9 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
The Babadook (2014)
Themes and Drama Fall Flat Without Terror, Surprises, or Likable Characters
8 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Australian "horror" drama The Babadook is a peculiar beast, and seems to have already created high levels of controversy between those who hail it as a masterpiece of horror storytelling and those who are less forgiving of the movie's purported flaws. Helmed by director Jennifer Kent after a Kickstarter campaign to fund its creation, Babadook has garnered critical acclaim worldwide since its debut. The story follows widowed mother Amelia (Essie Davis) as she struggles to raise her, for lack of a better term, "difficult" child, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). However, a creepy children's book featuring a monster called the Babadook brings trouble as Samuel becomes obsessed with the idea of the monster's threatening existence. Despite her level-headedness and early dismissal of the monster, Amelia slowly descends into darkness as the monster begins to overcome her life, too.

If nothing else, The Bababook is fascinating. The script (and Kent's keen eye for direction) keeps the audience glued to the screen for the movie's duration, as new clues and strange imagery build a sense of dread and premonition. Essie Davis gives an enveloping performance as a woman consumed by loneliness, frustration, and fear as her character becomes increasingly frazzled and less convinced of her own sanity. Noah Wiseman passes as a decent enough child actor, even though his facial expressions rarely change to match his lines or tone of voice. Finally, the movie's themes and aspirations reach beyond the typical "haunted house" formula, and the movie's intended statement reaches far deeper than most horror films attempt to go. Within this theme, the movie occasionally hits moments of emotional sincerity, as Amelia's situation strikes home for many.

But The Babadook just doesn't work. The movie was certainly mis- marketed as a scare-your-pants-off horror flick, but that's truly the least of the movie's problems. First, despite what William Friedkin would have you believe, The Babadook isn't scary. I don't mean that in an immature "there weren't enough jump scares" sort of way. I mean, it's the type of movie that you can watch alone with the lights off and not have any trouble going to sleep immediately afterwards. The movie maintains a steady sense of dread, but the dread never culminates into anything resembling horror. Without going into deep detail to avoid spoilers, the movie lacks a scary punch for many reasons, one of which is a character disconnect that I'll address later. *Mild spoilers follow in this paragraph!* Additionally, the monster isn't even remotely convincing (partially due to its tie-in with the theme). The movie's budget limits the actual Babadook to a monster that is almost goofy, with claymation- esque movement and scarecrow features. The monster never inflicts physical harm, and the audience never gets the sense that he actually can.

Despite its lack of scares, The Babadook may have worked with its brooding atmosphere if the plot itself held surprises to grip the audience in a way horror usually does not. Unfortunately, Kent avoids surprising the audience in favor of fully embracing her theme. While the theme is somewhat emotionally resonant, it's not even a tiny bit creative. The average moviegoer can guess the monster's thematic purpose within the first minute of discovering Amelia's situation, and every plot point along the way strengthens this guessed purpose. The theme overpowers all of the movie's other elements from the opening frame onwards, leaving many viewers an hour into the movie saying, "I get it. No, really, I get it. Move on". The audience's invested interest is wasted along with the movie's potential because Kent ditches narrative surprises and chooses to rely and hammer on a frequently uninteresting theme into the minds of viewers. Repeatedly.

Even without scares and with narrative simplicity, The Babadook still had a chance to succeed as a dark and brooding drama. Kent squanders this potential too, however, by writing both the leads in the most bizarrely unlikable fashion imaginable. Obviously, not every film needs to have lovable or even relatable characters, but dramas built upon emotional resonance certainly need such characters to some degree as anchors for audience involvement. The first half of the film is framed from the mother's state of mind and, therefore, viewers are meant to become increasingly frustrated and annoyed with Samuel's behavior, if not straight-up hateful towards him. Although frequently loving towards his mother, clearly protective, and obviously damaged by his father's absence, Samuel truly earns the audience's distaste. It's hard to like a 6-year-old problem-child who frequently disobeys, mouths off, fails to interact with other characters properly, and CONSTANTLY yells for his mother. The mother may bear with her son's behavior as a loving parental figure should, but the audience has very little motivation to do the same. *Spoilers ahead!* But even more problematically, the second half adopts Amelia as the villain and a source of terror as she embraces the monster of her anguish. This leaves the audience without anyone to truly fear for, as Amelia acts increasingly irrational and violent. The most fear we feel relates to our concern for the puppy and the old lady who knocks at the door. The conflict is disturbing, but not surprising or frightening, and we just can't come to care deeply about the child in danger or the mother who continues to put him there.

