Friday, July 30, 2010

A “Dinner” Worth the Price of Admission

Rated PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language.
114 minutes
Paramount Pictures
**** out of 5

Article first published as Movie Review: Dinner for Schmucks on Blogcritics.

For about 12 years now, Hollywood has been trying to get an American remake off the ground for an adaptation of Francis Veber’s original “Le dîner de cons,” or “The Dinner Game.” Numerous versions of screenplays have failed to make their way to the big screen and the cast has gone through even more variations. Finally, featuring an all star cast of today’s top comic actors, comes “Dinner for Schmucks.”

The original was written and directed by renowned French farcist Francis Veber and I’m sure it certainly has helped to have him tag along as an executive producer. It’s also interesting to see that neither he nor fellow executive producer Sacha Baron Cohen is listed on the film’s IMDb page. But a farce is a farce and you either love ‘em or hate ‘em, and I love ‘em.

As everyone knows, a farce is of course based more on situational comedy than deep characterization. It’s how everything comes together with events snowballing from one thing to the next mixed with great banter and a smattering of broad slapstick that keeps the plot moving along. Director Jay Roach certainly knows a thing or two about uncomfortable hilarity. After having directed both “Meet the Parents” and “Meet the Fockers,” there's no doubt why he was chosen as mastermind to bring David Guion and Michael Handelman’s script to life.

Guion and Handelman’s last produced screenplay was another farce that no one saw starring Zach Braff and Jason Bateman called “The Ex.” While in no way a classic, it definitely lives up to the expectations of the genre and may be why American audiences shunned it, handing it a quick box office death. Here the filmmakers definitely have a great appreciation for the original and Roach even seems to try to keep things a little French with some of the score's themes. I haven’t seen “The Dinner Game” in years but it wouldn’t surprise me if the main theme of “Schmucks” was lifted by Theodore Shapiro from the original film.

Tim (Paul Rudd) works, with his assistant Susana (Kristen Schaal), on the sixth floor of Fender Financial where it smells like cabbage. While the scent has never kept Susana from getting laid, they both just want to move up to the seventh floor with the rest of the executives. Tim has a plan to impress his boss Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood) and informs everyone during a meeting that he has already spoken with Swiss billionaire Müeller (David Williams) about a business proposition involving unarmed bombs turned into lamps and Fender’s company taking over as his asset advisors.

Fender invites Tim to join them in an empty corner office and hints that Tim is eligible for a promotion if he participates in what he calls a “dinner for idiots.” Everyone must bring a guest of idiotic proportions; the biggest dolt wins. Tim accepts the invitation but his long-term girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) can’t believe that Tim would even consider taking part in such a cruel game. As expected, Tim literally runs into Barry (Steve Carell), who’s trying to save a dead mouse in the street for his latest “mousterpiece” and wants no compensation for injury as he is totally in awe of just being hit by a Porsche. He says he’s been hit many times but never by one of these.

Tim is instantly smitten with Barry’s innocent, wide-eyed doltishness and of course invites him to dinner. To say much more of the plot would totally ruin the surprises but what should come as no surprise is how hilarious the rapport is between Rudd and Carell. Alas, in grand tradition, white lies are spilled, miscommunication happens, and hilarity ensues. It also must be said that it’s Barry’s innocence and general good will that makes him really such a nice guy. While you truly empathize with Barry, as Tim explains to Juile, “He’s a sweet guy, but he is a tornado of destruction.”

Director Roach and the screenplay do allow things to run a little on the long side but it could just seem that way as so many of the scenes have you wriggling uncomfortably one minute then bursting with laughter the next. And when the rest of the cast features everyone from Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Ron Livingston (playing an extension of his “Office Space” character), and Jeff Dunham (playing a dinner guest who’s “married” to a slutty ventriloquist's dummy), you should know what you’re in for. Clowning around tends to be the name of the game most of the time, but with these guests, who wouldn’t want to be invited to this “Dinner for Schmucks?”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Silly, Aloof, and Unintentionally Hilarious, Zac Efron Does Dead People

Rated PG-13 for language including some sexual references, an intense accident scene and some sensuality.
99 minutes
Universal Pictures
** out of 5

Article first published as Movie Review: Charlie St. Cloud on Blogcritics.

