Archive for the ‘Russell Crowe’ Category

MOVIE: The Next Three Days (2010)

May 9, 2011

I confess it wasn’t until the closing credits rolled on this flick and I saw Paul Haggis’s name that I thought to myself, “Huh, I probably should’ve paid more attention to that.”  Haggis is, after all, the MASTERMIND behind the BRILLIANT television series Due South (you know, among other Oscar-winning things).

But that Paul Haggis?  Of the complex and clever mind?  Nowhere to be found in this snoozaroo, and I doubt paying closer attention would’ve helped much.  Besides, I watched this on pay-per-view in a hotel room, which means there was absolutely nothing around to distract me in the slightest, and I still had a hard time focusing on it.  The beginning didn’t grab my attention at all and the story was about as predictable as they come (not to mention utterly ridiculous).  What the heck, Hags?  Where is your mind?

The Next Three Days is about a family — husband John (Russell Crowe), wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks), and their young son — whose lives are flipped on end when Lara is suddenly arrested for the murder of her boss.  All the evidence points to her — her car was spotted leaving the scene, the victim’s blood was on her jacket, and she’d spent the previous evening ranting about how much she hated her job to friends.  Motive, means, and opportunity, all lined up perfectly; the trial moves quickly and ends with a guilty verdict, bing bang boom.

At first, the promise of a successful appeal keeps the family going, but as the years pass, it becomes clear Lara is never getting out.  When John learns she’s only got three more days before she’ll finally be moved to the state pen, he’s had it.  He’s gonna bust her out.

And so he does.  And it’s pretty easy.  Roll credits.


I have no idea what the point of this film was.  Everything about it was mediocre, from the acting, to the story, to the lamely forced action scenes.  The only nice thing I can say about it is that it only cost me $4.99, instead of the usual pay-per-view fees of more like $15, which left me feeling free to watch something better when it was over.  Thankfully, what I watched next (review coming soon!) helped clear the bad taste that’s always left in my mouth when I see a completely worthless movie that cost bazillions of dollars to make — bazillions of dollars that could’ve been spent making five independent films that would’ve been fifteen times better.  Man, I hate it when that happens.


[Netflix it, if you still don’t believe me, you fool, you fool.]

Genre: Action (dubious)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Ty Simpkins, Olivia Wilde, Liam Neeson, Brian Dennehy, Jason Beghe, Aisha Hinds, Daniel Stern

MOVIE: Robin Hood (2010)

February 12, 2011

I wasn’t expecting much from this film, to be honest  — figured it would be a fairly standard Russell Crowe/Ridley Scott action flick, like Gladiator set in England instead of Rome.  And while that is, in fact, pretty much what it is, I ended up really enjoying it, especially the fact it takes such a different approach to the standard Robin Hood yarn.

The story most of us are familiar with is the one about the bandit living in the forest of Nottingham along with his merry band of thieves, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.  But this film starts about a year before that more traditional tale.  It opens in Europe at the end of the Crusades, where an archer named Robin Longstride (Crowe) is fighting alongside King Richard the Lionheart as they pillage their way back to England, jubilant with victory.

When Richard is killed in battle, one of his most trusted knights, Sir Robert Loxley, is given his crown to return to the palace, where it will be passed on to Richard’s brother, King John the Foolhardy.  On the way to the ship that aims to take them home, however, Loxley’s group is attacked by a gang of Frenchmen led by a British traitor named Godfrey, who, it turns out, is in cahoots with the French king, planning to turn England against John, leaving the country vulnerable to invasion.

Godfrey manages to kill all of Loxley’s men, and fatally wound Loxley himself, before Robin and his pals stumble onto the scene and scare him off.  As Loxley lies dying, he begs Robin to take his sword back to Nottingham to return to his father, Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow).  Robin, an honorable sort, can’t refuse the wish of a dying man, and once Loxley has passed, he and his gang, including ye olde familiars Little John and Will Scarlett, steal the knights’ armor and gear, with plans to pass themselves off as king’s men to gain faster passage home.

