May 2011 Reviews
By Shawn McKenzie 5/6/2011
Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in May of 2011. Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.
Go directly to my review of Jumping the Broom, Everything Must Go, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Hesher.
After having had one too many one-night stands, corporate lawyer Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton) has made a vow to God not to give her “cookies” to anyone else but her husband, whom she hasn’t met yet. Not long after she makes this vow, she literally runs into her future husband…Wall Street businessman Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso)…by almost hitting him with her car. Six months later, Sabrina is offered a career-making transfer to China, so they consider breaking up. Jason is in love with her and doesn’t want her to go, so he decides to get married and move to China. They want to get married at the Martha’s Vineyard estate owned by her wealthy parents, Claudine (Angela Bassett) and Gregory (Brian Stokes Mitchell)…whom Claudine thinks is cheating on her with his assistant Amanda (Laura Kohoot.) They are using a white blonde woman named Amy (Julie Bowen)…who is slightly misinformed about black people…to be their wedding planner. Unfortunately, Jason’s Brooklyn federal postal worker mom Pam (Loretta Divine) has never met Sabrina’s family or her yet, so she has already formed her own opinions about them. Pam travels to the estate with Jason’s uncle Willie Earl (Mike Epps) and cousin Malcolm (DeRay Davis), who thinks he’s Jason’s best man when it’s really his co-worker friend Ricky (Pooch Hall.) They’re also traveling with Pam’s co-worker and best friend Shonda (Tasha Smith.) They are meeting Sabrina’s parents, Claudine’s snobbish sister Geneva (Valarie Pettiford), Sabrina’s maid of honor Blythe (Meagan Good)…who is attracted to catering Chef McKenna (Gary Dourdan)…and her 20-year-old college student cousin Sebastian (Romeo Miller), who starts constantly hitting on Shonda. The clash of classes gets tense until the big day, which results in long-withheld secrets being revealed that could interrupt the wedding. The movie was better than I thought it would be. Patton is hot, and her character is nothing like her character in Precious. The movie is so much better than Tyler Perry’s latest movie Madea’s Big Happy Family…even though both movies have the same dark secret and both star Divine. Speaking of Divine, she is fun to watch…whether she is loving and nice in Happy Family, or mean and manipulative in this movie. I think my biggest pet peeve with the movie was the wedding reception. As a mobile DJ, I have DJ’ed many weddings, and I have played Cupid’s “Cupid Shuffle” many times. I didn’t understand why Bowen’s character Amy had never heard the song before. As a wedding planner, I would have thought that she would have heard the song many times before. It’s not like the Cupid Shuffle is a “black thing” (despite Epp’s character Willie Earl saying that it is.) Her character in general wasn’t funny anyways…and I love her on ABC’s “Modern Family,” so it was a waste of her talent. Of all of the five zillion wedding-related movies that have come out lately though, this one is one of the better ones.
Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) was the regional V.P. of Sales at his Arizona company for 16 years, but because he is an alcoholic whose drinking has resulted in one too many incidents, his boss Gary (Glenn Howerton) fires him. After Nick accidentally gets his Swiss Army knife parting gift stuck in Gary’s tire, he gets himself a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon and returns home to find out that his wife Katherine (who is never seen) has moved out and changed the locks on the house. She has also put all of his stuff out on the front lawn. As he sits around on his front yard drinking his beer, the local police come by and say that they are going to arrest him for sitting around on his lawn drinking in public with a bunch of stuff around. Nick asks them to call his AA sponsor, police detective Frank Garcia (Michael Peña), to help him with his problem. Frank tells him that he has three days to get rid of the stuff on his lawn or he will be arrested. He decides to hold a yard sale to get rid of his stuff. He hires Kenny Loftus (Christopher Jordan Wallace, son of the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.), a latchkey kid who rides around on his bike while his mother cares for another neighbor down the street, to help sell his stuff exchange for baseball lessons (Nick used to play ball in the past.) Nick also strikes up a friendship with Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a pregnant photography teacher who has moved in across the street ahead of her husband Jack who’s still back in New York. Needing electricity to power up some things on his lawn, he blackmails his kinky neighbors Elliot (Stephen Root) and Kitty (Rosalie Michaels) for some electricity in exchange for not telling anyone about the perverted stuff that they are doing. As the days go on, Nick realizes that Kenny is a gifted salesman, and they strike up a friendship as well. Trying to figure out what went wrong in his life…Nick decides to visit a former high school classmate turned single mom Delilah (Laura Dern) who wrote some kind things to him in their high school yearbook. With his wife gone and most of his stuff sold, Nick tries to figure out what he is going to do now with the rest of his life. Even though there is comedy in the movie, it’s essentially a drama…and funnyman Ferrell pulls it off. His character is basically a functioning alcoholic who happens to let his rage occasionally take over. Ferrell may play a drunk in the movie, but it’s never a clichéd movie drunk. Hall’s character serves a purpose because he realizes that her husband Jack is just a younger version of himself. Dern’s character serves a purpose to show that Nick wasn’t always an alcoholic jerk. The chemistry between Ferrell and Wallace is believable. First time director Dan Rush directed the movie and wrote the screenplay, based on the short story Why Don’t You Dance? by Raymond Carver. I liked the movie, and Ferrell is up there with some decent comedic actors (like Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, and Adam Sandler) who have dipped their toe into dramatic work. I like Ferrell’s comedies, but I hope that he does more drama in the future.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Review
Everyone’s favorite drunk, flamboyant pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is back. He breaks his first mate Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally) out of jail by pretending to be a judge and commutes Gibbs’ sentence to life in prison. He then gets into the prisoner carriage with Gibbs and is captured and brought before King George II (Richard Griffiths.) The king wants Jack to get to Ponce de Leon’s legendary Fountain of Youth before the Spanish King Ferdinand VI’s (Sebastian Armesto) crew does, and he has heard that Jack knows where it is. The King wants Jack to support his privateer, Jack’s former now peg-legged nemesis Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), in finding the fountain. Jack gets away and runs into his dad, Captain Teague (Keith Richards), who tells him that an imposter posing as Jack has gotten a crew together to search for the fountain. Jack finds out that the imposter is his former lover, Angelica (Penélope Cruz), who is the first mate and daughter to the legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane.) Blackbeard has a crew of zombie men onboard his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, and Angelica manages to get Jack aboard it (by drugging him.) A missionary named Phillip Swift (Sam Claflin) is also traveling aboard the ship hoping to convert Blackbeard from his wicked ways. Angelica explains to Jack that two chalices and the tear from a mermaid are needed in order to make the fountain work. Vampire-looking mermaids attack the ship, but they manage to capture one named Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), of with whom Phillip develops an attraction. Meanwhile, Barbossa captures Gibbs and forces him to go aboard the HMS Providence to find the fountain, since Gibbs memorized the map and burned it. It’s a race for the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the HMS Providence, and the Spaniards…led by the head of their secret service known only as The Spaniard (Óscar Jaenada)…to get to the fountain first and control it. Rob Marshall…who has done some of the worst movies of the last decade in my opinion (2002’s Oscar-winning Chicago, 2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha, 2009’s Nine)…took over for Gore Verbinski, who directed the first three movies. Despite the trailers making it look cool and that it was the first Pirates to be filmed in 3D…I was hesitant to think that Marshall could do it. I was wrong, because Depp and Co. were fun as ever. Rush was entertaining and Cruz was sexy (I really didn’t need Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley from the first three movies to be in this one.) The only disappointment was the usually cool McShane, who was over-shined by his co-stars. Hans Zimmer’s score was exciting in this one, as it had been in the second and third movies (this time he is joined by Rodrigo y Gabriela, a Mexican musical duo, on a few pieces in the movie.) I heard that Disney plans to make two more Pirates movies…which they should (stay past the credits to see a funny scene that leads into the next sequel), because the fun shouldn’t stop with this one.
