Opening this week: Easy A, Alpha and Omega, The Town, Devil, and Jack Goes Boating, which is a pretty impressive showing now that we’re out of summer blockbuster season. We’ve actually got choice! Remember choice? Choice was good.
Yay! I’ve been waiting for Easy A to come out for ages. The rom coms for adults have been taking a nose dive in quality as everyone moves into turbo storytelling mode, but some of the teen romances have been intelligent and funny enough to make up for it. This looks like one that is. I like Emma Stone, her parents seem funny, and the premise isn’t one I’ve seen a million times before. And best of all, the trailer only gives you enough to get you interested. I genuinely don’t care that all the supposed teenagers are in their mid twenties. At least they’ve all been around long enough to learn how to act.
ALPHA AND OMEGA
Why are female lead characters, animated or not, always named Kate? Did every screenwriter in Hollywood accidentally buy similarly mutilated baby name books? Ones that only list “Jack” and “John” in the male section and “Kate” and “Claire” in the female section? Alpha and Omega looks utterly generic in all other respects, too. Standard road trip scenario with all the usual obstacles. Dominant female, goofy male, these are the new gender stereotypes. I know it’s only a kids’ movie, but is it too much to ask for a little depth in the characterization? Anyway it’s bland and harmless enough to take your kids to if they’ve already seen Nanny McPhee Returns. If you really want to see a cool kids’ movie, though, wait a week and take them to Legend of the Guardians.
When I was in film school, a classmate of mine wrote a 5 minute short about a couple falling in love while trapped in an elevator. Devil is the horror story version of that, but stretched out so much there’s nothing to it anymore. 2 hours of people being trapped in an elevator with a monster? What a dumb idea. In reality that situation would be over in about 2.5 seconds. People dead, the end. It’s even worse than a whole movie revolving around being trapped in a phone booth or on a ski lift. I can’t believe this movie actually got made, and that M. Night Shyamalan, the director who did The Sixth Sense, would allow his name to be associated with it. Oh how far the mighty have fallen. I think it would be more interesting to actually be trapped in an elevator for two hours than to see this film.
Ben Affleck may be Captain Generic when he’s acting, but as a writer/director he’s made some pretty interesting movies. I was really impressed by Gone Baby Gone and I thought his brother Casey did a great job acting in it. It remains to be seen how things will turn out when he’s directing, writing, AND acting. Will he sabotage himself? I look at the trailer and I really can’t tell, but I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. The story looks good and Affleck’s given himself the sort of gritty role he doesn’t usually get from other directors (i.e. the kind that Jeremy Renner always gets). So I guess we’ll see.
JACK GOES BOATING
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a fabulous actor, but what is up with his hair in this movie? It looks like he found a set of bleached blond extensions in a dumpster and glued them to his head. Jack Goes Boating exactly the kind of awkward, boring relationship drama that doesn’t appeal to me. Talky talky blah blah argument bittersweet parting. I’m not surprised it’s based on a play. Go see it if you’re an indie drama fan or if you’re an awkward person who likes to occasionally reaffirm that there are even more awkward people in the world than you, but escapism this is not, so the normal moviegoing public (i.e. you and me) will likely not be impressed.
Opening this weekend: The American (starring George Clooney), Going the Distance (featuring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long), Robert Rodriguez’s newest violence fest Machete, and a documentary about Hugh Hefner.
GOING THE DISTANCE
With romantic comedies, you can usually tell whether they’re going to be half-assed turbo rush jobs just from watching the trailer. Turbo romantic comedy trailers will be a) unfunny b) clichéd and c) give away the whole movie. The trailer for Going the Distance is none of these things, so I have high hopes for it. Justin Long seems funny, the premise is different, and they’re reasonably cute together. But because of the distance they’re going to be spending a lot of time on the phone. The movie will have to be REALLY funny to make a series of telephone conversations worth watching, especially considering how incredibly awkward and boring most people are on the phone.
