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College Road Trip (2008)
weak family comedy
Martin Lawrence is hardly the height of great cinematic performers, during the 90's the success of comics such as Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler prevented him from getting to many high profile movies, against the likes of Carrey who is actually funny, Lawrence just didn't represent that much of a Box-Office threat. Now that a lot of those dudes are attempting more serious films, Lawrence has recently had two films released in close quarters the passable Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins and this abomination. Basically the film sees Lawrence ferry his daughter around the country in order to help her find the perfect college with several other family members and assorted characters lagging behind. All are suitably "crazy" in that stupid Hollywood way, and Lawrence clearly sees himself as the star of this woeful effort, gurning and overacting his way through as many scenes as possible. Bottom line....the man ain't funny!!! A film similar to this was made not that long ago with Cedric The Entertainer called Jonson Family Vacation. It wasn't great but at least it had a few chuckle worthy moments, I don't think I was amused successfully once during College Road Trip, bar by the sheer poverty of imagination displayed by it's clearly juvenile screenwriters. The director is Roger Kumble who made the excellent Cruel Intentions just short of 10 years ago, and since has been gradually heading down hack road, he may have made a half credible film with Just Friends but 2002's The Sweetest Thing was simply not acceptable. However this is a new nadir for the man I once thought was at least semi-talented, here he directs with a bland eye and is clearly not enthusiastic about the product. Basically he wanted a bit of cash and this was the best way to get it. Comically inept and at times completely unwatchable College Road Trip is as weak a comic effort as I expect 2008 theatres will have to show, and should pop up quickly on DVD. It's an early but strong candidate for the years bottom 10, and may even be the ever irritating Lawrence's worst production to date. Sadly however one is almost certain it will enter the weekends top 5, and might even grab the coveted no.1 spot. Still when the reviews start flying it will drop fast like the dead weight it is. Avoid.
Good idea, bad execution
Accepted 2006, 89mins, 12 Director: Steve Pink Cast includes: Justin Long, Jonah Hill, Maria Thayer, Lewis Black, Blake Lively
If nothing else Accepted has a great premise. A bunch of slackers fail to get into college and as a result form their own. The picture didn't however hit big with the public, bombing at the box-office and it's not particularly hard to see why. Whilst the film has a good idea and a solid teen cast, Accepted only shows how a tepid script and flaccid direction can undermine the quality of any production. When "B" (Justin Long) fails to get into any college much to the disappointment of his parents, he along with a group of his pals decide to set up their own the South Harmon Institute of Technology (or S.H.I.T....lame alert!!!) in order to make them look better in the eyes of their mothers and fathers. However neighbouring colleges don't like the party all day attidude of S.H.I.T and promptly it's combo of bikini babes, drunken fiestas and general craziness is put under inspection. The performances in Accepted are all fairly adequate, Justin Long is a likable (if a tad bland) in the lead, Jonah Hill is a scene stealer as his brain box best friend and Lewis Black provides a few chuckles as the fake hired Dean for the newly "opened" university. The rest of the characters are within themselves clichés, kooky girl, sports jock, hot chick with feelings and idiot with a talent. We've seen these presentations of youth a thousand times before in Animal House, American Pie, Road Trip and more recently Superbad. Accepted has as good a plot as any of those pictures, but it's constant recycling of their jokes and characters makes it far harder to warm to. The villains are all snooty and aryan, but not one is given a character. Even mediocre teen flicks like Road Trip and Slackers manage to present us with a total bastard of a bad guy, Accepted has nothing... Steve Pink's direction is uninspired and really has nothing unique to it's name. He frequently shows wasted "party dudes" doing outrageous stuff and sexy girls stripping down to skimpy bikinis but that won't satisfy anyone over the age of 16. The script is pretty lame, several gags do work quite well and Jonah Hill has a whole barrage of cheeky one liners but you won't find yourself laughing that often. Even smiles are scarce during the pictures rather short 89 minutes, more often than not your just bored. The idea would have been far better under the careful eyes of the Weitz brothers are Judd Apatow, the creative team here have done well to come up with the idea but in it's actual construction have fired far to many blanks. The PG-13 rating doesn't even allow for a raunchy style of humour, sex jokes are rare and generally juvenile and weak in Accepted. Indeed the only real one I remember is a hot girl who names her special skill as taking her clothes off, thats it.... Fans of the genre may find some stuff to like about the picture, and those to young to legally watch without a guardian might think it "totally awesome". The truth however is very dustant from that, Accepted is dull and if we're being brutally honest deserved the backlash and failure it received. Best to reject this, and try your luck with better institutions like American Pie or Superbad.
