January 2010 Reviews
By Shawn McKenzie 1/15/2010
Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in January of 2010. Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.
Go directly to my review of Daybreakers, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Leap Year, Youth in Revolt, The Spy Next Door, The Book of Eli, The Lovely Bones, Crazy Heart, Extraordinary Measures, Tooth Fairy, Legion, and When in Rome.
It’s 2019, and the world has become mostly vampires due to a worldwide disease epidemic. One reluctant hematologist vampire, Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke)...who was turned into a vampire by his younger soldier brother Frankie (Michael Dorman) in order to save his life once the epidemic spread...works for the CEO of Bromley Marks, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), to find a blood substitute. You see...there are still humans around, but they are in short supply, so they need to find a way to feed themselves. Otherwise, they become “Subsiders,” which are freaky-looking versions of vampires that attack regular vampires (and apparently have superhuman strength.) Along the way, Edward literally runs into Audrey Bennett (Claudia Karvan), a human who goes out looking for other humans to protect them from the vampires. She comes back later to his apartment to deliver a note to him to have him meet her group...which includes Bromley’s estranged human daughter Alison (Isabel Lucas.) He meets with Audrey and Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe)...a former vampire who found a way to become human again. They are all soon on the run while Edward tries to find a way to save “human” kind. Twin brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, the two Australian filmmakers who did the awesome 2003 movie Undead, wrote and directed this movie. This is Dafoe’s third vampire flick, after 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire (for which he was nominated for an Oscar) and 2009’s Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (which he was barely in.) I liked him in this movie as a good guy, though I usually always think of him as a bad guy. Neill was good as the antagonist, and I even liked Hawke (usually I don’t...starting with his role in 1997’s Gattaca.) Like Undead, there’s gallons of blood and gore (something every growing boy needs.) The Spierig Brothers are trying to make an analogy of blood running out to the supply of oil running out in our time, but most people won’t figure that they are being lectured to. I guess I don’t mind one more vampire flick until we get into werewolf movies this year.
A thousand year-old doctor named Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) travels around London with his traveling theater show, accompanied by his right-hand man, the dwarf Percy (Verne Troyer); the slight-of-hand expert, Anton (Andrew Garfield); and his almost 16-year-old daughter Valentina (Lily Cole.) A long time ago, he made a bet with Mr. Nick (Tom Waits)...the Devil...to gain immortality (which he won.) He was blessed with the extraordinary gift of guiding the imaginations of others, but one day, he met a woman (also played by Cole) whom he would fall in love with. He decided to trade his immortality for youth in order to woo the woman. Mr. Nick agreed, but the catch was that any child born by the two would become his property on that child’s 16th birthday. Valentina’s mother died giving birth to her, and now Mr. Nick has come to collect. The Doctor renegotiates the deal wherein he has to claim five souls in the Imaginarium and give them the choice between joy and darkness (he’s obviously hoping that they will choose joy.) Along the way, they find a stranger hanging from a rope. After they rescue the amnesiac man and find out that his name is Tony (Heath Ledger), he travels with them and entices people to come into the Imaginarium (Tony’s Imaginarium images are played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell.) Terry Gilliam (the non-British born member of the Monty Python troupe who drew all of the cartoons) wrote (with Charles McKeown) and directed the movie. It seemed like it would be his second production shutdown though (after his 2000 attempt to film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was shut down when the lead suffered a herniated disc and a flood severely damaged the set) when Ledger died during the filming of the movie. Gilliam rewrote the script and made his image in the Imaginarium played by Depp, Law, and Farrell. Production commenced, and the movie was finished. Since Ledger didn’t include any money in his will to give to his two-year-old daughter Matilda, Depp, Law, and Farrell decided to give their entire salary to her. While it’s touching that this was Ledger’s last film, the movie itself is a little too trippy for me. Gilliam has always been visually unusual and original, but unless you are stoned (and I don’t advocate seeing the movie high), you might think that it is a little off the wall. It’s only near the end that I could figure out what was going on. Everyone seemed like they were performing at Cirque du Soliel (another weird show I’m not a big fan of.) If you are a fan of Ledger, Gilliam, or trippy movies...check it out. I’m not planning on going back to the Imaginarium myself anytime soon.
