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At the Movies With Jen Chaney

Jen Chaney
Jen Chaney (Unknown - Simon Brubaker/washingtonpost.com)
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Jen Chaney
Movies Editor and DVD Columnist, washingtonpost.com
Friday, March 20, 2009; 12:30 PM

Wondering whether to see "Duplicity" or "I Love You, Man" in theaters this weekend? Or are you curious to know what's on the "Twilight" DVD that releases tonight at midnight? Jen Chaney will discuss those releases and any other movie/DVD issues that may be on your mind during an online discussion on Friday, March 20 at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Chaney oversees movie coverage for washingtonpost.com and writes the Bonus Points DVD column, which appears every Tuesday on washingtonpost.com and each Friday in the Post's Weekend section. Along with her co-hort Liz Kelly, she also obsesses daily about the TV show "Lost."

Read the transcript.


Jen Chaney: Good afternoon, movie people! So much to discuss today.

We can talk "I Love You, Man," which I liked. We can talk "Duplicity," which I didn't like so much. We can talk "Twilight," since the vampire hype machine is in full swing for tonight's DVD release parties.

Or we can talk about a film that people still feel passionately about one way or the other: "Watchmen," otherwise known as that movie starring Malin Akerman's lip gloss, a very cool shape-shifting Rorschach mask and Billy Crudup as the most massive, well-endowed Blue Man Group member of all time.

But let's start with a fun little trivia question: One of this week's new movie releases contains a reference to my favorite TV show, "Lost." Can you guess which one? Whoever guesses first wins ... um ... my undying respect?


Duplicity: Dan Kois really liked this, while the Family Filmgoer calls it "a smug, confusing bore" not worth our time or money. Whom to believe?

Jen Chaney: Let's see if I can make this more complicated for you and say, "Somewhere in between"?

Obviously film is an incredibly subjective medium so all of us is going to come away from a movie with our own take on whether it was good or bad. Personally, I think I'm closer to Jane Horwitz on this one.

I found the film to be a bit of a slog, with the last 30 minutes being the strongest part since that's when all the plot threads finally start to tie together. I didn't think Clive Owen and Julia Roberts had particularly exciting chemistry. At least I didn't much care about whether their characters won in the end. Personally, I would have preferred to watch a movie about Paul Giamatti's and Tom Wilkinson's characters, but maybe that's just testament to what fine actors they are. (Giamatti is particularly jacked-up in a Pig-Vomit-from-"Private Parts" sorta way in this one.)

In short, if you're really curious, see it at a reduced price matinee. I don't think it's worth $10 or $12 or $80 or however much some of these theaters charge these days.


Silver Spring, MD: Hi Jen, you may not have heard, but the Senator Theatre in Baltimore was forced to close it's doors earlier this week, and will go to auction, unless funds can be raised to turn it into a non profit organization, similar to the Avalon Theatre in Chevy Chase DC.

Here's the website - http://thesenatorcommunitytrust.org/default.aspx

For anyone who cares about single screen theatres and enjoys watching movies at the Senator, I urge you to send whatever you can to keep the Senator alive for all of us.

Much thanks, Jen

Jen Chaney: Gosh, I am so sorry to hear this. The Senator is a great, classic theater.

Am putting this out there so other people are aware of the situation. Thanks for letting us know.

In this economy, it's not a surprise to hear about closures like this. But that doesn't make them any less depressing.


Crying Jag--VA: I just found out I'm pregnant, so between the hormones and work stress I'm on the verge of tears. Any recommendations for movies where I can get in a good cry? DVD or in theatres. Love Actually and Sophie's Choice were my go-tos but I think I've seen them too many times for them to be effective.

Jen Chaney: Weirdly, when I was pregnant, I went on laughing jags instead of crying jags. Hormones are cruel, bizarre little buggers, aren't they?

This is a good question in general, though. What are the movies most likely to induce fits of slobbery, snotty sobbing?

One that I haven't seen in a long time that definitely does it for me? "Shadowlands" with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. I remember seeing that in the theater and people were just weeping all around me.

