Levitt Rates RomComs 2- The Second Batch.

Okay, maybe its your 23rd time watching Darcy kiss Bridget Jones in the snow or your 38th time witnessing a pink shirted, Mr. Thacker admit he’d been a “daft prick” in front of a roomful of paparazzi…and your desperately searching for more.

A year ago, I wrote my first article on reviewing the best/worst rom-coms. * Levitt Reviews Rom Coms .Well, I’ve decided its high time to compile another, second batch of films to get your Rom Com juices flowing once again.  Its a mixed bag.  Some bad some excruciating.  But, if your attention spans permit, I  promise a few laughs along the way and a hey, maybe if you hang in there, you might find that your true love for this article was there all along 🙂

Forgetting Sarah marshall. (B-)

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This movie should have been called, forgetting Jason Segel because, with his pathetic sad sack personna , Segel proves easily the least interesting character in the whole movie and perhaps the most boringly morose character ever committed to film.  Glumly drifting from scene to scene, he says his lines with lazy half-smirk, like the dosage for his anti-depressive meds was always just a little off.  Compared to him, Kristen Bell, Paul Rudd, and Jonah Hill seem to bounce of the screen and turn in their most winning performances to date. In fact Segel was so charisma-less, that,throughout the film, I actually found myself admiring and rooting for the hedonistic foil, Russel Brand  (Aldous Snow), to run off and live happily with both Sarah Marshall (kristen Bell) and Mika Kunis. The other major problem I had with the film was, Why all the frontal nudity? In Segel’s self written script, he  he kept opting to show his penis in scenes where his character felt particularly vulnerable.  I don’t know if  Segel ‘s nudity was some form of self-flagellation to punish himself for some past sin or maybe he wanted to show how he could truly sacrifice and get truly “naked” for his craft. Perhaps,  all things considered, maybe he just wanted to immortalize his manhood for film posterity. In any event, I wished dude had the sense to censor himself and had kindly put his gun back in it’s holster.

P.S.  one Muppet-like musicalized version of Dracula is one too many for me!

You’ve Got Mail.(C) or you’ve got 2/12 hours to kill.

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You’ve Got mail hearkens back to a simpler time when owning a book store actually meant you had a chance to turn a profit. In the films Tom Hanks portrays a kind of driven, “ruthless” book store executive. How are book store executives ruthless?  Kind of like saying he was a Tough-as- Nails Disney Store Greeter.

This film annoyed me right out of the gate because I came into the thing knowing that if you’ve got Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in a film together, we know their getting together.  So, we have to just hang out for about two hours and watch Hanks and Ryan pretend they don’t get along only for a mere thirty seconds or so of kissy-face at the end.

You’ve Got Mail also contains Tom Hanks’ most pansy performance to date.  In scene after scene, Meg Ryan’s character unloads some lame-ass put down like calling Hanks a “Suit” or accuse him of being profit driven (really, someone in business profit-driven, the shame!) Hanks meekly responds to Ryan; slinking away hurt and licking his wounds like some sensitive six year old (MWAAAH, you said mean things to me!!!).   By the end of the film, I’m confident that most women in the audience were silently hoping that Hanks would just man up and grow a pair.

P.S: Please Note: chatting online back and forth online is not  cinematically compelling.  If Hanks and Ryan decide to do a film where their just texting each other or swapping emojis, definitely count me out

Shallow Hal (C)- Hands Off The Girl In The Fat-Suit. She’s mine!

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How Did they pitch this one to producers?  How About Jack Black as a romantic lead?  Sure he’s physically un-appealing but, get this, he’s also shallow!  Ladies You’re gonna love him!

This film’s premise is beyond loopy.  Tim Robbins motivational speaking skills gives a shallow lug, Hal, High Powered beer goggles to the 100th power.  Hal is put under the spell of thinking women with inner beauty have outer beauty too.  Apparently, women who are both beautiful on the inside and out just don’t exist in this one dimensional rom-com world.

