American Sniper Misses Its Mark

American Sniper garnered great attention when it was nominated for six Oscars. The hype for the film was propelled by critics and viewers alike. But, sadly, the film does not live up to that that hype.

The movie details the military life of Chris Kyle (played by a Texas twanged Bradley Cooper), the deadly American military sniper credited with 160 kills over his four tours. The movie (SPOILER) follows his life from a rodeo ranch hand to his eventual death at the hands of another veteran. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the movie pays homage to the titular Navy Seal.

The film suffers from a horrible screen play. Jason Hall created elements that weren’t in the memoir and changed many things to try to create a typical movie story. This hurts the movie. The lines are cliché and are no different than any other mediocre war film. The movie is disjointed and doesn’t flow. Here’s a scene with the Seals, here’s a scene of Yaya crying on the phone, here’s a scene of Chris holding his baby awkwardly. It’s hard to follow exactly what the story is trying to show. Is it about PTSD? Is it about the legend? Is it about revenge?

Eastwood and Cooper both falter. In the final act, Eastwood gives into Hollywood clichés of a slow motion shot which is meant to amplify the action but it just slows it down. We’ve seen the same shooting/breath sequences in other films; this adds nothing new. Cooper does well with accent never faltering from the Texas twang and impressively bulks up his physical appearance. But there are sequences where he is trying too hard to portray his feeling with his body language and it’s awkward.

But Cooper excels in those few and far between sniper moments. He does well portraying the thoughts that go through Chris’ head as he decides who is a target. Chris is given the authcooper43ority to decide who is a threat and who isn’t. Cooper shows how heavy these decisions are on the man and how it affects his life in and outside of the Seals. The moments where Chris deals with his PTSD are when you feel for him the most; you want to reach out and comfort him.

Speaking of comfort, the movie does a horrible job of portraying the families of our war heroes. The role is written very one sided and Taya Kyle becomes a harpy always screaming at Chris and telling him to move on. When we do truly see the heart ache she feels for his husband, Sienna Miller butchers these moments with insane histrionics.

But, after all, it is the story of Chris’ life.  In the final moments, as you find out his fate and see footage from his memorial and the irony of the situation hits you, it’s deeply moving and brings tears to your eyes. The movie does well with showing you his life, his sacrifices, and his desire to protect our country. That sticks with you as you leave the theater and maybe that’s how it should be. You remember the man, not the movie.

Watch This Not That- Oscar Leading Man Edition

Leonardo DiCaprio

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11169254_800Shutter Island

DiCaprio is amazing in The Wolf of Wall street no doubt.  He does well with the humor and cockiness, but to see him really delve into the human psyche watch Shutter Island. Based and well adapted from Dennis Lahane’s novel, this haunting movie has a Sixth Sense ending so it will take two viewing to truly understand what a great job the cast and crew did with the material. Dicaprio never falters easily moving his character from situation to situation. The movie would have suffered with a lesser cast, but DiCaprio leads marvelous ensembles through the dark world of mental health.

…Not That


We’ve all seen it. We all know its crap. Like Pearl Harbor, it’s not truly about the actual historical event that took place. Instead, it’s cliché movie romance a sucky ending. The whole movie is totally unbelievable. While it was great start for a young Leo on the big screen, it shouldn’t be remembered fondly.

Mads Mikkelsen

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Jagten-The-Hunt-posterJagten (The Hunt)

This Foreign Language Nominee is emotionally powerful, even if the ending is a bit obtuse.  Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a kindergarten teacher who is falsely accused of sexual abusing his students. The plot is well thought out and viewers see the consequences on the accusations on not just Lucas but on several of the key players. Mikkelsen plays no one stereotype blending together a variety of emotions and feeling. He shows how deeply complex the situation is and how society actually reacts to even the allegations of abuse. The movie is moving and you easily side with Lucas from the beginning.

