Smart People; Stupid Errors

New director Noam Murro’s film, Smart People, provides a window into the manner by which even the most book-smart family can be emotion-stupid.

It is the story of a stodgy and dislikeable english professor at Carnegie-Mellon University named Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid). Lawrence is a widower, having lost his wife at some unknown point in the past. He has been raising a son and daughter on his own, but has remained so emotionally distant that his son is estranged from him and his daughter is so hungry for affection that she tries to seduce her uncle.

Everything changes for Lawrence when he goes to visit his son at college. After the inadvertent and unexpected discovery that his son is a poet, his car is towed. He realizes that his latest manuscript is in the back seat of the car, and tries to “liberate” the manuscript from the impounded vehicle.

While climbing the fence he falls, striking his head and suffering a “traumatic seizure.” This accomplishes two narrative tasks, introduces him to Dr. Janet Hartigan (Sarah Jessica Parker), and keeps him from being able to drive for six months.

As a result, Larry hires his adopted brother, Chuck (Thomas Haden Church), to drive for him. Chuck provides a pot-smoking, frat-boy counterpoint to Larry’s stodgy, alcoholic professor. He is also, unsurprisingly, the answer to the family’s needs. . . .

I have to admit that I was somewhat put off by the movie’s medical inaccuracies. For example, in one scene a neurologist examines a head injury patient with a slit lamp instead of the direct ophthalmoscope that would have been much more likely. For most viewers this oversight would not present a problem, however for me it was a glaring medical error that diluted some of my enjoyment of the film.

In another scene, the main character, Larry Wetherhold, is evaluated in an emergency department following a fall. He is told by Dr. Janet Hartigan that he has suffered a “trauma-induced seizure” after the fall and thus cannot drive for six months.

Contrary to what the movie would have viewers believe, traumatic seizures are relatively rare without an aneurysmal bleed, subarachnoid/epidural hematoma or severe pre-existing trauma with resulting encephalomalacia.

Although these errors frustrated me, I suspect they passed unnoticed by most viewers. However, a movie with a significant medical plotline should have a competent medical advisor on staff to prevent such problems.

I enjoyed the movie, despite the above reservations.  I give it (***) three Jessicas out of a possible four.


The Bank Job

bank job 1

Roger Donaldson’s new film, The Bank Job, is inconsistent but enjoyable. Donaldson has made his name with prior films such as Cadillac Man, The Getaway, and Thirteen Days.

Reportedly a true story, The Bank Job tells the story of a petty criminal named Terry Leather (played adequately by an uncharacteristically non-choppy-socky Jason Statham) who is offered the opportunity to lead a bank heist. He is joined in his efforts by a motley collection of pseudo-criminals, including the comely Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), soft-featured Dave Shilling (Daniel Mays), and several others.

However, all is not as it seems. The heist is actually an attempt by British Intelligence to obtain a collection of compromising photos taken of Princess Margaret and being used for blackmail. The photos are being held in a safe deposit box, which is the ostensible target for the heist.

To complicate matters, also in the vault is a vast collection of other blackmail material, including compromising pictures of members of parliament, a local pornographer’s ledger for payments made to corrupt cops. This creates a complex web of interaction between seedy police officers, compromised British Intelligence operatives, pornographers and criminals, and our hapless and unsophisticated bank robbers.

The movie begins inconsistently, with a combination of musical montages and stilted interactions between characters on the show. Toward the middle, however, it seems to catch its stride and remains enjoyable through the end of the film.

I enjoyed it overall despite initial mixed feelings about the film. I give it two-and-a-half Jessicas out of four. Certainly worth a rental or matinee.


bee movie

With so many excellent animated movies being produced these days, a computer animated film produced by Dreamworks and containing the voice talents of Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, and Matthew Broderick would seem to be a slam dunk. However, despite these talents, the film never seems to get into a groove.

Bee Movie is the story of a young bee, Barry B. Benson (voiced by Seinfeld), who is confronted at his graduation from Bee school with a sense of Bee existentialism, questioning whether his current existence as a bee is “all that there is.”

While searching for a career, he follows a squadron of bees on a pollen-gathering mission. During his flight, he is knocked from the sky by a droplet of rain and falls into a flowerbed outside of the apartment of florist Vanessa Bloome (voiced by Zellweger). Upon regaining consciousness, he begins a conversation with Vanessa, much to her chagrin.

Vanessa and Barry then develop a relationship, which despite bestiality overtones is (thankfully) never consummated. Barry begins to question the business of beekeeping as an affront to the independence of beekind worldwide. His plight eventually causes bees to stop working, leading to the involution of flowering plants worldwide and (almost) a global catastrophe.

What the film is lacking is a character or relationship that the audience can become invested in. Despite the voice of Seinfeld, Barry seems somehow less relevant without Elaine, Kramer and Jerry.

Even a smattering of feel-good, heavy-handed environmentalism which dilutes the last 30 minutes doesn’t lend the movie any more substance.

Bee Movie is ok, but not great. It has potential, but doesn’t seem to deliver.

I give it ** Jessicas out of four. An ok rental, a disappointing full price investment.


Get ready for a short one.

Uwe Boll directed.