When they get to the ship, Robin identifies himself as Loxley and shows the king’s crown as evidence, nervous that at any moment, they’ll all be found out and hanged.  But nobody suspects a thing, and when Robin successfully passes the crown to John without anybody recognizing him as a fake, he and his pals decide to maintain their charade all the way to Nottingham.

When they arrive, Loxley’s father asks Robin to pretend to be his son a while longer in order to strengthen Nottingham’s status in the growing unrest.  The only hitch?  Robert’s wife, Marion, who isn’t too keen on having a stranger passing himself off as her spouse.  Luckily, it’s not long before Robin has cause to take his shirt off, taming her resistance immediately, and the two begin to fall in love.  (Well, okay, but once YOU see him without his shirt on, I think you’ll understand.)

Back at the palace, Godfrey manages to Wormtongue his way into the king’s ear, convincing John to enact enormous taxes on all the land owners so he can become richer and more powerful.  John’s just dumb enough to believe that ruling with an iron fist is the best way to get respect — exactly what the French king was counting on.  As a civil war begins to brew in England, the French gather up their swords and set sail for its shores, ready to divide and conquer.

But Robin’s since learned a secret about his own past that has inspired him to take a stand against the king and unite the people against the French.   You want respect, he tells John, you gotta earn it, yo.  And the best way to do that is to give the people MORE freedom, not less.  (Magna Carta, anyone?)  The king reluctantly agrees, promising his people that just as soon as the French are quashed, he’ll sign a treaty that restores more power to the citizenry.  But, of course, as soon as the French are put down, John reneges on his promise and declares Robin a traitor.

Robin retreats to the forest of Nottingham, and the film ends just where most Robin Hood stories begin — with “Robin of the Hood” an infamous outlaw, teamed up with Little John, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marion to battle the forces of evil and mete out justice their own way. (Cue Robin Hood Daffy to complete the saga in the very best of ways — “Ho ho and ha ha, eh?  I’ll ho ho and ha ha you, fat friar. . .!”)

Though it’s exactly what you’d expect from a Ridley Scott movie, cheesy dialogue and silly romance times bloody battle and male bonding plus one, I still found it really entertaining.  I enjoyed the characters, especially Blanchett as Marion (to be honest, I mostly just appreciated that they cast an older woman as the romantic lead instead of, say, Megan Fox), and also the historical elements, which were surprisingly not that inaccurate.

All in all, a darn good time and well worth a rental.  “Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!”  (For those who have no idea what I’m talking about:  And you’re welcome!)

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Action/Adventure
Cast:  Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Mark Addy, Matthew Macfadyen

MOVIE: State of Play (2009)

October 12, 2009

stateofplayOkay, here’s the good news:  I really enjoyed this movie!  But here’s the bad news:  two days before I saw it, my brain shorted out (literally!), and I now can’t remember a damn thing about the plot.  Or, for that matter, about anything that happened last week.  Or yesterday.  Or this morning.

But I’ll tell you what I do remember, and maybe it’ll be enough to encourage you to rent it yourselves.  After you watch it, you should come back here and write your own review in the comments, by the way, because otherwise this whole shebang is going to be pretty useless, all things considered.

Okay, so, here’s what I do know:  this film has something to do with a reporter, played by ex-Boyfriend of the Week Russell Crowe, whose old school chum, a politician played by Ben Affleck, gets accused of having an affair with an aide who then kills herself.

Except now I can’t remember if it turned out that she killed herself or if it turned out that someone killed her.  I think someone killed her.  Wait, yeah, someone killed her.  But I don’t think it was Ben Affleck.  Or wait, maybe it was?  God, this is futile.  Why am I here?

To be honest, what I remember the most about this movie are two completely pointless  thoughts I had in the first twenty minutes.  The first was that it was remarkable just how much Russell Crowe’s character both looked and sounded like my husband (who is also a newspaper reporter).  In so recognizing this fact, I quickly made the resolution to make out with him a lot more often.  (What, we’re married.  Shut up.)

