MVP of the Month: Teresa Palmer

Posted on February 25, 2011 at 3:52 pm

teresa-palmer-as-tori-frederking-in-take.jpgAustralian actress Teresa Palmer stars in two films out within a couple of weeks of one another. We just saw her as the tough action heroine Number Six in “I am Number Four.” And next week she appears opposite Topher Grace in “Take Me Home Tonight,” a raunchy but sweet tribute to the films of the 1980’s. She was terrific in the under-appreciated “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and shows range, talent, charm, and good humor in these two films, giving more dimension to both characters than the script does, and holding her own among the special effects of “Number Four” and the wild antics of “Take Me Home.” Coming next, she appears in next year’s new “Mad Max” film from original director George Miller, co-starring with Nicolas Hoult and Charlize Theron. Sounds great!
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Actors Behind the Scenes

Hall Pass

Posted on February 25, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Things have changed since the Farrelly Brothers smashed through boundaries and brought a new level of outrageous raunchiness to the screen with the box office smashes “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary.” First, they inspired others like Judd Apatow and Jason Segal to go even further, so they are no longer at the top of the list for shock value. And second, they got older.

So their new movie does not try for anything as outrageous as the unforgettable hair gel or zipper scenes (though there is a return to a graphic intestinal distress moment). And instead of focusing on the excruciating humiliations of dating (“There’s Something About Mary”) or honeymoons (the remake of “The Heartbreak Kid”), they have moved on to the challenges of married life, or what Zorba the Greek called “Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe.”

Rick (Owen Wilson) and his best friend Fred (“SNL’s” Jason Sudeikis) have jobs, wives, and mortgages in the suburbs of Providence. Rick, a realtor, and his wife Maggie (Jenna Fischer of “The Office”) have three children. Fred, an insurance agent, and his wife Grace (Christina Applegate) have none.

“All our wives’ dreams come true and ours don’t,” says Fred. For the men, it feels like it is all about sex. For the women, it feels more like romance. But everyone misses that feeling of being special.

The wives, frustrated and publicly humiliated by some very bad behavior by the men, give them a “hall pass,” a week off from marriage, with no restrictions. This is based on the recommendation of a friend (Joy Behar), who assures them it is “better than a slow boat to resentment.” Maggie takes her children to visit her family on Cape Cod, and Grace soon joins her, leaving the men behind to try to live out their fantasies of bedding babes non-stop like their friend Coakley (Richard Jenkins).

It turns out that they are more interested in eating themselves into a stupor at chain restaurants. And that, well, there’s no diplomatic way to say it. They just aren’t cool any more.

The more they try to be, the dorkier they become. Rick does not get a positive reaction to the pick-up lines he downloaded from the internet. When a very pretty Australian barrista tells Fred that the song she is listening to is from Snow Patrol, he thinks she is referring to the kiddie movie with Cuba Gooding, Jr. — “Snow Dogs.” When Rick tries to visit a massage parlor, it does not have a happy ending.

Meanwhile, on Cape Cod, Grace and Maggie have become friendly with a couple of nice guys who do think they are special.

The Farrelly brothers are going for situational rather than shock humor here, hitting singles rather than trying to bat one out of the park. That means there is less excruciating humiliation, but it also means less over-the-top, I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing moments. The result is oddly toned down and sit-com-ish. It’s even more oddly and disturbingly misogynistic, a throwback to early 1960’s comedies like “How to Murder Your Wife” and “Boys’ Night Out” in its portrayal of perpetually childish men constantly chastened and terrified by scary mommies with daunting sexual demands. This is particularly disappointing for film-makers whose great strength has been their capable and good-hearted female characters. Like Fred and Rick, the Farrelly brothers here are off their game.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely raunchy and explicit humor including comic and very graphic male nudity, alcohol, strong language, and adultery.

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Comedy
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Literary Video Games

Posted on February 25, 2011 at 8:00 am

Non-gamers tend to think of computer and video games as involving either shooting various targets, chasing some sort of prize, or some kind of dungeons and dragons role-playing. And Roger Ebert, perhaps with this idea in mind, has said that video games can never be art. But at least one game developer has taken a step closer to making games that resemble a more familiar art form, a book. And not just any book, a certified classic.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s jazz age tragic love story is now The Great Gatsby: The Game.
Uri Friedman of The Atlantic reports that you can guide the book’s narrator, Nick Carroway, though the lovelorn gangster’s mansion, contending “with butlers, flappers, and gangsters at one of Gatsby’s bacchanalian parties (if you die, you’re told, “Game Over, Old Sport”).” While the game’s site cheekily claims it comes from a vintage 2D Nintendo game cartridge purchased at a yard sale, Friedman did some sleuthing and discovered it is the creation of Gatsby fan and programmer Charles Hoey and Pete Smith of Nerve.com. I was relieved that the game does not pursue some of the book’s seedier episodes, but it does make me wonder about other possibilities for turning novels into games, especially with the potential for alternate endings (a la Choose Your Own Adventure). Not So Gone With the Wind After All? Pride But No Prejudice? Anna Karenina’s Escape From the Train?

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Internet, Gaming, Podcasts, and Apps

Drive Angry

Posted on February 24, 2011 at 7:22 pm

The movie is called “Drive Angry.” It stars Nicolas Cage. It’s in 3D.

What more do you need to know?

Cage is such a fan of comic books he took his screen name from a comic book superhero and starred as “Ghost Rider.” Cage and co-writer/director Patrick Lussier have brought a stylish and mythic comic book sensibility to this story about a man determined to kill cult members who murdered his daughter and plan to kill her baby.

Cage plays John Milton (I did say mythic), a mysterious loner, who hitches a ride with Piper (Amber Heard, as terrific here as she was in “The Jones”), a waitress who just dumped her fiance and took his Dodge Charger, the one with the license plate that says DRV ANGRY. They go after Jonah King (Billy Burke, looking like a cross between Jim Jones and the Pick-Up Artist) and his Satan-worshiping followers, who are preparing to sacrifice Milton’s granddaughter under the full moon. And they are chased by cops following up on the trail of dead bodies they leave wherever they go and by a man in a suit who calls himself “the accountant” (William Fitchner, like a civilized Terminator with the nose of a bloodhound and the demeanor of an elegant viper). There’s a series of dust-ups and then the final confrontation/conflagration.

This is the kind of movie they used to show in drive-ins and clearly everyone in it is having a blast. It’s nicely twisted and even a little fierce, willing to take on some big questions that provide as much fuel for the story as the cars and carnage. The movie’s highlight is Fitchner, who can sniff the air or toss a coin with as much on-screen power as all the chases and shoot-outs.

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3D Action/Adventure Thriller
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