Monday, July 22, 2013

Gary's So-So Movie Grab-Bag: A "Guilty" Pleasure "Trip", A Safe Haven, a Scary But G-Rated Disney Nature Doc, an Old Downey Jr. Romance, and a Really Old Alice in Wonderland.

As usual, the titles link to trailers or other movie clips

Despite knowing her talent, I am not a fan of Barbara Streisand (if you want to know why, check this out, from
And as far as the recent spate of comedy stars goes, I’m also not a fan of Seth Rogen.  I heard his character in the “comedy” Observe and Report was quite dark with a disturbing mean streak.  In fact, if it was left up to me, I never would have picked this movie.  However, we have a rule that whoever gets to pick the movie for our weekly movie night, the rest of us have to watch it.  My niece picked this, and since it was the day before Mother’s Day, it was a rather apt choice since it was a movie about a mother and her grown son on a road trip.  I was actually pleasantly surprised.  It wasn’t crass, and was one of the most agreeable comedies I’ve ever seen Rogen in, and was not a waste of two hours like most modern comedies.  In fact, I wish more comedies were like this, but unfortunately, the critics and audiences just seem to want The Hangover Part 7 these days.  They seem to find a film like this trite, and actually prefer “crass”.  Despite its low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, from critics and audiences alike, it was one of the better films I saw in May. 

This was much better than I thought it was going to be, and Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel were good in it.  The critics complained because it was “another Nicolas Sparks sudser”, this one reminiscent of Enough with Jennifer Lopez or Sleeping with the Enemy with Julia Roberts since they’re all about a woman moving and trying to get away from their abusive husbands.  There are a few interesting twists and turns, especially the ending (though it made critics roll their eyes, as expected).  In the end, it’s not a monumental film-going experience, but just an enjoyable time at the movies, and that’s all it was meant to be.  As Nicolas Sparks movies go, since it has aspects of a thriller, this one was just a little different.  The actors made it work.  And the kids were cute.

Eh, this was a cute but throwaway nature documentary from Disney.  It was kinda short.  An orphaned chimp is adopted by the leader of a group in the midst of a war with another group.  (This is what they consider a “G” rating these days?  Death and war? I know a lot of little tykes that might be traumatized by this tale of an orphaned monkey whose mother is killed during an ongoing series of vicious battles with another group of chimps!)
     Tim Allen narrates the tale, and he was alright, though I found it quite irritating when he brought in his “Tim the Toolman Taylor” character on occasion, and rolled my eyes when he did his trademark “Ooh, ooh, ooh!”  It just didn’t pack the emotional punch of a similar old doc I remember called People of the Forest narrated by Donald Sutherland, where an orphaned chimp actually died after his mother was killed!  That one stayed with me over the years.

We like Robert Downey Jr., and I had liked him in a few older romantic comedies he starred in, notably The Pick Up Artist, Chances Are, and Heart and Souls.  But we had never seen this old romantic comedy in which Marisa Tomei’s character was told long ago that her future husband was named Damon Bradley.  On the verge of marriage, an old friend of her fiancĂ©’s turns out to be none other than Damon Bradley, currently traveling in Italy, and she whisks off to at least get a glimpse of her “soul mate” before committing to marriage.  Once in Italy, she meets Downey’s character Peter Wright, who falls instantly in love with her, gets wind of her kooky obsession, and then pretends to be Damon Bradley.  He tells her pretty early on that he is not Damon Bradley, she balks, and then he spends the rest of the movie trying to convince her that, Damon Bradley or not, he is the man of her dreams.  The movie is romantic and Downey Jr. and Tomei have sparks onscreen, and Bonnie Hunt as the best friend that accompanies Tomei to Italy makes it that much better.  The idea is cute, while at the same time making the main character a bit of a loony tune.

Not the Disney classic, which I actually found rather shrill, or the Tim Burton 2010 version that was actually a sequel and that I already named as a favorite in my journal, but an early Hollywood production from 1933 featuring (get this) Gary Cooper as the White Knight and Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle!  The film was impressive for being such an early production, but suffered mainly from the main problems that plagued the Disney version in my opinion.  Alice jumps from one silly event to another with hardly any narrative structure to tie these isolated events together, so there is no point.  Oh, there’s the build up to a confrontation with the Red Queen, but even this seems like just one more weird and ridiculous adventure, and both tales end rather abruptly with Alice waking up and realizing it was all just a dream.  It didn’t work for that season of Dallas, and this is equally pointless.  Perhaps that’s the purpose of the “literary nonsense” genre, but it doesn’t translate all that well to the screen (and no, it didn’t work for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy either).  Tim Burton’s sequel worked mostly because they found a way to make the narrative work, so that it wasn’t just a series of non-related events.  Burton’s sequel had a beginning, a middle, and a satisfying ending in which the main character learns from these events and changes, and so do some of the other characters, such as Johnny Depp’s Mad Hater; this is something sorely missing from these other versions.

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