…Not That

tumblr_m8g6kizSKC1r04lg2o1_500Casino Royale

As Far as Daniel Craig’s James Bond movies goes, this is the best one in the lineup. This was probably the first time most American ever saw Milkklensen. While many are now familiar with him as the creepy Hannibal, this movie really proved that he was a great villain. But it only gave you that one side to his acting ability. Plus, whoever truly cheers for the Bond villain?

Bradley Cooper

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MV5BMTM2MTI5NzA3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODExNTc0OA@@__V1_SX214_Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook was all anyone could talk about last year and with good reason. The movie is both funny and serious and worked well with both aspects. Cooper gave the performance of a lifetime with a relatable protagonist with bi-polar disorder. From subtle tics to full blown outburst, Cooper managed each with ease and often it was painful to watch his character go through these emotions. The empathy he made us feel for his character was powerful.

…Not That

MV5BNjkxMTc0MDc4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODUyNTI1MDE@__V1_SX214_American Hustle

Sure, Cooper easily glides into the role of the overly ambitious FBI agent with a perm. But it lacked the nuance of those as his character in Silver Linings. While it easy to argue that the issue is the character itself is the problem, it does not let Cooper shine. His character is just one of many characters where the roles are reversed. We are supposed to feel sorry for the bad guys and hate the good guys. But the movie doesn’t manage to do that, and Cooper’s character is an overblown hardass.

Con Vs. Con

‘Tis the season for con-man movies. David O. Russell shows down with Martin Scorsese as their two newest movies share a similar story though with different results. Russell presents us with American Hustle, a look at a ‘70s con artist couple and a crazy FBI agent. The movie is glitz and glamour but boring as toast. Scorsese goes less period piece and more extravagant with debauchery in the Wolf of Wall Street.

american-hustleAmerican Hustle has promise but fails to deliver.   The movie begins stating the fact that some of these events actually happened. Irving and Sydney are a sociopathic couple coning people to get rich quick. When they are made by the FBI, they are force to work with the Bureau to bring down corrupt politicians. But when the Mob crosses their path they are in over their heads.

The movie lingers too long and that’s after half of it is narrated by the three main cast members.  As for the humor, the best bits are in the trailer spoiling any fun when the scenes arrive in the movie. Instead it a laborious affair that doesn’t show case the best characters For once Christian Bale is too over tide top, or it could just be his character. Whichever the case, it was hard to feel sorry for him or even believe Irving as a character. And if I wanted to watch Bradley Cooper lose his mind, I would re-watch the Silver Linings Playbook. The best performances come from Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner. .Lawrence is amazing and any scene Rosalyn is funny and entertaining. Renner gives an earnest portrayal of a politician trying to his best for his town and gets talked into something he wasn’t prepared for. It is him that you feel the most sorry for in this movie. Not the two cons.

The movie does, from the first moments the producing studios logo appears, envelopes itself in the ‘70s. The decor, the clothing, the hair, the music: it is all spot on. In fact, the time period almost becomes another character as the film progresses because it truly does change what people do and how they do it. But this isn’t enough to keep it entertaining.

The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the memoir of slime ball Jordan Belfort. He makes a name for himself unloadingThe-Wolf-of-Wall-Street-1 penny stocks and then eventually breaks into Wall Street introducing Steve Madden to the stock world. But his investor never sees their money as Jordan gets it all and blows it on a wide variety of out here activities.

This movie works because Jordan knows he’s a slime bag and doesn’t pretend to be something else. Hustle’s protagonist whines about being victims or circumstance though they enter their conning willingly and do quite well. Jordan, on the other hand, wants money and power and will never have enough. You hate him and he knows it; Leonardo DiCaprio plays off that well. The movie is basically him selling you his life. While you may not want to buy it, it’s quite amazing to watch.

The movie only suffers when Jordan gives speeches to his stock teams. His grandstanding is boring as you want to see what the heck the man will do next on cocaine. We don’t want to see the “work” side of the story. We want to see the extravagance and Jon Bernthal with his shirt off.

While neither movie’s character some to real justice, it is more acceptable in Jordan’s case. You watch the decline of his family and personal life. He loses so much even though he will buy someone or something to replace it. That the saddest thing; he doesn’t make a real human connection ever, and that is somewhat of revenge.

