Welcome to Take Five, your weekly list of five random movie recommendations. Most people don't have time to watch five movies in a week. Most people don't even have five minutes to take a break and relax. Take Five is here to quicken your search for reliable entertainment (or at least movies that I deem entertaining) so you can enjoy what little free time you have. And really, who reading this article doesn't want to spend their free time watching movies? It's not like you're on sports Web site.
By George Rose
January 27, 2010
Given the state of the current film industry – by which I mean Avatar's disturbing world domination and The Rock releasing yet another brain-deteriorating family film – I'd say you might actually be better off on a sports Web site. I mean, after all, the Super Bowl is in less than two weeks and apparently it's between two extremely deserving teams. That's what my athletic brother says, anyway. As far as this writer is concerned, the Super Bowl is only good for the advertisements. I studied them plenty while going to college for marketing and have always enjoyed the extended movie trailer commercials for the upcoming summer slate. It also helps that there's usually finger-food around to occupy my attention when the game is on. And beer, that helps too.
But I could never turn my back on the movie industry, even when it isn't necessarily going my way. Half of sports fans end up miserable after a game anyway (because, you know, one team usually loses), so why shouldn't Hollywood work in a similar fashion? Someone is always going to end up disappointed – audiences, the distributor, competitors, critics, etc. – and the only thing I can do to help continue enjoying the game is to be a good sport about it. As much as it bothers me, Avatar may win the Super Bowl... I mean Oscars. If it does, I'll shake James Cameron's hand, congratulate him on a game well played, and then talk crap about him behind his back. Hey, it's hard being a good sport! But at least I'm doing to my best to act the part, and that's what Hollywood is all about.
The Mummy Returns (2001)
Hey, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, I have a message for you: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. No really, HAHAHAHAHA! Wow, I guess I'm not even close to being a good sport. I'll have to work on that. But can you blame my laughter? He sold out his action-fanbase, which wasn't all that big to begin with, to become the latest family-film muscle man. The Game Plan? Race to Witch Mountain? I can only hope he learned a lesson from the failure of last weekend's Tooth Fairy. He probably didn't, though. I know I'm not clamoring for his comeback, because I've had a chip on my shoulder for him since he used my beloved Mummy Returns to introduce his "talents." These talents include making a laughable CGI Scorpion King, which was apparently just ridiculous enough to warrant him a spin-off, The Scorpion King (clever, right?).
But this isn't about The Scorpion King, because I would never recommend that. This is a throwback to the film that started The Rock's film career. At the time, The Mummy Returns was the biggest opening weekend ever, so it's safe to say he got the publicity he was looking for to help boost his status. The Mummy Returns is about... a mummy that returns! Brendan Fraser fights the mummy, Rachel Weisz (who I adore) helps him, and this time around they have a child to make things more difficult, especially when the mummy kidnaps him. It's not rocket science, people. It's a summer blockbuster with more action and CGI than the original. Sure, it's mindless and won't change your view of the world, but if you can sit there and support other crap blockbusters (rhymes with smish-smAvatar), then there's no reason you shouldn't support The Mummy Returns. Oh, why, because it was directed by Stephen Sommers? So was G.I. Joe, and some of you were dumb enough to watch that too.
In Good Company (2004)
Now here is a quality movie that a star of last weekend's new releases was a part of. Legion opened a few days ago to higher than expected numbers, which is great considering that Dennis Quaid isn't all that bankable. Remember Pandorum? Yeah, I don't either. And in six months (or maybe even six weeks), I won't remember Legion. That doesn't mean he hasn't starred in some great movies, as the former Mr. Meg Ryan built a career on more than just the abandonment of his trampy, lip-injected ex-wife. Can you tell which side of that divorce I support?
With In Good Company, Quaid plays off that noble-man image. Middle-aged family man, hard worker, and father; he's your everyday, average guy. That is, until his company is taken over, he's given a boss half his age, and his daughter... well, I won't ruin all the fun for you. But having a boss young enough to date your daughter (wink, wink) is enough of a complication to warrant a movie, especially if that daughter is Scarlett Johansson. While I get the feeling she's a total Meg Ryan in reality (ie. hoochie bitch), she's so unbelievably sexy and radiant on screen in everything that she does that I'll totally forgive her. She can be whatever she wants to be, because she is the cherry on top of this already delicious movie.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Kristen Bell may not radiate sexuality the way Johansson does, but she is no less attractive. That petite little figure, that ear-to-ear smile, that flowing blonde hair! If only she never starred in Pulse or Couples Retreat. If only she wasn't releasing the terribly unappealing When In Rome this weekend, too. She is forgiven, though, for doing voice work for the Assassin's Creed video games. Any girl that is as beautiful as her and loves video games should be worshipped, if Forgetting Sarah Marshall weren't reason enough. It was written by and stars Jon Segel, best known for his work on TV's How I Met Your Mother, as a TV show composer who is dumped by his TV star girlfriend (Bell). He takes a trip to Hawaii to forget about the pain and past, but instead bumps into his ex and her new rock star boyfriend. Basically, it's the worst rebound vacation ever.
