The Hangover

Intelligent comedy is quite possibly one of my favorite genres yet something I rarely seem to find. Typically, there's...
* potty humor favored by 3rd grade boys (and all boys for that matter - sorry to generalize but c'mon mates - it's true)
* romantic comedies (which guys don't go to unless they're dragged, begged, pleaded with)
* black comedy (ala Coen Bros...there's always that fine line...should I be laughing at this?)
* slapstick (has its time and place, can't say I could have managed without "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and classics like Chaplin)

Then...there's the ever-elusive/ever-satisfying witty & clever comedy. Guess what? Much to my utter surprise - The Hangover is just such a discovery. It's super funny. On paper...I was set up for the usual potty humor antics and I was, to be fair - as a female viewer - a bit uninterested...I knew the following pieces of the equation:
Vegas (gross)
Bachelor party weekend (grosser)
Hangover (bodily noises on the horizon)

What does The Hangover actually offer? Hilarity & sharp writing. Fantastic characters played by a terrific troupe of actors. And for once, Heather Graham was bearable, don't worry guys - she still shows a little. Our story takes place over the course of a couple days. Our future groom, the bride's brother, and two compadres take off to Vegas for one last hurrah. Chaos ensues. Simple - but yet somehow not as conventional as you would think. The script is truly biting and the punchlines outshine each other as each one is delivered. It's as ridiculous as it is worst case scenario-handbook. You never know what will be revealed next and it just keeps getting better and better. Certainly worth a rental and even worth checking it out in the theater while it's still out.

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino and I have had a curious relationship for well over a decade now. He makes his films, and I find ways to pick at them. I always seem to fluctuate somewhere between love and hate (just like Coen Brothers films)...and afterwards, I whine and complain about the tiniest of things until I suddenly hate the film. It's silly really because mostly, I really like his films. Mostly, I think he's a downright brilliant filmmaker. But sometimes I let my idea of Quentin Tarantino interfere with the real auteur and I'm left practically in tears at the piece of almost cinematic perfection he has just created. My take on "Inglorious Basterds" certainly carries with it many of the same nit picky opinions as our other escapades. It's difficult to just turn that sort of thing off (I've tried). But what this film somehow managed to do in ooooo about 2 1/2 hours is totally win me over. This time around, the genius totally outweighed all my criticisms and for once (okay, three times) I can truly say, I loved this Tarantino movie.

Typical Tarantino goriness aside, the script is perhaps his most spectacular - spinning a complex web while simultaneously keeping the story simple enough to follow and really dive into. The dialogue I would venture to say is his finest. And that's saying something, his films are some of the most quotable out there. The cast of characters (and the stellar actors embodying them) is a veritable cacophony of circus-like extremes always standing on the precipice between serious drama and hilarity. In fact, I wasn't really sure at times if I was supposed to laugh or not - after all it takes place during WWII in Europe. And then...there's the tension. I felt it, no really...truly...felt it. My body temp rose, I felt heat emanating from my chest and boom...heartbeat quickening - total immersion. Again, brilliance.

The inglorious basterds are an American renegade special ops group led by Brad Pitt. They team up with Brits and take on a special mission to take down some of the highest Nazi officials. Unbeknown to them, another similar operation is already underway. The roulette begins. There are two real standouts from my perspective.
1) There is a bar standoff reminiscent of the Tony Scott-helmed, Tarantino-written gem "True Romance" that is simply perfection.
2) Christoph Waltz. Our main villain. Oh my goodness. Words can't even express the phenomenal performance that he gives. It's...yeah, I just don't have words for it.

After the film, the usual post mortem takes place..."did you like it?" "it was so gross" "I had to cover my eyes" But this time there is so much more to discuss. There is much banter about the psychological prowess that Tarantino possesses. He knows how to really stir up his audience - not with cheap tricks and fake blood buckets (although, he does often pull that out of his arsenal)...but from honest to goodness old school filmmaking techniques. The man has studied, watched, and incorporated so much into his work. You can't help but feel his love of cinema in this film - through every homage, each scene, even the credits. Hell, the cinema is at the center of the plot!

The trailer is here. Check it for sure in the theater, well worth it.