American Hustle has polish with very little substance while The Wolf of Wallstreet has no polish but it a lot of fun and a very wild ride. Hit Wallstreet before you go back to the ‘70s.

The Wolf Pack Goes Out With a Whimper

What’s a Hangover movie without a hangover?

No, this isn’t a riddle. The Hangover Part III answers this question and takes the franchise in another direction. After being criticized that Part II was just a carbon copy of the first, critics are now complaining that it is too different. Be careful what you wish for boys.

Part III is really Alan’s story. Spoiled by his parents with too much money and not enough social skills, he runs rampage killing a poor giraffe and brining shame to his father. After his father’s sudden death, his brother in law brings the wolf pack to help intervene. They are going to get him to a great spa that is sooo much fun!

On the way to the mental facility, the team is run off the road by a gangster (John Goodman), Doug is kidnapped, and Chow is on the loose. If the pack doesn’t get Chow and the money that he stole, the gangster is going to kill Doug. Phil devises a plan to get Chow back into custody, and is, of course, played for fools. Chaos ensues and the boys end up back in Vegas.

Hangover-III-Poster-Ken-Jeong1Chow is the clear winner of this franchisee. Ken Jeong takes him from a secondary character from the first movie and makes him the main vein of the entire series. In this installment, he carries it.  It is Cho more than the exploits of the Wolf Pack that packs the humor especially when he tricks the wolf pack into doing his bidding.

The movie is really about Alan’s journey into adulthood albeit a weird and zany one. If Judd Apatow had done this movie, it would be have been marvelous. Because that’s what Apatow does well: combines zany humor with rich morals and character development. Todd Phillips’ insane Hangovers shouldn’t be this way. These movies’ value rides on the guys being rode hard and put up wet and not remembering it. It’s not a place for mushy adult emotions.

Alan is not the only one who has grown. Stu has finally settled down and manages not to have sex with one. Phil never takes of his shirt. And we see shots of all them with their happily wedded wives. But we don’t want to see that. We want chaos and that is where Part III fails. It’s more controlled chaos with a coming of age story tucked in instead of party time ruckus.

Many will not like The Hangover Part III, but if you can separate it from the other movies, you will enjoy it. But that  is hard to do when you were waiting for that final graduation party.

The Heartthrob Oscars Snubs

The Academy Awards is a political vehicle that believes that attractiveness does not equal good acting-if you’re a man. Time and time again heart throbs have been nominated but never earned the golden statue. Here’s a look at the biggest and most recent Heart Throb Snubs.

Bradley Cooper


I have loved Cooper since Kitchen Confidential. I saw a lot more than a hot guy. He has charms and had lots of acting potential. When Limitless came out I was so excited; his own starring role. Entertainment Weekly was surprised he could pull it off; but I wasn’t. I knew he could handle comedy with perfect timing but give depth and emotion to serious scenes. In Silver Lining Playbook he managed to incorporate the two. The humor did not take away from the drama, and Cooper nailed the manic life of someone with bi-polar disorder. This was such a frank and earnest portrayal, he deserved the award. Though Jennifer Lawrence was good, she had nothing on Cooper who totally transforms himself in this role. This was a once in a lifetime role and should have been rewarded.

Jeremy Renner

arts-locker-584-summitentThe Hurt Locker took Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay (among others) and Renner was nominated for Best Actor. The Academy went with the older, we’ll respected actor instead of the soon to be heartthrob. He lost out to Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. Renner was relatively unknown before The Hurt Locker and gave such a powerful performance that he gained the Academy’s attention. For a week, Renner trained at Fort Irwin to play Sergeant First Class William James.  To go from nobody to somebody overnight? Now that’s a feat!

Johnny Depp


Possibly one of the most snubbed actors in Oscar history. He was nominated three times and did not win a once. In 2003, he was nominated for his portrayal of Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl. Depp became the character and made you love a scoundrel you could have hatred. The next year he was nominated for Finding Neverland, both a biopic and a sure win. But lightening seems to strike twice, and Depp was forever ignored. In 2007, he was nominated for musical performance in Sweeny Todd. He sadly lost that one as well. But this rip off was nothing compared to the earlier snub for Pirates. Depp seems not to mind but I do.

