Thursday, July 28, 2011
Film: Crazy Stupid Love
Starring: Steve Carell (The 40 Year Old Virgin), Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right), Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine), and Emma Stone (Easy A).
Director: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris)
U.S. Release: July 29th, 2011 (Rated PG-13)
Runtime: 118 minutes
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa hit a home run with their last picture, I Love You Phillip Morris. The directors offered a different style of film making that really intrigued me. The movie had a great twist and superb acting from its leads Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. This brings us to present day, where the pair of directors will see their newest release Crazy Stupid Love hit theatres nationwide tomorrow. With its trailer receiving airtime all over television stations, it's evident that they're preparing for a big opening weekend. And since the movie molds together this directing tag team with an all star cast including Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling, the sky's the limit.
Crazy Stupid Love opens with a middle-aged married couple out together on a "date night". Cal (Carell) and Emily (Moore) are an interesting couple to say the least. Cal is quiet, reserved, and complacent with his situation. On the other hand, Emily is strung out and bored with where her life has ended up. Hence, when Emily springs a divorce on Cal over dinner, needless to say it ruins the evening. This sequence of events sends Cal on a wild adventure into the single's world where he meets the suave Jacob (Gosling). Jacob takes Cal under his wing and shows him the secrets to success in the bar scene. Along their journey, the impenetrable Jacob meets and falls for Hannah (Stone), perhaps the only woman capable of changing his seducing lifestyle.
Crazy Stupid Love offers an enjoyable movie going experience. It brilliantly blends together comedy and drama just enough to keep anyone satisfied. The film offers convincing performances by its entire talented cast. Even Kevin Bacon's small role is an added bonus to the movie. Furthermore, much like the directors first hit, Crazy Stupid Love also delivers a hilarious script with a surprising twist. All of which make the film a fun watch.
Despite its abundance of great aspects, Crazy Stupid Love has a couple of drawbacks. For example, the film is more of a marathon than a sprint. Since the movie incorporates a few subplots too many, there are times where certain characters fall to the wayside for 20 minutes at a time. It becomes almost too much of a gap to get emotionally connected with them. Although the movie seems to never culminate, the directors make up for it by keeping the laughs coming from start to finish. Thus, making the almost two hour runtime seem tolerable.
I thoroughly enjoyed Crazy Stupid Love and suspect most other people will as well. Any negative aspect of the film becomes easy to overlook, and all in all it makes for a fun, entertaining watch. If you'd got the time and you're interested in the movie, definitely check it out.
Stars: 3 stars out of 4
Monday, July 25, 2011
Film: Friends With Benefits
Starring: Mila Kunis (Black Swan) and Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)
Director: Will Gluck (Easy A)
U.S. Release: July 22nd, 2011 (Rated R)
Runtime: 109 minutes
So, you've seen No Strings Attached already and you're thinking "why would I see Friends With Benefits, it's the same thing". Truth be told, at the root of the story, the two films are very similar. Boy knows Girl, and they decide to embark on a physical relationship with no emotional ties. But what really makes a movie work, or not work, is how well the story is told. Now, I'll be the first to tell you that I barely found any enjoyment in 2011's first attempt at a romantic comedy centered on a purely physical relationship, however Will Gluck is a very talented director who definitely knows how to add a little flare to a story.
Friends With Benefits follows Dylan (Timberlake) and Jamie (Kunis) who are both welcomed to the "single world" almost immediately. Therefore, when Dylan gets offered an interview in New York City to become the Art Director for GQ Magazine, he's quick to accept the invitation. Upon his arrival he's greeted by Jamie, the young woman trying to help him land the job. The interview is a huge success and Dylan's left to decide whether or not to leave his tight knit family in California. Jamie, who has her sights on a big bonus if Dylan accepts the job, offers to take him out on the town to see the "real New York City". Ultimately, Dylan takes the job and begins an interesting friendship with Jamie. But when the duo decide to try out a friends with benefits relationship, they discover they may be in over their heads.
Fresh off of excellent supporting roles in their Oscar nominated films, Kunis and Timberlake team up for a fresh, vibrant one-two punch. Their chemistry on the big screen is unquestionable, and their performances are more than enough for a typical romantic comedy. In addition to its two stars, Woody Harrelson is hysterical as the homosexual Sports Editor for GQ who eagerly befriends Timberlake's character. Furthermore, Director Will Gluck rebounds nicely from his 2011 Golden Globe nominated film Easy A, as he offers another laugh out loud comedy. The film centers around a story that's clearly been done before, but Gluck successfully conjures up an original and fresh perspective to the re-hatched premise. That is undoubtedly the telling sign of a great director.
Despite it's notable strengths, Friends With Benefits is far from perfect. The film's ending has a sustained drag to it. The final 25 minutes contain dilemma after dilemma, and it definitely begins to wear on the audience. Also, the movie loses its strong comedic sense after the first hour and transforms almost solely into a "chick flick". The term "chick flick" often gives a negative connotation, yet Gluck and cast create an inviting feel that keeps the attention of the male viewers. However, be warned.
