REVIEW: WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS

 

CAST

Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher)
Ashton Kutcher (Two and a Half Men)
Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover)
Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies)
Lake Bell (No Strings Attached)
Queen Latifah (Bringing Down The House)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses)
Treat Williams (Skeletons in The Closet)
Dennis Farina (Get Shorty)
Dennis Miller (Emerald City)
Amanda Setton (The Crazy Ones)

In New York City, high-strung equity trader Joy Ellis McNally (Cameron Diaz) is dumped by her fiancé at a surprise birthday party she throws for him. At the same time, easy-going carpenter Jack Fuller (Ashton Kutcher) is fired from his job by his father, Jack, Sr. (Treat Williams). Both become emotionally distraught and, with best friends Toni “Tipper” (Lake Bell), a bartender, and Jeff “Hater” (Rob Corddry), a lawyer, take a debauched trip to Las Vegas. Joy and Jack meet by chance when they are given the same hotel room because of a computer error. After clearing up the misunderstanding and receiving upgraded rooms and coupons to various clubs, they party and drink together and end up getting married. The next morning, they realize it was a mistake and decide to divorce.

Before they do so, Jack uses a quarter Joy gives him in a slot machine. He hits a three million dollar jackpot and Joy reminds Jack that they are married and hence, she is entitled to half of the money. The couple return to New York, where they attempt to divorce. The judge (Dennis Miller) declares that the couple cannot divorce until they attempt to co-exist for six months, while attending weekly sessions with a marriage counselor (Queen Latifah). If they work at the marriage but still want to divorce after six months, each will be permitted to keep half the winnings. If either party does not cooperate, the money will be tied up in litigation by the judge.
The newlyweds devise more and more cunning schemes to undermine each other, such as Jack telling Joy that their counseling session is canceled to prove she’s not committed, and Joy inviting girls to their apartment to try to get Jack to cheat on her, throwing a party where Jack’s friend Dave shows up. Jack gives Joy’s ex-fiancé, Mason (Jason Sudeikis), her engagement ring back without Joy knowing. At Joy’s job retreat, Jack and Joy find themselves developing an unexpected attraction to one another and they soon realize that being with each other has brought out the best in both of them. After they get back from the retreat, it’s time for the judge to decide what happens to the money. On her way to the hearing, Joy sees her ex-fiancé Mason and he tells her that he wants her back. He gives her back the engagement ring and tells her that she is good enough for him. Joy realizes that Jack set her up to get back with him, therefore cheating on him and letting Jack keep the money. Joy walks away from Mason and goes to the hearing. At the hearing, their marriage counselor testifies that the couple truly tried to work on their marriage. The judge decides that they will split the remaining 1.4 million dollars (after taxes, bills Joy ran up, and money Jack spent on his new woodworking business). Joy tells the judge she doesn’t want any money and gives the engagement ring to Jack, telling him she officially doesn’t want anything from him. Jack realizes she knows that he talked to Mason.

Joy gets the promotion she’d been working for, but tells her boss she would rather be happy doing nothing than doing something she hates and being miserable. Jack talks to his parents and they tell him it looks like he and Joy are in love. Realizing his mistake, he goes to find her. Tipper tells Jack that she quit her job and that nobody knows where she is. He has a suspicion that she has gone to a beach (Fire Island, New York) that she told him about, the only place that makes her feel truly happy. Jack asks her to be his wife (again) and she says yes. As the two embrace, Joy says that she quit her job and has no idea what she’s going to do. Jack reminds her that they have a lot of money between them. Joy states that they hit the jackpot, to which Jack replies that he certainly did (referring to both the money and to Joy).Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher in What Happens in Vegas (2008)During the credits, we see Tipper and Hater on the day Jack and Joy get married. Tipper and Hater subsequently enact a plan of revenge on Mason, devised by Tipper earlier in the film. Tipper and Hater ring Mason’s doorbell, and when he answers, Tipper slugs him in his testicles. He moans in agony and drops to his knees asking “Why?”, and she responds emphatically “You know why!”, and Tipper leaves with Hater. Post-credits, Dave is telling Hater about a party that evening, but Hater no longer wants to associate with Dave, citing Jack as being “the glue” that held the two of them together as friends. With that, Hater simply leaves. Dave asks a random guy on the street if he likes to party.

This is a funny film, it’s one of those you have to watch and then forget about but when you watch it again, you remember why it’s so good!