Finally, the last 20 minutes display a dip in screen writing as the final confrontation crosses the line into the ridiculous, both visually and plot-wise. The ending concerning the monster is bizarre, and the resolution between the characters is unconvincing at best (*spoiler* we're supposed to buy that Amelia and Samuel suddenly understand each other completely and are the best of friends following that finale? Really?). But even by then, it's too late. The Babadook has sunk under the weight of its flaws and is confined to the dungeons of both failed drama and failed horror.
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Endless Love (2014)
Say Goodbye to Intelligence
15 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Do you remember "Safe Haven"? Yeah, that soppy romantic drama last year that ended with (SPOILER ALERT if anyone cares) Robin Scherbatsky's character being a ghost that wanted her former husband to find true love again.

Safe Haven is several times better than Endless Love, and I hated Safe Haven.

Endless Love is a movie so mind-bogglingly inept, so blissfully unaware, so morally empty, and so raucously confident that if it (God forbid) took the form of a human being, you would alternately want to weep for her, educate her, and bash in her skull with a bowling ball. This movie takes place in a world that is structurally unsound and is populated with aggressively stupid characters whose actions are unjustifiably opposed to sound logic and good morals.

Yes, Endless Love is a film aimed at a very particular target audience with a very specific goal in mind, and therefore its flaws mean little to the filmmakers or to the numerous squealing 13-15 year old girls at my showing. However, that does not excuse it from following film rules that, when broken, force a viewer out of the entertainment experience and instead force them to put their head in their hands in disgust.

1. You need a strong lead character. Jade Butterfield is the opposite of a strong lead character. She is a selfish, spoiled, and ignorant 17-year-old who falls head-over-heals for a stranger and then proceeds to give up everything (from body to future) to this reckless young man whose first impression on her is taking a client's car for a joyride and then assaulting the man. She treats her father awfully even before he turns into a dominating jerk and she says stupid things like, "Let's be young and dumb" and "I want to go sneak into a zoo and get high with people I don't know and I demand you go with me!" Okay, maybe I stretched that last one. Also, don't even try to consider the boyfriend as the main character: he is two-dimensional, un-complex, artificially constructed and a poor excuse for a human being, whose purpose is to make the target audience swoon and be severely disappointed with real men.

2. You need convincing conflict. Jade's father is not convincing conflict. He seems like a genuinely good father whose good character traits seem to reflect his inner love nature and his negative traits are unconvincing and contrived in every sense. This is especially displayed in his affair, the provocation scene against Jade's lover, and the scene where he almost beats said lover with a baseball bat. These scenes are in direct contrast to scenes that describe a man who left his job to support his dying son, who constantly wants to help his daughter succeed, and is wary of a violent young man who hides with his daughter in closets during parties. To any logical viewer, it is much easier to side with a hurt father figure who only wants a bright future for his children (as opposed to a mother who only wants her children to find "true love" and to get "good at getting their hearts broken") and not a mindless 17-year-old caught up in a week-old infatuation and who is insisting that she found the love of her life. And don't even get me started on the living son and his girlfriend, whose characters are entirely irrelevant and whose sole purpose seems to be to force the audience to believe the dad is the bad guy.

3. In a romance aimed at tweens and teens, you need some underlying morality or a subtle message to "do what is right". This movie knows what is right and what is smart, identifies it, and then promptly laughs in its face and grinds it into the dirt. It is NOT okay for a young girl to ignore the violent tendencies of her boyfriend before intending to give up her life for him. It is NOT okay for a mother to be jealous of the "love" between 2 teenagers that just met and be upset with the father when attempts to break it off. It is NOT okay to steal people's cars because they are jerks towards you. It is NOT okay to sneak into people's houses that don't like you and have sex with someone you hardly know. It is NOT okay to say "screw you" to internships and opportunities you have committed to when teenage love shows up: that's not how life works. It is NOT okay to say it is more important to seek out a lover before deciding what to do with your life. It is NOT okay to smoke weed in the elephant's exhibit. It is NOT okay to make out with an old boyfriend while you are in a relationship and then promise to run away to the other side of the world in the middle of college, with no money or plans or future. None of what this movies says is okay, is okay.

