Saturday, June 29, 2013

Latest Hollywood News

After receiving the news of the premature passing of James Gandolfini while I was out of the country on vacation, labeling my reaction as "stunned" would be an understatement. It was an enormously saddening event that will leave its mark on the entertainment industry. Being that he was such a remarkable, yet type-casted, actor, it's a shame that Gandolfini will solely be remembered by many for his Tony Soprano portrayal. Instead I think of his big-picture legacy and will forever appreciate the onscreen versatility that I grew to admire from him. Gandolfini was only 51 years old.

If you've seen Quentin Tarantino's Oscar-Nominated film, Django Unchained, chances are you probably really enjoyed all two hours and 45 minutes of it. If that's the case, then maybe the announcement of another Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx collaboration will perk your ears up. Warner Bros. has acquired the rights to Craig Zahler's upcoming detective novel Mean Business on North Ganson Street and it's been reported that Leo and Foxx are attached to the project. Although details concerning the upcoming project are extremely scarce, there's plenty of reason to get excited over these two Hollywood stars teaming up once again.

And what type of news update would it be without another breaking story from Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated sci-fi film Interstellar? While Casey Affleck's older brother, Ben, has been the big-shot around the industry since his Best Picture win for Argo back in March, the younger sibling has announced his upcoming involvement in Nolan's presumably ambitious scientific mind-bender. Interstellar reportedly centers on a space expedition team who enter a wormhole and experience alternate dimensions and time travel. It sounds just crazy enough for Nolan to pull it off.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fruitvale Station

Film: Fruitvale Station

Starring: Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle), Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Melonie Diaz

Director: Ryan Coogler

U.S. Release: July 12th, 2013 (Unrated)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 90 minutes

Opportunity is something you have to embrace in life, just ask the young up-and-coming writer/director Ryan Coogler. The 27 year old bay area born filmmaker found a story he was passionate about and helped turn Fruitvale Station into the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Winner for a Dramatic. Having grown up around the same time and on the same streets as his movie's protagonist, the saddening tale surrounding Oscar Grant felt like the right story for Coogler to tell. He used a huge backing by producer and Academy Award Winner Forest Whitaker in order to assemble an unfathomable collection of actors and actresses including The Wire's Michael B. Jordan and The Help's Best Supporting Actress Winner, Octavia Spencer. And as they say, "the rest is history".

Fruitvale Station follows a troubled young man named Oscar Grant (played by Jordan) as he spends his New Year's Eve determined to correct his path. Desperate to provide stability for his 4 year old daughter and his girlfriend Sophina, Oscar makes a heartfelt resolution to walk the straight and narrow. But as the day winds down and Oscar travels to San Francisco with Sophina and other friends to watch the fireworks, his past ultimately catches up with him on this fateful evening at the Fruitvale Station terminal.

While writer and director Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station is a glowing example of dramatic filmmaking, he leaves himself completely vulnerable by addressing such a widely controversial story. However, disregarding the often-debated facts surrounding the tragic events of New Year's Eve at the terminal, Coogler opens our eyes to a different, more personal, story. With the aid of an unquestionable standout performance from Michael B. Jordan, Coogler brings his own version of Oscar Grant's story to life. Showing us a previously incarcerated young man who falls victim to the streets, where it's always easier to say yes to things like selling drugs than it is to walk away from the game. But not on this day, not for Oscar. Although the loving father knows how difficult of a struggle it can be to change, it has to start somewhere. Michael B. Jordan's convincing turn helps create a gentle and warm main character, one that is clearly flawed but easy to connect with. Therefore, Fruitvale Station becomes a well-made and effective dramatic effort.

Despite the film's knack for dramatic flair, it becomes impossible to ignore the contextual discrepancies and highly controversial facts surrounding the real-life story of Oscar Grant. While Coogler hopes to appear somewhat neutral regarding the facts of the evening and clearly portrays Oscar as an imperfect man, by approaching the film through the clean-slate perspective in which he does, Fruitvale Station can't help but become an agenda-driven piece. I don't wish to harp on that notion or even debate the black & white labeling that comes hand in hand with a controversial topic such as this. Instead, let me also point out that Fruitvale Station is a drawn-out and slow burning film. Although the director admittedly uses this tactic in juxtaposition to the fast-paced third act that flies by without a chance to really process the moment, the slow progressing opening and mid-section of the movie make for an overall dragging experience.