Not sure what that means? He directed Bloodrayne and House of the Dead.

Not good enough for you guys? Burt Reynolds plays a king in medieval times.

That’s all I got because, unfortunately, he didn’t let Kristanna Loken get naked this time. That might have saved this movie.

I’ve almost never done this but 0 Jessicas out of 4. My god this movie might be worse than Battlefield: Earth and that’s saying something. See it if you want to laugh at how crappy it is. Honestly, Peter Jackson should be embarrassed by how good his trilogy is. LOTR looks like Citizen f*cking Cain compared to this drivel.

(EK adds. . . .)
I can see the production planning now. That kick *ss guy from the Transporter–CHECK. Relatively attractive blond chick–CHECK. Burt Reynolds–CHECK. Let’s greenlight the F*cker!This movie was bordering on absolutely terrible. However the WORST of it was not a Burt Reynolds one facelift short of having a chin on his forehead. It also wasn’t casting virtually talentless Matthew Lillard as Duke Fallow (although I liked him in Hackers).

The most gut-wrenching, bile-inducing decision made by the casting director was to place bad boy Ray Liotta as an evil wizard. Ray looked like a reject from an 80’s tv sitcom, with black feathered hair and his mafioso delivery.

Uwe Boll should have to pay a fine for directing this stinker. . . .

(AK piles on…)
My question about this is: How does this guy keep getting financing for this crap? I mean is there really that much money to be tossed around? If so, tell me where it is. Someone could pay me the same amount of money to film myself taking a deuce and I bet it draws a bigger audience. Or at least better reviews.AK


Too dark to see any of the overwhelming action? Full of choppy cuts? An Alien with dreadlocks? And this is supposed to be a return to the roots of the Alien so deftly planted by Ridley Scott and James Cameron? Last time I checked, Sigourney Weaver never fought a Rastafarian Alien queen. I shot the sher-iff. . . .But I didn’t shoot the A-li-en. . . .

Now, I have to admit I have a penchant for watching rowdy alien species bashing each others’ faces in. I can even handle the gratuitous use of humans as sharpening tools. What’s more, I can deal with corny stories placing these two storied franchises together on Earth in locations that seem to have nothing in common with their histories’ well-established climatic/geographic preferences (i.e. warm climates or on another planet).

What are hard to deal with are shadows that interfere with the possibly interesting action sequences (aka the Eyes Wide Shut Effect or EWSE), poorly scripted and aimless dialogue, and the fact that these movies look nothing like the originals.

Oh, and did I mention that they put dreadlocks on an Alien? Yeah I can’t believe it either.

So check it. The movie picks up exactly where the first one left off. An Alien/Predator pimp pops out of a dead Predator’s belly. It deads the ship somewhere in Colorado (specifics not important, because it’s about to be populated by hundreds of Aliens, yo) but before the last Predator on the ship gets f*cked up, he throws a text message to his buddy hangin’ out on in the United States of Predation.

His homie gets all “You gotta be sh*ttin’ me, dogg,” and hops on his crotch-rocket headed to Earth to throw down with these bitches killin’ his crew. Oh it’s head bussin’ time, bro. This new Predator pimp lays his sh*t down on these Alien bitches for the next hour and a half. Then he peaces out because of a human nuke. Take that suckas!

I’m not a gangsta, you say? I can’t talk like that? Really? Sorry. I guess I was under the delusion that if you can put dreads on an Alien and call it a return to the classic roots of each series, that I could talk like a G and say that I’m an original gangsta. My bad…

That said, AVP:R isn’t an awful movie, especially not by today’s standard of awful. The biggest problems with it are the writing, directing, acting, and, to various degrees, the cinematography. Jeez. Now that I think about it, it was awful.

The direction, orchestrated by the duo presumptively calling themselves The Brothers Strause, is soggy and and riddled with holes (like a bad cheese in more ways than one). Where there should be some light so we can see what’s going on, there isn’t. When there should be an absence of light, there’s too much. All this leads to incredibly small amounts of tension. Without tension, there’s not payoff when things go bang, snarl and screech. You get the idea.

But more importantly, it seems as though the SFX gurus pretending to direct forgot that if you’re going to focus on human characters, some time should be spent developing them. These characters, even for being basic and cliche, seem to have no direction in which to head. They’re meat; and that might be fine if more attention had been paid to the aforementioned directorial problems.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the writing or acting that can’t be weened from the idea that the movie-goer is about to see a movie called Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem. They’re both stale and generic, yet with less flair than most of today’s standardized sh*t. The only character that seemed to have any promise was the Ellen Ripley wannabe but that idea is dropped within the first 20 minutes of the movie.

I have to give props to the “Brothers” about one thing. They went against a couple different conventions and also showed some creative ingenuity in a handful of scattered sequences. Let’s just say you’re not safe in this movie, even if you’re a child or a pregnant woman. And yes, Predators can build more than just weapons that you stab, shoot or throw with.

Too bad that line of thought didn’t extend throughout the entire movie.

* 1/2 Jessicas out of 4. Thank God for the one gratuitous c*ck-tease scene of a beautiful Kristen Hager stripping down to her skivvies for a late-night dip.