Anna (Amy Adams) is a good-looking girl who has been going out with her cardiologist boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) for almost four years...and she's getting anxious. This is something that she tells to her older sister Libby (Kaitlin Olson.) She thinks that he is there to propose to her during their anniversary dinner, but he instead gives her diamond earrings. Depressed, she decides to go to Dublin, Ireland and propose to him during his cardiologist conference. According to an Irish legend that her father Jack (John Lithgow) told her, a woman can propose to a man on Leap Day, February 29, in Dublin...and he has to accept the proposal. A storm occurs during her plane ride to Ireland, and they are forced to land on the other side of the country. She stays at an inn, and the innkeeper, Declan (Matthew Goode), offers to take her to Dublin for a fee (he owes money to some people in order to keep his inn.) Despite their constant bickering, they start falling in love. I had two problems with this movie. One...the trailer tells virtually the entire plot, so there is no surprise (not like there would have been...this is a very standard rom-com.) Two...this movie is being released nowhere near Leap Day! Since filming commenced in early 2009, there is no way the movie would be released anywhere near the day (the next of which is in 2012.) Unless they held it back until then (some movie studios have done such a thing), then it might make sense. I quibble though. Otherwise, I just wasn't crazy about the film. I think that Adams is hot and talented, but I really hope that she doesn't get stuck in these types of movies (I doubt it.) Goode does a good job playing Irish. Actually...this movie shows how versatile he is, because he is an English actor playing Irish, and just a month ago, he was playing American as the main character's dead lover in A Single Man. Despite the good performances, the movie isn't funny (except for a scene at a wedding that Adams and Goode go to), so I doubt I'll feel any different when the movie is in rental stores around Leap Day of 2012.
Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is a 16-year-old kid who lives with his mother Estelle (Jean Smart), and her new boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis.) Estelle is divorced from Nick’s dad George (Steve Buscemi), who now lives with his much younger girlfriend Lacey (Ari Graynor.) He has a weird neighbor named Judd Ferguson (Fred Willard) who harbors illegal immigrants, and a good friend named Lefty (Erik Knudsen) who has that name because his...actually, you don’t want to know. During a “vacation” in which Jerry wanted to get his family away from some Marines that he owes money to, Nick meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday) in the trailer park that they were staying in. They hit it off...but she has a boyfriend named Trent (Jonathan Bradford Wright) and religiously conservative parents (M. Emmet Walsh and Mary Kay Place), though her older druggie brother Paul (Justin Long) couldn’t care less. They make out anyway, but when he has to go home, he decides to be bad enough that he will make Estelle want to send him to live with George...who happens to live in the same town that Sheeni lives in. He develops a split personality that he calls “François Dillinger,” a French chain-smoking bad boy with a mustache and confidence. After causing some expensive damage in town, Estelle and her even newer cop boyfriend Lance Wescott (Ray Liotta) send him to George’s house...but he finds out that Sheeni’s parents have sent her to an expensive French boarding school...something that his new classmate Vijay Joshi (Adhir Kalyan) tells him (Trent ironically goes to the same French school too.) When he and Vijay go to Sheeni’s school, Vijay hooks up with her roommate Taggarty (Rooney Mara), but things go from bad to worse for Nick and his quest to lose his virginity to Sheeni. Based on the 1993 epistolary novel by C. D. Payne, the movie is a little different then most Cera movies usually are. As much as I like Cera...he tends to play the same characters repeatedly. In this one, he starts out playing the character that we all know, but when he turns into François, he becomes an interesting new character that we’ve never seen before. I didn’t think that Cera could actually play a bad boy, but it’s interesting how he can switch from good to bad with ease. He has good chemistry with Doubleday, and the supporting characters are amusing. I hope that we get to see more of this Cera...or at least have him not play the awkward nice guy character that he always plays.
