June 2009 Reviews
By Shawn McKenzie 6/12/2009
Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in June of 2009. Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.
Denver, Colorado unmarried but genuinely committed couple Burt Farlander (John Krasinski) and Verona De Tessant (Maya Rudolph) have just found out that they are having a baby. They had moved to Denver to be near his parents, Jerry (Jeff Daniels) and Gloria (Catherine O’Hara), but the ‘rents decide to move to Antwerp for two years…a month before the baby is due. Since they had only moved to Denver to be near Jerry and Gloria anyway, and her parents are dead, Burt and Verona (who is six months pregnant) travel across the country to be near someone to be their support system after they have their baby. They first go to Phoenix where they visit Verona’s former boss Lily (Allison Janney) and her constantly drunk husband Lowell (Jim Gaffigan.) When they realize that Lily isn’t a good mother (she essentially calls her daughter an overweight lesbian), they go to Tucson to see Verona’s sister, Grace (Carmen Ejogo.) Grace works for the J.W. Marriott Star Pass Resort & Spa, and even though Grace and Verona have a close, loving relationship, Grace is just too busy to spend much time with Verona. They then travel to Madison, Wisconsin to visit Burt’s unofficial “cousin,” LN (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a hippie professor he’s known since they were kids, and who’s living with fellow hippie Roderick (Josh Hamilton.) LN used to be known as “Ellen,” and she doesn’t believe in strollers (a faux pas that Burt and Verona find out after they give her one as a gift), but does believe in breastfeeding her two kids…the eldest of which is four years old! Burt also has an interview in Madison, which doesn’t go so well, so they head off to Montreal, where they stay with Verona’s college roommate, Munch Garnett (Melanie Lynskey), her husband Tom (Chris Messina), and their many happy, adopted kids. At first, they think that they have found the right place with Munch and Tom, but sadness with them lies beneath. Burt’s brother, Courtney (Paul Schneider), then calls from Miami and says that his wife has left him and their young daughter Annabelle (Isabelle Moon Alexander.) While in Miami to be with Courtney and Annabelle, Burt and Verona try to decide if there is anywhere they can go to set down their own roots. Sam Mendes (1999’s American Beauty, 2002’s Road to Perdition, 2005’s Jarhead, and last year’s Revolutionary Road) directs his first comedy…and I think that he hits it right out of the park. Using author Dave Eggers’ screenplay (co-written with his wife Vendela Vida), Mendes is able to get excellent performances from everyone. Krasinski, who is primarily known for his comedic work on NBC’s “The Office,” and Rudolph, who is an alum of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” both show range by being funny and genuinely dramatic. I didn’t think that Krasinski would find chemistry with anyone other than with Jenna Fischer (Pam on “The Office”), but he has great chemistry with Rudolph…whom I used to seeing playing goofy impressions of Oprah Winfrey, Donatella Versace, and Beyoncé Knowles. The supporting characters (especially the women) are hilarious. Janney (who was also in Mendes’ American Beauty) is frustratingly amusing, and Gyllenhaal is almost inspired casting as the trippy college professor. The movie comes only months after Mendes’ Oscar-nominated Revolutionary Road, and I’m hoping it might be one of those rare comedies that will see some Oscar love.
