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>> Friday, August 27, 2010

Who hasn’t masturbated to Diane Sawyer before?

Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston set themselves up for everything they ever wanted in The Switch, a new romantic comedy from Blades of Glory (2007) director, Josh Gordon. The story takes place in New York (like so many love stories seem too) and starts when Kassie (Aniston) decides she is going to have a baby and is sick of waiting around for Mr. Right. Fortunately for Kassie, Mr. ‘Right Now’ is a brand of a turkey baster and will do the job.

Kassie instantly goes onto Craig’s List to post a wanted ad for a sperm donor and low behold, as weeks pass (although the movie doesn’t always have a coherent timeline) Kassie ends up with the perfect tall, handsome, charming donor she was looking for – much to the chagrin of her best ‘like a brother’ friend Wally (Bateman). Wally offered Kassie his “ingredients”, but she didn’t take too kindly to the idea of raising a neurotic, emetophobia-driven mini-Wally. I don’t know how much this woman knows about the nature vs. nurture debate, but movies don’t need to be believable, right? Right?....

Wally wines to his best friend Leonard (Jeff Goldblum) about the problem to the point where (like any good friend) he makes jokes out of the situation and stutters and speaks quickly just long enough for us to thinks he’s clever - without giving any real advice I might add. On that (and a completely unrelated) note, why is it, guy business buddy types always get their talking done on a treadmill 53 stories above the Manhattan skyline? But moving on…

Wally heads to a party that Kassie is throwing where the turkey baster deed is to happen, as Kassie doesn’t want that “frozen type” of material. She’s into a more “fresh approach” (Christ, even sperm donations are becoming organic these days) Wally starts to mingle, then drinks, then meets the donor, then drinks some more and eventually finds himself in the same room as the semen Kassie is about to ingest (check your prom dress next time, Kassie). It sits tempting as ever in a cup on a little heater. Of course (and as any guy would do), Wally’s first reaction is to pick the cup up, unscrew the lid and (gulp) play with the stuff. Turns out that leads to tempting the fates and placing the opened container under tap water where, sooner than later, he finds himself with an empty cup. This is where Wally becomes a real “jerk”.

Seven years pass and without anyone aging or changing fashion styles, Wally finds himself with the good news that Kassie (who had moved away shortly after becoming pregnant) is moving back to New York. And good news, she has a son! Could it be? Might it be? Yup. Looks like it’s Wally’s. And wouldn’t you know it, the little bastard (played decently by newcomer Thomas Robinson) is like Wally in every way and may just change Wally’s life and make him more mature. You can see where I’m going with this. Think About a Boy (2002), but not as entertaining.

It seems to me that The Switch tried to channel the spirits that made Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and When Harry Met Sally (1989) a success, and unfortunately it just doesn’t make it - in a tradition more akin to something uninspiring like Made of Honour (2008) . Aniston and Bateman have good chemistry, and although they don’t challenge themselves here as actors, they are pleasant enough to watch – as expected. The strongest bond in this movie comes (surprisingly) from Wally and his son Sebastian (Robinson) - so much to the point where Kassie becomes someone you sorta don’t care about anymore.

Ultimately, I give The Switch a closed door. We’ve definitely seen this stuff a million times before (well, the sperm thing is new), and it’s completely predictable. I saw this movie in the afternoon and that’s probably a good time to take it in if you choose to do so. It’s a pleasant enough little film, but in the end it’s pretty forgettable. This includes cheesy lines of dialogue such as “maybe in the end, the human race…. isn’t such a race after all?”.
*Stills courtesy of Bona Fide Productions



>> Friday, August 20, 2010

Thank GOD this wan't in 3-D...

Michael Cera stars as the sad, lonely and surprisingly tough Scott Pilgrim in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which is definitely Cera’s most ambitious work to date. Now, Cera has gotten a lot of attention in the movie scene since 2007’s Superbad, at which point he began to land roles in movies left and right. Some were pretty decent (Juno [2007] and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist [2008]) and some were not so good (Year One [2009]). In all of his movies, however, he plays the same shy, dimwitted, girl-hunting hipster who can never seem to get a break. With Scott Pilgrim, this is still the case. Cera has unfortunately been type cast into what are probably referred to as “Cera roles” by now. With Pilgrim though, he works on so many good levels it’s ridiculous.