Bob Ho (Jackie Chan) is a Chinese special agent on loan to the CIA who has decided to retire following his capture of Russian terrorist Poldark (Magnus Scheving) so that he can settle down with his girlfriend, Gillian (Amber Valletta), and help raise her three kids. All three of the kids are not big Bob fans though. Thirteen-year-old Farren (Madeline Carroll) is a teen who actually Gillian’s stepdaughter since her father abandoned the family. Eleven-year-old Ian (Will Shadley) is an exceptionally bright kid who gets bullied at school. Four-year-old Nora (Alina Foley) likes Bob at first, but she is told that he is actually an cyborg. Poldark escapes (mainly because there is a mole in the CIA) and wants to use a chemical formula to disintegrate the world’s oil supply. He and his villainous assistant, Tatiana Creel (Katherine Boecher), look for the formula (which Bob has uploaded on his computer) so that he can implement his plan and get revenge on Bob. Gillian’s dad living in Denver is hospitalized, so she wants to be there to take care of him, but she doesn’t know who she can trust to babysit her kids. Bob steps up and takes over...which proves somewhat difficult, since the kids don’t like him. He uses his spy kit to handle the kids. One day while at Bob’s house, Ian downloads the formula onto his MP3 player (thinking that it’s a rare bootleg of a concert that he can impress the kids at school with), but it turns out to be noise to them. Poldark (who can’t seem to get the right outfit to wear post-breakout) and Creel eventually realize that Bob is living the suburban life, so they come over to get the formula. Bob realizes that his family is in peril, so he packs up the kids and takes them to a hotel until he can secure a safe house. Meanwhile, Bob doesn’t know who to trust, since his CIA handler Glaze (George Lopez) and his colleague Colton James (Billy Ray Cyrus) could be the mole. With danger all around...including one of Poldark’s teen henchman Larry (Lucas Till) getting in a fight with him...he needs to protect the kids by any means necessary. Do you remember the 2005 Vin Diesel “family” comedy The Pacifier that had the same plotline? I think that my review of that movie may have been too kind, because looking back...it was the beginning of the end for Diesel’s career. Chan has had many hits and misses (I seriously doubt that this movie will be a challenge to Avatar or this weekend’s The Book of Eli), but he is still always enjoyable...because he has humor with his action. At 55-years-old, the man still has it martial arts-wise. Even if he ever decides to retire the fighting, I still think that he might do well in comedy. Teaming up with family comedy director Brian Levant (Beethoven, the two Flintstones movies, Jingle All The Way, Are We There Yet?, etc.), this movie is a fun version of what went wrong with The Pacifier. Not that I want Chan to make a series of family films (a la Eddie Murphy), but this movie shows that he can excel in other types of movies. Oh, by the way...just a nit-pick, but Miley’s dad still shows that he really can’t act (I’ve thought that ever since he was the lead on the PAX TV show “Doc.”)
It’s 2043, and Eli (Denzel Washington) has been walking for 30 years following the last war that apparently wiped out most people on Earth. He has been traveling across America to get to a destination in the West where he needs to give what might be the last Bible on Earth (a King James Bible) to an unknown person following a higher power calling he received. He’s older and more educated than most around, and he is more than able to defend himself from anyone (including thieves and cannibals) attempting to get in his way, including the leader of a motorcycle gang named Martz (Evan Jones) who now knows better not to raise a hand to him. While continuing on this journey, he happens upon a small town with the hope that the local engineer/shopkeeper (Tom Waits) can recharge his old MP3 player (it ran out while falling asleep to Al Green’s version of “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.”) He also wants to get some water, so he goes to the bar across the street to get some, but he runs into problems with the thugs that work for Carnegie (Gary Oldman), the town’s tyrannical leader. After defeating several of them, Carnegie’s main henchman, Redridge (Ray Stevenson), captures Eli and is taken to see Carnegie. Carnegie is also an educated man who has been looking for a Bible himself (so he can rule over more territories using it), but he sees something useful in a fellow educated man. He offers up Solara (Mila Kunis), the daughter of his blind common-law wife Claudia (Jennifer Beals), for sexual favors in the hopes that he will stay. Carnegie locks Solara up with Eli, but Eli doesn’t partake in the sexual favors. Instead, he offers her some of his food and prays before the meal. Having seen the Bible (in which she can’t read, because most people can’t read in this future) and attempting to pray herself with her mother, Carnegie realizes that Eli has a Bible. Carnegie orders his men to get it away from him, but he manages to escape. Solara sees something special in Eli, so she tags along with him (without his permission) on his way out West. He and Solara meet other people, like an older couple named Martha (Frances de la Tour) and George (Michael Gambon)...but Carnegie and his thugs, including Redridge, Hoyt (Joe Pingue), and others, are hot on his trail to get the book back. This is the first movie for twin directors Albert and Allen Hughes since the 2001 Johnny Depp-led movie From Hell. In between the two movies, they worked on separate projects (like the American version of the show “Touching Evil,” which aired on the USA Network for one season.) I’ve seen all of their movies (except for 1999’s American Pimp) and I have to say that this is their best work so far. Between Washington and Jackie Chan (who is the star of this weekend’s The Spy Next Door), actors in their 50’s can play very credible action stars. Washington worked with martial arts practitioner and teacher Dan Inosanto (a protégé of Bruce Lee) in order to realistically play the lone man who can handle himself against those who threaten him. After playing Sirius Black in the Harry Potter movies and Commissioner James Gordon in the last two Batman movies, it was nice to see him play a bad guy again. Kunis was a little too hot looking to be playing a post-apocalyptic girl...but I went with it. If Christian audiences weren’t so squeamish about graphic violence, they might find this pro-religious movie inspiring. Basically...it’s saying that the power of the Lord will help rebuild society if we ever reach the apocalypse. For (non-religious) fans like me...I’ll just go to see Washington kicking butt!