Thirteen-year-old T. J. Forney (Devin Brochu) is full of rage. His dad Paul (an unrecognizable, intentionally unfunny Rainn Wilson) is depressed with an unkempt beard and a near-catatonic look on his face all the time while popping pills and zoning out in front of the TV. T. J. and Paul live with T. J.’s grandma Madeleine (Piper Laurie), who is kind and cooks them meals, but is sad that no one wants to come with her on her daily walk. Why is T. J. so mad? It’s because his mother (Monica Staggs) died a couple months ago in a car wreck. He wants to buy back his mom’s wrecked car from the auto body shop where it sits, but the insensitive owner (John Carroll Lynch) won’t let him buy it back. T. J. expresses his fury by throwing a rock through the window of a housing development. Unfortunately, he accidentally outs a squatter named Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)…a long-haired, violent, semi-uncaring metalhead with crude, self-made tattoos who smokes weed and cigarettes constantly…from the place he had been staying. In retaliation, he follows T. J. home and essentially moves in by threatening him with a gardening tool. Paul is so out of it that he doesn’t bother trying to kick the guy out. He has no respect for anyone or anything, and he treats everyone with contempt, except for Madeleine, whom shows him kindness for what is possibly the first time in his life. One day, T. J. is tortured by school bully Dustin (Brendan Hill), but he rescued by Nicole (Natalie Portman), a supermarket cashier who is late on her bills. They start a friendship after the rescue and her offer to drive him home. Even though T. J. and Paul go to a grief counseling group led by Meryl (Mary Elizabeth Barrett)…where they hear a story from Jack and Coleen Bolder (Lyle Kanouse and Audrey Wasilewski) about their murdered daughter…T. J. gets some unusual help from Hesher in the form of watching him be swirlyed in the urinal by Dustin. It’s not like Hesher has absolutely no feelings though…but his “caring” comes out in aggressive ways. He threatens a driver (Van Epperson) whom Nicole accidentally rear-ended, and he torches Dustin’s car. This usurper into their lives might be just the thing that T. J. needs though to help him get over his mother’s death. This is Spencer Susser’s directorial debut, using a script written by himself and Animal Kingdom director David Michôd, based on a story written by Brian Charles Frank. I absolutely loved virtually everything about it. From the opening notes of Metallica’s “The Shortest Straw” to the end, this is a metalhead’s kind of movie. I am a metalhead myself (though you wouldn’t know it from the way I look), and I am a huge fan of Metallica (even through their ‘90s work and the debacle that was St. Anger.) Not only did Metallica allow five of their songs to be used in the movie (“The Shortest Straw,” “Fight Fire with Fire,” “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth),” “Battery,” and “Motorbreath”), but they allowed the movie title advertisements to be written in their logo style. In fact, the Metallica songs (along with Motörhead’s “Rock Out”) are almost a character itself in the movie, serving as the anarchic personality of Hesher. Gordon-Levitt is a chameleon of an actor who never seems to play the same type of character more than once. I haven’t necessarily liked all of his movies (I hated his 2005 movie Brick), but he is a standout in this one, and one of the main reasons you should check out the movie. I was afraid that the character of Hesher would be some loud distraction in T. J. and Paul’s lives that would eventually turn into a sap…but he never does. He’s no guardian angel. Portman…in her 500th movie of the last two years…is cute, even when she is playing dowdy. Brochu’s acting isn’t the typical cutesy kid performance we would expect, which is very appropriate for this movie. This is one of the most anti-touchy-feely movies I’ve ever seen. The mixture of Susser and Michôd’s script combined with Gordon-Levitt’s performance makes this one of the best movies of the year. If you like metal and movies about rebellious characters who just don’t give a s**t, please check this one out.
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