Week 6 of 2019 (2/4 – 2/10)

2/4Planet 512009
2/5Without A Clue1988
2/6Lost Heroes2014
2/7Paper Man2009
2/8Sleeping with Other People2015
2/9The Sweet Life2016

February 4

Day 35 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Today’s movie is 2009’s Planet 51, a light animated comedy from Sony under their TriStar banner. Justin Long stars as Lem, a high school student who is happy with his life until an alien shows up on his lawn… a human from the PLANET EARTH!!!

This is a really funny take on the alien invasion B-movies of the 1950s. Dwayne Johnson (fka “The Rock”) was terrific in his first voice-over work as the astronaut in question, a guy whose rugged good looks and high charisma bely the fact that he is just as insecure as anyone else. (Astronauts… they’re just like us!) He helps Lem find his courage and awaken his yearning to learn more about the wider universe he didn’t even know existed. Gary Oldman & John Cleese provide great villains as the general leading the defense of his planet and a mad scientist who is their foremost expert on aliens, respectively.

The film is a genuinely fun 90-minute romp and is a good family-friendly movie with a great message at the end that we can all relate to.

February 5

Day 36 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! I decided to watch another comedy today. Since I can’t bring myself to consider watching Will Ferrell’s Holmes and Watson (can’t even get through the trailer or bring myself to provide a link, it’s so bad), I watched another Holmes-based comedy… 1988’s Without a Clue, starring Michael Caine as Sherlock Holmes and Ben Kingsley as John Watson.

The twist of this story is that Dr. Watson is actually the genius detective and Caine plays an actor Watson has hired to play “Holmes”, scripting his discoveries and making him the public face of the partnership so he can sell the stories to the Strand magazine. It is played to great laughs through the entire movie as they struggle against Holm– er, Watson’s archnemesis Moriarty.

This movie really caught me by surprise. I did not expect it to get as enjoyably silly as it did. Caine displays terrific physical comedy chops I’ve never seen him show in any other film, and his comic timing with Kingsley is gold. I like the fact that the stakes aren’t world-ending like other Sherlock Holmes film adaptations, and Paul Freeman’s Moriarty is a wonderfully menacing villain in the film who even gets one or two of his own comic moments in the movie. It wasn’t well-received when it was released 30 years ago, which makes a little sense, but this is a fun film and worth a look if you want to see Sherlock Holmes dones as a comedy. As a addition, you may also want to check out Gene Wilder’s 1975 directorial debut, “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.”

P.S. I can neither confirm nor deny that you can see this movie in full on YouTube for free. I am not responsible for any illicit viewing you may partake in.

February 6

Day 37 of the 2019 Movie Challenge!

Today, I watched an interesting documentary about superheroes. Oh, but not just any superheroes… Canadian superheroes! 2014’s Lost Heroes is about the history and struggles of Canada’s comic book industry, beginning during the Great Depression and continuing up to the present day.

This was a fascinating look at one aspect of our neighbor to the north trying to establish an identity for themselves. Sure, they do take pride in and spend time talking about Marvel creations Wolverine and Alpha Flight (all are Canadian characters, created by Canadians working in the U.S.), but the bulk of the time talks about their World War II heroes and attempts to keep those properties alive. They even set some firsts — for example, Nelvana of the Northern Lights introduced the world’s first female superhero, beating Wonder Woman to the stores by several months.

Superheroes are a largely American invention and dominated by the US and the UK, and they concede that in the film. But I enjoyed learning about their efforts to establish their own heroes they can take pride in. Makes me wonder what other kinds of comic books are out there…

February 7

Day 38 of the 2019 Movie Challenge!

Today’s movie is 2009’s Paper Man, starring Jeff Daniels as Richard, a writer stuck on starting his second novel. His wife (Lisa Kudrow) drops him off in Montauk for a few weeks during the winter to help him focus. In the meantime, he’s haunted by his imaginary friend (Ryan Reynolds) and meets a new friend in town (Emma Stone).

