5.31.2012

Can You Believe It?


Ahh Hollywood, why do I even bother? Once again, I have to revise my damn list because some stupid jag-off executives in tinsel town decided that they'd rather have some movies come out next year because of "production delays" and the "Needs More Channing Tatum" excuse. C'mon, this is the time of year when I don't need this kind of crap. I will go Betty White on somebody if this happens again!

I think one of the movies on my list (Gravity) got delayed a while ago, but nobody bothered to tell me. Doesn't Hollywood know I like pimping out their stuff for absolutely zero dollars? At least let me in on the loop, guys! And then the thinly veiled excuse of 3D conversion for the new G.I. Joe movie (although it was really only a runner-up on my list, but nevertheless it was on my list) was really just an excuse to put more Channing Tatum in the movie because they kill him off in the beginning. I'm pretty sure the studio really just wanted to get rid of people's memory of the first G.I. Joe. It's almost as if the studio was embarrassed by that movie....hmmm.

So I respectfully offer up two more movies that I know for a fact are coming out this year because I've seen trailers and I believe in the power of the internet.


54. Safety Not Guaranteed
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Release Date: June 28
Yes this looks like a real hipster-produced, Noah Baumbach-esque depressing plot about weird and quirky people but hear me out! First - Aubrey Plaza, who is (let me take a phrase from the trailer) crushing it as April on Parks & Rec - one of best TV shows out there. And Second - Jake Johnson is also crushing it as Nick on New Girl - the best new TV show out there. Just go to Hulu and watch one episode and tell me you don't fall in love with that dude. He's so great. Aside from the cast I'm just really intrigued by the plot - I really hope it doesn't take a weird, depressing turn for the worst in the middle of the movie. I can only hope the movie, much like the trailer, is heartwarming and optimistic. It's pretty much the debut feature-length movie for both the director and writer, so who knows? I'm pretty excited for this movie despite some of it's hipster-indie attributes.


46. Magic Mike
Starring: Channing Tatum, Riley Keough, Matthew McConaughey
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Release Date: June 29
2012 is officially the year of the Tatum. He would have had 5 movies come out this year if not for G.I. Joe getting pushed back. So yes, I'm replacing a Tatum movie with another Tatum movie. But hear me out (I feel like I really have to defend my two replacement picks for some strange reason...) - this movie just looks like it's going to be a fun date movie. Or at least an interesting romantic comedy with a gender role twist! Plus Soderbergh is directing and although he can be a mixed bag, I'm confident he's found the right way to tell this story. To top it all off, the movie is somewhat autobiographical in that it's partly based off of Tatum's life as a stripper in Florida. I know all the ladies will be attending solely for the purpose of Tatum's hot bod, but I may just be a little more intrigued as to everything else going on in the movie. Although I really can't get around the fact that Magic Mike wants to be a custom furniture designer - how left field is that? I'd rather it be the stereotypical aspiring lawyer or doctor role than some weird ass hipster occupation. If anything it looks like it will be a fun distraction.


Most Anticipated: Men in Black 3

22. Men in Black III (PG-13) - Runtime: 106 minutes
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

10 years after the abysmal Men in Black II, the third installment seemed like a risky venture. Not only did the first sequel leave a bitter taste in everyone's mouth about the franchise, but Will Smith has been dormant/hibernating for the past three years after the also god-awful Seven Pounds which broke his record of 8 straight $100 million movies. To say this was a bit of a risk for the studio, that's an understatement. But color me impressed when the first trailer landed - I loved the idea of time travel and of course Josh Brolin does a damn fine impression of Tommy Lee Jones. In fact, can we make a U.S. Marshals/The Fugitive prequel just focusing on Jones' character played by Brolin? I'd see that in a heartbeat. And despite a few minor annoyances, I really, really dug this movie!

The film starts out with a prison breakout - one of the most dangerous aliens in the universe escapes from his prison (on the moon, no less!) and vows to go back in time to kill off Agent K (Jones). Of course it's up to Agent J (Smith) to save the day by also doing the time travel dance a day early before K gets killed. Despite the time travel, the story isn't messy at all. In fact, as long as you can get behind the idea of time travel and not worry about the details, you'll do just fine during this movie. Any movie that deals with time travel is inevitably going to be scrutinized about every little detail, but that's not really the point of the movie.

