Monday, August 29, 2011
Film: Our Idiot Brother
Starring: Paul Rudd (I Love You, Man) and Elizabeth Banks (The Next Three Days)
Director: Jesse Peretz (The Ex)
U.S. Release: August 26th, 2011 (Rated R)
Runtime: 90 minutes
Paul Rudd had a short lived experience being on top. With a plethura of knockout supporting performances, Rudd finally broke into a leading role with his awkwardly funny hit I Love You, Man. Since then he's been somewhat in a lull with releases such as Dinner for Schmucks and How Do You Know, both of which were far from successful. Rudd's latest attempt at capturing the audience's heart and funny bone comes in the form of Our Idiot Brother, a festival darling turned mainstream.
Ned (Rudd) is anything but ordinary. He's a kind, trusting, free spirited indivudual living by a set of ideals. Yet when Ned gets arrested for selling marijuana to a uniformed officer and is forced to serve eight months in prison, upon his exit he's thrown back into the real world with his mother and three sisters. Despite the best of intentions, Ned infultrates each of his sister's "perfect"little worlds spawning disaster after disaster.
Our Idiot Brother is far from the typical mainstream comedy that's been forced down your throat these past few years. It's a wholesome story about good versus evil, and Paul Rudd's character Ned is certainly good. This role is perfectly suited for Paul Rudd, and had anyone else been cast, the movie would have been far less affective. Rudd is able to use his signature awkward humor to compliment a well paced movie. With a mere 90 minute runtime, Our Idiot Brother never drags or wears down the audience.
With the film, director Jesse Peretz creates a lovable character that, no mater how stupid he is at times, you can't help but root for. And although many of the characters are polarizing, as a whole the movie works. Our Idiot Brother isn't the type of comedy you'll tell everyone to rush and see, but it's a steady stream of laughs with a good moral.
Bottom line the movie is nothing groundbreaking, but its good natured charm is enough to keep it enjoyable from start to finish. If you're like me and eager to check out Paul Rudd in Our Idiot Brother, then I give you the green light. If the trailer isn't all too appealing to you, then catch it on DVD or television some other time.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Film: The Help
Starring: Emma Stone (Easy A) and Viola Davis (Doubt)
Director: Tate Taylor
U.S. Release: August 12th, 2011 (Rated PG-13)
Runtime: 137 minutes
We've all heard the common phrase, "The book is always better". Since The Help is a best selling novel, director Tate Taylor finds himself against large odds with his first major release. Lucky for Taylor, he has surrounded himself with an abundance of talented actresses like Golden Globe Nominee Emma Stone, Academy Award Nominee Viola Davis, and Tree of Life star Jessica Chastain. With a wonderful story and an amazing cast, if Taylor could piece together even something comparable to book, it would be a sure hit. And believe me, he has.
Skeeter (Stone) is a recent college graduate who has returned home to Jackson, Mississippi in hopes of becoming a writer. When she lands a job at a local newspaper answering questions about cleaning, she learns of a darker truth living in her hometown. In Jackson, most wealthy white families hire "help" in the form of uneducated black women to assist in raising their children and cleaning their homes. Eventually the children grow up to start families of their own and mold into spitting images of their unappreciative parents. These once loving children begin to mistreat the same black women who helped love them throughout childhood. Skeeter quickly recognizes this problem and aims to write a novel taking the perspective of "the help". However, these fearful women refuse to come forth with all of their horrible stories and experiences. That is until one brave soul named Aibileen Clark (Davis) takes a stand and confronts Skeeter with the earth shattering truth that's currently happening in Jackson, Mississippi.
The Help is a moving civil rights drama that weaves together a wonderful crop of charming characters. Emma Stone is brilliant as Skeeter, the progressive, independent young women trying to change a world much bigger than herself. And although Stone undoubtedly shines in her role, two other performances overshadow her noteable work. First, the unknown Octavia Spencer is nothing short of spectacular as the sassy maid Minny Jackson. Spencer delivers a vibrant character that will make you laugh out loud one minute, and give you goosebumps the next. Her eclectic range is unquestionable and I wouldn't be surprised to so her nominated during the awards season along with Viola Davis. Davis is stunning as Aibileen Clark, the brave woman who steps out to the forefront of this controversial issue. She embodies courage and wisdom on a level that most actresses could only dream to aspire. The cast surely elevates what may otherwise have been just any other civil rights story to the memorable instant classic that is The Help.
The film is not perfect, however. One downfall in Tate Taylor's picture is a few of the other characters are beyond believable. I do not want to criticize the performances of Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain because both were marvelous at times, yet their characters are simply caricatures. Cartoon like and blown out of proportion, to the point where some will claim they make the film's seriousness lose credibility.
But the way I see it, The Help is easily one of the best films 2011 has to offer. I was skeptical of its two and a quarter hour runtime, but the constant progressing storylines truly make it an easy watch. You will laugh and be moved just enough to make this roller coaster ride of emotions feel worthwhile. Therefore, get to the theatre and don't miss out on seeing a movie that is sure to garner some attention during next year's awards season. Definitely check out The Help.