Oh, a contract killer trying to get out of the business – how original. Oh, a main character named Jack in an action/thriller – that’s never been done before. Oh, a secret agenty type falls in love with a lady but can’t tell her his secret – what a different complication! Oh, it looks like his employers are betraying him – what an original twist! Seriously, does this movie have any original ideas at all? Are we supposed to be automatically interested in seeing it because it stars George Clooney? Well too bad, I was never a George Clooney fan. Nice try, “award winning director Anton Corbjin,” but maybe next time.
“Like nothing you have ever seen…” I assume they’re talking about the level of violence, because as far as premise goes it’s been done about a hundred times. Oh no! A very violent man has been crossed! His family has been killed! Watch out for The Punisher/Jonah Hex/Machete! Steven Segal is in this movie, so you know it’s just going to be one of those meathead actionstravaganzas. Sorry Robert Rodriguez, but I’m not interested. I prefer my action movies to have a bit of intelligence to them. Obviously it’s meant to be ironic, but still. Machete himself seems about as relatable as a rabid pit bull, so I’ll be skipping it.
HUGH HEFNER: PLAYBOY, ACTIVIST, REBEL
Now, that’s interesting. I never thought of Hugh Hefner as anything other than a weird old perv, but apparently he’s done all sorts of things for free speech and civil rights. I’d be interested in seeing this documentary just to find out more about all that. Of course, in the theaters it’d cost about $12 to see, and I don’t think I’m THAT interested. I’d totally tune in if it was on TV, I’d rent it for a few dollars, and I’d go on super cheap night, but paying full theater prices for a documentary is out of the question for me. Maybe someday when I’m rich and famous (hah!)
The Backup Plan is a romantic comedy about a woman (Jennifer Lopez) who meets a guy (Alex O’Laughlin) just after she gets inseminated. Hijinks ensue (naturally), people slip on placentas, and there are plenty of jokes about how pregnancy makes you fat. In other words, it’s a highly intelligent and sympathetic look at a very real issue and… I’m sorry, I can’t continue with that sentence, even sarcastically. The Backup Plan is a shallow turbo romantic comedy that stampedes toward resolution like a fright train to weddingtown. Rent it if you like that sort of thing (or if you have a crush on Alex O’Laughlin) but otherwise I wouldn’t bother.
Dorian Gray is a period horror movie about a really hot guy (Ben Barnes) who’s cursed to stay really hot forever (Some curse, eh? L’Oreal has been trying to develop a cream form of it for ages) and his mentor/guy he wants revenge on (Colin Firth). I haven’t seen it. It was one of the ones that slipped through the cracks. It looks good, though. Romance, scaryness, and it’s British so we can pretty much assume everything was well done. Rent it. I am.
George A. Romero is one of those guys that just never stops (kind of like a zombie!). Survival of the Dead is the latest installment of his “of the Dead” series. It’s about a bunch of guys (Alan Van Sprang, Devin Bostick) who try to find refuge on a supposedly zombie-free island and find (surprise!) zombies. The island is supposedly off the coast of Delaware, but I guess it’s REALLY off the coast, because the bit players are all Irish. They’ve gone back to shambling, funny zombies from their brief foray into running, scary zombies, and have also gone back to the fakey looking blood splatter graphics. Rent it if you wish it was still the 1980s.
The Bad Mother’s Handbook has actually been around for a few years, but they’re only now releasing it in North America because Robert Pattinson is popular. Despite the fact that he’s front and center on the box, he’s not the star of the movie. The Bad Mother’s Handbook is about a teenager (Holly Grainger) who gets pregnant and ends up with a closer relationship to her crappy mom (Catherine Tate) because of it. Robert Pattinson plays the boy who helps her while her mom’s still being a twat. It’s funny and heartwarming – I really like it. And Robert Pattinson does actual acting in it (who knew he was capable?). Rent it even if you’re not a Twihard.
I was undecided as to whether I should see The Switch or Nanny McPhee Returns this week (since we aren’t getting Get Low), but then another grown-up decided to go with me and my decision kind of made itself. You can’t drag real grown-ups to movies where little kids fall in the mud chasing after pigs. It just isn’t done. So we went to see The Switch instead. If you haven’t seen the previews, the basic premise is this:
A guy gets majorly drunk at his best friend’s insemination party and switches his juice for her donor’s, then when she moves back to town seven years later he has to figure out how to tell her.