The second is that the Rachel McAdams character in this movie, a rookie reporter who teams up with Crowe’s seasoned muckraker, is a character I do not believe actually exists in real newspapers anymore.   What newspaper is hiring n00bs these days?  If your local rag can go a day without firing someone, it’s a goddamn banner day, believe me.  Newsflash:  they aren’t hiring fresh-faced journalism students to write their blogs and tweet their Twitters — they’re making the old reporters do it.  Or, even better, they’re “letting” members of the public contribute all that copy for no pay whatsoever.   Can you believe that?  Man, what suckers!   I mean, what kind of total loser would agree to write all that stuff online for NO PAY WHATSOEVER?

Wait, don’t answer that.

I forgot what my point here was.  Oh yeah: good movie.  I think?  Hell.  Someone go rent this and then come back and do the job I should’ve done, okay?  And I swear, when I go see Paranormal Activity tonight (yes!) and Zombieland later in the week (yes, again!), I will take notes so this does not happen again.  Yay-sus.

p.s. Please subscribe to (and read!) your local newspaper.   I thank you, and so does Russell Crowe.  The end.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Thriller
Cast:  Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels

Dollhouse and Why Matt Keeslar Can Never Play a Bad Guy Ever Again

March 5, 2009

dollhouseSo, this weekend, I finally sat down and watched the first three episodes of Joss Whedon’s new FOX series, Dollhouse.  Prepare yourselves for a very lengthy review, most of which will be of the ranty and irrationally-upset variety.

Because I’m disappointed, to say the very least.  And kind of cranky, to say the very most.  And also surprised to realize I’m still planning on watching it for at least a few more weeks, despite my disappointment and crankiness.  I am an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a piece of bacon that’s been crisped to perfection.

Mmmm, bacon.

It’s a miracle I have anything to say about this show to begin with, to be honest.  After the first train-wreck of an episode, I not only almost didn’t continue on, but  was sorely tempted to have all memory of it erased from my brain while I was at it (ha!).  By the end of the third episode, however, I was kinda-sorta glad I’d hung in there (kinda-sorta), and, I confess it, I’m kinda-sorta thinking I’ll hang in there for at least a few more weeks to see where it’s going.

That said, I have a LOT of problems with this show (not the least of which was its casting of ex-Boyfriend Matt Keeslar as a super-duper psycho crazy guy, but more on that in a minute).

And my primary complaint about this series can be summed up thusly:  its entire premise is totally lame.

That’s never a good way to start a show.

For those who haven’t tuned in, the show is about a secret organization that has somehow gotten its hands on a bunch of gorgeous young people (including ex-Buffy actress Eliza Dushku) and turned them into blank slates, devoid of any personality traits whatsoever.  When someone comes to this organization needing a certain type of person, the organization picks one of the “dolls” from the “Dollhouse” and uses a fancy-pants computer thingy straight out of Total Recall to “imprint” a new persona on the doll.  That doll wakes up and actually IS the new person for a finite amount of time, depending on the client’s requirements.

I’m not going to complain (much) that we’re given no idea how this works, where the absolutely vastly ginormous database of personas has come from (since the personalities used to imprint the dolls are all apparently from real people, which, whaaa. . .??),  etc.  We’re only a few episodes in, after all.

Instead, allow me to complain about these things. These VERY BAD THINGS:

1.  Rip-off city!  This series literally doesn’t have an original bone in its body (much like that cliche).  What the heck, Joss?  I already know you’re a genius, so why is every single element of your new series a total and obvious rip-off of something else?  To wit: Total Recall, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Alias, all the Buffy episodes featuring Adam, every episode of Law & Order: SVU that has to do with human trafficking, La Femme Nikita, My Own Worst Enemy, Paycheck, etc. etc. etc., all of which I have enjoyed more than I enjoyed the first three episodes of Dollhouse, I might add.

And yes, you did read that right.  I just said I thought even PAYCHECK was better, and it co-starred Aaron Eckhart in Calvin-on-picture-day hair.

2.  As if it weren’t bad enough that the premise itself is unoriginal, each episode’s storyline so far has also been pretty uninspired.  Take that episode with Matt Keeslar, where he “orders” the perfect outdoorsy girl to sleep her way up a mountain with him (because one of the Dollhouse‘s specialties is high-class prostitution, naturally), and then proceeds to turn her loose in the woods and attempt to hunt her down with a crossbow like she was an elk.  Good lord, how many times have we seen that done? Do not make me count the ways.

