Posts Tagged ‘Cameron Diaz’

Annie: Changed Up But Still Fun—Movie

December 22, 2014

Sometimes a movie surprises you…in a good way…and so it is with the 2014 “Annie.” Extremely entertaining, full of heart and fun, there’s truly not a bad performance in the entire film. And while you won’t tap dance your way out of the theatre, you’ll leave humming with a smile on your face. Directed by Will Gluck with screenplay by Gluck and Aline Brosh McKenna, based on Thomas Meehan’s stage play book and Harold Gray ‘s comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, the best way to enjoy this “Annie” is to leave your memories of yesteryear’s versions behind and appreciate this version on its own merit.

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“Annie” 2014 is less a traditional movie musical and more of a dramedy with musical numbers sprinkled in. Set in present day, Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) lives in a group foster home run by Ms. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), a one-time wanna-be actress and present-day alcoholic. Annie was abandoned by her parents as a child outside an Italian restaurant, left with nothing but half a locket and a note saying that someday they hoped to see her again at the restaurant. One afternoon, while trying to save a dog from being tortured by some neighborhood boys, she is almost hit by a car, but is swept out of harm’s way by Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), a self-made billionaire running for mayor. His campaign advisor (Bobby Cannavale) thinks there might be benefit to his campaign…giving him some much need humanization…by inviting Annie to live with Stacks for a period of time. And so she and her newly adopted dog, Sandy, come to live with Stacks in his penthouse. Annie’s relationship with Stacks, his assistant, Grace (Rose Byrne), Ms. Hannigan and the girls under her “care” carry the story forward.

Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx, “Annie’s” two leads, are both very good and have terrific chemistry together. Wallis, so winning in her “Beasts of the Southern Wild” film debut, continues to captivate. She’s extremely convincing in conveying Annie’s innocence and street smarts. She definitely has some dance moves and sings well enough in the role. It is no surprise that Foxx can sing and dance, and as Stacks, he is absolutely charmingly perfect in the part.

As good as Wallis and Foxx are, it really is the rest of the cast that helps make Annie as entertaining as it is. At times Cameron Diaz’s Hannigan may seem over the top, but truth be told, she is really good as the drunk longing for the good old days. Her scenes with the girls are fun to watch and her “Easy Street” song and dance with Cannavale is very sweet. Her interaction with David Zayas as the shop owner, Lou, who harbors a crush on Hannigan, is especially good. And when her singing truly counts, her voice in the part works. Rose Byrne’s scenes with Wallis are achingly good. However, the real hands-down scene stealer is Stephanie Kurtzuba as Mrs. Kovacevic, the case worker helping Annie. She is just amazing…funny, musical, and capable of saying so much with just the blink of an eye, she steals every scene she is in without even trying.

There is some very appealing singing and dancing by Annie and the foster girls. “It’s the Hard Knock Life” is particularly enjoyable. “Annie” also features some amusing cameos and has some great NYC and subway shots adding to the film’s overall enjoyment.

See this “Annie” with an open mind and you’ll be glad you did. It’s just a plain good time at the movies.

3 nuggets out of 4

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Sex Tape: Fun in a Variety of Positions—Movie

July 23, 2014

“People were furrier in the 70’s” says Annie to husband Jay in reviewing the sexual acts illustrated in the Joy of Sex before making their own “Sex Tape.”

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Directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Jason Segel, Kate Angelo and Nicholas Stoller, “Sex Tape” is a genial rom-com about the struggle to get the “oomph” back into a marriage after having children and more than ten years of living together. To be honest, as a straight woman, I have a hard time believing that if the woman looked like Cameron Diaz, maintaining “oomph” would be terribly difficult. That said, however, part of what going to the movies entails is the suspension of disbelief, and so, suspend away I will.

Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel) are a married couple with two children and they both have very busy lives. Annie is a successful blogger who is on the verge of selling her blog to a large corporation and Jay works at a radio station. As “Sex Tape” shows in flashbacks, they once had a fulfilling sex life and after ten years still love another very much. But the sexual part of their relationship seems to have evaporated. To bring back the spark, they decide to make a tape performing all of the acts shown in the Joy of Sex book in one session. That seems to do the trick for them, but if you’ve seen the previews you know the tape, instead of being erased as Jay promised to do, accidentally goes viral. The remainder of the movie is spent with the couple trying to destroy copies and getting the recording “off the cloud”…with hilarity ensuing. Truth be told, there are genuine laugh out loud moments and some witty dialogue. Additionally Diaz and Segel have very good chemistry and work well together. But somehow “Sex Tape” just isn’t as good as it might be.

