June 27, 2013

Idiocracy (2006)

Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard

This movie is a little older, but it was recommended to me and well, I can't pass up a movie that is itself a snarky commentary. Well that, and it was airing for free on Comedy Central.

The premise is that two people (Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph) are put to sleep in an experiment and wake up 500 years later to realize the human race has bred themselves into utter stupidity. It's almost not funny in that it seems plausible, given our society's penchant for shows like Jackass and Maury and The Real Housewives, the rapid growth of corporate presence and online porn, and the equally rapid decline in education. At its best, the movie is a hilarious satire on our culture. At its worst, it's an idiotic movie that makes you stupider for having watched it.

But what I really want to complain about is Dax Shepard. Just his existence in general. First of all, he's from Detroit. Like, the Detroit Eminem portrays in 8 Mile. I point this out because when you look at Dax, can't you just tell?? Anyway, he plays the disgusting, bumbling idiot I always believed he was in person, which somehow just annoys me. I mean, wasn't he the annoying guy from Punk'd? (Sorry, the other annoying guy. Ashton Kutcher was pretty annoying back then too.) And now, he's on Parenthood and people seemed to have completely forgotten that he was this gross, annoying guy and just accepted him as a legitimate Hollywood star. I actually heard on the radio today that he and Kristen Bell were named "Sexiest Vegetarian Couple." (I can't make that up.) Even completely ignoring the question of 'who the hell else was in competition for this title,' I find it hard to believe that anyone actually finds Dax Shepard sexy. And though his fiancee isn't bad looking, I'd really appreciate it if she stopped making movies. When in Rome made me want to cry a little, but not in a good way.

Final word: This would have made a really funny SNL skit, but it loses quite a bit of its humor after an hour and a half.

June 22, 2013

Before Midnight (2013)

Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

I recently had a conversation about the Harry Potter books and why they were so much better than the more recent young adult series that have spawned franchises (think: Twilight, Hunger Games). Someone pointed out to me that the Harry Potter books seemed to grow in maturity as they went along. It makes sense - 10 years pass between the publication of the first and last books, and Harry ages 6 years. The fact that the writing and the story lines seem to keep pace with Harry's maturity speaks volumes about J.K. Rowling's talent. It's also why the books remain interesting, even though each one seems to grow equally in length.

So what does Harry Potter have to do with this movie? A lot, actually. For anyone not familiar with the Before series, the movies don't come out on the heels of one another, making the general public sick with the over-saturation of its characters (again, think Twilight). When Before Sunrise was released in 1995, there was no indication that there would even be a sequel. So when Before Sunset came out in 2004, it was both surprising and exciting. (And terrifying - everyone know sequels are generally a disappointment.) It was also the only sequel I've ever liked more than the original.

Then came the trailer for Before Midnight and I felt both stupidly excited and again, apprehensive. I regretted my decision for about the first 20 minutes of the film because frankly, it was boring and I thought maybe Richard Linklater was just trying to milk a few extra dollars from sappy suckers like myself. But then I remembered that all the movies were slow starters and if I could just endure a long monologue from Jesse about whatever book he was working on next, the movie would be worth it. (Seriously, though, why do the movies keep doing this? Is it supposed to bring an added element of depth? Is it to test the resilience of the audience?)

It was worth it. Like those Harry Potter books, the topics in the film grew up and related to an audience that had maybe grown up alongside these movies. It gave a lot of the familiar and beloved aspects of the previous movies - beautiful scenery, dynamic dialogue, and large portions of real-time action. It truly is amazing how watching two people just talk can be so interesting. Some people may find it boring, but I think this makes Richard Linklater a genius. It's like watching a play but with way better set design. 

I don't know how to say much more about the movie without delving into a deep conversation about all three movies (because they are really all inter-related), but I will say that the relate-ability and real-ness (yes, I'm just making up words now) of the characters and their lives is what makes this movie so good. Unless of course, you live in a problem-free world or only enjoy movies with the depth of Blue Crush. (No disrespect to Blue Crush, but the only thoughts it provokes are: "should I be working out more?" and "isn't that guy Warner from Legally Blonde?")

Final word: Satisfying for fans of the previous movies in the series. Skews more toward a slow dialogue about relationship issues for those who aren't.

Watch the series from the beginning - it will help add context for the subsequent movies.

June 18, 2013

To Rome With Love (2012)

Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz, Roberto Benigni

3 quick facts about Hollywood:
  1. Everyone is at least a little weird.
  2. Age has little to no impact on romantic pairings, both on screen and in real life.
  3. Everyone seems to jump at the chance to work in a Woody Allen movie.
In spite of all this...is no one still creeped out by the fact that he married his daughter? SERIOUSLY, IS NO ONE CREEPED OUT BY THE FACT THAT HE MARRIED HIS DAUGHTER???