Scott Pilgrim is a young Mr. Lonley-hearts who thinks that (after a nasty break up over a year ago) he may have figured out life when he starts dating Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) – a high school Chinese girl. His sister Stacey (Up in the Air’s Anna Kendrick) and his best friend and roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin) mock him for dating such an inexperienced youngster. At one point Knives tells Scott she’s never kissed a boy, to which Scott replies “It’s okay, I’ve never kissed one either.” – what a nice guy he is. That is at least until he breaks up with Knives to pursue a relationship with Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabteh Winstead), who becomes Scott’s obsession to the point of daydream insanity and borderline psychosis.

Scott eventually feeds his addiction of Ramona by stalking to her to the point where he finally hooks up with her and gets his way. Just when Scott (once again) thinks life couldn’t be more perfect, he receives a threatening email notifying him of the League of Exes (or something to that effect). It seems in order to be with the girl of his dreams he must first destroy her seven evil exes (which includes Fantastic Four’s Chris Evans and Superman ReturnsBrandon Routh).
The fact that even a small summary of the movie’s plot sounds so original is a testament to how original Scott Pilgrim actually is –and boy howdy is it a hell of a lot of fun. I don’t even know where to start on how well done this movie was.

A few weeks ago I mentioned Inception was the best movie we were likely to see in a long time and labelled it my favourite movie of the year. That was because Inception was a deep story for me and seemed perfect and epic in every way, from the tale itself to the amazing acrobatics and visuals. Now, Scott Pilgrim comes along and does damn near everything it can to knock that mind frame out of the water. That’s because this movie (who’s tagline is “The epic of epic epicness.”) is also a perfect movie. It is perfect in a different way than Inception though. As aforementioned, Inception felt like it hit the deep core of me and my reason for being a filmmaker, while Scott Pilgrim was something to wholly admire. Now, I am a fan of pop culture and consider myself to be fairly well-informed when it comes to movies and TV and actors and actresses, etc. In that sense I get a good amount of the references and music cues used in this film. The other layer to this awesome madness comes from video games and comic books. The video games of course provide fun visual and audio stimuli, while the comics provide an outstanding array of really, really neato effects – some of which are so quick if you blink you may miss them, but always beautifully done.

As if the visuals (its main source of originality, no doubt) weren’t enough in Scott Pilgrim, as a filmmaker I had to admire the incredibly done, amazingly tight editing of the movie. I haven’t seen a movie where I noticed the editing to this extent in a long, long time. It’s as if the director (Shaun of the Dead’s Edgar Wright) thought “If someone needs to get from A to B, why not just show A, then show B?”. That style means Scott Pilgrim NEVER has a dull moment. The editing and sheer planning in advance that this movie would have needed (and lots of storyboards I imagine) is where the admiration comes in. Where Inception hooked me with idea, Scott Pilgrim hooked me with style. It’s like Stephen Hawking vs Johnny Depp. They are different in totally different ways, but I’ll be damned if they don’t both get your attention.

None of what I’m saying here even touches on the quirky humour with this movie, either - because that’s on an entirely different level all by itself that enriches the film even morseo. If you’ve seen Shaun of the Dead (2004) or Hot Fuzz (2007) you’ll know what kind of humour to expect here. It, like the editing is quick paced and if you blink you may miss it. Unlike Shaun and Fuzz though, it’s like Wright put his humour creator on speed because there is twenty times as many funny moments in this movie than in any of the director’s previous work.

As all of these elements come together it’s like watching a lot of the best movie moments you’ve ever seen come together in a mash-up of epicness for 112 minutes, and done right, too. None of it feels awkward or forced and you never question its purpose. This is the type of movie I hope gets nominated for an Oscar next year and I hope wins. Best Picture Oscars are given as an award for excellence in filmmaking. Scott Pilgrim is an excellence in filmmaking. War stories and dramas are great because they provide a political insight as to what’s going on in the world at that time, but they are the expected winners and something like Scott Pilgrim would be a nice change of pace as it provides just as much social commentary for this generation as well as the last 30 years of pop culture. I wouldn’t even mind it if Michael Cera was nominated here. He plays a lot if so perfectly that even though the role was undoubtedly tailored for him, it’s still has to be a lot of work to be so precisely awkward.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World gets a wide, wide open door from me. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a movie this much in a very long time. And yes, it’s worth seeing in theatres as lot of the little details may be missed on smaller screens. If you don’t enjoy this movie you have no soul -simple as that.