In fact, the comedy and weird aliens take center stage (well, maybe not so much the weird aliens this time around) and it's a very fast-paced plot. I really did enjoy the two main aliens the agents encounter - Boris (the Animal) and Griffin. First, let's talk about Boris - I was completely blown away by how evil and just plain badass Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) played this character. They made him absolutely gross and vile and I loved his bellowing, baritone voice. He could destroy the world and you would believe it.

And then there's Griffin (played by the wonderful Michael Stuhlbarg from A Serious Man), who is pretty much the complete opposite of Boris (the Animal). He has the ability to see almost an infinitesimal amount of outcomes in the universe and he's a very amusing and humbling presence in the movie. Every time he spoke it was words of wisdom and the way they're delivered was pitch perfect - I really thought he was the best part of the movie.

Of course Brolin is impeccable too and I enjoyed every bit of his performance. Will Smith's schtick got pretty old after a while, but thankfully the movie doesn't focus too much on his comedy to carry the movie. Although there's a tastefully done black man in a car racism joke that's quite funny and I giggled. And I thought Brolin and Smith worked well together, just as much as Jones and Smith.

There were a few dumb plot points and the end reveal/twist was a tad too fake and illogical for me to take it too seriously. But this is a Men in Black movie, not We Need to Talk About Kevin. So it's minor quibbles to what is a solid summer blockbuster movie. It's a quick and fast-paced movie with plenty of laughs and a great showcase for some solid characters and acting (surprise!). So I highly recommend this one if you enjoyed either of the MiB movies before.

Rating: See It!

5.30.2012

Most Anticipated: Battleship

35. Battleship (PG-13) - Runtime: 131 minutes
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker
Director: Peter Berg

I am freely admitting I really, really enjoyed Battleship. This movie has taken a beating with critics and moviegoers alike even before the movie was released! "This is why Hollywood sucks - they think they can take a board game and make it into a movie! What assclowns!" But these are the same people who will praise Pirates of the Caribbean - a movie based on theme park ride. Of course this movie isn't going to be the greatest, nor does it claim to be. What it says it will deliver - a lot of action - it does. And boy, it's pretty exciting and fun!

Now the movie starts off pretty lame - I was really expecting the worst and I got it for the first 15-20 minutes. I mean, you don't even get to see them on a ship until after the opening exposition (there is A LOT of exposition). There's even a really corny and Top Gun-esque soccer match that doesn't live up to the excitement the movie wanted you to feel (and it doesn't even have underlying homo-eroticism!). Seriously, if this is supposed to be about AMERICA'S NAVY fighting off hordes of alien invaders, then why the hell would us Americans want to watch the sissy man's sport of soccer?!? C'mon Hasbro, think! I'd rather them be playing lacrosse or water polo than this boring sport.

So yeah, the movie started off a bit rocky, but once the alien scouting ships (and that's what they are - the whole point is that the aliens are checking to see if Earth is prime for some plunderin') land and lock all of Hawaii into their special high seas Terrordome. Shit gets real, real quick. And it's up to Taylor Kitsch to save the day and not only become a hero, but become the man he was meant to be and live up to his potential. I'm not gonna lie - I love Kitsch. He could do 10 or so really, really bad movies and I still would forgive him. That's the power of Tim Riggins, folks. Clear eyes, full heart, can't lose.

So yeah there's a lot of action and it's actually really fun - the movie builds up to the be-all end-all of Battleship sequences. They pretty cleverly add elements of the board game into the actual scene. At one point, both the American and alien warships can't see each other (due to some hokey fluke in the radar and other stuff - does it really matter?) and so they have to try to take out the ships by guessing where they're going to land on a grid (get it? like the game!). It sounds super lame, but it was only slightly lame and actually this is where I think the movie is totally winking at the camera. They know they're being super lame, but you know what? Whatever, man. That's the attitude this movie has and I appreciated them for their honesty.

The film is already considered a big flop (although worldwide it's probably going to make $300 million, which isn't terrible, but not so great either) and I feel like people really never gave the movie a chance. I want to remind everyone that Michael Bay had nothing to do with this movie and so it's actually a really good Michael Bay action blockbuster without all that awful Michael Bay stuff getting in the way! Seriously, the movie is worth seeing - whether on the big screen or at home - it's a big, dumb action movie that knows it's a big, dumb action movie.

