Saturday, July 30, 2011

Salvation Boulevard


There's an unwritten rule of thumb that if you happen across a movie with an unbelievable cast that you've never heard of, it's probably not very good.  And I can't think of a better example of that rule than 'Salvation Boulevard'.

The film opens with Pierce Brosnan as a beloved evangelist debating the existence of God with a famed skeptic professor played by Ed Harris.  And Greg Kinnear is in attendance as Brosnan's example of the existence of God, as a former Grateful Dead 'Dead-head' who found God, as well as a beautiful wife, played by Jennifer Connelly.  Marisa Tomei also enters into the film in a fairly pointless role, which seem to be her bread and butter lately. 

The film has a lot going for it.  I'm always a big fan of Brosnan and Harris.  (And as an aside, while I would never have thought of pairing Brosnan and Kinnear in a film together, they were both excellent the first time they worked together in 2005 in 'The Matador' and will be on screen together again in September in 'I Don't Know How She Does It'.  A bizarre coincidence or are they actively trying to do projects together?)

Besides a dream ensemble cast, the film has a fairly original storyline, and is shot pretty well.  Unfortunately it's inexplicably a complete bore and kind of a mess.  I'm not even sure if it's meant to be a comedy, a thriller, or a drama.  It doesn't work as any of the above.  While this isn't the worst movie of the year, it is probably the worst relative to its potential.  And that pains me to say.  Really, really disappointing.

Grade: C

A Little Help

Jenna Fischer stars in a festival indie dramedy as a dental hygienist who's having marital problems with her husband, played by Chris O'Donnell.  He's been working an awful lot lately and she suspects he's been having an affair.

It's a been a big couple of weeks for the cast of 'The Office'.  Steve Carell does a magnificent job in 'Crazy, Stupid, Love' which opened yesterday, and Creed Bratton (who plays Creed) is well cast in 'Terri' which is opening slowly around the country.  And now Fischer gets her first leading role, and she does a great job.  She's very likeable and is a natural on the big screen.  But she's just too attractive and too 'together' to play someone who's husband doesn't find her as desirable and in control of things as she used to be.  In that respect I think she was miscast here.  But the role showcases her potential, and she's the best part of the movie and undoubtedly more watchable than someone who's a better fit for the role.  So I more than forgive the casting.

There's a lot to like here.  The entire cast is strong and the movie keeps your interest.  But ultimately it doesn't really go anywhere that interesting.  If you found yourself in the theater watching it, you'd be adequately entertained.  But I wouldn't go out of your way.

Grade: B

Friday, July 29, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX 35 Orlando 7/29/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Cowboys and Aliens', 'Crazy Stupid Love', 'Friends with Benefits', and 'Source Code'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/072911-flieder-flicks-friday

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don’t know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:
(Movies released this week are in green)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II           Grade: A+

Beginners                            Grade: A+

Midnight in Paris                Grade: A

The Trip                               Grade: A

The Hangover Part II          Grade: A-

Crazy Stupid Love               Grade: A-

Friends with Benefits          Grade: A-

X-Men: First Class                Grade: B+

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides     Grade: B+

Tree of Life                          Grade: B+

Transformers: Dark of the Moon       Grade: B+

Sarah's Key                         Grade: B+

Bridesmaids                        Grade: B+

Mr. Popper's Penguins      Grade: B+

A Little Help                       Grade: B

Winnie the Pooh                Grade: B for kids under 8, but D for adults

Bad Teacher                       Grade: B-

Cowboys and Aliens          Grade: B-

Another Earth                   Grade: C+

Horrible Bosses                 Grade: C+

Green Lantern                    Grade: C+

Salvation Boulevard         Grade: C

Cars 2                                 Grade: C-

Captain America: The First Avenger    Grade: C-

Super 8                              Grade: C-

Larry Crowne                    Grade: D

The Zookeeper                  Grade: D

Crazy Stupid Love


Who loves a good dysfunctional family comedy?  I do, I do.  Well then add this one to your list because it's a really enjoyable entry in that genre.