The major motion picture debut from Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station, is an undoubtedly flawed film that pushes through its faults and wins the audience over with a talented cast, a heartwarming story and superb direction. It's clearly an imposing piece that's meant to make you feel a certain way, but at the end of the day, Coogler was able to pull me into the story. If you enjoy a well-made character-driven film, then you should take a chance on this year's Sundance Film Festival Winner, Fruitvale Station.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4.

Grade: B

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Best Brad Pitt Performances

Brad Pitt has had a truly diverse, yet impressive, acting career. The gifted performer has garnered three acting-category Oscar Nominations already, and a win is certainly in his future. In order to recognize Pitt's fine work once again in this summer's blockbuster World War Z, I decided to use June's "Movie List of the Month" to take a look the top 5 onscreen performances throughout his illustrious career.

*** View May's Movie List of the Month HERE

Honorable Mention: Se7en, Snatch, Inglourious Basterds and Twelve Monkeys.

The Top 5 Brad Pitt Performances

#5. Burn After Reading (2008)

Definitely a lesser-known film for the megastar, the Coen brothers' Burn After Reading places Pitt in the dopey health nut role and it's never been captured so well. The supporting turn was a fine onscreen showing for Pitt and it clearly illustrated his profound versatility.

#4. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Pitt showed a different side of his acting abilities in 2007 as the outlaw Jesse James. While the character-driven western crawls past the two and a half hour mark, it's Pitt who shines as the most memorable. Despite co-star Casey Affleck getting all of the awards season recognition, Pitt continued to dazzle audiences in this under-appreciated role.

#3. Moneyball (2011)

After receiving an Oscar Nomination for his leading role in the 2011 hit Moneyball (and deservedly so), many loyal fans were clamoring for this to be "the one". However, Jean Dujardin claimed the victory for his silent role in The Artist and Pitt still remains statue-less. Although he never got the win for his portrayal of Oakland Athletics' GM Billy Beane, his transcending performance will certainly be remembered.

#2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

While I anticipated that 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button wouldn't be the type of movie I'd enjoy, I put off watching the film for a long time. Yet, thanks in large part to Brad Pitt's unbelievable and towering performance, the lengthy tale surprisingly ended up as one of my favorite films of the year. Pitt stars as the title character whose rare life is examined as he physically ages backward from birth to death. It's truly an astonishing and eye-opening piece of work.

#1. Fight Club (1999)

It pains me to feel so cliche by selecting Pitt's role as Tyler Durden in Fight Club as the best performance of his career, but I'm going to do it anyway. The 1999 release was such a groundbreaking film that helped spawn my love for movies and Pitt's supporting effort played a huge part in the success of Fight Club. Brad Pitt gives an elevated and memorable performance that will live on forever as one of the greats. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

DVD Outlook: June 2013

June's DVD offerings take us back to many of 2013's early-year releases. The selections become much more mediocre and highly limited. If you aren't too thrilled with my crop of suggestions for June, then feel free to scour back to my picks for May and a few other months. Now, onto my choices for June's best rental options.

A Late Quartet - 3 stars out of 4 - (No full review available)

I was able to catch this indie release at the Philadelphia Film Festival back in October and I was thoroughly impressed. A Late Quartet stars a well-known cast (including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener) and follows a world-famous string quartet who struggle to play on after coming to grips with a terminal illness, competitive jealousy and insurmountable lust. A Late Quartet serves as a well-acted and fabulously written subtle microcosm of life itself. Hidden inside of its tender dialogue and disastrous storylines are valuable life lessons, so do your best to listen closely. (JUNE 18TH)

The Call - 2 and a half stars out of 4 - (No full review available)

Being that I finally got a chance to see The Call at the tail end of its theatrical run, I decided against writing up a review for it. However, Brad Anderson's energetic thriller proved to be a satisfying and suspenseful ride. Halle Berry stars as a veteran 911 operator with a history of psychological baggage who is forced to handle a call from a teenage girl who's been abducted. Although The Call includes an abundance of unrealistic moments, it still manages to be a widely engaging edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. And with a running time barely crossing the hour and a half mark, it zips by in no time at all. (JUNE 25TH)

Oz the Great and Powerful - 2 and a half stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)

