Archive for October, 2009

Couples Retreat

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

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Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau have a chemistry together that few really funny comedic duos have. They have a rapport, a riff that sets them apart. Even when they appear together in a film that’s beneath them, like The Break-Up, or way beneath them (like Four Christmases), their scenes together have a spark. So, it’s strange that they have so few scenes together in Couples Retreat that have that comic energy. Stranger still since they wrote the film (along with director Peter “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” Billingsley).

It seemed like a great idea for a film: four couples, all friends, go to a tropical island paradise to work out their relationships. The fact that the cast includes many talented actors gave hope. The trailers were funny. So, why is the final product so routine? It doesn’t help that most of the main actors don’t seem that interested here; the characters don’t really behave like real friends.

You’d think that a film that’s cast included Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Faizon Love, Kristin Davis, Malin Akerma, Vaughn and Faverau would, you know, give them interesting and funny things to do. Not the case. Of the main characters, only Faizon Love and Kali Hawk (as Love’s much younger girlfriend seem to be having any fun). Jean Reno appears as the self-appointed relationship expert, but his ponytail is about the only joke he’s given. Much funnier is Peter Serafinowicz as Sctanley, the resort’s second-in-command. He has a definite comic presence (and he also could probably do a pretty killer Terence Stamp impression). Dr. Ken Jeong and John Michael Higgins show up as counselors, but their appearances are pretty much the joke.

I’m making it sound like this film was a chore, it wasn’t. There are some genuinely funny moments, including a climatic battle with a certain video game franchise, and some one-liners provided by Vaughn and Ackerman’s children. Plus, Hawk gets to deliver some very awkward and hilarious dialogue. It’s just, with a cast like this, you’d expect more than a mediocre comedy that you’ll forget almost immediately after viewing.

Don’t call it a comeback, they’ve been here for years

Monday, October 12th, 2009

One of the best films I’ve seen this year (I’ll review it soon, remember I’ve got a lot of catching up to do), Anvil! The Story of Anvil! introduced the world to Anvil, the Canadian heavy metal band who should’ve been big, but, for various reasons, never really made it. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Anyway, I just learned from IMDB.com that the group is scheduled to make an appearance in the upcoming film version of The Green Hornet, starring Seth Rogen.

When I first heard of this new Green Hornet film, I was a little apprehensive, but the fact that Michel Gondry is directing makes it sound a lot more interesting, and the appearance of Anvil could be a lot of fun.

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Zombieland

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

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A great deal of the success of Zombieland, the latest film featuring those popular, peculiar undead pests, can be credited to the presence of Woody Harrelson. Harrelson is a performer who has such energy, humor and, simply put, joy of his craft that he infects (zombie pun intended) just about any project he’s working on. As Tallahassee, the good ol’ boy who relishes shooting, hacking, smashing, chopping and stabbing zombies more than just about anything. Woody (and another actor who appears later in the film) give the film a spark it might have not had otherwise.

Zombieland is not, as you may have guessed from the trailers, really a horror film. It’s a comedy, a buddy film and a road movie. I read on IMDB.com that the director, Ruben Fleischer, intended Zombieland as a comedy in the vein (zombie pun intended, again) of Shaun of the Dead. Let me just say right now that Zombieland is not in the same league as Shaun of the Dead; not as funny, not as scary. That said, it is a good zombie movie, and worth checking out.

Although Harrelson gets top billing and steals the movie, he is not the main character. That would be Columbus (played by Jesse Eisenberg, star of the excellent The Squid and the Whale and Adventureland), a nerdy loner who is compiling a list of so-called Zombie rules to stay alive in “Zombieland.” Along the way, he teams up with Tallahassee, and before too long, two sisters join this small band of survivors: Wichita (played by Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin).

In addition to the four main characters, there is another key role played by a very famous actor, in a role I found to be hilarious. This actor’s performance is the second best thing about Zombieland, and although this actor’s identity has been revealed in other places online, I will leave it as a surprise to the reader. Let’s just say it’s a good one.

As I watched the film, I realize how ripe (third zombie pun intended) a monster the zombie is for the cinema. While other monsters (vampires, werewolves and the like) seem to fluctuate in popularity on the big screen, zombie films have done good business (and churned out some very good, and a few great, films). Zombieland is not a great zombie flick, but it’s entertaining, funny and it has several death scenes that are a hoot. Plus, more proof that Woody Harrelson is a terrific actor.