Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nobel Son, Clean, Black Sheep, Tokyo Mater (short), and Nothing Like the Holidays.

Whew! This is going to be one loooooong review dump. I'll try to make it short. My fault. Been really busy with pre-production on the new flick. Right now, I'm at the point where I know I have something I need to do (other than re-storyboard a couple of scenes), but I'll be damned if I can remember what it is. Anyway, onto the reviews!


Nobel Son was written by Jody Savin and Randall Miller (their blast-off flick was Bottle Shock based on the true story of California wine) and directed by Miller. It's about the kidnapping of the son of a philandering, egotistical Nobel prize winning chemist (brilliantly played by Alan Rickman.)

The cast were all fantastic. There's the formerly mentioned Rickman, Bryan Greenberg as his son, Mary Steenburgen as his wife, and a host of other recognizable faces if not considered stars in their own rights: Ted Danson (Steenburgen's husband), Ernie Hudson, Bill Pullman, Danny DeVito, Eliza Dushku, and Shawn Hatosy. It's simply too bad that the script wasn't up to snuff.

You see, it was a great story with lots of twists and turns. If the writers had spent even half the time on the characters that they spent on the story, this would have been an amazing little flick. Unfortunately, the characters all fall flat. In the end, I didn't care about any of them. And the attempts at black comedy were painful at best.

If you don't mind that the characters aren't all that well-rendered, then I recommend the flick because the story is well-written. 


Clean was written and directed by Olivier Assayas and starred the always wonderful Maggie Cheung as the heroin addicted aspiring musician wife of a heroin addicted rock star who accidentally, and fatally, overdoses in their hotel room. The movie is about her search for redemption and the strength to change herself.

It really could have been an amazing film except for one problem that I had with it and this is a major spoiler so if you don't want to know, skip the rest of this paragraph. She never, not once, admits that she was the one who bought the drugs that killed him. Even when her little boy, with whom she was amazingly honest all around this particular conversation, asks her if she bought the drugs, she denies it. If she had ever finally owned that one not-so-little detail, I would be praising the movie all over the place. Unfortunately, she doesn't and she gets to continue pursuing her dream, gets her son back, and lives free and clear, but not so clean as the title would imply. 

That complaint aside, Maggie Cheung was absolutely brilliant in the role which I think was made all the more difficult as she's required to speak three different languages in the course of the movie: her native Chinese (forgive me as I don't know the dialect...Cantonese maybe?), French (this is the main language of the film), and English. Everyone in the film was fantastic.

Another problem I had was with the music. It all sounded the same to me. And bad at that.

The editing was bad, too. Noticibly so because I don't often think about how well or not-well a film is edited. This was not well edited.

Overall: one missing card brings down the whole house, but it was filled with wonderful performances so that should count for something.


Black Sheep was written and directed by Jonathan King and is NOT that Kevin Farley movie. This one is best described by the tag line, as provided by the IMDb: "Get ready for the Violence of the Lambs!"

If I'd grown up in a land where our main commerce was centered around sheep, I think this would have been funnier.  As it was, I giggled a couple of times and sighed when they Went There with some of their jokes. Some horror flicks can't help but be predictable and still be good. This was predictable, but in a bad way.

The sound effects and score were underwhelming, too. The music cues seemed off because the swells and stings didn't hit at the right times.

Great special effects from WETA workshops, those lovely blokes and sheilas behind Dead Alive and the Lord of the Rings flicks, though. Those guys are fantastic.

Overall, pretty disappointing.


Tokyo Mater is a short film that will be added to prints of Bolt starting Friday. It's the third in a series of films called Mater's Tall Tales, the first two of which aired on the Disney Channel already. This one involves Mater (the rusty, clunky tow truck voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) going to Japan and being challenged to a drift race. 

I watched the 3D version, of course. I liked Cars and all, but it's not one of my favourite Pixar flicks. Mater is definitely one of my least favourite characters (I'm not a fan of Larry the Cable Guy, either), but the short was cute and the 3D was wonderfully rendered. I love that the Japanese cars have anime eyes.

Cute, but I'm not sure I'd pay the 3D price to see it if I'd already watched Bolt. If you haven't watched Bolt and you want to, again, see the 3D version. 


Nothing Like the Holidays was written by Alison Swan and Rick Najera and directed by Alfredo de Villa. It's about a Puerto Rican family coming home for the holidays; the prodigal son coming back from Iraq with scars both seen and unseen, the actress hoping against all hope that she lands a role in a television pilot, the lawyer and his white wife who don't seem to measure up to their parents' expectations, various friends of the family, and the parents themselves who are going through a rough patch in their relationship due to his philandering ways.

It's my tradition, since i don't have to pay for the movies I watch, to catch one holiday movie a year at the theatre. I chose this one because of the wonderful cast: John Leguizamo, Elizabeth Pena, Alfred Molino, Vanessa Ferlito, Freddy Rodriguez, and Luis Guzman. This won't be replacing my normal traditional holiday movie Home for the Holidays, but it didn't leave me disappointed like the past five years worth of holiday offerings from Hollywood. In fact, I would even say that I loved it. 

However, it was a little too neat and convenient. It sort of tiptoed around all the serious subjects it touched, but it was well done throughout and there were times where I was laughing so hard, I thought I was going to split something (watch Debra Messing at the bar when she and Leguizamo are dancing. She's in the background and oh em gee, she was hilarious in that scene.)

The performances were wonderful. I thought Freddy Rodriguez was a little uncomfortable and awkward, but he was also an executive producer so I wonder if his mind was otherwise occupied. As a horror fan, and a fangirl in general, it was nice to see Planet Terror's Freddy Rodriguez (El Wray) and Death Proof's Vanessa Ferlito (Butterfly / Arlene) in something other than Grindhouse. :D

Overall, I thought it was very funny and well done all around. I don't know if Four Christmases is any good, I have no interest in seeing it, but I'm glad to have watched this as my at-theatre holiday flick.

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