On December 6, 1973, neighbor and serial killer George Harvey (Stanley Tucci) murdered 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan.) She was a happy girl with a good friend in Clarissa (Amanda Michalka) and a crush on an older British Indian-American named Ray Singh (Reece Ritchie.) She also liked taking pictures, and she would like to be a wildlife photographer one day. Her parents, Jack (Mark Wahlberg) and Abigail (Rachel Weisz), and her younger siblings Buckley (Christian Thomas Ashdale) and Lindsey (Rose McIver) are just hoping that she is missing and that she will come back, but Detective Len Fenerman (Michael Imperioli) tells them that she has been murdered. Susie’s weird, chain-smoking grandmother Lynn (Susan Sarandon) comes over to help during their mourning period. Ray still misses Susie, and he hangs out with Ruth Connors (Carolyn Dando)...a goth girl (before “goth girls” became fashionable) who senses the presence of Susie. However, Susie hasn’t gone to Heaven or Hell though. She is in the “in-between” of Earth and Heaven (like in limbo) because there is something she hasn’t done yet. Another girl named Holly (Nikki SooHoo) helps her out in limbo, and she keeps trying to tell her that she needs to let go of her old life and face her current situation. Meanwhile...Jack does everything he can to track down Susie’s killer, Abigail mourns Susie’s loss, and Lindsey begins to suspect that George might be the killer. George himself does what he can to cover up his tracks...until he gets the itch to kill again. Peter Jackson directed this adaptation of Alice Sebold’s 2002 bestselling novel of the same name, and it’s the second feature he has done since the Lord of the Rings trilogy (his 2005 remake of King Kong was the other one.) When I saw the trailers for this movie, I knew I wasn’t going to like it…and I was right. While Jackson’s imagery is amazing, it was just a little too unusual for me. It’s not as trippy as The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but it’s close. I will give kudos to Ronan and Tucci though. I keep forgetting that Ronan is Irish, but when I saw the movie, I could swear she was American. Tucci did a great job playing creepy…but I think that the most dangerous serial killers are the ones who you don’t even think are serial killers (and he screamed “creepy” to me.) I also found it funny that Imperioli is playing his second cop from the early ‘70s within the past year (the first one being the cop he played on the now-cancelled ABC show “Life on Mars” from last season.) If you are a fan of Sebold’s novel, go ahead…but it’s not as graphic as it is in the book (I didn’t read it myself, but I did read a full synopsis though.) You could also go for the excellent acting. For me, it was just a little too surreal.
Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a 57-year-old country singer who used to be famous, but he is now playing bars and bowling alleys. Part of why he is no longer famous is because he is a hardcore alcoholic. At one of the venues he plays in Santa Fe, the owner, Wesley Barnes (Rick Dial), asks if his aspiring journalist niece, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), could interview him for a piece in her paper. He agrees to it, and he reveals to her the blues influence on his music and that he has been married four times. There is a strong attraction amongst each other, and she lets him meet her four-year-old son Buddy (Jack Nation.) Bad and Jean sleep together, and he promises to stop by once he is back in Santa Fe again. Meanwhile, Bad’s manager, Jack Greene (Paul Herman), has booked him to open for a younger country singer he used to mentor, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), who has gone onto superstardom. He begrudgingly accepts the gig because he needs the money. Tommy tells Bad that he will hire him to write some songs for him (apparently Tommy isn’t much of a writer himself), but Bad has to think about it. He is excited to come back to be with Jean and Buddy, but while he is on his way, he falls asleep and wrecks his car. While in the hospital, Jean offers to let him recover at her place. Once Bad is recovered, he goes back home to Houston and plays a show at a bar owned by his friend Wayne Kramer (Robert Duvall.) He is lonely, and he is overjoyed when Jean and Buddy show up for a visit. After the visit ends up going horribly wrong, Bad realizes that he needs to clean up his life or he will never be happy. Actor Scott Cooper wrote the screenplay and directed the movie based on a 1987 novel of the same name by Thomas Cobb. Scott had never even directed a high school play, much less a movie...so it’s interesting to see how well his debut turned out. Bridges has gotten lots of praise for the role...enough for him to win the Best Actor category at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and at the Golden Globes. He is almost a lock for an Oscar nomination...and the four-time Oscar nominee may win the prize for his fifth time around. He deserves it too, because the role was practically made for him. Singing the music written by T-Bone Burnett, the late Stephen Bruton, and Ryan Bingham (the latter of whom wrote the Golden Globe-winning song “The Weary Kind” and has a role in the movie as a member of his back-up band), Bridges embodies the image of a washed-up country singer. Despite his age, he has a natural chemistry with the 31 (at the time of filming) year old Gyllenhaal, who does a great job herself. The only actor that I really couldn’t identify with was Farrell. I just couldn’t see the normally Irish-speaking man playing an American country singer (his singing was good, but he couldn’t hide his speaking accent.) While “The Weary Kind” is the song that is getting all of the attention, I liked another song Bridges did in the movie called “Fallin’ and Flyin’.” Looking at the filmography he has acquired so far, I think that Cooper’s forte is really in directing. I don’t know what he is going to do next, but I’ll be interested in seeing it.
John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) is a biotechnology executive at Bristol-Myers in Portland who is up for vice presidency...but he can’t think about that right now. He has heard of research done by Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford) who has been trying to develop a drug for Pompe Disease, a form of Muscular Dystrophy that results in eventual loss of muscle control and dangerous enlargement of various body organs, for the past 10 years at the University of Nebraska. His company hasn’t been researching it, so he would like to talk to Robert about it. Why? His and his wife Aileen’s (Keri Russell) kids, 8-year-old Megan (Meredith Droeger) and 6-year-old Patrick (Diego Velazquez), have the disease. Their oldest son, John Jr. (Sam M. Hall), fortunately doesn’t have the genetic disease. Kids with Pompe Disease don’t usually live past nine years old....and Megan is about to celebrate her ninth birthday. John keeps leaving message after message about his research, but the cranky doctor hasn’t returned any of them. One day, Megan almost dies from the disease...so John exits an executive meeting and flies to Nebraska to talk Robert into helping him. John and Robert form a startup company and find some venture funding in a deal with a larger company run by Erich Loring (Patrick Bauchau.) The road to finding and testing the drug is rocky...especially when John encounters some difficulty with their immediate supervisor, Dr. Kent Webber (Jared Harris), and Robert with everyone in his department (even with John)...but it’s at the expense of Megan and Patrick’s health. This is the first theatrical film for CBS films. Maybe they are used to playing the Hallmark Hall of Fame weepy movies for so many years, because this movie feels like one of those movies. Aside from the A-list star power of Ford and Fraser…and the fact that Ford says the S-word more times than I usually see in a PG-rated movie…it could easily be an over-sentimental movie-of-the-week. The acting is decent from the adults (even though Russell is playing yet another “loving, supportive wife” that has almost nothing to do), but the kids…more specifically Droeger…don’t act too sick. I saw a documentary of the real Crowley family, and the real Megan wasn’t so perky and precocious as her theatrical counterpart. This is not one of the best movies for anyone involved…even though Ford is one of the executive producers. See it if you are a fan of one of the actors…but you might want until it comes to DVD first.