Zac Efron, get your agent on the phone. He just can’t seem to catch you a break or at least find some consistency.

After proving himself to be the absolute least annoying thing to come from the blasé and repetitive “High School Musical” trilogy, Efron seems to be having a rough time finding his footing. While the teen female demographic only wants to hear him sing or see him strut around with his shirt off, the rest of us don’t mind him at all in anything else. While his new venture may seem to think that dumber is better, he’s the only thing watchable in “Charlie St. Cloud.”

When he was cast as the teenage version of Matthew Perry in “17 Again,” he was up for the high school shenanigans and proved a good pairing to costar Thomas Lennon. Returning to work with “17 Again” director Burr Steers, even the trailers can’t prepare you for the startling revelations of idiocy that abound here. Working with such an incohesive and moronic script that meanders from wearing its heart on its sleeve to bashing the audience over the head to make them cry, it’s not surprising that the script comes from two writers with very different oeuvres.

First you have screenwriter Craig Pearce who has only the classics “Moulin Rouge!,” “Romeo + Juliet,” and “Strictly Ballroom” on his resumé. Next you have the weeping willow department of cowriter Lewis Colick who’s brought us such offerings as “Ladder 49,” “October Sky,” “Ghosts of Mississippi,” and “The Dirt Bike Kid.” It almost makes you wonder if Pearce’s original screenplay wasn’t sappy enough to fit the British Columbian filming locations and the studio brought in Colick to “flesh out” the heartache of Ben Sherwood’s novel, “The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud,” to make the wombs in the room throb as the genre demands.

Charlie St. Cloud (Efron) certainly has everything going for him. He’s just been handed a Stanford scholarship and while fresh out of high school he still finds time to be father figure to his younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) while their single mother (Kim Basinger) is off working double shifts and is one of the best yachters in the region. But all that goes sour when Charlie tries to sneak out to a kegger and gets caught by Sam who demands to be driven to a friend’s house to watch the end of a Boston Red Sox game. On this fateful journey the two are in a traffic accident and Charlie winds up being brought back to life by paramedic Florio Ferrente (Ray Liotta).

Five years later we find Charlie working as a groundskeeper at the cemetery where his brother is buried but the film makes no secret that he sees dead people. In case you’re female and not crying yet, Charlie made a promise to Sam, you see – every night at sunset Charlie meets with Sam to play catch for one hour before sundown. But wouldn’t ya just know it, Charlie has "met cute" a girl he was oblivious to in high school named Tess (Amanda Crew) who is an up and coming sailor herself and is being coached by the inexplicably named Tink Weatherbee (Donal Logue) to sail around the world. But Tess sails into the eye of a storm one night against Tink’s better judgment and winds up with a bump on her head atop her father’s headstone in Charlie’s cemetery.

Charlie takes her to his domicile and cleans her up, then forces her to come back for dinner, conveniently after sundown, of course. After getting to know one another enough over a drink or two they play a game of hide and seek in the foggy cemetery (because that’s sexy, ya know) and have one of the longest kissing scenes all for the sake of alluding to sex but still maintaining the almighty PG-13 for ultimate box office receipts.

The next morning Charlie goes into town for coffee and runs into Old Man Ferrente who shows up just to explain to Charlie that he was brought back to life that fateful night for a reason. And if you can’t figure out why Tess’s dog ignores her and what Ferrente is talking about with Charlie, then my condolences.

Everything is played to Lifetime Channel and Hallmark sentiment heights yet somehow Efron manages to stand his ground and never plays his character too overwrought. Director Steers however seems to be more interested in the landscape and there’s at least ten minutes worth of nature footage that could easily have been excised. While it may not have helped the film as a whole, at least it would have help the proceedings move along at a quicker quip. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if someone were to combine “The Sixth Sense,” “Ghost Town,” “Field of Dreams,” “Ghost,” and “White Squall” with a dash of Dean Koontz’ “Odd Thomas” novels and a side order of “Lost” then “Charlie St. Cloud” just might be your cup of tea.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cheese Is the Name Of the Game In This Cat-and-Mouse Chase

SALT (2010)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.
100 minutes
Columbia Pictures
** 1/2 out of 5

Article first published as Movie Review: Salt (2010) on Blogcritics.

