Showing posts with label Dustin Hoffman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dustin Hoffman. Show all posts

Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: "Runaway Jury" is Unrealistic, But Entertaining (Happy B'day, Gene Hackman)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 32 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Runaway Jury (2003)
Running time: 127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence, language, and thematic elements
DIRECTOR: Gary Fleder
WRITERS: Brian Koppelman and David Levien, Rick Cleveland, and Matthew Chapman (based upon the novel by John Grisham)
PRODUCER: Christopher Mankiewicz, and Gary Fleder
EDITOR: William Steinkamp, A.C.E. and Jeff Williams


Starring: John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Bruce Davison, Bruce McGill, Jeremy Piven, Nick Searcy, Joanna Going, Stanley Anderson, Cliff Curtis, Jennifer Beals, and Bill Nunn with Orlando Jones and (uncredited) Dylan McDermott

Runaway Jury is a 2003 legal drama/thriller from director Gary Fleder. The film is based on the 1996 novel, The Runaway Jury, by author John Grisham.

Set in New Orleans, Runaway Jury is the story of a mysterious man named Nicholas Easter (John Cusack), who talks his way onto the jury of a landmark civil case against a gun manufacturer and attempts to influence the verdict by manipulating the other jurors. Meanwhile, on the outside, Easter’s girlfriend, Marlee (Rachel Weisz) runs a game to swindle the two lawyers involved in the case into paying her 10 million dollars if they want the verdict friendly to their clients.

Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman) is a torts lawyer who represents the plaintiff, Celeste Wood (Joanna Going), the widow of Jacob Wood (Dylan McDermott), who was killed in a shooting rampage at brokerage firm. She believes the gun manufacturer knew that the killer bought the gun from a store that was careless and ignored gun laws. Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman) is a jury consultant for the defense. Fitch is almost superhuman in the way he is able to discover the pasts of jurors, examine their beliefs and mindsets, and find out who can be bought, bribed, or blackmailed. His war with Nick Easter and Marlee drives the trial to the brink of ruin for a breathtaking finale.

Runaway Jury is the latest film adapted from a bestseller by John Grisham, author of books such as The Firm and A Time to Kill, both of which were adapted into films. The novel’s original premise was about a civil action against big tobacco, but the gun industry, also a target of big lawsuits, may have seemed like an easier sell to moviegoers, as guns are a lightening rod and divider of the American public. However, the film really doesn’t turn on a change of litigants. The best thing this film has going for it is the trio of John Cusack, Gene Hackman, and Rachel Weisz because they put the drama and thrills in this film. Dustin Hoffman is good, but he seems like the odd man out. His one good chance to chew up the scenery with Hackman is decidedly one-sided with Hackman eating his lunch. Anyone seeing this movie will clearly understand what power Hackman radiates. His star power and acting ability is worlds better than most other actors. An actor in a film with him has got to bring serious game, or Hackman will sweep him away. I so loved Hackman’s performance here that I wanted to have a baby for him.

Parts of Runaway Jury certainly test the bounds of belief and reality, but this is a great legal drama even if stuff happens in this film that no judge would allow to go on in his courtroom. And I say that knowing that most judges ain’t worth crap and are as crooked as a devil in gambling parlor. Runaway Jury is wonderful entertainment, and if you turn your reasoning down a little, it’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.

7 of 10


Monday, September 5, 2011

Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" Now on Blu-ray


Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of a Sam Peckinpah Classic, The Blu-ray Disc Arrives For The First Time Ever September 6

Theatrical Remake Premieres Everywhere September 16

Los Angeles, CA (August 11, 2011) – How far will one man go to protect his wife and his home? One of the grittiest and controversial thrillers of all-time and banned in the United Kingdom for over 18 years, STRAW DOGS debuts on Blu-ray Disc September 6 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Released in celebration of the film’s 40th Anniversary and in anticipation of the upcoming theatrical remake, this violent and suspenseful tale from legendary director Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, The Getaway) stars two-time Academy Award® winner Dustin Hoffman* (The Graduate, Little Fockers) and Susan George (Mandingo, The House Where Evil Dwells).

To escape the Vietnam-era chaos in the U.S., American mathematician David Sumner (Hoffman) moves with his British wife Amy (George) to an isolated English village. Their presence provokes antagonism among the village's men. Escalating from routine bullying to the gang rape of his wife, David finds his pacifist self being backed into a corner and responds in the violent and gruesome manner he abhors.

