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Win Win (2011)
Dramatic more than comedic, wished it ended stronger
Based on the recommendations of this site for watching "Safety Not Guaranteed," I was curious what this movie was. Being an indie film probably made on the fly to fulfill a few contracts, this movie feels like "The Karate Kid" filled to the brim with overused tropes used in various movies every month. (The biggest and most obvious one is the "misunderstood kid who is a genius/Olympic athlete" trope.) Although parts of the film felt overdone, it was still a solid story with good characters, a decent cast, and a hopeful spirit for a great end.
I personally disliked the ending. SPOILER*: By the end of the film, I felt the title of the movie should be changed to "Lose Lose Lose" because of the outcome to Paul Giamatti's character's original dilemma. He's a dad and a public defending judge who is running out of money. By the end, he takes on more responsibilities and still doesn't have the money he needs, even picking up another job by the end (making 3 jobs he goes to). The title merely refers to his thought-process in scheming this old man out of some money while he helps him every once in awhile.
Most of the movie feels forgettable, but it's sweet and offers the audience some escaped by gaining insight into this inconvenient time in this family's life. I probably might rate this lower if I keep thinking about the movie, but the actors in this are pretty awesome and should get some recognition.
The Details (2011)
Glad the movie was self-aware that it was like a bizarre-"American Beauty"
There's no real way to go into the story of "The Details" without giving the details away. All I will tell you is this: It's a movie that is self-aware that it is so close in proximity with the feeling of "American Beauty" that you hear a special ringtone on Tobey Maguire's cellphone to reference that movie. Dennis Haysbert stole the movie; his acting in some of the scenes had me in tears. Elizabeth Banks dials her comedic-self down in throughout the movie and shows her butt, briefly. Tobey Maguire is a man-child, and I'll never understand how I'm supposed to believe he's a doctor in this. And there are multiple raccoons and cats throughout the film.
To me, the whole movie felt like an elaborate play with a familiar story that could've been written for Reader's Digest. You could also feel like the story could've been taken from real life news articles or something. There are various visual/time effects used in the movie, which felt distracting at times and out of place, almost like the director was horsing around with the editor for too long while in post-production.
I would recommend the movie to fans of the cast, but the movie isn't going to go over well with all of my friends who like comedies. It just wasn't very comedic or funny but more outlandish and insane-to-believe. It's hard to believe myself when I give it a 6 star rating because the movie was very middle-of-the-road, but again, Haysbert boosted the likability of the movie, gaining it a star or two just for him.
Friends with Kids (2011)
Don't let the comedic actors fool you; they can cry on command
There's no way to sugarcoat this review with film class rhetoric to describe the film. It was a romantic drama with a slight dash a slight dash of comedy. I cried more than I thought to laugh at any of these scenes, and I'm a dude. I enjoy romantic moments in movies, what can I say. The scene with Adam Scott finessing the dinner he bought for his baby-mama: yeah, I cried. It was thoughtful. I cried when she was brought to confession (and ultimate realization later in the film) about her feelings for her baby-daddy.
However, this falls under the "new progressive social ideas and experiments" category of film script which can make the viewer more perplexed about how a friendship like the one shared in the movie would actually be like than to exhibit known-emotions about such a situation. Story aside, the actors did great. I recognize them mostly from comedic and improv origins (and from various appearances on my favorite podcasts), but familiarity with the comedy-world aside, I was astounded at their ability to turn off the laughs and turn up the drama in these characters.
The ending felt forced, to me, and the emotions and the dialogue was a little askew from what I can believe out of the two main characters. Some of the directing of the children (if I have to nitpick) was just ridiculous; it's as if every director feels that every child is rambunctious and uncontrollable around their parents in every social situation. The characters themselves were a bit "on model" with characters we've seen in other movies, too even some who look alike (like Adam Scott reminds me of Tom Cruise in "Vanilla Sky" with his fancy job and New York living while trying to have sex with every suitable woman he chooses).
