Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

"Horrible Bosses" Review

First things first: No, Jennifer Aniston does not show off her boobs in Horrible Bosses. The rumors that she shot a scene topless - I think I know where that could've happened - but they didn't know if it was going to get used (yeah, right - who wants to see that?) as far as this version goes, are bogus. Drat.

Secondly, watch this, cuz why should I type out the plot when it's pretty much all here?

A bunch of the funny bits are blown here, but fortunately it doesn't give away all the goods as the profane and outrageous comedy Horrible Bosses does manage to build upon the PG-rated antics shown here. (Jamie Foxx's character is named after the 12-letter euphemism for Oedipus.) As circumstances spiral out of control, it gets predictably frantic, but there are a few twists and turns to keep you guessing. The ending is a bit of an abrupt letdown and deus ex machina and the final gags are flat, but overall it delivers a goodly amount of laughs.

The key to comedies success or failure (after the script and direction) is the performances and the cast is appropriately manic. Jason Bateman is...well, the same as he is in every movie; Jason Sudekis is in amped-up lunkhead mode; I'm not familiar with Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia but he gets a little shrill and, I'm sorry, as they comment on in the movie, being sexual harassed by someone like Aniston is something worth going to work for. (Yeah, she's crazy, but yo!)

On the villain side, Kevin Spacey is a weasel, but that's sleepwalking for him. No, the revelations are Colin Farrell, sporting a gross combover, fat gut, and enough sleazy lowlife antics to make it hard to remember his leading man days. (There are tons of improv outtakes in the credits with him from a scene not in the movie, so look for a packed video release.) While some may be surprised by the man-eating, potty-mouthed Aniston, anyone who's seen her oddball flick Management knows she can be game for some wild stuff. She's a hoot, even without showing her hooters.

In case you're desperate to know, you see about this much:

Jamie Foxx is also good as the "murder consultant." Hard to believe that between him and Spacey, there are three Oscars in this movie.

Score: 7.5/10. If you're gung-ho to see a show, pay matinee prices; otherwise you can wait for a rental and it'll probably have even more deleted/alternate material.

What Gossip Girl Has Taught Me. (Updated)

When I post Clicker updates as to what I'm watching, the ones that get the most snide replies from my Facebook friends are those relating to Gossip Girl, the soapy teen series following the lives and trials of vapid Upper East Side trust fund brats in expensive clothes. While I never watched much, if any, Beverly Hills 90210 or Melrose Place (either back in the day or their recent incarnation) and didn't really show much interest in the show for the same reasons, I blind-bought the first two seasons on DVD during Black Friday 2009 because they were cheap - only $13 apiece.

They sat unwatched for months and my girlfriend sneered at my purchases the same way she did when I started buying Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons. Finally, we ran out of ways to avoid watching them and started in with her grousing about why we're watching this, but as she'd done then, she rapidly became hooked on these twits (mis)adventures and when we finished the 2nd season, she became agitated over the fact we didn't have the 3rd on hand and there were no good deals around until after Christmas.

While we've been having a lot of fun with the show - other than the fact that Serena is a simpy twit who was only hot during the couple of episodes where she was bitchy to Blair at Yale - but some tropes have become unavoidable, thus requiring comment:
  • The drinking age for rich kids in NYC appears to be 14. In pretty much every episode, everyone but the poor Humphrey ragamuffins is shown guzzling cocktails, sometimes at home (where their folks, if they happen to be around, never suggest having cocoa or a Pepsi), but frequently at bars, clubs, restaurants, etc. When Lindsay Lohan was blowing up as the star of Mean Girls and promptly started on her downward spiral, over and over she was spotted drinking in clubs under the legal age of 21 and I wondered who wasn't watching out for this. I'm always hearing about Detroit bars getting busted for serving underage customers, but in Gossip Girl's Gotham, membership in the upper class appears to have its privileges.

