Thursday, August 26, 2010

"The Switch" is definitely OFF!

Film: The Switch

Starring: Jason Bateman (Juno, Up in the Air), Jennifer Aniston (The Break Up, Office Space), and Jeff Goldblum (Independence Day)

U.S. Release: 2010 (Rated PG-13)

Director: Josh Gordon (Blades of Glory) and Will Speck

Genre: Comedy

Runtime: 101 minutes

For anyone, when pre-judging a movie, looking at the cast of film can sway your biased opinion one way or the other. After seeing the clever trailer of the latest comedy release, The Switch, I was convinced that with an All-Star lineup of Bateman, Aniston, and Goldblum, how could the movie disappoint? Well as the saying goes, "Never judge a book by its cover". It's a great rule, and one I overlook on a daily basis.

Set presently in New York City, The Switch circles around Wally Mars (Bateman) who is stuck in the "friend zone" with Kassie Larson (Aniston). One day, Kassie confides in Wally her desire to be artificially inseminated and things begin to take a crazy turn. Absolutely against the idea, Wally tries to coerce Kassie into changing her mind, but the middle-aged woman won't bend. When it's time for the big day, a drunken Wally foils the evening. Unable to recall what happens, he forgets that he switched the donor's sample with his own. Soon after, Kassie's pregnancy is under way and she moves to the mid-west in order to raise her son, Sebastian. Seven years later, her and her son return to New York, and Wally begins to see similarities with himself and Sebastian. But how can he explain this bizarre situation to the woman he's always loved?

The idea is intriguing, but the execution and direction is lackluster. Undoubtedly, you'll find yourself laughing occasionally throughout the movie, but there are far too many yawns and glances at the watch. The Switch has a lot of promise, but it falls apart in it's subtle delivery. The acting is mediocre and the chemistry between Bateman and Aniston isn't convincing at all. Finally, the ending was troublesome to me. The movie doesn't show the character's emotional transformation that's necessary to warrant the film's resolve.

All in all, it's tough to dislike a comedy. The Switch was enjoyable, but when you put it up against other top-notch films of its genre, it doesn't stand a chance. So once again, avoid the skyrocketing movie ticket prices and wait for DVD.

Watch The Switch if you enjoyed: Knocked Up. I wasn't particularly a fan of that movie either, but both films have a similar feel and delivery.

Stars: 1 and a half stars out of 4

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Short Reviews By A Short Man: 3 Releases You Need To Read About

I've had the pleasure of getting out to the movies like rapid fire these past few weeks. Not only have I seen many of Summer's most talked about releases, the films have also spanned all sorts of genres, which has given me sort of a cultured feeling. For instance, I finally made it out to see the thought provoking and action-packed blockbuster, Inception, which has EVERYONE talking ... still. Also, I viewed the comedy Dinner For Schmucks and the drama Eat, Pray, Love. So, as you could have guessed, I have lots to talk about.

Since these reviews bring me in a collective income of zero dollars a year, I'm going to have to keep these critiques a little shorter (but a lot sweeter) than normal. Hopefully you won't feel short-changed and you will still get enough input about each movie to determine whether or not you should see it.

Up first is Inception. This abridged review is LONG overdue. I went to see it about a month after its release and the theatre was still somewhat crowded. The movie leaves you with plenty to talk about even after the credits roll (literally). Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (both of whom have been linked to director Christopher Nolan's Riddler role in the next installment of Batman), Inception is a futuristic tale about infiltrating dreams. Leo plays a thief who finagles his way into a person's dream in order to steal valuable information. He's so good at this practice he's even made a career out of it. However, he can't escape his haunted past. Therefore, in order to correct a very important problem, Leo takes on a job that will (hopefully) reconnect him with his family.

Inception is undoubtedly a genius idea and creation. It's well thought out, and even delivered clearly by the director Christopher Nolan. However, some of the gun fighting scenes got a little tacky and began feeling like overkill. You also have to pay close attention and listen to the dialogue religiously, or else you can miss key information. Nolan's a master at connecting every detail of the story together like a puzzle, but you need to make sure you've seen and heard all the pieces. I thought it was a very clever and elegantly directed picture. There were some beautifully filmed sequences (i.e. showing how time elapses at different speeds in the various layers of dreams) and a solid story. If you have the patience and if you haven't seen it yet, go out and experience what's been the year's best movie. 3.5 stars out of 4.

Next up is Dinner For Schmucks. Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd headline this screwball comedy about a group of businessmen who hold an annual dinner where they can get a good laugh at the assortment of guests. Each employee is given the task of bringing to dinner the strangest and most far-fetched person they encounter.