And the kidnapping episode?  Where Echo (Dushku) got imprinted to be a master kidnapping negotiator lady?  At one point, she says to the father whose daughter has been snatched that she’s been negotiating with kidnappers, “all her life.”  You gotta be kidding me that he didn’t bust out in mad laughter at that comment, given the fact she looks all of 17 years old.  Besides, he knows she’s a “doll,” so why did he appear to find that statement of any comfort to begin with?  Plus, haven’t I see this movie?  Starring Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan?

So far, to me anyway, the actual “storylines” of each episode seem like afterthoughts, quickly ripped off from somewhere else and tossed into place to fill out the hour, all so Joss can spend 5-10 minutes of each episode fleshing out his primary premise and Eliza Dushku can pretend she’s Jennifer Garner on Alias and play dress-up a lot.  Yawnsville, Illinois.

3.  You know what else doesn’t work for me?  That all the clients of the Dollhouse know how it works.   They know the person they encounter after they’ve placed their order is a blank slate with a computer-generated personality, and they know they can make that person be or do anything they want.  It costs them a bazillion dollars to do so, but they’re all rich beyond measure in the first place, so who cares?

Why is this  a problem?  Well, first of all, there’s no way all those clients could keep the Dollhouse a secret — you’re telling me that all those pervs and dorks purchasing “dolls” for sex aren’t going to be bragging about the hot chick they just scored with to all their pals?  None of whom are going to gossip about that with THEIR pals?  None of whom know or come into contact with any reporters?  My ass.

And how about this:  If you were a father whose daughter had been kidnapped, would you hire a REAL kidnapping negotiator expert or would you hire a FAKE kidnapping negotiator expert?  Yeah.  Me too.

What would’ve made this far more intriguing, in my opinion, would’ve been keeping the nature of the Dollhouse a total secret from everyone, ESPECIALLY the clients.  Make the Dollhouse the place you go to find the perfect “agent” for any job, and let the clients think those people are real people; that the Dollhouse is an enormous collective of mad skillz.  Because you can’t keep something like this a SECRET in today’s world.  To me, that is an utterly ludicrous element of this show’s entire premise and, frankly, I am irked by it.

mattkeeslar4.  Also, Matt Keeslar?  As an evil psycho guy?  Sands of Zanzibar, Dubbie!  That just doesn’t work for me after The Middleman, I’m sorry.  (Incidentally, The Middleman got canceled — ABC Family bastages!)

5.  Essentially, the dolls serve primarily as super-duper expensive prostitutes who aren’t even allowed to maintain their own brains.  I’m disturbed.

6.  Also disturbing:  This is a Joss Whedon project?  Where the hell is the snappy banter?  Snappy banter might have a chance in heck of saving this show from its ludicrous-ness.  Worked for Buffy and Firefly, right?  Did we not happily suspend all disbelief for those shows, despite the fact they were about vampires and space cowboys?  Yes, yes we did.  And we were rewarded for it with genius, not hack.  I want genius here.  And so far, I ain’t gettin’ it.

7.  Eliza Dushku gets on my nerves.  The end.

tahmohAnd now a list of the GOOD THINGS (just to balance this out):

1.  Tahmoh Penikett is darned good-looking, gosh darn it, even though I keep waiting for him to call Galactica Actual and deliver his sitrep.

2.  Sure, nothing about it is original (NOTHING AT ALL, PEOPLE!) — nevertheless, it’s all stuff I love, and even though I could get the same effect from a double-feature of Total Recall and seasons 1-4 of Alias, I’d have to get off the couch for that (swapping out the DVDs, etc.).  With Dollhouse, it comes to me.  Weekly.  With Tahmoh Penikett.  Laziness wins again!

Um, yeah, and that’s pretty much it for the good things, I’m sorry to say.