Funny and engaging teen comedy
Superbad 2007, 118mins, 15 Director: Greg Mottola Cast includes: Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Michael Cera, Bill Hader, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
It's really been Judd Apatows year, the comedy guru steered Knocked Up to #2 in the US domestic charts bettered only by the pirate fuelled adventures of Johnny Depp and co. on it's opening weekend. Then several weeks later Superbad hit theatres this time with Apatow producing, the magic still hit home the feature managed to take $32 million on it's opening weekend alone, on a mere $20 million budget. Both pictures also drew great reviews marking a mammoth year for Apatow, and based on Superbad he probably deserves mucho credit. The film depicts two pals Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) very different people in one grossly over dependent friendship. Seth is foul mouthed and obsessed with sex, Evan is more controlled and a lot less crazy about intercourse. Both are socially outcast but when invited to the last big party before they graduate the boys and their nerdy tag along Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) acquire a fake I.D and attempt to get a massive booze haul, so as to impress the girls they like and try to lose that one thing all teenage boys want to see the back off. Their virginity. The film is set really into two stories that off Seth and Evan which eats up two thirds of the screen time, and that of Fogell and two lovable but inept cops played by Seth Rogen and Bill Hader. The two are conjoined at the beginning and at the end, but the middle section splices between the two. The film is written in the same crude but clever manner that films like American Pie and The 40 year Old Virgin (another Apatow product) big hits in recent years. It's nice to see a teen comedy that whilst containing all the same elements of the genre, also has a heart, soul and some extremely familiar situations and gags. Films like Road Trip, Pledge This and Van Wilder only maintain half of that equation and as a result are only ever half as good as Superbad indeed in the case of the Paris Hilton DTV movie, they can be a lot worse than even that. The performances are all excellent, Hill can be a tad irritating at times but it's well tempered by Cera's always charming turn. The two share great chemistry, the audience truly believes in their 10 year friendship. As Fogell Christopher Mintz-Plasse really gets the majority of the laughs, he's not a character with any real emotional core but his hilarious I.D (he names himself only McLovin) and his antics with Rogen and Hader are just about the funniest things in the film. Speaking of that duo they're also very good, particularly Hader as the more unstable of the two. One of the key problems the film has is it's lack of development with any female characters. The two chicks the lead duo are after are good looking and pleasant but nothing more. The young actresses do fine with the material I expect they where given, it's just the material itself feels light in the load. The jokes are usually amusing with several laugh out loud moments interspersed within the movie. Obviously a few gags don't work (a sequence involving a young child drawing dicks didn't do it for me) but generally the observations made by screenwriters Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen are funny, witty and surprisingly affecting and familiar. Within the Summer it was released I found only The Simpsons Movie funnier. At two hours director Greg Mottola lets the film drag on 10 minutes to long, but to make the emotional points he needs the man is right to take the picture past the standard 90 minute runtime for this sort of fare. Some parties have read into a gay subtext within the production, I didn't pick up on that, just that these where two friends very close to each other. Seeing as the film also points out that both guys are going to different colleges, the film also deals with the partition of this friendship. Some of the conversations surrounding this are really well done and tug a little at the audience's heart strings. Superbad has a few flaws but none are fatal. The film is funny and emotionally engaging which is what it really needs to be, and thus some of the dud jokes and 2-D characters are easy to forgive. The film offers enjoyment and a little more, which is much more than most of it's over stuffed genre can muster. It ain't Supergood, but I'd certainly give it a watch.