District 9

So what do you do, if you're slated to direct the upcoming "Halo" movie and the studios yank the rug out from under you? Quite simple, you run off to South Africa with Peter Jackson and make your own movie...with aliens...that are called Prawns. Yup, shrimp-like dudes with cool weaponry.

Basically, a monster-sized alien ship has parked itself right on top of the city of Johanessburg. The aliens are rounded up into District 9, a slum regulated by the weapons-maker, Multi-National United. Sounds like the perfect storm right? It is. Expect splats, ewws, and farm animal carcasses. Not going to say much more so I don't ruin it, just go check it out.

The trailer is here.

The Time Traveler's Wife

Expectations can sometimes get the best of us. Take for example Season 2 of "Flight of the Conchords"...funny? Yes. Season 1 caliber? Not so fast! Maybe that was unfair. Comparing "The Time Traveler's Wife" to "Flight of the Conchords" in any capacity is severely inaccurate. It's not anywhere close to the same level of storytelling. Not that I expected it to be "Flight of the Conchords". Oh man, this is getting so far off track. Sorry, just started up Season 2 of FOTC last week.

Okay, here is the deal "The Time Traveler's Wife" was actually boring. Boo, I know. I was expecting some romantic cheesy love-fest that was going to have me balling about 3o minutes into it. Sadly, there were no tears. In fact, other than the occasional "wow, Rachel McAdams really is very pretty and Eric Bana is a handsome devil even with a terrible haircut" my brain didn't invest too much throughout the entire film - and my emotional reaction was decidedly lackluster, which is pretty tough to do. I cry at everything. Skip this in the theater and rent it when you've got a rainy afternoon with nothing to do.

Tomorrow, something with a bit more pizazz. Can't wait.

I Love You Man

Here's to the nice guy. Poor Peter (Paul Rudd). He's the ultimate boyfriend - he's perpetually and totally in touch with his feminine side. So naturally, like all girlfriends Zooey (Rashida Jones) has to find something "wrong" with her perfect situation. What's the trouble? Peter doesn't spend time with or even have any guy friends. You know, to drink beer with, rock out with, and otherwise be manly with. When Peter does meet that bud Sydney (Jason Segel), there is, as expected backlash from Zooey. There is no groundbreaking filmmaking here but it's fun, silly, and easy to relate to. Good rental fare with pizza and your pals.

Julie & Julia

Fair warning dear readers: the only humanly possible way to get through "Julie & Julia" comfortably is to eat a HUGE delicious meal beforehand. Otherwise, you'll be destined to be daydreaming of buttery enchantments throughout the entire film - which of course isn't a bad thing, but you'll be missing out on all the rest of the good stuff while you're busy drooling down your shirt.

Part biopic...part comedy...part...okay okay our story...Julia Child as we know was a phenomenal cook and she was responsible for bringing French cooking into American households. This film reveals how Julia turns her love of food into something bigger. We are also introduced to New Yorker Julie Powell...a gal stuck in a rut with a penchant for cooking. To mix up her life as she approaches 30, Julie takes it upon herself to write a blog about cooking her way through Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The narrative skips lightly back and forth in time following Julia's entry into the world of French cooking while simultaneously revealing more of Julie's life and the challenges she faces while trying to tackle Julia's recipes. The film is marvelous and the performances are every bit as delectable as the food.

Meryl Streep embodies Mrs. Child with unrelenting poise and hilarity. I've generally been impressed with her performances in the past. Heck, the woman has been performing strong for over 30 years but I truly believe she's just starting to hit her stride. Her most recent choices have really shown off her dynamic range - particularly her amazing comedic timing. Julie Powell is played by Amy Adams who continues to surprise and impress me with her lovable gentle performances. She can make me cry in about a second and then in the next moment, I'm laughing. Julia Child's wonderful husband is played by the ever-dapper, always wry Stanley Tucci. And Powell's husband is played by Chris Messina with all the humor you would imagine the real Julie's husband would have to have to survive a year of this gastronomical roller coaster of an adventure.

"Julie & Julia" is a delightfully splendid culinary & cinematic treat! So much so, I ran to the store right after it was over. What's for dinner you ask? I'll tell you this much, it's got butter - and lots of it.

The trailer for "Julie & Julia" is here.