But looking past the actor's personal lives (ahem, ahem, Alec Baldwin)...

This movie is one of those movies that follows a number of different people's lives, and therefore has a number of story lines running simultaneously. The best one is Roberto Benigni's for two reasons:

  1. I spent about ten minutes trying to figure out how I knew him. When I finally figured it out, all I could think about was this moment. How could you not love this guy?
  2. His story line mocks the entire Kardashian family. Well, really, anyone that's famous for no reason, but I'd like to think Woody Allen is specifically targeting the Kardashians for their utter lack of shame. And talent. In anything.
I probably would have rated this movie quite a bit higher if it hadn't been for Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page. First of all, is it possible for anyone to watch Jesse Eisenberg in a movie and not think of him as Mark Zuckerberg the entire time?? And while one of my biggest pet peeves in life is people who talk too slowly, I think Jesse could afford to slow down a bit. He always sounds like he's in a rush to finish his lines and get to the bathroom or something. And yes, Ellen Page is adorable in Juno. But seeing as that movie is like, six years old now, can we move past that? Casting her as some kind of sex magnet is not just creepy (because she still looks like a 16 year-old), but flat-out wrong.

Final word: Totally and completely average, like all of the actors in this movie.

June 11, 2013

Hope Springs (2012)

Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell

It really can't be said enough - movies should not be billed as comedies if they are not funny. What's not funny? How about old people whose marriage is falling apart? Wasn't I just talking about how depressing and not funny movies are that are too realistic??

I can't remember seeing a movie trailer for this when it came out, but the movie poster definitely makes it look like a light-hearted romantic comedy. "Fall in love again," it says. Ha. If love revolves around sex, then yes, fall in love. I'm normally not a fan of plot summarizing, but in this case, I feel the public needs to be warned. This is movie is all about sex. Seriously. The sex lives of old people. Except again, it's not actually a comedy. Go ahead and think about that for a minute.

Quick personal memory flashback: before getting married, the church required my fiance and I to take a compatibility test. As in, we sat in separate rooms with a test, a bubble sheet and a #2 pencil (is there any other number pencil out there??) and answered questions about our views on kids, money, family, religion, and sex, among other things. We then had to have a lengthy discussion about our results with a priest. Discussing sex with a priest. Go ahead and think about that for another minute.

I was more uncomfortable watching this movie than that discussion with the priest. Maybe that makes me unnecessarily squeamish or prudish, but honestly, imagining the sex lives of old married couples is not my idea of entertainment. I also want to point out that I rather enjoyed The Sessions, despite also being all about sex and actually showing nudity (this movie does not, thank GOD). Maybe that just makes me an ageist.

Final word: Fast forward This is 40 by twenty years and substitute all the jokes for awkward conversations about sex by people you pray they won't actually show naked.

June 1, 2013

This is 40 (2012)

Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann

Comedy. It's such a tricky thing. One person's Judd Apatow is another person's Seth McFarlane. Oh wait...

So this movie was billed as a "sort of sequel" to Knocked Up. I didn't see that as a selling point, as a movie where I'm supposed to believe Katherine Heigl sleeps with, then decides to pursue a relationship with Seth Rogan is realistic is like saying I believe women marry Donald Trump for his looks. On the other hand, Judd Apatow had nowhere to go but up with his casting after that, so watching Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd was far more enjoyable. Even though Leslie Mann's voice makes me sort of want to punch her in the face.

I hate to keep referencing Amour, but this movie was like a PG-13 riff on the topic with some jokes thrown in. It was hard to watch and mostly not enjoyable because I didn't want to envision my future to be anything like their life. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but it was more of a "thinking" movie than a comedy. As in, 'dear God, what would I do if my life were like that?' Or maybe I was just in the wrong frame of mind to enjoy this type of comedy. Looking back, there are definitely funny moments, but overall, I felt uncomfortable throughout. Then again, some people think feeling uncomfortable is funny (aka anyone who enjoyed the Meet the Parents franchise). I don't happen to be one of those people.

Oh, and I don't mean to add unnecessarily disparaging last thoughts, but the acting of the two daughters is really horrible. Any time I see kids in movies that are bad actors, I always joke they must be the director's kids. Turns out, I was onto something. Both girls are played by the real life daughters of Judd Apatow. Which of course, means now we'll have to see them in every movie he makes that features kids. With any luck, they'll spawn their own horrible spin-off movies like Rob Schneider, who parlayed his relationship with Adam Sandler into classic gems like The Hot Chick and The Animal.

Final word: Funnier in retrospect, but maybe you need to be 40 [with kids] to fully appreciate this movie.