There was so much wrong with Endless Love, but my space is quite limited so I touched upon my biggest gripes. As a college student soon to be engaged, this type of movie should appeal to my inner romantic at least on some primal level and instead, both my girlfriend and I left this movie embarrassed to have spent money in this film and laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of the film's messages and characters. As my girlfriend said, "I have never enjoyed the trailers before the movie more than I enjoyed the movie until I saw Endless Love".

As a postscript: dear filmmakers, teenagers coming from a party that just got busted by the cops aren't going to go to a new party with adults and then play games that involve choreography and a boombox and then go home nicely when told to by the adults. Nice try.
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The Purge (I) (2013)
"Because Moviegoers Love Stupid Characters!"
8 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
DIRECTOR: Good afternoon, sirs! I came in today because I was stoned out of my mind earlier and I thought of the best idea for a movie ever! STUDIO: Alright, we're listening! DIRECTOR: So, like, in the near future, the government will allow 12 hours of crime a year! Like, murder will be legal and stuff! STUDIO: Okay, cool! Why? DIRECTOR:Uh... well... because if people go crazy on one day, then they won't need to do any other crimes the rest of the year! Because all crimes are created by random murderous passions, right? ONLY SMART GUY IN THE ROOM: Why don't the rich people just leave the country? That's the worst idea I- STUDIO: That's so original! People will eat that up. And it can double as a shallow social commentary! DIRECTOR: Uh... yeah... social commentary. I know what that is. Anyways, I got Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke to sign on! STUDIO: Fantastic! I bet you have lots of good dialogue to go between them.

DIRECTOR: Yeah... good dialogue... I know what that is. Anyways, the dad sells these security systems and the mom is... well... a mom, I guess. She can sulk a lot. And the older female kid can be a "typical" sulky teenager who is completely brain dead! She won't see anything suspicious when her much-older boyfriend, who her father disapproves of, sneaks into her house on the night murder is legal and says he's come to see her dad! And the also brain-dead boyfriend can botch his low-awaited parent killing by yelling out the dad's name before shooting! He'll die and then the shocked girlfriend will cry and then wander around the dark house by herself for no reason! ONLY SMART GUY IN THE ROOM: Uh, why would the boyfriend think she'd continue to date him after he killed her dad? That's an awful and unnecessary i- STUDIO: Perfect! It'll be tense when she wanders around because we really care about her character! Who else is there?

DIRECTOR: Well, there'll be another son with that awful super-long hair that's popular with horror movie boys nowadays! He'll be reclusive and play with creepy remote control dolls and he'll be the only moral character in the movie while being completely moronic! He will shut down the security system without letting his parents know in order to let a homeless guy in, and then he'll hide him, even though that means his whole family will die. And then, when he sees his sister about to go hide in the same spot, he won't yell out or warn her or anything! And then even later on, he'll hide in the basement and STILL let one of the invaders sneak up behind him, even though he has a gun! STUDIO: He sounds so lovable! What about the other characters? Are they dumb too? DIRECTOR: Oh yeah, super dumb! For example, the dad will have a complete 180 degree moral change halfway through the movie even though he sees the purge first hand, as if he didn't already know about it because he sells security systems for the purge! And then, he won't even untie the guy he's saving so he can help! He's completely retarded. And then there's the wife! Instead of hiding and having the advantage against the invaders, she can get up and wander around so she can be snuck up on! And then she won't shoot the guy who's threatening to kill her daughter because... well... she's stupid! And finally, the lead bad guy will try to kill the main character, but stops and leaves after giving him a flesh wound in the stomach! And then gets snuck up on, too!

STUDIO: That's wonderful! Movie goers are much more likely to cheer for stupid characters than intelligent ones! DIRECTOR: Oh and the invaders will wear masks like "The Strangers"! STUDIO: Great, that movie was terrifying! ONLY SMART GUY IN THE ROOM: No it wasn't, that movie was awf- DIRECTOR: I'll be sure to include the max amounts of clichés, too! Like, a bad guy will be ABOUT to kill a main character, but there'll be a dramatic pause before he does, and seconds before it happens, he'll get killed from behind! STUDIO: Genius! That should happen AT LEAST 4 times.

