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!

"Jeff, Who Lives at Home" Review

Whimsy can be hard to pull off. The awesome dearly departed TV series Pushing Daisies nailed it; mumblecore* movie Jeff, Who Lives At Home doesn't do as well due to its self-conscious oddness and mistaken belief that simplicity is profundity.

Jason Segal (stop me if you've heard this one before) plays a man-child stoner, Jeff, who, um, you know, it's in the title, and sits around all day smoking dope and watching TV. (Segal, really? No! Yes!) When a wrong number rings up looking for a Kevin, he sets off on an errand for his mother and begins following all the signs related to "Kevin" which leads him to misadventures and a little magical serendipity. Also occupying this world is his d-bag, a-hole brother (Ed Helms) who doesn't seem to understand why his wife (Judy Greer) is upset that he bought a Porsche while they live in a crappy apartment; and their mother (Susan Sarandon) who is being flirted with via IM by a secret admirer at her office.

Writers-directors Mark and Jay Duplass are trying to make a low-key meditation on fate and the interconnectedness of everyone and everything, but it doesn't work because everyone acts stupidly, only to suddenly make personal breakthroughs as the plot schedule dictates. Segal does better-than-needed work here making Jeff into something of a rootable character, but the sense of ennui pervades everything. When all the plot lines come together at the end, it's too pat.

I read an interview with Mark Duplass (who's also a very busy actor) in which he states that he doesn't mind sloppy camera work, zooming in to catch the action. He's kidding himself. This movie had the most needless calling-attention-to-itself camera shenanigans since Roger Dodger, snap-zooming over and over for no reason. This isn't the documentary style of The Office where it makes sense; this is just jumping around to have something visual happening. Knock it off, kids.

Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable.

* In the same interview, Duplass says that he hates being lumped in with the "mumblecore" label because it makes it sound like something people won't want to watch. Um, yeah?

"Prometheus 3D" Review

The build-up and anticipation for Ridley Scott's return to sci-fi after a 30-year hiatus - despite making the original Alien and Blade Runner he's never touched the genre since the latter - probably ensured that no one would be totally satisfied. From the coy is-it-a-prequel-to-Alien-or-not posturing, to a clever viral web video campaign, followed by trailers that revealed too much (the international trailer below really gives the whole thing away), it would've been hard to live up to the hype and, unfortunately, Prometheus didn't. What makes it more maddening is the number of incredibly stupid choices the script makes.

While I was watching the movie, I was on board with the ride. It looks great and because it was natively shot (and edited) in 3D, it's a rare case that it's worth spending extra to see it. However, as soon as it ended, the "Hey, wait a second!" questions started to pile up and my score started to slide. After reading some of the nerd rage, it fell another notch. It's a testament to Scott's visual craftsmanship that it took two hours to really notice how freaking stupid it was overall, though I did have some instant quibbles at how it seemed to violate its own rules. (Semi-spoiler example: We're told how toxic the atmosphere is and we see how far the ship is from the alien pyramid, but a character who was lost in the pyramid AND had his helmet melted is somehow able to walk back to the ship. Huh?!?)

The potential for something provocative and intellectual is there; who wouldn't want to know where we came from if it was from the stars? The problem is that the logical failings of the script start gnawing away at you from the jump. Would a trillion-dollar scientific mission really wait until it reached its destination after a two-year journey to then inform the crew why they're there? Would so many of the red shirt crewmen be so undisciplined as to basically ensure their doom? The original Alien worked because they were basically interstellar truckers who got detoured into a situation they couldn't understand. Shouldn't everyone have been briefed and acted intelligently? These are script-level issues and while the Blu-ray cut is supposed to restore 20 minutes, I doubt that all the blanks will be filled in and if they are, why wasn't that version put in theaters.

It's really too bad the script is a let down because some of the performances are excellent, starting with Michael Fassbender as the android David. We're automatically suspicious of him, but is he evil or merely amorally inquisitive? Charlize Theron is icy hot and Idris Elba as the ship's captain makes the most of his thin writing. However, the actual lead, Noomi Rapace (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is blah. She's supposed to be a woman of faith and much is made of that tension against the science, but she never really becomes as three-dimensional as a character as the visuals are. (See what I did there?) The red shirts are so nondescript that they don't even rise to the level of generic labels, like, well, I can't even make something up.

It's getting more and more annoying how so many movies are structured to fail in the most basic phase: the writing. When you add in all the pre-game hype about how Scott and company were going to tackle weighty themes, it makes the letdown about the illogical behavior and unanswered questions all the more dissatisfying. Say what you will about the endless philosophical nattering of The Matrix sequels; at least the Wachowski Bros attempted to get the blather up on screen along with the empty visual FX wankery. Prometheus (named after the god who stole fire and gave it to man) never catches fire and leaves us stranded in a barren, but beautiful, universe.

