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Posts Tagged ‘Renee Zellweger’

I waited for a while on this one.

DownwithLoveDown With Love is like a bad date that goes horribly wrong three quarters of the way through.   A good time is had until a terrible faux pas is made, or someone gets food poisoning or your date turns out to be a recently released convict or something that totally derails the good time you’re having.

I desperately wanted to like Down With Love.   Ewan McGregor is a damn joy to watch in almost everything he does, and God bless us everyone that the good Lord saw fit to create McGregor in the first place.   Handsome he is, but save this movie he cannot.   Even Renee Zellweger, who normally relies on an obnoxious squint and something passing for sass to sail her way through movies, really tries here.   She’s very likeable and very sweet in a way I had never realized was possible for her.

It’s a shame that the actual story sinks the movie.

I get the guilty pleasure aspect of this one.  The supporting cast is equally as fun to watch as McGregor and Zellweger, David Hyde Pierce in particular.   The costumes and set design are brilliant and beautifully, tongue-in-cheek retro and it looks like everyone had a good time.

Zellweger’s Barbara Novak is an author who comes to Manhattan to promote her book, Down With Love.  It’s a book that advocates career promotion and happiness with self before falling in love with a man.  She and her editor concoct a scheme to promote her book by setting up an interview with Catcher Block, a playboy writer for a fashionable men’s magazine.   After Block repeatedly blows her off, Novak goes another route and becomes internationally famous, leading Catcher Block to have no dates and surrounded by women more interested in chocolate bars and their careers than him.   He swears vengeance on Novak by pretending to be someone else and romancing her in order to expose that Miss “Down With Love” is really all about love with some unintended consequences.

I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Pillow Talk, the movie that heavily influenced this one, but I’m fairly sure it was done with a little more finesse than this.  Certainly it had to rise above a late twist that’s absurd and unbelievable, breathlessly monologued by Renee Zellweger.    I can’t find much fault with Zellweger and McGregor at all, as they’re both effortlessly charming and the whole ’60’s sex comedy thing is sent up to great hilarious effect at times (although I have never confessed to be a connoisseur of ’60’s sex comedies, you know).    The whole thing feels weak, and it feels like a sham.

It feels like the investment you put into the movie is threefold what you get out of it and no amount of charm can squeeze Down With Love wholly into one’s heart, even if that’s where the movie desperately wants to go.   Instead, the faulty plot and contrivances, even if they’re send ups, send it straight to the discount DVD bin.

A disappointing waste of McGregor, Pierce and Zellweger is what this movie is.

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I had to check and re-check to make sure I was correct on this; I could’ve sworn that Chicago had not won Best Picture.   It did win back in 2002 but I kept thinking otherwise – surely this was wrong?

As I’m sure everyone and their dog knows, Chicago is based on the popular musical of the same name.   It’s not an awful film.   In fact, when I initially saw it, I really liked it.   A second viewing, however, doesn’t feel very fresh and got stale pretty quickly, but for the musical genre Chicago is pretty good.

The one problem I always had with the movie was that it felt oddly cast.   Catherine Zeta-Jones was a pretty good Velma, but I didn’t like Renee Zellweger much as Roxie, nor did I feel Richard Gere was particularly outstanding in his role.   Even John C. Reilly felt a little out of place and that feels odd to write down.

It certainly wasn’t better the second time around and I found myself marveling that, yes, this movie did win Best Picture.   It’s certainly well handled, especially since I think taking something from the stage to the screen can be more than a little tricky and even trickier when it’s a musical.   To be fair, the musical numbers are done well and the rest of the film is not poor by any standards.

The problem is that when I sat down to really think about what Chicago had achieved, I wasn’t feeling very impressed.   I keep coming back to the fact that the movie was pretty good.   Chicago is not great, not excellent, just a little bit above the rest of the flock.

Who else was nominated in 2002 for Best Picture?

  • Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers
  • Gangs of New York
  • The Hours
  • The Pianist


I’m flummoxed.   I have to be honest – I have little to no idea what Academy members have in their heads when they vote, nor do I intend to start speculating.   If you compare this movie with The Pianist, for example, The Pianist comes out on top easily.   Adrien Brody really did a fantastic job in that movie and it was all-around great, as opposed to being just pretty good.

Why Chicago won, I don’t know.

I do know, however, that Renee Zellweger’s face must un-squint itself, since you can barely see her eyes anymore from all the face-scrunching.    Renee, you gotta stop doing that, because watching your movies nowadays makes my face hurt for you.

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I was talking to a good friend of mine (and sometimes 1,416 and Counting commenter) about her thoughts on Empire Records.  Her answer?

“Where do thoughts come from?  They just appear!”

What makes Empire Records so infinitely watchable is the sheer fact that not only is it light-hearted fun, but it’s quotable like very few other movies.

Empire Records isn’t overly complicated.   A group of cool misfits work at the hottest independent record store around.  They’re the kind of artsy types you envied in high school, and their much put-upon manager Joe is privy to one heck of a secret:  The guy that owns Empire Records is planning on selling it to a large corporate chain called Music Town.   When one erstwhile employee discovers this, he takes the nightly deposit to Atlantic City and attempts to make more money in the hopes of saving the Empire, only to lose big and come home empty handed.   All this craziness leads to a chain of events in one major day for the store that affects everyone involved.

One of the great qualities of Empire Records is that while it’s got an awful lot of characters in it, it does two things remarkably well:   it makes you care about every character, and every character’s story ties up nicely at the end of the day.   With a bunch of employees, a stuck up, almost totally washed up pop star coming into the store plus his manager, a thick-skulled shoplifter who introduces himself as “Warren Beatty” and a cavalcade of nutty customers, that’s a lot of ends to tie off.

And then there’s all the various drama:   Rex Manning Day occuring at the store, where the washed up singer comes to sign autographs and two of the female employees are very excited about Rex appearing there; the deposit getting gambled away by Lucas (Rory Cochrane); the battle to save the Empire from corporate interference; the love triangles; one employee’s suicide attempt, and so on and so forth.   You never feel swamped, though – just intrigued and like you’re along for the ride.

Plus, this movie has Renée Zellweger and Liv Tyler before they were all famous and some such.  (Although it does beg the question, what the hell ever happened to Rory Cochrane, who played Lucas?  I thought his career would have fared better than it has.)  Another goofy highlight is Maxwell Caulfield playing Rex Manning, the cheesy, arrogant pop star, which is probably Caulfield’s best known role besides being the straight-laced exchange student in (…gulp) Grease 2.

I really cannot think of one movie that’s quoted more than this one amongst my group of friends.
Seriously, the movie’s like one big cookie jar of one-off jokes and zingers that work well in almost any situation.    Nothing inspires a laugh in my circle of friends more than, “But…it’s Rex Manning Day!

Said friend mentioned at the top of this post?   She still has Empire Records on tape where she taped it off TV way back in the day (and I’m talking when we were in junior high school together).   Does shrieking at each other, “Shock me, shock me, shock me with that deviant behavior!” ever get old?   Not really.   Empire‘s one of those movies that’s best shared amongst a group of friends on a night when you really just need some sugary-sweet fun – and over the years it’s never gotten overly cloying or nasty.   Every time I watch it, it’s just as good as the first time around when I was probably 13.

There’s been 10 years of sustained viewing of this record and I’m still not sick of it, that’s for sure.

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