I was mighty skeptical at first, but Friends With Benefits is an enjoyable movie. There's plenty of characteristics to the film to attract male and female viewers alike. If you're going to the movies with a significant other or on a date, Friends With Benefits is definitely a worthwhile compromise.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Starring: John C. Reilly (Cedar Rapids) and Jacob Wysocki
Director: Azazel Jacobs
U.S. Release: July 1st, 2011 (Limited - Rated R)
Runtime: 105 minutes
John C. Reilly has been on an indie-comedy kick lately. The multi-talented actor has dished out successful low budget films lately like Cedar Rapids and Cyrus, both of which received raved reviews from critics. So it shouldn't come as a surprise to know that his latest release, Terri, won over people's hearts at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Terri follows an overweight adolescent boy (Wysocki) who is trapped in a low income home and taking care of his heavily medicated uncle Jim. High School can be a nightmare at times, and the cruel treatment he receives from his peers begins a scary introduction to adulthood. One day the principal Mr. Fitzgerald (Reilly) calls Terri into his office and he begins to take the boy under his wing.
Terri is a heartfelt story about how society creates outcasts. We see the story through the eyes of the good hearted teenage boy as the world around him looks away. Jacob Wysocki and John C. Reilly give stunning performances that really allow the film to resonate. Their onscreen chemistry was excellent, and perhaps any other pair of actors wouldn't have kept the movie afloat. Reilly once again puts his diverse acting abilities on display, and it's no exaggeration to say he's the master of molding comedy and drama together. In his first major leading role, Wysocki wonderfully captivates the audience by doing almost nothing. His demeanor and facial expressions tell the entire story from beginning to end.
Although the acting was top notch, Terri has many downfalls as well. The film is extremely slow paced, and it will inevitably turn off the typical moviegoer. There aren't enough laugh out loud scenes to keep most people's attention. The best way to describe the movie is by comparing it to a piece of art. Many people look at a painting and just see a picture, but sometimes the true beauty lies somewhere beyond what's in front of you. Terri, at its core, is a touching piece of art, but unfortunately its lack of entertaining value diminishes its appeal. There's plenty of visceral appreciation to be gain from the film if you can wade through its crawling pace. But when all is said and done, unless you have a deep appreciate for independent film, I'd suggest shying away from Terri.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4
Film: Horrible Bosses
Starring: Jason Bateman (The Switch), Jason Sudeikis (Hall Pass), and Charlie Day (Going the Distance)
Director: Seth Gordon (Four Christmases)
U.S. Release: July 8th, 2011 (Rated R)
Runtime: 98 minutes
Horrible Bosses, the latest comedy from director Seth Gordon, combines a trio of young comical actors, a seductive Jennifer Aniston, and award winners like Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jamie Foxx. What is happening to Hollywood? With such a rare mix of talent and a plethora of critical boasts, I didn't know what to expect from the film. Personally, I found Seth Gordon's biggest release to date, Four Christmases, to be an up and down comedy that fell short of even medaling. The only thing to do was let the movie speak for itself.
Horrible Bosses follows three lifelong friends who find themselves in turmoil at their workplaces. Nick (Bateman), Dale (Day), and Kurt (Sudeikis) all have serious gripes with their bosses (Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell). One night while having a few drinks at the bar, the three friends let their imaginations get the best of them and they half jokingly discuss murdering their employers. When things continually get worse at their jobs, their laughable murder plots take a serious turn. With the aid of a former criminal (Foxx), the friends desperately decide to go along with the plan and put an end to their bosses.
The three young stars Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis are all at different points in their careers. Bateman has been a well established actor making movies for over a decade now, while Sudeikis has only recently taken is Saturday Night Live talents to the big screen as a star of the comedy hit Hall Pass. Finally, there's Charlie Day. Day is a well known face on the hit television show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Day's filmography is bare, and Horrible Bosses is his first true starring role. Sudeikis and Bateman spent a large portion of the film reeling off typical jokes you'd expect from their characters, and Day unfortunately proves to be a type-casted actor. Day can't seem to escape the shadow of his television character Charlie Kelly. Indivually, there is nothing spectacular about any of the performances given by the film's leading actors. In addition, it's highly regarded supporting stars didn't offer much more. Spacey, Foxx, Farrell and Aniston were simply caricatures blown completely out of proportion. Each of their characters were unrealistic, and unbelievable to say the least.
Despite it's mediocre acting, Horrible Bosses offers a taut script with solid dialogue. Seth Gordon leaves no loose ends and ties the film together very well. It is a much better job by him the second time around. Furthermore, the movie flies by and keeps you laughing just enough to make some dull subplots seem tolerable.
Horrible Bosses is by no means groundbreaking or an instant classic. It's a slightly above average comedy that will do its job, entertain you and make you laugh. Really though, what more can you ask out of a comedy picture these days? I recommend holding out for its DVD release, but still take the time to check it out. If your expectations are reasonable, you will definitely enjoy the film.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Film: Another Earth
Starring: Brit Marling and William Mapother (Lost)
Director: Mike Cahill
U.S. Release: July 22nd, 2011 (Limited - Rated PG-13)
Runtime: 92 minutes
Co-writers Mike Cahill (the film's director) and Brit Marling (the film's star) had one goal in mind when crafting their debut feature film Another Earth, they wanted to make the audience feel something real. After a screening of the young duo's movie at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, the director and lead actress were in house to welcome questions from members of the Philadelphia Film Society and the Science community. After hearing their responses to the audience's questions, it's clearly evident that Cahill and Marling hope to inspire. And even if Another Earth only manages to be seen by a small portion of the population, the film will certainly do its job.
Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) is a free spirited 17 year old girl living a life filled with endless possibilities. She has a deep love and respect for science, and her passion has helped land her a scholarship to MIT. One evening while driving home from a party, Rhoda hears an astonishing discovery on a radio station. Having never been able to see it before, another planet with glaring similarities to Earth appears in the sky. Desperate to catch a glimpse, the careless teenager takes her attention from the road and it results in a horrific car accident killing the wife and child of John Burroughs (William Mapother). After serving a four year prison term for her actions (she had been drinking that evening), Rhoda has trouble rejoining civilization and forgiving herself for what she's done. She hopes to find reconciliation in the form of the other Earth.
Many will attempt to classify Another Earth as a science fiction film, but that's far from the truth. The movie, at its core, centers around some of life's deepest and darkest emotions. The director Mike Cahill cleverly uses an astronomy based backdrop to open up an infinite number of possibilities for the movie. With a huge underlying theme of redemption, Another Earth introduces the notion of parallel universes to create inner turmoil for Brit Marling's character. And offering more questions than answers, the film challenges its characters and the audience to open their minds. Cahill indirectly stirs a debate between which life is better, the one not lived, or the tragic one that has ultimately shaped the person you've become? It's quite perplexing and extremely thought provoking.
Some viewers will watch Another Earth and be unforgiving of it's obvious and plentiful amount of plot holes. The film is by no means perfect. It's slow paced at times, and feels more like a two hour marathon than it's actual 92 minute length. But what co-writers Mike Cahill and Brit Marling hoped to create wasn't an entertaining, scientific phenomenon. Another Earth is meant to be a quest in self discovery, and from that perspective it definitely succeeds. The film is brilliantly acted with excellent cinematography. Moreover, the ending is absolutely mind blowing, and it will stick with you for days. It looks as though Cahill and Marling have bright futures ahead.
If you're dying to be entertained, look elsewhere. But if you want a movie that's thought provoking and authentic, Another Earth has plenty to offer. This little Sundance darling won't disappoint.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Film: Larry Crowne
Starring: Tom Hanks (Charlie Wilson's War) and Julia Roberts (Eat, Pray, Love)
Director: Tom Hanks (That Thing You Do!)
U.S. Release: July 1st, 2011 (Rated PG-13)
Runtime: 98 minutes
With a filmography very few could compare with, Tom Hanks is unquestionably one of my favorite actors of all time. He's the king of feel good movies, and the man behind one of cinema's most quotable characters, Forrest Gump. Tom Hanks is a living legend, need I say more? Now, some skeptics will question his work of late,but the man's history speaks for itself. On the other hand, I've always found Julia Roberts to be a bit overrated. Needless to say I was a little surprised to hear that the two early 90s stars were teaming up for the Romantic Comedy Larry Crowne. Starring in the film wasn't enough for Hanks, the multi-talented celebrity also managed to write and direct the movie. With all that Hanks going on, how bad could the film be?
Larry Crowne (Hanks) is an aging, ex-naval chef who now works in retail. So when the overachiever finds himself on the chopping block at work because he lacks a college degree, Larry decides to get a fresh start. He enrolls at a local community college and schedules himself for Economics I and a Public Speaking course. Along Crowne's journey he meets Talia who helps transform him into a confident, self assured man. So confident in fact, he's able to attract his Public Speaking professor Mercedes Tainot (Roberts).
Once again, Tom Hanks is able to deliver a convincing performance as the quirky Larry Crowne. Furthermore, Julia Roberts is adequate in her supporting role as Crowne's love interest in the film. In addition to the pair of stars, one of Larry Crowne's most valuable assets is the strength of its cast. There are plenty of noteworthy characters played by Cedric the Entertainer, Wilmer Valderrama (That 70s Show), and newcomers Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Rami Malek. Also as the director, Hanks obviously gets the most out of his actors and actresses.
Larry Crowne is an enjoyable, fun film with plenty of suppressed laughs to be had. It's nothing remarkable, but certainly entertaining with a well constructed story. One noticeable flaw in the film centers around Mrs. Tainot's husband Dean (played by Bryan Cranston). Although I'm a huge fan of Cranston as an actor and I love his hit television show Breaking Bad, his character is poorly crafted and deters from the otherwise natural flow of the film. You're left confused and baffled by any scene his in, and it's quite disappointing. An actor of his caliber could have been utilized in a more meaningful way.
Finally, Larry Crowne is an easy watch, but the movie offers very little more than the occasional laugh and smile. There's no reason to rush out to theatres to see the film, but you won't be disappointed if you catch it randomly at some point in the future. It's the type of movie that can be polarizing depending on your expectations. If you go into the film not expecting much, you just might be pleasantly surprised.
Stars: 2 out of 4