Rating: See It!

Most Anticipated: The Woman in Black

59. The Woman in Black (PG-13) - Runtime: 95 minutes
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds
Director: James Watkins

I'm not a horror movie fan, but I can stomach really good horror movies that aren't just cheap scares or too corny. I will admit the movie looked a bit corny - but this movie is in my wheelhouse. I'm all about Gothic novels set in 19th century England (Jane Eyre, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk) and this movie looked decent enough for me to check out. Unfortunately, the movie didn't really live up to my expectations of what I expect with the Gothic genre (well, at least what I know about Gothic novels). Maggie even decided to sit down with me to watch it (which was surprising given that the last time she sat down with me to watch a horror movie I think we both had terrible, awful nightmares. Nightmares about how awful and disgusting Silent Hill was. Seriously, that movie was just plain gross and not at all scary - it's like the filmmakers decided to throw all their demented ideas on a wall and even if it didn't stick, they put it in the film. So so so terrible.) and I think she and I agree this movie was really not worth our time.


Daniel Radcliffe plays a young widowed lawyer who has to go to a small village to settle an estate - the Eel Marsh House. As soon as he arrives there's much more sinister happenings afoot and he becomes obsessed with finding out the truth of the secrets the townsfolk are hiding. It's a fairly typical ghost story - there's a tall tale from the village that when one see the Woman in Black, kids start dying. And that's exactly what happens. It's actually really creepy when they do show glimpses of the woman, but aside from that, the movie is pretty light on actual scares.


Aside from all the creepiness, the movie is just plain dull and slow. It takes what seems like forever to find out what really happened at the Eel Marsh House and by then you just want things to conclude. I personally found the story to be awfully intolerable - I hate it when there's really no Scooby-Doo like ending where you find out it wasn't really anything supernatural. Or better yet, when the movie leaves you wondering just what was real and what was really just deliriousness or manifestations of the main character going crazy. No, instead (SPOILER ALERT) you're forced to believe that yes, there is a Woman in Black who is a real ghost and that when the kids see her they follow her to their death. It's just such a boring and drab way to end the movie. (END of SPOILERS).


I will give credit to the movie - it does create a great atmosphere. The Eel Marsh House is suitably mysterious and scary and their are moments when the tension is very thick. Although the movie has a bit of a creepy toy fetish - like old-timey wind-up, monkey toy fetish. They incessantly bang you over the head with this idea of lost innocence it becomes quite annoying rather than engaging. And the dull plot gets in the way of any real terror and dread that the film establishes. This movie had a lot of potential - it could have been more psychologically disturbing, but instead it's just another ho-hum ghost story.


So, no this movie isn't going to scare you, nor is it that entertaining. You're better off reading one of the many great Gothic novels because at least those have some better scares and quite a bit more intrigue.


Rating: Not Worth Paying For!
 

Most Anticipated: The Grey

58. The Grey (R) - Runtime: 117 minutes
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney
Director: Joe Carnahan

Although technically not part of my 50 most anticipated movies this year, The Grey did take a spot in the runners-up circle when the trailer debuted. Of course I wanted to see Neeson kicking some wolf ass, who doesn't? But at the same time, really? The whole movie is them just trying to survive? How is this going to work for almost two hours? Thankfully the movie isn't boring - it's basically a tale of survival (Remember Hatchet? That young adult book where the kid survives a plane crash and only has his hatchet to survive the Canadian wilderness. I kept thinking about that book when I saw this movie. Nowadays you'd be lucky to get a Swiss Army Knife on board a plane, especially one that's heading to Canada - those anti-violence peaceniks.). It's also like a horror film - one by one the survivors slowly get picked off and chewed up by the wolves.

The movie does start off fairly slow but once the plane crashes and they have to trudge through the Alaskan wilderness - this is when the movie shines. There's a great amount of tension and truly scary moments when you can see the wolves surrounding their camp. Joe Carnahan does a great job invoking not only the wild nature of the woods but also the menace of the wolves and they are a character themselves - plodding along in the background, waiting for the right time to strike.