Will this series survive?  It’s highly, highly doubtful.  And I can’t decide if I’m sad or happy about that.  Obviously, I’m sad because I love Joss and want him to be successful in everything he does.  But I confess I’m also kind of happy, because this show is just plain weak and if it got the boot, maybe he’d try something else that would end up being better.

Amore — eet ees so complicated sometimes.

By the way, a couple of quick other TV things:  Reaper came back this week, did you notice?  I confess I burned out on it before the end of last season, but am ready to give it another try now that I’ve had a break.  And I do confess to a massive crush on Sock — who could blame me?

Also, raise your hand if you almost threw up when Katee Sackhoff turned up on Nip/Tuck.  Ugh.  Me too.   Katee!  Start running your offers by ME first — your manager is going to kill your career!!


MOVIE: 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

January 17, 2008

Before I get started on this one, I thought I should mention that I’m a HUGE fan of Westerns, and it’s really really hard to make one I absolutely can’t stand watching.  Some of the first movies I ever saw were Westerns, and I was practically raised on the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone spaghetties.  Though my list of “top ten favorite movies of all time” is constantly in flux, it always features the movie Tombstone somewhere in the ranking.  And I’ve probably seen The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly 96,000 times.  Give or take. 

Surprisingly enough, however, I’ve somehow managed to get through life without ever having seen the original 3:10 to Yuma(1957), starring Western staples Glenn Ford and Van Heflin (better known to me as Joe from Shane).  So, I may have liked this remake of Yuma as much as I did simply because I was judging it on its own merits instead of comparing it to the original.  In other words, your mileage may vary.

The new Yuma stars Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, and fans of my site know I’m not really a big fan of Bale’s.  I recognize fully — FULLY, I tell you! — that he’s an extremely talented actor.  However, there’s just something about his mouth and his American accent that really. . . makes me cringe.   I know — KNOW, I tell you! — that I’m the only person in the entire galaxy who feels this way about Christian Bale and, in particular, who feels this way about his American accent (which everybody else seems to think is spot-on, so it must be).  However, I can’t help it. I’m sorry.  I’ve tried really hard to love Christian Bale — for your sake — and it’s simply not happening.

(I’m sure someone will post in comments that this is because I’m either A) stupid or B) jealous of him (that one’s always MY favorite. . .). And to you folks, I’d like to say: by all means, go ahead and attempt to insult me into changing my mind.  See how far it gets ya.)

That said, I actually didn’t mind Bale too much in this.  He does a really good job with his role — obviously, since he’s a BRILLIANT ACTOR (I KNOW, I tell you!) — and I was fine once I figured out I could just not look at his mouth and that would solve a lot of my problems.  And Crowe — well, Crowe is just fantastic.  It was nice to see him in a role like this again, after recently having seen him so woefully miscast in A Good Year.

As you may or may not know, this movie is about a posse.  Bale plays farmer Dan Evans, who is struggling under a pile of debt and about to lose his farm.  One day, he’s riding into town with his sons when he accidentally runs into a stage coach robbery.  At the helm of the gang of banditos is the infamous bad dude Ben Wade (Crowe).  Something about Dan sparks Ben’s interest and respect right away, and instead of killing him like he would anybody else who interrupted one of his hold-ups, Wade just takes his horses and sends him on his way.

Later that day, Dan encounters Wade again when Wade is caught and arrested by the local sheriff.  On hearing they need to put together a posse to take Ben to Contention (such a great name for a town) to catch the 3:10 train to Yuma Territorial Prison, Dan offers to join the group, if the sheriff will kick in $200 so he can save his farm.  The sheriff agrees and the posse begins.

While they work to get Ben across the desert, through Indian territory, and down to Contention, Ben’s gang is following them and plotting ways to rescue their leader (and trust me, I’ve been to Yuma Territorial Prison myself and the place is the very definition of “hell hole” — I fully understand why Ben is less than happy about boarding that train).  The gang is being temporarily lead by Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), one of the most violent sociopaths to grace a Western movie screen, in my experience.  Prince will stop at nothing to get Wade back, and it’s not really because the two are fast friends.  I guess it’s more an issue of thief pride and respect, more than anything else.  Because clearly Prince doesn’t have feelings.  Like, in general.  At all.  And as for Wade — well, he’s a bit more complicated emotionally, but no less willing to stab someone to death with a fork just because they can’t carry a tune.  

