Archive for March, 2008

Run Fatboy Run (**)

Monday, March 31st, 2008

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Simon Pegg is a very funny man. His delivery, his comic presence, his double and triple takes, these are all signs of a master comedian that Pegg possesses. For proof of his hilarity, go see (if you haven’t already) Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, two very funny films that work as both parodies and straight-up versions of two completely different sub-genres (the zombie movie and the buddy action movie, respectively). Considering that Pegg not only stars, but also co-wrote, in the new romantic comedy Run Fatboy Run, you’d think perhaps it would be a worthwhile comedy. If so, you thought wrong.If Run Fatboy Run strikes you as a watered-down, bland version of a British comedy (like one Richard Curtis might make), then that’s exactly what I thought. The fact that the director is the funny (but probably more so as an actor than as a director) ex-“Friend” David Schwimmer, that might help explain the goofy, saccharine feel of the film. Yes, there are funny moments (Pegg is not in fine form here, but even unfunny Simon Pegg is still pretty funny), but not enough to outweigh all of the dull bits, of which there are many.Simon Pegg plays an “EVERYMAN” type character who, as the film, opens leaves his “BEAUTIFUL, UNDERSTANDING,PREGNANT BRIDE” (the lovely Thandie Newton, who is completely wasted her) at the altar, because he is terrified that he’s not good enough for her. Flash forward five years, and our “EVERYMAN” hero is a security guard living in the basement of an apartment owned by a large, jolly “NON-THREATENING ETHNIC STEREOTYPE” (played by Harish Patel), and his best friend is the “CREEPY, HORNY, WACKY COUSIN OF HIS EX” (played by Dylan Moran, because Nick Frost must’ve been working on something else). Anyway, “EVERYMAN” still pines for his ex (he always loved her), and is still a big part in the life of his five-year old son Jake (Matthew Fenton).The main chunk of the story involves “EVERYMAN’s” rivalry with his ex’s “RICH JERK BOYFRIEND” (Hank Azaria), and how he ends up involved in a marathon, to prove to his ex that he’s worthy, and, of course, to prove to himself that…hold on, I need to grab a hankie. What’s surprising about this film isn’t how cliche and drab it is, but rather that Pegg was involved this closely with the film. I mean, he co-wrote the thing (working from an original script from Michael Ian Black, a script he must’ve wrote in between filming episodes of “I Love the 80s”).One reason that this film may look even worse compared to Pegg’s previous comic efforts is those were directed by a much better and skilled filmmaker than Schwimmer (Edgar Wright), and Pegg’s comic sidekick was a million times funnier than the characters played by Patel and Moran (that would be actor Nick Frost). The absence of both Wright and Frost is strongly felt here. This is a boring, forgettable romantic comedy. You will watch it, perhaps chuckle once or twice, and then move on with your life.

Paul Scofield (1922-2008)

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

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Paul Scofield, the Oscar-winning star of A Man for All Seasons and one of the most respected and admired of British actors, has died. He was 86. Scofield is best remembered on screen, of course, for his performance as Sir Thomas More, in the 1966 Best Picture winner A Man for All Seasons, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

In his later years, he was nominated for an Oscar for Supporting Actor for his work in the 1994 film Quiz Show, for his strong performance as Ralph Fiennes’ father. Scofield was of a rare breed and a phenomenal talent.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

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Arthur C. Clarke, the seminal science fiction writer, has died. He was 90 years old. To the film world, he is best known for a small film he co-wrote in the sixties. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, just a little movie called 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick created one of the most influential science-fiction films of all time. A film that challenges, provokes and endures, forty years later. And will continue to endure for many, many generations. Through his work, his art, he leaves us quite a legacy.

Anthony Minghella (1954-2008)

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

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Anthony Minghella, the Academy Award winning director of The English Patient, has died. He was 54. Though, Minghella is best known for his epics, I personally will remember him for two films: Truly, Madly, Deeply, one of the great forgotten romantic comedies, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, which featured Matt Damon in one of his best and most challenging roles.

Minghella could direct the big, glamorous epic films (such as the aforementioned English Patient and the mediocre Cold Mountain), but also smaller, more character driven films. Who knows what unique films audiences are now deprived with Minghella’s passing. He was taken too soon.

Be Kind Rewind (***)

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

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Movie trailers definitely skew and alter the vision of unique filmmakers, distorting the tone and point of a film to condense it to a brief two minute advertisement. Few directors are as hurt by previews, I think, than Michel Gondry. Take his new film, Be Kind Rewind, for example, it’s a quirky, subtle slapstick/tragedy about big issues like gentrification and the dangers of Corporate America, but if you were to judge the film by its preview, you would assume that it’s another silly Jack Black comedy.

Not really. Yes, the film is silly and ridiculous, but there’s also an overwhelming feeling of sadness and regret, as many good comedies have. The movie is about an old thrift shop/VHS rental store called “Be Kind Rewind,” located in Passaic, New Jersey, that is run by the kindly, slightly daffy Mr. Fletcher (played by Danny Glover). As in all films about the underdog, Mr. Fletcher’s store is not doing too well, and the city is planning on buying him out and moving the business (I can’t think of another recent comedy that deals, in some way or another, with the issue of gentrification).

So, Mr. Fletcher goes to spy on West Coast Video (a nearby Blockbuster knock-off), to see how to improve his business. This leaves Mike (Mos Def) in charge of the store, and all hell breaks loose when lovable local loon Jerry (Jack Black), through a series of strange situations, becomes magnetized and ruins every video in the store. To convince their most loyal costumer, Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow), that all is well with Mr. Fletcher away, Mike comes up with the idea of remaking Ghostbusters with himself and Jerry. Of course, the film is a success and pretty soon the entire neighborhood is desiring more of these ‘Swede’ films (so called because Mike claims the films are processed in Sweden).

The ‘Swede’ films are charming and ridiculous, especially their versions of Ghostbusters, The Lion King and Boyz N The Hood, and eventually Mike and Jerry realize that creating these mini-movies could be the key to both saving the business and reuniting the community. Of course, then the plot thickens, with the return of Mr. Fletcher, the unfortunate intrusion by the Government (remember that pesky FBI warning at the beginning of every movie you’ve ever seen?) and a quiet, barely mentioned love triangle between Mike, Jerry and Alma (Melonie Diaz), who stars in just about every film with Jerry (including Boogie Nights), while Mike watches from the sidelines.

Jack Black and Mos Def are gifted comic actors, and their odd-ball comic duo is a key to the film’s success. Though Jack is known for his splendid manic roles, I thought that Def was especially well-cast as Mike, the socially inept video store clerk. Danny Glover gives a very good supporting performance here, and I always forget what a valuable character actor this fine actor is (two good examples are his roles in Shooter and The Royal Tenenbaums). Melonie Diaz plays the cute, wacky love interest as well as the underwritten part allows her to play it. Mia Farrow isn’t given a lot to do, either, quite frankly. There are many funny actors in small roles as people from the neighborhood, including Irv Gooch as Wilson, Jerry’s mechanic. There is also a cameo by a certain Ghostbusters star in a pivotal role in the third act (I’ll let you find out who when you see the movie.)

Be Kind Rewind has a gentle, easy-going charm to it that some (like myself) will find endearing and entertaining, and others will loathe. You know who you are.

Semi-Pro (*)

Friday, March 7th, 2008

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I hope that Semi-Pro just represents a minor bump in Will Ferrell’s career, rather than an indication of which direction it’s going. This movie is lame. It’s sloppily written and directed, and none of the many gifted comedians in the film seem to have any energy or interest in the film. The whole thing feels forced and stilted, like all of the actors were reciting their lines at gunpoint.

Semi-Pro is one of the movies that takes place in another decade (this time the 70s) and bases at least 75% of the jokes on how silly and ridiculous said decade was. Remember how awful all those 80s jokes were in The Wedding Singer? Yeah, well, Semi-Pro kind of has that going on. It also doesn’t help that this is a sports movie that doesn’t seem to give a flying shit about the sport in question. This is probably the least involving basketball film I’ve ever seen, and yes, I know it’s a parody, but c’mon, the game should be played by characters who seem even remotely interested in the sport.

