Three Movies, Two Cents

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This weekend I went to see three movies (I saw a bunch of fall TV pilots too, but let’s focus on the flicks right now because we’ll poll about TV and I want to know what you all thought of last week’s shows).  Now, upon leaving each movie, I was reminded of some of Hollywood’s most basic principles. One: really great actors can almost never save a movie if there’s no story. Two: if you have a good story, you don’t even need said great actor –  you just need the right actor. And Three: despite rumors that must’ve been sparked by a disgruntled ex-girlfriend or maybe a pot-stirring critic, Ben Affleck really can direct. Then again maybe the lesson for me here is if you don’t have a good story, there’s really nothing to tell. On Friday’s poll the movie you were most jazzed about was You Again, the comedy about the rival girls and their rival moms. Suffice it to say that little number, no matter how charming it was (and I suspect it’s not without merit) failed to trump its rivals at the box office. Eager me, I went to see the other big opening, which is Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (but you will, if you happen to go and see it). That film, starring Michael Douglas (who is reptilian, believable and very good) and Shia Labeouf (who is adolescent, posturing and very bad) brought in $19 million dollars at the box office. Making it the weekend champ. Which means an awful lot of people paid good money to find out whether it should be number one, and thus their curiosity alone inadvertently put it atop the heap from which it will slide next week. Even if The Social Network doesn’t overtake it (which it probably will), this film from the normally thought-provoking Oliver Stone is one big plot-free mess. With a) a romance you don’t buy – even though it’s reportedly happening in real life,  b) a shattered family magically repaired by long stares and maybe a Band-aid/some chewing gum and c) several Oscar –winning actors loudly lamenting a super-prosperous earlier time (clearly the days before they agreed to make this film). But maybe it’s not Stone’s fault. Maybe we’re so jaded by technology and so over greed and excess  that we just don’t care about the people who are still in the thick of it. That’s the only explanation I can come up with, because the stock and bond traders who fascinated everyone in the original Wall Street are now paper cutouts of characters ; about halfway through Wall Street Part Deux you just want them all to retire together to some leafy, expensive assisted-care facility where they can play Texas Hold ’em and leave the rest of us alone. Easy A, on the other hand, was neither saddled by huge expectations (like a massively successful prequel) nor did it bite off more than it could chew. It features a great little premise, ultra-dependable & nonshowy actors (Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci) and a secret weapon in Emma Stone. Who is extremely attractive, but in opting for the Winona Ryder/Ellen Page awkward smart girl role, just nails it.  Plus she has that low voice that makes her at once cool and alienated among her yippier peers. Easy A isn’t going to win any big awards, but sometimes it’s nice to see a high-school movie that delivers a  message  (and not a Message) without resorting to raunchiness or cruelty. It’s a neat movie that doesn’t insult its characters – or for that matter, your intelligence. I also went to see The Town. A gritty, profane cops-and-robbers story that again, like Easy A, begins with a nifty premise and doesn’t really let up. (Nor does putting Jon Hamm or Jeremy Renner in movies ever seem to hurt). It’s a morality tale that presents some of Boston’s more sophisticated and ruthless felons; Affleck himself is pretty mesmerizing as a baddie who you really like but you don’t envy, and the fact that he made the film and gave his actors all the space they needed to shine (which they do) is quite a testament to a  guy who sometimes seemed little more than Matt’s or JLo’s Lesser Half.  And I still maintain that The Town will be a Best Picture contender.  So that’s my two cents on three movies now in theaters. Moving on, let’s talk TV.  Here now, your chance to weigh in some of the new Fall TV shows that premiered  last week – and I’m basing today’s choices on some of the shows you were most excited to see. Voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of these new series you like best – so far:

1)    Hawaii Five-O

2)    Blue Bloods

3)    Lone Star

4)    Raising Hope

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