Finally, by the end of the film,  Hal’s  girlfriend Rosemary (formerly a svelte Gwynneth Paltrow is revealed as really a bloated paltrow in a fat suit). Hal claims that he finds the new Rosemary “beautiful” but unlike Rosemary -when offered any type of food- I just find this concept too difficult to swallow. Simply stated, one’s vision of beauty cannot do a complete 180 degree turnin a matter of moments.

The Holiday

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(Ditch The House Swap guys, you’re better off with a stay-cation)

Jack Black once again rears his ugly head as a Romantic Lead. Let the swooning commence!. Couple 1 (perps)  Kate Winslett and Jack Black.  I never thought I’d be writing the same actors names in the same line much less describing them in a love affair.   The odds of these two being paired up on a dating website much less finding love together must be astronomical .  If Kate Winslett ever had the misfortune to meet Jack black socially, she would probably resort to alerting security and having him bodily removed.  If Jack Black ran into Kate Winslett, her  unnasailable class would probably inspire him to quickly down a hard drink and retreat quickly into the bathroom.  Compared to Jack Black, Kate Winslett and Eli Wallach share considerably  more chemistry onscreen.  Age difference and age-related memory loss aside, I think the odds were more in favor of this generation-challenged duo ending up in bed together than seeing Winslett and black swap tongues.

Couple 2 (perps): Jude law and Cameron Diaz, though not as hideously inappropriate a couple as Winslett-Black, also seem to be working too hard against their public personas (Jude Law as flagrant, nanny abusing man-hoar) and Cameron Diaz ( one of the highest paid celebs in the world) that, although both might take a tumble together if drunk enough, I found it hard to buy into the long term constancy of their love.

P.S. With the possibility of loss of security, theft, even threat of bed bugs  you would think their would be a stronger vetting process for two women looking to swap houses in different continents. Despite the exotic locales or ritzy accommodations, I don’t think one email or phone call would be reassuring enough to me to change hemispheres.

*Quick Bursts-  

Avoid: Bridget Jones Sequels- Frankly, I’d rather see a “Titpervert” Prequel!

Avoid any rom coms starring any actress whose first name starts with Z .  Zosia Mamet (The Boy Downstairs-boring and awful) and Zoe Kazan (“Why If”-What if you did virtually anything else than watch this) . Please Note: I haven’t seen The Big Sick Yet (in case its good)

The Proposal and Definitely Maybe.  Ryan Reynolds is equally bland in both.  I liked definitely Maybe better because of Isla Fishers winning performance.

Her- Man falls in love with his device. Hey,  Join the club!!! A Self indulgent Joaquin Phoenix and an audio-only Scarlett Johanssen.  Just the gift nobody wanted.

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Levitt Reviews Masters Of Sex-Season Finale (spoilers)

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Masters Of Sex did tick-up in quality slightly this year from the Dan Logan-Centric previous season but unfortunately the year also doubled-down on soapy intrigue and melodramatic shenanigans.  The season finale had a rushed-up feel.  Subtlety gave way to easy closures and bizarrely unexpected detours.

Libby Masters JD-

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 When did Libby’s deep love of the law begin,  two episodes ago?. Libby was formerly the queen of domestic complacency; spending the past 3 seasons doing absolutely  nothing except smoking, and inwardly brooding about her condition.  This season, the staid former housewife however, suddenly decided to head on down to Woodstock and… eschewing the counter culture phrase, “Turn on, tune in, drop out”, instead decided to…become a lawyer. If you troubled to ask,  I’m sure people’s first impulse after dazedly emerging from the mushroom /mud infused grounds of Woodstock was probably not to decide to buckle down to 3 years of intense study and preparation for the Bar Exam.  Talk about your bad trip!