The STRAW DOGS Blu-ray has been carefully restored and is presented with all-new 5.1 audio.

STRAW DOGS Blu-ray Special Features:
Original Theatrical Trailer
Three Original Television Spots

About Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. is actively engaged in the worldwide production and distribution of motion pictures, television programming, home video, interactive media, music, and licensed merchandise. The company owns the world’s largest library of modern films, comprising around 4,100 titles. Operating units include Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc., United Artists Films Inc., MGM Television Entertainment Inc., MGM Networks Inc., MGM Distribution Co., MGM International Television Distribution Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Home Entertainment LLC, MGM ON STAGE, MGM Music, MGM Consumer Products and MGM Interactive. In addition, MGM has ownership interests in domestic and international TV channels reaching over 130 countries. For more information, visit

About Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment LLC
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC (TCFHE) is a recognized global industry leader and a subsidiary of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a News Corporation company. Representing 75 years of innovative and award-winning filmmaking from Twentieth Century Fox, TCFHE is the worldwide marketing, sales and distribution company for all Fox film and television programming, acquisitions and original productions on DVD, Blu-ray Disc Digital Copy, Video On Demand and Digital Download. The company also releases all products globally for MGM Home Entertainment. Each year TCFHE introduces hundreds of new and newly enhanced products, which it services to retail outlets from mass merchants and warehouse clubs to specialty stores and e-commerce throughout the world.

STRAW DOGS Blu-ray (Catalogue # M125141)
Street Date: September 6, 2011
Screen Format: Widescreen
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
U.S. Rating: R
Total Run Time: 118 minutes
Closed Captioned: Yes

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review: Giamatti, Hoffman Golden in "Barney's Version"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 58 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Barney’s Version (2010)
Running time: 134 minutes; MPAA – R for language and some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Richard J. Lewis
WRITER: Michael Konyves (based upon the novel by Mordecai Richler)
PRODUCER: Robert Lantos
EDITOR: Susan Shipton
COMPOSER: Pasquale Catalano
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike, Scott Speedman, Anna Hopkins, Jake Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Bruce Greenwood, Rachelle Lefevre, Thomas Trabacchi, Clé Bennett, Saul Rubinek, Mark Addy, and David Cronenberg, Denys Arcand, and Atom Egoyan

Barney’s Version is a 2010 Canadian film based upon the 1997 novel of the same title by Mordecai Richler. A comedy and drama, Barney’s Version looks at three decades in the life of a picaresque character and his three wives.

Impulsive, irascible, and fearlessly blunt with a foul mouth, Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) is a Jewish Canadian television producer who drinks hard, smokes too many cigars, and is a rabid hockey fan. He owns Totally Unnecessary Productions, which produces a long-running soap opera, “Constable O’Malley of the North.”

At the age of 65, Barney looks back on his life. There is success and wealth, but there are also many mistakes and failures. Underlying his story are three wives: Clara “Chambers” Charnofsky (Rachelle Lefevre), a free-spirit who loves free love (and Barney’s friends); the second wife, Mrs. Panofsky (Minnie Driver), a talkative, self-centered Jewish princess; and Miriam Grant (Rosamund Pike), the love of his life who gives birth to his children. Also part of Barney’s life story is Bernard “Boogie” Moscovitch (Scott Speedman), a drug addict and failed writer who gets Barney in trouble with the law.

Barney’s Version is marked by some good performances, and, in particular, a topnotch lead performance by Paul Giamatti, who won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Barney Panofsky. Dustin Hoffman, as Barney’s father, Izzy Panofsky, gives one of those robust, fragrant supporting performances that stand out from the other supporting performances. Like many films that make extensive use of flashbacks, however, Barney’s Version ends up looking like an interesting highlight reel rather than a fully developed story that is, in turn, about something or that is built around a solid thematic structure.

I’m not saying that Barney’s Version is not a good movie, but simply that it seems like no more than bits and pieces of a larger story about one of those great fictional characters that grab a hold of our imagination. By the end of Barney’s Version, I thought, “This is good, but there is more. Something is missing.” Still, movie lovers who love character dramas will want to try Barney’s Version.

