A movie’s premise can be implausible and still work. The audience does not have to buy into whatever it is that the hero and heroine are after long as we believe that the movie’s characters believe in it. But in “Leap Year,” the premise and its ensuing complications are so preposterous that it just can’t work, despite the best efforts of its adorable leads and postcard-pretty settings. It has become something of a tradition to lead off the year with a weak romantic comedy, and we can cross the 2010 edition off the list.
The ones to blame here are screenwriters Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, also responsible for the mind-numbingly painful Surviving Christmas and Made of Honor. Once, many years ago, they made a fresh and endearing little film about a high school graduation party with a cast of promising newcomers and a soundtrack of unexpected treats. That was “Can’t Hardly Wait.” But since then, they have made one formulaic, synthetic failure after another.
Their first movie had heart. Everything since then has been about what can get studio approval. These are “elevator pitch” movies — the premise is based on a successful film and can be summarized in an elevator ride, and the deal-makers rely on established stars with a lot of appeal to make it work. Their last movie tweaked “My Best Friend’s Wedding” by making the BFF who wanted to stop the nuptials the guy. This one takes the idea of the glossy “French Kiss,” the classics “I Know Where I’m Going” and “It Happened One Night” and about two dozen other squabbling-couple-dealing-with-a-disaster-prone-journey movies and, as Woody Allen once said of his mother’s cooking, “puts it through the de-flavorizing machine.”
Amy Adams in full twinkle mode plays Anna. She is, predictably, uptight, a bit of a control freak, and dying to have her perfect-on-paper boyfriend propose to her. But alas, he gives her diamond earrings instead of an engagement ring, just before he leaves for a meeting in Dublin. When her ne’er-do-well father (John Lithgow) — can his unreliability be the source of her need to be in control? — tells her that in Ireland, women can propose on February 29, she decides that in spite of her lifelong fear of flying, she will pop over to Dublin to pop the question.
But of course the best-laid plans of perky heroines in romantic comedies always go wrong, and here enters the complication. Handsome bartender Matthew Goode, for reasons that are too dull to go into, agrees to get her the rest of the way to Dublin, and all of the predictable problems line up like an obstacle course between us and time to go home. Car problems. Party crashing. Having to pretend to be married. Some flickers of romance that are quickly crushed by some un-funny contrivances and pratfalls. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.
Cute kid + The Rock in a pink tutu = movie deal.
After the success of The Game Plan, Dwayne Johnson (nom de wrestling: The Rock) has become the go-to guy for movies about taming the gentle giant. So once again, the fun is seeing Johnson playing an arrogant jock who is schooled by just about everyone.
This time, Johnson is a hockey player named Derek who has been knocked down to the minor leagues following an injury. His nickname is “The Tooth Fairy” because his blocking is so aggressive that it sometimes knocks out the opposing player’s teeth. He is proud that he leads the league in penalty time. But he is cynical and disappointed in his life, and when a young fan says he hopes to play professionally, Derek bluntly tells him that it will never happen.
Derek is dating Carly (sweetly played by Ashley Judd), a single mom with a cute little girl and a sulky middle school boy. Derek impatiently almost tells Carly’s daughter that there is no tooth fairy. That night, under his pillow, he receives a summons. Suddenly, he has sprouted wings and is wearing a pink tutu. For the crime of failing to believe, he has been sentenced to two weeks of duty as a tooth fairy. With guidance from an administrative fairy (the towering Stephen Merchant of the UK’s “The Office” and “Extras”) and the fairy godmother (a regal Julie Andrews), Derek is outfitted with all of the necessary equipment (including a male version of the uniform) and sent out to retrieve some teeth and tuck money under some pillows.
This turns out to be quite a challenge. Breaking into people’s homes for benign reasons is still breaking and entering, and Derek will need his shrinking gunk, amnesia powder, and invisibility spray. And there will be times when a tooth fairy emergency will come at the wrong moment, and misunderstandings will have to be straightened out. The film has a number of screenwriters who seem to have missed a meeting on consistency in the tooth fairy rulebook and the wings themselves are not very attractive. But everyone is game, the silly humor is good-natured, and Merchant is not the only one who has some fun making Johnson seem small.
There have been many articles about the end of the era of the movie critic as print media cuts have led to the departure of many of the best-established and most widely-read commentators on film. But Roger Ebert says this is the golden age of film criticism.
Never before have more critics written more or better words for more readers about more films. But already you are ahead of me, and know this is because of the internet.
Twenty years ago a good-sized city might have contained a dozen people making a living from writing about films, and for half of them the salary might have been adequate to raise a family. Today that city might contain hundreds, although (the Catch-22) not more than one or two are making a living.
Film criticism is still a profession, but it’s no longer an occupation. You can’t make any money at it. This provides an opportunity for those who care about movies and enjoy expressing themselves.