But the movie isn't all about this tale of survival - there's also a great deal of personal stories from the men who are trying to survive. Obviously Liam Neeson's character is the main focal point, but each guy gets his due. There's a great reveal near the end that makes you go "Aha!" and a lot of Neeson's actions suddenly make sense. It's a really good story about man who hasn't found closure in his life and one could find his trek through the wilderness as an allegory for the afterlife.

No joke - this is a profoundly deeper movie than the trailer would let you to believe. I've had many customers who were upset and baffled at the ending of the movie - but in my opinion that's the best part. SPOILER ALERT - the movie ends with the last shot in the trailer of Neeson getting ready to fight the wolf with his fists covered in broken bottles. And it cuts away before you get a chance to actually see the fight - leaving things ambiguous as to who wins (even the after credits scene is vague). But honestly, I love that it left it off there - you get to decide what the outcome is and I really can't imagine the fight scene living up to what I've imagined in my head. END OF SPOILERS.

So yeah, if you dig horror movies or tales of survival, you'll definitely dig this one. But it's not just a cheap suspenseful movie - there's plenty of layers to peal back and examine. It's a heavy movie, no doubt and one that you can't just watch in the background! I highly recommend checking this one out!

Rating: Rent It!

5.29.2012

Most Anticipated: Dark Shadows

36. Dark Shadows (PG-13) Runtime: 113 minutes
Starring: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Tim Burton

I haven't really been a huge fan of the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp team since Sleepy Hollow. I can't remember when I've actually been excited to see Depp onscreen (the first 3 Pirates movies? Yes, I'm the loser who loved all three of those movies). So color me surprised when I actually was excited to see this movie when the trailer first arrived. Doubly so because Maggie said it looked really good for which I did a Scooby-Doo double take. Honestly, I really didn't think Maggie would go for this kind of movie, but the marketing team did a good job selling the movie. Kudos, Mr. Marketer! And you know what? The movie was actually pretty good - it was a fun Friday night movie!

I'm really not that familiar with the old TV show the movie is based on - but that didn't matter much because the movie stands on its own. Barnabas Collins (Depp) gets cursed by a love-scorned woman who just so happens to be a witch. He's turned into a vampire (mind you this is the 18th century) and eventually buried alive. Jump to the 70s and he comes back into the world when his coffin is found by a construction team. Of course, the witch is still around and controls most of the fishing empire Barnabas' family once ruled. She's a big fish in a small pond and his re-arrival stirs the pot. It's a fish-out-of-water tale that actually works really well with the theme of vampires and ghosts and witches.

I really didn't know how funny the movie would be but I was once again surprised at how much I laughed during the movie. Much of it's due to Depp's wistful performance as Baranabas. He's just goofy enough to charm the audience, but also can be quite deadly. I was also very surprised at the sex in the movie. I'm not a prude but I really wasn't expecting the movie to go there so much (there's one scene in particular with Helena Bonham Carter that made my jaw drop). It's not scandalous, but for a PG-13 movie it kind of was. Man, I'm starting to sound like a miffed old lady who writes reviews on IMDb about the immorality of Hollywood. Whatever, it's how I reacted! Deal with it universe.

There's a surprisingly good cast too. Pfeiffer is really starting to age (did you see New Year's Eve? Ugghh, could they have fugged her up more? No, no they could not), but she's really good at playing the matriarch of the present day Collins' family. Then there's the aforementioned Bonham Carter who plays the horny psychiatrist who is trying to help the deeply disturbed David Collins, the youngest of the family. Chloe Grace Moretz is also great as the rebellious teen and even Jackie Earle Haley plays the affable groundskeeper of the Collins estate. There's a surprise cameo by Christopher Lee which should have gotten more screen time, but I digress. They all have great chemistry with each other and you do find yourself rooting for the Collins family, not just Barnabas by the end of the movie.

I really did enjoy this movie a lot and the ending sets up a sequel which we'll probably never see, but one can only hope!

Rating: See It!


Most Anticipated: Haywire

32. Haywire (R) Runtime: 93 minutes
Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender
Director: Steven Soderbergh

Ahhh, Soderbergh, you are a man I can never quite pin down. He's frustratingly boring at times (Girlfriend Experience, The Good German) and completely enthralling the next (The Informant!, Ocean's Eleven). Going into one of Soderbergh's affairs, you're never quite sure what you're going to get. Thankfully, Haywire is one of his best works to date and even competes with the Bourne movies for most realistic and bone-crushingly (literally!) good spy action.

