New Year’s Eve

New Year’s EveNew_Year's_Eve_Poster

So Gary Marshall has come up with a concept that works pretty well.  He gets an ensemble cast and crafts a story where the sub-plots are all intertwined and they all revolve around a holiday.  He’s already done “Valentine’s Day”, and now he presents us with “New Year’s Eve”.  The nice thing about these “Marshall Holiday Films” (as I have begun to call them) is that – if nothing else – they give us something to watch on these holidays.  The ensemble cast thing reminds me of an Altman film, but that’s fine with me because I love those!  What I don’t like about this one is that he uses Ashton Kutcher as a star again.

Kutcher annoys me.  He looks like a slob in this film.  He needs a bath, a haircut, and a shave.  Call me old-fashioned but I think this kind of appearance makes for a poor impact of a so-called star.  He was decent in “Valentine’s Day”, pretty believable in fact.  However, in “Eve” he plays a nobody.  He could be forgotten about entirely – except for his annoying factor.  The audience is expected to believe that Lea Michele falls for this slob after being stuck in an elevator with him.  Sure…and I also believe unicorns are real.

The best story with “Eve” has to be the Zac Efron and Michelle Pfeiffer story arc.  It’s heart-warming and touching, even if it is not explained why Michele’s character is so repressed and inhibited.  It doesn’t matter though, because it is just fun to watch her and Efron team up.  That was very fun to watch!  There is also a great bit involving Hilary Swank and the Times Square famous ball!  As many of you may recall from my review of “P.S. I Love You”, I am not a very big fan of Hilary.  Here though, she fits the role well and she plays up some comedic talent which was refreshing.

My wife and I found it hard to get past how much older Abigail Breslin in this film, but her role is fairly small.  Speaking of small roles, check out the number of BRIEF cameos in this movie by Alyssa Milano, Matthew Broderick, Jim Belushi, and Cary Elwes.  There all used fantastically!  The story arc of Halle Berry and Robert DeNiro is very heart-warming and touching.  It’s proof that great actors can make a scene in any movie memorable.  On a comedic level, consider the performances of Sofia Vergara and Carla Gugino and realize that these 2 actresses obviously enjoy making fun of themselves!

I thought Josh Duhamel was under-used, and he certainly could have done more with his character.  But hey – at least he was enjoyable to watch unlike Kutcher!  Jessica Biel is in there alongside Seth Meyers as a very pregnant couple for just some funny stuff, but isn’t there always a baby story involving New Year’s?  So, it was to be expected.  Sarah Jessica Parker plays mother to Abigail Breslin, but didn’t quite follow her story, especially the ending.  Watch it to the end and let me know your thoughts: did she really intend on going or not?

Over all, “Eve” is very fun and not too serious.  The arc of DeNiro’s character is a bit heavy but still heart-warming and not heart-wrenching.  A lot of critics bashed this one, but I guess they may have just been in a very negative frame of mind.  It’s been called “sludge”, “auld lang suck”, “the worst film of all time”, and a “sentimental sham”.  Really?  I guess I must be way more forgiving than these critics, because I thought it a fine movie to watch again this NYE.  Besides, it’s filmed in New York City and having just been there (right in Times Square!), I could really feel the city as I watched it.  I look forward to enjoying it again on Dec. 31st!

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

 

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It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful LifeIts_A_Wonderful_Life_Movie_Poster

Another Holiday staple and tradition is watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  It seems to play on almost every TV in America multiple times throughout the Holiday season.  I don’t remember when I watched this film for the very 1st time, but I know I was young enough to wonder why Clarence the Angel didn’t have any wings.  Regardless, I positively LOVE this film.

This may be one of the greatest movies ever made.  Ignore the bad special effects of the heavens at the beginning of the film and the rest of the movie is just brilliantly executed.  Without question Jimmy Stewart carries this movie, but Donna Reed is picture-perfect as his lovely wife, Mary.  The cast is utterly amazing, from crazy Uncle Billy to the vile Mr. Potter (played by the great Lionel Barrymore) and even Clarence the Angel.  This film has such a wonderful supporting cast that the film was destined to be a great success, but it is clear that Jimmy Stewart’s talent outshines everyone in my favorite role of his: George Bailey.

I watch this movie every Christmas and it still amazes me.  George Bailey is such a likeable fellow that you can’t help but root for him.  It is utterly chilling to imagine a world without your influence, a world where in your life had been completely erased.  Thankfully, all is well in the end for George Bailey but that glimpse into an alternate world will forever ring true with me.  We never know you we have affected by our lives.  We may never know who we have helped along the way.  The lesson – if indeed there is a “lesson” to be learned from this magnificent movie – is clear: live your life with good in your heart.  You may never know all the positive things you are capable of doing in your life, but this movie gives you a glimpse for one man of a world without his “good”.

Frank Capra was bashed by the critics once upon a time for this movie.  They called it “Capra-corn”, giving it such sentiments as “too sweet to be believable” and such.  Granted, not all critics were so harsh.  I always forget this little tidbit of trivia: Frank Capra also directed “Casablanca”.  I just watched a special feature of our DVD copy the other weekend and I had no idea that this movie originated from a Christmas card!  Can you believe it?  I also didn’t know or realize that the movie was filmed on a sound stage with REAL oak trees as props!  I always thought it was filmed outdoors.  You have to love being tricked like that!

I find it amazing that there are some folks out there that actually HATE this movie.  Can you believe it?  They point to George’s influence having a negative impact like keeping his mother dependent upon her sons instead of becoming financially independent.  I really don’t think that was the intent of Capra.  There are many older films that show us how life once was in America.  According to the film, life in Bedford Falls prior to WWII was fairly rural and it is a good representation of that age and its customs.  I find it amusing that people can look at a film like this and think it doesn’t resound with us modern folk.

I think “It’s a Wonderful Life” is priceless, a true masterpiece of cinema.  It is touching, heart-warming, and honest.  Even the smallest gesture to help someone else can go a long way.  There ARE people who give of themselves for the benefit of others.  They do what they have to for the benefit of others.  These elements still ring true today – and I bet that there is more reason to be thankful for the life you live than to think the world would be better off without you in it.

I end this review by quipping one of my favorite lines from this classic film: (from Harry Bailey) “A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town!”

May all of us know such riches during the Holiday season.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE