March 15, 2010

Weekend In Reviews

Couples Retreat - Considering the cast, this movie should have been really funny. But instead it was boring. The premise: four couples in various states of marriage go to a resort that specializes in intensive couples therapy.

Jason and Cynthia (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) are considering divorce after 8 years because a bout of infertility has taken it's toll on the marriage. They want to save it if they can so they're in for a trip to Eden to reconnect. That is, they will be if they can convince their friends to come along so they can get the group discount. But Shane (Faizon Love) is broke as well as already divorced from Jennifer (who he's still hung up on) and he's only been dating 20-year-old Trudy for a couple of weeks. Joey and Lucy (Jon Favreau and Kristin Davis) have been together since high school, when he knocked her up on prom night, and they hate each other but they're sticking it out until their daughter is off to college. Dave and Ronnie (Vince Vaughn and Malin Ackerman) are the parents of two young sons and they get along great but their hectic lives don't leave a lot of time for the two of them to spend together.

Obviously everyone ends up going and "hilarity" ensues, then every one's relationships are tested and either grow stronger or dissolve. I find Jason Bateman and Vince Vaughn eminently watchable in just about everything and my girl crush on Kristen Bell is not to be trifled with but this movie really suffered from an over-reliance on the premise of the movie being funny (which it kinda wasn't) instead of letting the actors be funny. Also, the writing was weak at best and downright awful at worst. Still, my love for the actors and the fact that I can not say no to a romantic comedy means that I probably would watch parts of this again if it were on cable and I had nothing saved on the TiVo.

The Hitcher - Another movie I watched because I have a (girl) crush on one of the stars. And then after watching it, I developed a crush on another of the actors and I fear that may lead me to watching other bad movies in the future. (Seriously, I was having some very naughty thoughts about Zachary Knighton.) Such is the story of my life.

So Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton are Grace and Jim, a couple of college students on a road trip to Lake Tahoe for spring break when they nearly hit a man standing in the middle of the highway on a rainy night in New Mexico. They end up giving the man a ride, ostensibly to the next town with a motel but really because the psycho killer man (Sean Bean) has to get into the story somehow. About 3 minutes into their drive he tries to kill Grace and all hell breaks loose. That sets off a series of horrific events that leads the idiot sheriffs in Backwoods New Mexico to believe that Grace and Jim are murderers. Biggest mistake those cops will ever make because Psycho Killer Man promptly kills every person who stands in the way of him tormenting the attractive couple. Most especially all the cops.

Where the story really falls apart is that he seems to be tormenting them with these murders merely for the sake of tormenting them. He has several opportunities to kill the two of them but doesn't take them. And then he does kill one of them and tries to get the other to kill him. Then he gets caught, kills more people and then when the remaining attractive college student does kill him that's all there is to that. It just seems like a serial killer or mass murderer or whatever he was should have some motivation more interesting than messing with a person in an attempt to make that person pissed off enough to kill him. I mean, stop being such a fucking pussy and just do it yourself if you want to die that bad!

Up In The Air - I don't think I've fully formed my opinion on this movie yet. I appreciated the dry humor very much and the performances were very good. I liked the pacing and the editing and I felt like the story held together fairly well. But I don't really understand how this movie could be in the running for a best picture Oscar. The more I see of the nominees in that category from last year, the more I wonder what the hell happened this past year. I would have put Star Trek in that category long before I put this there.

For one thing, there were a couple of things about the movie that felt out of place and, in my opinion, detracted from the finished product. Amy Morton's portrayal of Clooney's sister Kara for example. I think she was supposed to be tough or bitter but she mostly came off as nervous, void of personality and completely out-of-her-league compared to the people she was acting with.

None of this is to say that I didn't enjoy the movie a ton, because I did. I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who likes dry, slightly sardonic wit, George Clooney, or love stories (even though I don't know that a person in it for the love story will be wholly satisfied with the ending). I just don't think I would have put it up for a best picture Oscar.

Whip It - This movie is pretty formulaic and sappy but it really doesn't matter. I mean, I'm actually a fan of sappy so that was never going to prevent me from liking it but I think that the movie is well-done enough that it shouldn't even bother people who are less open to sappiness.

Bliss (Ellen Page) is a small-town girl from Bodeen, Texas whose mom (Marcia Gay Harden) is determined for her (and her young sister) to be pageant queens. Sis is definitely cut from the same pageant cloth as mom but Bliss is not. Fortunately for her, she finds something she's really good at in the form of roller derby. She has to lie to her parents about where she is and to the roller derby league (and her team mates on the Hurl Scouts) about her age but she manages to be fairly adept at keeping her lives compartmentalized and safe from each other for a good long while. But it can't last forever so eventually the team finds out she's under-age and her parents find out what she's been doing and her best friend (Alia Shawkat) busts her for being a bit of an asshole and she finds out her boyfriend is a weasel.... And in the end there is joy and happiness.

Like I said, it's predictable and follows the standard movie formula to the letter, but I defy anyone not to get a lump in their throat when Bliss declares that she is in love with roller derby. There are some genuinely fantastic performances in this movie too. Kristin Wiig, Macia Gay Harden and Ellen Page are all wonderful, Jimmy Fallon and Alia Shawkat were very funny. On the whole I really, really liked this movie a lot and would watch it again in a minute.

Zombieland - And speaking of movies I really, really liked. So Zombieland is about the aftermath of a global pandemic which is a mutation of a mad cow-type disease that essentially turns the infected into flesh-eating zombies. Not the reanimated dead-type zombies but rather living people whose brains have ceased proper functioning and who are now oozing fluids from every orifice while their skin falls off and are over-come by an appetite for human flesh so great that they can not control it. In the wake of this infection, there are very few non-zombies left in America and that's just who we're following.

Told from the point of view of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg). In his quest to get back to Ohio from Texas to find out if his parents are still alive, he meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The four of them endeavor to and fro across the country trying to survive and find out if there is any place in America that hasn't been zombi-fied.

Originally conceived as a television series (which I can tell you unequivocally that I would have totally watched), the movie is not terribly plot-heavy but is hilarious, original, gory and fun. The cast is fantastic, in particular I thought Woody Harrelson was awesomely dry and funny. This movie was so enjoyable that I watched all of the extras on the DVD and seriously considered keeping it for another week just so I could watch it a couple more times.

Chasing Liberty - I was done with my NetFlix movie marathon fairly early last night and there was nothing good on TV so I decided to pop in an old favorite. I adore this one so much. My girl crush on Mandy Moore is why I watched it originally but there's a charming story, beautiful locations and a downright dreamy leading man in Matthew Goode. I have seen this movie at least a dozen and a half times and will watch it many more dozens.

I believe my favorite thing about the movie (among many things that I could easily call favorites - like the live performance by The Roots, the scene where Matthew Goode walks around in his underpants, the happy ending, the phrase "chickie buffer," etc.) is how Goode pronounces the word "once" when he is telling Anna that in the time they've known each other he's had to rescue her roughly once and hour. He somehow manages to pronounce it as though there is a "th" in there between the "n" and the "c." It's fantastic.

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