*Stills courtesy of Universal Pictures



>> Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Team Jacob, BITCH!

To suck, or not to suck, that is Edward’s question. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the cast of Vampire’s Suck, the answer is… to suck. Where the hell do these movies keep on coming from?! Oh, I know - from the team of “I can’t believe they’re still giving us money!” idiots that brought you 2008’s POS mess of awfulness Disaster Movie (which still has a 0% rating under Top Critics at Rotten Tomatoes, btw).

Attention all movie studios: PLEASE STOP GIVING WRITER/DIRECTORS JASON FRIEDBERG AND AARON SELTZER MONEY!!! In fact, they actually lost money with Disaster Movie. These guys have been riding the ‘people will watch anything’ train since they started with Scary Movie (2000). I actually liked Scary Movie - a lot. But its success is perhaps the one to blame for this onslaught of crappy parody movies - the first downer being Date Movie (2006) which failed to be quite as funny. Now four years later we’re still dealing with this junk. After Disaster Movie (and yes I am aware of the ironic title) I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that would be the end. After all, when a movie genre loses money and actually starts to be hated rather than just “disliked”, what studio says “We need to make more of these!”? Like, really?!

I like to think this is Friedberg’s and Seltzer’s last shot. That they went into the studio offices and said “Okay, look, I know we screwed up, but vampire movies are hot right now and we need to create some social commentary on them “. Then the execs hummed and hawed and finally gave in – after all, these guys did bring them money-making movies before. Surely they won’t mess up again. Both thankfully and unthankfully, they did. Unthankfully because this was a wasted 77 minutes I’ll never get back, and thankfully because surely the studio that brought us Fight Club (1999) will learn their lesson and never let these guys back onto studio property or near a camera again.

From this little rant o’ mine surely you can figure out I really didn’t like this movie at all. Any little laughs or giggles came from inside jokes or guilty pleasures like potty humour. Past the first half hour though it started to get a little tedious and by the end I was just plain annoyed. The jokes are obvious and unimaginative. At one point in the film Edward (Matt Lanter) tells Becca (Jenn Proske) that he is a vampire and she can guess what he needs to eat in order to live. At that point she holds up a box of f***ing Count Chocula cereal. Seriously?! Why oh why can’t these guys learn that a good parody film is something like Shaun of the Dead (2004). It’s still funny because (gasp) it has original jokes, but does a beautiful play on the zombie movie genre. Even SNL’s parody skit Firelight is a better spoof of Twilight. Hell, the Twilight movies are a better spoof of themselves.

Vampires Suck sucks. Period. Closed door all the way. In fact, I’m putting about twelve deadbolts on this closed door in case you get curious and bored one afternoon. I don’t care if you are stuck in a room for 76 minutes with a copy of this movie and the dictionary. Pick up the dictionary, and when you’re done reading through letters A and B, use the damn thing to smash this film to pieces – even though it does just a fine job of destroying itself.

*Stills “courtesy” of Regency Enterprises

*This review has also appeared on Ain't It Cool News! Check it out HERE.


SALT (2010)

>> Friday, August 13, 2010

Coming soon - 'Salt 2: Salt and Pepper' (seriously, give it a couple years)

Angelina Jolie is “Russian” to kick some ass in Salt, an action upon action fun time that in the end just doesn’t deliver.

Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is your everyday woman who just happens to work for the CIA. She has a husband who collects and studies spiders, and a dog to fill in for the children they probably don’t have because they are too busy. All is glorious and dandy with Salt until one day a Russian man walks into the CIA and outs our lovely heroine as being a secret Soviet spy out to kill the Russian president who is in the US attending the US Vice President’s funeral because he… yeah, I didn’t really follow it. When it comes to an action movie like Salt though, the modus operandi behind the kill apparently doesn’t mean as much as how death defying Salt can be or how big an explosion she can cause.