7 of 10

2011 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Makeup” (Adrien Morot)

2011 Golden Globes: 1 win: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Paul Giamatti)

Friday, July 08, 2011


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review: Johnny Depp Puts His Foot in "Finding Neverland" (Happy B'day, Johnny Depp)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 249 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Finding Neverland (2004)
Running time: 106 minutes (1 hour, 46 minutes)
MPAA – PG for mild thematic elements and brief language
DIRECTOR: Marc Forster
WRITER: David Magee (based upon the play The Man Who was Peter Pan by Allan Knee)
PRODUCERS: Nellie Bellflower and Richard N. Gladstein
EDITOR: Matt Chesse
Academy Award winner

DRAMA with elements of fantasy

Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell, Dustin Hoffman, Freddie Highmore, Joe Prospero, Nick Roud, Luke Spill, Ian Hart, and Kelly Macdonald

Finding Neverland is set in London in 1904 and follows dramatist Sir James Matthew (J.M.) Barrie’s (Johnny Depp) creative process and journey in writing the stage drama that would bring Peter Pan, one of the most beloved creations of children’s stories, to life. Barrie’s inspiration begins when he meets a widow, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet), and her four young sons: Jack (Joe Prospero), George (Nick), Michael (Luke Spill), and Peter (Freddie Highmore), the one to whom Barrie feels closest. Barrie becomes an intimate friend of Sylvia and the boys, so he visits them often and plays games with the boys.

However, his relationship with the Davies starts ugly rumors in London, according to Barrie’s friend, Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Ian Hart). Barrie’s wife, Mary (Radha Mitchell), is a bit envious of James’ relationship with the Davies, and Sylvia’s mother, Mrs. Emma du Maurier (Julie Christie), thinks Barrie’s relationship with Sylvia is keeping her daughter from getting a new husband. Barrie, of course, remains close with the Davies, even as Sylvia becomes gravely ill. Her sons, who’ve already lost their father, are worried, especially Peter who still feels that his parents lied to him when his father was dying. Still, they all soldier on until Peter Pan premieres at the Duke of York Theatre and changes all their lives.

Although the film and the screenplay’s source (a play by Allan Knee) play loose with history (Sylvia’s husband Arthur was alive and well when Peter Pan premiered and the couple had five sons, although the fifth was born around the time of the play’s premiere), Finding Neverland is a spectacular reinvention of J.M. Barrie’s journey in creating Peter Pan. Both the Peter Pan stage play and subsequent novel are rife with issues of death, eternal youth, boyhood, and the loss of loved ones. Finding Neverland tackles those themes without blinking, yet the film isn’t morbid or peculiar. Director Marc Forster and screenwriter David Magee have the characters navigate their way through the difficult times in life with brave faces.

I’m amazed by the fact that this film avoids easy answers when it comes to dealing with the loss of loved ones and also by the fact that Forster doesn’t turn his story by turning on the water works. Finding Neverland is never sentimental or overly emotional, although that can be a bit of a problem; at times, this film’s mood is too stiff, cold, and formal. Forster, who made the searing 2001 drama Monster’s Ball, makes this film too severe for most of the first half. Early on, Finding Neverland seems to lumber, and this makes the actors come across an amateurs delivering dry, wooden dialogue. Forster’s picture really doesn’t come together until late in the second act.

For all Forster’s trouble with narrative rhythm in this film, he does allow his entire cast to come into their own. Every actor gives a fine performance and contributes something meaningful to the story’s outcome. Johnny Depp’s performance has gotten most of the attention since this film debuted. He shines in his scenes with Julie Christie as Barrie’s wife and with Freddie Highmore as Peter Llewelyn Davies, but his finest moments are the times he quietly and subtly tells the tale of Barrie’s imagination. His eyes are like windows into Barrie’s interior worlds.

When Forster and Magee bring to life Barrie’s imagination for either the characters or the audience to experience, Depp’s face takes on that look of wonder that has captivated audiences in Depp’s collaborations with director Tim Burton, such as Ed Wood or Sleepy Hollow. However, having grown as an actor, Depp makes Barrie a man who still remembers and understands the fears, mysteries, and wonders of childhood without making his Barrie a stereotype such as the childlike man, the man child, or the man with a sense of “childlike wonder.” Depp’s performance carries this movie and makes the essence of Neverland real in Finding Neverland.

