8/26/09

I'm so sad about the passing of Sen. Kennedy....

8/21/09

Review: Inglourious Basterds (2009)


Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is his least referential film, despite what some are saying. There are references to Spaghetti Westerns, films of the '40's, great war films, and more, but in all, it's a pretty straightforward revenge flick with lots of well-drawn characters, suspense, drama and action.

Basterds tells the parallel stories of a young Jewish girl, Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent, understated but brilliant), whose family is coldly murdered by a Nazi colonel, Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz, excellent), and a squad of Jewish Americans (and others) led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt, perfect), who also come in contact with Landa on their open-ended mission to "kill Nat-zis."

Pitt is over-the-top hammy as Lt. Raine, reminiscent of his great performance in Burn After Reading. In both cases he made the decision to go for it and play it as broadly and unsubtly as possible, and it also serves the story of Basterds admirably.

Christoph Waltz, who plays Col. Landa, is a revelation. His character is sort of the same as the one Sharlto Copley played pretty well in District 9, but while Copley was compelling, Waltz is just incredible as a scheming Nazi Sherlock Holmes. It's easy to credit his acting win at Cannes for the role.

Among the rest of the Basterds, Eli Roth is notable as the tight-lipped "Bear Jew," Donny Donowitz. He conveys most of his part with his face, and though we would like to know more about him, this gives him a mysterious quality which is intriguing. Til Schweiger is very good as Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz, a German deserter who joins up with the crew, and Omar Doom has a nice comic quality as Omar Ulmer.

Other acting stand-outs are Diane Kruger as German actress Bridget von Hammersmark, Daniel Brühl as Nazi war hero sniper and movie star Fredrick Zoller, and, last but certainly not least, Martin Wuttke as Adolf Hitler, very believable in spite of some parodic qualites of the script.

Tarantino keeps one big surprise back, the revelation of which deflates a lot of built-up suspense as the audience moves ahead of the story and consults its own knowledge of history, a similar trick to Pulp Fiction's moving back and forth in time, or the way he altered the timing of a classic story ending for comedic effect in his Four Rooms contribution, "The Man from Hollywood." It works well, I won't spoil it for you.

What was missing? I'll tell you exactly. The film is noticeably unbalanced by a lack of information about Raine's squad. There is one flashback which is illuminating, but a bit more conversation, a training sequence for the squad, or another ride-along on one of their sabotage missions would have fixed this right up. It's too bad there's not more.

I like this movie a lot, even though it's not Tarantino's best, which tells you how much I like Tarantino. I'd place it below Jackie Brown, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, above both Kill Bill's if you count them separately, but below Kill Bill if you count them both together. I slid it into my Top Ten for the year so far, just between Ponyo and Watchmen.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)


Like with District 9, the debt owed by G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra to the Star Wars movies is great, and even more so for G.I. Joe, from the subtitle to the plot to the visuals. It's quite affectionate here, even if the rip-offs are obvious, and even lots of fun in places.

The film opens with a truly silly and out-of-place interlude where some Scottish guy gets an iron mask put on him in France for selling to both sides during some war. This is kind of like foreshadowing, or background, but only because of its location at the front of the movie, as it doesn't actually serve any useful or interesting purpose.

Then the movie starts. Duke (Channing Tatum, not terrible) and his unit have been assigned to move a new NATO nano-tech weapon from its contractor to military control. Despite the fact that everything we learn about the weapon would make it truly unworkable and stupid to invent, the show goes on.

But this is where it gets fun, because the unit comes under attack by ninjas in UFOs. Awesome. Who hasn't ever wished they could see warfare between the military and ninjas in UFOs? If you raised your hand, you still might be wrong. It's deeply cool and satifying.

Things do get a little confusing as this battle progresses, because some more ninjas join the fight, and it's not clear what side they're on at first. Later we learn these are the G.I. Joes, an elite military unit called in as the last line of defense in truly dangerous and tricky situations. They save the MacGuffin, a suitcase containg four nano-tech warheads, and soon Duke and his buddy Ripcord (Marlon Wayans, all right) join up with the Joes under General Hawk (Dennis Quaid) as more fighting ensues over possession of the weapons.