Last time I reviewed a film that featured the name Kurt Wimmer as screenwriter it was for the awful “Law Abiding Citizen.” I made mention that he’s spent way too much time watching other people’s movies. History seems to be repeating itself now with another generic action rip-off, “Salt.” This time dragging along seasoned action/thriller director Phillip Noyce (“The Bone Collector,” “The Saint, “Clear and Present Danger,” “Sliver,” “Patriot Games,” “Dead Calm”) we get a sense that even he has seen one too many movies to come up with anything original.

Ripping off in overload we see scenes stolen directly from everything including “The Manchurian Candidate” remake to “The Fugitive,” “The Matrix Reloaded,” and the “Bourne” trilogy. All this wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t so blatant. And the script isn’t completely to blame when Noyce even uses a lot of the same camera angles and exact situations from the films he’s chosen to rip off. But if by the end of the movie you don’t expect to find “U.S. Marshal” Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) walking into the middle of the final shot then you’re probably the film’s key demographic.

The premise is simple enough: We first meet Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) repeatedly denying being a spy while being interrogated in North Korea with a title card announcing this is “Two Years Ago.” She is released back into U.S. custody as part of a trade and taken home to where we learn she really is a C.I.A. operative posing as an employee of Rink Petroleum. While Salt may just want to learn how to fold a sexy dinner napkin for her anniversary, a walk-in Russian defector has just arrived and is in need of interrogation.

Salt agrees before she goes home but not before all hell breaks loose as defector Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) informs her that a Russian mole will be attempting to kill the Russian President while he is attending the funeral of the U.S. Vice President. Orlov also informs Salt, along with fellow agents Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) listening in, that Salt is the Russian mole. To clear her innocence she goes on the lam using all her superpowers, err… skills, to elude capture and try to clear her name and find her gone-missing husband, arachnologist Mike (August Diehl).

At one point she is in a quick escape from her apartment and grabs her dog and one spider. If you can’t guess why she’d ever grab a spider in such a rush (we later see her extracting its venom and there’s an assassination subplot to get to) then this film’s for you. Narrow escapes are one thing but this film goes all out and even has Salt blasting her way through a wall with a machine gun. Big dumb fun is one thing but it must always remember to be fun. This film is just excessively heavy on the dumb. It’s almost as if Wimmer originally wrote the script as an action spoof but forgot to tell Noyce, who takes all of the material way too seriously for anyone’s good.

Originally planned as a summer vehicle for Tom Cruise who thankfully passed in favor of the far better “Knight and Day,” the script was rewritten to suit Angelina Jolie. It's been said that Cruise passed because he felt that it was too much like his Ethan Hunt character but after having sat through the film I can surely say that he more than likely passed on account of the script just being so bland. There’s nothing here we haven’t seen a million times and sometimes that can still be okay when the direction isn’t so workmanlike and pedestrian.

Whether Salt really is a Russian mole or not, who cares within 45 minutes of runtime? When your film is only halfway over and no one cares anymore, you have a huge problem, even though Salt is so resilient that she can go from hiding from security cameras with a pair of panties to building a homemade rocket launcher from whatever elements she has in her immediate vicinity. Moreover, in this day and age a subplot about Russians wanting to gain control of the U.S.’s atomic weapons just comes across as incredibly silly and outdated. Where’s James Bond, Ethan Hunt or even Jason Bourne when you need them? What you should do this weekend is skimp on the “Salt” and go see “Inception” instead. Whether for the first time or a repeat viewing, at least Christopher Nolan earns your entrance fee.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Have Seen The Future And The Award For This Year's Best Picture Will Go To "Inception"

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout.
148 minutes
Warner Bros. Pictures
***** out of 5

Article first published as Movie Review: Inception on Blogcritics.

