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The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
Good acting can't make up for horrible writing
The first thing I found grating about the movie was how stereotypical almost all the characters were. First we have Andy, who is a 40 year old virgin that lives in what appears to be a toy museum, reads comic books, and works with electronics in the storeroom. Then we have his friends, the pot-smoker, the porn-enthusiast that moons over his ex, and the black guy that cheats on his girlfriend almost constantly. As for the ladies, aside from Trish, they're all pretty one-dimensional. (Ok, maybe Trish and Paula, but I think that's because Jane Lynch was just told to be Jane Lynch)
This movie is supposed to be a comedy. Half the time, I was just weirded out by the circumstances into which Andy's friends dump him. For example, the waxing parlor was cringe-worthy, especially when I noticed there was blood on the places that had been waxed. And Andy's flash backs on why sex isn't an option were *shudders*.
If I disliked the movie so much, why is it still getting a 5? Because despite being given horrible parts, the actors sold those parts as best they could. I liked Catherine Keener's facial expressions, her body language, and her general portrayal as single-mother Trish. And having seen Carell in other roles, I know how well he played that part (because it's quite different from anything else I've seen him in). The movie was also one of the first movie debuts of Kat Dennings, and she's just adorable. I think the acting that put me off was Seth Rogen (who plays the same character he always seems to play) and Paul Rudd (again, same character, different film).
Since the movie is all about Andy's adventures in dating and trying to get laid, there isn't much else to the film. The scenery could be replaced by any generic city in the US and nothing would change.
I'd say skip the movie if sex jokes aren't something you want thrown at you every 2 minutes of a film. However, I would recommend the film to anyone that likes a Seth Rogen film, or to anyone that wants to see Jane Lynch singing a Guatemalan love song (that isn't really a love song).
Despicable Me (2010)
A hilarious family film
The star of the movie is Gru, who has an accent I think might be from East Berlin, but honestly, it's Steve Carell trying to sound sinister. Gru has evil-bad-guy tendencies, but he's on the same scale of evil as the Grinch. His evil exploits consist of stealing the Times Square megatron, and a couple Las Vegas landscape items. The other stars of the film are a trio of orphan girls: Margo, Edith, and Agnes. Apparently, you can show up to an orphanage in a doctor's lab coat, have your minions make up ridiculous facts, and get three daughters.
The story is pretty simplistic, and as a kid's movie, I wouldn't expect complex subplots. There are bits that are obviously meant to keep the adults engaged, such as the scene where Agnes gives Gru the ticket and he becomes the object of dance-mom-judgement. There are times of absolute absurdity (boogie robots, etc), and a lot of imagery that relates to children of all ages and genders. The comedy is also a good mix of dark humor from Gru, cute and childish humor from the girls, and slapstick from the minions.
I would recommend this movie to anyone that likes a good laugh, adorable walking Twinkies with eyes, and Julie Andrews playing a no-nonsense granny. However, if men in track suits, a woman that reminded me of Umbridge, and/or evil banks are not in your comfort zone, ignore this review and skip the film.
Man of Tai Chi (2013)
An interesting take on the American kung-fu genre
This little movie skipped under the radar of most people when it released in November 2013. I don't think it ever showed in the theaters in my city, but it popped onto my Netflix radar this afternoon. To set the stage for this movie, it's Keanu Reeves' first stint as director; he also plays bad guy Donaka. It's set in Hong Kong and features some big names in the Hong Kong film industry. Although, these actors are relatively unknown in the US.
I loved the use of Tai Chi in this movie, when it was used by Yang. I liked Tiger's style, but Yang's was so calm and fluid, almost like watching water fall from a cup. The movie also managed to showcase some of the other styles in the fighting world without taking away from the story of Tiger. Granted, Tai Chi is usually used as an exercise method, not a fighting style. The cinematography for the fight scenes was excellent (with a few exceptions) and gave a good impression of the many moves each fighter displayed.
The story itself is pretty common; it's the Dorian Grey archetype. A young student wants to rebel against the strict teachings of his master, and a dark shadowy figure leads him down a path of more and more dangerous pastimes. The story also takes the traditional American kung- fu movie and tips it by making the American the bad guy and the foreigner the hero. It actually felt more like a foreign film than I expected from Keanu Reeves.
