August 17, 2009

Weekend In Reviews

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra - Oh my goodness if this isn't the cheesiest movie I've seen since...Transformers. (That's the first Transformers, not the Revenge of the Plottless Sequel - which I did not see.) And it strikes me as strange to create a movie around toys. Like, assigning complicated back story to these inanimate objects is the point for CHILDREN when they're playing with the dolls but why adults sit down and script said back story is something I just can't understand.

So it was silly and gimmicky and a total cheese fest but it was still a superior movie to Transformers which had no coherent story and just constant ridiculousness. Here, two particularly great US Army soldiers - Duke and Ripcord (because no one in this movie can just have a name like a normal person) - are besieged by baddies (led by The Baroness) while transporting some nano-tech warheads for the UN. Fortunately, some equally well-equipped good guys (Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Breaker and Heavy Duty) show up to save Duke and Ripcord who then insist that they be taken to the groups headquarters and stuff. Turns out these good guys are part of a secret, global organization called GI Joe (led by Hawk). It's like a black ops division of the UN. So there are some tests and then Duke and Ripcord are let into the GI Joe program on a trial basis right after HQ is infiltrated by the baddies who succeed in making off with the warheads.

The destruction of the Eiffel Tower, a ludicrous chase through Paris, some shenanigans at the Arctic Circle, several flashbacks, some mamings and a zillion deaths follow. We also meet Destro, Dr. Mindbender, Storm Shadow, and the mysterious Doctor who eventually becomes in Cobra Commander.

As mindless action goes, it wasn't terrible. There are some pretty low-rent effects happening here for what seems like a high-budget movie but for the most part, the acting is decent and there was more thought put into the story here than one would have guessed. The setup for a sequel was decent and they sure staff GI Joe with the most attractive people they can find. The Cobra organization doesn't do too bad with the ones whose faces we can see either. I guess I'd say this movie is worth watching if you're in the mood for something mindless and silly with a lot of action or if it's on Spike some afternoon while you're cleaning or doing your taxes.

I Love You, Man - Paul Rudd is one of those guys who allows his life to be consumed by his girlfriends and therefore has no friends of his own. His closest acquaintances are women but even then they aren't real friends, just the people he chats with at work. When he gets engaged his fiance starts to wonder about who will be in the wedding on his side when she has all 42 of her closest friends standing up with her.

So he sets out on a mission to make some guy friends with the help of his mother and his gay brother. Yes, that works out exactly as well as you'd expect. Then he randomly meets Jason Segal and, wouldn't you know, they hit it off and instantly become good buds.

The truth is, I expected this movie to be a lot funnier than it was. I adore Paul Rudd but anytime he played his characters' extreme social awkwardness opposite anyone in the cast who wasn't Jason Segal, it was just uncomfortable and hard to watch. The movie relied a bit too heavily on gay jokes that weren't funny and a weirdly bitchy vibe from the female characters. Jason Segal was a revelation though. He was hilarious and sweet and interesting. And when Paul Rudd shared scenes with him, it was a delight. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie was something much less than delightful.

It wasn't terrible but I'm not sure I'd necessarily want to watch the movie again and if I did, I'd skip right through the first 15-20 minutes and start up where Segal is introduced.

Julie & Julia - This movie was a joy to watch from beginning to end with nary a misstep to my eyes. Following Julia Child as she embarks on her career in food and writes Mastering The Art of French Cooking while simultaneously following a year in the life of Julie Powell as she challenges herself to cook every recipe in Julia's book in one year.

Julie (Amy Adams) feels like a failure because her friends are mostly creeps who tell her that she sucks. So in an attempt to make herself feel relevant, she decides to start a blog. After a discussion with her husband about what on earth she'd blog about (I feel her, it's hard to find a way to seem interesting on these things!) she decides to blog her way through a challenge to get through every recipe in the book (just over 500) in 365 days.

Interspersed with Julie's story, is that of Julia Child (Meryl Streep) based on her memoir My Life In France. Always fond of eating, Paris is where Julia fell deeply in love with the food and the techniques of French cooking. She attended Le Cordon Bleu and met the women she'd end up authoring her cookbook with. More interesting than her love affair with food though, was her relationship with her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci). The pair were deeply in love and wonderfully happy and sweet.

Everyone in the film does a lovely job and brings humanity and likability to their characters but the real star is Meryl Streep who simply becomes Julia Child. In the very first instant that she is on the screen you just stop thinking of her as an actress playing Julia and rather you believe that you're seeing Julia's life projected from the future right into your heart and your mind.

There were a number of laugh-out-loud moments in the film as well as several scenes that caused me to tear up just a bit. It's not at all a chick flick in the traditional sense, even though the main characters are women. Rather, this is a movie about people making their lives into what they want them to be and finding happiness on their own terms. There is love and passion and humor and sadness. It's a slice of life in the best possible way.

I'd watch this again tomorrow...and the next day.

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