I am honored to have my photo included among the critics he discusses. When people ask me how to become a movie critic I say, “I just waved my magic wand. You’re a movie critic! All you have to do is write reviews.” And if they ask me how to become a good movie critic, I say, “It takes more than loving movies. It takes more than having opinions. It takes more than knowing a lot about movies, though all of those things are important. You have to be a person with a full life, a vitally engaged head, and a heart that is open to experience and learning. I can’t bear talking to people who think they know movies because they can keep all the IMBD data in their heads.
A movie critic is first and foremost a writer. And if you ever want anyone to read your reviews they had better be lively, informative, and vivid. Most of the movies you see won’t be very entertaining or filled with insight, but your reviews have to be both, every time.” Watch a lot of movies, yes, but read a lot of books and live a lot of life because you will need all of that. The readers deserve it, and you know what? The movies and the people who make them do, too.
When the weather gets warm, the movies get big! The summer of 2010 will be filled with big-budget sequels and remakes along with some newcomers hoping to establish new franchises. Get ready for chases, sword fights, karate, 3D, many brinks of disaster, and lots and lots and lots of stuff getting blown up.
“Iron Man 2” Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson are just two of the challenges our metal-suited arms dealer has to face. One of the most intriguing elements of the film, though, is the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
“Toy Story 3” Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Jessie, and the rest of the toys find a new home at a day care center when Andy leaves for college.
“Sex and the City 2” Charlotte, Samantha, Miranda, and Carrie are back, and they are, fabulous. So are their shoes!
“Shrek Forever After” The crowd from Far Far Away is back in an “It’s a Wonderful Life” type story where Shrek gets to see what life would have been like for his friends and family if he had never met them.
“The Twlight Saga: Eclipse” Team Edward? Team Jacob? They are going to need to work together to fight off some very scary vampires. But when it comes to Bella, the teamwork ends.
“Step Up 3D” More dance-offs. In 3D.
In the mood for love? We’ve got date movies!
“Just Wright” A basketball star (Common) falls for a pretty girl (Paula Patton). But when he is injured, he realizes that his physical therapist (Queen Latifah) may be more than just a friend.
“Letters to Juliet” Amanda Seyfreid discovers a 50-year-old unopened letter and takes a journey to reunite two lovers that will teach her some important lessons about love.
“Prince of Persia” They’re calling this one the next “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Jake Gyllenhaal must recover the Dagger of Time in this sword and sandal epic movie based on a computer game.
“The Expendables” It would be easier to tell you which big-screen action heroes are not in this movie than to list the ones who are in this film from writer-director-star Sylvester Stallone. Even California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis show up, along with Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Danny Trejo, and Steve Austin. The plot? Stuff blows up!
Ready for some deja vu? Remakes!
“Robin Hood” The “Gladiator” team is back with their take on one of the most frequently filmed stories of all time. Russell Crowe is in the title role with an all-star cast that includes Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian, Mark Addy as Friar Tuck, and Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, and Danny Houston.
“The Karate Kid” Jaden Smith (son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith) takes over the role of the kid who finds a teacher (Jackie Chan) to help him learn the discipline and skill of karate.
“The A-Team” The 70’s television show comes to the big screen with Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper. I pity the fool who doesn’t know this movie is going to sell a lot of tickets.
“The Last Airbender” A popular animated series comes to the big screen with live action directed by M. Knight Shyamalan. “Slumdog Millionaire’s” Dev Patel co-stars in this story of a boy who has the power to control the elements and the responsibility of saving the world.
“Dinner for Schmucks” Based on a French film called “The Dinner Game” about a mean game where friends compete to see who can bring the biggest loser to dinner, this film reunites two “Anchorman” stars, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell.
Based on a best-seller
Eat, Pray, Love Julia Roberts stars in this adaptation of the best-seller by Elizabeth Gilbert about a woman who traveled to Italy, India, and Indonesia in her “search for everything.”
“Ramona and Beezus” is the first feature-film version of the classic stories about the irrepressible Ramona from Beverly Cleary. Disney pop princess Selena Gomez stars as big sister Beezus.
“Charlie St. Cloud” Zac Efron plays a young man mourning the loss of his brother, who goes to work in the cemetery to be near him.
“Inception” Christopher Nolan (“Memento,” “The Dark Knight”) is behind the most mysterious film of the summer. All we know is that it stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Oscar-winners Marion Cottilard and Michael Caine and that it looks…spooky.
“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” Michael Cera has to defeat all of his new girlfriend’s exes. There are seven of them and they are evil. And the girlfriend is the fabulous Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who was terrific in both “Sky High” and “Grindhouse.” I hope this is a breakthrough for her.
Love to laugh?
“Get Him to the Greek” Enfant terrible Russell Brand plays an over-the-top rock star (the Aldous Snow character from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) and Jonah Hill is the shy music industry executive who has to make sure he arrives at the concert venue.
“Despicable Me” Two evil geniuses compete to take over pretty much everything in this animated film with the voices of Steve Carell and Jason Segal. Russell Brand is in this one, too!