Paul Rudd plays a man who finally struck up enough courage to throw out an innovative idea at his workplace and it ended up being a hit with upper management. But before they hand him the promotion he desperately needs, they want to see how well he handles the dinner and the potential client. Rudd accidentally bumps into a Schmuck (played by Carrell), in the truest sense of the word, and the idiocracy of his "dinner guest to be" starts to tear through Rudd's life like a tornado. Carrell begins souring Rudd's personal and professional life, but Carrell's only chance of redemption and making amends with his new found friend, is to shine at the dinner.

Dinner For Schmucks is by no means a must-see comedy. It had it's fair share of laughs and off the wall humor, but the story was beyond realistic. Zach Galifianakis and Jemaine Clement were too over the top. Carrell and Rudd were both solid, but the film still didn't do anything to warrant a praiseworthy review. It's just a middle of the road comedy, and I suggest waiting for DVD. 1.5 stars out of 4.

Finally, there is the new Julia Roberts drama Eat, Pray, Love. The film revolves around a semi-neurotic woman (Roberts) who finds herself at a point in life where she is married and unhappy, with no recollection of how she got there. Reality hits her harder than ever this one evening, and she does something she's never done before. She prays to god for an answer. Roberts immediately asks her husband for a divorce and tries to cope as a single woman in New York City. Another failed relationship and wasted time force Roberts to take a drastic step. She decides to go on a soul searching quest around the world. She plans on gorging in Italy, Praying in India, and reaching the perfect balance in Bali. However, as life often does, she meets a wonderful man before her quest is complete. She struggles with the choice of jumping into a relationship with him, or achieving this perfect balance she so desperately needs.

Eat, Pray, Love is an interesting drama, but I was slightly disappointed with the lead actress Julia Roberts. This is her film, and although I didn't think she acted poorly in it, she wasn't convincing enough to draw me in to her character. I really wasn't captured by her story and nor did I feel compelled to care if everything would work out for her in the end. The supporting roles played by all 3 of her love interests throughout the film were excellent though. Billy Crudup as the husband she divorces, James Franco as her young fling before her quest, and Javier Bardem as the Brazilian romeo she falls for in Bali. I accept the film for what it's attempting to do, but it was less about love and more about personal revelation. It would have been better off as strictly a romance film. Unless you're a HUGE Roberts fan, I suggest holding off. 1 star out of 4.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Truth About "Charlie": Efron is Fantastic

Film: Charlie St Cloud

Starring: Zac Efron (17 Again, High School Musical), Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, Blow), and Amanda Crew (The Haunting in Connecticut, She's the Man)

U.S. Release: 2010 (rated PG-13)

Director: Burr Steers (17 Again)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 99 minutes

Just last week the reviews started pouring out for Burr Steers and Zac Efron's second collaboration Charlie St Cloud. The general consensus on the film was ... eh, not so good. Most critics described the film as M. Night Shyamalan-esque, and we know the direction that his career is headed. Since I don't have the luxury of seeing a film before its reviews hit the press, I had to do my best to tune out all of the negative critiques I read on the movie. That being said, it was nowhere near as bad the latest crop of Shyamalan films to hit the big screen.

St Cloud takes place in present day New England. Charlie (Efron) is a young, ambitious, and charming man with his future mapped out. His sailing scholarship to Stanford is his ticket to a better life. However, a fatal accident, for which Charlie can't help but feel responsible, ultimately leads to the death of his younger brother, Sam. Unable to cope with the loss, Charlie ditches his scholarship and becomes the local hermit. But Charlie has a deep secret, he can see and hear the spirit of his deceased brother Sam. Both of the siblings refuse to move on from this tragedy, and this posthumous relationship begins to consume Charlie's life.

The difficulty of the film is suspending your belief and allowing yourself to believe Charlie's visions. But once you accept his superhuman ability, Charlie St Cloud is a very moving story. Not only is the flow and storyline of the film adequate, but the acting is stellar as well. Efron has already reached "superstar" status with his teenybopper High School Musical franchise. His first project with St Cloud director Burr Steers was the fun family comedy 17 Again. Despite the film's simplicity, Efron was wonderful in the comedy, and he continued to show his versatility in the duo's latest project. He is only 22 years old, so we should expect many more quality performances from Efron in the future.

All in all, Charlie St Cloud wasn't anything groundbreaking or revolutionary, but in what's obviously been a down year for cinema, the film was a pleasant surprise. I wouldn't recommend the movie to everyone, but to any moviegoer who has a vivid imagination and enjoys a roller coaster ride of emotions, Charlie St Cloud will entertain you.

Watch Charlie St Cloud if you enjoyed: The Sixth Sense. It's less suspenseful than the classic Shyamalan flick, but it's dramatic and clever in its own way.

Stars: 2 out of 4