Johnny Masters- from neglected child to teenage martyr

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In this hyper-melodramatic finale, Johnny Masters (estranged son of Bill) overhears his parents bickering and -apparently because he has an extremely low tolerance for parental discord- completely freaks; jumping into his dad’s Jaguar and driving off in some wacky vehicular tantrum.  I’m not sure why Master’s son (absent all season) was suddenly called in for this melodrama.  Maybe due to some child labor laws in AFTRA, kids must appear in at least one episode per season to be granted health coverage. Johnny’s sole scene depicted him overhearing that his mom (kids in tow) would move halfway across the country to attend law school. Its hard to believe that Johnny’s character, so long estranged and even insulted by his father, would get so worked up about the fight that Johnny would both freak and -in some bizarre  magnanimous impulse-volunteer to live with his dad to ease his fatherly loneliness.  Luckily, the still “paternally ambivalent” Bill Masters quickly put the kibosh to any “The Courtship Of Eddies Father” scenario by announcing that despite Johnny’s kind offer,  Dad would now be keeping house with former mistress, fellow sexpert, Virginia Johnson.  Music to any estranged kids ears!

Dr Nancy-  Going Off “Half cocked”

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After a whole season of sniping at Virginia and de-masculating husband Art, what was Dr Nancy’s exit strategy this season?  Just steal Master’s and Johnson’s Clients, move to another city and set up shop using their approaches? Great plan!  Good luck getting a good job recommendation/employer referral after that one! .   This year, Dr Nancy and Art already won my  award for least fun, open-marriage swingers ever. Nancy was cold blooded, stone-faced, and ambitious and Art was  devoted, ethical, and soul searching. Instead,  Masters could have tapped into the more casual, promiscuous vibe of this era and even added some “far outs” or “groovys” to add some tacky flavor and more of a smarmy groove.  Unfortunately, the show apparently wanted to end the season by making Dr Nancy, Betty Gilpin, the single least likable woman on cable; aborting her husband’s baby without his knowledge/consent and stealing her bosses clients. On the plus side though, she did like her some “open marriage sex”.

Masters And Johnson- How About A Wedding Quickie?

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What do you get for the couple whose relationship was sizzling, bubbling, percolating for 4 seasons (spanning 10+ years)?   a quickie marriage in the clerk’s office of City Hall and presided over by a grumbly functionary. Yeah, that hit the spot!  Seems satisfying.  I guess the writers wanted to avoid any  needless romantic proclamations by Masters or any earnest love-filled vows by Virginia to keep female fans of the show happy. No, we don’t want that! Look, They got hitched.  Isn’t that enough?  The show didn’t even go to the trouble of throwing up any last minute roadblocks.  No last minute Dan Logan or “Dotie” objections to clog up the works and kill any remote dramatic tension. No last minute Barton Scully indignant meltdowns at the courthouse (always good for a laugh)  Bill was late to the ceremony. that’s it.  It would probably be a more dramatic payoff if Masters suddenly realized he forgotten his beloved bow tie.

Betty- What, Did Her Invite To the Finale/Wedding Get Lost In The Mail?

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Killing her lesbian lover in childbirth, losing custody of her new baby to her lover’s hateful, intolerant parents…They did everything to Betty this season but chuck her head-first down a flight of stairs.  What happened here? who’d she piss off?  Did she accidentally  drop a #2 in the Toilet of Lizzy Caplan’s private dressing room?   The show didn’t even have the courtesy to invite her to the courthouse nuptials of Masters and Johnson.  Screw Scully or Guy, Betty deserved to be there.

Levitt Rips Apart Classic Films Part Deux

 

Bull Durham-  Bull Is Right!bull

In the film, when  Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) asks Crash Davis (Kevin Kostner) what he believes in. He responds with a speech that is overwritten, out of character, and obviously crafted by a writer.  He Says:

“Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.

Yipes, what a potpourri!  and that reference to Susan Sontag is completely out of the blue.  Why would a ballplayer be reading, and subsequently form a quick disgust the works of a feminist author, Susan Sontag anyway?  Did he take some kind of a “Women’s Studies” class at NYU’s School Of Continuing Education or something?

Ultimately, if  Kostner’s character Crash Davis minor league catcher, was truly smart/gifted enough to come up with this whole speech off-the-cuff, I think he should have given up baseball to work the nation-wide lecture circuit like Will Rogers.

