Tag Archives: jennifer garner

Movie Review: THE INVENTION OF LYING

Ricky Gervais’s The Invention of Lying is the funniest serious movie I’ve seen in years. There are many moments that will make you laugh out loud, but at its core, it’s also a smart meditation on faith, free will and happiness.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

The movie opens with “chubby loser” Mark Bellison (Gervais) explaining that in his world, everyone tells the truth all the time. They know no other way. They don’t even have a word for “truth” or “true” because everything just is. This situation makes the first half hour of the movie ridiculously funny, with Jennifer Garner’s character, Anna, telling Mark exactly how she feels about him on their date, and a motel advertising itself as “A cheap place for intercourse with a near stranger.”

Courtesy Warner Bros./Sam Urdank

Courtesy Warner Bros./Sam Urdank

But after Mark utters the first lie out of desperation (he’d been fired and facing eviction from his apartment), he discovers what a truly awesome power he holds. He goes about making himself and others happy by feeding them lies, until one about “the man in the sky” gets way out of control. Everyone interprets this notion differently, making  Mark wonder if it brings people comfort or takes away their free will.

Gervais, who co-wrote and co-directed with Matthew Robinson, shows a side of him we’ve never seen before. In one scene, he exhibits such deep emotional pain, I had to keep reminding myself this is a man who’s always making me do the liquid-spewing laugh. But this is good, because he draws us in with the humor and then takes us to unexpected places.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Garner has never been lovelier than she is here. She imbues Anna with both the childlike innocence of someone with no edit button, and the confidence of the hot babe who knows she possesses excellent genetics. She has wonderful comic timing, cries beautifully, and is dressed in a wardrobe so fetching, I want to own everything she wears in the movie.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

There are many comic superstars in the cast but most of them are underused. My idol Tina Fey is miscast as Mark’s assistant. She has such a take-charge vibe, I don’t buy her as anybody’s lackey. At first, Rob Lowe is quite funny as Brad, Mark’s rival for Anna’s hand, but his arrogant act becomes a little one-note after a while. Edward Norton has a wacky bit as a motorcycle cop, but Christopher Guest is frustratingly wasted.

There’s been some concern in the media that this movie might be offensive in its viewpoint but I feel that’s unwarranted. Gervais isn’t trying to make you believe anything; he’s simply showing a version of the world as he sees it and maybe provoke thought about some big ideas. You can choose to agree or disagree with him because hey, that’s free will. Or you can just look at it as a funny movie, which it is, and that’s the truth.

Nerd verdict: Lying isn’t perfect but still entertaining

Fall Movie Guide

Back in January, I did a sneak peek at some of this year’s most anticipated movies. Surprisingly, the post is still getting lots of hits and I’ve received requests to do another one focusing on fall movies. I’ve previously written about some of these but now the titles are together on one list—though it’s hardly comprehensive—for your easy reference.

I’ve broken it down into categories, with release dates and links to trailers (click on the titles). I’ll likely see many of these before their official release (studios provide free advance screenings during awards season) so check back often for my reviews.

Let the Oscar prognostication begin!

OSCAR BAIT

whishaw & cornishBright Star (Sept. 18)—Ben Whishaw plays the poet John Keats and Abbie Cornish is his muse Fanny Brawne in Jane Campion’s movie about their passionate but short-lived romance. Judging from the trailer, the leads seem to have good chemistry and Cornish’s performance has garnered some buzz. (UPDATE: Read my review here.)

carey & peter

Photo by Kerry Brown

An Education (Oct. 9)—Carey Mulligan is another young actress getting good heat for her performance as a ’60s London schoolgirl trying decide if she should continue her studies to get into Oxford or run off to Paris with an older playboy (Peter Sarsgaard) “and have fun.” The ridiculously talented cast also includes Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, and the divine Emma Thompson. Oh, and it’s written by Nick Hornby based on Lynn Barber’s memoir. (UPDATE: Read my review here.)