Heath Ledger

heath_ledgerSince his American debut in 10 Things I Hate About You, Ledger has been making women swoon over his Australian accent and long locks. Ledger, not wanting to be stuck in teen pop, branched out doing a variety of projects. Ledger adapted well into dramas and complex characters. It was his turn as a homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain that garnered him critical and academy acclaim. He was nominated for Best Actor in a very fierce year; three of the candidates had been in biopics, Academy Gold. He, in fact, lost to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s amazing portrayal of Capote. But in a twist of fate, Ledger won Best Supporting Actor in 2009 beating out Hoffman. If not for his tragic death, I doubt he would have won. This almost makes up for the Best Actor snub-almost.

The Jane Doe Awards~ Movie Edition

Being tired of all the awards shows and their lack of enjoying good entertainment,   I decided to create my own awards. The Jane Doe Awards are the opinion of an average Jane just like you. So here are some of my favorite movies of the year.

The Zeitgeist Awards

Magic Mike


The movie world finally decided to cater to over half its movie going audience. Channing Tatum steps away from sappy romances to give women some hot action. He and a gorgeous band of sidekicks take off their clothes to entertain and prove that women to like sex appeal. This made way for other outlets including the extremely hot and lady friendly Chicago Fire. While the plot tried too hard, it was fun entertainment that reminded the world that women are sexual beings. Long live the women’s movement!

The Never Ending Story Award

John Carter


John Carter suffered from horrible advertising. No one had any idea what it was about or that it was based on short stories written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I rented it from Netflix because I had heard good things. What no one told me was that it is The Never Ending Story of this generation. Faraway places, princesses in peril, and an unsuspecting hero. The CG is well done and the world of Mars comes to life. Taylor Kitsch is a fabulous actor and handles all aspects of Carter genuinely. Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe, and an appearance by James Purefoy add depth to the overall casting. The world of John Carter is magical and children will want to revisit it again and again. This adult does.

The Women’s Rights Award


hysteria_i01Hysteria is a well done, humorous, but not vulgar telling of how the vibrator was created. Originally made to relieve women’s illness, the vibrator has become the most popular sex toy. The movie puts the women’s rights movement front and center. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Charlotte is the ultimate feminist trying to break out of the box her father has put her in. Hugh Dancy is serious as the doctor who invents the vibrator because a debilitating injury (carpal tunnel from manual “curing” women). It also gives a frank look at a time that saw all women’s problems as being attached to their uterus. It’s enjoyable, the right amount of funny and serious at the same time. It’s worth a watch even if the content is “scandalous.”


Best Superhero Movie

The Dark Knight Rises


The Avengers may have made the most money this year but it traded quality for spectacle. The Dark Knight Rises, on the other hand, was well thought out and executed. Christopher Nolan did well, ending his trilogy. The film weaves aspects from the first two installments into the finishing story. The story was more than just imploding stadium and barbaric fights. The film touches on themes superhero stories do not touch. This movie was an allegory for your world rife with terrorism and need for heroes. Our hero is conflicted and multi-sided instead of a stereotype and viewers are invested in his ending. And we are quite pleased.


The Movie That Should Have Sucked But Didn’t

Promised Land

webpromised-land-movie-damonThis movie about a small town, an environmentalist, and a natural gas company should have sucked. It could have been a puff piece about being green; instead it was smart and emotional. Though viewers could see a twist coming, they would not see what it actually was. Blending humor with real world issues, Matt Damon and John Krasinski proved to be deft screen writers and actors. If anyone else had tried to do this movie, it would have become a sappy mess. Viewers will think critically about the world and their jobs. As a limited engagement, many may have missed it. Put it on the top of Redbox list!