All of the characters are stupid, and the acting is passable at best, but the action sequences are mostly first-rate, despite a few times when the effects are not quite seamless.

The movie is also full of flashbacks which are pretty lame, but some of them keep up the pace of the action and blend pretty well, and some are integral to the plot, if anything could be said to be integral to the stupid plot.

The head villains are mostly awful, too, cheap rip-offs of Star Wars with cheesy effects and lots of overacting, but they serve their purpose and indeed, stay out of the way a lot, which is good.

If you like G.I. Joe toys or comics, or Star Wars, or if your kids really want to see the movie, it's mostly painless fun, and even pretty cool to watch a lot of the time, with lots of interesting war action, ninja fights and crazy future tech.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

8/19/09

Review: The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009)


The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard ain't got the goods. Ha! I never do that, give me a break, I had to watch it. Oh, it's funny enough in places. It wants to be fully surreal, like Happy Gilmore or other better movies, but it can't commit. So it has to try hard to be funny as a character comedy and as a pure lark, but doesn't succeed at either.

Jeremy Piven has done great work, and he's not bad here, but there's no point to any of it, not even building the laughs to bigger laughs. He plays Don Ready, an ace traveling used car salesman, who along with his crew of misfits is called in to assist in the crucial July 4 sale at Selleck Motors, a failing dealership in Temecula, California (just up the road from me, but it didn't feel very familiar, in case any Temeculans will wonder if they'll get some extra kick out of it).

Ready's crew consists of Jibby Newsome (Ving Rhames), Babs Merrick (Kathryn Hahn) and Brent Gage (Don Koechner), Rhames's character of which is pretty funny. They are crazy and sell cars.

The lot is owned by Ben Selleck (James Brolin), and if he can't move a lot of cars very quickly, he'll lose the dealership to a rival across town, Stu Harding (Alan Thicke), whose son Paxton (Ed Helms), coincidentally, is engaged to Selleck's daughter Ivy (Jordana Spiro). Paxton wants to turn the lot into a "rehearsal space" for his middle-aged "man band."

Selleck's son Peter (Rob Riggle, usually quite funny) is Robin Williams's character from Jack, and that plays about as well here as it did there, except less funny in The Goods (I believe this is at least technically possible).

There are a few bright spots. Piven is working very hard, and he does manage to score some good laughs. Rhames's subplot and all of his appearances are entertaining. And Craig Robinson is kind of humorous as DJ Request, who does not want to hear it, before this joke, like most of the other continuing jokes in the film, is also mercilessly run into the ground.

One of the bright spots is not a labored cameo by Will Ferrell, more listless even than in this summer's Land of the Lost. Even Ken Jeong, surprising and funny in The Hangover, is about 400 times less funny in a similar amount of screen time.

This is the first feature film from Neal Brennan, Dave Chappelle's writing partner on "Chappelle's Show," and also on the classic feature Half Baked. The Goods is just half-baked (I did it again!).

By the time they start running little pictures of the characters at the end, with boring updates on what happened to them "after the movie," like a true-crime TV movie, The Goods has worn out its welcome and just outlasted its strongest chuckles. It's hard to care what happened next.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

8/17/09

Review: A Perfect Getaway (2009)


A Perfect Getaway is a bit of a throwaway movie. It has all the elements to be pretty interesting, but decides to be much too "clever" for its own good. It has good actors and acting, production values, and a genial pace, even a bit of a sense of humor, but in the end the humor works against the twisty ending rather than for it.

It's the story of a newly married couple, Cliff (the estimable Steve Zahn) and Cydney (the also estimable Milla Jovovich), who for some crazy reason decide to hike a very difficult wilderness trail in Hawaii for their honeymoon. One assumes they know about what they're getting into in terms of the hiking trip, but that's not exactly clear.