To stop Salt and her inexplicable gain of Spider-Man like powers (due to perhaps a spider bite from one of her hubby’s subjects?) her boss and long time friend Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) steps up and takes an abrasive approach to trying to understand why Salt is running from them. After all, they just want to ‘talk’ to her, right?

Beyond that you get a lot of explosions and death-defying stunts and chases followed by running followed by a little Russian speak to authenticate things. Don’t get me wrong though, all of this was really fun to watch and you kind of sit back in awe of a lot of it. Could any of it happen in real life? Undoubtedly - but that’s not what causes my dislike for this movie.

What I didn’t like about Salt is at the end (and not because of the twist ending alone) I kind of felt like “So what?” Salt felt like a movie I had seen before. It went through the same usual formula that revealed a little about the character and their inexplicable ways of seeing into the future and knowing that no matter what, they will find the resources they need to MacGyver themselves out of a sticky situation. Neat, yeah – clever, no. By the time the credits roll you’re left with room for a sequel of course, but does it really matter? With Salt I wanted something more tangible and mysterious like The Bourne Identity, where you could really feel the action, no need for wire work and whatnot there. Salt felt more like a video game I would play than a movie I would watch.

With so many clever and well-made movies out there this summer, this felt like a summer blockbuster yes, but just fell short of being acceptable. This could be a good thing though. It seems people at the top that make the movies we watch are starting to realize that your everyday movies that thrived in the 90’s just won’t do anymore. Remakes with flashier CG and updated scenery just won’t do anymore. Movies themselves have gotten better and more and more popular and it seems that, huh, maybe a well thought out story is actually an important thing we need more of. Salt gets a closed door. Not because it’s not entertaining, but because it’s a mash-up of a lot of stuff we’ve seen before. I’m actually a little in’salt’ed (you knew it was coming).

*Stills courtesy of Columbia Pictures



>> Saturday, August 7, 2010

Like a peacock, this movie spreads it's wings and flies...

The guys who brought you the hilarious Step Brothers (2008) are back, and this time sibling rivalry is out the door for a more “serious” take on the buddy cop side of things. If you say to yourself “Nah, it’s okay, I’ve seen Cop Out…” than slap yourself in the face and realize this film is much, much better than that wholly unsatisfying ‘Kevin Smith is part of the cool kids club’ piece of junk (save for Tracy Morgan who may only been entertaining due to his hilariously dumb 30 Rock alter ego Tracy Jordan).

With Other Guys it’s much different as Will Ferrell and new funny man Mark Wahlberg take on a bunch of fat cat CEOs who are aiming to steal $32 billion from a lottery company. Holtz (Wahlberg) is itching to get out of the office and out of the shadows of their station’s two top detectives (played hilariously by Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson), while Gamble (Ferrell) is fine staying indoors where it’s safe and snatching up every bit of paperwork he can. Once the opportunity to get some action (as they say) does arise, they seem to almost instantly screw up. It seems they eventually screw up so much they find their way out of the proverbial paper bag and stumble onto those pesky CEO’s plan – a plan, by the way, that’s just alright and along with all the chatter about it from both police and criminal alike, is about the only thing that slows this pretty funny comedy down and maybe makes it 15 minutes too long. That’s me nitpicking though.

The rest of the film is right on par with the quirky behaviour I fell in love with during this team’s other films like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). The wackiness of it all lends itself well to this film, and it never really seems out of place. It rarely gets tiresome and if it weren’t for those pesky ‘we have to talk about the story to keep the film going‘ moments, this film would have been hella funny. There are lots of instances where you will look at the person next to you as you’re laughing and say “What the what?” because it’s so ridiculous. It’s better in a movie like this than in something that’s supposed to be serious.

I think the reason I liked Other Guys so much, was the presence of usually more serious actors like Wahlberg or Michael Keaton (who plays the police Captain). The fact that Keaton here is just as serious as he was reading lines as Batman makes for a hell of funny thing when he keeps on spouting titles of TLC songs without knowing who they even are. The same goes for Wahlberg when he keeps comparing himself to a peacock who “needs to get out and fly” – even though he knows they don’t. It doesn’t matter though.