I Am Legend (2007)
Entertaining Will Smith flick, but not as good as the book
I Am Legend 2007, 101mins, 15 Director: Francis Lawrence Cast includes: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Salli Richardson, Willow Smith, Dash Mihok
Written in 1954 Richard Matheson's I Am Legend is among my favourite books ever. The text is in novella format and yet along with Orwell's Animal Farm it never ceases to amaze me how potent and utterly brilliant the book is, within it's tiny format I Am Legend achieves more than the entire Harry Potter saga. It's been filmed thrice, during the 50's with Vincent Price in the lead and entitled The Last Man On Earth, twenty years later this time with Charlton Heston in the Omega Man and now in 2007 with Will Smith in the first production to maintain the sources name. Funnily for such a fan of the book this is the first adaptation I've seen, it's pleasing to see the pages brought so fluently to life on the silver screen, but in terms of book to movie transfers it's Lord Of The Rings light. The story for those unaware is that of Robert Neville (Will Smith) a brilliant Government scientist, and as of five years ago the last man on earth. The world has become thronged with vampire cum zombie monsters, a consequence of a virus that hit half a decade ago turning people into these rabid and senseless villains. They can only operate in dark and so during the day New York is Robert's playground, by night he's reduced to hiding in his sealed off house. Neville is trying desperately to find a cure and reverse the disease that has turned his fellow human sinto shadows of their former selves, but whilst he may be immune the monsters are keen to taste his blood. I Am Legend is directed by Constantine helmer Francis Lawrence, the man exhibits the same strengths he did in that picture, the visuals of New York he conjurs up are eerie yet awesome and he builds up a strong central character well. Given that the source is better and that on this occasion he's blessed with the ever watchable Smith instead of Keanu "forest" Reeves he still deserves a pat on the back for getting these elements so perfectly zoned. I can only do this review from the perspective of one who has read the text and so one of my biggest issues surrounds that, so if you're a Matheson virgin and intend to stay that way (why you would is beyond me...) bump the picture's rating up to 8/10. However there is one universal flaw and thats with the presentation of the infected, in a post 28 Days Later world these weird looking super goblins just aren't that scary and we don't really see enough of them to think otherwise. The CGI surrounding the creatures is by turns good and by turns bad. The deer we see Neville hunting in New York look great and one scene in a darkened warehouse features some fine use in terms of creating the zombies. In the better lit scenes however they aren't convincing enough, and the creature design is dubious to say the least. The film does have a fnatastic performance from Smith and in a later plot development Alice Braga. So far based on other performances this year I wouldn't hesitate to give Smith an Oscar nomination and whilst Braga isn't present for long enough she at least deserves hearty credit. The two carry the film superbly and if ever a category for "best performing animal" opens up Sam Nevilles dog deserves a look in. The connection between Dog and man is engaging and fantastic, this is one of the deviations from the book I thought worked well. Some of the other changes don't however feel as satisfying, the way in which Nevilles family perish (shown through flashback) is unconvincing and slightly clichéd and at times one feels to much is absent. In the book at least one villain is built up, here we get virtually nothing. The finale is also slightly altered, more upbeat but not in a senseless Hollywood way. The change feels fine on the big screen and is still far grimer than most endings within it's respective genre. The action is well done and there are some scenes that are pure action, others purely horror. The book doesn't contain many of these but in the end with a Will Smith Holiday movie they where going to be essential. In the end I enjoyed most of them and they complimented the fantastic cinematography well, but again there was more within the source material than big bangs and awe inspiring landscapes. In the end I Am Legend is an above average film and given the recent output like Eragon and The Dark Is Rising it's a way above average page to screen adaptation. However one feels that Cinematography, Will Smith and Alice Braga to the side the film would be a lot weaker which suggested heavily that the material has been slightly mishandled. It's more than strong enough to carry itself yet here it feels a little patchy. The movie is good entertainment and features a great central performance but it isn't legend. Richard Matheson's book on the other hand most certainly is.
The Hitcher (2007)
Not a bad film but..........
