Friday, February 25, 2011

"Vanishing on 7th Street"

The trailer for this film looked like it would be a cross between a thriller and a horror movie. Personally, I was hoping it would lean more towards a thriller, since I really hate horror movies, but the film ended up being in a whole different genre: the cheesy horror movie. You know the type: it has scenes that are supposed to be scary, but instead, the audience is laughing. "Vanishing on 7th Street" falls into this category, which is unfortunate, because had it been scarier, it may have actually held some promise.

Luke (Hayden Christensen, "Takers") wakes up one day and heads out to work like any other day, only to find the streets deserted. Cars have been abandoned, and there are piles of clothes everywhere. When he makes it to work, Luke finds the same scene - everything is abandoned. Puzzled, he tries to figure out what is going on; three days later, when the amount of daylight per day has been diminishing rapidly, he gets an inkling: it's the dark that is dangerous. He finds his way to a pub that still has electricity, courtesy of a generator in the basement, where he meets Paul (John Leguizamo, "Gamer"), Rosemary (Thandie Newton, "For Colored Girls,") and the 12-year-old James (newcomer Jacob Latimore), whose mother bartends at the pub. The four of them must band together and try to "stay in the light" as long as possible, before the shadows get them and they become, like the others, just a pile of clothes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Take Me Home Tonight"

I was fortunate enough to see a very early screening of this movie on February 8 at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. At that screening, stars Topher Grace and Demetri Martin, who has a cameo, introduced the film and did a Q&A. Both are very funny guys, which makes sense, because "Take Me Home Tonight" ended up being hilarious.

Matt Franklin (Topher Grace, "Valentine's Day") has just graduated from MIT and doesn't know what he wants to do in life, so he takes a low-paying job at Suncoast Video and moves back home with his parents. His twin sister, Wendy (Anna Faris, "Observe and Report"), is about to move into a condo with her boyfriend, and has also applied to grad school at Cambridge. Matt's best friend, Barry (Dan Fogler, "Love Happens"), skipped college to work at a car dealership straight out of high school, and was just fired. Things are looking up for Matt, though: his high school crush, Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer, "I Am Number Four"), is back in town, and he manages to talk to her when she wanders in to the video store one day. She invites him to a party that night, being hosted by Wendy's boyfriend, and he decides to go and try to finally ask her out. He goes to the party with his sister and Barry, and they have no idea what ends up being in store for them that night.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"The Adjustment Bureau"

The screening for "The Adjustment Bureau" was supposed to start at 7pm in Southfield, but instead started late at 7:45pm. I was debating leaving, but instead I stayed, and I am very glad I did, as "The Adjustment Bureau" is easily one of the better movies I have seen so far this year. The film is a mix between "Inception" and fantasy movies like the "Harry Potter" franchise, and the result of that blending is an interesting and unique film.

David Norris (Matt Damon, "Hereafter") is a young politician running for senate in New York. On Election Day, he has a chance encounter with Elise (Emily Blunt, "Gulliver's Travels"), and can't seem to stop thinking about her. A few days later, he runs into her again, on a city bus, and she gives him his phone number. He arrives at work a bit early and sees something he is not supposed to see: the Adjustment Bureau, hard at work, while his coworkers are frozen and time itself, it seems, has stopped. He of course freaks out and tries to run from them, but the Adjustment Bureau has its ways, and they soon corner him. They tell him that he has seen something that only a few "normal" people have seen in their lifetime, and that if he ever tells anyone about them, they will erase his mind. They also tell him that it was not in "his plan" to run into Elise again, and that he should just forget about her; to ensure this, they take the card with her phone number on it and burn it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Unknown"

From its trailer, "Unknown" looks like it will be a fast-paced film about a man whose identity has been stolen. Instead, it's more of a "thinking"-type film, but still delivers the car chases and interesting plot that those who saw the trailer are probably looking forward to.

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson, "The Next Three Days") is going to a convention in Berlin with his wife, Liz (January Jones, TV's "Mad Men"), but when they arrive at their hotel in Germany, he realizes he has left his briefcase at the airport. He immediately hops into a cab, driven by Gina (Diane Kruger, "Inglourious Basterds"), in an attempt to retrace his steps and return to the airport, but the cab crashes and he almost dies. Gina saves him but then takes off, as she's an illegal, and he ends up in the hospital for about four days, and in a coma for some of those. When he awakes, his first thought is of his wife, and how scared she must be being by herself in a foreign city; when he returns back to their hotel, however, and sees her at one of the conference's events, she doesn't recognize him, and even introduces him to her husband, Dr. Martin Harris (Aidan Quinn, "Flipped"). Martin knows something is up, but he's not sure what, and so he must retrace his tracks back to where it all started: the car accident.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Cedar Rapids"

I was able to see "Cedar Rapids" at its Sundance USA premiere at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor on January 28. From its trailer, it looked like it would be reminiscent of "The Hangover," which also starred Ed Helms, but I was worried that it may have put all its funny moments in the trailer, like some comedies are apt to do. Luckily, I was proved completely wrong, and the movie ended up being hilarious. Director Miguel Arteta was at the theater as well, and he did a Q&A session after the film, as well as a "Meet the Press" type session that I was also able to attend.

