Tuesday, May 26, 2009


So…I spent the better part of the last week or so trying to watch Passengers. Redbox never had it. Hasting’s was always out. Frustration set in. I hadn’t ever even heard of the movie until I saw it out on DVD at Walmart. It looked like a good little thriller, and since I like Anne Hathaway, I figured that I couldn’t go wrong. In short, I really I wanted to see it. Usually…I like it when I get what I want. Sigh. Finally…in what will be known from now on as “The Memorial Day Miracle,” I found a copy for rent while shopping yesterday. Phew!

The movie centers around Claire, played by the afore-mentioned Anne Hathaway, a psychologist who helps people deal with emotional trauma in their lives. She is called in, in the middle of the night, to meet with survivors of a plane crash, and is told by a colleague that she will be the one to work with all of them. Though she is slightly overwhelmed at the prospect, Claire sets up a time to meet with the survivors in a group meeting. Only one man refuses to join the group: a seemingly jubilant survivor named Eric. Eric does, however, agree to meet with Claire on a one-on-one, house call, basis. Though reluctant, Claire agrees, and for reasons I don’t really know…I found myself totally creeped out by Eric.

While Eric claims, to Claire, that everything is fine, we see that he is having nightmares, and is frustrated when he’s on his own. From their first official meeting, Claire is both uncomfortable with, and intrigued by, Eric, who repeatedly pushes their relationship closer and closer to its boundaries. What begins as an honest desire to help Eric deal with the trauma of the accident turns into several unnerving attempts to figure him out. Eric seems to know things about Claire that she’s never divulged, and she becomes more and more determined to find out why.

Eric’s memory of the crash differs with accounts Claire has heard from members of the group, whose memories differ from one another, as well. When a strange man is seen lurking outside a window during a group session, and one member of the group confides in Claire that the man has been following him. Though he has no proof, the man is certain that the airline is following him.

The official story of the crash, given by the airline, is that the accident was due to human error, as the pilot was tired and miscalculated his landing. When memories of an explosion begin to surface with some of the crash survivors, however, Claire begins to wonder if the crash was due, instead, to mechanical error. The airline has dealt with mechanical errors before, and reportedly could not deal with it again. When members of the group, who have reported hearing or seeing the explosion, begin to disappear, Claire becomes certain that she is dealing with a cover-up. Desperate to uncover the truth, and to protect her patients, Claire begins to investigate the crash in detail. The closer she comes to finding the truth, it seems, the more dangerous her pursuit becomes.

While not an all out “scary” movie, Passengers has plenty of unsettling moments and characters. I won’t say any more, so that you can experience the film on your own. The ending was not something that I’d anticipated, regardless of the fact that I had voiced every other feasible explanation I could imagine. While it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I did like Passengers, and was glad to finally get to watch it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

There is just something about Matthew McConaughey. That guy could charm the parka off of a penguin. I don't really even know what that means, but penguins don't wear it would be a pretty amazing feat.

The point is...that guy is smooth. When I see him in a movie, there is never any doubt in my mind that he is going to get just exactly what he wants. Not because he's the star of the movie and the star always gets what he wants...but because he is just a charmer. I can't imagine anyone being able to say no to him. And this goes way beyond the fact that he's a Hotty McHotterson. Though he is. I don't think his charms are only effective on the ladies, though. I'm sure that any man who reads this is probably rolling his eyes and saying "nuh-uh!" but I'm confident that if you non-believers were to meet Mr. McConaughey at a would end up wanting to hang out with the guy. Cool is cool. It cannot be denied.

That being said...Matthew plays up his charm to its fullest in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a modern day play on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Instead of Scrooge, Matthew plays Connor Mead, a photographer and eternal bachelor, whose moral compass seems to be broken, and whose only goal in life seems to be to have as much fun, with as many women, and as little commitment, as is humanly possible.

We meet Connor as he travels to attend the wedding of his younger brother, Paul. Upon his arrival, we find that only Paul is glad to see his brother, while many of the guests are surprised that he came, and at least one bridesmaid, Jenny, (played by my favorite female super-spy, Jennifer Garner aka Sydney Bristow) is absolutely not happy to see Connor.

Connor doesn't believe in marriage, and encourages both Paul and his Bridezilla fiancee, Sandra, to call the whole thing off. Love is a myth, he explains to those seated with him at the rehearsal dinner, and he is convinced that a committed relationship can only be equated with bondage.

After dinner, Connor excuses himself to the bathroom, where he runs into his greatest idol, the man after whom he feels he learned all of the important things in life, his Uncle Wayne. After their parents had been killed in a car accident, Connor and Paul and been raised by Wayne, who had being a philandering bachelor down to an art. While meeting his hero in the bathroom should be a happy occasion, Connor is more than a little freaked out, considering that Uncle Wayne is dead.

The ghost of Uncle Wayne tells Connor that throughout the night, he will be visited by three ghosts. Those who are familiar with A Christmas Carol can predict what is coming next...but it's fun to watch it play out anyway. Connor dismisses the meeting with Uncle Wayne as a result of too much alcohol, and leaves the bathroom only slightly shaken.