.....it feels completely pointless. I actually reckon this along with last years The Omen redo is one of the better of a recent spate of horror remakes but unfortunately whilst The Hitcher redo is competently made and performed it just can't better the original in any way or form. The story bar a few little plot tweaks is 100% identical to that of the original, a group of teens played by Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton pick up a stranger (Sean Bean) who turns out to be a cunning nutter, interested only in slashing their throats. After luckily disposing of him, The Hitcher continues to haunt them down the highway setting them up for crimes they didn't commit and leaving a tonne of gored up bodies in his wake. The performances here are actually decent enough, Zach Knighton is a bit weak in the role of Jim, but Sophia Bush is a bit more interesting and engaging as his girlfriend. Those who have watched the 1986 classic will know that only Jim was on the road in that movie, something which really helped escalate the tension. In this picture the scares are largely blood based and depend at times on boo moments, leaving the battle of wits element from the 1st film behind. Sean Bean is easily the best thing about the film, he is a good selection to fill Rutger Hauer's boots even if grimace for grimace he can't match the man for sheer menace. Bean manages to bring a little extra depth to a movie, which seems largely happy to be brainless entertainment. Director Dave Meyers is a newbie behind the camera and his first feature isn't particularly ambitious, a nice visual flair is the only thing that separates his direction from that of a DTV slasher. He peppers the screen with jump moments and a couple do get you, but unlike The 80's version precious few of his scares are memorable. The picture looks nice and works OK for a Friday night DVD indeed those unfamiliar with the original may take quite a liking to this one. However those who have encountered The Hitcher before are unlikely to remember this roadtrip.
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Better than part two but thats faint praise
The world really didn't need another Resident Evil movie, the previous outings where in no way great, indeed the second installment was for the most part god damn awful. This the third (and please studio execs final) in the series feels dull and very repetitive, the feeling of deja vu is prominent and seeing as the initial parts were pretty poor thats in no way a good thing. Milla Jovovich is the kind of actress who looks great but simply should quit and become a full time model. It's shocking how dodgy her performance is here, all wooden stares and wrist flicking knife action. The character was never sympathetic but Jovovich hasn't managed to inject any 3-D aspects into the character, which considering it's over three pictures is a bad show. I enjoyed some of the action, indeed one particular sequence which a the viewer will revel in, but altogether the director of Highlander brings the same bland tricks and turns we see in every video game movie, however the picture is pretty short ensuring it's game over pretty quick.
Mr. Woodcock (2007)
Pretty solid comedy
Mr. Woodcock is the sort of film that I usually dread going to see, a sort of Meet The Parents rip off in the same vein as recent pictures like Relative Strangers and Guess Who. To be fair this movie betters both of those considerably, mainly due to the talented cast at the directors reach. Seann William Scott is great for the first time since American Pie, in a much more subtle role. I expected many things after seeing this young man back in 1999 and The Dukes of Hazzard and American Wedding weren't among them, so to see him hit the comic notes perfectly again is quite refreshing. Thornton ever since heavy success with Bad Santa back in 2003 has been making a career of playing weirdos (usually mean ones) and as Woodcock he's a solid choice who digs up several strong laughs. Sarandon is a lot more cardboard and ultimately unmemorable in her role, you forget her character at times but I guess thats all the script wanted and shes a pretty good actress to snare for the part. The story is pretty strong and a really good idea for the most part, the whole idea should have nerds everywhere rejoicing and cringing in equal amounts. The comedy does feel slight when taken against the premise but at the same time it's never overly offensive or dumb. The script has ups and downs in terms of gags, but the overall feeling is pleasantly entertaining. I enjoyed this movie and probably would happily suggest you pick it up on DVD when it hits the Summer sales next year or indeed give it a rental on initial release.
The Brothers Solomon (2007)
Far to syrupy and not that funny
I'll be blunt, this is a bad movie with no real pros. A few times I was amused by a joke and the lead pair share some chemistry, but the overall feeling the production induces is not one likely to satisfy cinema goers. The director is Bob Odenkirk who directed last years mediocre Lets go to jail. That film wasn't awful just not very memorable or indeed in any way original. The Brothers Solomon actually looks at one point like it might form into a decent movie, the premise isn't brilliant but it does initially seem like a solid idea for a comedy. The whole mentality of the picture is sweet and overly syrupy, I mean at times the thing should come with a dental warning. The script has one or two dcent gags in it's aresenal but not enough to make this worthwhile for anyone with an IQ over 30. Opening alongside Shoot em up it's hard to see how The Brothers Solomon could make anything more than 5 million on it's opening weekend, I haven't seen it that highly advertised and when the reviews come out I doubt they'll differ much in terms of opinion from mine. Avoid the film, or if you must see it wait until you can watch free on cable.
