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"The Dilemma" Review

What the hell happened to Ron Howard? When Opie (if you're old)/Richie Cunningham (if you're not so old) stepped behind the camera, he had a respectable run of decent to near-great (and in the case of Apollo 13, genuinely great; it should've won Best Picture) movies like Splash, Cocoon, Backdraft, and Ransom. Then around the turn of the millennium, things got dicey culminating in his contracting a lethal dose of Oscar Curse when he won Best Director and Picture for A Beautiful Mind, a movie so lackluster that I sold the DVD, something I almost never do. In the ensuing decade, I've only seen two of the six features he's made - The Da Vinci Code (which sucked) and Frost/Nixon (so-so and I was surprised to see he made it when I looked it up now) - because I simply haven't been interested in what he's been putting out and if the others were as terrible as The Dilemma, I'm missing nothing.

The Dilemma gets the ignoble honor of being the first movie of 2012 that I couldn't finish watching. I made it through 70 minutes of its 1:51 running time and if I laughed once, I don't recall. It was straining and struggling and feeling wrong from the very first scene and never got better. My girlfriend fell asleep early on (I was yawning a lot myself) and whenever she woke up, she'd ask, "Why are you still watching this?" When the window we had in between TV shows ended - which we'd agreed beforehand that if the movie was OK, we'd miss Fashion Police's Oscar special - there was no dilemma, we switched over and never went back.

Since I'm supposed to be reviewing this I guess I should....wait, does the trailer spell everything out? Check it out:

Pretty much! The only things unclear are that Vince and Kevin are making booming speaker systems that pump out the noise and vibration of a muscle car that is electric and that Kevin is the brains of the outfit - you didn't think Vince was, did you? - and that for him to learn his wife is cheating on him may be a company-killing distraction. However, I think the trailer does a good job and showcasing the incredibly unfunniness of The Dilemma. Howard and company mistake being REALLY LOUD for being energetic and at no time did I believe that these were people in the real world. The bit in the trailer about dancing takes place in the second scene and was a huge warning flare that this movie would blow.

Around the edges, there were slight hints that perhaps a total rewrite of the script and a different director could've made a barely interesting movie, but it didn't happen. The only one who actually tries to make this crap come to life somewhat is Winona Ryder, whom I've mourned her career exile as Angelina Jolie cruelly stomped her Oscar dreams in Girl, Interrupted, pretty much sending poor Noni into a personal death spiral that took Lindsay Lohan to erase from the public eye. The only thing that may have made me finish slogging through The Dilemma would've been to see how Winona's side of things turned out, but it wasn't enough overall.

Score: DNF. Skip it.

2012 Academy Awards Livesnark

Unlike the past couple of years when I'd seen all the major nominees, I've only seen 4-1/2 of the 9 Best Picture nominees: The Artist (very sweet, but overpraised), The Help (stunningly mediocre and overrated), Moneyball (very good, but not great), Midnight in Paris (cute, but also overpraised), and half of The Descendents. I want to see Hugo, but have so little interest in War Horse, Extemely Incredible and Closely Loud (sp?) and whatever the other one is that I couldn't even hazard a guess as to when I'm going to see them. So, with little interest in who wins, let's snark this mutha up! (Refresh for updates all night.)

• The fashions on the red carpet have been blah. No one seems to know how to get clothes fitted. One exception: Natalie Portman with a cute red dress and tasteful jewelry.

• God Himself (i.e. Morgan Freeman) does the cold opener. BFD.

• The filmed opener was funny then got lame. "It's Time For Oscar" song was meh.

• Instead of opening with Best Supporting Actress, they've one-twoed Cinematography and Art Direction, both of which went to Hugo. The harbingers of an upset?

• They have a cruise ship band in the balcony with Pharrell Williams playing drums. Why?

• Nice touch with the nominations for Costume Design and Makeup to have people talk about their intent while showing clips from the movie. The Artist and The Iron Lady.

• Movie stars talking about their first movies. Who cares? What makes their experiences special? Oh, that's right, they're famous. Pfft.

A Separation (from Iran) wins Best Foreign Language. The director makes a speech referring to the political tensions, but doesn't speak against the mullahs who've made Iran the terrorist pariah state they are. One guess as to why.

• Octovia Spencer gets Best Support Actress for The Help and loses it. Come on, it wasn't a surprise. Pull it together.

• Semi-amusing spoof of focus groups done with the Christopher Guest posse.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a surprise winner for Best Editing. They should've edited out their terrible speech. With all the technical awards Hugo is racking up, it's surprising Thelma Schoonmaker didn't win.

Hugo wins for Best Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. I'm really wishing I'd caught this. I'll put it on the top of the stack.

• The Cirque du Soleil number was impressive, but how did it really capture the experience of going to the movies.