Things seem copacetic until they encounter a hitchhiking hippie-looking couple, Kale (Chris Hemsworth) and Cleo (Marley Shelton) a few miles from the head of the trail. First they stop for them, then backtrack on offering them a ride, then extend the invitation again, by which time they've caused a bit of friction, the first tension of the film.

It's hard to go on chronologically from here without spoilers, as it's the type of movie in which everybody is a suspect, in this case, the suspect in the murder of a couple in Honolulu which Cliff and Cydney learn about from others they encounter on the trail.

But suffice it to say that among the others they meet are yet another couple, Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez, who's really excellent above the level of the film), who have an act. Nick tells stories about his bad self as an undercover government commando, then Gina says, "He's really hard to kill."

Cliff and Nick bond over screenwriting, the movies and storytelling in general, and Nick displays some survival skills and war wounds which make us wonder if he really is telling the truth about his exploits. Cydney and Gina tell each other secrets and get close that way, so they continue along the trail together, despite both couples, broadly, meeting the known facts about the Honeymoon Killers, and both displaying lots of hardiness and savvy about wilderness excursions.

Some of Cliff and Nick's conversations about writing movies are meant to be self-reflective on the film, and they're funny enough in context, but the general problem is that they're smarter than the level of the film's own plot. When the reveal comes, and the guessing's mostly over, it's handled much more ham-handedly than all their big talk would lead the audience to hope to expect.

While on one level, the way it's handled (no, I'm not even going to tell you how) is actually kind of rare and unusual for a Hollywood movie, it also shows why. It's just not all that interesting, and it also cheats a bit too much. Getting back to Kiele Sanchez, she is interesting. She's been working for about nine years in major productions, though I hadn't really noticed her in anything before. Her performance is the lone spot-on performance on display, despite her being surrounded by very good, more prominent players like Zahn, Jovovich and Olyphant. In part, her character is better written than the others. In part, she's just very, very good, just right.

Two stars, by my rating system, is kind of a close call if you're a big fan of any of the people involved, or if you've heard anything particularly intriguing about a film from anybody else, but I'd give A Perfect Getaway a skip in general, if I could go back in time to decide whether or not to see it again. Ah, but then I might have missed Miss Sanchez....

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

Review: Ponyo [Gake no ue no Ponyo] (2009)


Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo (the Americanized English version) is delightful, a classic fairy tale in the tradition of "The Little Mermaid," with much more to offer than just a familiar take on a folk tale. It is visually spectacular and lots of fun.

The film starts with a stunning underwater sequence in which we see Ponyo (voice of Noah Cyrus) being "born" and hitching a ride to the surface of the ocean with a compliant jellyfish. I put "born" in quotations because Ponyo is something between a Dr. Moreau-like genetic experiment, the result of a magical spell by an evil wizard, and a mermaid-mutant. At first she looks like an embryonic person without a mouth, in a red blanket. This sequence is a pure, beautiful dream, a meditation on the origin of life in Earth's oceans.

But when Sosuke (voice of Frankie Jonas), a little boy who lives in a house set on a cliff near the ocean, finds Ponyo, he immediately calls her a "goldfish." She looks nothing like a goldfish, but everybody takes this seriously until a senior citizen (voiced by Lily Tomlin) at his grandmother's retirement home points out that she has a human-like face, and immediately predicts tsunamis to follow this strange omen.

Meanwhile, Ponyo gets a taste of human food from Sosuke's sandwich, and human blood when she licks a cut on his hand, healing the wound and also setting in motion a magical crisis, as her "father," the evil wizard (voiced by Liam Neeson) attempts to find her and bring her back underwater to figure in his plans to eliminate humankind.

Ponyo is not just a random strange creature, you see, but a sort of naiad-fairy born of the wizard and the Goddess of the Ocean. She can work magic, alone or in conjunction with her younger identical sisters, and the wizard feels he needs her to help set up a new try at evolution, with less or less annoying humans apparently the intended result.

