Monday, August 23, 2010

Movie hound

Watched a couple of movies lately that I thought I'd weigh in on (briefly).

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was completely panned when it came out, so I avoided it in the theatres. I caught it on HBO recently, and I must say, I didn't think all the vitriol was well-deserved. It's cast well, and though the basic premise is a bit cringe-worthy, I thought it was executed smoothly.

Here's the skinny: Connor Mead (Matt McConaughey) is an insecure teenager who finds the girl that he loves kissing another boy at a school dance. Humiliated, he vents his frustration to his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas). The consummate ladies' man, Uncle Wayne steps in and teaches Connor all the tricks he needs to get what he wants out of women - without ever getting too close. The vestiges of these lessons keep Connor from ever truly connecting to Jenny (Jennifer Garner), the true love of his life.

Years later, when Connor's little brother, Paul (Breckin Meyer), is getting married, Connor travels to the wedding only to be haunted by ghosts of his past girlfriends, who vow to change him for the better.

I thought performances were solid. Though the storyline is trite, the actors did a good job with it. I also thought there was good chemistry between Garner and McConaughey, and Michael Douglas' oily Uncle Wayne gave me some gleeful moments. Go in expecting the standard rom-com, and you won't be disappointed.

I had higher expectations for The Soloist, considering that Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx served as leads. While I thought the storyline and the performances were great, I considered the script a bit heavy-handed and preachy for my taste.

In this film, L.A. Times writer Steve Lopez (Downey) meets a street musician named Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx). Lopez is surprised by Ayers' talent, and by his claim that he studied at Julliard. Upon checking on the claim, Lopez discovers that Ayers did, indeed, study at Julliard before dropping out due to mental health reasons.

What evolves is an unlikely friendship between the two men, with Ayers demanding more commitment than Lopez feels comfortable giving. Eventually, both men learn a little something about friendship, dependence, and independence.

This movie is based on a fascinating true story, but I did feel at times that the filmmakers were looking more to produce a social comment than a compelling narrative. The film dwells on the idea of rehabilitating those living on the streets and questions the validity (and wisdom) of such a thing. I would have rather had more story and less pontificating.

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