Some directors can safely do pretty much whatever they want. From the likes of the late Stanley Kubrick to Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, Tim Burton, Peter Jackson, Quentin Tarantino and even Pixar Animation Studios, critics and fans alike will stand behind them through thick and thin. While I’ve been a long-time fan of Christopher Nolan, and even though he may only have his seventh film under his belt with this weekend’s "Inception," I would like to officially welcome him to the fold.

After his big break with "Memento" at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, he has gone on to continually prove himself with each film better than the last. Through "Insomnia," "Batman Begins," "The Prestige" and "The Dark Knight," Nolan has been on a never-ending streak of one-upmanship with himself. Something that sets him apart from other directors, and yet another reason for such high acclaim besides his directing skills, is the fact that all but one film (his Swedish remake "Insomnia") he has either written alone or co-written. Something most directors are definitely not well known for these days.

Now Nolan brings us his most game changing, groundbreaking, surreal and hypnotically breathtaking masterpiece of all with "Inception." Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb who is an extraction artist: someone able to enter your dreams to steal valuable secrets from within your subconscious. We first meet him washed up on the shores of what would appear to be an Asian hideaway. From there, he is brought face-to-face with Saito (Ken Watanabe) to learn they have met before.

Flashing back to their first acquaintance we find out that Cobb, and his current team, consisting of right-hand man Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and “architect” Nash (Lukas Haas), are trying to steal some ideas from Saito. When he tries to defend his thoughts via his subconscious (in the form of angry or militarized gangs of projections) Saito finds out that they aren’t actually in his own head.

After being given “the kick” (a real-world jolt to remove you from your dream state) and Nash is taken away by Saito’s goons, Saito offers Cobb a chance to return to his homeland of the U.S.A. where he is wanted for murdering his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard). Mal has a tendency to invade Cobb's dreamscape and sabotage his missions. Saito’s mission, should Cobb choose to accept it (which of course he does), sets Cobb off to rally up his troops and gather a new team for his one last job.

The mission is to perform an inception – to plant the seed of an idea instead of stealing one – into the mind of Saito’s biggest adversary in the energy race, Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy). Saito wants Fischer to come up with the idea to split up his father's (Pete Postlethwaite) empire, which will bring it down, and give Saito the upper hand. In order to pull off Saito’s plan, the team needs ten hours and must probe deeply enough into Fischer’s subconscious to make him believe that everything is his own idea. However, that means delving down into a third dream-within-a-dream, making it far more dangerous to return to reality.

To reveal any more would be maddening and completely unfair to the film. I will only quickly add this – Cobb first needs a new architect and recruits Ariadne (Ellen Page) via his children’s grandfather Miles (Michael Caine). Also along for the ride are Saito (to keep an eye on his investment), and a “forger,” Eames (Tom Hardy), who can mimic one’s projections to gain information. Lastly, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), seems to be along for the ride mostly to keep everyone safe from attack by Fischer’s highly trained and ultra-violent subconscious.

Everyone knows that dreams are powerful things, and the way they are brought to film here are beyond anything you’ve ever seen before. If this doesn’t lay claim to a lot of gold statues come next year then I don’t know what will. Everything is so seamless you’d never believe they were the work of programmers sitting around entering codes and punching buttons. And Hans Zimmer’s score also will hopefully garner some recognition as the musical score will play endlessly within in your head long after the credits roll. Not to mention that there’s no escaping it these days, as it is used in all of the movie's TV commercials and trailers.

Leonardo DiCaprio continues to bring his A-game as expected and while this may be the first joining of forces between Leo and director Nolan, it’s surely not to be their last. Cotillard continues to shine no matter how minimal the role and Page, while seeming to be limiting her work, at least pops up now and then in films that drive her to show that "Juno" was no fluke (even though anyone paying attention would know she was proving this long before her eggo was preggo). It’s also fun to see Dileep Rao in roles since Sam Raimi first used him in "Drag Me to Hell" (even if his last role was in a little movie you may have heard of starring computer generated blue Na’vi). Nolan also continues his streak of using actors he’s worked with prior including his "Batman" protégé, Caine, Murphy and Watanabe.