Acting wise, I liked everyone except the English speakers. I felt Keanu was a bit stiff, but pulling the job of both actor and director can sometimes do that. Also, the female announcer annoyed me whenever she spoke because it felt like she was reading off a cue card. Tiger Chen (played by Tiger Chen) was very expressive and I liked how he often conveyed more with his eyes than anything else.
Definitely a must for foodies.
I'm a fan of Pixar's movies and short films. And while I liked Ratatouille, it lacked the emotional factor that I usually associate with Pixar films. Sure, the movie had it's darker moments, but nothing to compare to say, Sid's house in Toy Story or Boo's capture in Monsters Inc. It actually felt more like a Dreamworks film (animals doing human activities while making a funny face), which isn't a bad thing, just not something I would expect from Pixar. There was also an almost independent film quality that was a tad different for a children's movie. It's also the first family film in a long time that I have seen anyone drink alcohol.
Visually, the movie is spectacular. Since Remy practically lives on Linguini's head, there's a lot of animation devoted to Linguini's hair. Of course, Pixar's been ahead of the pack with animation of individual hairs ever since Monster's Inc. Really, it's the food that shines in this film. Every dish looks delicious, and it's interesting to see how much detail is put into everything, down to the spices. And not only does it look good, it sounds good, like the scene where Colette crackles bread to show its freshness.
The other interesting thing about the movie is the city of Paris through the eyes of a rodent. Some of the shots of the city are told through Linguini's or Skinner's point of view, but for the most part you are introduced to Paris through Remy's perspective. Which means a lot of detail on things a human would normally overlook, like the sole of a shoe or the various things found in the garbage can outside a restaurant.
I would say see this movie if you like good food, business intrigue, family issues, and old women with shotguns. However, if rats make you a bit squeamish, especially the thought of them around your food, skip the film.
Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Parties Save the World: An American War Story
Charlie Wilson is hanging in Las Vegas with some hookers in a hot tub when he finds out that Communist USSR is invading Afghanistan. Thus begins a wild and often loony tale of how the US aided Afghanistan in the war against communism.
Now, I haven't read the book on which the movie is based. I am speculating that the book is the reason the pacing is a little off in certain parts of the movie. There are several subplots that fight for screen time in this less-than-2-hour movie. There are also some scenes that were meant to show the woman-loving Congressman that is Charlie Wilson that could have been consolidated. (One scene in particular is the scene with Emily Blunt. I like Emily Blunt, but the scene seemed odd and out of place.) The story was interesting, and definitely a unique look at the end of the Cold War. So, a little known Congressman, a CIA agent who's career is going nowhere fast, and a socialite whose hair resembles cotton candy band together to get funds and weapons to the Afghan refugees. They do this through a series of well-placed parties, fund raisers, and apparently, the power of Joanne's hair.
Tom Hanks played Charlie Wilson rather well. The Texan accent was a little thick at times, but at least it was recognizable. Perhaps it was my ADD, but Julia Robert's performance was often overshadowed by how flamboyantly her character dressed. From looking up Joanne on Google, the wardrobe team was actually toning it down a bit.
Overall, this movie was pretty good. I like a movie that never takes politics too seriously.
Decent action, storyline was lacking
I was hoping for a good war movie with a storyline on the Navajo coders from WWII. What I got was an 80's style action flick where Nic Cage channeled Rambo against the Japanese. There is some subplot on how the soldiers interacted with their code breakers, but any time things got overly emotional or gave a character depth, there'd be an explosion. While this works for an action film, it cuts the war drama short by not allowing the characters some depth.
Also, I'm not sure where the $100 million budget went to, but it obviously wasn't cinematography. There were times when stock footage of battleships were used, which immediately took me out of the movie. Perhaps this was to give the movie a more "documentary" style, but it didn't mesh well with the rest.
In conclusion, if you want an action film with a smidgen of characterization, try the film. If you want a war drama with a good storyline, you should probably look elsewhere.