This was a nice little movie showing a number of the characters struggling with coming to terms with their lives and moving forward. Jeff Daniels & Emma Stone were terrific together and Ryan Reynolds was very solidly in his wheelhouse as Captain Excellent, a snarky imaginary friend who also appears to have his own issues. I don’t want to spoil too much here, so…

Overall, it’s in turns funny and poignant with an interesting reveal about 2/3 of the way through that, while predictable to me, was presented in a really cool way. Anyone who’s seen the 1991 film Drop Dead Fred or the classic 1950 Jimmy Stewart film Harvey will notice some similar themes in this movie.

February 8

Day 39 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! This week in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, I am specifically watching a romantic comedy every day (up through V-Day next Thursday — Day 45).

Today’s movie is 2015’s Sleeping with Other People, starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie as two people who reconnect years after hooking up in college to find that they’re both terrible at relationships. So they decide to try to have a strictly platonic friendship… and hilarity ensues.

This movie was hilarious! I’ve enjoyed all the major players in this movie in their other work, and together they make a tremendously funny movie. Sudeikis is incredibly funny* as Jake, a commitment-phobic womanizer, and Brie kills it as Lainey, a woman who keep cheating on her boyfriends with the one guy who won’t actually commit to her (not Jake). Andrea Savage & Jason Mantzoukas are great together as Jake’s best friends; Amanda Peet and Adam Scott also have great but less comic roles as potential love interests. Definitely a good one for a laugh any time of year, but great for your V-Day enjoyment!

*Jason Sudeikis can do good drama, too! Check out 2016’s Colossal… he goes DARK! (Also, he’s in Kodachrome, covered on February 20.

February 9

Day 40 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! The run-up to Valentine’s Day continues with 2016’s The Sweet Life, with Chris Messina and Abigail Spencer as two people at the end of their ropes who make a cross-country trip together in order to commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

On first blush, it doesn’t seem quite as “ha-ha” funny as yesterday’s film… more of a dramedy than a straight-up rom-com. But there were a number of really funny moments in the film, like an early, terrible attempt at robbing a convenience store and an argument on a Greyhound bus. The laughs definitely help even out the heavier moments of the movie as the pair overcome a number of obstacles on the way. It’s well worth a watch!

February 10

Day 41 of the 2019 Movie Challenge! Today’s film is Congratulations from 2012, starring Brian Dietzen (NCIS) & Abby Miller (Caper, Home Before Dark). When Jim proposes to Bridget on the way to a vacation at his parents’ house, she says no. But when they arrive, they never get a chance to tell his family the truth… so they decide to pretend that they’re actually engaged.

This was an interesting movie. Much like we talked about with yesterday’s movie, it’s not as much “ha-ha” funny as it is a dramedy. But I like seeing the awkwardness that is pushed upon the two leads in this situation and the effect that this has on their relationship. Jim has several opportunities to correct everyone’s assumptions but lacks the courage to do so, leading to friction between the two.

So I don’t have a lot of exciting news for this week. Things are in a bit of a lull because I’m between performances for ARTC. I did go out today to look at our next performance venue so that we can get set up correctly on the day, as well as meeting with some colleagues to discuss some of the company’s education initiatives for the coming year. Good times!

I shifted a little bit with the films this week, since things are leading up to Valentine’s Day very soon, so I made a theme week of just watching romantic comedies, part of which is listed above. The rest will be in next week’s post. It’s a tough call this week as to which movie was best. All the movies were pretty good in their own ways. I think I have to give the prize to Sleeping With Other People, because the entire movie made me laugh just a little harder than the rest. Lost Heroes was interesting as a documentary, for sure, but I think that it was not aimed at a general audience outside of Canada. Nothing wrong with that, just what it is…

Next week, we’ll be wrapping up our romantic comedy run and get back to regular new movies every day!