Normally, I'm not one to enjoy a long-awaited prequel/sequel to a classic. However, while watching Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful, you'll find it difficult to root against this return to the mystical land. James Franco stars as a lowly circus magician named Oz who is swept away to an enchanted city and finds himself in the middle of a struggle between three powerful witches. Despite its many low points and prolonged running time north of two hours, Oz the Great and Powerful admirably attempts to recreate the essence that made the original so wonderful. (JUNE 11TH)

Honorable Mention: While I sat on the fence with the middling zombie tale Warm Bodies (6/4), many moviegoers and critics seemed to enjoy the lighthearted take on the genre. Also, I was unable to make it to my screening of the horror film Stoker (6/18), but I passed the tickets along to big-time horror fan Stephen Fisher and he found it to be an excellent movie.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street and Anchorman 2 Trailers

Let the Oscar buzz begin.  The first trailer for Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street hit the web tonight, and with it, the first peek at the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and his go-to leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio.  The film marks the return to the dramatic-crime genre for the director, after his family friendly Hugo in 2011, which earned him his 7th Best Director Oscar nomination.  

The trailer, frenetically set to Kanye West's "Black Skinhead", hints at a much more festive tone for the film, with some dark humor and of course, a little violence.  We also get a small glimpse at Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey, who both appear to have had some fun supporting roles to work with.  Could Scorsese lead DiCaprio to his 4th Oscar nomination and first win? The Wolf of Wall Street is out November 15th.  Check out the trailer below.  

After years of anxiously waiting, we've finally been given a legitimate theatrical trailer for the comedy follow-up, Anchorman 2. The sequel, sub-titled 'The Legend Continues", brings back all of the familiar faces of the first film, and the trailer gives us a quick peep at newcomers James Marsden and Kristen Wiig.  

The trailer debuts the same day news broke that Universal will save the temporarily ill-fated Dumb and Dumber To, another classic comedy with a long-awaited sequel.  2013 has been an interesting year for comedies, with some underperforming (Hangover III and The Internship) and then the major sleeper hit, This is The End.  Can Anchorman 2 live up to the expectations of a near-decade build of anticipation and become the comedy of the year? 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Man of Steel

Film: Man of Steel

Starring: Henry Cavill (Immortals), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter) and Amy Adams (The Fighter)

Director: Zack Snyder (300)

U.S. Release: June 14th, 2013 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Action

Runtime: 143 minutes

If you love film as much as I do, then you'll agree that Christmas was supposed to come twice this year. However, sitting in the movie theatre at 12:01am like a kid on Christmas morning, the only thing that Santa Claus (aka director Zack Snyder) brought me was a boring heap of clothes (when all I wanted was a bike). Now, one could argue that my lofty expectations were so astronomical that the newest Superman feature, Man of Steel, was destined to disappoint. I mean, I'm only human ... right? Well unfortunately, the film's third sci-fi-to-the-max trailer, along with some early negative rumblings, actually pulled my expectations back down to earth. The only problem being, Zack Snyder's Man of Steel barely gets its feet off the ground.

Born of another world, a child is sent to earth in order to escape his crumbling planet. But as this boy continues to grow up here on our earth, he learns of his superhuman abilities. Knowing that the world may not be ready for news of this magnitude and fearing that the human race will turn on his adopted son, a mid-west farmer (Kevin Costner) raises the boy to harness his powers and keep them hidden. Yet, when earth becomes threatened by a native (Michael Shannon) of the extraterrestrial's birth planet, Krypton, a now fully grown man (Henry Cavill) must reveal his secret powers and defend all of humankind from annihilation.

Immensely overblown and visually ambitious, Zack Snyder's Man of Steel is a disheartening return to the Superman saga. For starters, the biggest blunder in the film is its completely glossed over tale of a boy's struggle with morality. Will this youngster, who is capable of things far beyond our human understanding, use his abilities for good or evil? Buried somewhere deep inside of this jumbled blend of action-overkill and unbounded special effects is a dark story banging on the walls and screaming to come out. It's what we all hoped Man of Steel would deliver (after all, it had Christopher Nolan's stamp on it). But to the contrary, Snyder and his team of clueless wonders attempt to trade depth-creating story for big-budget action sequences, and it ultimately fails. As a result, Man of Steel culminates as a frustrating hollow shell of something destined to be far greater than what we're given.

