Our Idiot Brother doesn’t hit you over the head for laughs

Our Idiot Brother

Paul Rudd is usually a hit, and is always a draw for the fiancee, so Our Idiot Brother was a movie we had to check out.

The movie is about Ned (Paul Rudd), a bit of a hippie who has a very honest and optimistic look at life. After some things don’t go his way after an unfortunate sale to a police officer and breakup with his girlfriend, he’s still happy, but left to his own devices with no real marketable skills. While he tries to get back on his feet, he bounces between his three sisters’ places, where his simple but genuinely well meaning ways of helping them deal with their issues end up causing more trouble than good.

If you’re looking for a comedy that has a solid storyline and isn’t one that hits you over the head with jokes, then this is a good choice. His sisters, played by Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks and Emily Mortimer deliver great performances. One is sex-crazed and can’t keep a steady relationship, another is a journalist trying to get ahead in her career at any cost, and finally there’s the housewife who’s neglected by her husband and is essentially lifeless. They’re caught up in the stresses of their unhappiness, and their loved but burden of a brother tramples through their lives, turning each one’s upside down. While they all love each other, they’re very much a dysfunctional family who aren’t open with one another and it’s caused their relationships to suffer. Ned is the “idiot brother” who comes in and fixes it without even knowing what he did, kind of like Forrest Gump in a way.

Our Idiot Brother won’t stick with you like some movies but it’s an enjoyable movie to watch while you stay in on a weekend. I give it a 3/5.

I’m split about J. Edgar

J. Edgar

It’s not too often I’ll go see a movie based on the star, but Leonardo DiCaprio is usually a good choice. With J. Edgar, it looked like a great story about the troubled man who made the FBI into the law enforcement power it is today, so off I went to see it.

Acting

As J. Edgar Hoover, DiCaprio conveyed the frailty of the man with his mother, the overcompensating dominance with those in the bureau/politics, and the extreme paranoia against anything foreign, especially communism. I found it hard to feel for Hoover since he rarely let his emotions show, outside of anger.

Armie Hammer, as Hoover’s long-time second in command, had much more of an emotional role to play. As a man who was so clearly devoted to Hoover, he always seemed to have to keep him in check when he got out of line, but he hardly faltered, even though Hoover never really showed the affection he wanted until they were old men.

Makeup

Since the story took place across two different times, when the characters were younger and old, a lot of makeup magic was needed to make sure the characters looked like their real life counterparts. As an older Hoover, they did a tremendous job on DiCaprio. Aside from a few scenes he looked as close to the real man as they could make him. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum was Hammer’s makeup. As an older Tolson, his face looked like it had a blob of plastic thrown on with slits for a mouth and eyes. It unfortunately took away from the movie as I was distracted every time he was on screen.

Plot

My biggest issue with the movie was the story. I’m not sure what they had in mind, but to me it seemed like a 2hr, 17 min dump of everything that happened to hoover from the time he began his rise to his death. The lack of focus along with the sometimes awkward jumps back and forth in time made it hard to stay focused and into the story.

Finally…

In the end I could forgive some of the bad makeup and the acting was brilliant, but the neverending story simply made this movie boring for me. Since I’m so torn, I give J. Edgar a 2.5/5.

If you saw the movie, what did you think?

Paranormal Activity 3 turns back the clock

Paranormal Activity 3On Friday night I finally made it out to see Paranormal Activity 3 after weeks of waiting. I had skipped the second one in theatre, just because I thought the first was a fluke – boy was I wrong. This time I wasn’t making the mistake of watching it at home.

Like the second, part three takes us back in time, but now we get to know what Katie and Kristi went through as children in 1988. As I’m sure you can imagine, the technology back then was a bit more clunky than the cams we see in the first two films. That being said, they managed to keep it realistic by having the machinery mounted or oscillating (ingeniously) on a house fan. There was some carrying of the camera but it was minimal and generally in situations where you’d believe they’d bring it with them.

The ‘scare factor’ for this one is there, but being the third in the series, I (and everyone in the theatre) kind of knew what was coming. When I saw the first one, the audience was into it and as the movie went on, they become more vocal. With this one, there were a lot of (assuming) teens in the crowd and I found them to be a lot more vocal from beginning to end. It made the experience a little less intense, since I was distracted by their commentary. This isn’t a criticism of the film, just something I feel the need to point out if you decide to watch it in the theatre.