It's hard to Americanize Miyazaki films; they're Japanese, heart and soul. But this attempt is the most successful I've seen so far (though, admittedly, I've only seen a few of his films). The dialogue has been adapted quite naturally, and lightly, humorously. The voice talents are excellent, especially Betty White and Tomlin as Sosuke's grandmother and a resident at his grandmother's senior home, Tina Fey as Sosuke's mother, and, most of all, Frankie Jonas as Sosuke. Jonas is very Charlie Brown-like in his vocals, and this resonates, as Sosuke wears an orange shirt and black shorts, is naturally curious and talkative, and at first keeps Ponyo as a pet and sees her as a pet and his special responsibility, not unlike Charlie Brown and Snoopy--and of course "Ponyo" is just about an anagram for "Snoopy." Ponyo also displays a Snoopy-like exuberance and outsize personality as she changes from Sosuke's pet to his magical friend.

There are some things that just won't translate, however. A Miyazaki film is not a Disney film, and the strangeness of Ponyo as a character is marked. She's a very Japanese kind of fairy, magical, yes, but not nearly as cuddly as Tinkerbell or Ariel. In fact, her nonchalance and single-mindedness are a little bit frightening, and it doesn't exactly help that she keeps changing from a little girl to a sort of a four-legged chicken monster, or that she often seems to die or hibernate for long periods of time. Her strong wish to be human, and to stay with Sosuke, occasion a crisis in nature which is lovely to behold, but really kind of scary. The crashing, roiling, animate waves become characters in themselves, out of proportion with the rest of the film's art and genuinely destructive.

This is truly a film that animation and fairy-tale fans of any age can enjoy together. It has a logic and a sense of magic that feel unique and shake up expectations one might have for an all-American animated or children's film. It's quite gorgeous.

There are also some crazy funny "Ponyo" songs over the end credits, so you can stay and laugh if you'd like. Some kids in the showing I took in got a giggle from the rhyming of "fishy in the sea" with "little girl with a round tum-my."

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

8/15/09

Review: The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)


The Time Traveler's Wife is an excellent abridgment of a great novel. The novel is better, because it doesn't have to leave out any details, or skimp or stint on exploring their implications in full. The movie might have been better if the filmmakers had been able to include more of these details and implications, but on the whole, enough of the essence of the story has been retained to make it more than worthwhile to see.

The film opens just before the lead character, Henry DeTamble, first discovers he's a time traveler. He's riding in a car singing Christmas songs with his mother when a terrible accident intervenes, sending him flying through space and time in a thoroughly disorienting and frightening sequence he later attempts (over and over again) to help himself organize and get through in the best way possible.

This is what much of the film is about. If you could go back in time, what would you change? Could you really change it? What would the practicalities be? How would you deal with them? Time only ever moves forward, even for Henry, and we watch him discover what this can mean for the "big moments" in his life, to which he returns again and again helplessly, and unable to significantly alter the past--just like everybody does internally.

Eric Bana plays Henry seriously and earnestly. Frankly, I can't imagine trying to be constantly reorienting myself to the vicissitudes of the time travel plot as Bana in particular has to have been able to do as an actor to make the emotional story intelligible as he does. It's a pretty remarkable acting feat, and he was probably quite smart to realize early on that earnestness would have to be a major ingredient. As such, it's not the kind of earnestness we might cringe at in other love stories, because it's also a survival and coping strategy for his chronologically impaired circumstances.

Rachel McAdams is also quite good as Henry's soulmate and wife, Clare Abshire. Speaking of cringing at earnestness, I offer her previous love-story movie, The Notebook, as Exhibit A. If you haven't seen it, lucky! But again, a similar kind of earnestness, which turned into super-annoying schmaltz in The Notebook, works here. We also see that tested believably, as in the novel, though a little more of that might have been more illuminating, too.

Just as a sidenote, Bana and McAdams have both made good impressions this year, with a truly sparking performance from McAdams in a lesser film, State of Play, and strong, insightful work from Bana both as the villain in Star Trek and as Adam Sandler's character's rival for an old flame in the great Funny People.

