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The Change-Up (2011)
Contrived, unfunny, sexist and offensive
Stock standard body-swap film with very little going for it. The script is mostly unfunny and relies heavily on the "F" word for cheap chuckles. I'm not a prude and I don't object to bad language per se, but the sweary dialogue in this film is just banal. The behavior of the two male characters is unconvincing. The wife cries helplessly.
No mother of 3 in their thirties has breasts like Leslie Mann in this film. I believe the nude scenes were shot with a body double and the breasts were digitally enhanced. So I guess it's saying that women are for bearing children while maintaining perfect bodies for the pleasure of their men. I found this offensive. I'm not a raging feminist, I just object to already beautiful women being digitally enhanced to make them look perfectly unreal. Don't we get enough of that sort of thing in magazines?
And before anyone tells me to get a life, I have a life, and I like movies. Just not this one.
The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
Enjoyable and smart piece of entertainment
Finally a performance by Matthew McConaughey that doesn't irritate! Usually his name conjures up images of smarmy, shirtless strutting about, but I must confess I enjoyed Mr McConaughey's performance in this film. Yes, his character is arrogant, but he's a lawyer, so that's to be expected. What he proves here is that he is versatile enough to portray a character who may be arrogant, but is also vulnerable and capable of compassion and friendship.
So many films these days seem to be churned out with little or no care for story and/or filmmaking craft. I think this is why I am being possibly a bit generous with my rating of 8 out of 10 for The Lincoln Lawyer. At least it's well made, well performed and mostly well crafted, which I found very refreshing while watching this film! It has a good story (courtesy of Michael Connelly's original novel), is well cast, and tightly paced. Like other reviewers, I am not a fan of the distracting hand-held shooting style. Also, so much of the film is shot in huge close-ups, which is not only uncomfortably claustrophobic for the audience, but often very unflattering for the actors. No pore or wrinkle is spared, and I found myself thinking "wow, Bryan Cranston has one of the most weathered faces I've ever seen" or "gee, Matthew McConaughey has freckles on his nose" instead of being involved in what was happening on screen.
As far as the story goes, it's generally very well told, but unfortunately it starts to unravel somewhere in the last quarter. It leaves too many niggling questions unanswered, and the ending feels disjointed and 'tacked on'. I wonder if the ending was re-written and hurriedly re-shot after the film was edited. I also found it a little odd that the motives for the crimes were never really explored. It was mostly just a question of who did what and how, not why.
Desite its flaws, however, The Lincoln Lawyer is a very enjoyable film to watch, and kept me interested the whole way through.
Easy A (2010)
Thinks it is smarter than it is
I'm surprised at the positive reviews for Easy A. I found it to be a very contrived film.
To start with, the main character (Olive) is a walking contradiction. Olive tells us in voice-over at the opening of the film that she is such a 'nobody' that Google Earth wouldn't be able to find her even if she was the size of a building. But right from the beginning Olive is so smart, sassy and totally self-possessed and self-confident that it's very hard to believe she was ever a 'nobody'. The whole premise of the film is based on the fact that Olive is tired of being a wallflower, but there is absolutely nothing about her that makes her seem inhibited or insecure - it does NOT seem like Olive fails to make an impact at the school.
I also found Olive to be a bit too clever for her own good. She reminded me of Juno, always ready with a clever quip or a witty remark. This steady stream of self-satisfied cleverness is quite annoying after a while, especially coming from the mouth of a (supposed) high school girl.
Which brings me to my next point. Most of the high school characters seem more like twenty-somethings than teenagers. Emma Stone - she's 22. Amanda Bynes? 24. I mean, I can see why they cast Emma Stone, she's very good in the role. But she did not look, talk or act like a high school student. Amanda Bynes was miscast as the bible-bashing Maryanne, she actually looked even older in the film than she is in reality.
So, for some reason the smart, perceptive Olive is best friends with a vacuous and obtuse character called Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka), which doesn't make a lot of sense. I didn't buy their relationship, which in turn made it difficult to buy the fact that Olive feels the need to tell Rhiannon that she had sex with some guy, when in fact she didn't. It's a problem, because this is the incident that kicks off the entire plot of the film, and I'm not convinced by it.
Then Olive starts to develop a reputation for sleeping with people in exchange for money (or gift cards), when in reality she is only letting people SAY she had sex with them. Of course it doesn't take long before this situation starts to get out of hand.
Then comes a very far-fetched scene. We are somehow expected to believe that a high school Guidance Counselor (Lisa Kudrow) would openly confess to a student (Olive) that she (the Guidance Counselor) had slept with a male student and given him chlamydia. This ridiculous scene was the turning point for me. I was willing to overlook a certain amount of implausibility, but this tipped the scale over to absurdity. OK, I get that the plot point raises the stakes for Olive because the male student tells everyone that it was Olive who gave him chlamydia, not the Guidance Counselor. But surely the filmmakers could have thought of a more convincing way for Olive to find out about the affair. I just don't believe that the Guidance Counselor would simply blurt it out - firstly, Olive is a student who the Guidance Counselor has only had one conversation with previously. And secondly, it's not in her interests to tell Olive about her affair with the male student! No-one else knows about it, what purpose could it possibly serve to tell Olive? If she'd just kept her mouth shut, the rumour that it was Olive who gave the male student chlamydia would have stuck, and there would have been no need for anyone to find out that the Guidance Counselor was involved in any way. Olive might have denied it, but so what? Nobody would have believed her! Wouldn't it have been much more believable if Olive had turned up at the office and OVERHEARD the male student talking to the Guidance Counselor about their affair and explaining that he had made Olive the scapegoat for his chlamydia? Simple! Another aspect of the film that really didn't work for me was Olive's romance (if you can call it that) with Todd. She hardly gave him a glance throughout the whole film, and she didn't seem to care about the effect her growing reputation as a slut might be having on Todd's opinion of her. If she had feelings for him it certainly wasn't obvious. It was marginally clearer that he had feelings for her, but as Olive herself asks, why did he wait until near the end of the film to ask her on a date? Todd's response is a total cop-out: "I haven't over-analyzed it... like you're about to do". He's basically saying to the audience "don't over-analyze this poorly written plot point". Well that's not good enough! The writers should have got it right to begin with, without relying on the lenience of the audience! To be fair, there are some wonderful scenes with Olive and her family. The parents are brilliantly played by the amazing Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson. These veteran screen actors imbue their characters with warmth and humour, and their very presence immediately raises the standard of the film. I really liked these scenes, they were well written, well acted and well directed, and the witty banter seemed much more convincing the context of a family that has probably been engaging in clever repartee since Olive was old enough to talk. There was a naturalness to these scenes that I found lacking in the rest of the film.
I really wanted to like this film, and while I admire Emma Stone and generally thought she did a good job with her character, I was disappointed with the film as a whole, mostly due to an unconvincing script which I believe could have been much better with a bit of refinement and some basic plot enhancements.
I'm surprised at the positive reviews of this film, I thought it was awful! Very poor production values and bad voice dubbing (is it just me, or does anyone else think Jacqueline Bisset was re-voiced by a different actor?).
The poor actors did their best with the mediocrematerial - Portia de Rossi was good as always, but I found the style of the film very melodramatic, it was a bit like watching a daytime soap. John Jnr came across as a spoilt, angry, unlikeable young man. This was obviously shot on video, and the lighting was terrible. Could have been (and should have been!) so much better.