Also on the Debra Winger tip: "Terms of Endearment." And I know I am a total girl, but my eyes leak every time Sally Field does her post-funeral monologue in "Steel Magnolias." They show that movie about 1,000 times per weekend on cable, and it's become an endurance test for me. "I'm going to watch that scene and this time, I bet I won't tear up."

Nope. Never happens.

There are many, many others, but I'll pause and let the readers weigh in, too.


Cabin John MD: I loved Paul Rudd in "Lars and the Real Girl" - one of my favorite movies of all time. Why isn't he given more credit for his work - and why isn't this wonderful movie ever mentioned in the list of work he has been in?

Jen Chaney: Well, one reason it's not mentioned is because Paul Rudd was not in "Lars and the Real Girl." I think you're confusing him with Paul Schneider, who is also a fine actor that I like very much.

And you're right, he doesn't get much attention. He's very funny in "Lars," which is an offbeat and oddly touching little movie well worth seeing on DVD. (Hey, it might even make you cry, especially if you're a pregnant lady!)

Another good Schneider one to see: "All the Real Girls."


Washington, D.C.: I am SO happy "Duplicity" is getting such good reviews. I've been wanting for so long to go to a movie in the theater that isn't melodramatic and depressing, but also isn't so stupid that I leave feeling dirty. (Hello, "Paul Blart"?)

Why are these type of films so few and far between? Will the new Amy Adams/Emily Blunt movie also meet my needs?

Jen Chaney: Well, that is something in its favor. "Duplicity" is definitely intelligent and adult without -- as Dan Kois rightly pointed out -- being excessively violent. So I give it points for that even though I obviously wasn't the hugest fan.

Why are these movies so few and far between? I have a few theories, one of which you alluded to with your reference to "Paul Blart." Hollywood studios want to make movies that make money. And comedies like "Paul Blart" cost very little production-wise and often bring in tons of cash. "Blart" has made more than $138 million so far. Its budget? $26 million. That's a nice profit, isn't it?

So there's that. Also, I think the more sophisticated, adult material doesn't always make the best elevator pitch material. It's hard to explain some of these more complex stories in a sentence or two and that may scare off some studio folks who, rightly or wrongly, think the public needs plots that are super-simple and easy to understand after a 30 second ad.

It's sad because I do think there is an appetite for intelligent, well-crafted films that aren't dour Oscar bait. It just may be harder to get them made.


Good Cry Movie: I watched "The Notebook" when I was pregnant and got a good cry out of it.

Katrina also happened when I was pregnant, and I cried a lot watching the news, but I don't suggest that.

Jen Chaney: No, we shouldn't watch the news to cry. Although that ends up happening half the time anyway.

Agreed on "The Notebook." I wanted to hate that movie because I cannot stand Nicolas Sparks, but I fell in love with its old-fashionedness. And everyone in it -- from Ryan Gosling to James Garner -- was pretty wonderful. I also wept like a newborn at the end. I am so glad I saw it at home and not in theaters because it just would have been embarassing.


Weepiest ever: The House of Sand and Fog. Oh my lordy. Waterworks massively for me AND husband. Plus, just an amazing movie.

Jen Chaney: And with home foreclosures being what they are right now, that's a particularly relevant one to watch. Thanks for the suggestion.


Lost in Suburbia: all Knowing Jen : "Knowing" looks like a blast. Have you sneak previewed it yet ? I am glad to see Nic Cage with a hit !

Jen Chaney: Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. It's not a hit yet.

I didn't get a chance to see "Knowing" because it conflicted with the time I was seeing "I Love You, Man." Michael O'Sullivan reviewed it for Weekend and found the whole thing a bit silly.

The effects look pretty impressive, though. I saw a clip from it last summer at Comic-Con -- the scene with the plane crash -- and thought that bit was well done. But obviously strong effects alone do not a great movie make.


Washington, DC: Hi Jen,

How long will Watchmen be in theaters? I don't want to miss it on the big screen, despite how "terrible" it is.

Also, is there a place online where one can find out how long a movie will be in theaters?

Thank you very much!!