Well, maybe not. Segel isn't the only one pushed to his jealous limits. While in Hawaii, he meets the lovely Mila Kunis, who works at the resort. Holy f-ing crap, when did Mila get so hot?! I always thought she kind of looked like an alien on That '70s Show, but she grew into that round face and those bulging eyes. Double dates, fake orgasms, and hilarious whining galore, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is yet another surprise spring comedy hit that has built a devoted fanbase, yet is broad enough to continue appealing to new audiences everywhere. And if seeing Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell in bikinis isn't enough to sell you on this movie (for the straight men, anyway), then maybe several flashes of Segel's full-frontal will. Would it be a Apatow production without unnecessary ball swinging? It could be, but it sure wouldn't be this funny.
What Women Want (2000)
You know who else has a crappy looking movie coming out this weekend? Someone whose career has become equal crap in the last few years. That's right, I'm talking about Mel Gibson. You've probably heard of him. He was once one of the biggest stars in the world, has won Academy Awards, and then made religion cool for like ten minutes when he released Passion of the Christ. Then he went nuts. And by nuts, I mean he showed his true colors as an alcoholic bigot. Drinking really does just show the best side of people. Longtime readers of mine who remember my two-month stint in Greece last summer know of a few instances where booze got the best of me, but never have I brought down the Jewish community with a film and/or drunken rant. Not that I can remember, anyway. Yay for beer!
Well before he pulled that Tom Cruise-style career plummet, he helped launch a career that still stands today. The career I'm talking about belongs to writer/director Nancy Meyers, who has followed up this film with hits like Something's Gotta Give, The Holiday, and the recent It's Complicated. I'm sure today Mel would have to beg Nancy for a part, but in 2000 it was Mel's world and Nancy was lucky to have him. Together they turned What Women Want into a monster holiday hit. It's no surprise since the movie follows Mel as a hot-shot advertising playboy, which back then was basically what every man wanted to be and what every woman wanted. That's what the title says, anyway.
Regardless, he gains the power to read the mind of every woman he passes by. On the majority, this is extremely funny, though at times it reminds us of the sadder thoughts that plague us. It makes for great psychology and helps bring the movie some realism, but nothing about suicide is funny (unless you're watching Groundhog Day). Helping to distract from these slightly depressing moments is Helen Hunt, who is perfect as the woman that takes Mel's job, becomes the object of his manipulation, and then later his affection. This movie is the reason I go see Nancy Meyers movies on opening weekend (even though it's been a bit downhill since Something's Gotta Give) and is the reason I stopped watching Mel. He hasn't come close to being this watchable in a film in the last decade, and I don't expect this weekend's Edge of Darkness will change that.
The Invention of Lying (2009)
And finally, a film that has nothing to do with a release from the last weekend or the next. No, instead I thought I'd share with you something I had the pleasure of watching in the last week, a surprise in every way. Based on commercials, I thought this would strictly be about a liar in an absolutely honest world. I thought it would be moderately entertaining, at best. And I sure as hell thought the concept was so unique and out of left field, that there wouldn't be time for a deep story to be told while explore the hilarity of this alt-universe. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Never underestimate the quality of comedy that comes from the mind of Ricky Gervais.
The movie starts out with an entirely honest world, which alone offers plenty of opportunity for original jokes. Usually comedians talk trash about people behind their backs on stage; imagine a world where everyone said all their harsh honest beliefs without refrain or remorse. Basically, a world where Mel Gibson can get away with being Mel Gibson. All that matters is honesty and everything said to and heard by another is taken as truth. And just as Ricky is in the midst of dating Jennifer Garner and the audience loses interest in this new comedy novelty, he learns to lie. Another short while later, more laughter, and just at the next brink of lost interest, the film goes from comedy to a lesson of biblical proportions. Literally.
Apparently, there is no religion in the honest world, because religion is based on faith, not fact. Here, only facts are dealt with. True feelings and true information. What a world, huh? If only we didn't all currently live in the situation that is Earth 2010. In any case, as a way to help the dying, Ricky creates the ideas of heaven. I won't even try to tell you the rest, because already this isn't the movie you expected and I've given away too much. The Invention of Lying is a hilarious movie, whether you're religious or not, and will blow away your low expectations going into it. I didn't think it would be, but it's right on par with Gervais' Ghost Town. Hopefully his talent will catch fire soon and set this world aflame because he deserves far more support than his box office track record would suggest. And that's the truth.