Even though it’s moving backwards, this one advanced the storyline and opened up a few options for the film makers. I’m not sure how they’ll manage to tell the story since technology would be an issue. I’m thinking they could move forward in time now and make it some kind of investigative thriller – we’ll have to see.

Overall I really enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next one (though I may end up watching it at home instead). I give Paranormal Activity 3 a 3.5/5.

What did you think of the movie? Where do you see the franchise going from here?

The Debt isn’t your average spy film

The Debt

The Debt has all the elements that make for an exciting espionage movie, and then some.

The story has two intertwined timelines: The first takes place in 1967 as we see three Mossad agents on a mission to capture Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), a Nazi war criminal, with the purpose of bringing him to trial in Israel. The second takes place in 1997 with the same agents, much older now, dealing with new found information that sees the case come back to life.

Because of the way the story is told, we get to see an evolution for the three main characters, Rachel (Jessica Chastain & Helen Mirren), David (Sam Worthington & Ciaran Hinds) and Stephan (Marton Csokas & Tom Wilkinson). I was particularly drawn to the storyline taking place in 1967 East Germany. I could feel the deep rooted anger and pain of the characters, especially David’s, as they sought to bring justice to a man who caused so much pain to Jewish families. I haven’t seen Worthington (Avatar) act prior to this movie, but he played his role with a quiet sadness. Out of the three, his character was the most distraught by Vogel, having lost his entire family in the Holocaust. You could feel the pain emanate off him, and it was great fodder for their charge to use against the group.

Jessica Chastain (The Help) was absolutely brilliant as young Rachel, and was a great example of a strong female lead actress. She shares many tension-filled scenes with Christensen, and once again through his brilliance, you can see her vulnerability as she’s captured by his charmful, manipulative ways. On top of the emotional scenes with Christensen, Chastain is also caught in a love triangle with the other two agents. The pain caused by this has a deep effect on the characters, especially the fragile David, who never seemed to recover from it, or the mission.

The older version of the characters, all played by great actors, isn’t the main focus of the story, but offers a way for the audience to see how the actions from a generation ago have affected, and are still affecting them today. While not as thrilling (for the most part), it acts as a way to tie the loose ends together in a smart way that makes you feel for what the burden they’ve carried over the past 30 years.

The Debt wasn’t anything like what the trailers portrayed it as, but in the end it was pleasant surprise. I give it a 4/5.

The Help (movie) does The Help (book) justice

The HelpWhen I finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett earlier this winter, I couldn’t help but put it down. At the time I wrote my review, I was happy to see a movie was coming out – I just hoped that it could live up to the book.

Starring the amazing Emma Stone as Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, the story takes place in early 60s Jackson, Mississippi where racist tensions are at their thickest between whites and blacks. ‘Skeeter’ is a recent university graduate who really isn’t fit for the small town living int the south, and is looking to make it as a big city journalist, or writer. After some advice from a New York editor at Harper & Row, she finds an issue she’s passionate about, and that’s giving a voice to “the help” of Jackson.

One of the first maids to help by providing stories for her book was Aibileen, as played by Viola Davis. It’s Davis, along with Octavia Spencer as Minnie, that steal the show. Skeeter is the one that gives them the platform, but they’re the ones that bring the life and personality to the story. They’re also the ones that help gather the rest of the maids to help make the book a reality.

Minnie is such a strong woman and Spencer plays her perfectly – I’d even say it was an Oscar-worthy performance. Every time she was on screen it was hard to pay attention to anyone but her. In an ideal world, I’d say Viola Davis also deserves a nod for her role – it would sure be more deserving than that nod for Doubt.

The evil Hilly Holbrook, as played by Bryce Dallas Howard, has already been added to a list or two of top movie villains, so it goes to show you how disliked she is. What’s unfortunate, and I’m sure I’m not exaggerating, is that there were many Hilly Holbrooks across the States and even Canada. The story played it off as if all the other housewives were just sheep to whatever Hilly had to say, but she was probably closer to the norm for how many thought at the time. That being said, she was a great villain and Howard played her just as I’d imagined when reading the book.

I was worried the movie wouldn’t do the book justice after watching a few of the overly lighthearted previews. In the end, I’d say the movie did a great job of mixing humor with the serious racial tensions of the time and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. If you’re looking for a story that explains the racial tensions of the time, but one that isn’t too heavy for kids to watch, then this is a great place to start the conversation. I highly recommend reading the book first, then checking this one out. I give The Help a 5/5.

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