Steve Carell plays a heartbroken husband and father who learns that his wife, played by Julianne Moore, has cheated on him and wants a divorce.  And that's just one of many interwoven storylines in this ensemble dramatic comedy also featuring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, and Kevin Bacon.  I won't say anymore about the story, because the joy in this film is watching it unfold, not knowing where it's going.  It's a great blend of heartfelt family drama and riotous comedy.  It's part 'City Island', part 'Little Miss Sunshine', and maybe even part 'Paper Man'.  All of the leads were cast perfectly.  I'm a big fan of Carell's work in film and even though I like him as Michael Scott in 'The Office' I think it's the right time for him to move on and tackle exactly these types of projects.  (And, as an aside, replacing him in 'The Office' with James Spader was the best thing that could have happened to that show.  But I digress.)  Carell really does an amazing job here, as he did in 'Little Miss Sunshine', of balancing comedy with some really solid emotional acting chops.  Even in less than perfect films like 'Date Night' and 'Dan in Real Life', he really makes them so likable.  And Julianne Moore picked a great follow up role to her lauded performance in last year's 'The Kids are All Right'.  She's really found her niche as well.  And Gosling and Stone both continue to deliver one good performance after another these days, with Gosling fresh off of 'Blue Valentine' and Stone in 'Zombieland', 'Easy A', and 'Paper Man'.  The cast was really a joy to watch and the writing and directing was also really solid.  Normally I look for honest, believable performances, but here most of them are fairly unbelievable, and yet the film still works incredibly well.  It's definitely worth your time and money.

Grade: A

Cowboys and Aliens


When you hear about a live action film entitled 'Cowboys and Aliens' opening in the dead of summer, without any other information you probably think you have a pretty good idea what you're about to see.  Having successfully avoided all trailers for the film, I went in ready for some campy over-the-top cheese.  But that's not what you get here.  This action, science-fiction, western starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig is played straight.  No camp.  The cowboys are serious cowboys.  And the aliens are serious aliens.  This is a true merger of a western and a science fiction film and I can't say I've seen that before.  And that was a pleasant surprise.

Besides Indiana Jones and James Bond, there are some other big names attached to this film.  It's directed by Jon Favreau, best known for his acting in films like 'Swingers', but becoming an 800 pound gorilla in the world of directing after helming 'Iron Man' and its sequel.  He's joined a small club of good actors who have become good directors and does a fine job here.  And the film's long list of producers include Favreau, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and 'Lost's Damon Lindelof.  And almost as long was the list of about nine people who got writing credits, including Lindelof.  And finally, the supporting cast includes Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Olivia Wilde, Keith Carradine, and 'The Shield's Walton Goggins.  By the end of the opening credits, I was pretty stoked for what I was about to see.  That excitement steadily rose and then steadily fell.

There's certainly enough to like here to make this film kinda-sorta fun.  It's always a joy to watch Ford, even though he hasn't really made a great film in a while and, sadly, age is finally catching up to him.  And it's hard to debate that Craig is the ultimate tough guy.  (I love him in 'Later Cake', but does he even know how to smile?)  And the aliens are much more intense than I expected, comparable to the aliens in .. well ... 'Aliens' actually.  So a lot works.  I just wish the story was a little less cookie cutter.  With nine writers involved I have to admit I was disappointed by the script.  This could have been something really great.  Instead it's just something good.

Grade: B-

Sarah's Key


'Sarah's Key' is adapted from a book about a lesser known incident during World War II called the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup when the Jews were rounded up in France and sent to concentration camps.  Specifically it focuses on a young girl named Sarah who hides her younger brother before she and her family are taken by the Nazis by locking him in a closet.  The film jumps back and forth between the 1940's and present day when Kristen Scott Thomas is investigating what eventually happened to Sarah.  The solid supporting cast includes Aidan Quinn, a great French actor named Niels Arestrup who was particularly menacing in 2009's 'A Prophet', and a young girl named Melusine Mayance who gives a great performance as Sarah and to whom the director refers (and deservedly so) as the French Dakota Fanning.  The film is partially in French and partially in English.