I wish the video streaming service I watched it on didn't sell me the movie as a comedy; it was clearly drama throughout. I remember making my first chuckle to myself at 39 minutes into the movie. I had to give the movie 4/10 stars because it was right on the fence of making a good film (which would make it 5/10 stars), but the question I ask myself is "would you recommend this to anyone?" I have to say, no, which drops it down a peg.
This Is 40 (2012)
This is OK? I think I don't even know anymore.
A funny movie at times, "This Is 40" attempts to resurrect the family you might remember from the hilarious comedy " Knocked Up" (although it feels like it's own thing separate from that film). It's a little long (like "Funny People") and a bit serious at times when it comes to real-life issues we all face when attempting to raise two children as you head into your 40's. The movie has gotten a lot of negative press due to the financial situation of the couple and how common the first-world problems are with the script, but the characters are likable and the actors really put themselves out there (except for one particular improv session by Charlyne Yi which felt shoe-horned in while her and Mann's character were drinking coffee). Still, if this is what 40 is to Apatow and smelling farts in bed is the worst that your day gets, you've won life compared to multiple other families.
The movie feels like a drawn-out collection of outtakes from "Knocked Up" and even "Funny People" (since Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann, stars as the wife/mother figure in those movies as well). The script is pretty standard: give these well-to-do people some drama over and over and have them work things out in their own way. The kids in the movie are great (they should be; they're Apatow's/Mann's kids in real life), and the monkey-app scene is fast but great trust me. And in typical Apatow fashion, we have a tense scene of a guy running away from life on a bike (similar to "40-Year-Old Virgin"). So this movie feels like a "Best Of Apatow" presentation.
If you're a fan of the typical Apatow players (Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, his kids) and the style of his comedies, you'll see this with my recommendation or not. If this is your first Apatow movie you watch, though, I can see how it might be plenty bland and drawn-out.
Niagara, Niagara (1997)
Another middle-of-the-road love movie, despite the mental disorder
This is a little-remembered film from the 90's starring the types of characters from Drugstore Cowboy, Natural Born Killers, and True Romance, except for one has Tourette's syndrome. Their interest in each other gets them caught up in chaotic scenarios and ultimately puts their relationship in peril, even if one of them has a lot of crazy life stories to tell to future children or something.
The characters were sort of bland, Gen-Xer, 90's models of 20-somethings who had niche interests in petty theft and living life outside of the local rules. Robin Tunney gives a good performance as the Tourette's girl (name forgotten), but Henry Thomas' character, her significant other, was dull and not bright at all a real pain to watch. The worst part about the film was the missing logic during most of the characters' encounters with people along their journey to Canada. So many awkward experiences could have been avoided if the guy just explained her mental condition in a calm manner to others.
Overall, it's a memorable film, to me, but it gets lost in the shuffle between the aforementioned movies and films like Girl, Interrupted which explore more mentally-challenged characters on a deeper, more logical level. It feels more middle-of-the-road, which is why I give it a 5 star rating. A better ending would have boosted that rating up a notch, as well.
Dave's Old Porn (2011)
Prepare the comedy-loads to be blown, followed by a nap after each episode
'Dave's Old Porn' is a look into the ups and downs of the history in the adult entertainment industry and its products. The grooming-trends, the music, and the upholstery has all changed over time, and Dave Attell is here with a number of buddies in the entertainment biz to pick apart Attell's finds in his collection. You have to love the guests that come on here, and their candor in front of the camera is a welcomed treat. Dave is especially funny as a host with his retorts and imaginative back-stories for some of the videos and actors they start to watch. Something fresh about this show is that the guests are not merely on the show to plug (advertise) a show, a movie or something else they have been working on (much like a late night how on a network channel might do) so they keep attention to the porn movie Dave picks and where the conversation is going. He also brings back older porn "legends" for interviews and to view their classic movies they've been in, which is interesting, especially when they don't care for Dave talking over their scenes or when they hit on other guests.