The real star, of course, is Christopher Nolan. If he continues to make every film as spectacularly as he has already, the road ahead will be filled with loads of treasures for both audiences and critics alike, not something most directors working today know the beauty of. However, hopefully this won’t feature any kind of backlash where it’s critically applauded and die a box office death. But with Warner Bros. using "From the director of "The Dark Knight"" on everything and anything Inception-related, it should be a safe bet that the best film of the year so far will also be one of the biggest money makers of the year. Ladies and gentlemen, an official Best Picture contender has finally arrived!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Movie Review: “Despicable Me”

**** out of 5
95 minutes
Rated PG for rude humor and mild action.
Universal Pictures

Riding the coattails of the first official summer blockbuster (“Toy Story 3”) is one thing, but it also doesn’t help to be in the same genre. While the filmmakers definitely give it their best shot, the comparisons are far too ripe with the release dates being so close. As good as “Despicable Me” strives to be, it fails to even live up to the new standard set by DreamWorks’ own “How to Train Your Dragon.”

First time feature directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud do bring some new twists to the spy genre, but screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul (“College Road Trip,” “Horton Hears a Who!,” “The Santa Clause 2,” and “Bubble Boy”) can’t get the tear-jerking sensibilities to mesh with their plot centered around an evil genius. Lead character Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is set up from the beginning as such a dastardly villain that he spends his free time popping children’s balloons, freezing patrons to skip to the front of the coffee shop line, and threatening to kill his neighbor's dog for leaving land mines in his yard.

Yes, Gru is one of the world’s top villains. He has managed to steal everything from the New York Jumbotron to the Vegas versions of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. However, Gru has just been one-upped by a new, younger, and far hipper baddie named Vector (voiced by an unrecognizable Jason Segel) who managed to steal an Egyptian pyramid which he transplants to his own backyard and paints to camouflage against the sky. To maintain his lead status as head bad guy, Gru sets out to steal a shrink ray in order to steal the moon.

After Mr. Perkins (voiced by Will Arnett) turns Gru down for another loan at the “Bank of Evil (Formerly Lehman Brothers),” Gru and his devoted minions decide to cash in some of their recent successes to finance themselves in order to stay at the top of the game. But that’s not before three orphans named Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) rue Gru’s day and attempt to change his heart. But that’s not before he adopts them to integrate the girls into his nefarious plans against the better judgment of his own personal Q, Dr. Nefario (voiced by Russell Brand).

Thankfully utilizing Carell’s easy charms, masked behind an “SNL”-esque Russian accent, the character still manages to be likable even when he’s imagining ways to rid himself of three adorable orphans. The rest of the cast, most having worked together on other projects, also seem to be having more fun reassembled than could ever be said about anyone involved with another recent film (“Grown Ups”).

The likes of Ken Jeong, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride, Julie Andrews, Jemaine Clement, Mindy Kaling, and Jack MacBrayer are almost completely wasted by having them do silly voices so you can’t even tell it’s them or cutting their scenes. Even more extreme, some of their characters are completely altered from their IMDb credits (MacBrayer particularly), but the film still moves along nicely for a breezy 95 minutes even if there does seem to be a bit of padding. It’s just weird to watch an animated feature with as many montages as this one. Given how much time and effort and money goes into these types of films, you can’t help but long for perfection even if just on a technical aspect but that’s a big storytelling issue, especially when the film is so short.

While it’s doubtful to reach the kind of success that “Toy Story 3,” “Shrek 4,” or even “How to Train Your Dragon” have found, there’s still plenty of big laughs not limited to one of the funniest Santa Claus jokes ever and of course Gru’s minions (who come across like nicer versions of Mogwais prior to getting wet) manage to steal the whole show. And how could I personally not find some kind of affection for a film when it features a giant indoor shark aquarium? It may not be as big a feat as “Toy Story 3” but it’s still a far better effort than the hopefully final “Shrek” installment and for some that may be all they need to know.

Article first published as Movie Review: Despicable Me on Blogcritics.

