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Not sure why they Photoshopped bug eyes on Heather Graham for this poster.

Not sure why they Photoshopped bug eyes on Heather Graham for this poster.

As a guy, I can’t really sympathize with a movie about a woman (Heather Graham) desperate to have a baby but who finds out she only has one egg remaining.  And I don’t think the film ever lets us enough into her character to truly empathize with her.  Which is a bit of a problem.  The premise is that Graham’s serious boyfriend (Tom Ellis) isn’t so much into having children, causing a rift between the two.  As he goes off to film a documentary on a remote island with no cell phone reception a chick who “looks like a Russian tennis player” and who is sometimes bent on stealing Graham’s boyfriend, Graham finds out her unfortunate medical situation.  She has three days to figure out a way to get pregnant.

Of course, here’s another obstacle for guys: we can’t really understand how a chick, especially one who looks like Heather Graham (and she is quite cute in the movie), could have difficulty finding a guy to have unprotected sex with her.  In any case, she also kinda prefers the artificial insemination route.  Meanwhile, her boyfriend realizes he would, in fact, like to have kids, and tries to rush (for no apparent reason) back to her.

My concern is that Camilla Leslie and Katherine Chandler’s script can’t quite decide what it wants to be.  It isn’t quite a drama, isn’t quite a comedy, and yet managed to not be a dramedy at all.  Are we supposed to laugh at Graham’s struggles to get pregnant, feel sorry for her, or be happy she doesn’t fully consummate cheating on her boyfriend?  The subplots involving her boyfriend, in fact, feel underdeveloped and end up being distractions.

That said, I did find myself enjoying parts of the movie.  I was particularly struck with how much I enjoyed the dialogue.  It managed to avoid being hokey most of the time, no small feat for a movie of this ilk.  Also had the best semen sight gag I’ve seen since There’s Something About Mary.  So there’s that.  Mia Kirshner (the creepy chick from the underrated Not Another Teen Movie) plays the best friend role.

Three Stars (4.8 on imdb, 10% on RT, 2.8 on Netflix)

Trailer after the jump: Read the rest of this entry »

“Quirky indie comedy.”  Kabluey practically begs to be described as such, so I figured I’d get that out of the way up front.  The thing is, I’m convinced the film (written and directed by Scott Prendergast) could have been a big studio release.  Not with Prendergast starring, as he does (if we were lucky, the studios would give us Simon Pegg), and there’d be a rewrite to make the comedy somewhat broader.  It is a funky little movie as is,  but the basic premise is sound for something bigger, had things gone that way.

A harried mother (Lisa Kudrow) of two young kids struggles to make ends meet when her husband is deployed for another tour in Iraq.  Out of options, she calls her brother-in-law (Prendergast), who has a social anxiety disorder of your choosing, to help take care of the kids while she works.  The kids don’t exactly take a shine to him at first, threatening to kill him, for example.  And he has no clue how to handle children, so hilarity ensues.  As things fail to progress on that front, he gets pressed into a job where Kudrow works.  The job, of course, is to stand on the side of a two-lane highway no one uses and pass out fliers no one wants.  While wearing a giant blue costume with no eye holes, a poorly-placed zipper, and hands not particularly designed to hold anything.

Prendergast does a good job mining the costume for humor, but I felt like there was more to be done.  Anyway, a mom of upper middle class suburbia (Christine Taylor) happens to pass by and gets the blue guy to perform at her kid’s birthday party.  Where is he revered, marking the point at which Prendergast’s character finally starts down the road to something resembling normal human interaction.

The film is strongest when focusing on the funny blue costume.  Well, and I also think it has something meaningful to say on the effect a spouse overseas can have on a person.  But most of the non-costume subplots seem to fall just a little bit flat, and I think the film might have been better served just going back to the costume joke well.  Granted, that could be because everything is funnier in a mascot uniform.  Of course, that’s also what a big studio release would have done as well, I’d imagine.  Not sure what that says about me.

The film has an interesting supporting cast, with Christine Taylor, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Teri Garr, and Chris Parnell all showing up for a few scenes.  But I was pleasantly surprised by Kudrow, I think the role fits her well.  And impressed with the subtlety of Prendergast’s approach to the role of the loser.

Three Stars

Snow Angels is one of the better 2008 movies, and frankly I don’t quite see how someone could think something like Frozen River compares favorably.  Granted, this David Gordon Green movie is unlike Courtney Hunt’s in many ways.  But they both look at a small town in the north and share similar themes of a female trying to make a life for her child with a good-for-nothing husband, and the awkwardness of adolescence, and neither is particularly upbeat.  Snow Angels, though, doesn’t shy away from plot, brings some interesting characters to the table, and seems to have a more textured tone.