In "Cedar Rapids," Tim Lippe (Ed Helms, TV's "The Office") works for a small insurance agency in a town in Wisconsin. When his coworker suddenly dies, he has the chance to go to the big insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and his goal is to win the prestigious "Two Diamonds Award" that his coworker had won for the agency four years running. He has a list of "good people" to associate with, including his roommate, Ronald (Isaih Whitlock Jr., TV's "Rubicon"), and a list of people to stay away from - well, a list with one name on it, anyway, that of the bawdy Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly, "Terri"). While at the conference, he also meets Joan (Anne Heche, TV's "Hung"), and Tim and his new friends end up having more shenanigans go down than he was probably ever expecting to happen in Cedar Rapids.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Just Go With It"

I like Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, but Sandler's movies usually end up being hilarious or really dumb. "Just Go With It," however, ended up surprising me; it was a lot better than I thought it would be, based on what I saw in the trailer. I didn't know that Nicole Kidman stars in the film either, so that was an added plus, as I like her a lot.

Danny (Adam Sandler, "Grown Ups") is set to marry at a young age when he finds out his fiancee is only marrying him because he's going to be a doctor. He drowns his sorrows at the bar one night, while still wearing his wedding ring, and finds out that, strangely enough, women are attracted to a guy wearing a ring. He then uses this as his "game plan" to pick up women, and for the next 20 years or so it works, until he meets someone that he thinks he can settle down with long-term, Palmer (model Brooklyn Decker). She finds the wedding ring in his pocket, however, and Danny lies and says he is getting divorced; she's satisfied with this but wants to meet his soon-to-be-ex wife. Danny begs his assistant, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston, "The Switch") to pose as his former wife, and she agrees, but soon the web of lies begins to expand more and more, and both Danny and Katherine have trouble keeping up with what is fact and what is fiction.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Topher Grace and Demetri Martin attend Ann Arbor screening of "Take Me Home Tonight"

Dan Fogler and Topher Grace in "Take Me Home Tonight"
University of Michigan students were treated to a special screening of “Take Me Home Tonight” at the Michigan Theater on February 8th, with stars Topher Grace and Demetri Martin in attendance for Q&A. Grace had previously filmed in Ann Arbor, shooting “The Double” here and in Detroit, and he gave that as his reason for wanting to show the movie on campus. The movie revolves around Grace’s character, Matt Franklin, who has just graduated from college but is unsure of what he wants to do in life. When he finds out his high school crush is back in town, and she invites him to a party going on that night, he gleefully accepts, and he ends up having a very wild night, a la “The Hangover.”

Demetri Martin and Topher Grace at the Q&A
Demetri Martin has an extended cameo in the movie, and actually is not even listed on IMDB as being in the film. He says that “Topher produced this movie, worked really hard on it, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I’m kind of a guest in the whole thing but we’ve become friends in the process.”

He touched on the filming in Phoenix, which took about two and half months, although he was only there for a few days. Because the majority of the film is about a party which takes place at night, the cast members would shoot all night and then be done working around 6 or 7 A.M.

“[The cast and crew] were like vampires – you just work all night, and then go to sleep, and Phoenix is one of the sunniest places I’ve been to,” Martin commented.

Grace explained that they wanted to make a movie about the ‘80s, but one that wasn’t a spoof film. The soundtrack in the movie, then, was chosen appropriately.

“We wanted to have a strong ensemble cast and we loved John Hughes movies, so we kinda wanted to put it all together … before we hired writers, we made sort of a ‘ultimate mix’ and I would say 90% of that mix is actually in the film. We wanted it to be really kickass music and be ‘of’ what the characters are going through,” Grace said.

Martin talked further about movies made in the ‘80s:

“[Take Me Home Tonight] takes place in the ‘80s and I remember seeing ‘80s movies where, it’s such a funny ethic – you look at a lot of ‘80s movies and the goal to be, like, the richest f---ing guy in the world. And that’s the hero, and you want to root for this guy because, like, he wants to be the richest guy! That’s such a good thing to want – go for it! Where now, it seems like people have more of a conscience.”

Topher Grace addresses the audience after the movie
Both Grace and Martin also touched on issues that are prominent in the film, and to kids who are just now graduating from college.

“It was really important to us when we made this movie that Matt Franklin [Topher’s character] is a beautiful swan in the ‘90s but sadly in the ‘80s he’s like a really ugly duckling. Graduating, we thought, was always like a second puberty, and like the first puberty, you feel like everyone else has it figured out but you,” Grace said.

The screening in Ann Arbor will definitely generate buzz for the film – as of last night, even, there were already a few tweets online about the screening. In fact, Martin encouraged the audience to talk about the movie; he jokingly exclaimed, “if you love it, Twitter the hell out of it!”

“Take Me Home Tonight” doesn’t hit theaters until March 4th, but you can bet that this writer and the other Ann Arbor screening attendees will indeed be buzzing about it until then.

Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer in "Take Me Home Tonight"

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"Gnomeo and Juliet"

"Gnomeo, Gnomeo, wherefore art thou Gnomeo?" is not exactly what William Shakespeare wrote in his classic play "Romeo and Juliet," but in "Gnomeo and Juliet," the play is adapted by using garden gnomes as the main characters. What might have been a fun and unique movie, however, turns out to only be lackluster, and the funniest parts are given away in the trailer.

Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy, "The Last Station") is a Blue, and knows never to interact with the Reds, his enemies. When he meets Juliet (voiced by Emily Blunt, "Gulliver's Travels"), however, he can't help but fall in love with her. These two gnomes know that their love can never exist in the "real world," but they try to make a go of it regardless. Lord Redbrick (voiced by Michael Caine, "Inception"), Juliet's father, keeps a close eye on her, but she is still able to escape and meet Gnomeo in secret. When one of the Blues "kills" Tybalt (voiced by Jason Statham, "The Mechanic") by smashing him, however, all hell breaks loose, and a full-blown war between the Reds and Blues ensues. Gnomeo and Juliet must then choose if they want to fight against each other, or try to stop the war altogether.