REVIEW: THE CAMPAIGN

CAST

Will Ferrell (Anchorman)
Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover)
Jason Sudeikis (Son of Zorn)
Katherine LaNasa (Two and a Half Men)
Dylan McDermott (Party Monster)
John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters)
Brian Cox (Manhunter)
John Goodman (Red State)
Sarah Baker (Tammy)
Jack McBrayer (30 Rock)
Brittany Perry-Russell (13 Reasons Why)
Billy Slaughter (The Magnificent Seven)
Dennis Miller (The Net)
P.J. Byrne (Black Lightning)
J.D. Evermore (Cloak & Dagger)

Democratic Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) of North Carolina’s fictional 14th District is running for his fifth term unopposed. His campaign is damaged by the revelation of his affair with one of his supporters, when Cam accidentally leaves a sexually explicit voice message on a local family’s answering machine.The corrupt businessman brothers Glenn and Wade Motch (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) use this opportunity to convince Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), tourism director for the town of Hammond and son of one of their associates, Raymond Huggins, to run against Cam on the Republican ticket, as part of a plan to profit from dealings with a Chinese company. Cam at first underestimates Marty and humiliates him by playing a video biography highlighting potentially embarrassing aspects of Marty’s life. The Motch brothers then hire Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) to be Marty’s campaign manager. Tim reinvents Marty as a successful entrepreneur and family man. Marty’s popularity rises due to his effective campaign while Cam’s is further damaged when he accidentally punches a baby when intending to hit Marty. Cam later runs a campaign portraying Marty as an Al Qaeda terrorist, and Marty exposes Cam as a fake Christian by asking him to recite the Lord’s Prayer, which he fails to do. Cam attempts to restore his religious image by visiting a church of snake handlers, but he gets bitten by a snake. A video of the bite is leaked into the Internet and goes viral, increasing Cam’s popularity.When Cam’s son plans to slander his competition for class president, Cam realizes he has set a bad example and visits Marty to make peace. While drunk, Cam tells Marty that he originally became a politician to help people, citing that as class president he had a dangerous, rusty slide removed from the playground. After Cam leaves, Wattley convinces Marty to call the police and report Cam for driving while drunk. Cam is arrested and his campaign is again damaged. Marty later airs a TV ad of Cam’s son addressing Marty as “dad”. Cam gets revenge on Marty by seducing his neglected wife Mitzi and recording the act. The released sex tape humiliates the Huggins family and causes Cam’s campaign manager, Mitch, to abandon him. Marty retaliates by shooting Cam in the leg on a hunting trip, increasing his own popularity.As the election nears, Marty meets with the Motch brothers and learns of their plans to sell Hammond to their Chinese business partner and turn the town into a factory complex. Marty realizes he has been used and rejects the brothers’ support, leading them to defect to Cam’s side. Marty meanwhile reconciles with his family. On election day, Cam’s victory appears certain until Marty exposes the Motch brothers’ intent and promises to preserve Hammond if elected. Cam still wins and remains congressman due to rigged voting machines owned by the Motch brothers. While Cam gloats, Marty shows his large scars to Cam and reveals that he looked up to Cam in school for getting rid of the dangerous slide. Realizing he has strayed from his true objectives as a politician, Cam withdraws from the election and Marty wins by default. Cam earns back Mitch’s respect, and Marty later appoints him his chief of staff.Six months later, Marty and Cam expose the Motch brothers, who are called to appear before Congress. The brothers point out that everything they did is legal under Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, but they are arrested for their association with Wattley, who is actually an international fugitive.The movie is a marvellous satire on the American political system. It does a job on the effect of money in politics, the mindset of the social conservatives, the fluff answers to questions in debates, the focus on getting re-elected over personal beliefs, and especially the lack of any rules in politics. There are veiled analogies to John Edwards and especially to the Koch brothers, who are famous for giving millions of dollars to Republicans. The guest commentators include Wolf Blitzer from CNN and Chris Matthews from MSNBC from the center and right. I am guessing that Fox News commentators chose not to participate. I highly recommend it.

REVIEW: EMERALD CITY (1988)

CAST

Nicole Kidman (The Others)
Dennis Miller (Stir)
John Haregraves (Sky Pirates)
Chris haywood (Shine)
Robyn Nevin (Gods of Egypt)

emeraldc1_When ‘Emerald City’ was released, expectations on it would presumably have been high. A quality cast including the underrated John Hargreaves, then young rising star Nicole Kidman and solid acting talent in Robyn Nevin and Chris Haywood.  But even more significant for that was that David Williamson had written it, based on his own play. And Williamson had as much box-office clout as anyone in the Oz film industry at the time, having helmed numerous successful films (sometimes based on his own plays) ranging from Don’s Party to Phar Lap. Alas, when released in 1988 the film was a disappointment as it received little critical praise, minimal box office and was quickly forgotten. Why was this?
HJKHJKHJKJHWhat lets it down is that instead of feeling like a film on its own terms, it feels like a filmed version of the play. The theatrical style comes through in the overacting and the lack of a cinematic feel, so therefore it feels like actors acting instead of characters behaving and interacting. As a result the potential impact is muted. The blame for this is largely at director Michael Jenkins, whose career was largely in TV and it shows. His efforts here pale in comparison to that of Bruce Beresford, who made excellent films out of two David Williamson plays in Don’s Party & The Club.Despite that, the film is worth a look. Being a Williamson play, there are plenty of good lines and scenes with some occasional incisiveness at the artistic milieu the film concentrates on.  The four main actors are all entertaining to watch (although Hargreaves is a bit over-the-top at times), with probably the best performance by Robyn Nevin who makes her character multi-faceted and surprising and convincing.563823627_640Overall, a missed opportunity but not bad.