Canadian immigrant Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) is the editor-in-chief at Colden Books, a New York City publishing firm. Everyone fears her…except for her personal assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), a guy who has worked with her for the past three years in hopes of getting his own manuscript published. On this particular day though, Margaret fires one of her editors, Bob Spaulding (Aasif Mandvi), for not being able to convince a reclusive writer to appear on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” while she was able to do it herself on the way to work over the phone. Unfortunately, she is told by the company’s Chairman Bergen (Michael Nouri) and Lead Counsel Malloy (Gregg Edelman) that her visa has expired and she’s to be deported back to Canada where she won’t be able to return for a year for an American company (she’s not even allowed to work over the phone from Canada.) Thinking on her feet, she sees Andrew come in and out of the blue announces to her bosses that she is engaged to her assistant. Andrew is surprised, but he plays along for the moment. They meet a marriage fraud investigator named Mr. Gilbertson (Denis O’Hare) at local immigration office to report to him about their upcoming nuptials. He is suspicious…but he gives them the weekend to go back to Andrew’s hometown of Sitka, Alaska, to tell his parents, Grace (Mary Steenburgen) and Joe (Craig T. Nelson), about the engagement, and come back Monday morning to take an examination of their relationship to make sure that it is real. The timing is perfect…because he was being pressured to come home anyway to celebrate the 90th birthday of his Grandma Annie (Betty White.) He also agrees to keep the fraud up because he wants a guarantee that the company will publish his manuscript. When they arrive in Sitka, Andrew’s parents are taken aback when they see he’s brought his supposed nightmarish boss along for the party…but are shocked when they find out that they are getting married. The shock is extended to Andrew’s ex-girlfriend, Gertrude (Malin Akerman), whom he left behind when he decided to move to New York. Grace and Annie swiftly turn from shock to delight, and they embrace the new member of the family by taking her to see the town’s only exotic dancer, Ramone (Oscar Nuñez, NBC’s “The Office”)…who also happens to be a waiter, minister, and the manager of the Paxton General Store (the Paxtons are wealthy and they own most of the businesses in town.) Joe though is distrustful of his son’s actual intentions…possibly because he is disappointed that Andrew went off to NYC instead of taking over the family business. Margaret and Andrew continue to get on one another’s nerves, but they keep up the appearances of an engagement…mainly so she doesn’t get deported and so he won’t be arrested for fraud (which carries a $250,000 fine and up to five years in jail.) The more time Margaret spends with Andrew’s family, the more she starts falling for them…and for Andrew. Anne Fletcher…a choreographer who has transitioned into a director…has scored well with her movies so far. He debut was 2006’s dance flick (natch) Step Up, which made $114 million worldwide. Her second movie was 2008’s non-dancing romantic comedy 27 Dresses, which made $160 million worldwide. Competing against only the Jack Black/Michael Cera Neolithic-era comedy Year One, this should be a hit (we need a Sex and the City: The Movie-sized chick flick to be a blockbuster now.) Is it worth seeing? Oh yeah…for guys and gals. First off…it’s funny. The steely character that Bullock plays and the smart-aleck character that Reynolds plays mesh well together. Also…if you have seen the trailers of the movie, then you’ve already fallen for White’s character. She is even more fun to watch when you actually see the whole movie. While you know how it’s going to end (anyone who has ever seen a romantic comedy has seen the clichéd “running for the airplane” scene in a thousand of them), it’s funny enough to take a date to see it. Hey…bonus for you guys…Bullock gets naked in it! (Well…sorta naked…)
After a French-Iranian journalist named Freidoune Sahebjam (Jim Caviezel) is stuck in a small Iranian village called Kupayeh because his car has broken down, he has to wait for it to be repaired by the only mechanic in town, Hashem (Parviz Sayyad.) While waiting, he is welcomed by the town’s mayor, Ebrahim (David Diaan), and the local mullah, Hassan (Ali Pourtash.) Zahra Khanum (Shohreh Aghdashloo)…a woman who wants to tell her story to this man who she knows is a journalist (based on the presence of his tape recorder)…also confronts him. Hoping to expose a great injustice, she tells the story of her 35-year-old niece Soraya (Mozhan Marnò)…a caring, lively woman with four kids who has a terrible marriage to their father, Ghorban-Ali (Navid Negahban.) He is abusive, cruel, and unfaithful…and he wants a divorce so that he can marry a 14-year-old girl named Mehri (mainly because she is the daughter of a prominent doctor.) As bad a the marriage is, Soraya doesn’t want to grant him the divorce, because she will be without the income to provide for her children. All Ali can do is to conspire with Hassan to setup a false infidelity charge with Hashem (his wife had recently died, and it had been arranged that Soraya would do some household duties for him while he worked.) The punishment of infidelity is death by stoning…which was carried out the day before. Zahra wants Freidoune to expose this injustice to the world so that changes might be made. Based off the real Sahebjam’s 1994 novel of the same name, the movie is shocking in that it’s something is going on nowadays. The performances are excellent. Oscar-nominee Aghdashloo (for 2003’s House of Sand and Fog) proves once again that she is one of the better actresses of our time. Marnò is good in her first lead actress role. Caviezel, the only other actor in the movie whose name I recognized (other than Aghdashloo), is underused, but he played his part well. If you want to see the movie for the social commentary, I recommend it…but it’s not exactly a good date movie (there aren’t too many redeeming men in the flick.)
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