7 of 10

2005 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Original Score” (Jan A.P. Kaczmarek); 6 nominations: “Best Picture” (Richard N. Gladstein and Nellie Bellflower), “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Johnny Depp), “Best Adapted Screenplay” (David Magee), “Best Art Direction” (Gemma Jackson-art director and Trisha Edwards-set decorator), “Best Costume Design” (Alexandra Byrne), and “Best Film Editing” (Matt Chesse)

2005 BAFTA Awards: 11 nominations: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film” (Music Jan A.P. Kaczmarek), “Best Cinematography” (Roberto Schaefer), “Best Costume Design’ (Alexandra Byrne), “Best Film” (Richard N. Gladstein and Nellie Bellflower), “Best Make Up/Hair” (Christine Blundell), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Johnny Depp), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Kate Winslet), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Julie Christie), “Best Production Design” (Gemma Jackson), “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (David Magee), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Marc Forster)

2005 Golden Globes: 5 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Marc Forster), “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Jan A.P. Kaczmarek), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Johnny Depp), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (David Magee)


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: "Kung Fu Panda 2" Brings Awesome Back

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 45 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Running time: 90 minutes (1 hour, 30 minutes)
MPAA – PG for sequences of martial arts action and mild violence
DIRECTORS: Jennifer Yuh
WRITERS: Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger
PRODUCER: Melissa Cobb
COMPOSERS: Hans Zimmer and John Powell


Starring: (voices) Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Michelle Yeoh, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Haysbert, and Danny McBride

Kung Fu Panda 2 is a computer-animated film from DreamWorks Animation. A martial arts, action-comedy, it is the sequel to the Oscar-nominated 2008 animated film, Kung Fu Panda. The sequel is every bit as good as the original, but the action and fight scenes in the new movie not only surpass the first film, they are also better than anything yet seen in computer-animated films.

Following the events of the first film, Kung Fu Panda 2 finds Po (Jack Black), the giant panda, living his dream as the legendary Dragon Warrior. He protects the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, the legendary Furious Five: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Monkey (Jackie Chan). Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) wishes to continue Po’s lessons by helping him pursue inner peace.

However, Po and the Furious Five must race stop a powerful new enemy, Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), the exiled son of the late Peacock Emperor. From Gongmen City, Shen plots to unleash a powerful new weapon that threatens to destroy kung fu and help him conquer China. For Po, however, there is something familiar about Shen and his murderous army that paralyzes him whenever he faces them. Suffering from bad dreams, Po must delve into his past, the place he doesn’t want to go. If he doesn’t, Shen will win.

I must admit to being in love with great martial arts fighting scenes. I could watch the fight sequences in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and even Ninja Assassin on a continuous loop. The fight scenes are what really won me over with Kung Fu Panda 2. It’s still hard for me to believe that computers can create this kind of character animation and movement with such precision and dynamism. I don’t know if I should call it high tech virtuosity or art as the illusion of life. Kung Fu Panda 2 has some of the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen and rich hues and colors that sparkle.

This movie is not all about the visual spark, however. Kung Fu Panda 2’s story has heart and also the kind of compelling character writing we’ve come to expect from Pixar’s films. Po’s struggles with identity and his origin and the fear that engenders are genuine to the point that you might start worrying about him as if he were a real person. I can say that same thing about Lord Shen, a thoroughly fashioned character and the kind of complicated, complex adversary usually reserved for films seeking Oscar nominations. Gary Oldman does a splendid job in his voice performance as Shen, emphasizing that while Shen is the contrast to Po, they also have similar issues.

Anyone who tells you that Kung Fu Panda 2 is more of the same may not quite be full of crap, but they’re more than half full. This is a sequel that is a continuation of the original’s excellence, and Kung Fu Panda 2 is one of the year’s best.

9 of 10

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: First "Kung Fu Panda" Kicked Butt

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 43 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Running time: 88 minutes (1 hour, 28 minutes)
MPAA – PG for sequences of martial arts action
DIRECTORS: John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
WRITERS: Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger; from a story by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris
PRODUCER: Melissa Cobb
EDITOR: Clare De Chenu
COMPOSERS: Hans Zimmer and John Powell
Academy Award nominee


Starring: (voices) Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Dan Fogler

Kung Fu Panda is a 2008 computer-animated, martial arts, action comedy movie from DreamWorks Animation. It is the story of a lazy, genial giant panda who dreams of greatness and suddenly finds it thrust upon him.

