May 27, 2014

Girl Most Likely (2013)

Kristen Wiig, Annette Benning, Matt Dillon


Kristen Wiig does what she does best in this movie - act awkward. She's completely believable as a skinny Bridget Jones-type loser whose life pretty much sucks all around. And Annette Benning nails what I imagine a stereotypical New Jersey mom would be (this is what Scarlett Johansson's character in Don Jon will be like when she grows up). Having her character coupled with Matt Dillon only seals the imagery. I mean really, since Wild Things, has anyone been able to take Matt Dillon seriously as anything other than a giant sleaze-bag? (Er...did anyone else think that before Wild Things as well?)


So the actors are good. And it sort of pains me to say that, because I am staunchly against whatever Kristen Wiig worship is out there. [I'll say it to whomever will listen - Bridesmaids was not funny!!] But beyond that, the movie is utterly lacking in originality. It's not that this movie sucks; it's that other movies like this already exist and are much better than this one. Let's run through the list, shall we?

Charlize Theron already made this movie. It's called Young Adult. It practically the exact same, except that Charlize Theron is an Oscar-winning actress, her movie had a more complete plot, and everything about Young Adult was exponentially better than this movie. But other than that, totally the same.



Then there are Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino (aka Romy and Michele) in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. This one was just like Girl Most Likely, except that it was so funny I still laugh out loud when I happen to catch it on TV. I can't remember being moved to audible laughter at all while watching Girl Most Likely. The plot (and I use that term loosely) between these two was slightly different, but still the whole loser-women-trying-to-impress-people-from-high-school theme applies.


And then of course, there is the queen of loser-dom, Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones. She so thoroughly embodies a pathetic nature that it's difficult to try and watch anyone ever try to be so pitiful yet hilarious at the same time ever again. Bloody brilliant, Bridget.


So with the exception of Mira Sorvino's weird man-voice, all of these women are more enjoyable to watch than Kristen Wiig. And all their movies are of a higher quality than hers. Which leaves me with only one logical conclusion...

Final word: There's really no reason to watch this movie. Ever.

**Readers, did I miss anyone else that already played this part?

May 21, 2014

That Awkward Moment (2014)

Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and who I assume is the new geeky "it" guy, Miles Teller



...

Those three little dots can really draw out a moment from a mere pause into the realm of awkwardness. Back when you could create 'groups' on facebook, a friend of mine made one called "... is my life." Anyone who understood the implicit meaning was invited to join. I think she managed to get about six people. Including herself.

Yeah. Who hasn't had this happen with an in-law?
That sad little facebook group is a direct parallel to the state of hit comedies today. I do not enjoy the over-the-top, unrealistic awkward situations found in most movies, like Meet the Parents. It's just not realistic. Where is the humor in a decent person having absolutely everything go wrong in their life? Do we really laugh at people's sucky luck? Do fans of Meet the Parents also laugh at homeless people on the street? But somehow, this disaster movie spawned not one, but two sequels, and people continue to pay to watch Ben Stiller movies. That money could be going to set up some sort of Murphy's Law foundation for homeless people instead.

I do, however, appreciate the humor found in everyday awkward moments, around which this movie is centered. It's not only mostly believable, but you can actually relate to some of the awkward moments in the movie. Like, who hasn't had a relationship end they didn't even know began? No? Really? Just me?

In some cases, a combination of both penises and toilets.
This movie is filled with clichés, of course. It is essentially a romantic comedy, after all. It's highly predictable and has some cheesy moments, but this movie does attempt something that many other romantic comedies do not - it at least tries to appeal to the male demographic. Much like action movies started appealing to the reluctant women viewers by having hot male leads take their shirts off and occasionally attempting a plot beyond 'blow stuff up,' this movie showcases a number of hot girls and adds a healthy dose of "guy humor" (aka penis and bathroom jokes). 

