Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Great Buck Howard

Loosely based on the "amazing" Kreskin, a famous mentalist from the '60 & '70's, "Buck Howard" is a star vehicle for John Malkovich. As the fading star who's claim to fame is 61 appearances on the "Tonight Show with Johnny Carson", Mr. Malkovich brings both swagger and pathos to the character. In many ways, this film runs parallel to "The Wrestler", both portraying stars past their prime still working the circuit and looking for one more shot of glory.

Buck's much maligned road manager, Troy, is played by Colin Hanks, who also serves as the film's narrator. Also co-starring are Ricky Jay as Buck's long time manager, Emily Blunt as a publicist and in smaller roles, Deborah Monk and Steve Zahn. There are also many real life cameos of talk show hosts and fading stars of TV and film. In a bit of inspired casting, Tom Hanks plays Troy's father in a small cameo.

This "indie" film is an obvious labor of love for writer/director Sean McGinly and is a must see for any fans of Mr. Malkovich.


Writer/Director Tony Gilroy newest effort is a cross between his own "Michael Clayton", "Ocean's 11", and any Bourne film. The film stars Julia Roberts and Clive Owen as corporate spies duping each other and their respective companies. Unfortunately, it's the audience that ultimately gets duped.

It's a simple story made very complicated by the multiple flashbacks and various scamming going on. The story zigzags across the globe in "Bourne" fashion and has great locations. It's just difficult to follow the timelines. It's like watching a single episode of "Lost" if it was about corporate espionage. On a positive
note, it's a refreshing spy story without guns or car chases that makes you think how far pharmaceutical companies will go to protect a secret formula.

Ms Roberts and Mr. Owen have proven chemistry between them but the games they play and all the mistrust they project loses their credibility with the audience. Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson co-star as the heads of the rival companies locked in a corporate power struggle. Mr. Wilkinson is credible but Mr. Giamatti chews the scenery and is miscast as a company CEO.

There's a final twist to the story that still leaves questions but by that point, you probably won't care anymore. It's all much ado about nothing.

Friday, March 13, 2009


An extremely different and very cool "superhero" movie. I understand fans of the graphic novel have issues with the film but having not read the story, I found it original and very entertaining. Director Zack Synder has found his niche, first with "300" and now "Watchmen".

These "superheroes" don't have powers (except one) and rely on weapons and fighting skills to get the job done. Many of the group are not even likeable. They live among us in an "alternate" 1985 where Richard Nixon is still president and we've won the Vietnam War. When one of them is killed, it sets off a chain of events that have repercussions on the fate of mankind.

The visuals are stunning (especially in IMAX) and the acting is what you'd expect when your character walks around in a heavy rubber or spandex costume. Jackie Earle Haley steals the film as "Rorschach", the "watchman" who narrates the story and seems to be having the most fun with his dark role. He also has the best line in the film, which I understand is a direct quote from the novel. The film also features Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, and Malin Akerman.

You may be confused at first if you are unfamiliar with the story, but it all comes together in a spectacular way. It's a trippy fun time at the movies. And I'd be remiss to not point out the terrific opening credit sequence and the excellent soundtrack.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


A pseudo documentary about the criminal activities of the Camora, street level mafia gangs that populate the area around Naples, Italy. The film focuses on six different characters in four main subplots that rotate throughout the film. This is not linear storytelling and won't appeal to the average film fan. If you are a fan of the HBO show, "The Wire", this film may appeal to you.

There are no heroes or heroines and actually, no redeeming characters at all. All the characters are caught up in the violent way of life and it's just a matter of who lives and who dies by the end of the film. The subplots introduce us to characters of all ages from the young boy making a dangerous life decision to the old man looking for a way out of the only life he's known.

This is not the Hollywood idea of the "Mafia". This is a grim, realistic portrait of a brutal life and while not a film to enjoy, it is certainly a fascinating two hour glimpse into this very real existence.

The International

With the exception of a exciting shoot out in a NY icon, this film is a "Bourne" clone without the action.

Clive Owen does an admirable job playing the action hero. It's just a shame there is not much action. The film is all talk and you need to pay attention to follow the story. Naomi Watts co-stars in a unnecessary role just so Mr. Owen has an additional person to talk to about the plot.

The story concerns an international bank that is up to it's books in shady, criminal activities and Mr. Owen is determined to get his interest's worth bringing them down. The best thing that can be said is the film is truly international taking the viewer on a world tour from New York to various European locations.

This is the kind of "thriller" that dominated the '60's. If "The International" had been made back then, it would have starred Michael Caine and you probably would have rushed out to see it. Today, you can wait for the DVD.

The Jonas Brothers: 3D Concert Experience

And what an experience it is. The live concert was fun even if I couldn't understand any of the words above the screaming girls. The film recreation is faithful to the concert but while it tries hard, it lacks the true excitement of a live show.

The 3D effect provides a sharp clear image but is not used to much special effect, except for some drumsticks and guitar picks thrown into the crowd. The songs are certainly easier to understand without all the screaming (although the film audience tried to recreate that effect as well).

This is purely for tween and teenage girls who find these brothers the "it" boy band of the moment.