Just caught an advance screening and it's not bad
Just saw an advance screening of Rob Zombie's Halloween and I must say, it's actually pretty good. Now most people will recognize that this picture will never level with Carpenter's classic, but Zombie slots in lots of extra blood and some pretty scary sequences none the less. This picture looks a lot more at Myers back story which doesn't detract much from the film, but adds little extra. I found it to be an admirable idea, but sadly one that only slows the film down and actually makes the killer a lot less scary. The visual aspect of the film is strong, creepy visuals are present in strong numbers, but personally I wasn't as hooked by this aspect of the film as I was by last years The Omen remake. The performances are pretty good, most of the teens aren't top annoying and several people are developed in such a way that the audience cares about them over time. A decent horror movie but in summary if you've seen the original you've seen the better version.
I Want Candy (2007)
Unoriginal but funny comedy
Released between 300 and Mr.Bean's Holiday, this British production never really had a chance at the Box-Office despite a clever plot, amusing trailer and presence of sex siren Carmen Electra. The film didn't score to well with critics either, comments such as "It's a dire sex comedy" and "a crude, leering poorly timed farce" where pretty much commen place. Still is the film bad enough to warrant a battering on all fronts (no pun intended)? The answer is no. The plot is a clever enough little idea, two geeky film students in attempting to sell a film pitch end up agreeing to make a porn flick for the wrong people. They are offered the service of Candy Fiveways (Carmen Electra) the worlds most famous adult film star, but even with this supposed blessing, they still have to defeat the obstacles that include suspicious parents, a lack of cash and their general inexperience behind the camera. I want Candy is still waiting on a US release and so marks one of few films we get first. The film is heavily flawed but there's a charm that carry's this picture and despite being a movie with more sex toys, lesbian love scenes and innuendos than you can count it's really quite good natured. The young cast are pretty solid and whilst I don't expect to see either Tom Burke or Tom Riley become the next Hugh Grant, both might just manage in this business. Both convey a sense of excitement and dread concerning their problem, but overall the balance really feels quite nice and realistic. More often than not we are encouraged to laugh at the pratfalls Tom and err...Tom find themselves drawn into. That grows harder as the picture goes on, indeed the audience felt a lot of sympathey for the two lads on more than one occasion, and that can get in the way of belly laughter. Electra doesn't really have any acting chops to stretch but the former Baywatch babe is a likable candy, a women who despite her career and physical attributes is intelligent and something of a film buff. In many ways Electra grounds the picture and offers as many good jokes as anybody else, probably around half a dozen or so. Pirates Of The Caribbean star MacKenzie Crook offers up a few decent chuckles as the boys teacher, and Jimmy Carr manages a neat cameo as a dodgy video store clerk. The script is a bit hit and miss particularly during the middle section of the movie, I found myself laughing more at the beginning and end. That's not so say the script isn't inspired in sections, I really was caught off guard by several of the gags but to many jokes where predictable and a fair bit of the material feels recycled. Director Stephen Surjik who directed the second and vastly weaker Wayne's Worlds should be pleased enough with the final outcome, it matches anything else on his CV in terms of quality. The production looks pretty cheap and I expect the explanation for this is also the simplest. The film can't have been made on a mega budget, indeed with US release still uncertain it's fair to say the amount of money pumped in could well be miniscule. The cinematography is weak and the film looks made for T.V, which will always distract no matter how sharp a script the film boasts. The film is bound to have a lot of people recoiling in their seats as the cringe inducing scenarios pile up. Having to listen to your mum and dad having sex whilst your locked in their en suite may be bad, but thats only a fraction of the embarrassment the boys have to suffer. Last year I watched a movie called The Moguls which starred Jeff Bridges and had a similar plot to this project. I Want Candy emerges as far the better flick, and so anybody who got a kick out the first film will almost certainly enjoy this one.