters back in April.  I tried, mostly be saying things like, “Wow, Prom looks like it would be a funny movie to see and spend the whole time making mean jokes about and making all the little tweens in the audience cry…” but he saw through my ruse and, if memory serves me correct, I ended up seeing the second worst film of 2011 (a.k.a. The Conspirator) instead.  Anyway, I ended up seeing Prom OnDemand last month and it’s not really that bad.  It’s not good either.  It’s just kinda there.  In other words, Prom is incredibly meh and that’s one thing prom night should never be.  (I loved my proms, by the way, and, whenever things seem overwhelming, I often think to myself, “If only every night could be Prom Night…”)  Prom is forgettable and inoffensive but come on, tweens deserve better films.  They are the future, after all.

Terri (directed by Azazel Jacobs)

Terri made me cry and cry and was one of my favorite movies of the summer.  It’s a surprisingly poignant film that worked wonders with material that, at first glance, seemed awfully conventional.  Terri (played by Jacob Wysocki) is a sensitive, obese teenager who is taken under the wing of an unconventional assistant principal (John C. Reilly).  It’s a familiar story but director Azazel Jacobs tells this story with care and sensitivity and Wysocki and Reilly bring their characters to life with such skill that you can’t help but get caught up in their story.  Terri’s loving but senile uncle is played by Creed Bratton, who proves here that he’s capable of doing a lot more than just parodying himself on The Office.  When I went to this movie, two old women sitting behind me went, “Awwww!” at a scene where Wysocki spontaneously hugs Reilly.  The film earns the sentiment.

Most of these films are available via OnDemand or are currently available on DVD.  Horrible Bosses and Terri are scheduled to be released in October while Beginners will come out in November.