Where this movie falls short is in its main girl character, Ellie. First of all, she is the worst looking girl in the entire movie. I mean, there are non-speaking extras in the movie that command more attention than her. Also, she embodies every cliché of what guys claim to be looking for: she's witty, low-maintenance, and she plays X-Box and drinks scotch. Here are the glaring problems with this:

No way Zac Efron hits on this.
1. Twenty-something guys don't actually date the low-maintenance girl. In all my years of life, I have never figured out why, but most guys date high-maintenance girls, then complain to their low-maintenance female friends about how their girlfriends are high-maintenance. Real life does not reflect Some Kind of Wonderful. Much like nice guys not getting the girl, low-maintenance girls don't really get the guy.

2. Ellie looks like crap. Dirty, emo, hipster, crap. Which is weird, because Imogen Poots (despite her highly unfortunate name) is not actually bad looking in real life. But this movie made her so undesirable to look at it was not only not believable that Zac Efron would date her, but her mere screen presence was distracting. I mean, she looked like she woke up in a gutter after celebrating Mardi Gras for a week and stepped directly onto the movie set.

Don't get me wrong - I appreciate the divergence from the typical romantic comedy portrayal of a high-strung type-A girl who is too picky to get a man (aka anything with Katherine Heigl), but why does "low-maintenance" have to equate to some girl who can't be bothered to run a comb through her hair?!? And any guy who thinks think he wants a girl who plays X-Box and has all the same interests as him is kidding himself because in a few months, he'll be complaining he never gets alone time with his guy friends because he and his girlfriend do everything together because (duh!) they have all the same exact interests. Here's a hint guys: the trick to a solid relationship is not to simply find a copy of your buddies who looks like a girl.

Aaaaaanyway...

I know I'm in the vast, vast minority, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say I enjoyed this movie for what it was. It wasn't brilliant, but it was funny in an American Pie sort of way except that this was slightly more grown up. And seeing Zac Efron shirtless is highly preferable to seeing Jason Biggs shirtless.

Though this creates its own awkward humor.

Final word: I think it takes a specific kind of person to appreciate this movie.

May 14, 2014

The Counselor (2013)

Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem



When faced with difficult decisions in life (whether or not to stay in a relationship, find a new job, what to eat for breakfast, etc.), some of us resort to making a pros and cons list. Similarly, when I tried to think of how to convey to readers just how bad this movie was, I couldn't even come up with a coherent review to relay this information. So, I'm taking a cue from Ross and assembling a pros and cons list (because really, I can make a Friends reference for just about anything).

Pro: The movie actually assembles two mixed-race couples instead of just lazily pairing the two Latinos together.
Con: Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem were not even remotely believable as a couple.

Pro: Cameron Diaz, who I don't normally regard as a high-caliber actress, is one of the better performers in this movie.
Con: Much of her character is reduced to cheap sexual innuendos and other B-movie tricks to try and keep the audience awake. (Note: it didn't work. I fell asleep twice and had to be violently shaken awake.)

Pro: The movie assumes viewers are smart enough to follow a plot without spelling out every detail upfront.
Con: It's literally thirty minutes into the movie before you have any idea what the hell is going on.

Pro: There aren't a lot of unnecessary explosions and action sequences to distract you from the plot.
Con: There aren't a lot of unnecessary explosions and action sequences to distract you from the plot.

Pro: The plot (once you get past the first thirty minutes) is easy to follow.
Con: It's so predictable I wonder how it was ever classified as a 'thriller.' I'm pretty sure my pulse never rose above 60 beats per minute.

Pro: There are attractive people cast in the movie.
Con: Most of the people are made to look as ugly as possible - Cameron Diaz with her wannabe Rihanna hair, Brad Pitt with his nasty World War Z hair, and Javier Bardem, whose recored-setting large face is accentuated by a Jersey Shore hairstyle.

Pro: You don't actually have to see Michael Fassbender naked (for once).
Con: The movie still starts with a sex scene of his and there are lots of shots of him in tight-fitting clothes and deeply un-buttoned shirts. (I realize some people may think this is a pro. It is not.)