    UPDATE: In episode 3.7, Chuck's bar was shut down for having a fake liquor license. The cops came and grabbed the booze and shooed the patrons out the door. They didn't seem to notice all the sub-legal kids in the bar. This didn't happen when Rudy ran things!
  • No one owns an iPhone. This is the real headscratcher for me. The iPhone came out in June 2007 and as of the 3rd season - we're watching on DVD and are a year behind - which began airing in Fall 2009, no one is using one. Apple has sold approximately eleventy gazillion units - they're so ubiquitous that almost anyone who wants one has one, no one is impressed by them anymore and it carries about as much cachet as saying you watch American Idol - but on the Upper East Side, the kids who take limos everywhere, wear expensive designer fashions and basically want for nothing are still using feature phones, some with T9 keyboards. What the hell?!? The producers slave to create this fantasy universe of privilege and then have people boarding private jets to Europe making calls on phones you get for free with a service contract. This year Blair got a Blackberry, which puts her on the cutting edge. Of 2007. I haven't noticed a pattern of models that would indicate a reality-destroying product placement deal, but something's wrong.

    UPDATE: In recent S4 episodes, there has been some really obvious Microsoft product placement in the form of people using Bing to search for things, WinMo phones, and laptops with monochrome Windows logos where the Dell or HP logo would be. (M$ doesn't make a branded computer in North America like this.) Still no sign of an iPhone with 2 episodes left, meaning that as of May 2011, the iPhone still hasn't taken Manhattan in any of its four guises.

    UPDATE #2: The iPhone finally arrived in Season 5! It was a little coy early in the season, but as of Spring 2012, the poor little rich kids of the Upper East Side are now current. With a couple of years ago.
  • Money fixes everything. Self-explanatory. The greatest crime on the show, as in real life, is to be poor and the Golden Rule (i.e. he who has the gold makes the rules) is in full effect. Nate's family stories really put this across, but over and over, all trouble is swept aside with a spray of the money hose. Someone drown and a student needs expulsion from the school? How about a new library donation? (I wonder if this private academy looks at their upgrade wish list and then seeks out problem children to pimp for donations from concerned parents.)
  • Never tell an easy truth when you can tell a hard lie that will always backfire on you. Over and over and over and OVER, these twits choose to baldly lie about EVERYTHING to each other. After the inevitable being caught out, the lied-to frowns and makes noises about never being able to trust the liar again, but they move on and rinse and repeat the same credibility-shredding behavior, over and over and OVER. When will they learn that everyone would be cool with whatever if you told the truth in the first place?

    Over time, we started noticing a corollary to this rule...
  • When falsely accused of wrongdoing, never speak up in your own defense. If someone came up and accused you of doing something that could cost you your education, job or the trust of your friends, would you deny it and call out the slanderer or meekly act guilty and slink away. Maybe you'll eventually be exonerated, but in the meantime the damage will be done. What would you do? If you said, "Defend myself," then you're not on this show! Vanessa and Serena have both taken major hits in S4 because of this nonsense.
  • You are supposed to follow your destiny at all costs until the writers suddenly forget all about it. This is specific to Baby J, but also applies to the other Humphrey boy. Jenny has been set up as a Brilliant Fashion Designer for the better part of two seasons. First as making stylish school clothes, Pretty In Pink style, then as an intern for Eleanor Waldorf's fashion house, saving the day with her great style acumen. She then quits and sets off on her own with a crazy model friend, ultimately staging a guerrilla fashion show that made her the toast of the town with people begging to put out her designs. Even her killjoy fuddy-duddy father allowed her to basically drop out of school to pursue this break until...well, nothing. Suddenly, she was back at Constance, playing the mean girl reindeer games and not a peep about her success was heard. Last night, we watched episode 3.8 and she appeared to throw away her precious sewing machine. WTFF?!? It doesn't help that Taylor Momsen got taller and skinnier over the hiatus, but now she looks like a junkie skank and is acting like a beyatch. Again, WTFF, writers?!?
I'll be adding to this post as more lessons reveal themselves. Feel free to chime in on the comments with suggestions as to what lessons we may have missed.