Movies about the Holocaust are tough to review.  You either 'like' them or you don't.  And I hesitate to use the word 'like' because it's obviously not a likable subject.  Quite the contrary, it's about as horrific as it gets.  So instead I'll change that statement to say that only some are willing to appreciate a new look into an uglier chapter in history.  And if you're willing to endure it (and it's always a good idea to bring tissues) these films are generally very powerful.  Because this one is centered around a child, it is somewhat reminiscent of 'Life is Beautiful', which I believe to be the best film about the Holocaust, and even closer in theme to a lesser known, underrated film from 2008 called 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.'  This one isn't quite as good as 'Beautiful' but it's on par with 'Pajamas', and if you find these films moving and worthwhile then you should check this one out even though it doesn't really cover much new ground.

Grade: B+

Another Earth


Art house science fiction films are often better than sci-fi blockbusters because what they lack in budget they have to make up for in creativity.  Generally.  Unfortunately, this film which I was eagerly awaiting didn't succeed as well as I'd hoped.  Although the premise is a good one.  What would happen if another Earth was discovered?  Not just another planet, mind you, but another planet just like ours, with people just like us, and maybe even with a person just like you.  There are so many interesting ways one could take that idea.  Unfortunately writer/director Mike Cahill and writer/star Brit Marling chose to make this more of a character driven, relationship film than focus on the science fiction.  In fact, they could have even removed the whole separate Earth plotline and it would have still been a movie.  A bad movie, but a movie nevertheless.  But I can say that, while this film is very, very slow, and the cast wasn't really very engaging, the idea and the ending are worthy of thought and discussion and that is more than I can say about a lot of summer releases.  So, if you dig the art house sci-fi (and I do), then go for it.  Just make sure you're wide awake beforehand.

Grade: C+

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friends with Benefits


To all romantic comedy filmmakers:  Take note, this is how you do it.

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis play yuppies who are frustrated with the traditional arc of dating relationships.  They begin well and end badly.  So why can't they just be friends who sleep together?  Sound like a familiar premise?  It should since it was featured in a popular episode of 'Seinfeld' and there was just a feature film about it a few months ago called 'No Strings Attached' starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.  That one was actually pretty good.  And this one is even better.  It's fast paced, funny, sexy, shot beautifully in New York and L.A., and with a wall-to-wall soundtrack of upbeat pop that keep the energy high.

Miraculously, Justin Timberlake has managed to do what many pop musicians before him have tried and failed:  Act.  And if you don't believe me, see 'The Social Network'.  And Mila Kunis really brings the right amount of funny, spunk, and sex appeal.  For less of the former and more of the latter, check out 'Black Swan', and for the gold standard of modern comedies revisit 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall'.

And the supporting cast is just great, including Woody Harrelson, Richard Jenkins, and Patricia Clarkson, with a few more great cameos along the way.  Harrelson has been one to watch over the last few years, with really great performances in 'Transsiberian', 'Management', 'The Messenger', 'Defendor', 'Zombieland' and '2012'.  And the same goes for Jenkins in 'The Visitor', 'Burn After Reading', 'HappyThankYouMorePlease', 'Eat Pray Love', 'Let Me In', and 'Hall Pass'.  Clarkson tends to play the same role, as an oversexed mom with no filter, but it works for her.

So, is it perfect?  Unfortunately no.  I always have issues suspending my disbelief for attractive twenty-somethings who don't seem to ever work but nevertheless are uber-successful in their enviably sexy careers and live in multi million dollar homes in the most desirable locations.  Shall I coin it the 'Friends' paradox?  And the end crosses over into predictableland.  But it's all good.  You still leave the theater feeling pretty darn great and glad you came.  The last time I was this pleasantly surprised by a rom-com was 'Going the Distance' with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long.  There's still hope for this genre.

