What movies are worth your precious Hamiltons?

What movies are worth your precious Hamiltons?

Hollywood’s upped the ante to $10 for viewing one of their precious little “movies.” Add $54 for a medium popcorn, medium beverage and a box of Milk Duds (“The Blockbuster Bellybuster Valu Combo”) and we’re talking a pretty pricey couple hours. I’ll scribble a few lines to tell you which movies I believe are worth seeing and which ones aren’t worth your Hamilton.

“Pineapple Express”– I suppose if one’s really baked this movie lives up to the hype. Then again, smoke enough goof and staring at a brick is pretty funny. I was not terribly amused by this film so I guess I was obviously too sober.

Oh, it’s got a few laughs and some fun bits, but this is hardly a great comedy or action movie. Clocking in at almost two hours, this film could certainly lose some unsightly celluloid. It gets hyper-violent at the end, but it’s not hyper-amusing as it goes on and on and on some more. Then goes on some more, and a little bit more for good measure.

The movie’s not awful, it’s just awfully disappointing. I wanted more laughs, more amusement. Apparently the idea and the script were created by Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg when they were 16 or so. It feels like it. Guess I’ m just not on the Seth Rogen bandwagon.

I have a little system I use to rate just how much I don’t like a movie. If in a week, someone said I could see the same movie for free, would I? No, not this one. Then how much would they have to pay me to see the movie? $5? $10? $15? $20?

Keep the bidding going on this one. Save your Hammie for something else.

“The Dark Knight”— Take that ten spot you banked not going to Pineapple Express and treat yourself to this big honking action/adventure extravaganza.

Yes, Heath Ledger’s as good as you’ve heard (shame he never heard the great reviews but his performance is probably a lock for an Oscar nomination). Yes, Christian Bale can raise some hell against people who aren’t his family members. And yes, Christopher Nolan succeeded in following up the high cinematic bar he set in “Batman Begins”.

Gotham City looks gorgeously gloomy, ably played by the up and comer city of Chicago with some heavy make-up and dour disposition. The plot is intricate and the supporting cast superb. Aaron Eckhart is suave and de-boner (albeit a bit two-faced), Maggie Gyllenhaal delivers the goods along with Morgan Freeman playing the standard Morgan Freeman character–- the wise one who enlightens the way for heroes while dispensing sage advice. But the movie is owned by Ledger who scowls, grimaces, laughs diabolically behind make-up that wears away throughout the film (the classic symbolism for one losing his mojo). 

Perhaps the best performance belongs to Ledger’s tongue: darting, licking and smacking about like an animal struggling to be restrained. It’s a tongue performance for the ages.

Sure the movie could shed some weight at two and a half hours long, and some of the sub plots don’t work completely, and it just seems a waste to have an incredible talent like Gary Oldman play a milquetoast character like Gordon, but “the Dark Knight” is a hell of a ride and a visual spectacle throughout.  Pony up the Hamilton, pay some more if you’re able to see it in IMAX, but by all means see what the buzz is about.

“Iron Man”–  Another from the comic books, this is one of the best films of the year with great special effects, casting and performances all the way around. The script is tight. The first 20 minutes packs an incredible amount of background into an easily digested and fun to watch appetizer that sets up the hearty banquet ahead. From the opening frame on, the film catapults forward and keeps you interested, engaged and amused.  Sure, the climax is a bit strained, but what do you expect from comic book characters? Robert Downey, Jr. is terrific. Thank goodness he’s clean and sober because his talent would have been tragic to waste. Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard have Downey covered for a fun show that’s worth seeing at least once, if not twice. Director Jon Favreau kicked out the jams on this one. Strap on a seat and keep your arms inside the car.

“The Incredible Hulk”– Yet one more movie from the comics (makes me wonder if the Comic Book Store Guy from “The Simpsons” is running the studios these days).

This movie didn’t get its due. While not in the same league as “Iron Man” or “The Dark Knight”, this film is pretty damn good and worth seeing. Edward Norton does what Edward Norton always does: own every scene he’s in. His Bruce Banner is one conflicted cat, just don’t anger up his blood.

The problem is giving Norton a lightweight heroine in Liv Tyler. She disappears in the scenes they share.  The rest of the cast is O.K., Tim Roth serves a hefty dose of evil, and the story moves along at a healthy clip with some cool effects. Not a great film, but certainly worth seeing if it comes to a buck-a-rama near you. Definitely rent and watch when it’s out on DVD.

“Mamma Mia!”–  Yes, I am a heterosexual male and yes, I saw “Mamma Mia!”. In fact, I’ve seen it twice, once on the stage and now on the screen. I really liked the stage production, I really didn’t like the movie version. The reason is simple: the voices didn’t serve the musical. I think they let ABBA down (it’s never ever a good idea to let Abba down, people– ABBA must be served, it is a palindrome for Pete’s sake!).

Yes, Meryl Streep is a very talented actor, one of our best (can anyone cry better than Meryl cries?), but she is not a top drawer singing talent. Respectable, yes– she can carry a tune in a bucket. But phenomenal? Hardly. Her daughter, played by Amanda Seyfried, fares better in the singing department but she doesn’t bring much charisma or magic to the role. Pity, that.

As for the three papa bears in this Goldilocks tale, well, here’s where Mamma Mia! goes way off the tracks. Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Pierce Brosnan are likable enough but ill equipped to sing and dance. In fact, we all feel the shame when Pierce opens his mouth to warble. One wishes Daniel Craig as 007 would enter stage left, throttle him soundly and exit stage right.

Nope, the sad thing is this movie does a big disservice to the stage production. It forgets that a musical is about the music. Voices first, voices always.

Save your money for a first rate stage production of “Mamma Mia!”. This movie’s a letdown… and still it’s a blockbuster hit. Guess it shows what I know.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”– Take the two 800 pound gorillas of Hollywood, Lucas and Spielberg, add a proven bankable star (Harrison Ford) and a rising bankable star (Shia LeBeouf) in a franchise that’s grossed ten bazillion trillion dollars worldwide (Indiana Jones) and what have you got?

A terrible waste of a lot of talent.

The script’s goofy, the action ho hum and the adventure M.I.A. One can almost sense Spielberg yawning from behind the camera as he goes through the motions. This fourth installment of Indy should put him to rest, if there’s any justice. It’s already spawned a new expression for the venerable Jump the shark; in this case it’s called Nuke the fridge. 

Fonzie, thank Indy. You’re off the hook for the near future.

The set design of the ending scenes are obviously fake and cheesy. It’s hard to believe so many big names collaborated to make such a forgettable turd. Please don’t enable this people with your money– they may just do it again.

“Get Smart”… and skip “Get Smart”. It’s nothing like the TV show (which had a little something called ‘humor’, or ‘humour’ for British readers). What a waste of Steve Carell, time and money.

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