Sunday, December 27, 2009

Unmet Expectations: Alvin and the Morgans

When I saw the preview for Did you hear about the Morgans?, I had high hopes.  Not only did I laugh hysterically at Sarah Jessica Parker running after her horse screaming "I'm not on my horse!", I thought this was another perfect packaging for Hugh Grant - to do what Hugh Grant does best - bumbling romantic comedy.  And while, yes he did fill the role of bumbling male lead, something was so off in this film.  Sarah Jessica Parker often confounds me.  She is forever Carrie Bradshaw, and often through this movie, I found myself noting that she was trying to speak and act differently than Carrie - on purpose.  Carrie must be so much her - that she has to make effort to act like someone else.  Needless to say, she seems strained and awkward.  There are far too many uncomfortable scenes - that perhaps were meant to be uncomfortable, to express the strained relationship between the Meryl and Paul Morgan characters.  Yes, Parker's name in the film is Meryl!  Ick.  Meryl Streep aside (somehow this name works for her and her extraordinary talent) - the name Meryl is a horrible name for women (my apologies to all the female Meryls out there) - it served to be actually a distracting point in the plot.  That coupled with a distracting hair color and styling on Parker - and I could not sink into the movie at all.  I was forever outside of it - merely sitting in a theater, watching 2 Hollywood movie stars make a go of a lame script - floundering incessantly.  With  turns from great supporting castmates, Mary Steenburgen, Sam Elliot (Oh, how I love him!) Elisabeth Moss and Wilford Brimley - it just didn't work.  Even that hilarious scene from the trailer that I loved,  fell flat.  My hope was for some enjoyable light movie fare, but instead got a heavy amount of movie ick. 

I volunteered to take my niece to a "kids show" while the other adults in my family went to see The Blind Side  - a movie I had already seen, and thoroughly enjoyed (review another day).    So, I ventured out to see Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Squeakquel - 4 year old in tow - with virtually no expections.  I wasn't exactly dreading the movie - but I wasn't thinking I would enjoy it either.  First, I should admit - I love Jason Lee.  From Mallrats and Chasing Amy to Almost Famous to the baddie in The Incredibles to Earl - I just love him.  It takes a lot for me to Not enjoy him - even in the worst of films (A Guy Thing - anyone?)  So, at least I would have that.  I was a little disappointed when I realized at the beginning of the film - that he as the Chipmunk "dad" would be "laid up" for most of the film and not in much of it.  Imagine my joyous surprise to discover, none other than Zachery Levi (NBCs Chuck) filling in.  (I love him - more than Jason Lee - even).  And the surprises continued - as I ended up really liking this flick.  The introduction of the Chipettes is fun, the Chipmunk-ified versions of Hot n Cold, Put Your Records on and I Gotta Feelin - are hip, current and fun.  Overall, the music is great.  David Cross - funny and perfect as the bad guy - made it all palatable.   My only distraction throughout was my agonizing attempt to identify who was voicing Simon, the pronounciations and inflections of the voice were so familiar!  It wasn't until I searched the credits at the end, that I was appeased.  Matthew Gray Gubler (Dr. Spencer Reid of  CBS's Criminal Minds) was the culprit, and is perfect as brainiac Simon.  None of the other big name voices were identifiable in their Chipmunk versions.  I love Justin Long and Anna Faris and Christina Applegate, Amy Poehler and Jesse McCartney - but I didn't know it was them behind the high pitched squeaks. Wendie Malik is hilarious as the Chipmunk obsessed principal - and I'm always happy to see Kathryn Joosten  pop up anywhere(she will always be Mrs. Landingham to me). In the end, for me and for the 4 year old next to me - it all really worked.  It was a fun movie experience - the kind of light movie fare I was hoping for on a busy Christmas Eve. 

So if you have a choice between Alvin and the Morgans, surprisingly - I say go with Alvin.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Staring at farm animals

The Men Who Stare at Goats was a movie that had all the right elements for me to like.  One actor I'm a pretty big fan of (George Clooney), an actor I'm a HUGE fan of (Ewan McGregor), a supporting cast with actors I like (Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges) and Stephen Root.  Add to that a teaser trailer and preview that I totally liked ( and I was not going to miss this movie.  And I was not disappointed.

The story of a reporter trying to prove himself to his ex-wife and an ex-soldier's quest for personal redemption was certainly quirky.  And like a lot of quirky movies, I can see where this movie may not "click" with everybody.  But I think it has fairly high appeal.  I saw this movie on a date, and we both laughed throughout the movie.  The humor is blatent at times and subtle at times - just the way I like it - and includes occasional scenes of ridiculousness that are sure to draw a laugh.  One highlight is two security companies in Iraq engaging in small arms combat...with each other.  Nothing wrong with a little social commentary.

Ewan McGregor voices over a large portion of the movie, narrating the story.  I'm not a huge fan of this method, but it fit the feel of the movie.  His role as the reporter that stumbles on a psychic soldier program is played to perfection, with plenty of enthusiasm.  George Clooney didn't "wow" me as much as I expected as a former soldier, his role involved quite a bit of doing nothing.  Don't miss him dressed as a hippy soldier though - the long hair and sideburns were hilarious.  And Jeff Bridges was simply fantastic as the mastermind of the psychic soldier program.