Grade:  A-

Friday, July 22, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX 35 Orlando 7/22/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Captain America: The First Avenger', 'Limitless', and 'Dumbstruck'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/072211-flieder-flicks-friday

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don’t know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:
(Movies released this week are in green)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II           Grade: A+

Beginners                            Grade: A+

Midnight in Paris                Grade: A

The Trip                               Grade: A

The Hangover Part II          Grade: A-

Friends with Benefits          Grade: A-

X-Men: First Class                Grade: B+

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides     Grade: B+

Tree of Life                          Grade: B+

Transformers: Dark of the Moon       Grade: B+

Bridesmaids                        Grade: B+

Mr. Popper's Penguins      Grade: B+

Winnie the Pooh                Grade: B for kids under 8, but D for adults

Bad Teacher                       Grade: B-

Horrible Bosses                 Grade: C+

Green Lantern                    Grade: C+

Cars 2                                 Grade: C-

Captain America: The First Avenger    Grade: C-

Super 8                              Grade: C-

Larry Crowne                    Grade: D

The Zookeeper                  Grade: D

Captain America: The First Avenger


Is it just me or have we had too many superhero movies this summer?  I like comic book films, at least in theory, but I'm happy to report that 'Captain America: The First Avenger' is the last one of the year, and summer blockbuster season is finally almost over.  After 'Thor', 'X-Men: First Class', 'Green Lantern', and 'Captain America', I'm ready for a break.  And the winner of this contest of champions?  'X-Men: First Class' by a mile.  Hands down.  'Thor' and 'Green Lantern' really weren't even competition.  But now on to the man of the hour, or at least the 1940's.

Chris Evans, who already lost his Marvel comic book movie virginity in two Fantastic Four films, stars as the man in red, white, and blue.  He's a scrawny, yet uncommonly brave and patriotic man who just wants to serve his country during the second World War.  He just doesn't have the physique for it.  So he undergoes an experimental treatment that turns him buff and tough.  And another super hero is born ... err ... made.  And, of course, what would a super hero be without a super villain who arises at the same time?  Enter, the Red Skull.

I can't really find a lot specifically wrong with the film but I also can't really find anything particularly good about it.  It's your standard super hero story.  World War II always makes for a good setting and Nazis always make for good villains, (I hate those guys), but even that wasn't very interesting here.  I initially liked Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, but quickly found myself wishing they had cast Christoph Waltz instead, who should be the evil Nazi in every World War II film.  And the love interest played by Hayley Atwell just struck me as a poor man's Kate Beckinsale.  And unfortunately even the great Stanley Tucci was a bore in his supporting role.  How is that even possible?  I will however give some props to Tommy Lee Jones, who's always fun to watch, and is the best part of the film, but wasn't given enough screen time.

The only other noteworthy thing about the movie is how they made Evans look so scrawny at the beginning.  Ah, the magic of Hollywood and the wonders of CGI.  (Of course, I was equally amazed at a similar technique in 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'.) 

So should you see this movie?  I personally wouldn't recommend it unless you just really want to be up to date on all the origin stories before next summer's hugely anticipated blockbuster 'The Avengers' featuring Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, the Black Widow, Hawkeye, and that cagey Nick Fury played by Samuel Jackson who pops up in each of these films.  For that reason alone I suppose it may be worth a watch for the comic book geek in you.  But really, it's just not that fun.  Red, White and Blah.

Grade: C-

Friday, July 15, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX 35 Orlando 7/15/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II', 'Winnie the Pooh', 'The Lincoln Lawyer' and 'Insidious'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/071511-flieder-flicks-friday

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don’t know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:
(Movies released this week are in green)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II           Grade: A+

Beginners                            Grade: A+

Midnight in Paris                Grade: A

The Trip                               Grade: A

The Hangover Part II           Grade: A-

X-Men: First Class                Grade: B+

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides     Grade: B+

Tree of Life                          Grade: B+

Transformers: Dark of the Moon       Grade: B+

Bridesmaids                        Grade: B+

Mr. Popper's Penguins      Grade: B+

Winnie the Pooh                Grade: B for kids under 8, but D for adults

Buck                                    Grade: B-

Bad Teacher                       Grade: B-

Horrible Bosses                 Grade: C+

Green Lantern                    Grade: C+

Page One: Inside the New York Times     Grade: C

Cars 2                                 Grade: C-

Super 8                              Grade: C-

Larry Crowne                    Grade: D

The Zookeeper                  Grade: D

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II


Well, just like the poster says, it all ends.  And for me it just ended.  It's over.  And I'm so sad right now.  It's like I just said a final goodbye to great friends I've known for almost a decade.  I knew it was coming, of course, and tried to prepare myself and yet I'm still overwhelmed with sadness.  Hopefully writing this review will be cathartic.