"Sucker Punch (Extended Cut)" Review

The extended cut of Zach Snyder's interesting mess Sucker Punch is online ahead of next week's Blu-ray release. Being an impatient fellow and wanting to see if it was a drastic enough change to warrant rushing out and buying it immediately, I checked it out. Does the additional 18 minutes make Sucker Punch a great movie? No, but they certainly do a lot to punch up the action and somewhat fix the bumps in the theatrical cut.

Rather than rehash the whole plot and review (which can be viewed here) I'm just going to run thru the major differences:

• The opening scene where Baby Doll accidentally kills her sister is clearer because she shoots TWICE; the second time winging her stepfather's arm making it more logical that she hit her sister.

• The "Love Is The Drug" number glimpsed in the end credits (it's still there, too) is shown as a splashy montage early on illustrating the operation of the club/brothel. We see bits of the other girls' dances (which was a glaring omission based on the press at its release) and it eases us into the milieu better.

• The WWI battle scenes are much longer, including cool shots of Jamie Chung's pink bunny mecha, Vanessa Hudgens wasting legions of steampunk soldiers, and much more brutal trench warfare. This was apparently cut to get a PG-13 rating, but it really beefs up the badass babe ratio and should've been left in.

• The dragon castle sequence has more killing and trademark SnyderVision® (I just made that up!) camera speedramping, giving Rocket and Sweet Pea some good moments. All the extended battle stuff gives the other girls moments to shine; the theatrical cut was weaker for their removal.

• Finally, there is a scene with Jon Hamm's High Roller character which somewhat explains his reaction to what Baby Doll did as he did his work.

I noticed a few other odd bits and pieces of business, but nothing drastic.

The fundamental head-scratcher of the movie - what the heck happened and what was real? - isn't really resolved, but in the Cinefex magazine discussing the FX work of the film, such as this...

...being ENTIRELY CGI(!), Snyder mentions that the whole fantasy aspect is based on the structure of a short story I've never heard of called An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge in which a man imagines a whole life in the time it takes to be hanged. While it's interesting that he was using a conceit that's been used successfully before, I'd wager that 99.44% of the people who saw Sucker Punch had no knowledge of the story and the validity of a narrative based on a dying man's final imaginings, so they were left in the cold as far as comprehending what happened. Ironically, Snyder somewhat failed by OVERestimating the education of his audience, not by pandering or dumbing down his story. Too bad.

While the Extended Cut doesn't totally elevate Sucker Punch into unqualified success territory, it is an improvement and I'll be getting the Blu-ray with even more interest in the extras. This is the cut I'll be watching in the future.

Score: 8/10. At least rent the Blu-ray.

"Super 8" Review

I saw this when as a fluke. My pal McHatin and I were supposed to see an advance screening of Green Lantern and were within site of the box office when they announced it was sold out. Unlike the disastrous preview of The Hangover Pt. 2 we'd been shut out of a few weeks back, the theater generously offered free admission to anything showing within the next hour. Since I was on a tight schedule, leaving for Toronto in the morning for NXNE, we chose the movie starting at the same time as our preview was supposed to: J.J. Abrams' homage to Spielberg, Super 8.

Set in 1979, it follows Joel Courtney (me neither), a 13-year-old boy whose mother was killed in a steel mill accident, leaving him alone with his distracted sheriff deputy father who can't relate to his kid's interest in filmmaking. Joel and his classmates are making a Super 8 zombie movie and Joel provides the makeup effects. (That he's not the director is a different angle than you'd expect.) When the director asks Elle Fanning, a classmate, to join the project as a love interest, a smitten Joel is agog. However, there is something regarding her drunken white trash father and his possible responsibility for Joel's mom's death hovering over them.

While filming a scene at a train station at night, they witness their high school science teacher cause a MASSIVE - it's like something from Transformers - train derailment, barely escaping harm. They can't understand why he did it, but when the military arrives in force and weird things, from people disappearing to cars engines on a sales lot going missing, lead them to guess that something escaped from the train. (They must've seen the trailer.) Is it the monster from Cloverfield or what?