The Road (Nov. 25)—Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron headline this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel about a man and his son trying to survive after the apocalypse. I like both actors but not sure something this depressing will be high on my must-see list. (UPDATE: Read my review plus notes from Q & A with filmmakers here.)

Amelia (Oct. 23)—I’ve seen a rough cut of this movie and but will wait until I’ve seen the final version to review. I think it’s okay to say, though, that Hilary Swank is perfectly cast as Earhart. (UPDATE: Read my review here.)

gabourey

Photo by Anne Marie Fox

Precious (Nov. 6)—Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe stars as a Harlem teen trying to cope with her second pregnancy and an abusive mom, played by Mo’Nique. This film won both the Grand Jury and Audience Award at this year’s Sundance and features an almost unrecognizable Mariah Carey in mousy wig and makeup. (UPDATE: Read my review here.)

pc

Photo by Emilio Pereda & Paola Ardizzoni

Broken Embraces/Los Abrazos Rotos (Nov. 20)—Pedro Almodovar’s latest collaboration with Penelope Cruz, who plays an actress obsessed with a famous director. Hmm, is this based on their relationship? Nope, Cruz said in Entertainment Weekly that she was more obsessed with Almodovar when she first met him.

nicole & ddl

Photo by David James

Nine (Dec. 18)—I could sum up the trailer in one word: steamy. And I don’t even like musicals. But I’d watch Daniel Day-Lewis and all those gorgeous women even if they’re singing about a bucket of beans (you can hear Kate Hudson & Marion Cotillard perform two numbers here). For the record, though, this is the movie version of the musical stage adaptation of Federico Fellini’s classic movie 8 1/2. Got that?

Brothers (Dec. 4)—Tobey Maguire plays a Marine who goes missing in Afghanistan and is presumed dead. Jake Gyllenhaal plays his brother who starts hanging out with Maguire’s wife (Natalie Portman) and ends up falling for her. Of course, this is exactly when Maguire’s character turns up very much alive. I tend to stay away from war movies but this one is directed by Jim Sheridan (In America), whose work I revere.

The Lovely Bones (Dec. 11)—Peter Jackson, whose Oscar shelf is probably threatening to collapse, directs the movie adaptation of Alice Sebold’s bestselling novel. The trailer looks creepy, intense, and I’d put money on this movie to get at least acting, adapted screenplay and art direction noms. (UPDATE: Read my review here.)

Avatar (Dec. 18)—Click here for my take on the 16 minutes of this movie shown at the recent IMAX screenings.

COMEDIES FOR GROWN-UPS

The Informant! (Sept. 18)—Steven Sodebergh directs Matt Damon in a movie based on a true story about an executive at an agricultural firm who blows the whistle on his employers’ price-fixing policy. Turns out he’s also embezzling from the company. The subject sounds The Insider-ish but the trailer looks hilarious.

The Invention of Lying (Oct. 2)—I apologize to my regular readers since I’ve written about this movie a couple times already; I just can’t wait to see it. It looks sublimely silly and has not one but three comic geniuses in the cast: Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Christopher Guest. A bunch of other really good actors—Jennifer Garner, Patrick Stewart, Jason Bateman and many more—also contribute to the hilarity. (UPDATE: Read my review here.)

clooney staring at goats

Photo by Laura Macgruder

The Men Who Stare at Goats (Nov. 6)—Like The Informant!, this is another absurdist take on a supposedly true story. Based on Jon Ronson’s book, that title alone cracks me up, and then there’s the cast, which includes George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang and Jeff Bridges (in Dude mode!). Clooney plays a man claiming he’s a military psychic spy who can kill animals by just looking at them. Just watch the hilarious trailer; you’ll put it on your must-see list, too.