It's hard to put into words what this series, created by J.K. Rowling, has meant to me.  I know many feel the same.  And yet when I first experienced the world of Harry Potter almost ten years ago I had no idea I'd feel this way at the journey's end.  I came late to the party, skipping the books which were first published in 1997.  I just assumed they were for kids.  So my first experiences were the first two movies in 2001 and 2002 respectively.  And I thought they were cute, kid-friendly fantasy films.  'Lord of the Rings' lite, if you will.  Dumbledore even looked like Gandalf, but significantly softer.  But I was wrong.  By the third film I began to notice how the storyline was maturing.  This was a solid film.  Unfortunately the fourth was a misstep and the worst of the series in my opinion, but I could still sense big things were to come.  So, in 2007, right before the seventh and final book was released I decided to go back and read all the books.  I read all seven in around two months.  And what a great two months it was.  Similar to the movies, the books matured as they went along.  And the last three were all tremendous.  What started as young wizards in magic school evolved into an epic battle between good and evil.  And similarly the last four movies, directed by David Yates, a relative unknown, were nothing short of perfection.  I still can't believe they entrusted these beloved books to be brought to life on screen by a guy who had never made a big film before.  But I'm so glad they did because no one else could have done a better job.

And I can't neglect to mention the cast.  So, so good.  Who would have thought that three kids, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, all cast before they were teenagers would grow into such fine actors.  And the supporting cast is absolutely phenomenal.  Alan Rickman can convey more with a look than most actors can with the best dialogue.  (Not to mention his incomparable ability to painfully stretch out words.)  And how about Maggie Smith, Michael Gambone, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, and so many others?  Oh my lord.  So, so good.

My experience at the last film was perfect.  Yes, I read the book, but it was four years ago so the storyline was foggy enough that I got to experience it all over again.  And it all worked so well.  Even one particular part of the book I thought was hokey worked well on screen.  Are there some things about it I might have done differently?  Sure.  But that doesn't mean it's not also perfect just the way it was written by Rowling and directed by Yates.  And I could tell the rest of the audience agreed.  We all reacted in synch.  For most of the film you could hear a pin drop.  But there was laughter at times, mostly to break the tension.   And there were sniffles and full on tears as well.  I was certainly struggling to hold back the waterworks.  And there were cheers and applause in all the right places.  You just don't get that kind of reaction for many films.  Normally I prefer to watch movies in the comfort of my home, but this was special.  This was a collection of devoted Potter fans who had all waited a long time for this moment to come and yet dreaded it at the same time.  And then it came.  And then it went.  I'm so sad to say goodbye.  But I'm so glad I got to experience it.  Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for creating such a magical world with such wonderful characters.   Thank you, David Yates, for bringing the last four films to life just perfectly.  And thank you, entire cast, for making this fantasy so real and these characters so beloved.  I will miss you all.

Grade: A+

Winnie the Pooh


OK so I know all my loyal readers are about as excited to read my review of this movie as much as I was excited to wake up early on a Saturday morning to see it.  So I'll keep it brief.  Even though kids' movies aren't my bag I actually wanted to like this one for several reasons.  One, these are the kind of innocent Disney films I grew up with.  It's sweet and doesn't try to be funny with ridiculous situations (a la 'Zookeeper').  And two, surprisingly, they didn't try to update these classic characters to make them flashier, slicker or sillier like they do with most classics to make them appreciable to the ADHD kids of today who are used to fast editing and non-stop action.  It's hand drawn and looks and sounds exactly the way we remembered these characters to look and sound like from the 60's and 70's.  Yet, I have to admit that as an adult I was bored and it was a struggle to stay awake, and even though the running time is only 62 minutes it felt quite long.  So, I'm going to split my grade based on demographic.  I think young children will probably enjoy it and should see it if only to appreciate what their parents grew up watching.  And meanwhile, parents can enjoy some air conditioning during the hot summer, and steal a well deserved nap.