Cameron Diaz successfully gives it her all, but one longs to see her do something truly worthy of her talent. When she’s challenged she can rise to the occasion, doing comedy and drama quite well. Jason Segel, looking shockingly thin, is a talented comedic actor and is very good as the doltish husband. His funniest scenes are with a psychotic dog and with the young son of his best friend, Robby (Rob Corddry).

The supporting cast is very strong beginning with comedic vets Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper as the couple’s friends, who have some very amusing moments. Rob Lowe, as Hank, the owner of the company to whom Annie hopes to sell her blog, is absolutely terrific. His Jekyll/Hyde personality is unexpected and very funny and the scenes in his home (which might be the largest home in movie history given the exceedingly long chase scene) with his insane dog are outrageous. And in Harrison Holzer we have yet another amazing child actor who dominates the screen…in a good way…every time he makes an appearance. Finally, there is a wonderful cameo by someone who shall go nameless.

“Sex Tape” is not a comedy that will stick with you, but while you are in the theatre, it does have some fun moments.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

 

The Other Woman: Fluffy Fun—Movie

April 27, 2014

Cameron Diaz may be the other woman, but Leslie Mann is the woman. Mann could be this generation’s Lucille Ball, because like Ball, she’s attractive and comedically there may be nothing she can’t do. By her sheer force of nature, she makes “The Other Woman” better than it has a right to be.the-other-woman-movie-2014-wallpaper-532aeb369f783

Directed by Nick Cassavetes and written by Melissa Stack, “The Other Woman” begins with lawyer Carly (Cameron Diaz) in the throes of what looks like a one-night-stand with businessman Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Before long the one-night-stand turns into something more…at least for Carly…and eight weeks later, she’s ready for him to meet her Dad (Don Johnson) for dinner. But at the last-minute something comes up for Don and he cancels. Thinking she’ll surprise him, she goes out to his home in the suburbs and there’s a surprise all right…only it’s on her. Who should answer the door, but his wife, Kate (Leslie Mann).

To make a long story short, the two discover that Mark has been cheating on both of them and decide to find out who the woman is. With the great “Mission Impossible” theme in the background, they follow him one weekend which leads them to the beach and Amber (Kate Upton). Angry that she’s not his one and only, Amber joins forces with the other two in figuring out a plan that ensures Mark gets his just desserts.

Though it’s a slight comedy, there is a lot to like about the film, especially with the women involved. One can understand Mark’s dilemma. Cameron Diaz has a great knack for comedy and she’s terrific at showing there’s more going on than just a great body and a wide smile…and she’s way more appealing here than she was in “The Counselor.” Kate Upton is appropriately cute and manages to hold her own with Diaz and Mann. And, as noted earlier, Leslie Mann is just plain fabulous. She gives us warmth, ditziness and smarts all in one great package. But it’s the object of all this affection, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who underwhelms. Although known for more dramatic roles, he’s got some good comedic chops, but he just seems a bit bland and smarmy. However, he does look nice in a suit. Once we’re introduced to Kate’s brother, Phil (Taylor Kinney), I kept thinking,”wouldn’t this movie have been better with him as Mark?” Finally is Nicki Minaj as Carly’s secretary, Lydia. With her attitude and ever-changing wigs, she steals every scene in which she appears.

What weighs “The Other Woman” down is its getting to the point. The back and forth with Carly and Kate goes on far too long before we finally get to their teaming. There are other scenes that also could be shorter or edited out entirely. While it’s nice to see Don Johnson, I’m not convinced we needed so much of him.

It’s not surprising that the film is written by a woman. “The Other Woman” has a lot of witty, sharp dialogue…especially when it comes to women judging other women. As the writer demonstrates, my gender is harder and perhaps funnier on ourselves than any man could ever be.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

The Counselor: So Out of Order—Movie

October 25, 2013

“¿Cómo?”  (What? How?) A bartender says this to the Counselor in his last scene in the movie. I think the bartender speaks for all of us who manage to sit through the entire 117 minutes of “The Counselor.”  “¿Cómo?—How did so many A-listers and terrific actors sign up for this mess of a film?The Counselor Poster 2

