January 21, 2011

No Strings Attached: The Movie I Wanted To Hate or Why I Like An Ashton Kutcher Movie

I have consciously not seen any movie with Ashton Kutcher in it since Dude Where's My Car (how do you follow that film?). But curiosity got the best of me and I found myself at a No Strings Attached screening. I am not the desired demo for romantic comedies just by the fact that I'm a guy, and my expectations were low. The trailers didn’t look that good and Ivan Reitman’s last film, My Super Ex-Girlfriend was DOA . Natalie Portman’s streak of good movie roles had to end sometime and I feared this could be her Norbit. I felt No Strings Attached already had a few strikes against it and when you add Ashton Kutcher, well, that’s just the frosting on top of the crap cake. I was more than ready to hate this movie. Well I have to tell you, nobody is more surprised than I am to find out that I liked it.

Now, before you go and revoke my “man card” I can totally defend myself. It may not be an amazing cinematic feat, but as far as romantic comedies go and as far as date movies go, this film is well worth the price of admission. No Strings Attached is surprisingly clever and nuanced. Elizabeth Meriwether’s script is intelligent and insightful. Characters in the movie react and respond like real people. The humor is not dumbed down or meant to gross out and shock. There are a few of jokes that try for that “I’m laughing because I’m uncomfortable” moment but they are few and far between and are completely abandoned in the second half of the movie. It was nice to have Ivan Reitman back in good directing form. I also enjoyed seeing Los Angeles thoughtfully portrayed on film, much like two other recent LA-centric films500 Days of Summer and Greenberg. L.A. is the backdrop to a lot of movies but for someone like me who lives in L.A. you realize very few films are able to capture the essence of the city and strangely No Strings Attached does.

The plot revolves around a guy (Ashton) and girl (Natalie Portman) having a strictly physical relationship, a friends with benefits routine minus the stress and drama a standard relationship entails. Of course things get complicated, Ashton starts to have feelings for Natalie (Shocker!) and their sex utopia is threatened. Recent Golden Globe winnerNatalie Portman does an expectantly great job playing an emotionally stunted workaholic but I was most surprised by the supporting cast. I found myself wanting more scenes with the hilarious Mindy Kaling, Lake Bell, Greta Gerwig and Jake Johnson (who I would bet cash-money is somehow related to David Krumholtz). There are also appearances by Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges and Carey Elwes and it is rather enjoyable to have Luda and Westly from The Princess Bride in the same film. Kevin Kline turns up as Ashton’s aging TV star dad. Didn’t know he was in the movie did you? It would have been nice to know he was in the movie, especially since everybody and their dog loves Kevin Kline. He is the master at being hilarious and charismatic even when his character is a complete ass. Here is some advice for Hollywood: I don’t care how old Kevin Kline is, put him in the damn trailer.

Ashton does a fine job in the film because he falls into a category of what I like to call “The Keanu Effect.” The Keanu Effect is where an actor isn’t necessarily an accomplished thespian, but he also won’t make an already good movie any worse. Ashton can’t make a bad movie better either, but he doesn’t bring No Strings Attached down. During the sex scenes I did have a few “Why is she with him?” moments, which I bet is what most women must have been thinking during Knocked Up.

For a very sex centered movie it doesn’t have enough sex in it. There is a generic sex montage early on in the film but it is definitely not enough. If the movie’s plot is about two “sex friends” doing it, it should have had more “doing it.” No matter how cringe inducing the sight of Ashton and Natalie knockin' boots might be, the film’s title alone calls for more sex in the movie.

My advice? Go see it. If I were you I would go see it with a friend you want to have sex with. It’s worth a shot.

January 16, 2011

Golden Globe Predicitons: The Quick & Dirty Guide

The Golden Globes are on tonight that means it's time to make some picks and place some bets. I am not going to give predictions on every Golden Globes category. I mean, I really just watch the GG to see celebrities get drunk and say inappropriate things on stage. So I am only going to give my quick predictions on the biggies. Ready? 'Cause here we go:

Best Motion Picture-Drama

Who Will Win: The Social Network -The Hollywood Foreign Press will play it safe on this one and give it to the hyped front runner.

Who Should Win: Black Swan- This art-house thriller was able to entertain the average movie-goer and the cinema snob alike. That's not easy to do. I also believe that Black Swan will have a longer lasting impact than The Social Network will.

Also- Where is True Grit?

Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy

If you didn't think the Golden Globes were a joke before tonight, then the nominees in this category must have given you a big clue (Payola).

Nominees include: Alice In Wonderland, The Kids Are Alright, Burlesque, Red and The Tourist.

Dude, seriously, I have no idea who will win because I don't know who payed the Hollywood Foreign Press the most. I guess I am going to go with The Kids Are Alright for the win, but secretly I would love it if Burlesque won because that would be madness. Guests will start flipping over their tables and fists will start flying like in a old timey western.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama

Who Will Win: Natalie Portman- Black Swan

Who Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama

Who Will Win: Colin Firth- The King's Speech.

Who Should Win: Colin Firth. I mean, come on, who doesn't love this guy?

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical

In this category Johnny Depp is nominated twice just to make extra sure he would come. This is quite possibly the lamest of all the categories this year so I am just going to stick with Johnny Depp for whatever movies he is nominated for.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical

This will come down to Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, both for The Kids Are Alright. So hopefully at this point Ricky Gervais is drunk and insulting people otherwise the viewing audience will be asleep.

Best Animated Feature Film

Who will and should win :Toy Story 3- Don't be ridiculous, of course Toy Story 3 will win.

Best Performance By an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Who will and should Win: Melissa Leo-The Fighter- Surprisingly, another week category.

Best Performance By an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Who will and should Win: Christian Bale-The Fighter- You can't tell me he didn't look like a complete crackhead.

Best Director Motion Picture

They are most definitely giving this to David Fincher for The Social Network. If they don't give it to him the entertainment news magazines have lied to me again.

For the TV nominations I'm going to make this really quick and dirty.

Best Series Drama: Mad Men

Best Series Comedy: Modern Family

Best Actress: Drama- Katey Sagal- Sons Of Anarchy, Comedy- Edie Falco-Nurse Jackie

Best Actor: Drama- Bryan Cranston -Breaking Bad, Comedy- Steve Carell- The Office

I will also be tweeting during the Golden Globes Live, so come check me out when you are bored and make fun of the Hollywood Foreign Press with me (@gabecal).