Kung Fu Panda is set in ancient China, specifically the Valley of Peace (a fictional place), which is inhabited by talking animals. That is where you will find Po (Jack Black), a giant panda who is also a kung fu fanatic. He lives with his father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), a goose and a noodle maker. Mr. Ping, who does not care for kung fu, owns the most popular noodle restaurant in the Valley and wants to one day pass the shop down to his son, Po, who would rather become a kung fu master.

Po gets more than he expects when a kung fu master, the elderly tortoise, Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), suddenly and unexpectedly chooses him to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Po is the prophesied Dragon Warrior! However, the man chosen by Oogway to train Po, the diminutive red panda, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), is unwilling to believe that Po could be the Dragon Warrior. Even Shifu’s students, the legendary Furious Five: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Monkey (Jackie Chan), don’t believe in Po.

Po will have to believe in himself and make his dreams of becoming a kung fu master into reality. Shifu’s former student, the vengeful and treacherous snow leopard, Tai Lung (Ian McShane), is headed to the Valley of Peace, and it will be up to Po to defend everyone from him.

I consider Kung Fu Panda to be the best film from DreamWorks Animation, to date. Virtually everything about this film is done to perfection. Every voice actor is just right for his or her role, but I must single out my favorite, the wonderful James Hong as Po’s lovable father, Mr. Ping. You can imagine that he does a really good job to get singled out, considering Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, and Ian McShane are superb in their respective rolls. Everyone brings his or her character to life in a way that matches topnotch performances in live action pictures.

The films by Pixar Animation Studios are so good that it is easy to forget that DreamWorks has become the co-gold standard in computer animated films. While Pixar excels in scriptwriting and storytelling of their films, DreamWorks has come to surpass them in software and tech. Computer-animated films generally do not have the character animation and movement on display in DreamWorks films, particularly those released during the last three years or so.

Kung Fu Panda moves like a Looney Tunes cartoon short – with the chaos of a Road Runner cartoon and the madcap comedy of a Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny short, but it does everything faster; the movement is so much more complex. The most important thing, however, is that Kung Fu Panda is just a great story about a lovable wannabe hero; he must put aside his slacker ways and psychological issues to be the hero he always wanted to be. Po the hero succeeds and along the way, his story, Kung Fu Panda, also reaches the summit.

9 of 10

2009 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year” (John Stevenson and Mark Osborne

2009 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Heart "I Heart Huckabees"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 41 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Also known as I ♥ Huckabees
Running time: 106 minutes (1 hour, 46 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and a sex scene
DIRECTOR: David O. Russell
WRITERS: Jeff Baena and David O. Russell
PRODUCERS: Gregory Goodman, Scott Rudin, and David O. Russell
EDITOR: Robert K. Lambert


Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts, Isabelle Huppert, Angela Grillo, Ger Duany, Jean Smart, Talia Shire, Bob Gunton, and Shania Twain

A “mid-life crisis” is an example of an “existential crisis.” Other examples can be summed up by such laments as “What am I doing with my life?” “my life has been a mistake?” or “my life is a joke.” These are the kind of issues David O. Russell (Flirting with Disaster and Three Kings) tackles in his inventive and daring film, I Heart Huckabees (or I ♥ Huckabees).

Husband and wife existential detectives, Vivian (Lily Tomlin) and Bernard Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman), solve the mysteries that are made of a maze of emotions. Their first client, Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman), comes to them to learn why he keeps running into a tall African named Steve Nimieri (Ger Duany). However, the Jaffes discover that Albert’s problems are rooted in his work for the Open Spaces Coalition. It is an environmental organization that is fighting a giant retail chain, Huckabees, over the corporation’s plans to build a new mall in a marshland and wooded area.

The Jaffes’ work with Albert brings them other clients: Brad Stand (Jude Law), a PR guy for Huckabees who is feigning interest in Albert’s organization as a ploy to remove the troublesome do-gooder Albert as an obstacle to Huckabees building plans and Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts), the beautiful face and spokesmodel of Huckabees, who is also Brad’s girlfriend and to whom Brad won’t commit. Meanwhile, Albert encounters a soul mate, Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), an existential fireman who introduces Albert to Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), a French radical philosopher and former student of the Jaffes, who he claims will help Albert more than the Jaffes. It all adds to one big existential meltdown.