All right, so I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be as funny as Anchorman, or Talladega Nights, or probably even Blades of Glory, but I still figured that, hey, since it’s Will Ferrell, at least it’s going to be entertaining. Wrong! This is the laziest Ferrell performance I’ve seen on film, never before has he ever come across more desperate and less funny. Jackie Moon, his owner/coach/player of the mediocre basketball team the Flint Tropics, is basically just leftover pieces from Ferrell’s earlier, funnier film roles.

You’d think that maybe, just maybe, Woody Harrelson would offer some much needed comic support in his role as Monix, the once-brilliant now burned out pro, but he’s a giant letdown too, as is Andre Benjamin, not exactly known for his acting abilities, as Moon’s cocky teammate. Many talented, funny people are wasted in this film, such as Matt Walsh, Andrew Daly, Will Arnett, David Koechner, Rob Corddry and Andy Richter. Also wasted is Maura Tierney, who deserves better films than garbage like this. The only bright spot in the supporting cast is Jackie Earle Haley, who has a brief role as a past-his-prime hippie, and Haley’s comic timing saves about 3 minutes out of the film’s 90 minute running time.

This being said, I’m sure some of Semi-Pro‘s many faults would be forgiven if the film had just been, get this, funny. Ok, it didn’t even necessarily have to be funny, I would’ve settled for ‘mildly amusing.’ I have never felt that Will Ferrell yelling and screaming in a film was annoying or unnecessary until I watched him try it in this film. For Ferrell, who is a gifted comic actor, this film is the bottom of the barrel.

Vantage Point (*1/2)

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

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Vantage Point is a crummy movie. It’s silly, ridiculous, poorly written and, worst of all, it’s boring. It takes a gimmick, granted a good gimmick but still a gimmick, and sacrifices story and character for said gimmick. The idea of showing the same story from multiple points of view is not new (anybody who was wowed by this “fresh” idea should try watching Rashomon), but when done right, it can be really effective. Unfortunately, director Pete Travis and his crew make a 90 minute movie feel like an eternity.

The story: The President of the United States (William Hurt) is in Spain for some anti-terrorist conference, and, wouldn’t you know it, he gets shot. Only “nothing is as it seems.” Let’s see, all the stock characters for a hack-job political thriller are here: the noble president, the sneaky chief of staff, the over-the-hill secret service agent, the cold-blooded television producer, the everyman who gets it all on film, the disgraced law man and a variety of terrorists and news reporters.

In addition to Hurt giving us a monotone and mediocre performance as “POTUS” (the moniker that the Prez is referred by in the film), we have Dennis Quaid as the aging secret service agent, and I’m pretty sure Quaid doesn’t change his emotion from strained confusion for the entire film. Matthew Fox from “LOST” (I was reminded of both that great show and “24” in the film’s attempts to play with the time structure) plays Quaid’s buddy, and I can’t tell if it’s good acting or not, since it’s such a slight role. Forrest Whitaker is wasted in the Zapruder role, in fact the only actor who doesn’t come off horribly is Sigourney Weaver as the television producer, and she’s barely in the film. It’s not a great performance, but Weaver’s cold and cynical, and good in the role.

I think the film would’ve worked better had they concentrated on the mystery or political elements of the film, rather than a lame-brained car chase that goes on and on. If this film had been a real puzzle, with each different point of view offering a piece of said puzzle, perhaps it would’ve been a lot better. Or maybe not. All I know is this was a boring, forgettable piece of junk that I watched about a week ago and already am having trouble recalling most of the film.

What’s the deal with all the kicking???

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

 Is this a new trend for 2008 blockbusters??  Lots and lots of kicking?  If so, do we have a new Kickboxer film to look forward to in our future? dbtaylorr.jpg     kung_fu_panda.jpg