The Technical Wonder

The Hunger Games


The adaptation of the young adult novels does not join this list for the quality acting or the thought provoking screen play (both of which it has), but because the film’s creators took the time to put real thought into each aspect of the movie. For example, the filming is brilliantly plotted. Katniss is followed by handicam in District 12 and in the Hunger Games giving a very documentary feel to the games and its contestant. It’s only in the Capital that the camera is steady and perfect. For many more examples, read my review. Everything from the costumes to the sets oozes the themes and ideals of the screen play. No other movie had so much thought invested.

The Award Winner

Silver Linings Playbook

11LAWRENCE1_SPAN-articleLargeI hate award shows; they always pick movies I hate or haven’t seen. Usually, I really like one of them, and this year it is Silver Linings Playbook. This tale of two emotional damaged people is brilliantly written and gives a very realistic view of mental illness. Bradley Cooper is pitch perfect as Pat who suffers from Bi-Polar Disorder. It’s a shame that Jennifer Lawrence wins when Cooper doesn’t. Lawrence is fabulous in her role but Cooper is amazing and becomes the character; he deserves the accolades more. Never the less, this movie is funny, touching and very real. You should not miss this one.


The Kids & Adults Can Watch Award

Wreck It Ralph


It has finally become popular to make animated or children geared movie with adults in mind. So not only will adults take their children to see these movies, some adults will go without kids. Wreck It Ralph is the best one of the year. It tackles ideas that children and adults can learn from. The film also waxes nostalgia for games past. As a gamer, I enjoyed being able to name so many of the references. The movie has witty jokes but at the same makes childish humor. “Heroes’ Doody” still makes me laugh even though I should be older than such jokes.  For every childish line from Sarah Silverman, John C. Reilly lays down a witty line. But that is what is marvelous about Ralph; there’s something funny for everyone.

The Words Fall Flat

Contains Spoilers

The Words does not fare well as home entertainment. This droll drama came and went without much fanfare. It seemed sad at the time. The trailers hinted at a film of intrigue as Bradley Cooper is hunted down by a man whose book he plagiarized. But the movie delivers no such suspense or drama.
the-words-posterThe Words is straight forward with the old cliché of the author reading his own book. Cooper plays the character from said book. He is a struggling writer who comes across an old manuscript with an unknown author. Though he knows better, he publishes the work as his own and it becomes a best seller. It seems that his life is perfect…until he meets the old man who actually wrote it.
The movie is peppered with period scenes showing the actions of the stolen book. Audiences are treated to a book with in a book. But these scenes are dry and boring. It isn’t these characters the audience cares about. We want to know what happens to Cooper and his wife (Zoe Saldana).
The flow is also broken by excerpts of the narrator’s life. Dennis Quaid with no polish or emotion tries to add another romantic element by flirting with a girl who wrote on thesis on him and his book. It is within these scenes that the twist is “revealed.” As anyone would have guessed, Cooper’s character is just the fictional version of Quaid himself and that he wrote the novel in order to come clean of his deceit.
The acting is subpar. Quaid was just showing up for a paycheck. Saldana and Cooper have zero chemistry. Olivia Wilde is insipid and flat. It’s horrific to watch quality actors flutter about in this mess.
Suffering from a convoluted story line, bad acting, and horrible marketing, it’s no wonder that The Words came and went to theater with barely a whisper. The recent DVD/Blu-ray release does nothing to make The Words worthy of your time. Skip this one at Redbox and rent Hysteria instead.