Although the summer blockbuster cashes in on its gaudy and overly-long action-packed third act, Man of Steel still manages to feel like a slap in the face to its audience. Snyder offers a non-chronological opening portion to the film that's meant to transport the moviegoer into the psyche of its superhero. These short-lived flashbacks to his childhood serve as many of the picture's finest moments. However, there reaches a noticeable turning point when Snyder sacrifices the feature's story for non-stop thrills, as if that's what his audience craves. Perhaps I'm way off base, but I went into Man of Steel desperate for a more cerebral superhero movie. But instead, the team behind this Superman reboot cheapen out with a careless and muddled story trapped behind an insurmountable wall of special effects. I feel cheated.

Before I continue to speak harshly about this year's most anticipated film, let me point out some small positives to the movie. Hans Zimmer is an amazing film composer and his score is, once again, brilliant. It's a regularly overlooked aspect of cinema that I felt needed to be commended in this instance. Furthermore, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams both give above average performances that leave a tiny inkling of hope that, maybe with an unwavering dedication to telling the right story, a future installment could be something special. Somewhere beneath all of the muck that is Man of Steel lies a deeper and darker examination of Clark Kent. I guess we'll just have to continue waiting for it.

Stars: 1 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: C-

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

World War Z

Film: World War Z

Starring: Brad Pitt (Moneyball) and Mireille Enos (Gangster Squad)

Director: Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace)

U.S. Release: June 21st, 2013 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Action

Runtime: 116 minutes

In the new age of sequels, remakes and quick turnarounds, it's easy to forget how difficult it can be to release a major motion picture. Just ask Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment, who first bought the screen rights to Marc Forster's World War Z back in 2007. After a half-decade of development, filming and post-production that included multiple re-writes and threats of pulling the plug on the project altogether, Brad Pitt refused to let his "baby" get lost in the abyss. And finally, six years in the making, World War Z's long-awaited release is just around the corner.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is a former U.N. employee who, along with his wife and children, is rescued from a widespread zombie attack and brought in by officials to help put an end to the epidemic. In a race against time, Gerry must leave behind his loved ones and travel the world in hopes of finding a cure to this never-before-seen disease.

Along with this weekend's release, Man of Steel, World War Z stands out as one of the most anticipated blockbusters of the summer, and it doesn't disappoint. Brad Pitt's passion project benefits strongly from his make or break performance. While it's a far cry from his previous Oscar-caliber work in Moneyball, Pitt's latest effort clearly surpasses most performances you can expect to see this summer. Along with Pitt's excellent leading role, World War Z delivers enough non-stop action to cure all of your blockbuster blues. Inarguably riveting and gripping beyond belief, Marc Forster's zombie-apocalypse film offers a unique vision in what's become an extremely watered-down genre. Moreover, World War Z moves every bit as fast as its rage-filled fleet of foot monsters, making it an absolute adrenaline rush.

Although World War Z is a worthy and above average summer action blockbuster, the feature leaves much to be desired with its dramatic elements. There lacks heart in Gerry Lane's family's subplot. Instead of creating depth to this portion of the story, director Marc Forster remains content in showing off his high-octane zombie sequences. Thus, World War Z delivers very little substance and feels slightly incomplete. In fact, outside of watching cities crumble at the hands of a flesh-eating epidemic, not much happens in the film. And once the movie begins to test the audience's patience with a merely glossed over plot line, Forster has the good sense to quickly roll the credits. Every bit as entertaining as you could hope for, World War Z is a successful summer release despite its unfulfilled screenplay.

You can expect a handful of certainties with Marc Forster's World War Z. Edge of your seat suspense and a fresh take on the zombie-phenomenon can be assured, while Forster's direction and Pitt's performance are just icing on the cake. However, a repetitive feel and a surreal plane crash scene leave World War Z as a good, but not great, film. Chances are you'll enjoy this made-for-summer treat (especially if you're looking forward to it), therefore I suggest taking a shot on producer and star Brad Pitt's latest piece of work.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

Monday, June 10, 2013

Runner, Runner and Filth (Red Band) Trailers

Fresh off his Best Picture winning Argo, Ben Affleck makes his return in Brad Furman's Runner Runner. When a Princeton grad student named Richie (Justin Timberlake) feels like he's been cheated by an offshore betting company, he travels to Costa Rica to confront the owner (Affleck). But instead of walking away with his reimbursement, Richie finds his way deeper into the illegal operation. Scheduled for a September release, check out the trailer for Runner Runner below.