There are some very good things in the book which are missing in the film. More time in Henry's childhood, more rock and roll, an extra trip in time or two to emphasize the chaotic nature of his affliction, and especially a bit more time devoted to his friendship with Gomez (Ron Livingston), which gets pretty short shrift, would have added some character dimensions which seem a bit uncertain as the film handles them. But it's hard to complain when the narrative, characters and love story are all pretty well retained.

I should say that I read the novel about a year ago, and just once, but found it to be truly outstanding, touching, audacious about its premise, and quite satisfying. The movie feels the same way to me, but I may be slightly transferring my knowledge or feelings about the story and characters in a way that is more charitable to the film than might otherwise be the case. On the other hand, my exact grasp of all the details from the novel is a bit hazy by now, so the things I suggest might have been included to good effect are things that really stood out for me in the book, and others might miss something else.

But if you're looking for a breathless love story that's not pure cheese, an interesting and complex narrative which says a lot about the nature of love and relationships over time, and great performances, The Time Traveler's Wife delivers.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

8/14/09

Review: District 9 (2009)


A crazy mish-mash of sci-fi and pop culture tropes of the last twenty or thirty years, District 9 is entertaining, a passable action film, not-bad science fiction, quite funny in places, and stilted in others. It wants to be more than an okay alien invasion movie like 1996's The Arrival, but it's not much more than an okay alien invasion movie like that.

The film stars Sharlto Copley as Wikus Van De Merwe, a mid-level bureaucrat at MNU, a corporation tasked with moving a huge population of shrimp-insect hybrid-looking refugee aliens from their Johannesburg home of 20 years, known as District 9, to a new, more "concentrated" home in "District 10." The apartheid, Holocaust and refugee-situation analogies abound, and some are handled more adroitly than others.

A major weakness of the film is its frame, an "Office"-like conceit that we are watching documentary footage, or news footage of certain events. That conceit is not carried out as well as in other recent efforts like Cloverfield or Quarantine, where the camera actually becomes a believable observer of wildly out-of-control events, as we often see events that could not possibly have been captured on film, or, if they were, the audience can't tell any way how this might have been accomplished. As a result, many of the scenes don't seem to blend well together, hurting the overall unity of the storytelling effort.

That said, the film does have a certain dark sense of humor which is more usefully ironic at certain times than at others, well-executed integration of the alien effects with more quotidian settings, and, in places, strong performances by the lead actor as the unfortunate Van De Merwe, as well as by Jason Cope as news correspondent Grey Bradnam as well as Cope again (and the digital/puppeteer team) as "Christopher Johnson," the alien elder/scientist who is trying to find a way home for his fellow beings.

A major weakness of the parallels between this story and real-life situations it means to parody and comment upon is the fact that these aliens really do not get along well with humans. They steal, fight and kill with impunity and greatly overwhelming physical and weapons superiority. Is this because of their situation, which might create conflicts and sympathies with similar situations in history, or just pure killer alien? The film poses these questions, then shows an alien ripping someone to shreds. Which is kind of funny, but not deeply analogous to apartheid, etc., so I found the joke to be somewhat strained, frequently.

It is funny when Van De Merwe, sprayed with a biological agent/alien fuel, begins transforming into a hybrid human-alien, and starts to mimic what has been presented as typical alien behavior. Is he just "humanist," following his own prejudices, or are the anti-social or weird behaviors truly hard-wired into the aliens' biology? This is the film at its best.

At its worst, the film tries for sentiment or emotional attachment and engagement which is not effective. Van De Merwe's wife (Vanessa Haywood) is only interesting when she's on the telephone with him when he goes on the run trying to save himself (from which side?), but is mawkish and better left on the cutting-room floor most of the time.

Sharlto Copley and Jason Cope both have a lot to do in this film, with Copley going from bureaucrat to fugitive to hybrid alien to action star, and Cope playing newsman Bradnam as well as many of the aliens. Copley in particular has a certain David Thewlis energy and is quite funny, moving in places and mostly charmingly odd. They both get to show an impressive acting range.

