Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Like one of Harry Potter's spells, this movie has been protected from critical review. There really is very little to write as we say goodbye to beloved characters that will live on in DVD immortality (and a Universal theme park). "Part Two" picks up moments after the end of "Part One" and it is a wonderful ride to the end of the line for Mr. Potter and friends.

If you are a fan, of course you will not be disappointed since splitting the last book into two films allowed for a much more thorough screen adaptation than the previous films. If you are not a fan, you really have no business going to see this anyway as you won't have a clue as to what is going on. Our three heroes, Harry, Hermione and Ron have grown up before our eyes and their maturity speaks volumes in this final chapter. There is some fine acting going on beneath all the CGI and special effects. Even Ralph Fiennes, as Vortemort, manages a worthy performance without a nose and bad teeth.

The film brings back beloved living and dead characters for many a farewell cameo (you can only get away with this in a film consumed with magic). I think three quarters of England's actors will be out of work now that this series has come to a close. Standout kudos to Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, and Michael Gambon.

"The Deathly Hallows, Part Two" is exciting, dramatic, heartfelt and best of all, brings satisfying closure to a fantastic series.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America

Even if you aren't familiar with the comic it's based on, you can still enjoy this action adventure as a fun "popcorn" summer film. Actually purists familiar with the source material may be upset with certain liberties (no pun intended) taken to the original origin story. The character of Bucky Barnes, for instance has completely been rewritten and during WWII, Nick Fury is nowhere to be seen but his "Howling Commandos" play a prominent part in the story.

Aside from these plot deviations, the film is still fun and sticks to the core of Captain America's origins. Chris Evans is perfectly cast as Steve Rogers, the puny soldier destined for greatness. Tommy Lee Jones is also perfect as the gruff Colonel in charge of the Super Soldier project. Hugo Weaving, always a good villain, brings the "Red Skull" to life with the right attitude and great makeup. A wonderful addition to the story and a fun nod to fans is the important part of Howard Stark, played by Dominic Cooper. Howard Stark will become the father of Tony Stark, who we all know by now is "Iron Man". Mr. Cooper is a great choice as you can really see the resemblance to Robert Downy Jr. and believe he could be his father. It also lays down the foundation for next year's "The Avengers" movie, especially with the addition of Samuel Jackson's "Nick Fury" cameo at the end.

The battle scenes are good but get a bit repetitive. Fortunately Cap's shield is a great special effect of it's own and fun to watch every time he uses it. The first third of the film takes a while to get going but there are some clever bits about a USO tour and a growing love interest, Peggy Carter (played by newcomer Hayley Atwell), who's daughter just has to show up in "The Avengers".

It's pretty obvious to the real fan that all the recent Marvel films have just been pieces of a bigger puzzle which will be next year's superhero blockbuster. The introduction of the Cosmic Cube in this film, a glimpse of "Hawkeye" in "Thor", Nick Fury at the end of "Iron Man" all help set the table for "The Avengers". Let's hope it's a meal worth waiting for.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Horrible Bosses

After being disappointed by "The Hangover 2" and "Bridesmaids", I had my reservations about this new comedy. I'm happy to say that "Horrible Bosses" is far from horrible. Yes, it's a raunchy buddy comedy but it has a clever plot, some great chemistry from it's three leads and most importantly it's funny throughout and doesn't overstay it's welcome.

Jason Bateman elevates any comedy and mixing in Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day is a great formula for a summer comedy you can depend on. The three play friends who all hate their respective bosses for different reasons. The three bosses are played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. Mr. Spacey takes his "Swimming With Sharks" crazed boss character to another level while Ms. Aniston gets down and dirty as a sex crazed, foul mouthed dentist. Mr. Farrell goes over the top in a bad hairpiece and is truly a horrible boss but doesn't get enough screen time.

Jamie Foxx co-stars as a shady character the boys turn to for help when they decide to kill their bosses and Julie Bowen takes a break from "Modern Family" for a funny cameo as Mr. Spacey's wife. It's a great cast having a lot of fun with a outrageous premise. And for once, the trailer didn't give away all the fun parts so there is still plenty to enjoy. It's bawdy, silly stuff but clever in it's own way and deserves to be this summer's breakout comedy hit.

Monday, July 04, 2011


A distant female cousin to "The Hangover", writer/star Kristen Wiig tries hard to create the perfect all girl "buddy flick". While there are some genuine laughs and lots of gross-out moments, the film wears out it's welcome and runs about twenty minutes too long.

Ms. Wiig plays Annie, lovelorn and broke who is asked by her best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph) to be her maid of honor. She ends up competing with Lillian's rich sister-in-law (Rose Byrne). Laughs ensue when the girls go for a fitting after getting food poisoning and when Annie gets drunk on plane heading to a bachelorette party in Las Vegas.

As written, Annie is such a loser that her bottom just keeps going lower. Funny at first, each embarrassing or offensive moment starts to become increasingly pathetic and you stop laughing and start aching for her uncomfortable situation.

Ms. Byrne has been showing more range with each of her last few films and is well cast here. Ms. Wiig and Ms. Rudolph are very natural together (their "Saturday Night Live" connection obviously helps). Ellie Kemper (The Office), Melissa McCarthy and Wendi McLendon-Covey round out the bridesmaids and each has their own "wacky" quirk to amuse us.

Ms. Wiig is a comic gem and this is a perfect starring vehicle for her. With some tighter editing and writing, it would have been that much better.