Archive for November, 2009

The title is taken from the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks;” in this case, the “old dogs” are a couple of late-in-life bachelors, one of whom discovers he’s the father of twins.

To raise his buddy’s spirits after a bad breakup, Charlie (John Travolta) takes Dan (Robin Williams) for an alcohol-fuelled vacation. However, during this trip Dan not only forgets about his ex, but falls in love again. Seven years later, Dan’s “soul mate” reappears to inform him he has two children and he’s about to have two full weeks to bond with them. Unsure of how to relate to his children and land the biggest business dal of his career, Dan enlists the help of his friend and business partner, Charlie.

The first thing one notices is the focus on their age; they’re matured through Photoshopped photographs and referred to as the children’s grandfathers rather than father repeatedly. This is the type of story that would never be as equally humorous if the characters were women; a woman’s age is taboo, not funny. Moreover, the age-jokes are often too over the top to actually be funny.

Unfortunately, the film suffers from an error in casting – if a comedy stars Williams, he should be the funny one. While Williams’ serious roles were deservedly acclaimed, his sober attitude does not play as well in a comedic narrative; it’s also difficult to believe he has difficulty connecting with kids. This is not to take away from Travolta’s performance, but the movie is significantly lacking in the laugh department. There are only two scenes that are hysterical, but both are featured in the trailer.

That said, Seth Green never disappoints. He portrays an ambitious associate in Dan and Charlie’s company, and though his role is minimal he always delivers the laughs. Furthermore, Matt Dillon’s and Bernie Mac’s cameos are quite amusing.

The tendency to give more weight to the sentimental elements of the story is also unexpected and somewhat unwelcome. While these moments are genuine, they slow the film’s pace. It’s unfortunate because this movie really had potential.

It began as a 12-minute skit on “Funny or Die” – Will Ferrell impersonating the 43rd president of the United States George W. Bush. It was so well-received, they decided to turn it into a full-length Broadway show. From there, all that was left was a live broadcast creating Ferrell’s first HBO special.

Josh Brolin eerily channelled Bush Jr. in Oliver Stone’s W.; conversely, Ferrell’s rendition is not an outright caricature, but rather a light-hearted parody that reminds us of all the little things that allowed us to laugh during his eight years of reign. Recently unemployed, Bush (Ferrell) takes viewers on a semi-sentimental journey through his life, donning various outfits to match his personalities, such as “cowboy,” “frat boy” and “fighter.” The fun never stops as Bush delivers his usual unfiltered dialogue and indulges in a sultry fantasy starring Condoleezza Rice.

The special features include: a behind the scenes look in “Road to Broadway;” “Bush on Bush Interview,” which resembles the infamous David Frost/Richard Nixon interview; and a true or false game about the Bush administration.

Franklyn is a piece-it-together mystery that unfolds gradually with a little steampunk thrown in.

The story opens on a post-apocalyptic city guarded by a masked avenger named John Priest (Ryan Phillippe), as he prepares to rescue an 11-year-old girl kidnapped by a man known only as “The Individual.” The next segment introduces audiences to Milo (Sam Riley), a delusional young man who has been newly dumped by his cheating fiancé. Then we see a heated counselling session between a suicidal artist named Emilia (Eva Green) and her mother, who can only agree they irritate each other incessantly. Finally, the last entry shows Peter (Bernard Hill), a father awaiting the homecoming of his son. The connection between these tales is unclear, but as the narrative unfolds the pieces begin to fit together.

The alternate world in which Priest dwells is darkly stunning. The massive, gothic buildings that fill the skyline are beautiful and shown often. In addition, the bizarre prominence of religion and the necessity to belong is interesting, as is the variety of creeds to which people subscribe, such as “the seventh-day manicurists.” Though the character is a little Watchmen’s Rorschach-esque, it can be overlooked as the rest of the story provides a different context.

The acting is solid from everyone, though Phillippe’s British accent is weak – especially heard against the UK natives. Riley has a sincerity that allows him to be sweet and innocent despite the oddity of his situation. Green is entrancing as the tortured artist attempting to use the extremities of art to deal with her personal issues.

The DVD special features include: producer, director and cast interviews; a “making of” featurette; and three deleted scenes running under five minutes.

The Ugly Truth is every rom-com stereotype rolled into one movie.

Abby (Katherine Heigl) is the producer of a failing morning show. She is highly-organized and a bit of a control freak – she does background checks on her dates and outlines talking points for the evening. Mike (Gerard Butler) is a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy with his own cable show, on which he rants about the differences between men and women in relationships. Abby’s boss decides his brash personality is exactly what they need to bring up the ratings of their own show and avoid cancellation. Abby and Mike form an unlikely friendship as he helps her snag her dream guy (Eric Winter), but they eventually realize they’re each other’s perfect match instead.

This is the age-old romantic comedy formula: boy meets girl; boy and girl hate each other; boy and girl fall in love. Unfortunately, it doesn’t bring anything new to the equation. The jokes are often predictable and the story lags because of it. Mike is a misogynistic ass for the first half, trying to convince women men are simple beings without feelings that only care about sex – like we haven’t heard that before. He tells women they’re single because they’re fat, so “get on a Stairmaster!” Not surprisingly, he’s only hardened because his heart was broken. Abby is every woman with a checklist for her ideal man, willing to settle for nothing less and alone because of it. Furthermore, the sexual innuendo is not really innuendo as they’re usually quite clear about what they mean.