“The Counselor,” directed by Ridley Scott with screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, is the story of the downward spiral of a lawyer (Michael Fassbender), known only as Counselor. When we first meet the Counselor, he’s in bed with his soon-to-be fiancée, Laura (Penélope Cruz).  Although he lives large, the Counselor has money problems which lead him to shady dealings with drug lord, Reiner (Javier Bardem). Reiner lives with girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz) who has a thing for cheetahs and watches over her own sinister businesses.  Brad Pitt  has a small, but critical role as Westray, the Counselor’s world-weary middleman.  The Counselor is quickly in over his head and his stint in the drug business predictably goes south. Frankly, the rest of the movie is a hodge-podge and makes no sense. There’s a monologue here, a monologue there. Characters come and go. With five minutes left in the film, we are introduced to new characters…Well, hello there Dean Norris and John Leguizamo. And wait, isn’t that Goran Visnjic?

Everyone… and I do mean everyone… is a philosopher in “The Counselor.”  I don’t think I’ve heard so much pretentious gobbledygook in one film…ever. How did the actors manage to deliver this dialogue without cracking up?  Either there were multiple takes or they are all even better actors than I imagined.

As bad as this movie is, Michael Fassbender manages to rise above the screenplay. For my money, he’s actually much better in this…showing a range of emotions… than he is in “12 Years a Slave.” Brad Pitt is still the best looking character actor in the business. Penélope Cruz doesn’t have all that much to do except look beautiful and she certainly succeeds on that score. What to make of Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz? Bardem does a laudable job in playing a very likeable drug dealer, but with that kind of laid-back attitude, it’s hard to understand how his character has lasted that long in the drug business. And his hair—really? What is the point? In reality, the way everyone in the film is sweating from the heat, there is no way his hair would be able to stand up like that. Cameron Diaz is a hoot. She’s over the top in every way. Some of it is self-inflicted as this is one of her worse performances. But do they really have to hit us over the head with how much she admires cheetahs? From her cheetah-like hair to her cheetah tattoos to  her print clothing, there’s nothing understated about her. And it is a miracle that she is able to lift her hands and hold her head up with the amount of heavy jewelry she’s wearing.

I’m at a loss. Ridley Scott is not some schlock director nor is Cormac McCarthy a hack writer—quite the opposite. How did they come up with this piece of junk? Save your money. If you want to ponder that question, ponder it when “The Counselor” comes to your television.

1 nugget out of 4

In A World: You Are Woman and You Can Roar—Movie

August 21, 2013

“Who’s ready to be heard?” asks Carol (Lake Bell) at the conclusion of “In A World.” Since this film stars and is written and directed by Lake Bell, for my money Lake Bell is more than ready to be heard and as a movie-goer, I couldn’t be happier.In a world

Bell is Carol, a member of “voice-over” royalty. She makes a living as a vocal coach, but longs to do more. She wants to do voice-overs like her father, Sam (Fred Melamed). Unfortunately a career in voice-overs is dominated by men, especially when it comes to feature films. With the death of the king of voice-overs, Don LaFontaine (LaFontaine is a real person and the film starts with a terrific homage to him), there is now a window of opportunity for winning the prestige jobs. Two men are vying for LaFontaine’s crown–Carol’s father and his much younger colleague, Gustav (Ken Marino). Neither of them give Carol a second thought until…

Bell covers a lot of territory in a 93 minute film, but the movie never feels rushed. It just flows naturally and effortlessly. Along with the voice-over story, Bell interweaves other storylines. When the movie begins, Carol is living with her father. But because he wants his much younger girlfriend, Jamie (Alexandra Holden), to move in with him, Carol is forced to live with her sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins), and Dani’s husband, Moe (Rob Corddry). The ying and yang of her sister’s and husband’s relationship feels very genuine as done the one Carol has with her sister. In fact, some of the film’s best moments revolve around the “sister code.”  “In A World” also spends a lot of time in Carol’s workplace with her co-workers Louis, Cher and Heners (Demetri Martin, Tig Notaro and Nick Offerman respectively), and those scenes are especially funny.

“In A World’s” ensemble cast is terrific. Many of them have either a standup or improv background and it shows. The universe they create seems very real and relatable.  Eva Longoria, playing herself, proves to be a very good sport as one of Carol’s clients, trying to speak with a British accent. And if you pay close attention, you’ll see a cameo by Cameron Diaz in a very funny bit.

Lake Bell is a familiar face on television and film, often the vixen, but never the star. With “In A World” she proves to be a triple threat and a force with whom to be reckoned.  I can’t wait to see what she does next. I can’t wait to hear her roar.

4 nuggets out of 4


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