Pro: It poses a few deeper-thinking questions to the audience, possibly causing a few people to think about their lives and the choices they have made instead of just reveling in pure entertainment.
Con: The morality and life questions are about as subtle as Keanu Reeves' accent in A Walk in the Clouds and comes off feeling a bit like fortune cookie wisdom.

Final word: I would applaud the movie for trying to be intellectual in the face of its own stupidity, but that's kind of like applauding a bird for trying to peck through a window to get the food on the other side.

May 6, 2014

Bears (2014)

John C. Reilly



Ever since I gave birth to a baby girl three years ago, I've been waiting for the day I could take her to the movies for a mother-daughter date. Not just because I haven't been able to properly see a movie in a movie theater in ages, but because I wanted her to experience the magic of watching something on a screen larger than the size of an iPad mini. Well, that day finally came.

Originally, I told her we were going to a special sing-along screening of Frozen, which had been playing at a local theater for the past several weekends. I loaded her in the car, drove about six minutes to our destination, then proceeded to circle for the next 25 minutes, looking for a parking spot. I eventually parked in a rather questionably legal space, then forced her to run three blocks to the theater so we wouldn't be late. We arrived and the line to enter the theater wrapped around the block, filled with impatient-looking parents and girls dressed in Elsa costumes. The sign on the ticket window read "SOLD OUT."

Of course.

I quickly re-grouped and found a screening of Bears at a nearby theater. My daughter, of course, was noticeably confused and kept asking why we weren't going to watch "the snowman movie." (Because to a three-year old, Olaf the snowman is really the star of the show.) I hyped up Bears as best I could and even let her pick out one of those price-gouging large bags of candy to bribe her into watching something other than Frozen.

She made it about thirty minutes into the movie before the candy ran out and she started to get restless. I can't say I disagree with her about the timing. Despite my lack of reviews on documentaries, I actually enjoy a good documentary now and again. Nature documentaries even more so. I watched the entirety of Planet Earth and a good deal of its spin-off, North America. I thought Winged Migration was oddly engrossing. And like everyone else who can't resist Morgan Freeman's voice, I watched March of the Penguins.

I love Disney and I appreciate their efforts to expand into non-fiction film making, but this was perhaps not worth even my matinee reduced-price ticket of $10.25. The shots they get of the bears is incredible, to be sure. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that a real human being was getting that close to wild bears in order to get the kind of footage shown in the movie. And of course, the bears themselves are very cute.


But...(and I realize this might sound ridiculous) the plot is a bit contrived. I understand the general premise of showing the difficulty a bear cub faces in the wild (also, I've seen Brother Bear, also by Disney), but it seemed like the images were edited in sequence to create some drama that may not have actually occurred. And by forcing the movie to conform to a typical plot formula, some parts ended up dragging as the audience was waiting for the next climax in the story instead of enjoying the cinematography or the bears themselves. The so-so "plot" completely overshadowed the real star of the movie, which was the footage of the bears themselves.

I realize how difficult it must be to create an engaging documentary about animals, who obviously cannot talk. And that's why the narrator is so important. It took me all of about 90 seconds to identify John C. Reilly's voice in this movie. And not in a good way. I'm not sure if the director watched Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story on Comedy Central at 4am and thought to himself "hmm...this guy would make a wonderful narrator for a serious film about bears" or what. Maybe Reilly's turn as the large, lovable oaf in Wreck-It Ralph caused the director to draw parallels between Ralph and bears? I have no idea, but I am desperately searching for the reasoning behind the casting choice.

He didn't completely ruin the movie, but he was certainly a large contributor to its mediocrity. Having him occasionally voice the bears in first person was an artistic decision made by someone else, but I'd like to think female bears, if they could talk in a voice we could understand, would sound nothing like John C. Reilly.

To make a long story short, after 118 minutes of John C. Reilly pretending to be a bear, my daughter and I walked out of the theater. I asked her, "Did you like it?"

She paused, then responded, "Um, yeah. Can we go home and watch the snowman movie now?"

Final word: It's no Planet Earth. Or Frozen, for that matter.