It’s the Silver Lining

Rarely, there is a movie that critics and the movie going audience can agree on. I have read a lot about Silver Linings Playbook. Critics love it and it has already won awards and many nominations. I had high hopes when I finally had the opportunity to see it. I was not disappointed.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOKSilver Linings Playbook, based on the book of the same name by Matthew Quick, is the story of Pat (Bradley Cooper) whose wife has an affair. The event is exacerbated by his undiagnosed bipolar disorder. After attacking the man involved, Pat is sent to a mental institution to get his disorder under control. The movies begin as Pat’s mother checks him out of the hospital against the advice of his doctor. Pat must struggle to put the pieces of his life back together.
Very quickly, viewers notice that Pat inherits his mental issues naturally. His father (Robert De Niro) is an obsessive compulsive gambler who puts a lot of pressure on Pat to be his lucky charm. Pat and his father have a tenuous relationship at best. Pat continues to focus on his external appearance and physical fitness to help him overcome the disorganization of his brain. On his runs, he frequently encounters Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), widow who was recently fired for balancing her depression with sexual promiscuity. The two come to agreement; Tiffany will get letters to Pat’s wife if he will be her dance partner in an upcoming dance completion.
The script and casting are fantastic. The story moves between very touching and emotional scenes to light hearted humor and dry wit. The movie gives a very truthful look into mental illness (though not of therapists), and the audience is moved by the two character’s struggles and victories and setbacks. Viewers easily become invested in their lives.
1353437488_silver-linings-playbook-560The characters are brought to life by their actors almost magically. Cooper deserves the Oscar as he oscillates between the crazy manic side of Pat to the self-reflective and very “normal” aspects of the same character. He uses body language and voice inflection masterfully showing how much is really going on in Pat’s head. Cooper shows that he is more than just a pretty face; he has major dramatic acting chops.
Lawrence gives a great performance though not as finely tuned as Cooper’s. She embodies someone who is aware that her actions are not the best but not regretful or her journey. De Niro is perfect as the overbearing but loving father. He manages to make his characters OCD look like a disability instead of joke fodder.
There was only one moment I was truly disappointed with the movie. When Pat finally gets to interact with his wife, the movie does not elaborate on what he says to her. While this could be a method of saying that it doesn’t really matter, as a viewer I wanted Pat to recover and hear the whispered exchanged as proof.
Touching, yet funny, Silver Lings Playbook does a lot to make the public aware of what it is like to live with mental illness but entertaining at the same time. Touching performances by Cooper and De Niro bring the characters to dynamic life. Silver Linings Playbook is worth every accolade it’s received.

Watch This Not That Halloween Edition

John Carpenter Film

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The Ward

A fabulously spun psychological thriller places Amber Heard in a haunted mental ward. Tight writing and plot twists keep you guessing the entire time through out this movie. More than anything, the final moments of the movie are the scariest and will be carried around with you for days.

…Not That


I hated this movie. It joins the ranks of B-movies every where. There was gratuitous gore, violence, cussing and nudity. It was a spectacle instead of a story. Anyone wanting  a no holds bar horror movie of flesh and rampage would do well for this, but other viewers should beware.

Stan Winston Studio Creature Fest

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Wrong Turn

A throwback to ‘70s horror films, Wrong Turn uses tension and release in tandem to scare the pants of the viewers. The Stan Winston Studio creatures are grotesque in bred humans and terrifying in their own right. Add in talented young actors (Eliza Dushku, Desmond Harrington), and it’s a horror film worth watching.

…Not That

Darkness Falls

This uninspired horror movies is neither good nor bad. It fails to draw viewers into their world. The evil tooth fairy is very frightening in look but due to the lack of excitement in the story, her psychological fear is minimal. Darkness Falls lacks the urgency, character relation, and tension needed to a good horror movie.

Clive Barker’s Book of Blood Adaptation

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One of my friends calls Dread the “best worst movie ever.” The plot is so psychologically twisting that the terror lies more in the decisions of the killer instead of his actions. I dare you to look at a steak the same way ever again. Staring Jackson Rathbone and Shaun Evans, the film looks into the idea of fear and comes to the conclusion the only way to get over your fear is to face it.

…Not That

Midnight Meat Train

I love Bradley Cooper. I love Leslie Bibb. I love Peter Jacobson. I hate this movie. One of Barker’s more odd tales about beings that devour humans, Midnight Meat Train is full of blood and gore and it down right depressing. The short story is actually better, minimal zing many of the things that make the movie so bad. Like men with hammers on a train? Like creatures from the center of the earth that need sacrifices? Watch this movie.