Grade for ages 7 and under:  B
Grade for ages 8 and up:  D

Friday, July 8, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - FOX Orlando 7/8/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Horrible Bosses', and 'The Zookeeper'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/070811-flieder-flicks-friday

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don’t know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:
(Movies released this week are in green)

Beginners                            Grade: A+

Midnight in Paris                Grade: A

The Trip                               Grade: A

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop    Grade: A-

The Hangover Part II           Grade: A-

X-Men: First Class                Grade: B+

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides     Grade: B+

Tree of Life                          Grade: B+

Transformers: Dark of the Moon       Grade: B+

Bridesmaids                        Grade: B+

Mr. Popper's Penguins      Grade: B+

Rio                                        Grade: B

Trollhunter                          Grade: B

Buck                                    Grade: B-

Bad Teacher                       Grade: B-

Horrible Bosses                 Grade: C+

Green Lantern                    Grade: C+

Page One: Inside the New York Times     Grade: C

Thor                                   Grade: C

Cars 2                                 Grade: C-

Super 8                              Grade: C-

Something Borrowed       Grade: D

Larry Crowne                    Grade: D

Kung Fu Panda 2               Grade: D

The Zookeeper                  Grade: D

The Zookeeper


Summertime at the multiplex is like walking through a mine field.  You have to be really careful because you just might wander into the wrong place and have something blow up in your face.  Well I took one for the team and willingly jumped on top of a biggie.  You're welcome, loyal readers.  Just in case you're not following my analogy let me tell you a phrase you definitely won't be hearing at the Oscars this year, 'And the nominees are ... 'The Zookeeper'.  This movie is beyond ridiculous and a complete waste of time.  And with that I have four new rules to present to you.  (Bill Maher, I hope you don't mind if I borrow your schtick.) 

New rule:  Kevin James must stop acting in films, put back on the weight he lost, and return to sitcoms as the fat guy married to a mouthy hot chick.  I like James.  I do.  He's funny and likeable.  And he was excellent in 'The King of Queens'.  But he obviously wouldn't know a good movie script if it hit him in the face.  (See 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop', 'Grown Ups', 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry', and most recently 'The Dilemma', which suddenly is starting to seem much better than I originally thought, at least relative to these other hot messes.)

New rule:  Adam Sandler must stop producing films (and preferably stop starring in them as well.)  All of the above mentioned disasters except for 'The Dilemma' were produced by Sandler.  Seriously, can I get an Amen?  Before 'The Zookeeper' I saw a trailer for an upcoming film called 'Jack & Jill' where Sandler plays a man and his twin sister and I'm partially hoping to get hit by a bus before I have to screen it.  Do people seriously still like Sandler?  Well, not this guy.

New rule:  No more talking animals in live action films.  For those of us above the age of seven it's just plain dumb.

New rule:  No more trite, message-laden, feel-good films with unrealistic characters and sappy, predictable endings.  (In this one we learn to 'be ourselves' and 'it's what's inside that counts'.  Awwww.)  Are you listening 'Larry Crowne' writers Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos?  I honestly can't take it anymore.

Obviously I'm a bit fired up and I do feel strongly about these rules.  And yet, I must admit, the overwhelming murmur from the crowd after the film was that it was adorable and hilarious.  Adorable and hilarious!?!  I don't get it.  Maybe I'm not cut out for this film critic gig.  Maybe I don't speak for the masses.  But, as always, I'm keeping it real.  And to me, 'The Zookeeper' smells like a big pile of elephant dung.