DIRECTOR: And for the icing on the cake, the invaders will be like cultists and recite prayer-like incantations dedicated to America and the "new founding fathers" because that's what would happen in real life, right? STUDIO: Perfect! Let's get this movie made. ONLY SMART GUY IN THE ROOM: **** this, I quit.
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Pitch Perfect (2012)
10 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Most of the people I saw Pitch Perfect with truly enjoyed it. They laughed and clapped and booed at me when I expressed my disgust. For many, this movie will definitely be enjoyable. Make no mistake, that does not make it any less of an awful movie.

Several factors contribute to my low opinion of Pitch Perfect. The largest of these concerns is the cast of characters. While there are few complaints in the acting department, the characters themselves are among the worst set of "people" committed to screen in recent memory.

"Beca" (is that spelling supposed to be hip or something?) is an arrogant, brooding, selfish brat who spends most of her time sulking on her computer and complaining about being forced to go to COLLEGE and be with PEOPLE (blegh, right?!). This is a perfect setup for character development, right? Wrong. After a half-hearted apology for being a terrible human being before the climax, Beca morphs not into an upstanding social and moral butterfly, but a smug leader of the troop she so recently was kicked off of, and this is the image the audience is left with.

"Jesse" is the most cliché love interest one can imagine. Seriously, girls, if you ever meet a guy this perfect and blameless, marry him. Jesse prances throughout the movie being sweet to everybody, from his unrealistically nerdy roommate to the jerks he sings with. He pursues Beca valiantly for no particular reason and provides the cliché moral criticism Beca so desperately needs late in the movie (but of course he takes her back). While girls might be enthralled by this sentiment, no true development can occur through a character who is so blatantly one-dimensional.

Worst of all are the two commentators for the sing-offs, Gail and John. These two buffoons spew dialogue that is not only shockingly inappropriate for television/radio, they simply aren't funny. While clearly trying to channel Fred Willard's comedic performance from Best in Show, the pair instead come across as amusing as your drunk middle-aged parents at a frat party.

Other character "highlights" include the mind-bogglingly narrow-minded and stubborn team leader, Aubrey. Stacie provides the necessary college-aged sex-addicted tramp character (a character so over-the-top, you're guaranteed to squirm). Bumper (the captain of the boy's singing team) is a character so insanely arrogant and rude that he is not only hard to enjoy watching, he makes you want to kill every jock on the planet. Slowly.

The movie's second fatal flaw is its achingly stupid sense of humor. Yes, boys and girls, Fat Amy is funny. She has several good one liners and lends the movie its only spark of humor-related vitality. However, all else falls flat. The most achingly obvious example is the vomit-laden climax. Seriously, was that girl doing vomit-angels supposed to funny? I guess I just don't get it.

Also, for a PG-13 flick aimed at mostly female tweens, Pitch Perfect is surprisingly offensive. The movie takes heavy jabs at nerds, Asian people, Jewish people, redheads, and probably more that I fail to recall at the moment (not to mention several distasteful jokes like the one about eating another baby in the womb). Seriously, filmmakers, you aren't Sacha Baron Cohen, and you don't have the same audience.

Finally, the movie follows the most cliché (I like this word, don't I?) storyline imaginable. Girl has trouble in college. Girl meets boy who befriends her. Girl joins team of has-beens. Girl pushes away boy away because of her past and her daddy issues. Girl forced off team. Girl "learns lesson" and wins boy back and helps team of has-beens win championship. Yay, ingenuity!

Ultimately, the comedic sparks from the humorous character Fat Amy can not save Pitch Perfect. I'll be honest, this movie completely lost at the vomit scene(even Miss March was more tasteful than that!) I was quite aca-thankful when the movie came to its (very abrupt) ending.
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Magic Mike (2012)
Schizophrenic: Why "Magic Mike" doesn't work
30 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
As I watched "Magic Mike", I was entertained and hopeful. Some of its elements were fascinating and the storyline seemed to be heading in an interesting direction. Each new scene seemed to lead toward a climax that could make the movie's run time worthwhile.

And then it ended.

I was confused. So many things didn't make sense. So many questions were left unanswered. Where was the conflict's resolution? What happened to Adam? When did Mike and Brooke fall in love? What was with Tarzan's character? Did I have the wrong mindset?