Did You Hear About the Morgans? (Dec. 18)—Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker play a couple on the verge of divorce who must go into witness protection after they witness a murder. If you’re going to do a fish-out-of-water movie, you can’t do much better than putting Grant in a rugged environment like Wyoming and watching him chop wood and deal with bears.

streep & martinIt’s Complicated (Dec. 25)—Nancy Meyers writes and directs Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin in a comedy about a woman (Streep) who has an affair with her ex-husband (Baldwin), who has remarried. Martin plays an architect who wants to horn in on the action with Streep’s character. Love all these actors; as far as Meyers is concerned, I hope this will be closer to Something’s Gotta Give than The Holiday.

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT

Where the Wild Things Are (Oct. 16)—I am filled with wonder and joy just watching the trailer. I love movies directed by Spike Jonze. (UPDATE: Read review here.)

Fantastic Mr. Fox fmrfx(Nov. 13)—George Clooney voices a wily fox who tries to protect his family and animal friends from evil farmers who want them gone. I think the stop-motion animation looks, er, fantastic. Based on the Roald Dahl book, directed by Wes Anderson and also featuring the voices of Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman.

Planet 51 (Nov. 20)—An astronaut lands on Planet 51 and finds a race of green aliens already living there. He then becomes the alien in the ironically human-looking environment. Featuring the voices of Dwayne Johnson, Justin Long, Jessica Biel, Gary Oldman and John Cleese.

The Princess and the Frog p&frog(Nov. 25 in NY & LA., Dec. 11 everywhere)—This time, when the princess kisses the frog, she turns into one, too. The movie features Disney’s first animated African-American heroine (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) and is the studio’s first hand-drawn animated movie in five years.

COMMERCIAL FARE

Surrogates (Sept. 25)—Based on graphic novels, the futuristic plot is about people virtually interacting with others via surrogate robots. When these robots start getting killed, Bruce Willis’s character has to actually enter the real world to solve the mystery. I’d think this movie was cheesy if it weren’t for the respectable cast, which also includes Rosamund Pike, Ving Rhames and Radha Mitchell.

Couples Retreat fav & davis(Oct. 9)—Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn do their Swingers thing, only this time they’re married (to Kristin Davis and Malin Akerman, respectively). They agree to go on a idyllic retreat with two other couples to work on some of their marital issues. Not sure if this will be good but the scenery is breathtaking.

Law Abiding Citizen (Oct. 16)—Gerard Butler plays a man who turns to vigilante justice after a prosecutor makes a deal that lets his family’s killers go free. Looks kind of generic but Butler is super intense in the trailer and with Jamie Foxx as his prey, things could get interesting.

The Box

Photo by Dale Robinette

The Box (Nov. 6)—Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a cash-strapped couple visited by a stranger with a disfigured face (Frank Langella) who makes them a mysterious offer: If they push a button on a box, they’ll receive $1 million but someone they don’t know will die. Yeeks. Here’s when the audience screams “Don’t do it!” but I assume someone does or else there would be no movie.

bullock

Photo by Ralph Nelson

The Blind Side (Nov. 20)—Sandra Bullock always manages to make me laugh doing comedy but I think she’s underrated as a dramatic actress (remember her bitchy turn in Crash?). She gets a chance to show off her serious side again in this true story about a tough Southern woman who takes in an African-American homeless teen, helps him overcome obstacles and become an All-American football star. (UPDATE: Read my review here.)

new moonThe Twilight Saga: New Moon (Nov. 20)—Is there anything I can say about this movie you haven’t already heard ad nauseam? Didn’t think so. Let’s move on.

Sherlock Holmes (Dec. 25)—Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams in a movie about the first detective I ever idolized. It’s all good.

Which movies are you most excited about? Which have already put you to sleep with its description alone? Anything not on the list you can’t wait to see?

Trailer: Ricky Gervais’s THE INVENTION OF LYING

invention of lyingI’ve been waiting for this trailer and it doesn’t disappoint. The Invention of Lying (formerly known as This Side of the Truth) has such an amazing cast, I don’t know how it can not be funny. No one can take a to-his-face insult like Ricky Gervais.