James McAvoy starred in my favorite film so far this year, Danny Boyle's Trance. He also takes the leading role in Jon S. Baird's Filth. Adapted from a novel by the same author as Trainspotting, Filth tells the tale of a corrupt and junkie cop (McAvoy) who's enlisted to solve a murder in the midst of his chaotic and destructive life. Check out the International Red Band trailer for Filth below.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Purge

Film: The Purge

Starring: Ethan Hawke (Sinister) and Lena Headey (HBO's Game of Thrones)

Director: James DeMonaco (Staten Island)

U.S. Release: June 7th, 2013 (Rated R)

Genre: Horror

Runtime: 85 minutes

If marketed correctly, a horror movie/franchise can be an absolute gold mine. In fact, writer/director James DeMonaco's latest widespread horror phenomenon, The Purge, had already received the green light for a sequel, even though the first installment hadn't officially opened yet. It's absolutely crazy when you think about it, but that's the world we live in now. All it takes is a clever premise and a hypnotic two and a half minute trailer to fool a nation of paying customers. And please take my word for it, The Purge is just another shining example of how misleading a theatrical trailer can be.

Set in the near future of 2022, the United States is a new nation. After unemployment, crime and poverty become too big of an issue for our country to handle, we adopt a new plan known as "The Purge". The Purge is one 12 hour period during the calendar year in which all crime (even murder) is legal. There's no police, there's no ambulances or hospitals, just good old-fashion human survival. Surprisingly, this newly adopted idea helps restore the United States back into a crime and poverty-free nation. But after a suburban family known as the Sandins decide to harbor the target of a group's annual Purge, they must find a way to survive the evening.

Sadly, The Purge represents a completely mishandled and poorly utilized idea. On the surface, it's nothing short of a genius premise. Easy to grasp, highly original and essentially limitless. The Purge should stand as a horror genre's dream come true. However, James DeMonaco's script and direction are entirely off the mark. No one can deny DeMonaco's brilliant idea for a story or his politically charged subplots that truly add depth to such a well-conceived notion. But instead, he receives a lion's share of criticism for his complete mishandling of a remarkably original premise. First, The Purge takes far too much time to get into the swing of things. And once the ball finally gets rolling, DeMonaco maneuvers the film in a poor direction. Where it hints at social class warfare and natural selection, The Purge hits all of the wrong notes in the process. The feature takes these deep rooted psychological ideas that branch off of its premise so easily, and turns them into a laughing stock of a finale. Hence, The Purge stands as nothing more than a huge disappointment.

In addition to the film's botched storyline, another irritating facet of The Purge is the irrationality of its characters. Surely we've all seen characters make poor decisions in horror movies. "Don't go up those steps" or "why are you moving towards the noise" have crossed our minds time and time again. Yet, The Purge places its entire focus on a mother and father desperate to protect their family. Can someone explain to me how this family shows absolutely no interest in finding one another once the power goes out in their home and they've been separated? And after the father fights off an ax-wielding woman and her male companion, his son asks about the matriarch (who is wandering the house all alone) and the dad simply responds that he's sure she's all right. There are contradictions galore and a substantial amount of nonsensical behaviors exhibited by the characters. At the end of the day, The Purge can be tallied up as yet another Hollywood blunder.

Admittedly, I counted the days until the release of James DeMonaco's The Purge. Yet, an enticing trailer and a strong general idea are squandered by poor writing and a lack of attention to detail. While production company insiders are aware that they have a box office smash on their hands, we can only hope that a stronger script will make the sequel a much more desirable final product than this first installment. The scares are too sporadic and the tension is short lived. Virtually, there's no good enough reason to waste your money on The Purge. Please avoid.

Stars: 1 star out of 4

Grade: D

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hollywood Headlines

Here are a few headlines and links regarding the latest news floating around Hollywood:

*** After rumors surfaced about Oscar-Nominee Jessica Chastain starring in the Hillary Clinton biopic (which she quickly denied), it looks as though The Great Gatsby's Carey Mulligan may step into the polarizing figures shoes. Read More Here

*** Early in the week it was reported that Hans Zimmer had signed on to score Christopher Nolan's beyond-anticipated sci-fi thriller, Interstellar. This isn't a surprising announcement considering Zimmer and Nolan have teamed up together on Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy. But speaking of Christopher Nolan, his name also popped up in recent reports that Warner Bros. traded their rights (over the next 5 years) to the Friday the 13th franchise and a future South Park movie to Paramount in exchange for a piece of the Interstellar box-office pie. Read More Here

*** Academy Award Winner Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) has decided to expand her resume a little. Lawrence is set to not only star in Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier's The Rules of Inheritance, she is on board as a producer as well. The films adapts Claire Bidwell Smith's memoir by the same name, about a 14 year old girl who faces a devastating reality when she finds out that both of her parents have been diagnosed with cancer.