The problem with "Magic Mike" is that it attempts to appeal to every form of movie watcher and, instead, appeals only to the ladies fanning themselves while mesmerized by abs and biceps. While Mike (a surprisingly decent Channing Tatum) is an interesting character, the movie's structure and story suffer from Steven Soderbergh's direction.

1. "Magic Mike" has no goal. No themes, no morals, no bottom-line. We see hints of anti-drug sentimentality, and Soderbergh draws a little attention to the effects of the male stripper world on the male mind. But these elements are only hints, and are abandoned by the time the credits roll. Mike doesn't regret his actions as a stripper, only that he continued to be one into his 30's. He dabbles in drugs in one (hyper-extended and annoying) montage-esque scene, but that event too has few direct consequences.

All this would be okay if the movie was a comedy. However...

2. "Magic Mike" isn't funny. Not by any stretch of the imagination. We have some witty remarks that are bound to induce some smiles, but the only laughs come from people's "shock" from the dance numbers. There are no jokes, no slapstick humor, and the dance numbers really aren't that amusing (to a male). The only truly funny scene is when Adam (a bored looking Alex Pettyfer) is first backstage with Tarzan and the other strippers.

If this movie lacks a drama's thematic elements and a comedy's laughs, then it must be a romance, right?

3. "Magic Mike" isn't romantic. In fact, Mike and Brooke (Cody Horn) don't let any sparks fly at all. A relationship between the two isn't even a possibility until they get into their first shouting match, near (what I assume to be) the movie's climax. Their relationship is never given time to grow because the movie's first half tries to build a story around Adam and Mike's relationship. However, the second half drops Adam almost completely and attempts to bring in Brooke. Both relationships fall flat, not to mention Adam ends up as a terrible human being.

In the end, what the audience gets is a casserole of movie elements and little of the satisfaction that comes from watching these types of movies because Soderbergh shoots high and misses everything. Also, "Magic Mike" is peppered with extended "erotic" dance numbers that add nothing to the plot and exist purely to satisfy the target audience: middle-aged women. These scenes, in addition to the movie's schizophrenic lack of direction, will disappoint any movie lover's hopes of seeing a film that provides insight into the mind of a male stripper.

At least, the audience could have used a decent ending.
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Better than I thought, not as good as it should have been
23 June 2012
So close! That was my first thought when the credits for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter began to roll. I am no fan of the book, I was only mildly excited for the movie, and I came out mildly disappointed. Why? Because it could have been so much more! It SHOULD have been. If the first half of this movie is any indication, it had big, metaphorical aspirations.

However, the final result is still quite decent. No, not decent as in, "Oh, look at its title! Shut off your brain and have a good time!" No, not decent as in, "I had a fun time and the blood was really cool!" This movie was legitimately decent.

The whole concept of transforming the ideology of slavery into an embodiment of evil is clever, and this idea is not lost on the script's translation to the big screen. On one side of the spectrum, this movie can be viewed purely as a metaphor for Lincoln's historical deeds and character.

However, this concept also sets up AL:VH for its biggest flaw. The first half of the film runs with this alternate universe for Abraham Lincoln, and it succeeds wildly. We are given characters we accept, circumstances we appreciate, and relationships with which we agree. The pace is frenetic, the dialogue well-executed, and the acting enjoyable.

But instead of keeping this attitude throughout its run time, the movie changes mood. Near the halfway point, the movie loses momentum due to a stale plot development that allows for the vampires to be leading the South in the Civil War. The action becomes "meh" and the characters no longer seem like legitimate people.

Why doesn't it work? Firstly, AL:VH tries too hard to include more history in its second half. With Lincoln as president and leading the Civil War, the vampire actions seems out of place and just silly. This is because instead of REPLACING the historical events with the metaphorical vampires, or at least downplaying the history, AL:VH tries to reconcile the two and the result is downright boring (for example, did anyone REALLY care about that whole "get the silver to Gettysburg" plot line?) Also, we are subjected to some seriously bad makeup. The "aging" between early Lincoln to president Lincoln consists of a few wrinkles and a beard, and the co-stars fare even worse. Also, side characters stick around for too long, and we don't care about them. The shopkeeper is a poorly written character and never has a fleshed out personality, and Lincoln's black friend (whose unremarkable name escapes me) is also too insignificant but inexplicably good at killing vampires.

