In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

4. Did You Hear About the Morgans?

CineLux Tennant Station Stadium 11
CineLux is a chain with theaters in seven locations, stretching from Brentwood just south of the river delta to Capitola on the northern edge of Monterey Bay. I visited their Tennant Station Stadium 11 theater in Morgan Hill, in honor of the film I was about to see.

Because the theater is located in a shopping center, there are lots of parking spaces. However, you'll be competing for those spaces with people going to the gym, the grocery store, etc., so you might want to arrive early to find a place.

Two things worthy of note about this theater. First, it offers reduced pricing for matinees ($7.50), shows before noon ($5.50), and most shows on Tuesdays ($5.00). If I lived in Morgan Hill, that price would be enough to turn me into a Tuesday movie goer. Second, there is a "Movie Facts" flyer available inside featuring advertisements for local businesses, movie trivia, and best of all, a play bill with descriptions of current and upcoming films. The only thing that could make this better would be a schedule to let us know the date each film will be coming to the theater. (As a vegan, I appreciated one of the flyer's ads for Vegan Gal.)


Dear John
Another upcoming movie about Amanda Seyfried writing letters to someone. In this one, she falls in love with Channing Tatum, a soldier on leave, and corresponds with him when he heads back to the unnamed front. These two have chemistry together, and there are a few glimpses of emotional moments that look genuine and enjoyable. The always-good Richard Jenkins supports as Tatum's father. The problem: the film's premise is two lovers apart, so the movie is working against any shared screen time. I'm not a huge fan of the classic Sleepless in Seattle for the same reason (though I swear by Next Stop Wonderland, which employs the same technique). This trailer gives us lots of nice moments together, but I suspect it is a trick, that in fact much of the movie will be of them apart. 112 cuts.

"Imagine a world where almost everyone is a vampire." Now that is a intriguing premise. Humans (the only source of blood) are in short supply, and the vampire population is faced with both a food shortage and threat of becoming monstrous if they are starved. Ethan Hawke is a hematologist looking for a blood substitute, Sam Neill is a corporate big wig benefiting from the status quo, Claudia Karvan leads the human resistance and enlists Hawke to find a cure for vampirism, and Willem Dafoe, also a member of the resistance, is living proof that vampires can be cured. Two problems I see with this movie. First, the premise inspires in me abstract ideas about vampire culture that I want examined, but the trailer suggests that, like most horror movies, the film is more interested in action than lore. Second, the "strong bloody violence" in the film's R rating could be enough to keep me from seeing it at all. As far as entertainment goes, the trailer throws in an awesome song toward the end as it bombards us with visually stunning images, so it's definitely rewatchable. A lofty 138 cuts.

The Bounty Hunter
A bounty hunter, Gerard Butler, is contracted to bring in reporter Jennifer Aniston, his ex, who has recently jumped bail. Meanwhile, corrupt cops are trying to kill Aniston to keep her from reporting on their nefarious schemes. What follow, I'm guessing, are hilarious hijinks and a last-minute reconciliation. I don't get tired of exes reuniting on film; it saves time developing backstory and supports the idea that love is eternal. But it's a lot harder to swallow, as in most such films, when the two are nasty to each other for two-thirds of the movie. Am I really supposed to root for a relationship that expresses physical intimacy in the form of kidnapping, body tackles, hand-cuffs, and tasering? Gerard Butler is a hunk, though never given quite enough to do as an actor (except in the excellent Dear Frankie). Jennifer Aniston showed her skills in The Good Girl and Friends with Money, but this looks to be another reversion to her Friends-era persona. 138 cuts, but disjointed enough that I don't feel I saw the entire plot.

Did You Hear About the Morgans?
Terrible title, but I'm guessing it won out over this early working title: "Excuse Me, Was That the Morgans I Just Saw Going Into Protective Custody?" Hugh Grant and Sara Jessica Parker are Paul and Meryl Morgan, an estranged couple living in New York City who, while playing nice on an evening walk, witness the murder of Meryl's real estate client. Since they see the killer's face, and he their faces, they are secreted away to a U.S. Marshall safe house in Ray, Wyoming. While in Ray they have ample opportunity to embarrass themselves by applying their big-city expectations to a small town lifestyle. And along the way, of course, the ice begins to thaw, and they begin to see each other as they once did.

Half the plot is a fish-out-of-water tale that exploits for laughs the Morgans' ignorance of rural customs. If you've seen City Slickers, you've seen this half of the Morgans. Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen are likable as their hosts, and do their best to help their house guests assimilate, but the Morgans are urban caricatures, and thus slow in improving. Along the way we are introduced to other inhabitants of Ray and several funny moments, including one about the local Democrats. Paul and Meryl do learn to blend a bit, but they don't exactly adopt a country sensibility, nor do they do much to improve the lives of those around them, so it's not a tale of transformation. (Parker's character is vegetarian, a fact exploited for comedic effect in the all-meat household of their hosts, but I'll take vegetarian characters where I can get them.)

The other half of the plot is the relationship between Paul and Meryl, and there are several problems here. I could see a tiny bit of chemistry between the two, but I never quite believed that they had ever been in love. Meryl is charming, so it's easy to recognize what someone (in the abstract) would see in her, but she doesn't seem Paul's type, nor is he Meryl's. (According to Parker's bio on IMDB she was up for the female lead opposite Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral, so that movie could have gone quite a bit differently.) Also, Paul is meant to have transgressed in some way that damaged their relationship, but he's played by Hugh Grant, who doesn't have a transgressing bone in his body. Nonetheless, both actors are fun to watch, and Sarah Jessica Parker in particular gives a performance that, when allowed, seems to realistically convey the emotions of someone in her situation, wanting to rekindle the romance with her husband, but finding it difficult to forgive the past.

I like Hugh Grant's roles, so I don't mind that they are so similar. Parker has demonstrated a good range from an outlandish and fun actress in Mamet's State and Main, to the stuck-up, barely-sympathetic fiance in The Family Stone. I'm enjoying her performances. Elliot has a great explosive moment where he dispenses marital advice, and we get an amusing side plot about the relationship between the Morgans' two assistants, each an exaggerated aspect of their respective boss's personality. Overall, a predictable but amusing film.

1 comment:

  1. "but he's played by Hugh Grant, who doesn't have a transgressing bone in his body."

    Nicely played.