*** Finally, the Oscar-Nominated French foreign film, A Prophet, had its rights optioned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, meaning we can expect an English-language adaptation in the near future. Read More Here

Monday, June 3, 2013

Prisoners and Closed Circuit Trailers

Fresh off an Oscar-Nominated turn in 2012's Les Miserables, Hugh Jackman returns in the semi-controversial thriller Prisoners. When a Boston man's young daughter and her best friend are kidnapped, police arrest a suspect but there's no evidence to formally charge him. Convinced that the authorities have the right guy, the father goes vigilante and kidnaps the suspect and tries to make him confess. The premise is intriguing and the moral debates are enticing enough to perk my interest. Jackman is joined by an unbelievable cast also including Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Maria Bello and Melissa Leo. Check out the trailer for Prisoners below.

In the wake of this millennium's war on terror and The Patriot Act, comes another thriller called Closed Circuit. When a terrorist bombing tragedy leads to an international trial, two defense lawyers (Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall) fight to unlock the truth behind their client and his role in the ordeal. Presumably an intense mind-bending feature, check out the trailer for Closed Circuit below.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Internship

Film: The Internship

Starring: Vince Vaughn (The Watch), Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris) and Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids)

U.S. Release: June 7th, 2013 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Comedy

Runtime: 119 minutes

Having grown up in the 90s, I have a difficult time deciding on my favorite comedy movie ever. Classics such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb & Dumber and Happy Gilmore seem to perfectly embody my younger years. In 2005, a younger generation found their identifiable comedy classic with Wedding Crashers. The over-extended, but overly funny, R-Rated release matched the surging success of a fast-talking Vince Vaughn with the hopeless-romanticism of Owen Wilson. Eight years after they changed the face of comedy, the duo return with a more tempered and more reserved effort, The Internship.

After sales partners Billy (played by Vaughn) and Nick (played by Wilson) surprisingly lose their jobs, they are forced to enter an extremely difficult job market. Feeling completely inadequate and essentially prehistoric by comparison, the pair enroll in an online college and sign up for an internship at Google. With a group competition deciding who will receive the available jobs, Billy and Nick are teamed up with a bunch of oddballs who seemingly have no shot of winning.

The Internship proves to be a very difficult film to dissect. In many regards, there's plenty to both love and hate about director Shawn Levy's latest effort. For starters, I have always been a huge outspoken voice against two hour (or longer) comedies. Clocking in at a hefty 119 minutes, The Internship takes a usually negative aspect and actually moves along fairly well. What's so difficult to dissect about that? It sounds like an irrefutable positive, right? Not so fast. Although the comedy moves along quite well and never bogs down the viewer, The Internship takes an overused "team of misfits" approach and delivers the same reusable jokes over and over again. Vastly unoriginal and predictable, The Internship can be easily be summed up the following way. Imagine a genius comedy such as 2003's Old School with a weaker supporting cast (warning - there are no Will Ferrell circa 2003 type of characters here) and a PG-13 rating. It's about as teenybopper and mainstream as a comedy blockbuster can get.

Despite a more restrained crop of jokes and a depleting Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, The Internship is sure to appeal to a large portion of the general masses by simply playing it safe and sticking to the formula. With such an approach, it becomes difficult to criticize the film for being a semi-appealing piece of fluff comedy. The Internship does nothing to turn audiences away, but instead wallows in the shadow of previous Vaughn and Wilson work from nearly a decade ago. However, I was astonished to see that, in the last five years, Vaughn hasn't been in a single film I have recommended to my audience. While The Internship is no where near as bad as dreck such as The Dilemma and Couples Retreat, it's still a far cry from the level of film that helped catapult his career.

The Internship is a two-trick pony that rests solely on the PG-13 shoulders of its heralded stars, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. To its advantage, the feature moves along without a hiccup and generates many chuckles. Yet, if you're expecting an elevated and unforgettable laugh-out-loud movie experience, you're aiming way too high. The Internship is a generic comedy that swims comfortably in the waters of mediocrity. Personally, I'd avoid rushing to a theatre to catch The Internship. Save its timid PG-13 humor for an appropriate cable television setting.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+