The plot is pretty cut and dry (although most spy movies are - it's all about the double-cross, my friends). Carano - a very exceptional MMA fighter making her leading role debut - plays Mallory, a spy/mercenary who has been double crossed for reasons unknown at the beginning of the movie. She tells the events of the movie to a kid who helped her escape the evil clutches of Channing Tatum (a very underrated actor, might I add) and we float between the present and past quite annoyingly - just let us follow it from the beginning! But the plot really isn't why you're watching this movie - it's to see a very well-endowed lady kick some grade-A actors' butts! And quite honestly, it's pretty amazing.

I really fell in love with this movie because each scene is set up so beautifully. It's a very quiet and sometimes slow movie - but the movie is better off because of it. There's no explosions or epic music playing to get in the way of the real, nitty gritty action. It all seems very authentic and Carano does a great job at playing the badass. In fact, her fight scenes between Fassbender and McGregor were like getting punched in the stomach - you could almost feel it. I think I yelled "Oh snap!" a couple of times during those scenes!

But the movie isn't just all about the action - there's a lot that can be read into the movie about this strong female making a living in a man's world. I've only seen the movie once, but I bet there's some interesting underlying themes of gender roles and such that you could probably write a decent grad school paper on. So if you're looking to be intellectually stimulated, the movie has that going for all you bookworms.

As far as I'm concerned Carano can hold her own against some awesome actors. She's not going to win any Oscars, but she can certainly act. And I'm pretty sure she does most of her own stunts, so I can't wait to see what other movie roles she lands. The rest of the cast is pretty much a who's who of A-list actors - Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, and Bill Paxton plays her dad! Woah!

So if you're a fan of the Bourne movies or just looking for something stimulating for your brain that won't bore you to pieces - this one is worth picking up. It's a great action flick that has many layers and is worth checking out at least once!

Rating: Rent It!

Most Anticipated: Contraband

37. Contraband (R) Runtime: 109 minutes
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale
Director: Baltasar Kormákur

I really haven't seen a decent crime movie in a while. Not since The Town have I been truly mesmerized by the criminal underworld and have rooted for the bad guy trying to do right. Now I wouldn't say I was completely mesmerized by Wahlberg's Contraband, but I had a really good time despite its shortcomings.


The story involves a smuggler who has already gone clean but gets pulled back into the game when his stupid ass brother-in-law finds himself on the wrong end of a deal gone bad. Ribisi plays the pissed off drug lord/crime boss who comes looking for vengeance on the whole Wahlberg family (including his hot wife played by Beckinsale). Yada yada yada, Wahlberg goes in on a smuggling deal to redeem his family name and truly leave his past behind him. It's a very typical, by-the-books story and the movie does start off very slow. But once the plan hatches for them to go down and smuggle in counterfeit money, that's when the movie starts to gain traction.


I could not have cared less about Wahlberg's family - the movie tries really hard for us to care about them, but honestly, they just seemed like reasons for Wahlberg to smash car windows and make some great quotes with his trademark delivery - "You think you're the only guy with a gun?", "Takes money to make money." and "Say hello to your mother for me!" Okay, I made that last one up, but it really would have fit well into the movie if he delivered that line when he was threatening Ribisi.


Now the best part of these movies are the actual planning and execution of the heist and Contraband does this well. There's enough tension and suspense where you don't even know if they're going to pull off the heist. In fact, there's a crazy ass and completely unexpected car chase/shootout in the middle of the movie that seemed at the time really annoying, but looking back it made for some intense action. Wahlberg's family has such a throwaway side plot which could have been dumped from the movie. That whole family mess extended the movie past its prime. Plus, like I said earlier, I didn't really care at all what happened to his family. Which is funny because the whole plot revolves around Wahlberg making good on his promise to keep his family safe. Yawn!

All in all, it's a good action/suspense flick that definitely picks up steam after the first twenty minutes but kind of goes off the rails near the end. I just wanted the movie to end! But the movie's worth seeing for sure - the main action and heist is strong enough to carry the rest of the movie's annoyances. Bonus points for the movie poster where it looks like Wahlberg is trying to awkwardly scratch his back!

Rating: Rent It! 