Derek Thompson (Dwayne Johnson) is a professional hockey player who suffered a shoulder injury nine years ago, so he is now in the minor leagues playing for a team called the Lansing Ice Wolves. He hasn’t taken a goal shot in those nine years, but he likes the fame attributed to the several penalty box hits he has racked up that has earned him the nickname “The Tooth Fairy” (his hits are so hard that it knocks the teeth out of the opposing player.) Derek doesn’t like 18-year-old rising superstar Mick Donnelly (Ryan Sheckler), who feels that he is going to be on the Ice Wolves roster temporarily until he is sent up to the majors. Since Derek hasn’t become the star he once was, he seems to dash the hopes and dreams of young people with his downer attitude. He has a girlfriend in single mom Carly Harris (Ashley Judd), who has a 6-year-old daughter named Tess (Destiny Grace Whitlock) and a guitar-playing older brother named Randy (Chase Ellison.) Tess likes Derek, but Randy thinks he is yet another guy in Carly’s life who is going to bail on her. One night, Tess loses a tooth, so she anticipates the Tooth Fairy arriving. Carly has Derek place a dollar underneath Tess’ pillow, but when he needs some gambling money for a poker game, he comes up and takes the dollar back. Carly saves the day by “finding” the dollar, but she is mad at Derek for nearly squashing her dreams. That night, Derek wakes up to receive a summons from the Department of Dissemination of Disbelief. He suddenly has fairy wings and a woman’s tutu, and then he is magically transported to Fairyland where he meets leader Lily (Julie Andrews) who’s assigned Tracy (Stephen Merchant) as Derek’s caseworker/instructor (who, unfortunately, doesn’t have wings himself.) Derek finds out that he has to be a Tooth Fairy (who by this time is in a male costume) for two weeks because they have determined him to be a “Dream Killer.” The “Q” of Fairyland, Jerry (Billy Crystal), gives him some things to use in order to be a Tooth Fairy, like memory erasing dust, invisibility potion, shrinking paste, and a bullhorn that only cats and dogs can hear while he is shrunken down. Derek can’t tell anyone that he is an actual Tooth Fairy, which strains his relationship with Carly and her kids. While serving his summons, he begins to believe that you can’t give up on your dreams. This is the third family film in a row for Johnson (behind Race to Witch Mountain and Planet 51) and his fourth family film overall (The Game Plan was the other one.) While I liked the movie...I’m starting to think that he is going to get pigeonholed into making family films (a la Eddie Murphy.) Johnson always has a certain charisma about him, and he isn’t bad playing a hulking man wearing a tutu. Judd doesn’t get to do much as the occasionally ticked-off girlfriend, but the kids are good. I’m wondering if Ellison really can play guitar. Andrews seems like she’s doing sort of the same character she played in the Princess Diaries movies, and Crystal’s shtick gets old quickly. This is Merchant’s first high profile American role, and he didn’t do a bad job. As for Johnson though...let’s hope that The Rock is cooking up some more mature films so that he doesn’t get painted into a family film corner.
The archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) wants to save humankind after God has lost faith in man. God orders his angels to possess human beings so that they can annihilate humanity. Michael wants to stop the upcoming apocalypse, so he descends from Heaven and cuts off his wings, becoming mortal. With a load of stolen guns and a stolen cop car, he heads from Los Angeles to New Mexico to protect Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), the pregnant mother of a possible future savior of humankind. She works as a waitress at a remote diner and garage, owned by Bob Hanson (Dennis Quaid.) His mechanic son Jeep (Lucas Black)...who would like to be Charlie’s boyfriend...and his religious one-handed short order cook Percy Walker (Charles S. Dutton) work with Bob. Also in the diner biding their time while they have Jeep fix their broken down car are the Andersons...easy-going Howard (Jon Tenney), uptight Sandra (Kate Walsh), and their rebellious skanky daughter Audrey (Willa Holland.) Kyle Williams (Tyrese Gibson), a young man on his way to Los Angeles to fight in a custody battle with his ex-wife over their son, is in the diner as well. A nice old lady on a walker named Gladys Foster (Jeanette Miller) arrives at the diner and orders a nearly raw steak. This “nice” old lady tells Charlie that they are all going to burn and then lunges towards Howard with sharp teeth. She then crawls up the wall and prepares to do more damage until Kyle pulls out his gun and shoots her dead. Once they begin to realize that there is no escape (they wanted to take Howard to the hospital, but a swarm of flies keep them at bay)...that’s when Michael shows up with his arsenal of guns and helps the diner patrons drive back the huge group of possessed humans, including a freaky ice cream man (Doug Jones.) Once he has a bit of breathing room, he tells them that this is God’s doing, but he has faith in humankind, so he vows to protect them (or at least Charlie) by any means necessary. Meanwhile, Michael’s brother...the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand)...intends on carrying out God’s plan by attempting to kill both Charlie and her newborn baby. According to my friend/colleague Reggie McDaniel, the movie is a little messed up theologically, because God would never turn people into zombies to wipe out humanity. He did agree with me though that the movie was fun for all of the gory action. He like another Christianity-inspired movie that came out this month though...The Book of Eli (he’s seen it five times already.) I don’t want to spoil the movie, but they have the unborn baby become a John Connor (of Terminator fame) of sorts, prompting possible sequels (I could have sworn that the score of this movie sounded a little bit like the theme from The Terminator.) Go to the movie for the action (the Gladys scene and the ice cream man scene were especially cool), and try not to read into the movie too much if you are a Christian.