As is becoming all too normal, my major complaint is that the preview gives away two of the funniest moments of the movie.  This is a trend I think REALLY needs to stop.  I know that it can be hard to sell a movie without using top scenes, but I always feel a little ripped off when the movie spends 10 minutes setting up a scene that I've already seen 20 times in previews.  And if you figure out the 10 minutes of build up is going to end with that already spoiled punchline, it can make that 10 minutes very boring.  I'd even go so far as to say that in some movies it can interrupt the flow, which is an unfair thing to do to a good movie.  The best compliment I can give this particular movie is that even with some top moments spoiled in advance, I still laughed at the spectacular execution of those moments.

Overall I liked this movie.  I went in expecting a funny and well-acted movie and that's exactly what I got.  I laughed and walked away smiling, and that's worth my ten bucks.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Glee-ful Fall

I've tried out several of the new Fall Offerings and I must say...I've found a few winners.  Loving new half hour comedies: Modern Family, Cougar Town and Community.  Enjoying girly, witchy drama Eastwick.  And absolutely LOVING The Good Wife (Carol Hathaway, Logan Huntzberger AND Dan Rydell?  TV Vets should unite more often!) But, the champion of the fall is by far Glee.  Glee is  my favorite new offering by any network for the past several seasons. 
The music!  The music!  The music!  Where else can you hear great renditions of Kanye's Goldigger, Salt n Pepas Push It, Queen's Somebody to Love, Journey's Don't Stop Believing, Rhianna's Take a Bow, Celine Dion's Taking Chances...and this week a pair of pretty excellent Mash Ups - Its My Life/Confessions and Halo/Walking on Sunshine.  Each week, I look forward to the music...far more so than the actual story...but, the story is genuinely quirky and funny.  Sometimes over-the-top, this band of amazingly talented mis-fits are loveable and weird all at once.
Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison are stand outs as the uber-talented, over achieving diva-dork, Rachel Berry (insert Gold Star here) and the high school Glee champ turned Glee Director Mr. Shuester, respectively.  Lea Michele was in Duncan Shieks Spring Awakening on Broadway, which just gave her mad props in she is obviously a singer, dancer - but - she is truly incredible.  I can't believe I get to hear her sing each week for free.  Matthew Morrison is from Broadway too - Tony nominated for A Light in the Piazza  - he's got a great voice - great moves and somehow makes it plausible that Mr. Shue could be so alarmingly in the dark about his own certifiably insane wife.  They aren't the only ones.  Amber Riley (this girls got pipes!), Kevin McHale and Chris Colfer  pretty regularly impress.  Jane Lynch brings the funny as the arch-nemesis of the Glee Club, the cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester.  Her dead pan delivery  and the characters generally offensive haughtiness make the storylines and quirkiness both funny and believable. And, hey  - Josh Groban has already done a hilarious cameo and Tony (and now) Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth has guest starred and performed with the Glee club. 

Its obvious I love it when I'm checking I Tunes to see if I can download the latest performances.  And happily, I can - and the show even releases full versions of the songs featured on the show - which just makes me love the show even more.  I am officially in love with this one. Yes, it has been a Glee-ful Fall and I'm looking forward to a Glee-ful Winter.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Some thoughts on Big Brother

Well, the Big Brother season ended a couple of weeks ago, and what happened was significant enough to warrant a late comment, I think.

One of my major beefs with reality television is that every show and season I've watched has rewarded backstabbing, conniving liars.  I'm sure there are exceptions, but I've never seen one!  And that soured me to reality shows.  Something about the person I find the biggest jerk winning a million dollars wasn't rewarding to me, and certainly wasn't worth the investment of time to see it happen.

Then a friend convinced me to watch Big Brother.  And now I find myself tempted to try another one.

Spoilers ahead, but it's been long enough I don't even think that warning is necessary.

The final two people were Natalie and Jordan.  Natalie, the youngest person there, a member of the Athlete clique.  Jordan, the pretty yet fairly emptyheaded member of the Popular clique.  Natalie latched on to the early games strongest player, Jesse, and rode his coattails for quite a while.  Jordan latched on to the mid games strongest player, Jeff, and managed to stay completely under the radar.

At the end of the show, some of the eliminated contestants had to vote on who won the money.  And this is where I ended up a very happy fellow.  At the very beginning of the show, Natalie had lied about her age, claiming to be 19 when she was really in her early 20s.  She did this as a way to garner sympathy votes.  As the "jury house" of eliminated contestants got to speaking, it came out that Natalie had lied.  And her former allies became rather irritated with her.  In the end, I think that lie more than anything was the deciding factor in Jordan winning.

And that's why I was so happy.  Jordan had been mostly honest and upfront, sweet and easy to get along with.  I had her pegged to get voted out in the first 4 rounds.  Natalie had a plan, she fooled her fellow contestants from the very beginning, and played your standard reality show underhanded, me-first game.  But Jordan won.  And what seemed to be the biggest factor was a lie told on the first day.

Can reality television have a rewarding payoff?  Can the nice guys finish first?  They did this time.  And that means at least one other show will get my viewership this season.  Let's hope it can happen again.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Its not Personal Computer....

Its not Printed Circuit....

Its not Providence, Pikeville or Phoenix College....

Its not Peter Cetera....

Its not Presbyterian Church...

Its not Pipe Cleaner or Cutter...

Its not Paper Company or Cutter...

Its not People's Court...

Its not Pink Cadillac...

Its not Purple Cow or Crayon...

And its certainly not Politically Correct (in more ways than one)

Its Pop Culture. Pop Culture Commentary. That's what we like. TV, Books, Movies, Music, Theater... Commentary on the Culture we love.

Welcome. Please Comment.