It’s set up (in the trailers, anyway) as a romantic comedy, but don’t go to it expecting a repeat of The Backup Plan. There are no hijinks. No one falls in the mud, get hit in the crotch, or slips on a placenta. The Switch gives the audience more credit than that. In return, here is the credit that I will give The Switch: it’s pretty good.
This week was my friend Angella’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Angella!) on Tuesday so I allowed myself to be coaxed out to the theaters instead of hiding at home with my DVDs and a copy of the bank statement from my trip to Europe. In our town, Tuesdays are cheap days (only $5.99), so Tuesdays are now also known as The Only Day I Will Go To The Theater (“Tuesday” is shorter). Lucky for me Angella chose to see Letters to Juliet, which was the best option I could have hoped for seeing as how Gunless had already gone and I’d already seen Iron Man 2. (Furry Vengeance…. shudder.)
The blurb for Letters to Juliet, if I got to write it (and I do, at least on THIS website), would go something like this:
A fact checker gets a shot at writing and true love too when she travels to Verona and replies to a fifty year old letter to Juliet, bringing the woman and her handsome grandson down from Britain to reconnect with her old love.
It sounds like an interesting setup, if you like that sort of thing. But would it turn out to be just another lazy Turbo Romantic Comedy, where everything whisks by so fast you barely have time to eat your popcorn?
So, you remember that “recession” thing, right? The one where everyone stopped making so much money and had to cut back on fun stuff? Well, if you’re disappointed I’m not reviewing a theatrical film and looking to lay blame, lay it on the recession. I actually have to PAY for my tickets, remember? Anyway, so today’s film is Love Happens, which was released last year but is not a remake of the film of the same name from ten years ago that you’ve probably never heard of but will come across if you IMDB the title.
THIS Love Happens stars Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston goes something like this: A new relationship with an eccentric florist forces a psychologist who leads seminars in grieving to finally come to terms with his own loss.
Sounds depressing, right? And maybe also a little boring and formulaic? Yeah, it did to me too when I read the blurb, but these two actors have a decent track record for picking movies so I gave it a shot and liked it.
Click here to see why I would call it interesting, hopeful, and only semi-formulaic: Read More
When in the movie theater, you do as other movie theater-goers do: buy a ticket and see a film. I tried to follow the masses, but I was thwarted in my efforts by a little sign hanging above the kiosk that said “Dear John 6:55 SOLD OUT.” It seemed a bit like the theater owner was telling someone named John that something called 6:55 was sold out, it was actually telling me I couldn’t see the movie I wanted.
So I abandoned my sheep-like efforts to be part of the in-crowd and blazed a trail to Rome. Or, more accurately, to theater #1, where When in Rome was playing. I’d seen the trailer and had some hope that despite a dumb sounding setup:
A workaholic who doesn’t believe in the magic of love is forced to re-evaluate her position when she takes coins from the fountain of love and ends up with five magically spellbound suitors, one of whom she’s actually interested in.
…it could turn out to be okay. Was it an improvement on what I originally had planned? I don’t know. That will have to wait until after I’ve seen Dear John. It’s probably not, but it was worth a look.
First let me say that I like romantic comedies (I am a girl, after all). I thought The Ugly Truth was cute and I laughed until my face hurt at It’s Complicated. I own DVD copies of Laws of Attraction and 27 Dresses. I only mention this so you know that you can’t blame my subsequent dismembering of Leap Year on a general disdain for the genre.
For those of you who haven’t seen the trailer, here’s the gist:
Anna, an uptight New York decorator, travels to Ireland to propose to her boyfriend on leap day but finds herself falling for Declan, the random Irish pub owner helping her get to Dublin.
For those of you who have seen the trailer, congratulations. Now you don’t need to pay $11 to see the whole movie.
I say this because the trailer basically shows the entire plot with all the lame jokes, pratfalls, and contrived dialogue taken out. For this reason, seeing it is actually better than seeing the film.