Archive for Mary Steenburgen

FOUR CHRISTMASES :: COMEDY :: 029

Posted in Comedy, Drama, romance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12/25/2009 by joycereview

It’s Christmas Eve… Santa’s probably airborne (he usually gets an early start) and come Christmas morning, everyone should have something in their stocking.  Now, if I were one of those “snippy” critics, I would reference here that those that worked on this movie shouldn’t expect Santa’s good graces.

Let me say from the start, that I have a fondness for Vince Vaughn.  Truth-be-told, I didn’t like him in the beginning; not because he was a bad actor or anything, but because he seemed like a bit of a wise-guy.  One of those guys that always had a witty come-back and who you’d wish would just be “normal” for once.  But he’s someone that has really grown on me, and has turned into someone I look forward to seeing time and time again.  If it weren’t for him, this movie would barely make a track!  Four Christmas barely comes across with 5.

Here’s the “bear” bones-

Brad (Vince Vaugn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) look to be the modern version of the perfect couple; lovingly self-centered, but getting all that they want from their relationship (for now).  Under the ruse of charity work, Brad and Kate escape the family obligations and the ensuing stress of the holidays by flying to Fiji; only to discover that the flight is cancelled due to heavy fog.  To make matters worse, a tv reporter and camera shows up and exposes their failed getaway.  Four Christmases in one day can be trying for anybody, but with Brad and Kate, the secrets, humiliations and the physical abuse might more than their relationship can handle.

When watching this movie, I kinda wished I had a lower I.Q. just for the fact that it would have boosted my enjoyment of it.  While it certainly had its fun moments (which was inevitably caused by Vaughn’s comic leadership), and gave us the split family dynamic rather than just the one, crazy household, it sank on the basis of character.

Comedy works best when the laughs are allowed to well up from within the material, the situation, and/or the nature of the character.  It isn’t a 10-year old child ,with his boney fist posed at your defenseless face, asking “What’s my name bitch?” that makes the scene funny- it’s the reaction of Vince Vaughn, who undoubtedly channels his emotions from the “near rape” scene from Wedding Crashers, and who’s pitched pleads of mercy are both hilarious and real.  If it weren’t for Vaughn’s brilliance, that scene would have been completely wasted on me.  The supporting cast, however, if not saved by or made funny by Vaughn, falls silent.  Reese Witherspoon did a decent job, even though her wrestle-mania in the “jump jump cage” was a immature and needy.

Screen legends Sissy Spacek, Bobby Duvall and Jon Voight provided a bit more (name) weight to the film, but only propped up it’s status to a movie like,  Meet the Fockers. One line from Duvall (who played Brad’s biological dad), was quite side-ripping though;

Boys, I don’t want to speak ill of your mother on Christmass, but she’s nothing but a common street whore.

I long for a Christmas movie that will take the place of my beloved National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but I’ve yet to find it.  Vaughn could be my next Chevy, if only he had his Eddie… and Jon Favreau, you’re not him.  Owen Wilson is a terrific comedic partner but we’ll just have to see what the future holds.  For me, something like that would surely make my Christmas wish list!

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THE BRAVE ONE :: DRAMA :: 023

Posted in Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 12/02/2009 by joycereview


The Brave One, a remake of the Charles Bronson classic Deathwish is a sensational flick, perfectly cast and well-acted.  Here’s the “skinny”…

Erica Bain (Jodie Foster), WKNW radio personality, walks the street finding sounds, stories and observations of New York life for her program Streetwalk.  On one dark evening, Erica and her fiance, David (Naveen Andrews) walk their dog through Central Park and are confronted by a group of malicious punks.  They are severely beaten and David dies from his injuries.  Her world completely shattered, Erica purchases a gun for self-protection, only to find it as an instrument for her chosen brand of justice and vengeance.

Many of you who read these reviews know that besides my love for critiquing films, I have a passion for educating and empowering individuals (women in particular) to defend themselves against violence (see The Golden Thread).  One of the major obstacles that I come across is convincing women to be proactive in their efforts to learn self-defense, to be diligent enough to train, and to come to understand themselves amidst a cloud of fear.  Erica Bain, unfortunately, began to understand the depths fear can penetrate after that tragic stroll.  A quote from the movie that I particularly like is

I always believed that fear belonged to other people.  Weaker people.  It never touched me.  And then it did.  And when it touches you, you know… that it’s been there all along.  Waiting beneath the surfaces of everything you loved.

The story of revenge is an old one, but plays to that part of our human nature that demands a certain “final” justice.  However, this film (achieved largely by the skilled actors, writers, and an extremely talented story-telling director in Neil Jordan) doesn’t, at any point, imply that her actions are justified.  If we have that notion of “They got what’s coming to them,” it’s on us… it’s our (0ver-)reaction towards violence… and it’s our sympathetic connection to the protagonist’s ordeal.  We are wrong.  Erica Bain knows she is wrong… that what she is doing is wrong, and this is a major quality in a film that transcends the typical revenge movie stereotypes.

It was nearly 30 years ago that Jodie Foster played opposite Robert DeNiro in the New York vigilante picture, Taxi Driver. The city has changed a lot in 30 years, but the history of violence stands and it is fitting to see Jodie play a character that is like so many of us: happy, optimistic,…blind.

There are so many things that are right about this film that it is hard to find any faults.  Jodie Foster’s performance is one of the best that I’ve seen and Terrence Howard does a magnificent job as the “detective playing his hunches.”  Artistically crafted by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Michael Collins) this film sets itself apart from the masses of revenge-driven stories and opens the doors for us to see our own morality and perhaps even question it.  Per example, “How can justice prevail, when the good do nothing?”