• Above-average schtick with Iron Man and Pepper Potts. They cut the mike off on the Best Documentary winners.

• Chris Rock brings some much-needed edge to the proceedings with a great bit about how it's not hard to do animation for the actors.

Rango wins Best Animated Feature. I still haven't seen this, but heard it's pretty good.

• I just adore Emma Stone, but that stupid bow on her dress sucks. Great schtick with Ben Stiller. She's got a future in this business.

Hugo wins Best Special Effects. Got nothing to say about that yet, but Sucker Punch should've been nominated.

• Christopher Plummer sets the record for the oldest Oscar winner at 82 for Beginners thus leveraging never having won despite an illustrious career and playing a gay guy for the gold. Classy speech.

• Cute bit where Billy tells us what the people are thinking.

The Artist wins for Best Score, which makes sense because that was the only sound in 99.9% of the movie. We will never hear from this guy again.

• Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are funny, especially the latter mangling his own name in his introduction. They're willing to play the fool.

• The traveshamockery of the Best Song category results in "Man or Muppet" winning the coin toss. When other numbers like "Star Spangled Man" (from Captain America: The First Avenger) weren't even nominated, this category is meaningless. Either do it right or cut it.

• Angelina Jolie = YOWZA!!! Pop that leg out. Funny when Jim Rash apes the pose when The Descendents wins for Best Adapted Screenplay.

• Woody Allen wins Best Original Screenplay for Midnight in Paris. Meh, I guess so.

• The cast of Bridesmaids gets to hand out the awards that no one cares about. Harsh, but true.

• What's with the popcorn girls handing out snacks during the breaks.

• Billy Crystal keeps making these jokes pandering to the class warfare rage that the Left preens their support for. Is there anyone in the front part of this house who isn't in the top 1% of the supposedly evil 1%.

• Michel French Guy wins Best Director for The Artist, so if you had Hugo in your Oscar pool, The Walking Dead rerun is starting in five minutes.

• James Earl Jones and makeup artist deity Dick Smith won Honorary Oscars and Oprah gets the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. My life remains unaffected.

• The People Who Died montage was really heavy on behind-the-scenes personnel. I'm sure, "Who?", was the most-often voiced reaction.

• Jean Dujarden wins Best Actor for The Artist. Is he the next Roberto Begnini? (I'm not even going to look up whether I spelled that right.) We'll probably never hear from him again here.

• WHOA! Meryl Streep upsets Viola Davis for Best Actress. I'm sure Spike Lee is tweeting about how racist this is. Streep hasn't won in 30 years and this was her 17th nomination. I suspect the Academy figures Davis will be back soon. Yet another Oscar win for a performance which has a real-life person to mimic as opposed to creating a character from scratch. Don't actors understand this stuff? Guess not.

The Artist wins Best Picture to the surprise of no one. Of the movies I've seen, I enjoyed this the most, but I want to see Hugo now.

Overall, it was a meh show. Billy Crystal seemed too impressed with his Borscht Belt jokes, but would Eddie Murphy have been better?

Score: 6/10. Whatever.

"Gone" Review

When I saw ads for Gone, my initial reaction was, "So Amanda Seyfried is the new Ashley Judd?" As this trailer spells out, it sure looks that way:

What the trailer doesn't tell you are the little details which make it a slightly above-average thriller. Seyfried has a history of mental instability and was committed and her history of crying wolf whenever another girl went missing has worn the cops down. The screenplay by Alison Burnett (Untraceable, the new Underworld: Awakenings) is very cagey and takes its time setting up the fact that the missing sister has some issues, too, and made me wonder how they were going to wrap it up; with her being crazy or actually solving the mystery.

Familiar faces like Debra Morgan from Dexter, that creepy kid from American Beauty who put Rachel Nichols in a plunging nightie in P2, the nerdy scientist guy from Avatar, and Eddie from Eddie and the Cruisers show up briefly, but Gone is fundamentally a one-woman show and Seyfried is effective as a haunted, driven, but resourceful young woman. It could've easily been played shrilly or "crazy", but Seyfried does well in a drabbed-down, no glitz role. Other than a totally gratuitous shower scene in which we see her smokin' hawt body silhouetted through the curtain for a moment - not that there's anything wrong with that - it's all acting for her.

Along the way are some serious "just go with it" leaps in logic - I'm talking real "Why would anyone do THAT?" howlers - which if you think too hard about will derail your enjoyment, but Brazilian director Heitor Dhalia manages to keep things taut and not drag it out longer than its 90-minute (minus credits) running time. If you liked Untraceable, then this is about as good. As I left the theater, the girl from the screening team asked me for my thoughts. I told her (and now you)....

Score: 6/10. Rent it.
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