Stars: 3 and a half stars out of 4.
Film: 30 Minutes or Less
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and Danny McBride (Pineapple Express)
Director: Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland)
U.S. Release: August 12th, 2011 (Rated R)
Runtime: 83 minutes
Truth be told I thoroughly enjoyed the 2009 semi-hit Zombieland. The movie caught me off guard with its creativity, constant wit, and talented cast. First time director Ruben Fleischer really made a name for himself with it's strong cult following. Therefore, when it was time to decide on a second major release, Fleischer convinced his Zombieland lead, and Oscar Nominee, Jesse Eisenberg to star in another short scripted 30 Minutes or Less. Leaving only one question, could the duo replicate their previous success?
30 Minutes or Less centers around twenty something year old Nick (Eisenberg) who currently finds himself living a boring life as a local pizza delivery driver. Virtually in love with his best friend Chet's (Aziz Ansari) sister, the life long best friends quickly find themselves at odds. But one day on a last minute deliver, a pair of brainless schemers named Dwayne (McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) kidnap and strap a bomb to Nick. Desperate for $100,000, they tell Nick he has 10 hours to rob a bank and come up with the money or else the bomb will detonate. In a race against time, Nick and Chet must struggle to find their way out of this predicament.
Fresh off of a long awards season, Eisenberg returns to the screen in a familiar fashion. Once again playing a stereotypical role for himself, the shy, guarded protagonist trapped in circumstances outside of his comfort zone. In the movie Eisenberg and his fellow cast all give effortless but natural performances. However, 30 Minutes of Less ends up landing in the realm of forgettable pictures. The movie delivers a systematic flow that never seems boring, yet the plot is too run of the mill to reel in the audience.
There are enough clever one liners by all characters to keep you laughing throughout the movie, but at the end of the day Ruben Fleischer fails to recapture a spark similar to his debut motion picture. 30 Minutes or Less inadequately develops its characters enough to allow the audience to connect. As a result, the film leaves almost no lasting impact on its viewers.
Fleischer and Eisenberg are certainly talented, and maybe there paths will cross again down the line. However, when matched up against Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less seems all too mediocre and methodical. With very little originality to go off of, the movie is nothing more than an average time filler. Do yourself a favor and wait for DVD.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4
Friday, August 5, 2011
Film: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Starring: James Franco (127 Hours) and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire)
Director: Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist)
U.S. Release: August 5th, 2011 (Rated PG-13)
Runtime: 105 minutes
It's been over 40 years since Charlton Heston starred in the memorable classic Planet of the Apes. And who could ever forget the closing scene where Heston sees the predominantly buried Statue of Liberty? There is a reason certain films are categorized as "classics" and the 1968 masterpiece is no exception. Fast forward four decades to present day, and 2010 Oscar nominee James Franco is tackling quite the obstacle. With today's nationwide release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the remarkably talented actor is crossing his fingers that his prequel can stand up to all the naysayers. Truth be told, he's in for quite the challenge.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes follows Dr. Will Rodman (Franco) who, for personal reasons, is in search of a cure to Alzheimer's Disease. Rodman is close to a serious breakthrough on a drug that has tested well on a chimp, yet a disaster ensues and the project gets shut down. Instead of putting down the baby of his test chimp, Rodman takes the primate (whom he names Caesar) home and begins to raise him. Soon enough, the Doctor recognizes that the mother's medication has been passed to Caesar, and Rodman discovers the amazing learning capacity of the young chimp. However, Dr. Rodman quickly sees the problems with giving an animal the power of the human brain.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes offers an intriguing premise and a believable story. However, the film's director, Rupert Wyatt, falls short of creating a prequel comparable to the original. Wyatt's lead James Franco does a serviceable job portraying the gentle, yet destructive Dr. Will Rodman. In addition to Franco, who stole almost all of the the movie's screen time, John Lithgow was excellent as Will's mentally deteriorating father. Charles Rodman is a vital in understanding Will's motivation, and Lithgow successfully allows the audience to empathize with movie's main character. Acting is one area of the film that surely thrives.
Despite many strong performances, the main flaw of Rise of the Planet of the Apes is Wyatt's inability to properly pace the film. The movie opens well and develops smoothly. However, about an hour into the film Wyatt spends too much time attempting to humanize Caesar and other primates. As a result, the movie hits a roadblock and it begins to have an almost unbearable drag. But don't give up, because once you survive the middle of the film, the ending offers a satisfying resolve that is definitely worth the wait.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a typical summer blockbuster. It's action packed and it carries along a big name. Wyatt may have been better served cutting 15 minutes or so out of the film, however he still manages to create a slightly above average viewing experience. If you're excited for the film, I'd suggest seeing it in theatres. If not, wait to catch it on DVD.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4