After alienating himself from everyone who came to the wedding to enjoy, rather than destroy, it, and after hitting on a flirtatious, but expressly off-limits, cougar who turns out to be the mother of the bride, Connor makes plans to meet one of the bridesmaids in his room. Once there, however, Connor is greeted not by the young bridesmaid who he had hoped to meet, but the "ghost" of the first girl who fell victim to his "love 'em and leave 'em" ways, Allison Vandermeersh.

Allison proves to be Connor's Ghost of Girlfriends past, and whisks him away through several memories that help explain the reasons that Connor is the way that he is. We see that Jenny was his first and best friend, and that she bought him his first camera. We see that he was infatuated with her...but that, as things tend to do in life, things didn't work out the way that he'd wanted them to work out. Repeatedly. Finally, Connor begins to feel regret for some of the choices he's made in his life...both concerning Jenny, and in regard to his lifestyle in general.

I won't go into lots more detail about the have to have some surprises if you see it...but I had to mention Allison, because Connor's scenes spent with her were the funniest scenes in the movie. That girl...funny. Seriously. Good stuff.

After Allison, Connor is visited by the Ghost of Girlfriends Present, and the Ghost of Girlfriends future...and his eyes are slowly opened to the things that are most important in life. He is forced to re-evaluate his priorities, and especially how his choices have affected the people that have surrounded him.

I liked the movie. It could be considered "fluff" by the hardcore critics, but it made me laugh, and had some honestly tender moments. So many times people go through life repeatedly making the same's nice to see someone...even if it's just a funny movie...who finally sees their mistakes and tries to fix them.

Though it's always hard to say if the lessons that characters learn in movies would really stick "in real life," I have to believe the Connor is a changed man, by the end of the film. Of course, this could be due to the aforementioned charm that Matthew McConaughey possesses. I would buy a wool sweater from him if I were standing in the Houston heat in the middle of August...and I would wear it with a smile if he asked me to.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

So…in spite of the fact that I haven’t done it in ninety years, I’m suddenly really jonesing to do some movie blogging. Also, my nephew, Torsten, chewed me out for not keeping this current. SO…here goes. I’ll try to do better…and I’ll play catch up for a bit…because I have actually watched some good movies lately.

First off…I went to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine this past weekend. At first I didn’t consider the movie to be one that I’d go to the theater to see…I was fine waiting for the DVD. I have loved the X-Men movies, but for some reason, wasn’t chomping at the bit for this one. Not sure why.

But…I went with some friends…and MAN. It was GOOD. I mean…seriously. I loved it. Anyone who is interested in the movie knows that Wolverine is a character from both the X-Men comic books, and the X-Men movies, played by Hugh Jackman. Now…I have to say it…I never put Hugh Jackman on my “list” of Hollywood studs until I see him in a movie…and then I remember how cool he is. His range is pretty broad…he’s played all kinds of characters, but Wolverine is certainly his most widely known. And probably…because Wolverine kicks so much butt. Seriously. I’d like to be a mutant…just so I could hang out with him.

If you remember the X-Men films, (I’m not familiar at all with the comic books, to be honest. Shoot me if you’re a purist…) you’ll know that Logan/Wolverine starts the first film not remembering his past. He doesn’t know where he came from…what his story is…etc. Though some of his secrets are revealed through the subsequent films, this movie serves as a prequel that tells his whole story.

As a boy, Jimmy Logan and his brother, Victor Creed, run away together, and grow up fighting wars and never growing old. Both are mutants who enjoy superhuman strength, animal instincts, and excess facial hair. Both have the ability to heal very quickly, as well, and are therefore all but indestructible in the battles they endure. When the wars end, however, the brothers don’t know what to do with themselves, and are recruited into a private army of mutants, which is lead by Colonel William Stryker.

Stryker uses mutants and their unique powers to…um…get the things that he wants…and has very little respect for anything that gets in his way…including human life. While Victor enjoys the role of a mercenary killer, Logan grows tired of the violence and leaves the team. Both Stryker and Victor feel betrayed by Logan’s desertion, and seek their revenge in different ways. In spite of this desire to remove himself from the life he once lived, Logan is forced to return as both Creed and Stryker paint him into a figurative corner. I won’t lay out the details of the story line…in case you want to see the film…but I gotta say…it plays out to my definite liking.

Along the way, we are introduced to other mutants…some who are new to the films…(Gambit, an energy manipulating con artist, played by my favorite Friday Night Lights star, Taylor Kitsch, is a favorite)…and a younger version of a future X-Men team member, Scott Summers, aka Cyclops.

I think that one of my reservations about seeing the film was thinking that maybe fleshing out Logan’s history was superfluous…I’d enjoyed him enough as it was…who cared where he came from? But…as it turns out, I really did enjoy the story, and made me like his character even more. The action in the movie was great, and I liked many of the characters. It is interesting to see where all of these characters have come from…both knowing some of the places they will eventually go…and also, in wondering they might pop up next.