5.09.2012

Most Anticipated: The Avengers

9. The Avengers (PG-13)
Runtime: 142 minutes
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo
Director: Joss Whedon

I was feeling a bit skeptical when the marketing push for this movie began last summer (hell, some would argue it started all the way back in 2008 with Iron Man). The trailers and clips that I saw didn't instill a lot of confidence that this movie could deliver. And although I respect Joss Whedon, I've never really got into any of his creations with the notable exception of Dollhouse (which now that I think about it, I wasn't too found of). But, nevertheless, I was still stoked enough to see how the culmination of half a decade's worth of work and 5 films was going to play out. I mean, there's a reason it was number 9 on my list. And to say the movie went above and beyond my expectations is an understatement - this is by far one of the most thrilling and fun superhero movies to be put on celluloid.

Granted - you have to invest a lot of time in this movie. And I'm not talking about the runtime for this film. I don't think someone who has never seen the previous Marvel films could follow the film and be immensely satisfied. Which is fine - it's still a good movie that stands on its own, but it's bolstered by the five other films that preceded it. I have no doubt that Marvel has a plan already mapped out for the next two installments (of course there's going to be a second and third Avengers - it's inevitable) because of how they stringed together all these movies. Obviously if you stay at the end there's an exciting storyline developing for the comic book fans.

People talk about the action in this movie, but I really want to delve into the best part about this movie - the set up for the Avengers. Part of the big appeal to this movie is how the team is assembled. It's just fun to see these characters you've come to know in one or two movies collude and fight and eventually team up to fight against an alien invasion. When they're all on the helicarrier (yes, it's a helicopter/air carrier that can go literally invisible. Only in America) and discussing how the hell to find the Tesseract (the all important cube of energy that surfaced in Captain America's movie.) that was stolen by Loki, Thor's evil and cunning brother. It's within these scenes that you can see all these big egos clash. It's nice to see that amidst all the explosions and action, the film's heart lies within these scenes.

Not to gloss over the action. In fact, the action never let up. Sometimes action movies can go too far - when the explosions and fighting just seems to repeat itself (Transformers and Michael Bay are notorious for this). But here it seems to be purposeful, there's never a dull moment and just when you think you've gotten bored by a couple of Avengers fighting on the ground, the movie will take you flying around the buildings during a chase scene). I've seen the movie twice and I was still thrilled to see the last forty minutes of the movie again even though I knew how it all went down. It's just so god damn fun to watch.

I'm sure everyone has already rushed out to see the movie (it's already hit the $700 million mark worldwide just within the first 15 days of it's debut. To think I modestly suggested that $500 million would be a good estimate!), but I'll tell you what, this movie is worth a repeat viewing! There's a lot to take in and the movie is just as funny as it is dramatic. There's a lot of humor flying around and it's not all coming from Tony Stark. But if you didn't stay until after the final credits roll, do yourself a favor and go and watch it again - the last scene is a short one, but a goodie.

Rating: See It!

Most Anticipated: The Five-Year Engagement

5. The Five-Year Engagement (R)
Runtime: 124 minutes
Starring: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt
Director: Nicholas Stoller

This was way high on my list - for obvious reasons. I love Jason Segel (who also co-wrote the movie), I love Nicholas Stoller (the man who directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall & Get Him to the Greek) and Emily Blunt is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses. And there's a great supporting cast with Alison Brie and Chris Platt. Plus most of the movie takes place in Ann Arbor, which is geographically close to my home. So I really had high expectations - and while for the most part the movie lived up to those expectations, it wasn't the greatest comedy I've seen this year.

Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed almost every minute of the movie, but there are a few missteps here and there. The film is all about Tom and Violet and starts with the moment they get engaged to the moment they finally wed (not much of a spoiler, what kind of movie would cop out and not have a perfect couple get married?). The in-between is filled with a lot of ups and downs and frankly, it kind of drags a little bit in certain parts. I don't know if they were trying to put some filler in, but there are a few scenes that could have been cut - some moments where we've already seen both characters go through the same problems or arguments. But there are some great comedic scenes with Tom's buddy, Alex (played by the always loveable Chris Pratt) and his hook-up with Violet's sister and eventual shotgun (but oh so beautiful) wedding.