Super 8 is two movies, one of which is very good and interesting; the other tacked on in such half-hearted fashion that it almost feels as if Abrams sabotages himself in self-loathing for having to put it in to satisfy modern studio demands for BIG ACTION. The part focusing on the kids is quiet and well-played. The look of Spielberg films of that era like Close Encounters and E.T. is aped well (with a dose of lens flare to get the Abrams-haters knickers in a twist), but it's the performances of young actors born over a quarter-century later that makes it work. (There are a lot of hideous sideburns on display. It looks more 1974 to me, but whatever.)

The monster stuff doesn't work as well. We never get a decent look at it until the end and the whole aspect of what it is and how the Evil Military is abusing the poor thing that just wants to steal enough junk and kill enough people to get home is hackneyed. The connection of the science teacher to the creature is laughable and handled in a clumsy voiceover that made McHatin chirp, "Message!" Remember when the U.S. military were portrayed as heroes in Spielberg movies? Apparently he doesn't. Lazy, stupid, and distracting. It's just that a small film about filmmaking kids is impossible to sell to summer audiences, but you can tell where Abrams heart was because it's called Super 8 and not Train Monster.

The breakout performance here is Elle Fanning, previously known best for being Dakota's little sister who played the younger versions of Dakota's characters. (Look at her IMDB page for yourself.) While Dakota has always been good, though throwing off a bit of a Jodie FosterBot 2.0 vibe, Elle made me think of Michelle Pfeiffer or Charlize Theron which for a girl who was only 12(!) when this movie was made is amazing. She's definitely one to watch.

While Super 8 is a bit of a muddle, the parts that work more than overpower the fluff that doesn't. Also, there's a nifty bonus movie during the end credits!

Score: 8/10. Catch a matinee.

"Source Code" Review

Part Groundhog Day, part The Matrix, part Quantum Leap, director Duncan Jones' (fka Zowie Bowie, David's son) follow-up to the underseen gem Moon (with an Oscar-overlooked performance by Sam Rockwell) is an occasionally provocative, though ultimately insubstantial and inconsistent if you really think of the logic it portrays.

Jake Gyllenhaal wakes up on a train and discovers he's in another man's body. While trying to figure out what's going on, the train explodes and wakes up strapped in what looks like a wrecked plane. He's an Army chopper pilot in Afghanistan, so what's going on. Vera Farmiga appears on a monitor and asks him about the explosion and then tells him he's going back and has 8 minutes to find the bomber so they can prevent a greater tragedy. The story then rinses and repeats.

The way they show Jake rapidly cutting through the early stages of each trip into the source code simulation is logical, but when you see who the bomber is, you realize that the premise has a logic gap you could drop a bomb-laden train car through. Without spoiling things, if it is possible to capture the residual memories of people after they've died, then the bomber shouldn't be present in the recreation since he's not dead at the scene, no matter what the found wallet implies. Also, the revelation about what Jake's condition is, while somewhat ballsy, falls apart when you actually see how he is; it's frankly medically impossible.

Then there's the pretty girl, played by Michelle Monaghan. Why is he smitten with a girl he never spends more than a couple of minutes with? Why save her? Because she's cute? What if she's a psycho hose beast and it only becomes obvious to everyone after they've endured her for 10 minutes? The final trip through the Matrix, er, source code also breaks the rules they've set up along the entire story. (Something similar happened with Minority Report and the leap didn't do that film any favors either.)

While it's not as good as Moon, it's an OK rental for those with a decent tolerance level for inconsistency. Good performances, including the always awesome Jeffrey Wright, and a neat idea; too bad they don't stick the landing. Maybe next time. (Heh.)

Score: 6/10. Rent it.

In an inspired meta detail, Jake's father is played on the phone by none other than Scott Bakula. (Think about it. Hilarious, no?)

"Dance Flick (Unrated)" Blu-ray Review

23 minutes into this movie and I've laughed 2-1/2 times, one of which was a throwaway sight gag. Hit eject. Put in sell box. Review done. Next!