Friday, July 2, 2010

2010 Summer Movie Round-Up: 4th of July Weekend Guide

The dog days of summer are finally upon us, with everyone either heading out of town or enjoying the peace and quiet those who’ve left may have bestowed on your streets. If you’re thinking of venturing out to the local multiplex this 4th of July holiday weekend there’s lots of good stuff to see, and of course some horrendous offerings to avoid. While I didn’t finagle the time to review everything, I have seen all of the latest offerings and just thought people should know what they should see and what they should stay far far away from.

While we all know the teenage girls are heavily flocking to watch a selfish teenage child torment herself over whether she’s into bestiality or wanting to roll around in the dirt as a necrophiliac, we all know there’s no stopping the phenomenon that is the “Twilight Saga.” With the latest entry, “Eclipse,” it’s basically the same movie as before. Bella pines for two boys who have a tendency to not wear basic clothing while the silliest of flashbacks give unnecessary backstory to characters who don’t deserve it while an army of noob vampires are being wrangled together for Victoria to get her revenge. Skip it, you’ve seen this movie twice already with the first two installments.

Another one to avoid, which like “Eclipse” is making far too much undeserved money, is Adam Sandler’s declaration of eternal arrested development, “Grown Ups.” If you think watching other people’s home movies is entertaining, then you’d be better off sitting at home flipping through old family photo albums instead of watching five long-past-their-prime supposed comics humiliate themselves and everyone in their immediate vicinity while making as many insensitive and racist “jokes” as possible.

A few surprises were brought to the fold over the last few weeks. With the update of the '80s “The A-Team,” adults finally get an over-the-top action film kicked up a few notches with a spry cast, a hilarious script, and the surest direction seen from Joe Carnahan in years. While it hasn’t caught on to become the blockbuster it deserves to be, neither is the other adult friendly action/comedy, “Knight and Day.” While Tom Cruise has been continually bashed since he stomped on Oprah’s couch, I’ve never let an actor’s personal life get in the way of enjoying them cinematically. James Mangold directs sophomore writer Patrick O’Neill’s hilarious script for a film that never tries to be more than a nice mixture of “North by Northwest” and Cruise’s own “Mission: Impossible” films. Meanwhile, Cruise and Cameron Diaz have never been so enjoyable. These are the two deserving crowd pleasers that most have missed out on but with a few days off, now’s your chance to catch up on something more than tween eye candy or overgrown adolescence gone wild.

Just in case you haven’t seen them yet, there are two surefire summer smashes still on screens. First there’s the surprisingly faithful “The Karate Kid” remake which distances itself enough from the original while still finding ways to keep things the same and giving Jackie Chan a great opportunity to finally show us he’s still the superstar he always has been. Oh, and props also have to be given to little Jaden Smith for bringing his purebred A-game to the proceedings and showing he has the chops to carry a 2 ½ hour film on his own while only being 12 years old!

Secondly, and honestly the best film of the summer, if not the year, there is of course “Toy Story 3.” Pixar keeps smashing them out of the park when everything’s riding against them. Just when you thought trilogies were a product of diminishing returns, who else could revive faith in the subject? With it being Pixar I never had my doubts, but after 11 years, who didn’t have at least some slight trepidation that the production team juggernauts might finally produce a spectacular flop? While it’s so far pulling in enormous numbers at the box office, if you’re going to see only one film this weekend, it should be this. No other movie offers the kind of high adventure and hilarious hijinks while still finding time to make grown men cry.

Finally, a few other things… Obviously, the first recommendation would have to be “Iron Man 2,” but you should also “Get Him to the Greek,” consider “Letters to Juliet,” seek out “MacGruber,” and lastly, “Shrek Forever After” is nowhere near as bad as “Shrek the Third” but why see that when there’s “Toy Story 3?”

Now, make sure you never “Splice” or slip into “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and, as always, never ever witness the abomination that is “Jonah Hex.” Follow these tips and your weekend of fun in the sun could make beating the heat a thing of pleasure and not full of turmoil. Just remember to be responsible, wear sunscreen but mostly, have fun and enjoy!

Article first published as 2010 Summer Movie Round-Up: 4th of July Weekend Guide on Blogcritics.