Jen Chaney: You know, I don't know of a place to find out when movie runs end, mainly because it's a pretty tough thing to track. The studios, for obvious reasons, don't set an end date in advance. And some movies may stop running here in D.C. but still be running in other theaters in other parts of the country. But I understand why you ask; it would be nice to have a head's up that this is the last weekend a movie will be around.

I think "Watchmen" still has a few weeks in it since it's still making a decent amount of money. I understand your desire to see it on the big screen. But I have to agree with the pretty terrible assessment it's gotten from others.

And that brings me to our next question...


Crystal Palace, Mars: Ann and whats-his-face, who reviewed "Watchmen" and was clearly biased going in given the extraneous shots at not just the LOTR movies but at Tolkien himself, were wrong. "Watchmen" was a good movie, not a great movie, but a good movie. Remember without the "Watchmen" graphic novel there may not have been the resurgence of more mature themed comics that led to more readers and eventually the movies like "Dark Knight," or perhaps even the earlier Batman with Jack the Joker. As for the violence and gore it was on par with "Saving Private Ryan" and far less than most horror flicks. I don't think it was 'gored up'; and make no mistake this is definetly R subject material. "Watchmen" was also the first to protray a more humanly flawed and detchment view of what people with such abilities would go through. Add on a villan wins a, pyrrhic, victory and the moral question is truth more important than the end result? And you have an interesting story. Having said that "Watchmen's" biggest problem was that it was made about 10 years later than it should've been. The complaint about not relating to the threat of USSR vs. USA nuclear combat is legit. I also agree that the musical score was just plain wrong in about half the spots and too loud in many places as well.

Jen Chaney: Thanks for this incredibly detailed comment. Let me start by agreeing with you, then go from there:

1. I think "Watchmen" is an amazing graphic novel, incredibly influential and, in my opinion, still pretty stunning to read even now. The way it interweaves so many other texts into the narrative -- Hollis's book, the "Black Freighter" comic -- gives it a very multimedia feel. The act of reading "Watchmen" is a cinematic experience in itself, which makes me wonder if it really should never have been filmed, as some people suggest. (At the very least, I would say it should never have been filmed by Zack Snyder.)

2. I also agree that it needed to be made 10 or more years ago. Or the story should have been updated and taken out of the '80s setting. I know that's blasphemy to those who believe the adaptation should follow the comic to the letter and image, but I think it might have liberated the filmmaker to freshen up the story and make it more relevant to what's going on now. It also would have allowed them to remove what has to be the least convincing Richard Nixon ever captured on film. Seriously, I've seen more convincing Nixons hanging as masks on the wall at the Halloween Store.

3. I disagree with you that it's a good movie. It isn't. It's too long. If I hadn't read the graphic novel, I think I would have been really confused on several key plot points. And tonally it's all over the place. I understand why certain songs -- like Bob Dylan and Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" -- were used. Alan Moore refers to them in the text. But somehow, within the context of the film, they didn't quite work. To me, the absolute nadir -- as Ann Hornaday also noted -- was the laughable love scene set to "Hallelujah." I felt embarassed for everyone involved, from the actors to the DP to all of us in the theater watching it. Oy. The best part, for my money, was Jackie Early Haley, who makes a terrific Rorschach.

4. My final point: For an example of a better attempt to adapt an Alan Moore comic, I think folks should check out "V for Vendetta." I thought that was much more compelling, and touches on some similar themes, in half the time it takes to wade through "Watchmen."

5. Oh, one more thing: Whats-his-face is Philip Kennicott, but I understand he will respond to whats-his-face under certain circumstances.


Anonymous: I think somebody moved the island by having Julia Roberts cussing up a storm on Letterman. Was it all an attention getting device or publicity in the Youtube age ?

Jen Chaney: Oh, bless you for using "moved the island." (Those of you who joined the "Lost" chat yesterday know I am trying to turn this into the new catchphrase that will soon be sweeping the nation.)

It was probably a little of both of what you describe. No idea why she told that story -- for those who missed it the other night, she had to be bleeped about 15 times. But clearly it got us talking. Or at least you and I.


