August 12, 2008

Weekend in Reviews

Light on movies, heavy on TV on DVD this weekend.

Never Back Down - I think it's obvious by now that I will voluntarily watch some seriously crap movies. Sometimes it's because of an actor I love and sometimes it's because I'm morbidly curious and sometimes it's just because there are pretty boys in it. Once in a while, it's because I am in the market for cheese - not gourmet cheese but cheap, low-brow, cheese-food cheese. That's going to be my excuse for admitting that I've seen the movie Sleep Over. I will not try to explain why I've seen it more than once. Sleep Over features Sean Faris in a very small role with almost no dialogue as he plays the dreamy upperclassman object of a dorky freshman girl's affection, and Evan Peters as a kid who is supposed to be dorky but is instead over-played such that he actually seems to have a severe mental disability. Anyway, Never Back Down brings these two acting powerhouses together again as Jake Tyler and Max Cooperman respectively. Jake's a teenager with rage issues that bubble just under the surface and explode whenever someone mentions his dad (who died in a car accident when Jake let him drive drunk). Max is a rich dork who befriends Jake upon his relocation from Iowa to Orlando. Rounding out the core cast are Cam Gigandet as Ryan McCarthy, Djimon Hounsou as Roqua and Amber Heard as the ridiculously named Baja Miller.

Ryan is a very rich kid who acts as the ring leader of a teenage Fight Club, he uses his girlfriend, Baja, and some conveniently Googled information about Jake's father's unfortunate demise to goad Jake into fighting him, and Jake gets his ass severely beaten. That's when Max convinces Jake to train with Roqua who is a mixed martial arts master.

The movie is essentially The Karate Kid as remade by MTV and cast from an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. Same basic premise, same feel-good ending, same mentor/mentee relationship, way more fast cuts, loud music and half-naked, hot people. I'm not immune to the hot people, so I certainly enjoyed the shirtless beefcake aspect of the movie and it had that in spades. Djimon Hounsou is one sexy mofo and the gray in his goatee is giving him such a distinguished and handsome look on top of the scorching hotness he's had all along. Cam Gigandet, who played Volchok on the third season of The O.C., is playing a similarly smug bastard here but instead of being a joyless, pouting douche like Volchok, Ryan is an arrogant, ragewad douche with a really nice smile. He's a good-looking dude who has been typecast as a douche is my point. If I were him, I'd have my agent working double time to parlay my nice smile, spectacular abs and krav maga training into an action HERO role post haste, lest I become the next Billy Zabka. Who? Exactly! Sean Faris is very, very nice to look at and the make up department has taken great care to ensure that he's oiled up like the fine, shiny, well-muscled specimen he is but his acting range is very, very limited. I happen to be a big fan of the short-lived television series Life As We Know It and remember him fondly as Dino, so he gets a pretty wide berth from me but he should start looking for a role akin to Captain Awesome on Chuck where he isn't asked to be much more than hot and moderately funny because he doesn't have the chops to be a leading man on the big screen. All in all, I'd have to say that if you're looking for a movie to watch when you're laid up with the flu that won't make you think too much, this is a pretty good choice.

Vantage Point - Wow was this movie not good. POTUS (that's President of the United States for those of you who didn't watch The West Wing) gets shot in Spain (or DOES HE?) and then we see the incident from the perspective of a news crew, a Secret Service Agent, a Spanish cop, an American tourist, and the actual President before we see the entire plot unfold. My main problem with the overall plot was that we never found out what the hell they wanted POTUS for. Seems the writer, director and producers thought that was beside the point. I sort of think that if you're going to go to all the trouble of killing a shitload of random people and kidnapping (arguably) the most powerful political leader in the free world, WHY is pretty much the whole point. In addition to that minor quibble, I had also figured out about 30 minutes into the movie (that's 1/2 way through perspective number 2 for those keeping score) what the "twist" was. The entire thing would have been a bit less annoying had they showed us Dennis Quaid's perspective last instead of second - then the twist is revealed only moments before the action kicks into high gear as opposed to a full hour in advance. The upshot is, I would not recommend this one. It's just not worth your time.

Party of Five (season 3) - Oh how I loved the Salinger clan back in the halcyon days of the mid-nineties. I recall having such a crush on Bailey back then and I loved every moment of screen time allotted to his relationship with Sarah. The first season of PoF was released on DVD a couple of years ago and I naturally had to watch because I hadn't even thought about the show in years. It was every bit as enjoyably tear-jerking as I remembered. Unfortunately, they are releasing these seasons at the rate of about one season per year which means I watch one season in a week and then have to wait a year to watch the next but it hasn't reduced my enjoyment. I'm about 1/2 way through the third season now. So far I've seen Claudia get her first boyfriend, be ignored by her family to the point of almost dying of a burst appendix, and generally be more of a grown up than every one of her significantly older siblings; Julia has made her bitchy way through a number of boyfriends...bitchily. As written, she's supposed to be exceptionally smart and attractive and mature for a 17-year-old but as acted she's in-eloquent, phony, childish and with really, REALLY bad hair. She's now in the midst of a relationship with a 24-year-old roofer named Sam who is a bit of a piece; Bailey's chest deep in a drinking problem now, his relationship with the far-too-patient Sarah has just ended and he's put up the great wall of China between him and his family. There's been a lot of self-pity there that I didn't find nearly as annoying at 20 as I do now. I can't remember what I thought of Callie on original viewing but this time around I really can't stand her. In addition to the character being tiresome and unsympathetic, the actress was made up in the most aggravating way. Always with the eye shadow (but no liner which was doing her bug-eyes no favors) and the lipstick (which was a much pinker shade than her orangey-nude liner) even when she is supposed to be just out of the shower or freshly woken from a post-coital sleep. WTF?

The best part of the season (and indeed the entire series) as I watch it this time around, is Charlie. At the start of season three Kirsten has recently moved back into the Salinger home having forgiven Charlie for leaving her at the alter the previous November. Her parents are pissed, believing that Charlie is a worthless bastard for having broken her heart once. Kirsten soon falls into a massive depression after it's discovered that she plagiarized a small portion of her dissertation and her PhD is revoked. Eventually her parents took her back to Chicago so that they could monitor her care. Charlie remained deeply in love and devoted to Kirsten while she was in Chicago and when he went there to visit her and she told him she had to break up with him even though she was still deeply in love with him, I wept like a baby. So now he's back in San Fransisco and just starting to date Grace. I recall hating Grace quite a bit back in the day, but I don't really hate her now. If I remember the storyline, I think she'll become a bit cold toward the kids later in the season and perhaps I'll find her more off-putting then but right now, I think she's been mostly pretty great. Anyway, my teen-aged self really dug ol' Dimples in the '90s but my 30-something self finds Matthew Fox positively scrumptious and there haven't been too many episodes in these last three DVDs where he didn't make me both sob and swoon. I wish they'd hurry and release the three remaining seasons on DVD because I can't wait to get to the episodes where he fights Hodgkin's disease. He was great in those!

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