Admittedly, I Heart Huckabees is hard to follow. There is way more existential discussion in this film than practically any other film financed by a mainstream American studio. While I found Russell’s Three Kings to be off-putting at times, I Heart Huckabees totally engaged me. Not only is the script the most ingenious screenplay written outside of anything by written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich), it is also witty and captivating. And the next best thing Russell does is allow his cast to have fun with their parts.

There are no great characters in this film. What is there is greatly played characters. Schwartzman, Hoffman, Ms. Tomlin, Law, and Wahlberg really dig into these roles and give them life, and they had to or the movie would collapse into utter nonsense. The characters aren’t deep or special, for that matter. They’re dealing with deep and weighty matters, and the actors seem to understand that. So their performances are not about chewing scenery or showing off their chops, but rather about playing ordinary people trying to deal with extraordinary and plaguing questions. The only really wacky characters are the Jaffes, and Hoffman and Lily Tomlin make them appealing to ordinary people, in spite of their sometimes creepy intrusiveness.

This film isn’t for everyone, but viewers who’ve tackled the work of David Lynch and Spike Jonze should be able to handle I Heart Huckabees. Liking it, however, is a whole ‘nother thing. Except for a few rough patches, I think this is brilliant and hilarious.

10 of 10

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Meet the Fockers Just Wants to Make You Laugh... Nothing More

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 111 (of No. 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Meet the Fockers (2004)
Running time: 115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, and a brief drug reference
WRITERS: Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg, from a story by Marc Hyman and Jim Herzfeld (based upon characters created by Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke)
PRODUCERS: Robert De Niro, Jay Roach, and Jane Rosenthal
EDITOR: Alan Baumgarten, Lee Haxall, and Jon Poll


Starring: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Spencer Pickren, Bradley Pickren, Alana Ubach, Ray Santiago, Tim Blake Nelson, Shelly Berman, and Cedric Yarbrough

In 2000’s Meet the Parents, “Greg” Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) meets his girlfriend Pam Byrne’s (Teri Polo) parents, Jack (Robert De Niro) and Dina Byrnes (Blythe Danner), but Jack Byrnes is the suspicious father that is every date’s worst nightmare. Much hilarity ensued as Greg tried to earn Jack, a retired CIA officer’s, trust. Four years later, here comes the sequel, Meet the Fockers (the MPAA allegedly demanded that the studio find a family with Focker as a real last name before they allowed the name to be in the film’s title.), and this time Greg and Pam are planning marriage. Jack has more or less grown to accept Greg, mainly because most of his attention is currently on his grandson, Little Jack (Spencer and Bradley Pickren), whom the Byrne’s are sitting while his parents are away.

So it’s time for the Byrnes to meet the Fockers, Greg’s parents, Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) and Roz (Barbra Streisand). Greg and Pam join her parents for the long road trip to Miami where the Bernie and Roz live, and while the trip goes well, the initial meeting between the two sets of parents goes a little awry. That’s just a taste of troublesome things to come, especially after Jack learns that Greg has a few bombshell secrets that Greg’s trying to hide in order to stay in Jack’s vaunted “circle of trust.”

Meet the Fockers is exceedingly funny, although also deeply shallow. The film’s vulgar and crude comedy matches such teen and twenty-something favorites as There’s Something About Mary and American Pie for raunchiness. Meet the Fockers was a giant hit over the 2004 Christmas holidays and well into 2005 because it is ostensibly a family comedy with a lot of belly laughs and plenty of outrageous humor – some of it capable of chasing prudes out of the theatre. Still, the screenwriters and the cast, who are so game to play this script to the hilt, are to be commended for making great humor out of incidents, misunderstandings, misfires, miscalculations, etc. that would bring real families to the brink of a war of the relatives.

Ben Stiller, coolly playing the straight man, keeps this movie sane. Robert De Niro is too intense and actually makes his character hateful, except for the opening and closing scenes. Dustin Hoffman alternates between being annoying and funny. Barbra Streisand is a comedy dynamo, and shows a side of her talent that hasn’t been seen much the last 20 years or so – that of the delightful comedienne. Overall, Meet the Fockers gives much laughter for its value, whether you see it at home or in a theatre. In fact, this is a must-see for people who just want to watch a movie that will make them laugh.

6 of 10