Crying movies: My fiance can't watch All the Real Girls without crying. It's so bad that she just watches the first 2/3 and turns it off there because the beginning is so funny and sweet.

Jen Chaney: Another recommendation for "All the Real Girls." I can't turn off movies 2/3 of the way through. I wish I could, but I always feel an obligation to finish.

Well, except for the time I walked out of a free screening of "Encino Man." Made two of my friends leave, too. I think they're better people for it.


Arlington, Va.: Am I blind? Is Sunshine Cleaning not playing anywhere in Arlington or Alexandria? I really want to see it but don't really have the time to metro into DC this weekend.

Jen Chaney: I can't speak to your visual abilities, but I can say that you are right about this. "Sunshine Cleaning" is in three local theaters: Bethesda Row, Gallery Place and Georgetown. This is a constant source of frustration for many, I think. A lot of these smaller films take a long time to roll out to the burbs, or in some cases never get there.

This is way "Paul Blart" makes so much money. The system is rigged!


Silver Spring, MD: Lost reference: Knowing.

Mysterious numbers that predict the end of the world and a plane crash... What more could you ask for? If only the last numbers on the paper were 4815162342...

Jen Chaney: See, this is a solid guess. You're right, the themes in that movie seem very "Lost"-esque.

But that's not what I was referring to. If no one guesses before chat's end, I will reveal the right answer.


crying: Watch Eight Below if you need a good cry. I specifically get that one out just for that reason - and the lead guy is cute.

Jen Chaney: Consider this the first post in a jag of crying-jag ones...

Thanks. Dog movies will get you every time.


Pregnant cries: I'm sympathetic on the hormones! (4mo along). I don't cry in movies. During Ghost I was the only one not weeping. But I cried and cried during Cocoon, The Iron Giant, Always, and Whale Rider. Otherwise good heartwarming movies with excellent "cry break" in between.

Jen Chaney: Well, clearly you cry in some movies. Just not all.

Thanks for these suggestions.


Sure-fire tear-jerker: Beaches. Rent. Titanic. (I know, I know...go ahead and mock!)

Jen Chaney: I can't mock you because I cried twice during "Titanic." I know this makes me a card-carrying dork, but I am not going to lie to you people. Candor is paramount in these chats.

If you go the "Rent" route, please watch the Broadway production of it (which is now on DVD; I reviewed it a few weeks ago) rather than the Chris Columbus movie version. That adaptation didn't do the musical many favors.


Anonymous: Michael J Fox in Doc Hollywood always brings a lump to my throat.

Jen Chaney: Oh, for me it's "Teen Wolf." When he finally realizes how much he loves Boof? I get verklempt just thinking about it.


Tearjerker: I have never cried as much as I did at "Dear Zachary". It's available for instant viewing on Netflix. The less said the better - but it's such a touching movie.

Jen Chaney: Oh, thank you for mentioning this movie! I have heard wonderful things about this documentary and really want to see it. I hope I have a copy somewhere on Mt. DVD. If not, I'll have to rent it.


Washington, D.C.: Me too on the Notebook! I never would have watched it on purpose, but saw it at a friends house and kind of loved it. I would probably not admit this if it wasn't anonymous.

More recently, I loved Rachel Getting Married and The Visitor. Are there any good movies in that vein coming out soon on the big screen or DVD?

Jen Chaney: What, you think we don't know who you really are?

And both "Rachel" and "The Visitor" are great. I cried several times during "Rachel," so that's a good weepy one, too.

There are some "smaller" films (for lack of a better word) like that coming to theaters soon, including "Sugar" and "American Violet." On DVD, more of the Oscar stuff -- including "The Reader," "Revolutionary Road" and "Slumdog Millionaire" -- is coming out in the next few weeks. So keep an eye out for those, too.


Crying Movie...: Here are a few that have got me... Crazy picks... "Sixth Sense": me and every other girl I knew at the time cried at the end. I bawled like a baby.

"Wall-E": I know, silly, but the tenderness of this gets me everytime as Eva tries to get Wall-E working again.