In the end, DO SEE Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for its cool action (eons ahead of that atrocity with similar effects, "Immortals"), great visuals, and hints of moral poignancy and historical metaphors. But don't expect complete satisfaction.
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The Best Blockbuster Since "X-Men: First Class"
6 August 2011
Rise of Planet of the Apes (which I will now refer to as Planet for obvious reasons) has had lots of marketing in the last few weeks, and all of it portrays this movie to be a chaotic disaster/action film. Fortunately, while mayhem rears itself in the climax, Planet is more of a suspense drama that tautly engrosses its viewers through expert storytelling, spellbinding performances, a well-wrought script, and stunning visuals.

I find no need to give a detailed plot summary, because most of the plot is given away in the trailer. Basically, our hero Will Rodman develops ALZ-112, the cure for Alzheimer's disease, while testing on chimps. However, his key chimp goes bananas and is shot. After the drug is discarded and the apes put down, Will discovers the ape's baby that the drug passed on to and decides to raise it for himself. However, as time passes, the super-smart ape Caesar begins to clash with his neighbors, his origins, and his place in the world.

From the beginning, Planet is a thoroughly gripping movie. The dialogue is genuine, the characters are more than relatable, and most of all, the ape visuals are frighteningly real. James Franco lays down a solid performance as Will, and right off the bat makes the viewer care about his character. The co-stars (especially John Lithgow as Will's unfortunate father) also allow the viewers to invest emotionally, but the true star is Andy Serkis's Caesar. From his early playful and curious antics to his shock and fear among the other apes, Andy's digitally rendered performance awes us. When the climax arrives, his presence is downright commanding. That signifies true acting power.

The level of design that went into the visual side of Planet is immeasurable. Yes, we are not debating whether or not the apes are real, but they hold our attention nonetheless. For instance, the ape integration scene when the apes are first out of their cages together is inspired. Also, the apes truly acted like you would expect apes to act, and therefore added to the realism.

The scriptwriting, while not "whip-smart" like some have described, is perfectly balanced, providing a rising tension and an air of dread unmatched by nearly all movies this year. I was genuinely surprised by how powerful the writing was, and how ready the audience was for the finale.

There are very few flaws with this movie, but there are enough to name. Freida Pinto's character Caroline, while well-acted, seemed unnecessary and under-written, almost as if she was added in as an afterthought, or as if she was expendable. Also, Tom Felton's nasty character was just plain stupid. Not only did he make illogical decisions in nearly every moment of his screen time (the hose/electrical prod scene was groan worthy on his part), but I also find it hard to believe that someone as irresponsible and brutal as him would find work in an ape house. After all, apes are not dogs, and I'm sure the humane society would have regular check-ups.


Also, Jacobs death scene was out of place. The entire sequence played out like the audience was supposed to be horrified, but instead afterwards we realize that this should have felt like the death of the villain and we should be satisfied. But that kind of didn't make sense considering Jacobs wasn't nasty enough to be a main villain.


Finally, small plot holes litter the script. Why did Will still have the updated drug in his fridge long after his father's death? How did no one realize that their neighbor had an ape for five years? How did this elite company not notice some of their breakthrough drug go missing?

On a side note, did anyone else have trouble with the names? I felt like the only names i remembered were "Caesar" and "Bright Eyes". Everyone else I had to nickname names like "James Franco", "the girlfriend", "the bloody nose dude", "the black boss", "the nasty blonde dude", etc. Maybe its just me, so I won't detract stars.

In any case, Planet is an engrossing movie. Not in just the visual "Avatar" sense, but also emotionally. It is exhilarating, smart, and entertaining. Rise of the Planet of the Apes comes highly recommended.
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A Healthy Addition to a Sappy Genre
1 August 2011
I had three reasons for originally seeing Crazy, Stupid, Love this weekend. 1. I heard bad things about Cowboys and Aliens. 2. My girlfriend said so. 3. Emma Stone is gorgeous.

Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised with the end result. The scriptwriting was clever, witty, and never stiff, while the directing was top-notch. However, no matter how you play it, this is a character story.

Steve Carell plays Cal, a likable middle-aged man whose wife, Emily, (Julianne Moore) suddenly requests a divorce after 20+ years of marriage, along with an announcement that she has cheated on him. Heartbroken, Cal eventually turns to the rich womanizer Jacob (Ryan Gosling). His story of "re-discovering his manhood" (read: seducing women in a bar, including the wonderful Marisa Tomei) soon intersects with the story of the young, smart, and aspiring lawyer, Hannah (Emma Stone) as well as a deranged love triangle between Cal's middle schooled son, his babysitter, and Cal himself.