All in all, I thought this was a beautifully made film, with great camera work and scenery, and some extremely intense and effective acting on the parts of all involved.  Great storyline, great suspense, great everything.  Definitely recommended to fans of either lead actor, as well as to anybody who loves a good cowboy flick.  Giddyup!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Western
Cast:  Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Ben Foster, Logan Lerman, Peter Fonda

MOVIE: A Good Year (2007)

December 8, 2007

I wasn’t sure about this movie, to be honest. Reviews I’d read of it were pretty mixed (I remember one reviewer describing it as being a “3-P” movie — pleasant, pretty, and predictable), but I was still kind of intrigued by the concept. I’ve read and enjoyed many of Peter Mayles’s non-fiction books about his experiences in the countrysides of France, and was interested in seeing what he did with fiction. And though I wasn’t sure how I’d do with a romantic comedy — those can be pretty hit or miss for me — I ended up enjoying the movie overall quite a bit.

It’s about a middle-aged man, Max (Russell Crowe), who is some sort of banking titan in London, perpetually busy and completely focused on money. When he gets word that his once-beloved Uncle Henry has died, he’s thrown for a bit of a loop, but primarily seems annoyed he’s got to leave his job for a couple of days to go down to France and deal with Henry’s estate. Max was extremely close to Henry when he was a child (this we learn through flashbacks, in which Young Max is played by the always-awesome Freddie Highmore), but hasn’t spoken to him in 20 years. As Max got older, his values shifted in a direction that just didn’t work for Henry, and the two eventually lost touch.

Max soon learns that Henry left no will, which means, as his uncle’s only kin, Max has just inherited his enormous house and the vineyard that goes along with it. He immediately decides to try to sell it all so he can take the money and run. But his plan is foiled when he gets to the farm house and finds it’s a shabby disaster. “Hey, at least the wine’s good, right? That’s worth something,” he says to himself. And then he tries a bottle and discovers it’s all but undrinkable. Crap!

As Max begins trying to tidy the place up and figure out a way to sell a vineyard that makes crappy wine, he starts flashing back to the happy times he spent with Henry as a child. The more the memories return, the more Max begins to fall in love with the place all over again. But things get shaken up when a young American girl shows up and announces that she’s Henry’s illegitimate daughter. Since this means SHE’S really Henry’s next of kin, Max attempts to keep her happy enough not to ask any questions. He encourages her to crash at the house for a while, to try to get to know Henry through his land, all the while worried that at any moment, she’ll realize all the property is actually hers and he’ll be out the whole shebang.

Meanwhile, Max has met a local French woman, and soon finds he can’t stop thinking about her. Though she mostly rolls her eyes at his attempts to woo her, writing him off as an arrogant Brit who thinks of nothing but how much more wealth he can accumulate, the quiet joys of the French countryside are gradually having a positive effect on Max’s personality. Eventually, he comes to realize he doesn’t want to go back to the frenetic world of London — instead, he wants to settle down at Uncle Henry’s, get married, have kids, and enjoy a simpler life in a simpler place.

While this movie IS actually as cheesy and predictable as I just made it sound, at the same time, it’s also a sincerely funny, sweet, and extremely good-looking movie (gorgeous scenery and colors — worth watching just for the visuals, in my opinion).

The one downside to the whole movie is, surprisingly enough, Russell Crowe himself. He’s just not romantic comedy material, no matter how hard he tries. I never found his charm authentic — even though we’re supposed to recognize he’s undergoing a massive personality overhaul, I never stopped feeling like he was acting, so I couldn’t relax into his character at all.

In any case, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie, despite Crowe’s awkwardness, and it’s always fun to see Freddie Highmore, who I’ve loved since Finding Neverland, as well as the great Albert Finney. I’m ranking it at number 4 out of the 9 we watched on my vacation — not too shabby!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Romantic comedy
Cast: Russell Crowe, Freddie Highmore, Abbie Cornish, Albert Finney