It's hard to not fall in love with Jason Segel when he's on screen. He's such an honest and relatable guy that you feel comfortable whenever his character is expressing himself. I loved how he pretty much went native and became this crazy hunter/gatherer woodsman. It seemed fitting for a man trying to adapt to a whole new environment. But on the same token - it was off-putting to see the movie fall into stereotypes of Michigan. "It's so cold!!! There's woods everywhere so everyone likes to hunt!!" Even though Ann Arbor is probably the most hippie-dippy, liberal place in the state. So I felt a little let down that they went that route with some of the jokes, but that's good ol' Hollywood for ya.

I haven't talked too much about Emily Blunt, but I really did love her in this movie. She's fantastic and I thought she worked really well with Segel - they both seemed real and genuine. There's a scene in the movie where shit got real and they have a serious fight. It was nice to see this because I feel a lot of  romantic comedies shy away from these knock-down, drag-out fights. It made the real conflict of them drifting apart seem that much more real to us as an audience and to the characters.

To sum things up - this one was definitely worth seeing. Sure it dragged in a few parts and I feel like the movie could have been better paced, but there's so much to love here. The jokes are great, the chemistry between Segel and Blunt is cute and there's plenty of romantic comedie troupes hiding behind the R-rated raunchy comedy. It's a sweet and fun movie that's a great date night movie.

Rating: See It!

5.08.2012

Most Anticipated: The Hunger Games

18. The Hunger Games
Runtime: 142 minutes
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Director: Gary Ross

This movie was nowhere on my radar until the first trailer came out last year. I was super intrigued as to what the whole story was and why people were hotly anticipating this movie. I finally caved in and read the first book in January and have since become a fan of the series. So naturally I was stoked for the movie to come out. I think I would have put the movie higher on my list last year had I read the book by then. Despite my high level of anticipation for this movie I was ready to be disappointed but it delivered! It's a solid adaptation of the book and a great movie in and of itself, for that matter.

Everyone knows the story - dystopian future (god I love dystopian future settings - Children of Men, Scanner Darkly, Dark City, the list goes on and on) where a tyrannical nation rules over its subjects and forces representatives from each District in the nation to fight to the death called the Hunger Games. Katniss unexpectedly volunteers herself when her younger sister's name gets called to participate. The first half of the movie is all set up for the actual games and the second half is the actual battle royale between all 24 tributes (as they're called). It's a fun movie - there's a lot to take in because your being introduced to setting and characters, but the movie handles itself well. It's never too complicated or slow - your whisked away immediately into the beginning ceremonies for the Hunger Games after the first fifteen minutes or so and the movie is expertly paced after that.

I can only imagine how hard it would have been to translate the book to film, but they did a wonderful job. The main problem was that the book was all told from the perspective of Katniss but the movie cleverly interpreted all the events almost as a reality show - you get a perspective on what the world's like through the eyes of other characters involved. I especially like the behind-the-scenes with the Games Master and his control room. It gave an explanation to things talked about in the book by Katniss without having an awful narrative or clunky dialogue exposition. In fact, the stuff in the movie actually enhanced my understanding of the book - it's rare that a film can do that.

On top of the finely crafted plot and pace, the acting is exceptional. I'm not surprised at how Jennifer Lawrence performed - she's already an Oscar nominated actress. But I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Josh Hutcherson's performance - it's quite nuanced and he comes into the games with so much naivety while having the burden of trying to portray himself as a strong individual. The rest of the cast - Wes Bentley, Lenny Kravitz, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson - all give terrific performances and I thought they all fit their roles perfectly. Except for Donald Sutherland. I was not overly impressed with him - he didn't seem as threatening or bigger-than-life like I was picturing the president. In fact, he felt more like a malevolent Dumbledore the way they had him dressed up.

I really don't have any qualms with the movie - I loved how it cut back to other Districts rebelling during the Games - it's something that wasn't in the book, but was talked about in the sequel. So it's nice to see they're setting up a lot to happen in the next movie and I cannot wait to see how they pull Catching Fire off with a new director.

Rating: See It!



Most Anticipated: 21 Jump Street

20. 21 Jump Street
Runtime: 109 minutes
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum
Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

This is one of the movies that lived up to the hype. It is, by far, the funniest movie this year - there's so much great stuff to talk about in this movie! I wasn't high on this movie until I saw the red band trailer come out and I couldn't wait to see this and holy hell, it was worth the wait and money!