Score: DNF/10. Skip it.

No, I'm not going to look up the trailer to post here.

"Red Riding Hood" Review

The problem with Red Riding Hood isn't that it's so bad, but that it's so bland and uninvolving. It passes before your eyes and despite some lovely cinematography and compositions, it's a snooze.

Amanda Seyfried lives in a medieval village where she's in love with a poor woodsman, but here mother has arranged that she marry the blacksmith's boy. (Both of these vapid twits are typical 21st Century boy-men with no acting skill, better suited for a CW show.) The werewolf that has terrorized the town for generations has killed her sister, prompting them to summon werewolf-killing priest Gary Oldman, who is your go-to guy when you want some scenery mauled with dignity, not Nic Cage style.

Fr. Gary says the wolf is in the town, hiding amongst them and blah-blah-woof-woof. Amanda gets the titular garment and Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke tries to keep the mystery of who the wolf is going to the point of making the movie into Red Herring Hood. I just couldn't stay focused on the movie because I didn't care.

Score: 3/10. Catch it on cable.

"X-Men: First Class" Review

11 years later, it's easy to forget how seminal the original X-Men movie was. Comic book films were a joke. Batman & Robin had run that horse into the ground with camp, nipples, and a tubby Batgirl. Other than Blade, a third-string comic that I'd bet 99% of the audience didn't know was originally a comic, not much was going on with the genre.

But after Bryan Singer's film, everything exploded and a decade later, theaters are an embarrassment of riches with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger (who will join Hulk and Iron Man for Joss Whedon's ultimate nerdgasm flick, The Avengers) representing Team Marvel and Green Lantern hoisting the DC banner until The Dark Night Rises and Man of Steel will arrive next year with the rebooted Tobey Maguire-free Amazing Spider-Man.

But I've always been partial to the X-Men movies; X2: X-Men United is my pick for the best comic book movie ever. I don't get the nerd rage against X3: The Last Stand. It wasn't as good as X2, but that's like saying Angelina Jolie in Wanted is a dog compared to the way she looked in Mr. & Mrs. Smith because she's too skinny. The Wolverine movie was a bit of a botch, but compared to Ang Lee's Hulk or Elektra, it was X-Men. The ironic connection between the maligned X3 and the new X-Men: First Class is that director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) was slated to direct the former before leaving the project, forcing the rushed job Brett Ratner did, and with one fell swoop, reinvigorates the franchise with verve and style.

Because it's after 3:30 4:10 am, I've got work in the morning, and the Duke Nukem Forever demo came out after 14 years of waiting, I'm gonna make this a short and sweet Q&A format review.

Is it any good? Absotively YES! It's easily the near-equal of the first two films.

How are the new stars? Uniformly good from top to bottom with few exceptions. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender don't make us forget the stellar Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor X and Magneto, but they don't make us miss them either. By setting the story in 1962, the age differences are mooted.

Jennifer Lawrence is going to be a huge star off of this, setting her up for mega-stardom when The Hunger Games hits next spring. She's got a ripe, voluptuous face and figure which may not match vintage Scarlett Johansson for sheer vavoom, but the fact she doesn't seem up her own fine ass with smugness counts for a lot. With ScarJo banging Sean Penn now - all together now....ICK!!! - after dumping Green Lantern, she's about to be less the object of nerd desire than she was when cast as Black Widow in Iron Man 2.

Kevin Bacon is a pimp here and he makes playing "6 Degrees" a hella lot easier now that he's in the same movie as Ray Wise, Michael Ironside and James Remar. The other mutants on each side get short shrift on screen time, but they make it count. Ironically, January Jones as curvy Emma Frost seems the flattest. She doesn't wreck things, but could've been livelier.

They were still shooting this thing about four months ago. How badly rushed does it look? It doesn't. The special effects look slick; the score is dialed in; perhaps a few tweaks in editing may've made it even better, but it doesn't look or feel slapped together. If anything, the hectic pace and locked-in release date may've worked in its favor since Vaughn didn't have time to Kubrbick out and shoot a zillion takes of people opening doors.