It should be noted that Attell put up his own money to produce and promote the show, which is admirable and takes a lot of guts to commit to. Certain elements of the show, however, look cheap and a tad over- used from shows on TruTV like "America's Dumbest." The censor-choices are in particular pretty annoying to me (who wants to see a couch with them talking on it fly up and down as it acts like a censor for a guy's junk, only to explode with digital VHS tape-graphics time and time again?). Dave seems a little too comfortable at times to the point of balancing his look as a pervy uncle with his look of being an extreme narcoleptic. Maybe it's how comfortable he is, I dunno. Also why is he sitting on a pillow in a number of these episodes? Strange choices.
I highly enjoyed the funny commentaries throughout the show and the addition of these great guests is another reason to watch, but I can't help but feel that this entire series feels like a number of YouTube videos strung together and a bit forgettable after they end. The production feels like an updated cable access show for the 2000's with slightly better video tech to punch up the comedic effects in the various videos they watch. As of Feb 2013, it has become known that they were not renewed for a third season, but I hope Dave continues to do the show elsewhere on the internet because it's still a great watch with great comedy and great guests.
A concept without a purpose and annoying characters
I recently revisited the "Cube" movie after seeing it once when it came out, and it holds up in some ways, but mostly it had a lot of annoying parts that I had forgotten about. The Cube concept is simple: various people wake up inside the Cube, a 14x14x14 enclosure with various rooms which might lead to a way out. Each room is designed with doors on the walls, a door in the ceiling, and one in the floor. Aside from different colors, the rooms each have a number-marker on them, and they can either contain traps for unsuspecting travelers or are safe-rooms, allowing visitors to pass through them. We get to understand how these people in the film get from room to room by taking a look at their individual characteristics and professions.
I love the concept of the Cube. Waking up inside a potential death-trap is frightening and is a concept used in the "Saw" series multiple times years later. Some of the traps are easily avoidable, as shown when one character slips out from being ensnared (and one unlucky guy gets taken out by the easiest trap to avoid), and others are extremely nasty (a whole room of giant spikes, anyone?). The Cube looks interesting, and the CG added to some of the scenes is simple but effective in showing the perilous traps in some of the rooms. Film buffs will notice that it's just one room being shot time and time again, but it feels like the characters are traveling throughout this larger place, so the effect worked on me.
The characters got very annoying very quickly, and by the halfway point through the movie, I wanted them all to die, except for the student in the film, who was the only one not whining or being a complete jerk to any of the others. The actors were OK, but the believability of some of them were spotty, especially the actor who portrayed Quentin who has some severe mood changes that come out of nowhere and requires a pretty good actor to ebb and flow with these changes in subtle ways instead of ham-fisted deliveries and heartless, murderous changes in mood as he had. By the end, you feel somewhat happy for those who made it, but mostly, I was disappointed.
The music was sparse, and the one main song that played during lulls in the story was a simple, "Friday the 13th"-ripoff, horror song using echoing voices, a screeching sample, and a few synth plunks making for an abstract and forgettable song. The sound effects, however, were very satisfying and were required to show the heaviness of the doors and the sharp, dangerous quality of the traps.
After viewing this, the logic behind the story doesn't work for me. There are supposed to be 17,576 rooms in this Cube, so how did they all just happen to meet each other after the first day being there? I hated that everyone in the party blindly followed the math student from room to room like she knew what she was doing after seeing numbers on the doors for about 2 minutes. She basically quoted something out of a calculus book to confuse the audience into saying "Sure, fine, whatever. Follow her." Oh, and NOTHING IS ANSWERED by the end. Where is the Cube? Who or what is it made by? Why are these people selected to be here? If it were made by blind-architects who didn't care about humans being harmed in various rooms, are they the creators of it with only one guy creating the shell that wasn't related to the rest of the architect- crew?