REVIEW: THANK YOU FOR SMOKING

CAST
Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight Rises)
Maria Bello (The Closer)
Cameron Bright (The Butterfly Effect)
Sam Elliott (Hulk)
Katie Holmes (Batman Begins)
William H. Macy (Jurassic Park 3)
J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man)
Robert Duvall (The Judge)
David Koechner (Anchorman)
Renee Graham (The Convent)
Adam Brody (Mr. & Mrs. Smith)
Rob Lowe (Waynes World)
Dennis Miller (What Happens in Vegas)
Aloma Wright (Scrubs)
Nick Naylor is a handsome, smooth-talking tobacco lobbyist and the vice-president of a tobacco lobby called the “Academy of Tobacco Studies”, which for 15 years has been “researching” the link between tobacco smoking and lung cancer. They claim that their research—funded primarily by tobacco companies—has found no definitive evidence of any linkage. Naylor’s job consists mainly of reporting the questionable research of the “Academy” to the public and defending Big Tobacco on television programs by questioning opposing health claims and advocating personal choice. Naylor and his friends, firearm lobbyist Bobby Jay Bliss and alcohol lobbyist Polly Bailey, meet every week and jokingly call themselves the “Merchants of Death” or “The MOD Squad”. As anti-tobacco campaigns mount and numbers of young smokers decline, Naylor suggests that product placement of cigarettes could once again boost cigarette sales. Naylor’s boss, BR, sends Naylor to Los Angeles to bargain for cigarette placement in upcoming movies. Naylor takes along his young son Joey in hopes of bonding with him. The next day, Naylor is sent to meet with Lorne Lutch, the cancer-stricken man who once played the Marlboro Man in cigarette ads and is now campaigning against cigarettes. As his son watches, Naylor successfully offers Lutch a suitcase of money for his silence. During the drive back, Nick and Joey discuss the beauty of argument.
 Senator Finistirre, one of Naylor’s most vehement critics, is the promoter of a bill to add a skull and crossbones POISON warning to cigarette packaging. During a televised debate with Finistirre, Naylor receives a death threat from a caller. Despite the threat, Naylor still plans to appear before a U.S. Senate committee to fight Finistirre’s bill. Naylor is then kidnapped and covered in nicotine patches. Awakening in a hospital, he learns that the very high nicotine tolerance level resulting from his smoking has saved him from death by nicotine poisoning, but now he is hypersensitive to nicotine and can never smoke again.
Meanwhile, Naylor has been seduced by a young reporter named Heather Holloway. During their steamy fling, the besotted Naylor tells Holloway all about his life and career—information that she happily publishes in an exposé that appears just after the kidnapping. Her article relentlessly bashes Naylor and his work, exposing Lutch’s bribe, the product-placement scheme, and the MOD squad. It accuses Naylor of training his son Joey to follow his amoral example. All public sympathy due to Naylor’s kidnapping evaporates, and Naylor is fired by BR. Naylor falls into depression until Joey helps him recall the integrity in his job of defending corporations that almost no one feels deserve a defense.
Rejuvenated, Naylor tells the press about his affair with Holloway and promises to clear the names of everyone mentioned in her article. He also declares that he will still appear before the Senate committee. At the hearing, Naylor admits to the dangers of smoking but argues that public awareness is already high enough without extra warnings. He emphasizes consumer choice and responsibility and, to the dismay of Senator Finistirre, claims that if tobacco companies are guilty of tobacco-related deaths, then perhaps Finistirre’s state of Vermont, as a major cheese producer, is likewise guilty of cholesterol-related deaths.
BR congratulates Naylor on the speech and offers him his old job but Naylor has a change of heart. Seeing Big Tobacco settling claims of liability, Naylor remarks that he has left just in time. He also mentions Heather was humiliated upon being terminated by the paper for her article and is working as a weather reporter on a local news station. Naylor supports his son’s newfound interest in debating and opens a private lobbying firm. As he consults cellphone industry representatives concerned about claims that cellphones cause brain cancer, he narrates: “Michael Jordan plays ball. Charles Manson kills people. I talk. Everyone has a talent.”
Full of great lines and a redemptive story arc that is actually believable the films greatest triumph is in the casting which is flawless for virtually every role.