I hear they've messed with the comic book timeline. They do to a degree, but oh well. The biggest change from previous films is the prologue of X3 where a walking Charles and Erik go to meet a young Jean Grey has been retconned out of existence as we see how Charles got put in the wheelchair here.

How's the Stan Lee cameo? There isn't one, much to the nerd rage consternation of my sidekick, McHatin. However, a very crowd pleasing (and not really unexpected) cameo does occur. (Hint: Snikt! Snikt!) UPDATE: Reading around the Intartoobz, there appears to be a 2nd cameo from a familiar face, though I totally missed it for they aren't as recognizable as you'd think.

You want to play Duke Nukem, so what's the bottom line? It's really, really good. If the were selling Blu-rays at the popcorn stand on my way out, I would've bought one. I hope they make more along this line with Vaughn helming. X-Men: First Class is a first-class movie indeed.

Score: 9/10. Pay full price if you're an X-Men fan; do a matinee if you're casual.

"Resident Evil: Afterlife" Blu-ray Review

When it comes to dumb action movies, I'm pretty easy to please: I can cope with stupid as long as I'm not bored. But hack director Paul W.S. Anderson - not to be confused with self-absorbed twit Paul Thomas Anderson of Magnolia shame - manages to be both stupid, boring AND make his wife and baby mama Milla Jovovich come off as not-that-hot in Resident Evil: Afterlife.

The story, such as it is, opens with an army of Alice clones (revealed at the end of Resident Evil: Extinction) attacking the underground headquarters of the Umbrella Corporation in Tokyo. After much slo-mo gun and sword play with shockingly poor split-screen effects - the SFX quality is all over the map in this movie - the complex, along with most of Tokyo is destroyed and Alice has been rendered merely human after the bad guy, who acts like a smarmy Val Kilmer, injects her with something that shuts down her superpowers.

Six months later she's a plane to Alaska, seeking a supposed safe haven only to find an empty beach with Ali Larter from the last movie attacking her, under the control of a huge ruby-and-metal spider thing attached to her chest that gives her amnesia. Alice frees her and the fly to L.A., spotting survivors on the roof of a prison surrounded by zombies and then there's a ship and a big guy with an axe the size of a Buick station wagon and a final fight ripped off from The Matrix about a decade too late and then it's over with a cliffhanger and a supposed shocking ending scene in the credits that's spoiled by the cast credits ahead of it.*

It's a testament to his hackitude that Anderson makes wet and dirty Milla and Ali kicking ass both not hot and not entertaining. When the red shirt characters get bumped off, it's handled so offhandedly, we don't even miss them as if we even cared whether they survived. The pacing is leaden, the performances stiff - though Milla's quiet despair in her video diaries is good - and the action flat and lifeless for a movie that showed in 3D. It's just a snore and a waste of a good B-movie franchise. Stick with the first and third installments.

While the movie blows, the Blu-ray's transfer is crisp and clean thanks to the sharp digital photography from the Pace/Cameron Fusion system (though not in 3D here) that was invented for Avatar. The soundtrack is booming, too. Too bad the movie doesn't merit making it a show-off-home-theater disc. The 45 minutes of featurettes are mostly EPK fluff full of happy joy talk about how awesome everyone thinks everyone is and makes me wish I could see the movie they thought they were making.

Score: 2/10. Skip it.

* SPOILER ALERT! In the cast, they have Sienna Guillory listed as Jill Valentine, the game character she played in 2004's previously worst-in-series Resident Evil: Apocalypse. I was scratching my head (figuratively) wondering where she had been in the movie? Then they show the interior of the incoming attack choppers and she's got one of the spider devices on her and she's leading the assault. She looks totally different - before she had short, brown hair; now it's long and blonde - and if she hadn't been listed 20 seconds earlier, I wouldn't have gotten the gag.
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