Beth Harper (Kristen Bell) is a junior curator at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. She loves her job, because her personal life isn’t going very well. When she gets a call from her sister Joan (Alexis Dziena) that she is about to marry a man named Umberto (Luca Calvani) in Italy after only knowing him for two weeks, she wants Beth to fly out to Rome and be her maid-of-honor. Even though Beth thinks that you can’t find love in that short amount of time, she agrees and asks her demanding boss Celeste (Anjelica Huston) for 48 hours to attend Joan’s wedding, in which she will coordinate with her assistant Stacy (Kate Micucci) about an important art opening coming up soon. At the ceremony, she meets an attractive but awkward man named Nick Beamon (Josh Duhamel), the groom’s best man. They flirt, and she finds herself really attracted to Nick. When she sees him kissing another woman named Lacey (Alexa Havins) though, Beth decides to get drunk and wade around in an enchanted Italian street fountain. While doing that, she steals four coins and a poker chip from five poor unloved people who threw them in with the hopes that they will find true love. She figures that true love doesn’t exist, so she wanted to spare them the pain of waiting around for it. When she comes back to Manhattan, she finds out that five different men have fallen in love with her. They are Antonio (Will Arnett), a wannabe Italian street artist from Rome (he followed her back from Rome); Lance (Jon Heder), a creepy Criss Angel-like street magician; Gale (Dax Shepard), a male model who doesn’t realize that he’s ugly; Al Russo (Danny DeVito), a sausage magnate; and…Nick for some reason. Beth finds out that the only reason that the men are in love with her is that they are the five men who had thrown the four coins and the poker chip into the fountain wishing for true love. Obviously, Beth is in love with Nick (she forgives him once she finds out the real reason behind the kiss from Lacey), but she isn’t sure if he really loves her, or if he was one of those five lonely hearts under a spell. Meanwhile…despite his best friend Puck (Bobby Moynihan) thinking that it’s a bad idea…Nick pursues her with fervor. Notwithstanding their usually clichéd nature, I actually like romantic comedies. For every good movie like (500) Days of Summer, Adam, and The Proposal…there are bad movies like Love Happens, Leap Year, and this one. The plot is a concept that could have worked…if only the acting and directing weren’t so bad. Mark Steven Johnson, the man who was the writer and director of 2003’s Daredevil and 2007’s Ghost Rider, also wrote and directed this movie. According to the production notes, he doesn’t think that it’s odd that a man who helmed two comic book action movies would want to do a romantic comedy. His reasoning is that he started off his screenwriting career penning the screenplays for 1993’s Grumpy Old Men and its 1995 sequel, so he wanted to get back to comedy. His excuse for “comedy” is having Duhamel bump into poles frequently and having the couple go on a disturbing “date-in-the-dark” type date. Even an uncredited cameo appearance by Don Johnson as Beth and Joan’s father couldn’t make this movie any funnier. In any other director’s hands, it might have worked. I truly believe that an actor is only as good as the director who directs them (look at the last three Star Wars movies or the latter M. Night Shyamalan flicks), so to see Bell and Duhamel act so badly is just a crime. Three of the four other suitors were awful as well (only DeVito made me laugh occasionally.) Ever since her UPN/CW show “Veronica Mars” was cancelled, she’s done bad horror movie remakes (like 2006’s Pulse) and good to decent comedies like 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall and last year’s Couples Retreat. I think that her forte should be in television though…“Veronica Mars” and “Heroes” rock (but don’t do crap like “Gossip Girl.”) Duhamel has also done his share of bad horror movies (2006’s Turistas) and just-okay comedies (2004’s Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!) He is mostly known for his role on NBC’s “Las Vegas” and the two Transformers movies, and he just wasn’t the person for this role (his and Bell’s heights are wildly disproportionate.) As I said…I like romantic comedies, but if you take a date to see this movie, the evening will probably end in a fight instead of being an enjoyable night out.
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