Grade: D

Horrible Bosses

Have you ever fantasized about killing your boss?  Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day do just that about Kevin Spacey, Colin Ferrell, and Jennifer Aniston respectively.  And then they decide to follow through with it.  Sound good?  Well it certainly could be depending on tone.  I lean towards darker material and liked this idea infinitely better the first time Kevin Spacey starred in it in 1995 when it was called 'Swimming with Sharks'.  That film is an exhilarating, dark, intense ride as Frank Whaley decides to exact revenge on his abusive Hollywood studio boss. This movie, on the other hand, is ridiculous.  I may sound stuck on repeat from my 'Larry Crowne' bashing from last week, but pretty much every character is completely unbelievable.  Of course, it's more acceptable here than in 'Crowne' because this is clearly supposed to be an over-the-top silly comedy.  OK, I get that.  I just can't understand how this material attracted such an impressive cast.  Since 1995 Spacey has been one of my favorite actors and I always look forward to his choices.  And since he doesn't act nearly as much as he used to, I just can't figure what he was doing here, especially since he's already played the abusive boss before.  And I'm certainly a fan of Bateman as well, who works his trademark dry comedy thing here pretty well, just as he always does, but it's beginning to get a little old.  And since he has yet another movie coming out in a few weeks I'm concerned about his overexposure.  (Less is more, Jason, less is more.)  Ferrell does his best to replicate the wonderful comedic surprise that was Tom Cruise's almost unrecognizable bald guy cameo in 'Tropic Thunder' but doesn't hit the mark nearly as well.  Aniston plays her part satisfactorily, but it's just as impossible to believe her as an aggressive, sexual harassing dentist as it was to believe Demi Moore as an aggressive sexually harassing corporate executive in 'Disclosure'.  (Again, I do understand here it's meant to be ridiculous.)  And Sudeikis and Day really don't bring anything to the table.  I'm not a huge fan of either.  Fortunately a small role by Jamie Foxx adds some punch to a film that definitely needed it.  Truthfully, the film has some laughs and the audience seemed to respond pretty well to it, so people looking for a silly R-rated comedy will probably find it worth the price of admission.  But really it's only the quality of the cast that raises this otherwise inadequate film to an adequate level of entertainment.

Grade: C+

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Page One: Inside the New York Times


This documentary about the New York Times focuses on the growing difficulties of print media now that we all get our news instantly and for free on the internet.  And as demand for newspapers declines, so does advertising revenue.  Will newspapers, and specifically the New York Times, survive the ever changing advancements of technology?  It's a pretty interesting topic, and a look inside the inner workings of the New York Times should be fascinating.  But unfortunately it really isn't.  It's really just a bunch of old dogs complaining because they don't want to learn new tricks.  Well guess what?  You have to if you want to survive in this world, in any industry.  Nothing stays the same for long.  So suck it up and embrace the future.  I do, and that's why I'm now on twitter @FliederonFilm!  Just press the button on the right hand side to become a follower!  (Shameless plug, I know.) 

But seriously, I am glad I got a peek behind the scenes at arguably the most important newspaper in the world before it all goes away, or at the very least changes significantly.  But if you'd rather see a more entertaining newspaper themed narrative, you're better off with 'All the Presidents Men', 'The Front Page', 'Deadline U.S.A.' or even 'The Paper'.  Extra, Extra, read all about it!
Grade: C

Friday, July 1, 2011

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day - Fox 35 Orlando 7/1/11


Check out my appearance from this morning where I gave my thoughts on 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon', 'Larry Crowne', 'Beginners', and 'Barney's Version'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/entertainment/movies/070111-flieder-flicks-friday

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don’t know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:
(Movies released this week are in green)

Beginners                            Grade: A+

Midnight in Paris                Grade: A

The Trip                               Grade: A

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop    Grade: A-

The Hangover Part II           Grade: A-

X-Men: First Class                Grade: B+

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides     Grade: B+

Tree of Life                          Grade: B+

Transformers                      Grade: B+

Bridesmaids                        Grade: B+

Mr. Popper's Penguins      Grade: B+

Rio                                        Grade: B

Trollhunter                          Grade: B

Buck                                    Grade: B-

Bad Teacher                       Grade: B-

Green Lantern                    Grade: C+

Page One: Inside the New York Times     Grade: C

Thor                                   Grade: C

Cars 2                                 Grade: C-

Super 8                              Grade: D

Something Borrowed       Grade: D

Larry Crowne                    Grade: D

Kung Fu Panda 2               Grade: D