Besides the people seen in the trailer—Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Christopher Guest, et al.—Jeffrey Tambor, Patrick Stewart and Jason Bateman are also in this movie. If that’s not enough, Gervais says on his blog there are “great cameo surprises.”

Co-written and co-directed by Gervais with Matthew Robinson, Lying opens September 25, 2009 in the U.S. and October 2 in the U.K.

Reviews of New Movie Trailers

These movies won’t be out for at least a couple of months but trailers are available so I thought I’d review them. Trailers are an art in their own right—they only have a few seconds to grab you by the throat and make you want to start saving up for that $12 ticket and $10 bucket of corn. Take a look by clicking on each title and let me know if they succeeded.

2009_public_enemies_0013Public Enemies — July 1. The trailer just became available and it looks slick and sexy. Johnny Depp as John Dillinger is being chased by Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis but makes time to flirt with the slinky Marion Cotillard. Somewhere admidst all the gunfire Dr. Manhattan—er, Billy Crudup—shows up, too. Rating: Hot.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past — May 1. Why do people continue to give Matthew McConaughey leading roles? When was the last time he made a good movie and/or showed any kind of acting chops? Failure to Launch? Ha! Fool’s Gold? Please. Here, he plays a womanizing jerk who’s about to ruin his brother’s wedding until ghosts of girlfriends past pay him a visit to teach him about true love. Oy. The beautiful and talented Jennifer Garner is too good for him. I’d be watching the movie, yelling, “No, Jen, move along! He’s an idiot!” so what would be the point? Incidentally, many years ago, Disney almost made this movie with Garner’s hubby, Ben Affleck (Garner wasn’t attached), but then pulled the plug on it. New Line probably should’ve let Ghosts stay dead. Rating: Sucks Dirt.

2009_funny_people_wallpaper_001Funny People — July 31. The Apatow Dumpling Gang is all here—wife Leslie Mann, kids Iris and Maude, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill—in Judd’s third feature as director. Add Adam Sandler as a stand-up comic who learns he might be dying. Unfortunately, I feel as if I’ve seen the whole movie from the trailer and wasn’t that amused by it. Apatow said he wanted to make a serious film “that is twice as funny as my other movies.” I think he succeeded with the serious, but the funny remains to be seen. Rating: Okay. (UPDATE: Here’s a pseudo-review by a source of mine who attended a screening.)

Angels & DemonsMay 15. Tom Hanks is back as Robert Langdon with only slightly better hair. I thought The Da Vinci Code was unwatchable but this trailer looks kinda tight. Rome is one of my favorite cities so seeing it used as a backdrop increased my interest a little (didn’t read Dan Brown’s book; don’t plan to). Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard and Armin Mueller-Stahl also pop up, looking very intense and/or evil. Rating: Good.

b-pittInglorious Basterds — Aug. 21.  I thought this trailer was hilarious and am not sure whether Tarantino intended it that way. But watching Brad Pitt say, “I want my scalps!” in his Southern accent and then Hitler throwing a fit, yelling, “Nein, nein, nein, nein, nein, nein!” made me laugh. I’m not sold on what seems to be an ultra-violent movie (I ran screaming from the room during the ear-cutting scene in Reservoir Dogs) but the trailer was amusing. Rating: Good.

The Taking of Pelham 123 — June 12. John Travolta’s baddie and Denzel Washington’s good guy go head to head in matching goatees, with Travolta taking hostages on a subway for ransom. Looks like lots of action, which is expected in a Tony Scott movie, but it all looked generic. Nothing stood out as awe-inspiring like, say, last year’s Wanted trailer, which showcased craaazy, mind-blowing stunts with Angelina Jolie in a red sports car and a guy who jumped out a window at the camera, his face a mask of broken glass pieces. Rating: Okay.

So, you excited about any of these? What are you saving up your loose couch change for?