Classic Horror Movie Remake

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The Omen

It takes handwork to keep something true to its source material. The Omen does well giving a modern twist on several scenes while keeping the spirit and the spookiness the same. Well cast actors help as well, and only Liev Schreiber could pull off the famous Gregory Peck role. While not as good as the 1976 original, the new version gave quite a spook on 6/6/06.

…Not That


This “shot for shot” remake is horrible. Why Gus Van Sant thought this was a worthwhile project I don’t know. Why Vince Vaughn was picked to play Norma Bates is beyond me. This version gives a modernized spin adding masturbation and graphic violence where there is no need. The original 1960 version didn’t need it, so I’m not sure why the 1998 version did.

Hit & Run Leaves Lots of Casualties

Every so often a movie comes along that almost defies explanation concerning how bad it is. Earlier this year, the horror genre had Cabin in the Woods, an overloaded, badly directed crap fest. Now the comedy genre has its own reigning king: Hit & Run.

Hit & Run is a mindless story about a guy in witness (witless?) protection program who leaves his U.S. Marshal’s protection to take his girlfriend to a job interview in L.A.  The couple is then pursued by the girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend, the guy’s marshal, and the crooks that he snitched on.

Dax Shepard writes and co-directed this story about a loser with no jobs and no friends, who manages to land Kristen Bell. Only a man-child like Shepard could conceive of a story where a loser is put as the hero while the successful beautiful girlfriend is made as a nag and career obsessed. How did the snitch and the P.H. D. in non-violent conflict resolution even meet? The plot is overly thicken by the couple being chased by at least three other parties including the inept Marshal and the three crooks. Adding the ex-boyfriend was overkill, and I certainly wanted the ex (played by Lollipop Chainsaw’s Michael Rosenbaum) to rescue her from Charlie Bronson and the resulting mess of gunfire and car chases.

The lack of intelligent humor kills the film. The viewers are supposed to be entertained by escaping mini vans, flying bowling balls, and naked elderly people. Even when the movie has opportunity for any depth, it comes up short. When asked why he chose the name Charles Bronson, instead of an ironic, funny answer, Charlie mumbles something about not being that person anymore. (The Charles Bronson reference here is the notorious UK prisoner who is known for his violence and for kidnapping a prison guard. For an interesting look at the guy’s life check out the well-acted movie Bronson staring a naked Tom Hardy). Any self revelation or humor is quickly gone.

Bradley Copper manages to insert some laughs. Cooper plays Alex Dmitri, the crook who Charlie put away. As always, Cooper tackles his role with aplomb and gives depth to the crook. It’s the characters love for dogs and the ensuing madness that is the bright spot of this movie. Plus, props must be given to the costumer, make-up artists, and hairstylist who managed to make Cooper unattractive.

Coopers role, like the rest of the cast, was written by Shepard to their acting strengths. But this doesn’t lead to quality acting. Bell is not at her comedic best and comes off as nagging instead of any of the strong humor we saw so much of in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Tom Arnold totally overacts, and I am left to wonder if they gave him vodka and Red Bull and then set him loose on the set. Shepard himself tries to channel Owen Wilson but can’t manage the charm or the cuteness. The only other light besides Cooper is Jason Bateman’s small part as a U.S. Marshall.

The film had two directors (David Palmer assists Shepard) but like so many movies with two directors, it did not help the quality of the film. Like Silent House, the two directors did nothing to keep out weird shots and angels and keeping the story cohesive. The worst parts are the car chases. Unlike the fun absurdity of The Fast & The Furious, these car chase like substance and luster. They are filmed oddly and have a peculiar line-up. One scene included a Corvette, a station wagon and a mini van chasing each other on and off road while amazingly they are all keeping up with each other.

The only irony in the movie wasn’t intended. Bell’s character nags Charlie about what type of person is attracted to his soupped up get away-car, implying he is not better than the red neck thief they encounter. This becomes the running theme of the movie: There has to be an audience who will happily watch a car rev and spin in endless circles before a car chase. There has to be an audience that thinks full frontal elderly nudity is funny. There has to be an audience that finds Dax Shepard funny. But what does that say about the person Shepard is? And what does that say about what he thinks about his friends?