Score: 6/10. Catch a matinee and see it in 3D.


If you've seen it, check out this video by the notorious Mr. Plinkett that really reams the plot holes:

"The Dictator" Review

After the faux documentaries of Borat and Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen turns to a scripted comedy with the hilariously raunchy The Dictator. Starring as Admiral General Aladeen, a Khadafy-Saddam hybrid, Cohen tells the tale of the titular dictator's misadventures when he comes to New York City and is betrayed, waylaid, shaved, and starts hanging up with hippie chick Anna Faris, who has a lock on these types of roles.

There's not really much of a plot, but more a series of bits and episodes meaning if something doesn't deliver the laughs, another bit will be along shortly that should work. It's ragingly offensive, politically incorrect, has a couple of surprising good-sport cameos from Big Stars, and is generally funny as hell. Sure, it punks out on how ruthless a dictator he really is, but wouldn't you rather see despotic tyrants you can laugh at like the way Kim Jong-Il was lampooned in Team America: World Police

Cohen is the new Peter Sellers and The Dictator made me laugh a lot. What more do you want from a comedy.

Score: 8/10. Rent it.

This trailer barely hints at how funny the movie is. Perhaps too much of the good stuff was too dirty?

"The Darkest Hour" Review

A pair of idiotic dot-com wannabe tycoon twits travel to Moscow, get their idea stolen, roll over and play dead at the offense, go to the club and then get caught in an alien invasion in the maddening sci-fi thriller The Darkest Hour. Seriously, right off the bat the movie digs itself into a hole by having annoying jerks as protagonists and then saddling them with a pair of girls (will they become love interests at the end of the world?) and the guy who ripped them off and we're supposed to root for their survival.

It's odd that after the crappy first impression, the survivors actually start showing some signs of intelligence, not that it doesn't flee them at inconvenient moments in order to cause another one's demise. The way they suss out the limitations of the aliens power and figure out how to detect the invisible invaders presence is clever, but it's frustrating to see the novel concept with its cool disintegration effect sitting adjacent to some of the stupidest stupid you could not want to see in a movie.

As happens too often, The Darkest Hour lives and dies by the smarts of its script and as unique as its idea is, it's just too laden with dumbness to succeed overall. Too bad.

Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable.

"Clueless" Review

I haven't seen Clueless all the way through since it was in theaters in 1995. I don't even recall catching chunks on cable or anything, so there was plenty I didn't recall, though nothing I've been missing. It's still cute, but has aged terribly due to waaaaaay too many cultural references of that time. (Marky Mark, really? Who calls him that now? Besides everyone, I mean.)

I've never cared for Alicia Silverstone (the Non-Stick Bimbo, as I used to say) and the way she landed a two-picture, $10 million deal as if she was the reason this movie was a hit bothered me. Without Amy Heckerling's script and direction (she also directed Fast Times at Ridgemont High and created the Look Who's Talking series), would she have become a brief star and had her chubby bod squeezed into the Batgirl suit for the series-killing Batman & Robin? I think not. (OK, the weight shot was a little cheap. She's just round in the face like Jennifer Lawrence and one scene had her in a skirt so short, I was going "whoa!") To be fair, I can see why Hollyweird thought she had the goods; she's absolutely sparkling and charming. She makes what could've been a shallow, spoiled, annoying twit into a good-hearted semi-mess.

Which brings up the biggest problem with Heckerling's script: It's herky-jerky lack of flow, jumpy plotting, whiplash character shifts (S'stone's and Brittany Murphy's falling out and reconciliation feels like reels are missing; other stuff, too) and heavy reliance of pop culture references make it feel episodic, like a random selection of sit-com scenes. There's some good lines and moments which are still funny (e.g. "You're a virgin who can't drive." "You see how picky I am about shoes and they just go on my feet.") but the levels are all over the place. Cher is supposed to be ditzy and unprepared in school, requiring finagling to get better grades, but she drops a college-level vocabulary in her dialog.

It's also interesting to see the protozoic version of Paul Rudd's passive-aggressive demeanor before he got big. I'd remember that Murphy was heavier back then - a factor that led to the heavy dieting and body abuse that contributed to her tragic death at 32 - but she is unrecognizable with the brown hair and Brooklyn accent.

I'd almost picked up a cheap Blu-ray of this (EDIT: I have the Whatever! Edition DVD), but I'm glad I didn't because for all its cute moments, it doesn't hold up. (Now I'm worried about the 10 Things I Hate About You and She's All That Blus I have.) Instead, I watched it in HD from Amazon Instant Prime on my Xbox for free. That's the way to go. As if!

Score: 6/10. Stream it.

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