Overall, District 9 is satisfying, if overlong and too pat in too many places. The aliens aren't incredibly original or visually amazing, but they're good, and their plight is more interesting. If the film had more idea of where it was going and what it was trying to say, it could have been great.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

8/6/09

Review: (500) Days of Summer (2009)


(500) Days of Summer begins with a narrator who tells us a bit about the main characters, Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). It's a bit glib and silly, but illuminating enough. It also features the line, also included in the trailer, that the movie "is not a love story." This sets up all kinds of interesting expectations, and turns out to be true and false. But ultimately, it sets up more interesting expectations than the film delivers.

Don't get me wrong, the movie is entertaining and makes good points about relationships, features excellent performances from the leads, great music and a good overall message. But it also includes a lot of unnecessary frippery and folderol which finally distracts it from being a great film, and makes it only solidly pretty good.

Tom Hansen is a young guy working at an L.A. greeting-card company, having abandoned or put on hold dreams of being an architect. He's a romantic, as we are told and shown, and when he sets eyes on Summer, his boss's new assistant, he begins to suspect she may be "The One," not in the Matrix sense, but his true soulmate in the world.

The movie is told out of order, with titles flipping by at such breakneck speed telling you what day it is that it is annoying enough to try to consciously ignore to try to focus on the story. Telling stories out of order is no new trick, and there's nothing particularly useful about knowing which of the 500 days you're looking at, because you get the general idea about where they are in their relationship organically from the story. So that's both a storytelling compliment and a frippery complaint at once.

The romance proceeds in fits and starts, with break-ups, arguments, inappropriate displays of aggression and obsession from Tom, and near-total insouciance from Summer, guaranteed, of course, to only reel Tom in further. They have some great, wonderfully close and romantic times as well. This is sort of where the narrator's opening comment messes with the audience's expectations, and it kind of works.

Tom's little sister Rachel (Chloe Moretz) is an interesting character when she first shows up, but quickly becomes one-note and has nothing much to do. This is about the pattern for all of the secondary characters, they're more like tertiary characters, but this mostly serves the story.

There are some truly great moments. Their meeting over a common interest in The Smiths in an elevator is well done. Tom's dance number is really good, and Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel have real chemistry on display in a lot of really charming scenes. But for every peak there's a valley, scenes that just don't work, like Tom's quitting his job with a depressed, nonsensical soliloquy, or documentary-type scenes of people talking with no point.

The ending leaves a lot to be desired, despite being nearly perfect. It delivers its message well, but insists on doing so heavy-handedly, or even with a hammer, which kind of ruins it at the last second. It's like you're smiling, then somebody tells a bad joke.

In all, (500) Days is well worth seeing for the performances of the main actors and the truthfulness of the romance, but it stubs its own toe a few times. It is and isn't a love story. It is a good movie, but not a great one.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

Sotomayor confirmed as third woman Supreme Court justice ever

From the Los Angeles Times:

Sonia Sotomayor completed an unlikely and historic journey today, one that began with her birth in a Bronx, New York, housing project 55 years ago and culminated in her confirmation as the Supreme Court's 111th justice.

When she is sworn into office, Sotomayor will take her place as the high court's first Latino and just its third woman. She was approved by a 68-31 Senate vote after three days of debate. Nine Republicans crossed party lines to support her.

Sotomayor was nominated in May by President Obama to replace retiring Justice David H. Souter. A judge on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals for the last 11 years, Sotomayor worked her way through two Ivy League schools and was a Manhattan prosecutor and corporate lawyer before joining the federal bench.


Just three more woman justices shy of about where we ought to be....

Alex
Choose Our President 2012

8/3/09

Review: Funny People (2009)


Funny People is the best drama about comedians I've seen, though I've also liked Punchline and Broadway Danny Rose, which both sort of qualify. It's funny without ruining the touching emotional parts and touchingly emotional without being mawkish, shallow or in a hurry to get to the next laugh.