The Sound Of Music (Nice film but don’t taunt the Nazis)

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During the escape from Austria, the Von Trapp Family is suddenly confronted by Rolf (the letter carrier/Nazi Wanabee ).  Just when it looked like Rolf might have took pity on the fleeing brood and set them all free, suddenly Captain Von Trap thought it was a good time to start needling the youth, He said  “You’ll never be one of them”. Needless to say, Rolf’s pride was hurt  and he defiantly blew out his whistle to alert the other German Officers.  As a former naval officer, Von Trapp should have known to approach the youth with caution and gratefulness. Instead, he acted like basically a dick.

 

Thelma And Louise (Men suck, lets drive our car off a cliff)

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The Film Thelma and Louise’s central premise is that men suck.  Therefore, they begin a spur-of-the-moment interstate trek to prove that very fact .  Their road-trip, though, is a bit, one sided.  Its  not like the girls happen upon the likes of fem-friendly Alan Alda or Phil Donahue on their sojourn. Instead, they meet sex crazed deviants and other road-side lowlifes to prove their men-bashing premise.

Ultimately, Thelma and Louise drive themselves off a cliff in some last impulse of “We’ll show them” bravado.  I’m not sure what suicide (even when holding the hand of your best friend) really does to further female empowerment.   It did make an exciting ending though.

For those interested in reading  my first, “Levitt Rips Apart Classic Films”  Article:  Click this link:

https://marklevittblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/levitt-rips-apart-classic-films/

 

 

Levitt Sounds Off On Project Greenlight

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I  watched the Premiere of Project Greenlight last night with much interest because I’m also an aspiring film-maker.  More of a writer than director etc but  in the ballpark.  Anyhow , first off not crazy about the show’s premise: the fact that Affleck, and Damon sponsor a contest and  help to hand pick the director of a comedy film There’s just something too…” Success anointing success about it”.   I realize that most deals in Hollywood done by successful people. this way but the fact that two primo sucess stories in the room and are personally choosing the director(with the exception of the one they actually picked) are expected to kiss their Affleck and Damon’s ass and make a case for themselves is just too much fawning for me.  At least with shows like “Undercover Boss” the guy in the power position at least pretends to be on equal footing to begin with so that he can get a true perspective of his workers and not their “Best sucking up behavior”

To Heighten the stakes, In the very beginning of the show, Affleck and Damon claim they are putting their integrity/career on the line with their choices.  Obviously, they’re not.  The prior winners of Project Greenlight were barely a blip on the movie radar Yet Ben managed to go on to Box Office, Oscar and nanny boffing success regardless. Now, if Damon and Affleck, would agree to give all their money/posessions to charity if the winner of Project Greenlight didn’t succeed, then there would be real drama and we could see  the duo get more emotionally invested in the show,  instead of appearing occasionally in perfunctory phone conversations about this or that insignificant detail.

After some preliminary back and forth with Damon, Affleck, and the rest of the other judges (The Farrelly Brothers) and Brown (who argued for ethnic diversity), The show went out of its way to pick a volatile/arrogant director because they thought he had the most talent. Even though the director they chose specialized in dark films and they were shooting a broad comedy. But,   Its also no secret that dicks are good for ratings: (ie Simon Cowell, or Dennis o’leary SharkTank). So, its likely they picked this guy at least partly because he was an obnoxious jerk.  I mean  No one is going to tune in to watch a show about a a well-run movie production team lead by nice guys high-fiving eachother

In the end result, if these contest driven reality shows (America Idol, The Voice etc) prove anything at all, its that you can’t engineer success. Even successful people occasionally produce shit -literally and figuratively- (Affleck and Damon not excluded). In addition,  How can anyone really be expected to really “Create good art” in such a high stress atmosphere in which every decision they make is filmed for HBO, high profile stars like Affleck and Damon are breathing down your back,  and every decision you try to make is second guessed by a committee?

First Post

Why Now?

For a long time I’ve resisted the impulse to create my own blog due to the sheer volume/morass of other blogs out there and inherent vanity of publishing my own opinions which I felt was lacking in my character.  But then I remembered that I’ve been posting my thoughts with great frequency on my website, facebook, and other online channels for several years. Clearly, I had no vanity left.