Heigl is beautiful and competent as the obsessive control freak but her character’s willingness to change who she is so easily for a man is against her grain and somewhat insulting to her gender. Butler is the stronger of the pair, carrying most of the film with his high energy and flirtatious personality. On the other hand, most of his comments are appalling and his four lessons for getting a man make them out to be thoughtless Neanderthals, which he almost never proves to be with his quick wit, insightful observations and glimpses of sincerity.

The Monster-in-Law and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton director, Robert Luketic, is on a losing streak since Legally Blonde. The lack of realism in most of the situations makes it difficult to connect to the romantic element of the story. The morning show becomes a salacious circus and the main characters’ personalities are contradictions. On the other hand, The Ugly Truth could gain recognition for the second best orgasm in a restaurant, after Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

The special features include: 10 select scenes with commentary by Luketic and producer Gary Lucchesi; six deleted and extended scenes; two alternate endings; a 10-minute gag reel; cast and crew interviews in The Truth is Ugly: Capturing the Male & Female Point of View; a “making of” featurette; the BD-Live “MovieIQ” that connects to real-time information on the cast, music and other trivia while watching; and a digital copy of the film.

This was the last of four films Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock teamed together to make and it is one of the most revered on both of their resumes. It was to be “the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures” and is now celebrating its 50th anniversary. Made between Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Psycho, many viewed North by Northwest as a palate cleanser, but it is definitely a force to be reckoned with on its own merits delivering on all aspects of a Hitchcock thriller: suspense, deception and romance.

Grant plays an ordinary Manhattan adman that suddenly finds himself immersed in a dangerous game revolving around a mysterious microfilm. Caught between spy (James Mason) and counterspy (Eva Marie Saint), he is abducted, framed for murder, chased and, most famously, crop dusted in a scene that’s been spoofed and referenced numerous times. Travelling from the United Nations building in New York, Grant eventually finds himself hanging from the facial features of Mount Rushmore.

Fans of either Hitchcock or Grant will enjoy the built-in booklet, which includes a discussion of the film’s context, cast and filmmaker biographies, and the story of the film’s creation. The special feature are a myriad of treats: commentary by screenwriter Ernest Lehman; the new documentary The Master’s Touch: Hitchcock’s Signature Style; a feature-length career profile of Grant; an exploration of the film’s influences and innovations in North by Northwest: One for the Ages; the 2000 documentary Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest; a stills gallery; and a music-only audio track.

The once invisible beads of sweat that sheath Rocky’s and Apollo’s gloves as they exchange blows. The flecks of saliva that fly from the Russian’s mouth as he hits the mat. These were the tiny details missing from the Rocky collective experience, but the Blu-ray release of the six-film box set has changed all that.

Rocky is the ultimate underdog story written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. Struggling to survive, Rocky (Stallone) is given the golden opportunity to fight the heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). The five sequels that followed included a championship re-match, the overcoming of self-limiting fears, endless demonstrations of passion and strength, and workout montages that leave viewers in awe. Rocky is supported and thwarted by fantastically thought-out characters, including his wife Adrian (Talia Shire), her brother Paulie (Burt Young) and his tough as nails manager (Burgess Meredith). Even Mr. T got in on the fight in the third installment.

This is a collection every movie lover should own rather than rely on television broadcasts of the films. A bonus disc includes over three hours of special features: a three-part “making of” documentary; a behind the scenes featurette; three boxing featurettes; tributes to Meredith and James Crabe; video commentary with Stallone; Interview with a Legend: Bert Sugar; Stallone’s appearance on Dinah!; and an exclusive to Blu-ray interactive game: Feeling Strong Now!.

The original The Boondock Saints failed to get a theatrical release because of its proximity to the Columbine murders, but it gained a cult following on home video. The vigilante McManus twins had captured audiences and a decade later they finally receive the big screen opening they’d initially deserved. It’s unfortunate writer/director Troy Duffy couldn’t stick to the formula that had hooked everyone all those years ago, instead opting for a weak music video-style.

Reunited with their father (Billy Connolly) after a 25-year absence, the three men are laying low on a sheep ranch in Ireland when word arrives that a priest has been murdered and their signature left. They immediately return to Boston to right the wrong. On their way, they meet Romeo (Clifton Collins Jr.) who knows them by reputation and fills the role of sidekick for the remainder of the film. Along the way, Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) realize this calling out is steeped in a lot of history and the final playing out of this game of revenge will be brutal.

Firstly, Duffy skips ahead in the sequel order of events to what would usually occur in a third installment – tying events to the past – but the inclusion of Peter Fonda makes it forgivable. The rest however is not.

Duffy’s interpretation of a strong female character (Julie Benz) looks like she just walked out of an ’80s hair band rock video, complete with stiletto heels and cleavage. In what world could she be a respected FBI special agent? On the other hand, her parallel as Agent Paul Smecker’s protégé is simultaneously clever and annoying. Possibly the film’s worst departure from the original is the addition of absurd fantasy sequences that in no way complement the narrative. For example, a montage, or “mantage” as it’s been dubbed, resembles a patriotic beer commercial in which the guys appear in various locations declaring their manhood. Though “The Saints” are as charming as ever, most of the police dialogue is laughable as they’re made to sound even less intelligent than before.

Duffy may have called them “improvements” and “curve balls,” but these fundamental changes take from all that was likeable in the first film.