Jen Chaney: Yes on "Sixth Sense"! The scene with Toni Collette and Haley Joel, where he tells her he talked to her mother about her dance recital? Oh man, that floors me every single time. Collette is just brilliant in that scene.

And don't apologize about "Wall-E." Animated films are often as moving or even more moving than live action. Exhibit A: "Bambi."


Tearjerkers: "The Notebook."

The scene in "Dumbo" when he goes to visit his mother.

And an old black and white with cary grant called "Penny Serenade."

Jen Chaney: My mother very recently gave me a VHS copy of "Penny Serenade." I knew of the film, just hadn't seen it (and still haven't -- it's on the list.) But reading the back of the box alone is enough to make a person commit suicide on the spot.

It's tragedy with a capital T.


Vienna, VA: Is someone going to say that Watchmen is the movie that relates to Lost, or am I the first?? Do I have your undying respect (even though I don't watch the show ahem)??

Jen Chaney: And now back to non-weepy questions, already in progress. (I'm running over a little today, since I spent roughly 80 years attempting to type a thoughtful response to previous "Watchmen" question.)

You're not wrong about this. Damon Lindelof, co-creator of "Lost," sees that book as a huge inspiration. But I meant a movie that just released today.

Nevertheless, you still have my respect. If you start watching "Lost," I will tack on the "undying" part.


I Concur with Steel Magnolias: "I can run to Texas and back, but my daughter can't. She never could!" Gets me every time.

Jen Chaney: The part of that speech that gets me is when she says what a gift it was to see her daughter come into the world, then leave it.

Man, I might cry at my desk just thinking about it.

(Sorry for the spoiler for those of you who never saw that movie. But I think it's past the statute of limitations on spoilers anyway, since it came out in the early '90s.)


Alexandria VA: Crying movies = Lassie Come Home, the original

Jen Chaney: I also think I may have cried during "Snoopy Come Home."


Waldorf, MD: Do you anticipate a feeding frenzy for people looking to purchase the Twilight DVD? I'd like to purchase a copy, but I'm concerned that area stores will sell out or be mobbed.

Jen Chaney: Honestly, I doubt you'll have a hard time getting a copy. It will be sold everywhere, and despite all the hype about midnight release parties, I suspect you could show up at your local Best Buy or Target or Hot Topic sometime this weekend and get one without a problem.

That's just my instinct talking, though. If you're concerned, you can always pre-order it today.


Douglas Sirk tearjerker: "Imitation of Life," from 1959. The ending (don't want to give it away). Even though I've seen it 25 times, it gets me everytime, especially the high gloss soapiness Sirk was famous for (great color cinematography, clothes, jewels, Lana Turner looking amazing).

Jen Chaney: Sirk -- another one who does tragedy with a capital T. Good call, thanks for this.


Crying movie: Finding Neverland. I'd literally never cried at a movie until that one. (Honest. The first time I drove a car without one of my parents in it was driving my friend's car home from "Titanic" because she, and the other three in the car, were BAWLING. I was dry-eyed.)

Jen Chaney: It was the scene at the end with Freddie Highmore and Johnny Depp, wasn't it? Highmore is just perfect in that scene. So wanted to hug him.


Baltimore, MD: I would guess that I Love You, Man has the Lost reference--those Judd Apatow-esque films love pop culture...

Jen Chaney: And we have a winner, boys and girls! Yes, "I Love You, Man" contains a "Lost" joke. Even though that movie treads on much the same territory as so many of the Apatow-esque comedies (yes, we know men are arrested adolescents with latent homosexual tendencies, thanks for the tip.), I still found it enormously entertaining.

I've had a raging cold all week and for the hour and 45 minutes or so of that movie, I completely forgot I was sick. This will now serve as my new metric for movie evaluation: Can it momentarily cure an illness? Then it's probably a pretty decent flick.

All right, we've run WAY over. But it's been such a pleasure. Hope you all enjoy something good at the movies or on DVD this weekend. And if you go with one of those weepers, do yourself a favor: place the tissue box in an easy-to-reach location.

Catch you later!



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