It was refreshing to see Mr. Carell play a not COMPLETELY incompetent character for a change, and he plays it well. Needless to say, all of the actors and actresses played their parts well, but surprisingly, I was most impressed by Ryan Gosling's performance, a man who I previously viewed as pure woman's eye-candy.

For the most part, the on screen relationships were honest and endearing, with the exception of the middle schooled infatuation with the babysitter (call me cynical). The "bedroom" scene with Hannah and Jacob is especially engaging (even though I usually hate montages). Steve's love for Emily never seemed silly, and the babysitter's crush was played out just long enough not to be tiresome.

I also liked the "twist" (are twists allowed in romantic comedies?), which I didn't guess earlier on. The laughs were also plentiful and hearty enough without being too lowbrow/slapstick.

However, I have yet to see a perfect romantic comedy, and Crazy, Stupid, Love has its share. For instance, Hannah and Jacob's relationship is squeezed in and never given time to develop. They are given one scene to fall into unconditional love for each other, and although the scene works great, the relationship feels distanced. Also, Emily's reason for divorcing Cal is never fully explained. Yes, she cheated, and he's apparently boring, but she seems to want Cal back from the moment she leaves him.

I won't harp on Cal's son's wince-inducing endeavors for his love, but lets just say some of it was over-the-top. And of course, no movie in this genre escapes clichés (note to screenwriters: climax scenes of public embarrassment/expression of love where the on screen audience has no relation are NOT funny. Please stop). Finally, the first half flowed much better than the second, and guys will feel conned by the necessary Hollywood ending.

All in all, I found myself laughing, smiling, and enjoying this flick much more than I thought, and that's what entertainment is all about. I recommend Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Oh yeah, and there's Kevin Bacon.
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Concerned: Did I watch the same "Captain"?
25 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I had been looking forward to Captain America for about a year, and I decided to make it the first premiere I'd go to all summer. I got a group of ten friends and showed up hours early with Captain America merchandise and enough caffeine to stay up through Lord of the Rings in its entirety.

What happened?

Every single person in my group was disappointed. Needless to say, we still enjoyed ourselves, and I wasn't even expecting much, (Jumanji and Jurassic Park III at the top of the director's credentials), but, man, I couldn't help counting the flaws throughout the film.

Positive: Chris Evans was surprisingly convincing. Also, our hero was truly inspirational (if not corny). The sets were nice, and the other stars filled their roles well. I was well entertained, and the first half flowed nicely.

Negative: Oh, lord. I'll try not to nitpick. Most glaring was the absolute pathetic villain. Hugo Weaving (a great actor who manages to give his character some, well, character) plays a downright cheesy, sappy, crazy, and so un-menacing-its-not-even-funny chum nicknamed Red Skull. His back story is never laid out and only hinted at a few times, his followers are faceless drones with advanced weaponry but the brains and aim of stormtroopers, and his intentions are ridiculously stupid and unexplainable (his target is "everything"? Oh, please). He was never threatening and never endangered our hero, not to mention his death was as anti-climatic as they come (Voldemort, anyone?)

Also obvious is the cliché invincibility of the Captain. He leaps twenty feet as flames engulf him, he fistfights scores of goons, blows up crap all over the place, and never once gets seriously injured. Suspense? Apparently, there's no need when you have patriotism!

The technology was just plain silly for its era. Leaving out the cheesy blue-shooting things (something to do with the gods? I don't know, it was kind of weird), there are spycraft, tanks the size of mansions, helicopters that look like spacecraft, single-person submarines, and (my personal favorite) manned bombers in the shape of bombs. Are they suicide bombers? Apparently.

There is no attachment to the characters (anyone blink when his best friend died?), there are loads of forgettable scenes (notably the war montage of which the trailer consists, which might have made a good movie, I might add), and clichés (love interest walks in on random kiss, etc.) and downright sloppy pacing galore.

I must stop here, but seriously, 8.0? Not even close. Enjoyable fare, but nothing to think twice about. Here's to hoping Joss Whedon improves upon Chris Evan's Captain in 2012.
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