But, the difference, I assumed, in writing a blog would be the “personal nature” of the posts.  I’d have to go and open up my psyche to those internet trolls who had the misfortune of having enough time on their hands to read about about how I felt about this or that local restaurant, how my local barista didn’t serve my coffee with enough fawning, and the usual dreck of people that feel they are being treating unfairly by life and want to rail to the heavens about it.

But this is my blog and can be as superficial and lightweight as I choose. No topic is too vacuous. I’ll leave the people who foam about politics, or this or that social social injustice to be alone with their opinions while I embark on the topics which obsess and perplex me.With that whole rambling intro out of the way, I’d like to talk about the recent movies I’ve stumbled across this week on cable and my random thoughts/criticisms about them.

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 “Wild” (with reese witherspoon)-   (Those darn flashbacks)  I started to watch “The wild” yesterday because it had been nominated for Reese Witherspoon’s peformance and I was curious about it.  Reese Witherspoon has always struck be as a kind of female Tom Hanks in that she sort of has an “every woman” quality and you automatically root for her every time she sets foot onscreen.  The film “The wild” also shares some similarities with Tom Hanks peformance in “Castaway” in that this film too is, in large part, a look at one person’s struggle with nature.  The film strives to be a journey both figuratively for the characters psychological growth and literally through her 300 mile trek through some very harsh and unforgiving terrain.  For a while we see Witherspoon’s character struggles with her past (drug abuse, divorce, and death) through constantly re-occuring flashbacks. Unfortunately,  I found the sudden flashbacks distracting from the main action.  Because Witherspoon’s character did not have another character to vent her feelings to, the use of flashbacks were meant to give us some background on why she set off on a 300 mile hike alone and how this trip was meant to cleanse her of past pain.  This flashbacks, however, were disjointed and served as brief snapshots that did not allow the audience to get a true sense of this woman’s past life. only brief scenes of her abusing drugs, in the throes of casual sex, or railing at her mom were like a quick 20/20 treatment of the woman’s life  Some prolonged 10-20 minute scenes prior to her trek might have filled in more of the blanks and been better for the flow of the piece.

Too “Hot” for Hiking Another thing which bugged me is that each time Witherspoon’s character was getting into some trouble: no food, no water, boots ruined etc, she would be saved by some convenient, usually horny male passerby who offered her just enough but no more than enough aid go get back on her feet and continue her pathetic journey.  “Hot women are kinda scarce in these here parts” might have been the subtitle for a lot of these exchanges.  Witherspoon’s looks, even without make-up or her usual Legally Blond pluck, was still too much for a lot of the local yokels and, for me, removed much of the danger element necessary for these survivalist flicks. In addition, as soon as one of the male hiker’s or motorists approached Reese, some wife or friend would come by and cut the tension.  To be fair, there was one almost-rape scene later that was slightly tense but one gets the sense that even if attacked by some sex starved bark-eater, Reese would have pulled out some fancy judo moves she learned the night before by reading some self-defense manual.

Where’s the epiphany? – When I noticed that there was only 10 minutes left in the film, I feared that the ending would totally suck and I was not mistaken.  There was a little obligatory voice-over narration where Reese looks satisfyingly over a bridge at the end of her trek and says some things about redemption blah blah blah but I wondered how, since most of her problems stemmed from her interactions with other people, how she got the tools to go back to her life by spending 3 months away from society.  Vacations are nice too but they are only temporary.  Not to be a shrink here, but I think Reese spent those 3 hiking months building up her survivalist skills but needed to get to the root cause of a lot of her problems and develop better people skills.

Some random other thoughts about “Inside Llewelyn Davis”-

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I won’t talk at-length about this film but, aside from the pleasant soundtrack, much of the film just kind of lay there for me.  The taciturn lead of the film, actor Oscar Isaac, had too much of a resemblance to The Jim Gaffigan show’s, foil character, Adam Goldberg so that I kept thinking, “Why didn’t they just get Adam Goldberg”?  but other than a few tense exchanges the film, I felt, did little more than create a small time capsule of one forgettable folk singer’s life.