The Other Guys gets a definite open door from me and is right up there with Date Night and Hot Tub Time Machine as being the funniest movie of the year. Sure it has its flaws, but maybe that’s why the funny parts are so funny.

*Stills courtesy of Columbia Pictures



>> Monday, August 2, 2010

Let’s hope they don’t make a sequel...

Christopher Nolan has made some of the best movies in the past ten years. I first noticed him with Memento (2000), and more recently he made the more than awesome The Dark Knight (2008). In that ten years he’s made five other movies, and somehow found the time to slowly chip away at a masterpiece about the invasion of dreams and the inner workings of the human psyche.

When I first saw the trailer for Inception I wasn’t sure what to think. It had some interesting visuals, to say the least, but you were left feeling both intrigued and … whatever. I knew I wanted to see it but I also wanted more details first. Even when I did finally go to the theatre to see the film I really had no idea what to expect.

In a nutshell (and I promise I’m not ruining anything) Inception is about a man named Dom Cobb (Leo DiCaprio) who is the best at one thing – stealing secret information from the mind of someone who is sleeping. He enters your dreams and gets information you would never be willing to discuss with yourself, all without you knowing. He does this with the help of his associate Arthur (the always amazing Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his dream-designing architect Ariadne (Ellen Page). After being hired by Saito (Ken Watanabe) the team goes after a rich playboy named Robert Fischer (Cilian Murphy). They don’t just want to get information though, their job is to put an idea in Fischer’s mind and make it think it’s his idea. This technique is called ‘inception’, and is rumoured to be impossible. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot, because that’s all you need to know.

What I found most amazing about Inception is the fact that no matter how hard I think – it seems to be a relatively flawless movie. After ten years of writing I would hope Nolan would have fixed any bugs or donut holes in what is seemingly his defining film. But the fact I find Inception flawless is only the tip of the iceberg of why this is a great film.

Some people will run out and tell you this movie is as confusing as Donnie Darko and way too long. Personally, I had no problems following the storyline and keeping up, nor did I mind the length. In films like this, as I usually do, I was constantly thinking of theories to explain things, doing math in my head and continually trying to skip ahead and predict any possible surprises and twist endings that might show up. I was doing all that and still kept pace with Mr. Nolan’s creation so it’s beyond me why people leave Inception not knowing what the hell happened – aside from the ending, which I will get to right away.

One of the top Googled searches this past week was “Inception theories”. Now, I know what you’re thinking. The answer is NO, I am not going to theorize about what exactly happened in this movie. I, like most people, take the story at face value and don’t believe Nolan has created something that requires hours of online searching to know exactly what happened (I’m looking at you Mulholland Dr.). Until he comes out and says “this is what happened”, I will stick by my own beliefs as most people who enjoy any movie should.

As for the performances, I think Inception was really well cast, and there may be a couple of Oscar nominations here. Leondardo DiCaprio will definitely be a front runner for Best Actor this year, if not for this film, than for Shutter Island (or maybe both?). Joseph Gordon-Levitt is quickly becoming one of my new favourite actors. He’s a likeable guy, does really well in this film and has a certain old school Hollywood feeling to him. If you haven’t seen 500 Days of Summer, please do. It’s really well done.

Now for the most talked about ending since The Sixth Sense. I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you that haven’t seen it, so I can’t go into too much detail. As aforementioned, I take the movie at face value which means I take the ending for what it is. Now, I’m talking about the ending scene, not the last shot. The last shot could mean something, or it means nothing (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it). I heard one guy in the theatre when we were leaving say “Why did they have to ruin the movie by doing that?”; another said “So what the hell happened then?”. I laughed at the ending as I would with someone who just made an extremely clever joke – because the ending is nothing more than Nolan winking at the audience and telling us you either get what the movie is about or you don’t. If you don’t, you’ll hate the ending and want to punch something. If you do, you will laugh like I did because you know exactly what Nolan is doing.

In the end, I obviously give Inception a wide open door and believe it will be a long time before I see anything that I ultimately loved as much as this movie. It’s like reading a great book and finishing and you’re left saying “Now what?”. This is without a doubt the best movie of the year, and maybe the best movie you're likely to see in a while.

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


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