The plot is simple - two very different cops become buddies and after an arresting debacle, get demoted to 21 Jump Street - an undercover police force. Their mission is to find the supplier of a new synthetic drug going around the local high school. The plot is really just background noise - the real meat of the movie is the jokes and the characters. Tatum and Hill have a really good rapport with each other - it's really fun to see these two very different actors (and characters) become friends and go through some shit together. The character arc for these two guys is actually very well written and surprisingly touching. But in the end, the comedy trumps everything and this movie has it in spades.

I don't even know where to begin - there's so many great jokes and gags. Davey Franco (James Franco's little brother - and cat hater) is great as the main drug dealer and Ice Cube plays the no-nonsense police chief so perfectly. There's a lot of winking and nodding at the camera in this movie - it knows it's not an original Hollywood movie and that it's playing on its nostalgia. The line where Ice Cube is talking about the 21 Jump Street project saying "Since they can't come up with any new ideas, they resurrected this old project from the 80s" is a great example of how the movie knows where it's place is. But those jokes really are funny and work and the movie is much better for it.

The dialogue is great and there's so many great one liners - "Fuck you, Science!" is one of them. This comes during a trip-out scene where it's really funny. Normally those scenes are just an excuse to throw any weird stuff up at the screen and see what works, but this one's really, really good. Plus there's an obvious Johnny Depp cameo which I won't spoil, but suffice to say it's the best and funniest cameo in a movie since Bill Murray's untimely demise in Zombieland.

The ending action sequence gets a little tired and I'm really not a huge fan of Rob Riggle and his character in the movie. That was truly the only off-putting part of the movie - I was ready to wrap things up and the car chase scene at the end was not very good. But that's a minor annoyance when compared to the awesomeness this movie has to offer.

All in all, this movie is great - great characters, decent plot and hilarious jokes. It's highly quotable and just really fun to watch. Like twenty times. Even if you're not a fan of Hill, this movie is beyond that - it's just a great action/comedy movie that is near-perfect in its execution.

Rating: See It!

Most Anticipated: Wanderlust

19. Wanderlust (R)
Runtime: 98 minutes
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd
Director: David Wain

Here's a movie I've been waiting for since 2010! It was on my most anticipated list for 2011, but the movie got pushed back 4 months into this year. That doesn't bode well for movies and while I can say I truly enjoyed this movie, it doesn't stand out more than any other R-rated comedies I've seen in the past year or two. Maybe it was because of my high expectations - this movie is directed by David Wain, the main force behind Wet Hot American Summer, my favorite comedy of all-time. So I may have been building up this movie in my mind for too long and even though it's good, it's not great.

The gist of the movie is that Paul Rudd loses his super chic NYC job and Jennifer Aniston can't seem to find a career worth holding onto (her latest career - documentary filmmaker - is an utter failure) so they decide to movie to Atlanta and live with his brother. But when that doesn't turn out so great, they decide to try out this hippie commune. Hijinks and hilarity ensue, etc. It's honestly not that great of a plot, but the characters and gags are what really shine in this movie.

I think Rudd and Aniston are good together and they have their moments (especially Rudd - there's a hysterical scene of him psyching himself up in the mirror that had me in tears, literally), and the rest of the cast - Malin Akerman, Justin Theroux, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio and Alan Alda - are so funny. There's some great running jokes - the one about the nudist wine maker and novelist pays off in the end quite tremendously - and they don't come across as caricatures of far out hippies (well, maybe some) but it's a genuine effort and you do get attached to some of the people.

The only really annoying part of the movie was the forced conflict that seems to be shoehorned in so you're forced to care what happens to the commune. Evidently a huge corporation is trying to take the land from the hippies, but they rightfully own it but can't prove it. It's a distraction from the really important stuff like the jokes, so I felt a bit annoyed. They could have removed this entire plot line and I still would have enjoyed the movie and cared for the characters just as much. But it's a minor quibble when there is such and abundance of fun to be had with this movie.

There were times when I didn't laugh at some of the jokes and other times where I was truly hurting from all the laughing. So it's a mixed bag with this one, but I would at least give it a shot - it's most definitely worth renting, if only for that one scene with Paul Rudd in the mirror. Trust me, it's hilarious.

Rating: Rent It!