It's not a spoiler to say that in the first few moments of the film, Adam Sandler's character, George Simmons, a successful actor/comedian not unlike Sandler himself, is diagnosed with leukemia, with a grim prognosis. He starts an experimental medication course and starts surveying his life, trying to figure out his next moves.

During a stand-up routine at a comedy club, he bombs, can't connect with the audience, and is even a bit depressing. The next stand-up onstage is Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), who comments on Simmons's routine in a funny but insulting way. Simmons responds by hiring Wright to be his ghostwriter, assistant and essentially only friend, a big career move for Wright.

The real love story of the film is between Simmons and Wright, as Wright is swept along into his glamorous but predicted-not-to-last life. They get to know each other and learn a lot about each other and themselves as they work together.

This also intertwines with and complements subplots between Ira and his comedian/actor roommates Leo (Jonah Hill, very funny) and Mark (Jason Schwartzman, also very funny), who have moved at least one rung up the show-biz ladder farther than Ira, and a new girl in Ira's life, Daisy (Aubrey Plaza, deadpan but fun).

The secondary love story is pretty good too, between Simmons and his first love, Laura (Leslie Mann, quite good, and incidentally director Judd Apatow's wife and the mother of their two children, who play Laura's children). When she finds out that Simmons is sick, she reveals that she considers him the love of her life, and is in an unhappy marriage with Australian Clarke (Eric Bana, good without full-face makeup).

Director Judd Apatow is an old friend of Adam Sandler's, and he uses this fact, and the fact that Sandler's been all over the media for a long time, to construct some very funny and meaningful background footage for Sandler's character, George Simmons. In addition to old footage, new footage of ridiculous films Simmons has made appears as well, and lots of this is hysterical, in itself and as a comment on Sandler's own absurdist and up-and-down movie career.

The movie has perfect rhythm between the dialogue and the editing, nothing is included that isn't necessary and nothing stalls or moves things off track. The soundtrack is amazing, too, with no Beatles songs, but songs from each of the Beatles post-group, and notable contributions from Jason Schwartzman and the late great Warren Zevon.

I've been saying it a lot lately, what with Year One, Moon, Public Enemies, The Hurt Locker and Soul Power all out, but Funny People is a perfect film. It's Sandler's best acting since Punch-Drunk Love, and he's a pretty good actor. You might cry or tear up, you'll definitely laugh and keep thinking about it.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

P.S. I added some "Vote Kerry" t-shirts like Ira Wright wears in the movie, just click on the design to visit the store:



Alex

Hutchison leads July 2012 GOP presidential nominee web poll results

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) led July voting for who respondents thought would be the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. (I forgot to post results for June here on the blog; Thune led, you can see full results here.) As usual, this is of self-selected voters of any party who found my website, so it is not scientific in any way. (This means you should not complain that it was not scientific because it's never going to be.) Voting is just for fun, please no wagering. Here are this month's results:

July 2009

#1 - Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) ...14.5%
#2 - Sen. John Thune (SD) ... 13.8%
#3 - Fmr. Gov. Jeb Bush (FL) ... 11.8%
#3 - Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN) ... 11.8%
#3 - Fmr. Gov. Tom Ridge (PA) ... 11.8%
#4 - Fmr. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (GA) ... 7.2%
#4 - Fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR) ... 7.2%
#4 - Gov. Sarah Palin (AK) ... 7.2%
#5 - Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA) ... 5.3%
#6 - Fmr. Vice Pres. Dan Quayle (IN / AZ) ... 3.3%
#7 - Senate Min. Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) ... 2.6%
#8 - Gov. Haley Barbour (MS) ... 2%
#9 - Sen. Sam Brownback (KS) ... 1.3%
#10 - Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (MI / UT / MA) ... 0%
#10 - Other ... 0%

152 total votes cast / Margin of error ±100%

You can vote for this month's new poll here, or click the vote button from any of the Choose Our President 2012 pages. Also this month, I added a new choice, Rep. Mike Pence (IN).

Alex
Choose Our President 2012