Archive | August, 2011

Americone Dream Come True

24 Aug

I did it again.

As you may recall, last summer, I successfully led an effort to get Ben & Jerry’s to come and give free ice cream to my coworkers.

In fact, it was exactly this week that the ice cream truck rolled up to our building and gave out servings of tasty Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to all who wanted it.

Well, Ben & Jerry’s is at it again this summer, and so was I. Continue reading

Lost and Found

19 Aug

I got lost yesterday.

Again.

My company had its annual summer outing at the Nashoba Valley Ski Area, and on my way home, I decided I didn’t like the route the Google Maps app on my iPhone was suggesting (i.e., Route 2).

So, I opted to go back home the same way I got to Westford: By driving past Walden Pond and through the ‘burbs, by my office, and then onto 128 and the Pike (or up Trapelo Road, if there was traffic on the highways).

I thought I knew where I was going.

I was wrong. Continue reading

Caesar Is Home

12 Aug

So here’s how the apes came to rule the planet, according to the new film Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Sometime in the present day, a scientist (James Franco) develops a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease — one that not only restores normal brain function but improves upon it. Tests on chimps have the expected result: They get more intelligent. So these already strong beasts are now smart as well. And while the scientist is kind, and he takes good care of one chimp in particular named Caesar, he’s the only human who does, so Caesar eventually gets mad. Sharing the drug with his fellow primates, he leads a rebellion against humankind and, well, anyone who’s seen the other Planet of the Apes movies knows the rest.

This prequel chapter is a pretty cool addition to the saga, mostly because it’s a movie about chimps and apes that features no actual apes and chimps. Instead, actors like Andy Serkis (Gollum in the Lord of the Rings saga and King Kong in the 2005 version), “play” the chimps (digital effects were added in post-production by Weta Digital, the folks behind Avatar). And that’s impressive, because it allows these primates to give actual performances, ones with genuine emotion (sadness, menace, etc.). And in the final third of the film, when the chimps and apes go on the attack, it’s awesome. Until then, though, Rise sort of plays like I Am Legend, with its similar premise of a medical advance that has adverse effects. (In the case of Legend, the end of the world was Emma Thompson’s fault. Here, it’s Franco’s.)

Franco and his costars Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, and Brian Cox, do decent jobs. But actually, it’s Tom Felton who provides the biggest thrill. Playing a bad-seed guardian of the primates in an animal shelter, you wait and wait for the chimps to have their way with the erstwhile Draco Malfoy. And when they do, it’s rather satisfying.

Of course, that’s kind of the odd thing about the movie: You never really know whose side you’re supposed to be on. You know the humans won’t “win,” and it’s not exactly like the chimps (cute though some of them may be) are “the good guys,” so the film comes to a rather unresolved conclusion. Between now and when Charlton Heston crash lands on the planet (or Mark Wahlberg, if that’s your preference), a lot happens. But for now, like the apes themselves, we’re just left hanging. I’m going to give Rise a B. Damn, you dirty apes.

Not My Piece of Pie

10 Aug

The premise is cringe-worthy and racially-charged: In the early 1960s, a white young woman in Jackson, Miss., interviews black housekeepers to learn what it’s really like to work for such cruel and racist families. And yet, The Help tells its story with a fair amount of love and respect, so it is not as offensive as it could have been. Much of that is due to the dignified and heartfelt performance of Viola Davis, and of course, much credit also goes to writer/director Tate Taylor, a childhood friend of Kathryn Stockett, on whose book this film is based. (Octavia Spencer, another longtime friend of Stockett’s who inspired one of the characters, also gives a notable performance.)

But love will only take you so far. While much care may have gone into the making of The Help, the movie itself will not be a winner for all audiences. It’s a “women’s picture” — which is to say not a dumb romantic comedy “chick-flick” — and I’m definitely not the target audience. I also didn’t really dig yet another story about an idealist young white woman who redeems the persecuted black community. I’m just not sure Davis or Spencer’s characters would ever have told so much to fresh-from-college Skeeter, even if she is played by the in-demand Emma Stone. So The Help, while not an awful movie, gets just a B from me. No doubt it will be beloved by many who’ve read the book, but it’s not my piece of pie.

Guns Hot

4 Aug

Dave (Jason Bateman) is a married man, the father of three kids, and a lawyer. Suffice it to say, he’s settled, but with lots of obligations. His best friend Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) is perpetually single and unemployed, with all the time in the world to enjoy his life. So of course they each want each other’s life. That’s the premise of The Change-Up, a body-switching comedy from the creators of Wedding Crashers and The Hangover that actually is about as funny as you might hope it would be, given that pedigree.

Yes, you’ve seen movies like this before. But I can’t remember one that was R-rated or this funny. Credit that to a screenplay that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and a performance by Bateman that’s more fun than anything he’s done in recent years. For a change (no pun intended), he gets to loosen up and not play the straight man (as he does in movies like Horrible Bosses), and he’s great. Also, um, Olivia Wilde is in the movie and that’s a very good thing. To be sure, The Change-Up is not a smart, sophisticated comedy. It’s got its token share of poop jokes and other broad, crude humor. But it’s also got lots of laughs, and it’s easy to like. So I’m giving The Change-Up a strong B.

All for Love

1 Aug

When I say that they don’t make movies like Crazy, Stupid, Love very often, I’m serious.

Yes, there are plenty of romantic comedies out there, some involving adults, and yes, a plot about a wimpy, broken-hearted man who seeks counsel from a cooler guy isn’t new, but too infrequently is the movie as good — as smart, as funny, as warm-hearted, as alive — as this one is.

And that’s why Crazy, Stupid, Love is one of the best movies, not just of the summer, but of the year so far. Continue reading