Plus the cast is fun.  Sam Rockwell stands out as Kate Beckinsale’s somewhat deranged ex-husband.  I’m not entirely sure what it says about you as a person when you are the go to guy for “somewhat deranged,” but more power to you, Mr. Rockwell.  Amy Sedaris shows up in the best friend role, but the character is actually given some meaning.  And Olivia Thirlby gets to play a cute girl next door type, pretty much guaranteeing a Golden Grouch seal of approval.

While not necessarily being a must-see movie, Snow Angels helps serve as a reminder that no matter how blah the year’s Oscar crop was, there were more interesting movies around, you just might have to dig a little.

Four Stars

The Golden Grouches is primarily an Oscar blog.  So naturally the movies we tend to advocate are the ones at least in the conversation for a gold statue.  If we get to champion little-seen movies, they are still little-seen movies receiving nominations.  But now we’re in the cold, dark off-season for the Academy.  You know, the place where comedies are allowed to exist.  So I’m returning to the huge pile of non-Oscar recaps I’ve sorely neglected, plus I have a few other ideas brewing.  To start things off, I’m very happy to report back on a non-Oscar little movie we were able to talk about, Play The Game.  You’ll be excused if you missed it, though it is has been out for three weeks, it has only played in Florida (though it is expanding to a theater in California).

The romantic comedy stars Paul Campbell (he’s Chief of Staff to the President on Battlestar Galactica, at least for the one season I’ve watched) as David, a master of persuasion, evidenced by his rampant success selling cars to people who don’t need them at the dealership owned by his father (Clint Howard),  and the number of women he’s bedded.  But he’s the heart of gold kind of romcom lothario, not the evil sort.  David had to drop out of school and work for his father (with whom he has an uneasy relationship) to pay for his Grandpa Joe’s (Andy Griffith) spot in a retirement community, once his grandmother passed away.  After his grandfather has been alone for a few years, David decides to fulfill a promise made to his grandmother to help Grandpa Joe find someone new.

As David teaches his grandfather how to get back into the world of dating, he finds himself falling for Julie (Marla Sokoloff).  But all his tricks, so effective with the various floozies he picked up in bars, bear no fruit when applied to Julie, and he finds himself stuck being her friend.  Meanwhile, Grandpa Joe has great success picking up one woman (Liz Sheridan) and struggles a bit more with another (Doris Roberts).  Geoffrey Owens (Elvin on The Cosby Show!) is also in the film as David’s best friend, Rob.

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Another Oscar season ends with a whimper. I can’t say I’m unhappy to see it end because it was a pretty weak year with few movies that really moved me and not even many Oscar categories with interesting races.

Much like last year we clearly don’t care enough to post our Oscar night thoughts in any sort of timely manner, but the internet could use a few more opinions and I’m here to give them.

The telecast producers intended to shake things up a bit this year and their efforts were mostly for the positive. Hugh Jackman’s recession-themed opening number was fun albeit a bit inside baseball. The overarching “storyline” of the night, following a film from inception to completion, was interesting, even if it did mean the first three categories were major categories. Some of the jokes were wickedly funny and edgy in ways Oscar jokes usually aren’t. Jack Black was even funny. The “yearbooks” were okay, save the hilarious comedy edition from Judd Apatow, which was a highlight of the evening. Things seemed to move along pretty well, perhaps helped by the close proximity of the seats to the stage so every winner was at the podium in less than ten seconds. But it still went 20 minutes over so that quixotic search for an Oscars telecast that ends on time will never end. I appreciated that no one was played off, even if I wished it had (see: lame Makeup winner who just read names from a list as fast as he could).

Introducing acting nominees with former winners really did not work for me. It was way too indulgent. Just show the clip of Anne Hathaway crying and move on instead of telling us how much we were moved by her.

The winners were all very predictable, with Departures winning Foreign Language Film the only major upset. Adam’s tally of 16 correct predictions in 2007 seemed like a great total, higher than what’s usually needed to win a pool. This year it took 19 to win the Grouches’ pool and I’ve seen people who picked as many as 22 correct. That’s just absurd. When you have to dig as far down as Sound Mixing to find a slightly off-the-wall winner you know it’s a predictable year. At least one major race, Actor, had some drama to it.

And with that we bid adieu to 2008 and get ready for 2009. God willing this year will be better. The million dollar question: by the time the big awards movies start popping up in the fall will any of us even remember Frost/Nixon?

March 2009