Archive for August, 2011

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Raunch, Help, and Cheating Death

August 17, 2011

emma stone is a great help

Notes from the back row. Aug 9

Three worthy flicks

Raunch comedy is still Hollywood’s go-to for summer laughs. So far Bridesmaids has made the biggest splash (and a shitload of cash) by custom-catering raunch to the female crowds this week the dudes get a shot when 30 Minutes or Less, opens Friday at the Whistler Village 8 and the Garibaldi 5 in Squamish.
Danny McBride (Hot Rod, Pineapple Express) and Nick Swardson (Blades of Glory) star as two losers with a get-rich-quick scheme that involves kidnapping a hapless pizza delivery guy (Jesse Eisenberg from Zombieland, The Social Network), strapping a bomb to him and forcing him to rob a bank in order to pay a hitman hired to kill McBride’s rich father. Said pizza guy enlists the help of his ex-best friend (Aziz Ansari of 40-Year-Old-Virgin) and the dual-buddy-flick screwball comedy ensues.
30 Minutes or Less director Rueben Fleischer (Zombieland) doesn’t take things as far, or as dark, as he could—much of the comedy feels a bit standard issue but there are definitely some good laughs to be had. And few actors working today can curse as artfully as Danny McBride— this one is certainly not for the easily offended.
There are no decent female roles at all (unless you count “the stripper” and “the hot sister”) and the plot and story are utterly unbelievable, stupid almost. I think that is why I like it— stupid done right. 30 Minutes or Less, at just 83 minutes long, is “high” comedy that really motors.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Help is a sentimental drama about three extraordinary women in 1960s Misssissippi who band together over a secret writing project that tears down the societal norms and builds up a brave new day. I think this one is based on a famous book or something but it looks like one of those feel-bad/feel-good racism stories in the same vein as The Blind Side, that football movie that earned Sandra Bullock her Oscar. The Help has no football but stars Emma Stone (Superbad, Easy A) as the white girl who sides with the “help” (black maids and nannies who are generally treated worse than shit) to shake things up and get the times a changin’ for the better.
The Help doesn’t look too sappy though, which is always a danger with these kinds of films and I’m betting this is a perfect grandma and mom flick. It seems like a well-made, uplifting tale but it’s also two hours and seventeen minutes long so buy the extra bag of M&Ms and keep a few napkins handy, this one has tearjerker potential.
Speaking of napkins, the Final Destination franchise is infamous for it’s deadly, gruesome money shots and while there were no pre-screenings for Final Destination 5 it does have extra local appeal because the opening disaster scene features the collapse of Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate Bridge.
The premise is nothing new—five survivors who cheated Fate/Death battle to survive while getting picked off one by one via incredibly elaborate death scenes. Aside from raising some philosophical questions about predetermination and the true value of life, Final Destination 5 is really little more than locally shot Death-Porn. Which is good enough really, this franchise is going strong. I generally label these flicks as rentals but who hasn’t been kind of sketched out going over the Lion’s Gate Bridge (its really old) so I’m for sure checking this out on the big screen. Real movie fans should drive to Vancouver and watch in 3D, then cross the Lion’s Gate on the way home…

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Bring on the apes

August 17, 2011

slumdog?

Notes from the back row— Aug 2
Monkey business

How does it feel to be the most sought after actor on the planet but only for roles where no one will ever actually see you? Andy Serkis has live-motion-capture acted three classic characters in the past decade— Gollum in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, the giant gorilla King Kong (also by Jackson) and now Caesar, another monkey and the protagonist of Rise of the Planet of the Apes which opens this Friday at both the Village 8 and Garibaldi 5.
Planet of the Apes is a 1968 Charlton Heston classic best remembered for the twist ending—I don’t want to give it away because it’s killer and the original Planet of the Apes is the download of the week but the five Apes sequels, including Tim Burton’s “re-imagining” back in 2001, don’t really hold up to the original. This one does, however, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes is very satisfying.
First of all, it’s a revolution picture and revolutions are really hot right now. As well, the apes are played by actual humans wired for motion-capture and the CGI effects (from the teams that did Lord of the Rings and Avatar) are really good. Each simian has its own personality and identity.) Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the kind of film that hinges almost entirely on its effects and I think Director Rupert Wyatt (Dark Days, The Escapist) and his team pull it off smashingly. This is the first movie to really demonstrate Avatar’s legacy— New stories can be told and films can be made differently now (and Andy Serkis is the digital Marlon Brando.)
James Franco doesn’t play an ape but rather stars as an uber-focused scientist who’s trying to cure Alzheimer’s but instead figures out how to make monkeys really smart. After his research is scrapped by the top brass, James ends up with a baby ape which he raises with the help of a smoking hot Vet/primatologist played by Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire.) Shit goes downhill when the just-add-a-montage new lovers are forced to relinquish their monkey back to the lab.
It’s not a perfect picture. The moral lessons (humans are cocky and overly arrogant with regards to nature) are nothing we haven’t seen before and the bad guys are also kind of stock but the film’s doubled-up father-son dynamic has some emotional heft and all the stuff with the apes is pretty kick-ass, the last third of the two-hour film is almost all crazy, balls-out monkey action.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes may look like just another reboot but it’s the reboot of the Summer and they had me at “Freida Pinto”, who shines in a criminally underdeveloped role.
The main criticism for The Change-Up, an r-rated Freaky Friday role reversal flick also opening friday, is that the sappy ending where everyone makes up and hugs is a little contrived and lacks punch but that is the case for almost all comedies lately and no one watches a funny movie for the unfunny part at the end, they watch it for the 70-80 minutes of funny bits that lead there. The Change-Up has some funny bits. Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman star as the single man and the family man (respectively) and they switch roles after pissing in a religious wishing well one night. The Change-Up is crude and rude but delivers some real laughs despite that the script isn’t genius (but it’s by the guys that wrote The Hangover), the humour is potty-and-tittie-based (nothing wrong with that) and the cast is mostly just monkeying around.

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The Woman in Black- Teaser

August 17, 2011

A lot of people wondered if Daniel Radcliffe will ever be able to shake the Harry Potter role and move on career wise. Remember when he was on the stage naked a few years back, that was the first step. This is the second. The Woman in Black looks pretty kick-ass and should prevent Radcliffe from falling into the same single-typecast trap that plagues Stiffler and McLovin.