It's a confusing watch for those who care about the story. If you watch it for sci-fi elements alone and the concept of the Cube, you'll get into it on suspense and design alone, but otherwise, there are a lot of unanswered questions that leave you wanting to understand more. Maybe answer why these individuals were selected, much like the victims in "Saw" are selected. I probably won't get around to watching this again anytime soon. Disappointed.
The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)
Equally humorous and unsettling, you'll feel her power!
I've seen a lot of bad films, and "The Brain that Wouldn't Die" would not be in that list. Some see the movie as pure schlock and camp, and some see it as creepy. The idea of watching a head talk on its own without a body can be a strange thing to watch, but when you start to think about the logic behind it, the head wouldn't be talking without a voice box attached to it or lungs to force air over it, making speech audible.
The film accomplishes the story it sets up: if you mess with people's bodies using experimental methods, you have to be prepared when they turn against you. For years, I thought the movie ended differently, and I totally forgot about "others" that were "experiments" in the laboratory. It was actually shocking how much of a chauvinistic pig and jerk the mad scientist, Dr. Bill Cortner, was. (The actor who portrays him does such a bad job at pretending he's hurt, BTW, when he's involved in his accident.)
There are humorous moments in a few parts which make you wonder what the director wanted to make of these scenes, like when two strippers are fighting after meeting the mad doctor (both having an attraction for him), and as they fight, the camera zooms in on two paintings of cats as a "meow" is heard (to mark the scene as a "catfight"). Also the audio- dubbing of laughter to the shots of the head (Jan in the Pan) laughing was ridiculous and unbelievable. The music was standard small orchestra 60's music heard in everything during that era.
Overall, I had a decent time watching this. It's been featured in a memorable episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and it continues to be a cult film worth checking out. It will make you laugh and get uneasy at times, but it's bound to leave some lasting memories of the movie with you for years to come. 5 stars.
Zabriskie Point (1970)
Overrated, but that's why it's a CULT classic
Call it question in taste (mine or others) or perhaps a message lost over time, but I thought the movie was incredibly boring and biased beyond belief. And I love that Pink Floyd performed original music for the film, but I didn't appreciate the music that they came up with, either. Some of the music sounded like broken guitars trying to remember what melodies were.
There was a plot...a thin one...in the style of a movie like "The Trip" but with less drug-taking. It was almost like a late-60's version of the future movie "Natural Born Killers" but less gritty and fantastic. The hours of footage of just driving around in the desert or through the city must have taken an entire year to edit down into a movie.
I get it...city and development bustle & The Man VS ideals set up by cavemen (insert hippies or radicals if you feel inclined). There is no growth in our protagonist or this woman he meets, Daria. Speaking of Daria, she's so easily brainwashed by the first radical she meets, and has the most obvious of fantasies about her boss' development in the desert. I'm sure Antonioni wanted cheers to happen in the theaters, but all I had were deep laughs from the bewilderment that this movie was causing within me.
It belongs in the archives for people who enjoy political-striking nostalgia of the late-60's and there are a few good tunes from well- known groups on the soundtrack, but it isn't for everyone.
Touching comedy with a weird premise
This movie has gotten a lot of praise on various websites I go to, so I had to check it out. I wasn't entirely dissatisfied with the movie altogether, but I do feel it could have used less quirky ways of telling a simple story. I enjoyed all of the actors/comedians' personas, and the heartwarming element that Yara Shahidi brings to the screen is perfect in her performance. And Alicia Silverstone is back on screen (who would have thought). The whole small-town competition element feels lifted from a Christopher Guest movie, and I felt like there were performances and accents that came close to those used in "Drop Dead Gorgeous" or "Little Miss Sunshine." Nevertheless, it has good qualities that make this movie a good viewing if you want a light-hearted movie to get you through an afternoon, but don't expect to get blown away.